ALONG THE RIVER
LET us stroll a short distance along the river. How
pretty it is, with the evening sun shining through the
trees! What a number of little creatures are enjoying
themselves in the air and in the water!
Pale little Tommy, who has come from
 London for a holiday, slips his hand in mine and
says, "I wish I could live in the country." When he
goes back to his own home in a narrow street, where
there is only a hard pavement instead of green grass,
and no shady trees nor flowing water, he will remember
this walk by the river.
Look at those fish, about three inches long, swimming
up and down under the bridge. Those are bull-heads.
They are called so because they have such broad, thick
heads. And they have a sharp spine on each side of
their head, which we might call the bull's horns. You
will feel those
 spines if you try to hold them in your hand. The
kingfisher knows them well enough, if he tries to
swallow one, for they stick in his throat.
You boys call them "miller's thumbs." I wonder why you
think that millers have broad thumbs? The bull-heads
hide under stones, and eat water insects, and the eggs
of other fish. Ah! Fred has caught one and put it in
the bottle. Now Tommy can see what a lovely eye the
bull-head has, and the red, green, brown and yellow
colours on his scales.
BULL-HEAD (MILLER'S THUMB) AND MAY-FLIES
How busy those flies are with long wings and three long
bristles on their tails. They are May-flies rising and
falling over the water. They are not feeding, for
May-flies do not eat, and only live a few hours. But
they have lived a long time under water as grubs, like
the dragon-fly grub. They only want now to lay their
eggs and die.
 The gnats flying over that quiet pool near the mill
are quite different. One has just pricked my hand and
sucked some blood, so I know that he can feed. But then
gnats have not had so long a life in the water as the
Those gnats flying over the pool were only born a few
weeks ago. Their mother laid some sticky eggs, each not
bigger than the point of a pin, and left them in a
packet on the top of the still water. They were very
soon hatched, and a number of grubs came out, looking
like very tiny worms with fine hairs on their sides.
Each swam about in the water and ate specks of weed.
GNAT AND GNAT GRUB. A.REAL SIZE.
Why do you think they swam with their heads down?
Because they could only breathe near their tails, and
so had to stick them up in the air.
In about three weeks each grub had changed his skin
three times. The fourth time he came out with a wrapper
round him, and if you could have looked at him then,
you would have seen a perfect gnat, with wings, cuddled
Now he had to creep out, and that was very risky. For
if he fell in the water he would be drowned. So he
stretched himself very carefully on the top of the
pool, and began to push his head through a slit in the
Then he drew himself gently out, and stood
 on tiptoe on the empty skin, which floated like a
boat on the water. He spread his wings, and then he was
safe and flew away. Sometimes the wind blows him over
before he can get out, and then he is drowned.
If you take a pail of water out of a pond in May, and
keep it in the open air, you may be able to see a gnat
grow up, for there will most likely be a great many in
it. But you must have sharp eyes, for they are very
And now the sun is setting and birds and beasts and
flowers are all going to rest. Soon the night-moths and
the owls and bats will be coming out. We must go home.