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tail up.

From The suns babies by Edith Howes.
Age Rating 2 to 4.

Start of Story

Tail-up was the queerest-looking caterpillar in the garden. He would persist in walking on his front three pairs of legs and sticking all the rest of his long body into the air. Nobody could help laughing at him. He had several pairs of legs at the back, but after one look at them he refused to use them. "Nobody could call them legs," he said scornfully. "They are only suckers." So he walked on the front legs, with his tail stuck high in the air. No wonder everybody called him Tail-up. Before he was a day old he started off to see the world. His mother had never left the little basket-house in her life, but Tail-up was different. He wanted to see everything there was to be seen, and also to eat everything there was to be eaten. What an appetite he had! Nothing came amiss to him. He had no teeth, but his strong jaws could do quite enough damage to the plants in the garden. "What a greedy fellow you are!" said a woolly brown caterpillar one day. "I have a good appetite, I know, but your life is one long meal." "Let him alone," said a passing bee. "Let him eat all he can. The time will come when he will live quite without food." Both caterpillars stared. "Whatever do you mean?" asked Tail-up. "Wait and see," said the Bee. "I believe you are talking nonsense," said Tail-up. He hurried away to find another meal. He was never at a loss for food, for when he had devoured all the choicest bits off one tree, he dropped to the ground by a silk rope and made his way to a fresh one. This silk rope was another of his oddities. He kept whole coils of it in his body. When he wanted to reach the ground he brought the end of one of the coils out of his mouth and gummed it on to the branch where he sat. He then slid off the branch, hanging by the rope. Slowly and carefully he came down, letting out more rope as he needed it, until he reached the ground. There he broke the rope and hurried away to climb the next tree. After a day or two he thought: "I will make a house. It shall be just like mother's, smooth and cosy inside, but so strong that nothing can break its way in." He set to work to weave a basket-house, doing a little each day between his many meals. He drew the silk thread out of his own body, and wove the house round and round his upreared tail. "It would be tiresome to have to go back to it each night," he said, so he carried it with him. He looked more comical than ever now, going about with his partly-built house on his tail. He fastened tiny twigs here and there on the outside, to deceive the birds. "They will think it is a stick," he said, "and thus I shall be safe." He put a strong silk thread round the wide end as a draw-cord. Now the little house was finished. He could crawl in, pull the cord to shut the door, and safely go to sleep. Just about this time he began to lose his appetite. "Dear me! this is very remarkable," he thought. "I wonder if that bee was right, after all? I certainly feel queer. I think I'll have a good long sleep." He hung his house to a branch of a tree, crept into it, tied the front door securely, and went to sleep. And there he slept on and on, day after day, night after night, without ever waking to eat. While he slept, skin and little legs shrivelled up and fell away from him, and a new skin, hard and thick and scaly, took their place. "This is a queer state of affairs," he said, waking for a moment. "I feel quite different." He slept again. Another change came. Six long, thin legs grew, tightly packed away under him; softly feathered wings and feelers slowly came. He woke again. "I must go out into the world," he said. Wriggling and pushing, he worked himself half out through the back door of his house. Wriggling and pushing still, he cracked the hard chrysalis skin and sprang on to the top of his house. He unrolled his feathery wings and waved them fast in the air to dry them. What a fine fellow he was now! How the sun shone, after the long darkness of his house! How beautiful was the day! "Good-bye, old house," he said. "I shall never need you again, for now I can fly from my enemies." He darted swiftly through the air to lead his new life--a new life indeed, for he never again needed to eat.

       



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