WITH AUGER AND SAW
Ah, here comes the other wise little carpenter, bringing two sharp saws along with her. She has taken her own time; but she is here at last. And what a pretty little busybody she is!
Look at her closely, and you will see that both her head and her thorax are of a glossy black; but the other parts of her body are of a steel blue, spotted with yellow.
Her four thin wings are of a smoky brown; her legs are stout, and of a blue-black color, and her feet are of a pale yellow.
Does she not resemble a hornet? Well, she belongs to the same great family1 as the hornet; so it is no wonder that we can trace a family likeness.
But the hornet has, at the end of her body, a very sharp sting; while the sawfly carries a pair of keen-edged saws instead.
See, she is using them now to make a slit in
1 Hy-men-op´te-ra, membrane wing, or thin wing.
that leaf; and when it is done, she will drop an egg into it.
And because she has made a hole in the leaf, the sap will not flow smoothly along as it did before, but it will gather there. And after a time there will be a hard lump, like a knob, in that place; and wherever she places an egg, there will be just such a swelling or knob.
Inside of each lump there will be a squirming, larval baby, clad in pale, greenish yellow, with a black stripe running all along its back.
And what active little creatures they will be! Each one of them will have no less than twenty-two strong legs, so it will not take them long to strip the leaves from that tree.
And what is more, should you chance to touch one of them ever so lightly, he will spirt from the sides of his body a jet of fluid right into your face. Now when these hungry creatures have feasted for a long time, they will crawl down from the tree and bury themselves under the dry, fallen leaves.
And there, in a thick brown cocoon, each small
infant will stay, snug and safe till spring. Then it will break open its pupa case and push hard against one end of its cocoon, till it opens like a little lid, and out it will come, a four-winged saw-fly, having a body nearly an inch in length.
The body of the male is longer and narrower than that of the female; and there is no saw at the end of it. The males of bees, hornets, ants, horntails, and all other insects of this kind have neither sting nor borer at the end of the body.
But both males and females have two pairs of jaws,one for biting and cutting the leaves and twigs of plants, and the other for sucking the sweet juices.
There are many curious insects that belong to this large family, and among them is one that is named the gallfly. It is a very small insect, having a body not over a quarter of an inch in length.
Have you ever seen a little brown ball fastened to a twig, or to the leaf of a plant? I hope you did not try to bite it, thinking it was a nut. Let me tell you how these little balls happen to be found in such places.
A mother gallfly lays her eggs in a leaf or stem, something after the manner of the sawfly, and these nutgalls are the homes of her larval infants.
As soon as these larvæ are hatched from the
egg, they begin to feed on the soft pulp within the ball; and as they increase in size they cast their skins till they reach the pupa state.
Finally they escape from this pupa case and gnaw a little hole through the shell of the nut; then they come forth with wings into the great world outside.
And now that you know how these little brown nuts are formed, I am quite sure that you will examine them very carefully should you chance to come upon them in your walks.
If you will look at some of them closely, you will find the open door through which the winged insect came.
So you see, these little mothers that we find flying about everywhere are really very wise, and they are worth our careful study.
The fields and forests are alive with them, for they are ever on the wing, and we have only to keep our eyes open in order to learn all their secrets.
FOUR PINK BABIES
There was a great stir in the cottage of Dame Dutton; for it was the first day of April, and the good dame never allowed that day to pass (unless it chanced to fall on Sunday) without a general upheaving and overturning of everything that was movable under her roof.
I will begin at the pantry first, said Mistress Dutton; for if my sense of smell does not deceive me, there is a mouse hidden away in that cake cupboard.
So, with sleeves rolled to the elbow, and with her longest bib apron tied snugly about her, she proceeded to attack the cake cupboard, without farther delay.
Bless me! cried the dame, as the first whisk of her broom brought down a large, black spider, and with it the fine gossamer web that had been woven with so much care.
Bless me! who would have believed it, and I so particular about cobwebs, too.
But after the cobwebs (together with all the victims that had been snared by them) were lying in loose tufts on the pantry floor, Mrs. Dutton felt that she had a still greater work to do.
For now there was no possibility of a mistake; she certainly did sniff the strong odor of a mouse, and she felt quite sure that the little thief was not far off.
Nor was she mistaken; for while she stood there, prying and peeping into this corner and that, up jumped a mouse, almost into her very face, and scampered away to an opposite corner of the room.
Mrs. Dutton gave a little scream, and for a moment it was hard to tell which was the more frightened, she or the mouse.
Then she gained courage to make a search along the wooden cleat of the pantry shelf andcould she believe her own eyesthere, in a snug, cozy corner, were four, wee baby mice.
Poor little things! they were so young that they had, as yet, no furry coat like their mothers; and the color of their naked bodies was almost as pink as the gay ribbon on Dame Duttons Sunday cap.
And their eyes,well, they had no eyes, so far as she could make out.
There were two mites of eyelids that looked like little warts, but the whole family seemed to be as blind as a nest of young kittens; and everybody knows that young kittens do not get their eyes fairly open till they are nine days old, at least.
What funny-looking little creatures they were! They were both sightless and hairlessugh!
But these ugly-looking babies were very precious in the sight of the mother mouse, as you will presently learn; and you must not suppose that she ran away like a coward to return to them no more.
Ah, no indeed, she could not do that; she simply hid herself away for a moment, as if planning what it was best to do next. It was most pitiful to see her trembling there in the corner.
There was a quiver in her pretty, silky ears, in the short, stiff hairs about her pointed snout, and even her long, smooth tail shook with terror.
Oh, how her poor heart did flutter lest some harm should come to the helpless infants that she loved so well.
She had felt so secure in that dark cake cupboard, and she had worked so very hard to get inside.
Why, she had gnawed and gnawed for more than a week, before she had been able to make a hole large enough for her own little body to pass in and out.
Now that small opening was her own private doorthe little door of her bedroom; and it was so very small that she had never dreamed that any eye but hers could find it.
She had used her front teeth for a chisel, in cutting the doorway, and very sharp teeth they were too, I assure you.
There were four of them in alltwo on the upper, and two on the under jaw; and the more she used them, the stronger and sharper they grew.
Many and many a night when she had been gnawing at the doorway, she had heard the footsteps of Dame Dutton approaching the pantry.
Then she had sped away in terror, not daring to return to her work till almost morning. Poor soul! Do you not feel sorry for her? I do.
I think Dame Dutton must have felt a little sorry, too; for she just stood stock still and looked at her.
After awhile the timid, trembling creature seemed to gain a little courage; and so, very cautiously she crept towards the nest,that little home that held her treasures.
Then she stopped, and fixed her bright little eyes on the tall giant standing so very near her.
But suddenly she made a dash toward the nest, and seizing one of the babies by the nape of the neck, just as a cat catches up her kittens, she held it firmly between her teeth, and scampered away with it as fast as her legs could carry her.
Could you have looked closely at her soft, tiny feet, you would not wonder that she sped away so nimbly.
She had four finger toes, and a bit of a thumb besides, on each of her fore feet; while each of her hind feet had five toes; and each toe was armed with a sharp nail.
Ah, such feet as hers were not made to stumble; they were almost as swift as wings! She was gone but a moment, and then her pointed snout appeared at the open door again.
In a twinkling she sprang to the shelf, and rushing
to the nest, the second baby mouse was rescued in the same manner as the first.
A third time she came back, and growing a little bolder each time, she made directly for the nest and disappeared, in a flash, with the third infant.
Now I will test your bravery, Mrs. Mouse, said Dame Dutton; so she slipped a stiff piece of cardboard under the nest, and held it tightly in her hand.
The mother mouse returned, flitted a few paces forward, saw that the nest had been removed, and then stopped quite still, but shaking and panting with fright.
Help, help! peeped the small pink baby, in plain mouse language; and this was more than the mother love could bear.
The poor frightened heart beat so loud and so fast that it shook her whole body.
Very slowly she crept along the shelf, and finally she flattened herself out in a sort of humble way, as if begging the huge giant to spare her little one.
Then with one bold effort, she gathered herself
up, gave a quick jump, caught her peeping treasure from the nest, and was out of sight in an instant.
Well, said Mistress Dutton, as soon as she had recovered from her astonishment,well I never! And I always so particular about mice, too.