Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/545

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A QUEER PET.

with, a tumbler in one hand and a palmetto fan in the other, I made him my captive. I might have taken him with my fingers easily; but, though I do not believe, as the negroes do, that the bite of the devil's-riding-horse is "bad luck," or that this insect will PSM V37 D545 Mantis religiosa.jpgFig. 1.—Mantis religiosa. "curse with blindness" by spitting in its captor's eyes if it can, I have a horror of the creature, and I prefer not to touch it.

By way of introduction to those who do not know the Mantis religiosa, I would explain that he is classed with the Orthoptera, whereby is declared his kinship with the crickets, locusts, roaches, and grasshoppers; yet he is not cheery like the cricket, nor destructive like the locust, nor loathsome like the roach, nor vivacious like the

"Gay little vaulter in the sunny grass."

Nor does he resemble any one of these in personal appearance. Entomologically he is described in an array of big words which say but little for the particular specimen that amused my midsummer idleness. It is not as an entymologist, therefore, that I would portray my queer pet.

To the non-entomological intelligence, then, my captive appeared a pale, yellow-green, miniature demon, about two inches in length, the most of whose body, so to speak, had run to neck. About midway of this "neck"—or pro-thorax, to quote the entomologists—were attached a pair of "arms"—antennæ—with joints like "elbows." Below these joints the arms were divided and serrated, like the claws of a crab. Atop of the long neck the head was set transversely, like the upper portion of the letter T. An extremely flexible joint united this peculiar head to the rigid neck, and enabled the creature to look in all directions, out of a pair of extraordinarily intelligent and watchful eyes, that protruded from each "end" of the head. The mouth was very large, but, in spite of the powerful jaws, there was no expression of ferocity in that rather formidable feature. In normal condition the body proper, which is perceptibly shorter than the neck—so called—should be furnished with four slender, jointed legs, about an inch in extended length; but when under glass my prisoner was seen to be minus the right hind-leg. This deficiency, however, did not appear to interfere in the least with his activity, for he scrambled about his glass cell with a frantic speed that proved five legs as good as six in his case; of course, the two raptorial "arms" count as legs when it comes to locomotion.

By way of beginning my study of his character, I dangled a shoe-button first on one side and then on the other of his prison--