| 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 HUMMING-BIRD AND THE HAWK-MOTH
HE Hawk-Moths are acquainted with nearly everybody and are
great society people. They are invited to companies
given by the daylight set, and also to parties given at
night by those who sleep during the day. This is not
because the Hawk-Moths are always awake. Oh dear, no!
There is nobody in pond, forest, meadow, marsh, or even
in houses, who can be well and strong and happy without
plenty of sleep.
The Hawk-Moths were awake more or less during the day,
but it was not until the sun was low in the western sky
that they were busiest. When every tree had a shadow
two or three times as long as
 the tree itself, then one heard the whir-r-r of wings
and the Hawk-Moths darted past. They staid up long
after the daylight people went to bed. The Catbird,
who sang from the tip of the topmost maple tree branch
long after most of his bird friends were asleep, said
that when he tucked his head under his wing the
Hawk-Moths were still flying. In that way, of course,
they became acquainted with the people of the
There was one fine large Hawk-Moth who used to be a
Tomato Worm when he was young, although he really fed
as much upon potato vines as upon tomato plants. He
was handsome from the tip of his long, slender
sucking-tongue to the tip of his trim, gray body. His
wings were pointed and light gray in color, with four
blackish lines across the hind ones. His body was also
gray, and over it and his wings were many dainty
 black or very dark gray. On the back part of it he had
ten square yellow spots edged with black. There were
also twenty tiny white spots there, but he did not care
so much for them. He always felt badly to think that
his yellow spots showed so little. That
helped, of course, and he should have been thankful to
have them at all.
Another thing which troubled him was the fact that he
couldn't see his own yellow spots. He would have given
a great deal to do so. He could see the yellow spots
of other Hawk-Moths who had been Tomato Worms when he
was, but that was not like seeing his own. He had
tried and tried, and it always ended in the same
way—his eyes were tired and his back ached. His
body was so much stouter and stiffer than that of his
butterfly cousins that he could not bend it easily.
When he got to thinking about his
 yellow spots he often flew away to the farmer's
potato-fields, where the young Tomato Worms were feeding. He
would fly around them and cry out: "Look at my yellow
spots. Are they not fine?" Then he would dart away to
the vegetable-garden and balance himself in the air
over the tomato plants. The humming of his wings would
make the Tomato Worms there look up, and he would say:
"If you are good little Worms and eat a great
deal, you may some day become fine Moths like me and
have ten yellow spots apiece."
Sometimes he even went down to the corner where the
farmer had tobacco plants growing, and showed his
yellow spots to the Tomato Worms there. He never went
anywhere else, for these worms do not care for other
things to eat. Everywhere that he went the Tomato
Worms exclaimed: "Oh! Oh! What beautiful yellow
 wonderful yellow spots!" When he flew away they would
not eat for a while, but rested on their fat pro-legs,
raised the front part of their bodies in the air,
folded their six little real legs under their chins,
and thought and thought and thought. They always sat
in that position when they were thinking, and they had
a great many cousins who did the same thing. It was a
habit which ran in the family.
When other people saw them sitting in this way, with
their real legs crossed under their chins, they always
cried: "Look at the Sphinxes!" although not one of
them knew what a Sphinx really was. And that was just
one of their habits. This was why the Hawk-Moths were
sometimes called Sphinx-Moths.
It was not kind in the Hawk-Moth to come and make the
Tomato Worms discontented. If he had stayed away, they
would have thought it the loveliest thing in the world
to be fat green Tomato
 Worms with two sorts of legs and each with a horn
standing up on the hind end of his body. That is not
the usual place for horns, still it does very well, and
these horns are worn only for looks. They are never
used for poking or stinging.
Before the Hawk-Moth came to visit them, the Tomato
Worms had thought it would be quiet, and restful, and
pleasant to lie all winter in their shining brown
pupa-cases in the ground, waiting for the spring to
finish turning them into Moths. Now they were so
impatient to get their yellow spots that they could
hardly bear the idea of waiting. They did not even
care about the long, slender tongue-case which every
Tomato-Worm has on his pupa-case, and which looks like
a handle to it.
One day the Tomato Worms told the Ruby-throated
Humming-Bird about all this. The Humming-Bird was a
very sensible fellow, and would no doubt have been a
hard-working husband and father
 if his wife had not been so independent. He had been a
most devoted lover, and helped build a charming nest of
fern-wool and plant-down, and cover it with beautiful
gray-green lichens. When done it was about as large as
half of a hen's egg, and a morning-glory blossom would
have more than covered it. The lichens were just the
color of the branch on which it rested, and one could
hardly see where it was. That is the nicest thing to
be said about a nest. If a bird ever asks you what you
think of his nest, and you wish to say something
particularly agreeable, you must stare at the tree and
ask: "Where is it?" Then, when he has shown it to
you, you may speak of the soft lining, or the fine
weaving, or the stout way in which it is fastened to
After this nest was finished and the two tiny white
eggs laid in it, Mrs. Humming-Bird cared for nothing
 would not go honey-hunting with her husband, or play in
the air with him as she used to do. He tried to coax
her by darting down toward her as she sat covering her
eggs, and by squeaking the sweetest things he could
think of into her ear, but she acted as though she
cared more for the eggs than for him, and did not even
squeak sweet things back. So, of course, he went away,
and let her hatch and bring up her children as she
chose. It was certainly her fault that he left her.
She might not have been able to leave the eggs, but she
could have squeaked.
Now that the Ruby-throated Humming-Bird had no home
cares, he made many calls on his friends. They were
very short calls, for he would seldom sit down, yet he
heard and told much news while he balanced himself in
the air with his tiny feet curled up and his wings
moving so fast that one could not see them.
 When the Tomato Worms told him how they felt about the
Hawk-Moth's yellow spots, he became very indignant.
"Those poor young worms!" he said to himself. "It is a
shame, and something must be done about it."
The more he thought, the angrier he became, and his
feathers fairly stood on end. He hardly knew what he
was doing, and ran his long, slender bill into the same
flowers several times, although he had taken all the
honey from them at first.
That night, when the sun had set and the silvery moon
was peeping above a violet-colored cloud in the eastern
sky, the Ruby-throated Humming-Bird sat on the tip of a
spruce-tree branch and waited for the Hawk-Moth.
"I hope nobody else will hear me talking," said he.
"It would sound so silly if I were overheard." He sat
very still, his tiny feet clutching the branch tightly.
 It was late twilight now and really time that he should
go to sleep, but he had decided that if he could
possibly keep awake he would teach the Hawk-Moth a
"I wish he would hurry," said he. "I can hardly keep
my eyes open." He did not yawn because he had not the
right kind of mouth for it. You know a yawn ought to
be nearly round. His beak would have made one a great,
great many times higher than it was wide, and that
would have been exceedingly unbecoming to him.
Yellow evening primroses grew near the spruce-tree, and
the tall stalks were opening their flowers for the
night. Above the seed-pods and below the buds on each
stalk two, three, or four blossoms were slowly
unfolding. The Ruby-throated Humming-Bird did not
often stay up long enough to see this, and he watched
the four smooth yellow petals
 of one untwist themselves until they were free to
spring wide open. He had watched five blossoms when he
heard the Hawk-Moth coming. Then he darted toward the
primroses and balanced himself daintily before one
while he sucked honey from it.
Whir-r-r-r! The Hawk-Moth was there. "Good evening,"
said he. "Rather late for you,
"It is a little," answered the Humming-Bird. "Growing
a bit chilly, too, isn't it?
I should think
cold without feathers. Mine are such a comfort. Feel
as good as they look, and that is saying a great deal."
THE HUMMING-BIRD AND THE HAWK-MOTH.
The Hawk-Moth balanced himself before another primrose
and seemed to care more about sucking honey up his long
tongue-tube than he did about talking.
"I think it is a great thing to have a touch of bright
color, too," said the Humming-Bird. "The beautiful red
 my throat looks particularly warm and becoming when the
weather is cool. You ought to have something of the
"I have yellow spots—ten of them," answered the
"You have?" exclaimed the Humming-Bird in the most
surprised way. "Oh yes! I think I do remember
something about them. It is a pity they don't show
more. Mrs. Humming-Bird never wears bright colors. She
says it would not do. People would see her on her nest
if she did. Excepting the red spot, she is dressed
like me—white breast, green back and head, and
black wings and tail. Green is another good color.
You should wear something green.
The Hawk-Moth murmured that he
didn't see any
particular use in wearing green.
"Oh," said the Humming-Bird, "it is just the thing to
wear—neat, never looks dusty" (here the Hawk-Moth
 back, for his own wings, you know, were almost dust
color), "and matches the leaves perfectly."
The Hawk-Moth said something about having to go and
thinking that the primrose honey was not so good as
"I thought it excellent," said the Humming-Bird.
"Perhaps you do not get it so easily as I. Ah yes, you
use a tongue-tube. What different ways different
people do have. Now I like honey, but I could not live
many days on that alone. What I care most for is the
tiny insects that I find eating it. And you cannot eat
meat. What a pity! I must say that you seem to make
the best of it, though, and do fairly well. Oh, must
you go? Well, good night."
The Hawk-Moth flew away feeling very much disgusted.
He had always thought himself the most beautiful person
in the neighborhood. He rather thought so still. Yet
it troubled him to
 know that others did not think so, and he began to
remember how many times he had heard people admire the
Ruby-throated Humming-Bird. He never liked him after
that. But neither did he brag.
The young Tomato Worms soon forgot what the Hawk-Moth
had said to them, and became happy and contented once
more. The Ruby-throated Humming-Bird never cared to
talk about it, yet he was once heard to say that he
would rather offend the Hawk-Moth and even make him a
little unhappy than to have him bothering the poor
little Tomato Worms all the time.
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