Now, though Sara was really a nice child, there were two things she had always been rather greedy about: and they were flowers and butterflies. She had often wished, of a spring morning, wandering along her own garden paths, and gazing at the velvety brightness of the daisies, and the marvelous patterns of the butterflies who uncoiled their long tongues above them, that she might some day discover a meadow full of flowers as large as moons, perpetually fluttered over by butterflies as big as peacocks! Here, at last, were just such flowers; and since the grasshoppers were as large as hobby-horses—no, it was not a grasshopper, it was an Equine Gahoppigas! Still, it was more like a grasshopper than anything else she had ever seen.
You must not be surprised that Sara’s thoughts were quite jerky and disconnected, for she had never before traversed a meadow in soaring leaps, with only a minute now and then to take breath—and even that minute spent among the flying yellow hair of a swaying daisy. Still, all through the enjoyment and excitement, she managed to keep tight hold of one wish—if only there would be butterflies as big as peacocks!
Well, there were, of course; on that side of the ivory doors you cannot wish for anything as hard as Sara did without getting your wish. To be sure, they must have been there long before Sara wished; for the Butterfly Country on which Sara now rested her astonished eyes had the look of a long-settled community. I need not tell you that it was so beautiful it fairly took your breath: you would know that it had to be, with those great flowers nodding everywhere, and those great gay wings drifting, and sailing, and soaring, and zigzagging, and crossing over them. But, all of a sudden, Sara made a discovery that stopped her heart in a breath. In a country where the butterflies were as big as peacocks, the caterpillars were as big as boa-constrictors! Sara didn’t know the exact size of a boa-constrictor, having met them only in her Geography: but surely they couldn’t be any bigger than these! Certainly they were big enough to swallow her as easily as the big black snake Jimmy had killed swallowed the egg.
Now, if you can imagine a country inhabited by sea-serpents, of bright green and brown and pink and yellow, with all kinds of assorted horns and knobs and prickles, you can imagine what Sara saw as the Gahoppigas took its last flying leap and alighted on a flaming marigold at the foot of the palace-steps. Well, of course you would have to imagine the palace, too; and part of it would be quite hard to imagine. It was a gorgeous place, of a beautiful amber color, and was built of solid blocks of honey-comb,—which, however, had been treated by the builders so that they had a hard glaze, to prevent the wings and feet of the butterflies from sticking when they touched the walls. The roof was a woven affair, very cunningly made so that the top surface was a sort of thatch of flower-stems, while the ceiling was a solid sheet of flowers. Of course, in this climate, they were always fresh. The butterflies had their beds on the ceiling; indeed, as Sara arrived rather early, a few roistering young blades who had been out late the night before were still hanging with closed wings from the roof, fast asleep.