“The wasps cease to bring in any more food for the young. They tear open the cells and expose the young grubs to the weather, when they die, or the birds eat them. Generally they pinch them to death, for they will not let them live to die of starvation; and while they are in this state they do not feel pain. So what looks like cruelty is really kindness.
“The full-grown wasps soon become sleepy with cold and die off, all but the few which live to be the mothers of the wasps next year.”
CHARLEY FOSTER’S PETS.
“Sweet is the love which Nature brings.”—WORDSWORTH.
On the following Saturday afternoon the children went to see their cousins.
As soon as they arrived, Tom said to Jack, “I saw Charley Foster yesterday, and told him we would go to see him this afternoon. I asked him that, if he had any birds’ eggs to spare, would he give them to you, that you might take them back with you to London. He said he should be most happy to do so; and that we had better stop till after tea, and go home in the cool of the evening. So,” continued Tom, “as soon as you’re ready we’ll be off.”
“I’m ready now,” said Jack; so the boys started for Charley Foster’s house, which was about half a mile off, along the upper edge of the wood, so the walk was a pleasant one.
Presently they saw two men come out of the wood with large, square-looking packages, covered over with black linen.
“What are those men doing?” asked Jack; “and what have they got in those packages?”
“They are bird-catchers, and those are the traps and cages for the birds. It’s a downright shame to keep a thing with wings in a cage. I can’t see what pleasure it can be to listen to their song when they are shut up like that. I like plenty of room myself, and so do birds,” said Tom.
“What birds have those men been catching?”
“Linnets and goldfinches chiefly. They get nightingales, too, out of these woods: they are very easy birds to trap, as they are not shy; but it is now rather too late to catch them. The bird-catchers are after them about the middle of April, when they first come back to England.”
“Do nightingales sing only at night, Tom?”
“No; they sing pretty nearly all day long, only you don’t notice them because other birds are singing too. They begin their night song between ten and eleven o’clock, when other birds are quiet, and that’s the time to hear them if you happen to be awake. There’s Charley Foster’s house, that low white house on the left hand side of the road. There’s Charley, too, looking out for us.”
Charley was two or three years older than Tom, but having the same tastes they were often together.
Charley took them at once to his “den,” as he called it, a small room at one end of the straggling house, reached by a long passage.