By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Inmates of my House and Garden
Author: Brightwen, Mrs. (Eliza Elder)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Inmates of my House and Garden" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                           Transcriber's Note

Italicized text has been surrounded by _underscores_. Bold text has been
surrounded by =equal signs=. Some minor punctuation and spelling errors
have been corrected. Inconsistent spelling and punctuation has been

                    _INMATES OF MY HOUSE AND GARDEN_

                      _BOOKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR._

=WILD NATURE WON BY KINDNESS.= Illustrated. School Edition, limp cloth,
  1s. 6d. Presentation Edition, imitation leather, in box, 5s.

“A charming collection.... Will be found a pleasant companion to young
people in their holiday haunts.”—_Pall Mall Gazette._


=MORE ABOUT WILD NATURE.= Illustrated. Paper, 1s.; cloth, 2s.

“No better book can be given to juvenile naturalists.”—_Graphic._



[Illustration: THE GROVE (SOUTH FRONT).]


                             INMATES OF MY
                            HOUSE AND GARDEN


                             MRS. BRIGHTWEN

               _Author of “Wild Nature Won by Kindness”_

                     ILLUSTRATED BY THEO. CARRERAS

                            T. FISHER UNWIN
                           PATERNOSTER SQUARE

                         _All rights reserved._


                          MISS ELEANOR ORMEROD

    _Consulting Entomologist to the Royal Agricultural Society, and
                 Fellow of the Meteorological Society._


      For thirty years you have been a pioneer in the fields of
agricultural zoology and chemistry, and it may most truly be said that
no woman has ever done so much as you have to protect agriculture
against its natural enemies. In the special departments to which you
have devoted your life, it is universally admitted that you are without
a rival.

My little volumes do not compete with work so serious as yours, yet you
have gratified me with your commendation of their truthfulness, and you
have permitted me the pleasure of dedicating to you this one, in some
chapters of which I deal with the classes which are most familiar to

                      Believe me to be
                            Yours very sincerely,
                                  ELIZA BRIGHTWEN.

       _June, 1895._


ENCOURAGED by the extremely kind reception which has been awarded to my
previous books, and by the assurances, which have reached me from the
most unexpected sources, that they have been found pleasant and
profitable, I am venturing to offer to the same indulgent public a third
collection of personal studies of natural history.

I recognise clearly that my little volumes have been received with so
much favour, because, in spite of their simplicity and their lack of
scientific importance, they are, so far as they go, original. That is to
say, I have not much to give, but what I have is of my own gathering. I
have not borrowed from other and cleverer writers, but have set down as
plainly as I could what I have myself observed and experienced.

It is my privilege to be unusually well placed for the minute study of
living creatures, and in that study I find a pleasure so intense that I
long to attract others to the same well-spring of pleasure. Unpretending
as are the chronicles of the inmates of my house and garden, they are
scrupulously true, and every fact that a veracious observer records is a
contribution, however small, to our general sum of knowledge.

It only remains to say that a few of these chapters have appeared in
_Nature Notes_ and in _The Girl’s Own Paper_. The rest are now printed
for the first time.

                                                        ELIZA BRIGHTWEN.

                           TABLE OF CONTENTS.


                      LEMURS                    15

                      TOMMY AND PEARLIE         27

                      MUNGO                     39

                      SQUIRRELS                 51

                      FAIRY                     57

                      ASNAPPER                  73

                      WILLOW-WRENS              83

                      TAME DOVES                91

                      FEEDING BIRDS            103

                      STARVING TORTOISES       115

                      TEACHING CHILDREN        127

                      STUDYING NATURE          139

                      INSECT OBSERVATION       153

                      SOLITARY BEES AND WASPS  165

                      DRONE FLIES              191

                      THE PRAYING MANTIS       201

                      THE CORK MOTH            211

                      THE CLOTHES MOTH         219

                      THE DEATH-WATCH          231

                      CHEESE-MITES AND FLIES   237

                      LEPISMÆ                  245

                      POT-POURRI               255

                      A WATER BOUQUET          265

                      ARTISTIC PITHWORK        271

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


             THE GROVE (SOUTH FRONT)         _Frontispiece_

             TOMMY                                       31

             PEARLIE BASKING BEFORE THE FIRE             35

             FAIRY SINGING                               65

             YOUNG BROWN OWL (ASNAPPER)                  79

             ASNAPPER                                    81

             MY WINDOW VISITORS                         106

             FIR-TREE IN WINTER                         109

             YEW-TREE SEAT AND WEEPING BIRCH            111

             VARIEGATED DEODAR                          177



                      “In consecrated earth
                      And on the holy hearth
            The Lars and Lemurs moan with midnight plaint.”


AMONGST the many curious animals I had kept and studied, there had
never, so far, been a specimen of the monkey tribe. I had always feared
that I could not meet their requirements in the way of food and
temperature, and that a proper place for such creatures did not exist at
the Grove.

However, the offer of a pair of lemurs tempted me into many
consultations and much searching amongst the books in the library, in
order to find out all that could be learned about the nature of these
animals, until I found myself speculating as to whether it would not,
after all, be possible to make them happy.

Lemurs are inhabitants of the island of Madagascar, where they live in
the woods, feeding on fruits. All accounts agree in describing them as
quiet, gentle creatures, very agile in their movements and nocturnal in
their habits.

The word _lemur_ was employed by the ancients to describe the unbodied
spirits of men, whether beneficent or malignant; the festivals called
_lemuria_ were appointed for the appeasing and “laying” of ghosts. The
animals received their name from their almost noiseless movements; they
must, I suppose, look very ghastly and uncanny as they flit about on the
tree-branches at night.

The more I read about them the more it appeared to me that I must not
lightly pass by such an opportunity of obtaining rare subjects for
naturalistic study. So the lemurs were accepted, and I sent a man to the
other side of London to bring them, cage and all, with great care to
their new home.

Until I knew their size and something about their requirements I could
not very well prepare a place for them, and I reckoned on their living
in the cage that they came in for a few days at least after their
arrival. What, then, was my dismay when the lemurs arrived to find that
they were packed in a small hamper, and that no cage had come with them,
as it had been found too large to be conveyed by any cab or other sort
of carriage.

Plainly the poor animals could not stay in the hamper, and I had nothing
large enough to hold them. They were so timid that I was afraid to let
them loose in the conservatory; they might have sprung up to the roof
and remained there, where it would be cold, and as I had been very
specially warned to guard them against draughts, I was puzzled indeed to
know what to do with them. At last a large circular linen-basket was
found, which made a temporary home until we could think of some better
place in which to keep them.

When the hamper was opened the poor frightened creatures were seen,
locked in each other’s arms, gazing at us with round glassy eyes. It was
some days before we could really see what beautiful animals they were,
since their timidity was so great that, though they would eat bananas
out of my hand gently enough, nothing would induce them to come out of
their hiding-place and be friendly.

As soon as possible, a bay at one end of the conservatory was wired in,
some tree-branches were fixed for the lemurs to climb upon, and a large
plant-case, with glass sides and top, and soft hay within, made a cosy
retreat when they wished for complete retirement.

It was very enjoyable to let the new pets into their pleasant home. They
instantly and fully approved of it, climbing at once to the highest
branch, and gazing down at us with a far happier expression in their
great eyes than they had hitherto shown. And now for the first time we
could appreciate the beauty of their silky-white fur and wonderful

I found out that these were specimens of the Ruffed Lemur, the most
beautiful of the ten species found in Madagascar. I will try and
describe them, though it will not be easy to give a very clear idea of
creatures which vary so much in aspect according to the position they

Sitting on the top of their glass house, side by side, with their long
furry tails coiled around them, they looked like two huge Persian cats,
but standing or climbing they showed themselves to be true monkeys,
although far exceeding the ordinary monkey in gracefulness.

Round the head was a full ruff of long white hairs, setting off the
gentle, fox-like face, which was mostly black, as were the small,
well-shaped hands and feet. Lemurs have four fingers and a thumb on the
hands, and the great toe and four smaller ones, as well as the fingers,
have perfect nails, which makes the creatures look very human.

The thick woolly fur was white, with large patches of black, and the
tail, three-quarters of a yard in length, was precisely like a lady’s
black fur boa, and was used much in the same way, either laid gracefully
across the back or over the feet, or wherever else warmth might be

When I offered food to these lemurs they had a curious way of obtaining
it when not quite within their reach. The little black hand was
stretched out and took a firm but very gentle grasp of my fingers,
drawing them nearer until the coveted fruit could be reached, and even
if the banana could have been taken direct they preferred to hold my
hand, and did it so prettily that I was tempted always to make them
reach out for it.

Considering the ghost-like character associated with these animals, we
thought that “Spectre” and “Phantom” would be appropriate names; they do
not, however, respond to any endearing epithets, and only manifest
emotion when a banana is offered for their acceptance.

I fancy they are somewhat unintelligent; they differ greatly from the
ordinary type of monkey, in that they sit still by the hour together,
and have no idea of mischief or of helping themselves in any way; for
instance, a monkey, if feeling cold, will accept a shawl and wrap it
round him, finding the comfort of it; but these creatures would sit and
shiver and die of cold before the idea of covering themselves would
enter their dull brains.

They are masters of the art of expressing surprise and contempt. If
something is offered to them that they do not like, they bridle up and
turn away their heads as much as to say, “Dear me, no! nothing earthly
would induce me to touch a thing like that; remove it at once!”

My greatest surprise in connection with the lemurs took place about two
months after their arrival. I had carried Mungo[1] to see them, and
carefully holding him by his string, I allowed him to stand and gaze up
at them through the wires.

He had often done this before, and beyond a few angry snorts and their
usual grunting sounds they had taken no notice, but on this occasion
they both at the same moment set up the most terrific roar that I ever
heard. I do not exaggerate when I declare that it really seemed as loud
as the roar of a lion at the Zoo. I was close to them, and it was so
utterly unexpected I don’t think I was ever quite so astonished in all
my life. The sound was truly awful, and it lasted for half a minute or
more, till I felt completely stunned, and was glad enough to retreat to
a quiet room where my nerves could recover from the shock.

I think the Madagascar woods where these animals dwell must be most
gruesome places at night, with these black and white creatures flitting
about in the branches, abruptly uttering their terrific roars at

A family quarrel among lemurs must be a thing to remember. Besides this,
they also give a loud groan now and then, which irresistibly reminds one
of _Punch’s_ “moaning gipsy in the back garden.” Such a groan must sound
additionally weird at night in the dark woods.

When I gave my friends an account of the scare I had had, one of them
returned with me to the conservatory to be favoured with a special
performance of “Ghosts.” Mungo was brought in once more, and up rose the
awful sound, with such effect that my friend turned and fled, even
though she had been forewarned. Fear is quite irresistibly awakened by
the strange quality of the sound given forth by these animals. Having
very slight means of defending themselves, I imagine this roaring power
has been bestowed upon them to enable them to scare their foes, and
drive away through fear such enemies as their soft hands could never
overcome in fair fight.

After keeping these lemurs about a year, I found that by no amount of
kindness or coaxing could I get them to be really friendly, and I feared
they were not over-happy without companions of their own kind. They were
doubtless caught too old to be tamed. It was therefore deemed best to
present them to the Zoo, where, under the kind and skilful treatment
they receive, they are, I believe, in splendid health and spirits.

Visitors to the monkey-house can identify them from the description I
have here given, and cannot fail to admire the agile movements and furry
beauty of my quondam pets.

                           TOMMY AND PEARLIE.

“So abundant, indeed, are lemurs in Madagascar, that, according to M.
Grandidier, who has done so much to increase our knowledge of this
group, at least one individual is almost sure to be found in every
little copse throughout the island.”

                           TOMMY AND PEARLIE.

ALTHOUGH I was unsuccessful in taming my handsome ruffed lemurs, Spectre
and Phantom, I felt that lemurs were delightful animals to keep as pets,
and I resolved that if an opportunity offered for obtaining other and
more tameable specimens of the same kind I would certainly try again,
and with my past experience I hoped to attain good results.

One day I heard that a young specimen of a Ruffed Lemur had been seen in
a cage at the top of a cart full of birds and curious animals, a sort of
small travelling menagerie which was stopping for a few days at a town
five miles off. A mounted messenger was sent off at once with a basket,
and full directions about the purchase of the little lemur, and, to my
great delight, when the man returned with it, it proved to be all I
could desire, quite young and healthy and very tame.

It must have been a pleasant change from the cold, draughty cage it had
been used to, to the large wired-in recess in my conservatory, which was
always kept at a genial temperature, and where, leaping from branch to
branch, the agile little creature could play its graceful frolics from
morning till night, hanging head downwards, swinging on a trapeze like a
born acrobat, and evidently enjoying its life as much as if it had been
in its native woods. The showman had always called the lemur Tommy, so
we supposed that was an indication of its sex, and retained the name to
which it had been accustomed.

[Illustration: TOMMY.]

One day in summer I had one of my large parties of poor people in the
garden, and Tommy was led about with a long string, greatly to the
delight of my visitors. The lemur was in no way frightened by the crowd;
he made friends with everybody, and hopped about from one group to
another quite at his ease. After a time a harp and violin began to
sound, and then Tommy’s love of music became apparent, for he seated
himself close to the players, and there he remained quite riveted by the
unusual sounds, gazing intently at the harpist as if spellbound.

They were but village musicians, and I was not a little surprised when,
on my remarking how music was appreciated by the lemur, one of the men
remarked, “It keeps reminding me of King Robert of Sicily and his
'solemn ape.’” One hardly expected such a knowledge of Longfellow’s
poetry in a country rustic!

It is not the first time I have been scared by the display of
unlooked-for intelligence, as the following anecdote will show.

Many years ago I was talking to my cook on culinary matters in the
dining-room, when she suddenly looked up at a majolica plate over the
doorway, and said, “That’s a mythological subject isn’t it, ma’am?” I
replied that it was. She then said, “Is that Pan in the foreground?” I
said, “No, but it is a Satyr.” “Well,” replied Cookie, “I was saying the
other day to the butler, if there were creatures of that sort to be seen
nowadays it would go far to prove the Darwinian theory—wouldn’t it,
ma’am?” History does not record my reply! I gazed at the creature
depicted on the plate, half man and half animal, and felt there was much
acumen in my learned servant’s remark, but, the question of that day’s
dinner being once settled, I thought it best to leave the Darwinian
theory alone, lest I might not prove equal to the occasion.

This, however, is a digression. I have now to record the advent of
Tommy’s companion, Pearlie. It seemed well that the lemur should have a
playmate, and I often endeavoured to provide one, but was unsuccessful,
until one day, on visiting the Bedford Conservatories in Covent Garden,
I saw some pretty grey creature curled up in a cage, and on inquiry I
found that it was a specimen of another species, the Ring-Tailed Lemur,
quite young and very tame. It was just what I wanted, so the little
animal was carefully packed in a hamper, and I brought it home with me.

I feared to place this little lemur at once with Tommy, lest they might
not agree, so, for the night, the new pet was placed in a large basket,
and covered with a railway rug. Next morning it was discovered on the
top of the highest picture frame, having forced its way out of the
basket. A banana soon tempted it to come down, and in the most friendly
manner it sat upon my shoulder and seemed delighted to be caressed and
played with. Before long, when the two lemurs had become accustomed to
each other, they were allowed to meet, and quickly became the greatest
friends, playing together for hours and affording us constant amusement
in watching their graceful gambols.


These lemurs are always giving me surprises. I was quite unprepared for
the remarkable power the ring-tailed lemur possesses of running swiftly
up the flat surface of a door, but this Pearlie did with the greatest
ease, and then sat calmly looking down at me from the top as if enjoying
my amazement. I was led to examine his paws, and found they were
provided with elastic pads somewhat like a fly’s foot with its suckers,
and then reading about this particular species I learned that it
inhabits a rocky tableland without trees, so that it is not arboreal in
its habits, but is formed with leather-like palms to its hands to enable
it to keep a firm footing on wet and slippery rocks, where it is not
possible for human beings, although barefooted, to follow it. When he is
brought into a sitting-room it is very needful to have a leading-string
attached to Pearlie’s waistband, else he darts away and is at the top of
a picture frame out of reach in a moment. His agility is only second to
that of the Gibbon—the wonderful spider-like monkey one may sometimes
see at the Zoological Gardens performing marvels of agility in swinging,
by means of his attenuated arms and legs.

During the summer months my lemurs much enjoy being in the open air, and
on fine days they are tethered on the lawn, where they amuse my visitors
with their graceful frolics. The entire absence of odour, their cleanly
habits, and their delicate tastes as to diet render these animals
especially desirable as pets; they enjoy fruit of all kinds—lettuces,
clover-blossoms, and rose-petals, while dates, raisins, and bread and
milk supply solid items of food. Thus fed and warmly housed these
creatures can be kept in splendid health with very little trouble.

Pearlie was so named from his fur being of a soft pearl-grey colour, the
long tail being banded with alternate rings of black and white. His face
and chest are also curiously marked in black and white, the eyes bright
orange, and the general expression is as gentle as that of a little cat.

We found out in the course of time that Tommy was of the gentler sex!
Her name must therefore be considered the diminutive for Thomasina—at
least I see no other way out of the difficulty, as a new name would not
be responded to or understood.

Pearlie’s portrait requires a word of explanation. His great delight in
cold weather is to be allowed to sit on a hassock before the
drawing-room fire and bask in its warmth. The instant he is seated
before the cheerful blaze, up go his little arms in a worshipping
attitude like a veritable Parsee. Thus he will remain for hours content
and happy as long as I am in the room, but if left alone he makes a
pitiful cry and starts off in search of some of his friends, as though
life were not endurable without human companionship. I think this is
always the case where animals are treated with uniform kindness; they
must be able to trust those who feed and care for them, and when that
perfect trust is established they yield a love that is often quite
touching in its intensity. These two lemurs are very different in
character. Tommy is absolutely selfish and strongly self-willed, timid
and cautious. Pearlie shines by contrast, and is ready to give up,
gentle, affectionate, and confiding. It is true they are of different
species, and that may in a measure account for the differing characters
they exhibit, but seeing they were both obtained when quite young, and
treated alike with unvarying kindness, one would have thought that
original tendencies would have become more thoroughly effaced. Allowing
for Tommy’s moral failings, one must own that he and Pearlie are
delightful specimens of the monkey tribe. They keep their lovely fur
spotlessly clean, are quite inodorous, always ready to be caressed, and
add greatly to the interest of my conservatory by their lively movements
and graceful antics.



                           A STUDY CONTINUED.

MUNGO, the Ichneumon, whose early life was chronicled in “More about
Wild Nature,” has now been a household pet for nearly four years, and
must be nearly six years old.

I do not know how long these animals generally live, but as yet Mungo
shows no signs of age or infirmity. He is as full of fun and as
inquisitive as ever, but not so bent upon mischief as in his youthful
days. He now has the range of house and garden, and goes wherever he
likes without even a collar to remind him of captivity.

The chief trouble is in connection with my visitors—those at least who
have a strong objection to “wild animals about the house”; nothing,
however, can possibly be less “wild” than Mungo, for he is just like a
tame cat. He does not dream of biting or scratching, and is never so
happy as when curled up in the lap of some indulgent friend; yet, as he
unfortunately looks like a ferret, many people find it very hard to
believe that he can be perfectly harmless.

Mungo delights to spend his mornings basking in the sun on the
window-sill of my bedroom, where he is sufficiently elevated to watch
all that goes on in the garden. He is scarcely ever asleep; as Mr.
Rudyard Kipling says so truly, in the delightful account he gives of an
Indian Mongoose in the _Jungle Book_, “He is eaten up from nose to tail
with curiosity,” and whilst seeming to slumber, the active little
cinnamon-coloured nose is ever on the work sniffing out the varied
movements of the household.

As summer comes on we naturally let the fire die out; and Mungo strongly
disapproves of this custom, for he dearly loves to bask on a little wool
mat before a hot fire. Now, however, he adopts another plan—when he
finds the fire is out he quietly climbs over the wire-guard, goes under
the grate and there lies down amongst the warm ashes. He has even done
this whilst there remained some fire in the grate, and I much fear he
may make an _auto-da-fe_ of himself some day by setting his long hair
alight, which would be a terrible fate indeed for our cherished pet.

Mungo’s love of warmth leads to another undesirable habit. He will steal
into the bedrooms and hide himself under the duvets, and—low be it
spoken!—he has been found cosily rolled up in a nightdress!

It may naturally be asked, “Why is he not kept in a suitable wired-in
place where he can do no harm?” Simply because he makes himself
perfectly miserable in confinement; he tears at the wirework till his
paws are bleeding, and foams at the mouth with misery and rage. No one
could keep an amiable little animal in such purgatory; it would be
kinder to end its life at once, and such a fate cannot even be thought

Mungo is a diplomatist! Liberty he has schemed to obtain, and after
years of astute planning, and almost reasoning, he has reached his end,
and we must acknowledge ourselves beaten, for to all intents and
purposes he is now master of the situation and may do pretty much what
he pleases.

There is, however, still a crumpled roseleaf in his lot; the softest bed
and the sunniest nook to bask in will not satisfy Mungo without human
society, and as we cannot give up all other occupations in order to sit
with him, he is often to be seen wandering about like an unquiet spirit
until he finds some friendly lap where he can curl himself up and enjoy
all those conditions of warmth, ease, and society which form his idea of
perfect bliss.

I am sure Mungo is a staunch Conservative as to his political views! He
hates changes of any kind, since they interfere with his personal
comfort and methodical habits. He likes to have a morning sleep in a
sunny spot, and then his profound interest in a certain rhododendron
bed, where rabbit-holes and mole-tracks are to be found, leads him to
steal across the lawn and disappear amongst the bushes. I rather fancy
he has grand times there, for if I attempt to coax him to come with me,
his pert little nose will appear amidst the leaves, and with a frisk and
a leap of absolute disobedience and fun he will return to his playground
and remain there till it pleases him to come indoors again. His next
desire is to enjoy a quiet afternoon under a warm duvet, and as he
behaves with absolute propriety and only covets warmth and quietness, I
am indulgent enough to allow him the luxury of being in my room until
evening, when he is fed, wrapped up in a wool mat and a piece of baize
and placed safely in his cage for the night.

Although Mungo would often absent himself for hours at a time, we were
so sure to see him trotting quietly home when his frolics were ended,
that somehow the possibility of an accident happening to him never
crossed our minds. When, however, one day he did not return by evening,
and night came on and no one had seen or heard anything of my pet, I
felt certain he had met with some sad fate—most probably had been caught
in a snare or trap set by the poachers on the common. Next day,
gardeners and farm-men were sent out in all directions to look for him.
The search went on for many hours, and at last I heard the welcome cry,
“Mungo is found!” Poor little fellow! but how my heart ached to see him
in torturing pain with a wild, scared look in his eyes. He had, as we
suspected, strayed across the boundary on to the common, and there he
had been caught in a spring-trap, which had completely crushed one of
his fore-paws.

I had only a few minutes in which to decide whether the poor little
animal must be put out of his misery at once or if there might be hope,
by skilful amputation, of ultimate recovery. I am sure that all lovers
of animals will understand the keen distress I felt at having to make
such a decision, but something must be done, and as I found I _could
not_ give the death warrant, Mungo was taken to the veterinary doctor,
with injunctions to spare no pains in trying to save the patient all
needless suffering. Two surgeons attended to the case, and whilst under
chloroform the little animal was relieved of the injured paw, and must
have been remarkably well treated, for I was soon informed that Mungo
was doing well and would take some “bird” for his dinner! In about a
fortnight he was brought home and looked very pitiful, limping about on
three legs. It was long before I could become accustomed to see him
thus, but so well did the wound heal that now the limp can hardly be
observed, and the little creature is as merry as ever, scampering about
and playing with his own tail as lively as any kitten.

It has been an interest to me to make a study of the character of my
mongoose, for a wild creature rendered perfectly tame by unvarying kind
treatment gives one an excellent opportunity of observing the real
nature of the animal.

I fear I must own that Mungo is absolutely selfish, his one idea is to
enjoy perfect liberty and have his own way in everything. After four
years’ petting he knows me well as his friend and purveyor, but he has
not an atom of affection; he has, apparently, no mode of manifesting
regard, the expression of his face never alters, he does not try to lick
my hand or make any greeting sound. He likes to jump into my lap simply
because it is a comfortable place, and, as he is very timid at any
unwonted noise, he will run to me for protection, but I am afraid he
views me as a means of attaining physical comfort, food, and warmth, and
nothing more!

All this does not prevent my liking the curious little animal, but one
cannot but be struck by the immense difference between its nature and
that of the faithful dog, whose devotion to his master will lead him to
refuse his food, to take long, toilsome journeys, to wait patiently for
weary hours in cold wind and biting frost when bidden to guard his
owner’s flock, aye, and even to yield up his life, if necessary, to do
his master service.

All this shows, what I have often remarked before, that, to those who
are observant of the fact, there is as much difference between the
characters of various animals, and even between those of individuals of
the same species, as may be found in human beings.

Possibly Mungo may be a selfish specimen of his race, and there may
exist brilliant exceptions abounding in affection and other noble
qualities. I can only describe him as he is, and, judging by his small
cranium and its peculiarly flattened formation, I should imagine he is
formed to be, not a pattern of all the virtues, but a creature of one
idea, and that—snake-killing! To be proficient in that art all the
characteristics I have noted in this animal are specially needed, such
as lynx-like watchfulness, undaunted courage in fight, persistent
curiosity and determination to care for himself under all circumstances.

We must therefore wink at his failure in moral goodness, and admire the
way in which he carries out the purpose for which he was made. He
worthily adorns his own special niche in Creation.

                       SQUIRRELS WON BY KINDNESS.

        “Drawn from his refuge in some lonely elm,
        That age or injury has hollowed deep,
        Where, on his bed of wool and matted leaves,
        He has outslept the winter, ventures forth
        To frisk a while, and bask in the warm sun,
        The squirrel, flippant, pert, and full of play:
        He sees me, and at once, swift as a bird,
        Ascends the neighbouring beech; there whisks his brush,
        And perks his ears, and stamps and scolds aloud.”

                       SQUIRRELS WON BY KINDNESS.

ABOUT ten years ago we began taming the wild squirrels which exist in
great numbers in the woods around this house. We put Barcelona nuts in a
small basket outside the dining-room window, and every day a handful
thrown on the ground served to attract the notice of the little animals.
In a very short time the squirrels ventured to approach, timidly at
first, picking up their favourite food; they would scratch up the nuts
and rush away to some quiet spot out of sight.

Generations of the graceful little rodents have been trained to come
nearer and nearer to the window, until they are now so delightfully tame
that I feel induced to suggest to others the means of enjoying the
pleasure we find in watching our daily visitors from the woods.

My first act before breakfast is to place a handful of nuts on a small
table which stands in the room close to a bay window. Hardly have I done
so when in come the squirrels, sliding up to the window and leaping on
to the table to enjoy the nuts. They will take nuts gently from our
hands, and sitting up in the graceful position a squirrel adopts when
quite at ease—its tail curved over its back, and its tiny paws holding
the nut—they crack them and fling away the shells in careless fashion. A
scrimmage sometimes takes place when several come in together; one
bolder spirit will chase another round the room until both spring out at
the window and dart across the lawn. At length the nuts on the table
being eaten or carried away, the squirrels, well knowing where the
supply is kept, descend to the floor and hop leisurely to a cupboard,
where on the first shelf is a box full of Barcelonas. The little animals
spring on to the shelf and help themselves. This they are allowed to do
for a little while, as we like to watch their proceedings; but I make a
protest presently, and close the cupboard door when I find my entire
stock of nuts being transferred to the garden and planted all over the
lawn, for the squirrels bury nuts for future use, although I am very
doubtful whether they do really dig them up again.

On cold mornings when the windows cannot be opened, it is touching to
see the little furry heads peep through the pane, waiting patiently for
their daily meal. This they eventually share with several very tame
nuthatches; these birds seeming very glad of nuts as well as fat during
the winter months.

The only drawback to having wild squirrels tamed is the distraction they
cause when a class of village children is being taught in the
dining-room! Sydney Smith says: “A sparrow fluttering about the church
is an antagonist which the most profound theologian in Europe is wholly
unable to overcome,” and certainly the apparition of a bright-eyed
squirrel popping up at each window in succession is enough to drive a
teacher to despair. Nothing less than an abundant shower of nuts will
bribe the little intruders to keep quiet for a time.

I have given these simple details because I think that possibly many of
my readers may like to encourage those charming little animals when they
learn how easily, by a little patient kindness, they may be attracted
from the woods to become household pets of their own free will, which
is, to my mind, so much more enjoyable than keeping captive animals or
birds. It should, perhaps, be added that great quietness and calm are
needed while the first advances are being made, and that a loud voice or
a quick gesture will undo a week’s work in taming.

                            A “FAIRY” STORY.

          “I joyed to hear her own peculiar note
                Through all the music float;
          But when the gentle song, that streamed away,
          Like some enamoured rivulet that flows
          Under a night of leaves and flowering may,
          Died on the stress of its own lovely pain,
                Even as it died away,
          It seemed as if no influence could restrain
          The notes from welling in the whitethroat’s brain.”
                                           EDMUND GOSSE.

                            A “FAIRY” STORY.

I AM often envied as the possessor of one of the most charming bird-pets
it is possible to imagine.

“Fairy” is a tiny whitethroat, a sleek, delicate, grey-coloured bird
with a white breast, lovely in form, swift in flight, and of most
engaging disposition.

I met with it in this wise. A plaintive little cheeping sound attracted
my attention one morning at breakfast-time, and looking outside the
window, I saw a tiny, half-fledged bird sitting on the ground, looking
pitifully up at me; it pleaded its hungry condition with open beak, and
seemed to have no fear at my approach. Of course such a poor little
motherless waif must be cared for, so I brought it in, and it received
very readily the provender I offered it.

I never saw such a tiny, quaint-looking piece of bird-life. Its little
throat-feathers were beginning to show on either side like a small white
cravat; it had about half an inch of tail, and minute quills all over
its body gave token of coming feathers. The delightful thing about it
was its exceeding tameness; it would sit on my finger and gaze at me
with a contemplative expression; no noise frightened it; it was quite
content with life in a basket, or on the table, and therefore it became
my constant companion, and has grown to be very dear to me and to a wide
circle of friends.

Fairy’s advent was in July, and for the first month the early morning
feeding was no small care; but love makes all things easy, and at last
my small charge could feed itself, and had learnt the use of its wings.

Daily baths were taken in my soap-dish, which was amply large enough at
first, but now Fairy is promoted to the sponge basin, in which she
flutters to her heart’s content and dries herself afterwards by swift
flights about the room. The bath over, the next thing is to search for
flies on the window-panes or on the floor; these are snapped up as great
dainties, and in this way Fairy greatly promoted my comfort all through
the heat of August and September, 1893, by keeping my room free of
winged insects.

I have only to take Fairy on my finger and direct her attention to a fly
on the ceiling, when off she darts, like a hawk after its quarry, and
the fly disappears like magic.

I was once much amused to watch her day after day eyeing a large spider
in the corner of the room. She evidently considered very deeply whether
she could tackle it; it was large and she was small, and for three days
she hesitated; but at last her courage was equal to the enterprise, and
the spider was seized, minced up, and eaten. My tiny pet lives on
grapes, lettuce, flies, meal-worms, and, as great indulgences, cream and
sugar; a tin of special bird-food supplies other items of diet. Fairy is
in and out of her cage all day, and but for fear of accidents she might
have the range of the house, so confident am I that she would not wish
to stray from her happy home. Still, she loves an expedition, and once,
having flown after me into the hall, I did not see her again for an hour
or more; a hunt was needful, and after searching every room she was at
last discovered cheerfully investigating the boxes in a lumber-room at
the very top of the house.

I never knew such a clever, fearless little bird. She will put her small
body into every corner in search of information; she visits all my
friends in turn as they sit at luncheon, pulls their hair, sits on their
fingers, tugs their dresses, and is, of course, universally beloved.

I was curious to note whether Fairy would grow restless when the
migrating season began, but her abnormal life indoors has so altered her
natural instincts that she makes herself quite happy throughout the
autumn, and we are truly glad that we are not called to bid adieu to
such a lovable companion.

Very naturally some readers may ask, “How can they obtain a tame, happy
little pet bird such as my whitethroat now is?” I can only reply, such a
thing is not to be bought (or very rarely) for any amount of money, but
can be attained by any one who will bring up a young fledgling from its
earliest youth, with never-failing love and gentleness. There is no
secret about it; it is not a gift bestowed on some and withheld from
others, as many seem to suppose, judging from the number of times I have
been told, “Oh, you have the gift of taming creatures.” I always
disclaim the assertion and tell the simple truth, that just as you seek
to win the heart of a child by invariable and patient kindness, so these
innocent dumb brethren of ours yield us their devoted love if they meet
with similar treatment at our hands.

We must not begin the task of bringing up a young bird without counting
the cost beforehand. It means rising every morning between four and
five, and having little sleep afterwards, for we must imitate the
self-denying industry of the mother-bird in providing food for her young
ones. If we look out over the dewy lawns at daybreak in spring and
summer, we shall see thrushes, blackbirds, robins, and many other birds
all actively engaged in searching for worms and insects to supply the
needs of their respective families. All through the day we must think of
the tender creature we have undertaken to rear, giving it every
half-hour as much food as it desires, and keeping it warmly covered from
cold and draughts, lest its limbs should be attacked by cramp.

This ailment seems incurable, and is the cruel fate of most fledglings
that are brought away from their parents, because people forget that the
warmth of the mother-bird is essential to the life of the callow brood,
and I, for one, never promote the rearing of young wild birds unless, as
in the case of a motherless waif like my Fairy, we try to save a little
innocent life by doing what we can to imitate its natural bringing up.
Absolute tameness can only be attained by unvarying gentle treatment.
Never has Fairy heard a harsh word, or, as far as I know, has she had a
fright of any kind.

[Illustration: FAIRY SINGING.]

A single grip of Mungo’s cruel little jaws would end her life in a
moment, but Fairy does not know it, and she sings on fearlessly as he
passes her cage. I believe she would act as a certain much-petted little
dog used to do when his mistress pretended to scold him severely; he
would look about eagerly to see where the wicked animal addressed could
be that he might fly at him. I tried to speak seriously to my small bird
one day when she was particularly in my way, but she only gave me
several hard pecks, and to my great amusement fought me with her tiny
claws much as a gamecock would use his spurs. Fairy has the curious
habit, which I have noticed in many small birds, of turning rapid
somersaults by way of exercise, springing from a perch on one side of
the cage up to the roof, turning over and coming down on her feet like a
born acrobat.

It is curious to be able to see human passions manifested in such a tiny
creature as my whitethroat, and it can rarely _be seen_, because it is
very seldom that a bird is so absolutely tame as to feel free to show
itself as it is in reality—fear being the dominant feeling in most
captive birds—and that leads to the incessant fluttering and effort to
escape, which hinders character from being shown.

When Fairy is out of her cage, if I open a drawer she is certain to show
_curiosity_, and flies into it, hops about in her perky way, pecking at
one thing and another to find out what each is, her beak being
equivalent to a hand, and the only instrument with which she can do
anything. I put some delicacy on my finger, and then she comes, and by
her actions and low chirping she shows _pleasure_.

Before long, her sweet warbling song expresses _contentment_, her little
sky is serene and clear, all her wants are provided for, she has no
cares for the morrow, and her happy little nature comes out in cheery

She picks a scarlet flower petal, and I am not sure but it may be
poisonous and bad for her, so, like a careful mother, I take it out of
her beak. Then comes unmistakable _anger_; she scolds and pecks at my
fingers, and wilfully tries to get the flower petal back again.

All this is wonderfully human, and all to be found in a creature not two
inches in length! If Fairy could be seen minus her feathers she would be
about the size of a walnut! I do think in all respects a _bird_ is one
of the principal marvels of creation, most lovely and lovable. See the
little creature taking a bath, reducing itself to a disreputable tuft of
draggled feathers for the sake of cleanliness, and then fluttering and
shaking itself dry again, and by means of its wonderful beak pluming its
feathers into order, applying oil to them from its little gland just
above the tail, and after infinite pains ending by looking soft and
sleek as a piece of satin.

Instinct teaches it to do all this which we could no more imitate than
we could fly. Then how touching is the motherhood of a bird. Many a
human mother is put to shame by the example of a little feathered thing
which has only instinct to guide her in preparing her soft, warm
nursery, to which love ties her closely for two or three weeks. Bright
days come and go, but she denies herself all the pleasures she sees
other birds enjoying, and barely takes time to get her needful food,
that she may keep warm those two little snowy eggs which are all the
world to her even now, and when young creatures begin to stir beneath
her faithful breast then she exchanges the quiescent life for one of
incessant toil that her callow brood may not call to her in vain for the
insect diet which she has to provide.

By the time the young ones can feed themselves the parents are quite
thin and worn with their incessant toil, and yet in favourable seasons
some kinds of birds rear a second or even a third family before the
summer is over.

Although the Whitethroat is plentiful in the southern counties, I do not
find that people, as a rule, are at all familiar with its appearance,
and I imagine this arises from the shy habits of the bird. It flits
nimbly out of sight when alarmed, and being of an inconspicuous grey
colour, it requires a keen eye to distinguish it when hopping
noiselessly about in weedy hedgerows, where it is so often found that it
has obtained the provincial name of Nettle Creeper.

With reference to the migration of the Whitethroat, I learn from one of
Canon Tristram’s delightful books on birds, that Algeria is its winter
retreat. He says:—

“Each portion of the Sahara—the rocky ridges, the sand drifts, the
plains—has its peculiar ornithological characteristics. But by far the
most interesting localities are, as might have been anticipated, the
dayats and the oases. Here are the winter quarters of many of our
familiar summer visitants. The chiff-chaff, willow-wren, and whitethroat
hop on every twig in the gardens shadowed by the never-failing palm; the
swallow and the window martin thread the lanes and sport over the mouths
of the wells in pursuit of the swarming mosquitoes.”

When spring returns, these smaller birds are led by instinct to re-cross
the Mediterranean and seek their European haunts where the temperature
has again become sufficiently mild to enable them to find insect food
and rear their families of nestlings.

The sharp clicking note, like two stones jarred together, which this
bird makes when excited, we constantly hear in our furze-bushes and
hedges, proving that the whitethroat exists in some numbers in
Middlesex; and now that my “Fairy” has begun to sing, I find it is a
strain with which I am quite familiar. My curiosity had often been
excited by hearing low, soft warbles from unseen singers on the common
or in the woods; I vainly tried to see what bird it could be, but it
always seemed to remain out of sight. My small pet has solved the
mystery by performing for my private benefit the sweet music of her wild
brethren out of doors.

I am constantly reminded of the lines in Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner”:—

                  “A noise like of a hidden brook
                    In the leafy month of June,
                  That to the sleeping woods all night
                    Singeth a quiet tune.”

As I sit at my writing, the delicate soft warbling goes on hour after
hour, and is a source of real pleasure to me, so manifestly is it the
outcome of a perfectly happy little spirit telling out its inward joy in
its own sweet fashion.

Captivity has no terrors for Fairy; she loves her cage, and will hardly
leave it except when she occasionally takes a swift flight to and fro,
and then alights on my notepaper to give a peck at my pen. She delights
in sitting on the fender, fluffing up her feathers to revel in the
warmth, which, in winter, is her substitute for sunshine, and before
long she returns to her own little home, where she may be seen
gracefully sipping the sweet juice of a grape before recommencing her

I often wonder how long this, my latest pet, may be spared to me! A
bird’s life is such a tender thing—a moment’s carelessness may rob one
of a cherished pet, and the greatest care will not always guard such a
tiny swift-flying bird from injury.

May the sorrowful day be far distant that shall see me bereft of my
little ray of home sunshine, my Fairy Whitethroat!


                “Heard ye the Owl
          Hoot to her mate responsive? 'Twas not she
          Whom, floating on white pinions near his barn,
          The farmer views well-pleased, and bids his boy
          Forbear her nest; but she who, cloth’d in robe
          Of unobtrusive brown, regardless flies
          Mouse-haunted corn-stacks and the thresher’s floor,
          And prowls for plunder in the lonely wood.”


                             THE BROWN OWL.

WHILST enjoying the fresh beauty of my garden in the month of May, with
its wealth of flowers and rich variety of leafage, my eyes happened to
light upon a greyish tuft of feathers in a rhododendron bush. Curiosity
led me to examine this tuft more closely, when, to my surprise, I found
it was a young brown owl—alive, but in a very exhausted condition. It
appeared to be only a few weeks old, fully feathered, but unable to feed
itself; I suppose it had fallen out of the nest and was dying for lack
of food. I need hardly say I carried it indoors, and did my best to feed
and restore the poor orphan, and right well did he second my efforts. A
juicy uncooked mutton chop was cut up and mixed with feathers, and with
resounding snaps of his great beak the morsels were received and
swallowed. A second chop was disposed of before my friend seemed
satisfied, and with such a mighty appetite I felt there would be no
difficulty in rearing this vigorous infant. Next morning I found two
sparrows and a mouse had been obtained. These soon disappeared, and had
to be supplemented by a piece of raw meat. And if this is the daily diet
of a very young owl, we may form some idea of the way in which
full-grown birds must reduce the hordes of mice and rats which would
otherwise overrun the country.

Whenever we passed the owl’s cage he gave a resounding snap with his
beak, not viciously but as a friendly recognition, and somehow this
habit suggested the name of the Assyrian king, the “noble Asnapper,” and
this, familiarly contracted to “Snap” for every-day use, became the
recognised title of our new pet.

Asnapper lived quietly enough during the day in a large cage well
covered from the light, but towards evening, when he had enjoyed his
second repast of raw meat, he began to wake up and long for exercise. He
was allowed his liberty in the house, and made full use of this
privilege by going about from room to room, either running along the
floor like a grey rabbit, or taking short flights with his noiseless
wings. He would gravely pursue his way up the stairs a step at a time,
and seemed to enjoy watching cattle in the fields whilst sitting
motionless on a window-sill.

Until the bird could feed himself it would have been no kindness to let
him go out of doors and starve, so I resolved to make the creature’s
life as happy as possible, whilst I had thus a good opportunity of
learning the habits of an interesting species of bird. I could not help
being somewhat afraid of his formidable curved beak, which looked as if
it could inflict a severe wound, but I soon learned how gently Asnapper
could use it; he would play with my fingers and hold them with such care
that we had merry games of play at evening recreation time, when he
looked to be let out of his cage and go where he pleased for an hour or

If allowed to be in the drawing-room the sociable bird made himself
quite one of the party. Perched on the back of a chair, he would watch
all that went on with a grave air of consideration, or else he would
amuse himself by chasing a ball, or cotton reel, upon the floor, as if
trying to make believe it was a mouse. I could not have thought there
was so much latent fun in a solemn-looking owl, but then we are never
out at night perched up in the tree-branches to see what goes on there
amongst young owlets, so this afforded us a rather unusual glimpse into
the habits and manners of the bird of wisdom in his merry days of youth.

This species, called the brown or tawny owl (_Syrnium stridula_), is
found in most of the counties of England; it is rare in Scotland, and
has not, I believe, been met with in Ireland. It generally retires to
thick woods during the day, coming out at night to feed upon rabbits,
moles, rats, mice, frogs, and insects.


When Asnapper had more food than he could consume at one meal he would
hide the rest, taking pains to secrete his choice morsels in some dark
corner where he thought we could not see them. His soft blue eyes used
to look very roguish as he peered round to see if we were watching him;
those eyes, by the way, changed to a rich dark brown as he grew older,
and would be, I fancy quite black when full grown.

I have several times observed a brown owl flying quite late in the
evening closely pursued by enraged blackbirds screaming their loudest
notes of anger and fear, and I gather from this that the owl is apt to
prey upon small birds and possibly robs their nests of eggs or young

Several writers assert that this bird also feeds on fish, being able to
catch those swimming near the surface. There can be no doubt of the
extreme value of owls in reducing the number of rats and mice, and it is
to be hoped that landowners, in their own interest, if for no better
motive, will take pains to instruct their gamekeepers to protect such
useful allies to the farmer and gardener. I met with an amusing instance
of the value of the owl as a mouser when staying at a farmhouse in
Surrey. The farmer’s daughter told me her brother had just discovered “a
'howl’s’ nest in the pigeon coo,” and going up a ladder to examine it
more closely had found two eggs in the nest, and ranged around it were
fourteen dead mice! If that was the result of one evening’s foraging, we
need no other proof that owls are worthy of encouragement and

This anecdote relates to a barn owl, which may well be called the
“farmer’s friend,” for it delights to roost in barns and outbuildings,
where it can find plenty of mice, its favourite food, and on that
account it should meet with a kind welcome instead of being trapped and
shot and hung up to decorate the end of some outhouse, where I often
grieve to see it, in company with the equally useful little kestrel and
other hawks.

[Illustration: ASNAPPER.]

The brown owl has very different tastes as to its home, preferring a
hollow tree in some secluded wood far away from human dwellings,
although, from Mr. Waterton’s experience, it will sometimes fly into
houses in the dusk of evening. He says: “This pretty aërial wanderer of
the night often comes into my room, and after flitting to and fro on
wing so soft and silent that he is scarcely heard, he takes his
departure from the same window at which he entered.” Mr. Waterton
suggests that these birds may be encouraged to settle in our woods; if
holes are made in pollard-trees that are slightly decayed, the brown
owls will readily adopt them as nesting-places.

I have not as yet heard Asnapper make any sound except the
characteristic snap of his beak, and a low whining cry of eager pleasure
at sight of his accustomed food. We are very familiar with the loud,
melancholy hoot of his kith and kin which we frequently hear at
intervals during the night in the gardens and woods around the house,
and Asnapper will join in the chorus, for, as soon as he can feed
himself, we shall bid him an affectionate farewell, and have the
pleasure of seeing him spread his broad wings and sail away to his
native woods.


                  “The least and last of things
                  That soar on quivering wings,
              Or crawl among the grass-blades out of sight
                  Have just as clear a right
              To their appointed portion of delight
                  As Queens or Kings.”
                                 CHRISTINA ROSSETTI.


ONE afternoon towards the end of May I was strolling along a garden walk
which skirts the open common, when I overheard some boys saying, “Here’s
the nest, she can’t fly,” &c., and fearing some cruelty was going on, I
quickly went out to the lads and asked what they were doing. They
pointed to a tiny willow-wren sitting on the ground unable to move
because her wings were glued together with birdlime.

It was the work of some bird-catcher; he had placed the sticky birdlime
on bracken stems around the poor bird’s nest, which was in a tuft of
grass and heather, and as she alighted with food for her young ones she
was caught and held fast. It was a piteous sight! The five hungry little
nestlings were cheeping for food, the bright eyes of the mother-bird
looked up at me as if appealing for help. The boys were as grieved as I
was; but what were we to do? I could not let the poor victims die of
starvation, so I resolved to take the willow-wren and her family home
and see if I could feed the little ones and release the glued wings so
as to give the mother-bird power to fly once more. With great pains I
did succeed so far that the bird could plume her feathers, and, after a
few days, she could again use her wings. I fed the young birds, and in
this duty the tender little mother aided me, and would even take food
from my hand and put it into the gaping beaks that were always ready for
small morsels of raw meat or meal-worms, on which diet the young wrens
grew and flourished, until I was able one fine day to release the mother
and children and rejoice in the thought that their innocent lives had
been saved from a cruel death.

I can but hope that no reader of this book would ever dream of catching
our songsters with birdlime, but there is a form of cruelty of which
thousands of ladies _are_ guilty, and against which I, for one, shall
never cease to protest until the hateful fashion has entirely ceased.
How often I wish I could lead those of my own sex to think of the
terrible suffering they are causing to millions of birds as sweet and
innocent as my little willow-wren. Can any one conceive my having had
her killed and stuffed, and then placed as a trimming on my bonnet! The
thought of the willow-wren’s mother-love ought to make such an idea
abhorrent to any gentle-minded woman. But cannot my sisters be brought
to reflect that every wing and bird’s body they wear on their headgear
means the cruel death of a creature of both use and beauty that was
enjoying its innocent life, and doing us only good by carrying out its
appointed duties in God’s creation? I cannot express the pain it gives
me to see aigrettes, wings, and whole birds still so lavishly used in
trimming hats and bonnets. Loving birds as I do, I cannot help pleading
for them from time to time, in the hope that public opinion may have
some influence, and ladies may learn at last to be ashamed to be seen
decked with an ornament which proclaims them both thoughtless and

The willow-wren, one of the most useful of our insect-eating birds,
abounds in my old garden, and keeps the rose-trees free from aphides and
other pests. It chooses very unsafe places for its nest, the smallest
tuft of grass being deemed a sufficient shelter. One such nest, I
remember, was located two years ago close to the field road where my hay
carts were continually passing. The brave little mother seemed to have
no fear, but as a heedless footstep might unwittingly have destroyed the
nest, some branches were placed round the spot for her protection, and I
hope she succeeded in rearing her family.

It is a charming sight to see a party of willow-wrens methodically
clearing the insects from a rose-tree. Like a band of tiny acrobats they
flit about sideways, upside down, in and out, until every twig has been
examined and all the prey secured, then, with happy chirpings, away they
flit to the next tree to resume their useful operations.

The sweet, warbling song of this migrant seems a truly summer sound, for
the bird seldom arrives until the middle of April, and leaves us again
about the end of September; its note therefore suggests sunshine and
flowers and the hum of insect-life.

                              TAME DOVES.

         “Was not the Dove the first of all the birds
         Loosed by the patriarch from the stranded ark,
         Which roved not idly o’er the new-born world,
         But backward turn’d, though winds were whistling past—
         Though palm-groves and the flowery mead allured—
         And bore the olive-branch to glad _his_ sight
         Whose hand had smooth’d so oft its ruffled plumes.”
                                      LADY F. HASTINGS.

               “Like to a pair of loving turtle-doves,
               That could not live asunder day or night.”

                              TAME DOVES.

IT is always interesting to note how gentle kindness shown towards our
pet animals and birds will bring out various traits of character in
them. Curious differences will be observed even between specimens which
are of the same age and family and have been treated exactly alike from
their earliest years. A pet creature can only show its true nature when
it is brought up so kindly as to be without fear. Alas, how seldom this
is the case!

Almost all captive song-birds I have seen, excepting canaries, are sure
to flutter more or less when any one approaches their cage, and this
instinctive effort to escape shows timidity and unhappiness. I confess I
could never find any pleasure in keeping a tiny captive which I knew was
breaking its little heart in fruitless longings for fresh air and

To show what thoughtful kindness will do in creating happy confidence, I
should like to relate the history of my tame doves, Peace and Patience.

These birds used to belong to a poor woman in our village; her only
means of housing them was in a wooden box with a wire front. It was a
wonder that they continued to live in such discomfort; yet, without a
bath, a nest-box, or anything to make their lives pleasant or healthy,
they showed the grace of patient endurance by living on with merely
their bare allowance of food and water.

However, they were redeemed at last from their hard bondage, placed in a
large wicker cage with plenty of suitable provender, enabled to sun
themselves in a pleasant verandah, and to take a bath in pure water
whenever they felt inclined. Their plumage soon began to improve, and
became as smooth and soft as grey satin. After a time they were let out
to fly about in the dining-room, and the male bird, Peace, might often
be seen sitting on the marble clock, gazing at himself in the
looking-glass over the mantelpiece. I suppose he admired his own
reflection, for he would go again and again to bow and curtsey and coo
most lovingly to the bird he saw in the glass, and never seemed to find
out it was all the while himself.

In spite of this foppishness he was a most devoted mate, paying all
kinds of tender attentions to his gentle little wife, following her
about and often feeding her with any special dainty he might come

Under these new and happy circumstances Peace and Patience began to
think of rearing a family, and we found them searching everywhere for
materials wherewith to build their nest. Not finding much that was
suitable in my sitting-rooms, they went to the flower-vases and began
pulling out the orchids and maiden-hair fern to line their nest.

It looked very pretty to see the little grey bird flying across the room
with a great pink flower in her beak; but we thought a more suitable
substance might be offered to them, and very gladly they welcomed some
little twigs and dried grass, with which, after much cooing and
confabulation, they constructed the family home. In a day or two a pair
of snow-white eggs appeared, and then for a fortnight the little
hen-bird sat patiently brooding over them, scarcely leaving them long
enough to take her necessary food.

In due time we found two little doves were hatched. Small, pink,
feeble-looking creatures they were; it seemed quite wonderful to think
that they could ever grow up to be like their parents.

Patience was so tame that she would let me peep under her soft feathers
to see how the tiny birds were progressing, and even if I took one of
her children away to show to my friends she was in no way perturbed.

It is a great surprise to see doves feeding their young ones. They take
the tender little beak within their own and then pass the soft food,
with which nature provides them at that time, from their own crop into
the beak of the fledglings. The young birds seemed to have excellent
appetites and grew rapidly, developing tiny quill-feathers all over
their bodies, and in a few weeks they were clothed with soft grey
plumage, so that we could hardly tell parents from children.

I have often heard doves spoken of as being less intelligent than other
birds. On the contrary, my birds seem to think and almost to reason, as
I believe my readers will agree when I tell them some of the clever
things they have done.

One day when I was sitting in a room some distance from the verandah
where the doves were, Peace found me out and came tapping with his bill
against the window. I am always accustomed to attend at once to any such
appeal from a bird or animal, since I generally find it to mean that
they urgently require something.

In this case, as the evening was chilly, I let the three doves into
their cage and brought it indoors; but I soon found all was not right,
for the male bird was greatly excited, apparently longing to get out
again, so I opened the cage door and the window of the room, and away he
flew. Presently I heard Peace cooing loudly, and, following the sound I
found him under the verandah with the young dove that was missing; he
was evidently trying to show me his truant child, and as soon as I took
them both up and carried them to the cage, Peace was quite happy and

When the weather became warm and sunny the little pair decided that
their next nest should be built in some clematis growing up the pillars
of the verandah. It was a charming spot to select, for the little
mother-bird had flickering sunbeams shining upon her whilst she sat, and
leaves to shelter her from the heat.

Now again a domestic difficulty arose and Peace came to tell me about
it. What was he to do for building materials? I provided small flexible
birch twigs, and was amused to find that when I offered one, the little
builder took it gladly, and, flying off to the nest, presented it to his
wife and she wove it into the family dwelling.

Later on in the day it seemed to me that the comfort of the home would
be improved by some softer material than interlacing twigs, so I added a
carpet of fine soft shavings; these also were quite approved, and after
a time the nest was considered perfect. I felt inclined to call it our
nest, as I provided the materials and was allowed to help in the

Two snowy eggs soon appeared, and then the parents took it by turns to
sit upon the nest for about four hours at a time. This should teach us a
beautiful lesson of unselfishness, for it must seem a little hard to
have to sit still hour after hour and see another bird able to fly about
enjoying the air and sunshine. I think my dove was well named Patience,
but doubtless the strong feeling of mother-love made it easy, and the
affectionate little father-bird seemed always ready to take his turn in
the domestic duties.

The first heavy shower after the nest was built made me rather anxious
for the comfort of the sitting bird; she would soon have been soaked
with rain, so I racked my wits to devise a shelter. With some
contrivance I managed to fix a slanting roof of stiff cardboard so as to
keep off rain and scorching sunshine. By talking quietly to my pet she
seemed quite to understand that she was not to be alarmed, and sat
calmly on her nest whilst I fixed her shelter.

The bird that is off duty is fond of coming to visit me in the house. I
am quite accustomed to see a dove sitting amongst my working materials;
I have even found an egg lying on my writing-table as a modest gift and
token of affection from my gentle Patience.

Peace looks very pretty when he perches on a white marble bust in the
drawing-room. He dearly likes investigating anything fresh, and I once
found him in the museum busily pulling an old nest to pieces, because it
contained some materials he thought would be desirable for his own home.

I learn many lessons from my little doves. I see how affection begets
confidence. These little creatures trust me perfectly, and that gives me
true pleasure, and makes them very dear to me. I think it is thus our
Heavenly Father would have us show our love to Him. He says, “I love
them that love Me,” and the text goes on to say, “and those that seek Me
early shall find Me.”

Then let all the dear young people who read about my doves try to learn,
from their history, how they can please God by showing their love and
trust in Him, by going to Him continually with all their difficulties,
not doubting that He will hear, and abundantly answer their prayers.

                     FEEDING WILD BIRDS IN WINTER.

                “Blithe Robin is heard no more:
                    He gave us his song
                    When summer was o’er
                    And winter was long:
                He sang for his bread and now he is fled
                    Away to his secret nest.
                    And there in the green
                    Early and late
                    Alone to his mate
                    He pipeth unseen
                    And swelleth his breast.
                    For, as it is o’er,
                Blithe Robin is heard no more.”
                                     ROBERT BRIDGES.

                     FEEDING WILD BIRDS IN WINTER.

ANY winter’s day a charming sight may be witnessed outside the long
French window of my drawing-room, but this is especially the case in
frosty weather, when the frozen-out birds come in flocks to partake of
my bounty. Virtue is its own reward in this instance, for I derive
untold pleasure from the lively scene which greets my eyes when I sit
down each morning to carry on the dual occupation of writing letters and
watching the birds.

This winter (February, 1895) is one of exceptional severity. More than a
month of intense frost will have killed thousands of birds, especially
of the insect-eating species. Tits have even attacked the woody galls
upon the oak-trees, and extracted the grubs from them, thus doing the
forest-trees good service.

[Illustration: MY WINDOW VISITORS.]

It is curious how plainly individual character comes out in hungry
birds. Nine robins are now, whilst I write, carrying on a guerilla
warfare, pecking and flying at one another like little furies, as indeed
they are. Much as I love robins, I must own they have villainous
tempers, and will treat their own kith and kin with persistent cruelty.

Now a dozen or more fussy starlings have arrived for their breakfast,
and eagerly pick up the coarse oatmeal, which seems to suit the
requirements of most birds when they cannot get their own special diet.
I like to listen to the busy chatter the starlings keep up all the time
they are eating; it is varied by little tiffs, which constantly arise,
when two birds spring into the air, peck at each other furiously for a
moment, and then, the insult being avenged, drop down and resume their
breakfast until there comes a scare about something, when away they all
rush. Starlings are good emblems of perpetual motion—cheerful, busy
creatures, they never seem to have a minute to spare, and make so much
ado about both work and play that they are amongst the most amusing of
the visitants to my window. Blackbirds, on the contrary, are sedately
stolid, and usually keep in one position until their hunger is appeased,
or, if compelled to fly off in the middle of their repast, they have the
forethought to carry away a lump of bread or fat, which they can enjoy
in private.

As a rule the thrushes stay away from my food supplies until they have
exhausted other stores, but when they do join the throng of pensioners
and accept outdoor relief, it is with a calm, fearless air, as if they
had a full right to the choicest morsels. When all the rest take flight
at some sudden noise, the thrushes generally remain and go on feeding
with quiet dignity, as if quite above the silly frights of the vulgar
herd. The busy scene would lose much of its interest without the calm
effrontery of the blue tits. They perch upon the lumps of fat, assuming
every possible attitude of graceful agility, and those who trench upon
their domain have occasion to learn that their absurd little beaks can
be exerted with considerable force and effect. The snowy lawn which
forms the background to my bird-picture is a real “study in black and
white.” About fifty rooks are either feeding under the tulip-tree or
walking about on the frozen surface of the snow. Hardly any bird shows
the inner working of its mind so clearly as the rook. One may learn from
its actions the dawning of an idea and the subsequent working out of the

[Illustration: FIR-TREE IN WINTER.]

One of these birds is at this moment weighing pros and cons as to
whether it would be safe to join the party at the window. Whilst all are
feeding quietly it decides to come, and marches slowly on; then, when
the starlings take one of their sudden flights, the rook stops, looks
this way and that, and feels doubtful. However, a second rook joins the
waverer, and the two take courage and advance together. One of them
stands on a lump of suet and breaks off pieces with its huge beak—the
rook sharing with other birds the universal love of fat—the lump becomes
smaller and smaller, and at last the great beak grips it firmly and away
flies the rook, closely pursued by a crew of sable comrades, who are all
eager to share in the spoil which they were not brave enough to secure
for themselves.


I have not spoken of the sparrows; their name is legion. And how they do
eat! No other bird clears away the food so quickly. The sparrows do not
move more than they can help, and peck with the utmost rapidity, as
though absolutely starving.

I suppose one ought to pity a “frozen out” sparrow as much as any other
bird, but I could wish there were fewer of them at these times when one
wishes to befriend the rarer kinds of the birds, and, if it were
possible, reserve the food mainly for them instead of the plebeian

The kind of provision I find best and most suitable for all tastes is
coarsely ground oatmeal, Indian corn, hemp-seed, sultana raisins,
chopped-up fat of any kind, and boiled liver cut up finely.

The raisins attract the wild pheasants, and it is a truly beautiful
sight to watch these birds feeding quietly near the window, with the
morning sun glancing upon their lovely sleek plumage until they look as
if made of bronze and gold. During the autumn I have sacks of acorns and
beech-mast collected and laid by until the birds are distressed for
food, and then a large basketful is scattered daily beneath the
tulip-tree upon the lawn, to the great delight of rooks, jackdaws,
pheasants, and wood-pigeons. Even two moorhens from my lake have come up
through the fields and remained for the last two months, not only
feeding with other birds on the lawn, but visiting the poultry yard,
picking up grain with the fowls, and several times they have also
roosted in the henhouse. The lovely grey and orange nuthatches haunt the
dining-room windows, where they share the nuts which are daily bestowed
upon the squirrels.

This place, with its surrounding woods and gardens, where all birds have
been protected and encouraged for the last twenty years, naturally
abounds with feathered fowl of many kinds, but in most gardens, even
somewhat near a town or city, birds may be coaxed to come by constantly
placing attractive food where they can pick it up without danger from
cats. This is best arranged either in a basket hung at a window or in a
box fastened to a high pole. Any one may find pleasure in watching the
various kinds of birds flying to and fro, and, for an invalid, it would
be adding a charm to daily life, besides doing a kindness to a useful
tribe of creatures which are too often persecuted rather than jealously
protected, as they ought to be, in return for the valuable services they
render to the gardener and agriculturist.

                          STARVING TORTOISES.

                 “Where’er he dwells, he dwells alone,
                 Except himself has chattels none,
                 Well satisfied to be his own
                               Whole treasure;
                 Thus, hermit-like, his life he leads,
                 Nor partner of his banquet needs,
                 And if he finds one, only feeds
                               The faster.”
                                      VINCENT BOURNE.

                          STARVING TORTOISES.

I CANNOT refrain from drawing attention to the cruelty with which these
inoffensive creatures are often treated with regard to their food. One
constantly hears the remark, “We had a tortoise for a few months, but it
died.” Either from carelessness or ignorance the poor tortoise is hardly
ever properly fed, and, though it can endure privation for a longer time
than most creatures, yet unless food is supplied it must die miserably
of starvation at last. The ordinary land-tortoise feeds on cabbage,
sow-thistle, lettuce-leaves, and dandelion flowers, while some specimens
will enjoy bread and milk as well. I have been carefully watching a tame
one in my conservatory, and find that, day after day, he eats a lettuce
nearly half his own size. If, then, he requires so much food to keep him
in health and vigour, how pitiable must be the condition of those kept
without food, or those that are perhaps offered a dandelion flower once
a week!

The water-tortoises are equally ill-used, for often from lack of
knowledge they are constantly offered vegetable diet which they cannot
eat, their proper food being the live creatures they find in the water
they exist in. They are best fed in captivity by supplying them with
little portions of raw meat, or remains of boiled cod or turbot. They
are easily distinguished from the land-tortoises by their livelier
movements, and by their being able to swim in water. Still even they do
not care to be always afloat, so there should be a piece of cork or some
small island upon which they can rest when they are tired of swimming.

One day I saw on a shelf in a village shop a handsomely marked
tortoise-shell, which I rather desired to purchase for my museum. Upon
inquiry I found it had been bought for a few shillings from a man who
was going through the village with a truck-load of these poor creatures
for sale. The shopkeeper knew nothing about the requirements of his new
acquisition, and thought it would be quite happy in the water-butt,
where he placed it for the night. It being a land-tortoise, it was of
course found dead in the morning—one of the many victims of well
intentioned ignorance. Those who sell tortoises in the streets know
nothing about their habits, they only want to get rid of their stock as
quickly as possible. The purchasers may never even have seen a tortoise
before, and have not, as a rule, the vaguest idea of how it should be
treated, so that the unfortunate creatures are almost sure sooner or
later to perish miserably of mismanagement and starvation.

They are entirely vegetable feeders, so that the idea that a tortoise
will clear the kitchen of black-beetles is an absurd fiction, though it
is, I believe, urged by street sellers of tortoises as an inducement for
the householder to purchase his stock.

One day a tortoise was brought to me by a man who said he had picked it
up in one of my fields. I felt sure it must have strayed from its
rightful owner, and we therefore made every inquiry amongst our
neighbours round about in order to discover, if possible, its previous
home. As no one would own the tortoise, we placed it in the conservatory
that we might be able to observe its ways and habits, as it happened to
be the first specimen of the kind that had been enrolled amongst my
pets. When placed on the lawn for exercise the creature would greedily
snap off every hawkweed flower he came to, and as these abounded in the
turf he had happy times feasting on flowers and basking in the sun.

After keeping the tortoise about a year, it happened that a policeman
living in a neighbouring village called here to see a friend of his, and
this comrade (one of my gardeners) took him to see the flowers in the
conservatory. After a few minutes the policeman exclaimed, “Why, there’s
our Jack!” An explanation ensued, and it turned out that the tortoise
had really belonged to him, as he proved by showing a little hole he had
bored through the shell in order to tether Master Jack and prevent his
straying away. The tortoise had been the gift of a dear friend, and the
loss of this pet had been quite a sorrow in the family. “My missus will
cry for joy at seeing Jack again,” said the man; and very glad was I to
restore the truant to his rightful owner, whose pet he had been for four

Although somewhat slow and inert, a tortoise is quite worth keeping, and
when well cared for, properly fed, and taken notice of, it has a good
deal of a quaint sort of intelligence. The one I now possess will feed
from my hand, gives an angry hiss when offended, will put on double
quick speed, when the door is opened, in order to elope into the garden,
and what mind he has is greatly exercised about the lemurs. I judge this
because I so often find him gazing at them through the wirework, his
shell tilted at an angle as if he would fain climb up to satisfy his

To the poor people who often visit my place in summer, many of whom have
never seen such a creature before, the tortoise is an object of
surprise, not unmixed with fear, for one woman asked if he would “fly at
her,” and others seem to suppose him a creature of ferocious tendencies,
judging by the way they keep at a distance and eye him askance.

I happened to be at the Zoological Gardens one autumn day when some of
the large Galapagos tortoises were fairly active, and was fortunate
enough to see one digging a hole in a rather hard gravel path. The
excavation was carried on entirely by the hind legs; first one and then
the other went down and grasped a few stones with the claws on the foot;
these stones were dropped on the surface of the ground, and down went
the other leg, and slowly it brought up a little soil, and this process
went steadily on for ten minutes or more, and the hole became about
eight or nine inches deep. The sturdy tail of the tortoise is used as a
sort of boring instrument in first beginning the hole, and when deep
enough the tortoise cautiously deposits her eggs at the bottom of the
cavity, and when all are laid the hole is filled up with earth, well
pressed down, and the mother leaves her precious deposits to be hatched
by the heat of the sun.

Gilbert White has remarked upon the tortoise as a weather prophet. He
says, “As sure as it walks elate, and as it were on tiptoe, feeding with
great earnestness in the morning, so sure will it rain before night.” I
can confirm this statement from my own observation, and when my tortoise
walks in a weak sort of fashion, as if his limbs had no strength, it is
a sure presage of fine weather. I frequently see another habit in my pet
which is noticed in White’s “Selborne”: “He inclines his shell, by
tilting it against the wall, to collect and admit every feeble ray.” The
sun shines upon the floor of my conservatory in different places
according to the time of day, and my tortoise “improves the shining
hour” by seeking these pleasant sunny spots and basking in them in
rotation as the day goes on.

A young dove that is allowed to fly about in my conservatory is
remarkably fond of the tortoise, and may often be seen sitting on its
back and pluming itself; it stays there whilst the tortoise walks about,
apparently quite unaware that it is carrying an “outside passenger.”

In the Japanese islands these creatures grow to an enormous size. I
possess a shell which is highly polished and ornamented with gold
lacquer work; the measurement of it is three feet one inch by three feet
four inches across, and, as these animals live to an immense age, this
specimen may probably be several hundred years old.

As each year appears to be marked by a ring round each plate of the
tortoise-shell, much as one sees them in a section of tree stem, it
might have been possible to reckon the age of my huge shell, but in
polishing the surface the rings have been effaced, so its age can only
be conjectured.

Let it not be forgotten that a tortoise is a thirsty creature, and needs
to have access to water in some very shallow pan out of which it can
drink. My own specimen knows well the sound of falling water, and goes
beneath the hanging baskets in the conservatory after the gardeners have
soaked them, and there enjoys the dripping moisture, drinking from the
pools upon the tiled floor.

The shell of a tortoise should be well oiled every few weeks, as it is
apt to grow too dry, and might be liable to crack or peel off, the
artificial life the creature leads in confinement tending to have a
desiccating effect upon the shell.

If each reader of this book would kindly tell those who possess
tortoises the kind of food they require it would greatly tend to reduce
unintentional cruelty.


             “Hast thou named all the birds without a gun?
             Loved the wood-rose, and left it on its stalk?
             At rich man’s tables eaten bread and pulse?
             Unarmed, faced danger with a heart of trust?
             Oh, be my friend, and teach me to be thine.”

            “Else they are all—the meanest things that are,
            As free to live, and to enjoy that life,
            As God was free to form them at the first
            Who in His sovereign wisdom made them all.
            Ye therefore who love mercy, teach your sons
            To love it too.”

“A man who is kind to the animals belonging to him will be thoughtful of
the feelings and wishes of his family. A woman who, with patience and
tenderness, cares for the domestic creatures around her home, can but be
loving to her little ones; for she must observe how strong is the
mother-love in the humblest thing that lives.”

          MRS. F. A. F. WOOD-WHITE.


SO much preventable cruelty in this world arises from ignorance that it
seems the duty of every one to try and pass on to others any useful
knowledge they may happen to have acquired, and thus increase the
general sum of happiness in the hearts and lives of those who live
around them. This general axiom is, I think, especially true with
reference to information about animals and birds: we can prevent a great
deal of cruelty being unintentionally shown towards the useful creatures
that serve us in so many ways by using our influence wisely in the
village schools and in the houses of the children’s parents.

If some one in each country village would but gather the children
together as often as possible, and talk to them pleasantly and kindly
about the right treatment of horses, asses, dogs, cats, birds, &c., the
little lads who will grow up to be grooms, ostlers, and carters, would
be likely to remember the teaching they receive, and carry it out in
humane treatment of the animals under their charge. I dare not repeat
what I know of the cruelties practised by young boys upon birds and
their nestlings in the breeding season, but will at any rate try and
show some of the motives that lead young people to persecute birds and
destroy their eggs. I would classify these motives thus: first, wanton
mischief; secondly, ignorance; and thirdly, collecting mania. The two
first mostly influence the poor, and the last the richer classes. I will
endeavour to suggest remedies for each.

Mischievous country lads may in some measure be restrained by bills
freely posted about in their village stating clearly the penalties for
taking nests and eggs, with a list of protected birds. The notices
should be couched in simple words, that children can understand, and not
after the style of a notice board, which was placed to protect a spring
of pure water for village use, and which ran thus: “Persons are
requested to refrain from polluting or contaminating this water.” I am
afraid the rustic Tommy would not be much enlightened by these
formidable words. Much more to the point is the warning to be met with
in one Surrey village, “Children, let Well alone.”

Any proved case of pure mischief or cruelty shown towards any living
creature should be made a serious offence, rebuked openly in the village
school, and spoken about to the parents by the clergy and others. In
this way public opinion may by degrees be created, and any child so
offending may learn that he or she is in disfavour for such acts.

It may be that only a few children out of a whole school have the
disposition which delights in cruelty, but all are more or less ignorant
and thoughtless, and need to be carefully and patiently taught the duty
of kindness to all living creatures.

What constantly happens is this. A boy sees something unusual flitting
about in a tree; he wonders what it is, and, wishing to find out, he
naturally flings a stone at the object; when the coveted thing lies
gasping at his feet he looks at it a moment, and flings it aside. He
knows nothing about the harm he has done—has no idea that he has killed
a bird that perhaps very rarely visits our shores, and that may not be
seen again for years. Why, then, if we wish such rare visitants to
increase, do we not systematically teach our boys and girls to watch and
study the ways of wild creatures, and feel some rational interest in
them, so that in consequence they may be drawn to do what they can to
aid in their preservation? The children need to be instructed about the
life-history of one bird after another; information should be given
about its mode of life, its usefulness in destroying insects, its
nesting habits, the tender love between the mated birds, and their care
of their young—defending them even at the risk of their own lives if
needful. Surely the impressible hearts of children might be led to pity
and protect our feathered songsters if once they were made thoroughly
acquainted with facts such as these.

Leaflets on natural history and kindness to animals and birds can be had
very cheaply from the R.S.P.C.A., the Society for the Protection of
Birds, and the Dickybird Society, and these should be scattered
broadcast throughout our land, where they cannot fail to do beneficent
work. If coloured lithographs of our common birds were hung up in
village schools, and simple explanatory lessons were given upon them, it
would surely be more useful to our country children than that they
should be taught to know the exact difference between the Indian and
African elephant! And yet one often sees large prints of foreign animals
in schools, and but seldom anything so simple as pictures of the animals
and birds the children meet with in everyday life.

Again, small prizes might be offered for the best papers written upon
our English birds, describing their habits and uses, and all the facts
about them which the children are able to comprehend.

I was delighted to receive from a dear unknown child a capital drawing
of a brambling which I could recognise at once, so truthful was the pose
and colouring, and, though the young artist was only eleven, his drawing
and letter revealed a born naturalist. Now this kind of effort might be
largely promoted amongst young people with excellent effect. We should
make a rule I have myself observed all my life most carefully, “Never to
have a bird killed wantonly, even for drawing or study purposes.” There
are admirable pictures to be obtained of all our English birds, and,
with an occasional find of a dead bird, and the glimpses we may obtain
of them in life, these will furnish enough to guide young artists in
their first attempts. Suppose the children of a village school awakened
to this kind of competition, and a “tea” given to those who have sent in
papers, I can see the way to a delightful evening when the papers should
be read, comments kindly offered, mistakes corrected, information given,
and some fresh subjects set for the next time. The whole village would
be full of chat about this gathering, and each child would naturally
bring much of the knowledge gained into his own home, and thus the
parents would indirectly become enlightened upon natural history
subjects, on which they are usually deplorably ignorant.

These humble suggestions are offered as being the best means I can at
present bring forward in order to attain the end we have in view, and in
a measure they apply equally to young people in a higher position in
life, who would, I believe, welcome little informal meetings for the
reading of the papers they may have written, and the attainment from
their elders of further information on the life-histories of animals and
birds. I earnestly hope that still better plans may be evoked from
others as a result of bringing this subject prominently forward.

I must draw attention to an excellent idea borrowed from Miss
Carrington’s book on “The Extermination of Birds,” and it is that our
young people who desire to possess collections of birds’ eggs should be
encouraged to model them in wax and colour them precisely according to
nature. Even the one egg used as a model need only be borrowed from a
nest and returned when the model is cast and coloured; or one may be
lent for the purpose from the collection of a friend. The young artist
would be able to enjoy the thought that his specimens were of a
permanent nature, and that there had been no rifling of the nests of
valuable birds, without whose incessant labours we should have endless
insect plagues. For the _modus operandi_ of this last idea I would refer
my readers to Miss Carrington’s little book.[2]

In trying to discourage the collecting mania I know I am treading upon
delicate ground, and I must define my meaning clearly, else I may convey
wrong ideas and provoke needless discussion of vexed questions. I do not
think very young children should be allowed to kill any living creature
in order to make a collection—it must tend to make them hard-hearted;
far better is it to lead them to watch and admire every bird and insect
they come across. As they are taught to know the ways and habits of
living things, and year by year they grow up with kindly feelings
towards them, I think they will hardly be amongst those who would
destroy perhaps fifty lovely butterflies in order to complete a circle
of colour in some case of insects. _That_ is the kind of collecting I
wholly condemn as both useless and cruel. So much study can be carried
on without taking life, that it seems undesirable to adopt in early life
any line of investigation which involves the death of the objects being
studied—at any rate until the student is old enough to avoid any
possible cruelty in the matter. It appears to me that if we bring up
young people with a reverent love for all, even the lowliest of God’s
handiwork, that feeling will tend to restrain them from exercising the
instinct of destruction which we may often trace in children’s early

There must be a certain amount of slaying for necessary food, and
animals and birds prey upon each other by the very laws of their
existence. Specimens, too, are required for museums, else how could
students learn to know the various orders of animal and bird creation;
but outside all these unavoidable uses, the indiscriminate slaughter of
innocent life that is carried on year by year, fills me with distress,
and I, for one, shall never cease to protest against it with voice and
pen. I can but hope that by the multiplication of our Selborne branches
and kindred societies we may in time see some diminution of this selfish
warfare against all creatures in fur and feathers.

                            STUDYING NATURE.

            “If thou art worn and hard beset
            With sorrows, that thou wouldst forget,
            If thou wouldst read a lesson, that will keep
            Thy heart from fainting and thy soul from sleep,
            Go to the woods and hills!—no tears
            Dim the sweet look that Nature wears.”

                            STUDYING NATURE.

I HAPPEN to live in the country, in the midst of lovely scenery,
abounding in all the elements of beauty, such as wide-spreading heaths,
sheets of water, distant views, and grand old trees and woods.

There are many varieties of birds and insects to be seen, plenty of wild
flowers, mosses, and lichens in the lanes, and in my own grounds all
kinds of cultivated flowers.

Numbers of young people come to stay with me in the course of the year,
and naturally, when I am taking walks with them, and we are admiring
trees and flowers, or a sweet-voiced bird begins to sing, questions
arise about the names of various plants and songsters. I confess I am
often surprised to discover the very limited knowledge of elementary
natural history or botany that is possessed by young girls who in other
branches of study are intelligent and well-informed. It grieves me to
think that the instructive book of Nature is thus disregarded, and its
lessons left unlearned, by thousands who would be much happier, and have
many more resources to fill up leisure moments, if they knew more about
the everyday things which surround them in the country.

Even if it is the lot of many young people to live in towns, still, when
they pay visits to their friends at the seaside, or in the country,
there are ample opportunities for natural history studies, and by means
of books these studies can be carried on when they return home.

I will try and describe one of the subjects which my young visitors
always discover to be full of interest, namely, the study of trees.

Such a book as “The Forest Trees of Britain”[3] will supply the names of
all our ordinary trees; and, when taking a ramble in a country lane or
garden, if a perfect leaf of each species of tree is gathered, well
pressed, and dried between sheets of blotting paper under a heavy
weight, there will be found pleasant occupation for some wet day spent
indoors in arranging these specimen leaves in a large blank book.

Space should be left to write the English and Latin name of each tree,
whence it was imported, and some of its chief uses. If, later on, the
autumn-tinted leaf of each species can be obtained, and a coloured
drawing made of its catkin flower, then in time a really charming and
valuable book will be formed, which a girl will feel pleasure in showing
to her young friends, and thus others will be led to fill up their
leisure time with instructive pursuits of this kind.

Drying and arranging the leaves is only the first step towards a more
intimate knowledge of this subject. The exquisite beauty of
autumn-tinted leaves attracts the attention of the most unobservant. One
longs to preserve them, and for years I used to try various methods of
pressing and drying them with but very partial success. Now, however, I
have devised a plan by which their fleeting colours are so exactly
imitated that my friends constantly mistake the painted leaf for the
real one. As it may afford pleasurable occupation for some of my
readers, I will briefly describe the process.

The materials required are but few: a common slate, some fine drawing
paper, a cyclostyle[4] roller, and a bottle of the ink which is sold
with it. A small quantity of the ink should be placed on the slate, and
the roller passed to and fro until it is slightly and evenly inked. The
leaf should then be placed on a flat, hard surface, and the roller
passed firmly over it so as to leave a little ink on the under side of
the leaf to mark the veins. The leaf should then be reversed, with the
ink side downwards, on a piece of drawing paper, and the roller firmly
passed over it once or twice. The result will be an exquisite faint
imprint of the exact shape of the leaf with all its veins. After a few
minutes it will be ready to be tinted in water colours, so as to exactly
resemble the various hues in the real leaf. The colours should be very
moist, and rather floated into each other, as in this way one can most
readily attain the delicate gradations of tone. When finished the leaf
should be neatly cut out with fine scissors, carefully following the
outline of the notches, which vary so much in different trees, and give
character to each species. When such painted leaves are gummed into a
blank book the effect will be found to be wonderfully real. The album
should be large enough to allow of four or five leaves, each
representing a different stage in the coloration—yellow, pink, crimson,
and all other tints which belong to each special tree. A page should of
course be reserved for each set of specimens, and the English and Latin
name, the date, and any other particulars written at the bottom of the
page will add to the scientific value of the collection.

The various galls which are found on each species of tree will alone
furnish a wide field for study. The ink with which I am now writing is
the product of an oak-gall which is imported in large quantities from
Asia Minor; many kinds are of great value in dyeing; and the
life-history of the numerous gall-flies is most curious and interesting.

Careful drawings of the buds of trees as they open in spring will reveal
the delicate plaiting of the tiny leafage within. We can then discern
how some leaves are folded lengthways or in half, others curled up
spirally or fluted; we shall see how the embryo leaves are protected by
more than a dozen scales, often lined with silky down, and then, as in
the case of the horse-chestnut, still further guarded from the winter’s
cold by an outer coating of resin.

Again, the fruits and seeds of trees would prove an interesting subject.
I wonder how many young people know the difference between the English
sycamore, which is a true maple, and the sycomore of Palestine, which is
a fig-tree; and yet they are totally unlike each other—the first
producing a dry seed vessel, and the other an eatable fruit; the
sycamore usually having a stem twenty or thirty feet high before it
branches, and the sycomore dividing near the ground, so that Zaccheus
found no difficulty in climbing its ample stems.

There are some birds which frequent special trees, and are named after
them, such as the hawfinch, the whinchat, which is found on its
favourite furze-bushes (called whins in Scotland), the pine and fir
grosbeak, and the nuthatch. The student should know something of these
birds and their habits, as being linked with the trees they frequent.

There are innumerable insects also found upon the leaves and stems of
trees. It has been calculated that about two thousand different species
of caterpillars and larvæ of various kinds prey upon the oak alone.

We thus see vistas which open out before the young student, any one of
which, when followed up with thoughtful perseverance, will add immensely
to the pleasure of walks abroad and quiet hours at home.

As this chapter aims to be a suggestive one, I would mention the
possibility of making a dried collection of the trees of Scripture. This
may seem at first sight very difficult of attainment, but we often hear
of friends going abroad (even if we cannot go ourselves), and a request
to gather and dry a spray of olive or carob-tree will hardly be refused,
and thus in time, by the help of others, our collection will be formed,
and will become of much value to us in teaching our Bible classes, as
well as from the associations the book will have with the kind
travellers who remembered us when far away.

I greatly treasure my own specimens of oleander gathered on the shores
of the Lake of Galilee, the carob-leaves from Bethlehem, sycomore fig
from Jericho, pomegranate from Jerusalem, and olive-sprays from the
Garden of Gethsemane. Pleasant hours have been spent in reading about
each tree, and the passages in Scripture where they are mentioned are
invested with a deeper interest from one’s knowledge of many facts
connected with each which otherwise would have passed unnoticed.

For instance, the fruit of the carob or locust-tree may have been the
food of John the Baptist; it is known to this day by the name of “St.
John’s Bread,” and the sweet, nutritious pods are still eaten by the
poorer inhabitants of Palestine. It is also more than probable that “the
husks that the swine did eat,” mentioned in the parable of the Prodigal
Son, were the long curved pods produced by this tree[5]; and it is also
well known that the equal-sized, hard-shelled seeds of the carob were
the original “carat” weights of the jeweller.

Thus we see how many interesting facts cluster around the name of a
single Scripture tree. If a spray or leaf of any of the kinds mentioned
is placed in the centre of a page, with some neatly written texts
referring to interesting facts about its history and uses, we shall then
have always at hand a delightful book, which will prove useful for many
purposes. It will afford plenty of subjects for conversation when we
wish to make Sunday afternoon a bright and happy time for some young
people, kept indoors, it may be, by wet weather. Many a sick person’s
weary hours might be cheered by such a book being lent, and in endless
ways it will well repay the trouble of putting it together.

A collection of seedling trees, carefully dried between sheets of
blotting paper in a press or under a weight, then fastened into a blank
book with strips of gummed paper, with the English and Latin names to
each, and a note of the age of the seedling, will form a pleasant
memento of our forest rambles, and probably may lead on to further study
of the same kind.

Lemon and orange pips will grow readily in damp moss under a glass, and
can be transplanted into pots of earth, so that seedling plants are
attainable even by those who live in towns. I was much surprised to find
that tamarind seeds taken out of the jam would grow very quickly in
cocoanut fibre if kept moist and placed near a hall stove. The secret
appears to be that although the tamarinds are packed in barrels, and hot
sugar is poured over them, yet owing to the thickness of the seed-coat
the life principle is not destroyed.

To make our collection complete there should be seedlings of the other
great division of plants, namely, those with only one seed-leaf, such as
palms, cannas, bulbs, grasses, &c. A few date-stones kept in moist
earth, and placed where they will have a slight degree of regular heat,
will supply one of these specimens, and Canna seed, Indian corn, and
other plants of the kind, grown in the same way, will supply other

Whatever branch of nature-study we select, or whatever collections we
may decide to make, the invariable result is that our interest in that
special thing becomes immensely deepened; we begin to notice points that
never struck us before, our power of observing becomes quickened, we
really begin to think we must have been almost blind hitherto not to
have been aware of the new and curious things we are daily finding out,
we learn that the natural world around us is a storehouse ready to yield
endless treasure to those who are willing to seek it, and thus I have
often noticed that when once young people can be induced to begin a
collection of some sort it is the first step to their becoming true

Mothers often long for some simple occupation for the little busy
fingers, that get into mischief if unemployed, and what can be more
innocent than collecting and pressing wild flowers and leaves, and, when
dried, arranging them in a book, so that mother can write the name to
each specimen and talk about them, telling the uses to which some plants
are applied? In this way children grow up to be ardent botanists, and
may learn a great deal about the science without any of its dry details
being presented to them in the shape of long unpronounceable terms,
until they are old enough to see for themselves the necessity for them.

I have tried to indicate a few of the ways in which young people may
study Nature, but the avenues into her domain are endless; let us at
least endeavour to traverse such of them as may be within our reach
whilst we are young, and so make our lives all the brighter and happier
for knowing something of the wonders of this marvellous world in which
it has pleased God to place us.

                          INSECT OBSERVATION.

                      “In this enchanted leisure
                        The only restless thing
                      Is one loose ray of azure,
                        A dragon-fly on wing;
                      The rustling of its flight
                      Is like the sound of light.”
                              EDMUND GOSSE.

                      “Throngs of insects in the shade
            Try their thin wings, and dance in the warm beam
                      That waked them into life.”
                                             W. C. BRYANT.

                          INSECT OBSERVATION.

THERE are many by-paths into the delightful realm of Nature, not so
often traversed as the broad avenues which are known to every one, but
equally full of interest, and not less stored with instruction of
various kinds. One of these paths I follow almost daily, and with
ever-increasing delight. It happens that there exists, close to the
garden-room where I usually sit and write, a valley, with winding grassy
paths and banks of azaleas and rhododendrons. It is a quiet and secluded
spot, and has been so for the last twenty years.

Generations of birds have nested in its shrubberies year after year;
bees know well that the spot is rich in honey-laden flowers; insects
that they will be undisturbed there save by the blue-tits and other
fly-hunting birds. Mosses and lichens carpet the moist, shady banks on
one side, whilst bright sunshine glistens on the opposite side through
the greater part of the day. There could not be a more favourable spot
for insect observation, and this is the special by-path to which I would
direct the reader’s attention to-day. One frequently hears the remark,
“I should like to know more about the habits of insects,” and the
question often follows, “How can I best study them?” To this I would
reply by describing what is to be seen and learned in my valley.

This will not pretend to be a scientific description of insect life, but
simply a quiet glimpse at the habits of several kinds of winged
creatures disporting themselves with such native ease as one can never
see when they are caught and caged and brought indoors. Having placed a
chair in the shade, facing a sunlighted bank of evergreens, laurels or
rhododendrons, we must keep absolutely still, closely on the watch with
a small field-glass in our hands for at least half an hour if we desire
to see and study the insects that will visit the flowers and leaves. As
we walk casually round a garden not very much can be seen except the
bees upon the blossoms or an occasional dragon-fly. Almost every species
of fly darts away at the approach of man; their eyes are so marvellously
observant of any moving object that we can learn hardly anything of the
life-history of the various species unless we remain perfectly quiescent
long enough for confidence to be restored, or, in other words, until the
insects forget our presence and are again at their ease.

Hot sunshine seems to afford perfect bliss to almost every kind of fly,
and in that condition we see them basking on leaves in great profusion.
Bluebottles, the golden greenbottle, the drone-fly, all the highly
coloured, swift-darting sunflies—these are constantly to be found poised
on the laurels, although only for a few moments’ rest between their
aerial games. It gives one a sense of pleasure to watch anything so
absolutely happy as these creatures seem. Three or four will start off
at once for a frolic, whizzing through the air, performing a sort of
“ladies’ chain” evolution, each seizing the other for a rapid whirl or
two, then, exchanging partners, faster than the eye can follow them they
skim through the air, and finally return to their leaves to rest. Each
species has its own style of flight. The sunflies have the power of
remaining motionless, poised in air for a considerable time, whilst they
watch any object that interests them. Their wings vibrate so rapidly as
to be invisible, but if you attempt to catch one with a net, away, with
a dart, the fly is off into space only to return in a moment as if to
mock your clumsy attempt to capture it.

Now your attention is arrested by the quivering antennæ of a long-bodied
fly that is stealthily prying into leafy crevices, seeking for some
living object, a caterpillar or chrysalis, into which it may insert its
egg. The grub when hatched will feed upon the living substance of the
caterpillar, which survives for a time, until eventually the grub
attacks some vital part. This kills the caterpillar, but not before the
grub has changed into a chrysalis, out of which will emerge in due time
an ichneumon fly, ready to victimise other insects in the same way.

On the broad leaves of a low-growing plant some female wolf-spiders have
placed themselves, each carrying her bag of eggs beneath her body. There
they will bask for hours; possibly the warmth of the sun tends to mature
the eggs, the treasure for which they seem to live. These spiders will
allow themselves to be killed rather than part with that little
cream-coloured ball. Truly the spider offers a marvellous instance of
maternal love! After a time the eggs are hatched, and then the mother
may be seen with her whole progeny clustered upon her back enjoying
their sun-bath. The first time I saw this family event I could not
understand why the back of the spider had suddenly become grey and
furry, until I brought a magnifying glass, and then I could plainly
discern the minute offspring covering the mother’s body.

Now a glittering dragon-fly darts down the grassy alley seeking its
prey. It, too, rejoices in the sunshine and poises lightly on the tip of
a leaf between its flights to enjoy the welcome beams. These huge flies
adopt a particular haunt, and will remain there hawking up and down day
after day. I often become acquainted with individual dragon-flies from
seeing them so often: I know where to find them on sunny days. If they
are unmolested and you move gently enough they will allow you to
approach them closely, and I believe in time they would take a fly from
your fingers. There is hardly a more beautiful insect than _Æshna
grandis_, one of the largest of our native dragon-flies. In life its
eyes glisten like opals with changing colours, its long body is a marvel
of bluish green and black mosaic markings, and its four lace-like wings
are fit to adorn the Queen of the Fairies.[6] It is hard to convince
people that this is a perfectly harmless creature; yet it does not bite,
it has no sting or venom of any kind, and the long body which writhes
about as we hold it can hurt neither men nor horses, although it is
vulgarly known as a horse-stinger. Possibly we may be favoured with a
glimpse of a dragon-fly’s toilet if we keep still and motionless. The
brilliant eyes are softly brushed with one of the forelegs, so as to
clear away any speck of dust; the wonderful head, which seems attached
to the body by the merest thread, turns this way and that as the insect
plies the combs or short, stiff fringes with which its legs are
furnished, brushing its finery as carefully as any human dandy could,
till body, head, and wings are all in perfect order. Then it will sail
away with a scarcely perceptible movement of its broad wings to pursue
its living prey, a veritable pirate of the air.

The various seasons bring, of course, a succession of insect visitors to
my valley. In early spring the solitary bees are a great delight to me;
they are the species which exist in pairs, not often in communities, as
the honey-bee does. Great masses of lungwort (_pulmonaria_) being out in
flower in April and May, all kinds of insects are then to be found upon
it, seeking honey or pollen among the blossoms. By closely watching and
comparing the specimens I see with plates in the books on bees I have
learned to distinguish many of the different species. It is one thing,
however, to see a bee figured in a book, or to look through a dried
collection of them; it is far more delightful to see the bright,
beautiful creature itself, instinct with life, busily at work or play.
These solitary bees evidently enjoy flirting in the gayest manner, and
their soft, downy bodies and brilliant colours only show to real
advantage whilst alive and lighted up by sunshine. It is a great puzzle
to make out the different species, especially when, as in some cases,
the sexes differ much in appearance. A jet black bee was often to be
seen in early spring hovering over the pulmonaria, more intent on his
companions than on the flowers, and every now and then he would seize a
yellow-bodied fellow-worker, and off the two would go for a frolic in
the air. I became enlightened when I found they were husband and wife,
and merely beguiling the tedium of work by an occasional excursion
together to the other side of the valley.

Some years ago I was greatly puzzled by an insect which seemed to appear
and disappear in a strange manner; it flashed across a shady path like a
minute firefly—an intermittent fleck of snow—it never seemed to settle
anywhere, and was altogether incomprehensible. At last I succeeded in
catching some specimens and solved the mystery. The little creature
proved to be a slender fly with a tapering, pointed body clothed with
fine silky scales, which in some positions were white as snow with the
changing iridescence of mother-of-pearl; thus in its ever-varying flight
the insect appeared and disappeared according as the rays of light fell
upon it at different angles. In size the creature is but small, less
than a house-fly, but when magnified its beauty is exquisite—the wings
decked with rainbow colours, the thorax rich emerald green, and in life
the eyes also greenish and opalescent.

I might go on endlessly describing visitants to my favourite haunt and
yet always have something interesting to say about them, but I hope
enough has been noted to prove that insect observation has its keen
delights. To a wearied brain it is a quiet mode of refreshment which
will commend itself to all who give it a trial on a summer day in some
sheltered garden; but the observers must possess the requisite
qualities, namely, patience, gentleness, and a true love of natural

                        SOLITARY BEES AND WASPS.

                  “Hide me from day’s garish eye,
                  While the bee with honey’d thigh,
                  That at her flowery work doth sing,
                  And the waters murmuring
                  With such concert as they keep
                  Entice the dewy-feather’d sleep.”

              “The wild bee’s note that on the wing
              Booms like embodied voice along the gale.”

                        SOLITARY BEES AND WASPS.

MY attention has been drawn during the past few years to the remarkably
interesting family of insects known as solitary bees and wasps. They are
so called because they exist, not, as a rule, in colonies like the
honey-bee and common wasps, but singly or in pairs.

These insects may often be seen in our gardens feasting on the flowers,
boring tunnels into our gravel walks, making curious little nests in
holes or angles in the brickwork of our houses, and yet comparatively
few people know much about them and their habits, partly because they
may often be taken for honey-bees, and without very close observation it
is difficult to learn the characteristics of the different species.

I will endeavour to give a few details about some of the solitary bees
and wasps which have come under my own observation; but it is a large
subject, and as my variable health will not allow me to travel or even
drive far from home, I can only speak of those specimens I have met with
in my own grounds, and of which I have made a small collection for


                          (ONE THAT PLASTERS.)

This species forms a tunnel in the ground from eight to ten inches deep,
and this space is divided off into about seven cells. The wonderful
thing is the way in which the cells are lined with a strong membrane
like gold-beater’s skin, yet exquisitely fine, and lustrous as a piece
of beautiful satin. The bee has a forked tongue which she uses like a
trowel, smoothing down each layer of the silk which she deposits on the
walls of the cells, plastering three or four layers one over the other
till her children’s nursery is upholstered quite to her mind. She then
goes off to the flowers and labours diligently until she has made up a
little ball of pollen and honey; one of these balls she puts in each
cell and lays an egg in it, out of which a tiny grub will be hatched in
due time. Finding its food all ready, the grub eats and grows until it
is full-sized, then it turns into a chrysalis, and at length comes out a
perfect bee like its mother.

The Colletes are smaller than the honey-bee, but at first sight are very
like it in colour and shape. The males are smaller than the females;
they do nothing towards founding the family; they flit from flower to
flower and fertilise the blossoms, so that in this way they are of great
use by enabling plants to produce seed; they also bask on leaves in the
sun, and seem to have a happy though very idle time. This seems to be
the case with the males of all species of bees. The females are the hard
workers; they make the home, lay the eggs, collect the pollen and mix it
with honey for the food of the young when hatched, and then they
hibernate through the winter so as to be ready to begin their work again
the following spring.

There are five species of this bee, and they choose different places for
their nests according to their species. Some like a sunny aspect, some
choose shady places, some bore into the face of sandy rocks, others into
the mortar in old walls, but wherever it may be, there are generally
multitudes of them to be found in the same place, each one having its
separate hole, but dwelling in large colonies.

This bee has three great enemies: two of them are a bright-coloured bee,
called Epeolus, and a fly, Miltogramma, either of which will go down the
hole in the absence of the bee and lay its egg in place of the rightful
owner. These usurpers turn to grubs and eat up the food which has been
prepared for the Colletes. The third enemy is the earwig, if _it_ once
gets in, it will eat up the egg, the food supply, and the bee itself. In
this way the bee is kept in check, else we may suppose it would multiply
far too abundantly.



This is a name that would apply to most bees, but certainly this one
seems unusually energetic in obtaining honey, visiting each flower in
succession, and then whisking off to the next flower-bed as if it had
not a minute to lose.

The male is jet black, and hums loudly all the time it is on the wing.
It has a very long tongue, beautifully fringed with hairs at the end to
enable it to sweep the flower-tubes and drink in the honey. It is a most
difficult bee to catch, its vision being so acute that it is off like a
flash the moment it sees the net; it is therefore only after many
attempts that one can secure a specimen. The female is very different in
appearance, being densely covered with yellowish down, and is easily
known by her second pair of legs which are very long and clothed with
tufts of black hairs. Its nesting habits are the same as those of
Colletes, only the grubs remain in the cells all through the winter and
hatch out in the spring.

There are immense numbers of these bees on Hampstead Heath, and it is
said to be the species alluded to by Gilbert White, of Selborne, as
existing in colonies on Mount Carburn, near Lewes, and so bold is it
that when people walk near its nests it will rise on the wing and dash
against the faces of the intruders. One species of Anthophora makes its
cell on dry walls, where it looks like a lump of mud, as if a handful of
wet roadstuff had been thrown on the brickwork. These bees are clever
little masons and use sand, earth, chalk, and woody material, mixed in
different ways, to form the nurseries for the eggs they purpose to lay.

I have not as yet been able to find one of these nests, but I read that
they are about an inch deep, of the form and size of a lady’s thimble,
finely polished, of the colour of plaster-of-Paris and stained in
various places with yellow. These insects have to work very hard
scooping out clay from one bank, obtaining chalk from another, and sand
from the path or elsewhere, and then these materials have to be
moistened with their own saliva and made up into pellets of a size that
they are able to carry on the wing, and so by slow degrees the walls of
the cell are built of these tiny bricks all glued together by their own
cement. Inside there are cells with eggs and bee-food placed ready for
the young grub when it is hatched.



One day in summer I saw a bee go into a little hole in the brickwork of
our house, and knowing it was probably making a nest, I waited till it
came out and then caught it with my net that I might find out its
species and then let it go. I found it was the very interesting solitary
bee which lines its nest with rose-leaves (_Megachile Centuncularis_).
It is a rather handsome large insect, covered with brownish-yellow down,
and has furry-looking legs.

It is called sometimes the upholsterer-bee, because it uses such
delicate curtains for its nest. I used to think it was the pink
rose-petals that it used, but I have since found out more about its
ways, and often see where it has been at work on my rose-trees by the
circular holes it makes in the green leaves. It settles on the edge of a
rose-leaf, and holding it firmly between its fore-legs it saws out a
round piece of it, then flies with it to its nest and puts it neatly in
as a lining. It takes from nine to twelve pieces to form a cell, and
they are pieced together without any cement or glue so that, as they
dry, they form a neat little tunnel. In this the bee stores up the honey
and pollen of thistles which form, when mixed together, a sort of
rose-coloured conserve or jam, and then in this it lays its egg and
closes up the end of the cell with three pieces of leaf exactly joined
so as to fill up the entrance. In this way it works till the hole is
full of cells, then finally closes it up and leaves the nursery to
manage for itself. The leaves of the birch-tree, elm, and dog’s mercury
are used by other species, but they all choose some kind of leaf to line
their nests.


                        (A DWELLER IN FLOWERS.)

This is another pretty bee which chooses a hole in some tree-stem which
has been made already by a beetle or boring insect, and in order to make
things quite comfortable for her future family she goes to the woolly
hedge-nettle or the wild lychnis, and scraping off the wool she rolls it
into a ball and flies to her nest with it, then she unrolls the wool and
lines the sides of the hole with it, thus making a warm soft nest in
which to place her eggs and the store of pollen and honey which they
will require.


                          (A FLOWER-CHOPPER.)

I have not succeeded in capturing this very rare bee, but it is said to
have been found both in Scotland and England. It has a great liking for
colour, for it makes choice of the petals of the wild scarlet poppy with
which to line its nest. It bores into the hardest paths by the side of
corn-fields and then cuts little pieces out of the corn-poppy flowers
and curtains its nest with them, and, like all the rest, it provides a
store of food, lays its eggs, and then closes up the hole.


                       (SWEET SCENT OR PERFUME.)

This genus is so called because some species are said to throw out a
sweet odour when they are touched.

[Illustration: VARIEGATED DEODAR.]

There are about ten species of these bees in England, and we must look
very carefully if we wish to find their nests.

One kind of Osmia will scoop out the pith from a piece of bramble-stem
and make cells in it composed of minced-up bits of wood or leaves.
Another kind will choose an empty snail-shell and fill it up most
cleverly with little cells to hold her eggs. A third species of Osmia
thinks a keyhole is a most suitable place for her nursery, and will so
fill it up with plastered earth, eggs and pollen, that the lock is
rendered perfectly useless.


                          (TO CROWD TOGETHER.)

This curious bee prefers to work after the sun has gone down, especially
on moonlight nights. Like the Colletes, it is fond of building in

They burrow into the ground about eight inches, working in such crowds
that it is difficult to avoid treading upon them. They seem able to
manage with very little rest, for after all this night-work they are
equally diligent in the daytime collecting pollen in which they lay
their eggs at the bottom of the tunnels. These bees have very beautiful
wings, rich with all the colours of the rainbow, but, as they are not
very large, a magnifying glass is needed to enable one to see these
colours to advantage.

One of this species is the smallest bee in England; it would almost be
taken for a house-fly, but for its long antennæ. The most beautiful
specimens may often be found upon the flowers of the chickweed.


There are seventy species of this bee, and their habits are much the
same as the other bees I have mentioned, but this genus is the victim of
a most strange enemy—a small winged beetle called Stylops.

The grub or larva of the Stylops is found in dandelion flowers, and when
the bees come seeking honey these little creatures climb on to the bee,
and, worse than that, they creep into its body, and there they live and
grow, feeding on the inside organs of the bee until they are fully
grown, when they turn into chrysalides.

Kirby, the great naturalist, was, I believe, the discoverer of this
wicked little insect. He saw a small lump on the under side of an
Andræna bee, and on taking it off with a pin he found to his surprise a
queer insect with milk-white wings and two staring black eyes peering
out of this lump—and this was the perfect Stylops, hatched from the body
of the poor bee, which, strange to say, was not killed by the parasite,
but appeared to suffer pain and irritation when the Stylops came out
between the joints of its body. It seems as if almost every bee and wasp
has a special enemy created to persecute it. We may sometimes see upon
our window-sills in summer a very brilliant little creature called the
Ruby-tailed fly. When the sun shines upon it, it looks like an emerald
suspended from a bright polished ruby with a pair of wings, so brilliant
is its metallic colouring. There are five species of this insect, and
they all prey upon mason bees and wasps, creeping into their cells and
laying their own eggs with those of the wasp or bee, which are of course
destroyed by the grub of this cruel intruder.

A French naturalist writes that he saw a Ruby-tail fly go into a
Solitary bee’s nest in a hole in a wall, and when the bee came back she
found the Ruby-tail, and had a desperate fight with her. The fly is able
to roll up into a ball as a hedgehog does, but this did not save her,
for the bee sawed off her wings, and, dragging her out of the nest,
threw her on the ground, and went off to get some more pollen. Poor
Ruby-tail was not going to be beaten; she climbed slowly up the wall
into the bee’s hole, and there she succeeded in laying her eggs before
the rightful owner returned, so after all the bee’s family were not
saved by the mother’s brave defence of her nest.

The Cuckoo fly is another species that victimises bees and wasps in the
same way, and the large tribe of ichneumon-flies are always on the watch
to lay their eggs in any living things that will suit their purpose.
They possess a long, flexible tube called an ovipositor, and by means of
this they can insert their eggs inside wasp and bees’ eggs, and even
into chrysalids and live caterpillars the cruel fly will drive this
tube, and leave her eggs where they will hatch, and live until they are
full grown, feeding on the living substance. I have sometimes kept
caterpillars hoping they would turn into beautiful butterflies, and
instead of that I have only had a crop of ichneumon-flies because their
eggs, unknown to me, had been previously laid in the bodies of the
unfortunate caterpillars. You may always know an ichneumon-fly by its
quivering antennæ; they are never still for a moment while daylight
lasts, and the fly itself may also be known by its long, slender body
with a hairlike waist. Some of the species are so minute that they lay
several of their eggs within a butterfly’s egg, and it affords quite
enough food for the ichneumon-grubs until they are full grown.

Others again are large insects with such a long and powerful tube that
they can pierce through solid wood in order to reach the concealed grub
in which they desire to lay their eggs. I believe the largest of the
species measures four inches from head to tail, the ovipositor being an
inch and three-quarters long. While I am speaking of parasites I may
mention the clever way in which a humble-bee will sometimes rid itself
of a species of mite which one may see swarming on its body. I give this
on the authority of Rev. Mr. Gordon, of Harting. He says that the bee
seeks an anthill on which it throws itself on its back, and sets up a
loud buzzing noise; the ants soon take the alarm, swarm out of their
nest, and at once fall upon the bee; but the latter simulates death,
stretching out its limbs rigid and motionless; the ants therefore leave
it alone, and seizing the mites which are running over its body, they
soon dispatch them all, when the bee gets up, gives itself a shake, and
flies away happily relieved of all its tormentors.


I will now touch upon the habits of a few of the Solitary wasps.

It happens that my house is a favourite nesting-place for them. Some
years ago I noticed small cells made of grey mud placed in some of the
angles of the brickwork close to our drawing-room window, and seeing
that some were like little pockets half open, and others closed up, I
was led to watch and see what was going on.

A slender kind of wasp, a species of Odynerus, marked with black and
yellow stripes, came with materials in her mouth, and began working on
some of these mud cells against the wall; she kept on, hard at work all
day at her masonry.

At last I thought I would open one of the finished cells and see what
was inside, so with a fine penknife I broke away part of the cell wall,
and there I found a number of greyish green caterpillars half killed and
unable to move. Down at the bottom of the cell was the wasp’s egg, and
the instinct of the mother insect leads her to obtain these
caterpillars, and in order that they may be in fit condition for the
grub when it hatches out of the egg, she gives each of the caterpillars
a bite which paralyses it but does not affect any vital part, so it
lives on in a helpless condition, and the wasp grub literally eats its
way through the caterpillars till it is full-grown, then it turns to a
chrysalis, and after a time it becomes a black and yellow wasp like its

It is curious how tame insects will become if treated kindly. I used to
know these little wasps quite well, and if they came into the rooms, and
I found them on the window-panes they were quite accustomed to be placed
gently outside that they might go on with their nests. A nephew of mine
who holds a position in some sugar works at Cossipore in India, tells me
in one of his letters that the air in the factory is so filled with
wasps and hornets attracted there by the scent of the sugar, that they
constantly strike against his face as he walked about. The workpeople
and clerks take all kinds of precautions against them, wearing leather
leggings over their trousers and beating them off continually; they get
frightfully stung and tormented all day long, whilst my nephew, who is
fond of all living things, takes no precautions at all, has never
injured the insects, and never once had a sting from them. This shows
that insects can discriminate between friends and enemies.

In my nephew’s own house some wasps came in and formed a nest in his
dining-room on a wall bracket within a foot or two of his usual seat at
dinner, and they too were perfectly friendly and would settle on his
face and hands, and never think of stinging their friend.

I remember once in a country village seeing a man hard at work thrashing
corn in a barn, and quite near to him there was an immense hornet’s nest
hanging from a beam. We asked if he was not afraid of them, but he
smiled and said, “Oh, they know me well enough; one of ’em fell inside
my shirt t’other day, but he was very ceevil and never stung me, for I
never interferes wi’ them, so they don’t interfere wi’ me.”

Many years ago a curious thing happened in a friend’s house in Surrey.
In a spare bedroom which was not often used, there was a small Pembroke
table with two flaps which could be put up or down. The maid had to get
the room ready for a visitor, and in dusting the table she lifted up one
of the flaps when down fell a quantity of dry earth all full of whitish
grubs and chrysalids, and a few young wasps were also crawling about. It
was found on examination that a solitary wasp had gained some mode of
access to the room, and had made her family nest under the flap of the
table, and unless it had been thus happily discovered the room would
soon have been full of young wasps, much to the discomfort of the coming

One of the mason wasps called Odynerus not only makes a tunnel a few
inches deep in the ground, generally in sandy banks, but it builds a
kind of little tube of grains of sand glued together and places it just
over the hole. It curves a little to one side, and is very possibly
intended to act as a protection against various flies and parasites that
would try to creep down and lay their eggs amongst those of the wasp.

This wasp stores up grey caterpillars for its young as the mason bees
do, so we see that they have their use in tending to reduce the number
of larvæ which prey upon our vegetables, and should be protected on that

An old silver-fir at the Grove, which had become decayed in the centre,
became a home for countless thousands of a small species of wasp; they
scooped it into endless galleries and cells, and filled them with
half-dead bluebottles and other flies to serve as food for their grubs.

I sat and watched them at work for half an hour one day, and saw that
about every half-minute a wasp arrived, each one holding some kind of
fly in its mandibles; as I imagine this went on from early morning till
dusk we may easily reply to the frequent inquiry of, What use can wasps
be in the world? and why were such troublesome insects created? by
pointing to the useful labours of this despised creature in reducing,
not only the destructive grey caterpillars which abound in our gardens,
but also the swarms of flies which beset us in the summer months.

We had to take down this great fir-tree, as it was completely decayed
and likely to fall with the next high wind, and when it was felled we
saw the marvellous work the wasps had been carrying on—the stem was
completely honeycombed with wasp-cells and all through that summer
endless numbers of wasps continued to hatch out of the old tree-stem.

The mason wasps are a very serious evil in Florida and many other hot
countries, because of their tendency to fill up every convenient crevice
with their mud nests. For instance, a gun may be laid aside for a day or
two without a cover, and a mason wasp will at once fill up the barrel
with mud, and when the owner, all unsuspectingly, puts in the cartridge
and attempts to fire the gun, it will probably explode, and possibly
cause the death of the sportsman. Many a lock is rendered useless, and
all kind of domestic troubles are caused by this persevering insect.

I may here say a word about the wasps I have had to deal with in
Switzerland. I used often to find their pretty little nests, about the
size of a small rose, made of a grey papery material, fixed on various
objects, frequently on stones by the roadside, on tree-branches, or on
the walls of houses and churches.

I brought one home and placed it in a sunny window of the hotel we were
staying at. I had not noticed that the cells were full of young grubs,
and one morning we came down to find the room full of lively young wasps
which had hatched out of my nest, and we had to set to work and clear
them away before we could eat our breakfast in peace. A friend has
kindly lent me a somewhat similar nest she found on some heather in

I have now spoken of a few of our most common Solitary bees and wasps.
There are hundreds of species, so that it is a wide subject and might be
indefinitely extended.

If any young people desire to study these curious insects, I may mention
a book which will be found very useful for identifying the species:
“British Bees,” by W. E. Shuckard, published by Lovell Reeve & Co.

With a magnifying glass one may see the two kinds of eyes with which
bees are furnished. The two large eyes with hundreds of facets which we
can easily see, are supposed to be for discerning objects near at hand.
Then on the top of the bee’s head are three little specks of eyes called
“ocelli,” placed in a triangle; these are believed to be for long
vision, to enable the bee to guide its flight in the air.

A small lens is an essential thing to carry about with us, revealing a
whole world of interest and beauty, which does not come within the range
of our ordinary vision.


            “Nor undelightful is the ceaseless hum,
            To him who muses through the wood at noon;
            Or drowsy shepherd as he lies reclin’d,
            With half-shut eyes, beneath the floating shade
            Of willows gray, close crowding o’er the brook.”
                                        JAMES THOMSON.


                           (ERISTALIS TENAX.)

MY compassion has often been stirred in autumn as I watched the number
of unhappy drone-flies buzzing on the window-panes, day after day, until
they perished from cold and hunger. These flies closely resemble the
real drones, which are the males of the honey-bee and have four wings,
while these, being flies, have but two.

They are large, handsome insects, with a downy, yellow-brown thorax and
shining black body which moves up and down in a wasp-like manner. When
flying about the room they keep up a loud humming noise, which at once
betrays their presence.

As soon as cold weather begins these flies are driven to seek shelter in
our rooms, where they find warmth, but usually no food or welcome. This
year I thought I would prepare “a refuge for the destitute,” in the
shape of a small glass globe, with sufficient ventilation, a little
trough full of honeycomb, and a small pan of water. Into this little
home I introduced three of these dipterous “waifs and strays” I found
buzzing on the window-panes last October, and I suppose they liked their
quarters, for they settled down amicably enough, and spent their whole
time, like many beings far higher up in the scale of creation, in
eating, drinking, and sleeping! I can speak well of these drone-flies as
pet insects, for they become absolutely tame, so as to come on my
finger, and to bear being stroked with a soft feather. They cannot sting
or bite, as they possess no aggressive weapons of any kind, and having
proverbially nothing to do, they are very easy-going, happy little
creatures, only asking for sunshine and food to keep themselves in
health and contentment.

It is really a curious sight to watch the morning toilet of a drone-fly
through a magnifying glass. After rubbing the various legs well
together, the yellow down upon the head has to be attended to; it is
thoroughly combed by means of a row of small spines running down the
fore-legs; these are raised over the back of the insect, so that the
spines are drawn through and through the soft, downy fur until it is in
perfect order, the action reminding one irresistibly of the toilet of a
human being.

The head is placed on such a slender pivot that it can be turned in
every direction, and looks as if it would come off altogether as the fly
turns it this way and that, and vigorously combs and brushes it in every
part. Then the back and abdomen are cleansed from every speck of dust,
and not until all this is accomplished does the insect seem to care for
any food—thus setting to insects in general an excellent example of

Attracted by the tempting scent, the fly might often be seen upon the
honeycomb, taking up the sweet contents of the cells with its long
proboscis, which is not unlike an elephant’s trunk, the honey being
drawn up by means of flaps at the end which act as suckers.

Often have I watched my drone flies and shown them to my friends, who
never fail to be interested, and pronounce them remarkably curious
creatures. Though so common, they are well worth observing in this way
through a magnifying glass, for a casual glance will not enable us to
see the full beauty of the eye with its endless facets, the structure of
the legs and the spiny combs, or the beautiful yellow fur which clothes
the thorax.

These flies of mine are let out in the room for exercise on fine days,
and enjoy flying about in the sunshine. One of them remained out for a
week or more, and when replaced with his friends he was seen to be thin
and starved as compared to the others who had lived in plenty.

I often notice the great difference of character that exists in insects.
These drone-flies do not appear to be at all unhappy in captivity, they
become so tame as to come on my finger and accept any suitable food
placed there, and after they have been flying about they will walk into
their globe as if perfectly content to abide in it. Not so the
honey-bee. A specimen was on the window-pane one very wet and stormy
day, and fearing it would die if I let it out of doors I introduced it
among the drone-flies. They, good, easy-going creatures, were quite
friendly towards the stranger, but the poor bee could not settle down—it
fussed all day up and down the glass, despised the sweet provender, and,
fretting, I supposed, at its absence from the community, was found dead
next morning.

One day in January I gathered a spray of sweet-scented coltsfoot in
flower, and placing it in a glass of water, enjoyed its delicious
perfume. Supposing it might contain some honey and prove acceptable to
the drone-flies, I let them investigate the flower, with the result that
they speedily became covered with its white pollen. I feared this might
clog their yellow down, and was about to brush it off with a feather,
when I saw, rather to my surprise, that the flies were greedily
devouring the pollen grains, brushing them off their downy bodies by
means of the combs on their fore-legs, and then the flaps at the end of
the proboscis rapidly picked up each grain until there was not one left.
I am glad to know this fact about their diet, as I can now give the
interesting pets both liquid and solid food, which will no doubt help to
maintain them in health and vigour.

We will now turn to the larvæ stage of these flies when, as purifiers of
the foulest putridity, they are doing us most essential service. The fly
lays its eggs in the mud of some stagnant ditch, and out of each of them
emerges a whitish worm-like grub with a long tail, which is its
breathing apparatus, and must therefore always reach to the surface of
the water. It is formed of graduated tubes, which can be retracted or
drawn out exactly like a telescope. If the water is shallow, only one or
two tubes are needed, and the tail appears somewhat thick, but if, owing
perhaps to a sudden shower, the water deepens, then the creature can
draw out tube after tube until the tail is two inches in length, and
graduates to a thread-like point. If these grubs were thrown into deep
water they would be drowned, being suffocated from want of air, but in
ditches, where they are usually found, they can crawl along in the mud
by means of very small legs on the thorax and abdomen, and ascend the
sloping bank until they reach the needful air. Respiration is carried on
by means of a double air-tube within the tail. When at its full
expansion these tubes lie parallel to each other, but when the tail is
retracted the tubes fall into two coils at the base, where it issues
from the body of the grub—truly a marvellous piece of mechanism for such
a lowly creature. The most noisome black mud is the favourite habitat of
this rat-tailed maggot, as it is called, and to it we owe a deep debt of
gratitude, since, repulsive as it may appear to our eyes, its life-work
is to purify such foul places as would pollute the air we breathe; it
feeds and luxuriates upon that which is full of the germs of fever and
mortality to us, and then, when full grown, it buries itself in the
ground to come forth in due time as a bright-winged fly.

Even in its perfect state it is doing us service, for in seeking pollen
for its food it helps to fertilise our fruit-tree blossoms, being seen
upon them in the early days of March, long before other tribes of winged
insects (excepting bees) are to be found abroad. The early spring
sunshine attracts them from the nooks and corners where they have been
hibernating through the winter, and greatly do they seem to enjoy
rifling the newly-opened flowers of our apricot and peach-trees.

The specific name of Tenax given to this fly shows its power of clinging
firmly to any object on which it settles. Each leg is furnished with a
pair of strong curved claws which, when closed, appear to be like twelve
grappling irons, and may well account for the tenacity of hold which the
fly possesses.

From the interest I have found in keeping my drone-flies, I feel
encouraged to try and learn more of the habits of other flies and
insects. I believe in this way many curious facts may be ascertained
about the life-history of many little-known species which are seen for
only a limited period of the year, and whose further doings have not as
yet been fully traced.

                          THE PRAYING MANTIS.

               “O crooked soul, and serpentine in arts.”

                          THE PRAYING MANTIS.

                           (MANTIS ORATORIA.)

THE post has brought me some odd things from “foreign parts” in the
course of the last few years, but never anything quite so strange and
weird as a live specimen of the so-called “praying mantis,” which
reached me last winter.

This curious insect was sent from Mentone by the same kind friend who
forwarded the interesting sacred beetle, the “Cheops,” described in
“Wild Nature.”

The cold journey and lack of food had made the poor mantis look so
nearly dead that I almost despaired of his recovery. The food of this
tribe of insects being flies of any kind, a bluebottle, which happened
fortunately to be on the window-pane, was captured, killed, and
presented to the illustrious stranger, who feebly nibbled a portion of
his body, drank a little water, and appeared somewhat revived. The
mantis was then placed near the fire, and we hoped that warmth might
prove restorative.

The mantis is never met with in England; it is a native of the warmer
parts of Europe, and various species are found in the tropics. It is a
large and powerful insect, varying from three to five inches in length;
it has six legs. The four legs which it uses in walking are long and
slender, while the pair nearest the head are much thicker, and are armed
with very sharp spines, with which the mantis kills the insects upon
which it feeds.

Its usual position is a sort of sitting posture, holding up the
fore-legs slightly bent as if in the attitude of prayer, and from this
fancied resemblance the creature has gained the name of “praying

Deceit and cunning seem combined to a remarkable degree in the nature of
this creature, as if to make up for the slowness of its movements. It
will remain stealthily on the watch whilst flies are hovering within
sight, apparently taking no notice, but secretly biding its time until a
victim is within the range of its cruel enemy; then one swift stroke
impales the fly upon the spikes of the fore-leg, which holds it fast in
the pangs of death.

As Mr. Duncan wittily says in his charming book on “Transformation of
Insects”: “Any unfortunate moths that may admire the mantis on account
of its attitude of supplication soon find out that instead of saying
'Let us pray,’ it says 'Let us prey!’”

When my specimen began to revive I could but gaze with wonder at the
strange attitudes the creature assumed. Its head seemed to be set on a
revolving pivot, for it could turn in all directions with the greatest
ease; its limbs stretched themselves out at every conceivable angle, as
if simulating the twigs on a tree-branch. Grotesque and weird are the
terms one would use in describing this insect; it seems a freak of
nature, and quite fascinates one by the oddity of its appearance.

I read that the Chinese keep these insects in bamboo-cages, and take
advantage of their quarrelsome disposition by making them fight for
their captors’ amusement. Mantises are so pugnacious that they will
continue the conflict, hewing at each other like hussars fighting with
sabres, until one or other of the combatants is killed. Those who have
watched these engagements say that the wings are generally expanded
during the fight, and when it is ended the conqueror devours his

Although we see that the mantis has no right to its character for
sanctity, I thought my specimen ought to have an appropriate name, so he
became known in the family circle as Simeon Stylites! The chief
difficulty was how to keep him warm enough through wintry days and
nights; this end was, however, attained by keeping a night-light always
burning in his glass-case, and of course this led to some little teasing
about my ever-lighted lamp at the shrine of my patron saint!

The second day after Simeon’s arrival no flies could be had, so in
despair I tried whether a meal-worm would be accepted instead. I was
humbly presenting my newly-killed offering to what appeared a very meek
and innocent creature, with its arms folded and its head on one side
when, to my great astonishment, the deceitful thing suddenly sprang up
and made such a vicious snap at my fingers that I dropped the meal-worm
and retreated. That was my first lesson in the habits and manners of
this holy hypocrite! for the future I learned to treat him with
respectful caution, and handed his prey to him at the end of a pair of

It was a comical sight to see Simeon discussing a meal-worm. He found
out that it was a toothsome dainty, and accepted it very readily.
Holding it in one of his spiked fore-legs, and biting it piece by piece
as if it were a banana, he munched away until he was satisfied, and then
he generally tilted up the last portion as if he were draining a little
beaker. I need hardly say that the meal-worm was mercifully killed
first, else I could not have watched it being thus demolished.

The mantis seems to have remarkably keen sight and to be very watchful,
for if I tried to touch anything in his globe he would face round
instantly and stand on the defensive. If a twig was held near him he
would throw out his long fore-legs and fight with the intruding thing,
showing a dauntless spirit and very irascible temper.

I was most anxious to keep my curious pet alive; and, fearing I might
not treat it rightly in all respects, I wrote to Mr. Bartlett at the
Zoological Gardens, asking his advice about food and general treatment.
He replied with his usual courtesy, but I was sorry to learn that, even
under his experienced treatment, mantises never live through an English

It is sad to record that Simeon grew less and less inclined to eat. In
spite of all possible care he became inert and helpless, and died at the
end of a week.

With the experience I have gained I should not quite despair of keeping
a mantis alive throughout the summer and autumn. At that period of the
year one could ensure suitable food and sufficient warmth to keep the
insect living in health and comfort. It would be worth while to take
pains to learn more about the life-history of a creature of such
exceptionally singular form and habits.

                             THE CORK MOTH.

           “'Faugh! the claret’s corked!’ 'So it is, and very
           badly corked,’ growls my lord.”

                             THE CORK MOTH.

IT may appear to many readers a most unlikely thing that even in our
sitting-rooms, on our window-panes, or in our wine-cellars we should
find subjects for study in natural history, but I will try to show that
there is some truth in such a statement.

We only need to be careful observers to be rewarded from time to time by
finding material for thought and investigation in very unlikely places.
Not having ever lived in town, I cannot tell whether the creatures I
purpose to speak about would be found there, and my remarks must,
therefore, apply to country-houses and their visitants. If I had been
told that a certain moth existed in my wine-cellar, and that by means of
its larvæ burrowing into the corks some dozens of choice old Italian
wines would soon ooze away and leave nothing but half-empty bottles, I
should have been very incredulous. I had never seen such an insect in
the wine-cellar in the past thirty years, and knew nothing of its

I made its acquaintance, however, in the following manner. The plate
containing the daily food of my mongoose is kept on a bracket just
inside the cellar stairs. A cork had lain on this bracket for some
months, and had apparently become glued there, for I could not detach or
lift it. On close examination I found that this cork must have a tenant
of some kind, for it was surrounded by fine particles, evidently gnawed
by an insect. When a light was brought I soon found that a grub had been
at work mining holes and furrows in the cork, and had then spun a very
strong silky texture, by which it had firmly attached the cork to the
bracket. Having made its home secure, it had gone on to spin a soft,
silken cradle, in which I found the culprit itself ensconced.

This may seem but a trivial thing to record, but here was a life-history
being worked out in small compass, all unknown to us in our daily
business, and though in this particular case no harm resulted, yet by
this apparently insignificant insect, as I afterwards found out,
thousands of pounds are lost every year, its larvæ boring the corks, and
thus causing the leakage of valuable wine, especially old sweet wines.

I was led to make inquiries about this cork moth, and a wine merchant
kindly supplied me with the following facts:—

In twenty-five years’ experience he had never seen the perfect insect,
but knew it well to be a moth called Oinophila-v-flava. This creature
finds its way into dry cellars and lays its eggs in the corks of bottles
which are unprotected by wax or leaden capsules. A small white grub with
a brown head is hatched from the egg, and bores a tunnel through the
cork, just so far as to reach the saccharine in it, on which the
creature feeds. When it has attained its full size it spins a silken
case and turns into a chrysalis, from which the moth emerges in April
and May.

Anxious to learn still more regarding this curious insect, I went to the
Natural History Museum at Kensington, and by the courtesy of the
authorities I was allowed to descend to the basement, where the long
galleries are filled with insect collections. A case was brought to me
which contained the Oinophila-v-flava, a long name, which I had expected
would belong to a moth of ordinary size. What was my amazement,
therefore, when I was shown a golden-coloured speck with four small
wings, the upper pair having three white spots, from which the moth
obtains its name of v-flava, as the spots form a minute letter v.

Now I could well understand the obscurity of the perfect insect; for who
would imagine that a creature so insignificant could be the cause of so
much loss and trouble to wine-owners?

It still remains a mystery to me how the moth finds its way into the
cellars of our houses, or how it can exist in utter darkness and
perpetuate its species from year to year in such a secret manner. It is
clear from the facts I have related that it behoves all who possess
valuable old wine to examine it from time to time to see that the corks
are sound. A still safer plan would be to cut the cork off close to the
neck of the bottle and seal it over, leaving no part of it exposed. Only
in that way, or by metal capsules, can old sweet wines be rendered
perfectly safe. I had been looking forward to the possibility of finding
this minute creature in my cellar during the spring months, and then
learning a little more about its appearance and habits, but this
opportunity came sooner than I expected. On the 20th of last December I
had occasion to go down to the wine-cellar with a young friend who
wished to search there for various kinds of beetles, when, to my
delight, I caught sight of a minute moth upon the wall. I could hardly
believe that it was the cork moth, as it usually hatches in April and
May, but on close inspection it proved to be the true Oinophila, and
great was the delight with which we secured the little specimen.

The wonderful beauty of the wings could only be discerned by using a
powerful magnifying glass. Seen in sunlight the little moth looked as if
it were made of atoms of gold and silver, its eyes were black, its legs
striped, its antennæ long, the under wings being adorned with very long
silken fringes. To the naked eye the Oinophila is an inconspicuous grey
object, and may well pass unobserved, especially in the semi-darkness of
a cellar, and if one did remark it, the idea of destructive powers would
never be suggested by anything so small and fragile.

                           THE CLOTHES MOTH.

                                     “like a cloud
                 From closet long to quiet vowed,
                 With mothed and dropping arras hung.”

                           THE CLOTHES MOTH.

WE are all of us but too familiar with the ravages of the common
“Clothes Moth,” ever busy fretting both our garments and our tempers. We
find our cherished furs and woollens—which we fondly imagined we had put
away so carefully—utterly ruined by what we emphatically call _the
moth_, as if but one species really existed, and we refuse it our
interest and our sympathy. When we find some piece of material
containing moth-larvæ, we are usually too intent upon destroying them to
bestow much thought upon the habits of the creature; but I have
discovered of late that even these moths are so curious as to be well
worth a little careful study. I will relate how I came to know something
about the life-history of some of the _Tineæ_, the name by which this
species of insect is known.

Many years ago a friend gave me some beautiful grey feathers of birds
which he had obtained during a voyage up the Nile. The majority of these
feathers had been arranged in my feather-books, but a few remained in a
drawer, and on examining them after a lapse of time I found they were
shredded and perforated till only fragments were left. Quantities of
little grey cases, or cocoons, showed that what had gained access to the
feathers was moth. As I was then specially interested in the subject of
domestic natural history, the living inmates of our houses, these cases
were exactly what I wished to study. Accordingly I made a collection of
them and covered them with a glass shade until I should find leisure to
observe them more closely. Returning from some other occupation I found
the small cases in active motion. A brown head and part of a white
grub’s body appeared at one end, and each insect, like the Caddis Worm,
was dragging its house after it and seemed able to crawl rapidly about.
By gently pressing the tail-end of a cocoon I made the grub come out and
leave its case behind, so that I could examine it more particularly. The
case was evidently made of shreds of the feathers on which the grub had
been feeding, and was lined with fine white silk.

There are understood to be about thirty-one species of Tinea in this
country; of these many, when in the larva state, inhabit fungi or rotten
wood. One beautiful species is found abundantly in granaries, its larva
lives upon corn and resides in a case formed of wheat grains connected
together by silken threads. Many of the species of Tineina, the great
group to which the genus Tineæ belongs, are leaf-miners and form those
white streaks we may often see upon bramble, honeysuckle, and strawberry
leaves. The grubs of another kind may be found in Scotland, inhabiting
ants’ nests, and even in a coal mine, near Glasgow, Tineæ have been
found in abundance.

A very beautiful species of Tinea attacks the bark of the lime-tree
until it becomes completely riddled by its destructive grubs. A fine
avenue of about two hundred lime-trees forming one of the approaches to
the town of Southampton was infested with this insect and the growth of
the trees seriously injured by its ravages.

The furrier has cause to dread the ravages of _Tinea Pellionella_, which
feeds on feathers and fur, and is no respecter of priceless sables and
ermine. This insect makes its case with atoms of fur cut to the same
length, and it works so insidiously that there is no outward sign of its
evil doings until little tufts of fur begin to fall off, and then it is
too late to save our valued garments. They are sure, sooner or later, to
prove hopelessly destroyed.

Stuffed birds and animals can only be preserved from this annoying pest
by being soaked in a strong solution of corrosive sublimate or some
other poison. That this is effectual I have proved by the safe
preservation of groups of stuffed birds which have hung against a wall
exposed to the air without protection of any kind for the last
twenty-five years; these are as fresh and bright in plumage now as when
they were first obtained.

This fur-moth is perhaps the best known species in our houses; it is a
small yellowish-grey insect with pale brown spots on the wings. This is,
I believe, the species of which I have secured the larvæ. Fur and
feathers are alike its staple diet, and it is easily distinguished from
other kinds by a dark brown mark on the second segment of the grub,
which mark I can discern by a magnifying glass.

The linings of chairs and sofas and the stuffing of carriage cushions,
horse-hair pillows, &c., are constantly attacked by _Tinea biselliella_,
while cloth, flannel, and any woollen material, suits the taste of the
almost universal _Tinea tapetzella_, against whose ravages every
housekeeper has to devise a variety of protective plans. The moth is so
small it can creep through minute crevices—a knot-hole at the back of a
drawer or a keyhole will afford it access to the winter garments which
have been put away in supposed security.[7] Tapetzella differs in
appearance from the fur moth as its wings are half black and half grey,
and it is also of larger size. In laying her eggs the moth has the
foresight to place them rather widely apart, so that each grub may find
space enough in which to feed; it is this habit which renders the
creature specially destructive, as it attacks many parts of a garment
and does not confine its ravages to one spot. The larva of this species
forms covered galleries in which it works, mining its way along the
surface of the material, and eating off the pile wherever it goes and
leaving threadbare tracks behind it.

Pellionella adopts a different method. The first work of the minute grub
on issuing from the egg is to form a round case in which it may live,
for it does not eat unless it has a house of its own. This curious habit
may be seen in many other species amongst the Tineæ. I have already
mentioned one which forms its house of wheat grains; another chooses
particles of stone of which it constructs its dwelling, and then feeds
on the lichens which grow upon old walls. Out of the fluffy seeds of the
willow one Tinea forms a sort of muff in which it lives. Other species
of the group form little tents upon the leaves of the elm, oak, and many
kinds of fruit-trees, these cases being so minute as to be unobserved
unless the insect is moving within. One of the most remarkable of all
the species is one which inhabits the leaves of the nettle. The tent
looks like a tiny hedgehog, as it is formed of minute portions of the
leaf glued together and studded all over with the stinging hairs of the

Mr. James Rennie in his “Insect Architecture” gives such an excellent
description of the weaving operations of the Pellionella grub that I
cannot do better than quote his observations upon it: “It selected a
single hair for the foundation of its intended structure; this it cut
very near the skin in order, we suppose, to have as long as possible,
and placed it in a line with its body. It then immediately cut another,
and placing it parallel to the first, bound both together with a thread
of its own silk. The same process was repeated with other hairs till the
little creature had made a fabric of some thickness, and this it went on
to extend till it was large enough to cover its body, which (as is usual
with caterpillars) it employed as a model and measure for regulating its
operations. The chamber was ultimately finished by a fine and closely
woven tapestry of silk. When the caterpillar increases in length it
takes care to add to the length of its house by working in fresh hairs
at either end; and if it be shifted to furs or feathers of different
colours it may be made to construct a parti-coloured tissue like a
Scotch plaid. But the grub increases in thickness as well as in length,
so that its first house becoming too narrow, it must either enlarge it
or build a new one. It prefers enlarging the premises, and sets to work
precisely as we should do, slitting the case on the two opposite sides
and then adroitly inserting between them two pieces of the requisite
size. When the structure is finished, the insect deems itself secure to
feed upon the fur within its reach, provided it is dry and free from
grease, which the grub will not touch.”

This account shows that the moth-grub can secrete a kind of silk with
which it lines its cell, but it can use other materials out of which to
weave a house for itself. When that house becomes too small it knows how
to put in two side-pieces to make it fit the size of its body. When full
grown, this same case forms its temporary coffin, for the little
creature simply closes up the entrance and hangs itself up in some
convenient place until in due time it comes out a perfect moth, ready to
lay its eggs and pursue the instincts of its race. Surely we must admit
that these lives which are carried on in our houses are very curious and
worth investigation. When we think of the minute size of these grubs
(scarcely a quarter of an inch in length) and the vigour of the instinct
they display, the secret mode in which they work in airless drawers and
boxes, the perseverance with which the moth finds entrance into these
hiding-places, we must credit this small insect with many remarkable
qualities. Its lineage is extremely ancient, for it is twice mentioned
in the oldest book in the Bible, and it is not a little remarkable that
Job seems to have been accurately acquainted with the habits of the
Tinea larvæ, since he says, in speaking of an ungodly man, “_He buildeth
his house as a moth_, and as a booth that the keeper maketh” (Job xxvii.

Both of these images point to the temporary nature of the dwelling. A
booth consists of a few branches put together at the top of a pole where
a man can sit and scare away wild animals from the Eastern fields of
fruit and grain—an erection easily removed in a few moments; it is
appropriately likened to the moth grub’s tiny case which is cast aside
after a few weeks or months, when the perfect insect has emerged. There
are seven or eight allusions in the Scriptures to the ravages of the
moth in destroying apparel, and remembering that Eastern people are in
the habit of hoarding immense stores of richly embroidered clothing as
an evidence of great wealth, there can be no doubt but that the many
species of Tinea which are found in Palestine were a very real danger to
be guarded against with the utmost solicitude.

                            THE DEATH-WATCH.

  “Alas! the poor gentleman will never get from hence,” said the
Landlady to me, “for I heard the Death-Watch all night long.”—STERNE.

                            THE DEATH-WATCH.

A CURIOUS ticking sound is frequently heard in old houses full of
ancient furniture, and especially during the still hours of the night.
This noise, which I often hear in my own rooms, is attributed by the
superstitious to some strange omen called the Death-Watch, and even in
these enlightened days there are those who imagine it to presage the
approaching decease of some one in the house.

But there is nothing really mysterious about it, and it will be well for
us to learn all we can about this house-dweller, so that such an absurd
idea may be entirely exploded.

The sound is really caused by a small beetle of nocturnal habits, the
_Anobium striatum_. This insect is of dark brown colour and rather
curious form, being so constructed that it can draw its head under the
thorax out of sight, retract its six legs, and thus make itself into an
oval pellet. It is seldom seen by day, unless a wall may have been newly
papered; to such a wall the death-watches will often flock in
considerable numbers, probably to feed upon the paste. If touched, the
beetles feign to be dead, and they are so brittle as to be easily
injured by handling. These insects do incredible damage by boring holes
in valuable old furniture, musical instruments, panels, and
skirting-boards, in fact hardly anything in the way of leather and
woodwork is safe from the attack of this minute pest. The female beetle
seeks a crevice in old wood, and with her ovipositor places a small
white egg in it and firmly glues it in a suitable position. In
twenty-one days the egg is hatched, and out of it comes a white grub
much resembling that which we often find in filberts. This larva begins
to bore into the wood, feeding upon it, and making those small round
holes we often see to our regret in some valued piece of furniture.

The grub throws out the yellow dust of the wood—often the first
indication of its being what we call “worm-eaten”—and when full grown it
forms a cell in the wood in which it undergoes its change into the
perfect beetle.

It is difficult to convince the ignorant that the ticking sound made by
this insect is nothing more formidable than the call of the beetle to
its mate! It strikes its hard-shelled head against the wood, and so
gives rise to the clicking sound; other _Anobiums_ hear it and reply in
the same way, and thus the amorous duets and trios go on, often to the
great annoyance of the sleepless and suffering. Do what we will, the
little torments are beyond our reach, and nothing will avail to stop the
noise, though on the other hand, if we wish to set it going I believe we
can do so by tapping sharply upon any wainscot where the beetles are
known to exist. It is strange to read how widely the fear of this insect
noise has spread in other countries besides our own. Mr. John Timbs in
his interesting book, “Things not Generally Known,” says: “The
superstition about the Death-Watch extends from England to Cashmere, and
across India diagonally to the remotest nook of Bengal, over three
thousand miles distance from the entrance of the Indian Punjaub.”

The only effectual remedy for the ravages of this beetle appears to be
pouring spirits of wine in which corrosive sublimate has been dissolved,
into the minute holes; the spirit finds its way from one tunnel to
another, and the beetles may be seen dropping out in numbers. If the
piece of furniture is of large size it may require several applications
to be effectual, but the process will render the wood distasteful to the
insect, and probably stop its operations.

A beetle of an allied species, _Anobium tessalatum_, makes the same
tapping sound in woodwork, and a minute insect, _Atropos pulsatorius_,
which may frequently be found under the paper lining of picture-frames,
is also credited with the power of making a clicking noise; but this can
hardly be so loud as the sound of the ordinary Death-Watch beetle.

                        CHEESE-MITES AND FLIES.

             “O would the sons of men once think their eyes
             And reason given them but to study flies.”
                                         POPE’S _Dunciad_.

                        CHEESE-MITES AND FLIES.

IT is not an altogether pleasant idea to dwell upon, that the very food
we eat is sometimes tenanted by various forms of life. We can guard
against meal-worms in the flour-barrel, and keep weevils from devouring
our peas and beans; flies can be kept from the larder, and our dainties
may be protected from the marauding cockroach; but by general consent we
allow our cheese to be the home of a species of fungus, innumerable
mites, and the grubs of a minute fly. Not only so, but most people
prefer a Stilton or Cheddar cheese in a mitey condition, as it then
possesses a heightened flavour. The first glimpse through a good
microscope of a mass of cheese-mites is somewhat startling. We see a
confused heap of struggling insects, and the idea of eating them at our
next repast is by no means agreeable. Still they are worth examination
as a type of a large class of animalcules which have for their object
the destruction of many substances which might taint the air and do harm
if they were allowed to remain in a state of decay.

The Cheese-mite has an almost transparent oval body tapering to a
snout-like head. It can move with some agility upon its eight
brownish-coloured legs. In sunlight this creature’s globular polished
body shines as though it were made of crystal. This mite lays eggs
abundantly, and also produces young alive, so this double mode of
production may account for the rapid increase of the colonies in an
ancient cheese.

The generic term Acarus includes a large number of species. There are
those which, to the dismay of the entomologist, are found destroying his
finest butterflies and moths, and reducing his cherished specimens to a
little heap of dust. Some special kinds of mites prey upon figs, prunes,
honeycomb, sugar, and sweetmeats of various kinds. A special mite is
found in the cavities of the bones of skeletons; indeed, there seems
scarcely any limit to this widely-spread family of minute depredators.

Other branches of the family are represented by the Red Spider, which is
one of the plagues of our greenhouses, for, although so small as to be
scarcely discernible by the naked eye, it sucks the juices of plants and
often effectually prevents the healthy growth of valuable specimens.

The Plum-mite may frequently be seen in clusters upon fruit-trees,
puncturing the bark and doing considerable injury to the smaller twigs.

A closely allied species is known as the Harvest-bug. This almost
invisible atom burrows into the human skin and there deposits its eggs,
causing excessive irritation and annoyance to the workers in

I will now turn from the mites to another cheese-inhabitant, _Piophila
casei_. Few people are likely to have noticed the perfect insect, a
small black fly with whitish wings margined with black; it is very
inconspicuous, and we should hardly suspect its object in visiting our
cheese. When cheeses are made and placed in a room to dry, before the
outside rind has had time to harden, the Piophila will seek out some
crevice in which to deposit its eggs. The creature is furnished with an
ovipositor, which it can thrust out to a great length so as to penetrate
to a considerable depth into the cracks of the cheese, and there it will
lay as many as two hundred and fifty eggs. These hatch into white grubs
without feet, but having two horny claw-shaped mandibles which enable
them to bore into the cheese upon which they feed.

The breathing apparatus of the cheese-maggot is very remarkable,
consisting of two tubes at the head and two at the tail, so the grub can
breathe at either end of its body. Lest any particles of cheese should
obstruct the front pair of tubes the little creature has the power of
drawing over them a fold of the skin, and whilst they are thus closed it
breathes through the air-tubes in the tail. A cheese inhabited by these
grubs soon grows moist and rotten, because they have the power of
emitting a liquid which softens and corrupts the cheese and renders it
suitable for the food of the maggot.

The leaping power of these larvæ is truly surprising. Swammerdam, who
seems to have carefully studied this creature, says: “I have seen one
whose length did not exceed a fourth of an inch leap out of a box six
inches deep, that is twenty-four times the length of its own body.” The
grub cannot crawl, as it has no legs; it must therefore progress by
leaps; this it achieves by erecting itself on its tail, which is
furnished with several knobs or warts to enable it to keep its balance;
then, bending itself into a ring, it lays hold of the skin of its tail,
and, suddenly letting go with a jerk, it can, by a succession of
springs, cover a surprising distance on a level surface. In considering
the life-history of this despised creature I cannot but endorse the
devout remark of the great naturalist I have just quoted. He says: “I
can take upon me to affirm that the parts of this maggot are contrived
with so much art and design that is impossible not to acknowledge them
to be the work of infinite power and wisdom from which nothing is hid
and to which nothing is impossible. It could not be the production of
chance or rottenness, but the work of the same Omnipotent Hand which
created the heavens and the earth.”



LONG ago, I remember reading with enjoyment a little essay I met with
somewhere, in which were described the various living creatures one
would be likely to meet with in one’s garden, if one took a stroll at
night with a lantern. Beetles would be seen crossing the path, worms
moving stealthily in search of food, moths hovering over the flowers; if
one were quiet and still for a little time even mice and shrews might be
watched foraging about bent on their own special errands.

I have indulged in such a nocturnal garden ramble occasionally, but I
think it needs younger eyes than mine now are, and perhaps exceptional
weather to ensure a glimpse of nature on the prowl; at any rate, I have
not been very fortunate in that way. My attention during the past year
has been specially directed to house-dwelling creatures, and my rambles
have been carried on indoors instead of in the garden. When I think of
the life-histories of the Cork Moth, of the various Cloth Moths, of the
Death-Watch, of the beetles I have found at work upon the specimens in
my museum, of the Solitary bees and wasps in the crevices and angles of
the outer brickwork of the house, and, finally, of the creature which I
am now about to describe, I think it must be admitted that there _is_ a
field for entomological study inside as well as outside our dwellings.

Remembering that I once caught sight of some silvery fish-like insects
upon the kitchen hearth, and afterwards watched a little pair of the
same kind moving below a window-ledge in a bedroom, I determined to
devote a little time to their investigation. I learned that they were
called _Lepisma saccherina_, and that Linnæus formed the genus, and
named it from the Greek word _lepisma_, a scale. The creatures are known
as “The Bristle-tails proper”; the genus belongs to the order
_Thyasanura_, which contains some extremely minute but very curious

Sir John Lubbock’s researches have thrown much light upon the structure
and habits of the _Lepismidæ_, and some of their near relations. I
cannot help transcribing his description of the love-making of a couple
of these atoms, known as _Smerinthus luteus_. Sir John says: “It is very
amusing to see these little creatures coquetting together. The male,
which is smaller than the female, runs round her, and they butt one
another standing face to face, and moving backwards and forwards like
two playful lambs. Then the female pretends to run away, and the male
runs after her with a queer appearance of anger, gets in front and
stands facing her again; then she turns coyly round, but he, quicker and
more active, scuttles round too, and seems to whip her with his antennæ.
Then for a bit they stand face to face, play with their antennæ, and
seem to be all in all to one another.”

Sir John Lubbock considers the _Lepismæ_ to be more nearly related to
cockroaches than to any other form, but they do not in the least
resemble those most unattractive creatures, being much smaller and of
elegant shape, like slender little fishes made of silver. The body of a
_Lepisma_ consists of fourteen segments, the head being one, the thorax
three, and the abdomen ten. The silvery scales which cover the body are
so lightly attached, that a touch will bring them off. These scales have
long been used as a test of power of microscopic lenses, the delicate
markings on the scale being more or less visible according to the power
of the glasses. The name Bristle-tail is given because of the seven
caudal hairs which the _Lepisma_ possesses, three of which are much
longer than the rest. The Germans call these insects _Borstenschwärze_
and _Silberfischen_ (Bristle-tails and Silver-fishes).

Many insects seem to find wall paper an attractive diet, and the pair of
_Lepismæ_ I used to watch every night in the same place on the wall of
my bedroom were evidently enjoying their evening meal, but as they lived
in a dark corner and no very perceptible damage was done I did not
interfere; when, however, the room was repapered I never saw these small
visitants again.

I had a great wish to keep and study these singular creatures, and the
only way to obtain them seemed to be by a nocturnal visit to my kitchen
hearth, where I learned they were sometimes to be seen darting about in
the warmth, seeking for such stray crumbs of sugar as they might find.

Happily this old house is not tenanted by cockroaches, else I should not
have cared to intrude upon their domain in the witching hour of night;
lepismas alone were to be seen gliding about, but how to catch them was
a problem I found hard to solve. I tried various methods without
success, and was about to retire quite discomfited by the exceeding
swiftness of my quarry, when a bright idea occurred to me. With a sudden
sweep of a small soft brush I wafted the insects on to a plate, and
quickly transferred them into a glass globe. In this way I obtained nine
perfect specimens, and was able to watch the beautiful little creatures,
and admire their glistening bodies and agile movements.

I tried to cater for their rather _bizarre_ diet by giving them a little
sugar and cake, some wall paper and rotten wood. After a few days they
lost all fear, and would come on my hand and daintily nibble a little
sugar or cake offered them; they shunned the light and kept quiet
through the day, coming out for active frolics in the evening.

A German naturalist says _Lepismæ_ will gnaw holes in letter paper; in
fact they seem to be omnivorous, for, like the cockroach, they will eat
clothing, tapestry, and the silken trimmings of furniture. This insect
seems to be found abundantly in India, for a lady has told me that her
garments could not be laid aside for even a few days without swarms of
these “silver fishes” gathering in the folds and creases. It shares with
the Death-Watch a liking for paste, and this makes it attack the
bindings of books, so that it is not an infrequent tenant of the shelves
of damp, unused libraries, but from its small size I should imagine it
cannot do any very serious amount of damage.

Whether my specimens will develop any interesting “habits” remains to be
seen; they appear to be peaceable little folk, remaining quietly in the
cracks and crevices of some rotten wood during the day, and towards
evening they come forth to feed, and explore the bounds of their domain.
Their legs are so short they cannot climb up the sides of the glass
globe in which they live; it is therefore left open at the top, so that
I am able to watch all that goes on, and may learn in time something of
the life-history of _Lepismæ_.


                  “I plunge my hand among the leaves;
                  (An alien touch but dust perceives,
                        Nought else supposes;)
                  For me those fragrant ruins raise
                  Clear memory of the vanished days
                        When they were roses.”
                                        AUSTIN DOBSON.


THOSE who have large gardens, and think, as I do, that the pleasure of
our possessions is doubled when we can share them with others less
happily endowed, may like to have a few suggestions as to the various
ways in which our floral treasures may be passed on to the poor, to
invalids, to hospital patients, and to lonely workers everywhere, who
may welcome a little bit of brightness coming unexpectedly to vary the
monotony of their lives. I need not touch upon the sending little
bunches of flowers to the sick out of our abundant stores, since the
good work done by the Bible Flower Mission is widely known, and from all
parts of England the welcome hampers are sent to the various _depôts_,
and find their way to nearly all our hospitals and infirmaries.

As flowers are not to be had for distribution all the year round, I
should like to draw attention to other little gifts which often take
their place in cheering suffering lives during the winter months. If we
were obliged to live for a few weeks in a miserable garret in one of the
slums of London, I suppose we might then have some idea of the pleasure
that a little bag of sweetly scented pot-pourri can give to a poor
sufferer who has to pass days and nights of pain in the midst of evil

It is always a great delight to me to pack up a box containing eighty or
a hundred of these little bags, with their pretty lace edgings and
comforting texts of Scripture, and send it to some of the kind workers
in London for distribution to the sick poor.

Let us follow our small gifts in imagination, and think of the gleams of
brightness they will convey. There is something in their sweetness as
they bring a whiff of country roses with them that must make them
welcome in many a dreary room, and, more than that, they tell of other
hearts caring for these sick ones, working for them, and taking thought
and pains to send them little gifts.

All these things have their cheering effect, and incline the sufferer to
listen to the gospel message read by the visitor from the text attached
to the scent-bag, and from that will often arise an opening for helpful

The suffering one is thus led to fell of the heavy burdens that are
weighing down heart and mind, and before the visit closes it may be that
those burdens will have been laid on the true Burden-bearer, a humble,
broken prayer telling of the link being formed between the sinner and
the all-powerful Saviour.

Viewed in this light, we see of what value these gifts may be, and
surely that time is not wasted which is given to preparing in the quiet
of our happy country homes such things as may help the active workers in
town missions who have no time to make such things themselves.

It is a very pleasant duty on a bright day in summer to go round the
garden with a capacious basket and gather the harvest of rose-leaves
just ready to fall and litter the ground with their pink petals. All
kinds of roses will do for the purpose, and if our days were but sunny
enough the leaves might be spread out in the sunshine, and would soon
become dry and crisp. Unless, however, the season is exceptionally
bright, I find by experience it is best to place the rose-leaves in
wide, shallow pasteboard trays before the kitchen fire, and turn them
frequently until perfectly dried, when they can be stored in jars ready
for use.

I must give a caution against putting the leaves either in the oven or
on the rack over the kitchen range, as in either case a very useless
rose stew will be the result.

Where lavender bushes are available their sweet flowers may be dried and
added to the rose-leaves, and dried sprays of the lemon-scented verbena
will also add an agreeable perfume.

Verbena, by the way, is a plant easily grown from slips, and these, when
rooted, may be planted in a southern border, or against a wall, and if
matted in winter will become small, tree-like shrubs, with woody stems,
and will yield a useful supply of sweetly scented leaves for the mission
pot-pourri. They are best gathered when fully matured at the end of
summer. These are the chief materials required, and when the bags are to
be filled I prepare the scent thus—

Taking a large hand-basin, I fill it three-parts full of rose-leaves,
adding three handfuls of lavender flowers, a large cupful of
coarsely-bruised cloves and allspice, half an ounce of mace (no salt of
any kind), pouring over the whole about a teaspoonful of oil of lavender
and another of essence of bergamot.

The dried gland of the musk deer, which can be had at most perfumers,
imparts a delicious odour to the rest of the materials. This musk pod
can be retained to scent relays of the leaves, as it will continue to
give out a musky perfume for many months.

Sweet oranges entirely covered with cloves stuck into the rind form,
when dried, a pleasant addition to one’s jar of pot-pourri. A stiletto
is needed to make a small hole, and then the stalk of the clove is
pressed in as far as it will go. If the orange is thus pretty thickly
covered and then placed inside the fender where it will dry and harden
slowly, it will so shrink that only the clove heads are seen; it may
then be taken for some rare tropical fruit, and when quite dried it will
last for many years. The pot-pourri can be made and perfumed in a
variety of ways according to taste. I have only given some general
directions which I have found to answer well.

As winter comes on it is pleasant work to prepare the little bags to
hold the scent. These can be quickly made by a sewing-machine, or, as in
my case, enable one to keep a poor woman constantly employed to make the
thousands that I need for the purpose.

Fine spotted muslin is perhaps the prettiest material to use; any shape
or size may of course be adopted, but the Bible Flower Mission requires
that the bags should be about four and a half inches long by three and a
half inches wide, trimmed at the open end with a narrow piece of lace
about an inch wide. Special printed text cards are sold at the Bible
Flower Mission Depôt, 110, Cannon Street, E.C., with a small opening in
them through which the end of the bag is drawn and then tied by a little
piece of bright-coloured ribbon.

I would plead with those who have the varied pleasures of gardens,
woods, and fields, that they would kindly think of the utter dreariness
in which thousands of our fellow-creatures live from year to year, never
seeing a green leaf or bright flower, never enjoying the scent of
opening buds or fragrant hayfields. Shall we not try to send some rays
of sunlight into these cheerless homes, some of our bright flowers to
tell of kind hearts taking thought for others less favoured than
themselves? Even our dead rose-leaves will be gladly welcomed, and will
last even longer than the flowers. It brings gladness to our own hearts
to feel that we have been trying to cheer and uplift the weary-hearted,
sorrowing, and sinful, and with our gifts let us mingle our earnest
prayers that the portions chosen from God’s own Word and printed on the
cards may by Him be so blessed that, like seed falling into good ground,
it may sink deep into human hearts and bring forth fruit an hundredfold
to His praise and glory.

                            A WATER BOUQUET.

Young people living in the country may welcome the following hints,
which will guide them to several interesting occupations for leisure

                            A WATER BOUQUET.

WHEN flowers have been placed under water for a few hours they show a
remarkable kind of beauty which can be seen in no other way. Plants, we
know, are always exhaling oxygen gas from their leaves and flowers, but
in our rooms and out of doors it is an invisible process. We know that
this is the case from the testimony of scientists who have proved it by

We can, however, render the process visible by placing flowers under
water, for we can then see the oxygen gas in the form of tiny pearls
edging each leaf and petal, and streaming up in columns to the surface
of the water.

I will try to describe how this effect can best be seen. Two or three
well-contrasted flowers, such as a small white lily, some scarlet
geranium, a few heaths, with maidenhair fern, and a little piece of
arbor-vitæ, or box, to form a dark background, may be tied together, and
firmly affixed by string or wire to a piece of stone.

The other articles required are a soup plate, a glass shade, and a tub
full of freshly drawn spring water. The shade should be about fourteen
inches high, and wide enough to take in the bouquet we have made. The
tub must be sufficiently large to allow the shade to be held upright
under the water.

When all is ready, place the flowers and stone in the glass shade, held
horizontally, and gradually sink it under water till the shade is quite
full, place the soup plate at the open end, where the stone is, and
slowly raise the glass until it is upright, and then it can be lifted
out and placed on a table in a window where the sun or bright light will
reach it. The bubbles of oxygen will begin to form in a few hours, and
the jewelled effect of the bouquet will be very curious and lovely.

It will only last two days; after that time the water becomes cloudy,
and decay begins. The flowers and greenery should be perfectly dry, and
the water fresh and clear, and then, with a little dexterity, the
experiment cannot fail. The remarkable beauty of a water bouquet, with
its empearled leaves and flowers, surprises all who see it for the first

The fleeting flower of the night-blowing Cereus, which opens in the
evening and usually closes in ten or twelve hours, can be preserved for
double that time by placing it in water under a glass shade as I have
described. Any flowers may be used for the purpose, but the best effect
is obtained when only a few blossoms are grouped together, and plenty of
space is left around them.

                           ARTISTIC PITHWORK.

                           ARTISTIC PITHWORK.

THERE was an extremely artistic and beautiful model of the west front of
Exeter Cathedral placed in one of the courts of the Great Exhibition of
1851 which attracted much notice and was universally admired. It had the
effect of a fine ivory carving, every detail of the architecture being
executed with such minute fidelity that it was difficult to believe
that, instead of ivory, it had been formed entirely in pith, but of what
description I could never find out.

Models of Indian temples are made by the natives from the pith of a
plant called Taccada, and our own elder-tree yields a material with
which architectural details may be exactly imitated. Since, however,
these two kinds of pith are not easy of attainment, I would direct
attention to a source of supply which is easily accessible to those who
live in the country. I refer to the common round-stemmed rush (_Juncus
conglomeratus_) which grows in most places on waste lands and commons.

This plant, when the outer green skin is peeled off, furnishes a
delicate white pith with which really beautiful models of Irish crosses,
Gothic fonts, and other small designs may be formed. It will only peel
easily when freshly gathered, so it is best to prepare a supply of the
material when the rush is in perfection, about July and August, and, as
the pith keeps in good condition for any length of time, it can be laid
aside when quite dry, and reserved till required.

The green rind comes off most readily by beginning at the thick end of
the rush and stripping it off piece by piece over the thumb-nail until
all is removed. This is pleasant work to do when sitting out upon some
heathy common enjoying the fresh air, and a party of young people, who
generally like the occupation, will soon prepare a basketful ready for
artistic work on long winter evenings.

For the help of those who would like to essay some very simple modelling
I will endeavour to describe how an Irish cross, for instance, can be
made which will be, when finished, a really beautiful drawing-room

The materials required are very simple and easy of attainment, viz., a
quarter of a hundredweight of white modelling clay[8] and two or three
wooden tools such as sculptors use.

One must have a good drawing of an Irish cross to copy from, and, if not
easily attainable, a visit to the Crystal Palace will enable those
within reach of London to make sketches of the crosses which are to be
seen there near the entrance to the aquarium. It is well to place the
lump of clay upon a dinner-plate for the convenience of moving the work
when required.

The clay will shrink a good deal when dry, therefore it is well to make
the model about a third larger than it is intended to be when finished.

We will suppose the cross is to be twelve inches in height. A sufficient
amount of clay should be placed on the plate and gradually moulded with
the fingers until it grows like the pattern drawing, the base, stem, and
upper part, each to be of proportionate size.

It is best to form the whole thing somewhat roughly at first, taking
pieces of clay off here and adding there, until we are satisfied that
the proportion of each part is correct, and then the shaping can be more
carefully done until a plain cross, smooth on all sides and perfectly
upright, is the result. The model must be set aside to become quite dry,
which will take a week or two, or perhaps less if it is kept in a warm

Some strong white flour paste or the Phaste-bynde paste and a small
stiff brush will be needed, also a small pointed piece of wood to assist
one’s fingers in placing the pith upon the model will be required for
the next stage of the work.

Dipping the brush in the paste, place some along the edges of the upper
part of the cross, and then, selecting one of the largest pieces of
pith, place it firmly on the edge of the upper part of the cross,
pressing it gently to make it adhere, which it readily will if the paste
is properly adhesive; in this way a line of pith should mark out all the
edges of the model. If there are panels in the pattern of the stem or
arms, then the pith should be used as a moulding to keep each design
distinct, and within the panels the smaller-sized pieces of pith are
used to imitate arabesques or figures according to the pattern, the
pointed stick being used to twist and place the material.

These are all the directions needed for a cross of simple style, like
those to be found in Cornwall. The more elaborate Irish crosses with
figures in relief may perhaps be rudely imitated in rush pith, but when
delicate work is needed, elder pith cut with a sharp penknife would be
required to make an accurate copy.

The work must be allowed to become perfectly dry, and whilst drying it
should be protected from dust settling upon it.

Finally, the model should have a glass shade and will then last for
years, and have the effect of carved ivory.

                           The Gresham Press,
                            UNWIN BROTHERS,
                         CHILWORTH AND LONDON.

Footnote 1:

  My pet mongoose.

Footnote 2:

  “Extermination of Birds,” by Edith Carrington. Wm. Reeves.

Footnote 3:

  By the Rev. C. A. Johns. S.P.C.K.

Footnote 4:

  This kind of roller and the ink can be obtained at any stores.

Footnote 5:

  To this day great quantities of these husks are imported into England
  for the purpose of feeding cattle.

Footnote 6:

            “And forth on floating gauze, no jewelled queen
            So rich, the green-eyed dragon-flies would break,
            And hover on the flowers—aerial things,
            With little rainbows flickering on their wings.”
                                        JEAN INGELOW.

Footnote 7:

  It would be a wise precaution to paste a piece of paper over the
  keyholes of drawers in which furs are kept during the summer, the moth
  could not then find access to their contents if the drawers are

Footnote 8:

  To be obtained from any plaster figure maker’s for about half a crown.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Inmates of my House and Garden" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.