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- PICCOLISSIMA - 3/6 -
"They are the little red or green grubs which infest the rose bush; these he pierces and grinds up with his teeth, and sucks them up with his strange mouth one after another as he moves slowly among them upon those forty-two roots of feet, of which he is so vain, for I maintain that they cannot be called legs, or any thing like legs."
"You, then," said the little girl, "have better formed members."
The fly, who remembered that he had not at all better limbs, looked suddenly wearied with the conversation, and shaking his wings, flew away to the window.
"Of what color were you formerly?" asked the little girl of her only remaining companion; "you, who are now of such a pretty shade of brilliant green and bronze?"
"Me! I was of a pretty tender green. Weary of living on the ground, I took the resolution to retire from the world. I shut myself up in my skin, which soon became hard enough to serve for my retreat. My house was carried, I know not how, to that spot not far from you; I know not what artificial heat acted on me. I came to the belief that the time had come for me to spread my wings, and I uncovered the roof of my house in order that I might know what had been done during my absence. They call me the rose fly."
As he finished saying these words, the fly, quite satisfied, joined his companion in the window. Piccolissima was grieved that she could not follow them; she listened attentively to the noise they made in flying, and could distinguish musical tones. But, fatigued at last by this long tension of her mind, gradually her ideas became vague and wandering, her little blond head fell upon her arms, and she dropped asleep and dreamed.
She dreamed that her two new friends, the flies, returned, accompanied by an innumerable troop of winged insects. Each one carried something, one a blade of grass, another a stalk of a plant, another a petal, another a pistil. Two large beetles, with immense horns or talons, dragged along small branches loaded with flowers, such as Piccolissima had never seen.
All this troop set themselves to work and constructed the most charming, the lightest little aerial car that one can possibly imagine. A great fly, bristling with fine hairs, extended four strong wings, and raising his voice, invited Piccolissima to mount, and at the same time politely offered her his paw.
The little girl accepted the invitation, and found herself immediately transported into the corolla of a beautiful white lily. There she found a throne prepared for her. Very skilful little paws lightly tickled her arms, and then her feet, in order to call her attention to the labors of invisible waiting maids, who were about dressing her in a robe of white velvet, cut out of the petals of a white camellia, confined round the waist by a turquoise clasp, borrowed from the myosotis.
A stamen of the lily served her for a sceptre; she took her seat; a rose leaf hung for a canopy over her head; the bells of the lily of the valley and the campanula sent forth their joyous chime. The bladder senna filled the air with the noise of its bursting petards. The artillery of the prickly furze played on both sides of the throne as the nations of flies approached to pay their homage to the queen.
To the cries of vivat, uttered with enthusiasm, Piccolissima replied by inclining her sceptre; a golden rain fell from it, and was eagerly gathered up by the surrounding crowds of humming courtiers, whose shouts and acclamations filled the air.
The young sovereign then had to endure a long and grave discourse from a fat drone bee who did not understand himself.
Ere long the little queen learned that her empire was in danger. Dreadful enemies menaced the frontiers. "They are spiders," said the flies. "They are the larvae of the rose bushes," said the grubs. "They are the ichneumons," cried a crowd of winged insects.
Every one accused some other one. Piccolissima did not know what to understand, but she hastened to arm herself. Two bees, as her body guard, placed upon her head for helmet a flower of the snapdragon. Two wasps, redoubtable hussars, brought her for a shield a piece of the gold bronze wing shell of a beetle.
At last, she extended her hand to seize her lance, when a clap of thunder shook the lily, dispersed the court, and the army, and Piccolissima awoke, and found herself in the hands of her mother, Mrs. Thomas Thumb, who said, very gently, "Tell me, dear little one, are you not very weary?"
"It is strange," said Mr. Tom Thumb, some months after, "that I always find now my ball of soap in its right place."
"It is because Piccolissima no longer rolls it into the corners for a plaything," replied Mrs. Tom Thumb. "The little creature improves --grows really intelligent."
"I am glad of it," said, a little while afterwards, one of the elder sisters of the miniature woman; "I am no longer obliged to hunt from place to place for my thimble and my scissors they are now always in my work box."
"The reason is, Piccolissima does not now make a well of your thimble, nor a spade of your scissors," answered her brother; "she has become tiresome; she no longer frisks around me when I return home; she has no longer any droll fancies which once amused me so much; she is now a genuine doll; I really believe that this minikin is putting on airs."
"Hold your peace, Monsieur," answered the busy chambermaid, in a scolding tone, while she cleaned the runnels of a chair, upon which the feet of the young man had left a good portion of the soil of the garden; "I should like to see the day when you are as well behaved as Mademoiselle Piccolissima. It was once Mademoiselle Touch-every- thing. Six months ago, no one dared to leave a drawer in the house open; now every thing remains quiet in its place; she is neither more nor less than a reasonable being; she is a waxen image, I tell you."
"Did I say any thing else, Madam Scold?" answered the school boy; "she is a real Liliputian statue, fit for nothing but to watch the flies fly. Ah! come, Piccola, Piccolissima!" he cried to the little one, who was behind the shutter of a half-open window, absorbed in the contemplation of a gnat who was up the window, singing a little air through his nasal trumpet, "tell us, Piccola, a little of what the flies say to you."
Piccolissima, who was always alarmed at a big voice, trembling, turned round and stared at her brother, who, shouting with laughter, made a pirouette, jumped over the balcony, which was near the ground, into the garden.
The complaints of Piccolissima's brother were not quite without foundation; she had become more reflecting, more observing; she was less restless and less communicative; more amused, but less amusing. She did not dare to repeat to her sisters her conversation with the flies, lest they should laugh at her, and she became more frequently occupied with her own thoughts, and more silent. Her silver voice was heard no longer in every corner of the house; she was no longer under every one's feet; the fragments of her dress were no longer caught by the nails in her brothers' shoes, under the legs of her sisters' chairs, or under the castors of the furniture; and her mother, who had a habit of saying, "This little wild thing gives me more trouble than all her brothers and sisters," said now, "Truly, if she does not help me, she does not hinder me." As for Mr. Tom Thumb, who loved to complete a remark by a proverb, instead of exclaiming, "It is not strange that she does not grow,--a rolling stone gathers no moss," murmured, rubbing his hands, "Whoever lives will see what I have always said: It is only weeds that grow fast."
In order to employ the activity of Piccolissima, her father had at one time given her some pots of flowers; for a long time, nothing came of them, for she turned over the earth incessantly, and kept looking at the roots to see if they began to sprout. Now that she no longer asked ten questions, one after the other, without waiting for an answer, and that she left her plants to grow, and no longer took them up to look at their roots, she had in her garden, just under the window, one foot of potatoes, three feet of hemp, a bean, and a strawberry plant, in pots. Her brother, in jumping out of the window, had broken off some ripe strawberries, which the little girl had cherished for her mother, and Piccolissima went sorrowfully to examine the havoc, and pick up the fruit.
She no longer supported herself upon the flexible stalks of the nasturtiums and the convolvulus, which Mr. Tom Thumb cultivated, and who more than once had complained at finding them broken. She no longer seated herself on the branches of the mignonette, and then let the wind blow her at its will, backwards and forwards, a dangerous and monotonous amusement, which soon wearied. Now, with her elbow resting on the edge of the pot of strawberries, under the shadow of the Persian lilac, she remained in contemplation.
She observed running about some little creatures that she had never seen before, and which appeared to her so wild that she dared not begin a conversation.
"O, what is that?" she said at last, stooping down and resting her head on her hand, and forgetting her lost harvest of strawberries; "here is something very curious. They are smaller than the flies. A myosotis could accommodate a number of them in its delicate cup; their heads are wider than they are long, and on each side I perceive a sort of fine leg, which has a sort of elbow, and which the insect does not use in walking; the body is in three parts, all of a shining black; the head has these two threads, which are always moving, and which are of a lighter color at the ends; the corselet is smaller, rounder, and more brilliant than that of the flies; and the belly is covered with black scales. But these little beasts trot away, scamper away so fast with their nimble legs, that one cannot see them. What delicate forms they have! they must have worn corsets when they were young. Ah! there is a sort of knot in this thread which fastens the corselet to the belly. Wait, little fellow, wait while I look at you a little nearer!" The small, thin finger of Piccolissima caught one of the little creatures, but she found some difficulty in holding him.
"Ah! at last I have you!" She held between her thumb and finger the two hind legs of the insect, who stretched himself out stiff and without motion, just as if he was sitting for his portrait. She then saw above the arms and hands of the head, (thus she chose to call the antennae,) two shining eyes, like two black buttons--naturalists discover three with a microscope. "He has no trunk," said Piccolissima, as she looked at a formidable mouth. At this moment,
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