| Among the Forest People|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
| A charming series of nature stories for young children, including tales of red squirrels, great horned owls, rattlesnakes, and bats. No one can read these realistic conversations of the little creatures of the wood without being most tenderly drawn toward them. Within the context of each story children learn many entertaining facts about the lives and habits of these little people of the forest. Ages 5-7 |
 IT is not often that one of the Forest People has any
trouble about making up his mind, but there was one
large rattlesnake who had great difficulty in doing so.
She lived in the southern edge of the forest, where the
sunshine was clear and warm, and there were delightful
crevices among the rocks in which she and all her
friends and relatives could hide.
It seemed very
strange that so old a Snake should be so undecided as
she was. It must be that she had a careless mother
 who did not bring her up in the right way. If
that were so, one should indeed be sorry for her.
Still even that would be no real excuse, for was she
not old enough now to train herself? She had seven
joints in the rattle on her tail and an eighth one
growing, so you can see that she was no longer young,
although, being healthy, she had grown her new joints
and changed her skin oftener than some of her friends.
In fact, she had grown children of her own, and if it
had not been that they took after their father, they
would have been a most helpless family. Fortunately
for them, their father was a very decided Snake.
it was exceedingly lucky for them. It may not have
been so good a thing for him. His wife was always glad
to have things settled for her, and when he said, "We
will do this," she answered, "Yes, dear." When he
said, "We will not do that," she murmured, "No dear."
 when he said, "What shall we do?" she would
reply, "Oh, I don't know. What do you think we might
better do?" He did not very often ask her opinion, and
there were people in the forest who said he would never
have talked matters over with her if he had not known
that she would leave the decision to him.
Now this is
a bad way in which to have things go in any family, and
it happened here as it would anywhere. He grew more
and more selfish from having his own way all of the
time, and his wife became less and less able to take
care of herself. Most people thought him a very
devoted husband. Perhaps he was. It is easy to be a
devoted husband if you always have your own way.
night Mr. Rattlesnake did not return to their home.
Nobody ever knew what had become of him. The Red
Squirrel said that Mrs. Goldfinch said that the biggest
little Rabbit had told her
 that the Ground Hog
had overheard Mr. Crow say that he thought he saw
somebody that looked like Mr. Rattlesnake chasing a
Field Mouse over toward the farm, but that he might
have been mistaken. This was all so uncertain that
Mrs. Rattlesnake knew no more than she had known
before. It was very trying.
"If I only knew
positively," she said to her friend, Mrs. Striped
Snake, "I could do something, although I am sure I
don't know what it would be."
Mrs. Striped Snake tried
to help her. "Why not have one of your children come
home to live with you?" she said pleasantly, for this
year's children were now old enough to shift for
"I've thought of that," answered Mrs.
Rattlesnake, "but I like a quiet life, and you know how
it is. Young Snakes will be young Snakes. Besides, I
don't think they would want to come back."
 "Well, why not be alone, then?"
"Oh, it is so lonely,"
replied Mrs. Rattlesnake, with a sigh. "Everything
reminds me so of my husband, and that makes me sad. If
I lived somewhere else it would be different."
why not move?" said Mrs. Striped Snake, briskly. "I
would do that. Find a nice crack in the rock just big
enough for one, or make a cosy little hole in the
ground somewhere near here. Then if he comes back he
can find you easily. I would do that. I certainly
She spoke so firmly that Mrs. Rattlesnake said
she would, she would tomorrow. And her friend went
home thinking it was all settled. That shows how
little she really knew Mrs. Rattlesnake.
The more Mrs.
Rattlesnake thought it over that night, the more she
dreaded moving. "If he does not come back,"
sighed, "I may marry again in the spring, and then I
might have to move once more. I believe I will ask
somebody else what I ought to do."
So in the morning
she began to consult her friends. They all told her to
move, and she decided to do it. Then she could not
make up her mind whether to take a rock-crevice or make
a hole in the ground. It took another day of visiting
to settle that it should be a hole in the ground. A
fourth day was spent in finding just the right place
for her home, and on the fifth day she began work.
the time the sun was over the treetops, she wished she
had chosen some other place, and thought best to stop
and talk to some of her friends about it. When she
returned she found herself obliged to cast her skin,
which had been growing tight and dry for some time.
This was hard work, and she was too tired to go on with
her home-making, so
 she lay in the sunshine and
admired her beautiful, long, and shining body of
reddish brown spotted with black. Her rattle had eight
joints now, for when a Rattlesnake casts the old skin a
new joint is always uncovered at the end of the tail.
She waved it quickly to see how an eight-jointed rattle
would sound. "Lovely!" she said. "Lovely! Like the
seeds of the wild cucumber shaking around in their dry
and prickly case."
One could not tell all the things
that happened that fall, or how very, very, very tired
her friends became of having her ask their advice. She
changed her mind more times than there are seeds in a
milkweed pod, and the only thing of which she was
always sure was eating. When there was food in sight
she did not stop for anybody's advice. She ate it as
fast as she could, and if she had any doubts about the
wisdom of doing so, she kept them to herself.
 When winter came she had just got her new home ready,
and after all she went when invited to spend the winter
with a cave party of other Snakes. They coiled
themselves together in a great mass and slept there
until spring. As the weather grew warmer, they began
to stir, wriggling and twisting themselves free.
bachelor Snakes asked her to marry. One was a fine old
fellow with a twelve-jointed rattle. The other was
just her own age.
"To be sure I will," she cried, and
the pits between her nostrils and her ears looked more
like dimples than ever. "Only you must wait until I
can make up my mind which one to marry."
they answered, "don't go to all that trouble. We will
fight and decide it for you."
It was a long fight, and
the older of the two Snakes had a couple of joints
broken off from his rattle before it was over.
 Still he beat the other one and drove him away. When
he came back for his bride he found her crying. "What
is the matter?" said he, quite sternly.
p-poor other b-bachelor!" she sobbed. "I b-believe I
will g-go after him. I think p-perhaps I l-love him
"No, you don't, Mrs. Rattlesnake," said
the fine old fellow who had just won the fight. "You
will do no such thing. You will marry me and never
speak to him again. When I have lost two joints of my
rattle in fighting for you, I intend to have you
myself, and I say that you love me very dearly. Do you
"Yes, darling," she answered, as she wiped her
eyes on the grass, "very dearly." And they lived most
"He reminds me so much of the first
Mr. Rattlesnake," she said to her friends. "So strong,
so firm, so quick to decide!"
 And the friends
said to each other, "Well, let us be thankful he is.
We have been bothered enough by her coming to us for
advice which she never followed."
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