The Lazy Cut‑Worms
OW that spring had come and all the green things were
growing, the Cut-Worms crawled out of their winter
sleeping-places in the ground, and began to eat the
tenderest and best things that they could find. They
felt rested and hungry after their quiet winter, for
they had slept without awakening ever since the first
really cold days of fall.
There were many different kinds of Cut-Worms, brothers
and sisters, cousins and second cousins, so, of course,
they did not all look alike. They had hatched the
summer before from eggs laid by the Owlet Moths, their
mothers, and had spent the time from then until cold
weather in eating and sleeping and eating some
more. Of course they grew a great deal, but then, you
know, one can grow without taking time especially for
it. It is well that this is so. If people had to say,
"I can do nothing else now. I must sit down and grow
awhile," there would not be so many large people in the
world as there are. They would become so interested in
doing other things that they would not take the time to
grow as they should.
Now the Cut-Worms were fine and fat and just as
heedless as Cut-Worms have been since the world began.
They had never seen their parents, and had hatched
without any one to look after them. They did not look
like their parents, for they were only worms as yet,
but they had the same habit of sleeping all day and
going out at night, and never thought of eating
breakfast until the sun had gone down. They were quite
popular in underground society, and were much liked
by the Earthworms and May Beetle larvæ, who enjoyed
hearing stories of what the Cut-Worms saw above ground.
The May Beetle larvæ did not go out at all, because
they were too young, and the Earthworms never knew what
was going on outside unless somebody told them. They
often put their heads up into the air, but they had no
eyes and could not see for themselves.
The Cut-Worms were bold, saucy, selfish, and wasteful.
They were not good children, although when they tried
they could be very entertaining, and one always hoped
that they would improve before they became Moths.
Sometimes they even told the Earthworms and May Beetle
larvæ stories that were not so, and that shows what
sort of children they were. It was dreadful to tell
such things to people who could never find out the
difference. One Spotted Cut-Worm heard a couple of
Earthworms talking about
Ground Moles, and told them that Ground Moles were
large birds with four wings apiece and legs like a
Caterpillar's. They did not take pains to be
entertaining because they wanted to make the
underground people happy, but because they enjoyed
hearing them say: "What bright fellows those Cut-Worms
are! Really exceedingly clever!" And doing it for
that reason took all the goodness out of it.
One bright moonlight night the Cut-Worms awakened and
crawled out on top of the ground to feed. They lived
in the farmer's vegetable garden, so there were many
things to choose from: young beets just showing their
red-veined leaves above their shining red stems;
turnips; clean-looking onions holding their slender
leaves very stiff and straight; radishes with just a
bit of their rosy roots peeping out of the earth; and
crisp, pale green lettuce, crinkled and shaking in
breeze. It was a lovely growing time, and all the
vegetables were making the most of the fine nights,
for, you know, that is the time when everything grows
best. Sunshiny days are the best for coloring leaves
and blossoms, but the time for sinking roots deeper and
sending shoots higher and unfolding new leaves is at
night in the beautiful stillness.
Some Cut-Worms chose beets and some chose radishes.
Two or three liked lettuce best, and a couple crawled
off to nibble at the sweet peas which the farmer's wife
had planted. They never ate all of a plant.
Ah, no! And that was one way in which
they were wasteful. They nibbled through the stalk
where it came out of the ground, and then the plant
tumbled down and withered, while the Cut-Worm went on
to treat another in the same way.
"Well!" exclaimed one Spotted Cut-Worm, as he crawled
out from his hole.
"I must have overslept! Guess I stayed up too late
"You'd better look out," said one of his friends, "or
the Ground Mole will get you. He likes to find nice
fat little Cut-Worms who sleep too late in the
"Needn't tell me,"
answered the Spotted Cut-Worm.
"It's the early Mole that catches the Cut-Worm. I
don't know when I have overslept myself so. Have you
fellows been up ever since sunset?"
"Yes," they answered; and one saucy fellow added: "I
got up too early. I awakened and felt hungry, and
thought I'd just come out for a lunch. I supposed the
birds had finished their supper, but the first thing I
saw was a Robin out hunting. She was not more than the
length of a bean-pole from me, and when I saw her cock
her head on one side and look toward me, I was sure she
me. But she didn't, after all. Lucky for me that I
am green and came up beside the lettuce. I kept still
and she took me for a leaf."
"St!" said somebody else. "There comes the Ground
Mole." They all kept still while the Mole scampered to
and fro on the dewy grass near them, going faster than
one would think he could with such very, very short
legs. His pink digging hands flashed in the moonlight,
and his pink snout showed also, but the dark, soft fur
of the rest of his body could hardly be seen against
the brown earth of the garden. It may have been
because he was not hungry, or it may have been because
his fur covered over his eyes so, but he went back to
his underground run-way without having caught a single
Then the Cut-Worms felt very much set up. They crawled
toward the hole into his run-way and made faces at it,
as though he were standing in the doorway. They called
mean things after him and pretended to say them very
loudly, yet really spoke quite softly.
Then they began to boast that they were not afraid of
anybody, and while they were boasting they ate and ate
and ate and ate. Here and there the young plants
drooped and fell over, and as soon as one did that, the
Cut-Worm who had eaten on it crawled off to another.
"Guess the farmer will know that we've been here," said
they. "We don't care. He doesn't need all these
vegetables. What if he did plant them? Let him plant
some more if he wants to. What business has he to have
so many, anyhow, if he won't share with other people?"
You would have thought, to hear them, that they were
exceedingly kind to leave any vegetables for the
In among the sweet peas were many
little tufts of purslane, and purslane is very good to
eat, as anybody knows who has tried it. But do you
think the Cut-Worms ate that? Not a bit of it. "We
can have purslane any day," they said, "and now we will
eat sweet peas."
One little fellow added: "You won't catch me eating
purslane. It's a weed." Now, Cut-Worms do eat weeds,
but they always seem to like best those things which
have been carefully planted and tended. If the
purslane had been set in straight rows, and the sweet
peas had just come up of themselves everywhere, it is
quite likely that this young Cut-Worm would have said:
"You won't catch me eating sweet peas. They are
As the moon rose higher and higher in the sky, the
Cut-Worms boasted more and more. They said there were
no Robins clever enough to find them, and that the
Ground Mole dared not touch
them when they were together, and that it was only when
he found one alone underground that he was brave enough
to do so. They talked very loudly now and bragged
dreadfully, until they noticed that the moon was
setting and a faint yellow light showed over the
tree-tops in the east.
"Time to go to bed for the day," called the Spotted
Cut-Worm. "Where are you going to crawl in?" They had
no regular homes, you know, but crawled into the earth
wherever they wanted to and slept until the next night.
"Here are some fine holes already made," said a Green
Cut-Worm, "and big enough for a Garter Snake. They are
smooth and deep, and a lot of us can cuddle down into
each. I'm going into one of them."
"Who made those holes?" asked the Spotted Cut-Worm;
"and why are they here?"
"Oh, who cares who made them?" answered the Green
Cut-Worm. "Guess they're ours if we want to use
"Perhaps the farmer made them," said the Spotted
Cut-Worm, "and if he did I don't want to go into them."
"Oh, who's afraid of him?" cried the other Cut-Worms.
"No," answered the Spotted Cut-Worm. "I won't. I
don't want to and I won't do it. The hole I make to
sleep in will not be so large, nor will it have such
smooth sides, but I'll know all about it and feel safe.
Good morning!" Then he crawled into the earth and went
to sleep. The others went into the smooth, deep holes
made by the farmer with his hoe handle.
The next night there was only one Cut-Worm in the
garden, and that was the Spotted Cut-Worm. Nobody has
ever seen the lazy ones who chose to use the smooth,
deep holes which were ready
made. The Spotted Cut-Worm lived quite alone until he
was full-grown, then he made a little oval room for
himself in the ground and slept in it while he changed
into a Black Owlet Moth.
After that he flew away to find a wife and live among
her people. It is said that whenever he saw a Cut-Worm
working at night, he would flutter down beside him and
whisper,—"The Cut-Worm who is too lazy to bore
his own sleeping-place will never live to become an