The White Butterfly, A Tale

VERY slowly and wearily over road and hedge flew a white butterfly one calm May evening; its wings had been torn and battered in its flight from eager pursuers, who little cared that their pleasure was another’s pain. On, on, went the fugitive, until it came to a little garden so sweet and quiet that it rested from its flight and said, “Here, at least, I shall find peace; these gentle flowers will give me shelter.” Then, with eager swiftness, it flew to a stately peony. “Oh, give me shelter, thou beautiful flower!” it murmured as it rested for a second upon its crimson head—a second only, for, with a jerk and an exclamation of disgust, the peony cast the butterfly to the ground. With a low sigh it turned to the pansy near. Well, the pansy wished to be kind, but the butterfly was really very tattered and dirty; and  then velvet soils so easily that she must beg to be excused. The wall-flower, naturally frank and good-natured, had been so tormented all day by those troublesome bees that she solemnly vowed she would do nothing more for anybody.

The tulips were asleep; and the other flowers, trying to emulate fair Lady Rose, held their heads so very high that they, of course, did not hear the low, soft cry, “Oh, will no one give me shelter?” At last there came an answer, “I will, gladly,” in a shy and trembling tone, as though fearing to be presumptuous, from a thick thorny bush which helped to protect the more dainty beauties from the rough blasts of a sometimes too boisterous wind; in consideration of which service the flowers considered the briar as a good, useful sort of thing, respectable enough in its common way, but not as an equal or associate, you understand. With gratitude the forlorn butterfly rested all night in the bosom of one of its simple white blossoms.

When night had gone and the bright sun came gliding up from the east, calling on Nature to awake, the flowers raised their heads in all the pride of renewed beauty and saluted one another. Where was the forlorn butterfly? Ah! where? They saw it no more; but over the white blossom where it had rested there hovered a tiny fairy in shining, changing sheen, her wand sparkling with dewdrops. She looked down on the flowers with gentle, reproachful eye, while they bent low in wonder and admiration.

“Who is it?” they asked. “How beautiful! how lovely!”

The fairy heard them with a smile, and said, “Fair flowers, I was a shabby butterfly; what I am, you see. I came to you poor and weary; and because I was poor and weary you shut me out from your hearts.”

The pansy and the wall-flower bent their heads in sorrow, and Lady Rose blushed with shame.

“If I had only known!” muttered the peony; “but who would have thought it?”

“Who indeed?” laughed the fairy; “but learn, proud peony, that he who thinks always of self loses much of life’s sweetness—far more than he ever suspects; for goodness is as the dew of the heart, and yieldeth refreshment and happiness, even if it win no other recompense. But it is meet that it should be rewarded. Behold, all of you!” and the fairy touched with her wand the white blossom on which she had rested, saying, “For thy sweetness be thou loved for ever!” At these words a thrill of happiness stirred the sap of the rough, neglected briar, and a soft, lovely blush suffused the petals of its flowers, and from its green leaves came forth an exquisite odor, perfuming the whole garden and eclipsing the other flowers in their pride.

Then the fairy rose in the air, and hovering over her resting-place for a moment ere she vanished said, “Such is the reward of goodness. Fare thee well, sweet briar!”