| 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 YOUNG RACCOONS GO TO A PARTY
T was not very many nights after Big Brother had tumbled
from the maple-tree, when he and the other children
were invited to a Raccoon party down by the pond. The
water was low, and in the small pools by the shore
there were many fresh-water clams and small fishes,
such as Raccoons like best of all. A family of six
young Raccoons who lived very near the pond had found
them just before sunrise, when they had to climb off to
bed. They knew there was much more food there than
they could eat alone, so their mother had let them
invite their four friends who lived in the hollow of
the oak-tree. The party was to begin
 the next evening at moonrise, and the four children who
lived in the oak-tree got their invitation just as they
were going to sleep for the day. They were very much
excited over it, for they had never been to a party.
"I wish we could go now," said Big Brother.
"Yes, lots of fun it would be now!" answered Little
Brother. "The sun is almost up, and there are no
clouds in the sky. We
couldn't see a thing unless we
shaded our eyes with our fore paws, and if we had to
use our fore paws in that way we couldn't eat."
"You do eat at parties, don't you?" asked Little
Sister, who had not quite understood what was said.
"Of course," shouted her brothers. "That is what
parties are for."
"I thought maybe you talked some," said Big Sister.
"I suppose you do have to, some," said
 Big Brother,
"but I know you eat.
I've heard people tell about
parties lots of times, and they always began by telling
what they ate.
That's what makes it a party."
"Oh, I wish it were night and time to go," sighed
"I don't," said Little Sister. "I wouldn't have any
fun if I were to go now.
I'd rather wait until my
stomach is empty."
"There!" said their mother. "You children have talked
long enough. Now curl down and go to sleep. The birds
are already singing their morning songs, and the Owls
and Bats were dreaming long ago. It will make
night-time come much sooner if you do not stay awake."
"We're not a bit sleepy," cried all the young Raccoons
"That makes no difference at all," said their mother,
and she spoke quite sternly. "Cuddle down for the day
 your eyes, and stop talking. I do not say you must
sleep, but you must stop talking."
They knew that when she spoke in that way and said
"must," there was nothing to do but to mind. So they
cuddled down, and every one of them was asleep before
you could drop an acorn. Mother Raccoon had known it
would be so.
When they awakened, early the next night, each young
Raccoon had to make himself look as neat as possible.
There were long fur to be combed, faces and paws to be
washed, and twenty-three burrs to be taken out of
Little Brother's tail. He began to take them out
himself, but his mother found that whenever he got one
loose he stuck it onto one of the other children, so
she scolded him and made him sit on a branch by himself
while she worked at the burrs. Sometimes she
pulling the fur, and then he tried to wriggle
 "You've got enough out," he cried. "Let the rest go."
"You should have thought sooner how it would hurt," she
said. "You have been told again and again to keep away
from the burrs, and you are just as careless as you
were the first night you left the tree." Then she took
out another burr and dropped it to the ground.
"Ouch!" said he. "Let me go!"
"Not until I am done," she answered. "No child of mine
shall ever go to a party looking as you do."
After that Little Brother tried to hold still, and he
had time to think how glad he was that he
any more burrs on the other children. If he had gotten
more onto them, he would have had to wait while they
were pulled off again, and then they might have been
late for the party. If he had been very good, he would
have been glad they
didn't have to be hurt as he was.
 was not very good, and he never thought of that.
When he was ready at last, Mother Raccoon made her four
children sit in a row while she talked to them.
"Remember to walk on your toes," said she, "although
you may stand flat-footed if you wish. Don't act
greedy if you can help it. Go into the water as much
as you choose, but don't try to dive, even if they dare
you to. Raccoons can never learn to dive, no matter
how well they swim. And be sure to wash your food
before you eat it."
All the young Raccoons said, "Yes'm," and thought they
would remember every word. The first moonbeam shone on
the top of the oak-tree, and Mrs. Raccoon said: "Now
you may go. Be good children and remember what I told
you. Don't stay too long. Start home when you see the
first light in the east."
"Yes'm," said the young Raccoons,
 as they walked off very properly toward the pond.
After they were well away from the oak-tree, they heard
their mother calling to them: "Remember to walk on your
Raccoons cannot go very fast, and the moon was shining
brightly when they reached the pond and met their six
friends. Such frolics as they had in the shallow
water, swimming, twisting, turning, scooping up food
with their busy fore paws, going up and down the beach,
and rolling on the sand! They never once remembered
what their mother had told them, and they acted exactly
as they had been in the habit of doing every day. Big
Brother looked admiringly at his own tail every chance
he got, although he had been told particularly not to
act as if he thought himself fine-looking. Little
Brother rolled into a lot of sandburs and got his fur
so matted that he looked worse than ever. Big Sister
 snatched food from other Raccoons, and not one of them
remembered about walking on tiptoe. Little Sister ate
half the time without washing her food. Of course that
didn't matter when the food was taken from the pond,
but when they found some on the beach and ate it
without washing—that was dreadful. No Raccoon
who is anybody at all will do that.
The mother of the family of six looked on from a tree
near by. The children did not know that she was there.
"What manners!" said she. "I shall never have them
invited here again." Just then she saw one of her own
sons eat without washing his food, and she groaned out
loud. "My children are forgetting too," she said. "I
have told him hundreds of times that if he did that way
every day he would do so at a party, but he has always
said he would remember."
The mother of the four young
Rac-  coons was out hunting and found herself near the pond.
"How noisy those children are!" she said to herself.
"Night people should be quiet." She tiptoed along to a
pile of rocks and peeped between them to see what was
going on. She saw her children's footprints on the
sand. "Aha!" said she. "So they did walk flat-footed
She heard somebody scrambling down a tree nearby.
"Good-evening," said a pleasant Raccoon voice near her.
It was the mother of the six. "Are you watching the
children's party?" asked the newcomer. "I hope you did
not notice how badly my son is behaving. I have tried
to teach my children good manners, but they will be
careless when I am not looking, and then, of course,
they forget in company."
That made the mother of the four feel more comfortable.
"I know just how that is," said she. "Mine mean to be
 good, but they are so careless. It is very
The two mothers talked for a long time in whispers and
then each went to her hole.
When the four young Raccoons came home, it was
beginning to grow light, and they kept close together
because they were somewhat afraid. Their mother was
waiting to see them settled for the day. She asked if
they had a good time, and said she was glad they got
home promptly. They had been afraid she would ask if
they had washed their food and walked on their toes.
She even seemed not to notice Little Brother's matted
When they awakened the next night, the mother hurried
them off with her to the same pond where they had been
to the party. "I am going to visit with the mother of
your friends," said she, "and you may play around and
 The young Raccoons had another fine time, although
Little Brother found it very uncomfortable to wear so
many burrs. They played tag in the trees, and ate, and
swam, and lay on the beach. While they were lying
there, the four from the oak-tree noticed that their
mother was walking flat-footed. There was bright
moonlight and anybody might see her. They felt
dreadfully about it. Then they saw her begin to eat
food which she had not washed. They were so ashamed
didn't want to look their friends in the
eye. They didn't know that their friends were feeling
in the same way because they had seen their mother
doing ill-mannered things.
After they reached home, Big Brother said, very
timidly, to his mother: "Did you know you ate some food
without washing it?"
"Oh, yes," she answered; "it is such a bother to dip it
all in water."
 "And you walked flat-footed," said Little Brother.
shouldn't I, if I want to?" said she.
The children began to cry: "P-people will think you
don't know any b-better," said they. "We were
"Oh!" said their mother. "Oh! Oh! So you think that my
manners are not so good as yours! Is that it?"
The young Raccoons looked at each other in a very
uncomfortable way. "We suppose we don't always do
things right ourselves," they answered, "but you are
"Yes," replied their mother. "And you will be."
For a long time nobody spoke, and Little Sister sobbed
out loud. Then Mrs. Raccoon spoke more gently: "The
sun is rising," said she. "We will go to sleep now,
and when we awaken to-morrow
 night we will try to have better manners, so that we
need not be ashamed of each other at parties or at
Long after the rest were dreaming, Big Sister nudged
Big Brother and awakened him. "I understand it now,"
she said. "She did it on purpose."
"Who did what?" asked he.
"Why, our mother. She was rude on purpose to let us
see how it looked."
Big Brother thought for a minute. "Of course," said
he. "Of course she did! Well she won't ever have to
do it again for me."
"Nor for me," said Big Sister. Then they went to
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