XX. Mrs. Ladybug's Advice
 

Finding himself face to face with Mrs. Ladybug one night in Farmer Green's meadow, Freddie Firefly noticed, even before she spoke, that the little lady was not in a cheerful mood. In fact, she frowned at him darkly and pointed one of her knitting needles straight at him as she began to speak.

"You're terribly careless with that light of yours," she said. "People are always warning me that my house is on fire and telling me that I'd better hurry home. Now--" she added--"now I think I've discovered the reason why my friends are forever worrying about fire. No doubt when they give me such advice they have seen you prowling around my house with that light of yours; and they think that if you haven't already set my house on fire, you're just a-going to."

When Freddie Firefly saw that Mrs. Ladybug was making Benjamin Bat's mistake of thinking that his light could start a blaze, he had to smile.

"Nonsense!" he cried. "I'm always very careful, Mrs. Ladybug, when I'm near your house. You know that I wouldn't want your charming children to burn up."

And now Mrs. Ladybug pointed her other knitting needle at Freddie.

"Well, if you're not careless, you're silly, anyhow," she snapped. "I wouldn't object so much to your light if only you'd put it to some good use. But as long as I've known you--and that's several weeks--I've never seen you do anything but caper about the meadow and dance." And then Mrs. Ladybug began to knit furiously, as if to show Freddie Firefly that she was never idle, even if she did spend a good deal of time away from home. "Do you intend always to fritter your nights away as you do now?" she inquired.

"What else could I do? I should like to know--" Freddie began.

"Why not use your light in some kind of work?" Mrs. Ladybug asked him.

"What work, I should like to know--" Freddie said. And since Mrs. Ladybug did not at once answer him, he added: "I don't believe you can suggest anything--can you?"

"Oh, yes, I can!" she declared quickly. "I was thinking. That's why I didn't reply sooner. Probably you don't know that I have helped many youngsters to begin to work. For instance, it was I that told Daddy Longlegs to help Farmer Green with his harvesting." Little Mrs. Ladybug felt so proud of herself that she dropped a stitch without noticing it.

"Daddy Longlegs! He's not young!" Freddie Firefly exclaimed.

"Oh! yes, he is! He's not so old as you think," Mrs. Ladybug replied. "He's just about your age. And if he can work, you certainly can."

"But I didn't know that Daddy Longlegs was working for Farmer Green," Freddie Firefly said.

"He tried to, one day. But the wind blew too hard. ... It wasn't really Daddy's fault," Mrs. Ladybug explained. "And you ought not to attempt to work on windy nights, either," she went on. "For your light might go out, and then there'd be a terrible accident."