| 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 TIMID LITTLE GROUND HOG
T was not often that the little Ground Hogs were left
alone in the daytime. Before they were born their
mother had been heard to say that she had her opinion
of any Ground Hog who would be seen out after sunrise.
Mr. Ground Hog felt in the same way, and said if he
ever got to running around by daylight, like some of
his relatives, people might call him a Woodchuck. He
thought that any one who ate twigs, beets, turnips,
young tree-bark, and other green things from sunset to
sunrise ought to be able to get along until the next
sunset without a lunch. He said that any Ground Hog
who wanted more was a Pig.
 After the baby Ground Hogs were born, matters were
different. They could not go out at night to feed for
themselves, and their stomachs were so tiny and held so
little at a time that they had to be filled very often.
Mr. Ground Hog was never at home now, and the care all
fell upon his hard-working wife.
"You know, my dear," he had said, "that I should only
be in the way if I were to stay at home, for I am not
clever and patient with children as you are. No, I
think I will go away and see to some matters which I
have rather neglected of late. When the children are
grown up and you have more time to give me, I will come
back to you."
Then Mr. Ground Hog trotted away to join a party of his
friends who had just told their wives something of the
same sort, and they all went together to the farmer's
turnip patch and had a delightful time until morning.
Mrs. Ground Hog
 looked after him as he trotted away and wished that
she could go too. He looked so handsome with the
moonlight shining down on his long, thick, reddish fur,
and showing the black streak on his back where the fur
was tipped with gray. He was fat and shaky, with a
baggy skin, and when he stopped to sit up on his
haunches and wave his paws at her and comb his
face-fur, she thought him just as handsome as he had
been in the early spring when they first met. That had
been in a parsnip patch where there was good feeding
until the farmer found that the Ground Hogs were there,
and dug the rest of his vegetables and stored them in
his cellar. Such midnight meals as they had eaten
there together! Mrs. Ground Hog said she never saw a
parsnip afterward without thinking of their courtship.
She had been as handsome as he, and there were many
other Ground Hogs who admired her. But now she was
 did not have many chances to comb her fur with her fore
paws. She could not go with him to the turnip patch
because she did not wish to go so far from her babies.
Thinking of that reminded her to go into her sidehill
burrow and see what they were doing. Then she lay down
and let them draw the warm milk from her body. While
they were feeding she felt of them, and thought how
fast they were growing. It would be only a short time
before they could trot around the fields by themselves
and whistle shrilly as they dodged down into their own
burrows. "Ah!" said she, "this is better than turnip
patches or even parsnips."
When they had finished, their mother left them and went
out to feed. She had always been a hearty eater, but
now she had to eat enough more to make the milk for her
babies. She often thought that if Ground Hog babies
could eat anything else their father might have learned
 help feed them. She thought of this especially when
she saw the Great Horned Owl carrying food home to his
son and daughter. "It is what comes of being
four-legged," said she, "and I
wouldn't be an Owl for
anything, so I won't grumble." After this she was more
When she left the burrow she always said: "I am going
out to feed, and I shall not be gone very long. Don't
be afraid, for you have a good burrow, and it is nice
and dark outside."
The children would cry: "And you will surely come home
"Surely," she always answered as she trotted away.
Then the children would rest happily in their
But now Mrs. Ground Hog was hungry, and it was broad
daylight. She knew that it was because her children
grew bigger every day and had to have more and more
milk. This meant that she must eat more, or else when
 milk there would not be enough ready. She knew that
she must begin to feed by day as well as by night, and
she was glad that she could see fairly well if the sun
were not shining into her eyes.
"Children," said she to them, just as they finished
their morning lunch, "I am very hungry and I am going
out to feed. You will be quite safe here and I want
you to be good while I am gone."
The young Ground Hogs began to cry and clutch at her
fur with their weak little paws. "Oh, don't go," they
said. "Please don't go. We don't want to stay alone
in the daytime.
"I must," said she, "or I shall have no milk for you.
And then, you wouldn't have me lie here all day too
hungry to sleep, would you?"
"N-no," said they; "but
you'll come back soon, won't
"Yes," said she, and she shook off their clinging paws
and poked back the
daugh-  ter who caught on again, and trotted away as fast as
she could. It was the first time that she had been out
by daylight, and everything looked queer. The colors
looked too bright, and there seemed to be more noise
than usual, and she met several people whom she had
never seen before. She stopped for a minute to look at
an Ovenbird's nest. The mother-bird was inside,
sitting there very still and brave, although she was
"Good-morning," said Mrs. Ground Hog. "I was just
admiring your nest. I have never seen it by daylight."
"Good-morning," answered the Ovenbird.
"I'm glad you
fancy my nest, but I hope you don't like to eat meat."
"Meat?" answered Mrs. Ground Hog. "I never touch it."
And she smiled and showed all her teeth.
"Oh," exclaimed the Ovenbird, "I see you don't, for you
have gnawing-teeth, rather like those of the Rabbits."
 she hopped out of the nest and let Mrs. Ground Hog peep
in to see how the inside was finished and also to see
the four speckled eggs which lay there.
"It is a lovely nest," said Mrs. Ground Hog, "and those
eggs are beauties. But I promised the children that I
would hurry. Good-by." She trotted happily away,
while Mrs. Ovenbird settled herself upon her eggs again
and thought what a pleasant call she had had and what
an excellent and intelligent person Mrs. Ground Hog
All this time the children at home were talking
together about themselves and what their mother had
told them. Once there was a long pause which lasted
until the brother said:
"I'm not afraid, are you?"
"Of course not," said they.
isn't anything to be afraid of," said
"Not anything," said they.
 "And I wouldn't be afraid anyway," said he.
"Neither would we," answered the sisters.
There was another long pause.
we'd be just as safe as if it were dark,"
said the big sister.
"Of course," said the brother.
"And she said
she'd come back as soon as she could,"
said the second sister.
she'd come now," said the smallest sister.
There was another long pause.
"You don't suppose anybody would come here just to
scare us, do you?" asked the second sister.
"See here," said the brother, "I wish
saying things to make a fellow afraid."
"You don't mean that you are frightened!" exclaimed the
three sisters together. And the smallest one added:
 "Why, you are, too! I can feel you tremble."
"Well, I don't care," said the brother.
afraid of people, anyhow. If it were only dark I
"Oh, are you afraid of the daylight too?" cried each of
the sisters. "So am I!" Then they all trembled
"I tell you what let's do,"
said the smallest sister.
"Let's all stop looking toward the light end of the
burrow, and cuddle up together and cover our eyes and
make believe it's night." They did this and felt
better. They even played that they heard the few
noises of the night-time. A Crow cawed outside, and
the brother said, "Did you hear that Owl? That was the
Great Horned Owl, the one who had to hatch the eggs,
When another Crow cawed, the smallest sister said, "Was
that his cousin, the Screech Owl?"
 "Yes," answered the big sister. "He is the one who
used to bring things for the Great Horned Owl to eat."
So they amused themselves and each other, and really
got along very well except when, once in a while, they
opened their eyes a little crack to see if it were not
getting really dark. Then they had to begin all over
again. At last their mother came, and what a comfort
it was! How glad she was to be back, and how much she
had to tell them! All about the Ovenbird's nest and
the four eggs in it, and how the Ovenbirds spent their
nights in sleeping and their days in work and play.
"I wonder if the little Ovenbirds will be scared when
they have to stay alone in the daytime?" said the
"They would be more scared if they had to stay alone at
night," said their mother.
"At night!" exclaimed all the young
 Ground Hogs. "Why, it is dark then!"
"They might be afraid of the darkness," said their
mother. Then the children laughed and thought she was
making fun of them. They drank some milk and went to
sleep like good little Ground Hogs, but even after he
was half asleep the big brother laughed out loud at the
thought of the Ovenbird babies being scared at night.
He could understand any one's being afraid of daylight,
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