Betsy Butterfly in "A Strange Change"
A Strange Change
Receiving no answer to his question, Freddie Firefly skipped down from the fence and sought the shade of the apple tree, where he found Dusty Moth staring fixedly at Betsy Butterfly's picture.Dusty's face wore a most curious look; he seemed at once angry, sorrowful and amazed. And not till Freddie Firefly asked again what was the trouble did Dusty Moth say a word.Then he pointed scornfully toward the portrait that Jimmy Rabbit had made earlier in the summer.
"So that's the charming Betsy Butterfly, eh?" he roared. "That's the beauty I've heard so much about! I can tell you right now that if I had any idea she looked like this I never would have lost my appetite over her!"
"You astonish me!" Freddie Firefly exclaimed. "Have you forgotten how anxious you were to meet the lady?"
"Meet her!" Dusty Moth howled. "I promise you I'd never go out of my way to meet anybody that looked as she does—though I might go a long distance to avoid her."
Freddie Firefly glanced toward the picture. But it had fallen face downward upon the ground. And he did not take the trouble to raise it.
"Well, you think Betsy Butterfly is beautiful, don't you?" he asked.
"Indeed I don't! I think she's hideous," Dusty Moth shouted. "Never in all my life have I been so deceived in a person."
"I don't understand how you can say that," Freddie Firefly told him. "But I suppose your idea of beauty may be different from mine—and from many other people's, too. Anyhow, I hope you'll get your appetite back again."
"I don't know about that," said Dusty Moth. "Just now I don't feel as if I ever wanted to taste food again." A shudder passed over him. And he covered his eyes, as if to shut some terrible image from his memory.
"I must leave you now," said Freddie Firefly. "And please don't forget what you promised me. You remember that you said that if I'd show you a picture of Betsy Butterfly you would stop pestering me about her."
"Don't worry about that!" Dusty Moth assured him bitterly. "I shall never mention Betsy Butterfly's name again.
I don't want to think of her. But I'm afraid I can never, never get her face out of my mind.... I know—" he added—"I know I shall see it in my dreams. And just think how terrible it will be to wake at midday, out of a sound sleep, with her dreadful face and form haunting me!"Freddie Firefly couldn't help feeling sorry for the poor chap. But he could think of nothing to do, except to show him Betsy's portrait once more. So he started to raise the picture from the ground, where it still lay face downward. And the moment Dusty Moth saw what he was about he gave a frightful scream—and flew off into the night.
"He's a queer one!" Freddie Firefly mused. "Now, I've always thought Betsy was a fine-looking——" Just then his eyes fell upon the picture for the first time. And Freddie Firefly's mouth fell open in astonishment.So amazed was he by what he saw that he tumbled right over backwards. And then, scrambling to his feet, he wrapped the rhubarb leaf hastily around the picture and slung it across his back again.
"Jimmy Rabbit has made a terrible mistake!" he groaned, as he started for the duck pond.
Back at the meeting place once more, Freddie Firefly rushed up to Jimmy Rabbit in great excitement."Do you know what you did?" he cried. "You brought me the wrong picture. And Dusty Moth has gone shrieking off into the darkness, he was so disappointed. This is not Betsy Butterfly's picture! It's some dreadful-looking caterpillar. And when I glanced at it just now, over in the orchard, it sent a chill all through me."
For the time being Jimmy Rabbit said nothing. At first he had seemed quite upset. But before Freddie had finished speaking he had begun to smile.
And then he unwrapped the picture once more and leaned it against a stone, where the moon's rays fell squarely upon it.
"You're mistaken," he informed Freddie then. "This is a picture of Betsy Butterfly. I painted it myself; and I ought to know. As I explained last night, I made it earlier in the summer; and as I said, she has changed somewhat in the meantime. But it's a very good likeness of her as she was once."
"You mean—" gasped Freddie Firefly—"you mean that Betsy Butterfly was once an ugly caterpillar?"
"Why, certainly!" said Jimmy Rabbit. "And so was Dusty Moth, for that matter. Yes! he was a caterpillar himself, once—and a much uglier one than Betsy, if only he knew it.
"In fact," said Jimmy, looking at the picture with his head on one side, "as caterpillars go, Betsy Butterfly was a great beauty, even at so early an age."