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

Underground Paper Palaces

"O F course you know," said Uncle Will, one day, "that not all the yellow-jacket people build castles in the air. Some of them are cave-dwellers."

"Yes, I know," said Theodore; "there is a yellow jacket's nest under the plank walk that goes down to the front gate. You can see them go in and out, and you have to be careful not to step on any of them, because the others would be mad and sting you to death."

"Well, you could run into the house and shut the door," said Uncle Will; "but of course it is safer as well as kinder not to step on them."

"Do they do any harm?" asked Theodore.

"Not a bit," answered Uncle Will. "On the contrary they are good neighbors, because they catch so many flies—only when fruit is ripe they are apt to help themselves a little too freely."

"I should think so!" shouted Theodore; "didn't I pick up a nice ripe pear this morning, and there was a little hole in one side of it and out of the hole popped a little yellow tail and waved its sting about then out backed the wasp in a hurry, as if someone had pushed it from behind."

"I guess somebody did push it," said Uncle Will.

"I guess so too; because the minute it was out another yellow tail appeared in the doorway, and when that wasp had flown off, came another and another—seven or eight in all, and there was a great big hole inside where they had eaten the pear until there wasn't much left but skin and bones—skin and core, I mean."

"Yes," said Uncle Will, "sometimes wasps are very troublesome to fruit growers, but generally they do not take more than their share. They like meat even better than fruit, and they even enjoy cooked meat, so if you were to put a little piece on the table some wasp body would find it in less than no time."

"Let's do it;" and Theodore started on a run for the house and soon came back with a scrap of meat.

"Let's play it is dinner time and this is the table;" and he laid the meat on the end of a stump while they both sat a little way off and watched.

"Wasps are fond of sweets, too, you know."

"Oh, yes, I forgot;" and Theodore darted away, soon to return with a piece of bread well spread with nice sweet syrup.

"This is their dessert and here is the fruit," he said as he put the bread and molasses on the stump with a slice of apple.

"Now for the party!" and they settled themselves down in a comfortable manner and began to talk about all sorts of things until they quite forgot the wasps.

"See there!" said Uncle Will, suddenly; and when Theodore looked at the wasp's feast, behold! three yellow jackets were busy gnawing away at the meat. No sooner had one cut out a little bit of a chunk than away it flew. In a few minutes half a dozen had found the meat, and they all fell to work with a hearty good will, cutting out and carrying away balls of meat and coming back for more.

"They are taking it home to their children," said Theodore, eagerly.

"I believe they are," said Uncle Will.

"They don't care much for dessert, though," said Theodore; "they don't go near the syrup and apple! Oh, there goes one now,—see it lick up the syrup! but now it goes over to the meat, and none of them touch the apple!"

"Never mind," said Uncle Will, consolingly; "you can't expect them to choose bread and butter when there is plum cake to be had; apple they can get any time, but it is only on high days and holidays that meat comes their way. It must be a good change from fly, you know—and so much easier to catch! By the way, did you ever watch a hornet catching flies?"

"No, never," said Theodore; "did you?"

"Yes, and not so long ago—it is only yesterday I saw two or three hunting along the shed roof in the sun. Let's go and see if they are there today."

So they went.

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