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by the blow, a kind little Wasp who was near was moved with pity, and came up and offered to stroke his wound with her antennæ ; which she did : and if Stinger had been wise, he would have seen that this was just the good little wife which his mother wanted for him, and he would have settled down with her and lived very happily.
But Stinger cared for nobody but himself, and just now he was full of hate and anger; so he set off again, humming loudly in his passion, and flew into a cottager’s garden, where a woman was gathering strawberries. Here he found a great feast ; but as he was taking a large bite, the woman's hand brushed him aside as she plucked the next berry.
She did not hurt him, but he was so easily offended that he got into one of his rages, and, flying at her, stung her in the face.
“Oh! oh!” shrieked she, flinging down her basket, and whipping at him with her handkerchief; but he flew off and alighted on a pear tree beyond her reach.
Here he began to gorge on a ripe pear, when a Starling, attracted by his humming, came also to the same bough and began pecking at the same fruit.
I cannot stand this; you are meddling with my pear,” cried selfish Stinger.
The Starling cried “Chirrup," and went on pecking; so Stinger, in a passion, flew at his leg and stung it. But he was little prepared for the consequences: the angry bird seized him in his beak, and crushed him to atoms; and never did Widow Wasp behold her naughty eldest son again.
Very anxious she was when night came on, and there was no sign of either Waspina or her
brother; and long and solemn charges did she give to the remaining children to be prudentand polite, and not to fly rashly into places where they were not wanted.
But only little Snippa listened with dutiful attention ; Beetle-head snored ; Buz-fuz sipped at some cherry brandy which he had brought home from the confectioner's; and Spy-fly whispered and tittered with a large Earth-worm who sometimes came to spend the evening in their family.
CHAPTER IV. Next morning Beetle-head announced that, as the eldest remaining brother, it was his duty to go in search of Waspina. Widow Wasp heard this with dread; for she could not trust Beetle-head, he had no sense, though he always meant well. However, he was not to be turned from his plan, and off he set.
He did very well at first; for he was not thinking of amusing himself, but flew on straight towards the manor house. Presently he got into a wood, and, in his headlong way, he bumped right up against a tree, and broke off the end of one of his antennæ. As he stopped ruefully to rub his poor head, he heard a humming and mumming inside the tree.
“I declare," cried Beetle-head to himself, “ that is Waspina shut up a prisoner by some cruel giant of a Cockchafer; or maybe a wicked Hornet has got hold of her, and wants to marry her against her will."
So he peeped about for a door into this enchanted stronghold, and soon came to a hole, which he entered very unceremoniously, without buzzing the slightest salutation.
But no sooner was he inside, than he found him
self in a nest of wild Bees, all busy over their honeymaking Now Bees are the most jealous of creatures as to their famous recipe for making honey. They have had it since the creation, handing it down from one generation to another, and never letting any cther animal, not even man, get an idea how to copy them. They would as soon give away that precious recipe for honey, as your great-grandmother would have given her famous beauty lotion, or the elderflower wine which she mulled for your great-grandfather on a frosty Christmas night.
This being the Bees' jealous temper about their honey-making, they are always very angry if any. body comes prying about during the process ; so one and all they darted at poor Beetle-head.
“ A Wasp! a Wasp! turn him out! hustle him! sting him ! kill him !" resounded on all sides; and poor Beetle-head, shoved, and pushed, and nipped, and stung, was at last flung down, half dead, at the foot of the inhospitable tree. There he lay stunned and stupid for hours. At length he recovered enough to resume his journey—for he was an affectionate brother, and had set his heart on bringing back Waspina ; so, stiff and sore, he still flew onwards.
The dining-room window was open, and everybody was eating fruit for luncheon.
"Now I must be very polite,” said Beetle-head to himself, “and ask very respectfully where my sister
" is, or I shall offend them ;”—and thus resolving, he went straight to the ear of the lady of the house, and buzzed timidly, close to her cheek, “Kind lady, do you know anything of my sister Waspina, who came here yesterday ?”
Up started the lady, shrieking, "A Wasp! a Wasp!" and everybody jumped off their chairs and beat at the unlucky Beetle-head.
“So this is their return for my civility,” said he ; " I'll revenge myself next time I come, but I am in too great a hurry now;" and he flew out of the room and up to the second storey, where he saw another
Here he entered, and, being very tired and hungry, was not sorry to see a bowl of sugar left on the table. Having refreshed himself, he looked about, and was horrified to behold the whole walls of the room covered with dead insects, fastened on cards with great pins stuck through their bodies : Moths of all sizes and kinds, brilliant Butterflies, Horned Beetles, strange Flies and Spiders,—the whole world of creeping things. Beetle-head got very sick and frightened; he had never seen so many dead creatures before. Soon he heard a low, faint hum, not far off; and creeping along the table he came to a card, and on it, in the agonies of death, stabbed through the body with a large pin, lay his lost sister, Waspina!
“Alas !” she sighed on recognising him, as he spoke to her in an agony of grief, “Alas! I pay the penalty of my vanity. I might have escaped, had I not been so foolishly delighted to hear the boy who found me in the peach say, 'What a splendid Wasp! it is quite worth a place in my collection.' Little did I think what a torture-chamber he was bringing me to. I did not even try to sting him; and he, oh! he plunged this deadly weapon into me, and left me to die by inches."
Here her voice failed; she gave a piteous shiver all over her body, stretched out her legs, and expired.
Beetle-head, lost in grief, remained motionless beside the corpse, till the owner of the collection coming in to see if his specimen were yet dead, the avenging brother darted furiously at hiin, stung him again and again, and did not leave off till he himself was struck down on the ground and trampled to death. And thus Beetle-head, like Waspina, fell a martyr to science.
"It is very sad,” sighed Widow Wasp that night, " that my children are all leaving me so fast. I trust they are doing well out in the great world; but I am much afraid they have come to harm.”
“No wonder!” said Spy-fly, pertly ; “Waspina is so vain, and Stinger so passionate, and Beetle-head such a fool.”
Widow Wasp had often found fault with her elder children for these very faults, but now they were absent she could not bear to hear them blamed; so she began to defend them warmly. “Indeed, Spyfly, you are too severe. Dear Waspina is so beautiful, it is a temptation to be conceited, and an excuse for her also ; and Stinger has a high spirit—just like his noble father. You cannot expect gentlemen Wasps to be very meek and mild, like us females. And as for dear, kind Beetle-head, there never was such a loving creature."
'I am glad you're pleased, mother,” said impertinent Miss Spy-fly; "and now I am going out to a party at Captain Blow-fly's. He has got a very