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- The Tale of Freddie Firefly - 4/10 -
About the time summer was half gone, Buster Bumblebee's mother, the Queen, began to worry. She was afraid her workers were not going to make enough honey for her family's needs.
Then came a few days of steady rain, when the workers of the Bumblebee family couldn't venture away from home, on account of getting their wings wet. And of course the Queen was terribly upset.
"I don't know what to do!" she kept exclaiming. "The days are already growing shorter. It's a pity the honeymakers can't work in the dark."
Buster Bumblebee happened to hear his mother talking in that fashion with some of the older members of the family. And he spoke up at once and said:
"I know of a plan that might help."
Nobody paid the slightest attention to his remark, because the whole family thought that Buster was not only fat and lazy, but somewhat stupid as well.
"I know of something you could do that would help," he persisted, in a much louder voice. "The honey-makers could work after dark if you'd only get the Firefly family to furnish lights for them."
A number of Buster's relations snickered when they heard his plan. It struck them as being too silly for anything. But his mother, the Queen, looked very thoughtful.
"I'm not sure but that this boy has a good idea," she observed, much to the surprise of the others. "For a long time I've been waiting for him to say something worth listening to. And now I do believe he has had a happy thought at last." She turned to Buster. "How did you chance upon this scheme?" she asked him.
"Oh, the notion just came to me. I didn't have to WORK, to think of it," Buster explained. And he wondered why everybody laughed.
You know, Buster Bumblebee was so lazy that he never would lift a finger to do a stroke of work. And now the word "work" had a very funny sound, coming from his mouth.
"How could we get the Firefly family to help us? Have you thought of a way to do that?" Buster's mother said to her son.
"N-no, I haven't," he admitted. "But I'd go straight to Freddie Firefly and tell him what's wanted."
"Suppose you do that, then," said the Queen.
"You wouldn't call that WORKING, would you?" Buster inquired anxiously. Having long since promised himself that he would never work, of course he didn't want to break his word.
His relations--that is, except his mother--couldn't help tittering when Buster said that. But to tell the truth, they were beginning to be the least bit jealous of Buster Bumblebee and his plan. When the Queen frowned at them severely, each of them tried to look as if it had been somebody else that laughed.
Then the Queen assured Buster that paying a call on a person couldn't be said to be work.
"You go and talk with Freddie Firefly," she directed him, "and if your plan proves to be a success, it will then be your turn to laugh at others."
Buster Bumblebee did not find Freddie Firefly very easily. It was a sunny afternoon; and if Freddie was flashing his bright light, Buster was unable to see it. But at last he spied Freddie eating a meal of pollen in the meadow.
"How would you like to work for my mother, the Queen?" Buster asked him.
"I don't believe I'd care to, thank you," Freddie Firefly answered, with a mouth so full of food that Buster heard him only with great difficulty.
"I'll wait a moment, until you have finished your lunch," said Buster.
"You'd better not!" Freddie Firefly told him. "It will be dark by that time. And Chirpy Cricket tells me your family always goes to bed at sunset."
"So we do!" Buster agreed. "But my mother, the Queen, is going to order her honey-makers to work overtime for the present. And she wants you and your family to furnish lights so they can see what they're doing." "Oh! That's different!" Freddie Firefly exclaimed. "I thought she wanted me to help make honey. And that's something I know nothing about. ... But when it comes to furnishing a light, I'm certainly a shining success." Freddie then laughed heartily. And much to his surprise, Buster Bumblebee gave him several hard slaps on the back, which hurt him not a little.
"Don't do that!" Freddie Firefly cried.
"I thought you were choking," Buster, explained.
Freddie Firefly shook his head.
"I was joking," he said.
"Well, I didn't make much of a mistake; for joking and choking sound about the same," Buster Bumblebee replied.
"I hope your mother's honey-makers can tell the difference," Freddie Firefly grumbled. "If they can't, I certainly don't care to spend a night in their company."
"Oh, you won't have any trouble with them. They'll be working so busily that they'll hardly notice you," Buster Bumblebee assured him.
So Freddie Firefly promised to be at the house of the Bumblebee family, in the meadow, at dusk. And he said he would try to bring plenty of his relations with him, so that there might be one of them to light the way for each of the honey-makers.
And then Buster Bumblebee hurried away to tell his mother the news.
The Queen praised Buster for what he had done, telling him that in her opinion he would soon be the wisest person in Pleasant Valley--not even excepting old Mr. Crow and Solomon Owl.
Buster was so pleased that he made up his mind to stay awake that evening, in order to see the workers start out for the clover field after dark with Freddie Firefly and his relations. But when sunset came, Buster simply couldn't keep from falling asleep.
Not until the next morning did he know how his plan had turned out. And since it proved to be less successful than he had expected, perhaps it was just as well that he was not present to hear the remarks that were made about him.
Even Freddie Firefly said things about Buster that night that would not have been at all pleasant to listen to.
Buster Bumblebee's mother told her forty-nine honey-makers that Freddie Firefly and at least forty-eight of his relations were expected at the Bumblebees' house at dusk.
"Each of the Fireflies will furnish each of you with a light," the Queen explained, "so you'll be able to go to the clover field almost as easily as you do in the daytime. You're to work until midnight. And after that you may sleep until the trumpeter wakes you at dawn."
The Queen's announcement did not please the honey-makers in the least. They were an ill-tempered lot, anyhow. And when things did not go to suit them they sometimes made themselves most disagreeable.
Of course they didn't dare grumble in the Queen's hearing. But behind her back they spoke their minds quite freely.
"It's all the fault of that boy Buster," they told one another. "If he hadn't suggested his horrid plan to his mother we wouldn't have to work half the night and lose half our sleep."
"I wish he was here now!" one of the honey-makers exclaimed fiercely. "I'd make it hot for him!"
Usually the honey-makers began to grow very drowsy at that time of day (it was then late in the afternoon). But now they were so angry that they were not the least bit sleepy. Their own buzzing kept them awake. And the Queen was glad that it was so, because she herself never could have stopped so many of them from going to sleep. And even then, if the truth must be known, the Queen wished that she might go to bed. Never in all her life had she been up so late before.
"I wish the Fireflies would hurry!" she exclaimed as she stood at the front-door of her house and looked across the fast darkening field.
As she watched anxiously, the Queen soon spied a light, which kept growing brighter and brighter, until at last Freddie Firefly dropped down before her. He took off his cap and made a low bow.
"Here I am, Queen!" he said.
"Where's the rest of your family?" Buster Bumblebee's mother asked him.
"They all had to go to a dance down by the swamp," Freddie Firefly
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