A FEW days after the Measuring Worm came to the meadow he met the Grasshoppers. Everybody had heard of the Caterpillars' wish to be fashionable, and some of the young Grasshoppers, who did not know that it was all a joke, said they would like to teach the Measuring Worm a few things. So when they met him the young Grasshoppers began to make fun of him, and asked him what he did if he wanted to run, and whether he didn't wish his head grew on the middle of his back so that he could see better when walking.
The Measuring Worm was good-natured, and only said that he
found his head useful where it was. Soon one
The Measuring Worm said: "Certainly, I will race with you
The Measuring Worm nibbled only a little here and there, but he talked a great deal about the sweetness of the grass, and how they would not get any more for a long time because the hot weather would spoil it. And the Grasshoppers said to each other: "He is right, and we must eat all we can while we have it." So they ate, and ate, and ate, and ate, until sunset, and in the morning they awakened and began eating again. When the time for the race came, they were all heavy and stupid from so much eating,—which was exactly what the Measuring Worm wanted.
The Tree Frog, the fat, old Cricket, and a Caterpillar were chosen to be the judges, and the race was to be a long one,—from the edge of the woods to the fence. When the meadow people were all gathered around to see the race, the Cricket gave a shrill chirp, which meant "Go!" and off they started. That is to say, the Measuring Worm started. The Grasshopper felt so sure he could beat that he wanted to give the Measuring Worm a little head start, because then, you see, he could say he had won without half trying.
The Measuring Worm started off at a good, steady rate, and when he had gone a few feet the Grasshopper gave a couple of great leaps, which landed him far ahead of the Worm. Then he stopped to nibble a blade of grass and visit with some Katydids who were looking on. By and by he took a few more leaps and passed the Measuring Worm again. This time he began to show off by jumping up straight into the air, and when he came down he would call out to those who stood near to see how strong he was and how easy it would be for him to win the race. And everybody said, "How strong he is, to be sure!" "What wonderful legs he has!" and "He could beat the Measuring Worm with his eyes shut!" which made the Grasshopper so exceedingly vain that he stopped more and more often to show his strength and daring.
That was the way it went, until they were only a short distance from the end of the race course. The Grasshopper was more and more pleased to think how easily he was winning, and stopped for a last time to nibble grass and make fun of the Worm. He gave a great leap into the air, and when he came down there was the Worm on the fence! All the Meadow people croaked, and shrilled, and chirped to see the way in which the race ended, and the Grasshopper was very much vexed. "You shouldn't call him the winner," he said; "I can travel ten times as fast as he, if I try."
"Yes," answered the judges, "we all know that, yet the winning of the race is not decided by what you might do, but by what you did do." And the meadow people all cried: "Long live the Measuring Worm! Long live the Measuring Worm!"