HERE was hardly a night of his life when the Little Brother
of the raccoon family was not reproved by his mother
The Oldest Wolverene, though, told the Skunk that his
You must not think that
The four little Raccoons, who lived with their mother
in the dead branch of the big
When their mother was with them for a time, and that was while they were drinking the warm milk that she always carried for them, she told them stories of the flowers and trees. She had begun by telling them animal stories, but she found that it made them cowardly. "Just supposing," one young Raccoon had said, "a great big, dreadful Snail should come up this tree and eat us all!"
The mother told them that Snails were small and slow
and weak, and never climbed trees or ate people, but it
did no good, and her children were always afraid of
Snails until they had seen one for themselves. After
that she told them stories of the flowers, and when
they asked if the flowers would ever come to see them,
she said, "No, indeed!" You will never see them until
you can climb down the tree and walk among them, for
they grow with their feet in the ground and never go
anywhere." There were
many stories which they wanted over and over again, but
the one they liked best of all was that about the
wicked, wicked Poison Ivy and the gentle Spotted
When the night came for the young Raccoons to climb
down from their tree and learn to hunt, all the early
spring blossoms were gone, and only the ripening
They had to learn to climb quickly and strongly up all sorts of trees. Perhaps Mrs. Raccoon had chosen an oak for her nest because that was rough and easily climbed. There were many good places for Raccoons to grip with their twenty strong claws apiece. After they had learned oaks they took maples, ironwoods, and beeches—each a harder lesson than the one before.
"When you climb a tree," said their mother, "always
look over the trunk and the largest branches for
"Why?" asked three of the four children. Big Brother, who was rather vain, was looking at the five beautiful black rings and the beautiful black tip of his wonderful bushy tail. Between the black rings were whitish ones, and he thought such things much more interesting than holes in trees.
"Because," said the Mother Raccoon, "you may be far
from home some night
and want a safe place to sleep in all day. Or if a man
and his Dogs are chasing you, you must climb into the
Mother Raccoon looked sternly at Big Brother because he
had not been listening, and he gave a slight jump and
"What did I say?" she replied. "You should have paid better attention."
"Yes 'm," said Big Brother, who was now very meek.
"I shall not repeat it," said his mother, "but I will tell you not to grow vain of your fur. It is very handsome, and so is that of your sisters and your brother. So is mine, and so was your father's the last time I saw him. Yet nearly all the trouble that Raccoons have is on account of their fur. Never try to show it off."
The time came for the young Raccoons to stop drinking milk from their mother's body, and when they tried to do so she only walked away from them.
"I cannot work so hard to care for you," said she. "I am so tired and thin, now, that my skin is loose, and you must find your own food. You are getting forty fine teeth apiece, and I never saw a better lot of claws on any Raccoon family, if I do say it."
They used to go hunting together, for it is the custom
for Raccoons to go in parties of from five to eight,
hunt all night, and then hide somewhere until the next
night. They did not always come home at sunrise, and
it made a pleasant change to sleep in different trees.
One day they
all cuddled down in the hollow of an old maple, just
below where the branches come out. Mother Raccoon had
climbed the tree first and was curled away in the very
bottom of the hole. The four children were not tired
and hadn't wanted to go to bed at all. Little Sister
had made a dreadful face when her mother called her up
the tree, and if it had not already been growing light,
Big Sister curled down beside her mother and Little
Sister was rather above them and beside mischievous
Little Brother. Last of all came Big Brother, who had
stopped to scratch his ear with his hind foot. He was
very proud of his little round ears, and often
scratched them in this way to make sure that the fur
lay straight on them. He was so slow in reaching the
hole that before he got into it a Robin had begun his
morning song of "Cheerily, cheerily,
He got all settled, and Little Brother was half asleep
beside him, when he remembered his tail and sat up to
have one more look at it. Little Brother growled
sleepily and told him to "let his old tail alone and
come to bed, as long as they couldn't hunt any more."
But Big Brother thought he saw a
Mother Raccoon growled at them to be good children and go to sleep, but her voice sounded dreamy and far away because she had to talk through part of her own fur and most of her daughters'.
Knocked his brother down.
Little Brother lost his patience, unrolled himself with a spring, jumped to the opening, and knocked his brother down. It was dreadful. Of course Big Brother was not much hurt, for he was very fat and his fur was both long and thick, but he turned over and over on his way to the ground before he alighted on his feet. He turned so fast and Little Brother's eyes hurt him so that it looked as though Big Brother had about three heads, three tails, and twelve feet. He called out as he fell, and that awakened the sisters, who began to cry, and Mother Raccoon, who was so scared that she began to scold.
Such a time! Mother Raccoon found out what had happened, and then she said, to Little Brother, "Did you mean to push him down?"
"No, ma'am," answered Little Brother, hanging his head. "Anyhow I didn't mean to after I saw him going. Perhaps I did mean to before that." You see he was a truthful Raccoon even when he was most naughty, and there is always hope for a Raccoon who will tell the truth, no matter how hard it is to do so.
Big Brother climbed slowly up the trunk of the
"I will," answered Mother Raccoon; "but you were just
as much to blame as he, for if you had cuddled down
quietly when I told you to, you would have been
dreaming long ago. Now you must
sleep where I was, at
the lower end of the hole. Little Brother must go
next, and I do not want to hear one word from either of
you. Sisters next, and I will sleep by the opening.
You children must remember that it is no time for
talking to each other, or looking at claws, or getting
Her children were asleep long before she was, and she
talked softly to herself after they were dreaming.
"They do not mean to be naughty," she said. "Yet it
makes my fur stand on end to think what might have