Written by Elle Durow:
It is October, — almost the end of October, and the early spring flowers have finished their blooming for this year. It is growing too warm for those delicate plants that dare to brave even the August winds, and can withstand the frost better than the summer heat.
Down at the edge of the pool the tall reeds and sedges are tossing their heads a little in the wind, and swinging a little, lightly and lazily, with the motion of the water; but the water is almost clear and still this morning, with scarcely a ripple, and in its beautiful, broad mirror reflecting the trees on the bank, and the little points of land that run out from the shore, and give foothold to the old trees standing guard day and night, summer and winter, to watch over the stream.
Do you think now that you know how the pool looks in the sunshine of this October morning?
If we come close to the edge where the sedges are growing, and look down through the clear water, we should see some fearsome-looking and clumsy black bugs crawling upon the bottom of the pool. They have six legs, and are covered with a coat of armour laid plate over plate. It looks hard and horny; and the insect itself has a dull, heavy way about it, and might be called very stupid were it not for it’s eagerness to catch and eat every little fly and mosquito that comes within it’s reach. It’s eyes grow fierce and almost bright; and it seizes its prey with an open mouth, and consumes it all day long, if he can find any thing suited to its taste.
I am afraid you may think that it is not very interesting, and will not care to make its acquaintance. But, let me tell you, something very wonderful is about to happen to it; and if you stay and watch patiently, you will see what I saw once, and have never forgotten.
Here it is crawling in mud under the water this spring morning: out over the pool swim the flat water-boatmen, and the water-spiders dance and skip as if the pool were a floor of glass; while here and there skims a blue dragon-fly, with its fine, firm wings that look like the thinnest gauze, but are really extremely strong for all their delicate appearance.
The dull, black bug sees all these bright, agile insects; and, for the first time in its life, it feels discontented with his own low place in the mud. A longing creeps through it that is quite different from the customary longing for mosquitoes and flies.
“I will creep up the stem of this rush,” he thinks; “and perhaps, when I reach the surface of the water, I can dart like the little flat boatmen, or, better than all, shoot through the air like the blue-winged dragon-fly.”
But, as it crawls laboriously up the slippery stem, the feeling that it has no wings like the dragon-fly makes it discouraged and almost despairing. At last, however, with much effort it has reached the surface, has crept out of the water, and, clinging to the green stem, feels the spring air and sunshine all about it. Now let it take passage with the boatmen, or ask some of the little spiders to dance. Why doesn’t it begin to enjoy itself?
Alas, see its sad disappointment. After all this effort, after passing some splendid chances of good breakfasts on the way up, and spending all its strength on this one exploit, it finds the fresh air suffocating, and a most strange and terrible feeling coming over it, as the coat-of-mail, which until now was always kept wet, shrinks, and seems even to be splitting off while the warm air dries it.
“Oh,” thinks the poor bug, “I must die! It was folly of me to crawl up here. The mud and the water were good enough for my brothers, and good enough for me too, had I only known it; and now I am too weak, and feel too strange, to attempt going down again the way I came up.”
See how uneasy it grows, feeling about in doubt and dismay, for a darkness is coming over hits eyes. It is the black helmet, a part of his coat-of-mail; that has broken off at the top, and is falling down over its face. A minute more, and it drops below the chin; and what is its astonishment to find, that, as the old face breaks away, a new one comes in its place, larger, much more beautiful, and having two of the most admirable eyes! — two, I say, because they look like two, but each of them is made up of hundreds of little eyes. They stand out globe-like on each side of his head, and look about over a world unknown and wonderful to the dull, black bug that lived in the mud. The sky seems bluer, the sunshine brighter, and the nodding grass and flowers more gay and graceful. Now it lifts this new head to see more of the great world; and behold! as it moves, it is drawing itself out of the old suit of armour, and from two neat little cases at its sides come two pairs of wings, folded up like fans, and put away here to be ready for use when the right time comes: they are still half folded, and must be carefully spread open and smoothed for use. And while he trembles with surprise, see how with every movement he is escaping from the old armour, and drawing from their sheaths fine legs, longer and far more beautifully and coloured than the old; and a slender body that was packed away like a magnifying-glass, and is now drawn out slowly, one part after another; until at last the dark coat-of-mail dangles empty from the sedges, and above it sits a dragon-fly with great, wondering eyes, long, slender body, and two pairs of delicate, gauzy wings, — fine and firm as the very ones it had been watching barely an hour ago.
The poor black bug who thought t was dying was only passing out of its old life to be born into a higher one; and see how much brighter and more beautiful it is!
And now I will tell you how, months ago, the mother dragon-fly dropped her tiny eggs into the water, which lay there in the mud, and by and by hatched out the dark, crawling bugs, so unlike the mother that she does not know them as her children, and, flying over the pool, looks down through the water where they crawl among the sedges, and has not a single word to say to them; until, in due time, they find their way up to the air, and pass into the new winged life.
If you will go to some pool when spring is ending or summer beginning, and find among the water-grasses such an insect as I have told you about, you may see all this for yourself; and you will agree with me, that nothing you have ever known is more wonderful.
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