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Title: Among the Pond People
Author: Pierson, Clara Dillingham
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Among the Pond People" ***

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  [Illustration: _Frontispiece_       "BADDY-BADDY!"       _Page 142_]

                         AMONG THE POND PEOPLE

                        CLARA DILLINGHAM PIERSON
       Author of "Among the Meadow People," "Forest People," etc.

                      Illustrated by F. C. GORDON

                                NEW YORK
                        E. P. DUTTON AND COMPANY
                      31 WEST TWENTY-THIRD STREET

                            COPYRIGHT, 1901
                           E. P. DUTTON & CO.

                   The Knickerbocker Press, New York


                           JOHN W. S. PIERSON


Dear Little Friends:--When the ten Polliwogs came to spend a day with
me, some two years ago, I promised to tell you stories of how they and
their neighbors live in the pond. I wanted to tell the stories at once,
but this is a busy world and story-telling is only play, so there were
many things to be done before I could sit down to my desk and hold my
pen while the stories slid out of it onto paper. I wonder where all my
ten Polliwogs are now!

One cannot come to know pond people quite so well as those who live in
the forest or in the meadow, yet down in the shining water they live and
build their homes and learn much that they need to know. And wherever
people are living, and working, and playing, there are stories to be
found. The pond people cannot be well or happy long away from the water,
and you can only come to know them by watching the ponds and brooks. If
you do that and are very quiet, the Minnows will swim to where you are,
the Mud Turtles will waddle out on the logs in the sunshine, and you may
even see a Crayfish walking backward along the sand.

But if you should see a very large, black bug with fore legs which open
and shut like jack-knives--then keep away from him, for that is
Belostoma. Some time you may see him under the electric lights in the
city, for he likes to sprawl around there, and you can look at him on
land, but let him alone.

Remember that the Dragon-Flies and many of their friends who seem to do
nothing but play in the sunshine, have lived long in the dusky pond, and
that this life in the air comes only after a long time of getting ready.
Remember that if you pick up a Turtle or catch Minnows in a net, you
must not leave the Turtle on his back or keep any water-breathing
people, like the Minnows, in the air. Watch them for a little while and
then let them go free.

And then remember, be sure to remember, this: that you are not to get
acquainted with the pond people by tumbling into the water or by going
into it with your shoes and stockings on. If you do that, your mothers
will say, "We wish that Mrs. Pierson had never written about the pond
people." And if they should say that, just think how I would feel!

                                                 Your friend,
                                           CLARA DILLINGHAM PIERSON.

    December 22, 1900


  THE BIGGEST FROG AWAKENS                                     1
  THE DANCE OF THE SAND-HILL CRANES                           13
  THE STICKLEBACK FATHER                                      33
  THE CARELESS CADDIS WORM                                    45
  THE TADPOLE WHO WANTED TO BE GROWN-UP                       58
  THE RUNAWAY WATER SPIDERS                                   72
  THE SLOW LITTLE MUD TURTLE                                  83
  THE SNAPPY SNAPPING TURTLE                                 106
  THE CLEVER WATER-ADDER                                     119
  THE GOOD LITTLE CRANES WHO WERE BAD                        129
  THE OLDEST DRAGON-FLY NYMPH                                143
  THE EELS' MOVING-NIGHT                                     157
  THE CRAYFISH MOTHER                                        169
  TWO LITTLE CRAYFISHES QUARREL                              178
  THE LUCKY MINK                                             187
  THE PLAYFUL MUSKRATS                                       200


  "BADDY-BADDY!"                          _Frontispiece_     142
  "THEN I WILL GO TOO," SAID HE                                9
  "WHAT FINE BIG MOUTHFULS YOU CAN TAKE!"                     19
  THEN THEY SWAM AT EACH OTHER                                39
  THE BIGGEST FROM TOLD THEM STORIES                          63
  AS SOON AS HE GOT TO FLOATING ON HIS BACK                   76
  SHE SWAYED THIS WAY AND THAT                               146
  SHE WAS TALKING WITH MOTHER MUD TURTLE                     160
  MOTHER EEL OPENED HER BIG MOUTH                            186
  USED TO FOLLOW HIM AROUND                                  191


The Biggest Frog stretched the four toes of his right forefoot. Then he
stretched the four toes of his left forefoot. Next he stretched the five
toes of his right hindfoot. And last of all he stretched the four toes
of his left hindfoot. Then he stretched all seventeen toes at once. He
should have had eighteen toes to stretch, like his friends and
neighbors, but something had happened to the eighteenth one a great many
years before. None of the pond people knew what had happened to it, but
_something_ had, and when the Tadpoles teased him to tell them what, he
only stared at them with his great eyes and said, "My children, that
story is too sad to tell."

After the Biggest Frog had stretched all his toes, he stretched his legs
and twitched his lips. He poked his head out of the mud a very, very
little way, and saw a Minnow swimming past. "Good day!" said he. "Is it
time to get up?"

"Time!" exclaimed the Minnow, looking at him with her mouth open. "I
should say it was. Why, the watercress is growing!"

Now every one who lives in a pond knows that when the watercress begins
to grow, it is time for all the winter sleepers to awaken. The Biggest
Frog crawled out of the mud and poked this way and that all around the
spot where he had spent the cold weather. "Wake up!" he said. "Wake up!
Wake up!" The water grew dark and cloudy because he kicked up so much
mud, but when it began to clear again he saw the heads of his friends
peeping up everywhere out of that part of the pond bottom. Seven of them
had huddled close to him all winter. "Come out!" he cried. "The spring
is here, and it is no time for Frogs to be asleep."

"Asleep! No indeed!" exclaimed his sister, an elderly and hard-working
Frog, as she swam to the shore and crawled out on it. She ate every bit
of food that she found on the way, for neither she nor any of the others
had taken a mouthful since the fall before.

The younger Frogs followed through the warmer shallow water until they
were partly out of it. There is always a Biggest Frog in every pond. All
the young Frogs thought how fine it would be to become the Biggest Frog
of even a very small puddle, for then they could tell the others what to
do. Now they looked at their leader and each said to himself, "Perhaps
some day I shall begin the concert."

The Biggest Frog found a comfortable place and sat down. He toed in with
his eight front toes, as well-bred frogs do, and all his friends toed
in with their eight front toes. He toed out with his nine back toes, and
all his friends toed out with their ten back toes. One young Yellow
Brown Frog said, "How I wish I did not have that bothersome fifth toe on
my left hindfoot! It is so in the way! Besides, there is such a style
about having one's hind feet different." He spoke just loud enough for
the Biggest Frog to hear. Any one would know from this remark that he
was young and foolish, for when people are wise they know that the most
beautiful feet and ears and bodies are just the way that they were first
made to be.

Now the Biggest Frog swallowed a great deal of air, filled the sacs on
each side of his neck with it, opened his big mouth, and sang croakily,
"Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs!" And all the
others sang, "Frogs! Frogs! Frogs!" as long as he. The Gulls heard it,
and the Muskrats heard it, and all were happy because spring had come.

A beautiful young Green Brown Frog, who had never felt grown-up until
now, tried to sing with the others, but she had not a strong voice, and
was glad enough to stop and visit with the Biggest Frog's Sister. "Don't
you wish we could sing as loudly as they can?" said she.

"No," answered the Biggest Frog's Sister. "I would rather sit on the
bank and think about my spring work. Work first, you know, and pleasure

"Oh!" said the Green Brown Frog. "Then you don't want to sing until your
work is done?"

"You may be very sure I don't want to sing then," answered the older
Frog. "I am too tired. Besides, after the eggs are laid, there is no
reason for wanting to sing."

"Why not?" asked the Green Brown Frog. "I don't see what difference
that makes."

"That," said the older Frog wisely, "is because you are young and have
never laid eggs. The great time for singing is before the eggs are laid.
There is some singing afterward, but that is only because people expect
it of us, and not because we have the same wish to sing." After she had
said all this, which was a great deal for a Frog to say at once, she
shut her big mouth and slid her eyelids over her eyes.

There was another question which the Green Brown Frog wanted very much
to ask, but she had good manners and knew that it was impolite to speak
to any Frog whose eyes were not open. So she closed her own eyes and
tried to think what the answer would be. When she opened them again, the
Biggest Frog's Sister had hopped away, and in her place sat the Yellow
Brown Frog, the same handsome young fellow who had found one of his
toes in the way. It quite startled her to find him sitting so close to
her and she couldn't think of anything to say, so she just looked at him
with her great beautiful eyes and toed in a little more with her front
feet. That made him look at them and see how pretty they were, although
of course this was not the reason why she had moved them.

The Yellow Brown Frog hopped a little nearer and sang as loudly as he
could, "Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs!" Then
she knew that he was singing just for her, and she was exceedingly
happy. She swallowed air very fast because she seemed to be out of
breath from thinking what she should answer. She had wanted to ask the
Biggest Frog's Sister what she should say if any one sang to her alone.
She knew that if she wanted to get away from him, all she had to do was
to give a great jump and splash into the water. She didn't want to go
away, yet she made believe that she did, for she hopped a little farther
from him.

He knew she was only pretending, though, for she hadn't hopped more than
the length of a grass-blade. So he followed her and kept on singing.
Because she knew that she must say something, she just opened her mouth
and sang the first words that she could think of; and what she sang was,
"Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Eggs!" As it happened, this
was exactly what she should have sung, so he knew that she liked him.
They stayed together for a long, long time, and he sang a great deal and
very loudly, and she sang a little and very softly.

After a while she remembered that she was now a fully grown Frog and had
spring work to do, and she said to him, "I really must lay some eggs.
I am going into the water."

"Then I will go too," said he. And they gave two great leaps and came
down with two great splashes.

  [Illustration: "THEN I WILL GO TOO," SAID HE.              _Page 9_]

The Green Brown Frog laid eggs for four days, and the Yellow Brown Frog
stayed with her all that time and took care of the eggs after she had
laid them. They were covered with a sort of green jelly which made them
stick to each other as they floated in little heaps on the water. The
Frogs thought that a good thing, for then, when the Tadpoles hatched,
each would have playmates near.

One day, after the eggs were all laid and were growing finely (for
Frogs' eggs grow until the Tadpoles are ready to eat their way out), the
Green Brown Frog sat alone on the bank of the pond and the Biggest
Frog's Sister came to her. She had a queer smile around the corners of
her mouth. Frogs have excellent mouths for smiling, but it takes a very
broad smile to go way across, so when they smile a little it is only at
the corners. "How are your eggs growing?" she asked.

"Oh," answered the Green Brown Frog sadly, "I can't tell which ones they

"That's just like a young Frog," said the Biggest Frog's Sister. "Is
there any reason why you should know which ones they are? It isn't as
though you were a bird and had to keep them warm, or as though you were
a Mink and had to feed your children. The sun will hatch them and they
will feed themselves all they need."

"I think," said the Green Brown Frog, "that my eggs were a little better
than the rest."

"Yes," croaked the Biggest Frog's Sister, "every Frog thinks that."

"And I wanted to have my own Tadpoles to look after," sighed the Green
Brown Frog.

"Why?" asked the Biggest Frog's Sister. "Can't you take any comfort with
a Tadpole unless you laid the egg from which he was hatched? I never
know one of my own eggs a day after it is laid. There are such a lot
floating around that they are sure to get mixed. But I just make the
best of it."

"How?" asked the Green Brown Frog, looking a little more cheerful.

"Oh, I swim around and look at all the eggs, and whenever I see any
Tadpoles moving in them I think, 'Those may be mine!' As they are
hatched I help any one who needs it. Poor sort of Frog it would be who
couldn't like other people's Tadpoles!"

"I believe I'll do that way," said the Green Brown Frog. "And then," she
added, "what a comfort it will be if any of them are cross or rude, to
think, 'I'm glad I don't know that they are mine.'"

"Yes," said the Biggest Frog's Sister. "I often tell my brother that I
pity people who have to bring up their own children. It is much
pleasanter to let them grow up as they do and then adopt the best ones.
Do you know, I have almost decided that you are my daughter? My brother
said this morning that he thought you looked like me."


One fine day in spring, a great flock of Sand-hill Cranes came from the
south. They were flying high and quietly because the weather was bright.
If it had been stormy, or if they had been flying by night, as they
usually did, they would have stayed nearer the ground, and their leader
would have trumpeted loudly to let his followers know which way he was
going. They would also have trumpeted, but more softly, to tell him that
they were coming after.

They were a fine company to look upon, orderly, strong, and dignified.
Their long necks were stretched out straight ahead, their long legs
straight behind, and they beat the air with slow, regular strokes of
the strong wings. As they came near the pond, they flew lower and lower,
until all swept down to the earth and alighted, tall and stately, by the
edge of the water.

They had eaten nothing for several days, and were soon hunting for food,
some on land, and some in the water, for they had stopped to feed and
rest. Those who hunted in the water, did so very quietly. A Crane would
stand on one leg, with his head against his breast, so quietly that one
might think him asleep: but as soon as anything eatable came near, he
would bend his body, stretch out his neck, open his long, slender bill,
and swallow it at one gulp. Then he would seem to fall asleep again.

While most of the Cranes were still feeding, some of them were stalking
through the woods and looking this way and that, flying up to stand on a
tree, and then flying down to stand on the ground. They were those who
thought of staying there for the summer.

When the flock arose to fly on again, eight Cranes stayed behind. They
watched their friends fly away, and stood on the ground with their necks
and bills uplifted and mouths open, while they trumpeted or called out,
"Good-bye! Stop for us in the fall!" The flying Cranes trumpeted back,
"We will! Don't forget us!"

That night they slept near together, as they had done when with the
large flock, and one Crane kept awake to watch for danger while the
others tucked their heads under their wings. They were fine looking,
even when they slept, and some people never look well unless they are
awake. They were brownish-gray, with no bright markings at all, and
their long legs gave them a very genteel look. The tops of their heads
were covered with warty red skin, from which grew short black feathers
that looked more like hairs.

One morning, when the Cranes awakened, a fine young fellow began to
strut up and down before the rest, bowing low, and leaping high into the
air, and every now and then whooping as loudly as he could. The Gulls,
who had spent the winter by the pond, screamed to each other, "The Crane
dance has begun!" Even the Frogs, who are afraid of Cranes, crept
quietly near to look on.

It was not long before another young Crane began to skip and hop and
circle around, drooping his wings and whooping as he went. Every Crane
danced, brothers, and sisters, and all, and as they did so, they looked
lovingly at each other, and admired the fine steps and enjoyed the
whooping. This went on until they were so tired they could hardly stand,
and had to stop to eat and rest.

When they were eating, the young fellow who had begun the dance,
stalked up to the sister of one of his friends, as she stood in the edge
of the pond, gracefully balanced on one leg. She did not turn her head
towards him, although, having such a long and slender neck, she could
have done so with very little trouble. She stood with her head on her
breast and looked at the water. After a while, he trumpeted softly, as
though he were just trying his voice. Then she gave a pretty little
start, and said, "Oh, are you here? How you did frighten me!"

"I am sorry," he said. "I did not want to frighten you." And he looked
at her admiringly.

"It was just for a minute," she answered. "Of course I am not frightened
now that I know who it is."

Then they stood and fished for a long time without saying anything. When
she flew away, she said, "That is a very pleasant fishing-place." He
stood on the other leg for a while, and thought how sweet her voice
sounded as she said it. Then he thought that, if she liked the place so
well, she might come there again the next day. He wondered why he could
not come too, although everybody knows that a Crane catches more if he
fishes alone.

The next morning, when the Cranes danced, he bowed to her oftener than
to any of the rest, and he thought she noticed it. They danced until
they were almost too tired to move, and indeed he had to rest for a
while before he went to feed. As she stalked off toward the pond, she
passed him, and she said over her shoulder, "I should think you would be
hungry. I am almost starved." After she had gone, he wondered why she
had said that. If he had been an older Crane, and understood the ways of
the world a little better, he would have known that she meant, "Aren't
you coming to that fishing-place? I am going now." Still, although he
was such a young Crane and had never danced until this year, he began to
think that she liked him and enjoyed having him near. So he flew off to
the fishing-place where he had seen her the day before, and he stalked
along to where she was, and stood close to her while she fished. Once,
when he caught something and swallowed it at one gulp, she looked
admiringly at him and said, "What fine, big mouthfuls you can take!"

  [Illustration: "WHAT FINE, BIG MOUTHFULS YOU CAN TAKE!"   _Page 19_]

That pleased him, of course, because Cranes think that big mouthfuls are
the best kind, so he tipped his head to one side, and watched his neck
as the mouthful slid down to his stomach. He could see it from the
outside, a big bunch slowly moving downward. He often did this while he
was eating. He thought it very interesting. He pitied short-necked
people. Then he said, "Pooh! I can take bigger mouthfuls than that. You
ought to see what big mouthfuls I can take."

She changed, and stood on her other leg. "I saw you dancing this
morning," she said. Now it was not at all queer that she should have
seen him dancing, for all the eight Cranes had danced together, but he
thought it very wonderful.

"Did you notice to whom I bowed?" he asked. He was so excited that his
knees shook, and he had to stand on both legs at once to keep from
falling. When a Crane is as much excited as that, it is pretty serious.

"To my sister?" she asked carelessly, as she drew one of her long
tail-feathers through her beak.

"No," said he. "I bowed to her sister." He thought that was a very
clever thing to say. But she suddenly raised her head, and said, "There!
I have forgotten something," and flew off, as she had done the day
before. He wondered what it was. Long afterward he asked her what she
had forgotten and she said she couldn't remember--that she never could
remember what she had forgotten.

It made him feel very badly to have her leave him so. He wanted a chance
to tell her something, yet, whenever he tried to, it seemed to stick in
his bill. He began to fear that she didn't like him; and the next time
the Cranes danced he didn't bow to her so much, but he strutted and
leaped and whooped even more. And she strutted and leaped and whooped
almost as loudly as he. When they were all tired out and had stopped
dancing, she said to him, "I am so tired! Let us go off into the woods
and rest."

You may be very sure he was glad to go, and as he stalked off with her,
he led the way to a charming nesting-place. He didn't know just how to
tell what he wanted to, but he had seen another Crane bowing to her, and
was afraid she might marry him if he was not quick. Now he pointed with
one wing to this nesting-place, and said, "How would you like to build a
nest there?"

She looked where he had pointed, "I?" she said. "Why, it is a lovely
place, but I could never have a nest alone."

"Let me help you," he said. "I want to marry and have a home."

"Why," said she, as she preened her feathers, "that is a very good plan.
When did you think of it?"

So they were married, and Mrs. Sand-Hill Crane often told her friends
afterward that Mr. Crane was so much in love with her that she just
_had_ to marry him. They were very, very happy, and after a while--but
that is another story.


"When I grow up," said one young Minnow, "I am going to be a Bullhead,
and scare all the little fishes."

"I'm not," said his sister. "I'm going to be a Sucker, and lie around in
the mud."

"Lazy! Lazy!" cried the other young Minnows, wiggling their front fins
at her.

"What is the matter?" asked a Father Minnow, swimming in among them with
a few graceful sweeps of his tail, and stopping himself by spreading his
front fins. He had the beautiful scarlet coloring on the under part of
his body which Father Minnows wear in the summer-time. That is, most of
them do, but some wear purple. "What is the matter?" he asked again,
balancing himself with his top fin and his two hind ones.

Then all the little Minnows spoke at once. "He says that when he grows
up he is going to be a Bullhead, and frighten all the small fishes; and
she says that she is going to be a Sucker, and lie around in the mud;
and we say that Suckers are lazy, and they _are_ lazy, aren't they?"

"I am surprised at you," began the Father Minnow severely, "to think
that you should talk such nonsense. You ought to know----"

But just then a Mother Minnow swam up to him. "The Snapping Turtle is
looking for you," she said. Father Minnow hurried away and she turned to
the little ones. "I heard what you were saying," she remarked, with a
twinkle in her flat, round eyes. "Which of you is going to be a Wild
Duck? Won't somebody be a Frog?" She had had more experience in bringing
up children than Father Minnow, and she didn't scold so much. She did
make fun of them though, sometimes; and you can do almost anything with
a young Minnow if you love him a great deal and make fun of him a

"Why-ee!" said the young Minnows. "We wouldn't think of being Wild
Ducks, and we couldn't be Frogs, you know. Frogs have legs--four of
them. A fish couldn't be a Frog if he wanted to!"

"No," said Mother Minnow. "A fish cannot be anything but a fish, and a
Minnow cannot be anything but a Minnow. So if you will try to be just as
good Minnows as you can, we will let the little Bullheads and Suckers do
their own growing up."

She looked at them all again with her flat, round eyes, which saw so
much and were always open, because there was nothing to make them shut.
She saw one tiny fellow hiding behind his brother. "Have you torn your
fin again?" she asked.

"Yes'm, just a little," said he. "A boy caught me when he was in wading,
and I tore it when I flopped away from him."

"Dreadful!" said she. "How you do look! If you are so careless, you will
soon not have a whole fin to your back--or your front either. Children,
you must remember to swim away from boys. When the Cows wade in to
drink, you may stay among them, if you wish. They are friendly. We pond
people are afraid of boys, although some of them are said not to be

"Pooh!" said one young Minnow. "All the pond people are not so afraid!
The Bloodsuckers say they like them."

The Mother Minnow looked very severe when he said this, but she only
replied, "Very well. When you are a Bloodsucker you may stay near boys.
As long as you are a Minnow, you must stay away."

"Now," she added, "swim along, the whole school of you! I am tired and
want a nap in the pondweed." So they all swam away, and she wriggled her
silvery brown body into the soft green weeds and had a good sleep. She
was careful to hide herself, for there were some people in the pond whom
she did not want to have find her; and, being a fish, she could not hear
very distinctly if they came near. Of course her eyes were open even
when she was asleep, because she had no eyelids, but they were not
working although they were open. That is an uncomfortable thing about
being a fish--one cannot hear much. One cannot taste much either, or
feel much, yet when one has always been a fish and is used to it, it is
not so hard.

She slept a long time, and then the whole school of young Minnows came
to look for her. "We are afraid," they cried. "We feel so very queerly.
We don't know how we feel, either, and that is the worst part of it. It
might be in our stomachs, or it might be in our fins, and perhaps there
is something wrong with our gill-covers. Wake up and tell us what is the

The Mother Minnow awakened and she felt queerly too, but, being older,
she knew what was the matter. "That," she said, "is the storm feeling."

"But," said the young Minnows, "there isn't any storm."

"No," she answered wisely. "Not now."

"And there hasn't been any," they said.

"No," she answered again. "The storm you feel is the storm that is
going to be."

"And shall we always feel it so?" they asked.

"Always before a storm," she said.

"Why?" asked the young Minnows.

"Because," said she. "There is no answer to that question, but just
'because.' When the storm comes you cannot smell your food and find it,
so you must eat all you can before then. Eat _everything_ you can find
and be quick." As she spoke she took a great mouthful of pondweed and
swallowed it.

All but one of the young Minnows swam quickly away to do as she had told
them to. This young Minnow wanted to know just how and why and all about
it, so he stayed to ask questions. You know there are some questions
which fishes cannot answer, and some which Oxen cannot answer, and some
which nobody can answer; and when the Mother Minnow told the young
Minnows what she did, she had nothing more to tell. But there are some
young Minnows who never will be satisfied, and who tease, and tease, and
tease, and tease.

"Hurry along and eat all you can," said the Mother Minnow to him again.

"I want to know," said he, opening his mouth very wide indeed and
breathing in a great deal of water as he spoke, "I want to know where I
feel queerly."

"I can't tell," said the Mother Minnow, between mouthfuls. "No fish can

"Well, what makes me feel queerly there?"

"The storm," said she.

"How does it make me feel queerly?"

"I don't know," said the Mother Minnow.

"Who does know?" asked the young Minnow.

"Nobody," said she, swallowing some more pondweed of one kind and then
beginning on another. "Do eat something or you will be very hungry by
and by."

"Well, why does a storm make me feel so?" asked he.

"Because!" said she. She said it very firmly and she was quite right in
saying it then, for there was a cause, yet she could not tell what it
was. There are only about seven times in one's life when it is right to
answer in this way, and what the other six are you must decide for

Just then there was a peal of thunder which even a Minnow could hear,
and the wind blew until the slender forest trees bent far over. The rain
came down in great drops which pattered on the water of the pond and
started tiny circles around each drop, every circle spreading wider and
wider until it touched other circles and broke. Down in the darkened
water the fishes lay together on the bottom, and wondered how long it
would last, and hoped it would not be a great, great while before they
could smell their food again.

One little fellow was more impatient than the others. "Didn't you eat
enough to last you?" they said.

"I didn't eat anything," he answered.

"Not anything!" they exclaimed. "Why not?"

"Because!" said he. And that was not right, for he did know the reason.
His mother looked at him, and he looked at her, and she had a twinkle in
her round, flat eyes. "Poor child!" she thought. "He must be hungry."
But she said nothing.


Nobody can truthfully say that the Sticklebacks are not good fathers.
There are no other fish fathers who work so hard for their children as
the Sticklebacks do. As to the Stickleback Mothers--well, that is

This particular Stickleback Father had lived, ever since he had left the
nest, with a little company of his friends in a quiet place near the
edge of the pond. Sometimes, when they tired of staying quietly at home,
they had made short journeys up a brook that emptied into the pond. It
was a brook that flowed gently over an even bed, else they would never
have gone there, for Sticklebacks like quiet waters. When they swam in
this little stream, they met the Brook Trout, who were much larger than
they, and who were the most important people there.

Now this Stickleback was a year old and knew much more than he did the
summer before. When the alder tassels and pussy willows hung over the
edge of the pond in the spring-time, he began to think seriously of
life. He was no longer really young, and the days were past in which he
was contented to just swim and eat and sleep. It was time he should
build a home and raise a family if he wanted to ever be a grandfather.
He had a few relatives who were great-grandfathers, and one who was a
great-great-grandfather. That does not often happen, because to be a
Stickleback Great-great-grandfather, one must be four years old, and few
Sticklebacks live to that age.

As he began to think about these things, he left the company of his
friends and went to live by himself. He chose a place near the edge of
the pond to be his home; and he brushed the pond-bottom there with his
tail until he had swept away all the loose sticks and broken shells. He
told some Pond Snails, who were there, that they must move away because
he wanted the place. At first they didn't want to go, but when they saw
how fierce he looked, they thought about it again and decided that
perhaps there were other places which would suit them quite as
well--indeed, they might find one that they liked even better. Besides,
as one of them said to his brother, they had to remember that in ponds
it is always right for the weak people to give up to the strong people.

"It will take us quite a while to move," they said to him, "for you know
we cannot hurry, but we will begin at once."

All the rest of that day each Snail was lengthening and shortening his
one foot, which was his only way of walking. You can see how slow that
must be, for a Snail cannot lift his foot from one place and put it down
in another, or he would have nothing to stand on while he was lifting
it. This was a very hard day for them, yet they were cheerful and made
the best of it.

"Well," said one, as he stopped to rest his foot, "I'm glad we don't
have to build a home when we do find the right place. How I pity people
who have to do that!"

"Yes," said his brother. "There are not many so sure of their homes as
we. And what people want of so much room, I can't understand! A Muskrat
told me he wanted room to turn around in his house. I don't see what use
there is in turning round, do you?"

"No," answered the other Snail, beginning to walk again. "It is just one
of his silly ideas. My shell is big enough to let me draw in my whole
body, and that is house room enough for any person!"

The Stickleback had not meant to look fierce at the Pond Snails. He had
done so because he couldn't help it. All his fins were bristling with
sharp points of bone, and he had extra bone-points sticking out of his
back, besides wearing a great many of his flat bones on the outside. All
his family had these extra bones, and that was why they were called
Sticklebacks. They were a brave family and not afraid of many things,
although they were so small. There came a time when the Stickleback
Father wanted to look fierce, but that was later. Now he went to work to
build his nest.

First he made a little hollow in the pond-bottom, and lined it with
watergrass and tiny pieces of roots. Next, he made the side-walls of the
same things, and last of all, the roof. When it was done, he swam
carefully into it and looked around. Under and beside and over him were
soft grasses and roots. At each end was an open doorway. "It is a good
nest," he said, "a very good nest for my first one. Now I must ask some
of my friends to lay eggs in it for me."

Before doing this, he went to look at the homes built by his neighbors.
After he left the company in the quiet pool, many others did the same,
until the only Sticklebacks left there were the dull-colored ones, the
egg-layers. The nest-builders had been dull-colored, too, but in the
spring-time there came beautiful red and blue markings on their bodies,
until now they were very handsome fellows. It is sad to tell, still it
is true, that they also became very cross at this time. Perhaps it was
the work and worry of nest-building that made them so, yet, whatever it
was, every bright-colored Stickleback wanted to fight every other
bright-colored Stickleback. That was how it happened that, when this one
went to look at the nest of an old friend, with whom he had played
ever since he was hatched, this same friend called out, "Don't you come
near my nest!"

The visiting Stickleback replied, "I shall if I want to!" Then they swam
at each other and flopped and splashed and pushed and jabbed until both
were very tired and sore, and each was glad to stay by his own home.
This was the time when they wanted to look fierce.

  [Illustration: THEN THEY SWAM AT EACH OTHER.              _Page 39_]

Soon the dull-colored Sticklebacks came swimming past, waving their
tails gracefully, and talking to each other. Now this fine fellow, who
had sent the Snails away and built his nest, who had fought his old
friend and come home again, swam up to a dull-colored Stickleback, and
said, "Won't you lay a few eggs in my nest? I'm sure you will find it

She answered, "Why, yes! I wouldn't mind laying a few there." And she
tried to look as though she had not expected the invitation. While she
was carefully laying the eggs in the nest, he stood ready to fight
anybody who disturbed her. She came out after a while and swam away.
Before she went, she said, "Aren't you ashamed to fight so? We
dull-colored ones never fight." She held her fins very stiff as she
spoke, because she thought it her duty to scold him. The dull-colored
Sticklebacks often did this. They thought that they were a little better
than the others; so they swam around together and talked about things,
and sometimes forgot how hard it was to be the nest-builder and stay at
home and work. Then they called upon the bright-colored Sticklebacks,
for they really liked them very much, and told them what they should do.
That was why this one said, "We dull-colored ones never fight."

"Have you ever been red and blue?" asked the nest-builder.

"N--no," said she. "But I don't see what difference that makes."

"Well, it does make a difference," said he. "When a fellow is red and
blue, he can't help fighting. I'll be as good-natured as any of you
after I stop being red and blue."

Of course she could not say anything more after that, so she swam off to
her sisters. The bright-colored Stickleback looked at the eggs she had
laid. They were sticky, like the eggs of all fishes, so that they stuck
to the bottom of the nest. He covered them carefully, and after that he
was really a Stickleback Father. It is true that he did not have any
Stickleback children to swim around him and open their dear little
mouths at him, but he knew that the eggs would hatch soon, and that
after he had built a nest and covered the eggs in it, the tiny
Sticklebacks were beginning to grow.

However, he wanted more eggs in his nest, so he watched for another
dull-colored Stickleback and called her in to help him. He did this
until he had almost an hundred eggs there, and all this time he had
fought every bright-colored Stickleback who came near him. He became
very tired indeed; but he had to fight, you know, because he was red and
blue. And he had covered all the eggs and guarded them, else they would
never have hatched.

The dull-colored Sticklebacks were also tired. They had been swimming
from nest to nest, laying a few eggs in each. Now they went off together
to a quiet pool and ate everything they could find to eat, and visited
with each other, and said it was a shame that the bright-colored
Sticklebacks had fought so, and told how they thought little
Sticklebacks should be brought up.

And now the red and blue markings on the Stickleback Father grew paler
and paler, until he did not have to fight at all, and could call upon
his friends and see how their children were hatching. One fine day, his
first child broke the shell, and then another and another, until he had
an hundred beautiful Stickleback babies to feed. He worked hard for
them, and some nights, when he could stop and rest, his fins ached as
though they would drop off. But they never did.

As the Stickleback children grew stronger, they swam off to take care of
themselves, and he had less to do. When the last had gone, he left the
old nest and went to the pool where the dull-colored Sticklebacks were.
They told him he was not looking well, and that he hadn't managed the
children right, and that they thought he tried to do too much.

He was too tired to talk about it, so he just said, "Perhaps," and began
to eat something. Yet, down in his fatherly heart he knew it was worth
doing. He knew, too, that when spring should come once more, he would
become red and blue again, and build another nest, and fight and work
and love as he had done before. "There is nothing in the world better
than working for one's own little Sticklebacks," said he.


When the Caddis Fly felt like laying eggs, she crawled down the stalk of
one of the pond plants and laid them there. She covered them with
something sticky, so that they were sure to stay where she put them.
"There!" she said, as she crawled up to the air again. "My work is
done." Soon after this, she lay down for a long, long rest. What with
flying, and visiting, and laying eggs, she had become very tired; and it
was not strange, for she had not eaten a mouthful since she got her

This had puzzled the Dragon-Flies very much. They could not understand
it, because they were always eating. They would have liked to ask her
about it, but they went to sleep for the night soon after she got up,
and whenever she saw them coming she flew away. "I do not seem to feel
hungry," said she, "so why should I eat? Besides," she added, "I
couldn't eat if I wanted to, my mouth is so small and weak. I ate a
great deal while I was growing--quite enough to last me--and it saves
time not to bother with hunting food now."

When her eggs hatched, the larvæ were slender, soft, six-footed babies
called Caddis Worms. They were white, and they showed as plainly in the
water as a pond-lily does on the top of it. It is not safe to be white
if one is to live in the water; certainly not unless one can swim fast
and turn quickly. And there is a reason for this, as any one of the pond
people will tell you. Even the fishes wear all their white on the under
side of their bodies, so that if they swim near the top of the water, a
hungry Fish Hawk is not so likely to see them and pounce down on them.

The Caddis Worms soon found that white was not a good color to wear, and
they talked of it among themselves. They were very bright larvæ. One day
the biggest one was standing on a stem of pickerel-weed, when his sister
came toward him. She did not come very fast, because she was neither
swimming nor walking, but biting herself along. All the Caddis Worms did
this at times, for their legs were weak. She reached as far forward as
she could, and fastened her strong jaws in the weed, then she gave a
jerk and pulled her body ahead. "It is a very good way to travel," said
she, "and such a saving of one's legs." Now she was in so great a hurry
that sometimes when she pulled herself ahead, she turned a
half-somersault and came down on her back.

"What is the matter?" called the Biggest Caddis Worm. "Don't hurry so.
There is lots of time." That was just him, for he was lazy. Everybody
said so.

"I must hurry," said she, and she breathed very fast with the white
breathing hairs that grew on both sides of her body. She picked herself
up from her last somersault and stood beside her brother, near enough to
speak quite softly. "I have been getting away from Belostoma," she said,
"and I was dreadfully afraid he would catch me."

"Well, you're all right now, aren't you?" asked her brother. And that
was also like him. As long as he could have enough to eat and was
comfortable, he did not want to think about anything unpleasant.

"No, I'm not," she answered, "and I won't be so long as any hungry fish
or water-bug can see me so plainly. I'm tired of being white."

"You are not so white as you were," said her brother. "None of us
children are. Our heads and the front part of our bodies are turning
brown and getting harder." That was true, and he was particularly

"Yes, but what about the rest of us?" said she, and surely there was
some excuse for her if she was impatient. "If Belostoma can see part of
me and chase that, he will find the rest of me rather near by."

"Keep quiet then, and see if you don't get hard and brown all over,"
said he.

"I never shall," said she. "I went to the Clams and asked them if I
would, and they said 'No.' I'm going to build a house to cover the back
part of my body, and you'd better do the same thing."

The Biggest Caddis Worm looked very much surprised. "Whatever made you
think of that?" said he.

"I suppose because there wasn't anything else to think of," said she.
"One has to think of something."

"I don't," said he.

She started away to where her other brothers and sisters were. "Where
are you going?" cried he.

"Going to build my house," answered she. "You'd better come too."

"Not now," said he. "I am waiting to get the rest of my breakfast. I'll
come by and by."

The Biggest Caddis Worm stood on the pickerel-weed and ate his
breakfast. Then he stood there a while longer. "I do not think it is
well to work right after eating," he said. Below him in the water, his
brothers and sisters were busily gathering tiny sticks, stones, and bits
of broken shell, with which to make their houses. Each Caddis Worm found
his own, and fastened them together with a sort of silk which he pulled
out of his body. They had nobody to show them how, so each planned to
suit himself, and no two were exactly alike.

"I'm going to make my house big enough so I can pull in my head and legs
when I want to," said one.

"So am I," cried all the other Caddis Worms.

After a while, somebody said, "I'm going to have an open door at the
back of my house." Then each of his busy brothers and sisters cried, "So
am I."

When the tiny houses were done, each Caddis Worm crawled inside of his
own, and lay with head and legs outside the front door. The white part
of their bodies did not show at all, and, if they wanted to do so, they
could pull their heads in. Even Belostoma, the Giant Water-Bug, might
have passed close to them then and not seen them at all.

"Let's hook ourselves in!" cried one Caddis Worm, and all the others
answered, "Let's."

So each hooked himself in with the two stout hooks which grew at the end
of his body, and there they were as snug and comfortable as Clams.
About this time the Big Brother came slowly along the stem of
pickerel-weed. "What," said he, "you haven't got your houses done

"Yes," answered the rest joyfully. "See us pull in our heads." And they
all pulled in their heads and poked them out again. He was the only
white-bodied person in sight.

"I must have a home," said he. "I wish one of you Worms would give me
yours. You could make yourself another, you know. There is lots more

"Make it yourself," they replied. "Help yourself to stuff."

"But I don't know how," he said, "and you do."

"Whose fault is that?" asked his sister. Then she was afraid that he
might think her cross, and she added quickly, "We'll tell you how, if
you'll begin."

The Biggest Caddis Worm got together some tiny sticks and stones and
pieces of broken shell, but it wasn't very much fun working alone. Then
they told him what to do, and how to fasten them to each other with
silk. "Be sure you tie them strongly," they said.

"Oh, that's strong enough," he answered. "It'll do, anyhow. If it comes
to pieces I can fix it." His brothers and sisters thought he should make
it stouter, yet they said nothing more, for he would not have liked it
if they had; and they had already said so once. When he crawled into his
house and hooked himself in, there was not a Caddis Worm in sight, and
they were very proud to think how they had planned and built their
houses. They did not know that Caddis Worms had always done so, and they
thought themselves the first to ever think of such a thing.

The Biggest Caddis Worm's house was not well fastened together, and
every day he said, "I really must fix it to-morrow." But when to-morrow
came, it always proved to be to-day, and, besides, he usually found
something more interesting to be done. It took him a great deal of time
to change his skin, and that could not be easily put off. He grew so
fast that he was likely to awaken almost any morning and find his head
poking through the top of his skin, and, lazy as he was, he would not
have the pond people see him around with a crack in the skin of his
head, right where it showed. So when this happened, he always pulled his
body through the crack, and threw the old skin away. There was sure to
be a whole new one underneath, you know.

When they had changed their skin many times, the Caddis Worms became
more quiet and thoughtful. At last the sister who had first planned to
build houses, fastened hers to a stone, and spun gratings across both
its front and its back doors. "I am going to sleep," she said, "to grow
my feelers and get ready to fly and breathe air. I don't want anybody to
awaken me. All I want to do is to sleep and grow and breathe. The water
will come in through the gratings, so I shall be all right. I couldn't
sleep in a house where there was not plenty of fresh water to breathe."
Then she cuddled down and dozed off, and when her brothers and sisters
spoke of her, they called her "the Caddis Nymph."

They did not speak of her many times, however, for they soon fastened
their houses to something solid, and spun gratings in their doorways and
went to sleep.

One day a Water-Adder came around where all the Caddis houses were.
"Um-hum," said he to himself. "There used to be a nice lot of Caddis
Worms around here, and now I haven't seen one in ever so long. I suppose
they are hidden away somewhere asleep. Well, I must go away from here
and find my dinner. I am nearly starved. The front half of my stomach
hasn't a thing in it." He whisked his tail and went away, but that whisk
hit a tiny house of sticks, stones, and bits of broken shell, and a fat
sleeping Caddis Nymph rolled out. It was the Biggest Brother.

Soon Belostoma, the Giant Water-Bug, came that way. "What is this?" he
exclaimed, as he saw the sleeping Caddis Nymph. "Somebody built a poor
house to sleep in. You need to be cared for, young Caddis." He picked up
the sleeping Caddis Nymph in his stout forelegs and swam off. Nobody
knows just what happened after that.

When the other Caddis Nymphs awakened, they bit through their gratings
and had a good visit before they crawled out of the pond into their new
home, the air. "Has anybody seen my biggest brother?" asked one Nymph
of another, but everybody answered, "No."

Each looked all around with his two far-apart eyes, and then they
decided that he must have awakened first and left the water before them.
But you know that he could not have done so, because he could never be a
Caddis Fly unless he finished the Nymph-sleep in his house, and he did
not do that. He had stopped being a Caddis Worm when he turned into a
Caddis Nymph. Nobody will ever know just what did become of him unless
Belostoma tells--and Belostoma is not likely to tell.


It was a bright, warm April day when the First Tadpole of the season ate
his way out of the jelly-covered egg in which he had come to life. He
was a very tiny, dark brown fellow. It would be hard to tell just what
he did look like, for there is nothing in the world that one Tadpole
looks like unless it is another Tadpole. He had a very small head with a
busy little mouth opening on the front side of it: just above each end
of this mouth was a shining black eye, and on the lower side of his head
was a very wiggly tail. Somewhere between his head and the tip of this
were his small stomach and places for legs, but one could not see all
that in looking at him. It seemed as if what was not head was tail, and
what was not tail was head.

When the First Tadpole found himself free in the water, he swam along by
the great green floating jelly-mass of Frogs' eggs, and pressed his face
up close to first one egg and then another. He saw other Tadpoles almost
as large as he, and they were wriggling inside their egg homes. He
couldn't talk to them through the jelly-mass--he could only look at
them, and they looked greenish because he saw them through green jelly.
They were really dark brown, like him. He wanted them to come out to
play with him and he tried to show them that it was more interesting
where he was, so he opened and shut his hard little jaws very fast and
took big Tadpole-mouthfuls of green jelly.

Perhaps it was seeing this, and perhaps it was because the warm sunshine
made them restless--but for some reason the shut-in Tadpoles nibbled
busily at the egg-covering and before long were in the water with their
brother. They all looked alike, and nobody except that one particular
Tadpole knew who had been the first to hatch. He never forgot it, and
indeed why should he? If one has ever been the First Tadpole, he is
quite sure to remember the loneliness of it all his life.

Soon they dropped to the bottom of the pond and met their neighbors.
They were such little fellows that nobody paid much attention to them.
The older pond people often seemed to forget that the Tadpoles heard
what they said, and cared too. The Minnows swam in and out among them,
and hit them with their fins, and slapped them with their tails, and
called them "little-big-mouths," and the Tadpoles couldn't hit back
because they were so little. The Minnows didn't hurt the Tadpoles, but
they made fun of them, and even the smallest Minnow would swim away if
a Tadpole tried to play with him.

Then the Eels talked among themselves about them. "I shall be glad,"
said one old Father Eel, "when these youngsters hide their
breathing-gills and go to the top of the water."

"So shall I," exclaimed a Mother Eel. "They keep their tails wiggling so
that it hurts my eyes to look at them. Why can't they lie still and be

Now the Tadpoles looked at each other with their shining black eyes.
"What are our breathing-gills?" they asked. "They must be these little
things on the sides of our heads."

"They are!" cried the First Tadpole. "The Biggest Frog said so. But I
don't see where we can hide them, because they won't come off. And how
could we ever breathe water without them?"

"Hear the children talk," exclaimed the Green Brown Frog, who had come
down to look the Tadpoles over and decide which were hers. "Why, you
won't always want to breathe water. Before long you will have to breathe
air by swallowing it, and then you cannot stay long under water. I must
go now. I am quite out of breath. Good-bye!"

Then the Tadpoles looked again at each other. "She didn't tell us what
to do with our breathing-gills," they said. One of the Tadpoles who had
hatched last, swam up to the First Tadpole. "Your breathing-gills are
not so large as mine," she said.

"They surely are!" he exclaimed, for he felt very big indeed, having
been the first to hatch.

"Oh, but they are not!" cried all his friends. "They don't stick out as
they used to." And that was true, for his breathing-gills were sinking
into his head, and they found that this was happening to all the older

  [Illustration: THE BIGGEST FROG TOLD THEM STORIES.        _Page 63_]

The next day they began going to the top to breathe air, the oldest ones
first, and so on until they were all there. They thought it much
pleasanter than the bottom of the pond, but it was not so safe. There
were more dangers to be watched for here, and some of the careless young
Tadpoles never lived to be Frogs. It is sad, yet it is always so.

Sometimes the Frogs came to see them, and once--once, after the Tadpoles
had gotten their hindlegs, the Biggest Frog sat in the marsh near by and
told them stories of his Tadpolehood. He said that he was always a very
good little Tadpole, and always did as the Frogs told him to do; and
that he was such a promising little fellow that every Mother Frog in the
pond was sure that he had been hatched from one of her eggs.

"And were you?" asked one Tadpole, who never listened carefully, and so
was always asking stupid questions.

The Biggest Frog looked at him very sternly. "No," said he, "I was not.
Each wanted me as her son, but I never knew to which I belonged. I never
knew! Still," he added, "it does not so much matter who a Frog's mother
is, if the Frog is truly great." Then he filled the sacs on each side of
his neck with air, and croaked loudly. His sister afterward told the
Tadpoles that he was thinking of one of the forest people, the Ground
Hog, who was very proud because he could remember his grandfather.

The Green Brown Frog came often to look at them and see how they were
growing. She was very fond of the First Tadpole. "Why, you have your
forelegs!" she exclaimed one morning. "How you do grow!"

"What will I have next?" he asked, "more legs or another tail?"

The Green Brown Frog smiled the whole length of her mouth, and that was
a very broad smile indeed. "Look at me," she said. "What change must
come next to make you look like a Frog?"

"You haven't any tail," he said slowly. "Is that all the difference
between us Tadpoles and Frogs?"

"That is all the difference now," she answered, "but it will take a
long, long time for your tail to disappear. It will happen with that
quite as it did with your breathing-gills. You will grow bigger and
bigger and bigger, and it will grow smaller and smaller and smaller,
until some day you will find yourself a Frog." She shut her mouth to get
her breath, because, you know, Frogs can only breathe a little through
their skins, and then only when they are wet. Most of their air they
take in through their noses and swallow with their mouths closed. That
is why they cannot make long speeches. When their mouths are open they
cannot swallow air.

After a while she spoke again. "It takes as many years to make a newly
hatched Tadpole into a fully grown Frog," she said, "as there are toes
on one of your hindfeet."

The First Tadpole did not know what a year was, but he felt sure from
the way in which she spoke that it was a long, long time, and he was in
a hurry to grow up. "I want to be a Frog sooner!" he said, crossly. "It
isn't any fun at all being a Tadpole." The Green Brown Frog swam away,
he was becoming so disagreeable.

The First Tadpole became crosser and crosser, and was very unreasonable.
He did not think of the pleasant things which happened every day, but
only of the trying ones. He did not know that Frogs often wished
themselves Tadpoles again, and he sulked around in the pondweed all day.
Every time he looked at one of his hindfeet it reminded him of what the
Green Brown Frog had said, and he even grew out of patience with his
tail--the same strong wiggly little tail of which he had been so proud.

"Horrid old thing!" he said, giving it a jerk. "Won't I be glad to get
rid of you?" Then he thought of something--foolish, vain little First
Tadpole that he was. He thought and he thought and he thought and he
thought, and when his playmates swam around him he wouldn't chase them,
and when they asked him what was the matter, he just answered, "Oh
nothing!" as carelessly as could be.

The truth was that he wanted to be a Frog right away, and he thought he
knew how he could be. He didn't want to tell the other Tadpoles because
he didn't want any one else to become a Frog as soon as he. After a
while he swam off to see the Snapping Turtle. He was very much afraid of
the Snapping Turtle, and yet he thought him the best one to see just
now. "I came to see if you would snap off my tail," said he.

"Your what?" said the Snapping Turtle, in his most surprised way.

"My tail," answered the First Tadpole, who had never had a tail snapped
off, and thought it could be easily done. "I want to be a Frog to-day
and not wait."

"Certainly," said the Snapping Turtle. "With pleasure! No trouble at
all! Anything else I can do for you?"

"No, thank you," said the First Tadpole, "only you won't snap off too
much, will you?"

"Not a bit," answered the Snapping Turtle, with a queer look in his
eyes. "And if any of your friends are in a hurry to grow up, I shall be
glad to help them." Then he swam toward the First Tadpole and did as he
had been asked to do.

The next morning all the other Tadpoles crowded around to look at the
First Tadpole. "Why-ee!" they cried. "Where is your tail?"

"I don't know," he answered, "but I think the Snapping Turtle could
tell you."

"What is this?" asked the Green Brown Frog, swimming up to them. "Did
the Snapping Turtle try to catch you? You poor little fellow! How did it
happen?" She was very fond of the First Tadpole, and had about decided
that he must be one of her sons.

"Well," he said slowly, for he didn't want the other Tadpoles to do the
same thing, "I met him last evening and he--"

"Snapped at you!" exclaimed the Green Brown Frog. "It is lucky for you
that he doesn't believe in eating hearty suppers, that is all I have to
say! But you are a very foolish Tadpole not to keep out of his way, as
you have always been told you must."

Then the First Tadpole lost his temper. "I'm not foolish, and I'm not a
Tadpole," he said. "I asked him to snap it off, and now I am a Frog!"

"Oho!" said the voice of the Yellow Brown Frog behind him. "You are a
Frog, are you? Let's hear you croak then. Come out on the bank and have
a hopping match with me."

"I--I don't croak yet," stammered the First Tadpole, "a--and I don't
care to hop."

"You are just a tailless Tadpole," said the Yellow Brown Frog sternly.
"Don't any more of you youngsters try such a plan, or some of you will
be Tadpole-less tails and a good many of you won't be anything."

The old Snapping Turtle waited all morning for some more Tadpoles who
wanted to be made into Frogs, but none came. The Biggest Frog croaked
hoarsely when he heard of it. "Tails! Tails! Tails! Tails! Tails! Tails!
Tails! Tails!" said he. "That youngster will never be a strong Frog.
Tadpoles must be Tadpoles, tails and all, for a long time, if they hope
to ever be really fine Frogs like me." And that is so, as any Frog will
tell you.

The Green Brown Frog sighed as she crawled out on the bank. "What a
silly Tadpole," she said; "I'm glad he isn't my child!"


When the little Water Spiders first opened their eyes, and this was as
soon as they were hatched, they found themselves in a cosy home of one
room which their mother had built under the water. This room had no
window and only one door. There was no floor at all. When Father
Stickleback had asked Mrs. Spider why she did not make a floor, she had
looked at him in great surprise and said, "Why, if I had built one, I
should have no place to go in and out." She really thought him quite
stupid not to think of that. It often happens, you know, that really
clever people think each other stupid, just because they live in
different ways. Afterward, Mrs. Water Spider saw Father Stickleback's
nest, and understood why he asked that question.

When her home was done, it was half as large as a big acorn and a
charming place for Water Spider babies. The side walls and the rounding
ceiling were all of the finest Spider silk, and the bottom was just one
round doorway. The house was built under the water and fastened down by
tiny ropes of Spider silk which were tied to the stems of pond plants.
Mrs. Water Spider looked at it with a happy smile. "Next I must fill it
with air," said she, "and then it will be ready. I am out of breath

She crept up the stem of the nearest plant and sat in the air for a few
minutes, eating her lunch and resting. Next she walked down the stem
until just the end of her body was in the air. She stood so, with her
head down, then gave a little jerk and dove to her home. As she jerked,
she crossed her hindlegs and caught a small bubble of air between them
and her body. When she reached her home, she went quickly in the open
doorway and let go of her bubble. It did not fall downward to the floor,
as bubbles do in most houses, and there were two reasons for this. In
the first place, there was no floor. In the second place, air always
falls upward in the water. This fell up until it reached the rounded
ceiling and had to stop. Just as it fell, a drop of water went out
through the open doorway. The home had been full of water, you know, but
now that Mrs. Spider had begun to bring in air something had to be moved
to make a place for it.

She brought down thirteen more bubbles of air and then the house was
filled with it. On the lower side of the open doorway there was water
and on the upper side was air, and each stayed where it should. When
Mrs. Spider came into her house, she always had some air caught in the
hairs which covered her body, even when she did not bring a bubble of it
in her hindlegs. She had to have plenty of it in her home to keep her
from drowning, for she could not breathe water like a fish. "Side doors
may be all right for Sticklebacks," said she, "for they do not need air,
but I must have bottom doors, and I will have them too!"

After she had laid her eggs, she had some days in which to rest and
visit with the Water-Boatmen who lived near. They were great friends.
Belostoma used to ask the Water-Boatmen, who were his cousins, why they
were so neighborly with the Water Spiders. "I don't like to see you so
much with eight-legged people," he said. "They are not our kind."
Belostoma was very proud of his family.

"We know that they have rather too many legs to look well," said Mrs.
Water-Boatman, "but they are pleasant, and we are interested in the
same things. You know we both carry air about with us in the water, and
so few of our neighbors seem to care anything for it." She was a
sensible little person and knew that people who are really fond of their
friends do not care how many legs they have. She carried her air under
her wings, but there were other Water-Boatmen, near relatives, who
spread theirs over their whole bodies, and looked very silvery and
beautiful when they were under water.

One day, when Mrs. Water Spider was sitting on a lily-pad and talking
with her friends, a Water-Boatman rose quickly from the bottom of the
pond. As soon as he got right side up (and that means as soon as he got
to floating on his back), he said to her, "I heard queer sounds in your
house; I was feeding near there, and the noise startled me so that I let
go of the stone I was holding to, and came up. I think your eggs must be

  [Illustration: AS SOON AS HE GOT TO FLOATING ON HIS BACK. _Page 76_]

"Really?" exclaimed Mrs. Water Spider. "I shall be so glad! A house
always seems lonely to me without children." She dove to her house, and
found some very fine Water Spider babies there. You may be sure she did
not have much time for visiting after that. She had to hunt food and
carry it down to her children, and when they were restless and impatient
she stayed with them and told them stories of the great world.

Sometimes they teased to go out with her, but this she never allowed.
"Wait until you are older," she would say. "It will not be so very long
before you can go safely." The children thought it had been a long, long
time already, and one of them made a face when his mother said this. She
did not see him, and it was well for him that she did not. He should
have been very much ashamed of himself for doing it.

The next time Mrs. Water Spider went for food, one of the children
said, "I tell you what let's do! Let's all go down to the doorway and
peek out." They looked at each other and wondered if they dared. That
was something their mother had forbidden them to do. There was no window
to look through and they wanted very much to see the world. At last the
little fellow who had made a face said, "I'm going to, anyway." After
that, his brothers and sisters went, too. And this shows how, if good
little Spiders listen to naughty little Spiders, they become naughty
little Spiders themselves.

All the children ran down and peeked around the edge of the door, but
they couldn't see much besides water, and they had seen that before.
They were sadly disappointed. Somebody said, "I'm going to put two of my
legs out!" Somebody else said, "I'll put four out!" A big brother said,
"I'm going to put six out!" And then another brother said "I'll put
eight out! Dare you to!"

You know what naughty little Spiders would be likely to do then. Well,
they did it. And, as it happened, they had just pulled their last legs
through the open doorway when a Stickleback Father came along. "Aren't
you rather young to be out of the nest?" said he, in his most pleasant

Poor little Water Spiders! They didn't know he was one of their mother's
friends, and he seemed so big to them, and the bones on his cheeks made
him look so queer, and the stickles on his back were so sharp, that
every one of them was afraid and let go of the wall of the house--and

Every one of them rose quickly to the top, into the light and the open
air. They crawled upon a lily-pad and clung there, frightened, and
feeling weak in all their knees. The Dragon Flies flew over them, the
Wild Ducks swam past them, and on a log not far away they saw a long row
of Mud Turtles sunning themselves. Why nothing dreadful happened, one
cannot tell. Perhaps it was bad enough as it was, for they were so
scared that they could only huddle close together and cry, "We want our

Here Mrs. Water Spider found them. She came home with something for
dinner, and saw her house empty. Of course she knew where to look, for,
as she said, "If they stepped outside the door, they would be quite sure
to tumble up into the air." She took them home, one at a time, and how
she ever did it nobody knows.

When they were all safely there and had eaten the food that was waiting
for them, Mrs. Spider, who had not scolded them at all, said, "Look me
straight in the eye, every one of you! Will you promise never to run
away again?"

Instead of saying at once, "Yes, mother," as they should have done, one
of them answered, "Why, we didn't run away. We were just peeking around
the edge of the doorway, and we got too far out, and somebody came along
and scared us so that we let go, and then we couldn't help falling up
into the air."

"Oh, no," said their mother, "you couldn't help it then, of course. But
who told you that you might peep out of the door?"

The little Water Spiders hung their heads and looked very much ashamed.
Their mother went on, "You needn't say that you were not to blame. You
were to blame, and you began to run away as soon as you took the first
step toward the door, only you didn't know that you were going so far.
Tell me," she said, "whether you would ever have gone to the top of the
water if you had not taken that first step?"

The little Water Spiders were more ashamed than ever, but they had to
look her in the eye and promise to be good.

It is very certain that not one of those children even peeped around the
edge of the doorway from that day until their mother told them that they
might go into the world and build houses for themselves. "Remember just
one thing," she said, as they started away. "Always take your food home
to eat." And they always did, for no Water Spider who has been well
brought up will ever eat away from his own home.


When the twenty little Mud Turtles broke their egg-shells one hot summer
day, and poked their way up through the warm sand in which they had been
buried, they looked almost as much alike as so many raindrops. The
Mother Turtle who was sunning herself on the bank near by, said to her
friends, "Why! There are my children! Did you ever see a finer family? I
believe I will go over and speak to them."

Most of the young Mud Turtles crawled quickly out of the sand and broken
shells, and began drying themselves in the sunshine. One slow little
fellow stopped to look at the broken shells, stubbed one of his front
toes on a large piece and then sat down until it should stop aching.
"Wait for me!" he called out to his brothers and sisters. "I'm coming in
a minute."

The other little Turtles waited, but when his toe was comfortable again
and he started toward them, he met a very interesting Snail and talked a
while with him. "Come on," said the Biggest Little Turtle. "Don't let's
wait any longer. He can catch up."

So they sprawled along until they came to a place where they could sit
in a row on an old log, and they climbed onto it and sat just close
enough together and not at all too close. Then the Slow Little Turtle
came hurrying over the sand with a rather cross look in his eyes and
putting his feet down a little harder than he needed to--quite as though
he were out of patience about something. "Why didn't you Turtles wait
for me?" he grumbled. "I was coming right along."

                 YOU ARE MY CHILDREN?"                      _Page 85_]

Just then the Mother Turtle came up. "Good morning," said she. "I
believe you are my children?"

The little Mud Turtles looked at each other and didn't say a word. This
was not because they were rude or bashful, but because they did not know
what to say. And that, you know, was quite right, for unless one has
something worth saying, it is far better to say nothing at all.

She drew a long Mud Turtle breath and answered her own question. "Yes,"
she said, "you certainly are, for I saw you scrambling out of the sand a
little while ago, and you came from the very place where I laid my eggs
and covered them during the first really warm nights this year. I was
telling your father only yesterday that it was about time for you to
hatch. The sun has been so hot lately that I was sure you would do

The Mother Turtle stretched her head this way and that until there was
hardly a wrinkle left in her neck-skin, she was so eager to see them
all. "Why are you not up here with your brothers and sisters?" she asked
suddenly of the Slow Little Turtle, who was trying to make a place for
himself on the log.

"They didn't wait for me," he said. "I was coming right along but they
wouldn't wait. I think they are just as mea----"

The Mother Turtle raised one of her forefeet until all five of its toes
with their strong claws were pointing at him. She also raised her head
as far as her upper shell would let her. "So you _are_ the one," she
said. "I thought you were when I heard you trying to make the others
wait. It is too bad."

She looked so stern that the Slow Little Turtle didn't dare finish what
he had begun to say, yet down in his little Turtle heart he thought,
"Now they are going to catch it!" He was sure his mother was going to
scold the other Turtle children for leaving him. He wanted to see what
they would do, so he looked out of his right eye at the ten brothers and
sisters on that side, and out of his left eye at the nine brothers and
sisters on that side. He could do this very easily, because his eyes
were not on the front of his head like those of some people, but one on
each side.

"I have raised families of young Turtles every year," said the Mother
Turtle. "The first year I had only a few children, the next year I had
more, and so it has gone--every year a few more children than the year
before--until now I never know quite how many I do have. But there is
always one Slow Little Turtle who lags behind and wants the others to
wait for him. That makes him miss his share of good things, and then he
is quite certain to be cross and think it is somebody else's fault."

The Slow Little Turtle felt the ten brothers and sisters on his right
side looking at him out of their left eyes, and the nine brothers and
sisters on his left side looking at him out of their right eyes. He drew
in his head and his tail and his legs, until all they could see was his
rounded upper shell, his shell side-walls, and the yellow edge of his
flat lower shell. He would have liked to draw them in too, but of course
he couldn't do that.

"I did hope," said the Mother Turtle, "that I might have one family
without such a child in it. I cannot help loving even a slow child who
is cross, if he is hatched from one of my eggs, yet it makes me
sad--very, very sad."

"Try to get over this," she said to the Slow Little Turtle, "before it
is too late. And you," she added, turning to his brothers and sisters,
"must be patient with him. We shall not have him with us long."

"What do you mean?" asked the Slow Little Turtle, peeping out from
between his shells. "I'm not going away."

"You do not want to," said his mother, "but you will not be with us long
unless you learn to keep up with the rest. Something always happens to
pond people who are too slow. I cannot tell you what it will be, yet it
is sure to be _something_. I remember so well my first slow child--and
how he--" She began to cry, and since she could not easily get her
forefeet to her eyes, she sprawled to the pond and swam off with only
her head and a little of her upper shell showing above the water.

The Slow Little Turtle was really frightened by what his mother had
said, and for a few days he tried to keep up with the others. Nothing
happened to him, and so he grew careless and made people wait for him
just because he was not quite ready to go with them, or because he
wanted to do this or look at that or talk to some other person. He was a
very trying little Turtle, yet his mother loved him and did not like it
when the rest called him a Land Tortoise. It is all right, you know, to
be a Land Tortoise when your father and mother are Land Tortoises, and
these cousins of the Turtles look so much like them that some people
cannot tell them apart. That is because they forget that the Tortoises
live on land, have higher back shells, and move very, very slowly.
Turtles live more in the water and can move quickly if they will. This
is why other Turtles sometimes make fun of a slow brother by calling him
a Land Tortoise.

One beautiful sunshiny afternoon, when most of the twenty little Turtles
were sitting on a floating log by the edge of the pond, their mother was
with some of her friends on another log near by. She looked often at her
children, and thought how handsome their rounded-up back shells were in
the sunshine with the little red and yellow markings showing on the
black. She could see their strong little pointed tails too, and their
webbed feet with a stout claw on each toe. She was so proud that she
could not help talking about them. "Is there any sight more beautiful,"
she said, "than a row of good little Turtles?"

"Yes," said a fine old fellow who was floating near her, "a row of their
mothers!" He was a Turtle whom she had never liked very well, but now
she began to think that he was rather agreeable after all. She was just
noticing how beautifully the skin wrinkled on his neck, when she heard a
splash and saw two terrible great two-legged animals wading into the
pond from the shore.

"Boys!" she cried, "Boys!" And she sprawled off the end of her log and
slid into the water, all her friends following her. The Biggest Little
Turtle saw these great animals coming toward him. He sprawled off the
end of his log and slid into the water, and all his brothers and sisters
followed him except the Slow Little Turtle. "Wait for me," he said. "I'm
coming in just a----"

Then one of these great animals stooped over and picked him up, and held
him bottom side uppermost and rapped on that side, which was flat; and
on the other side, which was rounded; and stared at him with two great
eyes. Next the other great animal took him and turned him over and
rapped on his shells and stared at him. The poor Slow Little Turtle drew
in his head and tail and legs and kept very, very still. He wished that
he had side-pieces of shell all around now, instead of just one on each
side between his legs. He was thinking over and over, "Something has
happened! Something has happened!" And he knew that back in the pond
his mother would be trying to find him and could not.

The boys carried him to the edge of the meadow and put him down on the
grass. He lay perfectly still for a long, long time, and when he thought
they had forgotten about him he tried to run away. Then they laughed and
picked him up again, and one of them took something sharp and shiny and
cut marks into his upper shell. This did not really give him pain, yet,
as he said afterward, "It hurts almost as much to think you are going to
be hurt, as it does to be hurt."

It was not until the sun went down that the boys let the Slow Little
Turtle go. Then he was very, very tired, but he wanted so much to get
back to his home in the pond that he started at once by moonlight. This
was the first time he had ever seen the moon, for, except when they are
laying eggs, Turtles usually sleep at night. He was not quite sure
which way he should go, and if it had not been for the kindness of the
Tree Frog he might never have seen his brothers and sisters again. You
know the Tree Frog had been carried away when he was young, before he
came to live with the meadow people, so he knew how to be sorry for the
Slow Little Turtle.

The Tree Frog hopped along ahead to show the way, and the Turtle
followed until they reached a place from which they could see the pond.
"Good night!" said the Tree Frog. "You can find your way now."

"Good night!" said the Turtle. "I wish I might help you some time."

"Never mind me," said the Tree Frog. "Help somebody else and it will be
all right." He hopped back toward his home, and for a long time
afterward the Turtle heard his cheerful "Pukr-r-rup! Pukr-r-rup!"
sounding over the dewy grass and through the still air. At the edge of
the pond the Slow Little Turtle found his nineteen brothers and sisters
sound asleep. "I'm here!" he cried joyfully, poking first one and then
another of them with his head.

The Biggest Little Turtle moved without awakening. "I tell you I'm not
hungry," he murmured. "I don't want to get up." And again he fell fast

So the Slow Little Turtle did not disturb him, but cuddled inside his
two shells and went to sleep also. He was so tired that he did not
awaken until the sun was high in the sky. When he did open his eyes, his
relatives were sitting around looking at him, and he remembered all that
had happened before he slept. "Does my shell look very bad?" he cried.
"I wish I could see it. Oh, I am so glad to get back! I'll never be slow
again, Never! Never!"

His mother came and leaned her shell lovingly against his. "If you will
only learn to keep up with your brothers and sisters," she said "I
shall not be sorry that the boys carried you off."

"You just wait and see," said the Slow Little Turtle. And he was as good
as his word. After that he was always the first to slip from the log to
the water if anything scared them; and when, one day, a strange Turtle
from another pond came to visit, he said to the Turtles who had always
lived there, "Why do you call that young fellow with the marked shell
'The Slow Little Turtle?' He is the quickest one in his family."

The pond people looked at each other and laughed. "That is queer!" they
said. "After this we will call him 'The Quick Little Turtle.'"

This made him very happy, and when, once in a while, somebody forgot and
by mistake called him "The Quick Slow Little Turtle," he said he rather
liked it because it showed that a Turtle needn't keep his faults if he
did have them.


The Dragon-Flies have always lived near the pond. Not the same ones that
are there now, of course, but the great-great-great-grandfathers of
these. A person would think that, after a family had lived so long in a
place, all the neighbors would be fond of them, yet it is not so. The
Dragon-Flies may be very good people--and even the Snapping Turtle says
that they are--still, they are so peculiar that many of their neighbors
do not like them at all. Even when they are only larvæ, or babies, they
are not good playmates, for they have such a bad habit of putting
everything into their mouths. Indeed, the Stickleback Father once told
the little Sticklebacks that they should not stir out of the nest,
unless they would promise to keep away from the young Dragon-Flies.

The Stickleback Mothers said that it was all the fault of the Dragon-Fly
Mothers. "What can you expect," exclaimed one of them, "when Dragon-Fly
eggs are so carelessly laid? I saw a Dragon-Fly Mother laying some only
yesterday, and how do you suppose she did it? Just flew around in the
sunshine and visited with her friends, and once in a while flew low
enough to touch the water and drop one in. It is disgraceful!"

The Minnow Mothers did not think it was so much in the way the eggs were
laid, "although," said one, "I always lay mine close together, instead
of scattering them over the whole pond." They thought the trouble came
from bad bringing up or no bringing up at all. Each egg, you know, when
it is laid, drops to the bottom of the pond, and the children are
hatched and grow up there, and do not even see their fathers and

Now most of the larvæ were turning into Nymphs, which are half-grown
Dragon Flies. They had been short and plump, and now they were longer
and more slender, and there were little bunches on their shoulders where
the wings were growing under their skin. They had outgrown their old
skins a great many times, and had to wriggle out of them to be at all
comfortable. When a Dragon-Fly child became too big for his skin, he
hooked the two sharp claws of each of his six feet firmly into
something, unfastened his skin down the back, and wriggled out, leaving
it to roll around in the water until it became just part of the mud.

Like most growing children, the Dragon-Fly larvæ and Nymphs had to eat a
great deal. Their stomachs were as long as their bodies, and they were
never really happy unless their stomachs were full. They always ate
plain food and plenty of it, and they never ate between meals. They had
breakfast from the time they awakened in the morning until the sun was
high in the sky, then they had dinner until the sun was low in the sky,
and supper from that time until it grew dark and they went to sleep: but
never a mouthful between meals, no matter how hungry they might be. They
said this was their only rule about eating, and they _would_ keep it.

They were always slow children. You would think that, with six legs
apiece and three joints in each leg, they might walk quite fast, yet
they never did. When they had to, they hurried in another way by taking
a long leap through the water. Of course they breathed water like their
neighbors, the fishes and the Tadpoles. They did not breathe it into
their mouths, or through gills, but took it in through some openings in
the back part of their bodies. When they wanted to hurry, they breathed
this water out so suddenly that it sent them quickly ahead.

The Snapping Turtle had called them "bothering bugs" one day when he was
cross (and that was the day after he had been cross, and just before the
day when he was going to be cross again), and they didn't like him and
wanted to get even. They all put their queer little three-cornered heads
together, and there was an ugly look in their great staring eyes.

"Horrid old thing!" said one larva. "I wish I could sting him."

"Well, you can't," said a Nymph, turning towards him so suddenly that he
leaped. "You haven't any sting, and you never will have, so you just
keep still." It was not at all nice in her to speak that way, but she
was not well brought up, you know, and that, perhaps, is a reason why
one should excuse her for talking so to her little brother. She was
often impatient, and said she could never go anywhere without one of the
larvæ tagging along.

"I tell you what let's do," said another Nymph. "Let's all go together
to the shallow water where he suns himself, and let's all stand close to
each other, and then, when he comes along, let's stick out our lips at

"Both lips?" asked the larvæ.

"Well, our lower lips anyway," answered the Nymph. "Our upper lips are
so small they don't matter."

"We'll do it," exclaimed all the Dragon-Fly children, and they started
together to walk on the pond-bottom to the shallow water. They thought
it would scare the Snapping Turtle dreadfully. They knew that whenever
they stuck out their lower lips at the small fishes and bugs, they swam
away as fast as they could. The Giant Water-Bug (Belostoma), was the
only bug who was not afraid of them when they made faces. Indeed, the
lower lip of a Dragon-Fly child might well frighten people, for it is
fastened on a long, jointed, arm-like thing, and has pincers on it with
which it catches and holds its food. Most of the time, the Dragon-Fly
child keeps the joint bent, and so holds his lip up to his face like a
mask. But sometimes he straightens the joint and holds his lip out
before him, and then its pincers catch hold of things. He does this when
he is hungry.

When they reached the shallow water, the Dragon-Fly children stood close
together, with the larvæ in the middle and the Nymphs all around them.
The Snapping Turtle was nowhere to be seen, so they had to wait. "Aren't
you scared?" whispered one larva to another.

"Scared? Dah! Who's afraid," answered he.

"Oh, look!" cried a Nymph. "There go some grown-up Dragon-Flies over our
heads. Just you wait until I change my skin once more, and then won't I
have a good time! I'll dry my wings and then I'll----"

"Sh-h!" said one of the larvæ. "Here comes the Snapping Turtle."

Sure enough, there he came through the shallow water, his wet back-shell
partly out of it and shining in the sunlight. He came straight toward
the Dragon-Fly children, and they were glad to see that he did not look
hungry. They thought he might be going to take a nap after his dinner.
Then they all stood even closer together and stuck out their lower lips
at him. They thought he might run away when they did this. They felt
sure that he would at least be very badly frightened.

The Snapping Turtle did not seem to see them at all. It was queer. He
just waddled on and on, coming straight toward them. "Ah-h-h!" said he.
"How sleepy I do feel! I will lie down in the sunshine and rest." He
took a few more steps, which brought his great body right over the crowd
of Dragon-Fly children. "I think I will draw in my head," said he (the
Dragon-Fly children looked at each other), "and my tail (here two of the
youngest larvæ began to cry) and lie down." He began to draw in his legs
very, very slowly, and just as his great hard lower shell touched the
mud, the last larva crawled out under his tail. The Nymphs had already
gotten away.

"Oh," said the Dragon-Fly children to each other, "Wasn't it awful!"

"Humph," said the Snapping Turtle, talking to himself--he had gotten
into the way of doing that because he had so few friends--"How
dreadfully they did scare me!" Then he laughed a grim Snapping Turtle
laugh, and went to sleep.


There was but one Snapping Turtle in the pond, and he was the only
person there who had ever been heard to wish for another. He had not
always lived there, and could just remember leaving his brothers and
sisters when he was young. "I was carried away from my people," he said,
"and kept on land for a few days. Then I was brought here and have made
it my home ever since."

One could tell by looking at him that he was related to the Mud Turtles.
He had upper and lower shells like them, and could draw in his head and
legs and tail when he wanted to. His shells were gray, quite the color
of a clay-bank, and his head was larger than those of the Mud Turtles.
His tail was long and scaly and pointed, and his forelegs were large and
warty. There were fine, strong webs between his toes, as there were
between the toes of his relatives, the Mud Turtles.

When he first came to live in the pond, people were sorry for him, and
tried to make him feel at home. He had a chance to win many friends and
have all his neighbors fond of him, but he was too snappy. When the
water was just warm enough, and his stomach was full, and he had slept
well the night before, and everything was exactly as he wished it to
be,--ah, then he was a very agreeable Turtle, and was ready to talk in
the most gracious way to his neighbors. That was all very well. Anybody
can be good-natured when everything is exactly right and he can have his
own way. But the really delightful people, you know, are the ones who
are pleasant when things go wrong.

It was a Mud Turtle Father who first spoke to him. "I hope you'll like
the pond," said he. "We think it very homelike and comfortable."

"Humph! Shallow little hole!" snapped the one who had just come. "I bump
my head on the bottom every time I dive."

"That is too bad," exclaimed the Mud Turtle Father. "I hope you dive
where there is a soft bottom."

"Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't," answered the Snapping Turtle. "I
can't bother to swim down slowly and try it, and then go back to dive.
When I want to dive, I _want_ to dive, and that's all there is to it."

"Yes," said the Mud Turtle Father. "I know how it is when one has the
diving feeling. I hope your head will not trouble you much, and that you
will soon be used to our waters." He spread his toes and swam strongly
away, pushing against the water with his webbed feet.

"Humph!" said the Snapping Turtle to himself. "It is all very well to
talk about getting used to these waters, but I never shall. I can hardly
see now for the pain in the right side of my head, where I bumped it. Or
was it the left side I hit? Queer I can't remember!" Then he swam to
shallow water, and drew himself into his shell, and lay there and
thought how badly he felt, and how horrid the pond was, and what poor
company his neighbors were, and what a disagreeable world this is for
Snapping Turtles.

The Mud Turtle Father went home and told his wife all about it. "What a
disagreeable fellow!" she said. "But then, he is a bachelor, and
bachelors are often queer."

"I never was," said her husband.

"Oh!" said she. And, being a wise wife, she did not say anything else.
She knew, however, that Mr. Mud Turtle was a much more agreeable fellow
since he had married and learned to think more of somebody else than of
himself. It is the people who think too much of themselves you know, who
are most unhappy in this world.

The Eels also tried to be friendly, and, when he dove to the bottom,
called to him to stay and visit with them. "You must excuse us from
making the first call," they said. "We go out so little in the daytime."

"Humph!" said the Snapping Turtle. "Do you good to get away from home
more. No wonder your eyes are weak, when you lie around in the mud of
the dark pond-bottom all day. Indeed, I'll not stay. You can come to see
me like other people."

Then he swam away and told the Clams what he had said, and he acted
quite proud of what was really dreadful rudeness. "It'll do them good to
hear the truth," said he. "I always speak right out. They are as bad as
the Water-Adder. They have no backbone."

The Clams listened politely and said nothing. They never did talk much.
The Snapping Turtle was mistaken though, when he said that the Eels and
the Water-Adder had no backbone. They really had much more than he, but
they wore theirs inside, while his was spread out in the shape of a
shell for everybody to see.

He did not even try to keep his temper. He became angry one day because
Belostoma, the Giant Water-Bug, ate something which he wanted for
himself. His eyes glared and his horny jaws snapped, and he waved his
long, pointed, scaly tail in a way which was terrible to see. "You are a
good-for-nothing bug," he said. "You do no work, and you eat more than
any other person of your size here. Nobody likes you, and there isn't a
little fish in the pond who would be seen with you if he could help it.
They all hide if they see you coming. I'll be heartily glad when you get
your wings and fly away. Don't let any of your friends lay their eggs in
this pond. I've seen enough of your family."

Of course this made Belostoma feel very badly. He was not a popular bug,
and it is possible that if he could have had his own way, he would have
chosen to be a Crayfish or a Stickleback, rather than what he was. As
for his not working--there was nothing for him to do, so how could he
work? He had to eat, or he would not grow, and since the Snapping Turtle
was a hearty eater himself, he should have had the sense to keep still
about that. Belostoma told the Mud Turtles what the Snapping Turtle had
said, and the Mud Turtle Father spoke of it to the Snapping Turtle.

By that time the Snapping Turtle was feeling better natured and was very
gracious. "Belostoma shouldn't remember those things," said he, moving
one warty foreleg. "When I am angry, I often say things that I do not
mean; but then, I get right over it. I had almost forgotten my little
talk with him. I don't see any reason for telling him I am sorry. He is
very silly to think so much of it." He lifted his big head quite high,
and acted as though it was really a noble thing to be ugly and then
forget about it. He might just as sensibly ask people to admire him for
not eating when his stomach was full, or for lying still when he was too
tired to swim.

When the Mud Turtle Mother heard of this, she was quite out of patience.
"All he cares for," said she, "is just Snapping Turtle, Snapping Turtle,
Snapping Turtle. When he is good-natured, he thinks everybody else ought
to be; and when he is bad-tempered he doesn't care how other people
feel. He will never be any more agreeable until he does something kind
for somebody, and I don't see any chance of that happening."

There came a day, though, when the pond people were glad that the
Snapping Turtle lived there. Two boys were wading in the edge of the
pond, splashing the water and scaring all the people who were near them.
The Sticklebacks turned pale all over, as they do when they are badly
frightened. The Yellow Brown Frog was so scared that he emptied out the
water he had saved for wetting his skin in dry weather. He had a great
pocket in his body filled with water, for if his skin should get dry he
couldn't breathe through it, and unless he carried water with him he
could not stay ashore at all.

The boys had even turned the Mud Turtle Father onto his back in the
sunshine, where he lay, waving his feet in the air, but not strong
enough to get right side up again. The Snapping Turtle was taking a nap
in deep water, when the frightened fishes came swimming toward him as
fast as their tails would take them. "What is the matter?" said he.

"Boys!" cried they. "Boys! The dreadful, splashing, Turtle-turning

"Humph!" said the Snapping Turtle. "I'll have to see about that. How
many are there?"

"Two!" cried the Sticklebacks and Minnows together.

"And there is only one of me," said the Snapping Turtle to himself. "I
must have somebody to help me. Oh, Belostoma," he cried, as the Giant
Water-Bug swam past. "Help me drive those boys away."

"With pleasure," said Belostoma, who liked nothing better than this kind
of work. Off they started for the place where the boys were wading. The
Snapping Turtle took long, strong strokes with his webbed feet, and
Belostoma could not keep up with him. The Snapping Turtle saw this.
"Jump onto my back," cried he. "You are a light fellow. Hang tight."

Belostoma jumped onto the Snapping Turtle's clay-colored shell, and when
he found himself slipping off the back end of it, he stuck his claws
into the Snapping Turtle's tail and held on in that way. He knew that he
was not easily hurt, even if he did make a fuss when he bumped his head.
As soon as they got near the boys, the Snapping Turtle spoke over his
back-shell to Belostoma. "Slide off now," said he, "and drive away the
smaller boy. Don't stop to talk with these Bloodsuckers."

So Belostoma slid off and swam toward the smaller boy, and he ran out
his stout little sucking tube and stung him on the leg. Just then the
Snapping Turtle brought his horny jaws together on one of the larger
boy's feet. There was a great splashing and dashing as the boys ran to
the shore, and three Bloodsuckers, who had fastened themselves to the
boy's legs, did not have time to drop off, and were carried ashore and
never seen again.

  [Illustration: THERE WAS A GREAT SPLASHING AND DASHING.  _Page 117_]

"There!" said the Snapping Turtle. "That's done. I don't know what the
pond people would do, if you and I were not here to look after them,

"I'm glad I happened along," said the Giant Water-Bug quietly, "but you
will have to do it all after this. I'm about ready to leave the pond. I
think I'll go to-morrow."

"Going to-morrow!" exclaimed the Snapping Turtle. "I'm sorry. Of course
I know you can never come back, but send your friends here to lay their
eggs. We mustn't be left without some of your family."

"Thank you," said Belostoma, and he did not show that he remembered
some quite different things which the Snapping Turtle had said before,
about his leaving the pond. And that showed that he was a very wise bug
as well as a brave one.

"Humph!" said the Snapping Turtle. "There is the Mud Turtle Father on
his back." And he ran to him and pushed him over onto his feet. "Oh,
thank you," cried the Mud Turtle Mother. "I was not strong enough to do

"Always glad to help my neighbors," said the Snapping Turtle. "Pleasant
day, isn't it? I must tell the fishes that the boys are gone. The poor
little fellows were almost too scared to swim." And he went away with a
really happy look on his face.

"There!" said the Mud Turtle Mother to her husband. "He has begun to
help people, and now he likes them, and is contented, I always told you


None of the pond people were alone more than the Water-Adders. The
Snapping Turtle was left to himself a great deal until the day when he
and Belostoma drove away the boys. After that his neighbors began to
understand him better and he was less grumpy, so that those who wore
shells were soon quite fond of him.

Belostoma did not have many friends among the smaller people, and only a
few among the larger ones. They said that he was cruel, and that he had
a bad habit of using his stout sucking tube to sting with. Still,
Belostoma did not care; he said, "A Giant Water-Bug does not always live
in the water. I shall have my wings soon, and leave the water and
marry. After that, I shall fly away on my wedding trip. Mrs. Belostoma
may go with me, if she feels like doing so after laying her eggs here. I
shall go anyway. And I shall flutter and sprawl around the light, and
sting people who bother me, and have a happy time." That was Belostoma's
way. He _would_ sting people who bothered him, but then he always said
that they need not have bothered him. And perhaps that was so.

With the Water-Adders it was different. They were good-natured enough,
yet the Mud Turtles and Snapping Turtle were the only ones who ever
called upon them and found them at home. The small people without shells
were afraid of them, and the Clams and Pond Snails never called upon any
one. The Minnows said they could not bear the looks of the Adders--they
had such ugly mouths and such quick motions. The larger fishes kept
away on account of their children, who were small and tender.

One might think that the Sand-Hill Cranes, the Fish Hawks, and the other
shore families would have been good friends for them, but when they
called, the Adders were always away. People said that the Adders were
afraid of them.

The Yellow Brown Frog wished that the Adders could be scared, badly
scared, some time: so scared that a chilly feeling would run down their
backs from their heads clear to the tips of their tails. "I wish," said
he, "that the chilly feeling would be big enough to go way through to
their bellies. Their bellies are only the front side of their backs,
anyway," he added, "because they are so thin." Of course this was a
dreadful wish to make, but people said that one of the Adders had
frightened the Yellow Brown Frog so that he never got over it, and this
was the reason he felt so.

The Water-Adders were certainly the cleverest people in the pond, and
there was one Mother Adder who was so very bright that they called her
"the Clever Water-Adder." She could do almost anything, and she knew it.
She talked about it, too, and that showed bad taste, and was one reason
why she was not liked better. She could swim very fast, could creep,
glide, catch hold of things with her tail, hang herself from the branch
of a tree, lift her head far into the air, leap, dart, bound, and dive.
All her family could do these things, but she could do them a little the

One day she was hanging over the pond in a very graceful position, with
her tail twisted carelessly around a willow branch. The Snapping Turtle
and a Mud Turtle Father were in the shallow water below her. Her slender
forked tongue was darting in and out of her open mouth. She was using
her tongue in this way most of the time. "It is useful in feeling of
things," she said, "and then, I have always thought it quite becoming."
She could see herself reflected in the still water below her, and she
noticed how prettily the dark brown of her back shaded into the white of
her belly. You see she was vain as well as clever.

The Snapping Turtle felt cross to-day, and had come to see if a talk
with her would not make him feel better. The Mud Turtle was tired of
having the children sprawl around him, and of Mrs. Mud Turtle telling
about the trouble she had to get the right kind of food.

The Clever Water-Adder spoke first of the weather. "It must be
dreadfully hot for the shore people," she said. "Think of their having
to wear the same feathers all the year and fly around in the sunshine to
find food for their children."

"Ah yes," said the Mud Turtle. "How they must wish for shells!"

"Humph!" said the Snapping Turtle. "What for? To fly with? Let them come
in swimming with their children, if they are warm and tired."

The Water-Adder laughed in her snaky way, and showed her sharp teeth. "I
have heard," she said, "that when the Wild Ducks bring their children
here to swim, they do not always take so many home as they brought."

The Snapping Turtle became very much interested in his warty right
foreleg, and did not seem to hear what she said. The Mud Turtle smiled.
"I have heard," she went on, "that when young Ducks dive head first,
they are quite sure to come up again, but that when they dive feet
first, they never come up."

"What do you mean?" asked the Snapping Turtle, and he was snappy about

"Oh, nothing," replied the Water-Adder, swinging her head back and forth
and looking at the scales on her body.

"I know what you mean," said the Snapping Turtle, "and you know what you
mean, but I have to eat something, and if I am swimming under the water
and a Duckling paddles along just above me and sticks his foot into my
mouth, I am likely to swallow him before I think."

The Water-Adder saw that he was provoked by what she had said, so she
talked about something else. "I think the Ducks spoil their children,"
said she. "They make such a fuss over them, and they are not nearly so
bright as my children. Why, mine hatch as soon as the eggs are laid, and
go hunting at once. They are no trouble at all."

"I never worry about mine," said the Mud Turtle, "although their mother
thinks it is not safe for them all to sleep at once, as they do on a log
in the sunshine."

"It isn't," said the Adder decidedly. "I never close my eyes. None of
us Adders do. Nobody can ever say that we close our eyes to danger."
They couldn't shut their eyes if they wanted to, because they had no
eyelids, but she did not speak of that. "How stupid people are," she

"Most of them," remarked the Turtles.

"All of them," she said, "except us Adders and the Turtles. I even think
that some of the Turtles are a little queer, don't you?"

"We have thought so," said the Mud Turtle.

"They certainly are," agreed the Snapping Turtle, who was beginning to
feel much better natured.

"What did you say?" asked the Adder who, like all her family, was a
little deaf.

"Ouch!" exclaimed the Snapping Turtle. "Ouch! Ouch!"

"What is the matter?" asked the Mud Turtle. Then he began to slap the
water with his short, stout tail, and say "Ouch!"

Two naughty young Water-Boatmen had swum quietly up on their backs, and
stung the Turtles on their tails. Then they swam away, pushing
themselves quickly through the water with swift strokes of their hairy

"Ah-h-h!" exclaimed the Snapping Turtle, and he backed into the mud,
knowing that fine, soft mud is the best thing in the world for stings.

"Ah-h-h!" exclaimed the Mud Turtle, "if I could only reach my tail with
my head, or even with one of my hind feet!"

"Reach your tail with your head?" asked the Water-Adder in her sweetest
voice. "Nothing is easier." And she wound herself around the willow
branch in another graceful position, and took the tip of her tail
daintily between her teeth.

"Humph!" said the Snapping Turtle, and he pulled his tail out of the
mud and swam away.

"Ugh!" said the Mud Turtle, and he swam away with the Snapping Turtle.

"What a rude person she is!" they said. "Always trying to show how much
more clever she is than other people. We would rather be stupid and

After a while the Snapping Turtle said, "But then, you know, we are not

"Of course not," replied the Mud Turtle, "not even queer."


When the Sand-Hill Cranes were married, they began to work for a home of
their own. To be sure, they had chosen a place for it beforehand, yet
there were other things to think about, and some of their friends told
them it would be very foolish to build on the ground. "There are so many
accidents to ground nests," these friends said. "There are Snakes, you
know, and Rats, and a great many other people whom you would not want to
have look in on your children. Besides, something might fall on it."

The young couple talked this all over and decided to build in a tree.
"We are not afraid of Snakes and Rats," they said, "but we would fear
something falling on the nest." They were talking to quite an old Crane
when they said this.

"Do you mean to build in a tree?" said he. "My dear young friends, don't
do that. Just think, a high wind might blow the nest down and spoil
everything. Do whatever you wish, but don't build in a tree." Then he
flew away.

"Dear me!" exclaimed young Mrs. Crane, "one tells me to do this and
never to do that. Another tells me to do that and never to do this. I
shall just please myself since I cannot please my friends."

"And which place do you choose?" asked her husband, who always liked
whatever she did.

"I shall build on the ground," she said decidedly. "If the tree falls,
it may hit the nest and it may not, but if we build in the tree and it
falls, we are sure to hit the ground."

"How wise you are!" exclaimed her husband. "I believe people get in a
way of building just so, and come to think that no other way can be
right." Which shows that Mr. Sand-Hill Crane was also wise.

Both worked on the nest, bringing roots and dried grasses with which to
build it up. Sometimes they went to dance with their friends, and when
they did they bowed most of the time to each other. They did not really
care very much about going, because they were so interested in the nest.
This they had to build quite high from the ground, on account of their
long legs. "If I were a Duck," said Mrs. Sand-Hill Crane, "it would do
very well for me to sit on the nest, but with my legs? Never! I would as
soon sit on two bare branches as to have them doubled under me." So she
tried the nest until it was just as high as her legs were long.

When it was high enough, she laid in it two gray eggs with brown spots.
After that she did no more dancing, but stood with a leg on either side
of the nest, and her soft body just over the eggs to keep them warm. It
was very tiresome work, and sometimes Mr. Crane covered the eggs while
she went fishing. The Cranes are always very kind to their wives.

This, you know, was the first time that either had had a nest, and it
was all new and wonderful to them. They thought that there never had
been such a beautiful home. They often stood on the ground beside it,
and poked it this way and that with their bills, and said to each other,
"Just look at this fine root that I wove in," or, "Have you noticed how
well that tuft of dried grass looks where I put it?" As it came near the
time for their eggs to hatch, they could hardly bear to be away long
enough to find food.

One day young Mr. Sand-Hill Crane came home much excited. "Our
neighbors, the Cranes who live across the pond," said he, "had two
children hatched this morning."

"Oh, how glad I am!" cried his wife. "How glad I am! Those eggs were
laid just before ours, which must hatch very soon now."

"That is what I thought," said he. "I feel so sorry for them, though,
for I saw their children, and they are dreadfully homely,--not at all
like their parents, who are quite good-looking."

"I must see them myself," said his wife, "and if you will cover the eggs
while I go for food, I will just peep in on them. I will hurry back."
She flew steadily across the pond, which was not very wide, and asked to
see the babies. She had never seen any Crane children, you know, since
she herself was little. She thought them very ugly to look at, and
wondered how their mother could seem bright and cheerful with two such
disappointing children. She said all the polite things that she honestly
could, then got something to eat, and flew home. "They are very, very
homely," she said to her husband, "and I think it queer. All their older
children are good-looking."

She had hardly said this when she heard a faint tapping sound in the
nest. She looked, and there was the tip of a tiny beak showing through
the shell of one egg. She stood on one side of the nest, watching, and
her husband stood on the other while their oldest child slowly made his
way out. They dared not help for fear of hurting him, and besides, all
the other Cranes had told them that they must not.

"Oh, look!" cried the young mother. "What a dear little bill!"

"Ah!" said the young father. "Did you ever see such a neck?"

"Look at those legs," cried she. "What a beautiful child he is!"

"He looks just like you," said the father, "and I am glad of it."

"Ah, no," said she. "He is exactly like you." And she began to clear
away the broken egg-shell.

Soon the other Crane baby poked her bill out, and again the young
parents stood around and admired their child. They could not decide
which was the handsomer, but they were sure that both were remarkable
babies. They felt more sorry than ever for their neighbors across the
pond, who had such homely children. They took turns in covering their
own damp little Cranes, and were very, very happy.

Before this, it had been easy to get what food they wanted, for there
had been two to work for two. Now there were two to work for four, and
that made it much harder. There was no time for dancing, and both
father and mother worked steadily, yet they were happier than ever, and
neither would have gone back to the careless old days for all the food
in the pond or all the dances on the beach.

The little Cranes grew finely. They changed their down for pin-feathers,
and then these grew into fine brownish gray feathers, like those which
their parents wore. They were good children, too, and very well brought
up. They ate whatever food was given to them, and never found fault with
it. When they left the nest for the first time, they fluttered and
tumbled and had trouble in learning to walk. A Mud Turtle Father who was
near, told them that this was because their legs were too long and too

"Well," said the brother, as he picked himself up and tried to stand on
one leg while he drew the other foot out of the tangled grass, "they
may be too long, but I'm sure there are enough of them. When I'm
thinking about one, I never can tell what the other will do."

Still, it was not long before they could walk and wade and even fly.
Then they met the other pond people, and learned to tell a Stickleback
from a Minnow. They did not have many playmates. The saucy little
Kingfishers sat on branches over their heads, the Wild Ducks waddled or
swam under their very bills, the Fish Hawks floated in air above them,
and the Gulls screamed hoarsely to them as they circled over the pond,
yet none of them were long-legged and stately. The things that the other
birds enjoyed most, they could not do, and sometimes they did not like
it very well. One night they were talking about the Gulls, when they
should have been asleep, and their father told them to tuck their heads
right under their wings and not let him hear another word from them.
They did tuck their heads under their wings, but they peeped out between
the feathers, and when they were sure their father and mother were
asleep, they walked softly away and planned to do something naughty.

"I'm tired of being good," said the brother. "The Gulls never are good.
They scream, and snatch, and contradict, and have lots of fun. Let's be
bad just for fun."

"All right," said his sister. "What shall we do?"

"That's the trouble," said he. "I can't think of anything naughty that I
really care for."

Each stood on one leg and thought for a while. "We might run away," said

"Where would we go?" asked he.

"We might go to the meadow," said she. So they started off in the
moonlight and went to the meadow, but all the people there were asleep,
except the Tree Frog, and he scrambled out of the way as soon as he saw
them coming, because he thought they might want a late supper.

"This isn't any fun!" said the brother. "Let's go to the forest."

They went to the forest, and saw the Bats flitting in and out among the
trees, and the Bats flew close to the Cranes and scared them. The Great
Horned Owl stood on a branch near them, and stared at them with his big
round eyes, and said, "Who? Who? Waugh-ho-oo!" Then the brother and
sister stood closer together and answered, "If you please, sir, we are
the Crane children."

But the Great Horned Owl kept on staring at them and saying "Who? Who?
Waugh-ho-oo!" until they were sure he was deaf, and answered louder and
louder still.

The Screech Owls came also, and looked at them, and bent their bodies
over as if they were laughing, and nodded their heads, and shook
themselves. Then the Crane children were sure that they were being made
fun of, so they stalked away very stiffly, and when they were out of
sight of the Owls, they flew over toward the farmhouse. They were not
having any fun at all yet, and they meant to keep on trying, for what
was the good of being naughty if they didn't?

They passed Horses and Cows asleep in the fields, and saw the Brown Hog
lying in the pen with a great many little Brown Pigs and one White Pig
sleeping beside her. Nobody was awake except Collie, the Shepherd Dog,
who was sitting in the farmyard with his nose in the air, barking at the

"Go away!" he said to the Crane children, who were walking around the
yard. "Go away! I must bark at the moon, and I don't want anybody
around." They did not start quite soon enough to please him, so he
dashed at them, and ran around them and barked at them, instead of at
the moon, until they were glad enough to fly straight home to the place
where their father and mother were sleeping with their heads under their

"Are you going to tell them?" asked the brother.

"I don't know," answered the sister. When morning came, they looked
tired, and their father and mother seemed so worried about them that
they told the whole story.

"We didn't care so very much about what we did," they said, "but we
thought it would be fun to be naughty."

The father and mother looked at each other in a very knowing way. "A
great many people think that," said the mother gently. "They are
mistaken after all. It is really more fun to be good."

"Well, I wish the Gulls wouldn't scream, 'Goody-goody' at us," said the

"What difference does that make?" asked his father. "Why should a Crane
care what a Gull says?"

"Why, I--I don't know," stammered the brother. "I guess it doesn't make
any difference after all."

The next day when the Crane children were standing in the edge of the
pond, a pair of young Gulls flew down near them and screamed out,

Then the Crane brother and sister lifted their heads and necks and
opened their long bills, and trumpeted back, "Baddy-baddy!"

"There!" they said to each other. "Now we are even."


When the Oldest Dragon-Fly Nymph felt that the wings under her skin were
large enough, she said good-bye to her water friends, and crawled slowly
up the stem of a tall cat-tail. All the other Dragon-Fly Nymphs crowded
around her and wished that their wings were more nearly ready, and the
larvæ talked about the time when they should become Nymphs. The Oldest
Nymph, the one who was going away, told them that if they would be good
little larvæ, and eat a great deal of plain food and take care not to
break any of their legs, or to hurt either of their short, stiff little
feelers, they would some day be fine great Nymphs like her. Then she
crawled slowly up the cat-tail stem, and when she drew the tenth and
last joint of her body out of the water, her friends turned to each
other and said, "She is really gone." They felt so badly about it that
they had to eat something at once to keep from crying.

The Oldest Nymph now stopped breathing water and began to breathe air.
She waited to look at the pond before she went any farther. She had
never seen it from above, and it looked very queer to her. It was
beautiful and shining, and, because the sky above it was cloudless, the
water was a most wonderful blue. There was no wind stirring, so there
were no tiny waves to sparkle and send dancing bits of light here and
there. It was one of the very hot and still summer days, which
Dragon-Flies like best.

A sad look came into the Nymph's great eyes as she stood there. "The
pond is beautiful," she said; "but when one looks at it from above, it
does not seem at all homelike." She shook her three-cornered head sadly,
and rubbed her eyes with her forelegs. She thought she should miss the
happy times in the mud with the other children.

A Virgin Dragon-Fly lighted on the cat-tail next to hers. She knew it
was a Virgin Dragon-Fly because he had black wings folded over his back,
and there were shimmering green and blue lights all over his body and
wings. He was very slender and smaller than she. "Good morning," said
he. "Are you just up?"

"Yes," said she, looking bashfully down at her forefeet. She did not
know how to behave in the air, it was so different from the water.

"Couldn't have a finer day," said he. "Very glad you've come. Excuse me.
There is a friend to whom I must speak." Then he flew away with another
Virgin Dragon-Fly.

"Hurry up and get your skin changed," said a voice above her, and there
was a fine great fellow floating in the air over her head. "I'll tell
you a secret when you do."

Dragon-Flies care a great deal for secrets, so she quickly hooked her
twelve sharp claws into the cat-tail stem, and unfastened her old skin
down the back, and wriggled and twisted and pulled until she had all her
six legs and the upper part of her body out. This made her very tired
and she had to rest for a while. The old skin would only open down for a
little way by her shoulders, and it was hard to get out through such a
small place. Next she folded her legs close to her body, and bent over
backward, and swayed this way and that, until she had drawn her long,
slender body from its outgrown covering.

  [Illustration: SHE SWAYED THIS WAY AND THAT.             _Page 146_]

She crawled away from the empty skin and looked it over. It kept the
shape of her body, but she was surprised to find how fast she was
growing slender. Even then, and she had been out only a short time, she
was much longer and thinner than she had been, and her old skin looked
much too short for her. "How styles do change," she said. "I remember
how proud I was of that skin when I first got it, and now I wouldn't be
seen in it."

Her beautiful gauzy wings with their dark veinings, were drying and
growing in the sunshine. She was weak now, and had them folded over her
back like those of the Virgin Dragon-Fly, but, as soon as she felt
rested and strong, she meant to spread them out flat.

The fine Big Dragon-Fly lighted beside her. "How are your wings?" said

"Almost dry," she answered joyfully, and she quivered them a little to
show him how handsome they were.

"Well," said he. "I'll tell you the secret now, and of course you will
never speak of it. I saw you talking with a Virgin Dragon-Fly. He may be
all right, but he isn't really in our set, you know, and you'd better
not have anything to do with him."

"Thank you," she said. "I won't." She thought it very kind in him to
tell her.

He soon flew away, and, as she took her first flight into the air, a
second Big Dragon-Fly overtook her. "I'll tell you a secret," said he,
"if you will never tell."

"I won't," said she.

"I saw you talking to a Virgin Dragon-Fly a while ago. You may have
noticed that he folded his wings over his back. The Big Dragon-Flies
never do this, and you must never be seen with yours so."

"Thank you," she said. "I won't. But when they were drying I had to hold
them in that way."

"Of course," said he. "We all do things then that we wouldn't

Before long she began egg-laying, flying low enough to touch her body to
the water now and then and drop a single egg. This egg always sank at
once to the bottom, and she took no more care of it.

A third Big Dragon-Fly came up to her. "I want to tell you something,"
he said. "Put your head close to mine."

She put her head close to his, and he whispered, "I saw you flying with
my cousin a few minutes ago. I dislike to say it, but he is not a good
friend for you. Whatever you do, don't go with him again. Go with me."

"Thank you," said she, yet she began to wonder what was the matter. She
saw that just as soon as she visited with anybody, somebody else told
her that she must not do so again. Down in the pond they had all been
friends. She wondered if it could not be so in the air. She rubbed her
head with her right foreleg, and frowned as much as she could. You know
she couldn't frown very much, because her eyes were so large and close
together that there was only a small frowning-place left.

She turned her head to see if any one else was coming to tell her a
secret. Her neck was very, very slender and did not show much, because
the back side of her head was hollow and fitted over her shoulders. No
other Dragon-Fly was near. Instead, she saw a Swallow swooping down on
her. She sprang lightly into the air and the Swallow chased her. When he
had his beak open to catch her as he flew, she would go backward or
sidewise without turning around. This happened many times, and it was
well for her that it was so, for the Swallow was very hungry, and if he
had caught her--well, she certainly would never have told any of the
secrets she knew.

The Swallow quite lost his patience and flew away grumbling. "I won't
waste any more time," he said, "on trying to catch somebody who can fly
backward without turning around. Ridiculous way to fly!"

The Dragon-Fly thought it an exceedingly good way, however, and was even
more proud of her wings than she had been. "Legs are all very well," she
said to herself, "as far as they go, and one's feet would be of very
little use without them; but I like wings better. Now that I think of
it," she added, "I haven't walked a step since I began to fly. I
understand better the old saying, 'Make your wings save your legs.' They
certainly are very good things to stand on when one doesn't care to

Night came, and she was glad to sleep on the under side of a broad leaf
of pickerel-weed. She awakened feeling stupid and lazy. She could not
think what was the matter, until she heard her friends talking about the
weather. Then she knew that Dragon-Flies are certain to feel so on dark
and wet days. "I don't see what difference that should make," she said.
"I'm not afraid of rain. I've always been careless about getting my feet
wet and it never hurt me any."

"Ugh!" said one of her friends. "You've never been wet in spots, or hit
on one wing by a great rain-drop that has fallen clear down from a
cloud. I had a rain-drop hit my second right knee once, and it has hurt
me ever since. I have only five good knees left, and I have to be very
careful about lighting on slippery leaves."

It was very dull. Nobody seemed to care about anybody or anything. The
fine Big Dragon-Flies, who had been so polite to her the day before,
hardly said "Good morning" to her now. When she asked them questions,
they would say nothing but "Yes" or "No" or "I don't know," and one of
them yawned in her face. "Oh dear!" she said. "How I wish myself back
in the pond where the rain couldn't wet me. I'd like to see my old
friends and some of the dear little larvæ. I wish more of the Nymphs
would come up."

She looked all around for them, and as she did so she saw the shining
back-shell of the Snapping Turtle, showing above the shallow water. "I
believe I'll call on him," she said. "He may tell me something about my
old friends, and anyway it will cheer me up." She lighted very carefully
on the middle of his back-shell and found it very comfortable. "Good
morning," said she. "Have you--"

"No," snapped he. "I haven't, and I don't mean to!"

"Dear me," said she. "That is too bad."

"I don't see why," said he. "Is there any particular reason why I

"I thought you might have just happened to," said she, "and I should
like to know how they are."

"What are you talking about?" snapped he.

"I was going to ask if you had seen the Dragon-Fly children lately," she
said. And as she spoke she made sure that she could not slip. She felt
perfectly safe where she was, because she knew that, no matter how cross
he might be, he could not reach above the edges of his back-shell.

"Well, why didn't you say so in the first place," he snapped, "instead
of sitting there and talking nonsense! They are all right. A lot of the
Nymphs are going into the air to-day!" Now that he had said a few ugly
things, he began to feel better natured. "You've changed a good deal
since the last time I saw you."

"When was that?" asked she.

"It was one day when I came remarkably near sitting down on a lot of you
Dragon-Fly children," he chuckled. "You were a homely young Nymph then,
and you stuck out your lower lip at me."

"Oh!" said she. "Then you did see us?"

"Of course I did," answered he. "Haven't I eyes? I'd have sat down on
you, too, if I hadn't wanted to see you scramble away. The larvæ always
are full of mischief, but then they are young. You Nymphs were old
enough to know better."

"I suppose we were," she said. "I didn't think you saw us. Why didn't
you tell us?"

"Oh," said the Snapping Turtle, "I thought I'd have a secret. If I can't
keep a secret for myself, I know that nobody can keep it for me. Secrets
can swim faster than any fish in the pond if you once let them get away
from you. I thought I'd better not tell. I might want to sit on you
some other time, you know."

"You'll never have the chance," said she, with a twinkle in her big
eyes. "It is my turn to sit on you." And after that they were very good
friends--as long as she sat on the middle of his shell.


The Eels were as different from the Clams as people well could be. It
was not alone that they looked unlike, but that they had such different
ways of enjoying life. The Clams were chubby people, each comfortably
settled in his own shell, which he could open or shut as he chose. They
never wanted to live anywhere else, or to get beyond the edges of their
own pearl-lined shells.

The Eels were long, slender, and slippery people, looking even more like
snakes than they did like fishes. They were always careful to tell new
acquaintances, though, that they were not even related to the snakes.
"To be sure," they would say, "we do not wear our fins like most
fishes, but that is only a matter of taste after all. We should find
them dreadfully in the way if we did." And that was just like the
Eels--they were always so ready to explain everything to their friends.

They were great talkers. They would talk about themselves, and their
friends, and the friends of their friends, and the pond, and the
weather, and the state of the mud, and what everything was like
yesterday, and what it would be likely to be like to-morrow, and did you
really think so, and why? The Water-Adder used to say that they were the
easiest people in the pond to visit with, for all one had to do was to
keep still and look very much interested. Perhaps that may have been why
the Clams and they were such good friends.

The Clams, you know, were a quiet family. Unless a Clam was very, very
much excited, he never said more than "Yes," "No," or "Indeed?" They
were excellent listeners and some of the most popular people in the
pond. Those who were in trouble told the Clams, and they would say,
"Indeed," or "Ah," in such a nice way that their visitor was sure to
leave feeling better. Others who wanted advice would go to them, and
talk over their plans and tell them what they wanted to do, and the
Clams would say, "Yes," and then the visitors would go away quite
decided, and say, "We really didn't know what to do until we spoke to
the Clams about it, but they agree with us perfectly." The Clams were
also excellent people to keep secrets, and as the Eels were forever
telling secrets, that was all very well.

Mother Eel was fussy. She even said so herself. And if a thing bothered
her, she would talk and talk and talk until even her own children were
tired of hearing about it. Now she was worrying over the pond water.

"I do not think it nearly so clean as it was last year," she said, "and
the mud is getting positively dirty. Our family are very particular
about that, and I think we may have to move. I do dread the moving,
though. It is so much work with a family the size of mine, and Mr. Eel
is no help at all with the children."

She was talking with Mother Mud Turtle when she said this, and the
little Eels were wriggling all around her as she spoke. Then they began
teasing her to go, until she told them to swim away at once and play
with the young Minnows. "I'm afraid I shall have to go," said she, "if
only on account of the children. I want them to see something of the
world. It is so dull in this pond. Were you ever out of it?" she asked,
turning suddenly to Mrs. Mud Turtle.

"Oh, yes," answered she. "I go quite often, and one of my sons took a
very long trip to the meadow. He went with some boys. It was most

  [Illustration: SHE WAS TALKING WITH MOTHER MUD TURTLE.   _Page 160_]

"Is that the one with the--peculiar back-shell?" asked Mother Eel.

"Yes," replied Mother Mud Turtle sweetly. "He is very modest and does
not care to talk about it much, but I am really quite pleased. Some
people travel and show no sign of it afterward. One would never know
that they had left home (Mother Eel wondered if she meant her), but with
him it is different. He shows marks of having been in the great world

Mother Eel wriggled a little uneasily. "I think I must tell you after
all," she said. "I have really made up my mind to go. Mr. Eel thinks it
foolish, and would rather stay here, but I am positive that we can find
a better place, and we must consider the children. He thinks he cares as
much for them as I do, yet he would be willing to have them stay here
forever. He was hatched here, and thinks the pond perfect. We get to
talking about it sometimes, and I say to him, 'Mr. Eel, where would
those children be now if it were not for me?'"

"And what does he say then?" asked the Mud Turtle Mother.

"Nothing," answered Mother Eel, with a smart little wriggle. "There is
nothing for him to say. Yes, we shall certainly move. I am only waiting
for the right kind of night. It must not be too light, or the land
people would see us; not too dark, or we could not see them. And then
the grass must be dewy. It would never do for us to get dry, you know,
or we should all be sick. But please don't speak of this, dear Mrs.
Turtle. I would rather leave quietly when the time comes."

So the Mud Turtle Mother remembered that it was a secret, and told
nobody except the Mud Turtle Father, and he did not speak of it to
anybody but the Snapping Turtle.

"Did you say that it was a secret?" asked the Snapping Turtle.

"Yes," said the Mud Turtle Father, "It is a great secret."

"Humph!" said the Snapping Turtle. "Then why did you tell me?"

That same day when the Stickleback Father came to look for nineteen or
twenty of his children who were missing, Mother Eel told him about her
plans. "I thought you would be interested in hearing of it," she said,
"but I shall not mention it to anybody else."

"You may be sure I shall not speak of it," said he. And probably he
would not have told a person, if it had not been that he forgot and
talked of it with the Snails. He also forgot to say that it was a
secret, and so they spoke freely of it to the Crayfishes and the Caddis

The Caddis Worms were playing with the Tadpoles soon after this, and one
of them whispered to a Tadpole right before the others, although he
knew perfectly well that it was rude for him to do so. "Now, don't you
ever tell," said he aloud.

"Uh-uh!" answered the Tadpole, and everybody knew that he meant "No,"
even if they hadn't seen him wave his hindlegs sidewise. Of course, not
having the right kind of neck for it, he couldn't shake his head.

Then the other Tadpoles and Caddis Worms wanted to tell secrets, and
they kept whispering to each other and saying out loud, "Now don't you
_ever_ tell." When a Caddis Worm told a Tadpole anything, he said, "The
Eels are going to move away." And when a Tadpole told a secret to a
Caddis Worm, he just moved his lips and said, "Siss-el, siss-el,
siss-el-siss. I'm only making believe, you know." But he was sure to add
out loud, "Now don't you _tell_." And the Caddis Worm would answer,

The Eel Mother also spoke to the Biggest Frog, asking him to watch the
grass for her and tell her when it was dewy enough for moving. He was
afraid he might forget it, and so told his sister and asked her to help
him remember. And she was afraid that she might forget, so she spoke to
her friend, the Green Brown Frog, about it. The Yellow Brown Frog
afterward said that he heard it from her.

One night it was neither too dark nor too light, and the dew lay heavy
on the grass. Then Mother Eel said to her children, "Now stop your
wriggling and listen to me, every one of you! We shall move because the
mud here is so dirty. You are going out into the great world, and I want
you to remember everything you feel and see. You may never have another

The little Eels were so excited that they couldn't keep still, and she
had to wait for them to stop wriggling. When they were quiet, she went
on. "All the Eels are going--your uncles and aunts and cousins--and you
children must keep with the older ones. Be careful where you wriggle to,
and don't get on anybody else's tail."

She led the way out of the water and wriggled gracefully up the bank,
although it was quite steep at that place. "I came this way," she said,
"because I felt more as though this was the way to come." She closed her
mouth very firmly as she spoke. Mr. Eel had thought another way better.
They had to pass through crowds of pond people to reach the shore, for
everybody had kept awake and was watching. The older ones cried out,
"Good-bye; we shall miss you," and waved their fins or their legs, or
their tails, whichever seemed the handiest. The younger ones teased the
little Eels and tried to hold them back, and told them they'd miss lots
of fun, and that they guessed they'd wish themselves back in the pond
again. When they got onto the shore, the Frogs and the Mud Turtles were
there, and it was a long time before they could get started on their
journey. One of the little Eels was missing, and his mother had to go
back for him. She found that a mischievous young Stickleback had him by
the tail.

When at last they were all together on the bank, the Eel Father said to
his wife, "Are you sure that the Cranes and Fish Hawks don't know about
our moving? Because if they did--"

"I know," she said. "It would be dreadful if they found out; and we have
been so late in getting started. We shall have to stop at the very first
water we find now, whether we like it or not." She lay still and
thought. "I have a feeling," said she, "that we should go this way." So
that way they went, dragging their yellow bellies over the ground as
carefully as they could, their dark green backs with their long fringes
of back fins hardly showing in the grass. It was a good thing that their
skin was so fat and thick, for sometimes they had to cross rough places
that scraped it dreadfully and even rumpled the tiny scales that were in
it, while their long fringes of belly fins became worn and almost
ragged. "If your scales were on the outside," said their father, "like
those of other fishes, you wouldn't have many left."

Mother Eel was very tired and did not say much. Her friends began to
fear that she was ill. At last she spoke, "I do not see," she said, "how
people found out that we were to move."

"You didn't tell anybody?" said Mr. Eel.

"No indeed!" said she; and she really believed it. That was because she
had talked so much that she couldn't remember what she did say. It is
always so with those that talk too much.


Three Stickleback Mothers and several Clams were visiting under the
lily-pads in the early morning. Mother Eel was also there. "Yes," she
said "I am glad to come back and be among my old friends, and the
children are happier here. As I often tell Mr. Eel, there is no place
like one's home. We had a hard journey, but I do not mind that. We are
rested now, and travel does teach people so much. I should think you
would get dreadfully tired of being in the water all the time. I want my
children to see the world. Now they know grass, and trees, and air, and
dry ground. There are not many children of their age who know more than
they. We stayed in a brook the one day we were gone, so they have felt
running water too. It was clean--I will say that for it--but it was no
place for Eels, and so we came back."

There is no telling how long she would have kept on talking if she had
not been called away. As soon as she left, the Sticklebacks began to
talk about her.

"So she thinks we must be tired of staying in the water all the time,"
said one. "It doesn't tire me nearly so much as it would to go dragging
myself over the country, wearing out my fins on the ground."

"Indeed?" said a Clam, to whom she turned as she spoke.

"Well, I'll tell you what I think," said another Stickleback Mother. "I
think that if she didn't care so much for travel herself, she would not
be dragging her family around to learn grass and trees. Some night they
will be learning Owls or men, and that will be the end of them!"

"I do not believe in it at all," said the first speaker. "I certainly
would not want my sons to learn these things, for they must grow up to
be good nest-builders and baby-tenders. I have told their fathers
particularly to bring them up to be careful housekeepers. With my
daughters, it is different."

For a long time nobody spoke; then a Clam said, "What a difference there
is in mothers!" It quite startled the Sticklebacks to hear a Clam say so
much. It showed how interested he was, and well he might be. The Clam
who brings up children has to do it alone, and be both father and mother
to them, and of course that is hard work. It is hard, too, because when
a little Clam is naughty, his parent can never say that he takes his
naughtiness from any one else.

"And there is a difference in fathers too," exclaimed one fine-looking
Stickleback Mother. "_I_ say that a father's place is by the nest, and
that if he does his work there well, he will not have much time to want
to travel, or to loaf around by the shore." The Clams looked at each
other and said nothing. Some people thought that the Stickleback Mothers
were lazy.

Just then a Crayfish Mother came swimming slowly along, stopping often
to rest. Her legs were almost useless, there were so many little
Crayfishes clinging to them.

"Now look at her," said one Stickleback. "Just look at her. She laid her
eggs at the beginning of last winter and fastened them to her legs. Said
she was so afraid something would happen if she left them, and that this
was a custom in her family anyway. Now they have hatched, and her
children hang on to her in the same way."

The Crayfish Mother stopped with a sigh. "Isn't it dreadfully warm?"
said she.

"We haven't found it so," answered the Sticklebacks, while the Clams
murmured "No."

"Let me take some of your children," said one Stickleback. "Perhaps
carrying them has made you warm and tired."

The Crayfish stuck her tail-paddles into the mud, and spread her
pinching-claws in front of her family. "Oh no, thank you," said she.
"They won't be contented with any one but me."

"That must make it hard for you," said another Stickleback politely. She
was thinking how quickly she would shake off the little Crayfishes if
they were her children.

"It does," answered their mother. "It is hard, for I carried the eggs on
my legs all through the cold weather and until it was very warm again;
and now that they are hatched, the children hang on with their
pinching-claws. Still, I can't bear to shake them off, poor little
things!" She held up first one leg and then another to show off her
dangling babies.

"I don't know what will happen to them when I cast my shell," said she.
"I shall have to soon, for I can hardly breathe in it. My sister changed
hers some time ago, and her new one is getting hard already."

"Oh, they'll be all right," said a Stickleback cheerfully. "Their
fathers tell me that my children learn remarkably fast how to look out
for themselves."

"But my children can't walk yet," said the Crayfish Mother, "and they
don't know how to swim."

"What of that?" asked a Stickleback, who was beginning to lose her
patience. "They can learn, can't they? They have eight legs apiece,
haven't they, besides the ones that have pincers? Isn't that enough to
begin on? And haven't they tail-paddles?"

"I suppose so," said their mother, with a sigh, "but they don't seem to
want to go. I must put them to sleep now and try to get a little rest
myself, for the sun is well up."

The next night she awakened and remembered what the Sticklebacks had
said, so she thought she would try shaking her children off. "It is for
your own good," she said, and she waved first one leg and then another.
When she got four of her legs free, and stood on them to shake the other
four, her children scrambled back to her and took hold again with their
strong little pinching-claws. Then she gave it up. "You dear tiny
things!" she said. "But I do wish you would walk instead of making me
carry you."

"We don't want to!" they cried; "we don't know how."

"There, there!" said their mother. "No, to be sure you don't."

The next night, though, they had to let go, for their mother was casting
her shell. When it was off she lay weak and helpless on the
pond-bottom, and her children lay around her. They behaved very badly
indeed. "Come here and let me catch hold of you," cried one. "I can't
walk," said another, "because I don't know how."

Some of them were so cross that they just lay on their backs and kicked
with all their eight feet, and screamed, "I _won't_ try!" It was

The Crayfish Mother was too weak to move, and when the Wise Old Crayfish
came along she spoke to him. "My children will not walk," said she,
"even when I tell them to." He knew that it was because when she had
told them to do things before, she had not made them mind.

"I will see what I can do," said he, "but you must not say a word." He
walked backward to where they were, and kept his face turned toward
their mother, which was polite of him. "Do you want the Eels to find you
here?" he said, in his gruffest voice. "If you don't, you'd better

What a scrambling there was! In one way or another, every little
Crayfish scampered away. Some went forward, some went sidewise, and some
went backward. Some didn't keep step with themselves very well at first,
but they soon found out how. Even the crossest ones, who were lying on
their backs flopped over and were off.

The Wise Old Crayfish turned to their mother. "It is no trouble to teach
ten-legged children to walk," said he, "if you go at it in the right

The little Crayfishes soon got together again, and while they were
talking, one of their many aunts came along with all her children
hanging to her legs. Then the little Crayfishes who had just learned to
walk, pointed their pinching-claws at their cousins, and said, "Sh-h-h!
'Fore I'd let my mother carry me! Babies!"


The day after the Eels left, the pond people talked of nothing else. It
was not that they were so much missed, for the Eels, you know, do not
swim around in the daytime. They lie quietly in the mud and sleep or
talk. It is only at night that they are really lively. Still, as the
Mother Mud Turtle said, "They had known that they were there, and the
mud seemed empty without them."

The larger people had been sorry to have them go, and some of them felt
that without the Eels awake and stirring, the pond was hardly a safe
place at night.

"I think it is a good deal safer," remarked a Minnow, who usually said
what she thought. "I have always believed that the Eels knew what
became of some of my brothers and sisters, although, of course, I do not

"Why didn't you ask them?" said a Stickleback.

"Why?" replied the Minnow. "If I had gone to the Eels and asked them
that, my other brothers and sisters would soon be wondering what had
become of me."

"I have heard some queer things about the Eels myself," said the
Stickleback, "but I have never felt much afraid of them. I suppose I am
braver because I wear so many of my bones on the outside."

Just then a Wise Old Crayfish came along walking sidewise. "What do you
think about the Eels?" asked the Stickleback, turning suddenly to him.

The Crayfish stuck his tail into the mud. He often did this when he was
surprised. It seemed to help him think. When he had thought for a while,
he waved his big pinching-claws and said, "It would be better for me not
to tell what I think. I used to live near them."

This showed that the Wise Old Crayfish had been well brought up, and
knew he should not say unpleasant things about people if he could help
it. When there was need of it, he could tell unpleasant truths, and
indeed that very evening he did say what he thought of the Eels. That
was when he was teaching some young Crayfishes, his pupils. Their mother
had brought up a large family, and was not strong. She had just cast the
shell which she had worn for a year, and now she was weak and helpless
until the new one should harden on her. "It is such a bother," she said,
"to keep changing one's shell in this way, but it is a comfort to think
that the new one will last a year when I do get it."

While their mother was so weak, the Wise Old Crayfish amused the
children, and taught them things which all Crayfishes should know. Every
evening they gathered around him, some of them swimming to him, some
walking forward, some sidewise, and some backward. It made no difference
to them which way they came. They were restless pupils, and their
teacher could not keep them from looking behind them. Each one had so
many eyes that he could look at the teacher with a few, and at the other
little Crayfishes with a few more, and still have a good many eyes left
with which to watch the Tadpoles. These eyes were arranged in two big
bunches, and, unless you looked very closely, you might think that they
had only two eyes apiece. They had good ears, and there were also fine
smelling-bristles growing from their heads. The Wise Old Crayfish
sometimes said that each of his pupils should sit in a circle of six
teachers, so that he might be taught on all sides at once.

"That is the way in which children should learn," he said, "all around
at once. But I do the best I can, and I at least teach one side of

This evening the Wise Old Crayfish was very sleepy. There had been so
much talking and excitement during the day that he had not slept so much
as usual; and now, when he should have been wide awake, he felt
exceedingly dull and stupid. When he tried to walk, his eight legs
stumbled over each other, and the weak way in which he waved his
pinching-claw legs showed how tired he was.

After he had told his pupils the best way to hold their food with their
pinching-claws, and had explained to them how it was chewed by the teeth
in their stomachs, one mischievous little fellow called out, "I want to
know about the Eels. My mother would never let me go near them, and now
they've moved away, and I won't ever see them, and I think it's just

"Eels, my children," said their teacher, "are long, slender,
sharp-nosed, slippery people, with a fringe of fins along their backs,
and another fringe along their bellies. They breathe through very small
gill-openings in the backs of their heads. They have large mouths, and
teeth in their mouths, and they are always sticking out their lower

"And how do--" began the Biggest Little Crayfish.

"Ask me that to-morrow," said their teacher, stretching his eight
walking legs and his two pinching-claw legs and his tail paddles, "but
remember this one thing:--if you ever see an Eel, _get out of his way_.
Don't stop to look at him."

"We won't," said one little Crayfish, who thought it smart to be saucy.
"We'll look to stop at him." All of which meant nothing at all and was
only said to annoy his teacher.

They scrambled away over the pond-bottom, upsetting Snails, jiggling the
young Clams, and racing with each other where the bottom was smooth.
"Beat you running backward!" cried the Saucy Crayfish to the Biggest
Little Crayfish, and they scampered along backward in the moonlit water.
There was an old log on the bottom of the pond, and they sat on that to
rest. The Biggest Little Crayfish had beaten. "I would like to see an
Eel," said he.

"I'd like to see them running on the land," said the saucy one.

"Pooh!" said the biggest one. "That's all you know! They don't run on

"Well, I guess they do," replied the saucy one. "I know as much about it
as you do!"

"Eels swim. They don't run," said the biggest one. "Guess I know!"

"Well, they don't swim in air," said the saucy one. "That's the stuff
that lies on top of the water and the ground, and people can't swim in
it. So there!"

"Well, I've seen the Wild Ducks swim in it! They swim with their legs in
the water, and with their wings in the air," said the biggest one.

"I don't believe it," said the saucy one. "Anyhow, Eels run on land."

"Eels swim on land," said the biggest one.

"Eels run!"

"Eels swim!"



Then the two little Crayfishes, who had been talking louder and louder
and becoming more and more angry, glared at each other, and jerked their
feelers, and waved their pinching-claws in a very, very ugly way.

  [Illustration: MOTHER EEL OPENED HER BIG MOUTH.          _Page 186_]

They did not notice a great green and yellow person swimming gently
toward them, and they did not know that the Eels had come back to live
in the old pond again. Mother Eel opened her big mouth very wide. "On
land," she said decidedly, as she swallowed the Biggest Little Crayfish,
"Eels wriggle." Then she swallowed the Saucy Crayfish.

"There!" said she. "I've stopped that dreadful quarrel." And she looked
around with a satisfied smile.


During the warm weather, the Minks did not come often to the pond. Then
they had to stay nearer home and care for their babies. In the winter,
when food was not so plentiful and their youngest children were old
enough to come with them, they visited there every day. It was not far
from their home.

The Minks lived by a waterfall in the river, and had burrows in the
banks, where the young Minks stayed until they were large enough to go
out into the world. Then the fathers and mothers were very busy, for in
each home there were four or five or six children, hungry and restless,
and needing to be taught many things.

They were related to the Weasels who lived up by the farmyard, and had
the same slender and elegant bodies and short legs as they. Like the
Weasels, they sometimes climbed trees, but that was not often. They did
most of their hunting in the river, swimming with their bodies almost
all under water, and diving and turning and twisting gracefully and
quickly. When they hunted on land, they could tell by smelling just
which way to go for their food.

The Minks were a very dark brown, and scattered through their close,
soft fur were long, shining hairs of an even darker shade, which made
their coats very beautiful indeed. The fur was darker on their backs
than on the under part of their bodies, and their tapering, bushy tails
were almost black. Their under jaws were white, and they were very proud
of them. Perhaps it was because they had so little white fur that they
thought so much of it. You know that is often the way--we think most of
those things which are scarce or hard to get.

There was one old Mink by the river who had a white tip on his tail, and
that is something which many people have never seen. It is even more
uncommon than for Minks to have white upper lips, and that happens only
once in a great while. This Mink was a bachelor, and nobody knew why.
Some people said it was because he was waiting to find a wife with a
white tip on her tail, yet that could not have been, for he was too wise
to wait for something which might never happen. However it was he lived
alone, and fished and hunted just for himself. He could dive more
quickly, stay under water longer, and hunt by scent better than any
other Mink round there. His fur was sleeker and more shining than that
of his friends, and it is no wonder that the sisters of his friends
thought that he ought to marry.

When the Minks visited together, somebody was sure to speak of the
Bachelor's luck. They said that, whatever he did, he was always lucky.
"It is all because of a white tip on his tail," they said. "That makes
him lucky."

The young Minks heard their fathers and mothers talking, and wished that
they had been born with white tips on their tails so that they could be
lucky too. Once the Bachelor heard them wishing this, and he smiled and
showed his beautiful teeth, and told them that it was not the tip of his
tail but his whole body that made him lucky. He did not smile _to_ show
his teeth, because he was not at all vain. He just smiled _and_ showed
his teeth.

  [Illustration: USED TO FOLLOW HIM AROUND.                _Page 191_]

There was a family of young Minks who lived at the foot of the
waterfall, where the water splashed and dashed in the way they liked
best. There were four brothers and two sisters in this family, and the
brothers were bigger than the sisters (as Mink Brothers always are),
although they were all the same age. One was very much larger than any
of the rest, and so they called him Big Brother. He thought there was
never such a fine Mink as the Bachelor, and he used to follow him
around, and look at the tip on his tail, and wish that he was lucky like
him. He wished to be just like him in every way but one; he did not want
to be a bachelor.

The other young Minks laughed at Big Brother, and asked him if he
thought his tail would turn white if he followed the Bachelor long
enough. Big Brother stood it very patiently for a while; then he snarled
at them, and showed his teeth without smiling, and said he would fight
anybody who spoke another word about it. Minks are very brave and very
fierce, and never know when to stop if they have begun to fight; so,
after that, nobody dared tease Big Brother by saying anything more
about the Bachelor. Sometimes they did look at his tail and smile, but
they never spoke, and he pretended not to know what they meant by it.

A few days after this, the Bachelor was caught in a trap--a common,
clumsy, wooden trap, put together with nails and twine. It was not near
the river, and none of his friends would have found him, if Big Brother
had not happened along. He could hardly believe what he saw. Was it
possible that a trap had dared to catch a Mink with a white-tipped tail?
Then he heard the Bachelor groan, and he knew that it was so. He hurried
up to where the trap was.

"Can't you get out?" said he.

"No," said the Bachelor. "I can't. The best way to get out is not to get
in--and I've gotten in."

"Can't you do something with your lucky tail to make the trap open?"
asked Big Brother.

"I could do something with my teeth," answered the Bachelor, "if they
were only where the tip of my tail is. Why are Minks always walking into
traps?" He was trying hard not to be cross, but his eyes showed how he
felt, and that was very cross indeed.

Then Big Brother became much excited. "I have good teeth," said he,
"Tell me what to do."

"If you will help me out," said the Bachelor, "I will give you my luck."

"And what shall I do with the tail I have?" asked the young Mink, who
thought that the Bachelor was to give him his white-tipped tail.

"Never mind now," answered the Bachelor, and he told the young Mink just
where to gnaw. For a long time there was no sound but that of the young
Mink's teeth on the wood of the trap. The Bachelor was too brave to
groan or make a fuss, when he knew there was anybody around to hear.
Big Brother's mouth became very sore, and his stomach became very empty,
but still he kept at work. He was afraid somebody would come for the
trap and the Mink in it, before he finished.

"Now try it," said he, after he had gnawed for quite a while. The
Bachelor backed out as far as he could, but his body stuck in the hole.
"You are rumpling your beautiful fur," cried the young Mink.

"Never mind the fur," answered the Bachelor. "I can smooth that down
afterward. You will have to gnaw a little on this side." And he raised
one of his hind feet to show where he meant. It was a beautiful
hindfoot, thickly padded, and with short partly webbed toes, and no hair
at all growing between them. The claws were short, sharp, and curved.

Big Brother gnawed away. "Now try it," said he. The Bachelor backed
carefully out through the opening and stood there, looking tired and
hungry and very much rumpled.

"You are a fine young Mink," said he. "We will get something to eat, and
then we will see about making you lucky."

They went to the river bank and had a good dinner. The Bachelor ate more
than Big Brother, for his mouth was not sore. But Big Brother was very
happy. He thought how handsome he would look with a white-tipped tail,
and how, after he had that, he could surely marry whoever he wished. It
was the custom among his people to want to marry the best looking and
strongest. Indeed it is so among all the pond people, and that is one
reason why they care so much about being good-looking. It is very hard
for a young Mink to have the one he loves choose somebody else, just
because the other fellow has the bushiest tail, or the longest fur, or
the thickest pads on his feet.

"Now," said the Bachelor, "we will talk about luck. We will go to a
place where nobody can hear what we say." They found such a place and
lay down. The Bachelor rolled over three times and smoothed his fur; he
was still so tired from being in the trap. Then he looked at the young
Mink very sharply. "So you want my tail?" said he.

"You said you would give me your luck," answered Big Brother, "and
everybody knows that your luck is in your tail."

The Bachelor smiled. "What will you do with the tail you have?" said he.

"I don't know," answered Big Brother.

"You wouldn't want to wear two?" asked the Bachelor.

"Oh, no," answered Big Brother. "How that would look!"

"Well, how will you put my tail in place of yours?" asked the Bachelor.

"I don't know," answered the young Mink, "but you are so wise that I
thought you might know some way." He began to feel discouraged, and to
think that the Bachelor's offer didn't mean very much after all.

"Don't you think?" said the Bachelor slowly, "don't you think that, if
you could have my luck, you could get along pretty well with your own

"Why, yes," said the young Mink, who had begun to fear he was not going
to get anything. "Yes, but how could that be?"

The Bachelor smiled again. "I always tell people," said he, "that my
luck is not in my tail, and they never believe it. I will tell you the
secret of my luck, and you can have luck like it, if you really care
enough." He looked all around to make sure that nobody was near, and he
listened very carefully with the two little round ears that were almost
hidden in his head-fur. Then he whispered to Big Brother, "This is the
secret: _always do everything a little better than anybody else can_."

"Is that all?" asked the young Mink.

"That is enough," answered the Bachelor. "Keep trying and trying and
trying, until you can dive deeper, stay under water longer, run faster,
and smell farther than other Minks. Then you will have good luck when
theirs is poor. You will have plenty to eat when they are hungry. You
can beat in every fight. You can have sleek, shining fur when theirs is
dull. Luck is not a matter of white-tipped tails."

The more the young Mink thought about it, the happier he became. "I
don't see that I am to have your luck after all," said he. "When I have
learned to do everything in the very best way, it will be luck of my

"Of course," answered the Bachelor. "Then it is a kind of luck that
cannot be lost. If I carried mine in the tip of my tail, somebody might
bite it off and leave me unlucky."

Big Brother kept the secret, and worked until he had learned to be as
lucky as the Bachelor. Then he married the person he wanted, and she was
very, very handsome. It is said that one of their sons has a
white-tipped tail, but that may not be so.


One warm day in winter, when some of the pussy-willows made a mistake
and began to grow because they thought spring had come, a party of
Muskrats were visiting in the marsh beside the pond. All around them
were their winter houses, built of mud and coarse grasses. These homes
looked like heaps of dried rushes, unless one went close to them. If one
did that, he could plainly see what they were; and if one happened to be
a Muskrat, and could dive and go into them through their watery
doorways, he would find under the queer roof of each, a warm, dry room
in which to pass the cold days.

"Fine weather!" said every Muskrat to his neighbor. "Couldn't sleep all
of such a day as this." They spoke in that way, you know, because they
usually sleep in the daytime and are awake at night.

"We wish it would always be warm weather," said the young Muskrats.
"What's the use of winter?"

"Hard to tell," answered one Muskrat, who had lived in the marsh longer
than the rest. "Hard to tell: I know it always gives me a good appetite,
though." Then all the Muskrats laughed. They were a jolly, good-natured
company, and easy to get along with. The other pond people liked them
much better than they did their neighbors, the Minks. The Wild Ducks who
nested in the sedges, were quite willing that the young Muskrats should
play with their children, and the Mud Hens were not afraid of them. Mud
Hens cannot bear Minks. They say that when a Mud Chicken is missing from
the nest, there is quite sure to be a Mink somewhere near with a full
stomach and down around the corners of his mouth.

Perhaps if the Wild Ducks and the Mud Hens were raising their families
in the winter time it might be different, for then the Muskrats get
hungry enough to eat almost anything. In spring and summer, when they
can find fresh grasses and young rushes, or a few parsnips, carrots, and
turnips from the farmers' fields, other animals are quite safe. In the
winter they live mostly on roots.

"Fine day!" screamed the Gulls, as they swept through the air. "Pity the
Frogs don't come out to enjoy it!"

"Yes, great pity," chuckled the old Muskrat. "How glad you would be to
see them!" He smiled all around his little mouth and showed his gnawing
teeth. He knew that the Frogs were better off asleep in the mud at the
bottom of the pond, than they would be sitting in the sunshine with a
few hungry Gulls above them. The Turtles were sleeping all winter, too,
in the banks of the pond. The Eels were lying at the bottom, stupid and
drowsy, and somewhere the Water-Adders were hidden away, dreaming of
spring. Of all the birds who lived by the water, only the Gulls were
there, and they were not popular. It is true that they helped keep the
pond sweet and clean, and picked up and carried away many things which
made the shore untidy, still, they were rude, and talked too loudly, and
wore their feathers in such a way that they looked like fine large
birds, when really they were lean and skinny and small. The other pond
people said that was just like them, always pretending to be more than
they really were.

Fifteen young Muskrats, all brothers and sisters, and all born the
summer before, started off to look at the old home where they were
children together. That is to say, they were not all there at once, but
there were five born early in the season; and when they were old enough
to look out for themselves, five more came to live in the old nest; and
when these were old enough to leave the nest, another five were born.

It doesn't mean so much to Muskrats to be brothers and sisters as it
does to some people, still they remembered that they were related, and
they played more with each other than with those young Muskrats who were
only their cousins or friends. Their mother was very proud of them, and
loved to watch them running around on their short legs, and to hear them
slap their long, scaly tails on the water when they dove. They had
short, downy fur, almost black on the back, soft gray underneath, and a
reddish brown everywhere else. There was very little fur on their tails
or on their feet, and those parts were black.

These fifteen children had been fairly well brought up, but you can see
that their mother had many cares; so it is not strange if they sometimes
behaved badly. In some other families, where there were only nine or ten
babies all the season, they had been brought up more strictly. Like all
young Muskrats, they were full of fun, and there were few pleasanter
sights than to see them frolicking on a warm moonlight evening, when
they looked like brown balls rolling and bounding around on the shore or
plunging into the water. If they had all been exactly the same age, it
would have been even pleasanter, for the oldest five would put on airs
and call the others "the children"; and the next five would call the
youngest five "babies"; although they were all well grown. There was no
chance for the youngest five to call other Muskrats "babies," so when
they were warm and well fed and good-natured they laughed and said,
"Who cares?" When they were cold and hungry, they slapped their tails on
the ground or on the water and said, "Don't you think you're smart!"

When they got to talking so and their mother heard it, she would say,
"Now, children!" in such a way that they had to stop. Their father
sometimes slapped them with his tail. Teasing is not so very bad, you
know, although it is dreadfully silly, but when people begin by teasing
they sometimes get to saying things in earnest--even really hateful,
mean things. And that was what made the Muskrat father and mother stop
it whenever they could.

Now the whole fifteen crowded around the old summer home, and some of
them went in one way, and some of them went in another, for every
Muskrat's summer house has several burrows leading to it. When they
reached the old nest at the end, all of them tried to get in at once,
and they pushed each other around with their broad little heads,
scrambled and clutched and held on with their strong little feet. Five
of them said, "It's our turn first. We're the oldest." And five more
said, "Well, it's our turn next anyway, 'cause we're next oldest." The
others said, "You might give up to us, because we're the youngest."

They pushed and scrambled some more, and one of the youngest children
said to one of the oldest, "Well, I don't care. I'm just as big as you
are" (which was so). And the older one answered back, "Well, you're not
so good-looking" (which was also true).

Then part of the brothers and sisters took sides with one, and part took
sides with the other. What had been a lovely frolic became an
unpleasant, disgraceful quarrel, and they said such things as these:

"'Fore I'd make such a fuss!"

"Who's making any more fuss than you are, I'd like to know?"

"Oh, yes. You're big enough, but you're just as homely as you can be. So

"Quit poking me!"

"You slapped your tail on my back!"

"I'm going to tell on you fellows!"

"I dare you to!"

"Won't you catch it though!"

And many more things which were even worse. Think of it. Fifteen young
Muskrats who really loved each other, talking like that because they
couldn't decide whether the oldest or the youngest or the
half-way-between brothers and sisters should go first into the old nest.
And it didn't matter a bit who was oldest or who was youngest, and it
never would have happened had it not been for their dreadful habit of

Just as they had become very hot and angry, they heard their mother's
voice say, "Now, children!" but they were too much excited to mind, and
they did not stop until their father came and slapped them with his
tail. Then they kept still and listened to their mother. She told them
that they should leave the place at once, and not one of them should
even set foot in the old nest. "Suppose somebody had gotten hurt," she
said. This made the young Muskrats look very sober, for they knew that
the Muskrat who is hurt in winter never gets well.

After she had let them think about this for a while, she said, "I shall
punish you all for this." Then there was no quarrel among her children
to see who should have the first turn--not at all.

One young Muskrat said, "Aren't you going to let us play any more?"

"Yes," said she. "I shall let you play all the rest of the day, but I
shall choose the games. The oldest five will play 'Mud Turtles in
winter,' the next five will play 'Frogs in winter,' and the youngest
five will play 'Snakes in winter.' The way to play these games is to lie
perfectly still in some dark place and not say a word."

The young Muskrats looked at each other sorrowfully. They thought it
sounded very much the same as being sent to bed for being naughty. They
did not dare say anything, for they knew that, although their mother was
gentle, as Muskrats are most of the time, she could be very severe. So
they went away quietly to play what she had told them they must. But it
was not much fun to play those games when all the others were having a
fine time in the sunshine.

There were nine of the young Muskrats who did not tease any after that.
Even the other six were more careful.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Among the Pond People" ***

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