When I was a schoolboy, a number of my companions brought the news that the strangest bird in the world had come that day to our garden and hovered over the flowers. It was no bigger than a bumble-bee. "No! It was not a humming-bird," they said, "it was smaller by far, much more beautiful, and it came and went so fast that no one could see it go."
Every guess that I made seemed not to fit the wonderful bird, or help to give it a name that would lead us to its history in the books. The summer went by, several schoolmates saw the Wonderbird, and added stories of its marvellous smallness and mysterious habits. Its body, they said, was of green velvet with a satin-white throat; it had a long beak—at least an inch long—a fan-tail of many feathers, two long plumes from its head, "the littlest feet you ever have seen," and large lustrous eyes that seemed filled with human intelligence. "It jest looked right at you, and seemed like a fairy looking at you."
The wonder grew. I made a sketch embodying all the points that my companions noted about the Fairy Bird. The first drawing shows what it looked like, and also gives the exact size they said it was.
It seemed a cruel wrong that let so many of them see the thing that was of chief interest to me, yet left me out. It clearly promised a real fairy, an elfin bird, a wonderful messenger from the land I hungered to believe in.
But at last my turn came. One afternoon two of the boys ran toward me, shouting: "Here it is, the little Fairy Bird, right in the garden over the honeysuckle. C'mon, quick!"
I rushed to the place, more excited than I can tell. Yes, there it was, hovering over the open flowers—tiny, wonderful, humming as it swung on misty wings. I made a quick sweep of my insect net and, marvellous to relate, scooped up the Fairy Bird. I was trembling with excitement now, not without a sense of wickedness that I should dare to net a fairy—practically an angel. But I had done it, and I gloated over my captive, in the meshes. Yes, the velvet body and snowy throat were there, the fan-tail, the plumes and the big dark eyes, but the creature was not a bird; it was an insect! Dimly now I remembered, and in a few hours, learned, as I had feared, that I had not captured a young angel or even a fairy—it was nothing but a Humming-bird Moth, a beautiful insect—common in some regions, scarce in some, such as mine—but perfectly well known to men of science and never afterward forgotten by any of that eager schoolboy group.