Among the Forest People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
HEN the first hillock of fresh brown
earth was thrown up in the edge of the Forest, the
People who lived there said to each other. "Can it be
that we have a new neighbor?"
Perhaps the Rabbits, the
Ground Hogs, and the Snakes cared the most, for they
also made their homes in the ground; yet even the
Orioles wanted to know all about it. None of them had
ever been acquainted with a Mole. They had seen the
ridges in the meadows beneath which the Moles had their
runways, and they knew that
when the Moles were
making these long streets under ground, they had to cut
an opening through the grass once in a while and throw
the loose earth out. This new mound in the forest
looked exactly like those in the meadow, so they
decided there must be a Mole in the neighborhood.
that were so, somebody should call upon him and get
acquainted; but how could they call? Mrs. Red Squirrel
said: "Why can't some of you people who are so clever
at digging, burrow down and find him?"
twittered the birds; "that is a good plan."
But Mr. Red Squirrel smiled at his wife and said: "I am afraid,
(that was his pet name for her)
that none of
our friends here could overtake the Mole. You know he
is a very fast runner. If they were following they
could never catch him."
"Let them burrow down
ahead of the place where he is working, then," said
"And the Mole would turn and go another way, not
knowing it was a friend looking for him."
not make an opening into one of his runways and go into
it, hunting until he is found?" said Mrs. Red Squirrel,
who was like some other people in not wishing to give
up her own ideas.
"Yes," cried a mischievous young
Woodpecker; "let the Ground Hog go. You surely don't
think him too fat?"
Now there was no denying that the
Ground Hog was getting too stout to look well, and
people thought he would be angry at this. Perhaps he
was angry. The little Rabbits were sure of it. They
said they knew by the expression of his tail. Still,
you know, the Ground Hog came of a good family, and
well-bred people do not say mean things even if they
are annoyed. He combed the fur on his
both paws, and answered with a polite bow: "If I had
the slender and graceful form of my charming friend,
Mrs. Red Squirrel, I should be delighted to do as she
That was really a very clever thing for Mr. Ground Hog to say.
It was much more agreeable than if
he had grunted out, "Much she knows about it! We
burrowing people are all too large." And now Mrs. Red
Squirrel was pleased and happy although her plan was
That night Mrs. Ground Hog said to her
didn't know you admired Mrs. Red Squirrel
so much." And he answered: "Pooh! Admire her? She is
a very good-looking person for one of her family, and I
want to be polite to her for her husband's sake. He
and I have business together. But for my part I prefer
more flesh. I could never have married a slender wife,
and I am pleased to see, my dear, that you are stouter
you were." And this also shows how clever a
fellow Mr. Ground Hog was.
The very next night, as
luck would have it, the Mole came out of his runway for
a scamper on the grass. Mr. Ground Hog saw him and
made his acquaintance. "We are glad to have you come,"
said he. "You will find it a pleasant neighborhood.
People are very friendly."
"Well, I'm glad of that,"
answered the Mole. "I don't see any sense in people
being disagreeable, myself, but in the meadow which I
have just left there were the worst neighbors in the
world. I stood it just as long as I could, and then I
"I am sorry to hear that," said the Ground Hog, gently.
"I had always supposed it a pleasant
place to live in." He began to wonder what kind of
fellow the Mole was. He did not like to hear him say
such unkind things before a new acquaintance.
Sometimes unpleasant things have to be said, but it was
not so now.
"Umph!" said the Mole. "You have to
live with people to know them. Of course, we Moles had
no friends among the insects. We are always glad to
meet them in the ground, but they do not seem so glad
to meet us. That is easily understood when you
remember what hungry people Moles are. Friendship is
all very well, but when a fellow's stomach is empty, he
can't let that stand in the way of a good dinner.
There was no such reason why the Tree Frog or the
Garter Snake should dislike me."
"Are you sure they did dislike you?"
"Certain of it. I remember how one
night I wanted to talk with the Garter Snake, and asked
him to come out of his hole for a visit in the
"What did he say?"
asked the Ground Hog.
"Not a word! And that was the
worst of it. Think how provoking it was for
to stand there and call and call and not get any
"Perhaps he was not at home," suggested the
"That's what he said when I spoke to him.
Said he was spending the night down by the river. As
I'd be likely to believe that! I guess he saw
couldn't fool me, though, for after I told him
what I thought of him he wriggled away without saying a
"Still he is not so disagreeable as the
Tree Frog," said the Mole, after a pause in which the
Ground Hog had been trying not to laugh.
The Ground Hog said
afterward that it was the funniest sight imaginable to
see the stout little Mole scampering back and forth in
the moonlight, and stopping every few minutes to scold
about the Meadow People. The twitching of his tiny
tail and the jerky motions of his large, pink-palmed
digging hands, showed how angry he grew in
thinking of them, and his pink snout fairly quivered
"I will tell you about the Tree Frog," said
the mole. "He is one of these fellows who are always
just so good-natured and polite. I can't endure them.
it's putting on airs to act that way. I was
telling him what I thought of the Garter Snake, and
what should he do but draw himself up and say: 'Excuse
me, but the Garter Snake is a particular friend of
mine, and I do not care to hear him spoken of in that
way.' I guess I taught him one good lesson, though. I
told him he was just the kind of person I should expect
the Garter Snake to like, and that I wished them much
joy together, but that I
didn't want anything to do with them.
"It was only a short time after this that I
had such trouble about making my fort. Whenever I
started to dig in a place I would find some other Mole
there ahead of me."
"And then you would have to
go somewhere else, of course?" said the Ground Hog.
"I'd like to know why!"
said the Mole, with his glossy
silver-brown fur on end. "No indeed! I had a perfect
right to dig wherever I wished, and I would tell them
so, and they would have to go elsewhere. One Mole was
bad-tempered enough to say that he had as much right in
the meadow as anybody, and I had to tussle with him and
bite him many times before he saw his mistake. . . .
They are disagreeable people over there,—but why are
you going so soon? I thought we would have a good
"I promised to meet Mrs. Ground Hog,"
said her husband, "and must go. Good-night!" and he
Not long afterward this highly
respectable couple were feeding together in the
moonlight. "What do you think of the Mole?" said she.
"Well,—er—ahem," answered her husband. "You
know, my dear, that I do not like to talk against
people, and I might better not tell you exactly what I
think of him. He is a queer-looking fellow, and I
always distrust anyone who will not look me in the eye.
Perhaps that is not his fault, for the fur hides his
eyes and he wears his ears inside of his head; but I
must say that a fiercer or more disagreeable-looking
snout I never saw. He has had trouble with all his old
neighbors, and a fellow who cannot get along peaceably
in one place will not in another. He is always talking
about his rights and what he thinks——"
told me enough," said Mrs. Ground Hog, interrupting
him. "Nobody ever liked a person who insists on his
'rights' every time. And such a person never enjoys
life. What a pity it is!" and she gave a sigh that
shook her fat sides. "Now, I had it all planned that
should marry and set up housekeeping, and that
I should have another pleasant neighbor soon."
Mrs. Ground Hog," said her husband teasingly, "I knew
you would be thinking of that. You are a born
matchmaker. Now I think we could stand a few bachelors
around here,—fine young fellows who have nothing to do
but enjoy life." And his eyes twinkled as he said it.
"As though you did not enjoy life!" answered his wife.
"Still, I could not wish any young Mole such a husband
as this fellow. It is a great undertaking to marry a
grumpy bachelor and teach him the happiness of living
for others." And she looked very solemn.
you found it so?" said Mr. Ground Hog, sidling up
"What a tease you are!" said his wife.
"You know that I am happy." And really, of all the
couples on whom the
moon looked that night, there
was not a happier one than this pair of Ground Hogs;
and there was not a lonelier or more miserable person
than the Mole, who guarded his own rights and told
people what he thought of them. But it is always so.