|It was one of those summery
days when the air is heavy and warm and nobody wants to do very
much. Jonathan and Robbit were
resting on top of one of Moley's hummocks, relaxing and watching
the rest of the world go by. Jonathan could feel the sun's warmth
through his shell and it was making him feel comfortable and drowsy.
He wriggled contentedly. Last night, before he'd gone to bed, Jonathan
had taken off his shell and given it a special polish, and this
morning it gleamed in the sunlight. Beside him on the soft warm
molehill, Robbit lay on his back, his paws behind his head, gazing
up at the clear blue sky, thinking about things in his own rabbity
"Why do nettles have stings?" He asked
Jonathan had just begun to doze off, and woke with
"Why do nettles have what?" He asked,
not quite awake.
"Stings," Robbit scratched one of his
ears in a comfortable, absent-minded sort of way.
Jonathan pondered, his head tilted to one side
as he thought.
"I suppose," He said eventually, "They
have stings so nobody will eat them."
Said Robbit, "Nobody'd want to eat a rotten old nettle,
anyway: they're all tough and stringy."
Jonathan had never
tried eating a nettle, so he couldn't think of a good answer. Besides,
he was still feeling sleepy and just wanted to curl up quietly
inside his shell.
Robbit bounced up, his nose twitching.
"I've an idea,"
Jonathan sighed; sometimes he wished Robbit would
just relax and enjoy the sunshine.
Robbit was hopping around Moley's hummock
"Let's ask Farmer Jack."
"But," Jonathan protested, "The
Old Farmhouse is miles away."
"No it's not, it's just at the top of the
"Feels like miles when you're a snail," Grumbled
"Why don't you go and ask him yourself?" He suggested, "Then
you can come back and tell me."
Robbit sat down, flippping his fingers impatiently
"It's no fun on my own," He said, "Besides,
that's what a friend is for; to come with you when you're going
Jonathan felt suddenly rather happy, as if a little
glow had lit up inside him: it was nice when someone said you
were their friend, he thought, even if they did bounce rather
He slithered down off Moley's hill
"All right," He agreed, "I'll
come with you."
"Goody, " Said Robbit, jumping backwards
and forwards over Jonathan's head.
Jonathan reminded him, "I'm not as quick as you."
"Doesn't matter, I can stop for a nibble
or a scratch while you slide and glide."
They set off, Robbit leaping happily from one clump
of grass to another, while, beside him, Jonathan's little round
shell glinted in the sunlight as they wound their way slowly
up the hill towards the Old Farmhouse, two of the best friends
in the meadow.
Farmer Jack was digging his potato patch when he
noticed the pair arrive.
Farmer Jack stopped digging and rested on the handle of his spade, "And
"Hallo Farmer Jack," Robbit sniffed
hopefully at the basket of potatoes at Farmer Jack's feet:
he didn't much like potatoes, but he did like the green leaves
that came with them,
"Can I eat the leaves?" He asked.
Farmer Jack smiled
"Go ahead," He said, "Help yourself."
Jonathan sidled up
"Can I have some, too, please?" Jonathan's
spectacles glinted in the sunlight as he squinted up at Farmer
"Course you can."
Jonathan slid off in the direction of a particularly
"My Goodness, Jonathan," Farmer Jack
called after him,
"Your shell's looking very shiny this morning."
"I polished it,"
Said Jonathan proudly, pleased that Farmer Jack had noticed, "Last
night, before I went to bed."
"Must have taken you a long time to clean
all the little whorly bits."
"M'mm," Agreed Jonathan, "Ages."
Robbit was busy nibbling, taking care not to tread
on any of the potatoes. Farmer Jack's wife didn't like muddy
paw prints on her new potatoes.
"Farmer Jack," He asked, just about
to munch on a particularly bright green leaf, "If potato
leaves taste nice and don't sting, why do nettles?"
"Why do nettles what?"
"Fting," Said Robbit, his mouth full
Farmer Jack scratched his head.
"Not quite sure that I really know why, " He
replied, "But I did hear an old story once that seemed
to make sense."
Robbit stopped chewing.
"Can you tell us?" He
"If I can remember it," Farmer Jack,
and settled down on a nearby tree stump.
"Long ago," He began, "There was
a nettle growing in a meadow."
Robbit was picking at a piece of potato leaf that had got stuck
between his big front teeth, "There are lots in our
meadow: specially in the shady bit."
"Maybe there were lots in this meadow as
well," Said Farmer Jack, "The story didn't say."
Jonathan slid across and began to climb up the
stump, a great big leaf hanging from the back of his shell.
"I'm bringing it with me," He explained, "Just
in case it's a long story and I get hungry while you're talking."
"The story, "
Robbit tugged at Farmer Jack's trouser leg,
"Tell us the story."
"Well, " Farmer Jack began again, "This
nettle was really sad."
"Why?" Demanded Robbit.
"Probably because he was lonely," Puffed
Jonathan, half way up the side of the stump, "I hate being
Farmer Jack could see it was going to take some
time to tell the story.
"He was sad," He sighed, "Because
nobody liked him."
"That's 'cos he stung them, " Muttered
"M'mm," Agreed farmer Jack, "But
he couldn't help it: that's the way he was made."
"Then," Farmer Jack continued, "One
day, a beautiful butterfly settled on one of the nettle's leaves
and, instead of saying 'ow!' and flying away again, the butterfly
just sat there and unfolded her lovely coloured wings and rested
there in the sunshine."
Jonathans' eyes were big as saucers behind his
"Well," Farmer Jack went on, "The
nettle was just bursting with excitement and hardly dared move,
in case he frightened the butterfly away."
Eventually the butterfly spoke.
"Why are you so quiet?" She asked the
" I don't know what to say," He replied, " Nobody's
ever sat on one of my leaves before."
"I wonder why?"
Asked the butterfly.
"Because I sting them," Said the nettle,
then added sadly, "I can't help it."
"Well," Declared the butterfly, "I
think your leaves are very comfortable."
She paused for a moment, deep in thought.
"I was wondering," The butterfly said
eventually, "If I could ask you a special favour."
The nettle blushed: nobody had ever asked him a
"Of course you can," He whispered.
"I need somewhere safe for my eggs during
"Would you like me to look after them?"
The butterfly answered, "It would mean taking care of them
for the whole winter. Could you do that?"
The nettle quivered with pleasure.
"I'd be honoured," He said.
And so, that winter, the nettle guarded the butterfly's
eggs. All through the rain and the snow and storms, the nettle
kept the eggs safe and dry under its leaves, where no animal
would dare try to eat them.
In the spring, as the weather grew warmer, the eggs
hatched out into caterpillars and, later, each of these caterpillars
turned into a chrysallis. Finally, at long last, in the middle
of the summer, each chrysallis hatched into a beautiful new butterfly.
It looked so pretty, the nettle could hardly believe his eyes.
"Oh," The beautiful new butterfly stretched
its fresh new wings out to dry in the sunshine, "I do
"Where will you eat?" Asked the nettle.
The beautiful new butterfly flicked its glorious
wings lightly. They were a deep red colour, with beautiful patterns
along the edges, and had four great big eyes eyes painted on
them, blue and white and yellow and black.
"My favourite place," She said, her
wings shimmering in the sunlight, "is the flower of a
There were lots of Buddleia bushes in the meadow,
their enormous lilac-coloured flower-cones waving gently in the
breeze. The butterfly flitted gracefully over to the nearest
The nettle watched, then looked down at his own
plain green leaves. They seemed so dull and boring next to the
butterfly, he felt very humble.
As if reading his thoughts, the butterfly looked
up and spoke.
"Thank you," She said, "For looking
after me all winter. I think your leaves are the strongest
and safest leaves in the whole wide world."
The nettle blushed with pride. Suddenly, he didn't
feel sad at all.
"What's your name?" He asked her.
"Why," She said, settling down to feed, "I'm
called a Peacock butterfly."
Farmer Jack turned to Jonathan and Robbit.
"And, do you know," He said, "From
that day on, every winter the nettle has looked after the eggs
of the beautiful Peacock butterfly."
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Come back soon!