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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Real Fairy Folk » CHAPTER XIII THE MOST BEAUTIFUL OF ALL
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 Lo! the bright train their radiant wings unfurl.
—Anna L. Barbauld.
“It seems nothing but butterflies!” cried Ruth, running out into the garden as soon as breakfast was over.
“Of course,” answered a voice, “the Lepidoptera will meet by the summer-house.”
“Does that mean butterflies? And oh, please, may I come?”
“Yes, to both questions,” was wafted1 back from the beautiful creature flitting so gracefully2 on the light warm breeze.
“Just like a flower with wings,” thought Ruth as, holding Belinda closely, she followed as fast as she could go.
Indeed, they all seemed like flowers with wings, she decided3, as she came into the middle of the gathering4.
“It is the most beautiful we have been to yet,” she whispered to Belinda, “and I am sure it is going to be the most interesting. I couldn’t begin to count them.”
Ruth might well say this, for nearly all the fifty-four families of moths5 to be found in America north of Mexico were represented by at least one member, while there were many from the four families of butterflies and the two families of skippers.
Ruth came only just in time, for already one of the moths had begun to speak. He was a handsome fellow, with fore6 wings in different shades of olive.
“My friends,” he said, “I am called the modest sphinx, and, that being the case, you may imagine how painful it is for me to put myself forward in this way. I have been asked, however, to give you a few general facts. Why I am expected to know these facts is, perhaps, because, being a sphinx, I should also be wise. Yet I am not the only sphinx here, and, if I remember aright, the old and historic sphinx asked, rather than answered, questions.”
“He uses awfully7 big words,” Ruth whispered to her usual confidant, Belinda.
“Now to begin,” went on the sphinx, “you know, I suppose, that we belong to the order Lepidoptera, which means the scale wings, because the colour of our wings is made by scales so tiny that they are really like dust. We are divided into moths, butterflies, and skippers, and all of us are messengers for the flowers, carrying the precious pollen8 from blossom to blossom. Our children are generally enemies to the plants. They are called caterpillars9, and seem to have a great many legs, but really only six of them are true legs and remain when the youngster is full grown. The others are prolegs. There may be two or there may be ten. They help in walking, but are shed with the last skin.”
“Alas!” sighed a voice in the corner. “I haven’t any to shed—that is, in the middle of my body.”
Ruth turned as Mr. Looper, otherwise known as the measuring worm, made this remark. She would have asked a question, for Mr. Looper, rearing his head after his own queer fashion, seemed quite ready to talk, but the sphinx stopped her.
“This is not the time to talk about individual legs,” he said. “We are trying to get at general differences. Now there are certain ways in which all moths differ from all butterflies.”
“I should say so,” said Miss Papilio, a handsome tiger swallowtail. “Moths have short, stout11 bodies, and ours are slender.” And Miss Papilio circled above them so that all might admire her delicate body and the beauty of her tawny12 yellow wings, with their gray bands and stripes, and their ends pointed13 in true swallowtail fashion.
“And here is another difference,” she added, coming to rest with her wings folded together vertically14. “We always carry our wings so when we are not flying. You moths hold yours horizontally, or sloping. Never upward.”
“Well, that’s true,” said the sphinx, “and you know we generally have beautiful feathery antennæ, though I, and a few others, are an exception to that rule, but you butterflies can boast only very thread-like antennæ, with a knob at the end.”
“Enough about that subject,” spoke15 up Miss Papilio. “What I am wondering about is why moths like to fly at night, or in the twilight16. Now, butterflies must have sunshine.”
“We love the cool, soft night, I can’t tell you why,” answered the sphinx, “and we sleep through the noisy day.”
“But it is so dangerous to sleep as you do, when birds and other nuisances are up and doing.”
“Well, birds are pests, there is no doubt about it, and if it hadn’t been for them we insects would have possessed17 the earth long ago, but you forget, we always choose a place that is nearly the colour of ourselves, and we look so much like our surroundings that it would take a sharp eye to find us. We are not brightly coloured, as a rule, like the butterflies, or if we wear gay colours at all it is usually on our hind18 wings, which we hide under the fore wings. Now the general remarks being made, the audience may view the exhibits and hear their individual histories.”
Ruth was up in a second.
“I must talk to that funny measuring worm,” she said to herself. “Why, where is he?” she added, standing19 before the bush on which she had seen him a while before.
“Right here,” answered what Ruth thought was a twig20, and which proved to be none other than Mr. Looper himself, who raised his head and began to walk on his hind legs in his own eccentric fashion. Indeed, not only he, but a number of other Mr. Loopers, all showing themselves in different positions.
“Smart children, aren’t they?” asked some moths, variously coloured in black and brown and yellow, hovering21 above the tree where the loopers were feeding. “They are ours—that is, not exactly ours, but ours will be like them when they are hatched. These fellows will soon make little cradles of leaves and go into the ground to go to sleep, and when they come out they will be like us. Wonderful, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” agreed Ruth, “but I’d like to know about their legs.”
“I can explain that,” said Mr. Looper quickly. “I have no legs in the middle of my body, and as that part of me isn’t supported, I can’t walk like other caterpillars, for I am a caterpillar10, even if they do call me a worm.”
“The legs, or the want of them, is a fault of his ancestors no doubt,” interrupted a voice. “Probably they walked in his idiotic22 fashion for fun, or to be different, even when they did have the right number of legs, and so lost the use of them, and the legs, too, finally. That often happens. I could tell you of cases——”
“Why, you look something like Miss Papilio,” said Ruth, turning to the last speaker, and interrupting her reminiscences.
“I am a Miss Papilio,” was the answer, “but not the one you heard a while ago. She was a tiger swallowtail, while I am a black swallowtail, different, but quite as handsome in my way. We swallowtails all believe in dressing23 well. We are butterflies, not moths, but though I am so beautiful, I serve some very humble24 plants. I carry the precious pollen for them. My children, I’m afraid, will not be so helpful, but what can one do? I happen to like honey, but they prefer the leaves of parsley, carrot, celery, and such things. They have large appetites, too.”
“Everything seems to have an appetite,” said Ruth.
“Well, my children will be able to eat, I can tell you. See, I have laid my eggs on this bed of parsley. Ah! there’s a larva now. Not mine, but mine will be like it. See, he is green, ringed with black and yellow. 206If you tease him he will stick out his yellow horns at you, and you won’t like the odour either. Would you believe I was once like that, and I slept in a pupa case like the one under the twig there? You know there always comes a time in the life of every caterpillar, if he lives long enough of course, when he stops eating for good and wants nothing so much as to sleep. That came to me, and I crawled from the parsley bed to an old rail fence and began to spin. The silk was in my body, and it came through two tubes in my lower lip.”
“That isn’t the way spiders spin,” said Ruth. “They——”
“I was not a spider,” said Miss Papilio. “I was a caterpillar, and they always spin with their mouths. So that is what I did, and before long I had lashed25 myself securely to the fence by strong silken loops. Then I shed my pretty suit, and my skin shrivelled until it was a hard case. In that safe cradle I went to sleep, and came out in the Spring with six legs instead of sixteen, a slender tongue in place of sharp, hungry jaws26, and, best of all, four beautiful wings. Oh, the joy of sailing through wonderful space, and sipping27 nectar from the sweetest flowers!”
“We have all felt that way,” said a large red-brown butterfly, whose wings, lighter28 below, were veined and bordered by black, with a double row of white spots on the edges. “Look at the chrysalis from which I came, and say no more. Can you guess my name?”
Ruth was obliged to confess that she could not.
“I have often seen you though,” she added, “or butterflies just like you.”
“Probably you have. I am called the monarch29, and, frail30 as I look, I can fly hundreds of miles without resting. I was just laying some eggs on this milkweed, and since you are here, you might use your eyes a little. You may see something worth while.”
Ruth was using her eyes as best she could, and soon she spied a number of caterpillars chewing away upon the milkweed leaves. They were lemon or greenish-yellow, banded with black.
“Will they grow into butterflies like you?” she asked.
“Yes,” was the answer, “but there is something more to see.”
Again Ruth looked, and now saw what appeared to be a little green jewel dotted with golden nails.
“Oh!” she cried, “how lovely!”
“I thought you would say that,” and the monarch fluttered her wings proudly. “That is our chrysalis, the cradle in which we sleep for our great transformation31. That is one thing the viceroy can’t do, though she mimics32 us as much as possible.”
“Mimics you?” repeated Ruth, in surprise.
“Yes, certainly. You see we monarchs33 are wrapped in a magic perfume—that no birds like, and so they never try to eat us. Now, Mrs. Viceroy hasn’t this perfume, and to protect herself she tries to imitate our family colours, so that the birds, mistaking her for one of us, may leave her alone too. She even flies as we do. See her over there? She is smaller than I am, but quite like me, except for the black line on her hind wings. A careless observer would scarcely notice that, however.”
The monarch floated off to lay some more eggs, and Ruth found herself in the midst of ever so many tawny brown butterflies, all bordered and checkered34 with black, and having wings covered with silver spots.
“Oh, you are so lovely!” she cried, with shining eyes, and then, as they passed on, calling back their name, “Fritillaries!” “Fritillaries!” she turned to see many other dazzling creatures fluttering about her. Some she had never seen before, but others were like old friends. There were the meadow browns, the stout-bodied coppers35, the slender, beautiful blues36, and more white cabbage butterflies than she could count. The handsome red admiral flirted37 with the pretty painted lady, and the mourning cloaks, with their purple-brown wings, yellow-bordered and marked with light blue spots, were flitting about, telling everybody how they had slept all Winter as butterflies, which is most uncommon38 in the butterfly world, and were for that reason the first to show themselves in the Spring.
“I used to wonder why you were out so early,” said Ruth, “and once I found one of you in a crevice39 on a Winter day, and I couldn’t understand about it.”
“Well, you do now. We hibernate40 like many animals.”
“But you must have been eggs in the beginning,” said Ruth. “The oil beetle41 told me that all insects begin as eggs. And will you please tell me how a butterfly knows the right kind of plant to lay her eggs on? It always seems to be just the one her caterpillars like to eat. She doesn’t eat it herself.”
“Of course not,” answered one of the mourning cloaks. “You need but look at out tongues to see that we eat only honey. I can’t answer your question, for none of us knows. Something tells us the proper plant for our eggs. We lay them there without hesitation42, and we lay a great many. This is necessary, for one never knows what may happen. Most of them may make a meal for something before they even hatch into caterpillars, and if some miss this fate, and do hatch, there are any number of birds, and their enemies, who like nothing so well as a fat, juicy caterpillar for dinner. Then if that danger is escaped, there are the birds again, and other hungry things, all anxious to get a taste of the butterfly. So you can understand that in a life so full of accidents it is important to have many eggs to begin with.”
“Yes,” said Ruth, “but——”
She didn’t finish, for just then she put her hand on what she thought was a leaf, and, much to her surprise, she found that it was alive.


1 wafted 67ba6873c287bf9bad4179385ab4d457     
v.吹送,飘送,(使)浮动( waft的过去式和过去分词 )
  • The sound of their voices wafted across the lake. 他们的声音飘过湖面传到了另一边。
  • A delicious smell of freshly baked bread wafted across the garden. 花园中飘过一股刚出炉面包的香味。 来自《简明英汉词典》
2 gracefully KfYxd     
  • She sank gracefully down onto a cushion at his feet. 她优雅地坐到他脚旁的垫子上。
  • The new coats blouse gracefully above the hip line. 新外套在臀围线上优美地打着褶皱。
3 decided lvqzZd     
  • This gave them a decided advantage over their opponents.这使他们比对手具有明显的优势。
  • There is a decided difference between British and Chinese way of greeting.英国人和中国人打招呼的方式有很明显的区别。
4 gathering ChmxZ     
  • He called on Mr. White to speak at the gathering.他请怀特先生在集会上讲话。
  • He is on the wing gathering material for his novels.他正忙于为他的小说收集资料。
5 moths de674306a310c87ab410232ea1555cbb     
n.蛾( moth的名词复数 )
  • The moths have eaten holes in my wool coat. 蛀虫将我的羊毛衫蛀蚀了几个小洞。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • The moths tapped and blurred at the window screen. 飞蛾在窗帘上跳来跳去,弄上了许多污点。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
6 fore ri8xw     
  • Your seat is in the fore part of the aircraft.你的座位在飞机的前部。
  • I have the gift of fore knowledge.我能够未卜先知。
7 awfully MPkym     
  • Agriculture was awfully neglected in the past.过去农业遭到严重忽视。
  • I've been feeling awfully bad about it.对这我一直感到很难受。
8 pollen h1Uzz     
  • Hummingbirds have discovered that nectar and pollen are very nutritious.蜂鸟发现花蜜和花粉是很有营养的。
  • He developed an allergy to pollen.他对花粉过敏。
9 caterpillars 7673bc2d84c4c7cba4a0eaec866310f4     
n.毛虫( caterpillar的名词复数 );履带
  • Caterpillars eat the young leaves of this plant. 毛毛虫吃这种植物的嫩叶。
  • Caterpillars change into butterflies or moths. 毛虫能变成蝴蝶或蛾子。 来自辞典例句
10 caterpillar ir5zf     
  • A butterfly is produced by metamorphosis from a caterpillar.蝴蝶是由毛虫脱胎变成的。
  • A caterpillar must pass through the cocoon stage to become a butterfly.毛毛虫必须经过茧的阶段才能变成蝴蝶。
12 tawny tIBzi     
  • Her black hair springs in fine strands across her tawny,ruddy cheek.她的一头乌发分披在健康红润的脸颊旁。
  • None of them noticed a large,tawny owl flutter past the window.他们谁也没注意到一只大的、褐色的猫头鹰飞过了窗户。
13 pointed Il8zB4     
  • He gave me a very sharp pointed pencil.他给我一支削得非常尖的铅笔。
  • She wished to show Mrs.John Dashwood by this pointed invitation to her brother.她想通过对达茨伍德夫人提出直截了当的邀请向她的哥哥表示出来。
14 vertically SfmzYG     
  • Line the pages for the graph both horizontally and vertically.在这几页上同时画上横线和竖线,以便制作图表。
  • The human brain is divided vertically down the middle into two hemispheres.人脑从中央垂直地分为两半球。
15 spoke XryyC     
n.(车轮的)辐条;轮辐;破坏某人的计划;阻挠某人的行动 v.讲,谈(speak的过去式);说;演说;从某种观点来说
  • They sourced the spoke nuts from our company.他们的轮辐螺帽是从我们公司获得的。
  • The spokes of a wheel are the bars that connect the outer ring to the centre.辐条是轮子上连接外圈与中心的条棒。
16 twilight gKizf     
  • Twilight merged into darkness.夕阳的光辉融于黑暗中。
  • Twilight was sweet with the smell of lilac and freshly turned earth.薄暮充满紫丁香和新翻耕的泥土的香味。
17 possessed xuyyQ     
  • He flew out of the room like a man possessed.他像着了魔似地猛然冲出房门。
  • He behaved like someone possessed.他行为举止像是魔怔了。
18 hind Cyoya     
  • The animal is able to stand up on its hind limbs.这种动物能够用后肢站立。
  • Don't hind her in her studies.不要在学业上扯她后腿。
19 standing 2hCzgo     
  • After the earthquake only a few houses were left standing.地震过后只有几幢房屋还立着。
  • They're standing out against any change in the law.他们坚决反对对法律做任何修改。
20 twig VK1zg     
  • He heard the sharp crack of a twig.他听到树枝清脆的断裂声。
  • The sharp sound of a twig snapping scared the badger away.细枝突然折断的刺耳声把獾惊跑了。
21 hovering 99fdb695db3c202536060470c79b067f     
鸟( hover的现在分词 ); 靠近(某事物); (人)徘徊; 犹豫
  • The helicopter was hovering about 100 metres above the pad. 直升机在离发射台一百米的上空盘旋。
  • I'm hovering between the concert and the play tonight. 我犹豫不决今晚是听音乐会还是看戏。
22 idiotic wcFzd     
  • It is idiotic to go shopping with no money.去买东西而不带钱是很蠢的。
  • The child's idiotic deeds caused his family much trouble.那小孩愚蠢的行为给家庭带来许多麻烦。
23 dressing 1uOzJG     
  • Don't spend such a lot of time in dressing yourself.别花那么多时间来打扮自己。
  • The children enjoy dressing up in mother's old clothes.孩子们喜欢穿上妈妈旧时的衣服玩。
24 humble ddjzU     
  • In my humble opinion,he will win the election.依我拙见,他将在选举中获胜。
  • Defeat and failure make people humble.挫折与失败会使人谦卑。
25 lashed 4385e23a53a7428fb973b929eed1bce6     
adj.具睫毛的v.鞭打( lash的过去式和过去分词 );煽动;紧系;怒斥
  • The rain lashed at the windows. 雨点猛烈地打在窗户上。
  • The cleverly designed speech lashed the audience into a frenzy. 这篇精心设计的演说煽动听众使他们发狂。 来自《简明英汉词典》
26 jaws cq9zZq     
  • The antelope could not escape the crocodile's gaping jaws. 那只羚羊无法从鱷鱼张开的大口中逃脱。
  • The scored jaws of a vise help it bite the work. 台钳上有刻痕的虎钳牙帮助它紧咬住工件。
27 sipping e7d80fb5edc3b51045def1311858d0ae     
v.小口喝,呷,抿( sip的现在分词 )
  • She sat in the sun, idly sipping a cool drink. 她坐在阳光下懒洋洋地抿着冷饮。
  • She sat there, sipping at her tea. 她坐在那儿抿着茶。
28 lighter 5pPzPR     
  • The portrait was touched up so as to make it lighter.这张画经过润色,色调明朗了一些。
  • The lighter works off the car battery.引燃器利用汽车蓄电池打火。
29 monarch l6lzj     
  • The monarch's role is purely ceremonial.君主纯粹是个礼仪职位。
  • I think myself happier now than the greatest monarch upon earth.我觉得这个时候比世界上什么帝王都快乐。
30 frail yz3yD     
  • Mrs. Warner is already 96 and too frail to live by herself.华纳太太已经九十六岁了,身体虚弱,不便独居。
  • She lay in bed looking particularly frail.她躺在床上,看上去特别虚弱。
31 transformation SnFwO     
  • Going to college brought about a dramatic transformation in her outlook.上大学使她的观念发生了巨大的变化。
  • He was struggling to make the transformation from single man to responsible husband.他正在努力使自己由单身汉变为可靠的丈夫。
32 mimics f8207fb5fa948f536c5186311e3e641d     
n.模仿名人言行的娱乐演员,滑稽剧演员( mimic的名词复数 );善于模仿的人或物v.(尤指为了逗乐而)模仿( mimic的第三人称单数 );酷似
  • Methods:Models were generate by CT scan,Mimics software and Abaqus software. 方法:采用CT扫描,Mimics软件和Abaqus软件的CAD进行三维有限元模型的创建。 来自互联网
  • Relaxing the mind and body mimics the effect that some blood-pressure pills would have. 放松身心会产生某些降压药才能产生的效果。 来自辞典例句
33 monarchs aa0c84cc147684fb2cc83dc453b67686     
君主,帝王( monarch的名词复数 )
  • Monarchs ruled England for centuries. 世袭君主统治英格兰有许多世纪。
  • Serving six monarchs of his native Great Britain, he has served all men's freedom and dignity. 他在大不列颠本国为六位君王服务,也为全人类的自由和尊严服务。 来自演讲部分
34 checkered twbzdA     
  • The ground under the trees was checkered with sunlight and shade.林地光影交错。
  • He’d had a checkered past in the government.他过去在政界浮沉。
35 coppers 3646702fee6ab6f4a49ba7aa30fb82d1     
铜( copper的名词复数 ); 铜币
  • I only paid a few coppers for it. 我只花了几个铜板买下这东西。
  • He had only a few coppers in his pocket. 他兜里仅有几个铜板。
36 blues blues     
  • She was in the back of a smoky bar singing the blues.她在烟雾弥漫的酒吧深处唱着布鲁斯歌曲。
  • He was in the blues on account of his failure in business.他因事业失败而意志消沉。
37 flirted 49ccefe40dd4c201ecb595cadfecc3a3     
v.调情,打情骂俏( flirt的过去式和过去分词 )
  • She flirted her fan. 她急速挥动着扇子。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
  • During his four months in Egypt he flirted with religious emotions. 在埃及逗留的这四个月期间,他又玩弄起宗教情绪来了。 来自辞典例句
38 uncommon AlPwO     
  • Such attitudes were not at all uncommon thirty years ago.这些看法在30年前很常见。
  • Phil has uncommon intelligence.菲尔智力超群。
39 crevice pokzO     
  • I saw a plant growing out of a crevice in the wall.我看到墙缝里长出一棵草来。
  • He edged the tool into the crevice.他把刀具插进裂缝里。
40 hibernate SdNxJ     
  • Bears often hibernate in caves.熊常在山洞里冬眠。
  • Some warm-blooded animals do not need to hibernate.一些温血动物不需要冬眠。
41 beetle QudzV     
  • A firefly is a type of beetle.萤火虫是一种甲虫。
  • He saw a shiny green beetle on a leaf.我看见树叶上有一只闪闪发光的绿色甲虫。
42 hesitation tdsz5     
  • After a long hesitation, he told the truth at last.踌躇了半天,他终于直说了。
  • There was a certain hesitation in her manner.她的态度有些犹豫不决。


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