THE YOUNG MINNOW WHO WOULD NOT EAT WHEN HE SHOULD
HEN I grow up," said one young Minnow, "I am going to be a
Bullhead, and scare all the little fishes."
"I'm not," said his sister. "I'm going to be a
Sucker, and lie around in the mud."
"Lazy! Lazy!" cried the other young Minnows, wiggling
their front fins at her.
"What is the matter?" asked a Father Minnow, swimming
in among them with a few graceful sweeps of his tail,
and stopping himself by spreading his front fins. He
had the beautiful scarlet coloring on the under part of
 body which Father Minnows wear in the summer-time.
That is, most of them do, but some wear purple. "What
is the matter?" he asked again, balancing himself with
his top fin and his two hind ones.
Then all the little Minnows spoke at once. "He says
that when he grows up he is going to be a Bullhead, and
frighten all the small fishes; and she says that she is
going to be a Sucker, and lie around in the mud; and we
say that Suckers are lazy, and they are lazy,
"I am surprised at you," began the Father Minnow
severely, "to think that you should talk such nonsense.
You ought to know——"
But just then a Mother Minnow swam up to him. "The
Snapping Turtle is looking for you," she said. Father
Minnow hurried away and she turned to the little ones.
"I heard what you were saying," she remarked, with a
 her flat, round eyes. "Which of you is going to be a
Wild Duck? Won't somebody be a Frog?" She had had
more experience in bringing up children than Father
Minnow, and she didn't scold so much. She did make
fun of them though, sometimes; and you can do almost
anything with a young Minnow if you love him a great
deal and make fun of him a little.
"Why-ee!" said the young Minnows. "We wouldn't think
of being Wild Ducks, and we couldn't be Frogs, you
know. Frogs have legs—four of them. A fish couldn't
be a Frog if he wanted to!"
"No," said Mother Minnow. "A fish cannot be anything
but a fish, and a Minnow cannot be anything but a
Minnow. So if you will try to be just as good Minnows
as you can, we will let the little Bullheads and
Suckers do their own growing up."
She looked at them all again with her
 flat, round eyes, which saw so much and were always
open, because there was nothing to make them shut. She
saw one tiny fellow hiding behind his brother. "Have
you torn your fin again?" she asked.
"Yes 'm, just a little," said he. "A boy caught me
when he was in wading, and I tore it when I flopped
away from him."
"Dreadful!" said she. "How you do look! If you are so
careless, you will soon not have a whole fin to your
back—or your front either. Children, you must remember
to swim away from boys. When the Cows wade in to
drink, you may stay among them, if you wish. They are
friendly. We pond people are afraid of boys, although
some of them are said not to be dangerous."
"Pooh!" said one young Minnow. "All the pond people
are not so afraid! The Bloodsuckers say they like
 The Mother Minnow looked very severe when he said this,
but she only replied, "Very well. When you are a
Bloodsucker you may stay near boys. As long as you are
a Minnow, you must stay away."
"Now," she added, "swim along, the whole school of you!
I am tired and want a nap in the pondweed." So they
all swam away, and she wriggled her silvery brown body
into the soft green weeds and had a good sleep. She
was careful to hide herself, for there were some people
in the pond whom she did not want to have find her;
and, being a fish, she could not hear very distinctly
if they came near. Of course her eyes were open even
when she was asleep, because she had no eyelids, but
they were not working although they were open. That is
an uncomfortable thing about being a fish—one cannot
hear much. One cannot taste much either, or feel much,
 yet when one has always been a fish and is used to it,
it is not so hard.
She slept a long time, and then the whole school of
young Minnows came to look for her. "We feel so very
queerly. We can't know how we feel, either, and that
is the worst part of it. It might be in our stomachs,
or it might be in our fins, and perhaps there is
something wrong with our gill-covers. Wake up and tell
us what is the matter."
The Mother Minnow awakened and she felt queerly too,
but, being older, she knew what was the matter.
"That," she said, "is the storm feeling."
"But," said the young Minnows, "there isn't any
"No," she answered wisely. "Not now."
"And there hasn't been any," they said.
"No," she answered again. "The
 storm you feel is the storm that is going to be."
"And shall we always feel it so?" they asked.
"Always before a storm," she said.
"Why?" asked the young Minnows.
"Because," said she. "There is no answer to that
question, but just 'because.' When the storm comes you
cannot smell your food and find it, so you must eat all
you can before then. Eat everything you can
find and be quick." As she spoke she took a great
mouthful of pondweed and swallowed it.
All but one of the young Minnows swam quickly away to
do as she had told them to. This young Minnow wanted
to know just how and why and all about it, so he stayed
to ask questions. You know there are some questions
which fishes cannot answer, and some which Oxen cannot
answer, and some which nobody can answer; and when the
 told the young Minnows what she did, she had nothing to
tell. But there are some young Minnows who never will
be satisfied, and who tease, and tease, and tease, and
"Hurry along and eat all you can," said the Mother
Minnow to him again.
"I want to know," said he, opening his mouth very wide
indeed and breathing in a great deal of water as he
spoke, "I want to know where I feel queerly."
"I can't tell," said the Mother Minnow, between
mouthfuls. "No fish can tell."
"Well, what makes me feel queerly there?"
"The storm," said she.
"How does it make me feel queerly?"
"I don't know," said the Mother Minnow.
"Who does know?" asked the young Minnow.
"Nobody," said she, swallowing some
 more pondweed of one kind and then beginning on
another. "Do eat something or you will be very hungry
by and by."
"Well, why does a storm make me feel so?" asked he.
"Because!" said she. She said it very firmly and she
was quite right in saying it then, for there was a
cause, yet she could not tell what it was. There are
only about seven times in one's life when it is right
to answer in this way, and what the other six are you
must decide for yourself.
Just then there was a peal of thunder which even a
Minnow could hear, and the wind blew until the slender
forest trees bent far over. The rain came down in
great drops which pattered on the water of the pond and
started tiny circles around each drop, every circle
spreading wider and wider until it touched other
circles and broke. Down in the darkened
 water the fishes lay together on the bottom, and
wondered how long it would last, and hoped it would not
be a great, great while before they could smell their
One little fellow was more impatient then the others.
"Didn't you eat enough to last you?" they said.
"I didn't eat anything," he answered.
"Not anything!" they exclaimed. "Why not?"
"Because!" said he. And that was not right, for he did
know the reason. His mother looked at him, and he
looked at her, and she had a twinkle in her round, flat
eyes. "Poor child!" she thought. "He must be hungry."
But she said nothing.