| 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 WIGGLERS BECOME MOSQUITOES
was a bright moonlight night when the oldest Wigglers
in the rain-barrel made up their mind to leave the
water. They had always been restless and discontented
children, but it was not altogether their fault. How
could one expect any insect with such a name to float
quietly? When the Mosquito Mothers laid their long and
slender eggs in the rain-barrel, they had fastened them
together in boat-shaped masses, and there they had
floated until the Wigglers were strong enough to break
through the lower ends of the eggs into the water. It
had been only a few days before they were ready to do
Then there had been a few more days
and nights when the tiny Wigglers hung head downward in
the water, and all one could see by looking across the
barrel was the tips of their breathing tubes.
Sometimes, if they were frightened, a young Wiggler
would forget and get head uppermost for a minute, but
he was always ashamed to have this happen, and made all
sorts of excuses for himself when it did. Well-bred
little Wigglers tried to always have their heads down,
and Mosquitoes who stopped to visit with them and give
good advice told them such things as these: "The
Wiggler who keeps his head up may never have wings,"
and, "Up with your tails and down with your eyes, if
you would be mannerly, healthy, and wise."
When they were very young they kept their heads way
down and breathed through a tube that ran out near the
tail-end of their bodies. This tube had a cluster of
tiny wing-like things on the very
tip, which kept it floating on the top of the water.
They had no work to do, so they just ate food which
they found in the water, and wiggled, and played tag,
and whenever they were at all frightened they dived to
the bottom and stayed there until they were out of
breath. That was never very long.
There were many things to frighten them. Sometimes a
stray Horse stopped by the barrel to drink, sometimes a
Robin perched on the edge for a few mouthfuls of water,
and once in a while a Dragon-Fly came over to visit
from the neighboring pond. It was not always the
biggest visitor who scared them the worst. The Horses
tried not to touch the Wigglers, while a Robin was only
too glad if he happened to get one into his bill with
the water. The Dragon-Flies were the worst, for they
were the hungriest, and they were so much smaller that
sometimes the Wigglers
didn't see them coming.
Sometimes, too, when they thought that a Dragon-Fly was
going the other way, some of them stayed near the top
of the water, only to find when it was too late that a
Dragon-Fly can go backwards or sidewise without turning
When they were a few days old the Wigglers began to
change their skins. This they did by wiggling out of
their old ones and wearing the new ones which had been
growing underneath. This made them feel exceedingly
important, and some of them became disgracefully vain.
One Wiggler would not dive until he was sure a certain
Robin had seen his new suit. It was because of that
vanity he never lived to be a Mosquito.
After they had changed their skins a few times, they
had two breathing-tubes apiece instead of one, and
these two grew out near their heads. And their heads
were much larger. At the tail-end of his body each
Wiggler now had two
leaf-  like
things with which he swam through the water.
Because they used different breathing-tubes, those
Wigglers who had moulted or cast their skins several
times now floated in the water with their heads just
below the surface and their tails down. When a Wiggler
is old enough for this, he is called a Pupa, or
There are often young Mosquito children of all ages in
the same barrel—eggs, Wigglers, and Pupæ all
together. There is plenty of room and plenty of food,
but because they have no work to do there is much time
for quarrelling and talking about each other.
This year the Oldest Brother had put on so many airs
that nobody liked it at all, and several of the
Wigglers had been heard to say that they
the sight of him. He had such a way of saying, "When I
was a young Wiggler and had to keep my head down," or
repeat-  ing,
"Up with your tails and down with your eyes, if
you would be mannerly, healthy, and wise." One little
Wiggler crossed his feelers at him, and they say that
it is just as bad to do that as to make faces.
Besides, it is so much easier—if you have the
feelers to cross.
Now the Oldest Brother and those of his brothers and
sisters who had hatched from the same egg-mass were
talking of leaving the rain-barrel forever. It was a
bright moonlight night and they longed to get their
wings uncovered and dried, for then they would be
full-grown Mosquitoes, resting most of the day and
having glorious times at night.
The Oldest Brother was jerking himself through the
water as fast as he could, giving his jointed body
sudden bends, first this way and then that, and when he
met any one nearly his own age he said, "Come with me
and cast your skin. It is a fine evening for
Sometimes they answered, "All right," and jerked or
wiggled or swam along with him, and sometimes a Pupa
"I'm afraid I'm not old enough to slip
out of my skin easily."
Then the Oldest Brother would reply, "Don't stop for
You'll be older by the time we begin." That was
true, of course, and all members of Mosquito families
grow old very fast. So it happened that when the moon
peeped over the farmhouse, showing her bright face
between the two chimneys, twenty-three Pupæ were
floating close to each other and making ready to change
their skins for the last time.
It was very exciting. All the young Wigglers hung
around to see what was going on, and pushed each other
aside to get the best places. The Oldest Brother was
much afraid that somebody else would begin to moult
before he was ready, and all the brothers were telling
sisters to be careful to split their skins in the right
place down the back, and the sisters were telling them
that they knew just as much about moulting as their
brothers did. Every little while the Oldest Brother
would say, "Now wait! Don't one of you fellows split
his old skin until I say so."
Then two or three of his brothers would become
impatient, because their outer skins were growing
tighter every minute, and would say, "Why not?" and
would grumble because they had to wait. The truth was
that the Oldest Brother could not get his skin to
crack, although he jerked and wiggled and took very
deep breaths. And he
didn't want any one else to get
ahead of him. At last it did begin to open, and he had
just told the others to commence moulting, when a
Mosquito Mother stopped to lay a few eggs in the
"Dear me!" said she. "You are not going to moult
to-night, are you?"
"Yes, we are," answered the Oldest Brother, giving a
wiggle that split his skin a little farther.
biting people before morning."
"You?" said the Mosquito Mother, with a queer little
wouldn't count on doing that. But you
young people may get into trouble if you moult now, for
it looks like rain."
She waved her feelers upward as she spoke, and they
noticed that heavy black clouds were piling up in the
sky. Even as they looked the moon was hidden and the
wind began to stir the branches of the trees. "It will
rain," she said, "and then the water will run off the
roof into this barrel, and if you have just moulted and
cannot fly, you will be drowned."
"Pooh!" answered the Oldest Brother. "Guess we can
take care of ourselves. I'm
not afraid of a little
water." Then he tried to crawl out of his old skin.
The Mosquito Mother stayed until she
had laid all the eggs she wanted to, and then flew
away. Not one of the Pupæ had been willing to listen
to her, although some of the sisters might have done so
if their brothers had not made fun of them.
At last, twenty-three soft and tired young Mosquitoes
stood on their cast-off pupa-skins, waiting for their
wings to harden. It is never easy work to crawl out of
one's skin, and the last moulting is the hardest of
all. It was then, when they could do nothing but wait,
that these young Mosquitoes began to feel afraid. The
night was now dark and windy, and sometimes a sudden
gust blew their floating pupa-skins toward one side of
the barrel. They had to cling tightly to them, for
they suddenly remembered that if they fell into the
water they might drown. The oldest one found himself
wishing to be a Wiggler again. "Wigglers are never
drowned," thought he.
"Who are you going to bite first?" asked one of his
He answered very crossly: "I don't know and I don't
care. I'm not hungry. Can't you think of anything
"Why, what else is there to think about?" cried all the
"Well, there is flying," said he.
"Humph! I don't see what use flying would be except to
carry us to our food," said one Mosquito Sister. She
afterward found out that it was good for other reasons.
After that they didn't try to talk with their Oldest
Brother. They talked with each other and tried their
legs, and wished it were light enough for them to see
their wings. Mosquitoes have such interesting wings,
you know, thin and gauzy, and with delicate fringes
around the edges and along the line of each vein. The
sisters, too, were proud of the pockets under their
wings, and were in a hurry to
have their wings harden, so that they could flutter
them and hear the beautiful singing sound made by the
air striking these pockets. They knew that their
brothers could never sing, and they were glad to think
that they were ahead of them for once. It was not
really their fault that they felt so, for the brothers
had often put on airs and laughed at them.
Then came a wonderful flash of lightning and a long
roll of thunder, and the trees tossed their beautiful
branches to and fro, while big rain-drops pattered down
on to the roof overhead and spattered and bounded and
rolled toward the edge under which the rain-barrel
"Fly!" cried the Oldest Brother, raising his wings as
well as he could.
"We can't. Where to?" cried the rest.
"Fly any way, anywhere!" screamed
the Oldest Brother, and in some wonderful way the whole
twenty-three managed to flutter and crawl and sprawl up
the side of the building, where the rain-drops fell
past but did not touch them. There they found older
Mosquitoes waiting for the shower to stop. Even the
Oldest Brother was so scared that he shook, and when he
saw that same Mosquito Mother who had told him to put
off changing his skin, he got behind two other young
Mosquitoes and kept very still. Perhaps she saw him,
for it was lighter then than it had been. She did not
seem to see him, but he heard her talking to her
friends. "I told him," she said, "that he might better
put off moulting, but he answered that he could take
care of himself, and that he would be out biting people
"Did he say that?" cried the other old Mosquitoes.
"He did," she replied.
Then they all laughed and laughed and laughed again,
and the young Mosquito found out why. It was because
Mosquito brothers have to eat honey, and only the
sisters may bite people and suck their blood. He had
thought so often how he would sing around somebody
until he found the nicest, juiciest spot, and then
settle lightly down and bite and suck until his slender
little body was fat and round and red with its
stomachful of blood. And that could never be! He
could never sing, and he would have to sit around with
his stomach full of honey and see his eleven sisters
gorged with blood and hear them singing sweetly as they
flew. If Mosquito Fathers had ever come to the barrel
he might have found this out, but they never did. He
sneaked off by himself until he met an early bird and
then—well, you know birds must eat something,
and the Mosquito was right there. Of course, after
that, his brothers and sisters
had a chance to do as they wanted to, and the eleven
sisters bit thirteen people the very next night and had
the loveliest kind of Mosquito time.
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