| 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 KITTENS COME TO THE FOREST
 ONE day the three big Kittens who lived with their mother
in the farmer's barn had a dreadful quarrel. If their
mother had been with them, she would probably have
cuffed each with her fore paw and scolded them soundly.
She was not with them because she had four little new
Kittens lying beside her in the hay-loft over the
You would think that the older Kittens must have been
very proud of their baby brothers and sisters, yet they
were not. They might have done kind little things for
their mother, but they
didn't. They just hunted food
for themselves and never took a mouthful of it to her.
 does not prove that they were bad Kittens. It just
shows that they were young and thoughtless.
The Brown Kitten, the one whose fur was black and
yellow mixed so finely as to look brown, had climbed
the barn stairs to see them. When he reached their
corner he sat down and growled at them. His mother
said nothing at first, but when he went so far as to
switch his tail in a threatening way, she left her new
babies and sprang at him and told him not to show his
whiskers upstairs again until he could behave properly.
His sisters, the Yellow Kitten and the White Kitten,
stayed downstairs. They
didn't dislike babies so much
as their brother. They just didn't
care anything about
them. Cats never care much about Kittens, you know,
unless they are their own, and big brothers always say
that they can't bear them.
Now these three older Kittens were
 perfectly able to care for themselves. It was a long
time since their mother stopped feeding them, and they
were already excellent hunters. They had practiced
crouching, crawling, and springing before they left the
hay-loft. Sometimes they hunted wisps of hay that moved
when the wind blew in through the open door. Sometimes
they pounced on each other, and sometimes they hunted
the Grasshoppers who got brought in with the hay. It
was when they were doing this once that they were so
badly scared, but that is a story which has already
There was no reason why they should feel neglected or
worry about getting enough to eat. If one of them had
poor luck in hunting, all he had to do was to hang
around the barn when the Cows were brought up, and go
into the house with the man when he carried the great
pails full of foamy milk. Then if the
Kit-  tens acted hungry, mewed very loudly, and rubbed up
lovingly against the farmer's wife they were sure to
get a good dishful of warm milk.
You can see how unreasonable they were. They had
plenty to eat, and their mother loved them just as much
as ever, but they felt hurt and sulked around in
corners, and answered each other quite rudely, and
would not run after a string which the farmer's little
girl dangled before them. They were not cross all the
time, because they had been up the whole night and had
to sleep. They stopped being cross when they fell
asleep and began again as soon as they awakened. The
Hens who were feeding around became so used to it that
as soon as they saw a Kitten twist and squirm, and act
like awakening, they put their heads down and ran away
as fast as they could.
They did not even keep themselves clean. Oh, they
licked themselves over
 two or three times during the day, but not thoroughly.
The Yellow Kitten did not once try to catch her tail
and scrub it, and actually wore an unwashed tail all
day. It didn't show very plainly because it was
yellow, but that made it no cleaner. The White Kitten
went around with her fore paws looking really
disgraceful. The Brown Kitten scrubbed his ears in a
sort of half-hearted way, and paid no attention to the
place under his chin. When he did his ears, he gave
his paw one lick and his ear one rub, and repeated this
only six times. Everybody knows that a truly tidy Cat
wets his paw with two licks, cleans his ear with two
rubs, and does this over and over from twenty to forty
times before he begins on the other ear.
Toward night they quarreled over a dishful of milk
which the farmer's wife gave them. There was plenty of
room for them all to put their heads into the dish at
once and lap until each had his
 share. If it had not been for their whiskers, there
would have been no trouble. These hit, and each told
the others to step back and wait. Nobody did, and
there was such a fuss that the farmer's wife took the
dish away and none of them had any more. They began to
blame each other and talk so loudly that the man drove
them all away as fast as they could scamper.
Now that they were separated, each began to grow more
and more discontented. The Brown Kitten had crawled
under the carriage house, and as soon as it was really
dark he stole off to the forest.
"My mother has more Kittens," he said, "and my sisters
get my whiskers all out of shape, and
I'll go away and
never come back. I won't say good-bye to them either.
they'll feel badly then
nicer to me! If they ever find me and want me to come
back, I won't go. Not if they beg and
I'll just turn my tail toward them and walk
The Brown Kitten knew that Cats sometimes went to live
in the woods and got along very well. He was not
acquainted with one who had done this; his mother had
told him and his sisters stories of Cats who chose to
live so. She said that was one thing which showed how
much more clever they were than Dogs. Dogs, you know,
cannot live happily away from men, although there may
be the best of hunting around them.
"I will find a good hollow tree," said he, "for my
home, and I will sleep there all day and hunt at night.
I will eat so much that I shall grow large and strong.
Then, when I go out to hunt, the forest people will
say, 'Sh! Here comes the Brown Cat.' "
As he thought this he was running softly along the
country road toward the forest. Once in a while he
 listen, and stood with his head raised and turned and
one fore foot in the air. He kept his ears pointed
forward all the time so as to hear better.
When he passed the marsh he saw the Fireflies dancing
in the air. Sometimes they flew so low that a Kitten
might catch them. He thought he would try, so he
crawled through the fence and toward the place where
they were dancing. He passed two tired ones sitting on
a leaf and never saw them. That was because their
wings covered their sides so well that no light shone
past, and their bright bellies were close to the leaf.
He had almost reached the dancers when he found his
paws getting wet and muddy. That made him turn back at
once, for mud was something he
couldn't stand. "I wish
I had something to eat," he said, as he took a bite of
catnip. "This is very good for a relish, but not for a
He trotted on toward the forest,
 thinking about milk and Fireflies and several other
things, when he was stopped by some great winged person
flying down toward him and then sweeping upward and
alighting on a branch. The Brown Kitten drew back
stiffly and said, "Ha-a-ah!"
"Who? Who? To who?" asked the person on the branch.
The Brown Kitten answered, "It is I." But the question
came again: "Who? Who? To who?"
That made the Brown Kitten remember that, since his
voice was not known in the forest, nobody could tell
anything by his answer. This time he replied: "I am
the Brown Kitten, if you please, and I have come to
live in the forest."
"Who? Who? To who?" was the next question, and the
Brown Kitten thought he was asked to whose home he was
"I am not going to anybody," he said.
 "I just wanted to come, and left my old home suddenly.
I shall live alone and have a
good time. I
tell my mother."
"Who? Who? To who?" said the Great Horned Owl, for it
"My m-mother," said the Brown Kitten, and then he ran
away as fast as he could. He had seen the Owl more
clearly as he spoke, and the Owl's face reminded him a
little of his mother and made him want to see her. He
ran so fast that he almost bumped into the Skunk, who
was taking a dignified stroll through the forest and
sniffing at nearly everything he saw. It was very
lucky, you know, that he did not quite run into the
Skunk, for Skunks do not like to be run into, and, if
he had done so, other people would soon have been
sniffing at him.
The Brown Kitten thought that the Skunk might be
related to him. They
 were about the same size, and the Brown Kitten had been
told that his relatives were not only different colors,
but different shapes. His mother had told of seeing
some Manx Kittens who had no tails at all, and he
thought that the Skunk's elegant long-haired one
needn't prevent his being a Cat.
"Good evening," said the Brown Kitten. "Would you mind
telling me if you are a Cat?"
"Cat? No!" growled the Skunk. "They sometimes call me
a Wood-Kitty, but they have no right to. I am a Skunk,
Skunk, SKUNK, and I am
related to the Weasels.
Step out of my path."
A family of young Raccoons in a tree called down
teasingly to him to come up, but after he had started
they told him to go down, and then laughed at him
because he had to go tail first. He did not know that
forest climbers turn the toes of their hind feet
 scamper down head first. Still, it would have made no
difference if he had known, for his
He found something to eat now and then, and he looked
for a hollow tree. He found only one, and that was a
Bee tree, so he
couldn't use it. All around him the
most beautiful mushrooms were pushing up from the
ground. White, yellow, orange, red, and brown they
were, and looked so plump and fair that he wanted to
bite them. He knew, however, that some of them were
very poisonous, so he
didn't even lick them with his
eager, rough little pink tongue. He was just losing
his Kitten teeth, and his new Cat teeth were growing,
and they made him want to bite almost everything he
saw. One kind of mushroom, which he thought the
prettiest of all, grew only on the trunks of fallen
beech trees. It was white, and had a great many little
branches, all very close together.
 Most of the plants he saw were sound asleep. Every
plant has to sleep, you know, and most of them take a
long nap at night. Some of them, like the
water-lilies, also sleep on cloudy days. He was very
fond of the clovers, but they had their leaflets folded
tight, and only the mushrooms, the evening primroses,
and a few others were wide awake. Everybody whom he
met was a stranger, and he began to feel very lonely.
Cats do not usually mind being alone. Indeed, they
rather like it; still, you can see how hard it would be
for a Kitten who had always been loved and cared for to
find himself alone in a dark forest, where great birds
ask the same questions over and over, and other people
make fun of him. You
wouldn't like it yourself, if you
were a Kitten.
At last, when he was prowling along an old forest road
and hoping to meet a tender young Wood-Mouse, he saw a
 couple of light-colored animals ahead of him. They
looked to him very much like Kittens, but he remembered
how the Skunk had snubbed him when taken for a Cat, and
he kept still. He ran to overtake them and see more
clearly, and just as he reached them they all came to a
turn in the road.
Before he could speak or they could notice that he was
there, the wind roared through the branches above, and
just ahead two terrible great eyes glared at them out
of an old log. They all stopped with their back-fur
bristling and their tails arched stiffly. Not a sound
did one of them make. They lifted first one foot and
then another and backed slowly and silently away. When
they had gone far enough, they turned quickly and ran
down the old road as fast as their twelve feet could
carry them. They never stopped until they were in the
road for home and could look back in the
 starlight and be sure that nobody was following them.
Then they stared at each other—the Yellow Kitten,
the White Kitten, and the Brown Kitten.
"Did you run away to live in the forest?" asked the
"Did you?" asked the Brown Kitten.
"You'll never tell?" said they.
"Never!" said he.
"Well then, we did run away, and met each other just
before you came. We meant to live in the forest."
"So did I," said he. "And I
couldn't find any hollow
"Did you meet that dreadful bird?" said they,—"the
one who never hears your answers and keeps
asking you over and over?"
"Yes," said he. "Don't you ever tell!"
"Ha-ha!" screamed a laughing little Screech-Owl, who
had seen what had happened in the old forest road and
flapped along noiselessly behind them.
 "Three big Kittens afraid of fox-fire! O-ho! O-ho!"
Now all of them had heard about fox-fire and knew it
was the light which shines from some kinds of rotten
wood in the dark, but they held up their heads and
answered, "We're not afraid of fox-fire."
"Ha-ha!" screamed the Screech-Owl again. "Thought you
saw big eyes glaring at you. Only fox-fire. Dare you
to come back if you are not afraid."
"We don't want to go back," answered the Brown Kitten.
"Ha-ha!" screamed the Screech-Owl again.
"Haven't time! Where are you going?"
"Going home, of course," answered the Brown Kitten.
And then he whispered to his sisters,
"All right," said they, and they raced down the road as
fast as they could go. To this day their mother does
not know that they ever ran away from home.
But it was only fox-fire.
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