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The Babes In The Wood
by [?]

“Nature and life speak very early to man.”–FROEBEL.

A great many years ago three little girls lived in an old-fashioned house in the East. They had a very lovely home, and a kind father and mother, who tried to make them happy. All through the summer they used to roam over the hills and fields, catching butterflies, watching the birds and bees at work, and studying the flowers and trees in the beautiful meadows and woods. Then when winter came, and the days grew cold, they went to school; and in the evening, when the fire was burning brightly, they read and studied in books about all they had seen in the summer.

Besides all these lovely things, and perhaps best of all, they had a very large yard to play in, so large that it took up a whole block, and seemed like a little farm in the middle of the town. There was a lovely lawn and flower beds; a vegetable garden, barnyard and stable; and an orchard where all kinds of fruit trees grew, apple, peach, pear, and many others. A cow lived down in the meadows of clover, and old Bob, the horse, was sometimes turned out to pasture there. But nicest of all, there was the wood yard. You must remember that every winter, where these little girls lived, the snow fell, and lay so deep on the roads that no one could bring in wood from the forest, and without it all the people would have frozen in their cold homes.

So every September the gates were thrown wide open, and into the yard load after load of wood was drawn and piled up under the shed. Then, when it was too cold to play out on the hills, the little girls used to have a fine time in the yard, piling up the wood, making beds, tables, chairs, and stoves of the sticks that had once been the waving branches and strong, sturdy trunks of trees.

Toward spring they often found a strange yellow powder on the ground under the wood. At first they played with it, calling it flour, and made pies and cakes out of it. But at last they began to wonder where the flour came from, and after watching and studying a long time this is what they found out.

But first I must tell you that all the time the three little girls were happy and busy in this beautiful place, they were not the only family there. There were the robins’ children, whose mammas were trying to make them good and happy too. There were the beetles’ children, the ants’ children, and families of toads, butterflies, and spiders. And while the three little girls were playing with the sticks of wood, there lay, tucked snugly away inside of them, many families of children, warm and safe in their wooden home.

Now I want the smallest of you little children to hold up her hand. How small it is compared with your body! Now let us see the little finger on that hand,–it is smaller still; and now look at the nail on that finger: the brothers and sisters of one of these families were altogether about as large as that tiny nail. Their mamma was a wasp, with light, gauzy wings and a strong body with a long sting on the end of it, about the length of a needle. With this little sting or saw, as it really was, she had bored many holes in the wood when it was still a green tree, and at the bottom of each hole she had laid a tiny egg. There it lay for a long time, all white and still, until one day it cracked open, and out came a funny little white grub, with six short white feet, and black jaws very strong and large for such a tiny thing. This little creature had never had anything to eat, and as it was very hungry indeed, it fell to eating–what do you think? Wood– its own house! You wouldn’t like a stick of wood for your breakfast, I know, but the wasp-mamma knew what her little grub-children would want, so she put them in just the right place; for they couldn’t have eaten anything else. And the hungry little grubs ate and ate and ate as long as they could, pushing away from the hole the part they did not want, and this fell upon the ground as the strange yellow powder the children found in the wood-yard, every spring.

And so, while the little girls were placing away in the sunshine the little grubs were eating away in the wood, until at last, one day, they grew satisfied, and one after another went to sleep. There they lay in their dark homes, fast asleep, through long weeks, while the snow was melting and the grass coming up, and the birds and bees beginning their summer work again; until one day these lazy little creatures, that had never done anything in their lives but eat and sleep, woke up and began to stretch themselves. But what had happened to them? Instead of the soft white bodies they had gone to sleep with, they now had black ones and four gauzy wings; while six slender legs had taken the place of the six short ones. There were still the strong black jaws to do all needful work with, and in addition, delicate mouth-parts, for their food was now to be the honey from flowers. In fact, they looked and were just like their mamma, the gauzy wasp. One after another they crept to the end of the passage that led from their dark homes to the bright world without. They stood one minute at the little dark hole, and then, spreading their wings, flitted out into the beautiful world of sunshine and flowers.