Almost over his head, on a bracket against the wall, was another bird, a great hawk, pitched forward on his perch, with wings wide spread and fierce eyes glaring downward, in the intense attitude a hawk takes as he strikes his prey from some lofty watch tree. The golden-wing by this time was ready to venture in. He had leaned forward with wings spread, looking down at me to be quite sure I was harmless, when, turning his head for a final look round, he caught sight of the hawk just ready to pounce down on him. With a startled kee-uk he fairly tumbled back off the window sash, and I caught one glimpse of him as he dashed round the corner in full flight.
What were his impressions, I wonder, as he sat on a limb of the old apple tree and thought it all over? Do birds have romances? How much greater wonders had he seen than those of any romance! And do they have any means of communicating them, as they sing their love songs? What a wonderful story he could tell, a real story, of a magic palace full of strange wonders; of a glittering bit of air that made him see himself; of a giant, all in white, with only his head visible; of an enchanted beauty, stretching her wings in mute supplication for some brave knight to touch her and break the spell, while on high a fierce dragon-hawk kept watch, ready to eat up any one who should dare enter!
And of course none of the birds would believe him. He would have to spend the rest of his life explaining; and the others would only whistle, and call him Iagoo, the lying woodpecker. On the whole, it would be better for a bird with such a very unusual experience to keep still about it.
XII. A TEMPERANCE LESSON FOR THE HORNETS.
Last spring a hornet, one of those long brown double chaps that boys call mud-wasps, crept out of his mud shell at the top of my window casing, and buzzed in the sunshine till I opened the window and let him go. Perhaps he remembered his warm quarters, or told a companion; for when the last sunny days of October were come, there was a hornet, buzzing persistently at the same window till it opened and let him in.
It was a rather rickety old room, though sunny and very pleasant, which had been used as a study by generations of theological students. Moreover, it was considered clean all over, like a boy with his face washed, when the floor was swept; and no storm of general house cleaning ever disturbed its peace. So overhead, where the ceiling sagged from the walls, and in dusty chinks about doors and windows that no broom ever harried, a family of spiders, some mice, a daddy-long-legs, two crickets, and a bluebottle fly, besides the hornet, found snug quarters in their season, and a welcome.
The hornet stayed about, contentedly enough, for a week or more, crawling over the window panes till they were thoroughly explored, and occasionally taking a look through the scattered papers on the table. Once he sauntered up to the end of the penholder I was using, and stayed there, balancing himself, spreading his wings, and looking interested while the greater part of a letter was finished. Then he crawled down over my fingers till he wet his feet in the ink; whereupon he buzzed off in high dudgeon to dry them in the sun.