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THE CRAYFISH MOTHER
HREE Stickleback Mothers and several Clams were visiting
under the lily-pads in the early morning. Mother Eel
was also there. "Yes," she said,
"I am glad to come
back and be among my old friends, and the children are
happier here. As I often tell Mr. Eel, there is no
place like one's home. We had a hard journey, but I do
not mind that. We are rested now, and travel does
teach people so much. I should think you would get
dreadfully tired of being in the water all the time. I
want my children to see the world. Now they know
grass, and trees, and air, and dry ground. There are
not many children of their age who know more than they.
We stayed in a brook the one day
 we were gone, so they have felt running water too. It
was clean—I will say that for it—but it was no place
for Eels, and so we came back."
There is no telling how long she would have kept on
talking if she had not been called away. As soon as
she left, the Sticklebacks began to talk about her.
"So she thinks we must be tired of staying in the water
all the time," said one. "It doesn't tire me nearly
so much as it would to go dragging myself over the
country, wearing out my fins on the ground."
"Indeed?" said a Clam, to whom she turned as she spoke.
"Well, I'll tell you what I think," said another
Stickleback Mother. "I think that if she didn't care
so much for travel herself, she would not be dragging
her family around to learn grass and trees. Some night
they will be learning Owls or men, and that will be the
end of them!"
 "I do not believe in it at all," said the first
speaker. "I certainly would not want my sons to learn
these things, for they must grow up to be good
nest-builders and baby-tenders. I have told their
fathers particularly to bring them up to be careful
housekeepers. With my daughters, it is different."
For a long time nobody spoke; then a Clam said, "What a
difference there is in mothers!" It quite startled the
Sticklebacks to hear a Clam say so much. It showed how
interested he was, and well he might be. The Clam who
brings up children has to do it alone, and be both
father and mother to them, and of course that is hard
work. It is hard, too, because when a little Clam is
naughty, his parent can never say that he takes his
naughtiness from any one else.
"And there is a difference in fathers too," exclaimed
one fine-looking Stickleback Mother. "I say
that a father's place
 is by the nest, and that if he does his work there
well, he will not have much time to want to travel, or
to loaf around by the shore." The Clams looked at each
other and said nothing. Some people thought that the
Stickleback Mothers were lazy.
Just then a Crayfish Mother came swimming slowly along, stopping
often to rest. Her legs were almost useless,
there were so many little Crayfishes clinging to them.
"Now look at her," said one Stickleback. "Just look at
her. She laid her eggs at the beginning of last winter
and fastened them to her legs. Said she was
so afraid something would happen if she left them, and
that this was a custom in her family anyway. Now they
have hatched, and her children hang on to her in the
The Crayfish Mother stopped with a sigh.
dreadfully warm?" said she.
 "We haven't found it so," answered the Sticklebacks,
while the Clams murmured "No."
"Let me take some of your children," said one
Stickleback. "Perhaps carrying them has made you warm
The Crayfish stuck her tail-paddles into the mud, and
spread her pinching-claws in front of her family. "Oh
no, thank you," said she. "They won't be contented
with any one but me."
"That must make it hard for you," said another
Stickleback politely. She was thinking how quickly she
would shake off the little Crayfishes if they were her
"It does," answered their mother. "It is hard, for I
carried the eggs on my legs all through the cold
weather and until it was very warm again; and now that
they are hatched, the children hang on with
Still, I can't bear to shake them off, poor little
 She held up first
one leg and then another to show off her dangling
"I don't know what will happen to them when I cast my
shell," said she. "I shall have to soon, for I can
hardly breathe in it. My sister changed hers some time
ago, and her new one is getting hard already."
they'll be all right," said a Stickleback
cheerfully. "Their fathers tell me that my children
learn remarkably fast how to look out for themselves."
"But my children can't walk yet," said the Crayfish
Mother, "and they don't know how to swim."
"What of that?" asked a Stickleback, who was beginning
to lose her patience. "They can learn, can't they?
They have eight legs apiece, haven't they,
besides the ones that have pincers?
Isn't that enough
to begin on? And haven't they
"I suppose so," said their mother, with
 a sigh, "but they don't seem to want to go. I must put
them to sleep now and try to get a little rest myself,
for the sun is well up."
The next night she awakened and remembered what the
Sticklebacks had said, so she thought she would try
shaking her children off. "It is for your own good,"
she said, and she waved first one leg and then another.
When she had got four of her legs free, and
stood on them to shake the other four, her children
scrambled back to her and
took hold again with their strong little
pinching-claws. Then she gave it up. "You dear tiny
things!" she said. "But I do wish you would walk
instead of making me carry you."
"We don't want to!" they cried; "we don't know how."
"There, there!" said their mother. "No, to be sure you
The next night, though, they had to let go, for their
mother was casting her shell.
 When it was off she lay weak and helpless on the
pond-bottom, and her children lay around her. They
behaved very badly indeed. "Come here and let me catch
hold of you," cried one. "I can't walk," said another,
"because I don't know how."
Some of them were so cross that they just lay on their
backs and kicked with all their eight feet, and
screamed, "I won't try!" It was dreadful!
The Crayfish Mother was too weak to move, and when the
Wise Old Crayfish came along she spoke to him. "My
children will not walk," said she, "even when I tell
them to." He knew that it was because when she had
told them to do things before, she had not made them
"I will see what I can do," said he, "but you must not
say a word." He walked backward to where they were,
and kept his face turned toward their mother, which was
polite of him. "Do you want the Eels to find you
here?" he said, in
 his gruffest voice. "If you don't, you'd better run."
What a scrambling there was! In one way or another,
every little Crayfish scampered away. Some went
forward, some went sidewise, and some went backward.
Some didn't keep step with themselves very well at
first, but they soon found out how. Even the crossest
ones, who were lying on their backs flopped over and
The Wise Old Crayfish turned to their mother. "It is
no trouble to teach ten-legged children to walk," said
he, "if you go at it in the right way."
The little Crayfishes soon got together again, and
while they were talking, one of their many aunts came
along with all her children hanging to her legs. Then
the little Crayfishes who had just learned to walk,
pointed their pinching-claws at their cousins, and
said, "Sh-h-h! 'Fore
I'd let my mother carry me!