THE KATY-DID'S PARTY
By Harriet Beecher Stowe
Miss Katy-did sat on the branch of a flowering azalea, in her best
suit of fine green and silver, with wings of point-lace from Mother
Nature's finest web.
Miss Katy was in the very highest possible spirits, because her
gallant cousin, Colonel Katy-did, had looked in to make her a
morning visit. It was a fine morning, too, which goes for as much
among the Katy-dids as among men and women. It was, in fact, a
morning that Miss Katy thought must have been made on purpose for
her to enjoy herself in. There had been a patter of rain the night
before, which had kept the leaves awake talking to each other till
nearly morning, but by dawn the small winds had blown brisk little
puffs, and whisked the heavens clear and bright with their tiny
wings, as you have seen Susan clear away the cobwebs in your
mamma's parlor; and so now there were only left a thousand
blinking, burning water drops, hanging like convex mirrors at the
end of each leaf, and Miss Katy admired herself in each one.
"Certainly I am a pretty creature," she said to herself; and when
the gallant Colonel said something about being dazzled by her
beauty, she only tossed her head and took it as quite a matter of
"The fact is, my dear Colonel," she said, "I am thinking of giving
a party, and you must help me make out the lists."
"My dear, you make me the happiest of Katy-dids."
"Now," said Miss Katy-did, drawing an azalea-leaf towards her, "let
us see,—whom shall we have? The Fireflies, of course; everybody
wants them, they are so brilliant; a little unsteady, to be sure,
but quite in the higher circles."
"Yes, we must have the Fireflies," echoed the Colonel.
"Well, then,—and the Butterflies and the Moths. Now, there's a
trouble. There's such an everlasting tribe of those Moths; and if
you invite dull people they're always sure all to come, every one
of them. Still, if you have the Butterflies, you can't leave out
"Old Mrs. Moth has been laid up lately with a gastric fever, and
that may keep two or three of the Misses Moth at home," said the
"What ever could give the old lady such a turn?" said Miss Katy. "I
thought she never was sick."
"I suspect it's high living. I understand she and her family ate up
a whole ermine cape last month, and it disagreed with them."
"For my part, I can't conceive how the Moths can live as they do",
said Miss Katy with a face of disgust. "Why, I could no more eat
worsted and fur, as they do—"
"That is quite evident from the fairy-like delicacy of your
appearance," said the Colonel. "One can see that nothing so gross
and material has ever entered into your system."
"I'm sure," said Miss Katy, "mamma says she don't know what does
keep me alive; half a dew-drop and a little hit of the nicest part
of a rose-leaf, I assure you, often last me for a day. But we are
forgetting our list. Let's see,—the Fireflies, Butterflies, Moths.
The Bees must come, I suppose."
"The Bees are a worthy family," said the Colonel.
"Worthy enough, but dreadfully hum-drum" said Miss Katy. "They
never talk about anything but honey and housekeeping; still they
are a class of people one cannot neglect."
"Well, then, there are the Bumble-bees."
"Oh, I doat on them! General Bumble is one of the most dashing,
brilliant fellows of the day.
"I think he is shockingly corpulent," said Colonel Katy-did, not at
all pleased to hear him praised, "don't you?"
"I don't know but he is a little stout," said Miss Katy;
"but so distinguished and elegant in his manners,—something
martial and breezy about him."
"Well, if you invite the Bumble-bees you must have the Hornets."
"Those spiteful Hornets,—I detest them!"
"Nevertheless, dear Miss Katy, one does not like to offend the
"No, one can't. There are those five Misses Hornet,—dreadful old
maids! as full of spite as they can live. You may be sure they will
every one come, and be looking about to make spiteful remarks. Put
down the Hornets, though."
"How about the Mosquitoes?" said the Colonel.
"Those horrid Mosquitoes,—they are dreadfully common! Can't one
"Well, dear Miss Katy," said the Colonel, "if you ask my candid
opinion as a friend, I should say not. there's young Mosquito,
who graduated last year, has gone into literature, and is
connected with some of our leading papers, and they say he
carries the sharpest pen of all the writers. It won't do to
"And so I suppose we must have his old aunts, and all six of his
sisters, and all his dreadfully common relations."
"It is a pity," said the Colonel, "but one must pay one's tax to
Just at this moment the conference was interrupted by a visitor,
Miss Keziah Cricket, who came in with her work-bag on her arm to
ask a subscription for a poor family of Ants who had just had their
house hoed up in clearing the garden-walks.
"How stupid of them," said Katy, "not to know better than to put
their house in the garden-walk; that's just like those Ants!"
"Well, they are in great trouble; all their stores destroyed, and
their father killed,—cut in two by a hoe."
"How very shocking! I don't like to hear of such disagreeable
things,—it affects my nerves terribly. Well, I'm sure I haven't
anything to give. Mamma said yesterday she was sure she didn't know
how our bills were to be paid,—and there's my green satin with
point-lace yet to come home." And Miss Katy-did shrugged her
shoulders and affected to be very busy with Colonel Katy-did, in
just the way that young ladies sometimes do when they wish to
signify to visitors that they had better leave.
Little Miss Cricket perceived how the case stood, and so hopped
briskly off, without giving herself even time to be offended. "Poor
extravagant little thing!" said she to herself, "it was hardly
worth while to ask her."
"Pray, shall you invite the Crickets?" said Colonel Katy-did.
"Who? I? Why, Colonel, what a question! Invite the Crickets? Of
what can you be thinking?"
"And shall you not ask the Locusts, or the Grasshoppers?"
"Certainly. The Locusts, of course,—a very old and distinguished
family; and the Grasshoppers are pretty well, and ought to be
asked. But we must draw the line somewhere,—and the Crickets! Why
it's shocking even to think of!"
"I thought they were nice, respectable people."
"O, perfectly nice and respectable,—very good people, in fact, so
far as that goes. But then you must see the difficulty."
"My dear cousin, I am afraid you must explain."
"Why, their color, to be sure. Don't you see?"
"Oh!" said the Colonel. "That's it, is it? Excuse me, but I have
been living in France, where these distinctions are wholly unknown,
and I have not yet got myself in the train of fashionable ideas
"Well, then, let me teach you," said Miss Katy. "You know we go for
no distinctions except those created by Nature herself, and we
found our rank upon color, because that is clearly a thing that
none has any hand in but our Maker. You see?"
"Yes; but who decides what color shall be the reigning color?"
"I'm surprised to hear the question! The only true color—the only
proper one—is our color, to be sure. A lovely pea-green is
the precise shade on which to found aristocratic distinction. But
then we are liberal;—we associate with the Moths, who are gray;
with the Butterflies, who are blue-and-gold colored; with the
Grasshoppers, yellow and brown;—and society would become
dreadfully mixed if it were not fortunately ordered that the
Crickets are black as jet. The fact is, that a class to be looked
down upon is necessary to all elegant society, and if the Crickets
were not black, we could not keep them down, because, as everybody
knows, they are often a great deal cleverer than we are. They have
a vast talent for music and dancing; they are very quick at
learning, and would be getting to the very top of the ladder if we
once allowed them to climb. But being black is a convenience,
—because, as long as we are green and they are black, we have a
superiority that can never be taken from us. Don't you see now?"
"Oh, yes, I see exactly," said the Colonel.
"Now that Keziah Cricket, who just came in here, is quite a
musician, and her old father plays the violin beautifully; by the
way, we might engage him for our orchestra."
And so Miss Katy's ball came off, and the performers kept it up
from sundown till daybreak, so that it seemed as if every leaf in
the forest were alive. The Katy-dids, and the Mosquitoes, and the
Locusts, and a full orchestra of Crickets made the air perfectly
vibrate, insomuch that old Parson Too-whit, who was preaching a
Thursday evening lecture to a very small audience, announced to his
hearers that he should certainly write a discourse against dancing,
for the next weekly occasion.
The good Doctor was as good as his word in the matter, and gave out
some very sonorous discourses, without in the least stopping the
round of gayeties kept up by these dissipated Katy-dids, which ran
on, night after night, till the celebrated Jack Frost epidemic,
which occurred somewhere about the first of September.
Poor Miss Katy, with her flimsy green satin and point-lace, was one
of the first victims, and fell from the bough in company with a sad
shower of last year's leaves. The worthy Cricket family, however,
avoided Jack Frost by emigrating in time to the chimney-corner of a
nice little cottage that had been built in the wood that summer.
There good old Mr. and Mrs. Cricket, with sprightly Miss Keziah and
her brothers and sisters, found a warm and welcome home; and when
the storm howled without, and lashed the poor naked trees, the
Cricket on the warm hearth would chirp out cheery welcome to papa
as he came in from the snowy path, or mamma as she sat at her
"Cheep, cheep, cheep!" little Freddy would say. "Mamma, who is it
"Dear Freddy, it is our own dear little cricket, who loves us and
comes to sing to us when the snow is on the ground."
So when poor Miss Katy-did's satin and lace were all swept away,
the warm home-talents of the Crickets made for them a welcome