"Good-day," said the Dragon-Fly. "Where shall I lay my eggs?"
"Oh, you are sure to find some place," answered the flower. "Sit down for a bit, and tell me if you are any happier now than when you were crawling up and down my stalk, a little ugly Larva."
"Where shall I lay my eggs? Where shall I lay my eggs?" screamed the Dragon-Fly, and flew humming around from place to place, laid one here and one there, and finally seated itself, tired and weary, on one of the leaves.
"Well?" said the Water-Lily.
"Oh, it was better in the old days--much better," sighed the Dragon-Fly. "The sunshine is really delightful, and it is a real pleasure to fly over the water; but I have no time to enjoy it. I have been so terribly busy, I tell you. In the old days I had nothing to think about; now I have to fly about all day long to get my silly eggs disposed of. I haven't a moment free. I have scarcely time to eat."
"Didn't I tell you so?" cried the Water-Lily in triumph. "Didn't I prophesy that your happiness would be hollow?"
"Good-bye," sighed the Dragon-Fly. "I have not time to listen to your disagreeable remarks. I must lay some more eggs." But just as it was about to fly off the Starling came.
"What a pretty little Dragon-Fly!" it said; "it will be a delightful tit-bit for my little ones."
Snap! it killed the Dragon-Fly with its bill, and flew off with it.
"What a shocking thing!" cried the Water-Lily, as its leaves shook with terror. "Those animals! those animals! They are funny creatures. I do indeed value my quiet, peaceful life. I harm nobody, and nobody wants to pick a quarrel with me. I am very luck--"
It did not finish what it was saying, for at that instant a boat came gliding close by. "What a pretty little Water-Lily!" cried Ellen, who sat in the boat. "I will have it!" She leant over the gunwale and wrenched off the flower. When she had got home she put it in a glass of water, and there it stood for three days among a whole company of other flowers.
"I can't make it out," it said on the morning of the fourth day. "I have not come off a bit better than that miserable Dragon-Fly."
"The flowers are now withered," said Ellen, and she threw them out of the window.
So there lay the Water-Lily with its fine white petals on the dirty ground.
By C. A. Stephens
There is a tiny borer which eats seasoned oak wood, boring thousands of minute holes through it till it becomes a mere shell, and turning out a fine white powder known among country folk as "powder-post." When a shovel or a pitchfork-handle snaps suddenly, or an axe-helve or a rake's tail breaks off under no great strain, the farmer says, "'Twas powder-post."
If this small pest obtains lodgment in a barn, or in the oak finish or furniture of a house, it is likely to do a vexatious amount of damage, and no practicable method of checking its ravages has been found. Varnishes do not exclude it. Boiling will kill the borer, but furniture and wainscotings are not easily boiled.
From the frames of old buildings, when of oak, powder-post will sometimes run in streams when a beam or brace is struck.
But everything has its virtues, if only they can be found out; and long ago, in New England, some rustic AEsculapius discovered that powder-post was a sovereign balm for all flesh-wounds, causing them to heal rapidly, without "proud flesh." And if proud flesh appeared, the wound would still heal if it were opened and dressed with powder-post.
What modern medical science would predicate concerning this panacea, I know not, but thousands of cuts in rural districts treated with powder-post did very well, and faith in it waxed strong. So when Sam Eastman cut his foot over in the "east woods,"
all the wiseacres in the neighborhood declared that that foot must be done up in powder-post. "If it isn't," they said, "proud flesh will get into it, and that boy will be lame all winter."
It was a bad cut. Sam and Willis Murch had been splitting four-foot logs, when Sam's axe, glancing from a log, had buried the blade in his instep; the very bones were cut. There were four of us boys at work together. We ran to him, tied a handkerchief round his ankle, and twisted it tight with a stick; but blood flowed profusely. We did not know how to apply a tourniquet.
When at last we had helped Sam home, night was at hand; and although we went to all the neighbors, we could not collect enough powder-post to dress the cut. Several people said, however, that plenty of it could be obtained at the old Plancher barn, for the braces of that barn had been made of cleft red oak, and were "all powder-posted." But the Plancher barn was four miles distant, in the clearing in the "great woods." A settler bearing the name had cleared a farm there forty years before, and had lived there for over twenty years. Ill fortune beset him, however. His children died, his house burned on a winter night, and he moved away in discouragement, abandoning the property.
The clearing was known to all the boys of the locality as a favorite haunt of foxes.
The next morning Sam's younger brother, John, Willis Murch and I went up to the old barn to get powder-post. John had a small axe with which to split the timbers, four old newspapers in which to gather up the precious dust, and a bottle in which to put it.
It was Thanksgiving morning. The sun rose in a clear, straw-colored sky. It was cold; the ground was frozen, and there was skating on the small ponds.
Red squirrels were scolding on the borders of the wood-lots, and blue jays came squalling into the orchards.
"This is a weather-breeder," grandmother remarked at breakfast.
Low down on the southern horizon, scarcely visible above the hilltops, was a line of slate-gray cloud.
Willis and I were not sorry of an excuse for a jaunt through the woods, for Willis owned a gun--an old army rifle bored out smooth for shot. Our only anxiety was to get back in good season for dinner. Thanksgiving dinner was always at three o'clock.
We set off immediately after breakfast. There was no need for haste on Sam's account, for John told us that the cut foot was no longer very painful, and Sam had slept well. The distance was about four miles, but there was neither road nor path through the forest.
It was a good time for hunting, for the swamps were frozen and the foliage was off the trees. The leaves were sodden, and no longer rustled underfoot. Red and gray squirrels scampered across our path, but Willis disdained to fire at them. He was loaded for deer; besides he had but three extra charges. Powder and shot were usually scarce with us.
At length we heard a deer run, and followed it for an hour or more.
Then John espied a hedgehog in a poplar-tree, and Willis shot it.
The long black-pointed quills were a curiosity to us, but we did not deem such game worth carrying home.
It was near noon when we reached the clearing, and the sky had become overcast, but as we crossed the Plancher brook a new diversion presented itself. The pools were frozen over, but the ice was so transparent that the bottom was plainly visible, and we could see trout lying sluggishly in the deep water. Several of them were fine fish, that looked as if they might weigh a pound or more.
I had heard older boys say that if a gun is fired with the muzzle held just through the ice of a frozen pool, the concussion will so stun the fish beneath that they will float up to the under side of the ice. Willis was afraid that this would burst his gun, but the trout looked so alluring that at last he ventured the experiment.
John cut a small hole with the axe, and then Willis, lying down, thrust the muzzle of the gun about six inches beneath the ice.
Then he edged away, and stretching out his arm at full length, pulled the trigger. The gun recoiled, but no apparent damage was done.
For a few moments the water was turbid with the smoke, but when it cleared, there, sure enough, were five or six of the very largest trout floating, belly upward, against the ice. We had but to cut through and take them out, but John was so slow with his axe that two of the trout recovered and darted away.
We had four fine fish to show for the charge of powder, and immediately searched for another pool. We soon came to one much deeper and better stocked with trout, and Willis fired under the ice again. Eight fish were secured here; and going on up the brook, we found still another pool. This time Willis thrust the gun deeper into the water, with the result that about a foot of the muzzle was split open!
We had angry words about this accident, for Willis, much chapfallen over the mishap, blamed me, and declared that I ought to buy him a new gun. As I had but fifty cents in the world, there was no other way for me but to scoff at Willis's claim. He then seized all the trout. This did not altogether please John Eastman, and he and I turned our backs on Willis, and hit upon a stratagem for capturing trout on our own account. Knowing that it was the concussion of the shot that stunned the trout, we went up to the old barn and procured a long, sweeping board. Using this like a flail, we could strike the ice a blow that made a noise well-nigh as loud as a gun.
When we gave just the right sort of blow, the trout below would turn on their backs and float up to the ice. John and I soon secured two good strings of trout; and by this time Willis, who had followed us, thought it best to make peace.
"Come on, boys!" he exclaimed. "We had better be going. It's two o'clock, and beginning to snow."
We had become so engrossed in our novel method of fishing that we had not heeded the weather. Fine snow was falling.
"But I must get the powder-post for Sam's foot!" exclaimed John.
Willis and I had forgotten that.
"Hurry, then," said Willis, "or we shall be late to Thanksgiving dinner! I'm hungry now!"
We ran to the barn. The lean-to door was off its hinges, but wooden pins held the oak braces of the frame in position. We knocked out the pins, and prying out two of the braces, split them, and then beat the pieces on the newspapers. The white powder ran from the perforated wood in tiny streams. The bottle filled slowly, however, and it needed much splitting and hammering to obtain even a teaspoonful of powder-post. Then, at the last moment, Willis spilled nearly all that he had collected, and another brace had to be taken out and split.
By this time our newspapers were torn in pieces, and altogether we had much trouble in collecting half a bottleful. When at last we corked up the bottle and hurried out of the barn, a heavy snowstorm had set in. We could not even see the forest across the clearing.
But we ran as fast as we could, and for fifteen minutes scarcely slackened our pace.
The whole forest had taken on a wintry aspect. The snow rattled on the bare twigs and sodden leaves, and the rising gusts of wind sighed drearily.