XVII. Bad Benjamin Bat

For a long time Benjamin Bat had had his eye on Freddie Firefly. And every time the two met, Benjamin stopped to tell Freddie how plump he was growing.

"You're just about ready to--ahem!" Benjamin remarked when he came upon Freddie in Farmer Green's dooryard one fine evening.

"What did you say?" Freddie inquired.

"Never mind!" Benjamin Bat answered. "I was only talking to myself. It's a habit I have."

"You're a queer one!" Freddie Firefly exclaimed. "But it's no wonder. People say that you've hung upside down so much that the inside of your head is all topsy-turvy."

"When he heard that remark Benjamin Bat promptly flew into a rage.

"You'd better be careful!" he warned Freddie. "I don't allow anybody to talk to me like that."

"Oh! You mustn't mind what I just said," Freddie Firefly replied. "I was only talking to myself--ahem ahem!"

But strange to say, Freddie's answer failed to please Benjamin.

"Your remark was very disagreeable, anyhow," he declared.

"Well--so was yours," Freddie retorted stoutly.

"How can you say that?" Benjamin Bat inquired with a sly look. "I didn't finish it, did I?"

"No!" replied Freddie. "But you can't fool me. I know what you meant, as well as you do."

And straightway Benjamin Bat looked most uncomfortable, because he had been thinking that Freddie Firefly had become plump enough to eat.

Indeed, there was only one thing that kept Benjamin from devouring Freddie Firefly right then and there. And that was Freddie's flashing light. Yes! Benjamin Bat was afraid that if he touched Freddie Firefly he would get burned.

Once a forest fire broke out while Benjamin was asleep in the woods. And he didn't wake up until the tree in which he was hanging by his heels had begun to blaze. Luckily he escaped with his life. But the flames singed the tips of his wings and gave him such a fright that ever afterward he feared a fire or a light of any kind. And now he did wish that Freddie Firefly would put out his light, just for a short time. So he said, after a few moments:

"Don't you think you ought to stop flashing your light?"

"Do you mean--" asked Freddie--"do you mean that I ought to keep it glaring steadily all the time?"

"Oh, no!" Benjamin Bat replied hurriedly. "I mean that you ought to put it out for a while."

"Why should I do that?" Freddie Firefly wanted to know.

"To please Farmer Green, of course," Benjamin replied glibly. "Don't you know that a light always draws mosquitoes? And it can't be very pleasant for Farmer Green to have half the mosquitoes in the neighborhood crowding into his dooryard."

"What would be the use of my putting out my light, when all my relations are flashing theirs?" Freddie asked.

"Well, maybe they'd follow your example," Benjamin Bat suggested. "And just think what a good turn you'd be doing Farmer Green!"