ROM the time when she was a tiny
She found it a very lovely world to live in. There was so much to eat. Yes, and there were so many kinds of leaves that she liked,—oak, hickory, apple, maple, elm, and several others. Sometimes she wished that she had three mouths instead of one. In those days she had few visitors. It is true that other Caterpillars happened along once in a while, but they were almost as hungry as she, and they couldn't speak without stopping eating. They could, of course, if they talked with their mouths full, but she had too good manners for that, and, besides, she said that if she did, she couldn't enjoy her food so much.
You must not think that it was wrong in her to care so much about eating. She was only doing what is expected of a Polyphemus Caterpillar, and you would have to do the same if you were a Polyphemus Caterpillar. When she was ten days old she had to weigh ten times as much as she did the morning that she was hatched. When she was twenty days old she had to weigh sixty times as much; when she was a month old she had to weigh six hundred and twenty times as much; and when she was fifty days old she had to weigh four thousand times as much as she did at hatching. Every bit of this flesh was made of the food she ate. That is why eating was so important, you know, and if she had chosen to eat the wrong kind of leaves just because they tasted good, she would never have become such a fine great Caterpillar as she did. She might better not eat anything than to eat the wrong sort, and she knew it.
Still, she often wished that she had more time for
visiting, and thought that she would be very gay next
she got her wings. "I'll make up for it then," she
said to herself, "when my growing is done and I have
time for play." Then she ate some more good, plain
food, for she knew that there would be no happy
She had five vacations of about a day each when she ate
nothing at all. These were the times when she changed
her skin, crawling out of the tight old one and
appearing as fresh and clean as possible in the new one
which was ready underneath. After her last change she
was ready to plan her cocoon, and she was a most
beautiful Caterpillar. She was about as long as a
small cherry leaf, and as plump as a Caterpillar can
be. She was light green, with seven slanting yellow
lines on each side of her body, and a purplish-brown
She had three pairs of real legs and several pairs of
As the weather grew colder the Polyphemus Caterpillar
hunted around on the
ground for a good place for her cocoon. She found an
excellent twig lying among the dead leaves, and decided
to fasten to that. Then began her hardest work,
spinning a fluffy mass of
"Better fasten your cocoon to a tree," said a pale
"But I don't want to swing," answered the Polyphemus Caterpillar. "I'd rather lie still and think about things."
"Fasten to the twig of a tree," advised a pale green
Cecropia Caterpillar with red, yellow, and blue
the wind just moves you a little. Fasten it to a twig
and taper it off nicely at each end, and
"Yes," said the Polyphemus Caterpillar, "and then the
Just here some other Polyphemus Caterpillars came along and agreed with their relative. "Go ahead with your tree homes," said they. "We know what we want, and we'll see next summer who knew best."
The Polyphemus cocoons were spun on the ground where the dead leaves had blown in between some stones, and no wandering Cows or Sheep would be likely to step on them. First a mass of coarse silk which it took half a day to make, then an inside coating of a kind of varnish, then as much silk as a Caterpillar could spin in four or five days, next another inside varnishing, and the cocoons were done. As the Polyphemus Caterpillars snuggled down for the long winter's sleep, each said to himself something like this: "Those poor Caterpillars in the trees! How cold they will be! I hope they may come out all right in the spring, but I doubt it very much."
And when the Cecropia and Promethea Caterpillars dozed off for the winter, they said: "What a pity that those Polyphemus Caterpillars would lie around on the ground. Well, we advised them what to do, so it isn't our fault."
They all had a lovely winter, and swung or swayed or lay still, just as they had chosen to do. Early in the spring, the farmer's wife and little girl came out to find wild flowers, and scraped the leaves away from among the stones. Out rolled the cocoon that the first Polyphemus Caterpillar had spun and the farmer's wife picked it up and carried it off. She might have found more cocoons if the little girl had not called her away.
This was how it happened that one May morning a little
girl stood by the sitting-room window in the white
farmhouse and watched Miss Polyphemus crawl slowly out
of her cocoon. A few days before a sour,
It was discouraging. You can see how it would be. She
had been used to having so many legs, and had looked
forward all the summer before to the time when
she should float lightly through the air and sip honey
from flowers. She had dreamed of it all winter. And
now here she was—wet and weak, with only six legs
left, and four very small and crumpled wings. Her body
was so big and fat that she could not hold it up from
When she awakened, she felt much stronger and more cheerful. She was drier and her body felt lighter. This was because the fluids from it were being pumped into her wings. That was making them grow, and the beautiful colors began to show more brightly on them. "I wonder," she said to herself, "if Moths always feel so badly when they first come out?"
If she had but known it, there were at that very time hundreds of Moths as helpless as she, clinging to branches, leaves, and stones all through the forest. There were many Polyphemus Moths just out, for in their family it is the custom for all to leave their cocoons at just about such a time in the morning. Perhaps she would have felt more patient if she had known this, for it does seem to make hard times easier to bear when one knows that everybody else has hard times also. Of course other people always are having trouble, but she was young and really believed for a time that she was the only uncomfortable Moth in the world.
All day long her wings were stretching and growing
smooth. When it grew dark she was nearly ready to fly.
the farmer's wife lifted her gently by the wings and
put her on the inside of the wire
On the back ones were dark
"I would like to fly," sighed Miss Polyphemus, "and I believe I could if it were not for this horrid screen." She did not know that the farmer's wife had put her there to keep her safe from night birds until she was quite strong.
The wind blew in, sweet with the scent of wild cherry
There fluttered toward her another Polyphemus Moth, a handsome fellow, marked exactly as she was, only with darker coloring. His body was more slender, and his feelers were very beautiful and feathery. She was fat and had slender feelers.
"Ah!" said he. "I thought I should find you soon."
"Indeed?" she replied. "I wonder what made you think that?"
"My feelers, of course," said he. "They always tell me where to find my friends. You know how that is yourself."
"I?" said she, as she changed her position a little.
"I am just from my cocoon. This was my
"And so you have not met any one yet?" he asked. "Ah, this is a strange world—a very strange world. I would advise you to be very careful with whom you make friends. There are so many bad Moths, you know."
"Good-evening," said a third voice near them, and
another Polyphemus Moth with feathery feelers alighted
on the screen. He smiled sweetly at Miss Polyphemus
and scowled fiercely at the other Moth. It would have
ended in a quarrel right then and there, if a fourth
Moth had not come at that minute. One after another
came, until there were nine handsome fellows on the
outside and Miss Polyphemus on the inside of the screen
trying to entertain them all and keep them from
quarrelling. It made her very proud to think so many
were at her
Still, society tires one very much, and it was hard to
keep her guests from quarrelling. When she got to
talking to one about
At last those outside got to fighting. There was only one, the handsomest of all, who said he thought too much of his feelers to fight anybody. "Supposing I should fight and break them off," said he. "I couldn't smell a thing for the rest of my life." He was very sensible, and really the eight other fellows were fighting on account of Miss Polyphemus, for whenever they thought she liked one best they began to bump up against him.
They lived in the forest after that.
Toward morning the farmer's wife awakened and looked at
Miss Polyphemus. When she saw that she was strong
enough to fly, she opened the screen and let her go.
By that time three of those with feathery feelers were
dead, three were