“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, will you take care of my baby butterflies when I am gone? Will you, kind Caterpillar?”
And with these words, the Butterfly closed her eyes and died; and the green Caterpillar who had not had the opportunity of even saying Yes or No to the request, and 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 prettly 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!”
The green Caterpillar had a kind heart so she resolved to do her best. But she got no sleep that night as she was so anxious. In the morning she said to herself –
“Two heads are better than one. I will consult some wise animal and get advice. How should a poor crawling creature like me know what to do?”
But still there was a difficulty – whom should the Caterpillar consult?” “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. She fancied that because he went up so high (which she could never do), he must be very clever, and know a great deal.
Now, in the neighbouringcorn-field there lived a Lark. The Caterpillar sent a message to him, to beg him to come and talk to her. 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 find out or hear something about it next time you go up high,” said the timid Caterpillar.
The Lark said, “ Perhaps,” but he did not satisfy her curiosity any further. Soon afterwards, however, he went singing upwards into the bright, blue sky.
“What a time the Lark has been gone!” she cried, at last. “ I wonder where he is! I would give all my legs to know!”
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 to the cabbage bed.
“News, my friend!” sang the Lark. “But the worst of it is, you won’t believe me!”
“I believe everything I am told,” the Caterpillar replied hastily.
“Then I’ll tell you something else,” cried the Lark. “You will one day be a Butterfly yourself!”
“Wretched bird!” exclaimed the Caterpillar, “You are cruel as well as foolish. Go away! I will not ask you for your advice again.”
“I know you would not believe me,” cried the Lark, nettled in his turn.
“I believe everything that I am told,” insisted the Caterpillar. Then 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! How could you believe such nonsense yourself!”
The Lark replied warmly, “I hover and go up into the depths of the sky and have seen so many wonderful things. There is no reason why there should be more! Oh, Caterpillar! It is because you crawl and never get beyond your cabbage-leaf, that you call any thing impossible.”
“Nonsense!” shouted the Caterpillar. “I know what’s possible, and what’s not possible, according to my experience. Look at my long green body and these endless legs, and then talk to me about having wings and a painted feathery coat! Fool!”
“Fool, to attempt to reason about what you cannot understand!” cried the indignant lark.
“That is what you call –“
“Faith,” interrupted the Lark.
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 hold in the cabbage-lead! 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 going into her chrysalis grave, she said, “ I shall be a Butterfly some day!”