As Leiningen and his men battle the ants, the workers are torn between their fear of the ants and their respect for Leiningen, a fair boss who seems to have the right idea. His defenses all are successful initially, only to fall later under the sheer numbers of ants attacking. During the battle, two Indian workers are overcome by fear and try to escape to the river, but are quickly covered in ferocious, biting ants:
They sprinted with incredible speed towards the river. But their fleetness did not save them; long before they could attain the rafts, the enemy covered their bodies from head to foot.
In the agony of their torment, both sprang blindly into the wide river, where enemies no less sinister awaited them. Wild screams of mortal anguish informed the breathless onlookers that crocodiles and sword-toothed piranhas were no less ravenous than ants...
(Stephenson, "Leiningen Versus the Ants," classicshorts.com)
This event comes just as Leiningen faces his own self-doubt, looking for a way to stop the unstoppable. Although the death of the Indians sows more doubt in Leiningen and his men, he understands that death in action -- even running across a field of ants to the river with no hope of making it -- is better than waiting passively for death. However, from this despairing thought Leiningen comes to the realization that the river itself could save them all.