Kindness In Cruelty
Have you ever seen a scorpion? It lives on the hot rocks in the South, around the Mediterranean Sea, and in all hot countries. It is about as long as your hand, with a yellow or brown body rather like a lobster's. It has four legs on each side, and two very strong claws in front. Its tail is narrow and jointed and takes up half the length of its body.
Mother Scorpion carries her tail curved in the air, except on rare excep tions when it is on the ground. This makes her look very imposing. But she is a great fighter too. For at the tip of her tail there is a very sharp sting, which is always ready to attack the enemy and inject him with a deadly poison. And her claws are strong, too; if you meet a scorpion, I don't advise you to touch it, or you will get hurt.
If a cricket comes near those claws it is quickly snapped up and held tight, while the scorpion's tail comes over its head and stings the cricket to death.
But don't worry! You are not a cricket, and she won't hurt you if you leave her alone and don't go out of your way to annoy her.
For the moment something is taking up her whole attention. She is very busy looking after her family of child ren. But where are they? She looks as if she were all alone. They are not under her feet, like little chickens under a hen's wing. They must be somewhere — and sure enough, if we look carefully we can see them lying very close together on her broad back. They are so young that they are still white and very small, and certainly they could not frighten anybody. And for the moment even the crickets need have no fear, because the Mother Scorpion has given up her long hunting expeditions. She has become a gentle mother, looking after her little ones, and she will only get angry if something threatens them. And even then she will do her very best not to shake or disturb the little scorpions. She is very careful not to use her tail, in case she tips any of her children off her back; so she only uses her claws, and when the attacker comes, she puts them up just as if she were going to box, with the claws open, and the enemy runs away.
Something has happened. Perhaps it is. a.serious accident. One of the little scorpions has been careless enough to fall off hismother's back, and the poor little thing lies and kicks his legs helplessly on the' ground. But his mother stretches out one of her claws and he grabs it and climbs back to his place among his wriggling brothers.
Next time something far more serious happens. Six or seven little scorpions have fallen off together and are scattered on the ground. The Mother Scorpion is afraid they will get lost if she doesn't do something quickly. She can't cluck at them like a hen, but her way of collecting them is even quicker. She stretches out her claws in a semicircle like two rakes, and she scrapes them all together into a heap. The little scorpions catch on to her claws and her legs and climb safely back home again and go to sleep, tired out by their adventures.
If you leave them alone for two or three days, and then come back again, you will have a big surprise. They have changed completely. They are twice as big; in fact, they have grown so fat that they have split the white skin they had on when they were born, and now they are straw-coloured like their mother. As you can imagine, they never stay still a moment—just like human children, and they arc always trying to go off on expeditions and to look for adventures. But they are still too young to take care of themselves, so she holds them back with the tip of her claws, and if they look as if they are going to escape altogether, she rakes them in again.
Some of the little scorpions are training to be acrobats; they use their mother's claws as a gymnasium and do trapeze acts on them.
Another band sets out to become Alpine climbers. They climb their mother's tail, and from the tip they have an excellent view of their brothers on the plain below. But you can imagine that this seat is very much coveted, so that one scorpion doesn't stay there for long. His brothers try to get him out of it—rather like human children playing " I'm the King of the Castle!" —and many pitched battles are fought for this place, when new bands climb up and chase the first band away.
Through all this strife and excitement, the Mother Scorpion is abso lutely patient. She knows that little scorpions need exercise if they are to grow up, so she watches very carefully to see that they don't get lost or come to any harm, but she lets them play as much as they like.
What a wonderful lesson we can learn from even the most cruel animals and insects. If you are ever lucky enough to go to the Zoo and to see a lioness with her cubs, watch how tenderly she looks aft,er them and how patient she is with them — just as patient as the Mother Scorpion with her tiresome band of children.
(From Fabre. Courtesy of Toujours Grandir.)