He was not a pretty fellow by any means when he lived in the water.
Indeed, the mosquito babies thought him the ugliest and
fiercest-looking creature in the world; but as he ate them up whenever
he could catch them their bad opinion of him was hardly to be wondered
They all lived in the pool. The mosquito babies felt that it would
have been a happy life if it had not been for the Dragon. He would lie
so still and grey in the water that they would think he was only a
stick, but as they came near his horrid mask would open, and out would
shoot his cruel jaws; they would be swallowed before they had time to
think any more. What an appetite he had! It seemed as if all the
mosquito babies in the pool would never satisfy him.
But one day his appetite failed. "I feel very queer," he said. "I
will go up into the air." He crawled slowly up a reed and hung on to
it above the water, and there he seemed to sleep for days and weeks,
neither moving nor eating. The mosquito babies could have a good time
now--if there were any left.
As he hung there his skin grew strangely hard and dry and shrunken, as
if it were becoming a lifeless case. And that is just what was
happening. Inside it the Dragon was growing into something quite
different from what he had been.
One morning he stirred. "How close and dark it is in here!" he said.
"I must go out."
He put his head against the end of the case and pushed hard. Crack!
went the dry skin, and out popped his head. "This is tiring work," he
said; he stopped to rest and to grow used to the strong light.
Soon he began again. He pushed and pushed till the opening grew wide
enough for his body; then he crawled slowly out and stood on top of his
old skin. He felt strange and damp and chilly at first, but the sun
was delightfully warm, so he stood still, to be dried and comforted.
"How changed I am!" he thought. Indeed, the change was wonderful. The
flabby grey body and the ugly mask and claws were gone. In their
places he had a long, slender body barred with black and gold, a
shapely head with two big bronze-green eyes and delicate feelers, and
six supple finely-jointed legs.
And he had wings! Yes, four beautiful, beautiful wings. He raised
them one by one to dry them. He quivered with joy as he looked at
their delicate lacework and lovely colours. "How fine they are! And
how glorious it will be to fly!" he thought.
Soon he was dried and warmed. He spread his glittering wings, rose
into the air, and sailed away to play with his cousins and catch
moths--a Pool Dragon no longer, but a shining Dragon-fly.