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I came to the first great ant-hill, and there I placed myself on the watch, to become wise. -*
' The ants are a respectable people. They are understanding itself. Everything with them is like a well-worked sum, that comes right. To work and to lay eggs, they say, is to live while you live, and to provide for posterity ; and accordingly that is what they do. They were divided into the clean and the dirty ants. The rank of each is indicated by a number, and the ant queen is number one ; and her view is the only correct one, she has absorbed all wisdom ; and that was important for me to know. She spoke so much, and it was all so clever, that it sounded to me like nonsense. She declared her ant-hill was the loftiest thing in the world ; though close by it grew a tree, which was certainly loftier, much loftier, that could not be denied, and therefore it was never mentioned. One evening an ant had lost herself upon the tree ; she had crept up the stem—not up to the crown, but higher than any ant had climbed until then; and when she turned, and came back home, she talked of something far higher than the ant-hill that she had found ; but the other ants considered that an insult to the whole community, and consequently she was condemned to wear a muzzle, and to continual solitary confinement. But a short time afterwards another ant got on the tree, and made the same journey and the same discovery : and this one spoke about it with caution and indefiniteness, as they said; and as, moreover, she was one of the pure ants and very much respected, they believed her ; and when she died they erected an egg-shell as a memorial of her, for they had a great respect for the sciences. I saw,' continued the little Mouse, ' that the ants are always running to and fro with their eggs on their backs. One of them once dropped her egg ; she exerted herself greatly to pick it up again, but she could not succeed. Then two others came up, and helped her with all their might, insomuch that they nearly dropped their own eggs over it; but then they stopped helping at once, for each should think of himself first— the ant queen had declared that by so doing they exhibited at once heart and understanding.
* "These two qualities," she said, "place us ants on the