XXIII. Why Freddie Was Glad

Even after the train had rushed shrieking into the village two miles away, and the echoes had grown still, Freddie Firefly cowered in his hiding-place on the railroad track, crouched in the chink beneath one of the ties.

At last he crept out, trembling in every limb. But in spite of his terror he skipped off the track very spryly.

Safe at one side of the rails, which gleamed in the moonlight, Freddie felt himself all over, to make sure that he had broken no bones.

"I seem to be unhurt," he mused. "But never, never again will I listen to anything that Mrs. Ladybug says."

And having made himself that solemn promise, he hurried away toward Farmer Green's meadow, which he reached just before dawn.

As he crossed the fields he thought that he smelled smoke. But he couldn't see a blaze anywhere. And when he came to the meadow he was so eager to dance that he forgot to ask anybody if there had been a fire.

Luckily he arrived in time to take part in the last dance of the night. And after the dance was over he astonished all his family with the strange tale that he told them.

Before going to their homes all Freddie's relations gathered around him to listen to his story of the night's adventure. And there were many "Ohs" and "Ahs" when he reached the point where the train ran over him.

"You're lucky you didn't have a leg cut off," his favorite cousin remarked, "though that wouldn't have been so bad as losing a wing."

Freddie Firefly shuddered.

"Anyway, you're better off than Mrs. Ladybug is," somebody piped up.

"Why, what's happened to her?" Freddie Firefly inquired.

"Haven't you heard?" several of his cousins cried.

"No! no!" he shouted.

"Her house caught fire to-night, while she was away from home," they explained.

"I thought I smelled smoke as I was coming back from the railroad," Freddie observed. And then a sad picture came into his mind.

"And Mrs. Lady bug's children--" he began breathlessly.

"Oh! The neighbors saved them," his favorite cousin said. "They're only slightly scorched. But their ma's house is ruined."

Then, to everybody's great surprise, Freddie Firefly began to dance up and down and sing with joy.

"Oh, I'm so glad! Oh, I'm so glad!" he chanted over and over again.

His relations could scarcely believe that he was quite himself.

"His fright on the railroad must have injured his mind," they said to one another. "Or perhaps the train ran over his head when he didn't know it." They could think of no other reason for Freddie's queer actions. Always before he had seemed too kind-hearted to rejoice over another person's ill luck.

"What do you mean?" three hundred voices shouted. "Why are you glad?"

"I'm glad I tried to stop the train," Freddie Firefly answered, "because now Mrs. Ladybug can't say that I set her house on fire. She knows that I was working on the railroad to-night. And nobody can be in two places at the same time."