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- The Tale of Freddie Firefly - 6/10 -
"You'll have to help me," Peppery Polly Bumblebee said to Freddie Firefly through the darkness. "If you'd been a little less stingy with that light of yours I wouldn't have made the mistake of thinking this thistle was a clover blossom."
"Well, there's nectar in it, isn't there?" he inquired.
"I suppose so," she answered. "But I can't get it. And I'm so daubed with the sticky stuff that's spread right where I put my feet that I can't free myself."
Freddie flew quite close to her and flashed his light upon her. And he saw that she had spoken truly.
"What a pity!" he exclaimed.
"Don't stop to talk!" the honey-maker snapped. "Just help me to get away from this thistle. And THEN you can talk all you want to. In fact, I'll give you something to talk about."
Freddie Firefly was not so dull-witted but that he knew she intended to punish him for sending her to the thistle blossom.
"I'll go back to your house and bring somebody to help you, if I can," he said. "Don't you see that it wouldn't be safe for me to try to pull you loose? I might get stuck there myself. And we'd be prisoners for the rest of the night."
Peppery Polly hadn't thought of that. And she was inclined to believe that there might be some such danger.
"You may go for help," she said at last. "But please remember that there's no time to lose. The Queen won't like it at all when she hears about this accident, for she expected me to fetch home a good deal of nectar before midnight."
"I'll hurry. And I'll be back as soon as I can bring one of your fellow- workers with me," Freddie Firefly promised.
Since he was a person of his word, he went straight back to the home of the Bumblebee family in the meadow. Being used to finding his way about after dark, Freddie had no trouble reaching the Bumblebees' home. But rousing the household was an entirely different matter. Though he pounded his hardest at their door, none of the Bumblebee family heard him. Having always slept from sunset till dawn without once waking, they were wrapped in such heavy slumber that not one of them knew what was going on.
To be sure, the family trumpeter--who awakened the household each morning and was a somewhat lighter sleeper than the others--the trumpeter claimed afterward that she DREAMED that she heard somebody at the door that night. But that was all the good that came of Freddie Firefly's efforts.
After trying his best to rouse Peppery Polly's people, Freddie Firefly at last grew discouraged. He saw that the Bumblebee family was bound to sleep until dawn came, no matter what happened.
He reflected, then, that there were two things he could do. He could go back alone to the clover field and try to set that ill-tempered worker free--and no doubt get stung by her for his pains. Or he could go to the dance of the Fireflies over near the swamp, and have a delightful time.
"Let me see!" Freddie mused aloud. "I promised Peppery Polly that I'd come back with one of her own people--IF _I_ COULD. And since I can't do that, I ought not to go back to the clover-patch at all. For if I did, it would be about the same as breaking a promise. ... No! I'll go to the dance instead!" And away he flew.
Luckily the dance was not half finished when he reached it. And he had such a pleasant time that he forgot all about that Bumblebee worker, stuck fast to the thistle blossom.
But you may be sure that Peppery Polly did not forget him. After her friends set her free the following morning she spent the whole day looking for Freddie Firefly.
But he lay very low. And all the rest of the summer he shunned the clover field--and the flower garden, too.
On the day--or rather, on the night--when he first met Jennie Junebug, Freddie Firefly was ill at ease. In fact it might be truthfully said that he was quite upset.
One beautiful, warm, dark night early in the summer Freddie was hurrying to join a big family party which was already gathering in the hollow beyond the hill.
He was scooting along through the damp air, flashing his light at the rate of about thirty-six times a minute, when a heavy body bumped into him and knocked him head over heels upon the grass-carpeted ground.
It was no wonder that he felt upset. And he felt quite peevish, too, as he picked himself up and looked about him to see what had happened.
The next moment he was flashing his light into the blinking eyes of an enormous fat person, who seemed to be dazed, either by the shock of the collision or by the light--Freddie Firefly couldn't tell which.
"Why don't you look where you're going?" Freddie cried impatiently. "You knocked the breath out of me. And you almost broke one of my legs." The next instant he was heartily ashamed of himself; for he saw, to his surprise, that he was talking to a lady. "Oh! I beg your pardon!" he cried. "Ex--excuse me! I hope you're not seriously injured?"
"Oh, no!" wheezed the fat lady. "I'm all right. It's no matter, I assure you. I'm quite used to running into things after dark."
Freddie Firefly didn't quite like being referred to as a THING. But he was too polite to say so.
"You ought to be careful," he told the strange fat lady. "It's dangerous for one of your weight--"
"Oh, don't!" she exclaimed quickly. "PLEASE don't tell me I'm fat! I've tried every remedy I know and I can't lose a single pound!"
"Don't you think that flying makes you thinner?" Freddie Firefly asked her.
But the stout person shook her head dolefully.
"It only seems to make me bigger," she groaned.
"Then why do you do it?"
"Oh, I just adore flying!" she cried. "Don't you?"
Freddie Firefly admitted that he did like to fly. And he was sorry, the next moment, that he had made such a statement. For the fat lady blinked happily at him. And clasping her hands together, she said:
"Oh, do let's fly together, then!"
Freddie Firefly was so taken aback that at first he couldn't think what to say. But at last he managed to stammer a reply.
"Why--why--I--I'll be glad to, but I don't even know your name!" he told her.
"It's Jennie Junebug," she explained, as she fanned herself with a fan made from a white clover leaf.
"You're a newcomer in these parts, aren't you?" Freddie Firefly inquired.
"I just arrived here this month," she informed him. "This is the month of June, you know. And I'm one of the well-known Junebug family. ... I already know who you are," she continued. "You've been pointed out to me. You are Freddie Firefly; and you can't deny it."
THE FAT LADY'S SECRET
Somehow, the longer Freddie Firefly talked with Jennie Junebug, the more he wished that he might fly off and leave her there in the meadow. But he had just the same as told her that he would be glad to fly with her. And he really didn't see how he could escape that unpleasant duty.
"Well, we may as well move on," he said at last. "Where were you going when we ran into each other?"
"Oh, nowhere in particular!" she answered. "Where were YOU going?"
Freddie Firefly had to bite his lip to keep from telling her that he had been on his way to a family party in the hollow beyond the hill. He certainly didn't want to go there in the company of that strange fat lady.
"I WAS going over the hill," he faltered at last. "But I'd rather stay here in the meadow with you."
"How nice of you to say that!" Jennie Junebug murmured. "And now let's begin flying at once!" she said.
So they rose into the air. But they hadn't flown more than a few feet when Jennie once more banged squarely into her companion.
It was a terrific blow. And Freddie Firefly soon found himself lying flat on the ground. He was so nearly stunned that he scarcely knew what had happened.
"What fun!" the fat lady gurgled right in his ear, with a horrible laugh. "Come! Let's do it again!"
"Do it again!" Freddie Firefly repeated after her, as a sudden fear gripped him. "Do you mean to tell me that you ran into me ON PURPOSE?"
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