Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans - Edward Eggleston

How Franklin Found Out Things

Franklin thought that ants know how to tell things to one another. He thought that they talk by some kind of signs. When an ant has found a dead fly too big for him to drag away, he will run off and get some other ant to help him. Franklin thought that ants have some way of telling other ants that there is work to do.

One day he found some ants eating molasses out of a little jar in a closet. He shook them out. Then he tied a string to the jar, and hung it on a nail in the ceiling. But he had not gotten all the ants out of the jar. One little ant liked sweet things so well that he stayed in the jar, and kept on eating like a greedy boy.

[Illustration] from Great Americans by Edward Eggleston

Ants talking (magnified)

At last when this greedy ant had eaten all that he could, he started to go home. Franklin saw him climb over the rim of the jar. Then the ant ran down the outside of the jar. But when he got to the bottom, he did not find any shelf there. He went all around the jar. There was no way to get down to the floor. The ant ran this way and that way, but he could not get down.

[Illustration] from Great Americans by Edward Eggleston

An Ant's Feeler (magnified)

At last the greedy ant thought he would see if he could go up. He climbed up the string to the ceiling. Then he went down the wall. He came to his own hole at last, no doubt.

After a while he got hungry again, perhaps. He thought about that jar of sweets at the end of a string. Then perhaps he told the other ants. Maybe he let them know that there was a string by which they could get down to the jar.

In about half an hour after the ant had gone up the string, Franklin saw a swarm of ants going down the string. They marched in a line, one after another. Soon there were two lines of ants on the string. The ants in one line were going down to get at the sweet food. The ants in the other line were marching up the other side of the string to go home. Do you think that the greedy ant told the other ants about the jar? And did he tell them that there was a string by which an ant could get there? And did he tell it by speaking, or by signs that he made with his feelers?

[Illustration] from Great Americans by Edward Eggleston

If you watch two ants when they meet, you will see that they touch their feelers together, as if they were saying "Good morning!"