| 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 EELS' MOVING-NIGHT
HE Eels were as different from the Clams as people well
could be. It was not alone that they looked unlike,
but that they had such different ways of enjoying life.
The Clams were chubby people, each comfortably settled
in his own shell, which he could open or shut as he
chose. They never wanted to live anywhere else, or to
get beyond the edges of their own pearl-lined shells.
The Eels were long, slender, and slippery people,
looking even more like snakes than they did like
fishes. They were always careful to tell new
acquaintances, though, that they were not even related
to the snakes. "To be sure," they would say, "we do
not wear our fins like most
 fishes, but that is only a matter of taste after all.
We should find them dreadfully in the way if we did."
And that was just like the Eels—they were always so
ready to explain everything to their friends.
They were great talkers. They would talk about
themselves, and their friends, and the friends of their
friends, and the pond, and the weather, and the state
of the mud, and what everything was like yesterday, and
what it would be likely to be like to-morrow, and did
you really think so, and why? The Water-Adder used to
say that they were the easiest people in the pond to
visit with, for all one had to do was to keep still and
look very much interested. Perhaps that may have been
why the Clams and they were such good friends.
The Clams, you know, were a quiet family. Unless a
Clam was very, very much excited, he never said more
than "Yes," "No," or "Indeed?" They were
 excellent listeners and some of the most popular people
in the pond. Those who were in trouble told the Clams,
and they would say, "Indeed," or "Ah," in such a nice
way that their visitor was sure to leave feeling
better. Others who wanted advice would go to them, and
talk over their plans and tell them what they wanted to
do, and the Clams would say, "Yes," and then the
visitors would go away quite decided, and say, "We
really didn't know what to do until we spoke to the
Clams about it, but they agree with us perfectly." The
Clams were also excellent people to keep secrets, and
as the Eels were forever telling secrets, that was all
Mother Eel was fussy. She even said so herself. And
if a thing bothered her, she would talk and talk and
talk until even her own children were tired of hearing
about it. Now she was worrying over the pond water.
"I do not think it nearly so clean as it
 was last year," she said, "and the mud is getting
positively dirty. Our family are very particular about
that, and I think we may have to move. I do dread the
moving, though. It is so much work with a family the
size of mine, and Mr. Eel is no help at all with the
She was talking with Mother Mud Turtle when she said
this, and the little Eels were wriggling all around her
as she spoke. Then they began teasing her to go, until
she told them to swim away at once and play with the
young Minnows. "I'm afraid I shall have to go," said
she, "if only on account of the children. I want them
to see something of the world. It is so dull in this
pond. Were you ever out of it?" she asked, turning
suddenly to Mrs. Mud Turtle.
SHE WAS TALKING WITH MOTHER MUD TURTLE.
"Oh, yes," answered she. "I go quite often, and one of
my sons took a very long trip to the meadow. He went
with some boys. It was most exciting."
 "Is that the one with the—peculiar back-shell?" asked
"Yes," replied Mother Mud Turtle sweetly. "He is very
modest and does not care to talk about it much, but I
am really quite pleased. Some people travel and show
no sign of it afterward. One would never know that
they had left home (Mother Eel wondered if she meant
her), but with him it is different. He shows marks of
having been in the great world outside."
Mother Eel wriggled a little uneasily. "I think I must
tell you after all," she said. "I have really made up
my mind to go. Mr. Eel thinks it foolish, and would
rather stay here, but I am positive that we can find a
better place, and we must consider the children. He
thinks he cares as much for them as I do, yet he would
be willing to have them stay here forever. He was
hatched here, and thinks the pond perfect. We get to
 about it sometimes, and I say to him, 'Mr. Eel, where
would those children be now if it were not for me?' "
"And what does he say then?" asked the Mud Turtle
"Nothing," answered Mother Eel, with a smart little
wriggle. "There is nothing for him to say. Yes, we
shall certainly move. I am only waiting for the right
kind of night. It must not be too light, or the land
people would see us; not too dark, or we could not see
them. And then the grass must be dewy. It would never
do for us to get dry, you know, or we should all be
sick. But please don't speak of this, dear Mrs.
Turtle. I would rather leave quietly when the time
So the Mud Turtle Mother remembered that it was a
secret, and told nobody except the Mud Turtle Father,
and he did not speak of it to anybody but the Snapping
 "Did you say that it was a secret?" asked the Snapping
"Yes," said the Mud Turtle Father, "It is a great
"Humph!" said the Snapping Turtle. "Then why did you
That same day when the Stickleback Father came to look
for nineteen or twenty of his children who were
missing, Mother Eel told him about her plans. "I
thought you would be interested in hearing of it," she
said, "but I shall not mention it to anybody else."
"You may be sure I shall not speak of it," said he.
And probably he would not have told a person, if it had
not been that he forgot and talked of it with the
Snails. He also forgot to say that it was a secret,
and so they spoke freely of it to the Crayfishes and
the Caddis Worms.
The Caddis Worms were playing with the Tadpoles soon
after this, and one of them whispered to a Tadpole
 the others, although he knew perfectly well that it was
rude for him to do so. "Now, don't you ever tell,"
said he aloud.
"Uh-uh!" answered the Tadpole, and everybody knew that
he meant "No," even if they hadn't seen him wave his
hindlegs sidewise. Of course, not having the right
kind of neck for it, he couldn't shake his head.
Then the other Tadpoles and Caddis Worms wanted to tell
secrets, and they kept whispering to each other and
saying out loud, "Now don't you ever tell."
When a Caddis Worm told a Tadpole anything, he said,
"The Eels are going to move away." And when a Tadpole
told a secret to a Caddis Worm, he just moved his lips
and said, "Siss-el, siss-el, siss-el-siss. I'm only
making believe, you know." But he was sure to add out
loud, "Now don't you tell." And the Caddis Worm
would answer, "Uh-uh!"
The Eel Mother also spoke to the
Big-  gest Frog, asking him to watch the grass for her and tell
her when it was dewy enough for moving. He was afraid
he might forget it, and so told his sister and asked
her to help him remember. And she was afraid that she
might forget, so she spoke to her friend, the
Green Brown Frog, about it. The Yellow Brown Frog
afterward said that he heard it from her.
One night it was neither too dark nor too light, and
the dew lay heavy on the grass. Then Mother Eel said
to her children, "Now stop your wriggling and listen to
me, every one of you! We shall move because the mud
here is so dirty. You are going out into the great
world, and I want you to remember everything you feel
and see. You may never have another chance."
The little Eels were so excited that they couldn't
keep still, and she had to wait for them to stop
wriggling. When they were quiet, she went on. "All
 Eels are going—your uncles and aunts and cousins—and
you children must keep with the older ones. Be careful
where you wriggle to, and don't get on anybody else's
She led the way out of the water and wriggled
gracefully up the bank, although it was quite steep at
that place. "I came this way," she said, "because I
felt more as though this was the way to come." She
closed her mouth very firmly as she spoke. Mr. Eel had
thought another way better. They had to pass through
crowds of pond people to reach the shore, for everybody
had kept awake and was watching. The older ones cried
out, "Good-bye; we shall miss you," and waved their
fins or their legs, or their tails, whichever seemed
the handiest. The younger ones teased the little Eels
and tried to hold them back, and told them
lots of fun, and that they guessed they'd wish
 in the pond again. When they got onto the shore, the
Frogs and the Mud Turtles were there, and it was a long
time before they could get started on their journey.
One of the little Eels was missing, and his mother had
to go back for him. She found that a mischievous young
Stickleback had him by the tail.
When at last they were all together on the bank, the
Eel Father said to his wife, "Are you sure that the
Cranes and Fish Hawks don't know about our moving?
Because if they did——"
"I know," she said. "It would be dreadful if they
found out; and we have been so late in getting started.
We shall have to stop at the very first water we find
now, whether we like it or not." She lay still and
thought. "I have a feeling," said she, "that we should
go this way." So that way they went, dragging their
yellow bellies over the ground as carefully as they
could, their dark green backs with
 their long fringes of back fins hardly showing in the
grass. It was a good thing that their skin was so fat
and thick, for sometimes they had to cross rough places
that scraped it dreadfully and even rumpled the tiny
scales that were in it, while their long fringes of
belly fins became worn and almost ragged. "If your
scales were on the outside," said their father, "like
those of other fishes, you wouldn't have many left."
Mother Eel was very tired and did not say much. Her
friends began to fear that she was ill. At last she
spoke, "I do not see," she said, "how people found out
that we were to move."
"You didn't tell anybody?" said Mr. Eel.
"No indeed!" said she; and she really believed it.
That was because she had talked so much that she
couldn't remember what she did say. It is always so with
those that talk too much.
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