Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE NAUGHTY RACCOON CHILDREN
HERE was hardly a night of his life when the Little Brother
of the raccoon family was not reproved by his mother
for teasing. Mrs. Raccoon said she
didn't know what
she had done to deserve such a child. When she spoke
like this to her neighbors they sighed and said, "It
must be trying, but he may outgrow it."
The Oldest Wolverene, though, told the Skunk that his
cousin, Mrs. Raccoon's husband, had been just as bad as
that when he was young. "I do not want you to say that
I said so," he whispered, "because he might hear of it
and be angry, but it is true." The Oldest Wolverene didn't
say whether Mr. Raccoon outgrew
 this bad habit, yet it would seem that his wife had
never noticed it.
You must not think that Mr. Raccoon was dead. Oh, no,
indeed! Every night he was prowling through the forest
on tiptoe looking for food. But Mrs. Raccoon was a
very devoted mother and gave so much time and attention
to her children that she was not good company for her
husband. He did not care much for home life, and the
children annoyed him exceedingly, so he went away and
found a hole in another tree which he fitted up for
himself. There he slept through the day and until the
setting of the sun told him that it was time for his
breakfast. Raccoons like company, and he often had
friends in to sleep with him. Sometimes these friends
were Raccoons like himself with wives and children, and
then they would talk about their families and tell how
they thought their wives were spoiling the children.
 The four little Raccoons, who lived with their mother
in the dead branch of the big oak-tree, had been born
in April, when the forest was sweet with the scent of
wild violets and every one was happy. Beautiful pink
and white trilliums raised their three-cornered flowers
above their threefold leaves and nodded with every
passing breeze. Yellow adder's-tongue was there, with
cranesbill geraniums, squirrel-corn, and spring
beauties, besides hepaticas and windflowers and the
dainty bishop's-cap. The young Raccoons did not see
these things, for their eyes would not work well by
daylight, and when, after dark, their mother let them
put their heads out of the hole and look around, they
were too far from the ground to see the flowers
sleeping in the dusk below. They could only sniff,
sniff, sniff with their sharp little turned-up noses,
and wonder what flowers look like, any way.
 When their mother was with them for a time, and that
was while they were drinking the warm milk that she
always carried for them, she told them stories of the
flowers and trees. She had begun by telling them
animal stories, but she found that it made them
cowardly. "Just supposing," one young Raccoon had
said, "a great big, dreadful Snail should come up this
tree and eat us all!"
The mother told them that Snails were small and slow
and weak, and never climbed trees or ate people, but it
did no good, and her children were always afraid of
Snails until they had seen one for themselves. After
that she told them stories of the flowers, and when
they asked if the flowers would ever come to see them,
she said, "No, indeed!" You will never see them until
you can climb down the tree and walk among them, for
they grow with their feet in the ground and never go
anywhere." There were
 many stories which they wanted over and over again, but
the one they liked best of all was that about the
wicked, wicked Poison Ivy and the gentle Spotted
Touch-me-not who grew near him and undid all the
trouble that the Ivy made.
When the night came for the young Raccoons to climb
down from their tree and learn to hunt, all the early
spring blossoms were gone, and only the ripening
seed-vessels showed where nodding flowers had been.
You would have expected the Raccoon children to be
disappointed, yet there were so many other things to
see and learn about that it was not until three nights
later that they thought much about the flowers. They
might not have done so then if Little Sister had not
lost her hold upon the oak-tree bark and fallen with
her forepaws on a scarlet jack-in-the-pulpit berry.
They had to learn to climb quickly and strongly up all
sorts of trees. Perhaps
 Mrs. Raccoon had chosen an oak for her nest because
that was rough and easily climbed. There were many
good places for Raccoons to grip with their twenty
strong claws apiece. After they had learned oaks they
took maples, ironwoods, and beeches—each a harder
lesson than the one before.
"When you climb a tree," said their mother, "always
look over the trunk and the largest branches for
hiding-places, whether you want to use one then or
"Why?" asked three of the four children. Big Brother,
who was rather vain, was looking at the five beautiful
black rings and the beautiful black tip of his
wonderful bushy tail. Between the black rings were
whitish ones, and he thought such things much more
interesting than holes in trees.
"Because," said the Mother Raccoon, "you may be far
from home some night
 and want a safe place to sleep in all day. Or if a man
and his Dogs are chasing you, you must climb into the
first hiding-place you can. We Raccoons are too fat
and slow to run away from them, and the rings on our
tails and the black patches on our broad faces might
show from the ground. If the hole is a small one, make
it cover your head and your tail anyway, and as much of
your brown body fur as you can."
Mother Raccoon looked sternly at Big Brother because he
had not been listening, and he gave a slight jump and
asked, "W-what did you say?"
"What did I say?" she replied. "You should have paid
"Yes 'm," said Big Brother, who was now very meek.
"I shall not repeat it," said his mother, "but I will
tell you not to grow vain of your fur. It is very
handsome, and so is that of your sisters and your
 is mine, and so was your father's the last time I saw
him. Yet nearly all the trouble that Raccoons have is
on account of their fur. Never try to show it off."
The time came for the young Raccoons to stop drinking
milk from their mother's body, and when they tried to
do so she only walked away from them.
"I cannot work so hard to care for you," said she. "I
am so tired and thin, now, that my skin is loose, and
you must find your own food. You are getting forty
fine teeth apiece, and I never saw a better lot of
claws on any Raccoon family, if I do say it."
They used to go hunting together, for it is the custom
for Raccoons to go in parties of from five to eight,
hunt all night, and then hide somewhere until the next
night. They did not always come home at sunrise, and
it made a pleasant change to sleep in different trees.
One day they
 all cuddled down in the hollow of an old maple, just
below where the branches come out. Mother Raccoon had
climbed the tree first and was curled away in the very
bottom of the hole. The four children were not tired
and hadn't wanted to go to bed at all. Little Sister
had made a dreadful face when her mother called her up
the tree, and if it had not already been growing light,
Mrs. Raccoon would probably have seen it and punished
Big Sister curled down beside her mother and Little
Sister was rather above them and beside mischievous
Little Brother. Last of all came Big Brother, who had
stopped to scratch his ear with his hind foot. He was
very proud of his little round ears, and often
scratched them in this way to make sure that the fur
lay straight on them. He was so slow in reaching the
hole that before he got into it a Robin had begun his
morn-  ing song of "Cheerily, cheerily, cheer-up!" and a
Chipmunk perched on a stump to make his morning toilet.
He got all settled, and Little Brother was half asleep
beside him, when he remembered his tail and sat up to
have one more look at it. Little Brother growled
sleepily and told him to "let his old tail alone and
come to bed, as long as they couldn't hunt any more."
But Big Brother thought he saw a sand-burr on his tail,
and wanted to pull it out before it hurt the fur. Then
he began to look at the bare, tough pads on his feet,
and to notice how finely he could spread his toes.
Those of his front feet he could spread especially
wide. He balanced himself on the edge of the hole and
held them spread out before him. It was still dark
enough for him to see well. "Come here, Little
Brother," he cried. "Wake up, and see how big my feet
 Mother Raccoon growled at them to be good children and
go to sleep, but her voice sounded dreamy and far away
because she had to talk through part of her own fur and
most of her daughters'.
KNOCKED HIS BROTHER DOWN.
Little Brother lost his patience, unrolled himself with
a spring, jumped to the opening, and knocked his
brother down. It was dreadful. Of course Big Brother
was not much hurt, for he was very fat and his fur was
both long and thick, but he turned over and over on his
way to the ground before he alighted on his feet. He
turned so fast and Little Brother's eyes hurt him so
that it looked as though Big Brother had about three
heads, three tails, and twelve feet. He called out as
he fell, and that awakened the sisters, who began to
cry, and Mother Raccoon, who was so scared that she
began to scold.
Such a time! Mother Raccoon found out what had
happened, and then she said,
 to Little Brother, "Did you mean to push him down?"
"No, ma'am," answered Little Brother, hanging his head.
"Anyhow I didn't mean to after I saw him going.
Perhaps I did mean to before that." You see he was a
truthful Raccoon even when he was most naughty, and
there is always hope for a Raccoon who will tell the
truth, no matter how hard it is to do so.
Big Brother climbed slowly up the trunk of the
oak-tree, while more and more of the daytime people
came to look at him. He could not see well now, and so
was very awkward. When he reached the hole he was hot
and cross, and complained to his mother. "Make him
quit teasing me," he said, pointing one forepaw at
"I will," answered Mother Raccoon; "but you were just
as much to blame as he, for if you had cuddled down
quietly when I told you to, you would have been
dreaming long ago. Now you must
 sleep where I was, at
the lower end of the hole. Little Brother must go
next, and I do not want to hear one word from either of
you. Sisters next, and I will sleep by the opening.
You children must remember that it is no time for
talking to each other, or looking at claws, or getting
sand-burrs out of your tails after you have been sent
to bed. Go to sleep, and don't awaken until the sun
has gone down and you are ready to be my good little
Her children were asleep long before she was, and she
talked softly to herself after they were dreaming.
"They do not mean to be naughty," she said. "Yet it
makes my fur stand on end to think what might have
happened. . . . I ought not to have curled up for the
day until they had done so. . . . Mothers should
always be at the top of the heap." Then she fixed
herself for a long, restful day's sleep.