| Among the Night People|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
|Stories of animals of the night for young children, relating the activities of raccoons, skunks, moths, foxes, fireflies, and weasels. Since we can't understand animal language, the author depicts the animals talking to each other in English, but she does it so skillfully that you can imagine that they are using their own ways of communicating through voice and gesture. Ages 5-7 |
THE UNFORTUNATE FIREFLIES
 SEVERAL very large families of Fireflies lived in the marsh and
were much admired by their friends who were awake at
night. Once in a while some young Firefly who happened
to awaken during the day would go out and hover over
the heads of the daylight people. He never had any
attention paid to him then, however, for during the day
he seemed like a very commonplace little beetle and
nobody even cared to look at him a second time. The
only remarkable thing about him was the soft light that
shone from his body, and that could only be seen at
The older Fireflies told the younger
 ones that they should get all the sleep they could
during the daytime if they were to flutter and frisk
all night. Most of them did this, but two young
Fireflies, who cared more about seeing the world than
they did about minding their elders, used to run away
while the rest were dreaming. Each thought herself
very important, and was sure that if the others missed
wouldn't sleep a wink all day.
One night they planned to go by daylight to the
farthest corner of the marsh. They had heard a couple
of young Muskrats talking about it, and thought it
might be different from anything they had seen. They
went to bed when the rest did and pretended to fall
asleep. When she was sure that the older Fireflies
were dreaming, one of them reached over with her right
hind leg and touched the other just below the edge of
her left wing-cover. "Are you ready?" she whispered.
 "Yes," answered the friend, who happened to be the
smaller of the two.
"Come on, then," said the larger one, picking her way
along on her six tiptoes. It was already growing
light, and they could see where they stepped, but, you
know, it is hard to walk over rough places on two
tiptoes, so you can imagine what it must be on six.
There are some pleasant things about having so many
legs. There are also some hard things. It is a great
When well away from their sleeping relatives, they
lifted their wing-covers, spread their wings, and flew
to the farthest corner of the marsh. They were not
afraid of being punished if caught, for they were
orphans and had nobody to bring them up. They were
afraid that if the other Fireflies awakened they would
be called "silly" or "foolish young bugs." They
thought that they were old enough to take care of
themselves, and did not want advice.
wouldn't they make a fuss if they knew!"
exclaimed the Larger Firefly.
"They think we need to be told every single thing,"
said the Smaller Firefly.
we're old enough now to go off by ourselves,"
said the Larger Firefly.
"I guess so," answered the Smaller Firefly.
afraid if it is light, and I can see pretty near as
well as I can at night."
Just then a Flycatcher darted toward them and they had
to hide. He had come so near that they could look down
his throat as he flew along with his beak open. The
Fireflies were so scared that their feelers shook.
"I wish that bird would mind his own business,"
grumbled the Larger Firefly.
"That's just what he was doing," said a voice beside
them, as a Garter Snake drew himself through the grass.
Then their feelers shook again, for they knew that
snakes do not breakfast on grass and berries.
 "Did you ever see such luck?" said the Smaller Firefly.
isn't birds it is snakes."
"Perfectly dreadful!" answered the other. "I never
knew the marsh to be so full of horrid people.
Besides, my eyes are bothering me and I can't see
"So are mine," said the Smaller Firefly. "Are you
going to tell the other Fireflies all about things
"I don't know that I will," said the Larger Firefly.
"I'll make them ask me first."
Then they reached the farther corner of the marsh and
crawled around to see what they could find. Their eyes
bothered them so that they could not see unless they
were close to things, so it was useless to fly. They
peeped into the cool dark corners under the skunk
cabbage leaves, and lay down to rest on a bed of soft
moss. A few stalks of last year's teazles stood, stiff
and brown, in the
cor-  ner of the fence. The Smaller Firefly alighted on one
and let go in such a hurry that she fell to the ground.
"Ouch!" she cried. "It has sharp hooks all over it."
While they were lying on the moss and resting, they
noticed a queer plant growing near. It had a flower of
green and dark red which was unlike any other blossom
they had ever seen. The leaves were even queerer.
Each was stiff and hollow and grew right out of the
ground instead of coming from a stalk.
"I'm going to crawl into one of them," said the Larger
Firefly. "There is something sweet inside. I believe
it will be lots better than the skunk cabbage." She
balanced herself on the top of a fresh green leaf.
"I'm going into this one," said the other Firefly, as
she alighted on the edge of a brown-tipped leaf. "It
looks nice and dark inside. We must tell about this
 at the party to-night, even if they don't ask us."
Then they repeated together the little verse that some
of the pond people use when they want to start
"Tussock, mud, water, and log,
Muskrat, Snake, Turtle, and Frog,
Here we go into the bog!"
When they said "bog" each dropped quickly into her own
For a minute nobody made a sound. Then there was a
queer sputtering, choking voice in the fresh green leaf
and exactly the same in the brown-tipped one. After
that a weak little voice in the green leaf said,
"Abuschougerh! I fell into water."
Another weak voice from the brown-tipped one replied,
"Gtschagust! So did I."
On the inside of each leaf were many stiff hairs, all
pointing downward. When the Fireflies dropped in, they
 easily past these hairs and thought it rather pleasant.
Now that they were sputtering and choking inside, and
wanted to get out, these same hairs stuck into their
eyes and pushed against their legs and made them
exceedingly uncomfortable. The water, too, had stood
for some time in the leaves and did not smell good.
Perhaps it would be just as well not to tell all the
things which those two Fireflies said, for they were
tired and out of patience. After a while they gave up
trying to get out until they should be rested. It was
after sunset when they tried the last time, and the
light that shone from their bellies brightened the
little green rooms where they were. They rested and
went at it carefully, instead of in the angry, jerky
way which they had tried before. Slowly, one foot at a
time, they managed to climb out of the doorway at the
top. As they came
 out, they heard the squeaky voice of a young Mouse say,
"Oh, where did those bright things come from?"
They also heard his mother answer, "Those are only a
couple of foolish Fireflies who have been in the leaves
of the pitcher-plant all day."
After they had eaten something they flew toward home.
They knew that it would be late for the party, and they
expected to surprise and delight everybody when they
On the way they spoke of this.
tired," said one, "but I suppose we shall
have to dance in the air with the rest or they will
make a fuss."
"Yes," said the other. "It spoils everything if we are
not there. And
we'll have to tell where
we've been and
what we've done
and whom we have seen, when we would
rather go to sleep and make up what we lost during the
 As they came near the middle of the marsh they were
surprised to see the mild summer air twinkling with
hundreds of tiny lights as their friends and relatives
flew to and fro in the dusk. "Well," said the Larger
Firefly, "I think they might have waited for us!"
TWINKLING WITH HUNDREDS OF TINY LIGHTS.
"Humph!" said the Smaller Firefly. "If they can't be
more polite than that, I won't play."
"After we've had such a dreadfully hard time, too,"
said the Larger Firefly. "Got most eaten by a
Flycatcher and scared by a Garter Snake and shut up all
day in the pitcher-plant. I won't move a wing to help
on their old party."
So two very tired and cross young Fireflies sat on
a last year's cat-tail and sulked.
didn't notice them because they were sitting and their bright
bellies didn't show. After a long time an elderly
Firefly came to rest on the cat-tail and found them.
 said he. "Have you danced until you are tired?"
They looked at each other, but before either could
speak one of their young friends alighted beside them
and said the same thing. Then the Smaller Firefly
answered. "We have been away," said she, "and we are
not dancing tonight."
"Going away, did you say?" asked the elderly Firefly,
who was rather deaf. "I hope you will have a
delightful time." Then he bowed and flew off.
"Don't stay long," added their young friend. "We shall
be so lonely without you."
After he also was gone, the two runaways looked into
each other's eyes. "We were not even missed!" they
cried. "We had a bad time and nobody makes any fuss.
They were dancing without us." Poor little Fireflies!
They were much wiser after that, for
 they had learned that two young Fireflies were not so
wonderfully important after all. And that if they
chose to do things which it was never meant young
Fireflies should do, they would be likely to have a
very disagreeable time, but that other Fireflies would
go on eating and dancing and living their own lives.
To be happy, they must keep the Firefly laws.
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