| 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 THRIFTY DEER MOUSE
HEN the days grew short and chilly, and bleak winds blew
out of the great blue-gray cloud banks in the west,
many of the forest people went to sleep for the winter.
And not only they, but over in the meadow the Tree Frog
and the Garter Snake had already crawled out of sight
and were dreaming sweetly. The song birds had long
before this started south, and the banks of the pond
and its bottom of comfortable soft mud held many
sleepers. Under the water the Frogs had snuggled down
in groups out of sight. Some of the Turtles were there
also, and some were in the bank.
The Ground Hogs had grown stupid and dozy before the
last leaves fluttered
 to the ground, and had been the first of the
fur-bearers to go to bed for the winter. There were so
many interesting things to see and do in the late fall
days that they tried exceedingly hard to keep awake.
A Weasel was telling a Ground Hog something one
day—and it was a very interesting piece of
gossip, only it was rather unkind, and so might better
not be told here—when he saw the Ground Hog
winking very slow and sleepy winks and letting his head
droop lower and lower. Once he asked him if he
understood. The Ground Hog jumped and opened his eyes
very wide indeed, and said: "Oh, yes, yes! Perfectly!
Oh-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah." His yawn
didn't look so big as it
sounds, because his mouth was so small.
He tried to act politely interested, but just as the
Weasel reached the most exciting part of his story, the
 Hog rolled over sound asleep. The next day he said
"good-by" to his friends, wished them a happy winter,
and said he might see some of them before spring, as he
should come out once to make the weather. "I only hope
I shall awaken in time," he said, "but I am fat enough
to sleep until the violets are up."
He had to be fat, you know, to last him through the
cold weather without eating. He was so stout that he
could hardly waddle, his big, loose-skinned body
dragged when he walked, and was even shakier than ever.
couldn't hurry by jumping and he was so short
of breath that he could barely whistle when he went
into his hole.
The Raccoons went after the Ground Hog and the Skunks
were later still. They never slept so very long, and
didn't really need to
at all, and
wouldn't except that they had nothing to do and it made
 It saved so much not to have to go out to their meals
in the coldest weather.
When the large people were safely out of the way, the
smaller ones had their best times. The Muskrats were
awake, but they had their big houses to eat and were
not likely to trouble Mice and Squirrels. There was
not much to fear except Owls and Weasels. The Ground
Hogs had once tried to get the Great Horned Owl to go
south when the Cranes did, and he had laughed in their
faces. "To-whoo!" said he. "Not I!
I'm not afraid of
cold weather. You don't know how warm feathers are. I
never wear anything else. Furs are all right, but they
are not feathers."
He and his relatives sat all day in their holes, and
seldom flew out except at night. Sometimes, when the
day was not too bright, they made short trips out for
luncheon. It was very unfortunate for any Mouse to be
near at those times.
 Now the snow had fallen and the beautiful still cold
days had come. The Weasels' fur had changed from brown
to white, as it does in cold countries in winter. The
Chipmunks had taken their last scamper until early
spring, and were living, each alone, in their
comfortable burrows. They were most independent and
thrifty. No one ever heard of a Chipmunk lacking food
unless some robber had carried off his nuts and corn.
The Mice think that it must be very dull for a Chipmunk
to stay by himself all winter, since he does not sleep
steadily. The Chipmunks do not find it so. One of
them said: "Dull? I never find it dull. When I am
awake, I eat or clean my fur or think. If I had any
one staying with me he might rouse me when I want to
sleep, or pick the nut that I want for myself, or talk
when I am thinking. No, thank you, I will go calling
when I want company."
 The Mice make winter their playtime. Then the last
summer's babies are all grown up and able to look out
for themselves, and the fathers and mothers
chance to rest. The Meadow Mice come together in big
parties and build groups of snug winter homes under the
snow of the meadow, with many tiny covered walks
leading from one to another. Their food is all around
them—grass roots and brown seeds—and there
is so much of it that they never quarrel to see who
shall have this root and who shall have that. They
sleep during the daytime and awaken to eat and visit
and have a good time at night.
THE MICE MAKE WINTER THEIR PLAYTIME.
Sometimes they are awakened in the daytime, as they
were when the Grouse broke through the snow near them.
That was an accident, and the Grouse felt very sorry
about it. They had snuggled down in a cozy family
party near by, and were just starting out for a stroll
 when the eldest son stumbled and fell and crushed
through the snow into the little settlement of Meadow
The young Grouse was much ashamed of his awkwardness.
"I am so sorry," he said. "I'm not used to my
snow-shoes yet. This is the first winter I have worn
"That is all right," said the Oldest Mouse politely.
"It must be hard to manage them at first. We hope you
will have better luck after this." Then they bowed to
each other and the Grouse walked off to join his
brothers and sisters, lifting his feet with their newly
snow-shoes very high at every step. The Meadow Mice
went to work to make their homes neat again, yet they
never looked really right until that snow had melted
and more had fallen. One might think that the Meadow
Mice and the Grouse would care less for each other
after that, but it was not so. It
 never is so if people who make trouble are quick to say
that they are sorry, and those who were hurt will keep
patient and forgiving.
It was only the night after this happened that one of
the Deer Mice had a great fright. His home was in a
Bee tree in the forest. The Bees and he had always
been the best of friends, and now that they were
keeping close to their honeycomb all winter, the Deer
Mouse had taken a small room in the same tree. It
helped to keep him warm when he slept close to the
Bees, for there was always some heat coming from their
bodies. Once in a while, too, he took a nibble of
honey, and they did not mind.
The Deer Mouse did not keep much of his own winter food
where he lived. He had a few beechnuts near by, and
when the weather was very stormy indeed he ate some of
these. There was room for many more in the storeroom
 (another hole in the Bee tree), but he liked to keep
food in many places. "It is wiser," said he.
"Supposing I had them all here and this tree should be
blown down, and it should fall in such a way that I
couldn't reach the hole. What would I do then?"
He was talking to a Rabbit when he said this. The
Rabbit never stored up food himself, yet he sometimes
told other people how he thought it should be done. He
was sure it would be better to have all the nuts in one
place as the Chipmunks did. And now that the Deer Mouse
had given his reasons, he was just as sure as ever.
"The Bee tree is not very likely to blow down in that
way," said he. "There is not much danger."
"Not much, but some," answered the Deer Mouse. "Hollow
trees fall more quickly than solid ones. You may store
up your food where you please and
I'll take care of
 The Deer Mouse spoke very decidedly, although he was
perfectly polite. His beautiful brown eyes looked
squarely at the Rabbit, and you could tell by the
position of his slender long tail that he was much in
earnest. The Rabbit went home.
The Deer Mouse put away hundreds and hundreds of
beechnuts. These he took carefully out of their shells
and laid in nicely lined holes in tree-trunks. He used
leaves for lining these places. Besides keeping food
in the trees, he hid little piles of nuts under stones
and logs, and tucked seeds into chinks of fences or
tiny pockets in the ground. He had worked in the
wheatfield after the grain was cut, picking up and
carrying away the stray kernels which had fallen from
the sheaves. He never counted the places where food
was stored, but he was happy in thinking about them.
When he lay down to sleep in the morning he always knew
where the next night's meals were
 coming from. There was not a thriftier, happier
person in the forest. He was gentle, good-natured, and
exceedingly businesslike. He was also very handsome,
with large ears and white belly and feet.
The night after his cousins, the Meadow Mice, had been
so frightened by the Grouse, this Deer Mouse started
out for a good time. He called on the Meadow Mice, ate
a chestnut which he dug up in the edge of the forest,
scampered up a fence-post and tasted of his hidden
wheat to be sure that it was keeping well, and then
went to the tree where most of his beechnuts were
stored. He was not quite certain that he wanted to eat
one, but he wished to be sure that they were all right
before he went on. He had been invited to a party by
some other Deer Mice, and so, you see,
for him to spoil his appetite. They would be sure to
have refreshments at the party.
 "I suppose they are all right," said he, as he started
to run up the tree; "still it is just as well to be
"My whiskers!" he exclaimed, when he reached the hole.
isn't just like a Red Squirrel!"
The opening into the tree had been barely large enough
for him to squeeze through, and now he could pass in
without crushing his fur. Around the edge of it were
many marks of sharp teeth. Somebody had wanted to get
in and had not found the doorway large enough. The
Deer Mouse went inside and sat on his beechnuts. Then
he thought and thought and thought. He knew very well
that it was a Red Squirrel, for the Red Squirrels are
not so thrifty as most of the nut-eaters. They make a
great fuss about gathering food in the fall, and frisk
and chatter and scold if anybody else comes where they
are busy. For all that, the Chipmunks and the Deer
 much harder than they. It is not always the person who
makes the greatest fuss, you know, who does the most.
A Red Squirrel is usually out of food long before
spring comes, and after that he takes whatever he can
lay his paws on. Sometimes the Chipmunks tell them
that they should be ashamed of themselves and work
harder. Then the Red Squirrels sigh and answer, "Oh,
that is all very well for you to say, still you must
remember that we have not such cheek pouches as you."
The Deer Mouse thought of these things. "Cheek
pouches!" cried he. "I have no cheek pouches, but I
lay up my own food. It is only an excuse when they say
that. I don't think much of people who make excuses."
He passed through the doorway several times to see just
how big it was. He found it was not yet large enough
for a Red Squirrel. Then he scampered over the snow to
a friend's house. "I'm not
 going to the party," said he. "I have some work to
"Work?" said the friend. "Work? In winter?" But
before he had finished speaking his caller had gone.
All night long the Deer Mouse carried beechnuts from
the old hiding-place to a new one. He wore quite a
path in the snow between one tree and the other. His
feet were tiny, but there were four of them, and his
long tail dragged after him. It was not far that he
had to go. The new place was one which he had looked
at before. It was in a maple tree, and had a long and
very narrow opening leading to the storeroom. It was
having to go so far into the tree that had kept the
Deer Mouse from using it before. Now he liked it all
the better for having this.
"If that Red Squirrel ever gnaws his way in here," he
said, "he won't have any teeth left for eating."
When the sun rose, the Deer Mouse
 went to sleep in the maple tree. The Red Squirrel came
and gnawed at the opening into his old storeroom. If
he had gnawed all day he would surely have gotten in.
As it was, he had to spend much time hunting for food.
He found some frozen apples still hanging in the
orchard, and bit away at them until he reached the
seeds inside. He found one large acorn, but it was old
and tasted musty. He also squabbled with another Red
Squirrel and chased him nearly to the farmyard. Then
Collie heard them and chased him most of the way back.
When night came and he ran off to sleep in his hollow
tree, he had made the hole almost, but not quite, large
enough. He could smell the beechnuts inside, and it
made him hungry to think how good they would taste. "I
will get up early to-morrow morning and come here," he
said. "I can gnaw my way in before breakfast, and
 He went off in fine leaps to his home and was soon
sound asleep. In summer he often frolicked around half
of the night, but now it was cold, and when the sun
went down he liked to get home quickly and wrap up
warmly in his tail. The Red Squirrel was hardly out of
sight when the Deer Mouse came along his path in the
snow and up to his old storeroom. His dainty white
feet shook a little as he climbed, and he hardly dared
look in for fear of finding the hole empty. You can
guess how happy he was to find everything safe.
All night long he worked, and when morning came it was
a very tired little Deer Mouse who carried his last
beechnut over the trodden path to its safe new resting
place. He was tired but he was happy.
There was just one other thing that he wanted to do.
He wanted to see that Red Squirrel when he found the
 gone. He waited near by for him to come. It was a
beautiful, still winter morning when the hoar-frost
clung to all the branches, and the shadows which fell
upon the snow looked fairly blue, it was so cold. The
Deer Mouse crouched down upon his dainty feet to keep
them warm, and wrapped his tail carefully around to
Along came the Red Squirrel, dashing finely and not
noticing the Deer Mouse at all. A few leaps brought
him to the tree, a quick run took him to the hole, and
then he began to gnaw. The Deer Mouse was growing
sleepy and decided not to wait any longer. He ran
along near the Red Squirrel. "Oh, good-morning!" said
he. "Beautiful day! I see you are getting that hole
ready to use. Hope you will like it. I liked it very
well for a while, but I began to fear it
"Wh-what do you mean?" asked the
 Red Squirrel sternly. He had seen the Deer Mouse's
eyes twinkle and he was afraid of a joke.
"Oh," answered the Deer Mouse with a careless whisk of
his tail, "I had some beechnuts there until I moved
"You had!" exclaimed the Red Squirrel. He did not gnaw
any after that. He suddenly became very friendly.
couldn't tell me where to find food, I suppose,"
said he. "I'd eat almost anything."
The Deer Mouse thought for a minute. "I believe," said
he, "that you will find plenty in the farmer's barn,
but you must look out for the Dog."
"Thank you," said the Red Squirrel. "I will go."
"There!" said the Deer Mouse after he had whisked out
of sight. "He has gone to steal from the farmer.
Still, men have so very much that they ought to share
And that, you know, is true.
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