Sugar was not lacking on the commercial port, because I took care not to waste my time on the military port: the balls, the cannons and the rest will always be a pitiful treat for the ants! So here I am seated around big bags that were loaded and unloaded around me. I had taken shelter near one of the feet of the scales, and there I always caught some good bargain that rolled bags weighed to me.
This state of plenty lasted more than a week. Unfortunately, what was really unpleasant was that a large number of other animals, attracted by the sugar, came to dispute my food and were often so dangerous for me, that I gave up the place. At last I discovered, in one of my races, the passage by which the sailors arrived, bringing on their backs the big sacks of sugar; it was a kind of wide plank that passed over the water. That’s how I came to the source of sugar!
What luck! There, at least, I was safe. There, much better, you can eat what do you want? No need to bother: sugar is everywhere! The wall itself of the room in which I was is so sweet that it is impregnated: licking it, live!
”Come! We will spend some time in this pleasant residence; after, we will see.”
And I settled there conveniently, between objects stowed with care, as the sailors said.
This is how I spent a fortnight without being disturbed. I scarcely heard a few men pass by: the house seemed utterly abandoned; but, one fine morning, a terrible noise was made. They were nothing but bales, barrels falling or falling in the room where I lived and encumbering him on all sides. Twenty times I missed being crushed!
At last the good God took pity on me, and calm is restored almost as complete as before; only, everything was full and it was no longer day. Decidedly, the place was no longer tenable; I resolved to change it. What the hell! I will find on the port an asylum where I will enjoy, at least, warmth, light and even a little tranquility …
No sooner said than done! I’m going on my way. I notice a beautiful and big rope hanging down; I go up, follow her, and there I am in the day, passing between it and the board it passes through. What a beautiful light! What a refreshing good breeze! But what a singular smell!
Where am I? … I do not know anything about it.
It was indeed the case to climb to large ladders that rose in the air … I did, and I arrived at the top of a wall of wood, from where we saw all around.
Water! ….. Just water! ….. Everywhere!
It must have been the sea …
My house was a ship !!
Unhappy! I was lost forever for France. O my country! O my country! But what remedy?
None! It was necessary to suffer the bad destiny which my improvidence and my forgetfulness had prepared for me. Come on! The best thing is to make a good fortune against your heart! … Long live the travels! Since I cannot go back.
I parked in a corner, I watched and listened.
Two sailors were talking not far from me.
“Do you have been to Para, you? …“
“To Para?“ I said to myself. “To Para? … What can it be?“
“By Jove! It’s the fourth time …“
“Ah!“ replied the other, pouting.
“But, yes, m old! Even that is fine!“
“Are there any rack?“
“There is rack.“
“And my neighbor still pouted … But now he puts his hand to his mouth and withdraws … which made him make such a beautiful pout …“
It was his quid, he philosophically plates under the planking, to find it if necessary …
“And there are fruits of all colors … since it is in America …“
“Ah! it’s in America …“
This news made me run away immediately.
“How! we are going to America!“ I said; “In America! Imprudent, what will you become? Did we ever see ant go on similar adventures? … And will not you lose your life at the first step? What disastrous equipment! … Finally, there is no need to think … The harm is done. Let’s think about putting ourselves in safety …“
I PLACED ME ON THE SLOTS.
I went to the hold, for that was where I had been surprised by the departure of the ship; it was there where the provisions that had seduced me were; it was there where I could hope for abundant food and at the same time a retreat capable of hiding me. I searched everywhere to find a home; but, extraordinary thing! Every corner was occupied. Everywhere I saw horrible mandibles opening at my approach. What snarling animal was there? …
I fell back on the slits … Everywhere, everywhere, I met the same menacing mandibles, surmounted by the same ferocious eyes, which made me shudder to the marrow. Fortunately, not one of these hideous beings moved. Desperate to find better, I plunged into the wall of the ship, instead of a small nail that had been torn off. I was very badly there: the cavity was deep, but so small that I had to go backwards. That was what saved me.
At night began around me an incredible jolt, unimaginable … The ship seemed to come to life: the space filled with black and brown forms, hideous, huge, which flew heavily, hitting the walls and beams, which ran like greyhounds unchained along the edges of the beams, and came, horror! feel and blow at the door of my retirement …
There were at least a dozen of them, big, medium, and small, pushing each other, slipping over each other to get to eat my eyes; they stretched out paws, mandibles and antennae … and I, I receded as far as the space allowed me. During this time, fat, hairy animals were roaring over all the materials that filled the ship. They were fighting terribly, jostling everything in their path. I had never seen similar animals; some of them were almost as big as our neighbors the rabbits of the moor.
Ah! what a horrible night! How many times did the terrible beasts, pushing themselves with fierce conviction, advance their claws almost to touch me! I felt that if their talons hit me, it was all over me. I was ripped off my retirement and crunched a bite …
At last the morning appeared, and with him sailors came to open one of the panels which closed the hold. A brilliant clarity flooded our retreat and gave me a little courage. We Polyergues know how to fight only in broad daylight.
Moving my head carefully, I saw that all the stinking beasts that had so furiously besieged me were returning to their cracks, their holes, hiding in the shelter of the day behind all the objects they met.
“Ah! they are afraid of the day!“ I said. “With me it’s the opposite; I must take advantage of this advantage, I must flee … Escape? where to flee? …“
The occasion is bald, says the proverb: I rushed on my legs through the obstacles: I was flying! But when I thought I was alone, one of those mad animals jumped from the ceiling onto the bags where I ran with all my might, and followed me with surprising speed …
“O Lord! So not all do fear the day …“
I was stunned …
At the first moment, I despaired of myself, I felt lost, I hesitated if I closed my eyes, stoically waiting for death …
“A courageous effort !! … Could I do it?“
“Yes!!… I will do it. It will not be said that a thunderbolt among his family, that a Hercules with a big heart will let loose cowardly like a sheep! …“
However, my enemy rode on his big legs and gained ground visibly … In my hole I was, alas! sheltered; all were too large to penetrate; but now I was isolated, uncovered … and I was running away, when, suddenly, there was a crack in front of me. It was the door of the panel that the sailors had turned upside down. As it was bulging, I slip in and advance as far as allowing my size and my fear.
Alas! My enemy was very flat, even more than I imagined him. He came very close to me, but not enough to reach me. I was getting so small! I was choking, but playing elbows and paws, I was always running away, slowly, but at last I went away. He, more impeded than me, lost ground, and moreover we approached the edges of the panel, on which struck the full sun. Already I felt the beneficent warmth of the star of the day, which doubled my strength.
AN ANT OF FRANCE !! …
I galloped off the deck, and seeing a half-opened door in front of me, I rushed there.
It was time! The beast was coming out from under the panel …
Then she found her wings, which I did not think, made a frightening leap and looked for me, because, dazzled, she had lost sight of me …
I admit that I did not waste my time! Randomly, I climbed along the foot of the table that was hiding from her and soon I came out in the middle of papers, feathers, pencils, on the captain’s own desk.
Horror! … the beast is before me …
I was lost, this time, when a feather toothpick was offered to me … Rushing me there was the business of a wink …
I was at least safe …
How to paint the desperate efforts of the monster to force me out of my retirement? … Seeing that it was nice to roll me with my transparent prison and that I would not come out, he began to gnaw the cut ends bevel. I saw his mandibles pulling shreds at each end … Ah! he went there with good heart!
A noise was heard, my enemy flew away …
The captain entered his study. He sat down at his desk and, sitting down, leaned his head between his hands and began to think. Did he think of his mother, his fiancee, his past pleasures, his present duties? Did I know?
Suddenly his eyes fell on me.
“An ant from France!“ he exclaimed, and, seizing the toothpick, held it before his eyes.
“Poor little beast! What idea did you take to come with us to Brazil? …“
“Hey!” I thought to myself, “it’s good to know. We are going to Brazil …“
“By what singular combination of circumstances have you taken refuge in a feather toothpick? A chase, maybe … Who chased you? …“
And, considering the edges of my toothpick, where my terrible enemy had so gallantly sharpened his teeth:
“The cockroaches! … The dreadful beasts! Cursed brood! Oh! poor little countryman, I will defend you: go! you will not be eaten by them, do not be afraid!“
Then, getting up, the good captain reached a glass fruit bowl in which he poured blue sand which he had on his desk, put over my toothpick, added around one or two pinches of sugar, some prunes. That done, he replaced the crystal cover, then …
“Dear little beast!“ he said, “stay with me. Seeing you just now on my table, I thought of my young friends. Tomorrow again, seeing you, I’ll think about that! … Ah! life! what a sad passage!“
The captain abruptly opened the door of his cabin, and I heard his footsteps go out as he went away.
I was a prisoner!
But, at least, my enemy and his terrible sequel would never reach me. I was safe!
Long days passed thus in the company of my good friend, the captain, whose affection never wearied. Every morning he came to talk with me as he said, but in fact to chat with himself and fondle dear memories. What a heart of gold! what admirable feelings! In general, man is a long, slow, heavy animal that hates us and we laugh at it by our number and our address; but now I know one, in the number, which you can only love him. It’s Captain Urban.
In short, the crossing was admirable. Hardly a grain or two changed the monotony a little.
We had arrived, and my good friend was not leaving his good care. Once, however, he missed his regular rendezvous; one day passed without him renewing my provisions.
A second day passed slowly, without his visit … Where was he my God? … sick? …
A third day passed … My provisions were exhausted. The reliefs I disdained in abundance, I had all consumed! Nothing! He will come tomorrow …
Hunger tortured me … Die! die! This word teased me lugubriously in the ears … And he does not come! …
I contemplated, for the hundredth time, the surroundings of my glass prison: everywhere the silence and the desert! When, looking up at the ceiling, it seemed to me that the lid of the dish, placed a little side by accident, did not close exactly, and that I could perhaps slip through the opening …
But how to get there? …
At work! You must try…
I took, with brews, the detritus of fruits which filled my prison, inedible wooden tails, peels, peelings, dry peelings, hard as iron, and I entangled them. I accumulated them in the way that seemed to me the most solid. I was strong and had good lessons in my childhood. So I worked in the anxieties of hunger, with unparalleled perseverance. You had to conquer or die! …
I won … I passed!
And fell on the table almost inanimate.
Fortunately, a sealing loaf that was next to me allowed me to revive my strength. I fell into a pencil case and, in the first rays of the sun, I began to look for a way out of the closet.