A Butterfly So Rare
written and illustrated by Adrienne Foster Potter
On a very small island in a very large ocean there lived a rare butterfly. She was sky-blue, with bright, yellow polk-a-dots in pale, pink shadows, and dark blue outlining her wings. She had not been a butterfly for long. She had recently been a lowly caterpillar and had almost been eaten by a bird. Just as the bird dived for her a falling leaf floated down and covered her, as if heaven was saying, "No no, little birdie! Find another meal."
Right after she hatched out of her chrysalis, before her wings were even dry, rain began to fall. If she hadn't quickly taken two steps to the right which put her directly underneath a large branch, she might have died before she even got a start. Now she was alive and carefree, fluttering in the sunshine under the blue sky. She found a beautiful flower and landed on it to take a sniff. Pollen stuck to her legs. She flew to the next flower and pollen dropped from her legs into it.
"Thank-you," said the flower. "Will you please take some pollen to my brother who grows high up on that mountain above us?" she asked. "He has waited a long, long time for some and I'm afraid he will soon die without it." The butterfly thought for only a second. "Of course I will."
"Oh, thank-you," said the pretty flower. "He's above the highest cliff next to a large boulder, underneath a pine tree with a crooked top."
"Tell me flower," said the little butterfly. "How did your brother get so far away from you?"
The flower replied, "When we were little seeds on the ground a very big wind came. I was sheltered next to a rock, but the wind took him and carried him way up high. A little bird found him for me and told me where he was, and now I send him messages whenever I can."
The rare butterfly gathered more pollen on her legs and in her mouth and started on her journey. Up and away she rose, moving higher and higher in the breeze. A stronger wind came and tried to blow her back down but she flattened her wings and let the breeze skim right past. An updraft lifted her a hundred feet, then a downdraft dropped her down fifty feet. She held tightly to her pollen and flew sideways until the breeze was gentler, then began to climb more slowly.
As she flew higher an eagle noticed her and began to swoop in circles around her. "Fly! Butterfly! Fly!" the breeze whispered to her. "Fly towards the cliff!" The butterfly listened and flew towards a niche in the cliff where she landed and rested for a moment. The eagle swooped by a few feet away but the butterfly was safe. She waited until the eagle was far away, looking for mice in a field. Then she continued on her journey.
The air was thinner up here and breathing was difficult. She had to work harder. A twig sticking out of the cliff nicked some pollen off her leg. She cried out, but kept on going. She became so tired she had to rest and so she spread her wings and glided on a breeze, floating in comfort for a moment. Then she remembered the flower and once more began to beat her wings in the wind.
She saw the highest cliff and kept on climbing. Soon she saw the boulder and the pine tree with the crooked top, but where was the flower? Had the sister flower been mistaken? She flew round and round, searching in every crevice. Finally she found him inside a crack in the cliff wall, clinging to a tiny ledge. He was the most beautiful flower she had ever seen. She flew closer, but suddenly the eagle swooped down on her, claws outstretched. She somersaulted in the air to get away and one of his claws nicked her wing. She cried out in pain, found a tiny crack in the cliff, and squeezed herself inside it. She was ten feet away from the flower, but the eagle was swooping back and forth in front of her and she couldn't move or he would eat her. She stayed where she was and waited.
It seemed like an eternity, but finally the eagle left again. She squeezed to the opening of the crack and saw the flower waiting. Once more she rose in flight. The eagle had been watching from above and once more dove towards her. A sharp breeze knocked her downward. She struggled to rise again. "Come here little flower! Quickly!" cried the brother flower urgently. The eagle was almost upon her. She put on a burst of speed and plopped inside the flower. Quickly he closed his petals around her and she was safe.
"Are you hurt little one?" he asked her gently as she dropped her pollen all around. "I think my wing is torn," she gasped breathlessly. "Here, drink my nectar, then lay down and rest," he told her kindly. "I've waited so long for you to come and now I see why it took so long. What a difficult journey you've had!" The brave and rare little butterfly drank until she was content and then collapsed in sleep. A bee came in the morning with honey in his mouth and the flower said, "Would you please put a little bit of that honey on this butterfly's wing and patch it up?" He did so very willingly, and ever so carefully.
The butterfly awoke later in the day and felt something on her wing. "It's just honey," the flower told her. Let it stay for awhile until your wing mends. You can sleep here until then." The butterfly thanked him, drank some more nectar, and slept some more. The next day she felt much better and began to talk with the flower. He told her of the ships he had seen way out on the ocean, of a waterspout passing by, and all about the fishes he saw jumping out of the sea. Together they watched the sundown and the twilight, and the rising of the moon. He showed her the evening star.
She slept again in peace and comfort, and the next day they talked of more of the wonders of life. He told her of the shooting stars he saw from the cliff, of the squirrels in the pine trees up above and the nuts they sometimes threw at the eagles. She told him all about his sister far below, and how she worried about him. And she told him about the bird who almost ate her and the rain that tried to ruin her wings before they were first dried. "What a rare and brave little butterfly you are!" he exclaimed.
She stayed a week until her wing was healed and then the flower helped her remove the honey. She planted a butterfly kiss on one of his petals as they said their goodbyes. What a good and caring friend he had been! It felt good to know that she had succeeded in saving his life. The butterfly took a step into the wind and began her journey downward. This was much easier than the first trip, but she didn't forget to watch out for the eagle. Once she saw him far away and quickly flew into a little cloud and hovered there until she was sure he was gone.
When at last she came back to ground level she stopped to visit the sister flower, who was excited to see her and learn of her brother's welfare. She heard all about the journey and about the stories the brother shared. While they talked they didn't notice that a ship had anchored in the bay and a boat was rowing towards the shore. They didn't realize until it was too late that a net was suddenly surrounding the butterfly and she was trapped!
"What a beautiful specimen you'll make for my daughter's collection!" exclaimed the captain of the ship, who had butterflies from all over the world pinned to a wall in his cabin that would soon be taken to his home. But first I'm going to keep you in a cage so I can draw pictures of you. She was taken back to the ship and put in a small cage, just large enough to fan her wings. There she stayed for days, longing for the freedom she had lost. The captain drew various pictures of her and the crew came in one by one to look at her. How humiliating! She wept at night and fanned her wings in the daytime, afraid she would lose the ability to fly. She imagined herself flying high above the cliffs of the island and at night she dreamed she was free.
Word came to the brother flower high on the cliff of the little butterfly's plight and he was terribly saddened. But what could he do? He was attached to the cliff and could go nowhere. He consulted with the bees who came regularly to visit. Several of them volunteered to help. They knew of the butterfly's bravery in saving the flower, and they were grateful because they needed his nectar. They discussed a plan and then a small squadron of the best bees on the island began to swarm towards the ship. Other bees heard of their plan and joined in the attack.
As quietly as is possible for bees they made their way towards the ship and into the open window of the captain's cabin. They saw the butterfly, looking wilted in her cage, and quickly moved to open it. She was free! They all flew towards the window and the captain looked up from his bridge just in time to see them flying at top speed toward the island. He cursed at his bad luck and resolved to return to the island the next day and recapture her.
The little butterfly thanked the brave bees and sent them on their way, with mouths full of pollen from her friends, the flowers. She sent thanks with them for the kind brother flower, wishing she could see him again some day. The next day all the flowers and the neighboring bees kept watch and saw when the boat landed on the beach. They warned the butterfly and she hid inside the hollow of a tree until the captain became discouraged. "It's like this island is haunted," he told his men. "The butterfly has disappeared." The flowers giggled and the bees buzzed.
The captain and his men returned to their ship but each day for three days they returned to look for the butterfly and each day her friends hid her. The bees told a snake of her plight and on the last day he came out of the bushes and bit the captain on the leg. He was carried to the boat and rowed back to the ship, where a doctor treated him. Convinced the island was enchanted, he left the next day and never returned. The little butterfly lived a long happy life, making an annual trek up to the cliff to visit the brother flower with a little squadron of bees who kept her safe from the eagle.
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