XII. 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.