The Woggle-Bug Book eBook: Page2

L. Frank Baum (2007)

giveyou seven ninety-three for her. That's all she's worth, you know; for Isaw it marked on the tag."

  The man gave a roar of rage and jumped into the air with the intentionof falling on the Woggle-Bug and hurting him with the knife and pistol.But the Woggle-Bug was suddenly in a hurry, and didn't wait to bejumped on. Indeed, he ran so very fast that the man was content to lethim go, especially as the pistol wasn't loaded and the carving-knifewas as dull as such knives usually are.

  But his wife had conceived a great dislike for the Wagnerian checkcostume that had won for her the Woggle-Bug's admiration. "I'll neverwear it again!" she said to her husband, when he came in and told herthat the Woggle-Bug was gone.

  "Then," he replied, "you'd better give it to Bridget; for she's beenbothering me about her wages lately, and the present will keep herquite for a month longer."

  So she called Bridget and presented her with the dress, and thedelighted servant decided to wear it that night to Mickey Schwartz'sball.

  Now the poor Woggle-Bug, finding his affection scorned, was feelingvery blue and unhappy that evening, When he walked out, dressed (amongother things) in a purple-striped shirt, with a yellow necktie andpea-green gloves, he looked a great deal more cheerful than he reallywas. He had put on another hat, for the Woggle-Bug had a superstitionthat to change his hat was to change his luck, and luck seemed to haveoverlooked the fact that he was in existence.

  The hat may really have altered his fortunes, as the Insect shortly metIkey Swanson, who gave him a ticket to Mickey Schwartz's ball; forIkey's clean dickey had not come home from the laundry, and so he couldnot go himself.

  The Woggle-Bug, thinking to distract his mind from his dreams of love,attended the hall, and the first thing he saw as he entered the roomwas Bridget clothed in that same gorgeous gown of Wagnerian plaid thathad so fascinated his bugly heart.

  The dear Bridget had added to her charms by putting seven full-blownimitation roses and three second-hand ostrich-plumes in her red hair;so that her entire person glowed like a sunset in June.

  The Woggle-bug was enraptured; and, although the divine Bridget waswaltzing with Fritzie Casey, the Insect rushed to her side and, seizingher with all his four arms at once, cried out in his truly educatedBostonian way:

  "Oh, my superlative conglomeration of beauty! I have found you atlast!"

  Bridget uttered a shriek, and Fritzie Casey doubled two fists thatlooked like tombstones, and advanced upon the intruder.

  Still embracing the plaid costume with two arms, the Woggle-Bug tippedMr. Casey over with the other two. But Bridget made a bound and landedwith her broad heel, which supported 180 pounds, firmly upon theInsect's toes. He gave a yelp of pain and promptly released the lady,and a moment later he found himself flat upon the floor with a dozen ofthe dancers piled upon him--all of whom were pummeling each other withmuch pleasure and a firm conviction that the diversion had been plannedfor their special amusement.

  But the Woggle-Bug had the strength of many men, and when he floppedthe big wings that were concealed by the tails of his coat, thegentlemen resting upon him were scattered like autumn leaves in a gustof wind.

  The Insect stood up, rearranged his dress, and looked about him.Bridget had run away and gone home, and the others were still fightingamongst themselves with exceeding cheerfulness. So the Woggle-Bugselected a hat which fit him (his own having been crushed out of shape)and walked sorrowfully back to his lodgings.

  "Evidently that was not a lucky hat I wore to the ball," he reflected;"but perhaps this one I now have will bring about a change in myfortunes."

  Bridget needed money; and as she had worn her brilliant costume onceand allowed her friends to see how becoming it was, she carried it thenext morning to a second-hand dealer and sold it for three dollars incash.

  Scarcely had she left the shop when a lady of Swedish extraction--awidow with four small children in her train--entered and asked to lookat a gown. The dealer showed her the one he had just bought fromBridget, and its gay coloring so pleased the widow that she immediatelypurchased it for $3.65.

  "Ay tank ets a good deal money, by sure," she said to herself; "but dasleedle children mus' have new fadder to mak mind un tak care deremudder like, by yimminy! An' Ay tank no man look may way in das oledress I been wearing."

  She took the gown and the four children to her home, where she lost notime in trying on the costume, which fitted her as perfectly as aflour-sack does a peck of potatoes.

  "Das _beau_--tiful!" she exclaimed, in rapture, as she tried to seeherself in a cracked mirror. "Ay go das very afternoon to valk in dapark, for das man-folks go crazy-like ven he sees may fine frocks!"

  Then she took her green parasol and a hand-bag stuffed with papers (tomake it look prosperous and aristocratic) and sallied forth to thepark, followed by all her interesting flock.

  The men didn't fail to look at her, as you may guess; but none lookedwith yearning until the Woggle-Bug, sauntering gloomily along a path,happened to raise his eyes and see before him his heart's delight thevery identical Wagnerian plaids which had filled him with suchunbounded affection.

  "Aha, my excruciatingly lovely creation!" he cried, running up andkneeling before the widow; "I have found you once again. Do not, I begof you, treat me with coldness!"

  For he had learned from experience not to unduly startle his charmer attheir first moment of meeting; so he made a firm attempt to controlhimself, that the wearer of the checked gown might not scorn him.

  The widow had no great affection for bugs, having wrestled with thespecies for many years; but this one was such a big-bug and sohandsomely dressed that she saw no harm in encouraging him--especiallyas the men she had sought to captivate were proving exceedingly shy.

  "So you tank Ay I ban loavely?" she asked, with a coy glance at theInsect.

  "I do! With all my heart I do!" protested the Woggle-Bug, placing allfour hands, one after another, over that beating organ.

  "Das mak plenty trouble by you. I don'd could be yours!" sighed thewidow, indeed regretting her admirer was not an ordinary man.

  "Why not?" asked the Woggle-Bug. "I have still the seven ninety-three;and as that was the original price, and you are now slightly worn andsecond-handed, I do not see why I need despair of calling you my own."

  It is very queer, when we think of it, that the Woggle-Bug could notseparate the wearer of his lovely gown from the gown itself. Indeed, healways made love directly to the costume that had so enchanted him,without any regard whatsoever to the person inside it; and the only waywe can explain this remarkable fact is to recollect that the Woggle-Bugwas only a woggle-bug, and nothing more could be expected of him. Thewidow did not, of course, understand his speech in the least; but shegathered the fact that the Woggle-Bug had id money, so she sighed andhinted that she was very hungry, and that there was a good short-orderrestaurant just outside the park.

  The Woggle-Bug became thoughtful at this. He hated to squander hismoney, which he had come to regard a sort of purchase price with whichto secure his divinity. But neither could he allow those darling checksto go hungry; so he said:

  "If you will come with me to the restaurant, I will gladly supply youwith food."

  The widow accepted the invitation at once, and the Woggle-Bug walkedproudly beside her, leading all of the four children at once with hisfour hands.

  Two such gay costumes as those worn by the widow and the Woggle-Bug areseldom found together, and the restaurant man was so impressed by thesight that he demanded his money in advance.

  The four children, jabbering delightedly in their broken English,clambered upon four stools, and the widow sat upon another. And theWoggle-Bug, who was not hungry (being engaged in feasting his eyes uponthe checks), laid down a silver dollar as a guarantee of good faith.

  It was wonderful to see so much pie and cake and bread-and-butter andpickles and dough-nuts and sandwiches disappear into the mouths of thefour innocents and their comparatively innocent mother. The Woggle-Bughad to add another quarter to the v
anished dollar before the scorewas finally settled; and no sooner had the tribe trooped outrestaurant than they turned into the open portals of an Ice-CreamParlor, where they all attacked huge stacks of pale ice-cream andconsumed several plates of lady-fingers and cream-puffs.

  Again the Woggle-Bug reluctantly abandoned a dollar; but the end wasnot yet. The dear children wanted candy and nuts; and then they warnedpink lemonade; and then pop-corn and chewing-gum; and always theWoggle-Bug, after a glance at the entrancing costume, found himselfunable to resist paying for the treat.

  It was nearly evening when the widow pleaded fatigue and asked to betaken home. For none of them was able to eat another morsel, and theWoggle-Bug wearied her with his protestations of boundless admiration.

  "Will you permit me to call upon you this evening?" asked the Insect,pleadingly, as he bade the wearer