| 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 INQUISITIVE WEASELS
HE Weasels were very unpopular with most of the forest
people, the pond and meadow people did not like them,
and those who lived in the farmyard
couldn't bear them.
Something went wrong there every time that a Weasel
came to call. Once, you know, the Dorking Hen was so
frightened that she broke her wonderful shiny egg, and
there were other times when even worse things had
happened. Usually there was a Chicken or two missing
after the Weasel had gone.
The Weasels were very fond of their own family,
however, and would tell their best secrets to each
other. That meant almost as much with them as to share
 for they were very inquisitive and always wanted to
know all about everything. They minded their own
business, but they minded everybody's else as well. If
you told a thing to one Weasel you might be sure that
before the night was over every Weasel in the
neighborhood would know all about it. They told other
people, too, when they had a chance. They were
dreadful gossips. If they saw a person do something
the least unusual, they thought about it and talked
about it and wondered what it meant, and decided that
it meant something very remarkable and became very much
excited. At such times, they made many excuses to go
calling, and always managed to tell about what they had
seen, what they had heard, and what they were perfectly
certain it meant.
They went everywhere, and could go quietly and without
being noticed. They were small people, about as long
as Rats, but much more slender, and with such
 short legs that their bodies seemed to almost lie on
the ground. All their fur was brown, except that on
their bellies and the inside of their legs, which was
pure white. Sometimes the fur on their feet matched
their backs and sometimes it matched their bellies.
That was as might happen. You can easily see how they
could steal along over the brown earth or the dead
leaves and grass without showing plainly. In winter
they turned white, and then they did not show on the
snow. The very tip of their short tails stayed a pale
brown, but it was so tiny as hardly to be noticed. Any
Hawk in the air, who saw just that bit of brown on the
snow beneath him, would be likely to think it a leaf or
a piece of bark and pay no more attention to it.
The Weasel mothers were very careful of their children
and very brave. It made no difference how great the
danger might be, they would stay by their babies and
 fight for them. And such workers as they were! It
made no difference to them whether it was day or night,
they would burrow or hunt just the same. When they
were tired they slept, and when they awakened they
began at once to do something.
Several families lived in the high bank by the edge of
the forest, just where the ground slopes down to the
marsh. They had lived there year after year, and had
kept on adding to their burrows. There was only one
doorway to each burrow and that was usually hidden by
some leaves or a stone. They were hardly as large as
Chipmunk's holes and easily hidden. "It is a good
thing to have a fine, large home," said the Weasels,
"but we build for comfort, not for show."
All the Weasel burrows began alike, with a straight,
narrow hall. Then more halls branched off from this,
and every little way there would be a room in which to
 turn around or rest. In some of these they stored
food; in others they had nothing but bones and things
which were left from their meals. Each burrow had one
fine, large room, bigger than an Ovenbird's nest, with
a soft bed of leaves and fur. Some of the rooms were
so near the top of the ground that a Weasel could dig
his way up in a few minutes if he needed another door.
They were the loveliest sort of places for playing
hide-and-seek, and that is a favorite Weasel game, only
every Weasel wants to seek instead of hiding. There
was never a bit of loose earth around these homes, and
that is the one secret which Weasels will not tell out
of the family—they never tell what they do with
the earth they dig out. It just disappears.
Weasels like to hunt in parties. They say there is no
fun in doing anything unless you have somebody with
whom to talk it over. One night four of them
 went out together as soon as it was dark. They were
young fellows and had planned to go to the farmer's
Hen-house for the first time. They started to go
there, but of course they wanted to see everything by
the way. They would run straight ahead for a little
while, then turn off to one side, as Ants do, poking
into a Chipmunk's hole or climbing a tree to find a
bird's nest, eating whatever food they found, and
talking softly about everything.
"It is disgraceful the way that Chipmunk keeps house,"
said one of them, as he came back from going through a
burrow under a tree. "Half-eaten food dropped right on
the floor of the burrow in the most careless way. It
was only a nut. If it had been anything I cared for, I
would have eaten it myself."
Then they gossiped about Chipmunks, and said that,
although they always looked trim and neat, there was no
 sort of housekeepers they were; and that it really
seemed as though they would do better to stay at home
more and run about the forest less. The Chipmunk heard
all this from the tree where he had hidden himself, and
would have liked to speak right out and tell them what
he thought of callers who entered one's home without
knocking and sneaked around to see how things were
kept. He knew better than to do so, however. He knew
that when four hungry Weasels were out hunting their
supper, it was an excellent time to keep still. He
was right. And there are many times when it is better
for angry people to keep still, even if they are not
afraid of being eaten.
After they had gone he came down. "It was lucky for
me," he said, "that I awakened hungry and ate a lunch.
hadn't been awake to run away
there's no telling
where I would be now. There
 are some things worse than having people think you a
Just as the Chipmunk was finishing his lunch, one of
the Weasels whispered to the others to stop. "There is
somebody coming," said he.
"Let's wait and see what he
It was the Black-tailed Skunk, who came along slowly,
sniffing here and there, and once in a while stopping
to eat a few mouthfuls.
"Doesn't it seem to you that he acts very queerly?"
said one of the Weasels to the rest.
"Very," replied another. "And he
doesn't look quite as
usual. I don't know that I ever saw him carry his tail
in just that way."
"I'd like to know where he is going," said another. "I
doesn't think anybody will see him."
"Let's follow him," said the fourth Weasel, who had not
 While he was near them they hid behind a hemlock log
out of which many tiny hemlocks were growing. Once in
a while they peeped between the soft fringy leaves of
these to see what he was doing. They were much
excited. "He is putting his nose down to the ground,"
one would say. "It must be that he has found
Then another would poke his little head up through the
hemlocks and look at the Skunk. "He
found anything after all," he would say. "I can't hear
"It is very strange," the rest would murmur.
Now it just happened that the Black-tailed Skunk had
scented the Weasels and knew that they were near. He
had also heard the rustling behind the hemlock log. He
knew what gossips Weasels are, and he guessed that they
were watching him, so he decided to give them
 something to think about. He knew that they would
often fight people larger than themselves, but he was
not afraid of anybody. He did not care to fight them
either, for if he got near enough to really enjoy it
they would be likely to bite him badly, and when a
Weasel has set his teeth into anybody it is not easy to
make him let go. "I rather think," said he to himself,
"that there will be four very tired young Weasels
sleeping in their burrows to-morrow."
"He's walking away," whispered one of the Weasels.
"Where do you suppose he is going?"
"We'll have to find out," said the others, as they
crept quietly out of their hiding-places.
The Skunk went exactly where he wanted to. Whenever he
found food he ate it. The Weasels who followed after
found nothing left for them. They became very hungry,
but if one of them
 began to think of going off for a lunch, the Skunk was
certain to do something queer. Sometimes he would lie
down and laugh. Then the Weasels would peep at him
from a hiding-place and whisper together.
"What do you suppose makes him laugh?" they would ask.
"It must be that he is thinking of something wonderful
which he is going to do. We must not lose sight of
Once he met the Spotted Skunk, his brother, and they
whispered together for a few minutes. Then the Spotted
Skunk laughed, and as he passed on, the Black-tailed
Skunk called back to him: "Be sure not to tell any
one. I do not want it known what I am doing."
Then the four young Weasels nudged each other and said,
"There! We knew it all the time!"
After that, nobody spoke about being hungry. All they
cared for was the following of the Black-tailed Skunk.
 when they were in the marsh, they were so afraid of
being seen that they slipped into the ditch and swam
for a way. They were good swimmers and
mind, but it just shows how they followed the Skunk.
Once he led them over to the farm and they remembered
their plan of going to the Hen-house. They were very,
very hungry, and each looked at the others to see what
they thought about letting the Skunk go and stopping
for a hearty supper. Still, nobody spoke of doing so.
One Weasel whispered: "Now we shall surely see what he
is about. He ought to know that he cannot do wrong or
mischievous things without being found out. And since
we discover it ourselves, we shall certainly feel free
to speak of it."
Collie, the watch-dog, was sleeping lightly, and came
rushing around the corner of the house to see what
strangers were there, but when he saw who they
 were, he dropped his tail and walked away. He was old
enough to know many things, and he knew too much to
fight either a Skunk or a Weasel. Every one lets
Skunks alone, and it is well to let Weasels alone also,
for although they are so small they bite badly.
Now the Black-tailed Skunk turned to the forest and
walked toward his hole. The Screech-Owl passed them
flying homeward, and several times Bats darted over
their heads. When they went by the Bats' cave they
could tell by the sound that ten or twelve were inside
hanging themselves up for the day. A dim light showed
in the eastern sky, and the day birds were stirring and
beginning to preen their feathers.
"What do you think it means?" whispered the Weasels.
"He seems to be going home. Do you suppose he has
changed his mind?"
When he reached his hole, the
Black-  tailed Skunk stopped and looked around. The Weasels hid
themselves under some fallen leaves. "I bid you
good-morning," said the Skunk, looking toward the place
where they were. "I hope you are not too tired.
This walk has been very easy for me, but I fear it was
rather long for Weasels. Besides, I have found plenty
to eat and have chosen smooth paths for myself.
Good-morning! I have enjoyed your company!"
When even the tip of his tail was hidden in the hole,
the Weasels crawled from under the leaves and looked at
"We believe he knew all the time that we were following
him," they said. "He acted queerly just to fool us.
Yet after all, you see, he had done only what he did
every night, and it was because they were watching and
talking about him that they thought him going on some
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