There is another mysterious ear which is a stumbling-block to the simple theory-monger. It is in fashion among a tribe of bats to which belongs the so-called vampire of India. This monster is fond of coming into your bedroom at midnight through the open windows, but not to suck your blood, for it has little in common with the true vampire of South America. It brings its dinner with it and hangs from the ceiling, "feeding like horses when you hear them feed." You hear its jaws working—crunch, crunch, crunch, but feel too drowsy to get up and expel it.
When you get up in the morning there on your clean dressing table, just below the place where it hung, are the bloody remains of a sparrow, or the crumbs of a tree-frog. The servants will tell you that the sparrow was killed and eaten by a rat, but if you rise softly next night when you hear the sound of feeding, and shut the windows, you will find a goblin hanging from the ceiling in the morning, hideous beyond the power of words to tell. Its ears, thin, membranous and longer than its head, tremble incessantly. Inside of them is another pair, much smaller than the first, and tuned to their octave, I should guess, while two membranous smelling trumpets of similar pattern rise over the nose. What is the meaning of these repulsive instruments, and how does that strange beast catch sparrows? When it comes out after dark and quarters the garden, passing swiftly under and through the branches of trees, they are sound asleep hidden among the leaves, motionless and silent. But their flesh may be scented, and their gentle breathing heard if you have instruments sufficiently delicate. Then the ample wings may suddenly enfold the sleeping body, and the savage jaws grip the startled head before there is time even to scream. Without a doubt this is the secret of the vampire bat's ears.
But to find food and flee death are not the only interests in life even to the meanest creature. There are social pleasures, family affections and fellowship, sympathy and co-operation in the struggles of life. And there is love.
Omne adeo genus in terris hominumque ferarumque,
Et genus aequoreum, pecudes, pictaeque volucres,
In furias ignemque ruunt: amor omnibus idem.
The chirping of the cricket, the song of the lark, the call of the sentinel crane, the watchword with which the migratory geese keep their squadrons together, the howling of jackals, the lowing of cows, the hum of the hive, the chatter of the drawing-room, and a hundred other voices in forest and field and town remind us that the voice and the ear are the pair of wheels on which society runs.
And this thought points the way out of another contradictious puzzle, that which confronts my argument from the ears of an ass. It roams treeless deserts where no foe can approach unseen. Thistles make no sound. Why should it be adorned with ears which in their amplitude are scarcely surpassed by those of the rabbit and the hare. There is no answer unless their function is to hear the bray of a fellow-ass.... One may object that that majestic sound is surely of force to impress itself without any aid from an external ear; but that is a vain argument built on the costermonger's moke—dreary exile from its fatherland. Remember that its ancestors wandered on the steppes of Central Asia or the borders of the Sahara. In those boundless solitudes, with nothing that eye can see or that common ear can hear to remind her that she is not the sole inhabitant of the universe, the wild ass "snuffeth up the wind in her desire," and lifting her windsails to the hot blast, hears, borne across miles of white sand and shimmering mirage, the joyful reverberations of that music which tells of old comrades and boon companions scouring the plain and kicking up their exultant heels.
Monkeys taking to trees were like the birds, they scarcely needed ears. And so by the high road of evolution you arrive at man and the enigma of his ear. It is a shrunken and shrivelled remnant, a moss-grown ruin, a derelict ship. It is to a pattern ear what the old shoe which you find in a country lane, shed from the foot of some "unemployed," is to one of Waukenphast's "five-miles-an-hour-easy" boots. We ought to temper our contempt for what it is with respect for what it was. All the parts of it are there and recognisable, even to the muscles that should move it, but we have lost control of them. I believe anyone could regain that by persevering exercise of his will power for a time—that is, if he has any. I have a friend who, if you treat him with disrespect, shrivels you up with a sarcastic wag of his right ear.
The ears of dogs open up another vista for the questioning philosopher. Their day is past, too, and man may cut them short to match his own, but the dog grows them longer than before. When he first took service with man, and grew careless and lazy, the muscles got slack and the ears dropped, which is in accordance with Nature. Then, instead of being allowed to wither away, they have been handed over to the milliner and shaped and trimmed in harmony with the "style" of each breed of dogs. How it has been done is one of those mysteries which will not open to the iron keys of Darwin, But there it is for those to see who have eyes.
The ears of the little dogs bred for ladies' laps are the curls of a mother's darling; the pendant love-locks of the old, old maid who, despite of changeful fashions, clings to those memorials of the pensive beauty of her youth, are repeated in solemn mimicry by the dachshund trotting at her heels; but the sensible fur cap of the dignified Newfoundland reminds us of the cold regions from which his forefathers came. Some kinds of terriers still have their ears starched up to look perky, and I have occasionally seen a dog with one ear up and the other down as if straining after the elusive idea expressed in the Baden-Powell hat. All which shows that "one touch of nature makes the whole world kin."