The Life and Love of the Insect (2024)

The Scorpion is an uncommunicative insect, occult in his manners and unpleasant todeal with, so much so that his history, apart from the findings of anatomy, is reducedto little or nothing. The scalpel of the masters has made us acquainted with his organicstructure; but, so far as I know, no observer has thought of interviewing him, withany sort of persistence, on the subject of his private habits. Ripped up, after apreliminary maceration in alcohol, he is very well-known indeed; acting within thedomain of his instincts, he is hardly known at all. And yet none of the segmentedanimals were more deserving of a detailed biography. He has at all times struck thepopular imagination, even to the point of being numbered among the signs of the zodiac.

Fear made the gods, said Lucretius. Deified by terror, the Scorpion is glorified inthe sky by a constellation and in the almanac by the symbol for the month of October.Let us try to make him speak.

Before housing my animals, let us give a brief description of them. The common BlackScorpion (Scorpio Europæus, Lin.), distributed over the greater part of South Europe,is known to all. He frequents the dark spots near our dwelling-places; on rainy daysin autumn, he makes his way into our houses, sometimes even under [224]our bed-clothes. The hateful animal causes us more fright than damage. Although notunusual in my present abode, his visits have never had consequences of the least seriousness.The weird beast, overrated in reputation, is repulsive rather than dangerous.

Much more to be feared and much less well-known generally is the Languedocian Scorpion,isolated in the Mediterranean provinces. Far from seeking our dwelling-houses, hekeeps out of the way, in untilled solitudes. Beside the Black Scorpion, he is a giantwho, when full-grown, measures eight to nine centimetres in length.1 His colouring is that of pale, withered straw.

The tail, which is really the animal’s belly, is a series of five prismatic joints,like little kegs whose staves meet in undulating ridges resembling strings of beads.Similar cords cover the arms and fore-arms of the claws and divide them into longfacets. Others run sinuously along the back and imitate the joints of a cuirass, thepieces of which might have been collected by a capricious milling-punch. These bead-likeprojections produce a fiercely robust armour, which is characteristic of the LanguedocianScorpion. It is as though the animal had been fashioned out of chips with blows ofthe adze.

The tail ends in a sixth joint, which is vesicular and smooth. This is the gourd inwhich the poison, a formidable fluid resembling water in appearance, is elaboratedand held in reserve. A curved, brown and very sharp sting ends the apparatus. A pore,visible only under the lens, opens at some distance from the point. Through this,the venomous humour is injected into the puncture. The sting is very hard and verysharp-pointed. Holding it between the tips of my fingers, I can push it through [225]a sheet of cardboard as easily as though I were using a needle.

Owing to its powerful curve, the sting points downwards when the tail is held in astraight line. To use his weapon, the Scorpion must therefore raise it, turn it roundand strike upwards. In fact, this is his invariable practice. The tail bends overthe animal’s back and comes forward before pinking the adversary held down with theclaws. The animal, for that matter, is almost always in this posture: whether in motionor at rest, he curves his tail over his chine. He very rarely drags it slackened ina straight line.

The pincers, buccal hands suggesting the claws of the Crayfish, are organs of battleand information. When moving forwards, the animal holds them in front of him, withthe fingers opened, to take stock of things encountered on the way. When he wantsto stab, the claws catch the adversary and hold him motionless, while the sting operatesabove the assailant’s back. Lastly, when he has to nibble a morsel for any lengthof time, they serve as hands and keep the prey within reach of the mouth. They arenever used for walking, for support or for the work of excavation.

That falls to the real legs. These are abruptly truncated and end in a group of littlecurved, moveable claws, faced by a short, fine point, which, in a manner of speaking,serves as a thumb. The stump is finished off with rough bristles. The whole constitutesan excellent grapnel, which explains the Scorpion’s capacity for roaming round thetrellis-work of my wire bells, for standing there very long in a reversed positionand, lastly, for clambering up a vertical wall, notwithstanding his clumsiness andawkwardness.[226]

Below, immediately after the legs, are the combs, strange organs, an exclusive attributeof the Scorpions. They owe their name to their structure, consisting of a long rowof scales arranged close together in the manner of the teeth of our ordinary combs.The anatomists are inclined to ascribe to these the functions of a gearing-apparatuscapable of keeping the couple connected at the moment of pairing.

In order to observe their domestic manners, I lodge my captives in a large glass volery,with big potsherds to serve them as a refuge. There are a couple of dozen Scorpions,all told. In April, when the Swallow returns to us and the Cuckoo sounds his firstnote, a revolution takes place among my hitherto peaceable Scorpions. Several of them,in the colonies which I have established in the open air, in my garden, go wanderingabout at night and do not return to their homes. A more serious matter: often, underthe same piece of crockery, are two Scorpions, of whom one is in the act of devouringthe other. Is it a matter of burglary among insects of the same order, who, fallinginto vagabond ways at the commencement of the fine weather, thoughtlessly enter theirneighbours’ houses and there meet with their undoing, unless they be the stronger?One would almost think it, so calmly is the intruder eaten up, for days at a timeand by small mouthfuls, even as an ordinary prey would be.

The Life and Love of the Insect (1)


The large glass case containing the Scorpions.

Now here is something to give us a hint. The devoured are invariably of middling size.Their lighter shade of colouring, their less protuberant bellies mark them as males,always males. The others, larger, more paunchy, and a little darker in shade, do notend in this unhappy fashion. So it is probably not a case of brawls between [227]neighbours who, jealous of their solitude, soon settle the doom of any visitor andeat him afterwards, a radical means of putting a stop to further indiscretions; itis rather a question of nuptial rites tragically performed by the matron after pairing.

Spring returns once more. I have prepared the large glass cage in advance and peopledit with five-and-twenty inhabitants, each with his bit of earthenware. From mid-Aprilonwards, every evening, towards night-fall, between seven and nine o’clock, greatanimation reigns within this crystal palace. That which seemed deserted by day nowbecomes a joyous scene. As soon as supper is finished, the whole household runs outto look at it. A lantern hung outside the panes allows us to follow events.

It is our diversion after the worries of the day; it is our play-house. In this theatreof simple folk, the performances are so interesting that, the moment the lantern islighted, we all, old and young, come and take our seats in the pit: all, includingeven Tom, the house-dog. Tom, it is true, indifferent to Scorpion affairs, like thegenuine philosopher that he is, lies down at our feet and dozes, but only with oneeye, keeping the other always open on his friends, the children.

Let me try to give the reader an idea of what happens. A numerous assembly soon gathersnear the glass panes in the zone discreetly lit by the lantern. Every elsewhere, here,there, single Scorpions walk about and, attracted by the light, leave the shade andhasten to the illuminated festival. The very moths betray no greater readiness toflutter to the rays of our lamps. The newcomers mingle with the crowd, while others,tired with their diversions, withdraw into the shade, snatch a few [228]moments’ rest and then impetuously return upon the scene.

These hideous devotees of gaiety provide a dance not wholly unattractive. Some comefrom afar: gravely they emerge from out the darkness; then, suddenly, with a rushas swift and easy as a slide, they join the crowd, in the light. Their agility remindsone of mice scudding with short steps. They seek one another and fly precipitatelyas soon as they touch, as though they had mutually burnt their fingers. Others, aftertumbling about a little with their play-fellows, make off hurriedly, wildly. Theytake fresh courage in the dark and return.

At times, there is a brisk tumult: a confused mass of swarming legs, snapping claws,tails curving and clashing, threatening or fondling, it is hard to say which. In theaffray, under favourable conditions, double specks light up and gleam like carbuncles.One would take them for eyes that shoot flashing glances; in reality they are twopolished, reflecting facets, which occupy the front of the head. All, large and smallalike, take part in the brawl; it might be a battle to the death, a general massacre;and it is just a wanton frolic. Even so do kittens bemaul each other. Soon, the groupdisperses; all make off from all sorts of places, without a scratch, without a sprain.

Behold the fugitives collecting once more before the lantern. They pass and pass again;they come and go, often meet front to front. He who is in the greatest hurry walksover the back of the other, who lets him have his way without any protest but a movementof the crupper. It is no time for blows: at most, two Scorpions meeting will exchangea cuff, that is to say, a rap of the caudal [229]staff. In their society, this friendly thump, in which the point of the sting playsno part, is a sort of a fisticuff in frequent use.

There are better things than mingled legs and brandished tails: there are sometimesposes of the highest originality. Front to front and claws drawn back, two wrestlersassume the acrobat’s “straight bend,” that is to say, resting only on the fore-quarters,they raise the whole back of the body, so much so that the chest displays the fourlittle lung-sacs uncovered. Then the tails, held vertically erect in a straight line,exchange mutual rubs, glide one over the other, while their extremities are hookedtogether and repeatedly fastened and unfastened. Suddenly, the friendly pyramid fallsto pieces and each runs off hurriedly, without ceremony.

What were those two wrestlers trying to do, in their eccentric posture? Was it a set-tobetween two rivals? It would seem not, so peaceful is the encounter. My subsequentobservations were to tell me that this was the mutual teasing of a betrothed couple.To declare his flame, the Scorpion does the straight bend.

To continue as I have begun and give a hom*ogeneous picture of the thousand tiny particularsgathered day by day would have its advantages: the story would be sooner told; but,at the same time, deprived of its details, which vary greatly between one observationand the next and are difficult to group, it would be less interesting. Nothing mustbe neglected in the relation of manners so strange and as yet so little known. Atthe risk of repeating one’s self here and there, it is preferable to adhere to chronologicalorder and to tell the story by fragments, as one’s observations reveal fresh facts.Order will emerge from this disorder; for each of the more remarkable [230]evenings supplies some feature that corroborates and completes those which go before.I will therefore continue my narration in the form of a diary.

25 April, 1904.—Hullo! What is this, which I have not yet seen? My eyes, ever on the watch, lookupon the affair for the first time. Two Scorpions face each other, with claws outstretchedand fingers clasped. It is a question of a friendly grasp of the hand and not theprelude of a battle, for the two partners behave to each other in the most peacefulway. There is one of either sex. One is paunchy and browner than the other: that isthe female; the other is comparatively slim and pale: that is the male. With theirtails prettily curled, the couple stroll with measured steps along the pane. The maleis ahead and walks backwards, without jolt or jerk, without any resistance to overcome.The female follows obediently, clasped by her finger-tips and face to face with herleader.

The stroll has halts that alter nothing in the manner of the tie; it is resumed, nowhere, now there, from end to end of the enclosure. Nothing shows the object whichthe strollers have in view. They loiter, they dawdle, they most certainly exchangeogling glances. Even so, in my village, on Sundays, after vespers, do the youth ofboth sexes saunter along the hedges, every Jack with his Jill.

Often they tack about. It is always the male who decides which fresh direction thepair shall take. Without releasing her hands, he turns gracefully to the left or rightabout and places himself side by side with his companion. Then, for a moment, withhis tail laid flat, he strokes her spine. The other stands motionless, impassive.[231]

For over an hour, without tiring, I watch these interminable comings and goings. Apart of the household lends me its eyes in the presence of the strange sight whichno one in the world has yet seen, at least with a vision capable of observing. Inspite of the lateness of the hour, so upsetting to our habits, our attention is concentratedand no essential thing escapes us.

At last, at about ten o’clock, an event happens. The male has lit upon a potsherdthe shelter of which seems to suit him. He releases his companion with one hand, withone alone, and, continuing to hold her with the other, he scratches with his legsand sweeps with his tail. A grotto opens. He enters and, slowly, without violence,drags the patient Scorpioness after him. Soon, both have disappeared. A plug of sandcloses the dwelling. The couple are at home.

To disturb them would be a blunder: I should be interfering too soon, at an inopportunemoment, if I tried at once to see what was happening below. The preliminary stagesmay last for the best part of the night; and it does not do for me, who have turnedeighty, to sit up so late. I feel my legs giving way; and my eyes seem full of sand.Let us go to sleep.

All night long, I dream of Scorpions. They crawl under my bed-clothes, they pass overmy face; and I am not particularly excited, so many curious things do I see in myimagination. The next morning, at day-break, I raise the stoneware. The female isalone. Of the male there is no trace, either in the home or in the neighbourhood.First disappointment, to be followed by many others.

10 May.—It is nearly seven o’clock in the evening; the sky is overcast with signs of an approachingshower. [232]Under one of the potsherds is a motionless couple, face to face, with linked fingers.Cautiously I raise the potsherd and leave the occupants uncovered, so as to studythe results of the interview at my ease. The darkness of the night falls and nothing,it seems to me, will disturb the calm of the home deprived of its roof. A brisk showercompels me to retire. They, under the lid of the cage, have no need to take shelteragainst the rain. What will they do, left to their business as they are, but deprivedof a canopy to their alcove?

An hour later, the rain ceases and I return to my Scorpions. They are gone. They havetaken up their abode under a neighbouring potsherd. Still with their fingers linked,the female is outside and the male indoors, preparing the home. At intervals of tenminutes, the members of my family relieve one another, so as not to lose the exactmoment of the pairing, which appears to me to be imminent. Useless cares: at eighto’clock, it being now quite dark, the couple, dissatisfied with the spot, set outon a fresh ramble, hand in hand, and go in search elsewhere. The male, walking backwards,leads the march, chooses the dwelling as he pleases; the female follows with docility.It is an exact repetition of what I saw on the 25th of April. At last, a tile is foundto suit them. The male goes in first, but, this time, without letting go of his companionfor a moment, with one hand or the other. The nuptial chamber is prepared with a fewsweeps of the tail. Gently drawn towards him, the Scorpioness enters in the wake ofher guide.

I visit them a couple of hours later, thinking that I have given them time enoughto finish their preparations. I raise the potsherd. They are there in the same posture,[233]face to face and hand in hand. I shall see no more to-day.

The next day, nothing new either. One in front of the other, meditatively, withoutstirring a limb, the gossips, holding each other by the finger-tips, continue theirendless interview under the tile. In the evening, at sunset, after sitting linkedtogether for four-and-twenty hours, the couple separate. He goes away from the tile,she remains; and matters have not advanced by an inch.

This observation gives us two facts to remember. After the stroll to celebrate thebetrothal, the couple need the mystery and quiet of a shelter. Never would the nuptialconclusion take place in the open air, amid the bustling crowd, in sight of all. Removethe roof of the house, by night or day, with all possible discretion; and the husbandand wife, who seem absorbed in meditation, march off in search of another spot. Also,the stay under the cover of a stone is a long one: we have just seen it spun out totwenty-four hours and even then without a decisive result.

12 May.—What will this evening’s watch teach us? The weather is calm and hot, favourableto nocturnal pastimes. A couple has formed: I did not witness the start. This timethe male is greatly inferior in size to his corpulent mate. Nevertheless, the skinnywight performs his duty gallantly. Walking backwards, according to rule, with histail rolled trumpetwise, he marches the fat Scorpioness around the glass ramparts.After one circuit follows another, sometimes in the same, sometimes in the oppositedirection.

Stops are frequent. Then the two foreheads touch, bend a little to left and right,as if there were whispers [234]exchanged in each other’s ears. The little fore-legs flutter in fevered caresses.What are they saying to each other? How shall we translate their silent epithalamiuminto words?

The whole household turns out to see this curious group, which our presence in noway disturbs. The pair are pronounced to be “pretty”; and the expression is not exaggerated.Semi-translucent and shining in the light of the lantern, they seem carved out ofa block of yellow amber. Their arms outstretched, their tails rolled into gracefulvolutes, they wander on with a slow movement and with measured tread.

Nothing puts them out. Should some vagabond, taking the evening air and keeping tothe wall like themselves, meet them on their way, he stands aside—for he understandsthese delicate matters—and leaves them a free passage. Lastly, the shelter of a tilereceives the strolling pair, the male entering first and backwards: that goes withoutsaying. It is nine o’clock.

The idyll of the evening is followed, during the night, by a hideous tragedy. Nextmorning, we find the Scorpioness under the potsherd of the previous day. The littlemale is by her side, but slain and more or less devoured. He lacks the head, a claw,a pair of legs. I place the corpse in the open, on the threshold of the home. Allday long, the recluse does not touch it. When night returns, she goes out and, meetingthe defunct on her passage, carries him off to a distance to give him a decent funeral,that is to finish eating him.

This act of cannibalism agrees with what the open-air colony showed me last year.From time to time, I would find, under the stones, a pot-bellied female making a comfortableritual meal off her companion of the night. [235]I suspected that the male, if he did not break loose in time, once his functions werefulfilled, was devoured, wholly or partly, according to the matron’s appetite. I nowhave the certain proof before my eyes. Yesterday, I saw the couple enter their homeafter the usual preliminary, the stroll; and, this morning, under the same tile, atthe moment of my visit, the bride is consuming her mate.

We are entitled to believe that the poor wretch has attained his ends. Were he stillnecessary to the brood, he would not yet be eaten. The actual couple have thereforebeen quick about the business, whereas I see others fail to finish after provocationsand contemplations exceeding in duration the time which it takes the hour-hand togo twice round the clock. Circ*mstances which it is impossible to state with precision—thecondition of the atmosphere, perhaps, the electric tension, the temperature, the individualardour of the couple—to a large extent accelerate or delay the finale of the pairing;and this is what constitutes the serious difficulty for the observer anxious to seizethe exact moment whereat the as yet uncertain function of the combs might be revealed.

14 May.—It is certainly not hunger that sets my animals in commotion night after night. Thequest of food has nothing to say to their evening rounds. I have served up a variedbill of fare to the busy crowd, a fare chosen from that which they appear to likebest. It includes tender morsels in the shape of young Crickets; small Locusts, fleshierand in better condition than the Acridians; Moths minus their wings. In a more advancedseason, I add Dragon-flies, a highly-appreciated dish, as is proved by their equivalent,the full-grown Ant-lion, of whom I often find the scraps, the wings, in the Scorpions’cave.[236]

This luxurious game leaves them indifferent; none of them pays attention to it. Amidthe hubbub, the Crickets hop, the Moths beat the ground with the stumps of their wings,the Dragon-flies quiver; and the passers-by take no notice. They tread them underfoot,they topple them over, they push them away with a stroke of the tail; in short, theyabsolutely refuse to look at them. They have other business in hand.

Almost all of them move along the glass wall. Some of them obstinately attempt toscale it: they hoist themselves on their tails, fall down, try again elsewhere. Withtheir outstretched fists they knock against the pane; they want to get away at allcosts. And yet the grounds are large enough, there is room for all; the walks lendthemselves to long strolls. No matter: they want to roam afar. If they were free,they would disperse in every direction. Last year, at the same time, the colonistsof the enclosure left the village and I never saw them again.

The spring pairing-season enjoins journeys upon them. The shy hermits of yesterdaynow leave their cells and go on love’s pilgrimage; heedless of food, they set outin quest of their kind. Among the stones of their territory there must be choice spotsat which meetings take place, at which assemblies are held. If I were not afraid ofbreaking my legs, at night, over the rocky obstacles of their hills, I should loveto assist at their matrimonial festivals, amid the delights of liberty. What do theydo up there, on their bare slopes? Much the same, apparently, as in the glass enclosure.Having made their choice of a bride, they take her about, for a long stretch of time,hand in hand, through the tufts of lavender. If they miss the attractions of my lantern,[237]they have the moon, that incomparable lamp, to light them.

20 May.—The sight of the first invitation to a stroll is not an event upon which we can countevery evening. Several emerge from under their stones already linked in couples. Inthis concatenation of clasped fingers, they have passed the whole day, motionless,one in front of the other and meditating. When night comes, they resume, without separatingfor a moment, the walk around the glass begun on the evening before, or even earlier.No one knows when or how the junction was effected. Others meet unawares in sequesteredpassages difficult of inspection. By the time that I see them, it is too late: theequipage is on the way.

To-day, chance favours me. The acquaintance is made before my eyes, in the full lightof the lantern. A frisky, sprightly male, in his hurried rush through the crowd, suddenlyfinds himself face to face with a passer-by who takes his fancy. She does not sayno; and things go quickly.

The foreheads touch, the claws work; the tails swing with a wide movement: they standup vertically, hook together at the tips and softly stroke each other with a slowcaress. The two animals perform the acrobat’s “straight bend,” in the manner alreadydescribed. Soon, the raised bodies collapse; fingers are clasped and the couple startson its stroll without more ado. The pyramidal pose, therefore, is really the preludeto the harnessing. The pose, it is true, is not rare between two individuals of thesame sex who meet; but it is then less correct and, above all, less marked by ceremony.At such times, we find movements of impatience, instead of friendly excitations; thetails strike in lieu of caressing each other.[238]

Let us watch the male, who hurries away backwards, very proud of his conquest. Otherfemales are met, who form an audience and look on inquisitively, perhaps enviously.One of them flings herself upon the ravished bride, embraces her with her legs andmakes an effort to stop the equipage. The male exhausts himself in attempts to overcomethis resistance; in vain he shakes, in vain he pulls: the thing won’t go. Undistressedby the accident, he throws up the game. A neighbour is there, close by. Cutting parleyshort, this time without any further declaration, he takes her hands and invites herto a stroll. She protests, releases herself and runs away.

From among the group of onlookers, a second is solicited, in the same free and easymanner. She accepts, but there is nothing to tell us that she will not escape fromher seducer on the way. But what does the coxcomb care? There are more where she camefrom! And what does he want, when all is said? The first-comer!

This first-comer he ends by finding, for here he is, leading his conquest by the hand.He passes into the belt of light. Exerting all his strength, he makes jerky movementsof drawing towards him, if the other refuse to come, but behaves with gentleness,when he obtains a docile obedience. Pauses, sometimes rather prolonged, are frequent.

Then the male indulges in curious exercises. Bringing his claws, or let us say, hisarms towards him and then again stretching them straight out, he compels the femaleto play a similar alternate game. The two of them form a system of jointed rods, orlazy-tongs, opening and closing their quadrilateral turn and turn about. After this[239]gymnastic drill, the mechanism contracts and remains stationary.

The foreheads now touch; the two mouths come together with tender effusions. The word“kisses” comes to one’s mind to express these caresses. It is not applicable; forhead, face, lips, cheeks, all are missing. The animal, clipped as though with thepruning shears, has not even a muzzle. Where we look for a face we are confrontedwith a dead wall of hideous jaws.

And to the Scorpion this represents the supremely beautiful! With his fore-legs, moredelicate, more agile than the others, he pats the horrible mask, which in his eyesis an exquisite little face; voluptuously he gnaws and tickles with his lower jawsthe equally hideous mouth opposite. It is all superb in its tenderness and simplicity.The Dove is said to have invented the kiss. But I know that he had a fore-runner inthe Scorpion.

Dulcinea lets her admirer have his way and remains passive, not without a secret longingto slip off. But how is she to set about it? It is quite easy. The Scorpioness makesa cudgel of her tail and brings it down with a bang upon the wrists of her too-ardentwooer, who there and then lets go. The match is broken off, for the time being. To-morrow,the sulking-fit will be over and things will resume their course.

25 May.—This blow of the cudgel teaches us that the docile companion revealed by the firstobservations is capable of whims, of obstinate refusals, of sudden divorces. Let usgive an example.

This evening, he and she, a seemly couple, are out for a stroll. A tile is found andappears to suit. Letting go with one claw, so as to have some freedom of action, themale works with his legs and tail to clear the entrance. [240]He goes in. By degrees, as the dwelling is dug out, the female follows him, meeklyand gently, so one would think.

Soon, the place and time perhaps not suiting her, she reappears and half-emerges,backwards. She struggles against her abductor, who, on his side, pulls her to him,without, as yet, showing himself. A lively contest ensues, one making every effortoutside the cabin, the other inside. They go backwards and forwards by turns; andsuccess is undecided. At last, with a sudden exertion, the Scorpioness drags her companionout.

The unbroken team is in the open; the walk is resumed. For a good hour, they veerto one side along the pane, veer back to the other and then return to the tile ofjust now, to the exact same tile. As the way is already open, the male enters withoutdelay and pulls like mad. Outside, the Scorpioness resists. Stiffening her legs, whichplough the soil, and buttressing her tail against the arch of the tile, she refusesto go in. I like this resistance. What would the pairing be without the playful toyingof the preludes?

Under the stone, however, the ravisher insists and contrives to such good purposethat the rebel obeys. She enters. It has just struck ten. If I have to sit up forthe rest of the night, I will wait for the result; I shall turn the potsherd at thefitting moment to catch a glimpse of what is happening underneath. Good opportunitiesare rare: let us make the most of this one. What shall I see?

Nothing at all. In half an hour or less, the refractory one frees herself, issuesfrom the shelter and flees. The other at once runs up from the back of the cabin,stops on the threshold and looks out. His beauty has escaped [241]him. He has been jilted. Sheepishly, he returns indoors. I follow his example.

The Life and Love of the Insect (2)


  • 1. Nuptial allurements, showing “the straight bend.”
  • 2. The wedding stroll.
  • 3. The couple enter the nuptial dwelling.

June sets in. For fear of a disturbance caused by too brilliant an illumination, Ihave hitherto kept the lantern hung outside, at some distance from the pane. The insufficientlight does not allow me to observe certain details as to the manner in which the coupleare linked when strolling. Do they both play an active part in the scheme of the claspedhands? Are their fingers interlinked alternately? Or does only one of the pair act;and, if so, which? Let us ascertain exactly; the thing is not without importance.

I place the lantern inside, in the centre of the cage. There is a good light everywhere.Far from being scared, the Scorpions gain in gladness. They hasten up around the beacon;some even try to climb it, so as to be nearer the flame. They succeed in doing soby means of the frames containing the glass squares. They hang on to the edges ofthe tin strips and stubbornly, heedless of slipping, end by reaching the top. There,motionless, lying partly on the glass, partly on the support of the metal casing,they gaze the whole evening long, fascinated by the glory of the wick. They remindme of the Great Peaco*ck Moths that used to hang in ecstasy under the reflector ofmy lamp.

At the foot of the beacon, in the full light, a couple loses no time in doing thestraight bend. The two fence prettily with their tails and then go a-strolling. Themale alone acts. With the two fingers of each claw, he has seized the two fingersof the corresponding claw of the Scorpioness in a bunch. He alone exerts himself andsqueezes; he alone is at liberty to break the team when he likes: he has but to openhis pincers. The [242]female cannot do so; she is a prisoner, handcuffed by her seducer.

In rather infrequent cases, one can see even finer things. I have caught the Scorpiondragging his sweetheart by the two fore-arms; I have seen him pull her by one legand by the tail. She had resisted the advances of the outstretched hand; and the bully,forgetful of all reserve, had thrown her on her side and clawed hold of her at random.The thing is quite clear: we have to do with a regular rape, abduction with violence.Even so did Romulus’ youths rape the Sabine women.[243]

The Life and Love of the Insect (2024)


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