Gateway to the Classics: Will o' the Wasps by Margaret Warner Morley
Will o' the Wasps by  Margaret Warner Morley

The Hunters

U NCLE WILL helped Theodore climb up on the roof, where they sat and waited, and sure enough after a little while along came a white-faced hornet intent on business.

"It is a big worker," whispered Theodore.

Up and down, here and there it flew—whish! down it pounced on a fly, but the fly was too quick; so up and down, here and there again—whish! down it pounced again.

"Why did it do that?" whispered Theodore; "there was no fly there. Do you think it thought that nail head was a fly?"

"It certainly looked so," said Uncle Will. "See, it is after it again!"

"What a silly!" said Theodore in disgust, as the hornet kept pouncing on the nail head; "where are its eyes?"

"Maybe it is old and needs spectacles," said Uncle Will slyly.

Theodore laughed. "Wouldn't it look funny!" he said, and then gave a little squeal, and clapped his hand over his mouth because Uncle Will had told him to be quiet and not frighten the wasps.

"Did you see that wasp? she got the fly!"

"So she did—the valiant huntress! and now there will be fresh fly for dinner."

They stayed quite a time watching the wasps on their hunting ground, as Uncle Will called he shed roof, and he told Theodore how wasps sometimes caught flies on the cows' backs when the cows were lying down in the pasture, and how a whole swarm of them would sometimes sally forth and attack a person passing too close to their nest, and how he had once stepped into a wasp's nest when he was looking for berries and how the hornets ran up his legs stinging all the way right through his stockings, for it happened when he was a little boy and wore knickerbockers.

"It would have been worse if you had been bare-footed," said Theodore.

"I suppose so," said Uncle Will; "but it didn't seem at the time as if anything could be worse."

"How do you suppose the wasps found that meat so soon?" Theodore asked Uncle Will, as they went out for a walk together after supper.

"How do you  suppose they found it?"

"Perhaps," said Theodore, "they saw it, and perhaps they smelled it."

"It is more likely they smelled it," said Uncle Will. "They must have pretty good smellers, judging by the quickness with which they appear when anything they like comes upon the scene. Once when I was off on a long tramp I sat down to eat a bit of luncheon in a place under a shady beech tree, with a pretty little brook rippling at its root—"

"My! I wish I had been there," interrupted Theodore.

"Some day when your legs are longer and considerably stronger you shall go—well, there I sat as happy as could be, with the sun falling like gold through the leaves, but better than gold—when all at once I had company. Not only that, the company had come to dinner!"

"It was a hornet," said Theodore.

"It was a yellow jacket, my child, and it knew what was good at the first try. I don't suppose it had ever seen, smelled, heard, or read of a sandwich before, but the way it pitched into mine you would have thought it had been brought up on sandwiches."

"Did you let it have all it wanted?"

"Oh, yes, that is to say, as long as the sandwich lasted, which wasn't long."

"How could you bite it with the wasp there?"

"I didn't, you young and ignorant child. I waited until it had flown off with both hands full, then I got a good big bite before it came back again. In this way I got a bite every time it got a load, and it was a race to see who would get the most."

"I guess you did!"

"I guess I did too. The boys used to plague me when I was little for having a big mouth, but for once I had reason to be glad of it."

"Oh, Uncle Will!" said Theodore, "you have a beautiful mouth!"

"Well, yes, I think so too. But you and I are the only ones who have found out, so let us keep it a secret!"

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