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Title: Wings and Stings - A Tale for the Young
Author: A. L. O. E.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Wings and Stings - A Tale for the Young" ***



                              _page 48_]



  A Tale for the Young.


  A. L. O. E.,


  How doth the little busy bee
    Improve each shining hour,
  And gather honey all the day
    From every opening flower!





What is the use of a preface? Most of my young readers will regard it
as they would a stile in front of a field in which they were going to
enjoy haymaking; as something which they hastily scramble over, eager
to get to what is beyond. Such being the case, I think it best to make
my preface as short, my stile as small as possible, not being offended
if some of my friends should skip over it at one bound. To the more
sober readers I would say, If you look for some fun in the little field
which you are going to enter, remember that in haymaking there is
profit as well as amusement; in turning over thoughts in our minds,
as in turning over newly-mown grass, we may “make hay while the sun
shines,” which will serve us when cloudier days arise.

                                                             A. L. O. E.







     V. CONVERSATION IN THE HIVE,            59

    VI. A STINGING REPROOF,                  69

   VII. A WONDERFUL BORE,                    80


    IX. PRISONS AND PRISONERS,              109

     X. A CONFESSION,                       117

    XI. A SUDDEN FALL,                      131

   XII. AN UNPLEASANT JOURNEY,              140

  XIII. WINGS AND STINGS,                   151





“Had you not better go on a little faster with your work, Polly?” said
Minnie Wingfield, glancing up for a minute from her own, over which her
little fingers had been busily moving, and from which she now for the
first time raised her eyes.

“I wish that there were no such thing as work!” exclaimed Polly, from
her favourite seat by the school-room window, through which she had
been watching the bees thronging in and out of their hive, some flying
away to seek honied treasure, some returning laden with it to their

“I think that work makes one enjoy play more,” replied Minnie, her
soft voice scarcely heard amidst the confusion of sounds which filled
the school-room; for there was a spelling-class answering questions at
the moment, and the hum of voices from the boys’ school-room, which
adjoined that of the girls, added not a little to the noise.

The house might itself be regarded as a hive, its rosy-cheeked scholars
as a little swarm of bees, and knowledge as the honey of which they
were in search, drawn, not from flowers, but from the leaves of certain
dog’s-eared books, which had few charms for the eyes of Polly Bright.

“I never have any play,” said the little girl peevishly. “As soon
as school is over, and I should like a little fun, there is Johnny
to be looked after, and the baby to be carried. I hate the care of
children--mother knows that I do--and I think that baby is always
crying on purpose to tease me.”

[Illustration: THE BIG HIVE.]

“Yet it must be pleasant to think that you are helping your mother and
doing your duty.”

Polly uttered a little grunting sound, which did not seem like
consent, and ran her needle two or three times into her seam, always
drawing it back instead of pushing it through, which every one knows is
not the way to get on with work.

“Why, even these little bees,” Minnie continued, “have a sort of duty
of their own; and how steadily they set about it!”

“Pretty easy duty,--playing amongst flowers and feasting upon honey!”

“Oh but--”

“Minnie Wingfield, no talking allowed in school!” cried the teacher
from the top of the room, turning towards the corner near the window.
“Polly Bright, you are always the last in your class.”

This time the lazy fingers did draw the needle through, but a cross,
ill-tempered look was on the face of the little girl; while her
companion, Minnie, colouring at the reproof, only worked faster than

We will leave them seated on their bench, with their sewing in their
hands, and passing through the little window, as only authors and
their readers can do, cross the narrow garden, with its small rows of
cabbages and onions, bordered by a line of stunted gooseberry bushes,
and mixing with the busy inhabitants of the hive, glide through the
tiny opening around which they cluster, and enter the palace of the
bees. Now I have a suspicion that though my young readers may be
well acquainted with honey-comb and honey, and have even had hives
on a bench in their own gardens, they never in their lives have been
inside one, and are totally ignorant of the language of bees. For your
benefit, therefore, I intend to translate a little of the buzzing
chit-chat of the winged nation; and, begging you to consider yourself
as little as possible, conduct you at once to the palace of Queen

A very curious and beautiful palace it is; the Crystal Palace itself
is not more perfect in its way. Look at the long lines of cells,
framed with the nicest care, row above row, built of pure white wax,
varnished with gum, and filled with provisions for the winter. Yonder
are the nurseries for the infant bees; these larger apartments are
for the royal race; that, largest of all, is the state-chamber of
the queen. How strait are the passages--just wide enough to let two
travellers pass without jostling! And as for the inhabitants of this
singular palace, or rather, I should say, this populous city, though
for a moment you may think them all hurrying and bustling about in
utter confusion, I assure you that they are governed by the strictest
order--each knows her own business, her own proper place. I am afraid
that before you are well acquainted with your small companions, you may
find some difficulty in knowing one from another, as each bee looks as
much like her neighbour as a pin does to a pin. I am not speaking, of
course, of her majesty the queen, distinguished, as she is, from all
her subjects by the dignified length of her figure and the shortness
of her wings; but you certainly would not discover, unless I told you,
that the little creature hanging from the upper comb is considered
a beauty in Bee-land. You must at once fancy your eyes powerful
microscopes, till a daisy is enlarged to the size of a table, and the
thread of a spider to a piece of stout whip-cord; for not till then can
you find out the smallest reason why Sipsyrup should be vain of her
beauty. Yet why should she not pride herself on her slender shape or
her fine down? Vanity may seem absurd in a bee, but surely it is yet
more so in any reasonable creature, to whom sense has been given to
know the trifling worth of mere outside looks; and I fear that I may
have amongst my young readers some no wiser than little Sipsyrup.

She is not buzzing eagerly about like her companions, who are now
working in various parties; some raising the white walls of the cells;
some carrying away small cuttings of wax, not to be thrown away, but
used in some other place, for bees are very careful and thrifty;
some putting a fine brown polish on the combs, made of a gum gathered
from the buds of the wild poplar; some bringing in provisions for the
little workmen, who are too busy to go in search of it themselves.
No; Sipsyrup seems in her hive as little satisfied as Polly in her
school-room, as she hangs quivering her wings with an impatient
movement, very unworthy of a sensible bee.

“A fine morning this!” buzzed an industrious young insect, making
bee-bread with all her might. I may here remark that the subject of the
weather is much studied in hives, and that their inhabitants show a
knowledge of it that might put to shame some of the learned amongst us.
I am not aware that they ever make use of barometers, but it is said
that they manage seldom to be caught in a shower, and take care to keep
at home when there is thunder.

“A fine morning, indeed,” replied Sipsyrup. “Yes; the sunshine looks
tempting enough, to be sure; no doubt the flowers are all full of
honey, and the hills covered with thyme; but of what use is this to
a poor nurse-bee like me, scarcely allowed to snatch a hasty sip for
myself, but obliged to look after these wretched little larvæ” (that is
the name given to young baby-bees), “and carry home tasteless pollen to
make bread for them, when I might be enjoying myself in the sunshine?”

“We once were larvæ ourselves,” meekly observed Silverwing.

“Yes, and not very long ago,” replied Sipsyrup rather pertly, glancing
at the whitish down that showed her own youth; for it was but three
days since she had quitted her own nursery, which may account for her
being so silly a young bee.

“And but for the kindness of those who supplied our wants when we were
poor helpless little creatures, we should never have lived to have
wings,” continued her companion.

“Don’t remind me of that time,” buzzed Sipsyrup, who could not bear
to think of herself as a tiny, feeble worm. “Anything more weary and
tiresome than the life that I led, shut up all alone in that horrid
cell, spinning my own coverlet from morning till night, I am sure that
I cannot imagine. Ah, speaking of that spinning, if you had only seen
what I did yesterday.”

“What was that?” inquired Silverwing.

“As I flew past a sunny bank, facing the south, I noticed a small hole,
at the entrance of which I saw one of our cousins, the poppy-bees. Her
dress, you must know, is different from ours” (Sipsyrup always thought
something of dress). “It is black, studded on the head and back with
reddish-gray hairs, and her wings are edged with gray. Wishing to
notice a little more closely her curious attire, I stopped and wished
her good-day. Very politely she invited me into her parlour, and I
entered the hole in the bank.”

“A dull, gloomy place to live in, I should fear.”

“Dull! gloomy!” exclaimed Sipsyrup, quivering her feelers at the
recollection; “why, the cell of our queen is a dungeon compared to it.
The hole grew wider as we went further in, till it appeared quite roomy
and large, and all round it was hung with the most splendid covering,
formed of the leaves of the poppy, of a dazzling scarlet, delightful to
behold. Since I saw it, I have been scarcely able to bear the look of
this old hive, with its thousands of cells, one just like another, and
all of the same white hue.”

“Had the poppy-bee a queen?” inquired Silverwing.

“No; she is queen, and worker, and everything herself; she has no one
to command her, no one to obey; no waspish companion like Stickasting

“What’s that? who buzzes about me?” cried a large thick bee, hurrying
towards them with an angry hum. Stickasting had been the plague of
the hive ever since she had had wings. She was especially the torment
of the unfortunate drones, who, not having been gifted with stings
like the workers, had no means of defence to protect them from their
bullying foe. When a larva, her impatient disposition was not known.
She had spun her silken web like any peaceable insect, then lain quiet
and asleep as a pupa or nymph. But no sooner did the young bee awake
to life, than, using her new powers with hearty good-will, she ate her
way through the web at such a quick rate, that the old bees who looked
in pronounced at once that she was likely to be a most active worker.
Nor were they disappointed, as far as work was concerned; no one was
ready to fly faster or further, no one worked harder at building the
cells; but it was soon discovered that her activity and quickness were
not the only qualities for which she was remarkable. If ever bee had a
bad temper, that bee was Stickasting. Quarrelling, bullying, attacking,
fighting, she was as bad as a wasp in the hive. No one would ever
have trusted larvæ to her care. Sipsyrup might neglect or complain
of her charge, but Stickasting would have been positively cruel. Her
companionship was shunned, as must be expected by all of her character,
whether they be boys or bees; and she seldom exchanged a hum, except of
defiance, with any creature in the hive.

Sipsyrup, the moment that she perceived Stickasting coming towards her,
flew off in alarm, leaving poor Silverwing to bear the brunt of the

“Who buzzes about me?” repeated Stickasting fiercely, flying very close
up to the little nurse-bee.

“Indeed, I never named you,” replied Silverwing timidly, shrinking back
as close as she could to the comb.

“If you were not talking against me yourself, you were listening to and
encouraging one who did. Who dare say that I am waspish?” continued
Stickasting, quivering her wings with anger till they were almost
invisible. “It is this gossip and slander that make the hive too hot
to hold us. I once thought better of you, Silverwing, as a quiet
good-natured sort of a bee, but I now see that you are just like the
rest, and as silly as you are ugly.”

This was a very provoking speech--it was intended to be so; but
Silverwing was not a creature ready to take offence; whatever she felt,
she returned no answer--an example which I would strongly recommend to
all in her position, whether standing on six feet or on two.

But Stickasting was resolved to pick a quarrel if possible, especially
with one whom she considered less strong than herself; for she was
not one of those generous beings who scorn to take advantage of the
weakness of another. Stickasting much resembled the class of rude,
coarse-minded boys, who find a pleasure in teasing children and
annoying little girls, and like to show their power over those who dare
not oppose it.

“I owe you a grudge, Silverwing, for your conduct to me yesterday. When
I was toiling and working at the cells like a slave, not having time to
go out for refreshment, I saw you fly past me two or three times, and
not a drop of honey did you offer me.”

“I was carrying pollen for my little larvæ,” gently replied Silverwing.
“It is not my office to supply the builders, though I am sure that
I should do so with pleasure; but the baby-bees are placed under my
charge, and you know what care they need till they begin to spin.”

“Yes, idle, hungry, troublesome creatures that they are! Have they not
set about their spinning yet? I’ll make them stir themselves,”--and
Stickasting made a movement towards the nursery-cells.

“The larvæ do not like to be disturbed!” cried Silverwing, anxious for
her charges, and placing herself between them and the intruder.

“Like! I daresay not,--but who cares what they like! Get out of the
way; I’ll prick them up a little!”

“You shall not come near them!” hummed the little nurse, resolutely
keeping her place.

“I say that I shall,--who shall hinder me? Get out of my way, or I’ll
let you feel my sting.”

Silverwing trembled, but she did not stir, for she was a faithful
little bee. As the hen is ready to defend her chickens from the hawk,
and even the timid wren will fight for her brood, so this feeble insect
would have given up her life rather than have forsaken the little ones
confided to her care.

But she was not left alone to struggle with her assailant. Two of her
winged companions came to the rescue; and Stickasting, who had no wish
to encounter such odds, and was fonder, perhaps, of bullying than of
fighting, no sooner saw Waxywill and Honeyball on the wing, than with
an angry hum she hurried out of the hive.





I wish that all little nurses were as trustworthy as Silverwing, or
as kind and patient with their charges! While Polly Bright has sat in
her mother’s cottage trimming her bonnet, till it looks as absurd as
pink ribbons can make it, the poor baby has been crying unheeded in
his cradle, except that now and then, when vexed more than usual by
the noise, with an almost angry look she pauses for a moment to rock
the cradle with her foot. She does not notice that little Johnny has
been clambering up by the pail, which her mother has set aside for her
washing, till the sudden sound of a fall, and a splash, and a child’s
frightened cry, startle her, and she sees little streams running all
over the stone floor, and Johnny flat on his face in the middle of a
loud roar,--and a pool of water.

[Illustration: A MISHAP.]

Up she jumps, not in the best of tempers. Poor Johnny is dragged up by
one arm, and receives one or two slaps on the back, which only makes
him cry louder than before; he stands a picture of childish misery,
with dripping dress and open mouth, the tears rolling down his rosy
cheeks, helpless and frightened, as his careless sister shakes and
scolds him, and shakes him again, for what was the effect of her own

Happily for the little boy, Minnie Wingfield is a near neighbour, and
comes running at the sound of his distress.

“Why, what is the matter, my dear little man?” are her first words as
she enters the cottage.

“Look here! did you ever see anything like it? His dress clean on
to-day! I cannot turn my back for a moment but he must be at the
pail,--naughty, tiresome, mischievous boy!” and poor Johnny received
another shake. “A pretty state the cottage is in,--and there--oh, my
bonnet! my bonnet!” exclaimed Polly, as she saw that in her hurry and
anger she had thrown it down, and that, pink ribbons and all, it lay on
the floor, right across one of the little streams of water.

“Never mind the bonnet; the poor child may be hurt, and--oh, take care,
the baby will be wetted!” and without waiting for Polly’s tardy aid,
Minnie pushed the cradle beyond reach of danger.

While Polly was yet bemoaning her bonnet, and trying to straighten
out its damaged ribbons, Minnie had found out something dry for the
shivering little boy, had rubbed him, and comforted him, and taken him
upon her knee; then asking him to help her to quiet poor baby, had
hushed the sickly infant in her arms. Was there no pleasure to her kind
heart when its wailing gradually ceased, and the babe fell into a sweet
sleep,--or when Johnny put his plump arms tight round her neck, and
pressed his little lips to her cheek?

There are some called to do great deeds for mankind, some who bestow
thousands in charity, some who visit hospitals and prisons, and live
and die the benefactors of their race. But let not those who have
not power to perform anything _great_, imagine that because they can
do little, they need therefore do nothing to increase the sum of
happiness upon earth. There is a terrible amount of suffering caused by
neglect of, or unkindness to, little children. Their lives--often how
short!--are embittered by harshness, their tempers spoiled, sometimes
their health injured; and can those to whose care the helpless little
ones were confided, imagine that there is no sin in the petulant word,
the angry blow, or that many will not have one day to answer for all
the sorrow which they have caused to their Lord’s feeble lambs, to
those whose spring-time of life should be happy?

Would my readers like to know a little more of Minnie Wingfield, whose
look was so kind, whose words were so gentle, that her presence was
like sunshine wherever she went? She lived in a little white cottage
with a porch, round which twined roses and honeysuckle. There was a
little narrow seat just under this porch, where Minnie loved to sit
in the summer evenings with her work, or her book when her work was
done, listening to the blackbird that sang in the apple-tree, and the
humming of the bees amidst the blossoms. Little Minnie led a retired
life, but by no means a useless one. If her mother’s cottage was the
picture of neatness, it was Minnie who kept it so clean. Her brother’s
mended stockings, his nicely-washed shirts, all did credit to her neat
fingers. Yet she could find time to bestow on the garden, to trim the
borders, to water the plants, to tie up the flowers in which her sick
mother delighted. Nor did Minnie neglect the daily school. She was not
clever, but patient and ever anxious to please; her teacher regarded
her as one of her best scholars, and pointed her out as an example to
the rest. But Minnie’s great enjoyment was in the Sunday-school; there
she learned the lessons which made duty sweet to her, and helped her on
the right way through the week. The small Bible which had been given to
her by her father, with all his favourite verses marked, was a precious
companion to Minnie: not studied as a task-book, or carelessly read
as a matter of custom; but valued as a treasure, and consulted as a
friend, and made the rule and guide of daily life.

And was not Minnie happy? In one sense she certainly was so, but still
she had her share of this world’s trials. The kind father whom she
had fondly loved had died the year before; and besides the loss of so
dear a friend, his death had brought poverty upon his family. It was
a hard struggle to make up the rent of the little cottage, which Mrs.
Wingfield could not bear to quit, for did not everything there remind
her of her dear husband,--had he not himself made the porch and planted
the flowers that adorned it! Often on a cold winter’s day the little
fire would die out for want of fuel, and Minnie rise, still hungry,
from the simple meal which she had spared that there might be enough
for her parent and her brother.


Mrs. Wingfield’s state of health was another source of sorrow. She
was constantly ailing, and never felt well, and though saved every
trouble by her attentive child, and watched as tenderly as a lady
could have been, the sufferings of the poor woman made her peevish and
fretful, and sometimes even harsh to her gentle daughter.

Tom, her brother, was also no small trial to Minnie. Unlike her, he
had little thought for anything beyond self; he neither considered the
comfort nor the feelings of others. If Minnie was like sunshine in the
cottage of her mother, Tom too often resembled a bleak east wind; and
though Mrs. Wingfield and her daughter never admitted such a thought,
their home was happiest when Tom was not in it.

But it is time to return to our hive.





Waxywill and Honeyball had both come to the assistance of Silverwing,
and she buzzed her thanks in a grateful way to both, though different
motives had brought them to her aid, for they were very different bees
in their dispositions.

Honeyball was a good-humoured, easy kind of creature. Very ready to
do a kindness if it cost her little trouble, but lazy as any drone in
the hive. Honeyball would have liked to live all day in the bell of a
foxglove, with nothing to disturb her in her idle feast. It was said in
the hive that more than, once she had been known to sip so much, that
at last she had been unable to rise, and for hours had lain helpless on
the ground. Sipsyrup, who, like other vain, silly creatures, was very
fond of talking about other people’s concerns, had even whispered that
Honeyball had been seen busy at one of the provision-cells stored for
the winter’s use, which it is treason in a bee to touch; but as those
who talk much generally talk a little nonsense, we may hope that there
was no real ground for the story.

Waxywill was one of whom such a report would never have been believed;
there was not a more honourable or temperate worker in the hive. Yet
Stickasting herself was scarcely less liked, so peevish and perverse
was the temper of this bee. If desired to do anything, it was sure to
be the very thing which she did not fancy. Were cells to be built--she
could not bear moping indoors; if asked to bring honey--she always
found out that her wings were tired. She could not bear submission to
the laws of the hive, and once actually shook her wings at the queen!
When she flew to help Silverwing, it was less out of kindness to her
than the love of opposing Stickasting. And yet Waxywill was not an
ungenerous bee; she had more sense too than insects generally possess;
she would have been respected and even loved in the hive, had not her
stubborn, wilful temper spoilt all.

We will now follow Sipsyrup in her hasty flight, as, leaving both her
friend and her charges behind, she made her retreat from Stickasting.
How delightful she found the fine fresh air, after the heated hive!
Now up, now down, she pursued her varying course, sometimes humming
for a moment around some fragrant flower, then, even before she had
tasted its contents, deserting it for one yet more tempting. Deeply she
plunged her long tongue into its cup; her curious pliable tongue, so
carefully guarded by Nature in a nicely fitting sheath. “_Sheathe your
tongue!_” was an expression which the gossipping little bee had heard
more often than she liked, especially from the mouth of Waxywill. It
might be an expressive proverb in other places than Bee-land, for there
are tongues whose words are more cutting than swords, that much need
the sheath of discretion.

The movements of the lively insect were watched with much interest
by Spinaway the spider, from her quiet home in a rosebush. Sipsyrup,
disdaining the narrow garden of the school, had winged her way over
the wall, and turning into a narrow green lane that was near, was now
sporting with the blossoms by Mrs. Wingfield’s porch. Spinaway was a
clever, artful spider, somewhat ambitious too in her way. She had made
her web remarkably firm and strong, and expected to be rewarded by
nobler game than the little aphis, or bony gnat. She had once succeeded
in capturing a blue-bottle fly, and this perhaps it was that raised
her hopes so high, that she did not despair of having a bee in her

“Good-morning,” said Spinaway in a soft, coaxing tone, as Sipsyrup came
fluttering near her. “You seem to have travelled some distance, my
friend, and if you should like to rest yourself here, I am sure that
you would be heartily welcome.”

Sipsyrup was a young, inexperienced bee, but she did not much fancy
the looks of the spider, with her hunchback and long hairy legs. She
politely, therefore, declined the invitation, and continued her feast
in a flower.

“I am really glad to see a friend in a nice quiet way,” continued the
persevering spider. “I find it very dull to sit here all day; I would
give anything to have wings like a bee.”

Sipsyrup, who loved gossip, advanced a little nearer, taking care to
keep clear of the web.

“I do long to hear a little news of the world, to know what passes
in your wonderful hive. I am curious to learn about your queen; your
manner and style of dress is such, that I am sure that you must have
been much about the court.”

Settling upon a leaf, still at a safe distance, Sipsyrup indulged her
taste for chit-chat, glad to have so attentive a listener. Spinaway
soon heard all the gossip of the hive,--how the present queen had
killed in single combat the queen of another swarm, whilst the bees of
both nations watched the fight; and how the hostile band, when they
saw their queen dead, had submitted to the conqueror at once. How a
slug had last morning crept into the hive and frightened her out of her
wits, but had been put to death by fierce Stickasting before it had
crawled more than an inch. Sipsyrup then related--and really for once
her conversation was very amusing--all the difficulties and perplexity
of the people of the hive as to how to get rid of the body of the
intruder. She herself had been afraid to venture near the monster, but
Silverwing and the rest had striven with all their might to remove the
dead slug from their hive.

“And did they succeed?” said Spinaway, much interested.

“Oh, it was quite impossible to drag out the slug! We were in such
distress--such a thing in the hive--our hive always kept so neat and
clean that not a scrap of wax is left lying about!”

“What did you do?” said the spider; “it really was a distressing

“Waxywill thought of a plan for preventing annoyance. She proposed that
we should cover the slug all over with wax, so that it should rather
appear like a piece of the comb than a dead creature left in the hive.”

“A capital plan!” cried Spinaway. “And was the thing done?”

“Yes, it was, and before the day was over.”

“So there Mrs. Slug remains in a white wrapping,” laughed the spider;
“a warning to those who go where they are not wanted. You were, I
daresay, one of the foremost in the work.”

“Not I; I would not have touched the ugly creature with one of my

“I beg your pardon!” said the spider; “indeed, I might have judged by
your appearance that nothing but the most refined and elegant business
would ever be given to you. You look as though you had never touched
anything rougher than a rose.”

This speech put Sipsyrup in high good-humour; she began to think that
she had judged the spider harshly, and that she really was an agreeable
creature in spite of her ugly hunch.

“If you speak of delicate work,” observed the bee very politely, “I
never saw anything so fine as your web.”

“It is tolerably well finished,” said the spider with a bow; “would
you honour me by a closer inspection?”

“Oh, thank you, I’m not curious in these matters,” replied Sipsyrup,
still feeling a little doubtful of her new friend.

“You have doubtless remarked,” said Spinaway, “that each thread is
composed of about five thousand others, all joined together.”

“No, really, I had no idea of that--how wonderfully fine they must be!”

“I am surprised that you did not see it; at least if the powers of
your eyes equal their beauty. I never beheld anything like them
before--their violet colour, their beautiful shape, cut, as it were,
into hundreds of divisions, like fine honey-comb cells, and studded all
over with most delicate hair. I would give my eight eyes for your two!”

“Two!” cried Sipsyrup, mightily pleased; “I have three more on the back
of my head.”

“I would give anything to see them, if they are but equal to the
faceted ones. No creature in the world could boast of such a set!
Might I beg--would you favour me?”--

Silly Sipsyrup! foolish bee! not the first, however, nor, I fear, the
last, to be caught by sugary words. Blinded by vanity, forward she
flew--touched the sticky, clammy web--entangled her feet--struggled
to get free--in vain, in vain!--quivered her wings in terrified
efforts--shook the web with all her might--but could not escape.
Her artful foe looked eagerly on, afraid to approach until the poor
bee should have exhausted herself by her struggles. Ah, better for
Sipsyrup had she kept in her hive, had she spent all the day in making
bee-bread, to feed the little larvæ in their cells!





Buzz, buzz, buzz!--“There’s a bee in a web!” cried Tom, looking up from
the bowl of porridge which he was eating in the rose-covered porch.

“Poor thing!” said Minnie, rising from her seat.

“A precious fright it must be in! what a noise it makes!” cried her

“It is not much entangled--I think that I could set it free!”--and
Minnie ran up to the web.

“And be stung for your pains. Nonsense--leave it alone. It is good fun
to watch it in its struggles.”


“It never can be good fun to see any creature in misery,” replied
Minnie; and with the help of a little twig, in a very short time poor
Sipsyrup was released from the web.

“Poor little bee!” said Minnie, “it has hurt its wing, and some of the
web is still clinging to its legs. I am afraid that it cannot fly.”

“I hope that it will sting you!” laughed Tom. “Are you going to nurse
and pet it here, and get up an hospital for sick bees?”

“I think that it must belong to our school-mistress’s hive. I will
carry it there, and put it by the opening, and let its companions take
care of it.” And notwithstanding Tom’s scornful laugh, Minnie bore off
the bee on her finger.

“You are the most absurd girl that I ever knew,” said he on her return.
“What does it matter to you what becomes of one bee? I should not mind
smothering a whole hive!”

“Ah, Tom,” said his sister, “when there is so much pain in the world, I
do not think that one would willingly add ever so little to it. And I
have a particular feeling about animals. You know that they were placed
under man, and given to man, and they were all so happy until--until
man sinned; now, innocent as they are, they share his punishment
of pain and of death; and it seems hard that _we_ should make that
punishment more bitter!”

“Then my tender-hearted sister would never taste mutton, I suppose.”

[Illustration: MINNIE AND THE BEE.]

“No; the sheep are given to us for food; but I would make them as happy
as I could while they lived. O Tom, we are commanded in the Bible to be
‘tender-hearted,’ and ‘merciful,’ and surely to be cruel is a grievous

“I wonder that you did not crush the spider that would have eaten up
your bee.”

“Why should I? She did nothing wrong. It is Nature that has taught her
to live on such food; I would be merciful to spiders as well as to

“You carried off her dinner--she would not thank you for that.”

“Perhaps I did foolishly,” said Minnie with a smile; “but I cannot see
a creature suffering and not try to help it.”

“I wish that you saw the green-grocer’s horse with his bones all
starting through his skin, and the marks of the blows on his head. What
would you say to the master of that horse?”

“Oh, I wish that he would remember that one verse from the Bible,
‘_Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy._’ Without
mercy, what would become of the best--without mercy, we all should be
ruined for ever. And if _only_ the merciful can obtain mercy, oh! what
will become of the cruel?”

“Pshaw!” cried Tom, not able to dispute the truth of Minnie’s words,
but not choosing to listen to them, for he had too many recollections
of bird-nesting, cockchafer-spinning, and worrying of cats, to make
the subject agreeable. Some find it easier to silence an opponent with
a “pshaw!” than by reason or strength of argument; and this was Tom’s
usual way. He did not wish to continue the conversation, and, perhaps
with a view to change its subject, said in a sudden, abrupt tone, as he
stirred his porridge with his pewter spoon--

“You’ve not put a morsel of sugar in my bowl.”

“Yes, indeed, I put some,” replied Minnie.

“But you know that I like plenty; I have told you so a thousand times.”

“But, dear Tom, I have not plenty to give you--we have nearly come to
the end of our little store. And you know,” continued she, lowering her
voice, “that we cannot buy more until we are paid for these shirts.”

The little girl did not add that for the last three days she had not
tasted any sugar herself.

“Nonsense!” cried Tom, starting up from his seat, and hastily entering
the cottage. He took down from the shelf a large broken cup, which was
used to contain the store of sugar. Mrs. Wingfield was lying asleep in
the back-room, being laid up with a worse headache than usual.

Fearing lest her mother should be roused from her sleep, Minnie
followed her brother, her finger on her lip, a look of anxious warning
on her face. But both look and gesture were lost upon Tom, who was
thinking of nothing but himself.

“Here’s plenty for to-day,” he said in a careless tone, emptying half
the supply into his bowl.

“But, Tom--our poor mother--she is ill, you know--”

“Well, I’ve not taken it all.”

“But we cannot afford--”

“Don’t torment me!” cried Tom angrily, helping himself to more.

“Oh, dear Tom,” said the little girl, laying her hand upon his arm.

“I’ll not stand this nonsense!” exclaimed the boy fiercely; and turning
suddenly round, he flung the rest of the sugar into the dusty road.
“There--that serves you right; that will teach you another time to mind
your own business and leave me alone;” and noisily setting down the
empty cup, the boy sauntered out of the cottage.

Something seemed to rise in Minnie’s throat; her heart was swelling,
her cheek was flushed with mingled sorrow and indignation. Oh, how much
patience and meekness we require to meet the daily little trials of

Minnie was roused by her mother’s feeble, fretful voice. “I wish that
you and Tom had a little more feeling for me. You have awoke me with
your noise.”

“I am sorry that you have been disturbed, dear mother; I’ll try and not
let it happen again. Do you feel better now?”

“No one feels better for awaking with a start,” returned Mrs. Wingfield
peevishly. “I should not have expected such thoughtlessness from you.”

Minnie’s eyes were so brimful of tears that she dared not shut them,
lest the drops should run over on her cheek. She knew that her mother
would not like to see her cry, so, turning quietly away, she went to
the small fire to make a little tea for the invalid.

There was nothing that Mrs. Wingfield enjoyed like a cup of warm tea;
and when Minnie brought one to the side of her bed, with a nice little
piece of dry toast beside it, even the sick woman’s worn face looked
almost cheerful. As soon, however, as she had tasted the tea, she set
down the cup with a displeased air.

“You’ve forgotten the sugar, child.”

“Not forgotten, mother, but--but I have none.”

“More shame to you,” cried Mrs. Wingfield, her pale face flushing with
anger; “I am sure that a good deal was left this morning. You might
have thought of your poor sick mother; she has few enough comforts, I
am sure.”

Poor Minnie! she left the room with a very heavy heart; she felt for
some minutes as if nothing could cheer her. Angry with her brother,
grieved at her mother’s undeserved reproach, as she again sat down to
work in the little porch, her tears fell fast over her seam. Presently
Conscience, that inward monitor to whose advice the little girl was
accustomed to listen, began to make itself heard. “This is foolish,
this is wrong,--dry up your tears, they can but give pain to your sick
mother. You must patiently bear with the fretfulness of illness, and
not add to its burden by showing that you feel it. You know that you
have not acted selfishly, you need not regret your own conduct in the
affair,--is not that the greatest of comforts? But I know very well,”
still Conscience whispered in her heart, “that you never will feel
quite peaceful and happy till no anger remains towards your brother. A
little sin disturbs peace more than a great deal of sorrow; ask for aid
to put away this sin.”

Minnie listened to the quiet voice of Conscience, and gradually her
tears stopped and her flushed cheek became cool. She made a hundred
excuses in her mind for poor Tom. He had been always much indulged,--he
would be sorry for what he had done,--how much better he was than other
boys that she knew, who drank, or swore, or stole. And for herself,
what a sin it was to have felt so miserable! How many blessings were
given her to enjoy! She had health, and sight, and fingers able to do
work; and neither she nor her mother had difficulty in procuring it,
the ladies around were so kind. Then there was the church, and the
school, and the Best of Books;--and the world was so beautiful, with
its bright sun and sweet flowers,--there was so much to enjoy, so much
to be thankful for! And Minnie raised her eyes to the blue sky above,
all dotted over with rosy clouds; for it was the hour of sunset, and
she thought of the bright happy place to which her dear father had
gone, and how she might hope to join him there, and never know sorrow
again. What wonder, with such sweet thoughts for her companions, if
Minnie’s face again grew bright, and she worked away in her little
porch with a feeling of peace and grateful love in her breast which a
monarch might have envied.




Poor Sipsyrup! how sadly she stood at the entrance of the hive, where
her gentle preserver had left her. The fine down, of which she had been
so vain, was all rubbed and injured by her struggles in the web; one of
her elegant wings was torn; she felt that all her beauty was gone! She
had hardly courage to enter the hive, and was ashamed to be seen by the
busy bees flocking in and out of the door. I am not sure that insects
can sigh, or I am certain that she must have sighed very deeply. The
first thing that gave her the least feeling of comfort was the sound
of Silverwing’s friendly hum;--the poor wounded insect exerted her
feeble strength, and crept timidly into the hive.

“Sipsyrup!--can it be!” cried Honeyball, rousing herself from a nap as
the bee brushed past her.

“Sipsyrup, looking as though she had been in the wars!” exclaimed
Waxywill, who, in the pride of her heart, had always looked with
contempt on her vain, silly companion.

“My poor Sipsyrup!” cried Silverwing, hastening towards her. Their
feelers met (that is the way of embracing in Bee-land), the kind bee
said little, but by every friendly act in her power showed her pity and
anxiety to give comfort.

What pleased Sipsyrup most was the absence of Stickasting, who had not
returned to the hive which she had left an hour before in a passion.

[Illustration: MINNIE AT THE HIVE.]

After resting for a little on a half-finished cell, while Silverwing
with her slender tongue gently smoothed her ruffled down, and
brought a drop of honey to refresh her, Sipsyrup felt well enough to
relate her sad story, to which a little group of surrounding bees
listened with no small interest. Sipsyrup left altogether out of her
account the fine compliments paid her by Spinaway, she could not bear
that her vanity should be known; but she gained little by hiding the
truth, as this only made her folly appear more unaccountable.

“I cannot understand,” said Waxywill, “how any bee in her senses could
fly into a web with her eyes open.”

“When there was not even a drop of honey to be gained by it,” hummed

Sipsyrup hastened to the end of her story, and related how she had been
saved from the spider by the timely help of a kind little girl.

“May she live upon eglantine all her life,” exclaimed Silverwing with
enthusiasm, “and have her home quite overflowing with honey and

“This is the strangest part of your adventure,” said Honey ball; “this
is the very first time in my life that I ever heard of kindness shown
to an insect by a human being.”

“I thought that bees were sometimes fed by them in winter,” suggested

“Fed with sugar and water!--fit food for a bee!” cried Honeyball,
roused to indignation upon the only subject that stirred her up to
anything like excitement. “And have you never heard how whole swarms
have been barbarously murdered, smothered in the hive which they had
filled with so much labour, that greedy man might feast upon their

“If you talk of greediness, Honeyball,” drily observed Waxywill, “I
should say, _Keep your tongue in a sheath._”

“I am glad that it is not the custom for men to eat bees as well as
their honey,” laughed Silverwing.

“Oh, they are barbarous to everything, whether they eat it or not,”
exclaimed Waxywill, with an angry buzz. “Have I not seen a poor
butterfly, basking in the sun, glittering in her vest of purple and
gold--ah, Sipsyrup, in your very best day, you were no better than a
blackbeetle compared to her!”

An hour before, Sipsyrup would have felt ready to sting Waxywill for
such an insolent speech, but the pride of the poor bee was humbled; and
when Waxywill observed her silence and noticed her drooping looks, she
felt secretly ashamed of her provoking words. She continued: “Have
I not seen the butterfly, I say, dancing through the air, as though
life was all sunshine and joy!--I have seen a boy look on her--not to
admire, not to feel pleasure in beholding her beauty, but eager to lay
that beauty in the dust, and seize on his little victim. I have watched
him creeping softly, his hat in his hand, as anxious about his prize,
as if to destroy a poor insect’s happiness was the way to secure his
own. Now the unconscious butterfly rose, high above the reach of her
pursuer, then sank again to earth, to rest upon a flower, whose tints
were less bright than its wings. Down came the hat--there was a shout
from the boy--the butterfly was prisoner at last. If he had caught
it to eat it, as the spider caught Sipsyrup, I could have forgiven
him--for men as well as bees must have food, and I suspect that they do
not live entirely upon honey; but it made me wish for a hundred stings
when I saw the wretched insect lying on the ground, fluttering in the
agonies of death. The boy had barbarously torn off its bright beautiful
wings, and had not even the mercy to put it out of pain by setting his
foot upon it.”

“It had never injured him,” murmured Silverwing.

“It had never injured any one--it desired nothing but to be allowed to
spend its short life in peace.”

“How would the boy have liked to have had his wings torn off,” said
Honeyball, “for the amusement of some creature stronger than himself?”

“Men and boys are worse than hornets,” muttered Waxywill.

“But we have found one of human-kind,” hummed Silverwing cheerfully,
“who could be merciful even to a bee. Perhaps in the world there may
be others like her, too noble, too generous to use their strength to
torture and destroy what cannot resist them.”

Waxywill and Honeyball now took their departure--I fear rather for
their own pleasure than for the benefit of the hive; as Waxywill was
not in a humour to work, and Honeyball was always in a humour to idle.
As soon as they had flown out of reach of hearing, poor Sipsyrup said,
in a very dull tone,--

“I wonder what is to become of me now, poor unhappy insect that I am.
I fear that I shall never be able to fly; and to live on here in this
wretched way is almost worse than to be eaten by a spider.”

“Oh, you should not say so,” replied gentle Silverwing; “you can still
crawl about, and you are safe in your own home.”

“Safe!--I am miserable! With what pleasure I had thought of joining the
first swarm that should fly off. I am tired of the hive--this noisy,
bustling hive--I have lost everything that I cared for, everything that
made life pleasant--my beauty, my strength, my power of flying; I have
nothing left--”

“But your duties,” added Silverwing; “make them your pleasures. My dear
friend, if you no more can be pretty, you may still be useful; if you
no more can be admired, you can still be loved. You may not be able to
go far, or to see much; but there are better joys to be found in your
own home.”

Before the night closed, both the little nurse-bees were busy feeding
the larvæ.




The sunset was still casting a red glow over the earth, throwing the
long shadows of the trees on the ground, and lighting up the cottage
windows, as Polly Bright stood at the door of her cottage, watching for
her mother’s return.

Mrs. Bright was a hard-working woman, who, during the absence of her
husband, a soldier in the Crimea, earned many an honest shilling as
charwoman in the house of the Squire on the hill. She generally managed
to let Polly have the advantage of attending the school in the morning.
Though herself unable to read, she liked the idea of her daughter
being a scholar; and as plain-work was also taught in the school, she
thought that what Polly acquired there might make her not only more
learned, but more useful. But it was only for attendance in the morning
that the charwoman’s child could be spared from her home. During her
mother’s frequent absence, all the charge of the cottage, and care of
the children, belonged of course to Polly Bright.

I cannot say that the little parlour could compare in neatness with
that of Mrs. Wingfield. There was a chest of drawers in one of the
corners, and on it was heaped a strange medley of things. Tea-pot and
broken jug, old shawl and a baby’s rattle, nutmeg-scraper, bellows,
saucepan and books, were piled in sad confusion. Nor would I have
advised you to have attempted to open one of the drawers. They were
sometimes too full to be opened at all, and stuck tight against every
effort, as if aware that they were not fit to be seen. Polly was too
fond of adorning herself to care for adorning her cottage. She was
not aware how far better it looks to be simple, neat, and clean, and
dressed according to our station, than to be decked out with gaudy
finery, and try to ape the appearance of those whom Providence has
placed above us.

You will remember that we visited this cottage in the third chapter,
and there is little change in the appearance of things there now. The
damp on the floor occasioned by Johnny’s accident has dried up, and so
have the tears of the little boy, who, seated upon a stool near his
sister’s feet, is cramming his mouth with bread and butter, with an
air of great content. But the thin sickly baby is still in his cradle,
still uttering his feeble, unheeded wail, for the poor little creature
is teething hard, and has no other way of expressing his pain. Polly
never notices his heated lips and swelled gums; she is more occupied
with herself this evening than usual, for Mrs. Larkins, the farmer’s
wife, has invited her to tea, and as soon as her mother returns to
take her place, she will be off to amuse herself at Greenhill. Oh yes;
you might be certain that some gay meeting was expected! Look at the
necklace of false coral round her neck, the half-soiled lace which
she has sewn round her frock, and her hair all in papers at this hour
of the day; you would laugh were you to see her, but to me the sight
of her folly is really too sad for laughing. Of what is she thinking
as she quickly untwists the papers, and curls her long hair round her
fingers? Her thoughts are divided between impatience at her mother’s
delay, fears of herself being late for the party, and wishes that the
pedlar would only happen to call at her cottage.

She had heard that day, from one of her school-fellows, that a man had
been going about the neighbourhood with a pack so full of beautiful
things, that such a collection had never before been seen in the
village. Polly had been particularly tempted by the description of
some brooches made of false diamonds, and exactly like real ones, as
the girl, who had never seen a jewel in her life, very positively
affirmed. One of these fine brooches was to be had for sixpence--how
eager was Polly to be its possessor! She counted over her little
treasure of pence, and found that she had sufficient for the purchase.

But how was she to find the pedlar? Had Polly not been tied to the
cottage by what she called “these tiresome children,” she would long
ago have gone in search of him. She could hardly expect him to pass
down her little lane, but she was near enough to the high-road to see
if any one passed along it in going through the village. At one time
she had set little Johnny to watch, and more than once her hopes had
been raised as the little fellow shouted aloud, “There’s the man!” But
Polly came running first to see a drover with pigs, then the baker
with his little cart going his rounds;--she had a disappointment, poor
Johnny a slap, and he was sent crying into the cottage. This was rather
hard upon him, poor little fellow. How could a child, not three years
old, be expected to know the difference between a pedlar and a baker?

But all was quiet again in the cottage, Johnny occupied with his
supper, and Polly with her curl-papers, when in through the open door
who should make her entrance but Stickasting. She came in, as usual,
in no amiable mood, quite ready to take offence on the very shortest
notice. She first settled on the little baby’s arm; but the infant lay
perfectly still, half-comforted in his troubles by sucking his thumb:
the most passionate bee in the world could find no excuse for being
angry with him. Stickasting rested for a few moments on the thin, tiny
arm, then rose and approached Polly Bright.

Every sensible person knows that when a bee or a wasp hovers near,
the safest way is to keep quiet and take no notice; but Polly was not
a very sensible person, and being not very courageous either, was
quite frightened when the insect touched her face. If Stickasting
had mistaken it for a flower, she would very soon have found out her
blunder, and left the little girl in peace; but, starting back with a
cry, Polly struck the bee, and Stickasting, roused to fury, quickly
returned the blow. Mad with passion, the insect struck her sting so
deep, that it was impossible to withdraw it again, and she left it
behind, which occasions certain death to a bee.

Stickasting felt at once that she had thrown away her life in a wild
desire for revenge; that her destruction was caused by her own violent
act--she crawled feebly a few inches from the spot where she fell, and
expired--a victim to her temper.

Loud was the scream which Polly Bright uttered on being stung; so loud
that it brought, from the opposite cottage, both Minnie Wingfield
and her brother. On finding out the cause of Polly’s distress, Minnie
hastily ran back for the blue-bag, or a little honey, to relieve the
pain of her school-fellow. But Tom, who had very little pity in his
nature, stood shaking with laughter at the adventure.

[Illustration: POOR STICKASTING.]

“Stung by a bee!--stung on the very tip of the nose!--what a beauty you
will look at Greenhill to-night!--ha! ha! ha!--if you could only see
how funny you look, your hair half in curl-papers, and half hanging
down, and your eyes as red with crying as the coral round your neck!
You are for all the world like silly Sally!”

[Illustration: TOM LAUGHING AT POLLY.]

“It does not show much, does it?” said poor Polly anxiously, as Minnie
returned with the blue-bag.

“It is swelling!” cried Tom--“swelling higher and higher!--’twill be
just like the turkey-cock’s comb!”

“Then I can’t go to-night!--I will not go!” exclaimed Polly, sitting
down and bursting into tears.

Tom laughed louder, Minnie in vain tried to comfort,--all Polly’s
happiness was for the time overthrown by a bee! It rested but on
trifles, and a trifle was enough to make her wretched for the rest of
that day.





The sun set, the rooks in the squire’s park had gone to roost, the bats
flew round the ivy-covered tower of the village church. The hive was
becoming quiet and still, the bees hanging in clusters prepared to go
to sleep; but Stickasting had never returned. Silverwing listened in
vain for the well-known sound of her angry hum, and wondered what could
have delayed her companion. But never again was the poor bee to fly
back to the hive, never again to labour at the waxen cells; and, alas!
how little was her presence missed--still less was it regretted.

The next morning was warm, bright, and sunny, the bees were early on
the wing. The larvæ were beginning to spin their webs, and therefore no
longer required food; so Silverwing was free to range over the fields,
and gather honey for the hive. So tempting was the day, that even
Honeyball shook her lazy wings and crept to the door; there stood for
a few moments, jostled by her more active fellow-servants, and finally
flew off in quest of food.

How delightful was the air!--how fragrant the breeze! The buttercups
spread their carpet of gold, and the daisies their mantle of silver
over the meadows, all glittering with the drops of bright dew.
Honeyball soon found a flower to her taste, and never thought of
quitting it till she had exhausted all its honied store. She had a dim
idea that it was her duty to help to fill the cells, but poor Honeyball
was too apt to prefer pleasure to duty.

“I should like to have nothing to do,” she murmured, little thinking
that a listener was near.

“Like to have nothing to do! Is it from a hive-bee that I hear such
words?--from one whose labour is itself all play?”

Honeyball turned to view the speaker, and beheld on a sign-post near
her the most beautiful bee that she had ever seen. Her body was larger
than that of a hive-bee, and her wings were of a lovely violet colour,
like the softest tint of the rainbow.[A]

Honeyball felt a little confused by the address, and a little ashamed
of her own speech; but as all bees consider each other as cousins, felt
it best to put on a frank, easy air.

“Why, certainly, flying about upon a morning like this, and making
_elegant extracts_ from flowers, is pleasant enough for a time. But may
I ask, lady-bee,” continued Honeyball, “if you think as lightly of
working in wax?”

“Working in wax!” half contemptuously replied Violetta; “a soft thing
which you can bend and twist any way, and knead into any shape that you
choose. Come and look at my home here, and then ask yourself if you
have any reason to complain of your work.”

Honeyball looked forward with her two honey-combed eyes, and upwards
and backwards with her three others, but not the shadow of a hive could
she perceive anywhere. “May I venture to ask where you live?” said she
at last.

“This way,” cried Violetta, waving her feeler, and pointing to a little
round hole in the post, which Honeyball had not noticed before. It
looked gloomy, and dark, and strange to the bee; but Violetta, who took
some pride in her mansion, requested Honeyball to step in.

“You cannot doubt my honour,” said she, observing that the hive-worker
hesitated, “or be suspicious of a cousin?”

Honeyball assured her that she had never dreamed of such a thing, and
entered the hole in the post.

For about an inch the way sloped gently downwards, then suddenly became
straight as a well, so dark and so deep, that Honeyball would have
never attempted to reach the bottom, had she not feared to offend her
new acquaintance. She had some hopes that this perpendicular passage
might only be a long entrance leading to some cheerful hive; but after
having explored to the very end, and having found nothing but wood to
reward her search, she crept again up the steep narrow way, and with
joy found herself once more in the sunshine.

“What do you think of it?” said Violetta, rather proudly.

“I--I do not think that your hive would hold many bees. Is it perfectly
finished, may I inquire?”

“No; I have yet to divide it into chambers for my children, each
chamber filled with a mixture of pollen and honey, and divided from the
next by a ceiling of sawdust. But the boring was finished to-day.”

“You do not mean to say,” exclaimed Honeyball in surprise, “that that
long gallery was ever bored by bees!”

“Not by _bees_,” replied Violetta, with a dignified bow, “but by one
bee. I bored it all myself.”

The indolent Honeyball could not conceal her amazement. “Is it possible
that you sawed it all out with your teeth?”

“Every inch of the depth,” Violetta replied.

“And that you can gather honey and pollen enough to fill it?”

“I must provide for my children, or they would starve.”

“And you can make ceilings of such a thing as sawdust to divide your
home into cells?”

“This is perhaps the hardest part of my task, but nevertheless this
must be done.”

“Where will you find sawdust for this carpenter’s work?”

“See yonder little heap; I have gathered it together. Those are my
cuttings from my tunnel in the wood.”

“You are without doubt a most wonderful bee. And you really labour all

“All alone,” replied Violetta.

Honeyball thought of her own cheerful hive, with its thousands of
workers and divisions of labour, and waxen cells dropping with golden
honey. She scarcely could believe her own five eyes when she saw what
one persevering insect could do. Her surprise and her praise pleased
the violet-bee, who took pride in showing every part of her work,
describing her difficulties, and explaining her manner of working.

“One thing strikes me,” said Honeyball, glancing down the tunnel; “I
should not much like to have the place of your eldest larva, imprisoned
down there in the lowest cell, unable to stir till all her sisters have
eaten their way into daylight.”

Violetta gave what in Bee-land is considered a smile. “I have thought
of that difficulty, and of a remedy too. I am about to bore a little
hole at the end of my tunnel, to give the young bee a way of escape
from its prison. And now,” added Violetta, “I will detain you no
longer, so much remains to be done, and time is so precious. You
probably have something to collect for your hive. I am too much your
friend to wish you to be idle.”

Honeyball thanked her new acquaintance and flew away, somewhat the
wiser for her visit, but feeling that not for ten pairs of purple wings
would she change places with the carpenter-bee.





“There’s the pedlar! Oh dear! and just as mother has gone out!” cried
Polly, who on beginning her afternoon business of nurse to the little
children, saw, or thought that she saw, at the end of her lane, a man
with a pack travelling along the high-road. “There he is. Oh, if I
could only stop him, or if any one would look after the baby whilst I
am gone! Minnie Wingfield! Ah, how stupid I am to forget that she is
now at the afternoon school! I think that baby would keep very quiet
for five minutes; he cannot roll out of his cradle. But Johnny, he’d be
tumbling down, or setting the cottage on fire; I cannot leave him for
a minute by himself.--Johnny,” said she suddenly, “I want to catch the
pedlar and see his pretty things; will you come with me, like a good
little boy?”

Johnny scrambled to his feet in a moment, to the full as eager as
herself. Polly held his fat little hand tight within her own, and began
running as fast as she could drag him along. But the poor child’s round
heavy figure and short steps were altogether unsuited for anything like
a race. Polly felt him as a dead weight hanging to her arm. In vain she
pulled, dragged, and jerked, now began to encourage, and now to scold;
poor Johnny became tired, frightened, and out of breath, and at last
fairly tumbled upon his face.

“Get up--I’m in such a hurry!”--no answer but a roar. “Stupid child!
he’ll be gone!”--Johnny bellowed louder than before. “There, I’ll
leave you on the road, you great tiresome boy; you have half pulled out
my arm with dragging you on. I’ll leave you there, and silly Sally may
get you.”

Then, without heeding the poor little child’s cries and entreaties that
she would stop, as he lay on the ground, half suffocated with sobs,
Polly Bright, thinking only of the prize which her vanity made her so
much desire, hastened after the pedlar.

[Illustration: POOR SALLY.]

Silly Sally, who has been twice mentioned in my tale, was a poor
idiot-woman who lived with some kind neighbours on a common about two
miles from the village. She was perfectly harmless, and therefore
allowed to go about with freedom wherever she chose; but the terrible
misfortune, alas! exposed her to the scorn and sometimes even
persecution of wicked children, who made the worst use of the senses
left them, by tormenting one already so much afflicted. Poor Sally used
to wander about the lanes, uttering her unmeaning sound. Perhaps even
she had some pleasure in life, when the sun shone brightly and the
flowers were out, for she would gather the wild roses from the bank, or
the scarlet poppies from the field, and weave them into garlands for
her head. Nothing pleased her more than when she found a long feather
to add to her gaudy wreath. If the poor witless creature had delight
in making herself gay, Polly at least had no right to laugh at her.

Timid and easily frightened, the idiot felt a nervous terror for
schoolboys, for which they had given her but too much cause. She had
been hooted at, even pelted with mud, pursued with laughter like a
hunted beast. Twice had Minnie to interfere with her brother, pleading
even with tears for one so helpless and unhappy. If there be anything
more brutal and hateful than cruelty to a harmless animal, it is
heartless barbarity to a defenceless idiot--to one who bears our image,
is descended from our race, and whose only crime is the being most
unfortunate. Deal gently, dear children, with the poor senseless idiot;
we trust that there is a place in heaven even for him. The powers
denied him in this world may be granted in the next; and in a brighter
realm, although never here below, he may be found at his Lord’s feet,
_clothed and in his right mind_.

On hastened the little girl, breathless and panting. At the place
where the roads joined she looked anxiously up the highway, to see if
she had not been mistaken in her distant view of the traveller. No;
there was the pedlar, pack and all, and no mistake, but walking more
briskly than might have been expected from his burden and the warmth of
the afternoon. His pack must have been much lightened since he first
set out with it.

Polly called out; but he either did not hear, or did not attend. The
wind was blowing the dust in her face, she was tired with her vain
attempts to drag poor Johnny, her shoes were down at heel and hindered
her running; for it by no means follows that those who wish to be fine
care to be tidy also. But the brooch of false diamonds--the coveted
brooch--the thought of that urged her on to still greater efforts; even
the remembrance of her swelled nose was lost in the hope of possessing
such a beautiful ornament. Polly, as she shuffled hastily along, saw
more than one person meet the pedlar. If they would but stop him--if
only for one minute--to give her time to get up with him at last. No
one stopped him--how fast he seemed to walk! Polly’s face was flushed
and heated, her hair hung about her ears--would that we were as eager
and persevering in the pursuit of what really is precious, as the girl
was in that of a worthless toy!

At last her gasped-out “Stop!” reached the ear of the pedlar. He
paused and turned round, and in a few minutes more his pack was opened
to the admiring eyes of Polly. Ah, how she coveted this thing and
that! how she wished that her six pennies were shillings instead! A
cherry-coloured neckerchief, a pink silk lace, a large steel pin,
and a jewelled ring,--how they took her fancy, and made her feel how
difficult it is to decide when surrounded by many things alike tempting!

[Illustration: POLLY AND THE PEDLAR.]

But at last the wonderful brooch of false diamonds was produced.
There was only one left in the pedlar’s stock. How fortunate did Polly
think it that it also had not been sold! Neckerchief, lace, pin, or
ring was nothing compared to this. She tried it on, had some doubts of
the strength of the pin, tried in vain to obtain a lessening of the
price. It ended in the girl’s placing all her pence in the hand of the
pedlar, and carrying home her prize with delight. She had had her wish.
Her vanity was gratified--the brooch was her own; but to possess is not
always to enjoy.

Polly returned to her cottage with much slower steps; she was heated,
and tired, and perhaps a little conscious that she had not been
faithful to her trust. As she came near her home she quickened her
pace, for to her surprise she heard voices within, and voices whose
tones told of anxiety and fear. These were the words which struck her
ear, and made her pause ere she ventured to enter,--

“What a mercy it is that I returned for the basket that I had
forgotten! If I had not, what would have become of my poor babe!”
exclaimed Mrs. Bright in much agitation.

“I can’t understand how it happened,” replied another voice, which
Polly knew to be that of Mrs. Wingfield.

“You may well say that,” said the mother. Polly could hear that she
was rocking her chair backwards and forwards, as she sometimes did
when hushing the sick child to sleep. “I left Polly in charge of the
children: I came back to find her gone, and my poor, poor baby in a

Polly turned cold, and trembled so that she could hardly stand.

“Is there no one who could go for a doctor?” continued the agitated
mother; “another fit may come on--I would give the world to see him!”

“I am so feeble,” replied Mrs. Wingfield, “that I am afraid--”

“Take the baby, then, and I’ll go myself; not a moment is to be lost.”

“No, no; there’s my boy Tom,” cried Mrs. Wingfield, as she saw her son
run hastily into her little cottage, which was just opposite to Mrs.

“Oh, send him, in mercy send him!” cried the mother; and her neighbour
instantly crossed over to fulfil her wishes, passing Polly as she did
so, and looking at her with mingled surprise and scorn, though in too
much haste to address her.

“My boy, my own darling!” murmured the anxious mother, pressing her
sick child to her bosom, “what will your father say when he hears of
this?” Except her low, sad voice, the cottage was so still that the
very silence was terrible to Polly; it would have been a relief to have
heard the feeble, fretful wail which had made her feel impatient so

With pale, anxious face and noiseless step, dreading to meet her
mother’s eye, the unhappy girl stole into the cottage. There sat Mrs.
Bright, her bonnet thrown back from her head, her hair hanging loose,
her gaze fixed upon the child in her arms; whilst the poor little
babe, with livid waxen features and half-closed eyes, lay so quiet,
and looked so terribly ill, that but for his hard breathing his sister
would have feared that his life had indeed passed away.

Mrs. Bright raised her head as Polly entered, and regarded her with
a look whose expression of deep grief was even more terrible than
anger. She asked no question; perhaps the misery in which she saw the
poor girl made her unwilling to add to her suffering by reproach; or
perhaps, and this was Polly’s own bitter thought, she considered her
unworthy of a word. Whatever was the cause, no conversation passed
between them, except a few short directions from the mother about
things connected with the comfort of the baby, as poor Polly, with an
almost bursting heart, tried to do anything and everything for him.

[Illustration: POLLY IN DISGRACE.]

In the meantime Tom had gone for the doctor, though with an
unwillingness and desire to delay which had made his mother both
surprised and indignant.

“He should go by the fields,” he said, though he well knew that to
be the longest way; and he would have done so, had not Mrs. Wingfield
roused herself to such anger, that even her rude and undutiful son did
not dare to disobey her.

The doctor came in about an hour, Tom having happily found him at home,
and, with an anxiety which those who have attended beloved ones in the
hour of sickness only can tell, Mrs. Bright and Polly listened for his
opinion of the case. The doctor examined the child, and asked questions
concerning his illness: “How long had the fit lasted?” There was a
most painful pause. Mrs. Bright looked at her daughter. Polly could
not utter a word; it was not till the question was repeated that the
distressing reply, “No one knows,” was given.

“Was the child long ailing?”

“How was he when you left him?” said Mrs. Bright to the miserable

“Very well--that’s to say--I don’t exactly--he was--I think--”

“There has been gross negligence here,” said the doctor sternly; “gross
negligence,” he repeated, “and it may cost the child his life.”

Polly could only clasp her hands in anguish; but the mother exclaimed,
“Oh, sir, is there no hope for my boy?”

“While there is life there is hope,” replied the doctor in a more
kindly tone; “he must be bled at once. Have you a basin here?” he
added, taking a small instrument-case from his pocket.

Polly was at all times timid and nervous, and quite unaccustomed to
self-command, and now, when she would have given worlds to have been
useful, her hand shook so violently, her feelings so overcame her, that
there was no chance of her doing anything but harm.

“Give the basin to me, dear,” said a gentle voice behind her; Minnie
Wingfield had just entered the cottage. “You look so ill, you must not
be present. Go up-stairs, Polly; I will help your mother.”

“Oh, what shall I do?” cried the miserable girl, wringing her hands.

“Go and pray,” whispered Minnie as she glided from her side; and Polly,
trembling and weeping, slowly went up the narrow wooden staircase, and
entering her little chamber, sank down upon her knees.

“Oh, spare him, only spare him, my darling little brother!” she could
at first utter no other words. She had never loved the baby as she did
now, when she feared that she might be about to lose him, and bitterly
she lamented her own impatient temper that had made her weary of the
duty of tending him. Oh, that we would so act towards our relations,
that if death should remove any one from our home, our grief should
not be embittered by the thought, “I was no comfort or blessing to him
while he was here, and now the opportunity of being so is gone for

But the most terrible thought to Polly was, that the baby’s danger
might be partly owing to her neglect. Should he die--should the little
darling be taken away--could her mother ever forgive her? As Polly
sobbed in an agony of grief, something fell from her bosom upon the
floor; she started at the sight of her forgotten brooch, that which
she had coveted so much, that which had cost her so dear. Snatching it
up, and springing to her feet, with a sudden impulse she ran to the
window, and flung it far out into the lane. Then once more falling on
her knees, again she prayed, but more calmly, and she implored not only
that the baby might live, but that her own weak, vain heart might be
cleansed, that she might henceforth live not only for herself, but do
her duty as a faithful servant of God. She rose somewhat comforted, and
creeping down-stairs, listened ere she ventured to enter the little

“I hope that he may do well now. I shall send something for him
to-night. Keep him quiet. I shall call here to-morrow.” These were
the doctor’s parting words, and they were a great relief to Polly.
She came in softly, and bent down by the baby, now laid again in his
little cradle, and looking white as the sheet that was over him; she
would have kissed his thin, pale face, but she feared to disturb the
poor child. Her heart was full of mingled sorrow and love; she felt as
though she could never bear to leave him again.

“Thank you, Minnie, my girl,” said Mrs. Bright earnestly; “you have
been a real comfort to me in my time of need. Your mother is a happy
woman to have such a child.”

“Can I do anything else for you now?” said Minnie; “if you would allow
me to sit up instead of you to-night?”

“No, no; I could not close an eye. But I should be glad if you would
bring Johnny home, my dear; it is near his bed-time, and I do not think
that he will disturb the baby.”

“I will bring him with pleasure; where is he?” said Minnie.

“Where is he?” repeated Mrs. Bright; “is he not at your home?”

“No; he has not been there all day.” Polly started as if she had been

“Then where is he?” cried Mrs. Bright, looking anxiously round. “Is he
up-stairs, Polly?” The miserable girl shook her head. Her fears for the
baby had made her quite forget her little brother, and it now flashed
across her mind that she had not passed him in the lane, when she had
retraced her steps to the cottage. Where could he have gone, where
could he be now?

Mrs. Bright had endured much, but her cup seemed now to overflow. She
walked close up to Polly, laid a heavy grasp upon her shoulder, and
said, in a tone which the girl remembered to her dying day, “When was
your brother last with you?”

“About two hours ago, just before you returned home,” faltered Polly.

“And where did you leave him?”

“In the lane, near the high-road.”

“Go and find him,” said the mother, between her clenched teeth, “or
never let me set eyes on you again!”

Polly rushed out of the cottage, and began her anxious search up and
down the lane, by the hedge, in the ditch, along the road, asking
every person that she met, and from every one receiving the same
disheartening answer. No one had seen the boy, no one could think
what had become of him. He was too young to have wandered far; had he
run towards the road, he must have been met by Polly--if the other
way, he must have been seen by his mother; he could not have got over
the hedge; there was no possibility of his having lost his way. Many
neighbours joined in the search; many pitied the unhappy mother, but
she was less to be pitied than Polly.




We will now return to our little friend, Honeyball, whom we left flying
from the curious dwelling of the carpenter-bee. We will follow her as
she lazily proceeded along the lane in which were situated the cottages
of Mrs. Wingfield and Mrs. Bright, the sweet flowers in the garden of
the former rendering it a favourite resort for bees. This was not long
after noon, and therefore a few hours before all the troubles related
in the last chapter had occurred, while Polly and her two little
charges were yet safe in their own comfortable cottage.

Honeyball looked at Spinaway busily mending her net, torn by the
adventure of Sipsyrup, and laughed as she thought of the folly of her
companion. Honeyball was not vain enough to be enticed by sugared
words; her dangers arose from quite another source--her greediness and
great self-indulgence. Her eye was now attracted by a little bottle
hung up by the porch, not far from the rosebush; it had been placed
there by Tom to catch wasps. Perhaps he had hoped to entrap some
others of the winged tribes, for he had just taken a fancy to make a
collection of insects, and woe unto any small creature that might fall
into his merciless hands!

Honeyball alighted on the bottle, then fluttered to the top, allured by
the sugary scent. The brim was sticky; she unsheathed her long bright
tongue, tasted, approved, and then sipped again. At this moment she
heard a buzz near her, and looking up with her back eyes, perceived her
friend Silverwing.

“Do come from that huge, bright, hard cell,” cried the bee; “I am sure
that it never was formed by any of our tribe, and I do not believe that
it holds honey.”

“It holds something very good, and in such abundance too,” replied
Honeyball; “a thousand honeysuckles would not contain so much!”

“There is danger, I am certain that there is danger,” cried Silverwing.
“What if it should have been placed there on purpose to catch us?”

“You think me as foolish as Sipsyrup!”

“No, not foolish, but--”

“Too fond of good living, and too lazy to like trouble in procuring it.
Well, I daresay that you are right, Silverwing; I believe that, as you
say, there may be danger.”

“Then why not come away?” persisted the bee.

“Because the taste is so good,” said her companion, bending over the
rim--the next moment she was struggling in the syrup!

Ah, Honeyball, weak, foolish insect! In vain do you struggle, in
vain do you buzz, in vain your grieved friend flutters against the
glass,--you have sacrificed yourself for a little indulgence, like
thousands who look at the tempting glass, know their danger, yet will
not abstain!

As Silverwing on the outside of the bottle was uttering her hum of pity
and regret, suddenly a handkerchief was thrown over her, and the loud,
rough voice of Tom was heard.

“Rather a paltry beginning to my collection, a wretched hive-bee! But
I caught it so cleverly, without its being crushed, or spoiled by the
syrup; and I will keep it till I get that stuff which Ben told me of,
which kills insects without hurting their beauty!”

Poor unhappy Silverwing! she was indeed in a terrible position. She
had not even power to use her sting in self-defence, for to plunge it
into the handkerchief would have been useless indeed; and she felt
all that a bee might be expected to feel, in the power of its most
cruel foe. Tom carried her into the cottage, and carefully unclosing
the handkerchief, after he had mounted upon a chair to reach the shelf
easily, he shook his poor prisoner into his own mug, and tied some
paper firmly over the top.

Silverwing flew round and round, buzzing in terror; she only hurt her
wings against the sides. Then she crawled over the paper which formed
the ceiling of her prison; but no hole for escape could she find. It
was clear that she was now shut out from all hope, condemned perhaps
to some lingering death. While her companions were flying about, busy
and happy, she was to pine, a lonely prisoner, here. At first her
feelings were those of despair; then, quietly, though sadly, she made
up her mind to submit to her cruel fate. She no longer fluttered about
restlessly, but settling at the bottom of the mug, in patience awaited
the return of her tormentor.

Hours passed before Tom came back. There had been other voices in the
cottage, but no one had touched the place of Silverwing’s imprisonment.
Mrs. Wingfield had been called out hastily by her neighbour Mrs.
Bright, on the discovery of the illness of the baby; and as Minnie
had not then returned from school, the cottage was left quite empty.
Presently there was a rapid step, then the sound of some one jumping up
on the chair. Silverwing felt the mug moved, then the paper raised; she
was ready to make a last effort to escape through the opening; but her
little tyrant took good care to give no time for that; he only shook in
another victim, and then shut down the paper quickly, and placed a book
on the top.

Silverwing paid no attention to what was passing in the cottage round
her, though I may as well remind the reader of what passed in the
last chapter,--how Tom had scarcely got down from the chair before
his mother came in and ordered him to go off for the doctor, as Mrs.
Bright’s baby was very ill indeed; how Tom hesitated, and said that he
would go by the fields, and then was sent off direct by his mother in
much displeasure. To all this, as I said, Silverwing paid no attention;
her little world was contained in the mug, and all her interest was
aroused by her fellow-prisoner. Poor Violetta, with her fine purple
wings, was the prey of the collector of insects! He had not cared to
explore her curious home, to learn her customs and ways, or admire her
instinct; he only wished to have the dead body of an insect that he
thought curious, and had no scruple about destroying it to gratify this

Violetta was not so patient as poor Silverwing had been. She dashed
herself against the mug in passionate distress; she would listen to
no words of comfort! Then she vainly tried to exercise her wonderful
powers of gnawing. From a wooden box she perhaps might have worked
her way to freedom, but the hard slippery crockery resisted her utmost
efforts; her poor little teeth could not even make an impression!
Exhausted at last, she remained quite still, and Silverwing, forgetful
of her own distress, began to attempt to soothe her companion.

Thus they remained till the evening without food, almost without hope.
Mrs. Wingfield had gone to attempt to comfort her neighbour, nearly
wild at the loss of her Johnny; and now Minnie and Tom both entered the
cottage together. Their conversation had no interest for the bees, in
their mug; but as it is possible that it may have some for my reader, I
shall proceed to give some account of it in the following chapter.





“Oh, Tom,” said Minnie, “is not this a terrible misfortune that has
happened to poor Mrs. Bright?”

Tom gave a sort of grunt of assent.

“And the baby so ill! Mother doubts if he will live over the night! I
am glad that you found the doctor so soon. But what can have become
of dear little Johnny? The Barnes and the Smiths have been all on the
search; they say that if the wind had not been blowing the dust so
much along the lane, the little fellow might have been tracked by his
footsteps. No one can imagine where he can have gone,--he is so very
young,--so unable to wander far. Poor Polly! I am so sorry for her!”

“I wish that you would not be talking for ever about Johnny!” exclaimed
Tom in a petulant tone.

“How can one think or talk of anything else?” replied Minnie sadly,--“I
did so love that noble boy!”

“Have done with it!” cried her brother, more angrily than before.

Minnie looked at him with pain, and then said in a low tone, “I thought
that you had even joined in the search.”

“I have joined,--I would give anything to find him!” exclaimed Tom,
striking his hand on the table as he spoke, with such passionate energy
that he almost startled his sister.

“Did you see nothing of the dear child,” said Minnie, as a thought
suddenly occurred to her, “when you came to our cottage,--just before
you went for the doctor, you know?”

“Didn’t I tell you that I wanted to hear no more about the matter!”
cried Tom, his whole face becoming the colour of crimson.

Minnie’s eyes were fixed upon him, steadily, earnestly; rude, bold
boy as he was, he shrank from her piercing gaze. Going nearer to her
brother, and speaking very distinctly, but in a voice hardly above a
whisper, she said, “I believe that you know more about Johnny than you
will tell.”

“Believe what you like, and let me alone.”

“Tom, I implore you, hide nothing from us. Oh, think of the misery of
the poor broken-hearted mother!” and she laid her hand upon his arm.

“Speak another word and I’ll strike you!” cried Tom, roughly shaking
her off.

“Strike me if you will, but I _must_ speak. Where did you see that
child last?”

“You can get nothing out of me,” growled Tom.

“Then I must call those who can,” said Minnie firmly, turning round
as if to quit the cottage. “This is a matter of life or death.” She
looked pale, but very determined.

“Whom are you going to call?” said Tom, his manner betraying some fear.

“My mother--if necessary, the clergyman--or--the magistrate!”

Tom caught her by the arm as he exclaimed, “Stop, Minnie, oh,
stop,--you shall hear all and judge! I don’t know where the boy is,--I
would give my right hand that I did. It is true that I saw him last,
and I have searched all the place again and again. You would not betray
me--you would not, Minnie?--you might ruin me, but could not help
Johnny. Sit down here, and listen to me quietly, and you shall know
everything that has happened!”

Minnie sat down beside him, her heart beating fast. He gave her a short
but true account of what had passed, omitting, however, some little
particulars which we shall relate more at length.

You will remember that we left poor Johnny crying in the lane, vainly
trying to call back his sister, as she hurried in pursuit of the
pedlar. When the child found his terrors unheeded, his loud roar
gradually sank into a low broken sob, he scrambled to his feet, rubbed
his plump dusty hand across his eyes to brush away the tears, and began
to think of trotting back to the cottage.

Just as the little fellow was commencing his journey, he heard a voice
call him from the other side of the hedge which bordered the narrow
lane. At first, fancying that it might be silly Sally, with whom he
had been threatened, Johnny was inclined to run the faster for the
call; but he soon knew Tom, when he saw him clambering over and holding
something in his hand.

“Here’s something for you, my jolly little man!” cried Tom, who amused
himself sometimes by playing with, but more often by teasing, his
little rosy-cheeked neighbour.

“What got?” asked the child, as Tom jumped down beside him. Johnny was
always sparing of his words.

[Illustration: A NEST OF LITTLE BIRDS.]

“A nest of little birds that was swinging on a bough. I knocked off the
nest, and down came the birds!”

“All dead!” said Johnny sadly.

[Illustration: TOM TEASING JOHNNY]

“Why, yes; you see they had some way to fall. The little things broke
their necks, so there was an end of them.”

“Poor ’ittle birds! knocked off tree!” said the pitying child. Tom was
provoked at seeing the pity.

“What a silly little goose you are, Johnny! It was fine fun to set nest
and all a-flying, and finish the whole family at once!”

But whatever might be the opinion of Tom, the plump little cottager
kept to his own, and only more sadly repeated the words, “Poor ’ittle
birds! knocked off tree!”

“Oh, if you’ve such a fancy for swinging on a tree, we’ll have you
up directly, and make an ‘’ittle bird of you!’” And laughing at the
struggles and entreaties of the child, Tom suddenly lifted him over
the hedge, and followed him into the field, flinging the wretched dead
birds into a ditch.

In vain Johnny kicked and pushed and roared; Tom was a remarkably tall
and strong boy, and catching the poor child up in his arms, he ran
with him across the field. There was another hedge at the opposite
side, which Tom passed as easily as he had done the first, and they now
found themselves at the edge of a wood, thickly filled with trees of
various sizes.

It was a delight to Tom to cause terror and alarm; no feeling of pity
with him ever cut short a joke. In a few moments poor Johnny was
perched upon a branch, clinging and roaring with all his might.

“There, ‘’ittle bird,’ I hope that you like your bough. Shall I shake
it an _’ittle_, just to give you a nice swing? Hold tight, mind you
don’t fall, or you’ll break your fat neck as the _’ittle_ birds did!”
Then he began to sing--

  “Hushaby, baby, on the tree-top,
  When the wind blows the cradle will rock;
  When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
  Down comes poor baby, cradle and all!”

How long Tom might have gone on tormenting the child no one can tell,
if suddenly he had not been struck by the appearance of a curious bee,
which had alighted for a moment upon a wild flower near.

“Oh, what a splendid bee!” he cried, leaving hold of the branch to
which Johnny still clung. “Sit you there till I catch it. Isn’t it a
beauty!--I never saw such fine purple wings!”

My reader has probably guessed that it was poor Violetta whose
fatal beauty had attracted his eye. Johnny and his terrors all were
forgotten, while Tom rushed forward in eager pursuit; the frightened
child stopping his crying to watch the chase, which ended in Tom’s
securing his prize in his handkerchief.

Impatient to carry it at once to a safe place, afraid of its either
escaping or being crushed in his hold, Tom, whose cottage was so near
that he could reach it in a few minutes, sprang over the hedge, and
ran fast across the field. Thus Johnny was left in a position of some
peril. Not knowing how long the boy’s absence might be, he shouted as
loudly and as vainly after Tom as he before had done after his sister.

“And did you not return soon?” cried Minnie, as Tom reached this part
of his story.

“How could I? Mother sent me off directly for the doctor.”

“Oh, why, why did you not tell her?”

“Very likely, indeed, that I should tell her that I had left little
Johnny sticking in a tree? I could only hope that he would stick there
until I could get back. I returned at full speed from the doctor’s, I
can assure you; but when I reached the wood not a trace of the little
fellow could I find.”

“O Tom,” exclaimed Minnie, with a look of horror, “such a terrible
thought has struck me!”

“I daresay that it has struck me before,” gloomily replied her brother.

“Was it, oh! was it far from the well?”

“If he’s there,” said Tom in a hollow voice, “he’s dead long before

“Did you search there?”

“I looked down, and saw nothing.”

“Looked down! O Tom, this is worse than mockery! If the waters were
above him--it is so deep--so dark!--”

“What is to be done?” exclaimed the boy.

“Some one must go down in the bucket. Oh, there is not a moment to be
lost!” Minnie would have rushed from the cottage, but her brother held
her fast.

“There is no use in rousing the village _now_!” he cried. “Do you mean
to ruin, to destroy me? Minnie, if you betray me--if it is found that
the child is drowned--people will say that--that,”--and his look of
terror told a great deal more than his words.

“But you never threw him in--it was only foolish play.”

“Who can prove that? O Minnie, would you bring me to a jail, or perhaps
to worse?”

“Then let us go ourselves,” exclaimed the little girl, divided between
anxiety for her brother and fears for the lost child. “I must either go
or send; and if there is danger to you--”

“We will go--do anything, only in pity be silent! Minnie, Minnie, you
cannot tell how miserable I am!”

Without pausing another moment, both ran out of the cottage, only
fearful lest they should be seen and detained. Tom helped Minnie over
the low hedge; but she hardly needed help, so eager was she to reach
the well. The rose-tint of sunset had now given place to evening’s
gray, the dew was falling, dark clouds gathered over the sky; but
heeding nothing, pausing for nothing, the Wingfields pressed on, and
were soon standing by the side of the well.





“What has become of these two children of mine?” said Mrs. Wingfield
fretfully, as on her return from her neighbour’s she found the cottage
empty. “I’m sure such a day of bustle as I have had--scarce out of one
trouble before I am into another! Well, poor Mrs. Bright is still worse
off, that is one thing. I am glad that the baby has at last dropped

It grew darker and darker. Mrs. Wingfield became uneasy. She stirred
the fire, filled the kettle, then with a long weary sigh sat down to
rest. She missed Minnie and her quiet attentions.

“I suppose that they are still out, searching for little Johnny. I fear
that there will be rain. I wish that they were back.” Mrs. Wingfield
fancied that she heard a low knock at the door.

“Come in,” she said; but no one entered. Mrs. Wingfield drew her chair
nearer to the fire, leaned her head upon her hand, and wished that Tom
and Minnie would not stay out so late.

Again the same low knock. She called out louder, “Come in,” and the
faint light which came through the doorway was darkened by a figure
which seemed to linger, as if in fear, on the threshold. Then the voice
of poor Polly was heard--“O Mrs. Wingfield, can you tell me how baby

“What! Polly, is that you? Come in, my poor child. All cold and wet
with the dew! Why don’t you go home?”

“I dare not,” said Polly, bursting into tears; “mother forbade me
till Johnny is found. Oh, tell me how baby is. Is he better? will he
live?”--she could hardly speak through her sobs.

“Yes, he is better; that is to say, he is asleep.”

“Not _dead_!” exclaimed Polly, alarmed at the word.

“Dead! no, child. Why, how you tremble! Come to the fire; I’ll get you
a little tea and toast.”

“I could not eat, it would choke me! Oh, that I had never left the
children--that I had done my duty as Minnie would have done! She--she
has been a comfort in her home--but I--”

“Come, come,” said Mrs. Wingfield in a soothing tone, “don’t go
breaking your heart in this way; all may come right at last. Would not
you like to see the baby?”

“Oh, if I might only sit up with him all night! But I may not return
without Johnny.”

“Your mother never meant that. Come, I’ll take you to her myself. When
she sees how you feel all this, I am sure that she will forgive you.”

Mrs. Wingfield was a kind-hearted woman, and taking Polly’s trembling
hand within her own, she crossed over the lane to Mrs. Bright’s. Polly
shrank back as they reached the door.

“Oh, say, do you bring me news of my child?” cried the poor anxious
woman from within.

“Not of Johnny, yet still of your child. There is one here who is
afraid to come in. Poor thing, she has almost cried herself to death.”

“Polly,” murmured the mother, and stretched out her arms. In another
moment the poor girl was sobbing upon her bosom.

Amidst the troubles of our human friends we must not quite forget those
of our little winged ones. The frightened hungry bees, confined in
their small prison, passed the long hours in most uncomfortable plight.

“What a bitter thing it is,” cried Violetta, sinking exhausted after a
last effort to gnaw through the unyielding crockery, “to think of all
the joy and happiness left in the world, from which we are shut out for
ever. To-morrow the lark will be rising on high, the butterfly flitting
over the daisied meadow, your comrades feasting in the dewy flowers,
all Nature one hum of life!”

“I am glad that they can enjoy still, there is some comfort in that,”
said Silverwing.

“That is a feeling which I cannot understand,” observed Violetta.
“It is strange that the very same thought should give pain to me and
pleasure to you!”

Violetta had had no great experience of life, or she would have known
that such is often the case. Living by herself as a solitary insect,
she had never heard one of the mottoes of Bee-land: _From the blossom
of a comrade’s success one draws the poison of envy, another the honey
of delight._

The village church-clock had struck the hour of nine; it was seldom
that its sound could be heard in the cottage of Mrs. Wingfield, but
now the place was so still that the breeze bore it distinctly to her
listening ear. Weary, she lay on her bed, unwilling to sleep till her
children should return. The rain was beginning to fall without; the
heavy clouds bending towards earth, made the night much darker than is
usual in summer. Presently a sound was heard at the door.

“Minnie, is that you?” cried the mother.

“It is Polly,” answered a mournful voice, as the little girl entered
the cottage.

“Is the baby worse?” asked Mrs. Wingfield.

“I hope not; but mother is in such a state about Johnny. If it were not
for baby, she would be wandering all night in the rain. I come to ask
if you could kindly give her a little hartshorn--I know that that is
what you take when you are poorly.”

“You are heartily welcome to what I have,” replied the cottager; “I
daresay that you can find it yourself--I need not rise. Snuff the long
wick of the candle, and there--don’t put it in the draught--mind you
don’t snuff it out--why, how your poor fingers tremble!”

How changed was Polly since the morning’s sun had risen! Her cheeks
pale and haggard, her eyes swollen with weeping, her dress hanging damp
around her chill form; who would have guessed that she ever could have
been the gayest girl in the village.

“You will find the bottle on the shelf; you can reach it with a chair,”
continued Mrs. Wingfield, raising herself on one arm to watch the
proceedings of the girl. “There, do you not see, just behind that
mug! Why, what have you done?” she cried in a tone of impatience, as
something came crashing upon the floor.

What had she done indeed. She had thrown down Tom’s mug, and set two
little prisoners free. Yes, they were free, free as the air which
they now joyously beat with their little wings! Uttering a loud hum of
delight, they flew round the cottage, darted to the door, then drew
back, afraid of the damp, and at last both settled sociably under the
table, to enjoy together a nice crumb of sugar that Tom had dropped on
the floor.

[Illustration: AT LIBERTY.]

Oh, if liberty be so sweet, so precious to all, who would deprive even
an insect of its birthright! Let them spread the free wing, unconfined
and happy, and let us find our pleasure rather in seeing them in the
position for which Providence formed and designed them, than in keeping
them as captives, the slaves to our will, deprived of their life’s
dearest blessing!





Minnie and her brother stood at the brink of the well, and gazed with
straining eyes into its depths.

“Which of us should go down?” said Minnie.

“You need not have asked such a question; you know that you are not
strong enough to draw me up; and I doubt,” added Tom, passing his hand
along the rope--“I doubt if this is strong enough to bear me.”

Minnie drew one step backwards. “If it should break with me!” she

“You should have thought of that before,” was Tom’s only reply.

“Tom, at all risks I must go--I could not sleep to-night with this
horrible doubt on my mind, and you will not let me call others to help.
I trust that the Almighty will take care of me, for my only hope is in
Him. Help me to get into the bucket; and, oh! be very careful, dear
Tom--you do not know how much frightened I am.”

“Hold the rope firmly,” said her brother; “and here, take this long
stick to feel about in the water when you are down.” Tom was extremely
anxious to have his own mind relieved, or, heartless as he was, he
could hardly have consented to let his young sister run this risk. But
there was nothing that the selfish boy dreaded so much as that his
share in Johnny’s wanderings should be known, if his fearful suspicion
were true, and the poor child had indeed perished through his folly.

Minnie shook with terror as the bucket began to descend; every moment
she fancied the rope giving way, and that she should be plunged into
the water below. The strange damp smell, the dim light, the peculiar
sound of her own voice in that hollow confined place, all added to her
feeling of fear.

[Illustration: DOWN THE WELL.]

“Stop, Tom,” she cried, as the bucket touched the water. Tom looked
down, and could perceive some one below; but, all indistinct and dim,
he could not have recognized that it was his sister.

“Can you find anything?” he whispered, kneeling down, after fixing the
wheel, and leaning over with his hands resting on the brink. He heard a
little splashing in the water, and waited for the answer of Minnie with
great anxiety. “Can you find anything there?” he repeated.

“No.” Oh, the relief brought by that one little word!

“Have you searched well?” said Tom; “have you searched to the bottom?”

“Quite to the bottom; there is nothing but water--Heaven be praised,”
said the hollow voice from below. “Now draw me up again; but softly,
very softly. Oh, how thankful I shall be if I ever reach the top!”

There was not another word spoken by either brother or sister, while
Tom, with painful exertion, turned the handle of the wheel, and first
Minnie’s clinging hands, and then her frightened face, appeared above
the level of the well.

Tom helped her to the side, which she could not have reached by
herself, and then falling on her knees, the poor little girl returned
her fervent thanks to Heaven, at once for Johnny’s deliverance from the
well and her own.

“Now let us return,” said Tom; “there is no use in remaining here.
It is growing quite dark, and beginning to rain. We can continue our
search in the morning.”

“But if poor little Johnny should be somewhere in this wood, only think
what he would suffer left out all night. It would kill him with fright,
if not with the weather. Remember, Tom, that no one else is likely to
have looked for him _here_; a place which he could never have reached
by himself.”

Tom muttered something between his teeth, which, perhaps, it was as
well that Minnie did not hear; but he certainly looked around him more

Minnie had wandered a few steps from her brother, and was slowly
walking round the greensward surrounding the well--a clear space which
was almost inclosed by the wood, only open on the side by which they
had approached it, and from which two dark narrow paths, scarce wide
enough to permit two persons to pass each other, led into the depths of
the forest. On a sudden she stopped, stooped down, then eagerly cried
out, “Oh, look what I have here!--he must be near!--he must be near!”
Tom hastened to the spot, and beheld in Minnie’s hand a little dusty
shoe, with its strap and round black button, which both felt certain
had belonged to the lost child.

“Well, he could not walk far without his shoe,” observed Tom. “I
daresay that he is near enough to hear me. Halloo, Johnny!” he shouted,
“halloo!” There was no reply but the echo.

“He must have gone down one of those little paths,” said Minnie; “we
had better search one of them at once.”

“Better search both of them, as there are two of us,” said Tom; “if we
took but one, we should be sure to choose the wrong one.”

Poor Minnie gave a woful look at the dark walks; however tempting they
might, have looked when nuts were on the boughs, and the sunbeams
struggled through their green shade, to the eye of the little girl they
looked anything but tempting now, when approaching night was wrapping
them in deepest gloom.

“Why, you are not afraid!” cried Tom, with his rude coarse laugh; for
now that he was relieved from his fear that the child was actually
dead, the thought of what he might be suffering weighed little upon his

“If it be right for me to go alone, I will go,” faltered Minnie,
“whether I am afraid or not.”

Tom laughed again, but he had little cause to laugh at words that
expressed more true courage than all the idle vaunts that he had ever
uttered. He might have remembered that his sister had just ventured
upon what an older and wiser companion than himself would never have
suffered her to have attempted. But having no fear of a night walk in
a lonely wood himself, he now, as was ever the case with him, had no
consideration for the feelings of another.

The brother and sister parted in the darkness and rain; Minnie,
trembling half with fear and half with cold, went cautiously along the
gloomy way. Every few steps she paused, and softly called, “Johnny!”
but her listening ear caught no sound but the pattering of the rain.
Many, many times she stopped, and almost resolved to go back, when the
thought of her little rosy-cheeked friend, out in the darkness and
rain, frightened, cold, and wet, encouraged her to pursue her journey.
For more than an hour the young girl wandered on, when at last the
wood came to an end, and she found herself alone on a dark wide heath,
dotted over here and there by furze-bushes.

“Johnny!” once more she cried, almost in despair, a sickening feeling
of disappointment coming over her heart. Weary and sad, she could have
sat down and cried. She saw, a little on her left hand, one lonely
light, which appeared to proceed from some cottage. Here at least she
might beg for shelter, and towards it she slowly walked. The light
shone steady and bright from a little window; and before she ventured
to knock at the door, Minnie Wingfield cautiously peeped in.

An aged man sat with his back to the window, and a large book open on
the table before him, the very sight of which gave hope and confidence
to Minnie. His wife, in her arm-chair, was listening opposite--a mild,
calm expression in her venerable face; and in the corner crouched poor
silly Sally, her brow no longer bound with her chaplet of wild flowers;
she had wreathed it round the lost Johnny, whom, with a delight which
repaid all her fears, Minnie beheld slumbering in the arms of the

[Illustration: FOUND.]

It was this poor helpless creature who had found the little boy
clinging in terror to the bough! There was still a woman’s instinct
left in her breast, an instinct of tenderness towards a child.
Terrified at first to behold the dreaded Sally, it was only the
necessity of his case that made poor Johnny suffer her to touch him;
but kindness soon finds its way to the heart--she fondled him, stroked
his curly locks, decked him out with her favourite flowers, and then
carried him away, through the still greenwood, to her own little home
on the common, pleased as a child that has found a new toy. Strange
that the life which had been endangered by the thoughtlessness of a
companion, should be guarded by the tenderness of one bereft of reason.

Minnie Wingfield soon entered the cottage, and was received with
Christian hospitality. She was placed by the fire, her dress dried, and
food placed before her; and her mind was relieved by hearing that a
messenger had been sent to her village to bear tidings to Mrs. Bright
that her Johnny was safe and under shelter. What a joyful end to all
Minnie’s anxieties; how sweet the reward of all the painful efforts
that she had made!





It is now time that I should draw my tale to a close; but as my reader
may like to know what became of the little people, with wings and
without wings, that we have followed through this story, I shall give a
few more pages to an account of their fate.

The first sunbeam which shone the next morning upon the hive, glittered
on Silverwing, as with joyous speed she hastened back to her home.
She continued there her busy and her happy life, finding sweetness
everywhere, honey in each flower, and cheering the less joyous
existence of Sipsyrup, whose wing never quite recovered its power. As
the injured bee was unable to fly out with the next swarm, her friend
remained behind to bear her company: they passed the summer days in
active employ and the winter in plenty and repose.


I have a less pleasing account to give of Waxywill, who was certainly
a most wayward bee. She chose to go out honey-seeking one day, when
required for work in the hive; she resolved, contrary to orders, to
visit the dwelling of a humble-bee, and because she knew that her
cousins of that race live underground, against the warnings of her
companions she entered a little hole in a bank, and found herself
in the midst of a nest of wasps! Her melancholy fate may easily be
imagined; she died beneath the stings of her enemies.

But, perhaps, you are more desirous to hear what befell our heroes and
heroines of the human race.

Let my reader then fancy himself again beneath the little porch which
adorns the front of Mrs. Wingfield’s cottage. It is now later in
the year, the finest flowers in the garden have faded, one or two
sunflowers and a few dahlias look gay still; but the fresh feel of the
morning air, the white tinge on the grass, and the heavy dew which has
strung Spinaway’s web with numberless tiny beads, show that the autumn
is now advanced. Beneath the porch sits Minnie, busy as usual with her
work, before the hour for going to school. Tom is near her, engaged in
stringing together little egg-shells, collected in the spring; pretty
enough in themselves, but won at the expense of much misery to the
poor birds whose nests he had robbed.

Who approaches from the opposite side of the lane, bearing a baby
carefully wrapped up in her arms? You will scarcely recognize poor
Polly, once so fond of finery and folly. How much nicer she looks in
her present quiet dress, with her gentle subdued look and kindly air.

Then the baby did live? Yes, he did live; a poor sickly delicate child.
But oh, the tenderness with which he has been watched by Polly, who
now seems to think that she can never do enough for her brothers! She
appears to have thrown away her vanity with her diamond-brooch; or
rather, she has thoroughly learned the painful lesson taught through
that terrible evening and night. The resolutions that she then made
she has not forgotten, the prayers which she then uttered were from
the heart,--and there is not in the whole village to be found a more
sober, modest, quietly-dressed girl, always placing her duties before
her pleasures, than the once vain, selfish Polly Bright.

She now drew near, carrying the baby, with little Johnny trotting after
her, his cheeks just as rosy, and his figure as round, as before his
adventure in the woods. It had left on his mind a great affection for
Minnie, who had always been a favourite with the child; and he now ran
up to his friend with an apple in his hand, as round and as rosy as

“Minnie Wings,” said the little boy, holding it up to her lips, “Minnie
Wings, you take bite.”

Minnie smilingly accepted the proffered kindness of the child, after
stooping down to kiss his rosy face.

“Come here, you little rogue,” said Tom, in a tone half surly and
half good-humoured; “tell me why you call her Minnie Wings instead of

“’Cause,” said Johnny, with dimpling cheeks, “she fly to help me.”

“So did I,” observed Tom; “so I suppose that I am ‘Wings’ too.”

Johnny fixed his round eyes full upon his neighbour, and slowly
retreating backwards, as if rather afraid, replied, “No; you Tommy

Tommy would have been angry at the speech, if he could have helped
laughing at it; but the manner and look of the child, half resolute,
half frightened, were so irresistibly comic, that Tommy Stings put the
best face upon the matter, and appeared good-humoured for once in his
life. He was certainly in a mood more amiable than usual, having that
morning been engaged to go as an errand-boy in a neighbouring town,
where, under the eye of a strict master, we may hope that his conduct
may improve, and that he may cease to deserve the title bestowed upon
him by little Johnny.

“I have come to give you good news, dear Minnie,” said Polly, after
joining in the laugh which her little brother had occasioned; “we have
had a letter from the Crimea, and my dear father is well.”

“I am so glad of that!” cried Minnie, who was ever ready to rejoice
with the rejoicing.

“And you looked so bright when I first saw you,” said Polly, “that I
suspect that you have some good news of your own to give me in return.”

“You are quite right; I have famous news, dear Polly. The squire’s lady
was here late last evening; you know how kind she is. She wants to
place her baby’s foster-brother in some cottage near her, and, to my
joy, has fixed upon ours!”

“And will she pay well?”

“Oh, more than we could have ventured to hope. We really shall now be
quite comfortable. My mother is so much pleased; I do not think that I
have seen her so well or so cheerful ever since our great troubles last
year. How good God has been to us!” added the little girl, her eyes
glistening with bright tears of gratitude and pleasure; “He has always
raised up friends for us in our need.”

“Yes, Minnie, and you, who are a friend to all who require one, are
never likely to be in want of a friend.”

“I shall so enjoy having a dear little child to look after; I am sure
that it will be a pleasure rather than a trouble.”

“It is easy to guess,” said Polly, with a good-natured smile, “why the
lady chose your cottage for the home of the baby.”

Johnny, after two or three vain attempts, had succeeded in clambering
up the bench on which Minnie was seated. She now felt his little arms
pressed round her neck, as he drew her down towards him to whisper
close in her ear, “Everybody happy with my Minnie Wings.”

       *       *       *       *       *

And now, nothing remains but that A. L. O. E. should bid her young
readers farewell. If they have liked her little book, let them
remember that her story is but as the comb, which may be pleasant to
the eye, but that its moral is the honey which is treasured within.
However young, however weak, dear children, you may be, know that the
youngest, the weakest, have some power here to give either pleasure
or pain. A generous spirit shrinks from inflicting suffering on the
smallest insect or the feeblest worm; and I trust that no reader of my
little tale will hesitate which part to take for his own, or leave it
doubtful whether he ought to be classed under the title of WINGS OR

[Illustration: ·FINIS·]


[A] Naturalists doubt whether the violet-bee is a native of Britain. It
is known that one species of carpenter-bee is to be found in England,
but the one described above probably belongs to foreign lands.


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Wings and Stings - A Tale for the Young" ***

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