How, is a deep question, and one I can hardly answer yet. But that it has made them so there is no doubt. Look at the solitary bees—the governors as we call them, who live in pairs, in little holes in the banks. How few of them there are; and they never seem to increase in numbers. Then look at the hive bees, how, just because they are civilised,—that is, because they help each other, and feed each other, instead of being solitary and selfish,—they breed so fast, and get so much food, that if they were not killed for their honey, they would soon become a nuisance, and drive us out of the parish.
But then we give them their hives ready made.
True. But in old forest countries, where trees decay and grow hollow, the bees breed in them.
Yes. I remember the bee tree in the fir avenue.
Well then, in many forests in hot countries the bees swarm in hollow trees; and they, and the ants, and the white ants, have it all their own way, and are lords and masters, driving the very wild beasts before them, while the ants and white ants eat up all gardens, and plantations, and clothes, and furniture; till it is a serious question whether in some hot countries man will ever be able to settle, so strong have the ants grown, by ages of civilisation, and not competing against their brothers and sisters.
But may I not compete for prizes against the other boys?
Well, there is no harm in that; for you do not harm the others, even if you win. They will have learnt all the more, while trying for the prize; and so will you, even if you don’t get it. But I tell you fairly, trying for prizes is only fit for a child; and when you become a man, you must put away childish things—competition among the rest.
But surely I may try to be better and wiser and more learned than everybody else?
My dearest child, why try for that? Try to be as good, and wise, and learned as you can, and if you find any man, or ten thousand men, superior to you, thank God for it. Do you think that there can be too much wisdom in the world?
Of course not: but I should like to be the wisest man in it.
Then you would only have the heaviest burden of all men on your shoulders.
Because you would be responsible for more foolish people than any one else. Remember what wise old Moses said, when some one came and told him that certain men in the camp were prophesying—“Would God all the Lord’s people did prophesy!” Yes; it would have saved Moses many a heartache, and many a sleepless night, if all the Jews had been wise as he was, and wiser still. So do not you compete with good and wise men, but simply copy them: and whatever you do, do not compete with the wolves, and the apes, and the swine of this world; for that is a game at which you are sure to be beaten.