Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, Surprise stories, Chicago, Albert Whitman, 1923, p. 29-37.
Captain Caddis had decided to try and have an adventure. He had decided that he would try and climb to the surface of the pond and see what the world looked like up above. Later in the summer he was going to live at the top of the water. He was going to have wings and fly like an aeroplane over the top of the blue pond.
But how was he going to get up to the top? Captain Caddis was only a little white grub of a worm who had lived ever since the warm days had come in the mud down in the bottom of the pond.
The water weeds that grew all about him were like a thick jungle. The lily pads that floated on top of the water looked like large green islands to this little sailor creature. The voices of the children they bent over the edge of the pond to look at all its strange moving things sounded like thunder to the small inhabitants for the water. But Captain Caddis was as plucky a little seaman as ever was born, and he set to work one early summer morning to try and make his way up to the light and the air.
He had no hands with which to build himself a boat, but that did not discourage this little grub in the least. It takes a caddis to find a way, even in the mud of a deep pond. He took his wriggling path in and out among the roots of the weeds and he found that some of their fibre, soaked by the water, was peeling off. So the little worm sawed off the fibres with his sharp jaws and laid them together until he had made a kind of boat, but a good deal like a wicker basket for a fairy if the children could have seen it.
Then Captain Caddis rolled himself into his boat and set sail among the water weeds to see if his vessel was sea worthy.
But the wee boat stuck in the shoals of the pebbles and lost its way in the tangle of the green rushes. It was too crude a ship to be steered without hands. So Captain Caddis gave up this first boat and built himself another. This time he made a kind of battle ship by covering his body all over with the bits of shell that the pond snails had left lying about there at the bottom. Tiny bits of soft old roots fastened them together. When this long, slender boat was built Captain caddis tried to see if he could navigate it. By pushing and pulling, wriggling and twisting, he could steer his new boat, turn it around and change its place in the water. With his boat on his back Captain Caddis climbed up a tall stalk to the sunshine at the surface of the pond.
The boat was heavy and it was a long way up. And just before he came to the bright sunshine Captain Caddis had a wise thought. No one can tell how it came to him. No one knows how Mother Nature teaches her most humble children the wonderful things that we have to learn ourselves. Captain Caddis poked his head out of the porthole in the front of his boat and in doing this he let the air come in at the back. He pushed himself farther out, feeling the sun on his body and letting more air into his boat. Why, now he could sail. There he was at the top, floating happily over the water and thinking, if he really thought at all, what a nice thing it was to be even a little worm on a sunny day in June.
Splash, splash! Something that looked like a long black torpedo boat came toward Captain Caddis through the water. It was many times as big as his boat and it came fast. It was the stick with which the children were poking about in the pond, and if it hit the little worm out for a pleasure voyage it would break his snail shell vessel. The children had not seen the wonderful little caddis floating along near the shore.
But Captain Caddis had another wise thought. He quickly pulled his body inside his boat and that forced out the air. The boat began to drop down below the surface of the water. Last, he pulled in his head and that was like pumping out all the air that had made the boat float. The queer little ship sank swiftly down through the water until it rested safely at the bottom. That dreadful stick could not follow so far.
Again Captain Caddis went up to the top and this time he sailed safely about all day. He was growing larger and the children saw him. They only pointed to him now, they threw away their stick, and presently a wonderful thing happened to the brave little Captain. He found that he had a pair of wings. He left his boat below, for now he could fly. From the mud to the air, wasn’t that a great adventure, as if he had exchanged his submarine boat for an aeroplane?
Any child may watch the summer adventure of Captain Caddis. The pond is as full of adventure for a child with bright eyes as ever was the sea.