Page images
PDF
EPUB

Their first appearance in Spring. 135 triumph of the starling, who had sought sanctuary, over the profane invader.

When the starlings have done breeding, they take to the meadows, especially the low grounds, for the remainder of the summer, associating in small flocks. In November they congregate in much larger numbers. It is difficult to say where they go during the winter-probably to the warmest, moistest spots they can find in the British Islands. In the spring they make an early appearance at the old breeding-spots, just one and then another showing himself on the favourite tower or tree, for a hasty inspection and a few reflective pipings, as if he were brushing up his memory of the whereabouts. Then he skims off, and in a few days half a dozen more come, till by degrees the whole colony arrives, and, after comparing notes, sets itself to work for the great annual business of rearing families. Then the starlings bustle about, building nests and making love with incessant industrious affection; for birds, above all animals, teach us that

young

married couples may be thoroughly happy, even if they have to work hard.

Mother Nature knows well that the future of a home depends upon thrift of the newly136 A Lesson to young Married People. made pair, quite as much as upon their mutual love; and therefore, where she bears rule, ordains that there shall be no billing and cooing without at the same time an assiduous building of the nest.

( 137 )

INSECT WARFARE.

[ocr errors]

HEN Swift made Gulliver superin

tend the Lilliputian wars, and

therein convey or kindle sarcastic thoughts about the events of his own day and the doings of his fellow-men, he might have saved himself a severe strain on the inventive powers by looking into the insect-world, the naturalized Lilliput. Every man has in his garden, or at least within half a mile of his house, a system of tactics and military operations in practice, not excluding the effect and influence of uniform and drill, which affords a minute but apt parallel to the “ Army and Navy Intelligence” column in the Times. I refer to my friends the earwigs, beetles, &c., of creation. “ Go to the ant,” said a great authority—“Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.” Now, I cannot believe that this referred only to a selfish anticipation of necessities. I cannot believe that this was left to stand in apparent con

138

A World of Strife. tradiction to other revered advice against being careful for the morrow. I believe that it involved a general, not specific, reference to the ways of the insect-world. I believe that man may find himself more accurately reflected there than he is prepared to expect, and, for this time, I propose a short reflection about “ Insect Warfare."

When you smoke serenely in the garden on a summer's day, you are surrounded by a world of strife. How much size influences the effect of a quarrel ! Could the myriads around you be suddenly magnified, you would swoon at the crowd of monsters gobbling, crunching, butting, stabbing, and generally making at, dodging, circumventing, murdering, and eating one another. Every lawn is a battle-field ; every flower-bed a grave; every shrub a barrack. But it is Lilliput, and you smoke the pipe of peace. Did you ever see a drop of water—they said it was water-by the help of the solar microscope at the Polytechnic, or elsewhere? I remember the sight when a little boy. A great circle of light suddenly appeared, about the size, apparently, of Astley's amphitheatre, wherein a parcel of little sprites were hopping about and sidling out of the way of two dragons, as big as bulls,

[blocks in formation]

who suddenly navigated the arena.

All at once one of the dragons flew upon the other with open mouth, and ate him before the audience. How they wrestled and smacked their tails about; but one ate the other at last, growing perceptibly bigger as the victim expired and shrank to his skin! Had they been dogs it would have been a brutal exhibition, notwithstanding the delight they take in barking and biting. As it was, the cruel conqueror enjoyed himself without an cries of shame; indeed, I have no doubt the pair were confined in that drop in hopes of a resultant tussle. The exhibitor and audience were charmed. I know that I, as a little boy, had some precocious questionings within my Sunday waistcoat about the loveliness of nature. Since then I have come to the conclusion that we are not the most bloodthirsty and ferocious of living creatures ; that it is all very pretty to say that every prospect pleases, but only man is vile,” but that the first clause of the sentence is questionable, to say the best of it. Nowhere will you find a more fierce, vindictive society, than among insects. Nowhere does it seem that natural appetite is indulged with more permitted pain. No animals are furnished (for their size) with

« PreviousContinue »