THE BUTTERFLY'S CHILDREN
By Mrs. Alfred Gatty
"Let me hire you as a nurse for my poor children," said a Butterfly
to a quiet Caterpillar, who was strolling along a cabbage-leaf in
her odd lumbering way. "See these little eggs," continued the
Butterfly; "I don't know how long it will be before they come to
life, and I feel very sick and poorly, and if I should die, who
will take care of my baby Butterflies when I am gone? Will
you, kind, mild, green Caterpillar? But you must mind what
you give them to eat, Caterpillar!—they cannot, of course, live on
your rough food. You must give them early dew, and honey
from the flowers, and you must let them fly about only a little way
at first; for, of course, one can't expect them to use their wings
properly all at once. Dear me! it is a sad pity you cannot fly
yourself. But I have no time to look for another nurse now, so you
will do your best, I hope. Dear! dear! I cannot think what made me
come and lay my eggs on a cabbage-leaf! What a place for young
Butterflies to be born upon! Still you will be kind, will you not,
to the poor little ones? Here, take this gold-dust from my wings as
a reward. Oh, how dizzy I am! Caterpillar! you will remember about
And with these words the Butterfly drooped her wings and died; and
the green Caterpillar, who had not had the opportunity of even
saying Yes or No to the request, was left standing alone by the
side of the Butterfly's eggs.
"A pretty nurse she has chosen, indeed, poor lady!" exclaimed she,
"and a pretty business I have in hand! Why, her senses must have
left her or she never would have asked a poor crawling creature
like me to bring up her dainty little ones! Much they'll mind me,
truly, when they feel the gay wings on their backs, and can fly
away out of my sight whenever they choose!"
However, there lay the eggs on the cabbage-leaf; and the green
Caterpillar had a kind heart, so she resolved to do her best. But
she got no sleep that night, she was so very anxious. She made her
back quite ache with walking all night round her young charges, for
fear any harm should happen to them; and in the morning says she to
"Two heads are better than one. I will consult some wise animal
upon the matter, and get advice. How should a poor crawling creature
like me know what to do without asking my betters?"
But still there was a difficulty—whom should the Caterpillar
consult? There was the shaggy Dog who sometimes came into the
garden. But he was so rough!—he would most likely whisk all the
eggs off the cabbage-leaf with one brush of his tail. There was the
Tom Cat, to be sure, who would sometimes sit at the foot of the
apple-tree, basking himself and warming his fur in the sunshine;
but he was so selfish and indifferent! "I wonder which is the
wisest of all the animals I know," sighed the Caterpillar, in great
distress; and then she thought, and thought, till at last she
thought of the Lark; and she fancied that because he went up so
high, and nobody knew where he went to, he must be very clever, and
know a great deal, for to go up very high (which she could
never do), was the Caterpillar's idea of perfect glory.
Now in the neighbouring corn-field their lived a Lark, and the
Caterpillar sent a message to him, to beg him to come and talk to
her, and when he came she told him all her difficulties, and asked
him what she was to do to feed and rear the little creatures so
different from herself.
"Perhaps you will be able to inquire and hear something about it
next time you go up high," observed the Caterpillar, timidly.
The Lark said, "Perhaps he should;" but he did not satisfy her
curiosity any further. Soon afterwards, however, he went singing
upwards into the bright, blue sky. By degrees his voice died away
in the distance, till the green Caterpillar could not hear a sound.
So she resumed her walk round the Butterfly's eggs, nibbling a bit
of the cabbage-leaf now and then as she moved along.
"What a time the Lark has been gone!" she cried, at last. "I wonder
where he is just now! I would give all my legs to know!" And the
green Caterpillar took another turn round the Butterfly's eggs.
At last the Lark's voice began to be heard again. The Caterpillar
almost jumped for joy, and it was not long before she saw her
friend descend with hushed note to the cabbage bed.
"News, news, glorious news, friend Caterpillar!" sang the Lark;
"but the worst of it is, you won't believe me!"
"I believe everything I am told," observed the Caterpillar,
"Well, then, first of all, I will tell you what these little
creatures are to eat. What do you think it is to be? Guess!"
"Dew, and the honey out of flowers, I am afraid," sighed the
"No such thing, old lady! Something simpler than that. Something
that you can get at quite easily."
"I can get at nothing quite easily but cabbage-leaves," murmured
the Caterpillar, in distress.
"Excellent! my good friend," cried the Lark, exultingly; "you have
found it out. You are to feed them with cabbage-leaves."
"Never!" said the Caterpillar, indignantly. "It was their
dying mother's last request that I should do no such thing."
"Their dying mother knew nothing about the matter," persisted the
lark; "but why do you ask me, and then disbelieve what I say? You
have neither faith nor trust."
"Oh, I believe everything I am told," said the Caterpillar.
"Nay, but you do not," replied the Lark; "you won't believe me even
about the food, and yet that is but a beginning of what I have to
tell you. Why, Caterpillar, what do you think those little eggs
will turn out to be?"
"Butterflies, to be sure," said the Caterpillar.
"Caterpillars!" sang the Lark; "and you'll find it out in
time;" and the Lark flew away, for he did not want to stay and
contest the point with his friend.
"I thought the Lark had been wise and kind," observed the mild
green Caterpillar, once more beginning to walk around the eggs,
"but I find that he is foolish and saucy instead. Perhaps he went
up too high this time. I still wonder whom he sees, and what
he does up yonder."
"I would tell you if you would believe me," sang the Lark,
descending once more.
"I believe everything I am told," reiterated the Caterpillar, with
as grave a face as if it were a fact.
"Then I'll tell you something else," cried the Lark; "for the best
of my news remains behind. You will one day be a Butterfly
"Wretched bird!" exclaimed the Caterpillar, "you jest with my
inferiority—now you are cruel as well as foolish. Go away! I will
ask your advice no more."
"I told you you would not believe me!" cried the Lark, nettled in
"I believe everything that I am told" persisted the Caterpillar;
"that is"—and she hesitated—"everything that it is reasonable
to believe. But to tell me that Butterflies' eggs are Caterpillars,
and that Caterpillars leave off crawling and get wings, and become
Butterflies!—Lark! you are too wise to believe such nonsense
yourself, for you know it is impossible."
"I know no such thing," said the Lark, warmly. "Whether I hover
over the corn-fields of earth, or go up into the depths of the sky,
I see so many wonderful things, I know no reason why there should
not be more. Oh, Caterpillar! it is because you crawl, because you
never get beyond your cabbage-leaf, that you call any thing
"Nonsense!" shouted the Caterpillar, "I know what's possible, and
what's not possible, according to my experience and capacity, as
well as you do. Look at my long green body and these endless legs,
and then talk to me about having wings and a painted feathery coat!
"And fool you!" cried the indignant Lark. "Fool, to attempt to
reason about what you cannot understand! Do you not hear how my
song swells with rejoicing as I soar upwards to the mysterious
wonder-world above? Oh, Caterpillar; what comes to you from thence,
receive, as I do, upon trust."
"That is what you call—"
"Faith," interrupted the Lark.
"How am I to learn Faith?" asked the Caterpillar.
At that moment she felt something at her side. She looked
round—eight or ten little green Caterpillars were moving about,
and had already made a show of a hole in the cabbage-leaf. They had
broken from the Butterfly's eggs!
Shame and amazement filled our green friend's heart, but joy soon
followed; for, as the first wonder was possible, the second might
be so too. "Teach me your lesson, Lark!" she would say; and the
Lark sang to her of the wonders of the earth below and of the
heaven above. And the Caterpillar talked all the rest of her life
to her relations of the time when she should be a Butterfly.
But none of them believed her. She nevertheless had learnt the
Lark's lesson of faith, and when she was going into her chrysalis
grave, she said—
"I shall be a Butterfly some day!"
But her relations thought her head was wandering, and they said,
And when she was a Butterfly, and was going to die again, she
"I have known many wonders—I have faith—I can trust even now
for what shall come next!"