The battle that followed was awful.
Almost at the start the two insects, grappling, fell headlong to the excavation the queen had made below the city, and there, rolling over and over, continued the struggle in the dark among the refuse, the queen eternally feeling with her poison-dagger for a space to drive home her death-blow between the other’s smooth, shining armor-plates; the cricket eternally endeavoring to behead the queen between its awful jaws.
It was a fight to the death, as most insect duels are, and it could not last long. It was too tense, too fiendish, too shockingly wicked for that.
Suddenly the queen’s body shot out like a spring. The opening she had been feeling for had appeared, and she had driven her death-blow home. At the same instant, with a supreme effort, she bent double and shot herself free, the last convulsive, shearing crush of her foe’s laws clashing to so close above her head that they actually caught in their death-grip, and held, till she pulled them out by the roots, two bristles of her neck.
And then—well, then the queen hurried back up to her city, just in time to help out of its cell the first of her children—and citizens at last—the first limp, clambering, damp, newly painted, freshly bedecked young worker-wasp, perfect from feeler to sting, from wing to claw.
Quickly they broke out now from the cocoons, and the queen bustled from one to the other, assisting, cleaning, encouraging; for it is a tricky job for an insect to come out of its chrysalis-case. The queen’s work, however, was really done; for, though for a day or two, till their cuirasses and wings hardened, these new young worker-wasps only did light labor, acting as nurses to the others that were following, and so on, they quickly took upon their own shoulders the whole of the work of the city: the nursing and feeding of the young, the hunting, the building, the scavenging, and the waiting upon and feeding the queen-mother herself completely, so that she should henceforth labor not, nor fight, nor waste herself in the chase, but should keep at home and lay countless eggs, and eggs, and always nothing but eggs, for the workers to rear for the benefit of the State.
* * * * * *
To-day that city has a population of nearly 60,000, and contains over 11,000 cells; and the queen is still there, laying eggs, eggs, and again eggs, till—
NINE POINTS OF THE LAW
Sharp’s the word with her.—SWIFT.