| Parables from Nature|
|by Margaret S. Gatty|
|Parables for children inspired by nature. This collection includes all 29 stories from the first, second, third, and fourth series, originally published in separate volumes. Ages 6-12 |
A LESSON OF FAITH
"If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come."—JOB xiv. 14.
 "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
 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 the food——"
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, 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! Ah! how silly some people are, in
spite of their painted clothes and the gold-dust on their
However, the poor Butterfly was dead, and 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 long round her little charges,
for fear any harm should happen to them; and in the morning
says she to herself—
"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
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, if she called him near to talk to her, and then she
should never forgive herself. 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!—there was no hope of his
giving himself the trouble to think about butterflies' eggs.
"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 there 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
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.
It is nothing to say she could not
see him; for, poor thing! she never could see far at any
time and had a difficulty in looking upwards at all, even
when she reared herself up most carefully, which she
now; but it was of no use, so she dropped upon her legs
again, and resumed her walk round the Butterfly's eggs,
nibbling a bit of the cabbage-leaf now and then as she moved
"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! He must have flown up higher than usual this time, I
do think! How I should like to know where it is that he goes
to, and what he hears in that curious blue sky! He always
sings in going up and coming down, but he never lets any
secret out. He is very, very close!"
And the green Caterpillar took another turn round the
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
"New, 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"—and the Lark nodded his beak towards
the eggs. "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
"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 round
the eggs, "but I find that he is foolish and saucy instead.
Perhaps he went up too high this time. Ah, it's a pity when
people who soar so high are silly and rude nevertheless!
Dear! I still wonder whom he sees, and what he does up
"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
 "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 his turn.
"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 impossible."
"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! Fool!——"
"And fool you! you would-be-wise Caterpillar!" 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
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, "Poor thing!"
And when she was a Butterfly, and was going to die again,
"I have known many wonders—I have faith—I can
trust even now for what shall come next!"
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