A muddy and miserable world

John A. Hamilton, « The Caddis Worm, A Talk to Young People », The Sydney Mail, Sydney,  19 novembre 1892, p. 1155.

You know, of course, what a Caddis-worm is, though perhaps you do not know it by that name- a sort of caterpillar creature which lives at the bottom of a pond or stream and makes a case for itself, which it lines with a silky paper and covers outwardly with tiny shells or grains of sand or bits of water weed. You know what I mean. You have seen the creature crawling about with its head and legs protruding out of the case, and when you touched it, instantly it drew back into the tube, and perhaps made you laugh at the comical quickness with which it retired. One of these caddis-worms was complaining of the hardships of his life to a friendly beetle, one of the amiable vegetarian beetles. « Oh ! » sais Caddis, «  this is a muddy and miserable world ! » « A muddy and miserable pond you mean, » replied the beetle. » I mean what I say. You may call the world, crawling about to find something to eat, dragging this case everywhere. You have no idea how tireresome it is to have to enlarge the case as fast as. I grow, and to be fifting and glueing shells upon it. Then what a life of worry and fear mine is. There is always some savage creature trying to devour me. Beetles, water –scorpions, water-bears, fishes, are constantly snapping at my head. I have to shrink into my armour many a time in a day, and yet I must go on struggling to obtain food. Yes ! it is a muddy miserable world. If only I was like a fish ! Those happy creatures can go about just as they like ; one whisk of the tail and away they go. » «  well, whell, » answered the beetle, «  we all have our troubles ; but yours won’t last for ever. One of these days your change will come, and you will have your wings, and leave this pond, and fly about in the air, and sunshine with other happy creatures of your kind. »

« What are you talking about ? » asked the Caddis. « What stuff and nonsense ! I know that the tadpoles go up to the top of the world and talk about getting a breath of air to help the growth of their lungs, so that they may change into something different, and go to live elsewhere ; but it is all nonsense. I have crawled right up the bank, very nearly to the top of the world, and I tell you that there is nothing, nothing at all above this world. » «  You are mistaken ; indeed you are, » said the beetle ; «  the top of this world is the bottom of another, and a nicer world. I have been there. In an evening I have left this pond and seen that the world is much biger than I Could make you understand. I have seen some of your kind up there. They had not to carry a case any more ; they were no longer hungry ; they had lovely wings, and danced in the air right merrily. » «  You will never make me believe such a tale, » said the Caddis ; «  you have either been a sleep and dreamed all this, or else you are jesting. » The beetle at length ceased to try to persuade the Caddis thet the world was biger than the pond, or that he would live a different life by-and-bye. But some time after their conversation the Caddis began to feel drowsy and queer. Do what he would he could not keep awake. So he fastened up the ends of his case and then fell a sleep. He woke up one bright morning, and felt that he was in some way strangely changed, and that he must go to «  the top of the world, » as he calle dit. A funny sight he was as he came out of his case and swam to the surface of the water. He looked like a fly-mummy, or a little like a boy running in a sack, for he swam with his legs wrapped up in the skin, which, indded, enveloped him altogether. When he came to the surface the skin cracked and opened, and, lo ! the Caddis-worm was a Caddis-fly. The beetle was right after all ! » he said to himself ; «  and I though that this little pond was all the world ! What a big, big world it really is ! And those brightly coloured things are the flowers of which the beetle spoke ! How delightful the sunshine ! » Then he spread hi swings and found that he could rise and sink and float and fly through the clear air as he had never been able to do in the muddy water ! Soon he met with friends, and they could not express their wonder and joy at the change they had undergone except by dancing and soaring wildly and long. I think you can read the meaning of the little parable without another world.