The Butterfly

There was once a butterfly who wished for a bride, and, as may be supposed, he
wanted to choose a very pretty one from among the flowers. He glanced, with a
very critical eye, at all the flower-beds, and found that the flowers were seated
quietly and demurely on their stalks, just as maidens should sit before they are
engaged; but there was a great number of them, and it appeared as if his search
would become very wearisome. The butterfly did not like to take too much trouble,
so he flew off on a visit to the daisies. The French call this flower “Marguerite,”
and they say that the little daisy can prophesy. Lovers pluck off the leaves,
and as they pluck each leaf, they ask a question about their lovers; thus: “Does
he or she love me?—Ardently? Distractedly? Very much? A little? Not at all?” and
so on. Every one speaks these words in his own language. The butterfly came also
to Marguerite to inquire, but he did not pluck off her leaves; he pressed a kiss
on each of them, for he thought there was always more to be done by kindness.

“Darling Marguerite daisy,” he said to her, “you are the wisest woman of all
the flowers. Pray tell me which of the flowers I shall choose for my wife. Which
will be my bride? When I know, I will fly directly to her, and propose.”

But Marguerite did not answer him; she was offended that he should call her
a woman when she was only a girl; and there is a great difference. He asked
her a second time, and then a third; but she remained dumb, and answered not
a word. Then he would wait no longer, but flew away, to commence his wooing
at once. It was in the early spring, when the crocus and the snowdrop were in
full bloom.

“They are very pretty,” thought the butterfly; “charming little lasses; but
they are rather formal.”

Then, as the young lads often do, he looked out for the elder girls. He next
flew to the anemones; these were rather sour to his taste. The violet, a little
too sentimental. The lime-blossoms, too small, and besides, there was such a
large family of them. The apple-blossoms, though they looked like roses, bloomed
to-day, but might fall off to-morrow, with the first wind that blew; and he
thought that a marriage with one of them might last too short a time. The pea-blossom
pleased him most of all; she was white and red, graceful and slender, and belonged
to those domestic maidens who have a pretty appearance, and can yet be useful
in the kitchen. He was just about to make her an offer, when, close by the maiden,
he saw a pod, with a withered flower hanging at the end.

“Who is that?” he asked.

“That is my sister,” replied the pea-blossom.

“Oh, indeed; and you will be like her some day,” said he; and he flew away
directly, for he felt quite shocked.

A honeysuckle hung forth from the hedge, in full bloom; but there were so many
girls like her, with long faces and sallow complexions. No; he did not like
her. But which one did he like?

Spring went by, and summer drew towards its close; autumn came; but he had
not decided. The flowers now appeared in their most gorgeous robes, but all
in vain; they had not the fresh, fragrant air of youth. For the heart asks for
fragrance, even when it is no longer young; and there is very little of that
to be found in the dahlias or the dry chrysanthemums; therefore the butterfly
turned to the mint on the ground. You know, this plant has no blossom; but it
is sweetness all over,—full of fragrance from head to foot, with the scent of
a flower in every leaf.

“I will take her,” said the butterfly; and he made her an offer. But the mint
stood silent and stiff, as she listened to him. At last she said,—

“Friendship, if you please; nothing more. I am old, and you are old, but we
may live for each other just the same; as to marrying—no; don’t let us appear
ridiculous at our age.”

And so it happened that the butterfly got no wife at all. He had been too long
choosing, which is always a bad plan. And the butterfly became what is called
an old bachelor.

It was late in the autumn, with rainy and cloudy weather. The cold wind blew
over the bowed backs of the willows, so that they creaked again. It was not
the weather for flying about in summer clothes; but fortunately the butterfly
was not out in it. He had got a shelter by chance. It was in a room heated by
a stove, and as warm as summer. He could exist here, he said, well enough.

“But it is not enough merely to exist,” said he, “I need freedom, sunshine,
and a little flower for a companion.”

Then he flew against the window-pane, and was seen and admired by those in
the room, who caught him, and stuck him on a pin, in a box of curiosities. They
could not do more for him.

“Now I am perched on a stalk, like the flowers,” said the butterfly. “It is
not very pleasant, certainly; I should imagine it is something like being married;
for here I am stuck fast.” And with this thought he consoled himself a little.

“That seems very poor consolation,” said one of the plants in the room, that
grew in a pot.

“Ah,” thought the butterfly, “one can’t very well trust these plants in pots;
they have too much to do with mankind.”