Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/547

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

done over again. But the patience of the devil's-riding-horse in pursuit of a dinner is inexhaustible, his perseverance indefatigable, and sooner or later the fly was inevitably his: with a snap like a steel trap, he clasped his victim, and, settling upon his haunches, he stripped off the gauzy wings—but at this point I fled. The small boy, however, had a stouter heart, and presently he announced that the meal was over; the devil's-riding-horse had devoured the fly, every atom, and was licking his claws!

We had a good magnifying glass wherewith to pursue our study of the prisoner, but it was easy enough to discern all his movements, his very expression, with the naked eye. Every one has seen flies go through the performance children call "washing PSM V37 D547 Mantis religiosa with head raised.jpgFig. 2.—Mantis religiosa, with head raised. its face," a sight so familiar that we fail to be impressed by it. In the devil's-riding-horse this is a most amusing exhibition. Our specimen would thrust out his filament of a tongue, carefully lick his serrated claws, examine them closely, scratch the back of his head which he twisted from side to side, rub one jaw and then the other, and turn and look at us out of those strange eyes of his, as if to rebuke our impertinent staring. Not infrequently he would end the performance with a mighty yawn—inaudible, of course—and scamper away, as far as his limits would allow. His bearing altogether was calculated to impress one with the idea that he entertained a serene contempt for the whole human family.

Apparently he did not object to his imprisonment, for he showed no disposition to escape when, time and again, the opportunity was offered him; and except when a fly was introduced to his consideration, he usually remained motionless against the side of his cage, as often as not with his head downward. He never, of his own accord, betook himself to the bottom, not even in pursuit of his prey, and he finally came to prefer the tin top of the cage—possibly on account of the shade it afforded—clinging there like a fly to the ceiling. If we inverted the cage, he instantly crawled upward and clung to the bit of cardboard that did duty for a top. Once, when one of his claws was accidentally caught