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Miss Katy-Did and Miss Cricket

Miss Katy-did sat on the branch of a flowering azalea, in her best
suit of fine green and silver, with wings of point-lace from Mother
Nature's finest web.

Miss Katy was in the very highest possible spirits, because her
gallant cousin, Colonel Katy-did, had looked in to make her a morning
visit. It was a fine morning, too, which goes for as much among the
Katy-dids as among men and women. It was, in fact, a morning that
Miss Katy thought must have been made on purpose for her to enjoy
herself in. There had been a patter of rain the night before, which
had kept the leaves awake talking to each other till nearly morning;
but by dawn the small winds had blown brisk little puffs, and whisked
the heavens clear and bright with their tiny wings, as you have seen
Susan clear away the cobwebs in your mamma's parlour; and so now
there were only left a thousand blinking, burning water-drops,
hanging like convex mirrors at the end of each leaf, and Miss Katy
admired herself in each one.

"Certainly I am a pretty creature," she said to herself; and when the
gallant colonel said something about being dazzled by her beauty, she
only tossed her head and took it as quite a matter of course.

"The fact is, my dear colonel," she said, "I am thinking of giving a
party, and you must help me to make out the lists."

"My dear, you make me the happiest of Katy-dids."

"Now," said Miss Katy-did, drawing an azalea-leaf towards her, "let
us see--whom shall we have? The Fireflies, of course; everybody
wants them, they are so brilliant,--a little unsteady, to be sure,
but quite in the higher circles."

"Yes, we must have the Fireflies," echoed the colonel.

"Well, then, and the Butterflies and the Moths. Now, there's a
trouble. There's such an everlasting tribe of those Moths; and if
you invite dull people they're always sure all to come, every one of
them. Still, if you have the Butterflies, you can't leave out the
Moths."

"Old Mrs. Moth has been laid up lately with a gastric fever, and that
may keep two or three of the Misses Moth at home," said the colonel.

"Whatever could give the old lady such a turn?" said Miss Katy. "I
thought she never was sick."

"I suspect it's high living. I understand she and her family ate up
a whole ermine cape last month, and it disagreed with them."

"For my part, I can't conceive how the Moths can live as they do,"
said Miss Katy, with a face of disgust. "Why, I could no more eat
worsted and fur, as they do--"

"That is quite evident from the fairy-like delicacy of your
appearance," said the colonel. "One can see that nothing so gross or
material has ever entered into your system."

"I'm sure," said Miss Katy, "mamma says she don't know what does keep
me alive; half a dewdrop and a little bit of the nicest part of a
rose-leaf, I assure you, often last me for a day. But we are
forgetting our list. Let's see--the Fireflies, Butterflies, Moths.
The Bees must come, I suppose."

"The Bees are a worthy family," said the colonel.

"Worthy enough, but dreadfully humdrum," said Miss Katy. "They never
talk about anything but honey and housekeeping; still, they are a
class of people one cannot neglect."

"Well, then, there are the Bumble-Bees."

"Oh, I dote on them! General Bumble is one of the most dashing,
brilliant fellows of the day."

"I think he is shockingly corpulent," said Colonel Katy-did, not at
all pleased to hear him praised; "don't you?"

"I don't know but he IS a little stout," said Miss Katy; "but so
distinguished and elegant in his manners--something quite martial and
breezy about him."

"Well, if you invite the Bumble-Bees, you must have the Hornets."

"Those spiteful Hornets! I detest them!"

"Nevertheless, dear Miss Katy, one does not like to offend the
Hornets."

"No, one can't. There are those five Misses Hornet--dreadful old
maids!--as full of spite as they can live. You may be sure they will
every one come, and be looking about to make spiteful remarks. Put
down the Hornets, though."

"How about the Mosquitoes!" said the colonel.

"Those horrid Mosquitoes--they are dreadfully plebeian! Can't one
cut them?"

"Well dear Miss Katy," said the colonel, "if you ask my candid
opinion as a friend, I should say not. There's young Mosquito, who
graduated last year, has gone into literature, and is connected with
some of our leading papers, and they say he carries the sharpest pen
of all the writers. It won't do to offend him."

"And so I suppose we must have his old aunts, and all six of his
sisters, and all his dreadfully common relations."

"It is a pity," said the colonel; "but one must pay one's tax to
society."

Just at this moment the conference was interrupted by a visitor, Miss
Keziah Cricket, who came in with her work-bag on her arm to ask a
subscription for a poor family of Ants who had just had their house
hoed up in clearing the garden-walks.

"How stupid of them," said Katy, "not to know better than to put
their house in the garden-walk; that's just like those Ants."

"Well, they are in great trouble; all their stores destroyed, and
their father killed--cut quite in two by a hoe."

"How very shocking! I don't like to hear of such disagreeable
things; it affects my nerves terribly. Well, I'm sure I haven't
anything to give. Mamma said yesterday she was sure she didn't know
how our bills were to be paid; and there's my green satin with point-
lace yet to come home." And Miss Katy-did shrugged her shoulders and
affected to be very busy with Colonel Katy-did, in just the way that
young ladies sometimes do when they wish to signify to visitors that
they had better leave.

Little Miss Cricket perceived how the case stood, and so hopped
briskly off, without giving herself even time to be offended. "Poor
extravagant little thing!" said she to herself, "it was hardly worth
while to ask her."

"Pray, shall you invite the Crickets?" said Colonel Katy-did.

"Who? I? Why, colonel, what a question! Invite the Crickets? Of
what can you be thinking?"

"And shall you not ask the Locusts, and the Grasshoppers?"

"Certainly. The Locusts, of course,--a very old and distinguished
family; and the Grasshoppers are pretty well, and ought to be asked.
But we must draw a line somewhere,--and the Crickets! why, it's
shocking even to think of!"

"I thought they were nice, respectable people."

"Oh, perfectly nice and respectable,--very good people, in fact, so
far as that goes. But then you must see the difficulty."

"My dear cousin, I am afraid you must explain."

"Why, their COLOUR, to be sure. Don't you see?"

"Oh!" said the colonel. "That's it, is it? Excuse me, but I have
been living in France, where these distinctions are wholly unknown,
and I have not yet got myself in the train of fashionable ideas
here."

"Well, then, let me teach you," said Miss Katy. "You know we
republicans go for no distinctions except those created by Nature
herself, and we found our rank upon COLOUR, because that is clearly a
thing that none has any hand in but our Maker. You see?"

"Yes; but who decides what colour shall be the reigning colour?"

"I'm surprised to hear the question! The only true colour--the only
proper one--is OUR colour, to be sure. A lovely pea-green is the
precise shade on which to found aristocratic distinction. But then
we are liberal;--we associate with the Moths, who are gray; with the
Butterflies, who are blue-and-gold coloured; with the Grasshoppers,
yellow and brown; and society would become dreadfully mixed if it
were not fortunately ordered that the Crickets are black as jet. The
fact is, that a class to be looked down upon is necessary to all
elegant society; and if the Crickets were not black, we could not
keep them down, because, as everybody knows, they are often a great
deal cleverer than we are. They have a vast talent for music and
dancing; they are very quick at learning, and would be getting to the
very top of the ladder if we once allowed them to climb. But their
being black is a convenience; because, as long as we are green and
they black, we have a superiority that can never be taken from us.
Don't you see now?"

"Oh yes, I see exactly," said the colonel.

"Now that Keziah Cricket, who just came in here, is quite a musician,
and her old father plays the violin beautifully;--by the way, we
might engage him for our orchestra."


And so Miss Katy's ball came off, and the performers kept it up from
sundown till daybreak, so that it seemed as if every leaf in the
forest were alive. The Katy-dids and the Mosquitoes, and the
Locusts, and a full orchestra of Crickets made the air perfectly
vibrate, insomuch that old Parson Too-Whit, who was preaching a
Thursday evening lecture to a very small audience, announced to his
hearers that he should certainly write a discourse against dancing
for the next weekly occasion.

The good doctor was even with his word in the matter, and gave out
some very sonorous discourses, without in the least stopping the
round of gaieties kept up by these dissipated Katy-dids, which ran
on, night after night, till the celebrated Jack Frost epidemic, which
occurred somewhere about the first of September.

Poor Miss Katy, with her flimsy green satin and point-lace, was one
of the first victims, and fell from the bough in company with a sad
shower of last year's leaves. The worthy Cricket family, however,
avoided Jack Frost by emigrating in time to the chimney-corner of a
nice little cottage that had been built in the wood that summer.

There good old Mr. and Mrs. Cricket, with sprightly Miss Keziah and
her brothers and sisters, found a warm and welcome home; and when the
storm howled without, and lashed the poor naked trees, the Crickets
on the warm hearth would chirp out cheery welcome to papa as he came
in from the snowy path, or mamma as she sat at her work-basket.

"Cheep, cheep, cheep!" little Freddy would say. "Mamma, who is it
says 'cheep'?"

"Dear Freddy, it's our own dear little cricket, who loves us and
comes to sing to us when the snow is on the ground."

So when poor Miss Katy-did's satin and lace were all swept away, the
warm home-talents of the Crickets made for them a welcome refuge.


Harriet Beecher Stowe