VII. The Torchlight Parade

At last the torchlight procession was about to begin its march. Chirpy Cricket took his place at its head, as leader. And close behind him came Mehitable Moth, gaily bearing her banner aloft, with Freddie Firefly perched on top of it, and flashing his greenish-white light so that its rays fell full upon the words, which told Farmer Green's wife not to worry, because Mehitable Moth agreed to pay her a call before cold weather set in.

It would be hard to say which was the prouder--the person under the banner or the one on top of it. Anyhow, Chirpy Cricket was prouder than both of them together, because his torchlight procession promised to be a great success.

"Are you ready?" he cried, looking back at the marchers, who stretched behind him in a long line beside the stone wall.

Everybody shouted "Aye, aye, sir!" So Chirpy Cricket pranced away across the meadow, wearing a broad smile. Probably he had never before looked quite so cheerful.

But he had not gone far before something happened that drove the smile from his face, replacing it with a dark frown. He had glanced behind him, because he wanted--quite naturally--to look at that long line of lights twinkling through the night. And to his distress he saw that Freddie Firefly's relations were flying helter-skelter in all directions. They had bolted out of the line and were dancing off across the meadow after a fashion that no torchlight procession ought to follow.

"Stop! Stop!" Chirpy Cricket called.

Even as he spoke, as many as a dozen lights flashed past him and went flittering on across the fields.

Really, the only ones besides Chirpy that had stayed in the line as they should were Mehitable Moth, who still carried her banner right behind him, and Freddie Firefly, who sat on top of the banner.

And even Freddie Firefly was becoming restless. When he saw his brothers and cousins go dancing off in the dark he couldn't help wanting to dance too.

"You'd better hurry!" he said to Chirpy Cricket. "Those fellows--" he pointed to the dozen that had just passed them--"those fellows have got ahead of you. And it looks to me very much as if you were out of line."

Chirpy Cricket stared at Freddie Firefly in astonishment.

"Do you think so?" he exclaimed. "I don't see how it happened."

"Neither do I!" Freddie Firefly said. "But if I'm to stay in the procession I certainly can't sit on this banner any longer. And besides, if I'm going to call on Farmer Green's wife I shall have to travel faster than we're moving now."

Since they were then standing stock-still in the meadow, there was a good deal of truth in what Freddie Firefly said.

"But you don't need to call on Mrs. Green!" Chirpy Cricket cried. "That's not your banner, you know. It belongs to Mehitable Moth."

"I'm afraid Mrs. Green has heard I'm coming; and I don't want to disappoint her," Freddie replied.

And then he sprang from his perch and went zigzagging away.

One might think that Chirpy Cricket would have been quite upset by the breaking up of his torchlight procession. But being naturally cheerful, he merely smiled and said that it was plain that the Fireflies were a very flighty family.