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 ]

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: A Book of Nimble Beasts - Bunny Rabbit, Squirrel, Toad, and "Those Sort of People"
Author: English, Douglas
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Book of Nimble Beasts - Bunny Rabbit, Squirrel, Toad, and "Those Sort of People"" ***

available by Internet Archive (https://archive.org)

      which includes the more than 200 original illustrations.
      Images of the original pages are available through
      Internet Archive. See

Transcriber's note:

      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

      Small capitals have been replaced by full capitals.

      Text in bold face is not designated as such.


 [Illustration: He held himself with an air, his body
 arched, one broad white pad uplifted, his tail curved
 decorously.--IN WEASEL WOOD.]


Bunny Rabbit, Squirrel, Toad, and "Those Sort of People"



Fellow and Medalist of the Royal Photographic Society

With Over 200 Illustrations
from Photographs of Living
Animals Taken by the Author

Eveleigh Nash & Grayson Ltd.
148 Strand

Printed by
Woods & Sons, Ltd.,
338-340, Upper Street,
London, N. 1.

 C. J. E.



 SOMETHING ABOUT BATS                                               17

 SOMETHING ABOUT TADPOLES                                           29

 A FROG HE WOULD A-WOOING GO                                        41

 ANIMALS' NESTS                                                     75

 SOMETHING ABOUT BEETLES                                            89

 BUNNY RABBIT                                                      101

 A BUTTERFLY PAINT-BOX                                             117

 TWO WONDERFUL WASPS                                               127

 SPINIPES THE SAND-WASP                                            143

 PICTURES ON BUTTERFLIES' WINGS                                    171

 A VERY WEE BEASTIE AND A VERY BIG ONE                             179

 IN WEASEL WOOD                                                    187


 THE BEASTIES' BED-TIME                                            227

 THE BLUNDERS OF BARTIMÆUS                                         237

 SOMETHING ABOUT A CHAMÆLEON                                       261

 THE TRAIL OF NIMBLE BEASTS                                        269

 THE GREAT GREEN GRASSHOPPER'S BAND                                279

 THE PYGMY SHREW                                                   301


 ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR                                          PAGE




   "THAT?" SAID HE, "THAT'S NOT FRENCH"                             60

   HE SIGHTED THE FRENCH FROG                                       60


   PUSHED THE GRUB WITHIN THE ENTRANCE                             162

   AND DROVE HER SHARP STING HOME                                  162


  SKIPJACKS OFF TO BED                                             279

 ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT                                            PAGE

 Natterer's Bat                                                     17
 Lesser Horseshoe Bat                                               19
 The Noctule                                                        20
 The Noctule                                                        21
 Lesser Horseshoe Bat going to sleep                                22
 The Greater Horseshoe                                              23
 The Greater Horseshoe Bat hanging head downwards                   24
 Long-eared Bat                                                     25
 The Pipistrelle                                                    27

 Toad's Spawn                                                       29
 Frog's Spawn floating on the water                                 31
 Frog's Spawn Quite Fresh                                           33
 Frog's Spawn showing Young Tadpoles, &c.                           34
 Frog's Spawn beginning to Grow                                     35
 Tadpoles getting like Frogs                                        36
 Tadpoles full grown                                                39

 Passable                                                           43
 His Little Eyes were Starting from their Sockets                   47
 The Water Rat                                                      48
 The Salamander                                                     51
 The Natterjack                                                     52
 Have you Seen this Trick before                                    53
 The French Frog                                                    57
 "I see a Natterjack"                                               58
 "Fetch him," thundered the King Toad                               59
 Five Times He Tried                                                65
 The Shrew Mouse                                                    66
 He Bristled with Apologies                                         67
 The Green Toad                                                     69
 His Inside was Red Hot                                             70
 He Lay as He had Fallen                                            71
 "Ducks," whispered Bombinatrix                                     73

 Four Moles' Nests Together                                         77
 The Squirrel                                                       79
 The Harvest Mouse Nest                                             81
 The Dormouse                                                       83
 A Dormouse's Nursery Nest                                          85
 The Harvest Mouse                                                  86

 The Stag-Beetle                                                    91
 The Stag-Beetle that I ran over                                    93
 The Female Stag-Beetle                                             95
 The Great Water Beetle                                             96
 The Musk Beetle                                                    97
 The Cockchafer                                                     98
 The Churchyard Beetle                                              99

 Landed on his Back six feet below                                 103
 It wasn't Mother after all                                        105
 He Combed his Ears Out                                            106
 He Watched and Heard the Awakening of the Wood                    108
 Berus the Adder                                                   110
 Lay full length, eyes closed                                      113
 Bunny Rabbit Watched him out of Sight                             116

 The Brimstone Butterfly                                           118
 The Red Admiral                                                   119
 The Purple Emperor                                                120
 The Clifden Blue                                                  121
 The Swallow Tail Butterfly                                        122
 The Black Pepper Moth                                             123
 The Silver-washed Fritillary                                      124

 Spinipes' burrow opened up                                        128
 Spinipes Bringing up a Grub                                       129
 Spinipes Grub Feeding                                             131
 Cocoon which Spinipes' Grubs make                                 132
 The Little Beetle that Caterpillars turn into                     133
 Before and After the Thunderstorm                                 135
 Crabro                                                            136
 Crabro Looking out of her hole                                    137
 How the Cocoons Looked                                            138
 One of the Crabro's Stores of Blue-Bottles                        139
 What the piece of Elm-bough looked like                           140
 One of the Cocoons of Crabro in Elm-bough                         141

 The Sand Cliff splits the Old Gravel-Pit in two                   144
 First the Wild Bees, Red King, Black Queen                        146
 Down Dropped a Red King                                           147
 "In Sand, Ma'am, in Sand"                                         148
 "Well, call me when it comes"                                     149
 Spinipes commenced to Dig in Earnest                              151
 "Good Hunting, Sister!" said the Ophion Fly                       153
 The Rose Chafer                                                   155
 Out flew the Bees                                                 157
 Hour after Hour she Toiled                                        158
 The Lowest Chamber of the Shaft now held a precious thing         159
 A Flabby, Green, Blackheaded Grub                                 160
 Twelve Grubs in all she brought                                   163
 She Sank five other Curving Shafts                                167

 The Magpie Moth                                                   171
 The Emperor Moth                                                  173
 The Elephant Hawk Moth's Caterpillar                              174
 The Elephant Hawk Moth showing his Trunk                          175
 The Peacock Butterfly                                             176
 The Mother Shipton Moth                                           177

 The Common Shrewmouse                                             181
 The Water Shrewmouse                                              183
 The Pygmy Shrewmouse                                              184
 How the Pygmy Coils Himself Up to Sleep                           185

 Again the Fox Cub was Puzzled                                     188
 He Sank from his Hindquarters forward                             191
 The Stoat Tiptoed Towards Him                                     193
 "My Plumed Tail! you wait till Squirrel grows"                    195
 Marten has seen you                                               197
 "Perhaps you will be good enough to get higher up the tree"       201
 It was another Badger                                             207
 She came out full charge                                          209
 And in due course of time, his wife                               210

 The Lobster Moth Caterpillar                                      213
 The Spider on the Bramble Blossom                                 217
 The Dragon in the Water-weed                                      219
 The Lobster Moth Caterpillar, Angry                               220
 The Ichneumon Fly                                                 221
 The Puss Moth Caterpillar                                         223
 The Giant Wood Wasp                                               225

 The Queen Wasp in her Winter Sleep                                227
 Bill the Lizard                                                   228
 Toadums                                                           229
 Round Eye the Dormouse                                            230
 Dormouse in his Winter Sleep                                      231
 Prickles the Hedge Pig                                            233
 The Hedge Pig in his Winter Sleep                                 234
 Lesser Horseshoe Bat Asleep                                       235

 Bartimæus                                                         237
 He Headed Straight for the Water                                  239
 The Bank Rose Steeply Over Him                                    241
 Only one grass-blade stirred, but Tatters saw it                  246
 The Harvest Mouse stood up full length                            251
 The Harvest Mouse drew herself up indignant                       253
 "Weasels!" said the Meadow Mouse                                  254
 "Don't rush!" the Pygmy screamed behind                           257
 His fortress, his own fortress had been breached                  258

 You can see his eye looking back over his shoulder                263
 You can see his hands and feet                                    264
 The Chamæleon                                                     267

 Nuts Gnawed by Mice                                               269
 The Weasel's Trail                                                271
 Where the Weasel met the Mice                                     272
 Where the Weasel met the Rook                                     274
 Two Mouse Trails                                                  275
 The Fox's Footprints                                              276

 She Never went to Sleep at all                                    281
 The Cricket was Sitting on the Hearthstone                        283
 The pair of them dropped                                          284
 "I beg your pardon," said the Grasshopper's Wife                  288
 The Mole Cricket                                                  291
 The Field Cricket                                                 292
 The Wood Cricket                                                  293
 The First Note sent the Grasshopper's Wife's hind legs
   straight up                                                     295
 He had backed out of his hole                                     296
 The Grasshopper's Wife reared herself up                          297

 The Woodmouse First                                               303
 He took the Right-hand Surface run                                305
 He could now see and hear as well                                 306
 His rival feinting, flicked his tail                              308
 The Grey Shrew Leant against the Trunk                            309
 With Tangled Tails and Rounded Straining Bodies                   310
 There they lay head to tail                                       311
 The Field Voles                                                   312
 The Bat came to a halt and stared                                 313
 The Pygmy climbed two inches up                                   314
 Now one was on his back, now the other                            315
 The Mole plunged into the air                                     317


The publisher may, perhaps, be allowed to call the reader's attention to
the illustrations--particularly to the two of the Sand-Wasps, reproduced
in colour. The difficulties of photographing from wild life active
creatures of such small dimensions as hymenopterous insects are very
great from an optical standpoint. The picture of Spinipes bringing the
beetle grub to her tube took several years to accomplish successfully,
and the strain involved by the conditions, a blazing June sun on the
operator's back, an uncertain foothold, and the necessity of keeping the
attention riveted for hours on one particular patch of sunlit sand, was
exceptional. It is of course possible, probable even, that with the
introduction of an improved lens system, which will enable fast
exposures to be made at very short range on minute moving objects, this
particular picture may be repeated and improved upon. But the odds
against the second picture on the same page, that of Spinipes stinging
the jewel-fly, _ever_ being repeated, are enormous. It will be necessary
in order to secure the repetition of such a picture, first, that the
camera shall be focussed on one out of a score of tubes; second, that
the parasitic jewel-fly shall enter that particular tube; third, that
the Owner Wasp shall return while the jewel-fly is below; fourth, that
the Owner Wasp shall pull the jewel-fly to the surface; fifth, that the
jewel-fly shall cling to the rim of the tube; sixth, that the Wasp shall
sting it in this position--it will be noticed that the sting is directed
at the junction of the thorax and abdomen; seventh, that the observer
shall be ready to expose his plate at the exact psychological moment;
and eighth, that he shall succeed in doing so. The first six conditions
were, in Mr. English's case, fulfilled by chance. As regards the seventh
he was unready. He was, in fact, some feet below his camera. But chance
befriended him still further.

He caught the jewel-fly's glint, and caught the shadow of the returning
Wasp. He flung his arm up, grabbed the dangling bulb, and pressed at
random. This action dragged the camera from its moorings--to fix a
camera on a Sand Cliff's side is no slight task--and it fell twelve feet
down. Yet it had done its work and made the picture.

There are a score of pictures in this book, which are believed to be
unique, not only by reason of the rarity of their subjects, but also by
reason of the fact that they are the _only_ pictures of such subjects,
good or bad, in existence. The most remarkable among them is the picture
of Spinipes stinging the jewel-fly.


I know a Boy Scout who has never seen a weasel. Many weasels, I fancy,
must have seen that Boy Scout.

And I know a Girl who has never seen a Harvest Mouse, but who might
have, often.

There may be other boys and girls like these. There may be grown-ups

It is for them that I have written this book. It is to them that I offer
its pictures.

I would lead them (with hushed voices and quiet feet) into God's
Under-World; a World of queer small happenings; of sparkling eyes and
vanishing tails; a whispering, rustling World.

I would have them, whatever their age be, approach this World as
children. For children's eyes are closest to the ground.



 [Illustration: NATTERER'S BAT
 The best-looking Bat in Britain]

You must all, I think, have seen Bats flying, or, at any rate, pictures
of Bats flying, and you must all know that they are night, or twilight,
beasties, though some of our English kinds fly about in broad daylight
more often than most people think. But do you all know that they are the
only four-footed creatures that _really_ fly--for they are four-footed
though they don't look it; and do you all know that there are, probably,
more different kinds of Bats in England than there are different kinds
of any other beastie; and that they are the very ugliest of British
Beasties, taking them altogether; and that they all have very small
eyes--which is a queer thing for twilight beasties to have; owls, of
course, and dormice have very big eyes--and that they have either very
wonderful ears, or very wonderful noses, but not both together? If you
don't know all this, perhaps you would like to hear more.

 You can see his nose-leaf, shaped like a horseshoe, very
 well in this picture. Both the Greater and Lesser Horseshoe
 Bats are wonderfully neat fliers]

We had better, I think, begin with a Bat's wings, for, when we have
learnt something about these, we may perhaps get some notion as to why a
Bat is more clever in the air than a bird, and far, far more clever than
a flying machine, worked by a human brain, is at present. The reason why
a Bat is a cleverer, I don't mean a stronger, flier than a bird, is a
reason which you young people will find to be a very common one, if ever
you try your hand at guessing Mother Nature's riddles. It is simply
this--that _he has to be_. A Bat has to catch his food, tiny food
mostly, in the air, and he has to catch it in a bad light, and, as far
as we can tell, though we cannot be sure of this, his eyesight is not as
good as, say, a swallow's eyesight. This means that he has had to pick
up a wonderful quickness in checking his own flight, and in turning
sharp in the air, almost head over heels sometimes, and in diving, and
in soaring up again. To do all these things well he has had to be built
in a very special way, and I will try to explain to you how he has been
built by comparing a Bat with one of ourselves, for you must remember
that a Bat belongs to the same great order of living creatures as we do,
and that a Bat is much more like a human being than a bird is.

 [Illustration: THE NOCTULE
 You can see one earlet quite plainly, and his eye "starting
 out of his head"]

Let us fancy, then, a small boy being turned into a Bat. The first thing
that would have to happen would be that his legs would have to be bent
at the knees, and shrunk until they were as thin as sticks. Then they
would have to be twisted right and left until the knee-caps faced the
wrong way about. His arms would have to be shrunk too, and his fore-arms
would have to be stretched until they were twice their natural length,
and his middle-fingers would have to be about a yard long, and his other
fingers nearly a yard long also. His thumb might be left as it was, but
it would have to have a strong claw at the end of it. In between his
fingers, and joining his arms to his body, and stretching down to his
legs, and joining his legs together, there would have to be a web of
skin, and then, perhaps, if his chest was brought well forward like a
pigeon's, and his head pressed well back until it stopped between his
shoulders, he might, if his muscles were strong enough, and the whole of
him was light enough, be able to fly.

 [Illustration: THE NOCTULE
 One of our largest Bats. He is sometimes more than a foot
 across the wings, and his brown fur is as velvety as a
 Mole's--when he feels quite well]

 He is hanging head downwards, and beginning to wrap himself
 up in his wings before going to sleep]

Now about a Bat's eyes. I have already told you that these are very
small--at least they look very small in our English Bats--and that it
does not seem likely that Bats possess the wonderful eyesight, which one
would expect them to have. In some cases the eyes are so curiously
placed in the head that the Bat can hardly be able to see straight in
front of him at all. In the Leaf-nosed Bats, for instance, you can only
just see the Bat's eyes when you look at him full face, because his
leaf-nose all but hides them--you can see what I mean from the
pictures--and in the case of one rare little bat, the Barbastelle, the
eyes are set so far back that part of the ear comes round them like a
horse's blinkers; and one can hardly imagine his being able to see much
sideways, even if he can see quite well in front. There is just one
little thing, however, which I have noticed in a large Bat called the
Noctule, and this may mean that Bats have better eyesight than one would
at first suppose. The Noctule can make his own eyes "start out of his
head," until they seem to be almost twice as large as usual. If all Bats
can do this it is quite likely that very few people have seen their eyes
properly at all; that is, have seen them as they really appear, when the
Bats are chasing moths in the twilight.


 Hanging head downwards. Except when he is flying he always
 carries his tail cocked up over his back, as you see it.]

 [Illustration: THE LONG-EARED BAT
 His ears are more than twice as long as his head, and
 beautifully pink and transparent when seen in the right

I think I will leave the pictures to show you the ugliness of Bats
generally, though I have purposely put one picture in to show you that
all Bats are not ugly--for I am sure you will agree with me that the
little white-fronted Natterer's Bat, has quite a pretty face. I must
tell you a little more, though, about Bats' ears and noses.

When we were turning, in imagination, our small boy into a Bat, we did
not trouble ourselves about his ears and nose, but we ought to have done
so, for there are some very wonderful differences between Bats' ears and
noses, and the ears and noses of human beings. If you will look at
anybody's ear carefully you will see that in front of, and just a little
below the ear-hole, there is a small lump of flesh which points
backwards across the opening. It is not much to look at in a human
being, and does not seem to serve any particular purpose, but in many
Bats it is evidently very important, for it is quite large and takes all
sorts of curious shapes. It is called the "earlet." Sometimes it is
pointed, sometimes square, and sometimes rounded. Sometimes it is long
and thin and tapering like a dagger, and sometimes it is short and thick
and blunted like a kidney-bean. You will see several of its different
shapes in the pictures, and you will also see that the leaf-nosed Bats,
who have such queer ornaments on their noses, do not have it all. Now
some wise folk think that the ornament on the face of a leaf-nosed Bat,
which makes him appear so very ugly to our ideas (though I have no doubt
his wife thinks it very beautiful) may give him a kind of sixth sense
which is neither seeing, nor smelling, nor hearing, nor feeling, nor
tasting: a sense, that is, like that which blind people often seem to
possess and which helps them, poor souls, through their world of
darkness. If this is so (but you must remember that we can only guess
about it), it may be that the earlets of Bats do much the same, and
that, therefore, Bats with earlets have no need of leaf-noses, and Bats
with leaf-noses have no need of earlets.

 [Illustration: THE PIPISTRILLE
 A small Bat and one of the commonest]



How many of you can tell me the difference between a frog-tadpole and a
toad-tadpole? I don't mean when they are so small that it seems a
kindness to call them tadpoles at all, but when they are quite a good
size, with great fat heads and shiny little eyes and squiggly little
tails. And how many of you can tell me the number of different kinds of
tadpoles which one can find in England in the springtime? Most of you, I
am sure, know a tadpole when you see one (sometimes he is called
"pot-ladle,"or "polly-wog," or "horse-nail,") and some of you may know
that a fat frog-tadpole is brown with little specks of gold, while a fat
toad-tadpole is black all over; but I don't expect many of you know that
there are two kinds of frog-tadpole, and two kinds of toad-tadpole, and
three kinds of newt-tadpole, to be met with in England, which makes
seven kinds of tadpoles in all.

Now as these seven little tadpoles are all different from one another
(though the two frog-tadpoles and the two toad-tadpoles are not _very_
different), we may be quite sure that they grow up into seven different
little beasties. I am going to tell you something about the frog- and
toad-tadpoles now and leave the newt-tadpoles for another time, for it
will be easier for you if you don't have too much to remember at once.

If you go into the country in springtime (the middle of March is the
best time where I live, but in other places it may be a little earlier
or a little later) and find a pond, or a brook which runs quite slowly,
or even a hole in swampy ground which has water in it, you are almost
sure to see a lump of stuff which looks like dirty grey jelly, either
close to the bank or on the top of some of the weeds.

If you pick up a little of this, you will find (perhaps before it has
slipped out of your fingers and perhaps after) that it is full of round
black eggs.


The grey jelly is either frog's spawn or toad's spawn.

If it is just a lump with no particular shape to it, it is frog's spawn,
but if it is made up of small slimy ropes, which come apart from one
another, and in which the eggs lie in rows like strings of black beads,
it is toad's spawn. When you find toad's spawn, you may be sure that
frog's spawn has been about for some time, for frog's spawn is always to
be found rather earlier in the year. Whichever it may be you should take
a little of it (quite a little is best) and put it in a glass jam-jar
half full of water, and stand this in some bright, warm place, where it
will not get knocked over, and where the sun will not shine directly on
to it.

Frogs and toads usually lay their eggs in places where the sun _does_
shine on them and warms them gently, and so hatches them out, but of
course they do not lay them in glass bottles, and if the sun shines on
these, the water will get warmer than is good for them, partly because
there is no other water round to keep it cool, and partly because the
bottle acts as a kind of burning-glass, and brings too much of the
sunshine into itself, and so gives too much warmth to the eggs.

Some people think the jelly of frog's or toad's spawn acts like a
burning-glass too; this, however, is a burning-glass which Mother Nature
has arranged, and so there is no fear of its not acting properly.


If you find frog's or toad's spawn soon after it is laid, you will see
only a small quantity of jelly round it, but this soon swells out and
gets much bigger.

 [Illustration: THIS IS FROG'S SPAWN, TOO
 But I have photographed it with a microscope, so that you
 may see it a little bigger than it really is. Right in the
 middle is a Tadpole who has grown his feathery gills, and
 close to him is one like a little alderman. There is
 another Tadpole with gills towards the right hand bottom
 corner, but there is an egg behind which makes his shape
 wrong. All the round things are eggs and the long things
 are Tadpoles which have just hatched]

 [Illustration: FROG'S SPAWN
 The Little Curly Tails are beginning to Grow]

Have you ever seen Cook make a jelly? The first thing she does is to
soak the gelatine in water, so that it gets soft and swells to twice the
size it was before. It swells because it takes up water inside it, and
frog's spawn does just the same. Now we must try and think what the
frog's spawn jelly is for. It is really the white of the eggs, the black
beads being the yolk. You wouldn't understand all its uses, but one is
that it makes the frog's spawn much more difficult to eat, because it is
so slippery. A great many water birds are very fond of frog's spawn and
would gobble it up very quickly if they had a good, big spoon, instead
of a rather small bill. As it is, a great deal of frog's spawn and a
good many tadpoles are eaten up one way or another, which is really
rather lucky for us, for frogs and toads lay millions and millions of
eggs, and, if they all hatched out, there wouldn't be room in the world
for all little frogs and toads.

 Most of them have all four legs, but one has only his hind
 legs at present]

Well, if you keep your glass bottle with the eggs in it in a good place
and look at it every day, you will find something fresh to interest you
every day. First the black yolks will grow larger and change their shape
so that they seem longer than they are broad, and presently you will
find that they are turning into tadpoles. The baby tadpole seems much
too fat to begin with, and sticks out in front like a little alderman;
but soon he gets slimmer again, and you find that he is growing a curly
tail (which no alderman ever did), and that there are tiny markings
where his eyes and mouth are going to be. He is still very small (about
a quarter of an inch long), but before he is much bigger a very
wonderful thing happens--it has been happening all the time, though you
have not been able to see it--he grows a pair of gills like a fish. They
are delicate, feathery things, and stand out on either side of his head,
I should like to say "neck," but I do not think I ought to because frogs
and toads have no necks at all, and so I suppose tadpoles have none
either. All this time his tail is growing too, and presently it is long
enough for him to swim with. When this happens he slips out of the jelly
and wriggles about in the water. At present he has no real mouth, but he
has a little opening, shaped like a horseshoe, near to where his mouth
is going to be, and he uses this to hold on to weeds when he is tired,
which he very soon is at first.

Once he is fairly hatched, however, his mouth grows quickly and he gets
a pair of rather hard little jaws with which he can nibble the
water-weed. When this happens you must, of course, put some water-weed
into the bottle, though grass will do if you can't get anything else.

 They are covered with little specks of gold. At the bottom
 one can be seen feeding]

I told you that he had gills like a fish, but they are curious gills at
this early stage because they have no flap of skin to protect them. If
you want to see a fish's gills you must lift up the hard flap of skin
which covers them. The tadpole soon grows a flap of skin, though, just
like a fish, and this always appears first on the right side, so that at
one stage he looks as if he had only one gill, the one on the left side.
When both the flaps of skin have grown, the tadpole is really a little
fish, and he stays in much the same shape, though he gets fatter and
fatter, for about a month. At the end of this time he begins to grow
legs, first the hind ones and then the front ones (newt-tadpoles grow
the front ones first); but, in spite of his legs, he is still only a
fish, because, instead of breathing the air with his lungs as a grown-up
frog does, he breathes the water with his gills. During the next month,
when he is getting on for three months old, another wonderful change
comes over him. For a time he breathes both with his lungs (he has to
put his head out of water for this) and with his gills, and so he is
both a frog and a fish at once; but he gets more and more like a frog,
and less and less like a fish. His lungs keep growing inside him, and
his body and gills and tail get smaller and smaller, and his mouth and
his eyes and his legs get larger and larger, and presently he leaves the
water altogether, for he is tired of water-weeds and tired of his tail
(he can swim beautifully without it), and he wants to make his meals off
insects and slugs, and to learn how to croak and jump, and to be a great
fat frog like Mother.




"This is better," gasped Bombinator.

Bombinatrix eyed him anxiously.

Only his waistcoat touched the ground. His eyes and nose had vanished.
The right of either foot was now the left; the left of either hand was
now the right; his head, subverted, curled to touch his toes, and, in
his back, was a deep hollow.

This sounds involved, and that is just what Bombinator was.

"It's awful," said Bombinatrix.

"What do I look like?" spluttered Bombinator. "It's awkward talking to
your feet."

"You're like--you're like a toadstool," said Bombinatrix, "a crinkled,
gummy, yellow-spotted toadstool."

"That's the idea," said Bombinator, as he snapped back to shapeliness.
"Now you try," and Bombinatrix tried.

"Passable," said Bombinator, "but not sufficient curl."

"It cricks my neck," she answered. Her head was slowly drooping.

"You _must_ keep rigid," said Bombinator. "I can't see half the yellow.
Throw back your head."

Bombinatrix threw back her head, until it grazed her toe-tips. Then she
unstrung herself.

(I see you look incredulous. You ask and ask with reason: How came two
fire-toads in an English garden? To this I answer frankly--I put them
there myself.)

Even a fire-toad loves his liberty, though prison-life may have its
compensations. The breakfast gong, for instance, two taps upon the
glass. The sluggish fatted meal-worm, the feeling of full-fed security.

Nor had there been a lack of company.

The Natterjack had livened things--by running races with his own
reflection. So had the mottled Green Toad, an alien like themselves; so,
in his own quiet way, the Salamander.


Each welcomed freedom differently.

The Natterjack went straight into the pond (quite the wrong thing for
him), and swam with short-legged jerky sweeps up to the water-lilies.
There he met the Water-Rat, of whom more later. The Green Toad sought
the nearest tuft of grass, and, scratching with his fore-feet at the
roots, contrived a roomy burrow. He backed inside and sat there quite
content, blinking his emerald eyes. The Salamander stayed where he was
put--and smiled.

The fire-toads climbed upon a stone and practised squiggles--aposematic

That resonant epithet comes, I think, from Oxford. It means, _you dare
to touch me and you'll catch it_, or words to that effect. "Apo," get
out, and "sema," a sign. It is quite simple, really. Yet its
significance (in toads) may need explaining, and, to be master of the
sense of it, you must remember that fire-toads, though dusky olive green
above, are orange red beneath. A patch of orange underneath each hand, a
patch of orange underneath each foot, an orange patchwork waistcoat.

Now orange is a poison-label. It means in wild-folk speech, "Be
careful," and yellow means the same; and when black joins the scheme, it
means, "Be very careful, here is poison."

Sometimes the colour flaunts itself--witness the salamander, or the
wasp. Sometimes it is concealed, witness the fire-toad. But fire-toads
have the knack of showing it. Drop one upon his back and there he stays,
knowing the underpart of him is fearsome. Startle one as he sits at
ease, and he will flick into a knot, crinkly, immovable, unreal, with
screaming labels at each corner. To be adept at this, the fire-toad
needs spare living, one meal, at most two meals a day. When corpulent he
finds the bend beyond him.

But corpulence is transient in toads. The first to find a waist was
Bombinator, and Bombinatrix quickly followed. They now could travel with
less apprehension. They made five equal hops and stopped. Before them
stretched the pond, green-carpeted, a mirror-patch of water here and
there, balsam and iris on the fringe of it, and fronting them, upon his
leaf, the Rat.

The Natterjack had left him, and was swimming landwards. His head bobbed
with each stroke, and he was slow in coming.

"The surliest brute I ever met," he said.

"The Rat?" said Bombinator.

"The Rat," replied the Natterjack. "He grumbled at my ripples in the
water--and _he_ makes noise enough. Just listen to him."

The Water-Rat had left his leaf, and now was in the reed-stems. He held
a two-inch cutting in his paws. They heard his munching plainly.

"This is a queer pond," said the Natterjack; "it's full of noises. A
shrew-mouse chirped as I swam back, and half a dozen bubbles struck me.
That means there's something grunting. My yellow stripe! what's that?"

It rose _crescendo_,


and finished _amoroso_,

"_KO-ax!_ _KO-ax!_ _KO-ax!_"

"I know it," shrieked Bombinator. His little eyes were starting from
their sockets, as he sat up entranced.

"I know it," echoed Bombinatrix.

"Then you might share your knowledge," snapped the Natterjack. Jealousy
had convulsed him, for he too can sing.

"A French Frog," cried Bombinator.

"A French Frog," echoed Bombinatrix, and in a rattle came the southern


"_KO-ax!_ _KO-ax!_ _KO-ax!_"

"I'll find him, if I hop all night," said Bombinator.

He plunged aside into the grass, and Bombinatrix followed at his heels.

The Natterjack soon caught them. He ran with little mouse-steps.


"Are you quite prudent?" he jerked out.

"Prudent?" said Bombinator, "why, he's a countryman."

So all three went together, and dropped abreast into the Green Toad's

"Have you heard him?" said Bombinator.

The Green Toad was half dozing.

"Heard what?" he muttered sleepily.

"The French Frog," said Bombinator. "Come out and listen."

They pulled him out between them.


The Green Toad slowly stretched himself.

"_That?_" said he, "that's not French." Then he relapsed to sleep again.

"What did I tell you?" said the Natterjack.

"You told us nothing," said Bombinator. "Let's ask the Salamander."

The Salamander had not moved an inch.

"Is that song French?" the Natterjack inquired.

The Salamander slowly raised his head, curled S-wise out and home again,
blinked either eye three times, smiled fatuously at each toad in turn,
and then smiled at the sky.

"Oh, come on!" said the Natterjack. The Natterjack is all on wires, and
Salamanders madden him.


"_KO-ax!_ _KO-ax!_ _KO-ax!_"

The Natterjack now led them, faster and faster as the song grew louder,
hippy-hoppy, hurry-scurry, bumping against the snails and spiders,
starting the flies and beetles, and rousing every sleeper in the grass.

Small wonder that they soon encountered trouble.

They wakened the King Toad.

Since you last knew him, the King Toad has grown. His waist is fourteen
inches. His mouth could welcome three small toads abreast.

The fire-toads crouched in front of him (the mouth seemed very wide);
even the Natterjack hung back, and waited to be spoken to.

Ten minutes passed, and then the King Toad spoke, in slow,
imperial-measured tones.

"Who are you?" said he, and fixed his royal eye on Bombinator.

Bombinator's mouth was flattened to the ground, and his reply was

"Speak louder," said the King Toad.

But Bombinator kept his head. If he spoke louder he must move, and, if
he moved, he might be swallowed.

Once more he muttered with closed lips.

The King Toad slowly raised one foot. Before it reached the ground again
the Natterjack had vanished. So had the fire-toads, but in different
fashion. Where they had been were now two spotted toadstools.

"That's a queer trick," said the King meditatively. "Orange underneath I
see. Risky to eat without inquiries. Come back, Natterjack."


Two yellow eyes were peeping round a dock-leaf. The Natterjack slouched
low in the Presence.

"Have you seen this trick before?" said the King Toad coldly.

"I have, Sire," said the Natterjack.

"Do it yourself," said the King Toad.

"Alas, Sire," said the Natterjack, "I am too stout."

"Not a bad fault," said the King more graciously, "not a bad fault. What
is the meaning of it?"

"It means, Sire, that my two small friends are frightened."

"Frightened?" said the King Toad; "frightened of what?"

"Of you, Sire."


"Of me?" said the King Toad. "Why should a toad fear me? I am the
Protector of all toads." He swelled himself imperially.


"These are strange toads, Sire," said the Natterjack, "they come from

"France?" said the King; "this must be looked to. The place is being
overrun with aliens. Undo them, Natterjack."

The Natterjack looked pained.

"Sire," he gasped out, "they're poisonous. I bit one once, and could not
sing for days."

"Could not sing for days?" said the King. "Could not sing for days?" The
shadow of a smile played round his mouth.

"Just fetch me that French Frog," he said.

"Sire," said the Natterjack, "it was during our unsuccessful search for
him that we had the felicity of being so graciously received by your

"You know him then," said the King, frowning.

"The fire-toads know his song, Sire. At least they said he was a

"They shall be made better acquainted," said the King, "much better
acquainted. You will find the French Frog by the water's edge, beneath
the furze-bush. You may go."

The Natterjack went scudding like a mouse.

He started in the wrong direction, but chance befriended him. Climbing
upon a clump of moss, he opened out the circuit of the pond. The
furze-bush stood on the far side of it. Its lower branches jutted from
the bank, and, arching downwards, trailed into the water. From the first
dip of them spread dancing waves.

The French Frog still was singing, and each note, caught and re-echoed
overhead, crept down the boughs and rippled to the shore.

So far so good. His goal was plainly visible. But how to get there? He
made a bee-line for the water's edge, and tumbled down the bank.


His first idea, to swim, was soon abandoned.

With no clear mark by which to set his course he might swim on till
nightfall. But if he crept along close to the water? This seemed a
certainty, so off he started.

It was uneven going. Sometimes a stretch of sticky mud, sometimes the
mazy reed-stems, and sometimes, where the bank was hollowed out, deep

The Natterjack was nimble on his feet, and scuttling, crawling,
swimming, made good progress. Before he paused, the furze-bush rose
above him. Once in the shade of this, he moved discreetly. He slid from
stone to stone, and at each stone he rose to reconnoitre. At the fifth
stone, a bulky slanting one, he sighted the French Frog. The French Frog
sat absorbed in his own harmonies, his mouthpiece taut, to right and
left of it two filmy bubble spheres, now swelling now collapsing.


"_KO-ax!_ _KO-ax!_ _KO-ax!_"

It sounded like a challenge.

The last notes struck the listener squarely. He too could sing. Had he
not sung against the wood-pecker, yaffle for yaffle, note for note? He
swelled himself to bursting point, shut both his eyes, strained to their
uttermost the voice-chords underneath his tongue, and loosed one mighty
"Yaup!" It cut the last "_Ko-ax_" in half, and as its rattle spent
itself, he looked to see what came of it. He looked in vain. The French
Frog was not there.

The Natterjack at first was jubilant (a signal victory this) but quiet
reflection sobered him.

His mission was to bring the French Frog with him. Now there was no
French Frog to bring. He searched five yards each way, then gloomily
retraced his steps.


He found the King Toad sleeping, and pausing at a prudent range, croaked

The King Toad made no sign.

He croaked again, and louder.

The King Toad moved uneasily. His eyebrows twitched, and one eye half
revealed itself. Upper and under lids stayed fast, but, in their
crescent interval, a third lid fluttered, a filmy, shadowy, cobweb
thing, which brushed aside the dream-mists.

 [Illustration: "I SEE A NATTERJACK," HE SAID, "A

So in due order, decorously, to open round-eyed vision. The Natterjack
was palpably distressed.

His mouth drooped dismally; he shuffled each squat foot in turn.

At last the King Toad spoke.

"I see a Natterjack," he said, "a starveling, mouse-legged Natterjack. I
sent for a French Frog."

"Sire," said the Natterjack, his voice a-quiver, "I f-found him, but he

"Fetch him," thundered the King Toad.

The Natterjack fled headlong.

"I shall have to find him," he muttered to himself.

He stumbled on the Salamander. The Salamander, after working for an
hour, had partially concealed himself. His smiling face alone was
visible, framed by the grass-stems.

"Have--you--seen--the--French--Frog?" said the Natterjack, as loudly and
as plainly as he could.


The Salamander turned his face away and smiled across his shoulder.

"Have--you--seen--the--French--Frog?" the Natterjack repeated.

The Salamander's face came slowly round again, still smiling. It was too
much; no longer could the Natterjack contain himself. He ducked his head
and pranced, his legs flung round him anyhow.

So for a mad five minutes; at last he got his answer, suave tones across
the intervening grass: "Have I seen what?"

The Natterjack plunged straight into the pond. His nerves were
over-wrought, his heart was racing. But for this cooling dive he must
have burst. He rose among the lily leaves, and, clutching one, hung
slantwise. Slowly the madness left him.

Then he commenced to paddle circumspectly.

 [Illustration: The Green Toad slowly stretched himself.
 "THAT?" said he, "that's not French."]

 [Illustration: At the fifth stone--a bulky slanting one, he
 sighted the French Frog.]

He steered a zig-zag course, and, scanning every leaf in turn, came to
the outskirts of the cluster. Here he sank slowly down, until his nose
alone was visible. The leaf on his right hand was moving. A ripple ran
the length of it; then, close beside its stalk, appeared a snout, a
quivering trembling snout; then two bead eyes; then a trim velvet body.
The Natterjack brought up his head again. No danger here, only a water
Shrew-mouse. The Shrew-mouse took no heed of him. She swam the circuit
of her leaf three times, dived once or twice, then climbed upon its
surface. Here she performed her toilet. The goggle-eyes in no way
disconcerted her. At length the Natterjack found words:

"Can you tell me," he said, politely, "where the French Frog has got to?"

The Shrew-mouse gave a little jump. She had been combing out her tail,
which was important.

"The French Frog?" she said; "the French Frog? I'm sick of the French
Frog. What between him and the Water Rat--and the queer thing is that
neither of them seems to know that the other----"

"Of course, he's very fond of me," she added. "Every day he sings _at_
me, and so, of course, when he comes my way, I have to _ask_ him to
sing; and the worst of it is, when I _ask_ him to sing, he _does_ sing."


"I think that might be cured," said the Natterjack, "if you can tell me
where he is."

"Where did you see him last?" said the Shrew-mouse.

"Under the furze-bush," said the Natterjack.

"Under the furze-bush?" echoed the Shrew-mouse; "perhaps then I can find
him. Swim behind me."

She slid so neatly off her leaf that not a drop of water reached her
back. Then she commenced to paddle, her feet alternate, her square tail
trailing, her nose and face awash. Twin ripples spread on either side of
her, and, in between them, though their distance widened, the Natterjack
swam stoutly, using his squat hind-legs alone, short jerky thrusts of
them, and losing at each stroke.

He reached the shore two yards behind, but yet in time to see the last
of her, a fluttering wavy tail-tip, which skimmed the summit of a stone
and disappeared behind it.

This was disheartening. The Natterjack had spent his strength, and quick
pursuit was out of question. He paused and stretched each limb in turn,
scratched his chin doubtfully, and looked about him. He looked first at
the water, then at the stone to fix it in his memory, and lastly at the
bank above. Here his eyes rested, expressionless at first,
lack-lustrous, but presently, with quickened interest, sparkling.


It must be, yes it was, the self-same furze-bush. He stared intently. It
was the self-same stone. Perhaps the French Frog still was close at
hand; perhaps the Shrew-mouse knew his hiding-place.

He flung his tiredness off him, and started running jauntily.

He had not far to go. Two scurries brought him to the stone, two
scrambles to its summit.

There was the Shrew-mouse just below.

She was too occupied to note his coming. She coursed along the water's
edge, her head dropped low, her face almost submerged. At times she
paused and sniffed the air, her nose upturned and crinkly, her bristles
fan-shape. Then she would drop her head again and probe the water.

The Natterjack watched quietly for a while, but soon impatience mastered
him. He crept down and addressed her timidly.

"You said you might find the French Frog," he began.

"I have found him," said the Shrew-mouse; "he's down there--as usual."

"Down where?" said the Natterjack.

"Down in the water," said the Shrew-mouse, "down at the bottom of this
pool, a good foot down."

"Would you mind asking him to come up?" said the Natterjack.

"I've asked him for five minutes," said the Shrew-mouse. "He must be
fast asleep. I know he's there; I've seen his bubbles."

"How can we wake him?" said the Natterjack.

"You'd better dive," said the Shrew-mouse.

Now Natterjacks are bad enough at swimming; at diving they are hopeless.

"In you go," said the Shrew-mouse.

For very shame the Natterjack went in.

He swam to what he judged a likely spot, ducked down his head, his hands
pressed tight against it, and lunged with both hind-legs. These,
splashing on the surface, urged him on, but not one inch below.

Five times he tried, and five times his fat body, when half submerged,
shot up and bobbed afloat.


The Shrew-mouse rocked with laughter.

"Again, Natterjack!" she cried. "Again! again!"

Shame-faced, he paddled back to shore.

"Be charitable, Shrew-mouse, be charitable. I did my best."

The Shrew-mouse looked at him inquiringly. "Never mind, Natterjack," she
said, "I'll fetch him. It's hardly the right thing to do, but still----"


She climbed a ledge, drew all four feet together, and slithered off it
eel-wise. She swam a yard and dived. The water closed like oil upon her
going. Ten seconds passed and then she reappeared.

"He's coming, Natterjack," she said, and landed close beside him. The
French Frog shot up like a cork, and half of him splashed clear above
the surface. He took two strokes to reach the shore, and came out moist
and shiny. He bristled with apologies--"It was unpardonable. He was
altogether desolated. That a lady should have had to dive for him. Alas!
he had been dreaming, and his dream, like all his dreams----"


The Shrew-mouse cut him short.

"The King Toad has heard your singing," she said, "and has commanded your
presence. The Natterjack will guide you."

Ambition strove with gallantry, and, for a time, the French Frog wavered.

"And have I your permission, Shrew-mouse?" he said, at last.

"Please go," said she, "then come and tell me all about it." So both
departed. The Shrew-mouse watched them out of sight, then swam to open
water. She wished the Rat to see her next.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Sire," said the Natterjack, "it is my privilege to inform you that I
have been successful."

The King Toad made no answer. His eyes turned from the Natterjack to his
companion, and, after an appropriate pause, he signed with one fore-foot.

The French Frog tiptoed forward.

"I have heard your singing," said the King Toad, "and your singing has
annoyed me intensely."

There was a queer strained silence.

The Natterjack turned to conceal his face, and saw the Green Toad
perched above him. He too was struggling to keep countenance. Beside him
was the Salamander, wreathed in smiles.


"Your singing has annoyed me intensely," repeated the King Toad.

Words failed the French Frog, who could only gulp.

"Sire," he burst out at length, "it was a love-song."

"A love-song!" said the King Toad, "a love-song! and what nice-minded
English frog would listen to _your_ love-song?"

 [Illustration: HIS INSIDE WAS RED-HOT]

The French Frog might have scored a point, but prudence checked him.

"I am a poor exile, Sire," he said, "and, when I sing, my heart is far

"So will your voice be, soon," said the King affably. "Come out,
fire-toads." The fire-toads squirmed from underneath him.

The French Frog eyed them greedily. There are worse eatables than little

"You may have the big one," said the King.

"Sire!" screamed Bombinatrix.

But she was too late. The French Frog's mouth had closed again, and all
now visible of Bombinator was one distraught hind leg.


"Excellent," murmured the King Toad, and watched the French Frog
narrowly. He was worth watching. He paled a dirty ochre, his eyes rolled
horribly, he scratched his sides with both hind feet, he dragged at his
own throat, he gasped and foamed and spluttered.

"Most interesting," said the King.

But there was more to follow. The French Frog straddled with his toes
wide spread; then came an uncontrollable explosion, which flung him four
feet skywards, and, at the height of this great leap, loosed Bombinator.

Two thuds were heard, the first a sounding, floppy one, the second
farther off and duller.

"I thought that would happen," said the King Toad.

The French Frog slowly pulled himself together, climbed up the slope,
and sat with mouth agape. His inside was red-hot.

The Natterjack burst into song, the Green Toad joined him, the
Salamander laughed outright, but Bombinatrix, with a heavy heart, hopped
silently away.

She was not long in finding him. He lay, as he had fallen, on his back,
his hands and feet outspread, his poor throat twitching. But he still
breathed, breathed in short, wheezy, gasping sobs, which made his whole
frame shudder.

She crept up close and whispered. I cannot tell you what she said, but
Bombinator caught the sense of it. He stretched his legs as far as they
would go, and clasped his hands beneath his chin. This seemed to ease
his breathing, and presently, from every pore, welled a bead-drop of
moisture. He lay thus for an hour, and Bombinatrix mounted guard beside

At last he moved, but Bombinatrix checked him instantly. "Down, Toad of
mine," she whispered, "down for your dear life!"

"What is it now?" he groaned.

"Ducks," whispered Bombinatrix, "Great, Fat, White Ducks!"




When a young friend of mine told me the other day that he was going
birds'-nesting, and I told him in reply that I was going animal-nesting,
I think that, if he had not been a very polite young friend, he would
have laughed at me. As it was he laughed _with_ me--which was really
very nice of him, for he must have been thinking all the time that I was
laughing at _him_. But I was quite serious really. I _was_ going
animal-nesting. I hear you ask at once, "What animal was it?" and I
might tease you by saying, "Any animal, of course. When you go
birds'-nesting you look for any kind of bird's nest _you_ can find, and
when I go animal-nesting, I look for any kind of animal's nest _I_ can
find." But I won't do that, because there are only a few animals' nests
which can be found in the same way in which you find birds' nests. All
animals make some kind of nest for their babies, and most of them make
some kind of nest to sleep in too. They make them in such queer,
out-of-the-way places, though, that it would be quite impossible for any
boy or girl, let alone a man or woman, to find them; for the first thing
to be done would be to choose the right hole in the ground, and the next
thing to be done would be to crawl down it. Some animals, however, make
nests which are not in burrows, and though these are not nearly so easy
to find as birds' nests, they can be found if you know the sort of place
to look for them in.

There are four animals in this country whose nests can be found without
having to dig, and these are the mole, the squirrel, the dormouse, and
the harvest-mouse. Three of these build their nests above the ground,
and the fourth, "the little gentleman in black velvet," builds the
ground above his nest. I am going to tell you something about this one
(the mole) first, because his nest, I think, is the easiest to see. I
expect most of you know those queer little heaps of earth which are
sometimes dotted about the fields and are called mole-hills (I want you
to keep these in your minds for the moment), and I expect those of you
who have got a natural history book will have seen a picture of what is
called a mole fortress. I want you to put that out of your mind
altogether; it is quite wrong. Now, the little mole-hills never have a
nest in them, and I am not quite sure why the moles make so many, but if
you ever find a really big hill among the little ones, as big as six or
seven of these heaped together, and grub down into it (it is quite soft,
and you can do this with your hands if you don't mind getting dirty),
you will find a mole's nest just about the place where you would find
the grass growing if there was no hill at all. In May or June you may
find the baby moles. Have a good look at them and put them back, for you
won't be able to keep them alive, and the mother mole is sure to come
back and look after them--when you have gone.


Another animal's nest which is easy to find is the squirrel's, but of
course it is no use looking for this anywhere but in woods and places of
that kind where you know there are squirrels about. A squirrel's nest is
in a hole, or fork of a tree, and always, always out of reach. When it
is in a fork of a tree it looks like an untidy bird's-nest, made of
rather big twigs. It has a soft, warm lining, though, and, if you can
get up to it, you may find the baby squirrels inside in June. If they
are furry you can take them away, for then they are quite easy to bring
up and tame.


Then there is the harvest-mouse's nest, which is the most beautifully
made of all, and is usually to be found in cornfields, built some way up
the stalks, and looking just like a bird's-nest except that it is quite
round and has no opening that you can see. One can't very well walk
about in a cornfield, but you have another chance of finding a
harvest-mouse's nest in the hay-time, for they often build in the hay,
and once I found one with babies in it, on a haycock, where it had been
thrown without any one noticing it.

 The most beautifully made of all]

You have two chances, too, of finding a dormouse's nest, for this mouse
builds one nest for the babies, and another to sleep in through the
winter. Both of them are rather big compared with the harvest-mouse's
nest, and they are generally made of moss and leaves, often honeysuckle
leaves, which the mother dormouse seems to like, though I can't tell you

The dormouse often makes a sleeping-nest at the side of a path through a
wood, and does not seem to fasten it very carefully, for one sometimes
finds it in the middle of a path, as if the dormouse had turned over in
his sleep and sent the whole thing rolling. It may be, though, that some
hungry animal has pulled the nest out, and thinking the dormouse dead,
preferred to take the chance of finding something alive and warm, and so
left it.

If you ever find a sleeping dormouse, which will feel quite cold, you
should take the nest and all and keep it somewhere out of doors. For if
you bring it into a warm house, it will wake up before its proper time
and very likely die; but if you leave it alone until the spring comes,
it will wake up as Mother Nature meant it to, and you will have a pet
which you will like much better than one which you looked at in a shop
window, and could not resist buying.

 [Illustration: THE DORMOUSE]

Now there are other things for you to learn about animals' nests besides
the kind of places in which you may hope to find them. To begin with,
you must remember that an animal has not got the beautiful little
nest-making tool which a bird has--I mean, of course, a beak. A bird's
beak is used something like a knitting-needle, to thread the little
wisps of hay and feathers and moss and things like that in and out and
round about, until they stick where the beak tells them. I expect that
animals use their teeth a little in the same way, but they use them
more, I think, in biting leaves into strips, in softening hard stalks,
and cutting thick grasses into thin ones, and I feel sure that they
would find knitting very awkward, because of their thick lips. Most
animals, instead of building a nest in front of themselves, build it
round themselves. The first thing they do is to collect a little store
of nest-material, and this they manage by biting and nibbling at
anything which they think will be nice and soft, and carrying it away in
their mouths. I expect most of you have seen a house-mouse's nest. It is
usually made of scraps of paper and wool and fluff and other little
rubbishes, which they can pick up behind the walls and under the floor.
Sometimes, though, Mousey is not content with a common kind of nest, and
gets into a hat-box and spoils a pretty hat, or into a drawer and spoils
valuable papers. Once a mouse nibbled the date and the signature off a
valuable paper of mine. That was all she took, but it gave me a great
deal of trouble, for it was a legal paper, and it had to be done all
over again. Sometimes Mousey chooses even queerer places. I will tell
you three I have heard of; the first was a tin of gunpowder, the second
was a box of cigars, and the third was a plum cake. The last sounds the
nicest, doesn't it? But mousey is very fond of tobacco, and I have often
seen her, when the house was quiet, nibbling at scraps of tobacco which
I had dropped on the carpet.


The first thing that animals do, then, is to collect a little store of
nest material. The next thing is to dive right into the middle of it.
When they are well in the middle, they begin turning over and over, with
a tug here and a push there, and little curls and flicks of the tail
(the Harvest Mouse has the most useful tail of any of our animals, and
that, I think, is one reason why his nest is so neat), until in a very
short time they have scooped out a hollow in the ball of grass, or
whatever it may be, and are sitting inside it. Sometimes they have to
come out and get some more grass, and then the outside of the nest,
which is quite springy, closes up like a little trapdoor behind them,
and they have to make a fresh way in.

 [Illustration: THE HARVEST MOUSE]



I expect that most of you have seen some of the wonderful foreign
beetles, whose wing-covers gleam and sparkle with colour as though they
were studded with jewels; and some of you, perhaps, may have envied the
small Black Folks down south, who have the chance of finding such
beautiful things. But if you have a microscope, or even a magnifying
glass, or if you know some one who will lend you either, you need not
envy the small Black Folks at all, for here, in our own dear country,
there are hosts and hosts of beetles as beautiful as any in the world.
But there is always a something, isn't there? and the something in this
case is that they are so very, very small. There is another something,
and that is that nearly all of them have such very, very long names. The
reason for this is that the young people were not the first to find
them. If they had done so they would certainly have given them names
which grownups could understand, just as the young people of long ago
christened Tom-Tit and Jenny Wren, and Daddy Long-legs and Flitter
Mouse. All these names have lived since they were first made, and they
will live, I think, long after some much more learned names for the same
things have been altogether forgotten.

Now I must tell you how to find these beautiful little beetles, and I
think that you will be able to find them very soon after you have read
these lines, for the spring-time will have come, and the May will have
flowered, and there is nothing that the little beetles like better than
May-buds. All you have to do is to find a May-tree (it doesn't matter if
it is white or pink, and it needn't even be a May-tree so long as there
is plenty of blossom on it) and hit one of the branches with a stick,
and hold a butterfly-net, or an old umbrella, or a piece of newspaper,
or even your hat (an old hat is best) underneath, and catch what falls
from the branches. You will find all sorts of things, but among them
there are sure to be some tiny long-snouted beetles which are called
Rhynchophora. That is a dreadful name, isn't it? but I think that the
English word "weevils" is just as ugly. Though they are very small
indeed, you will see at once that they have very wonderful colours.
Probably you will catch an emerald-green one, and a sky-blue one, and
perhaps a little square-shaped scarlet one, which is not very uncommon,
and there may come a red-letter day when you catch one of the most
beautiful little beetles in the world, who is green and crimson and
gold. I have done this twice myself.

 [Illustration: THE STAG-BEETLE]

There are so many different beetles in our country that no one has ever
collected all of them. Most are very small indeed, like the weevils, but
a few are quite big, and I am showing you pictures of some of the

Perhaps I ought to tell you how to know a beetle when you see one. This
sounds easy enough, but it is not quite as easy as it sounds. All
beetles have six legs (beetles' bodies are divided into three parts, and
the legs grow out of the middle part); nearly all of them have strong,
horny covers for their wings, and all of them have their skeletons
outside. This sounds a very topsy-turvy arrangement, but it is quite
true. We have our bones inside, and our flesh outside, but beetles have
their bones outside and their flesh inside. Sometimes you may see
beetles crushed flat in the road, but often they are trodden on or run
over without being killed; and the reason for this is that their hard,
outside skeletons prevent their soft insides from being altogether
squashed up. Once I ran over a Stag-beetle on my bicycle--it was nearly
dark at the time, and I was over him before I could get out of his way.
Now a big Stag-beetle weighs about an eighth of an ounce, and I am
rather a heavy person--indeed, with my bicycle thrown in I should think
that I must weigh over two hundredweight, which is about thirty thousand
times as much as the Stag-beetle. You can imagine how surprised I was to
find that the Stag-beetle was not hurt. I ought to tell you, though,
that the road was soft, and that my bicycle-tyres were not blown up
hard, so perhaps the Stag-beetle did not get all my weight on his
back--but, anyhow, it was a wonderful escape for him, wasn't it?

 [Illustration: THE STAG-BEETLE
 This is the one that I ran over on my bicycle]

The two largest beetles in this country are the Stag-beetle and the
Great Black Water Beetle. I am not sure which should really be called
the larger of the two, for it seems hardly fair to count the
Stag-beetle's antlers, and if we leave these out, I fancy that the Great
Black Water Beetle has the bigger body. It is curious that these two
large beetles should be such quiet, easy-going things, and that they
should never dream of eating beetles smaller than themselves.


 Who looks as if he was silver-plated underneath]

But so it is, for both of them, the Stag-beetle on land and the Great
Water Beetle in the ditch, eat scarcely anything at all, and, when they
do eat, are quite content to suck the juices out of plants. One reason
for these big beetles eating so little is, I think, the very long time
which they have for feeding while they are caterpillars--beetle
caterpillars, by the way, are always called "grubs" or "larvæ," and
beetle chrysalises are called "pupæ." The grubs of the Stag-beetle live
on decaying wood (you may sometimes find them at the bottom of an old
gate post which has decayed under the ground), and take three or four
years to become "full-fed." The grub of the Great Water Beetle spends
all his time (three or four years, too, I expect) in the water, and I
think he feeds on decaying plants, but I am not sure of this. Some
people say that the Stag-beetle uses his great antlers to crush twigs
and leaves so as to get the juice. This may be so, but I have never seen
him do it.

 [Illustration: THE MUSK BEETLE
 Who has a very nice smell]

Another big and beautiful insect is the Musk Beetle. As you see in the
picture, he has very long horns and a narrow body. He is a beautiful
bronze green all over, and must be a wonderful sight when he is flying
in the sunshine. I have never seen him fly myself, but people who have
say that his legs and horns stream out behind him, so that he must look
like a little green Heron. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about him,
however, is his scent. I expect most of you know those little round pink
sweets which are called "cachous." He smells just like the taste of
those, and that is why he is called Musk Beetle.

Another big beetle I have to show you is the Cockchafer. You must look
at his picture carefully, because it shows you how a beetle lifts up his
hard wing-covers when he is going to fly. Some beetles, the Burying
Beetle for one, turn these wing-covers almost upside down when they are
flying, so that the hollowed side is uppermost. I expect that this helps
to keep them up when they are flying, and perhaps it helps them to start
as well.


Of course you have all heard of the wonderful flying machines which are
now being made. To fly at all, you must be able to do three things: lift
yourself up, keep yourself up, and move about. If you can do these three
things just as quickly and just as slowly as you want to, you will be
able to fly perfectly. The hardest puzzle of all is how to make a
machine which will keep itself up (and the right way up too) without
moving about very quickly. This is what many birds can do so
beautifully, and I expect that in time (all great inventions take a long
time to make perfect, and they are never the work of one man alone, but
rather of one man helped by the work of many men who lived before him)
machines will be made in which men will be able to fly as perfectly as
birds. At present they only fly as perfectly as beetles, but that they
should be able to do this is a very wonderful thing. The great
difference, in flying, between a beetle and a bird like a gull, is that
the beetle has to keep going full speed all the time, or else he will
tumble down to the ground, while a bird like a gull can poise balanced
in the air, with just a flap or turn of his wings now and then to keep
himself the right way up.

 When this Beetle is cross, he puts his head down, and rears
 up backwards as if he were going to kick]




There are "go-to-bury" rabbits and "stub" rabbits. The "go-to-bury"
rabbits have the longest ears, but the "stub" rabbits, as any stoat will
tell you, are the best for dinner.

Moreover, there are rabbits and bunny rabbits--but all were bunny
rabbits once.


Bunny Rabbit missed the bluebells, though these rang in his birth.

Up rose the kingly foxgloves, tier upon tier of them pink-purple, but
Bunny Rabbit missed these too.

A golden world--the ragwort blazing on the slope, below the mellowing
corn-field, and, mantling primrose hills, the dawn.

Now Bunny Rabbit was ready.

The burrow winds in four sharp turns, and, at each one, he stubbed his
nose. This through a mad desire to keep near Mother; for Mother's tail
bobbed in quick jerks, shaving each corner to a hair, and he and all his
brothers raced to catch it. They reached the entrance packed as one, but
Bunny Rabbit, squirming clear, shot past the uplifted paw, butted his
waiting Father, flung off him like a smoke-puff, and landed on his back
six feet below.

That is why he has a separate history.

It was indeed sharp change of circumstance. The nursery had been
pitch-black, though one short gleam of light had reached it daily. That
was when Mother Rabbit snatched her food, and sealed the entrance up for
fear of Father. At other times she screened her babies' eyes. So now the
sunshine blinded Bunny Rabbit, and pointed grass-stems pricked a skin
which nothing harder than breast-fur had touched.


He took some minutes to collect his wits, then twisted upright, and,
with frightened eyes, sought guidance.


But for the woolscrap all would have been well.

Mother Rabbit was close at hand, feeding his brothers with small sprigs
of green. Father Rabbit was close too. The sight of his lost wife had
softened him. He purred approval. He licked the children's noses.

Assuredly the lost would have been found, but for the woolscrap. The
woolscrap fluttered, wind-borne, down the slope, and Bunny Rabbit
nature-taught, went after it.

It led him far.

It caught on brambles and then flicked away. It plunged in little
valleys. It mounted little hills. It bobbed and jerked and twisted, and
Bunny Rabbit, panting hard, pursued.

At last he caught it, checked upon a grass-stem, and--_it wasn't Mother
after all_!

 [Illustration: It wasn't Mother after all!]

Bunny Rabbit sat down bewildered. He was hot with running; his ears were
prickly, his coat was rumpled. He combed his ears out, one by one,
brushed down his face, and nibbled all the fur that he could reach. Then
he felt better.


The morning breeze gained appetite and sent the woolscrap once more on
its travels. Bunny Rabbit took no heed of it--he watched and heard the
awakening of the wood. Bird notes, that in the burrow had been restful,
now screamed and whistled in his ear. Out from the shelter-side of
leaves, out from the heart of flowers, out from the grass-stems and from
earth itself, came whirring, humming, buzzing insects. In this new
myriad-peopled world there seemed small room for loneliness. A red mouse
bobbed up from his hole, stared at him curiously, then whisked about and
vanished. Bright eyes bejewelled the grass-tufts. Here a flick-footed
lizard, here a slow-trailing blindworm, here a squat toad. The day-moths
woke and flitted leaf to leaf. The bee-fly clambered up the thyme,
poised hovering, vanished slantwise, and vanishing, reappeared.


This was full entertainment, and Bunny Rabbit stared round-eyed. He
stared till hunger gripped him. His brothers, a bare hundred yards away,
already had acquired the art of nibbling. He had no teacher, and no wits
by which to teach himself. So, though food lay on every side, he
starved. He felt a craving he had never known; a tightening of his
fluffy body; an ache for Mother. Mother would set things straight for
him, but where to find her was beyond his reasoning.


He wandered aimlessly this way and that; he nosed the bushes aimlessly;
he stepped on Berus the Adder, because to him an adder, neatly coiled,
was merely speckled ground.

Berus the Adder, though infuriate, forebore to strike. Venom is far too
precious to be squandered, and baby rabbits are too large to swallow. He
swayed his ugly head, and slowly, very slowly, he stretched forward.
This was enough for Bunny Rabbit, who spun about and left the wind



Before he had been lured by Hope, now Terror thrust her goad at him. He
leapt two thorn-stumps blindly, and, stumbling, plunged head-deep into
the ant-hill.


The ant-hill covers two square yards of ground, and every inch of it is
peopled. Though soft, it is no place to fall on. Its citizens resent
intrusion--nay, more, resent it actively.

When Bunny Rabbit reached the grass he felt the pricking of a thousand
needles. The pain and smart of them half maddened him. He rolled upon
his back; he scraped his neck on stones; he writhed; he bit himself.


The pain eased as his torturers dropped off him. Once more he tried to
run, but in ten yards his strength was gone. His fore-paws flopped and
stumbled, his hind paws dragged, his nose was bruised, his coat was hot
and steamy. So he flung down bewildered, scraped an imaginary bed (a
poor half-hearted scraping), slid out his feet, and lay full length,
eyes closed.

 [Illustration: BERUS THE ADDER]

Nothing now seemed to matter much. The hornet moth came whirring past
his ears, he never heard it; the drone fly danced upon his nose, he
never felt it; the Man lay almost at his side, he never saw him. Poor
tired-out baby! Nature had ordered sleep and so he slept.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Man woke slowly. Nature had been his comfort, too, though sleep had
not refreshed him. He rose half-dreaming, with a smile. "All right,
little girl," he said; then his face tightened. "It's the same place,"
he muttered, "just where we lost the locket. First bluebell, then
foxglove, then ragwort; blue, purple, and gold. It was the gold she

The woodland rang with voices, but Bunny Rabbit slept until man spoke.
Then he leapt up and found himself a prisoner.

"You sha'n't be hurt, Bunny," said the Man.

Bunny Rabbit ceased his wriggling, and lay quite limp, his eyes
upturned, his nose a-quiver.

"Why lying in the open?" said the Man "foolish, foolish Bunny. What's to
be done with you? Stoats and foxes and hawks, Bunny. You can't be left,
that's certain. You can't be taken to your Mother, for I don't know your
Mother. You can't be taken to your hole, for I don't know your hole.
Hungry, Bunny? You look as though you'd travelled. Try some grass."

Bunny Rabbit knew nothing of grass and kept his teeth tight-clenched.

"You must eat something," said the Man.

He loosed one hand to reach a groundsel-top, and Bunny Rabbit, squirming
clear, slipped deep into his pocket.

"Well, it's your own choice, Bunny. Now you come home with me."

It was dark and warm and soft inside the pocket. The Man took swinging
downhill strides, and, at each stride, the folds changed shape. Now they
were loose and twisty, and Bunny Rabbit stretched full length to fill
them. Now they were tightened to a ball, and Bunny Rabbit tightened as
the centre.

The Man paused as he reached the corn, and stepped two paces up again.
He stooped, and Bunny Rabbit was inverted. He rose, and Bunny Rabbit
found his feet. But now he was more cramped than ever. He lay deep in
the farthest corner. Over, and on all sides of him, was packed a
stifling mass of green.

Then Bunny Rabbit used his teeth, axe-fashion at first, but soon to
better purpose. The lesson that he should have long since learnt was now
enforced by circumstance.

He bit and tasted.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Bunny Rabbit," said the Man, "your ears are abnormal."

Bunny Rabbit lay crouched upon the hearthrug, blinking. At first he had
found covert in the curtains, but these had been looped up. Then he had
squeezed behind the bookcase and been, with difficulty, extracted. Then
he had set himself to dig. The carpet had repaid him with some fluff.
The doormat and the wicker chair seemed promising, but he made little
headway, and so had lain down tired.


"Very abnormal ears, Bunny," the Man went on. "This smacks of the
domestic. Then why so frightened?"

But Bunny Rabbit was more tired than frightened.

"More food, Bunny?" A bunch of green had lain upon the floor but every
scrap had vanished.

"You've had enough for one day, Bunny. It's bedtime, up you come."

So Bunny Rabbit slept that night on blankets, he and the moonshine. The
Man tossed restlessly and Bunny Rabbit watched his moving lips. Twilight
crept in soft-footed, and Bunny Rabbit took three little jumps and
wormed inside the bed-clothes.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Slept well, Bunny?" said the Man; "it's more than I have. I've made my
mind up, Bunny. I'm going. I can't bear the house. I can't bear the
rooms. They're empty, empty, empty."

The Man stepped slowly down the stairs and Bunny Rabbit stumbled after
him. He reached the hall and paused, then caught up Bunny Rabbit, and
once more ascended. He entered every upstairs room and gazed as though
to clinch them on his memory. He entered every downstairs room, and in
one room, the loneliest of all, he sat and cried his heart out.

       *       *       *       *       *

"We're homeless, Bunny Rabbit," said the Man. "But you're the better
off, for your home's somewhere here."

They had got half-way up the slope. The Man stood tall among the
ragwort, and Bunny Rabbit, with wide, frightened eyes, clung to his

The Man stooped down, and Bunny Rabbit slid to earth.

"Now you must find your home or make one," said the Man, and Bunny
Rabbit straightway tried to make one. He plunged his forepaws in the
ground and scratched. The dust flew out behind and, in the midst, shot
something hard and glittering.

It was a small gold locket.

The Man bent down and picked it up. He opened it and with dimmed eyes he
kissed it.

"You've done me a good turn," he said--"of course it's pure
coincidence," and Bunny Rabbit watched him out of sight.




I wonder how many of my young readers know why these dainty flying
creatures are called "Butterflies"?

We all know what butter is, and we know, too, that there are quite a
number of English words which begin with "butter." It is not a pretty
beginning, is it? But there it is. Let us think of a few--_butter_-fly,
_butter_-cup, _butter_-wort, _butter_-fingers, _butter_-scotch--why, one
can think of half a dozen straight away.

Now this shows us clearly that "butter" is a very old word, and that the
people of long ago (who were much less clever than we are, perhaps) must
have used it quite naturally when they wanted to describe anything which
was squashy, or pasty, or greasy, or slippery, or yellow.

Look at the picture at the top of the next page. I wish I could have
given it to you in its proper colours. It looks much nicer like that.
Look at it carefully. No other English butterfly has the same pretty
curves to its wings, and some of you, I dare say, will know what it is
by its shape. But I must tell those who do not know. It is a Brimstone
Butterfly, and its colour is bright, bright yellow with an orange spot
in the middle of each wing (you can only see one wing in the picture,
the other three are hidden behind it; one way to tell a butterfly from a
moth is to remember that butterflies' wings close standing up, but
nearly all moths' wings close down flat).

 After whom all "Butterflies" are probably called]

It is almost certain that this insect was the first insect to be called
"Butter"-fly because of its butter colour. When people began to see that
there were other pretty flying things of much the same shape, though of
quite different colours, they called them all Butterflies after this
first one.

 [Illustration: THE RED ADMIRAL
 A Butterfly of many beautiful colours]

So we speak, nowadays, without ever thinking of how funny it really is,
of blue butterflies and white butterflies and black butterflies and
purple butterflies, and red and yellow and green butterflies--all the
colours of the rainbow, in fact.

 [Illustration: THE PURPLE EMPEROR
 The most gorgeous Butterfly in England, though not by any
 means the most beautiful]

We would hardly talk of black butter or purple butter, would we?

Some of you will perhaps wonder why the Brimstone Butterfly was the
first to be noticed when there are so many others which are just as

I think I can tell you.

The Brimstone is almost always the first butterfly to be seen in the
spring. Most butterflies die towards the autumn, and leave eggs behind,
which hatch out in the following year, but the Brimstone, and a few
others, sleep through the cold winter months and come out in the first
warm days of spring and _then_ lay their eggs. The Brimstone comes out
first of all, often quite early in February, and so he is the first
butterfly that is likely to be noticed in the year.

 [Illustration: THE CLIFDEN BLUE]

Perhaps his coming out at a time when cows began to give more milk, and
butter began to be more plentiful, had something to do with his being
called "butterfly," but I think that his colour had more to do with it.

 Almost a paint-box in itself. It will give you blue, red,
 black and yellow. It is only found in the Cambridgeshire

What lovely colours butterflies are! Have you ever fancied a butterfly
paint-box? Let us think of a few common colours, and see how we could
fill it. Suppose we wanted a blue? Why we should have a whole family of
butterflies "The Blues" to choose from, and we should be just as well
off for blacks and browns. For red we could take the beautiful scarlet
ribbon of the Red Admiral. "Why is he called Admiral?" you ask. Well,
Admiral is the same as Admirable, and his old name was Red Admirable.
For purple we should have the Purple Emperor and the Purple
Hair-streak--there is no purple quite so glorious as the purple that
these have on their wings. For orange, the Orange-tip and the Clouded
Yellow. For yellow, the Brimstone and several others. For white, of
course, the Whites. Green might bother us a little, but there is one
English butterfly, the Green Hair-streak, whose wings are a beautiful
green underneath. As he is our only green butterfly I give you his
picture. He is the upper butterfly in the first picture and, as you see,
quite a little one.

 Probably quite the blackest Moth we have. They vary very
 much in colouring though]

We must not forget gold and silver. When I was young, I expected to find
gold and silver in a really nice paint-box, and I do not suppose young
people have changed much since then. Silver we should have no trouble
about. There is a big family of butterflies called the Fritillaries, who
have wonderful patches and ribbons of silver on their wings. I do not
think you will find gold, except perhaps a little gold powder, on any
English butterfly, but you will find it on several chrysalises. Indeed,
Chrysalis means "the little golden one," and the name was given to these
queer spiky things because gold patches were so often seen on them.

 The silver is in broad bands on the under wings]

I have seen little pictures made with the scales of butterflies' wings,
with blue skies and green trees and everything. So you see a butterfly
paint-box is not altogether a make-believe, though it is not an easy
paint-box for young people to paint with.


I expect you all must know the Common Yellow Wasps--the kind that come
buzzing into the jam at tea-time; and I want to tell you this about
them--that I don't think they ever really get angry if there is jam
about and you leave them alone, though, when small people jump up and
scream, and edge away from the table, and make bad shots at them with
spoons, they get so frightened and bewildered, poor things, that they
may sting somebody, because they feel they really must do something

 [Illustration: This is one of Spinipes' burrows opened up.
 There is an egg at the bottom on the left-hand side and a
 caterpillar on the right-hand side. The egg is hanging by a
 silk thread, but you can't see this]

Perhaps some of you do _not_ know that there are seven different kinds
of these Yellow Wasps to be met with in this country of ours, and I
should be surprised to hear that any of you know _much_ about the two
Black Wasps whose story I am going to tell you. I say "black," because
they _look_ black, though both of them have yellow girdles on their
bodies. I wish they had English names; for I am sure they both deserve
them; and English names are much easier to remember than Latin ones.
However, Latin names are the only ones I know for them, so we must make
the best of it, and call one of them Spinipes (you must read this as if
it were Spiny Peas) and the other Crabro.

We will take Spinipes first.

If you look at the picture on the opposite page, you will see what she
is like, and, if you look at the picture in Spinipes the Sand-Wasp (p.
151) you will see one of the clever things she does.

 [Illustration: This is a little picture of Spinipes
 bringing up a grub, which she is clasping beneath her body]

She is building a little tube out of sand which is so delicate that the
slightest touch from one of our own clumsy fingers will knock it down
like a card-house, but it is strong enough for her to crawl inside; and
she has to crawl inside very often, as you will see. I expect you will
all want to know how she builds it, and what it is for. I will tell you
how she builds it to begin with. You must know first that she has a pair
of jaws which work quite differently from ours. Instead of moving up and
down, they move across each other from side to side just like a pair of

 [Illustration: This is the Spinipes' grub feeding on the
 little green caterpillars]

The first thing that Spinipes does is to work this little pair of
scissors in the sand so as to make a little hole. I am showing you on
page 148 a picture of her when she is just starting to dig. Every little
pellet of sand she digs out she puts carefully round the outside of the
hole, and presently she glues them all together. She carries the glue
somewhere inside her, and brings it out when she wants it, Then she digs
a little deeper and glues another layer of sand pellets on the top of
the first one, and in a very short time she has dug a hole about two
inches deep, and built a little tube round the top of it, which is made
of the little sand-pellets she has brought out of the hole. Sometimes
the tube stands straight up, but more often it bends about half-way and
curves downwards. When she has finished it off, and is sure that the
hole is deep enough, and the tube is long enough, she goes right down to
the bottom and lays an egg, and she hangs the egg by a tiny thread
(which she also makes herself, but I don't know how she does it) to the
side of the hole a little above the bottom. You will be able to see this
in the picture, but you must remember that in this and in some of the
other pictures the sand has been cut away so that you can see exactly
how the hole goes. Then, if it is a bright, sunny day, as it usually is
when she begins digging, she flies away, and in about half an hour's
time comes back carrying something clasped tight against her body. What
do you think that is? It is a small green caterpillar. She stops a
moment at the entrance of the tube, pushes the caterpillar down in front
of her, and disappears after it. In a few seconds she is out again and
off, and in another quarter of an hour or so she is back again with
another caterpillar and so on, without ever tiring, through six or seven
hours of a hot June or July day.

 [Illustration: This shows you the cocoon which Spinipes'
 grub makes for itself. I have opened it to show you the
 grub, and also the little partition in the shaft above the
 grub, which is the last thing Spinipes herself makes]

I expect you will have guessed what the caterpillars are for. They are
food for the wasp grub when it hatches out of the egg. Generally each
hole has between twenty and thirty little caterpillars in it, and
sometimes, when caterpillars are scarce, the Mother Wasp has to work
hard for three or four days. If you dig into a hole yourself and look at
the store of little caterpillars, you will see there is something the
matter with them. They seem to be alive and yet they don't seem to be
able to crawl. Wise men say that the wasp stings them just enough to
make them drowsy so that they can't crawl out of the hole, and can't
hurt the wasp grub by jostling up against it. It wouldn't do to kill
them, because then they would go bad in the hole before the grub had
time to eat them. This sounds rather cruel, but I don't think it is
really, because it is quite certain that the caterpillars cannot feel as
we should perhaps feel, and we may be quite sure that in the wonderful
Nature World everything is arranged for the best, so that only the right
number of wasp-grubs may be properly fed and grow up to do what it is
their duty to do, and only the right number of small green caterpillars
may grow up also.

 [Illustration: The little beetle that the caterpillars turn
 into. It is sitting on its own open-work cocoon, from which
 it has just hatched out. The picture makes it about twice
 its real size]

You will wonder, I expect, why the Mother Wasp troubles to make the
little tube above the hole. I think I can tell you one reason and you
must remember this, because it was just by chance that I found it out.
One hot morning in June I watched Mother Spinipes bringing seven
caterpillars to her hole. Then a heavy thunderstorm came on, and the
rain came down in buckets, and I had to run away for shelter. Late in
the evening when it had cleared up a little, I thought I would like to
see what had happened to the tube I had been watching, and I went back
to the place and found that the rain had knocked it all to pieces. But I
saw something much more interesting than this. The tube had been on the
face of a sand-cliff, and in a crack close by there was an ants' nest. I
found that the ants were running down the wasp's hole and bringing out
the caterpillars as fast as they could (I saw them take six away), and
taking them along the face of the cliff into their own stronghold. Now
the tube that stands out from the sand somehow frightens the ants (I
never saw an ant climb out along the tube and down inside it), and so I
think that one of the reasons for the tube must be that it keeps away
ants and creatures of that kind who crawl about on the face of the sand
cliff and like eating caterpillars.



It was a long time before I found out what kind of creature the
caterpillars stored by Spinipes would have turned into if they had not
been caught. I thought that it would have been a small moth, but I was
quite wrong. At different times I took several caterpillars away from
the tubes, and tried to bring them up, but it was of no use, for they
all died because they could not eat. One day, however, I happened to be
sweeping with a butterfly-net in a field of lucerne--it is great fun
sweeping, and you should try it, for you never know what you may get
next--and I swept up what I knew at once was the self-same little green
caterpillar that Spinipes stocked her larder with. She _always_ brought
the same kind. Well, I got a good many of them by sweeping in the
lucerne, and brought them up carefully, and, in due time, they spun
little open-work cocoons on the lucerne leaves which I fed them with,
and at last turned into small, brown, long-nosed beetles. I need not
trouble you with the Latin names of these beetles, but I may tell you
that they are a kind of weevil which is very common and very destructive
to clover and plants of that kind. So, if we consider that every Mother
Spinipes lays eight or nine eggs, and stocks eight or nine burrows each
with about thirty destructive little caterpillars, we must allow that
she is a very useful little wasp.

 [Illustration: This is a large picture of Crabro, about
 twice as big as she really is]

But I am not sure that she is more useful to man than the other little
wasp I have to tell of, the Crabro. I found out her usefulness quite by
chance, and I expect you will like to hear how. To begin with, I must
tell you that all the "Digger" Wasps, as some people call them, Spinipes
and the Crabros and several other kinds, store their burrows with insect
food for their grubs to feed on.

 [Illustration: This is Crabro looking out of her hole. The
 front of her face is covered with bright silver hair, so
 fine that it looks like a silver plate. The picture is
 twice her real size]

 [Illustration: This is how the cocoon looked when I had
 taken the sawdust away. The plug of sawdust above it leads
 into the round hole in the wood]

But each one has her own particular idea as to what is the _best_ food.
One will use nothing but little spiders, another nothing but little
flies, another, like Spinipes, nothing but little beetle grubs. And the
queer part is that they seldom seem to make any mistake as to the kind
of food they want. It will be _one_ kind of spider, and _one_ kind of
fly, and _one_ kind of beetle-grub. If there are ever more than one
kind, they are always very near relations, and, I suppose, taste very
much alike.

 [Illustration: At the bottom of the picture you will see
 one of Crabro's stores of blue-bottles, and if you look
 carefully you will see one of the fly's wings stretching
 out of it]

Now Crabro's store consists of really _large_ flies, blue-bottles, and
green-bottles--I expect most of you know the beautiful shiny
green-bottle fly whose proper name is Caesar--and how little Crabro
manages to overcome and carry off large bottle-flies who are several
times her own size and several times her own weight, I cannot tell. But
I have found out for certain that she does so, and the pictures will
show you how I found out.

 [Illustration: This is what the piece of elm-bough looked
 like. You will be able to see the little tunnels, and the
 stores of blue-bottles, which are black-looking, and the
 plugs of sawdust, in which the pupa cases of the wasp-grubs
 are hidden. You can see one pupa about half way up]

Last autumn a dangerous bough had to be taken down from the top of a
high elm-tree in my garden. It was perhaps sixty feet above the ground
and it came down with a crash and broke up into little pieces. I picked
up one of these tubes and galleries, which I knew were insects' work.
But there was something much more exciting than this. A number of the
galleries had blind ends to them, and at the bottom of these were masses
of dead blue-bottles, tightly packed, which rested on small pillows of
sawdust, and had long plugs of sawdust above them.

I opened one of the long sawdust plugs and found, as I half expected to
find, that at the end of it next to the blue-bottles, was a small brown
papery cocoon, and that inside the cocoon was a wasp grub. I need hardly
tell you that I collected a lot of the wood, and kept it carefully
through the winter, and tried to make the little grubs as much at home
as if they had stayed up in their tree. To do this I had to keep the
wood in moist and rather dark surroundings. Then when the spring came
round I sometimes put the wood in the sunshine, when it was not too hot,
and in the first week in June I was rewarded for my trouble, for the
little wasps hatched out in dozens, and so I was able to find out what
they were.

 [Illustration: This is one of the cocoons of Crabro in the
 elm-bough. Crabro is just going to hatch out. You can see
 the little black hole where she has started gnawing]

Look up to the top of the trees some warm summer day, and think of the
blue-bottle hunt which may be going on above us, and of the wonderful
little hunter, Crabro.




This insect-tale is based on observations of fact extending over several
summers. It may interest some of my readers to know the scientific names
of the chief characters mentioned. I do not think that any of them have
popular names. The heroine is the solitary Sand-Wasp _Odynerus
Spinipes_, a blacker and somewhat smaller insect than the familiar
yellow Wasps of Town and Garden. The Red King and the Black Queen are
the male and female of a solitary Bumble Bee, _Anthophora Pilipes_. The
Mistress of the Robes is a "Cuckoo" Bee, _Melecta armata_, which attends
on Anthophora, and lays its eggs in the cells made by Anthophora for her
own eggs. The grubs of both feed on the honey and pollen which
_Anthophora_ alone has the trouble of procuring. _O. Spinipes_ has
several cuckoos, the most officious being the jewel flies, _Chrysis
ignita_ and _Chrysis bidentata_, whose grubs, I fancy, eat the grub of
Spinipes, as well as the food stored up for it. The Ophion is a common
Ichneumon fly, and the beetle-grubs belong to a very common and
destructive weevil, _Hypera variabilis_.

The Sand Cliff splits the old gravel-pit in two, and, jutting southward,
fronts the mid-day sun. The cuttings driven east and west of it have
long been clothed with furze and briar and nettle. Rank grass conceals
the cart-track round its base, and, on its summit, a thin, root-bound
soil gives foothold to a straggling hedge of privet.


Man, needing gravel only, scorned the sand; and, as he turned his back
on it, came Nature, gently mothering; and brought it warmth, and light,
and life.

First the wild Bees, Red Kings, Black Queens, fringe-footed,
shaggy-coated. These made a chambered palace of the cliff, and peopled
it within a summer. With them came Lords-in-Waiting and their Ladies, in
liveries of black velvet, ermine-faced; and, after these, a fluttering
gauze-winged host--jewel-flies ablaze with green and blue and crimson,
trim slender-waisted digger-wasps, long-streamered swart ichneumons.
And, last of all, came Spinipes herself.

Straight from the blue she dropped on May's last morning, swerved
through the hum and racket of the Bees, poised with her smoke-grey wings
a-whir, and lighted softly on the centre ledge, her ebony body mirroring
the sun, her five gold girdles blazing.


Down dropped a Red King at her side. He stared at her right royally, and
kept right royal silence, yet there was kindness in his yellow face, and
kindness in the purr of his departure.

Down dropped a Black Queen in his place, and danced and hummed
about her, and measured her slim-waistedness, and buzzed her
disapproval.--"What is it?" asked she snappishly. "Why does it come in
this get-up? Where has it left its furs?"


"It never had furs," said a voice behind her. It was her Mistress of the

"I know the family, Ma'am. Queer clothes, of course. But artists, Ma'am,
artists to the toe-tips."

"Artists in what?" said the Black Queen.

"In Sand, Ma'am, in Sand. See, she's starting now."

"That's hive-bee's work," said the Black Queen contemptuously.

"The art comes at the finish, Ma'am----"

 [Illustration: IN SAND, MA'AM, IN SAND. SEE, SHE'S

"Well, call me when it comes," said the Black Queen, "and keep her off
the nurseries, and clean that eleventh cell of mine, and wait till I
come back. She soared up skywards, fussily, cleared the cliff's head,
circled three times about, and set a straight course south.

"Good riddance!" said the Mistress of the Robes.

"They're like that everywhere," said Spinipes. "What are her nurseries
to me? Black Queens and black sand go together. Now this is red sand. I
feel the grip and bind of it."

She was quite right. The ledge was rain-washed silt. Sunshine had
bleached the outer crust of it, but, under this, its substance was
brick-red--fine ground stuff too, damp, clingy, easily tunnelled, and
easily smarmed into a hold-fast mortar.

"In that case," said the Mistress of the Robes, "I may as well be going."

Slowly she floated off the ledge, yet kept her face towards it. Slowly
she tacked from side to side, in dipping, widening sweeps. Slowly she
passed the cliff's east edge, and disappeared.

_Then_ Spinipes commenced to dig in earnest.


Her scissor-jaws worked viciously, carved four-square pellets from the
sun-baked crust, gripped them and flung them backwards. As she engaged
the softer soil, she added feverish foot-work, and scraped, and rasped,
and scrabbled it, and kicked it back in dust-clouds. Her head was
quickly buried, next her waist, and, presently, she disappeared

But not for long.

She backed up to the surface, dragging a sand-load underneath her body.
She shook this clear, and, without resting, dived afresh. Ten loads in
all she raised, and each one meant a longer spell below. For she had
more to do than dig. From end to end her shaft must needs be glazed--and
this meant patient mouth-work, deft steadying touches as the mortar set,
and skill to keep her tube's round symmetry, and guide it in a gentle
curve to end in quiet darkness. Three inches down she sank, and, at the
bottom, drove a slant, and hollowed out a store-room.

With this the first stage ended. She left her shaft, and, poising in
mid-air, made survey of the ledge. To right she swerved, to left again,
outwards and back, upwards and down, until its bearings east and west,
from sky above, and earth below, were rooted in her memory.


So far, so good--her morning's work was done, the picture of it fixed
into her mind. Upwards she soared until the receding cliff shrunk to a
splotch of brown. Once more she took her bearings and was satisfied, set
her course east, and, with a dropping arrow's flight, came to the
hill-top coppice. She landed on the bramble hedge which skirts its
western clearing.

"Good hunting, sister!" said the Ophion Fly. She sat on a high
briar-leaf, her rainbow wings uplifted.

"It's hardly time for that," said Spinipes. "To-morrow, p'raps. To-day I
feed myself."

"There's lucerne on the slope," the Ophion said, "and something
underneath you."

There was a snap and flicker in the grass, and presently appeared a
pygmy beetle, long-snouted, dusty-coated, trailing its slow legs wearily.

"D'you _see_ it?" said the Ophion Fly.

"I see it, but what of it?"

"It means good hunting, sister. Green grubs, black-headed, fatted. Too
small for me, but just the size for you. You'll find them in the

"Thank you," said Spinipes, but she was half across the field, a
dancing, filmy wisp of pink, wind-borne.

A meal, and then to work, thought Spinipes. It must be done by sunset.
It must. It must.

From spray to spray she flitted. Flower after flower she robbed of its
pale nectar. Bud after bud she nibbled. At last she found the food she
sought, and, with her strength renewed, took flight. Upwards she soared;
three times she circled round; then in a straight, unbroken course,
whizzed to her shaft. Her pace was scarcely slackened as she entered.
Her wings closed lengthways on her back, and, in a moment, she was at
the bottom.

Something was there before her.


Something six legged, which kicked and squirmed and writhed. Something
which coiled to a hard, slippery ball, and rolled away from capture.

There was no space for it to pass, and yet there seemed no holding it.
At last she pinned it with her feet, and, backing, dragged it upwards to
the light. It was a radiant jewel fly, a squat, short-waisted, dumpy
thing made glorious by its colour. Gems sparkled on it head to tail,
sapphire and ruby, emerald and topaz, and, as it struggled, fire of gold
blazed and died down upon its jerking body. Instinctively she shook and
worried it. Instinctively she flung it down the slope. Head over tail,
tight-clenched, it spun, nor opened till it reached the grass below.
Here it snapped out to shape again, took instant wing, and, with a
glancing flight, regained the ledge.

"An excellent shaft, Madam; quite excellent. No doubt you made it for a
special purpose. Now I----"

"Listen to me," said Spinipes, "and mark my every word. If you come near
that shaft again--if you so much as touch it with your feet, I'll sting
your prying life out."

She charged at it full swing and chased it off the ledge.

"An area sneak!" she muttered, as she dropt underground once more--"and
over-dressed at that."


Below the walls showed signs of the encounter--it took ten minutes to
repair their glazing. When this was done, she crept back to the
entrance. It was high noon. A shimmery haze rose from the heated sand.
The hum of work died fitfully away, as, one by one, the homing bees
sought shade. The digger-wasps dived deep into their holes; the hunting
spiders hid themselves. These were the last to cease from work; the last
to cease from play was the rose-chafer.

Him the fierce blaze of heat impelled to bursts of clumsy flight. Across
the pit and back again, and up and down the surface of the cliff, he
whirred and swung at random. Soon even he grew listless, and crept
within the shelter of the privet.

The change came with a catspaw breeze, which rippled from the valley,
and, in its quiet passing, fanned the cliff.

It brought back life and energy.

Out flew the bees, a jostling, buzzing throng of them, see-sawing wildly
up and down, swinging, reversing, wheeling. At length they towered and
broke to work. Out crept the hunting spiders, zebra-coated; the
fluttering, dancing, digger-wasps; the lightning-footed ants. Out, last
of all, came Spinipes herself.

 [Illustration: OUT FLEW THE BEES]

Her first care was her toilet. She combed her long antennæ out and
nibbled at each foot. A circling flight to stretch her wings ended where
it had started; and, in a moment, she had plunged below. Two minutes she
stayed underground, then came up slowly backwards. Between her jaws was
a clean-cut sand pellet. She placed it on the rim of the shaft opening,
and, with deft touches from her lips, cemented it in station. She danced
about it joyously, with fluttery wings, with airy, buoyant feet,
moistened it here, kneaded it there. Once more she dived and dragged a
second pellet up, and fixed this too upon the rim. So diving, digging,
fixing, shaping, she raised a low ring-parapet.

Hour after hour she toiled, tier after tier she added, gluing each
pellet firmly to the last, yet leaving open space between each junction.
So rose a filagree tube of sand, so fragile that a touch would crumble
it; so strong that it would bear four times her weight. Before a shadow
reached the cliff, it was a half-inch high. But shadows meant an end to
the day's work, and Spinipes crept down below and slept.


The morning sun had shone four hours before she stirred. She peered out
round-eyed from her tower, and, twisting on the rim of it, hung for a
while head-downwards. A flash of green and crimson light, and something
settled under her. It was the Jewel Fly again.

"Fine progress, Madam, and a first-rate tower. I never saw a better."

No word said Spinipes, but straightway launched, and flew at her.

"Out, cuckoo-sneak!" she screamed. "Out! or I sting!"

The Jewel Fly dodged like a gnat, and vanished round the corner.

She certainly meant mischief.

The lowest chamber of the shaft now held a precious thing--a
spindle-shaped gold egg, slung to the side-wall by a silken thread. Back
darted Spinipes to look at it; and test the fine-spun sling again; and
fuss with it; and feel that it was hers.


Then up to her look-out once more. This time she dropped down to the
sand and sunned herself contentedly.

The Bees had long been working. Forward and back they passed
unceasingly, now and again one towered, now and again one settled; but
never did their labour-song, a droning, buzzing, humming chanty, weaken
or gather strength. The Jewel Fly had vanished altogether, yet Spinipes
still seemed to fear her coming. A full half hour she stayed on guard,
and spent the time in adding to her tower, and rounding off its
entrance, which, of its own weight, took a gentle down-curve. Then,
after one last gaze upon her egg, she flew afield.

"Good hunting, sister!" said the Ophion Fly. She sat on the same leaf as

"I want them now," said Spinipes.

"The're thousands of them, thousands," said the fly, "and most of them
quite fat."


But Spinipes was too engrossed to hear her. Already, swayed by instinct
she was hunting, hunting an unknown quarry in the lucerne. From plant to
plant, from leaf to leaf, she fluttered. Now she dropped down to earth,
and ran this way and that in the green twilight tangle. Now she sped
nimble-footed up a stalk. Now she took flight and skimmed above the

At last she paused, her every muscle trembling, and stared at what
confronted her.

It was a flabby, green, black-headed grub, fixed slug-like on its
food-plant. A trail of skeleton tracery marked where its jaws had
passed, and, as it reached the border of its leaf it swung its head, and
starting near midrib, gnawed yet another ribbon-strip of green.


It ceased to feed as Spinipes appeared, and rested motionless, until her
weight made its leaf-platform shiver. Then it dropped silently to earth.
But Spinipes reached earth almost as fast, and, quartering every inch of
ground, found it and gripped it tightly. It struggled feebly as she
pinned it down, and, as she stung it, shuddered. The sting was measured
to the millionth part. It robbed the grub of sentient life, yet left it
living. So Nature had enjoined. For every infant Spinipes, a score of
live green grubs. Robbed of full life, lest struggling they should harm
the egg; forbidden death, lest dying they should taint the shaft; lulled
to long sleep in mercy. Of Nature's ordinance the grub knew nothing--and
Spinipes knew nothing. Her task was to make store of food against the
time when her gold egg should hatch. Instinctively she knew the grub was
food: instinctively she paralysed its being: instinctively she laboured
to transport it.

Her jaws were fastened tight behind its head. Slowly she dragged it up a
stalk until blue sky alone was over her. Then, loosing her mouth-grip of
it, and clasping it with all six legs, she soared on high; one long
unbroken down-glide brought her to her tower. An instant's pause to
shift her grip, and she had pushed the grub within the entrance. Keeping
a foot-hold on it, she eased it gently downwards, until it lay beneath
her egg. She turned it over on its back and propped it to the side wall,
caressed her egg, and mounted to the light again.

Back to the lucerne field she flew, and, in ten minutes, reappeared, a
second grub beneath her.

This, too, she propped up carefully, and so she worked throughout the
day, hunting, benumbing, storing. Twelve grubs in all she brought. All
twelve she packed into a single pile. A few made feeble movements, and
these, for prudence' sake, she stung afresh.

She passed the night contentedly, for it had been good hunting.

 [Illustration: An instant's pause to shift her grip, and
 she had pushed the grub within the entrance.]

 [Illustration: "Take that--and that--and that," said
 Spinipes, and drove her sharp sting home.]


The morrow's sky was wind-swept. Across it scurried wisps of grey with
torn and fretted edges. These raced to catch each other, and fused in
rounded velvet clouds. Mass joined to mass, and, surging slowly upwards,
veiled the sun. Southwards, where earth met sky, a fine-drawn streak of
blue endured, while, here and there, a rent across the veil gave passage
to a radiant fan-spread beam. Once only did such radiance reach the
cliff. It brought a treacherous message. Out swarmed the bees to snatch
the chance of work, and out, with like intent, came Spinipes. Straight
to her hunting-ground she flew, but, even as she reached it, came the


For two hours she was weather-bound. At last a watery gleam of light,
mirrored in every dripping leaf, enticed her from her shelter. Homeward
she sped, and, reaching home, found havoc. Her tower was gone--the
rain had razed it utterly--but there was worse mishap than this.
Swift-scurrying on the surface of the sand were gangs of ants, and every
gang was busy with a grub, one of _her_ grubs. They pulled and pushed
and shouted to each other, and worked their burdens upward to the cleft
which marked their city's entrance. She poised aghast, as with a mocking
spit at her, the gaping shaft disgorged another grub. Six sturdy ants
came with it, and, ranging up in order, (a pair to tug, a pair to push,
a pair to guide,) commenced their long ascent.

The grubs might be replaced in time--what of her precious egg? Downwards
she tumbled headlong. Three grubs, the lowest of the pile, were left;
her egg-- She had been in the nick of time. Her egg was there, nay more,
it was uninjured. Her mother instinct told her this as, with quick
trembling passes, she felt the hang and weight of it. Her mother
instinct swung her round, as down the shaft she heard a scraping
footfall. Even as she turned, an ant's black face peered round the lower

"Out thief!" she cried. "Assassin! Bandit! Robber!"

The ant retreated hurriedly, but all that night she sat at the shaft's
mouth, and barred the way below with her own body.

Next day the weather mended--a blaze of sun from an unclouded sky, and,
on the sand-cliff, ecstasy of life.


Hard work in store for Spinipes! Three hours she spent in raising a
fresh tower, five hours in reprovisioning her burrow. But she no longer
worked alone. For others of her race had found the cliff, and other
towers, twin to her own, were rising from the sand-ledge. Between them
pygmy digger wasps dug shafts to match their bodies, and trident-tailed
ichneumons sailed about them, and sneaking, prying, jewel flies, here,
there, and everywhere on mischief bent.


She _caught_ her old acquaintance, caught her in the act, and dragged
her out, and stung her as was promised.

"I looked inside, that's all--that's really all," whimpered the culprit
as she clutched the rim.

"Take that--and that--and that," said Spinipes, and drove her sharp
sting home. But jewel flies are toughened folk, and this one, flung
aside at last, was in full flight, and merry as a grig, within a minute
of her punishment.

Daily the work grew harder. It took more time to find the grubs, since
other wasps were hunting, and soon the increasing bulk of them taxed her
full powers of flight. Once, as she neared the ledge, she dropped her
burden. It lay where it had fallen till it died, for neither she nor
other of her kind had wit to forge, or mend, a link in instincts broken
chain. Once she found strange additions to her store. A human hand had
robbed a neighbouring shaft and, with well-meant intention, sought to
help her. Vain fancy! Here the self-same chain (to hunt--to catch--to
bring--to store) was, end for end, reversed. The alien grubs were, one
by one, dragged forth, and, one by one, flung headlong.


Within a week the burrow held full store, a stack of five-and-twenty
grubs piled up to meet the egg. This last was at the hatching-point. The
silken cord, by which it hung, had lengthened with its growth, and each
hour found it closer to its food. All had gone well, and Spinipes' last
task, to seal the shaft with a partition-wall, was soon accomplished.
Nor did she ever see that egg again. In time the tower itself fell in--I
fancy that she helped it, and in its falling, smothered the main


She sank five other curving shafts--each held an egg--and built five
towers to guard them. She made five further stores of grubs; and then,
her life-work ended, she crept into a cleft and died.

What of the eggs? you ask. They hatched to golden yellow grubs, which
fattened on the food stores, and when, at length, their food was all
consumed, they spun them silken coverlets, and changed from grubs to
sleeping nymphs. They slept through autumn's dreariness, through
winter's cold, through spring's soft showers, and, when at length the
warmth of summer beckoned, they burst their bonds, and, working through
the sand, flew forth, as those before them had flown forth. So
recommenced the cycle. An æon back it was the same. An æon hence--who



 [Illustration: THE MAGPIE MOTH]

I have already told you of the beautiful colours to be found on
butterflies' wings, and how people have actually used a butterfly
paintbox to make pictures with. Now I am going to show you some
butterflies and moths (quite common ones all of them) which have queer
little pictures on their wings ready made--real pictures I mean, faces
and animals and things like that.

You may find it, at first, a little hard to see them, for they are
puzzle pictures, like those you get in crackers, but once you have found
the face, or whatever it may be, you won't be able to help seeing it.

I will start you with quite an easy one. Some of you, I expect, have
noticed how often living creatures have a pattern on them like an open
eye. This is called an "eye-marking," and is of course quite a different
thing from the eye which is used for seeing with. Nearly all our
butterflies have an eye-marking somewhere on their wings, and we find it
in many other creatures besides butterflies. In birds, for instance (you
will remember the peacock at once), and fish (next time you pass a big
fishmonger's look out for a John Dory, he has a beauty) and lizards and
snakes and frogs and things like that. It is not often seen on animals,
though a leopard's or a jaguar's spots are something very like it.

If you look at the picture of the Emperor Moth you will see that there
is a very nicely drawn eye on each of his upper wings (his real eyes are
quite hidden by his little fur cape); and if you look at the caterpillar
of the Elephant hawk-moth long enough, I am sure you will think that he
is looking back at you, and that he does not like the look of you much.

 [Illustration: THE EMPEROR MOTH]

Here, again, it is not his eyes that you see, but his eye-markings. In
the first picture they are just where you would expect eyes to be, and I
must explain to you why. He is called the "Elephant" caterpillar because
the head-end of him ("head-end" sounds rather queer; but I think that if
one may say "tail-end" one may say "head-end") tapers off very quickly
from his fat body, and when he swings this end of him, as he often does,
it looks like an elephant's trunk. You will see what I mean in the
second picture.


Now when he is frightened or angry, he tucks his head in like a
telescope close up to the eye-markings, and then these look as if they
are really eyes.

Some people think, and they may be quite right, that these eye-markings
frighten off birds and lizards and things like that, who would soon eat
the caterpillar if they did not think that his eye-markings were really
eyes, and that they must have a big body behind them.

You remember the eyes as big as tea-cups in "The Little Tin Soldier"? If
you have not read that, read it as quickly as you can.

Eye-markings are very easy to see, and I am sure that you will be able
to find four of them on the wings of the Peacock Butterfly.


Some people think that these frighten off creatures who might eat him,
just like those on the Elephant Hawk caterpillar, and some people think
just the opposite--that the eye-markings are so clear a mark that the
butterfly's enemies will bite at _them_, and so get a mouthful of
butterfly's wing, instead of the butterfly himself; which is, of course,
all for the good of the butterfly. I don't think we can be quite sure
that either of these reasons is true, but we may be certain that if the
eye-markings were not somehow useful to the butterfly they would not be


The upper eye-markings on the Peacock have nothing particularly curious
about them, but those on the under-wings each form a clear man's face
with a big moustache, whiskers, and a bald forehead. If you hold the
paper a little way off, you will see it clearly. It is something like
Mr. Balfour.

This is a full-face picture, but in the other moths, the Mother Shipton
and the Magpie, you will find side-face pictures. The Mother Shipton
takes its name from having the face of an old witch on each of its upper
wings. I will leave you to puzzle this out for yourselves, but I will
give you the hint that the old witch has a hooked nose and a pointed

The Magpie Moth has the side face of rather an ugly boy with a button of
a nose and his mouth wide open. This is made up by the markings of each
pair of wings taken together, and can only be seen when the wings are in
a certain position. I will give you a hint here, too, which will help
you. The seventh spot on the border of the upper wing, counting
downwards, is the boy's eye; and he has a fine head of hair.


Nearly all butterflies and moths have some kind of picture on their
wings, and I think that it is nicer looking for these than looking for
pictures in the fire, because, when once you have found a butterfly
picture, you may be sure of finding it again, and showing it to other


I am going to talk about two animals this time--one a very big one and
one a very small one. I am showing you two pictures of the small one and
two of some cousins of his. He is quite the wee-est beastie in this
country of ours, and nearly the wee-est beastie in all the world. He is
called the Pygmy Shrewmouse, and his name, as you see it printed, is
just about as long as his soft, velvet body.

I wonder how many of you know which is the _largest_ of our British
animals? If you guess quickly you are sure to guess wrong, and so I will
tell you, and then there will be no need to put you right. It is the
Blue Whale.

Very few of us have ever seen a Blue Whale, or, indeed, have ever had
the chance; but he comes to our northern coasts almost every summer, and
so, as he is met with in British seas, he is quite rightly called a
British animal.

He does not often swim close inshore, for, if he does, he is likely to
be caught by the tide, and left high and dry like a jelly-fish, which,
indeed, has more than once happened.

The Blue Whales which come to this country are between seventy and
eighty feet long (there is really no room to give you a picture of one)
and weigh between a hundred and fifty and two hundred tons. The Pygmy
Shrewmouse, tail and all, is less than three inches long and weighs
about a tenth of an ounce. Now I know that measurements are difficult
things for young folks to understand, so I will try to make you see the
difference between these two animals of ours in a different way. I
expect we all know what a lawn-tennis court looks like. Two Blue Whales
would just fill a lawn-tennis court, but if we wanted to fill a
lawn-tennis court with Pygmy Shrewmice, we should want five-hundred
thousand of them, and if we could lift a Blue Whale on an enormous pair
of scales, and tried to balance him with Pygmy Shrewmice, we should
want--how many do you think? We should want more than _seventy millions_
of them.


It is wonderful to think that the wee Pygmy and the huge Whale should
belong to the same Class of creatures. But it is so. Nearly all the
bones in the Pygmy (some are scarcely thicker than a hair) can be
matched by the same sort of bones in the Blue Whale. If the Blue Whale
were a fish (and he certainly looks like one) his bones would be quite
different and quite differently arranged, and from this we know that the
Whale is not a fish like a Shark, but an animal like a Seal, or a Pygmy
Shrewmouse or one of ourselves.

Now we must look at the pictures. You will see at once what a long nose
the Pygmy has got. This nose is very useful to him, for much of his food
is tiny insects, and he pokes his nose into tiny holes after them.

You can't see his teeth in the pictures, which is a pity, for they are
very curious teeth, and the front ones, instead of pointing up and down
like ours do, point outwards rather, and come together like a pair of
tweezers. This helps him to catch insects too, and to pull little snails
out of their shells.

I don't think his teeth are strong enough to crack snail shells, but his
dark-brown cousin, the Common Shrewmouse (his picture is on page 181),
cracks snail shells quite easily, and so does his black cousin, the
Water Shrewmouse.


What does the great Blue Whale eat, you ask? I expect you will be
surprised to hear that he eats much the same kind of things as the
Pygmy--small slug-like creatures, scarcely an inch long, which swarm in
parts of the sea. Of course he eats barrelfuls at once.

He catches them by a wonderful arrangement in his mouth, which is made
of what we call whalebone. It is something like the gratings across
drain-pipes, which let the water through but stop everything else, and
he can lift it up or drop it down as he pleases. When he is hungry, he
takes a huge mouthful of sea-water and lets it out again through this
whalebone grating. All the small slug-like things which are swimming in
the water are trapped, and, when he has got most of the water out of his
mouth, he swallows them.

 [Illustration: THE PYGMY SHREWMOUSE His fur has a
 beautiful purple bloom, like that on a yellow plum; and is
 so fine that it often shows mother-of-pearl colours]

I don't think that the Whale can have much trouble about getting his
dinner; all he has to do is to find the right piece of sea and then open
his mouth; but the Pygmy, I think, has to work very hard, as he has to
catch everything separately, and he is such a delicate little creature
that he is seldom about unless the weather is warm and fine.


Then he has to make up for the hungry time when bad weather has kept him
in his hole.

In the autumn one often finds dead shrewmice lying on the paths. Nobody
quite knows why they die in the autumn, but I think it is because only a
few of them, if any, are strong enough to stand cold and wet and hunger
all at once. The rest die just like the leaves die.

You must not think a dead Shrewmouse is like a live one to look at, for
he is quite different. When dead, the poor little beastie lies stretched
out straight, but when he is alive he is all bunched up together and
runs about like a little fur ball on legs.



Again the Fox Cub was puzzled. His muzzle wrinkled dubiously, his ears
twitched and puckered, he barked (a new accomplishment), he mewed (a
newer habit still), and then, since sound proved futile, he sank from
his hindquarters forward slowly, grounded his nose between his paws and

This was the queerest happening of all. Queerer than the briar's queer
flutter; and the shower of pink petals from it; and the glint of savage
little eyes half-way up it; and the savage little chestnut face behind
them. Queerer than the scream from the sky; and the rotten elm-branch
dancing bough to bough; and cannoning against the trunk; and shattering
at his feet. Queerer than the swish through the nettlebed--swish of a
purple snaking shadow, which might have been mere bird, had the trail of
it been clumsier, or its ripple more fretful.


Birds he had known since teething. Mother had brought them often; Father
less often--scraggy, thin-necked, towsled things, yet mostly of fine
flavour; finer than rabbits certainly (except quite baby rabbits);
finer, too, than frogs; or lizards; or mice; or snails; or any of the
myriad crawl-by-nights on which young teeth gain confidence.

The Fox Cub stared round-eyed towards the bracken. It certainly was
moving--moving in waves which spent themselves abruptly, moving in spins
and eddies. Now and again great swathes of it sank downward.

The Fox Cub froze to stone. His muzzle hardened; his ears drooped flat;
only his tail (his brush was yet to come) twitched half in interest,
half in apprehension.

The bracken started midway down the slope, in straggling, wayward
patches. These quickly joined in an unbroken mass, and, on the level
ground, gained full luxuriance. A cart-track twisted through them, half
of it clear to eyes above, half intercepted.

Beyond, the ground crept up once more--bracken gave place to bramble,
bramble to coppice, coppice to the sky.

The Fox Cub's eyes missed nothing.

Movement above he saw--the brown owl changing station. Movement upon
mid-slope--the dormouse in the brambles. Movement upon the
cart-track--the shrewmouse worrying snails. But these were mere
diversions--their interest passed. The bracken furnished a besetting
problem--movement inexplicable, sound inexplicable--long-drawn, wheezy
breathings, snorts of exertion, sighs of content. There was scent also,
heavy musted scent, which came in whiffs and dangled at his nose.

But for this scent he must have smelt the Stoat. The Stoat came dancing
up the wind, passed by to right of him, and swung about. He held himself
with an air, his body arched, one broad white pad uplifted, his tail
curved decorously. From where he lay, the Fox Cub took his measure, then
slowly reared himself and yawned. He, too, had teeth to show.

The Stoat's black tail twitched side to side. He met the challenge
squarely. The Fox Cub sank full length again. The Stoat tiptoed towards
him, and, stretching full-neck forward, nibbled at his fur. So was their
peace established.

"Badger," whispered the Stoat, and danced from point to point excitedly,
"Badger, grub-grub-grubbing."


A stunted patch of bracken burst apart, and from its cover lurched a
broad grey back.

"He scents you," said the Stoat.

The Fox Cub still lay motionless. It was the broadest back he yet had

"Should one run?" he whispered. This spelt sheer ignorance of the woods.

"Run?" said the Stoat. "Whoever ran from Badger but a rabbit? Badger is
all benevolence. Badger is King. We run towards him."

"Who are _We_?" said the Fox Cub.

"_We?_" said the Stoat. "Why, Marten, Polecat, Stoat, and Weasel.
Flesh-eaters All. All of one Brotherhood. Beasties Courageous. Squirrel
is living up to us--he does his best with eggs."


"_Squirrel is living up to us?_" It was a cough and splutter from above
and Stoat and Cub peered upwards. Squirrel sat twenty feet away, and
stamped with indignation. "Squirrel is living up to us? My plumed tail!
you wait till Squirrel grows."


"Never mind him," said the Stoat, "he's silly."

The broad grey back had swung about, and Badger's head was lifted.
Slowly it swayed from side to side, slowly it nodded.

"Where are his eyes?" whispered the Fox Cub.

"In his head," chuckled the Stoat.

"His head's a puzzle," said the Fox Cub--which, indeed, it was. Seen
from above, and swinging to and fro, its clean-cut symmetries of black
and white foreshortened in confusion.


"Wait till he fronts you," said the Stoat, and presently this happened.
The head stopped motionless. A broad white stripe divided it; on either
side were triangles of black; beneath was white again, and white tricked
out the outline of each ear.

"He's black beneath," said the Stoat, "and grey behind--now you can see

Badger had backed a pace or two and craned his neck to snuffle.
Ebon-chested he was and ebon-footed.

"Still I can't see his eyes," muttered the Fox Cub, but, even as he
spoke, he saw them--steadfast, watchful, gimlet eyes, as black as their
black setting.

"And now we _all_ have seen you," said the Stoat. "Marten has seen you;
Polecat has seen you; Weasel has seen you; I have seen you; and Badger
has seen you. Fox Cub, you yet have much to learn in stealth. Go, make
your peace with Badger."

"What have I done?" said the Fox Cub.

"You've come unasked," said the Stoat.

"I was brought," said the Fox Cub.

"That makes no difference," said the Stoat. "The wood belongs to US!"

"US! US! us!" the hillside caught the echo of it, and filled with
sibilant voices.


"US-S-S-S-s-s!" it was the Stoat departing.

"US-S!" screamed the Squirrel, boldly, from his branch.

"_You?_" sneered the Fox Cub. "You simian rat! You fuzz-tailed,
fish-eyed rabbit! Think of your teeth next time you wash your face."

The Squirrel stamped and spat at him. "Wait till I grow," he spluttered.
"Wait till my head's as big as yours. Wait till I give up nuts."

"Oh, do be quiet," said the Cub. "I want to think."

"It might be worth my while," he mused. "I _like_ this wood."


Badger was grunting softly to himself. His head still swayed and nodded.
Now and again he scratched the ground before him. The Fox Cub rose up
cautiously, and sat back on his haunches. He saw the whole of Badger
now, the iron-grey back, the magpie head, the stumpy tarbrush tail.

He stole two stealthy paces down the slope, but checked as Badger
squared himself. Two paces more--and Badger ducked his head, and charged
full drive uphill at him.

The Fox Cub bolted straightway, turned sharp upon the hill-crest, ran
half the length of it, slid headlong down the sand-cliff (the stones
rattling about him), followed the ride for fifty yards, swung sharply to
the right, and so, by some strange instinct, reached the gorse-clump.

 [Illustration: MARTEN HAS SEEN YOU]

He was quite badly scared. His tongue lolled dripping from his mouth;
his sides heaved painfully; he felt that, come what may, he must lie
down. So he squirmed, eel-like, underneath the furze, twisted himself
about, and, with his head thrust outwards, snuffed and listened. He had
outdistanced Badger--of that he soon assured himself. Yet there was
something watching him, something whose curious stare he felt. His eyes
ranged anxiously from point to point, dwelt on each tuft and hummock in
the grass, dwelt long upon a jerking patch of moss, which in due course
revealed a white-legged mouse, and in the end cast upwards.


Above him stretched a leafless branch of elm, and on its clean-cut,
fretted edge a moving blur intruded--a blur which swelled and shrunk in
steady rhythm, and twitched and wriggled forward in short jerks, so
closely welded to the bark, so neatly matched in hue to it, that, but
for movement, it had cheated sight.

The Fox Cub watched it furtively, his yellow eyes upturned. It checked,
and from the end of it dropped a soft feathery plume, and hung and
dangled lightly. Its lines were unmistakable, it was a tail. Then, as
the Fox Cub gazed, the head took shape--a flat-browed, taper-muzzled
head, with shimmery velvet eyes, which seemed to look beyond as well as
at him.

Such was the Marten couched. Their eyes met, and he saw her rampant. She
leapt from where she lay to where, six feet above, the branch forked
double. Astride on this, her forefeet on the upper arm, her hind-feet on
the lower, she faced about and screamed--

"Ai-_yah_-ai-ee! Ai-_yah_-ai-ee! A Fox! A Fox!"

The scream dropped to a whine, then to a bleat--"_Huh-huh-huh-huh!
Huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh!_"--then swelled into a scream again.

Out leapt the Fox Cub, impudent, and faced the music.

"The last part again, Marten," he cried. "Oh, _please_, the last part


The Marten stared, mouth open "A cub!" she gasped; "not even a grown
fox--a woolly, blunt-nosed cub."

"Do you know where you are?" she added, shortly.

"Yes, I do," said the Fox Cub. "The wood belongs to US. Marten and
Polecat, Stoat and Weasel. Flesh-eaters All. All of one Brotherhood.
Beasties Courageous. I hope I've got that right--and you all kow-tow to

"And where do _you_ come in?" said the Marten grimly. His coolness took
her fancy.

"The first good roomy hole I find," said the Fox Cub. "I like this wood
and in this wood I'll stop."

"_Huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh_," said the Marten.

"Quite so," said the Fox Cub.

The Marten snuggled down, her eyes a-twinkle.

"I know exactly the kind of hole you'd like," she said.

"Where's that?" said the Fox Cub.

"Listen to me carefully," said the Marten, "and you can't miss it. You
know where the holm oak is--of course you don't. Look here. Get back on
to the ride and follow that. It leads you to a hollow."

"It leads two ways," said the Fox Cub.

"You go downhill to the hollow," said the Marten, gently. "Right at the
bottom you will find an oak-stump, and if you look inside it (which I
don't advise), you will find a family of Polecats."


"Polecats?" said the Fox Cub.

"Yes, Polecats," said the Marten.

"Turn up to the left at the stump, and make for the silver birch at the
top of the rise. The hole is close by that."

"Much obliged," said the Fox Cub, "and perhaps you will be good enough
to get higher up the tree, while I come underneath."

"Certainly," said the Marten. From twig to twig she sprang, so daintily,
so airily, that a mere flutter signalled her ascent.

"Will this do?" cried she from the topmost branch. Her forefeet hung on
its extremity; her hind-feet curved and dangled; her tail twitched
underneath her.

"That will do," said the Fox Cub. Before the words were spoken he was
past the tree; before the Marten reached the ground he gained his
stride, which was good going. The Marten checked at twenty yards. "I've
done my share," she said, and sauntered up the tree again.


The Fox Cub quickly hit the ride, noted its slope, and keeping close in
touch with it, slunk velvet-footed through the abutting cover. His pads
dropped soft as thistle-down, he scarcely stirred a leaf, and yet the
weasel, nosing in the brambles, got wind of him and squeaked. She was a
five-inch weasel, too small to check his progress, yet large enough for
mischief. Should she be silenced? He swung about--the scent of her still
lingered--and in a moment he was on her trail. Three bounds and he had
sighted her. She shot beneath a bramble-patch, issued where he had least
foreseen, and tricked him in a maze of straggling roots. He worked back,
sulky-faced, towards the ride, but checked ten paces from the oak-stump.
Its tenant sat upon it--the purple, snaking, whiplash thing which had
perplexed him earlier. Now he saw head to tail of it. The white-rimmed
ears, the ochre-banded forehead, the bold eyes, spectacled with brown,
the coarse brown-purple body-fur flecked here and there with streaks of
shimmery buff--all these he took quiet note of, and presently saw many
aspects of them.


The Marten had been right. The Polecat's mate came sneaking from the
hollow, and close behind her squirmed four red-brown cubs, loose-jointed
yet, but muscular, whimpering pettishly, mauling each other as they ran.

Six Polecats knit by kinship! it was too much for one Fox Cub to face.
He cast wide off to right of them, and, creeping quietly round again,
regained the ride to leeward. Here it cut through rough coppice. The
western slope was thickly wooded, low bushes mostly, chestnut, birch,
and hazel, yet high enough to screen what lay beyond. He started to
explore the upper ground. At first the incline was easy, but half way up
it steepened to a cliff. Coppice gave place to grass and briar, and
these in turn to gorse and slithery sand. By slow degrees he zigzagged
to the summit, faced round, and scanned the depths which he had left.
The oak stump stood out clear against the ride, and, on his right, two
hundred yards away, he marked the silver birch. He scrambled down to
grass again, and, travelling quickly on mid-slope, found what he sought
within two minutes.

Viewed from below--it opened near the skyline--the hole seemed promising
enough. It was a spacious sheltered hole, almost a cavern--the depths of
it ink-black, the entrance to it jagged and arching. The Fox Cub stole
up cautiously and stopped dead on its threshold. Something was in
possession, something which split the darkened void in three; something
which crept out slowly from the black, first shadowy grey, then white--a
clean-cut _fleur-de-lys_ of white.

It was another Badger.

The Fox Cub leapt back sideways, but even so she caught him. She came
out (thirty pounds of her) full charge, and caught him low. The
attacking badger tosses like a bull, trusting to weight and side-swing
of the shoulders. He somersaulted twice. The Badger held straight on her
course and disappeared downhill.


The Fox Cub slowly pulled himself together. Had he been bitten? Bruised
he was all over, and sick, and giddy; and so, the hole being there, he
crept within it, and crawled down the main shaft for fifteen yards, and
took one of four turnings, and followed this until it forked, and then
chose the right gallery, and so attained the nest. Rather the haystack,
for the making of it had almost stripped an acre. Bracken there was, and
bent-grass, thyme and clover, arum stalk and bluebell, thick swathes of
them inextricably tangled, bedding enough for twenty half-grown cubs.

There was food also. He found a rabbit's leg at once, then a stiff
mummied frog, then half a snake. He made a closer search, and found more
rabbit. Each find he sampled. Most of them he gulped, but some he buried
carefully for seasoning, scraping small hollows to receive them, and
plastering earth upon them with his nose. This done, he coiled himself
up tight, and for five minutes dozed with wakeful ears. Thirst brought
him to his feet again; thirst and a sense of danger. Clearly this was
the Badger's hole--he owed that Marten something. The hole had a main
entrance. From this a single shaft led fifteen yards, but then it split,
and smaller tunnels joined it, tunnels which might end blind. Badgers no
doubt were most benevolent, but Badgers seem to charge at sight, and
tunnels were poor places to be charged in. The last reflection scared
him back to sense. He would be cornered hopelessly, would not know which
of twenty turns to take. That settled it. To wait for them was madness.
He must go.

 [Illustration: IT WAS ANOTHER BADGER]

He reached the entrance without accident, and dropped soft-footed down
the slope. A puddle on the ride was in his mind--a puddle just beyond
the Polecat's stump. He reached this safely also, stooped down his head,
and lapped his fill.

The wood was oddly silent. Dark clouds had massed low in the sky and
streamed to either side, outflanking it. Beneath their dreary shadow the
green and russet of the trees faded to lifeless grey. The grass-blades
stood up stiffly; the leaves hung stiffly downwards. All that was
weatherwise was taking cover. Down from the summit of the ride came the
two Badgers, bumping. They travelled leisurely.

First He would root an arum up (a flick with one fore-paw), and She
would place her paw where his had been. Then He would stretch tiptoe
against an oak, and She would do the same. Then He would wheel sharp
right or left, and She would follow like a truck.


The Cub had time to entrench himself securely. He chose the summit of
the Polecat's stump, and from it watched the pair of them bump past.
They quickened as they faced the rise, and grunted to each other; then,
with their heads down, sped in line uphill.

And with their going came the rain.

It spattered in large warning drops, then swished in sheets. Even before
the thunder-peals, and rattle of fierce hail, the stump became
untenable. The Fox Cub scrambled down from it, headed a dozen different
ways, and, in the end, grown desperate, pursued the retreating Badgers.
He caught them as they reached the hole, and saw them topple down it. He
gave them half a minute's grace and toppled after.


What happened next? That I can only guess at. Perhaps there was a Fox
Cub course for dinner; perhaps (and this, I think, is likeliest) the
Badgers took small notice of his entry. They may have even welcomed him,
and, in due course of time, his wife.


 Pretending to be a Spider]

The wolves and sheep I am going to talk about are all of them insects,
or rather all of them but one, for scientific people do not allow us to
call spiders insects. Insects have six legs and six legs only, while
spiders and mites and those sort of people have eight, and there are a
great many other differences between spiders and true insects which
would make it quite a dreadful blunder to put them in the same case in
the Museum, or to speak of them in the same breath when you know you are
talking to clever people.

The Spider, as you might guess, is one of the Wolves, and so is the
Dragon in the Water-weed, who turns into one of our largest dragon
flies, if he is lucky; while the caterpillars and the Giant Wood Wasp
are just silly harmless sheep.

Have you ever thought of the wonderful struggles which are always going
on in the insect world--the struggles to eat, and the struggles not to
be eaten? Nearly all insects seem to be the food for something or other.
Most animals enjoy them thoroughly, so do many birds, and many reptiles
and amphibians (frogs and toads) and many fish. I think that spiders
live on them entirely, and they have also cannibals to fear among their
own kind, for though most insects feed on plant-juice, quite a large
number of them turn to stronger meat, and spend their lives in hunting
their poor relations. It sounds rather horrible, doesn't it? But we may
be quite sure that everything of the kind has been mercifully arranged
so that this beautiful world of ours, with all its joy and colour, and
its millions and millions of happy children--I do not think that any
lives but those of human beings are ever really unhappy--may keep its
beauty always. That is why the ichneumon flies have to kill down the
caterpillars, for, if there were too many caterpillars, there would be
no hedgerows, let alone vegetables for dinner; and the Rove Beetles, who
have curly cock-up tails, have to kill down the little boring beetles,
for, if there were too many little boring beetles there would be no
trees; and the Crabros have to kill down the blue-bottles, for if there
were too many blue-bottles--well, goodness knows what _would_ happen to
some excitable people.

We must believe then that things are best as they are--that a struggle
for life is part of a Great Plan, Greater than our human minds can
grasp, and that the lives of the hunters are as useful in their way as
the lives of the hunted.

Now how would we ourselves act, if our lives depended on catching
things? And how would we act if our lives depended on not being caught?
I don't think we could add much to what the insects and spiders have
taught us. To hunt successfully you must get so near to your quarry that
you can kill it. If you are quicker-footed, well and good. If you are
slower-footed you may employ something quicker-footed than
yourself--this is what happens in fox-hunting; or you may approach
without being seen--this is what happens in deer-stalking: or you may
hide yourself and wait for your quarry to approach you--this is what
happens in tiger-shooting; or, lastly, you may employ traps and snares,
which is how most fishing is done. I don't think that any creatures but
ourselves employ lower creatures to hunt for them, but the other ways
are used by all sorts of animals, and the last two are used more
skilfully by insects and spiders than by anything else.


Look at the pictures of the spider on the bramble-blossom. This
particular spider belongs to a family called _Thomisus_ (I don't know
why) and he varies in colour from a bright sulphur yellow to a delicate
green, which is an exact match to the green of an unopened bramble-bud.
In three of the pictures (a fly has settled close to the spider in two
of them) you will be able to make out the spider pretty soon, I expect,
for he has stretched his legs out. He keeps quite still in this
position, and I think he fancies that he is a bramble-bud. But in the
other picture I am pretty sure that, if he did not happen to be a rather
fat spider, you would find it very difficult to distinguish him, and you
may be certain that a fly would find it just as difficult. He is a wolf
in sheep's clothing, and the sheep are bramble-buds.


 This is the back of him, and you can see that he is covered
 with a delicate water-weed]

And now for the Dragon in the Water-weed. You will not be able to make
him out at all at first, but if you look long enough you will see his
body which is too thick to be a piece of weed, and if you then let your
eyes travel upwards, you will see his "mask," which is like a pair of
folding-doors. These open and let his jaws out when he wants to use
them. And his disguise is even more slim than that of the spider, for
not only does he mimic the Water-weed round him--his straggly legs,
which you should be able to make out also, help him in this--but he
actually becomes part of his surroundings, for all over him grows a
delicate water-weed, and when he is at the bottom of the pond, where he
spends most of his time, he is _part_ of the bottom of the pond, and the
creatures which he would eat walk past him carelessly. He is a wolf in
sheep's clothing, and the sheep are water-weeds.

 As he looks when angry]

And now for the sheep who are just as clever really as the wolves. Two
of these are caterpillars--quite the most curious pair of caterpillars
to be met with in this country--and the third is a sawfly. Sawflies get
their name from having an instrument with which they can bore or saw, as
the case may be, into leaves or trees, and this is the largest one we
have in England.

The hunter-insects, as we have seen, disguise themselves so as to get
near their victims unawares, and the hunted disguise themselves very
often in the same way so as to avoid being seen, but sometimes in such a
way that if they _are_ seen they may appear to be much more terrible
creatures than they really are. And so we have the sheep in wolves'

 [Illustration: THE ICHNEUMON FLY]

The hunters of the caterpillars are the ichneumon flies. Ichneumon flies
do not eat caterpillars but lay their eggs inside them. They have a
special instrument for the purpose, and when the grubs hatch out they
gradually eat away the fleshy parts of the caterpillar so that it seldom
has strength enough to turn into a chrysalis, let alone a butterfly, or
moth, or beetle, as the case may be. Now what is the chief enemy of a
fly? Why, of course, a spider. If then something which dreads an
ichneumon fly can make itself look like that fly's worst enemy, a
spider, it will have a good chance of scoring off the fly.

The Caterpillar of the Lobster Moth, of which I show you two pictures,
can do this to a nicety. He has, as you see, an extraordinary shape for
a caterpillar, I don't think that any other caterpillar in this country
has the same long skinny legs--and he is able to strike extraordinary
attitudes which make him look very spidery indeed, particularly from in
front, for then the two little spikes at the end of his lobster body
appear over the top of his head and look like a spider's pincers. Mother
Nature has been very careful of her Lobster Moth caterpillar. When he is
quite a baby he looks just like a little black ant. When he is asleep he
folds up his legs and looks like a shrivelled beech-leaf--he usually
feeds on beech--and, when he is attacked by an ichneumon fly (you can
make him think he is being attacked by tickling him with a paint-brush)
he turns himself at once into a sham spider, by throwing back his head
as far as it will go and shuddering his skinny legs in the air.

 As he looks when angry]

The Puss Moth caterpillar is almost as curious. He, too, strikes
fearsome attitudes. He has eye-markings to help him (you will have read
about these elsewhere) and he can also squirt out an acid from
underneath his chin. These two defences are probably most useful against
animals and birds and lizards and creatures of that kind, but they do
not seem to be much use against an ichneumon fly, and so Mother Nature
has helped him further, by giving him two little pink whiplashes, which
shoot out from the prongs at his tail end when he is really annoyed.
When a fly comes near him he brandishes them as you see in the picture.

 [Illustration: THE GIANT WOOD WASP
 It has no poisonous sting, though it looks as if it had a
 very fine one]

Our last sheep is the Giant Wood Wasp, who is not a wasp at all, and is
much more common in this country than he used to be. He is a handsome
black and yellow insect with a body about an inch long, and his wolf's
clothing is his black and yellow colour. This is the commonest wolf's
clothing of all. You know I expect that a number of stinging insects,
wasps and bees, have a black and yellow, or black and red colouring, and
you know too, I dare say, that there are a great many flies who have no
stings but are coloured in much the same way. Well, it is thought that
these flies without stings, of which the Giant Wood Wasp is one, may
sometimes avoid attack because they frighten their enemies by looking as
if they _had_ stings. Suppose a young sparrow ate a wasp, he would
probably get stung, and it might happen that next time he saw a black
and yellow fly, he would mistake it for a wasp and so not eat it. If
this _did_ happen, the fly would have owed his life to being black and


 She puts her wings _underneath_ her body, so that they
 sha'n't get damaged, and holds on chiefly with her mouth]

How would you like to sleep straightaway through the winter, and miss
Guy Fawkes, and Christmas, and New Year, and Valentine's Day, and
skating, and snowballing, and round games in the evening, and having
stories read to you by the fire, and all those delightful things which
come to cheer us when the weather is damp and gloomy, making us feel
somehow that summer is a queer, impossible kind of time, just as in
summer we find it hard to imagine what it feels like to be really cold?
I want you to remember in this winter which is coming what a number of
little creatures in the wide world around you are fast, fast asleep. I
want you to think how wonderful it is that these little creatures are
able to dream away the time when there is nothing for them to eat, and
to wake again when there is food in plenty.

 [Illustration: BILL THE LIZARD]

Every year when the evenings begin to come quicker and quicker, and grow
colder and colder, Mother Nature, who is the mother of our dear own
mothers, puts her babies to bed at the time which she knows is best. A
queer set of babies they are! Babies of such different kinds that it is
a wonder she can keep them all in her head, and not have to say
sometimes to herself: "Good gracious, I forgot my dormouse: and I don't
believe my brown lizard was properly tucked up in the grass-tuft; and as
for my prickly hedge-pig, I don't remember where I sent him last."

But Mother Nature never does forget, and never spoils her babies. She
whispers "bedtime," and they go.

The little insects go first--the flies, and beetles, and earwigs, and
frog-hoppers, and myriads of other tiny creatures which you can see in
the grass on any warm day by just lying down and opening your eyes.

 [Illustration: TOADUMS]

For all Mother Nature's care I fear that most of these die, but some may
manage to live through the cold, and among the larger kinds of insects
some always do. You remember what I told you about the Brimstone
Butterfly! The Queen Wasp is another of the lucky ones.

She creeps into some sheltered crevice, where she can find a shred of
something small enough to take into her mouth. This sounds queer,
doesn't it? I will tell you the reason. The Queen Wasp sleeps hanging by
her jaws, and hardly trusting to her legs at all. You can see what she
looks like in the picture, and you must notice that she has tucked her
wings right underneath her body so that nothing can brush against them.


After the insects go the reptiles and the frogs. These are cold-blooded
creatures, so they have no need to make a nest to keep them warm, but
they don't like to be too cold, and always creep somewhere where the
frost will not reach them. Bill the lizard sometimes goes deep down into
a large grass-tuft, and sometimes creeps into a mouse-hole. Froggin
dives into a pond and wriggles into the mud, or underneath a stone, and
there sleeps under the water until the hot sunshine comes again, and he
knows, by the feel of things, that it is time to be moving. Toadums
prefers to sleep on land. He lies quite flat, with his hands in front of
his eyes, and wakes up a little later than Froggin.

 He bunches himself up so as to close all the doors that the
 air can get in by, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, everything]

After these the animals. Round Eye the dormouse goes to sleep about
November. He builds a nest of leaves and grass all around himself, and,
if the winter is cold, sleeps straight away into April. If the winter is
warm, however, he may wake up and eat a little food, and if he is a wise
little mouse, as he usually is, he keeps a little store of nuts and
seeds at hand in case he _does_ wake up. Prickles the hedge-pig does
much the same. He has a nest which is even warmer, for, besides the
leaves and grass which make the round of it, he rolls his spines into
anything soft which will stick to them and so has a nice warm blanket
next to his skin. Once he has dropped off to sleep he stays asleep till
the spring comes. I don't think he ever wakes up like the dormouse, or
ever makes a store of food.


The only other animals which sleep the winter through in this country
are the bats, and some of them sleep even longer than the dormouse and
the hedge-pig; indeed, they are only awake for three or four months in
the year. Sometimes there are crowds of them sleeping together in old
caves, and tree trunks, and places like that, and it may be that they
half wake up and talk to each other to pass away the time. Indeed, if
you know their hole and can put your ear close to it, you can sometimes
hear them talking and squabbling--faint little squabblings like the
sound of a kettle simmering on the hob when you can just hear the tiny
bubbles hitting each other and bursting with bad temper.

 He is not so tightly coiled as when he shuts up to defend

When bats are flying about and hunting for moths they often squeak for
joy, and then their voice is quite different. It is so high that some
people cannot hear it at all; but you can make a noise just like it by
striking two pennies sharply together, and if you can hear that being
done when you are several yards away from the person who is doing it,
you ought to be able to hear a bat squeak too.

 He is hanging head-downwards and is completely shut up in
 his own wings, which, you see, are beautifully folded]

You have to watch bats very closely before you can tell one kind from
another, and I expect some of you will be surprised to hear that there
are more different kinds of bats in England than there are of any other
kinds of animals. There are, at least, twelve different kinds of English
bats, and, as bats now and then seem to get blown over the sea from
France, or be brought in the rigging of ships, quite a strange foreign
bat may turn up sometimes.


 [Illustration: BARTIMÆUS]

Bartimæus was simply mole-tired (which is as tired as a beastie can be),
and he lay on his side, with his nose tucked into his waistcoat, and
dreamed of Nydia, fretfully. Nydia was half a field away, dozing in a
snug fortress of her own, with four fat helpless babies to attend to,
and not a passing thought for Bartimæus.

Five times within twelve hours had Bartimæus sought her. Five times had
he traversed his main-line tunnel, turned eastward at the junction by
the fence, and, breasting up the up-grade full tilt, thrust an inquiring
nose at Nydia's nest. Why shouldn't he? Why should he stand on ceremony
with four fat, squirmy, wrinkled, hairless infants?

But Nydia had been mightily offended. Each time she had boxed his ears.
Each time she had bitten him. And so he had retreated; not for fear, but
for black shame--black shame which he had brought upon himself; for
Father Moles may not approach Mole babies--that is Mole law, and that
has been Mole law since Moles first dug.

Long journeyings these to Nydia, a hundred yards each way at least, but
not of length to tire him. He had found time and energy for in-between
excursions. One to the mill-house orchard--there staring hillocks proved
it; one to the sacred croquet lawn--he left his marks here also; one to
the mid-field partridge nest, which meant one egg the less.


A cheerful strenuous day's work; on which, but for the finish of it, he
might have slept at ease.

Nydia's last bite and buffet had been real.

She swept her right hand cross-ways, baring her teeth in line with it,
and screwing round her shoulders for the swing. Then she lunged
backwards viciously. This meant a dragging wound which hurt, and
Bartimæus had bitten too, and, as ill-luck would have it, bitten a baby.
Nydia flung at him squealing, and, when a Mother Mole flings at you
squealing, one prudent course and only one is open.

His nose was bleeding as he started home, and he was hot and thirsty. He
headed straight for water. A ten-yard down-slant brought him to the
brook. He drank his fill, then, tempted by the coolness, set off
swimming. He swam as deftly as a water-shrew, high out of water, with
his stumpy tail cocked upward in his wake.


He reached the farther side without mishap, rustled the moisture off his
fur, then started climbing. The bank rose steeply over him, but here and
there a naked root gave hand-hold, and, shoulder-hoisted over these, he
scrambled to the level. On this he travelled easily, using his
paddle-hands as sweeps, and scuttling with his feet. From the brookside
half-way across the field, and almost to the dried-up middle-ditch, bent
grass-stems marked his trail. He checked close by the alder-stump, nosed
at the ground, and started digging.

Perhaps he scented supper.

The alder-stump is populous still. Its core, now sapless, lifeless
touchwood, is riddled through and through. Here moths-to-be, and
flies-to-be, and beetles-to-be have spent their youth and fattened.
Virtue still lingers in the roots, and, hidden by the forks and bends of
them, quiet lives consume, or bide their time. Now and again a human
hand "collects" them, now and again a mole, the skilfullest pupa hunter
in the world.

Yet Bartimæus was not really hungry--he dug more from ill-humour,
wrenching the grass-tufts sideways with his teeth, and slashing fiercely
with his hands, until he forced an entrance for his shoulders.

Then his whole action changed.

He stabbed his nose into the soil, and, twisting from the shoulders,
screwed it home. Then he drew back his head, turned over sideways, and,
with one shoulder and one hand thrust out, gained purchase where his
nose had been, and scratched at the soft earth. As one side tired he
turned about, and thrust its fellow forward. Sometimes he lay upon his
back, and heaved and squirmed and shuffled. Sometimes he screwed his
way, his whole frame twisted spirally, half prostrate, half supine.


He drove a six-inch downward slant, then, for one yard, a level course,
then upwards half a foot again. His pink nose broke the surface crust,
snuffed, and dropped back. The first stage was accomplished, but only
the first stage. His tube was choked and littered end to end. He backed
nine inches through the loose, reversed, ducked down his head, and
charged. Part of the rubble caked as he drove past, and part was swept
before him to the outlet. It spurted through and sprayed upon the grass.
Six charges raised a mole hill, and left a half-yard tunnel clear. His
hands compressed the sides of it to smoothness.

He made a cave and four runs leading from it. Three plunged deep down,
and hillocks marked their course. The fourth was near the surface. Its
flimsy roof, pressed upwards from below, and dotted end to end with
spits of soil, cast a betraying shadow.

It was good feeding-ground. In it were worms innumerable, slow-minded
worms which held their ground too long, and footless leathern-coated
grubs, grubs of beetles and flies, and eggs innumerable, grasshoppers'
eggs, earwigs' eggs, and eggs of smaller fry, some massed in sticky
clutches, some dispersed.

He toiled and fed alternately. He made a nest inside his cave, a mass of
leaves and grasses dragged down into his surface run (to thrust his
mouth out was sufficient), and pulled or pushed into their proper

This done he slept, his head tucked down between his hands, his hind
feet curled up under him.

All but his ears slept soundly.

       *       *       *       *       *

_One-Two--One-Two--One-Two._ Twin footfalls almost over him, and with
them a soliloquy deep-toned.

"Comin' right down valley they be. That's them water-works. Down goes
springs. Up comes nunkey-tumps. I'll get this one for sure. Here!

Out like a loosened spring leapt Bartimæus, and plunged into his surface
run. Half-way along it he stopped dead and listened, the tip of his pink
nose thrust through the roof.


Man's booted tread he knew full well; man's voice he knew, but something
else was coming,--something which lilted pit-a-pat, something with
yielding velvet pads, something four-footed. It danced towards him,
louder still and louder, till a hoarse whisper checked it. "Steady you
fool! Here good dog! Steady!"

The pink nose dropped. Only one grass-blade stirred, but Tatters saw it.

His every muscle tautened as he pointed. His hair stood stiff upon his
back, his eyes stared fixedly.


For half a minute he stood tense; then Bartimæus breathed, and at his
breath a grass-stem twitched and flickered.

Tatters upreared and poised himself, stayed poised a moment, then, with
a vicious dropping lunge, stabbed with his forefeet downward. His muzzle
followed instantly, and screwed and ploughed along the run until the
weight of roof upcurled checked further progress.

Then only did he raise his head and look back shamefaced at his master.
He had completely missed.

"Tatters, you'm grown old, I reckon--like your Master. Never mind, lad,
we'll have 'im yet. We'll put a trap down tea-time. Come off it now!
Think you can scratch him out?"

Tatters was burrowing tooth and nail, uprooting grass clumps with his
teeth, drumming with his forefeet, and showering sods between his hind
feet backwards. He raised a wistful, mud-stained face and whined, shook
himself doubtfully, started, turned back for one more scratch, then
galloped to his master's call.

And Bartimæus had been burrowing too--opening a bolt-hole which should
close behind him, passing the dislodged earth beneath himself, and
piling it to cover his retreat.

Tatters had all but pinned his body, and that would have meant death to
him. Tatters _had_ pinned his tail, but, with a wriggle, he had freed
himself, out-distanced the pursuing nose, dived through the nest, and
twisting sharply right, reached the west outlet shaft. Fist over feet he
scuttled down and screwed himself into the blinded end. He bored two
yards zigzagging, then paused for breath. He pricked his stumpy whiskers
up, starred the grey fur about his eyes, spread wide his pinhole ears.
He was quite safe. The ground before, behind, and on all sides of him,
was dead. Ten minutes passed before he moved, then he worked quickly
upwards, and broke the ground beneath a clump of thistles.


"They've gone," said a small piping voice above him.

The nose of Bartimæus, pink and quivery, had issued first, his bullet
head had followed, then his great hands and shoulders. The sunbeams
played upon his coat, and waves of limpid shimmery blue crept softly to
and fro in it.

"They've gone," the Harvest Mouse repeated.

"Excellent!" said Bartimæus. "I can't see who I am talking to--this
awful glare!--but it will pass--and meanwhile I can guess at you. You
are a mouse; a small mouse, with sharp-pointed toes, a blunted tail, and
a warm-orange coat."

"How did you know that?" said the Harvest Mouse.

"I heard you, and I felt you, and I smelt you," said Bartimæus. "You ran
up just before I put my nose out. I heard your tail flick after you. I
heard the leaves crack underneath your feet. I felt and smelt your
colour. If you lived underground like me, you'd notice things."

"Give me the sunshine," said the Harvest Mouse (its beauty doubled on
her coat). "If you could see what I can see you'd go back home."


"How's that?" said Bartimæus.

"It's near the fence," the Harvest Mouse replied, "you'd better run and
look at it."

"It would take a lot to scare _me_," said Bartimæus, and puffed his
little chest out. His chest was like the mouse's back, warm orange.

"This will scare you," she said. "You strike from here towards the sun
and you can't miss it. It throws a shadow at you."

"I'm off," said Bartimæus, and straightway started burrowing.

The Harvest Mouse stood up full length, and watched his ripple fading
into distance. Then she dropped down to earth.

"That was a quite nice Mole," she said, "it really _is_ a pity."

A surface run is child's play to a Mole. He bores it almost at his
surface pace. The roof springs ready-moulded from his back, and
lengthens like a paid-out rope behind him.

The fence was reached so suddenly that Bartimæus stubbed his nose
against it. He bit and tore it, thinking it was root, then, finding it
too hard for him--it was red teak--worked ten yards back and thrust his
head and shoulders above ground.


The sun was low behind the fence. The shadow of it lengthened out
towards him and, in between its clefts, crept dazzling gold-red rays.
For full ten minutes Bartimæus' head swayed nodding side to side. Now
and again he twitched one hand impatiently. He fought for a clear
vision. Each time he faced the dazzling streams of light, his head fell
worsted sideways, and minutes passed before he could look up again.

At last their brilliance faded, and, somewhat to the right of him, a
stunted bush took shape.

The stem of it loomed dark in the fence shadow; the leaves were darker
still--and there was something queer about the leaves. They were too
large, too black, too solid.

The breeze could hardly stir them, and, when they stirred, it was as
though they spun.

No more could be determined certainly. He left his run bent on a closer

It was no bush at all. It was a thick-stemmed alder-branch staked in the
soil. The leaves were moles--moles like himself, or rather moles which
had been like himself. For all were dead. Their bodies dangled
pitifully, or, with poor shrivelled outstretched hands, spun as the
breeze compelled them.

It was too much for Bartimæus' nerves. He turned about and fled, crashed
luckily through his own tunnel's roof, and ran as though mole-ghosts
were at his heels.

And something ran ahead of him, and reached the thistle half a yard in


"Did you find it?" said the Harvest Mouse. She sat at her old station

"You beast," said Bartimæus, "you heartless little beast."

The Harvest Mouse drew herself up indignant.

"You're blinder than I thought," she said.

"It was a mean trick," muttered Bartimæus.

"It was a good turn," said the Harvest Mouse.

"Now listen, for I know this meadow end to end. It is no place for
Moles. Ask the red-coated Meadow Mouse. Ask the Pygmy Shrew. Ask any one
who really knows. Worse things than dogs come into it."


"Weasels!" said the Meadow Mouse. "Oh, never wait for weasels in a run.
I really thought that you were one behind me." This to Bartimæus.

"Cats!" said the Pygmy Shrew. Vainly did Bartimæus strive to see her--a
sorrel leaf concealed her, head to tail.

"Worse than dogs. Worse than weasels. Worse than cats," said the Harvest
Mouse. "TRAPS!"

"We Harvest Mice are never trapped, and stump-tail mice are only trapped
by chance--or their own folly. I saw one once. He walked inside because
it rained in torrents. Down went the door, and he was drowned, with
cheese afloat all round him."

"Cheese is good," said the Meadow Mouse.

"Cheese is glorious," said the Pygmy Shrew.

"There you are. You'd go anywhere for cheese," said the Harvest Mouse.
"One bite--a snap behind--and then where are you?"

"I'm out in front," said the Pygmy Shrew.

"You'll try that once too often," said the Harvest Mouse.

"Now I hate cheese--the smell of it spells danger. But there are traps
and traps--and the worst traps are traps with nothing in them."

"That's so," said the Meadow Mouse.

"You can smell them, can't you?" said Bartimæus.

"You can smell them if you go slow enough," said the Harvest Mouse, "but
when do _you_ go slow? Now mark my words. It's just about your sleeping
time. You'll sleep for your full hour, then you'll wake hungry. You'll
rush full tilt until you reach your slant. You'll rush down that, you'll
rush along your gallery. _Won't_ you now?"

"P'raps," muttered Bartimæus. He had withdrawn his nose below, and sleep
was stealing over him.

"Well, don't!" said the Harvest Mouse.

"Don't!" said the Meadow Mouse.

"Don't!" said the Pygmy.

"Don't what?" said Bartimæus in his sleep.

"Don't rush!" said the Harvest Mouse. "Don't rush. Don't rush!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He slept for his full hour and woke to find the Pygmy at his side. "It's
in your centre gallery," she whispered. "I've slipped right through it

"My _centre_ gallery?" shouted Bartimæus. "My _centre_ gallery? I'll
have my centre gallery clear."

He started burrowing straightway.

"Don't rush!" the Pygmy screamed behind. "Don't rush! It's death to

And yet it was his rush that saved him.


The crumbled earth which still lay in the bolt-hole, melted before it.
Part slipped to either side of him. Part massed before his plunging
head, and, reaching the clear downshaft, dropped. With it there dropped
a stone--a rounded half-inch stone, which danced along the gallery at
the foot, cannoned from side to side of it, spun round and pulled up
short, six inches in advance of him. His senses signalled something in
his path. His senses signalled a clear passage through it, and a clear
space beyond it. His senses urged more pace. So he crashed on. He
stubbed his hands against a ring of iron: the ring gave way: there was a
snap and two iron jaws had gripped his waist. But for the stone which
jammed against the clinch of them, he must have met his death. And death
itself had scarcely brought more torture. It was as though the half of
him sped on while half remained behind. The back wrench left him
senseless, and so the Pygmy found him. It was the pit-pat of her on his
fur, the cobweb flutter of her questionings, which roused him back to


"I'm done," he muttered, "done as sure as sure."

"Not you!" she answered bravely, "the trap's not closed--not half.
_Wriggle_, dear Uncle, _wriggle_!"

And Bartimæus wriggled.

He wriggled right; he wriggled left; he wriggled up; he wriggled down;
he brought his hands to bear upon the iron and with a supreme twist he
wriggled free.

Then he saw red.

He flung himself against the trap, and bit at it, and scratched at it,
and shook it with his shoulders, and heaved and strained and wrenched at
it, until it lay upturned upon the surface. He was convulsed with windy
gusts of rage: nose-tip to tail he boiled; nor did he gain composure
until the field was far behind, and he had reached the smooth-faced tube
which led to his own fortress. Hand over foot he sped the length of it,
dived down the U-shaped entrance hole, bobbed up again and climbed into
his nest.

His troubles were not over.

His fortress, his own fortress, had been breached. The nest lay open to
the day, windswept.

For a full hour he toiled repairing it, then, mole-tired, coiled to


  "''Tis green! 'tis green, Sir, I assure ye.'
  'Green!' cries the other in a fury.
  'Why, Sir, d'ye think I've lost my eyes?'
  ''Twere no great loss,' the friend replies,
  'For if they always serve you thus,
  'You'll find them but of little use.'"

I wonder how many of you know these lines? Not so very long ago most
young people used to have to learn the poem from which they are taken,
but I don't think the poem can be quite such a favourite as it used to
be. Perhaps we are all getting to be such good naturalists that we know
it is not quite true, for, though Chamæleons change their colours in a
very wonderful way, they do not go red, white, and blue, in the way
which the poem makes out.

I think I must tell you a little story about a Chamæleon, though some of
you may perhaps have heard it before. An old lady once had a pet
Chamæleon which she was very fond of, and which her manservant, John,
used to look after. He was very fond of the Chamæleon too, and he used
to amuse himself by putting it on to different coloured things in his
room and watching it change colour. Well, one day, the old lady had a
friend to tea, and she thought she would like to show her the Chamæleon,
so she rang for John.

"John," she said, "bring in the Chamæleon."

John looked very sorry for himself. "Please ma'am," he said, "I can't."

"Can't?" said his mistress. "Why not?"

John looked still more confused. "Please, ma'am," he said, "he's gone."

"Why, how is that?" said the lady.

"Well, ma'am, I was playing with him, and I put him against my baize
apron, and he turned green."


"And then I put him against the red tray, ma'am, and he turned red."

"Yes, yes! Of course he would."

"And then I put him against your tartan plaid, ma'am, and--_and he just
bust hisself_."


I am afraid that that story is not altogether true either.

I must try to explain to you how a Chamæleon changes colour. Of course
you all know that there are black men, and brown men, and
copper-coloured men, and yellow men, and what we call white men; and you
know, too, that among white men some have much darker skins than others.

Now the colour of people depends a little on the colour of their blood,
for there is a network of tiny veins in the lower part of their skin,
but it depends even more on millions of little specks of yellowish and
brownish paint which lie in the upper part of their skin. A negro may be
as black as your hat outside, but his blood is red all the same, and he
looks black because the little specks of paint in the upper part of his
skin are very dark and hide the red blood behind them. When people
change colour it is because for one cause or another the colour of their
blood can be more plainly, or less plainly, seen; and, when this cause
is taken away, their old colour returns, for the little specks of paint
have not altered in themselves at all.


In Chamæleons, however, and several other creatures, which change colour
much more than we do, and keep their changed colour for quite a long
time, the specks of paint lie in the _lower_ part of the skin, and often
there are numbers of them clustered together as if they had been pressed
down tight into little bags. These clusters of paint specks have the
power of branching out like sea anemones, and afterwards pulling
themselves together again like sea anemones when they are frightened.
When they are spread out so as to be as large as possible, the Chamæleon
is dark-coloured; and when they are drawn in so as to be as small as
possible, the Chamæleon is light coloured; and when, as is really most
usual, they are spread out in one part of his body and drawn in in
another, the Chamæleon is piebald. I expect you will be curious to know
what colour the specks of paint are, and whether they are always the
same. They are so small that one needs a powerful microscope to see
them; but, as far as we can tell, they are always brownish or reddish,
so that the greens and blues which are often to be seen in patches on a
Chamæleon have to be accounted for in some other way. It would take too
long to explain the blues and greens to you thoroughly, but I think I
can give you one little hint about them. You all know what
mother-of-pearl looks like. If you hold a piece one way it seems a dull
grey all over, but if you hold it another you see all the colours of the
rainbow, and you can even make the colours move about it if you handle
it properly. Now if the colours were paint they would not move about,
though they might not be so bright in some positions as in others, and
for the present you must be satisfied to know that a Chamæleon skin,
besides holding clusters of paint-specks which change their shape, is so
wonderfully made that it can show mother-of-pearl colours as well.


A grown-up Chamæleon is usually greenish in the daytime, with brown
patches on his sides. When he goes to sleep at night he turns
cream-coloured and his patches become yellowish. A baby Chamæleon is
snowy white, and doesn't get spotted even when he is angry or excited,
as a grown-up Chamæleon always does.

Now for the Chamæleon pictures. First you must notice his eyes. He has
enormous eyeballs, but instead of having two eyelids to each, as we
have, he has one eyelid to each (it is really made up of two stuck
together), with a tiny round hole in the centre for his eye to look
through. This is queer enough, but there is something even queerer about
a Chamæleon's eyes. He can move either eyeball up or down or sideways,
but he hardly ever moves both the same way, so that he has quite the
most wonderful squint in the world, and often keeps one eye looking over
his shoulder while the other looks straight in front of him.

Next you must look at his long, skinny arms and legs, and especially at
his hands and feet. Like ourselves he has five fingers or toes on each,
but they are differently arranged from ours. You must remember, of
course, that our thumbs are really fingers. On each hand a Chamæleon has
three thumbs and two fingers, and on each foot he has two great toes and
three ordinary toes.


 Top Row     Nuts gnawed by Meadow Mice
 Second Row   "     "     " Dormice
 Third Row    "     "     " Field Mice]

I am going to end the articles in this book by telling you how you may
best see for yourselves some of the queer creatures which I have
photographed, for the real beasties are far, far more interesting than
any photographs of them can be, and they are not so very difficult to
see if only you go the right way about it. I think the Winter is as good
a season as any to begin in, at any rate with the fur-folk, for there is
sure to be plenty of mud, which is a splendid thing for footprints to
show up on, and there may be a fall of snow, which will tell you more in
a day of the coming and goings of your little brothers, than you could
learn without it in a year.

If you put on your thickest boots and go out into the fields and along
the hedgerows, after a heavy snowfall, you will find thousands and
thousands of footprints. Most of these will be the footprints of birds,
but some, you will see at once, belong to four-footed creatures. I am
showing you pictures of some of the commonest of these so that you may
know them the next time you see them. I have left out Bunny-Rabbit on
purpose, because I think you will be able to find out what his curious
footprints are like for yourselves, and will remember them better that

 [Illustration: THE WEASEL'S TRAIL]

We will begin with the Weasel's trail in the picture on the opposite
page. You will see that there are two different looking trails showing,
but they both belong to the same weasel. The reason they look so
different is that one set are fresh and the other set are a day old.
There has been a slight thaw, and this has melted the snow so that the
oldest trail has fallen in a little. All the trails lead to a woodpile,
and I used, after the snow had all gone, to go to that woodpile in the
evening and wait for the weasel to come out, and watch him play, which
he always did for some time before he started hunting.

 The mice had made quite a beaten track from one hole to
 another--this you can see at the top of the picture. The
 other tracks are the weasel's, except one, which shows the
 imprint of a mouse-tail]

It was quite exciting to follow that little Weasel's trail in the snow.
I came to where he had startled a moor-hen and to where he had startled
a rook, and to where he had had a splendid game chasing mice. I am
showing you a picture of this, and you will notice at once the line down
the centre of one of the tracks, which is made by Mousey's tail. Another
of the pictures shows you two mouse-tracks running to separate
mouse-holes, which I was very glad to know about, and which I don't
think I should ever have seen but for the tell-tale snow. A Rat's track
is much the same, only larger; and a Stoat's track is the same as a
Weasel's, only larger. A Hedgehog does not often come out in the snow,
but he does sometimes and leaves a very smudgy track behind him, for he
drags his fur along the ground.

 You can see where the Rook's wing hit the snow]

Snow shows one much more than mud, but, unless it is of just the right
softness the prints in it are apt to be splodgy, and I don't think you
ever get so perfect a track in snow as you sometimes do in mud. The
pictures of the Vixen's and the Otter's footprints will show you what I
mean. A Vixen's footprints are smaller than a Fox's, and a Fox's
footprints are smaller than most people think, indeed a Fox is a smaller
animal than most people think. I have a little wire-haired terrier whose
footprints are much larger than those of a Vixen. At the same time it is
not very easy to distinguish a Fox's track from that of a small dog.
Generally a Dog's claws make their mark as well as the pads, and this
does not often happen with the Fox; but I think a better way of telling
the difference is to remember that a Fox's pads are more oval-shaped
than a Dog's. You will always, I think, be able to tell an Otter's
footprints (some people call them the Otter's seal) by their size, and
by their leading to or from the water. Usually the claws can be clearly
traced and sometimes the webbing of the feet as well. I have never seen
clean-cut Badger's footprints--all I have met with have been very broad
and splodgy, more smears than patterns--and I have never seen a Marten's
trail at all.


 [Illustration: THE FOX'S FOOTPRINTS]

Footprints tell us a good deal of what is going on about us, and so do
"runs" in the grass, and "runs" in the hedges. But, of course, there are
other things to be looked for. Often one finds the remains of beasties'
meals, nuts for instance. Nuts with clean-cut round holes in them have
been gnawed by Dormice, nuts with jagged holes by Red Meadow Mice and
Wood Mice, nuts split clean in half most likely by Squirrels. Otters
leave half-eaten fish about sometimes, and scattered broken eggshells
tell you where Stoats have been running the hedgerow. If you notice
where you find these things and keep your eyes open, you are sure in
time to see what you are looking for.


 [Illustration: And the last thing that Winnie remembers was
 the Great Green Grasshopper's Wife hurrying the little
 Skipjacks off to bed.]



"I beg your pardon!" said the Great Green Grasshopper's wife.

"I think I ought to beg yours," said Winnie politely.

Perhaps, however, you would like me to begin at the very beginning. Very
well, then; but you must remember that, for most of it, I can only tell
you what Winnie told me. It all seems to have happened between Christmas
Eve and Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, our Cricket, who lives in the
kitchen behind the hot-water pipes, had started chirruping as usual, and
I had gone into the library, and hunted out an old, old Christmas book
and started reading to my small friends a story which began with a
cricket singing against a tea-kettle. Then we had had a snapdragon, and
then the waits had come round, so everything had been as Christmassy as
ever it could be. Just as the waits finished Winnie had got into bed and
snuggled herself up. All this I can vouch for myself, for I was there
all the time, and I can remember how good the snapdragon was, though I
did not eat quite so many raisins as one little girl. However, as she
said afterwards, "Even if I did eat thirty, Father, it was quite worth

So much for the true part of the tale--now for the magic. Winnie tells
me that she never went to sleep at all! The waits and the cricket and
the snapdragon and the kettle were all mixed up in her head, and the
snapdragon had turned hungry and was trying to snap up the waits, and
the kettle was puffing like a little traction engine, and in between the
puffs there was a sad little chirrupy sound which she thought must be
the cricket. It seemed only kind then that she should slip out of bed,
listen on the landing, and creep down to the kitchen to see how the
cricket was getting on. She found him sitting on the hearthstone and
watching the people in the fire going to church.


"I can't attend to you now," he said, "I'm just going out."

Winnie had half expected him to speak, but she was a little frightened
all the same, and a little curious too.

"Do take me with you," she said. "Where are you going?"

"Where am I going?" said the Cricket in a surprised tone. "Why, it's
Christmas Eve!"

"Yes, isn't it lovely!" said Winnie; "and to-morrow there'll be
presents. But where are you going?"

"I'm going to be a wait, of course," said the Cricket. "I've been
practising all the evening. Listen!"

He ducked his head and lifted up his wings, and a chirrup fluttered out
of them and ran all round the dresser. It _was_ a chirrup! It wriggled
in between the plates and dived into the soup-tureen, and climbed the
tea-cup handles, and danced upon the saucers, until the sour deal
boards, which had had all the softness scrubbed out of them (and were
cross-grained to begin with), felt little thrills of pleasure running
down their backs. Then it climbed up the wall and rattled the
dish-covers, and at last it died away with a little squeak inside the

"What do you think of that?" said the Cricket triumphantly.

"It's beautiful," said Winnie; "but where are you going?"

"You'll see presently," said the Cricket; "and I wish you wouldn't
chatter so. You nearly made me forget him."


"Forget who?" said Winnie.

"Our drummer," said the Cricket. "Keep still--I heard him a minute ago."

There was a long pause--so long that Winnie almost screamed, for there
was nothing but the clock-tick to listen to.

Then something joined the clock-tick--_One-two-three-four, pit-tip,
tip-pit, one-two-three-four, pat-tap, tap-pat_ (just like soldiers a
long way off, as Winnie explained), and presently the drummer himself
appeared. He was a very small, squat, round-shouldered beetle, and he
came out of a hole in the beam which ran across the ceiling.


"What a nuisance it all is!" he yawned. "I was just going off to sleep
when I heard you. Is there no one else who can drum?"

"No one who can drum like you," said the Cricket, which is far the best
way to answer these questions.

"Very well," said the Beetle, "but my wife must come too," and the pair
of them dropped with two little flops on to the edge of the kitchen
table. Then the clock chimed in--_one-two-three-four_, right away up to

"Shall _I_ come too?" said a mean little oily voice from under the
coal-scuttle. Winnie could just see the Cockroach's whiskers making
quivery passes in the air, and she sat down and drew her nightie round
her feet as tight as ever she could. She was quite relieved to hear the
Cricket's answer.

"Of course not," he said; "you never played anything in your life."

"It's all the same to me," said the Cockroach. "I've given up those
silly meadows long ago. Good-night, lunatics!" and he drew his whiskers
in and disappeared.

"Was that eleven?" said the House Cricket, taking no notice of his
rudeness. "We've no time to lose then. Come along!"

Winnie climbed up on his back as if it were the most natural thing in
the world, and the two Beetles climbed up behind her. The drummer Beetle
started playing at once--_one-two-three-four, pit-tip, tip-pit;
one-two-three-four, pat-tap, tap-pat_--and the whole four of them sailed
up the chimney. It was not hot (as Winnie explained), for the fire had
burnt very low and that was what had beaten the kettle, but it _was_
sooty, and she remembers quite well longing to see the clean, white snow
on the roof. The Cricket went up crab-wise--a little jump to one side
and a little jump to the other; so he took quite a long time to reach
the chimney-pot, and when he crawled on to the edge of it the snow was
all gone. ("That was the queerest thing of all, Father," said Winnie
"there were leaves and flowers and sunshine, and it was just like

"Now hold tight," said the Cricket, "while I unpack my wings."


This was quite a long business, for the Cricket had to keep moistening
his fingers, and Winnie and the Beetles had to keep crawling up and down
his back, so as not to be in the way. At last everything was ready, and
the Cricket poised himself on the edge of the chimney, spread his wings
wide apart, and slid into the air. Winnie was just a little frightened
at first, and she put her head down close to the Cricket's neck and shut
her eyes and dug her fingers into the chinks of his back; but presently
she felt that it was no good being frightened, for they were going quite
smoothly, and the Cricket's wing-covers were high up on either side of
her, so that she could hardly have fallen off if she had tried to. Soon
she felt brave enough to raise her head very carefully and look about
her. The kitchen chimney was some way behind, the great elm on her left,
and the river close in front. Just before they reached the river the
Cricket's wings buzzed like blue-bottles, and she felt they were going
upwards. Then came another long, gentle glide, and the Cricket landed on
the blackberry hedge at the bottom of the meadow.


"You must all get off here," he said.

Winnie stepped off his back on to a slippery thorn, missed her footing,
and fell on the top of the Great Green Grasshopper's wife.

"I beg your pardon!" said the Great Green Grasshopper's wife.

"I think I ought to beg yours," said Winnie politely--which is where the
story began some time ago.


The Great Green Grasshopper's wife was more amused than offended.

"Don't mention it," she said. "I suppose you've come to help us, and I'm
very glad to see you. It is really most unfortunate, but I couldn't
possibly let my husband come--the first Christmas Eve he has missed for
years--but, as I said to him, 'If your leg's frostbitten, you're much
better in your hole.' Don't you agree with me?"

"Oh, yes, I think so," said Winnie, who felt she must say something.

"Of course we shall miss him very much," said the Great Green
Grasshopper's wife, "but if the Field Cricket isn't too nervous, I dare
say we shall pull through. I see you have brought our drummer with you,
and here is the Mole Cricket coming up, and the Wood Cricket, and I saw
the Bush-cheeps a moment ago. Do you really mean to tell me that you
have never met any of them? Then I must introduce you. This is the Mole
Cricket. You can't ever mistake him if you have once seen his feet; and
this is the Field Cricket--you can't mistake a blackamoor like him
either; and this is the Wood Cricket with the check trowsers; and the
Bush-cheep always wears a brown tail-coat and a greeny waistcoat. Now
you all know each other and we must get to work. What do you play?"

Winnie had been getting a little uneasy all this time, for the Crickets
had been unpacking their instruments and making little scrapes just like
the band before the pantomime, and she had felt that she would be
expected to do something too, and had made up her mind as to what she
would say if she were asked.

"I can play a grass-blade a little," she said.

"Well, there's lots of grass about," said the Great Green Grasshopper's
wife. "Let's hear you do it."

So Winnie picked a big blade of grass and jammed it tight between the
balls of her thumbs and pressed her lips hard against it and began to
play. The first note sent the Great Green Grasshopper's wife's hind legs
straight up in the air, turned the Mole Cricket and the House Cricket
and the Wood Cricket and the Bush-cheeps head-over-heels, and drove the
Field Cricket into his hole.

"Easy, easy!" said the Great Green Grasshopper's wife. "You nearly blew
my tail off. Can't you play more softly?"


"I'll try," said Winnie.

"Please do," said the Great Green Grasshopper's wife. "There, I knew
what would happen. See what you've done."


The Field Cricket had all but disappeared, and there were only two
little black legs sticking out of his hole.

"It's no use your trying to play in there," said the Great Green
Grasshopper's wife. "Nobody will hear you at all."

"I can't help it," said the Field Cricket; "my nerves are completely

"See what you've done," said the Great Green Grasshopper's wife again.
"It will take him twenty minutes to recover."

And she was quite right. For twenty long minutes they had to wait and
look at one another, and even at the end of that time the Field Cricket
still seemed very shaken.

"I will do my best now," he said at last, "but I simply _must_ have my
head hidden." He had backed out of his hole a little way and lifted up
his wing-covers. Every now and then he chirruped softly.


"Well, it's better than nothing," said the Great Green Grasshopper's
wife, "and you certainly have some excuse this time. Now let's begin."
She climbed a little higher in the hedge, tapped sharply with one hind
leg, and looked about her.

"Are you all ready?" she said. "Drums?"

"Here!" said the Beetles.

"First violin?"

"Here!" said the Field Cricket.

"Second violin?"

"Here!" said the House Cricket.


"Here!" said the Wood Cricket.


"Here!" said the Mole Cricket.


"Here!" said the Bush-cheeps.


"Here!" said Winnie, screwing her lips up very tight.

"Good!" said the Great Green Grasshopper's wife, and she reared herself
up backwards and began to beat time with her hind legs.

"Two bars first," she said. "Now!"

At the third bar they all came in very fairly together, but before they
had played half a minute the Great Green Grasshopper's wife stopped

("It was really worse than the real waits," Winnie explained. "It was
like a million little glass stoppers being squeaked out of bottles--and
they didn't seem to mind the time a bit.")

The Great Green Grasshopper's wife looked at Winnie quite severely.

"I asked you to play softly," she said; "you're drowning the whole band."


"I _can't_ play more softly than that," said Winnie.

"Well, there's only one thing to be done then," said the Great Green
Grasshopper's wife. "I must hunt up the Skipjacks."

The Skipjacks are the little grasshoppers who live in the fields, and it
takes quite a number of them to play a tune that you can hear.


"Wait for me here," said the Great Green Grasshopper's wife; "I sha'n't
be long!" And she leapt like a jump-jim-crow and landed three yards
clear of the hedge.

She really was some time away, but at last she reappeared driving the
Skipjacks in front of her.

"It is so troublesome to keep them straight," she explained; "the little
idiots! Look at them."


They certainly were a queer flock to manage, for they could only move by
jumps, and when they jumped even they themselves had no idea of where
they were jumping to. However, by driving them in front of her she
managed to keep a few of them together, and at last she got them into
their places.

"You must fiddle," she said, "as you never fiddled before. The band
shall _not_ be beaten by a grass-blade. Now altogether--_one, two,
three, four_!"

It was really much better that time, and though Winnie could not pick up
the tune, everybody else seemed quite pleased with themselves.

"_That's_ better!" said the Great Green Grasshopper's wife. "Now again!"

But before the words were out of her mouth the great hall clock chimed
in, _Ting--Ting--Ting--Ting_----

"Midnight!" screamed the Great Green Grasshopper's wife. "What _will_
become of us?"


"It's fast!" cried Winnie: "I know it's fast. I put it on myself for
getting up tomorrow."

"Are you quite sure?" said the Great Green Grasshopper's wife.

"Quite sure," declared Winnie; "it's five minutes fast at least."

"That's a great relief to my mind," said the Great Green Grasshopper's
wife; "but, of course, we must stop at once."

Indeed, the Crickets were already packing up their instruments, and the
last thing that Winnie remembers was the Great Green Grasshopper's wife
hurrying the little Skipjacks off to bed.




Few know him and the careless eye may never see him. He is so
small,--that four of him just stop a mouse-hole; so light,--that ten of
him just tilt an ounce. Yet, if you search the files, you find him
eminent. The Pygmy Shrew in Cornwall! The Pygmy Shrew in Kent!! The
Pygmy Shrew in Rutlandshire!!!

Thus fame is garlanded round mystery.

Man's kingdom is brick-built and parchment guarded. The beasties have a
nobler heritage. Fence your broad acres as you please, yet they shall
quietly share them, paying you naught, and taking what they will. Water
and air and land are theirs by prior, nay primeval, right. So shall you
bend before their quality, and, for their lineage, you shall respect

Something had brushed across the Pygmy's nose. He shook off three days'
sleep in three half-seconds. Where was his tail? Sleeping, he swings it
up across his face, and gathers all four feet within its shelter. His
tail was there, but in its waking-place, behind him. Then something must
have moved it. He stretched his neck and sniffed, long wheezy sniffs
which ended in a shiver; then he peered down the shaft. He jerked back
to avoid an avalanche--a blinding dust-cloud, a rattle of small stones,
and, in the midst, two common shrews close locked.

But I go on too fast.

The stump is close against the rookery-fence. It is a stump of quality,
a residential stump, a maze of winding roots and secret chambers,
wherein field-folk may live without acquaintance. There is a fellow to
it in the meadow, another fronts the rabbit mound, and all three hold
like tenants.

The woodmouse first, round-eyed and debonair; then the bank-vole, he who
is half a mouse, with chestnut coat, broad ear and estimable tail;
lastly the ranny-noses; the common shrew--a velvet-coated
pepper-tempered gallant; the Pygmy, who is common shrew refined--purple
and orange ripple in his fur, and him my Lady Sunshine loves the best of


All live together, yet apart, for, under ground, the stumps are
intricate. The roots twist right and left and back upon themselves, and,
over and beneath them, are the runs. Most are blind alleys, but a few
creep on, and strike the upper air. The mice and voles reserve the
lowest depths; they must be near the water; moreover they can tunnel
where they will. The common shrews live higher, scratch two-inch levels
where the rootlets aid them, and trust to their quick ears. The Pygmy
takes what stouter beasties leave; and that is how the Pygmy's tail was
moved--his sleeping-hole, the mould of some long-fallen stone, abutted
on the shaft.

That two shrews should be fighting was quite usual. Shrews fight to keep
their limbs in trim; they fight in play; they fight in deadly earnest. A
veteran shrew is scarred in every part of him; great scars like
thumbmarks, where new growth of fur has failed to draw up level with the

Yet even shrews need open ground to fight on. The Pygmy waited till the
dust had cleared, then peered into the darkness. The scuffling of them
could be plainly heard; and, sharp above it, rose their vicious war
scream. The Pygmy knew what that meant--a bolt for upper air and honest
fighting. He crouched back prudently. They rattled past once more in
quick succession, the foremost gibbering his distress, the hindmost
dumb. But this was dubious measure of their quality, for, where there is
bare tunnel-room for one, one needs must be in front, and, then, his
only weapon is his voice.


The Pygmy sprang up after them. He is the burrows' jackal, and takes an
interest in serious fights. Once on the level ground he paused, made
three small casts, then took the right-hand surface-run.

He was quite right; the combatants had passed that way. It was a zigzag
run, but unimpeded. A drooping grass-stem tangle formed its roof, and,
through long use, its sides were brown and withered, as though some
noxious snake had glided through, and poisoned every growing blade it
touched. The Pygmy knew it end to end, and knew that, where it broke,
close to the elm, there was a moss-grown clearing. So he took matters
quietly, and, lingering as the fancy took him, had supped before he
reached the fighting-ground. The common shrews were feinting for an
opening. He knew them both by sight. One, a brown-coated, thick-set
scaramouch was neighbour to him in the stump. The other was a
meadow-shrew, of lighter build and colour, but longer and full match in
weight. The Pygmy rubbed his nose between his paws--a pretty fight was


And others seemed to have got wind of it. The grass-stems flicking to
and fro betrayed them. On every side he heard short, fluttery
mouse-steps. Above he caught shrill squeaks and whimperings; a bat was
busy with the filmy moths. Below the ground seemed shivery--that was the
mole. The Pygmy heard and scented him. He crawled discreetly up the
trunk, and so could see as well as hear. In the green tangle round were
flitting specks--the voles and mice assembling in hot haste. From these
his eye passed to the combatants. The grey shrew's ear was torn, and
from it hung one drop of blood. This was the lodestone.


Up from a moss-clump shot a woodmouse nose, and, at the back of it, two
round black eyes looked murder. The Pygmy caught the chatter-grince of
teeth; the bat still threaded needle-notes among the leaves; the leaves
themselves were whispering; but clear above these short, crabbed,
fretful sounds, he heard the steady rumble of the mole. The thing
perplexed him. Could the expectant ring of mice be deaf? The pair that
held the stage were too absorbed to notice anything.

 The brown shrew lay half sideways fronting him]

It was the brown shrew who got home the first. His rival, feinting,
flicked his tail too far, and, in a twinkle, it was seized. The grey
shrew swung himself upon his back, and kicked with all four paws. But
this was waste of strength. The shrewmouse has forked teeth, teeth that
will hold a slippery rounded beetle, much more a soft square tail. So
with necessity the spur of valour, he twisted round and nipped the brown
shrew's foot. Both straightway bit their hardest; the twinge made both
give way. They toppled backwards squealing. The grey shrew leant against
the trunk and panted; the brown shrew lay half sideways fronting him,
and, on all sides, the ring broke into chatterings. The Pygmy, trembling
with delight, screamed out encouragement, but no one heard _his_
screams. The bat dived headlong from the leaves, skimmed in between them
and shot up once more. The woodmouse crept two paces forward, then
backed abruptly, for they were at grips. Each nipped a loose flap of the
other's skin, and, bracing all four feet, tugged at its prize. They
tugged until they toppled sideways; then with claws fastened in each
other's fur, with tangled tails and rounded straining bodies, commenced
to spin.


That is the way of shrewmice, much pother and slight wounds. Their
fights are seldom mortal. Rather, they die for want of fighting. Their
valiant souls misfit them.


So this hot-blooded, strenuous pair spun as one living ball across the
ring, over and over, twist and twirl, upside and down, faster and
faster, until the spin itself released them. Then they sat back from one
another and wobbled like spent tops.




The third round started dully. The brown shrew, shaken with exertion,
lay on his back the better to refresh himself. The grey shrew, just as
weary, crept to an eminence above and eyed him wickedly. The ring was
all impatience.

Both soon revived.


The brown shrew twisted corkscrew-wise, and landed arched upon his toe
points. The grey shrew shot beneath him like a whiplash. Then they lay
head to tail, and tail to head. The ring drew closer. The field-voles on
the skirts of it could only see between their betters' ears. The bat
came to a halt and stared. The Pygmy climbed two inches up, and was
rewarded. For now both combatants saw red.


They hurled themselves at random, they bit at random, they bucked and
somersaulted, they spun entwined in loops and twists, in double-knotted
tangles, in sinuous figures of eight. Now one was on his back and now
the other--shrewmice reck little which way up they fight. Now they sped
screaming up the trunk and all but reached the Pygmy; now they dropped
earthward with twin thud, and grazed a red vole's nose. So without pause
or respite. They tore and scratched and gripped and pulled and wrenched
and tugged and jumped and squealed until----it was an earthquake, a
rounded dull upheaval, a split and crackle of the moss, a sputter of dry
dust, and, in the midst, like some queer fungus growth, the mole's red


"Flick!" went a woodmouse tail, betokening danger. The amphitheatre
emptied in a moment; voles helter-skelter into cover, bat loose into the
sky. The Pygmy tumbled earthwards, shot forward, paused, whisked up
again, and crept behind a flake of bark.


The two shrews lay amazed upon their backs, and in between them wagged
the intruding nose.

Slowly it lengthened. Two naked paddle-feet passed on the surface, and,
like some clumsy fish that quits its element, the mole plunged into air.

He missed both shrews, who, dashing right and left of him, entangled him
in double-minded purpose. Rested the Pygmy, shrunk to a rigid wisp of
apprehension, ear-straining, muscle-tautened, behind a flimsy screen of

The mole lurched slowly forward, swaying his noddle-head from side to
side, nosing each inch of ground. Blood had enticed him upwards, and
blood he meant to taste. It seemed as though short measure must content
him--a smear upon a grass stem, a drop upon a pebble. But presently his
nose flung up; on either side of it the velvet starred, leaving two
loop-holes for his pin-head eyes; he snuffed and peered about him; his
brush-tail jerked and quivered; a snarl laid bare his teeth; and then,
his instinct mastering circumstance, he charged, with swift alternate
strokes, straight at the Pygmy's shelter. Had his eye seen? Had his nose
smelt? At least he had a visible allurement--a half inch of the Pygmy's
tail. The Pygmy curled it promptly, but, even as it moved, the mole was
thundering at the bark. The Pygmy squeezed himself a half inch further,
and this half inch meant life. The mole had bored his snout into the
breach, and by a forward wriggle brought his teeth to bear.


The outworks broke and crumbled like a biscuit. His nose attained the
citadel itself, but here the assault was checked. Strain as he would he
could not get fair tooth-hold, for, working upwards in cramped quarters,
he spent his strength in struggling for a purchase.

Only exhaustion stays the hunting mole, and such exhaustion ends in
death. This mole was not exhausted yet.

He screwed his nose unceasingly, forced his teeth forward line by line,
and ground the bark to powder; snatched out his head for air, and thrust
his hand in place of it; snatched back his hand and used his jaws once
more. Harder and harder still he worked, closer and closer still he
drew, until one claw touched fur.

It was a graze, a skin scrape; the fur shrank out of reach, but the mere
contact goaded him to frenzy.

He squirmed and writhed and strained until, by muscle strength alone, he
forced his head and shoulders through the gap. His nose now touched his
quarry, his hands were squared beneath his chin, palms back, and thus,
in earth, he might have tunnelled far. But the stiff shell of bark was

The white owl helped him out. She caught him at the bottom of her swoop,
and loosed him high up on the elm-tree. Here the white owlets welcomed

Before she turned, the Pygmy had reached home.


      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber's note:

Apparent typographical errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in the use of hyphens have been retained.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Book of Nimble Beasts - Bunny Rabbit, Squirrel, Toad, and "Those Sort of People"" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.