wing, dancing in the air with unwearied muscles till long past midnight, and supping on honey at last.
They come not; but the nobler butterflies soar above us, stoop a moment to the water, and then with a few lazy wavings of their sumptuous wings float far over the oak-trees to the woods they love.
All these hover near the water-lily; but its special parasites are an enamelled beetle (Donacia metallica
) which keeps house permanently in the flower, and a few smaller ones which tenant the surface of the leaves,—larva, pupa, and perfect insect, forty feeding like one, and each leading its whole earthly career on this floating island of perishable verdure.
The ‘beautiful blue damsel-flies’ alight also in multitudes among them, so fearless that they perch with equal readiness on our boat or paddle, and so various that two adjacent ponds will sometimes be haunted by two distinct sets of species.
In the water, among the leaves, little shining whirlwigs wheel round and round, fifty joining in the dance, till, at the slightest alarm, they whirl away to some safer ball-room, and renew the merriment.
On every floating log, as we approach it, there is a convention of turtles, sitting in calm debate, like mailed barons, till, as we draw near, they plump into the water, and paddle away for some subaqueous Runnymede
Beneath, the shy and stately pickerel vanishes at a glance, shoals of minnows glide, black and bearded pouts frisk aimlessly, soft water-newts hang poised without motion, and slender pickerel-frogs cease occasionally their submerged croaking, and darting to the surface, with swift vertical strokes, gulp a mouthful of fresh air, and down again to renew the moist soliloquy.
Time would fail us to tell of the feathered life around us,—the blackbirds that build securely in these thickets, the stray swallows that dip their wings in the quiet waters, and the kingfishers that still bring, as the ancients fabled, halcyon days.
Yonder stands, against the shore, a bittern, motionless in that wreath of mist which makes his long-legged person almost as dim as his far-off booming by night.
There poises a hawk, before sweeping down to some chosen bough in the dense forest; and there fly a pair of blue-jays, screaming, from tree to tree.
As for wild quadrupeds, the race is almost passed away.
Far to the north, indeed, the great moose still browses on the lily-pads, and the shy beaver nibbles them; but here the few lingering four-footed creatures only haunt, but do not graze upon, these floating pastures.
Eyes more favored than ours may yet chance to spy an otter in this still place; there by the shore are the small footprints of a mink; that dark thing disappearing in the waters yonder, a soft mass of drowned fur, is a muskrat, or ‘musquash’ Later in the season, a mound of earth will be his winter dwelling-place; and these myriad muscle-shells at the water's edge are the remnant of his banquets,—once banquets for the Indians, too.
But we must return to our lilies.
There is no sense of wealth like floating in this archipelago of white and