Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/346

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

is to the development of instincts. And we may close by naming the ants and bees as instances of the extreme unfoldment of the instinctive powers, man as an instance of the greatest checking of instinct and development of the reasoning faculties.


STROLLING one day in what is euphemistically termed, in equatorial latitudes, "the cool of the evening," along a tangled tropical American field-path, through a low region of lagoons and water-courses, my attention happened to be momentarily attracted from the monotonous pursuit of the nimble mosquito by a small animal scuttling along irregularly before me, as if in a great hurry to get out of my way before I could turn him into an excellent specimen. At first sight I took the little hopper, in the gray dusk, for one of the common, small green lizards, and wasn't much disposed to pay it any distinguished share either of personal or scientific attention. But, as I walked on a little farther through the dense underbrush, more and more of these shuffling and scurrying little creatures kept crossing the path, hastily, all in one direction, and all, as it were, in a formed body or marching phalanx. Looking closer, to my great surprise I found they were actually fish out of water, going on a walking-tour, for change of air, to a new residence—genuine fish, a couple of inches long each, not eel-shaped or serpentine in outline, but closely resembling a red mullet in miniature, though much more beautifully and delicately colored, and with fins and tails of the most orthodox spiny and prickly description. They were traveling across-country in a bee-line, thousands of them together, not at all like the helpless fish out of water of popular imagination, but as unconcernedly and naturally as if they had been accustomed to the overland route for their whole life-times, and were walking now on the king's highway without let or hindrance.

I took one up in my hand and examined it more carefully; though the catching it wasn't by any means so easy as it sounds on paper, for these perambulatory fish are thoroughly inured to the dangers and difficulties of dry land, and can get out of your way when you try to capture them with a rapidity and dexterity which are truly surprising. The little creatures are very pretty, well-formed catfish, with bright, intelligent eyes, and a body armed all over, like the armadillo's, with a continuous coat of hard and horny mail. This coat is not formed of scales, as in most fish, but of toughened skin, as in crocodiles and alligators, arranged in two overlapping rows of imbricated shields, ex-