| Among the Pond People|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
|Presents the adventures of Mother Eel, the Playful Muskrat, the Snappy Snapping Turtle, and the other Pond People. These stories are full of humor, yet cleverly convey information about the frogs, minnows, and other pond residents and often suggest a moral in a delicate manner which no child could resist. Ages 5-7 |
THE GOOD LITTLE CRANES WHO WERE BAD
HEN the Sand-Hill Cranes were married, they began to work
for a home of their own. To be sure, they had chosen a
place for it beforehand, yet there were other things to
think about, and some of their friends told them it
would be very foolish to build on the ground. "There
are so many accidents to ground nests," these friends
said. "There are Snakes, you know, and Rats, and a
great many other people whom you would not want to have
look in on your children. Besides, something might
fall on it."
The young couple talked this all over and decided to
build in a tree. "We are
 not afraid of Snakes and Rats," they said, "but we
would fear something falling on the nest." They were
talking to quite an old Crane when they said this.
"Do you mean to build in a tree?" said he. "My dear
young friends, don't do that. Just think, a high wind
might blow the nest down and spoil everything. Do
whatever you wish, but don't build in a tree." Then he
"Dear me!" exclaimed young Mrs. Crane, "one tells me to
do this and never to do that. Another tells me to do
that and never to do this. I shall just please myself
since I cannot please my friends."
"And which place do you choose?" asked her husband, who
always liked whatever she did.
"I shall build on the ground," she said decidedly. "If
the tree falls, it may hit the nest and it may not, but
if we build in the tree and it falls, we are sure to
hit the ground."
 "How wise you are!" exclaimed her husband. "I believe
people get in a way of building just so, and come to
think that no other way can be right." Which shows that
Mr. Sand-Hill Crane was also wise.
Both worked on the nest, bringing roots and dried
grasses with which to build it up. Sometimes they went
to dance with their friends, and when they did they
bowed most of the time to each other. They did not
really care very much about going, because they were so
interested in the nest. This they had to build quite
high from the ground, on account of their long legs.
"If I were a Duck," said Mrs. Sand-Hill Crane, "it
would do very well for me to sit on the nest, but with
my legs? Never! I would as soon sit on two bare
branches as to have them doubled under me." So she
tried the nest until it was just as high as her legs
 When it was high enough, she laid in it two gray eggs
with brown spots. After that she did no more dancing,
but stood with a leg on either side of the nest, and
her soft body just over the eggs to keep them warm. It
was very tiresome work, and sometimes Mr. Crane covered
the eggs while she went fishing. The Cranes are always
very kind to their wives.
This, you know, was the first time that either had had
a nest, and it was all new and wonderful to them. They
thought that there never had been such a beautiful
home. They often stood on the ground beside it, and
poked it this way and that with their bills, and said
to each other, "Just look at this fine root that I wove
in," or, "Have you noticed how well that tuft of dried
grass looks where I put it?" As it came near the time
for their eggs to hatch, they could hardly bear to be
away long enough to find food.
 One day young Mr. Sand-Hill Crane came home much
excited. "Our neighbors, the Cranes who live across
the pond," said he, "had two children hatched this
"Oh, how glad I am!" cried his wife. "How glad I am!
Those eggs were laid just before ours, which must hatch
very soon now."
"That is what I thought," said he. "I feel so sorry
for them, though, for I saw their children, and they
are dreadfully homely,—not at all like their parents,
who are quite good-looking."
"I must see them myself," said his wife, "and if you
will cover the eggs while I go for food, I will just
peep in on them. I will hurry back." She flew
steadily across the pond, which was not very wide, and
asked to see the babies. She had never seen any Crane
children, you know, since she herself was little. She
thought them very ugly to look at,
 and wondered how their mother could seem bright and
cheerful with two such disappointing children. She
said all the polite things that she honestly could,
then got something to eat, and flew home. "They are
very, very homely," she said to her husband, "and I
think it queer. All their older children are
She had hardly said this when she heard a faint tapping
sound in the nest. She looked, and there was the tip
of a tiny beak showing through the shell of one egg.
She stood on one side of the nest, watching, and her
husband stood on the other while their oldest child
slowly made his way out. They dared not help for fear
of hurting him, and besides, all the other Cranes had
told them that they must not.
"Oh, look!" cried the young mother. "What a dear
"Ah!" said the young father. "Did you ever see such a
 "Look at those legs," cried she. "What a beautiful
child he is!"
"He looks just like you," said the father, "and I am
glad of it."
"Ah, no," said she. "He is exactly like you." And she
began to clear away the broken egg-shell.
Soon the other Crane baby poked her bill out, and again
the young parents stood around and admired their child.
They could not decide which was the handsomer, but they
were sure that both were remarkable babies. They felt
more sorry than ever for their neighbors across the
pond, who had such homely children. They took turns in
covering their own damp little Cranes, and were very,
Before this, it had been easy to get what food they
wanted, for there had been two to work for two. Now
there were two to work for four, and that made it much
harder. There was not time for
 dancing, and both father and mother worked steadily,
yet they were happier than ever, and neither would have
gone back to the careless old days for all the food in
the pond or all the dances on the beach.
The little Cranes grew finely. They changed their down
for pin-feathers, and then these grew into fine
brownish gray feathers, like those which their parents
wore. They were good children, too, and very well
brought up. They ate whatever food was given to them,
and never found fault with it. When they left the nest
for the first time, they fluttered and tumbled and had
trouble in learning to walk. A Mud Turtle Father who
was near, told them that this was because their legs
were too long and too few.
"Well," said the brother, as he picked himself up and
tried to stand on one leg while he drew the other foot
out of the
 tangled grass, "they may be too long, but I'm sure
there are enough of them. When I'm thinking about
one, I never can tell what the other will do."
Still, it was not long before they could walk and wade
and even fly. Then they met the other pond people, and
learned to tell a Stickleback from a Minnow. They did
not have many playmates. The saucy little Kingfishers
sat on branches over their heads, the Wild Ducks
waddled or swam under their very bills, the Fish Hawks
floated in air above them, and the Gulls screamed
hoarsely to them as they circled over the pond, yet
none of them were long-legged and stately. The things
that the other birds enjoyed most, they could not do,
and sometimes they did not like it very well. One
night they were talking about the Gulls, when they
should have been asleep, and their father told them to
tuck their heads right under their wings and not let
him hear another word
 from them. They did tuck their head under their wings,
but they peeped out between the feathers, and when they
were sure their father and mother were asleep, they
walked softly away and planned to do something naughty.
"I'm tired of being good," said the brother. "The
Gulls never are good. They scream, and snatch, and
contradict, and have lots of fun. Let's be bad just
"All right," said his sister. "What shall we do?"
"That's the trouble," said he. "I can't think of
anything naughty that I really care for."
Each stood on one leg and thought for a while. "We
might run away," said she.
"Where would we go?" asked he.
"We might go to the meadow," said she. So they started
off in the moonlight and went to the meadow, but all
the people there were asleep, except the Tree Frog,
 and he scrambled out of the way as soon as he saw them
coming, because he thought they might want a late
"This isn't any fun!" said the brother. "Let's go to
They went to the forest, and saw the Bats flitting in
and out among the trees, and the Bats flew close to the
Cranes and scared them. The Great Horned Owl stood on
a branch near them, and stared at them with his big
round eyes, and said, "Who? Who? Waugh-ho-oo!" Then
the brother and sister stood closer together and
answered, "If you please, sir, we are the Crane
But the Great Horned Owl kept on staring at them and
saying "Who? Who? Waugh-ho-oo!" until they were sure
he was deaf, and answered louder and louder still.
The Screech Owls came also, and looked at them, and
bent their bodies over as if they were laughing, and
 their heads, and shook themselves. Then the Crane
children were sure that they were being made fun of, so
they stalked away very stiffly, and when they were out
of sight of the Owls, they flew over toward the
farmhouse. They were not having any fun at all yet,
and they meant to keep on trying, for what was the good
of being naughty if they didn't?
They passed Horses and Cows asleep in the fields, and
saw the Brown Hog lying in the pen with a great many
little Brown Pigs and one White Pig sleeping beside
her. Nobody was awake except Collie, the Shepherd Dog,
who was sitting in the farmyard with his nose in the
air, barking at the moon.
"Go away!" he said to the Crane children, who were
walking around the yard. "Go away! I must bark at the
moon, and I don't want anybody around." They did not
start quite soon enough to please him, so he dashed at
them, and ran around
 them and barked at them, instead of at the moon, until
they were glad enough to fly straight home to the place
where their father and mother were sleeping with their
heads under their wings.
"Are you going to tell them?" asked the brother.
"I don't know," answered the sister. When morning
came, they looked tired, and their father and mother
seemed so worried about them that they told the whole
"We didn't care so very much about what we did," they
said, "but we thought it would be fun to be naughty."
The father and mother looked at each other in a very
knowing way. "A great many people think that," said
the mother gently. "They are mistaken after all. It
is really more fun to be good."
"Well, I wish the Gulls wouldn't scream, 'Goody-goody'
at us," said the brother.
 "What difference does that make?" asked his father.
"Why should a Crane care what a Gull says?"
"Why, I—I don't know," stammered the brother. "I guess
it doesn't make any difference after all."
The next day when the Crane children were standing in
the edge of the pond, a pair of young Gulls flew down
near them and screamed out, "Goody-goody!"
Then the Crane brother and sister lifted their heads
and necks and opened their long bills, and trumpeted
"There!" they said to each other. "Now we are even."
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