| Among the Meadow People|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
|Delightful stories of field life for young children, relating incidents in the lives of birds, insects, and other small creatures who make the meadow their home. Each chapter features the story of one animal in its daily activities and interactions with the other animals inhabiting the meadow. Ages 5-7 |
THE SELFISH TENT-CATERPILLAR
 ONE could hardly call the Tent-Caterpillars meadow people,
for they did not often leave their trees to crawl upon the
ground. Yet the Apple-Tree Tent-Caterpillars would not allow
anybody to call them forest people. "We live on apple and
wild cherry trees," they said, "and you will almost always
find us in the orchards or on the roadside trees. There are
Forest Tent-Caterpillars, but please don't get us mixed with
them. We belong to another branch of the family, the
The Tree Frog said that he remembered perfectly well when
the eggs were laid on the wild cherry tree on the edge of
 meadow. "It was early last summer," he said, "and the
Moth who laid them was a very agreeable reddish-brown
person, about as large as a common Yellow Butterfly. I
remember that she had two light yellow lines on each
forewing. Another Moth came with her, but did not stay. He
was smaller than she, and had the same markings. After he
had gone, she asked me if we were ever visited by the
"Why did she ask that?" said the Garter Snake.
"Don't you know?" exclaimed the Tree Frog. And then he
whispered something to the Garter Snake.
The Garter Snake wriggled with surprise and cried, "Really?"
All through the fall and winter the many, many eggs which
the reddish-brown Moth had laid were kept snug and warm on
the twig where she had put them. They were placed in rows
 twig, and then well covered to hold them together
and keep them warm. The winter winds had blown the twig to
and fro, the cold rain had frozen over them, the soft
snowflakes had drifted down from the clouds and covered
them, only to melt and trickle away again in shining drops.
One morning the whole wild cherry tree was covered with
beautiful long, glistening crystals of hoar-frost; and still
the ring of eggs stayed in its place around the twig, and
the life in them slept until spring sunbeams should shine
down and quicken it.
But when the spring sunbeams did come! Even before the
leaf-buds were open, tiny Larvæ, or Caterpillar babies,
came crawling from the ring of eggs and began feeding upon
the buds. They took very, very small bites, and that looked
as though they were polite children. Still, you know, their
mouths were so small that they could not take big ones,
 and it may not have been politeness after all which made them
When all the Tent-Caterpillars were hatched, and they had
eaten every leaf-bud near the egg-ring, they began to crawl
down the tree toward the trunk. Once they stopped by a
good-sized crotch in the branches. "Let's build here," said
the leader; "this place is all right."
Then some of the Tent-Caterpillars
said, "Let's!" and some
of them said, "Don't let's!" One young fellow said, "Aw,
come on! There's a bigger crotch farther down." Of course he
should have said, "I think you will like a larger crotch
better," but he was young, and, you know, these Larvae had
no father or mother to help them speak in the right way.
They were orphans, and it is wonderful how they ever learned
to talk at all.
After this, some of the Tent-Caterpillars went on to the
larger crotch and some stayed behind. More went than
 stayed, and when they saw this, those by the smaller crotch gave up
and joined their brothers and sisters, as they should have
done. It was right to do that which pleased most of them.
It took a great deal of work to make the tent. All helped,
spinning hundreds and thousands of white silken threads,
laying them side by side, criss-crossing them, fastening the
ends to branches and twigs, not forgetting to leave places
through which one could crawl in and out. They never worked
all day at this, because unless they stopped to eat they
would soon have been weak and unable to spin. There were
nearly always a few Caterpillars in the tent, but only in
the early morning or late afternoon or during the night were
they all at home. The rest of the time they were scattered
around the tree feeding. Of course there were some cold days
when they stayed in. When the weather was chilly
 they moved
slowly and cared very little for food.
There was one young Tent-Caterpillar who happened to be the
first hatched, and who seemed to think that because he was a
minute older than any of the other children he had the right
to his own way. Sometimes he got it, because the others
didn't want to have any trouble.
Sometimes he didn't get it,
and then he was very sulky and disagreeable, even refusing
to answer when he was spoken to.
One cold day, when all the Caterpillars stayed in the tent,
this oldest brother wanted the warmest place, that in the
very middle. It should have belonged to the younger brothers
and sisters, for they were not so strong, but he pushed and
wriggled his hairy black and brown and yellow body into the
very place he wanted, and then scolded everybody around
because he had to push to get there. It happened as it
 when a Caterpillar begins to say mean things,
and he went on until he was saying some which were really
untrue. Nobody answered back, so he scolded and fussed and
was exceedingly disagreeable.
All day long he thought how wretched he was, and how badly
they treated him, and how he guessed they'd be sorry enough
if he went away. The next morning he went. As long as the
warm sunshine lasted he did very well. When it began to grow
cool, his brothers and sisters crawled past him on their way
to the tent. "Come on!" they cried. "It's time to go home."
"Uh-uh!" said the eldest brother (and that meant "No"), "I'm
"Why not?" they asked.
"Oh, because," said he.
When the rest were all together in the tent they talked
about him. "Do you suppose he's angry?" said one.
 "What should he be angry about?" said another.
"I just believe he is," said a third. "Did you notice the
way his hairs bristled?"
"Don't you think we ought to go to get him?" asked two or
three of the youngest Caterpillars.
"No," said the older ones. "We
haven't done anything. Let
him get over it."
So the oldest brother, who had thought that every other
Caterpillar in the tent would crawl right out and beg and
coax him to come back, waited and waited and waited, but
nobody came. The tent was there and the door was open. All
he had to do was to crawl in and be at home. He waited so
long that at last he had to leave the tree and spin his
cocoon without ever having gone back to his brothers and
sisters in the tent. He spun his cocoon and mixed the silk
yellowish-  white, then he lay down in it to
sleep twenty-one days and grow his wings. The last thought
he had before going to sleep was an unhappy and selfish one.
Probably he awakened an unhappy and selfish Moth.
His brothers and sisters were sad whenever they thought of
him. "But," they said, "what could we do?
It wasn't fair for
him to have the best of everything, and we never answered
when he said mean things. He might have come back at any
time and we would have been kind to him."
And they were right. What could they have done? It was very
sad, but when a Caterpillar is so selfish and sulky that he
cannot live happily with other people, it is much better
that he should live quite alone.
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