The owner of a vegetable-garden one day noticed that a basket which had abam just been filled with new turnips became suddenly emptier. He questioned the gardener, who likewise could not understand the matter, and proposed, as a certain means of discovering the thief, that they should hide themselves behind a hedge which was near. This was done. After some minutes they saw the house-dog go straight to the basket, take a turnip in his mouth, and then make his way to the stable. Dogs do not eat raw turnips; our watchers therefore followed the thief, and discovered that the horse, his stable mate, was also concerned in the affair.

Wagging his tail, the dog gave the horse the turnip, and the horse, of course, did not require much pressing. The gardener angrily seized his knobbed stick in order to chastise the dog, but his master held him back. The turnips went on disappearing in exactly the same way, and the scene repeated itself until the supply was exhausted.

The dog had long made this horse his favourite, while he seemed to consider a second horse which was in the same stable not worthy of a glance, much less a turnip.
Along the river Wey, which flows through Hampshire and Surrey, there is much wild scenery still, though some parts have been altered of late years. Many small streamlets, bogs and marshes, ponds and pools, are delightful to the lover of Nature, no less than to the sportsman. Boys with nets chase big dragon-flies, fat-bodied moths, and swift butterflies, and men with guns watch for birds, large or small, which are numerous. The young birds are also in danger from foxes, who leave the woodland to hunt by the waterside.

The fish draw many anglers to the river, for the pools and streams have plenty of fish, not only the small and common kinds, but the trout, which is eagerly followed to its haunts. Besides trout, the ferocious pike or jack is not uncommon, good specimens being taken by various baits, for a jack is not particular what it eats. When cooked, it is a fish generally liked, though it seldom comes into the shops for sale. It is rather a handsome fish, being marked with green and bright yellow.

A clever jack will do much to obtain a choice morsel. Roaming along the banks of the Wey, a man came upon what had once been a good house, in front of which stood a row of fine yews. It was fast going to ruin, and, indeed, only a few rooms were occupied. While he was examining it, the occupier, who knew him slightly, asked him to come in and have some mead, made from his own honey. After talking a little while, the host began to tell him his troubles about his young ducks. They went out for water excursions, as young ducks must, but his wife did not let them stop out late, because of the foxes; but on the way home, some of them had lately disappeared mysteriously. He offered to show the spot, and took his visitor there. The little ducks crossed a broad piece of open water to get upon a sloping board just as they reached the place; down into the stream they went, sometimes two at once. The visitor asked his guide whether he had seen any jack. He said that there were plenty, and that he had caught several; but there was one big fellow he had noticed which would not take the bait offered.

'That is the offender!' cried the man; 'he swims up the stream, picks up a fish here and there till the tiny little ducklings, which are a delicacy to him, are on the water. If there is one the right size to suit him, he has it; if not, he goes back to other food. Afterwards he returns to deep water, but is here again in the evening when the ducks come home.'

What was to be done was the next question. How could this artful jack be caught, if he was too dainty to take ordinary bait? Then they thought of a capital plan. They got a long, straight pole, and fastened to it a strong bit of pike-line. A dead wood-mouse was obtained and secured to the line, and at the proper time gently floated over the place where the ducklings had vanished. The plan answered capitally. Mr. Jack came, seized the mouse, and was hauled out of the water, and no more ducklings were lost.

Another instance of a jack's greed was told in one of the newspapers. A shepherd was passing an ornamental lake one day, when his dog started a stoat, which ran out from some bushes near the water. The stoat, being pursued, at last actually jumped into the lake, and swam away. The shepherd was still watching it, as it swam bravely on, when suddenly the nose of a large pike shot out of the water close by, and the fish was seen making straight for the animal. In a few moments it had seized the wretched stoat, and though the latter struggled hard for its life, all was in vain. The jack forced the animal beneath the water, and neither were seen again.

Graham was a very good sort of chap, and everybody liked him except when he was playing practical jokes. It is all very well to score off another fellow occasionally, but when it comes to making him howl in school, and get sent up for a private interview with the Doctor, it is going a bit too far.

Three times in one week the master of the Lower Fourth had had to send some one up, and each time it was Graham's fault. The third time the Doctor himself happened to be in the room, and I noticed that, though he actually caned me, it was Graham that he looked at most.

Some of us say that the Doctor has eyes in the back of his head, because he sees so many things that he is not expected to see, and I was sure that day that he had an eye on Graham.

After the third caning, we had a committee meeting in my study, and decided that something must be done. Wilson wanted to drop Graham into the pond, and Rupertson suggested that two chaps should hold him down while the three who had been caned through his jokes gave him a good thrashing; but Shepherd, the smallest boy in the Fourth, hit on the best idea, and that was to pay him back in his own coin.

Shepherd had heard him planning with another boy in his dormitory to dress up as a ghost that very night, and come into ours, and scare us into fits, and we determined that the most scared chap should be Graham himself.

We had all been in bed about a quarter of an hour when there was a rustling sound at the door, and in glided a figure that might have made us creep if we had not been prepared for it. It had a great head, with glaring, fiery eyes, which made one feel a little uncomfortable, even though we knew it was only a turnip. Its body did not show, but only great shining bones, which Graham had painted on his pyjamas with phosphorus, just as Shepherd had told us he meant to do.

We kept dead silence till he got to the middle of the room, and then Shepherd gave the most horrible groan I ever heard. He imitated a real one splendidly; it finished with a kind of choke.

That was our signal, and we all sprang up and crowded round his bed.

'You have done it now!' cried Rupertson in a terrified voice.

'He's not bad!' gasped the 'ghost.'

'Yes, he is,' replied Rupertson. 'See how white he looks!'

'Who is it?' groaned Graham.

'Sergeant,' said Rupertson.

'No, it is Wilson,' said another voice.

'No, it is not, it is Cranbourne,' said a third; but all the time we never allowed Graham to get anywhere near the bed, so as to look close.

'He can't be hurt,' repeated Graham. He had thrown down the turnip, and though we could not see his face, we guessed from his voice that he was as badly scared as we had meant him to be.

'Perhaps he could be brought round by artificial respiration,' suggested Shepherd. 'One of you fellows fetch up Smith quickly. He understands that sort of thing.'

Graham did not wait for the suggestion to be made twice. He ran, and, as we heard afterwards, he burst into the study where Smith, the Captain of the House, and, it so happened, the Doctor himself, were having a talk.

'He is dying!' screamed Graham. 'Come quickly and try and save him.'

'Who is dying?' cried the Doctor in amazement.

'Wilson, or Sergeant, or Cranbourne,' gasped Graham.

So they both followed Graham upstairs as fast as they could go—only to find our dormitory perfectly still and quiet, and every one in it apparently fast asleep.

'Wilson! Sergeant! Cranbourne! where are you?' called out the Doctor.

'Here, sir,' answered each boy sleepily, sitting up in bed as if suddenly awakened.

'Is anything the matter with you?' inquired the Doctor.

'Nothing, sir,' they each replied in a surprised voice.

'What is the meaning of this, Graham?' asked the Doctor, sternly.

'I—I don't know sir!' stammered Graham.

'You bring us up here,' continued the Doctor, 'by declaring that three of your schoolfellows are dying, and I find them all perfectly well and sound asleep.'

Graham said nothing, but wriggled wretchedly from one leg to another, hoping that the Doctor would not notice the painted stripes on his pyjamas or the turnip-head, which was peeping out from under one of the beds.

'Perhaps you will also explain what brings you into this dormitory at all?'

But Graham did not attempt any further explanations, and the Doctor went on: 'I have known for some time, Graham, that you were a little too fond of playing practical jokes, but if you are going to try them on the masters, you will soon find that you are carrying things too far. Smith, is there a cane handy you could lend me?'

We all felt rather sorry for Graham during the next few minutes. It is not pleasant to interview[Pg 163] the Doctor when he is feeling very angry. Not that I think he really suspected Graham of playing a practical joke on him, for he must have seen how thoroughly scared he was when he burst into the study. But the fact was that he had been looking out for an opportunity of teaching Graham a lesson for some time, and when it came, he made use of it without asking too many questions.

Anyhow, that was the last practical joke Graham ever played.


AY dawns cold: upon the pane
Artists are at work again,

Tracing ferns and fragile leaves,
Birds that nest beneath the eaves,

Tiny scenes of Fairy-land,
Just to help us understand

All about the fairy men,
Who in summer haunt our glen.

Every morn's a picture-book,
If you will but rise and look!
The animal kingdom in British East Africa looks upon the two thousand one hundred and ninety miles of telegraph wire, strung throughout that region, as a novelty to be made use of. A number of creatures are trying to adapt the wires to their own special purposes, and so the routine of the telegraph business is more or less crowded with incidents of an unusual character. The monkeys are simply incorrigible. Many of them have been shot and thousands frightened; but they cannot get over the idea that the wires are put there for them to swing upon. They have ceased to pay much attention to the locomotive, and even the shrieks of the whistle are not permitted to interfere much with their athletic performances in mid-air.

Three wires are strung on the same line of poles for five hundred and eighty-four miles between the Indian Ocean and Victoria Nyanza, where the monkeys give very complicated performances. In one place they have even succeeded in twisting the wires together.

The giraffe is also a source of annoyance. He sometimes applies sufficient force to the bracket on which the wire is fastened to twist it round, causing it to foul other wires. The hippopotamus is also a nuisance, because he uses the poles for rubbing-posts and sometimes knocks them over.

These creatures, however, do not steal the wire. When the copper wire was stretched north-east from Victoria Nyanza, through the Usoga country, the natives cut out considerable lengths of it, and at one time about forty miles of wire were carried away and never recovered. Passing caravans also found that they could help themselves along the way by[Pg 164] cutting the wire and using it in the barter trade. The temptation was great and not always resisted, for wire would buy anything the natives had to sell. But after a great deal of energy this wire-stealing has been stamped out, and it is to be hoped it may be a thing of the past.

There are probably not many of my readers who cannot tell a starfish or a sea-urchin at sight, that is to say, a grown-up starfish or urchin; but to distinguish between them, or even to recognise them at all, in the days of their infancy is a very different matter. Indeed, only those who devote their lives to the study of these creatures are able to do this, and the facts which their labours have brought to light are curious indeed, though so complex that it would be impossible to describe them here in full detail.

Fig. 1.—Young Starfish. Fig. 1.—Young Starfish.
An outline, however, of what we may call the story of the starfish can be told readily enough, and without in any way losing aught either of its importance or its interest.

Fig. 2.—Young Starfish, second stage. Fig. 2.—Young Starfish, second stage. Fig. 3.—Young Starfish, third stage. Fig. 3.—Young Starfish, third stage.
Briefly, among the starfish people—and including also the sea-urchins and sea-cucumbers, the curious brittle-stars and feather-stars—parental care is the exception, and not the rule. Having cast their eggs adrift upon the sea, the mothers of the families leave the rest to nature. Let us follow the history of one of these eggs. No sooner is it adrift than it begins a very remarkable career. Starting at first as a tiny ball, it divides next into two precisely similar balls, and since these divide again and again in like manner, we have in a few hours a mass of little balls, intimately connected with one another, and resembling a mulberry in appearance, enclosing a hollow space. (Fig. 1.)

This stage reached, the end of the first chapter in the life of the starfish is closed. He has grown so far, it should be noticed, without eating; but for further progress food is necessary. Now, this food cannot be taken in without a mouth and some sort of stomach. These are formed by the simple device of tucking in one side of the ball, just as one might push in one side of an indiarubber ball; the rim of the hollow thus formed becomes the mouth, and the hollow into which it leads is the stomach, while within the space lying between the outer wall and that portion of the wall which is pushed in—which corresponds to the inside of the indiarubber ball—the body that is to be begins to be formed. To grasp this thoroughly, first of all take such a rubber ball as I have described, and push in one side. Compare it with the illustration (fig. 2).

Soon after the formation of the mouth, our growing starfish develops his first organs of locomotion. Now, these are neither arms nor legs, but take the form of short hair-like growths, endowed with the power of rapid waving motion, whereby the body is propelled through the water. These are to be seen in the picture of one of these little creatures, shown for clearness sake as if cut in half. (Fig. 3.)

Fig. 4.—Nearly full-grown Starfish. Fig. 4.—Nearly full-grown Starfish.
A little later our young starfish has assumed a new shape. Here there is a large mouth and stomach, while the swimming hairs have all been cast off except a few arranged in the form of two bands; and, later still, the creature takes the extraordinary form shown in fig. 4. Swimming by the motion of waving hairs is now a thing of the past; instead, long arms have been developed, which perform this work much more effectually, and these arms are supported by a hard, chalky skeleton. Soon another little pushing in of the body takes place, and, lo, out of this grows the body of the starfish that is to be! (as is the middle of fig. 4). In about forty-five days from the beginning of this eventful history, the feet and body appear sticking out of the body, whose growth we have been watching; and, in a very short time after, this chalky skeleton is destroyed, and the rest of this infantile body cast away, leaving the fully formed starfish with an entirely new skeleton! Thus, then, wonder of wonders, this curious creature possesses during its lifetime[Pg 165] two distinct skeletons!