158 (continued)



   A pair of handsome bluebirds were hopping briskly about, side by side, along the furrows of a newly plowed garden.
   They had been so busily engaged in picking up choice tidbits from the freshly turned soil that neither of them had spoken a word for several minutes.
   Both of these birds were showily clad in bright, azure blue, and both of them wore white on the under parts.



   But the glossy plumage of the male was a trifle darker than that of his mate; and the reddish-brown tint of his fore neck and sides was a little brighter than hers; the feet, as well as the bills of both birds, were black.
   At last Mrs. Bluebird broke the silence.

    “I can not see,” said she, “why you object to making the nest in that old, hollow stump; for I am sure it is as cozy a place as we can find.”
   Mr. Bluebird swallowed several fat, wriggling larvæ, before he made any reply.
   Then he cleared his throat a little and said, “But, my dear, have you forgotten the jays and the crows that we saw in that neighborhood yesterday?
   “Then, too, there are the rats and weasels that are prowling about there all the time. No, I am in



favor of taking possession of that fine martin box under the bough yonder; it is roomy and safe, and think of the time that will be saved in building the nest.”
   “Yes, and be driven out of it by the English sparrows as soon as it is made,” answered Mistress Bluebird, in a short, querulous tone.
   “I never can be happy a moment in that martin box,” she continued; “and if I have to go over there against my will, I am quite sure that not one of my eggs will ever hatch out.”
   There was a little more sharp discussion between them, and then both birds rose from the ground and flew directly toward the old, mossy stump.
   The mistress of the household had gained the day, and the work of building soon began.
   The nest was not very tastefully built; but it was lined with some soft grass, a few feathers, and a bit of wool, and was quite comfortable.
   Not long afterwards, there were five light-blue eggs laid within it, and everything seemed to go well.



   But before the mistress settled down to steady domestic care, the happy couple must needs go forth together for a little outing; so away they sped to their old luncheon quarters in the garden.
   But who is this that comes peeping into their door while they are away? Is it some ill-bred country cousin?
   He is clothed in blue; but his body is nearly twice the length of the bluebird, and is of a light, purplish shade, while his wings are of a still deeper tint, barred with black lines, and tipped, here and there, with white.
   He wears a jaunty tufted cap on his head, a patch of white down at the throat, and a narrow black collar that is quite high in the neck behind.
   The twelve feathers of his rounded tail are barred with black lines, and tipped at the ends with white.
   He is very handsomely dressed,—but what manners!
   For, without waiting for an invitation, he flies straight in at the door! And what can he be doing there so long, with no one to entertain him?
   Now he comes out, lights on the top of the stump, and utters a shrill cry,—“jay-jay-jay,”—as much as to say, “Yes, that is my name. I am the thief that



sucked those little blue eggs, and left nothing but empty shells behind!” and away he goes to break up some other home.
   By and by, the owners of the nest return. The mother bird enters the house at once, while her mate alights on the stump, and warbles a low, soft tune.
   But what is all this bustle about? Mistress Bluebird flies swiftly out at the door, and in an agitated tone calls her mate to “just come and look here!”
   Then she goes back, and he darts in after her, and then they both come out again, and cast quick, searching looks all around them; and pretty soon they return to the nest, to make themselves sure that there is no mistake about it.
   But it is too sadly true. Some winged robber has stolen into their quiet home and left nothing behind him but empty shells. It is hard to believe it, but there is no chance for doubt; so they must seek new quarters and begin all over again.



   Now they fly to the open door of the martin house, and this time Mistress Bluebird raises no objections; for she is so mute with grief and disappointment that she is willing to go anywhere.
   They soon build another cozy nest, and again five light-blue eggs are laid within it; and the little housekeeper at once settles down to her duties.
   Her mate goes forth on glad wings and brings her all the rare morsels that he can find, and gives her, now and then, a kiss in the bargain.
   Finally there comes a faint “peep, peep” from five tiny bills, and then who can be happier than the joint owners of that household?
   Mistress Bluebird seems to have almost entirely forgotten her sorrow; and as for the master of the house, he warbles a song so full of melody that it does seem as if he must have a real Swiss music box hidden away under his glossy breast.
   His wife responds with a low, happy chirrup, and says, “How glad I am that we chose this martin box; it is just the place for us, so roomy and so safe, withal.”
   And he tries to keep down a sly, liquid chuckle, as he replies, “I told you so, my dear; I told you so!”





   One morning, a noisy drone honeybee was buzzing about among some sweet clover blossoms, when all at once he came upon a slow-plodding snail.
   “You poor thing,” said he; “how I do pity you!”
   “Pray why do you pity me?” answered the snail, “I have no need of your pity.”
   “Because I never see you without that heavy burden on your shoulders; and I am sure it must take you at least a whole week to get across this small patch of clover, while I go over and over it many times a day.
   “Just look at my four light wings now! Is it any wonder that I know all about this field of clover?”
   At this the snail stretched out two long horns. In the end of each horn was an eye; and she wanted to see for herself the drone’s gauzy wings.



   “Your wings are very good,” she said, “but I am better off without them; for I can travel as fast as I care to with one foot.”
   “Only one foot, and no wings at all?” said the drone. “Really I pity you now more than ever. But tell me, how long have you carried that heavy shell on your back?
   “Longer than I can well remember,” answered the snail, “for I was born in it.”
   “Born in it?” said the drone, in a tone of great surprise. “You do not mean to tell me that you went about with a house on your back when you were a mere infant?”
   “It was not so large then as it is now,” replied the other, “for at first it had but one small room at the top. But as I grew larger, I built more rooms, till now my little house is large enough; for it is five stories high.
   “I do not find it heavy to carry about either, for I am used to it; and when I am tired, I have only to creep backwards into my house and rest myself.”
   “But how can you gather honey and other sweets from the flowers?” asked the drone.



   “I do not live upon honey, as you do,” replied the snail. “Both my tongue and my upper lip are covered with fine, sharp teeth; and with these I scrape up and eat the soft part of green leaves and other juicy plants that come in my way.”
   The drone was silent for a little time, and then he said: “But I do not see how you happened to be born in the very top of that house of yours.”
   “I will tell you,” said the snail. “My mother laid a number of small, white eggs in the earth; and when the babies hatched out, they each had a little home of their own, like the top of this house of mine; and as they grew older, they made it larger, as I have done.”
   “Well, well,” said the other, “so the top of your house was built first; and you have never been away from home in your life,—how stupid that must be! For my part, I love a life on the wing, and I never grow tired of it—never. But what will you do with yourself when winter sets in?”
   “I can pour out from my body a sticky fluid that will dry and make a thick, strong door for my house; and I will stay inside of it, snug and safe, all through the cold winter, and when I want to come out I can push the door open with my foot.”
   The drone went buzzing about for a long time; then he came back with another question.



   “Now what would you do,” said he, “if an enemy should come to your door?”
   “My enemies can not harm me,” said she; “for I can dodge quickly back into my house, and close the door with a soft, pink curtain that I have.”
   “I wish I had a house to hide in,” said the other; “for I have no sting at all in the end of my body, such as the worker bees have in theirs, and if they choose, they can fall upon me at any time and sting me to death.”
   “Why should they do such a cruel thing as that?” asked the snail.
   “Because they are too stingy to share their honey with me,” said the other.
   “But why do you not gather honey for yourself?”
   “Oh, that is not my trade. I was not made to gather honey, and I do not know how; so I like to fly about in the sunshine, and—”
   The poor drone did not have time to finish his sentence; for at that moment, two small worker bees chanced to spy him.
   The snail quickly drew in her horns, and when she looked out again, the drone lay dead and helpless on the ground.
   “So much for being always on the wing,” said she. “For my part, I would rather stay at home all the days of my life.”

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