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- The Tale of Freddie Firefly - 5/10 -
explained. "They wanted me to go with them; but I had promised your son that I'd be here at dusk. And of course I wouldn't think of breaking my promise."
Well, the Queen was terribly disappointed.
"You never can furnish enough light for my forty-nine workers!" she cried.
"Perhaps not!" Freddie admitted. "But I'd be glad to take one of them to the clover-patch to-night, just as a trial, you know."
The Queen said that that was a good idea. And the honey-makers, who had come outside the house, all agreed that it was a fine suggestion. But not one of them wanted to go with Freddie.
"Then you'll have to draw lots," the Queen told them severely.
When the honey-makers heard that, one of them tried to slip away. But the Queen saw her and called her back.
Then they drew lots. And strange to say, the worker who had tried to escape proved to be the unlucky one who was doomed to go to the clover field with Freddie Firefly and gather clover nectar until midnight.
Unluckily for Freddie, she was the worst-tempered person in the whole Bumblebee household. And when she saw that she alone of the whole family was going to lose half her night's sleep you may be sure she felt very surly.
Freddie noticed a wicked gleam in her eyes. And he began to wish he had gone to the dance over near the swamp.
Freddie Firefly felt quite uncomfortable as he started off toward the clover field, together with the angry honey-maker. It had not made him feel any more at ease when the Queen of the Bumblebees told him the worker's name. It was Peppery Polly.
"Don't go too fast!" Peppery Polly told Freddie Firefly. "And I'll tell you now that I'll make it warm for you if you try to play any tricks on me to-night."
As a matter of fact, Freddie hadn't thought of such a thing as playing a single trick on her. But Peppery Polly's warning at once put that very idea into his head. So he began to try to think of a good joke that would bother her. And before they had crossed the meadow Freddie Firefly turned to Peppery Polly Bumblebee and said:
"That light off there must be in the farmhouse."
Now, never having been out at night before, his companion wanted to see all the strange sights. So she stopped at once and looked around.
"How bright the light is!" she said. "Are you sure the farmhouse isn't on fire?"
Not receiving any answer, she turned her head. And to her dismay, she couldn't see Freddie Firefly anywhere.
"Oh! Oh! Where are you?" she cried. She was terribly frightened to be left alone in the dark. "Come back--please come back!" she begged.
"Why, here I am!" said Freddie Firefly.
And wheeling about quickly, Peppery Polly found him clinging to a blade of grass right behind her.
Freddie had been hiding under a plantain leaf, so that she couldn't see his light. But Peppery Polly didn't know what had happened.
"Did your light go out?" she inquired anxiously.
"If it did, I never noticed it," he replied.
"Well, don't you dare to leave me alone, no matter what happens!" Peppery Polly Bumblebee cried. "If you did, I'd never be able to find my way home in the dark."
"Don't worry!" Freddie said. "You're perfectly safe with me. ... What I'm wondering is whether I'm perfectly safe with you."
"You are--so long as you behave yourself," she declared. "But remember! I'll make it hot for you if you try any tricks on me! Don't forget that I carry a sting! And what's more, I know how to use it."
Her threat, however, failed to frighten Freddie Firefly. As soon as he saw that his companion was afraid of the dark, he ceased to be afraid of her. So he flashed his light impudently in her eyes.
"Come on!" he urged her with a grin which she could not see. "Let's get to the clover field, for I like to see people work."
"You do, eh? "snapped Peppery Polly.
"Yes! Watching others work is play for me," he remarked cheerfully. "And I hope to have as much fun to-night as I would have had if I'd gone to the dance over near the swamp."
"Are you fond of music?" Peppery Polly asked him suddenly.
"Am I?" he exclaimed. "I should say I was!"
"Then tell me how you like this," she said. And she began to sing the most terrible song that Freddie Firefly had ever heard in all his life.
A TERRIBLE SONG
It was no wonder that Freddie Firefly grew uneasy again as he listened to the song of Peppery Polly Bumblebee, while they flew towards the clover field through the darkness. The chorus, especially, filled him with alarm. And he shuddered as the disagreeable honey-maker sang it:
"I've never learned to take a joke; So if you try to trick me, My sting in you I'll quickly poke-- You'll find that it will prick ye! It feels like fire--though twice as hot. And I would rather sting than not!"
"How do you like that?" Peppery Polly inquired, after she had finished her song.
"You have a beautiful voice," Freddie Firefly hastened to tell her.
"Yes--of course!" she agreed. "But I refer to the words. What do you think of them?"
"I think they're awful!" Freddie Firefly cried; for his companion had scared the truth out of him before he stopped to think how it would sound.
"Quite right!" said Peppery Polly. "I made up that song. And I flatter myself it's about the worst I ever heard." To Freddie Firefly's relief, she seemed quite pleased.
He was able to draw a deep breath again as they reached the field of red clover, where Peppery Polly Bumblebee settled quickly upon a clover-top and began sucking up the sweet nectar with her long tongue. For some time she worked busily without saying a word. And indeed, how could she have spoken with her tongue buried deep in the heart of a clover blossom?
But when she withdrew her tongue and flitted from one clover-top to another, she never failed to fix her wicked eyes on Freddie Firefly and demand "more light--and be quick about it!"
Since no harm had yet fallen him, he began to wonder after a while if Peppery Polly's bark was not worse than her bite--or perhaps it would be better to say that he wondered if her song was not worse than her sting. Anyhow, he knew that he was very tired of her masterful way of speaking to him. And he soon determined to play another trick on her.
"Here's a big blossom you haven't tasted!" he called to her suddenly. And Peppery Polly--thinking that Freddie meant a clover blossom-- hastened to a bloom that Freddie pointed out to her.
She settled upon it quickly. And the next moment Peppery Polly gave a sharp cry of mingled rage and pain.
"What's the matter?" Freddie Firefly asked her.
"Matter!" she exclaimed. "It's a thistle--and I've pricked myself badly."
"Why, so it is a thistle blossom!" said Freddie Firefly. "It's about the same color as a clover head; and I suppose you didn't know the difference in the dark."
"The question is, did YOU know the difference?" Peppery Polly screamed-- for she was terribly angry.
"Really, I must decline to answer when you speak to me in such a tone," said Freddie Firefly. And he was quite surprised that the furious honey- maker didn't dart towards him and try to sink her sting into him.
But nothing of the sort happened. And Freddie soon saw that Peppery Polly was in some kind of trouble.
CAUGHT BY A THISTLE
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