"I like being a crank," screamed Old Dame Hornet, but she thought some more about what the boss of the bumblebees was saying. She said in a quieter voice, "Are you asking me on a date?"
"That's my payment," said the boss of the bumblebees. "For an old dried-up hornet, you've kept your looks pretty well, honeypot."
Old Dame Hornet wanted to sting him to death on the spot, but she needed his help. She simply gulped and said, "Well, maybe I'll go out for a stroll with you some evening. But if you try whispering sweet nothings in my ear, you'll be a sweet nothing sooner than you can say concrete boots."
"Fair's fair," said the boss of the bumblebees, chomping on the end of his cheroot. And he navigated over to see Sleeping Beauty. He could tell where she was because the entire oak tree above her was trembling with the force of her colossal snores.
Old Dame Hornet followed. At the door of her nest she turned and waited.
"Pick you up at eight p.m. sharp," the boss of the bumblebees said to the hornet. "Wear your red dancing shoes, darling."
"Humph!" buzzed Old Dame Hornet.
The boss of the bumblebees said a spell. He changed the frog from Sleeping Beauty to Leaping Beauty. "There," he said to her doting parents, who were looking pretty bleary eyed by now, "this is as close to her normal self as she's likely to get."
Sleeping Beauty woke up and became Leaping Beauty. She bounded up in the air like a rubber ball, just about as high as the door to Old Dame Hornet's home.
Sadly, when the boss of the bumblebees broke the spell of the baron of the butterflies, the old spell of the bishop of the beetles kicked in again. So as Leaping Beauty leapt, she wept. She screamed like any baby who has just woken up from a nap. The sound came right up to Old Dame Hornet's doorway and went away again, like an ambulance driving by, and driving right back. Like an ambulance going up and down the street, hour after hour.
"I can't bear this!" cried Old Dame Hornet. "Weeping Beauty, Sleeping Beauty, Leaping Beauty! Get this little pollywog out of my life! Besides, every time she goes leaping by, her tears splash over my threshold and my braided rug is getting drenched!"
The boss of the bumblebees flew by holding a bunch of black-eyed Susans. "Flowers for Old Dame Hornet," he said. "Come on, sugarlips, let's paint this town black and yellow."
"Not till I settle this matter," she said. "I've seen the error of my ways. I've been a bad old hornet." She zizzed down to where the king and the queen of the frogs were waiting, with a dizzy look in their glazed eyes. "I give up, you win," she cried. "I'll never harm the child! I don't care if I never get invited to another birthday party! Take her away and let her grow up to be a normal frog! With my blessing."
"We thought you might agree, sooner or later," said the king and queen of the frogs. "Your Eminence, come here."
The bishop of the beetles, who had been hiding behind a fern, came forward. He said, "So do you agree never to pester this little froglet again?"
"I never want to see her again!" cried Old Dame Hornet.
"Cross your stinger and hope to die?"
"Honest promise and keep the change!" screeched the hornet.
So the bishop of the beetles took the weeping spell off Beauty. And the sleeping spell of the baron of the butterflies had already been revoked. But the boss of the bumblebees said, "She might as well stay Leaping Beauty. Leaping well never hurt a frog."
The pretty little tadpole kept her gorgeous looks for her whole life. She was always as green as slime, and the bumps on her bumps developed their own bumps. Furthermore, with her lovely long legs, she became a renowned hoofer and was a great success.
The foregoing is the complete short story titled Leaping Beauty from the book of the same name by Gregory Maguire. Text copyright © 2004 by Gregory Maguire. Illustrations copyright © 2004 by Chris Demarest. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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