In an old wood, where the trees bend and shut out the sun, and the ground is all covered with moss, stumps and logs, ferns and bright toad-stools, lives the little snail. He cannot run as fast as his neighbor, the lizzard, but he does the best he can. He has no particular house, but travels about, looking for his dinner, and generally spends the night near by. Like a soldier, he carries his tent with him, always on his back, ready to run into it when the enemy appears. For his dinner, he likes a certain kind of toad-stool; he runs up the stem, and clings fast to the smooth, firm edges, making a delightful meal. Once he had been a tiny white egg, like a partridge berry, tucked away under a soft mossy blanket. When ready to come out, he ate up the egg-shell, and set off to look for food. His house was nearly one inch across, and striped brown and gold. The house grew as fast as the snail, and he could not leave it, even if he wished to. His body is flat on the lower side; instead of feet, he has many little suckers, to hold fast to stones, or wood, or walk. He has many brothers and cousins in the woods. One day the snail heard a voice, while climbing a tree; he was so scared that he nearly lost his balance, but remembered that it would break his shell to fall. He listened. Two squirrels were talking loud, and a little bird sat near by, putting in a word now and then.
"You are nobody," said the bigger squirrel, very angry. "How dare you steal my nuts?"
"I did not think of stealing," timidly replied the other.
"Better not try it again! My name is Lord Grey. You have no name."
Bird sang, "Oh, yes, his name is Chippy, and mine is Robin Red-Breast. We are as good as you!"
"How much talk about names," thought the snail. "I would not tell Lord Grey, but I have none. How could I get one?"
The squirrel scampered away, and the snail continued his walk, thinking how to get a name. He forgot to look for toad-stools, and passed several. He could hardly sleep that night. Next morning he was Hungry, and, while looking for his breakfast, he came to a big stone, creeping over it, instead of going around. Suddenly, something pounced on him, and he forgot to run into his house; he walked about a little, and found himself on a hand; it made him very dizzy to be up so far from the ground. A beautiful little girl, with blue eyes and yellow curls, had picked him up, and he had heard her say, "Oh! see what a beauty! Let us take him home for a pet." When she reached home, she put him on the window-sill, where three pair of eyes stared at him.
"Now, what sliall we call him?" said Alice; "he surely must have a name. How would Helix do? "
"That is a pretty name," said her brother; "and as you have named him, I will give him a place to live." He prepared a large pan, with moss, and moistened it to keep it cool and fresh. The snail was delighted with his name, and the children fed him every day, with sponge cake, which he preferred to toad-stool, so he was qui happy in his new home. They had other snails, named Seewell and Fayette, but Helix was their pet, and every day he took a walk over Alice's hand. When he wanted to go anywhere, he put out a pair of horns to feel; and if he wanted to see, he would put out another pair of longer horns, with eyes on the ends. One day, little Alice went out riding, and did not have time to put Helix away, but left him on the window-sill under a tumbler. Toward noon the sun crept around, and shone in the window; it was so warm, that Helix put out his horns, as far as he could, to get fresh air. It became hotter and hotter, and the poor little fellow could get no air, and so had to die. When Alice came home, she found him lying there, and poured cold water on him; this did no good. Alice cried at the loss of her pet, and felt sorry that she had been so careless. Her brother made a picture of Helix, and put it away with the shell, which was no longer golden, but white.
A Fictional Short Story by
Agnes Taylor Ketchum & Ida M. Jorgensen