Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/309

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295
EARTH-WORMS AND THEIR WORKS.

mold and turf. But the smaller stones disappeared before many yens had elapsed, as did every one of the larger ones after a time; so that after thirty years, or in 1871, a horse could gallop over the compact turf from one end of the field to the other, and not strike a single stone with his shoes. This, says Mr. Darwin, "was certainly the work of the worms, for, though castings were not frequent for several years, yet some were thrown up month after month, and these gradually increased in numbers as the pasture improved." The accumulation of mold was, however, of the slowest, measuring only .083 of an inch a year. A flagged path in Mr. Darwin's garden disappeared in the course of years, it might be said under his very eyes, the worms covering it with an inch of mold.

A stone, sixty-four inches long, seventeen inches broad, and from nine to ten inches thick, part of the ruins of a lime-kiln that had been torn down thirty-five years before, lay in a field, its base sunk from one to two inches below the general level, while the surface of the field for about nine inches around it sloped up toward it to the height of four inches above the surrounding ground close to the stone. The stone could not have sunk by its weight, and there was evidence that one of its pointed ends, the upper surface of which was now on a level with the surrounding turf, must have stood clear of the ground for several inches. The situation of the stone is represented in Fig. 4.

PSM V20 D309 Large stone settled in a field.jpg

Fig. 4.—Transverse Section across a Large Stone which had lain on a Grass-Field for Thirty-five Years. A A, general level of the field. The underlying brick rubbish has not been represented. Scale one half inch to one foot.

When the stone was removed, an exact cast of its lower side, forming a shallow crateriform hollow, was left, the inner surface of which, except where the base had been in contact with brick rubbish, consisted of fine black mold. The turf-covered border, which sloped up to the stone, consisted of fine vegetable mold, in one part seven inches thick, and was evidently derived from worm-castings, several of which had been recently ejected. This stone would have sunk to the level of the field in two hundred and forty-seven years if none of the castings were washed away by rains.

Some of the fallen stones at Stonehenge have become buried to a moderate depth in the ground, and are surrounded by sloping borders of turf, on which recent castings were seen. In the case of the stone represented in the cut (Fig. 5), which is by no means the most marked specimen, the turf-covered border sloped on one side to the height of