Benjamin Bat’s Plan 🦇

Of course, Kiddie Katydid was not always to be found in his favorite nook among the trees in Farmer Green’s front yard. Quite often he went skipping about from tree to tree or from bush to bush, sometimes flying and sometimes leaping. It really made little difference to him which mode of travel he used. And he never stopped to think how lucky he was to be able to move so spryly with the help of either his legs or his wings. He took his good fortune as a matter of course.

There was Mr. Frog! He was a famous jumper; but he couldn’t fly. And there was Mr. Nighthawk! He was a skillful flier; but he couldn’t jump.

Such thoughts, however, never entered Kiddie Katydid’s head. He went cheerfully about his business—which was eating, principally—and jumped or flew as the mood seized him. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for that strange fellow, Benjamin Bat, probably Kiddie never would have realized just what he could—or couldn’t—do.

Since Benjamin was another night-prowler like himself, Kiddie Katydid saw him often. It seemed to Kiddie that he could scarcely ever gaze at the full moon without catching sight of Benjamin Bat’s dusky shape flitting jerkily across the great, round, yellow disk.

When Benjamin was astir in the neighborhood, Kiddie Katydid lay low—or high—in his favorite tree-top. At least, he kept very still until the night was nearly gone, to give Benjamin Bat plenty of time to satisfy his hunger. For Kiddie found Benjamin Bat a much more agreeable companion when he had eaten his fill. Early in the evening, soon after he had woken up, Benjamin was positively ferocious. But the more he ate, the more pleasant he grew. And by the time faint streaks of light began to show in the east he could smile and crack a joke as easily as anybody else.

Well, late one night—or early one morning—Kiddie Katydid and Benjamin Bat were enjoying a chat in the tree-tops, when Benjamin put a new idea into Kiddie’s head.

“We ought to have some sports right here in Farmer Green’s yard,” he suggested. “You’re such a fine jumper that you should try your skill against Mr. Frog. And you’re such a fine flier that you and Freddie Firefly ought to have a race. . . . I’d suggest—” he added—”I’d suggest that the sports take place after dark, almost any evening.”

But Kiddie Katydid spoke up quickly and said that he wouldn’t care to join in the fun until the night was almost gone. He said he was sure he could jump and fly better at that time. And that was quite true, because he knew that if Mr. Bat swallowed him early in the evening he wouldn’t be able to take any part in the sports.

“Very well, then!” Benjamin Bat replied. “But it will be the worst possible time for me.”

“What do you mean?” Kiddie Katydid inquired. “Do you expect to enter any of the contests?”

“Oh, yes!” said Benjamin. “I’m going to hang by my heels from the limb of a tree. And since I’m never so heavy early in the evening, before I’ve had a chance to eat much, I’d prefer to have the sports begin soon after dark.”

But Kiddie Katydid said that there was no doubt Benjamin Bat would win in the sport of hanging head downward by his heels. And he told Benjamin not to worry.

When the night of the races and other sports finally came, a great crowd began to gather about Farmer Green’s place soon after dark. Although Benjamin Bat had told people that the fun wasn’t going to begin until almost morning, they were all so excited that they couldn’t wait for the night to pass.

They lingered around the dooryard and talked so loudly that they actually disturbed the household. Farmer Green was even tempted to get up and shut his door, he found it so hard to go to sleep.

The noisiest of all the gathering was Mr. Frog, the tailor, who lived over by the creek.

He had a great deal to say about everything; and it soon became plain to everyone that he was trying to manage the whole affair.

Mr. Frog objected to every arrangement that Benjamin Bat had made. When he learned that he was expected to enter a jumping contest with Kiddie Katydid he exclaimed that he and Kiddie were such good friends that he hated the thought of trying to beat Kiddie at jumping.

“Kiddie might feel bad,” said Mr. Frog. “People might laugh at him because I won.”

“Don’t you worry about me!” Kiddie Katydid called out.

“Where are you?” asked Mr. Frog, looking all around. “I can hear you, but I can’t see you.”

But Kiddie Katydid refused to show himself.

He preferred, for the time being, to remain safely hidden among the leaves, where he could listen to what people said—and talk to them when he wanted to.

“Wouldn’t you prefer some other sort of contest?” Mr. Frog then asked him. “Now, there’s swimming! We could swim in the watering-trough, or the duck pond. And if I beat you, you could stick your head under water, so you wouldn’t hear what people said. Don’t you think that’s a good idea?”

“Goodness, no!” cried Kiddie. “I’d drown myself in no time.”

“Dear me!” said Mr. Frog. “I never thought of that.”

And then everybody laughed so loudly at him that he hurried off to the watering-trough to dive underwater, and stay there until he was sure that his remarks had been forgotten.

Meanwhile Benjamin Bat was worrying. He couldn’t find anybody who was willing to try the sport of hanging head downward by his heels. He asked Kiddie Katydid; and Kiddie declined flatly to do any such thing.

Now, since Benjamin had not yet dined, he was very short-tempered. And he grew angry at once.

“What’s the matter?” he sneered. “Don’t you know how to do an easy trick like that? If I could see you—” he declared, peering among the maple leaves—”if I could see you I’d show you how it feels to hang beneath a limb.”

Kiddie Katydid said no word in reply. He knew well enough what Benjamin Bat meant. Benjamin wanted to eat him! And he wished that Benjamin would go away and get a good meal somewhere before he came back.

As the hours sped by and the moon at last crossed the sky and dropped out of sight, Kiddie Katydid saw that there was going to be trouble.

He was worried about Benjamin Bat. Early in the evening Benjamin had begun to tease Mr. Frog. And he was so busy doing that that he wouldn’t take the time to go away and snatch even a bite to eat.

Naturally, Benjamin’s temper grew worse as the night lengthened. And Kiddie Katydid had to admit to himself that he would be most unwise if he did any jumping or flying just then. For Benjamin Bat was in so fierce a humor that he was ready to snap at anybody who was smaller than he was. All the tiny flying folk gave him a wide berth. And it began to look as if he were going to spoil the night’s fun.

But all the while Mr. Frog never once lost his temper. Even when Benjamin Bat called him a long-legged, flat-headed, paddle-footed meddler, Mr. Frog only smiled and turned a few somersaults backward.

“What’s the matter with you?” Benjamin Bat asked him at last. “Can’t you speak?”

“Certainly! Certainly!” Mr. Frog said then. “I’ve been trying to think of some way to prevent so much quarreling. It hardly seems fair to Kiddie Katydid—this uproar right in his dooryard. And since you are the one who is making the greatest disturbance, I’d suggest that you go away and leave us to enjoy the rest of the night in peace.”

“I’ll do nothing of the kind!” Benjamin Bat screamed. “This is my party. I thought of it in the first place. And I’m going to stay here until dawn.”

“Very well! Then the rest of us will leave at once,” Mr. Frog told him. And calling good-by to all his friends, Mr. Frog flopped himself briskly away.

The smaller folk, too, vanished as if by magic. Though Benjamin Bat watched sharply, he didn’t even see Freddie Firefly when he slipped away.

“That’s strange!” thought Benjamin. “He must have put out his light, to fool me. But I don’t care, because Kiddie Katydid is hidden somewhere in this tree. And I’m going to find him—for I’m terribly hungry.”

So Benjamin began flying in and out among the maple branches. Nobody but he could have twisted and turned in such a helter-skelter fashion. It made Kiddie Katydid almost dizzy just to watch him. But Kiddie did not take his eyes off Benjamin, because he intended to jump—and jump fast and far—in case Benjamin should see him.

Now, although the Bat family was able to see in the dark as well as Farmer Green’s cat could, Benjamin failed to find Kiddie Katydid anywhere. Crouching motionless upon a leaf, all dressed in green, Kiddie Katydid was almost invisible. But if he had moved the least bit, Benjamin Bat would have found him out.

Looking only for a tiny green figure among the green leaves, Benjamin Bat paid no attention to the grayish branches of the tree. He was really strangely careless. Quite unsuspected by him, while he was wrangling with Mr. Frog, the cat had crept out of the woodshed and stolen softly into that very tree, where she lay motionless along a limb. She had come out upon an early morning hunt for birds.

She was a fierce old cat. There was nothing, almost, that she wasn’t ready and willing to fight. Even old dog Spot had learned to stay away. And now she waited patiently until Benjamin Bat should come within reach of her quick paws.

That silly, blundering fellow bumped squarely into her at last. And how he escaped is still a mystery. The old cat always claimed that when she found Benjamin wasn’t a bird she was so surprised that she let him go. And as for Benjamin himself, he never would discuss his adventure with anybody. Kiddie Katydid was the only other one who saw what happened. But he was so frightened at the time that he only knew that Benjamin Bat tore away towards the swamp as if a thousand cats were following him. And people do say that for some time afterward, Kiddie Katydid shrilled a slightly different ditty. It was Kitty did, Kitty did; she did, she did!

But when Mr. Frog mentioned that news, with a laugh, to Benjamin Bat, over in the swamp, Benjamin only said, “Stuff and nonsense!”

Yet he looked most uncomfortable.

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