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- The Tale of Freddie Firefly - 3/10 -
success than the one that Farmer Green went to see in the village--if you'll only follow my directions."
"We will!" his listeners cried.
"Please don't ask us to march after dawn breaks, for we'll be ready for bed by that time," Freddie Firefly interrupted.
"I understand," Chirpy Cricket replied. "And now this is what I want you all to do: you must fall in line one behind another. And when everybody's ready I'll take my place at the head of the procession and lead you all around the farm, and right past Farmer Green's window, too."
"Forming a line is going to be hard work," somebody objected.
But Chirpy Cricket arranged that matter simply enough.
"Just form your line along the stone wall" he directed them. "The wall is straight enough. And to tell the truth, that's exactly why I told Freddie that we'd meet here."
"But what about Moses Mosquito and Kiddie Katydid and Mehitable Moth?" Freddie inquired somewhat anxiously.
"Well, what about them?" Chirpy asked him. "What do you mean?"
"They haven't brought any lights," Freddie pointed out. "So what's the use of their being in the procession?"
"Oh, that's all right!" Chirpy Cricket assured him. "They're going to carry the banners."
When Chirpy Cricket mentioned "banners," Mehitable Moth, Kiddie Katydid, and Moses Mosquito stepped forward with looks of pride on their faces-- so far as one could see their faces by the glimmer of the flashing lights of the Firefly family. And at the same time Freddie Firefly shouldered his way through the crowd and plucked at Chirpy Cricket's sleeve.
"Don't you think--" he asked earnestly--"don't you think I ought to carry one of the banners myself?"
"Perhaps so!" answered Chirpy Cricket. He was so taken aback that he really didn't know what else to say. "Which one do you prefer?"
"I'd have to see them before I made a choice," Freddie Firefly told him in a more hopeful tone.
So Chirpy ordered Kiddie Katydid and Moses and Mehitable to produce their banners, which they had left leaning against the wall.
They brought them forth fearfully, each hoping that his--or hers--wasn't going to be taken away and handed over to Freddie Firefly to carry in the procession.
"Here are the banners!" Chirpy Cricket said to Freddie. "Which one do you like best?"
Freddie looked at the banners and read them slowly, for he was not a good reader.
The first that he examined was the one Moses Mosquito had brought. And this is what it said:
WHY FUSS ABOUT A BITE, IF IT MAKES SOMEBODY ELSE HAPPY?
"I don't care for that one at all," Freddie Firefly announced. And he turned then to Kiddie Katydid's banner, which he spelled out with a good deal of trouble, because it was not so well printed.
This banner made the following announcement:
HONEST TO GOODNESS, I DIDN'T DO IT!
"Why, I don't know what that's all about!" Freddie exclaimed impatiently. "Let me see the third one!" So he looked next at the banner of Mehitable Moth, which seemed to please him better, as he read it aloud:
DON'T WORRY, MRS. GREEN! I'LL CALL AT THE FARMHOUSE BEFORE FALL.
"That's better!" cried Freddie Firefly. "I'll carry this banner with a great deal of pleasure. And I can call at the farmhouse to-night--if Farmer Green's family doesn't go to bed too early."
But there was one difficulty about Freddie's plan. Mehitable Moth did not like to have her banner, which she had made with great pains, taken away from her like that. And she drew Chirpy Cricket to one side and began talking to him in an undertone.
Soon he turned again to Freddie Firefly, saying, "She thinks that if you're going to carry her banner in the procession you ought to let her take your light."
"Oh, I can't do that!" Freddie exclaimed quickly. "I wouldn't THINK of doing that!"
"It would be only fair, it seems to me," Chirpy Cricket observed.
"Well, I won't do it, anyhow," Freddie declared. "I'd stay out of the procession first. And so would all my relations, too."
Chirpy Cricket began to look worried. And it was no wonder. For he knew he could have no torchlight procession without the Firefly family. But pretty soon he cheered up noticeably.
"I know what you can do!" he announced. "You can ride on top of Mehitable Moth's banner and keep flashing your light on it!"
THE TORCHLIGHT PARADE
At last the torchlight procession was about to begin its march. Chirpy Cricket took his place at its head, as leader. And close behind him came Mehitable Moth, gaily bearing her banner aloft, with Freddie Firefly perched on top of it, and flashing his greenish-white light so that its rays fell full upon the words, which told Farmer Green's wife not to worry, because Mehitable Moth agreed to pay her a call before cold weather set in.
It would be hard to say which was the prouder--the person under the banner or the one on top of it. Anyhow, Chirpy Cricket was prouder than both of them together, because his torchlight procession promised to be a great success.
"Are you ready?" he cried, looking back at the marchers, who stretched behind him in a long line beside the stone wall.
Everybody shouted "Aye, aye, sir!" So Chirpy Cricket pranced away across the meadow, wearing a broad smile. Probably he had never before looked quite so cheerful.
But he had not gone far before something happened that drove the smile from his face, replacing it with a dark frown. He had glanced behind him, because he wanted--quite naturally--to look at that long line of lights twinkling through the night. And to his distress he saw that Freddie Firefly's relations were flying helter-skelter in all directions. They had bolted out of the line and were dancing off across the meadow after a fashion that no torchlight procession ought to follow.
"Stop! Stop!" Chirpy Cricket called.
Even as he spoke, as many as a dozen lights flashed past him and went flittering on across the fields.
Really, the only ones besides Chirpy that had stayed in the line as they should were Mehitable Moth, who still carried her banner right behind him, and Freddie Firefly, who sat on top of the banner.
And even Freddie Firefly was becoming restless. When he saw his brothers and cousins go dancing off in the dark he couldn't help wanting to dance too.
"You'd better hurry!" he said to Chirpy Cricket. "Those fellows--" he pointed to the dozen that had just passed them--"those fellows have got ahead of you. And it looks to me very much as if you were out of line."
Chirpy Cricket stared at Freddie Firefly in astonishment.
"Do you think so?" he exclaimed. "I don't see how it happened."
"Neither do I!" Freddie Firefly said. "But if I'm to stay in the procession I certainly can't sit on this banner any longer. And besides, if I'm going to call on Farmer Green's wife I shall have to travel faster than we're moving now."
Since they were then standing stock-still in the meadow, there was a good deal of truth in what Freddie Firefly said.
"But you don't need to call on Mrs. Green!" Chirpy Cricket cried. "That's not your banner, you know. It belongs to Mehitable Moth."
"I'm afraid Mrs. Green has heard I'm coming; and I don't want to disappoint her," Freddie replied.
And then he sprang from his perch and went zigzagging away.
One might think that Chirpy Cricket would have been quite upset by the breaking up of his torchlight procession. But being naturally cheerful, he merely smiled and said that it was plain that the Fireflies were a very flighty family.
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