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- PICCOLISSIMA - 1/6 -


sound of the silver clock bell. When, however, Piccolissima was two inches high, and lively as a grasshopper, she became restless in her cocoanut shell; she was desirous to get out of it, to walk, and to jump, and she not only deranged the clock, but she was in real danger.

She was now as much as seven years old, and she amused herself with all sorts of little pranks, and loving ways, with one of her brothers eighteen months old. The great boy, in a sort of ecstasy at some of the drolleries of his little sister, seized her and put her in his mouth, taking into it nearly the whole head of the poor little thing. Her cry was so shrill that the baby boy opened his jaws and let the unfortunate Piccolissima fall on the floor. She did not recover for a long time from this fall. Another time, a large cat, a great mouser, ran after her, and it was with difficulty they rescued Piccolissima from the claws of Raminagrobis. The father, Mr. Thumb, could not repress some anxiety about the fate of his amiable daughter, who had more than common intelligence, and who, by her extreme smallness, was exposed to so many dangers.

Piccolissima did her best to acquire knowledge. She had the best intentions in the world; she desired in every thing to please all who approached her; but her extreme restlessness led her away in spite of herself. One evening she lost herself in the solitude of a drawer in which was kept some tobacco; she came near dying from the effect of it. Once she was near drowning in a superb salad dish of frothed eggs, which she may have taken for snow mountains. She had a passion for discovery, she had a prodigious activity of mind and body, and yet they could find nothing for her to do, "because," they said, "she is so little, so delicate." She could not play with children of her own age, she was not allowed to run about, and without object, without employment, without means of studying, with no companions, no sympathy, the poor little thing was in danger of falling into a state of apathy, more to be feared than the accidents from which they wished to preserve her.

One day, towards the end of February, Piccolissima had been placed upon the mantelpiece. Her mother had gone out; her father, who did not wish to have the trouble of watching over all his little daughter's movements, seated her upon a pincushion in which there were no pins, and putting the dictionary as a sort of rampart before her, he gave her a stick of barley sugar to entertain herself with, and after the usual admonition, left her to her dreams. Leaving the sugar to slip down by her side, she remained lost in melancholy reflections from which she was drawn by a light murmur, such as one hears sometimes in the silence of the night when persons are speaking in a low voice in a distant part of the house. Piccolissima listened with deep attention for some time. Usually she disliked the sound of conversation; it struck harshly on her organs, and seemed a sort of mimic thunder; but these sounds had nothing discordant, nothing disagreeable in them, to her ear. As Piccolissima had been forced to observe rather than to act, her faculties took a new direction, and a development of which she was unconscious herself took place, and her joy and her surprise were great when she found that, in what had at first appeared to her a confused murmur, she distinguished, as she listened attentively, intelligible words.

"It was hardly worth while," said a small, sharp voice, "it was hardly worth the trouble it cost me to leave my cradle. I have come into the world where all is dead around me. Ah! if I had only known that this world was so cold and dull, I should not have made efforts which almost destroyed me, to break the roof and leave my narrow house."

"Patience," replied another voice, a little quieter, but much like the other; "I have lived longer than thou, who art only a few seconds old. I have learned that one minute does not resemble another; that cold is near to heat, that light is near to darkness, and that sweet follows bitter. It is now two hundred and twenty-one thousand, seven hundred and sixty-one minutes, and twenty-four seconds, since I broke my shell. This sun, which you now see so pale in the dusk, glowed then with more fervor, and sent every where more rays and sparkles than I can count seconds in my long life. I was all wet as you are now--poor, helpless thing; but I turned myself to some of those brilliant rays, and my wings directly became strong, as you now see them, embossed and painted with seven different, changing colors, reflections of the rays of the sun. See! there is one of these rays now; come forth; spread thy moist wing, already shrunk and chill; thou shalt take thy part in the blessings which come from on high."

Piccolissima, all attention and full of curiosity, looked around her, and saw coming out from the window frame two flies, who appeared to be talking together. The wings of one of them remained stuck together on its back, and it made a great effort to extend them. Delighted at the discovery of companions in her solitude, companions, too, whose language she could understand, Piccolissima was eager to make their acquaintance; so she offered them her stick of candy. One of the flies--it was the elder--having fixed upon the little prodigy one of the thousand faces of his brown, sparkling eyes, surrounded with golden eyelashes, he then placed, one by one, his little black feet upon the stick of sugar candy, stretched forth his trunk, and began to suck with eagerness.

Piccolissima had now time enough to contemplate a being whose organs she thought were like her own in their weakness. She found pleasure in examining the extraordinary form of its almost cylindrical body, divided into three parts, and a head wider than it was long, an irregular globe surmounted by two horns, or antennae, as they are called. The eyes most excited her curiosity. She attempted to count their numerous little faces, so regular, so finely cut into hexagons, more polished, more brilliant than diamonds. When Piccolissima had counted one hundred, she drew from a very small box, which was a family treasure, some minikin pins, and stuck one of them into the cushion on which she was seated, intending thus to mark every hundred that she counted; but she had not counted thus half a thousand, before she found that breath and knowledge failed her; in truth, she did not know enough of arithmetic to count the eyes of a fly. In the very first group which she undertook to count, that on the right side of the fly, she had not counted a sixteenth part. Piccolissima, from her education, resembled the flies a little too much to boast of her perseverance. So she gave up her project.

While bending her small head over these eyes, she distinguished, at the bottom of these crystals, a moving dark spot, and thousands of little Piccolissimas, one after the other, smiled upon her from these little mirrors. O, wonderful! these thousands of crystal groups on each side of the head were not all; a triangle of three diamonds crowned the forehead of the fly. Piccolissima did not know the name they give to these small eyes, nor that a writer on the subject had said, that the diadem of the fly outshines that of queens, but she could not refrain from saying aloud, "O, my little friend, pray tell me what you do with so many eyes ?"

"What do I do with them, indeed! why, I look," answered the fly, a little vexed at being disturbed in his repast. "Are there not fingers, nails, pins, pincers, jaws, claws, beaks, which menace me on every side? Do I not want eyes to see at a distance, and eyes to see near? And do you not know that my head is better put on than yours, which cannot turn to all points of the compass?"

"What! can you look behind you without turning your head?" replied Piccolissima, with an air which probably appeared to the fly not very sensible; for, shrugging up his right wing disdainfully, he returned to his sugar candy.

After a little reflection, she looked down again, and perceived, to her great astonishment, upon the stick of candy, which was of an amber color, a drop of water. She was sure, however, that she had done the civil thing to the flies, and given it to them first. How, then, was the candy moist? thought she; but she did not dare again to ask questions which excited such a rude buzzing in reply. So she rested her two little elbows on her knees, and her small head upon one of her hands, and continued to examine the fly. "Is it his nose?" said she, in a low voice, (for, having very rarely any one to talk with, she had a habit of talking to herself,) "is it his nose that he stretches out thus upon my sugar? I have heard papa say that there are animals, much larger than he, and which they call elephants, I think, who take up with their noses all the food they put in their mouths, and that they call this nose a trunk. Perhaps this is a little person of the family of elephants."

Piccolissima had hardly uttered these words, when the fly, whose antennae were longer than usual, and were turned towards the little prattler, gave such a leap that Mademoiselle Tom Thumb trembled. The wings of the insect fluttered, and made a little sharp noise, which, however, had nothing terrible in it, and Piccolissima perceived that her companion was laughing. It was evident that the fly must laugh with his wings, because he could not laugh in any other way. It was with his antennae that he had listened; they evidently served him as ears; and, when he recovered his gravity, he flew on the little girl's hand, and began to talk with her; then Piccolissima observed him more intelligently.

"It appears to me, little pet," said the fly, "thou must be very green to compare my delicate trunk, this instrument so nicely made, with the enormous and coarse cylinder upon which, in hot weather, I have often travelled. How can any one suppose that I have any relationship to the deformed and gigantic monster of which you have just now spoken?"

Piccolissima thought that the little person was not wanting in vanity, and, while the fly was taking breath, observed that the trunk had disappeared, and that there was no possibility of discovering what the insect had done with it. The look, gloomy, and a little sullen, of the fly, recalled somewhat the funny mask of a harlequin, and Piccolissima was on the point of showing how one laughs with the lips, by laughing in the fly's face, when the latter forced air slightly through the breathing holes which open under the wings; the two little double scales, the winglets, which unfold at birth, began to vibrate; and Piccolissima, who just now remarked that this was the method that her new acquaintance took to emit sounds, was eager to listen to what he might say; so she made an effort to command herself, and became serious.

"Do you not see, with your dull human intelligence, that my trunk is a pump, a hollow tube, an instrument for sucking which I stretch out and draw in at my pleasure?"

While speaking thus, the fly thrust half way out from the cavity in the middle of his head, just under his eyes, a trunk with two or three joints in it; at the end was an opening like two black lips, folded over, with grooves or little hollows. The fly, thus urged to show the use of his trunk, or, more probably, forgetting the sequel of a discourse upon which he had entered in such a pompous style, flew upon the sugar, and set himself again to sucking it.

Piccolissima again observed the little drops fall which she had noticed before. It seems that the fly, being only able to take up liquids through his trunk, wetted and dissolved the sugar that he


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