I T was raining hard. The trees shook their heads and said to each other: "Who would have thought of such weather this morning!" The rain dripped from the trees onto the bushes, from the bushes to the ferns, and then flowed between the stones and moss in little brooklets. It had commenced to rain in the afternoon, and now as it grew dark a wise old toad glanced up at the sky and remarked to his neighbor: "It will not stop raining before morning." A little ant, who was taking a walk in the forest, was of the same opinion. At every step she sighed and lamented: "My dress is ruined, and my new hat also! If I only had an umbrella, or at least my rubbers! I can't possibly walk any further in these shoes!" While she was speaking she saw a large toadstool at a little distance from her. She was delighted, and cried out, "That just suits me! I surely could not find better shelter anywhere. I will stay here till it stops raining. It seems to me nobody lives here; so much the better! I'll make myself at home." She took off her shoes, and was just pouring the water out of them, when she noticed a little cricket, with her violin on her back, standing before her. "Listen, little ant," the cricket began, "Am I allowed to enter?"
"Please come in," the ant answered; "I am delighted to have company."
"I played at a party," continued the cricket, "and was delayed, and now it is raining so hard I cannot go home, and would like to remain here the rest of the night."
The cricket walked in, hung up her violin, and sat down by the side of the ant. They had only been sitting there a little while, when they noticed a light at a distance. As it approached they saw that it was a lightning-bug carrying his little lantern.
"I pray you," said the lightning-bug, politely, "let me stay here tonight. I was going to visit some relatives, but lost my way in the forest."
"Come in; we are pleased to have you join us," said both.
The lightning-bug accepted the invitation, stepped in, placed his lantern on the table, and took a seat. The light from the lantern shone so brightly that it attracted a large black beetle, who was flying about, looking for shelter. "Oh!" said he, "then I am not mistaken; the light I see is from the hotel, and I am on the road to it. How fortunate!" So without saying good evening to anybody, he entered, sat down, took out his knapsack, and began to eat his supper. "Yes, yes!" cried he, "when one bores in wood all day, one gets an appetite!" After his meal he took out his pipe, stuffed it, and asked the lightning-bug if he might light it by his lantern.
By this time it had grown very dark, and the rain came down in torrents. To the surprise of all, another unexpected guest arrived. For some time they had heard a peculiar noise. It seemed to come nearer and nearer, and at last a snail appeared under the toadstool, all out of breath.
"I call that running," said she; "I ran like a thousandleg! I have a pain in my side. I wish to remark that I have a letter to deliver in the next town. But, as you all know, I carry my house on my back, and soon get tired; so if the company is willing I'll rest here awhile; then I can gallop away as fast as a steam engine." No one objected, so the snail came out of her house, took up her knitting, and joined the company.
"Now," said the ant, "why are we all sitting here so quietly, when we might be enjoying ourselves, and pass time pleasantly? Some one ought to tell a story, and if I only knew a real pretty one, I'd make the beginning. Now I have a happy thought! I know something better! I see the cricket has her violin with her. If she is not too tired, I would beg her to play a lively tune, so we can dance."
The ant's suggestion met with the approval of everybody. The cricket did not wait to be coaxed, but immediately took up her violin and played a pretty waltz, which she knew by heart. They all danced except the snail. "I am not used to turning around so quickly, and get dizzy very easily. Never mind me; just dance as much as you please; it gives me pleasure to watch you."
They were very jolly, and sang so loud that you could have heard them three steps away. But, alas! In what a dreadful manner their dance was interrupted. Now the toadstool under which they were dancing belonged to an old toad. In pleasant weather she sat on the roof, as toads sometimes do; but when it rained, she crept under it for shelter. Early that afternoon the toad had gone to visit her cousin, the bullfrog, and they had so much to chat about she forgot to start home in time. So it grew dark and very late before she reached her toadstool. When near her house she heard music and dancing, so she walked very quietly, not to disturb any one, as she wanted to see who had taken the liberty of going under her toadstool during her absence. She came upon them so suddenly that they were almost frightened to death. The beetle fell on his back, and it was fully five minutes before he could get on his legs again. The lightning-bug was too much surprised to put out the light. The cricket dropped her violin in the middle of the dance, and the ant went from one fainting spell into another, and even the snail, who is not easily alarmed, got a stitch in her heart. She knew what to do, however; she ran into her house, bolted the door, and said: "Whatever happens, may happen; I'm not to be seen!"
Imagine their surprise when the toad exclaimed, "I did not wish to frighten you, but only to watch you dance, and listen to the beautiful music. I am sorry that I was not home to welcome you. Please, cricket, take up your violin and continue, for you surely cannot think of leaving before morning, as it is still raining."
The rest of the night was spent pleasantly. Early in the morning the clouds began to scatter and the sun shone out bright and clear. Then they all got ready to continue their journey. They called to the snail through the keyhole that the toad would not hurt her, and that they would like her to come out, as they wished to say goodbye. She came out, and they all thanked the toad for her hospitality, and taking an affectionate leave of each other departed for their homes.