840 THE BUTTERFLY
But the Mint stood silent and stiff, listening to him. At last she said,
' Friendship, but nothing more. I am old, and you are old, we may very well live for one another ; but as to marrying—no—don't let us appear ridiculous at our age.'
And thus it happened that the Butterfly had no wife at all. He had been too long choosing, and that is a bad plan. So the Butterfly became what we call an old bachelor.
It was late in autumn, with rain and cloudy weather. The wind blew cold over the backs of the old willow trees, so that they creaked again. It was no weather to be flying about in summer clothes, nor, indeed, was the Butterfly in the open air. He had got under shelter by chance, where there was fire in the stove and the heat of summer. He could live well enough, but he said,
' It's not enough, merely to live. One must have freedom, sunshine, and a little flower.'
And he flew against the window-frame, and was seen and admired, and then stuck upon a pin and placed in the box of curiosities ; they could not do more for him.
' Now I am perched on a stalk, like the flowers,' said the Butterfly. ' It certainly is not very pleasant. It must be something like being married, for one is stuck fast.'
And he consoled himself with that thought.
' That's very poor comfort,' said the potted Plants in the room.
' But,' thought the Butterfly, ' one cannot well trust these potted Plants. They've had too much to do with mankind.'
In the fresh morning dawn there gleams in the rosy air a great Star, the brightest Star of the morning. His rays tremble on the white wall, as if he wished to write down on it what he can tell, what he has seen there and elsewhere during thousands of years of our rolling world. Let us hear one of his stories.
* A short time ago '—the Star's * short time ago ' is called among men ' centuries ago '—' my rays followed