Following his cry with one or two quick beats of his wings, Mr. Nighthawk dropped swiftly down among the trees in Farmer Green’s dooryard.
He fell so fast that Kiddie Katydid, watching from his hiding-place in one of the maples, couldn’t help hoping that the sky-coaster would be unable to stop himself in time to escape being dashed upon the ground.
But Mr. Nighthawk was very skillful at that sport. Just at the right moment he turned quickly, while the air rushed through his wing-feathers with a roaring sound. And then he mounted upward again.
Meanwhile Kiddie Katydid kept very still among the leaves, with his wings folded over his back. Only his two long, thread-like feelers would wave backwards and forwards, although he tried to keep them still. He was so nearly the color of the green of the tree-top that he trusted Mr. Nighthawk wouldn’t be able to spy him.
But he was soon disappointed. For Mr. Nighthawk suddenly cried, “Ha!” and landed on a neighboring limb.
“There you are!” he said. “You needn’t think I don’t see you!”
“Why, good evening!” Kiddie Katydid answered, since he was discovered—there was no use denying it. “It’s a great surprise—meeting you so unexpectedly. If you had only sent word that you were coming I’d have made different arrangements.”
“I’ve no doubt you would have!” Mr. Nighthawk sneered. “But I like to take people unawares. . . . I’ve heard about you,” he added. “They say that you’re a great jumper—the spriest jumper in all Pleasant Valley.”
“Well, I can jump fairly well,” Kiddie Katydid admitted. “But I don’t pride myself on my jumping. It’s something that has always run in my family, you know. All of us Katydids can leap quite a distance without any trouble.”
“So I understand!” Mr. Nighthawk replied. “And I’ll tell you some news that ought to please you: I’ve come here to-night for the special purpose of seeing you jump!”
Kiddie Katydid almost jumped out of his skin when he heard what Mr. Nighthawk said. And it wouldn’t have been anything remarkable for him if he had. He had already squirmed out of his skin six times that summer—though not from fear, of course. Casting his skin was almost a habit with Kiddie. All his family were like that.
Though he was not nearly so old as Mr. Nighthawk, Kiddie Katydid had learned a thing or two during his brief lifetime. And though he would have liked very much to jump—and jump out of Mr. Nighthawk’s sight, too—he had no wish to hide himself inside that feathered scoundrel. So he clung all the tighter to his perch and replied that he didn’t believe he cared to do any jumping that night.
Now, Mr. Nighthawk had a certain odd trick of talking through his nose. Whether that was because the late hours he kept, even on dark nights, gave him a cold in his head, nobody seemed to know. Anyhow, he began teasing Kiddie Katydid to jump for him—and he talked through his nose more than ever. Yes! Although Mr. Nighthawk tried his best to speak pleasantly, he only succeeded in making Kiddie Katydid want to laugh at him, for all Kiddie was so uneasy.
“I certainly hope you aren’t going to disappoint me?” Mr. Nighthawk whined, as he looked hungrily at Kiddie Katydid. “Please, please jump for me—just once!” he begged. “Here I’ve come all the way across the meadow on purpose to see what a fine jumper you are! And I shall feel very unhappy if you don’t perform for me.”
But Kiddie Katydid refused to budge.
“I hadn’t intended to do any leaping to-night,” he told Mr. Nighthawk. “And if I jumped for you, it would only upset my plans.”
“I know—I know,” said Mr. Nighthawk, nodding his head. “But I thought that you would just to oblige a friend, wouldn’t object to jumping from this tree into that one.” And he pointed to the nearest maple, the branches of which all but touched the tree-top in which they were sitting. But Kiddie Katydid’s mind was made up.
“No jumping for me to-night!” he piped in a shrill voice.
All this time Mr. Nighthawk was growing hungrier than ever. And one might well wonder why he didn’t make one quick spring at Kiddie Katydid and swallow him up. But that was not Mr. Nighthawk’s way of dining.
“Well,” he said at last, “though you refuse to jump for me, won’t you kindly call some other member of your family and ask him to oblige me?”
“I don’t know where my relations are just now,” replied Kiddie Katydid. “Some of them were here a while ago; but they went away.” And that was quite true! At that “BRAH”—that first warning cry—of Mr. Nighthawk’s, they had all vanished as if by magic, among the leaves.
“What about that Katy you’re always talking about?” Mr. Nighthawk then inquired. “Don’t you suppose you could find her and persuade her to do a little jumping for me—just to show me how it’s done?”
“I’m sorry—” Kiddie said somewhat stiffly, “I’m sorry; but I must absolutely refuse to do such a thing. Now that you’ve mentioned her, I’ll simply saying Katy did. And beyond that I cannot discuss her with you.”
“She did what?” Mr. Nighthawk wanted to know—through his nose.
But Kiddie Katydid declined to answer that question. He merely hugged his wings closer to his green body, and shot a sly glance at Mr. Nighthawk, as if to say, “Ah! That’s for you to find out! But I won’t tell you!”
Mr. Nighthawk looked rather foolish. He had always supposed that any one who spent a good part of every night saying the same thing over and over and over again must be quite dull-witted. But now he began to think that perhaps Kiddie Katydid was brighter than the field people generally believed him to be. And when Kiddie suddenly asked him a question, he was sure of his mistake.
“Did you know,” said Kiddie, “that Solomon Owl usually visits these farm buildings?”
“Why, no! I wasn’t aware of that,” Mr. Nighthawk replied with a quick, nervous look behind him. “What brings him here?”
“Chickens!” Kiddie Katydid explained. “Solomon Owl is very fond of chickens. But they do say that he’s not above eating a nighthawk when he happens to find one.”