X. Drawing Lots

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 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.