The Green Inch Worm, by Jeannette Marks

The Cheerful Cricket and Others

Greenie, Toadie Todson's Green Inch-Worm, was measuring his way carefully around a birch tree. Since Toadie Todson's death, he spent a large part of every day looking at trees and measuring distances, so that Stingy could spin his webs in the best manner possible.

All the rainbow qualities of web were spun on white birch trees. Greenie was humming over mournfully to himself the song which Mr. Tree Toad Todson had composed in memory of his cousin Toadie Todson—A Lament. Greenie sang the words over and over again and seemed, as his voice grew more and more mournful, to be happier and still happier. That is often the way with melancholy people. Greenie felt he had good reason to be unhappy. Not so long ago his first cousin, Longinus Rotundus Caterpillar, or by his more familiar name Glummie, had been killed. Then his master, Toadie Todson, with whom he at least had a lazy time, was killed in a sand slide. And now he spent all his days at work for Stingy, who was a very exacting master. If he so much as stopped to nibble a little from a tender green birch leaf, Stingy would fly at him and bid him go to work at once.

But one day Greenie discovered something about him which he intended to use to good advantage. Stingy was in love. Every day at certain hours Stingy went quietly off, and one day Greenie followed him. There down in the meadow under a big apple tree he found Stingy together with five other spiders. They were arranged in a row before Silken Web, more often called Silkie, whom they were courting, and Silkie was waiting, ready to accept the spider who did best. Out danced the first spider. The shining hairs all over his body glistened in the sun, now he seemed silver, now jet black, now crimson as he whirled, jumping lightly into the air. Silkie looked for a second and then turned her head away. It was plain she would have none of him. Off dejectedly crawled the first spider.

Greenie watched, fascinated by this bright colored little spectacle under the blossoming apple tree. Then his eyes grew dark and angry. He had to work when he was hungry. He had not had a single holiday for over a month, he had been spoken to crossly, his Family Tree had been scoffed at, he—well, he had had enough of this!

The last fine cobweb Stingy spun it was Greenie's business to fold and put away carefully in the centre of a buttercup. He would get it and be back before it was time for Stingy to dance. He measured his way quickly over to the buttercup, his little back fairly popped into the air every other half second as he went furiously humping himself along. He found the cobweb covered with the gold dust of the buttercup, and taking it up hastily he hurried back. He knew just the spot where Stingy would dance before Silkie, beside a tall piece of Timothy Grass.

The fifth spider was finishing his dance as Greenie reached the bottom of the Timothy Grass stalk. Out came Stingy with a fierce and self-confident air which plainly said, "All the other five have failed, now I am about to succeed." He looked at Silkie, then began to dance. First he whirled round madly, and so swift and light was he that he seemed to have wings. His broad back and thin, tufted legs shone with dusky, golden colors. After whirling around he hopped several times lightly into the air.

In the meantime Greenie climbed the stalk and was waiting. Stingy was just about to do a sideways-hop, when over him fell inches and inches of his own gold dusted cobweb. Down he tumbled, his legs all tangled up in the web. Fiercely he fought to get out, while off scuttled the other spiders leaving him to his Fate. For a minute, the little green hairs on Greenie's back stuck up straight with merriment. Then complacently he measured his way home to his own Family Tree. Mrs. Cricky as she passed him heard him muttering: "It's a long worm that has no turning, a very long worm that has no turning!"

"Well," said Mrs. Cricky, "that may be true, but it is none of a cricket's business; it is just as well not to take part in other people's quarrels. Your Father says the Cricket Rule is the best precept for living he has ever known, and your Father, children, is a very wise cricket. I dare say Greenie has had a hard time, but then, lazy worms often do. Now let us sing a little song about these flowers we've been hopping about in; it's pleasanter. Chirp, don't sing too loud, Chirk, not too fast, and Chee, don't mumble your words:"

_Golden Flowers

Fast_

 "Everywhere you go
  You see them dancing,
  Flowers dancing
  In the sunlight.

 "Nodding heads are shining
  Like the dew-drops,
  Sparkling dew-drops,
  Shining gayly."