XIX. Benjamin Feels Guilty
 

Freddie Firefly and Benjamin Bat faced each other in Farmer Green's dark dooryard.

"Yes!" Benjamin Bat's thin voice quavered. "Don't ever bring Solomon Owl to my tree in the daytime. Although he doesn't see so well when it's light as he does at night, he could catch me without much trouble when I was asleep. And he would eat me in a minute--or only half a minute, maybe."

"Well, wouldn't you like that?" Freddie Firefly inquired, as if he were greatly surprised.

"Certainly not!" said Benjamin Bat. "You talk like a--ahem!"

"Perhaps I do," Freddie Firefly retorted. "But I should think it would be just as jolly for you to be eaten by Solomon Owl as it would be for me to be eaten by you."

Benjamin started violently.

"What in the world ever put such a strange idea into your head?" Benjamin Bat cried. He was greatly astonished, for he had not supposed that Freddie Firefly suspected exactly what was in his mind.

"You put that idea into my head yourself," Freddie Firefly said very sternly.

And the moment Benjamin Bat heard that, he felt very sheepish. But unlike most people who feel ashamed, he did not hang his head. Strangely enough, Benjamin Bat was never so proud as when his head hung lower than his heels. And he had a habit, when he felt guilty or uncomfortable, of raising his head, instead of dropping it. So now he lifted his head very high.

And by that tell-tale sign Freddie Firefly knew at once that Benjamin Bat would have flushed with dismay, had he only known how.

"You're a rascal!" Freddie cried fiercely, flashing his light again and again in Benjamin Bat's eyes, until that gentleman blinked so fast that it seemed as if his eyes must be in danger of turning inside out.

"You'd better be off!" Freddie Firefly shouted. "And if you ever come to me again, coaxing me to put out my light--so you can eat me--I'll certainly bring Solomon Owl to your tree when you're asleep there."

Still Benjamin Bat made no move. Yet he wanted to go away because he was in terror of being burned by Freddie Firefly's light. But he did not dare turn his back upon Freddie Firefly and his light and fly away. And he began to be sorry that he had never learned to fly backwards.

"Please--" Benjamin Bat stammered at last--"please do me a favor. I'm not feeling very well. I'm afraid I'm going to be ill. Maybe you'll be good enough to go and ask my friend Farmer Green to step outside his house a moment. Just tell him I'm in trouble," he whined.

"Trouble!" Freddie Firefly sneered, for he knew well enough--by this time--that Benjamin Bat was scared, though he couldn't quite guess the reason for Benjamin's fright. "You'll be in worse trouble if I show Solomon Owl where you sleep in the daytime."

"Stand back!" Benjamin Bat shrieked suddenly. "You'll singe my wings if you're not careful!"

Then Freddie Firefly knew exactly what Benjamin feared. And he was so amused that he couldn't help taking a turn around the dooryard, to dance and laugh and shout.

And when he came back to the place where he had left Benjamin Bat, that odd gentleman had vanished.

The terrified Benjamin had floundered away toward the swamp. And never, afterward, did he have a word to say to Freddie Firefly.

But whenever Freddie Firefly caught sight of Benjamin Bat's dark shape, flitting in a zigzag path across the moon, he always cried out in a loud voice:

"Look out, Benjamin Bat! Mr. Moon will singe your wings if you're not careful."