XVI. Freddie's Escape

There was really nothing Freddie Firefly could do except struggle to his feet and try to think at the same time. Flashing his light upon Jennie Junebug he saw that she was looking at him fondly. And that made him detest her more than ever.

"You seem to be enjoying yourself," he said spitefully.

"Yes, indeed!" the fat lady exclaimed. "I haven't had such sport for a whole week. One of your cousins flew with me one night. And we had a fine time. No doubt we'd be enjoying each other's company yet, if I hadn't had a bit of bad luck."

"What was that?" Freddie Firefly asked her quickly. He thought that if he could only keep his dreadful companion talking, perhaps she would forget about flying--and knocking him down. "What was your bad luck?" he repeated impatiently.

Jennie Junebug paused and wiped her eyes.

"It was dreadful!" she said at last, as soon as she could control her shaking voice. "It was the worst accident that ever happened to me. ... Your cousin broke his neck!"

Although Freddie Firefly sank back with a groan, she did not seem to notice him.

"Your cousin--" she continued--"your cousin was the easiest thing to knock down that I ever saw. Why, once I knocked him over thirty-three times in one minute--or in other words, as fast as he flashed his light. . . . I had struck him so many times that he was growing weaker. Earlier in the evening, when he flashed thirty-six times to the minute, he was a little too quick for me."

"Don't stop! Tell me more!" Freddie Firefly begged her, as the fat lady ceased talking and fanned herself rapidly. And then, while she continued to tell him about his unfortunate cousin, Freddie set his wits to work upon a plan to escape from the dreadful creature. He hardly knew what she was saying. But every time she paused he urged her on again with a "Yes, yes!" or a "Go on! Go on!"

At first a wild hope came to him that he might be able to keep her talking all night. Then, of course, he would be safe; because when daylight came she would no longer be able to see his light.

But he soon had to give up that plan, for he saw plainly enough that the fat lady was growing restless. And at last she told him flatly that she had talked all she cared to.

"I'm ready to fly now," she announced with an awful eagerness.

"One moment!" he said hastily. "Your fan--I see you've torn it! And if you'll let me take it I'll try to find you another just like it."

"Will you?" Jennie Junebug asked him gratefully. "And will you promise to come back just as soon as you've found me a perfect match for my fan?"

"I promise!" said Freddie Firefly, snatching the fan out of her hands in his haste. "Wait right here!" he cautioned her. And then he leaped into the air and started away.

BANG! He hadn't flown longer than forty-six seconds when Jennie Junebug floored him again.

"I simply couldn't resist hitting you once more!" she said sweetly. "And now, hurry! Or I shall never be able to let you leave me."

Freddie Firefly needed no more urging. Though he was sore in every limb (and he had a great many!) he made his escape quickly.

All the rest of the night he worked hard, trying to find a white clover leaf that exactly matched the one that Jennie Junebug had carried for a fan. But every single clover leaf was different from Jennie's in one way or another. Freddie Firefly had hoped that it would be so. For if he had found one precisely like Jennie Junebug's, he would have had to take it to her, as he had promised.

How long the fat lady waited for him in the meadow, Freddie Firefly never knew. And to tell the truth, he didn't care. He was too happy because he had escaped the fate of his cousin, to bother his head over Jennie Junebug.