| Kindergarten Gems|
|by Agnes Taylor Ketchum|
|A full collection of stories and rhymes for the youngest listeners. In addition to the usual fairy tales, folk tales, and fables, there are numerous stories about animals, tales of everyday doings, and stories of the seasons. The material is conveniently arranged in groups, with several stories and rhymes for each holiday and season throughout the year. Numerous black and white illustrations complement the text. Ages 4-8 |
THE LARK AND THE CATERPILLAR.
ET 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 old
lumbering way. "See these little eggs," continued the butterfly, "I don't
know how long it will be before they come to life, but 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? They cannot,
of course, live on your rough food; you must mind what you give them to
 eat, caterpillar. 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 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. 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 the food?"
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 on 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! Oh! how silly some people are, in spite of their painted
clothes and the gold dust on their wings!"
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 uneasy.
She made her back quite ache with walking all night Iong, round her young
charges, for fear some harm should happen to them. In the morning she
said 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 betters?" But still
there was a dithculty. 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 should call 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 him giving himself the trouble to think about butterflies'
eggs! "I wonder which is the wisest of all 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 because he was up so high, and nobody
knew where he went to, that 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 neighboring cornfield there lived a lark, and
the caterpillar sent a message to him, to beg him to come and talk to her.
Then 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 farther. Soon afterwards, however,
he went singing upward 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 upward at all, even
when she reared herself most carefully, which she did 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 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! He must have
flown up higher than usual this time, I do think! How I should like to
know where 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
Then the green caterpillar took another turn, around 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, hastily.
"Well, then, first of all, I will tell you what these little creatures are
to eat;" and the lark nodded towards the eggs. "What do you think it
is to be? Guess."
"Dew and the honey out of flowers," sighed the caterpillar.
"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, 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, if you will not believe what I say?"
"Oh, I believe everything you say," said the caterpillar.
"No, you do not," replied the lark; "you won't even believe 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." Then
the lark flew away, for he did not want to stay, and contest the point with
"I thought the lark had been kind," observed the mild green
caterpillar, once more beginning to walk around the eggs, "but I find, he
is foolish and unkind. 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 yonder."
 "I would tell you, if you would believe me," sang the lark, descending
"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 untold—you will one day be a butterfly yourself!"
"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 that you would not believe me," cried the lark, nettled in
"I believe everything I am told," persisted the caterpillar; "that is,"
and she hesitated, "everything that is reasonable to believe. But to tell
me 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 cornfields of earth, or go up into the sky, I see so many wonderful
things, I know no reason why that should not be true. Oh! caterpillar, it is
because you crawl, because you never get beyond your cabbage leaf, that
you call everything impossible."
Just at that moment, the caterpillar felt something at her side. She
looked around. 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 one 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
heavens above. The caterpillar talked all the rest of her life to her relatives,
of the time, when she should be a butterfly. But none of them believed
her. She, however, had learned to believe, and when she was going into her
chrysalis, she said, "I know I shall be a butterfly some day."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics