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strong and thick, like a mud wall, and are lined with feathers to make a soft bed for the young. Martins are a kind of swallows. They feed on flies, gnats, and other insects; and always build in towns and villages about the houses. People do not molest them, for they do good rather than harm, and it is very amusing to view their manners and actions. See how swiftly they skim through the air in pursuit of their prey! In the morning they are up by daybreak, and twitter about your window while you are asleep in bed; and all day long they are upon the wing, getting food for themselves and their young. As soon as they have caught a few flies, they hasten to their nests, pop into the hole, and feed their little ones. I'll tell you a story about the great care they take of their young. A pair of Martins once built their nest in a porch ; and when they had young ones, it happened
that one of them climbing up to the hole before he was fledged, fell out, and lighting upon the stones, was killed. The old birds, perceiving this accident, went and got short bits of strong straw, and stuck them with mud, like pali. sades all round the hole of the nest, in order to keep the other little ones from tumbling after their
brother. How cunning that was! cried William.
Yes, said his father; and I can tell you another story of their sagacity, and also of their disposition to help one another. A saucy cock-sparrow, (you know what impudent rogues they are !) had got into a Martin's nest whilst the owner was abroad; and when he returned, the sparrow put his head out of the hole and pecked at the Martin with open bill, as he attempted to enter his own house.
The poor Martin was sadly provoked at this injustice, but was
unable by his own strength to right himself. So he flew away and gathered a number of his companions, who all came with a bit of clay in their bills, with which they plastered up the hole of the nest, and kept the sparrow in prison, who died miserably for want of food and air.
He was rightly served, said William.
So he was, rejoined papa. Well : I have more to say about the sagacity of these birds. In autumn, when it begins to be cold weather, the Martins and other swallows assemble in great numbers upon the roofs of high buildings, and prepare for their departure to a warmer country; for as all the insects here die in the winter, they would have nothing to live on if they were to stay. They take several short flights in flocks round and round, in order to try their strength, and then, on some fine calm day, they set out together for a long
journey southwards, over sea and land, to a very distant country?
But how do they find their way ? said William.
We say, answered his father, that they are taught by instinct ; that is, God has implanted in their minds a desire of travelling at the season which he knows to be proper, and has also given them an impulse to take the right road. They steer their course through the wide air, directly to the proper spot. Sometimes, however, storms and contrary winds meet them, and drive the poor birds about till they are quite spent and fall into the sea, unless they happen to meet with a ship, on which they can light and rest themselves. The swal. lows from this country are supposed to go as far as the middle of Africa to spend the winter, where the weather is always warm, and insects are to be met with all the year. In spring they take another long journey back again to these northern countries. Sometimes, when we have fine weather very early, a few of them come to soon ; for when it changes to frost and snow again, the poor creatures are starved for want of food, or perish from the cold. Hence arises the proverb,
One swallow does not make a summer. But when a great many of them are come, we may be sure that winter is. over, so that we are always very glad to see them again. The Martins find their way back over such a length of sea and land to the very same villages and houses where 'they were bred. This has been discovered by catching some of them, and marking them. They repair their old nests, or build new ones, and then set about laying eggs and hatching their young. Pretty things ! I hope you will never knock down their nests, or take their eggs or young ones!