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Gonwid the bear lived in a small cave which was set high above the river valley where the other animals lived. The other animals didn’t have much to do with Gonwid; some feared him a little, but most just thought him ugly and possessed of strange notions which they didn’t understand, and therefore considered silly.
One day at the end of summer, when the air was turning cooler and the greens were becoming tinged with a little yellow and brown here and there, Gonwid was strolling alone along a woodland path. He saw something move ever so slightly nearby, and walked over to investigate. A caterpillar was sitting on a fallen tree, and every so often it moved ever so slightly.
‘Hi,’ said the caterpillar.
‘Hello,’ returned Gonwid.
‘Do you have any friends?’ continued the caterpillar.
‘Me neither. Would you like to be my friend?’
And then the caterpillar crawled into a hole in the log and disappeared. Gonwid waited, calling ‘Hello’ at respectful intervals, but the caterpillar only said ‘Mmm…’ now and then, and remained hidden. He did hear the sound of rustling as his new furry friend moved around in its dark little place, but of further sighting there was none, and so he went home.
Gonwid walked along the path often after that, always stopping to call into the hole with a general greeting, or a remark about the weather, or a muse on the deeper meaning of life. Sometimes the caterpillar would poke its head out and answer with some perfunctory remark of its own, but mostly it just rustled.
‘Strange friend,’ he thought. But he persisted in his avowed intent to be a good companion through the winds and rains and snows of winter, always stopping to talk to the caterpillar, always listening for the rustle, always reminding himself that a strange friend is better than no friend at all. And then the rustling stopped.
Spring had arrived. The browns were filling with green again, flowers were appearing along the fringes of the path, and the sun cast shorter shadows at noon. But no sound came from the log. Day after day he called and listened and waited, but in vain. Until, that is, one day when the sun was high and hot and another creature was sitting where the caterpillar had sat.
‘Who are you?’ asked Gonwid.
‘Butterfly,’ said the creature.
‘You’re very beautiful.’
‘I know. I’m a Peacock butterfly. Don’t you see my many iridescent colours and the big eyes I have on my wings?’
‘Well there you are, then.’
‘Have you seen a caterpillar around these parts lately?’
‘No. Caterpillar’s gone.’
And then the butterfly stretched its wings and rose into the air, joining myriad other butterflies racing to feast on the multitude of flowers now filling the neatly tended gardens in the valley. Gonwid turned and looked at the hole in the log. He called one last time, but only the searing sharpness of silence came back to him. And Gonwid never saw the caterpillar again.