THE DRAGON-FLY CHILDREN AND THE SNAPPING TURTLE
HE Dragon-Flies have always lived near the pond. Not the
same ones that are there now, of course, but the
great-great-great-grandfathers of these. A person
would think that, after a family had lived so long in a
place, all the neighbors would be fond of them, yet it
is not so. The Dragon-Flies may be very good
people—and even the Snapping Turtle says that they
are—still, they are so peculiar that many of their
neighbors do not like them at all. Even when they are
only larvæ, or babies, they are not good
playmates, for they have such a bad habit of putting
everything into their mouths. Indeed, the Stickleback
 once told the little Sticklebacks that they should not
stir out of the nest, unless they would promise to keep
away from the young Dragon-Flies.
The Stickleback Mothers said that it was all the fault
of the Dragon-Fly Mothers. "What can you expect,"
exclaimed one of them, "when Dragon-Fly eggs are so
carelessly laid? I saw a Dragon-Fly Mother laying some
only yesterday, and how do you suppose she did it?
Just flew around in the sunshine and visited with her
friends, and once in a while flew low enough to touch
the water and drop one in. It is disgraceful!"
The Minnow Mothers did not think it was so much in the
way the eggs were laid, "although," said one, "I always
lay mine close together, instead of scattering them
over the whole pond." They thought the trouble came
from bad bringing up or no bringing up at all. Each
egg, you know, when it is laid, drops to
 the bottom of the pond, and the children are hatched
and grow up there, and do not even see their fathers
Now most of the larvæ were turning into Nymphs,
which are half-grown Dragon-Flies.
They had been
short and plump, and now they were longer and more
slender, and there were little bunches on their
shoulders where the wings were growing under their
skin. They had outgrown their old skins a great many
times, and had to wriggle out of them to be at all
comfortable. When a Dragon-Fly child became too big
for his skin, he hooked the two sharp claws of each of
his six feet firmly into something, unfastened his skin
down the back, and wriggled out, leaving it to roll
around in the water until it became just part of the
Like most growing children, the Dragon-Fly larvæ
and Nymphs had to eat a great deal. Their stomachs
were as long
 as their bodies, and they were never really happy
unless their stomachs were full. They always ate plain
food and plenty of it, and they never ate between
meals. They had breakfast from the time they awakened
in the morning until the sun was high in the sky, then
they had dinner until the sun was low in the sky, and
supper from that time until it grew dark and they went
to sleep: but never a mouthful between meals, no
matter how hungry they might be. They said this was
their only rule about eating and they would keep
They were always slow children. You would think that,
with six legs apiece and three joints in each leg, they
might walk quite fast, yet they never did. When they
had to, they hurried in another way by taking a long
leap through the water. Of course they breathed water
like their neighbors, the fishes and the Tadpoles.
They did not breathe it into their mouths,
 or through gills, but took it in through some openings
in the back part of their bodies. When they wanted to
hurry, they breathed this water out so suddenly that it
sent them quickly ahead.
The Snapping Turtle had called them "bothering bugs"
one day when he was cross (and that was the day after
he had been cross, and just before the day when he was
going to be cross again), and they didn't like him and
wanted to get even. They all put their queer little
three-cornered heads together, and there was an ugly
look in their great staring eyes.
"Horrid old thing!" said one larva. "I wish I could
"Well, you can't," said a Nymph, turning towards him so
suddenly that he leaped. "You haven't any sting, and
you never will have, so you just keep still." It was
not at all nice in her to speak that way, but she was
not well brought up, you know, and that, perhaps,
 is a reason why one should excuse her for talking so to
her little brother. She was often impatient, and said
she could never go anywhere without one of the
larvæ tagging along.
"I tell you what let's do," said another Nymph.
all go together to the shallow water where he suns
himself, and let's all stand close to each other, and
then, when he comes along, let's stick out our lips at
"Both lips?" asked the larvæ.
"Well, our lower lips anyway," answered the Nymph.
"Our upper lips are so small they don't matter."
"We'll do it," exclaimed all the Dragon-Fly children,
and they started together to walk on the pond-bottom to
the shallow water. They thought it would scare the
Snapping Turtle dreadfully. They knew that whenever
they stuck out their lower lips at the small fishes and
bugs, they swam away as fast as they could. The Giant
 Water-Bug (Belostoma), was the only bug who was not
afraid of them when they made faces. Indeed, the lower
lip of a Dragon-Fly child might well frighten people,
for it is fastened on a long, jointed, arm-like thing,
and has pincers on it with which it catches and holds
its food. Most of the time, the Dragon-Fly child keeps
the joint bent, and so holds his lip up to his face
like a mask. But sometimes he straightens the joint
and holds his lip out before him, and then its pincers
catch hold of things. He does this when he is hungry.
When they reached the shallow water, the Dragon-Fly
children stood close together, with the larvæ in
the middle and the Nymphs all around them. The
Snapping Turtle was nowhere to be seen, so they had to
wait. "Aren't you scared?" whispered one larva to
afraid," answered he.
 "Oh, look!" cried a Nymph. "There go some grown-up
Dragon-Flies over our heads. Just you wait until I
change my skin once more, and then won't I have a good
time! I'll dry my wings and then I'll——"
"Sh-h!" said one of the larvæ. "Here comes the
Sure enough, there he came through the shallow water,
his wet back-shell partly out of it and shining in the
sunlight. He came straight toward the Dragon-Fly
children, and they were glad to see that he did not
look hungry. They thought he might be going to take a
nap after his dinner. Then they all stood even closer
together and stuck out their lower lips at him. They
thought he might run away when they did this. They
felt sure that he would at least be very badly
The Snapping Turtle did not seem to see them at all.
It was queer. He just
 waddled on and on, coming straight toward them.
"Ah-h-h!" said he. "How sleepy I do feel! I will lie
down in the sunshine and rest." He took a few more
steps, which brought his great body right over the
crowd of Dragon-Fly children. "I think I will draw in
my head," said he (the Dragon-Fly children looked at
each other), "and my tail (here two of the youngest
larvæ began to cry) and lie down." He began to
draw in his legs very, very slowly, and just as his
great hard lower shell touched the mud, the last larva
crawled out under his tail. The Nymphs had already
"Oh," said the Dragon-Fly children to each other,
"Humph," said the Snapping Turtle, talking to
himself—he had gotten into the way of doing that
because he had so few friends—"How dreadfully they did
scare me!" Then he laughed a grim Snapping Turtle
laugh, and went to sleep.