Verbiny and Her Butterflies
You know that Verbiny had a lot of kittens and played with them every day. After several months had passed with the kittens Verbiny took up a new and much more interesting interest. Verbiny had always thought that the butterflies were just ignorarg [sic: ignorant?] little insects flitting about through fields and meadows. Of course the butterflies fly so fast that one cannot see the colors in their wings, but every variety of color that one ever sees on a butterfly’s wing helps to make the plain color that the wings seem to be when the butterfly is flying. When the beautiful insect is in flight the color of the wing may seem gray or even brown, so of course Verbiny, never having seen one light, thought that the wing was a plain color gray or brown, and never dreamed of the wing being the magnificent varieties of color that they really are.
Now one day Verbiny wandered to the field that she played in every day, the field which was about an eighth of a mile from home. She saw several butterflies but while wandering about the field she saw the uncommon form of the Pearletue nestled in a clover blossom. “It could not be a butterfly,” Verbiny thought. “Never are butterflies so handsomely marked as this one. I will ask father to come and see it and tell me what it is.” So home she went burning with curiosity. She got her father and took him to the field to be amazed when he said that it was a butterfly. “I never knew that butterflies were as handsome as this one,” said Verbiny. “There, look at that flock of brown and gray butterflies. Surely this must be a very rare and extraordinary butterfly.”
“It is a rather rare variety,” said Verbiny’s father, who wanted to let Verbiny herself find out that it was because of the butterflies’ flight that made the wings look brown or gray. “But see that butterfly that is just about to light.”
“Yes, what of it.”
“You will see that though the wings of that common butterfly look brown, you will find that the wings are really beautifully marked.” The butterfly lit.
Verbiny tiptoed over to the flower. The butterfly had the name of the mixed undervern.
“Kneel down, look under the flower and peep between its petals and look at the underside of the butterfly,” said the king. Verbiny did so. It is because of the exquisite underside of this butterfly that it is called the mixed undervern. But how about the surprise of Verbiny that the butterfly whose wings she supposed to be brown turned into a gorgeous insect? All at once she understood and told her father so and he went home. Verbiny sat down on the grass, and all at once it occurred to her that the world had lit up with beautiful insects whose wings she had always supposed to be brown or gray. In a half an hour or so Verbiny went home to her father with the question, What does the butterfly eat? in her puzzled mind. She asked it to her father.
“Why the butterfly eats honey, dear, why did you want to know?”
“Father, butterflies are so beautiful that my mind is all confused and troubled in a queer sort of way.”
“I have had that feeling too about beautiful things,” said her father. “But tell me, dear, why did you want to know what butterflies eat?”
“Why I wanted to sort of—sort of—sort of—”
“Sort of what” asked her father anxiously.
“What do you call keeping butterflies in a cage and feeding them and taking care of them?” questioned Verbiny.
“You call that breeding.”
“Well, that is what I want to do.”
“You may do it,” said her father. “I will build the cage today, but how are you planning to give them food?”
“Why,” said Verbiny, “that is easy enough. Why not transplant flowers and put them in the cage?”
“All right,” said her father, and Verbiny ran off into the field to play with tears of joy in her eyes.
Verbiny after a while spent in the field came home singing merrily as if she had never been so happy. Indeed she never had, for was she not to breed the beautiful insects that cover the fields and meadows? Her grandmother asked her what she was so happy about. Then Verbiny told her whole adventure with the butterflies, how she had seen the pearletue lighted, and how she had seen the brown butterfly turn into a beautiful one when it lit, and she didn’t forget how it had so suddenly occurred to her how it all happened. She also told all about her conversation with her father about breeding butterflies and when she had finished she said: “Isn’t that something to be happy about?”
“Indeed it is, dear,” said she. “When I was a little girl I used to keep the eggs of butterflies and I used to pick the cocoons, but I let the butterflies go that came from the cocoons. I only picked them to see what the butterfly was like.”
“And what did you do with the eggs, grandmother?”
“Why I kept them in a box and when the caterpillar came out I put him in a box with plenty of bushes and ferns and moss in it, which I had transplanted. In the fall the caterpillar spun his cocoon in one of the bushes. It was very interesting to watch him spinning it. I had over the box a cover with holes in it for air, in case the butterfly came out of the cocoon when I was not around, which one of them did.”
“What did it look like?” questioned Verbiny.
“It was a butterfly called the perpander,” said her grandmother. I will show you the description of it that I wrote.”
“I should love to see it.”
So Verbiny’s grandmother went upstairs and brought the description of the perpander down. Verbiny read it. When she got through she said: “Isn’t that a lovely butterfly. Did you see the male or the female, and which variety did you see?”
“I saw the female of the second variety,” said her grandmother.
“That is the variety and butterfly that I like best,” said Verbiny, “though I do think the male of the first variety is very lovely.”
“That is the one I like best, the male of the first variety.”
“No, I think I like the one you had best,” said Verbiny. “I don’t like your favorite quite as well, but I like it next-best.”
“Verbiny! Verbiny!” called the king from upstairs.
“What is it, father?” said the princess, turning to the stairway.
“Come up here just a minute, dear,” said her father. “I want you to see if the cage is high enough.”
Verbiny ran upstairs to the little upstairs screened-in porch, where she found her father with the cage already made. The sides were six feet high and ten feet long. Verbiny noticed a line in the sides. Verbiny’s father pressed down on the top of the cage and three feet of the cage bent down and inwards and the top rested on the other three feet of netting and wire. Verbiny then noticed a little piece of netting with a board around the edge of it. Verbiny asked her father what it was for. “Well,” he said, “you can keep rabbits or any other small animal or bird that you wish to tame in here, and I will now show you where the butterflies will go.” He lifted up the other half of the cage leaving the top where it was because that was the animals’ part of the cage. You see, he was going to have that top for the butterflies and then it came into his mind that Verbiny might want to breed something else, and he didn’t want to make another cage.
“Where is the top to the butterflies’ part of the cage?” questioned Verbiny.
“Patience, dear, patience,” said the king. “I am going to get it now.” He walked over to the corner of the piazza and brought back the top to the butterflies’ cage and set it on. In this top there was a loose piece of netting and wire too. I forgot to say that in the animals’ part of the cage there was a side gate. They went to another corner of the piazza and brought back a large silver box with black-eyed susans, buttercups, daisies, and clover in it. “This,” he said, “is the butterflies’ food.” Then he got a high and small box with some fine wire covering the open end, and tied onto that was a leather handle which was fastened to a nail on the corner of the box. “This is the animals’ house,” said he. The king then opened the side gate of the animals’ cage and put the box in. Then he went into the house and got a roll of absorbent cotton and made a large bed for the animals, and set it in one corner of the box.
“It is a lovely cage,” said Verbiny. “Thank you ever so much for making it for me.”
“You’re very welcome,” said the king, “and I have enjoyed making it. Do you think that three feet will be high enough for the butterflies?”
“I think it will be plenty high enough,” said Verbiny, “and I must get my grandmother to come and see it.”
Verbiny ran downstairs and told her grandmother all about the new cage and invited her to come and see it. Her grandmother willingly went. The cage was very much praised by her grandmother. “What kind of animal are you going to put in the cage?” said her grandmother.
“Oh, I think I will put chipmunks in there—a male and a female so we can have little ones,” said Verbiny. “Chipmunks are such cunning things with their pockets in their cheeks and their little striped bodies. Don’t you think they are cunning?”
“I think they are very cunning,” said her grandmother and her father, “but, how are you going to catch them?” said she.
“My father will arrange that,” said Verbiny, “but I am going to breed butterflies before I deal with animals.”
“I think that is a good plan. We can’t do too many things at once,” said the king.
“No, father,” said Verbiny, “for I shall have to take care of the animals and butterflies and I can’t take care of even two things.”
“A very good plan,” said her father.
But Verbiny still went on: “After a few days,” said she, “when the butterflies get used to the cage, they don’t need to be taken care of any more and then I will try to get the chipmunks.”
After the new cage was all set up, Verbiny’s father made the princess a net to catch the butterflies in, and he showed her how to use it. Then he went over to the field with her to try to catch a butterfly. The first one Verbiny’s father caught. It was the beautiful female daylight fuzzy-wing. Verbiny was delighted at the beautifulness of the green band about the wings, but was even more delighted when her father said that it was a female (for he knew all about butterflies) for she knew that she would [have] the male of the same butterfly from the eggs. They put her in the cage and then they put some dried leaves in there for the butterfly to lay her eggs on and went off in to the field again to catch another one. This time they caught a frillerteener, the mateless frillerteener, and they put her in the cage, too. They also caught the male pearletue and the female mixed undervern that same interesting day.
But a lot more happened on that interesting day of which I shall now tell you about. Verbiny’s father had spent all his money on the netting and the wire that he had made the cage out of, for he was not a rich man, and the netting and wire cost a good deal for what it was. He decided to sell his castle for $36990, and that very day someone bought it. He got four moving vans, and hired a 1914 Pierce Arrow to take the family in. After riding a hundred and fourteen mile ride, they came to a lovely house that nobody was living in. It was a large stone house and after exploring it carefully they found that it was quite fit to live in. It was on a little country road which ran towards the west. Around the house was fine bent-over yellow grass of last year. On the right-hand side where the grass left off was a small patch of woods where Verbiny would play. In back where the grass left off was a field where Verbiny would catch butterflies. In the front was a grand hall, and on the right-hand side of the hall was the living-room, and on the left the dining-room. The hall was not much connected [to the] kitchen, but a door opened about half-way to the first landing of the stairway into a passage which went under the stairway, behind the wall at the end of the hall and broke into the hall by means of a swing-door. At the top of the stair-way was a hall with the wall right towards the stairs and the only way of getting into it was by a single door. But instead of going into the hall why not turn to the right, walk through a rod-long passage, turn to the right once more and go into a screened-in porch. On the opposite side of the porch was a door; why not open the door and go down to the ground on a flight of white marble steps? What do you think of that? Going from the second floor down to the ground. But what was Verbiny’s amazement when going up the stairway opposite the door of the porch she found herself in a large square room? In each corner of the room was a set of three electric lights. In the middle was a lovely light. The shade was soft green and hanging from it were millions of chains of tiny pearls. There were also millions of chains of longer pearls, each chain tied onto one of the small chains. The large chains were also fastened on to a small chain twenty small chains from the other end, so that all the large chains together made millions of pearl chains all interlaced. The four other sets of electric lights were adorned with pearls, too. From the glass ceiling so that one could look up into the trees, were a number of pearl chains with both ends fastened to the ceiling so that they were loops, and hanging from the loops were a lot of chains of tiny gold beads. Under each of the four sets of three electric lights was a tall silver vase with eight ferns in each one, and there were pearl chains all over the ferns, too. It was an exquisite room.
But when Verbiny opened a door in that room and came into another like it, only emeralds in place of pearls, she began to explore every inch of every closet and everything, for she knew there would be more riches, and there were. When she opened the door of the emerald room she came into a long passage into which she walked. At the end of the passage was a tiny room with a beautiful trunk in it. Verbiny opened the trunk and was amazed to find it full of gold and silver boxes. She opened every one of them. In one there were pearls, in another there were emeralds, and in others diamonds, rubies, amethysts, turquoises, sapphires, and topazes, and each kind was in a box.
Then Verbiny went through the two lovely rooms downstairs and downstairs again on the white marble steps of the screened-in porch. When she got down she found her grandmother in the field and took her up to see the lovely rooms and jewels.
Now this house had been for a long time deserted, and it was all by itself, and the shortest way to another house is a hundred mile ride. Only one family had ever lived in it, and it had been deserted for centuries. So Verbiny’s father felt that he had a perfect right to it without paying for it.
The same day she caught the pink-pepple-walker and the brillyantear fuzzywing, the female of each. She bred her butterflies very well and was very happy with them.
“Father,” said Verbiny the next day, “I think it is about time we got the chipmunks, what do you say?”
“Well, child,” said the king, “we shall do it right now. I was going to tell you that it was about time for them.”
“How are we going to do it?”
“I shall take an aluminum plate and your butterfly net. I am going to put a lot of cheese on the plate in front of that chipmunk’s hole in the front of the house (for there was one there) and then with the net we shall go off somewhere we can watch. Presently the chipmunk will smell the cheese and come out with his mate. While they are eating we shall steal up behind them very quietly and slip the net over them and bring them home on the plate.”
“Oh, that is a fine idea, Daddy,” said Verbiny. “Let us do it right off.”
So off they went to the chipmunk’s hole with a net and a plate of cheese. They left the plate at the chipmunk’s hole, and then went off and hid where they could see all that would happen. In a minute out came the chipmunk with his mate. Verbiny’s father stole up behind them oh so softly, and slipped the net over them. They had two chipmunks at last. Then they put them in the animals’ part of the cage leaving the door of their house open so that they could go in. The chipmunks seemed to like their new home very much, for they scampered around without the least bit of fear. Verbiny watched them the rest of the day, but the next day something most surprising happened. Out of the house came the mother chipmunk with four babies following her. The cage became a nursery. Wasn’t Verbiny excited when she told her grandmother and father? She was a happy little girl with her butterflies and chipmunks for a long, long time.