One day there crawled over the meadow fence a jolly young Measuring Worm. He came from a bush by the roadside, and although he was still a young Worm he had kept his eyes open and had a very good idea how things go in this world. “Now,” thought he, as he rested on the top rail of the fence, “I shall meet some new friends. I do hope they will be82 pleasant. I will look about me and see if anyone is in sight.” So he raised his head high in the air and, sure enough, there were seven Caterpillars of different kinds on a tall clump of weeds near by.
The Measuring Worm hurried over to where they were, and making his best bow said: “I have just come from the roadside and think I shall live in the meadow. May I feed with you?”
The Caterpillars were all glad to have him, and he joined their party. He asked many questions about the meadow, and the people who lived there, and the best place to find food. The Caterpillars said, “Oh, the meadow is a good place, and the people are nice enough, but they are not at all fashionable—not at all.”
“Why,” said the Measuring Worm, “if you have nice people and a pleasant place in which to live, I don’t see what more you need.”
“That is all very well,” said a black and83 yellow Caterpillar, “but what we want is fashionable society. The meadow people always do things in the same way, and one gets so tired of that. Now can you not tell us something different, something that Worms do in the great world from which you come?”
Just at this minute the Measuring Worm had a funny idea, and he wondered if the Caterpillars would be foolish enough to copy him. He thought it would be a good joke if they did, so he said very soberly, “I notice that when you walk you keep your body quite close to the ground. I have seen many Worms do the same thing, and it is all right if they wish to, but none of my family ever do so. Did you notice how I walk?”
“Yes, yes,” cried the Caterpillars, “show us again.”
So the Measuring Worm walked back and forth for them, arching his body as high as he could, and stopping every little84 while to raise his head and look haughtily around.
“What grace!” exclaimed the Caterpillars. “What grace, and what style!” and one black and brown one tried to walk in the same way.
The Measuring Worm wanted to laugh to see how awkward the black and brown Caterpillar was, but he did not even smile, and soon every one of the Caterpillars was trying the same thing, and saying “Look at me. Don’t I do well?” or, “How was that?”
You can just imagine how those seven Caterpillars looked when trying to walk like the Measuring Worm. Every few minutes one of them would tumble over, and they all got warm and tired. At last they thought they had learned it very well, and took a long rest, in which they planned to take a long walk and show the other meadow people the fashion they had received from the outside world.85
“We will walk in a line,” they said, “as far as we can, and let them all see us. Ah, it will be a great day for the meadow when we begin to set the fashions!”
The mischievous young Measuring Worm said not a word, and off they started. The big black and yellow Caterpillar went first, the black and brown one next, and so on down to the smallest one at the end of the line, all arching their bodies as high as they could. All the meadow people stared at them, calling each other to come and look, and whenever the Caterpillars reached a place where there were many watching them, they would all raise their heads and look around exactly as the Measuring Worm had done. When they got back to their clump of bushes, they had the most dreadful backaches, but they said to each other, “Well, we have been fashionable for once.”
And, at the same time, out in the grass, the meadow people were saying,86 “Did you ever see anything so ridiculous in your life?” All of which goes to show how very silly people sometimes are when they think too much of being fashionable.