The Selfish Tent‑Caterpillar
NE could hardly call the Tent-Caterpillars meadow people,
for they did not often leave their trees to crawl upon the
ground. Yet the
The Tree Frog said that he remembered perfectly well when
the eggs were laid on the wild cherry tree on the edge of
meadow. "It was early last summer," he said, "and the
Moth who laid them was a very agreeable reddish-brown
person, about as large as a common Yellow Butterfly. I
remember that she had two light yellow lines on each
forewing. Another Moth came with her, but did not stay. He
was smaller than she, and had the same markings. After he
had gone, she asked me if we were ever visited by the
"Why did she ask that?" said the Garter Snake.
"Don't you know?" exclaimed the Tree Frog. And then he whispered something to the Garter Snake.
The Garter Snake wriggled with surprise and cried, "Really?"
All through the fall and winter the many, many eggs which
the reddish-brown Moth had laid were kept snug and warm on
the twig where she had put them. They were placed in rows
twig, and then well covered to hold them together
and keep them warm. The winter winds had blown the twig to
and fro, the cold rain had frozen over them, the soft
snowflakes had drifted down from the clouds and covered
them, only to melt and trickle away again in shining drops.
One morning the whole wild cherry tree was covered with
beautiful long, glistening crystals of
But when the spring sunbeams did come! Even before the
When all the Tent-Caterpillars were hatched, and they had
Then some of the Tent-Caterpillars said, "Let's!" and some of them said, "Don't let's!" One young fellow said, "Aw, come on! There's a bigger crotch farther down." Of course he should have said, "I think you will like a larger crotch better," but he was young, and, you know, these Larvæ had no father or mother to help them speak in the right way. They were orphans, and it is wonderful how they ever learned to talk at all.
After this, some of the Tent-Caterpillars went on to the larger crotch and some stayed behind. More went than stayed, and when they saw this, those by the smaller crotch gave up and joined their brothers and sisters, as they should have done. It was right to do that which pleased most of them.
It took a great deal of work to make the tent. All helped,
spinning hundreds and thousands of white silken threads,
laying them side by side,
There was one young Tent-Caterpillar who happened to be the first hatched, and who seemed to think that because he was a minute older than any of the other children he had the right to his own way. Sometimes he got it, because the others didn't want to have any trouble. Sometimes he didn't get it, and then he was very sulky and disagreeable, even refusing to answer when he was spoken to.
One cold day, when all the Caterpillars stayed in the tent, this oldest brother wanted the warmest place, that in the very middle. It should have belonged to the younger brothers and sisters, for they were not so strong, but he pushed and wriggled his hairy black and brown and yellow body into the very place he wanted, and then scolded everybody around because he had to push to get there. It happened as it always does when a Caterpillar begins to say mean things, and he went on until he was saying some which were really untrue. Nobody answered back, so he scolded and fussed and was exceedingly disagreeable.
All day long he thought how wretched he was, and how badly they treated him, and how he guessed they'd be sorry enough if he went away. The next morning he went. As long as the warm sunshine lasted he did very well. When it began to grow cool, his brothers and sisters crawled past him on their way to the tent. "Come on!" they cried. "It's time to go home."
"Uh-uh!" said the eldest brother (and that meant "No"), "I'm not going."
"Why not?" they asked.
"Oh, because," said he.
When the rest were all together in the tent they talked about him. "Do you suppose he's angry?" said one.
"What should he be angry about?" said another.
"I just believe he is," said a third. "Did you notice the way his hairs bristled?"
"Don't you think we ought to go to get him?" asked two or three of the youngest Caterpillars.
"No," said the older ones. "We haven't done anything. Let him get over it."
So the oldest brother, who had thought that every other
Caterpillar in the tent would crawl right out and beg and
coax him to come back, waited and waited and waited, but
nobody came. The tent was there and the door was open. All
he had to do was to crawl in and be at home. He waited so
long that at last he had to leave the tree and spin his
cocoon without ever having gone back to his brothers and
sisters in the tent. He spun his cocoon and mixed the silk
yellowish-white, then he lay down in it to
His brothers and sisters were sad whenever they thought of him. "But," they said, "what could we do? It wasn't fair for him to have the best of everything, and we never answered when he said mean things. He might have come back at any time and we would have been kind to him."
And they were right. What could they have done? It was very sad, but when a Caterpillar is so selfish and sulky that he cannot live happily with other people, it is much better that he should live quite alone.