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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #22

"Dick and Dolly did not write, but were encouraged to observe the habits of animals and insects, and report what they saw. Dick liked this, and always had a great deal to say; so, when his name was called, he marched up, and, looking at the audience with his bright, confiding eyes, told his little story so earnestly that no one smiled at his crooked body, because the 'straight soul' shone through it beautifully.

"'I've been watching dragonflies, and I read about them in Dan's book, and I'll try and tell you what I remember. There's lots of them flying around on the pond, all blue, with big eyes, and sort of lace wings, very pretty. I caught one, and looked at him, and I think he was the handsomest inseck I ever saw. They catch littler creatures than they are to eat, and have a queer kind of hook thing that folds up when they ain't hunting. It likes the sunshine, and dances round all day. Let me see! what else was there to tell about? Oh, I know! The eggs are laid in the water, and go down to the bottom, and are hatched in the mud. Little ugly things come out of 'em; I can't say the name, but they are brown, and keep having new skins, and getting bigger and bigger. Only think! it takes them two years to be a dragonfly! Now this is the curiousest part of it, so you listen tight, for I don't believe you know it. When it is ready it knows somehow, and the ugly, grubby thing climbs up out of the water on a flag or a bulrush, and bursts open its back.'

"'Come, I don't believe that,' said Tommy, who was not an observing boy, and really thought Dick was 'making up.'

"'It does burst open its back, don't it?' and Dick appealed to Mr. Bhaer, who nodded a very decided affirmative, to the little speaker's great satisfaction.

"'Well, out comes the dragonfly, all whole, and he sits in the sun -- sort of coming alive, you know; and he gets strong, and then he spreads his pretty wings, and flies away, and never is a grub any more. That's all I know; but I shall watch and try and see him do it, for I think it's splendid to turn into a beautiful dragonfly, don't you?'

"Dick had told his story well, and, when he described the flight of the new-born insect, had waved his hands, and looked up as if he saw, and wanted to follow it. Something in his face suggested to the minds of the elder listeners the thought that someday little Dick would have his wish, and after years of helplessness and pain would climb into the sun some happy day, and, leaving his poor little body behind him, find a new and lovely shape in a fairer world than this."

-Louisa May Alcott, Little Men (1871), pp. 263-264

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