Kitty Crayfish passed the first part of her life clinging under her
mother's bent tail. But one day her mother said: "You are old enough
to take care of yourself now, little Kitty. Make a house in the bank,
and always creep into it while you change your shell."
She swam to the bank at the side of the stream, gently placed Kitty on
a flat stone, and left her there. Kitty was not at all afraid. She
was very tiny, but she was exactly like her mother in shape, and had
the same strong claws and jaws. She set to work at once to burrow in
the bank, and soon had a neat little house made. Tired with her hard
work, she threw herself down and slept.
When she woke she felt hungry; so she went out to look for food. She
walked forwards, creeping on eight of her queer jointed legs; but when
she reached the water she turned round and swam backwards, using the
blades of her wide tail as front paddles, and bringing all her swimming
legs and swimmerets into play.
She made a good meal, for there were plenty of worms and grubs and tiny
fish on the mud-floor of the stream, and her nippers were long and
strong. While she was feeding, Old Man Crayfish came striding along
the mud-floor. He would have eaten her for dinner if he could have
caught her, for he was very fond of tender babies now and again. But
she saw him coming, and was off before he could reach her. She swam
back to her new home, well pleased with herself. Her housekeeping had
begun well; she felt that she was able to take care of herself.
A few days later her mother peeped in at the door.
"You seem very comfortable," she said; "but are you not coming out
"No," said Kitty; "I don't feel very well. My shell feels far too
"Ah! it is going to split," said her mother. "I can see it looks very
thin. You are quite right to stay in. Don't show yourself till the
new one is hard, or somebody will devour you."
Kitty stayed in her house, lying still and feeling very queer. By and
by her shell split across the back, just beneath her shield. She
pushed her head out through the slit. Then she slowly drew the rest of
her body out, till she stood quite outside her old shell, shivering and
cold, and a little afraid. Her old covering lay there, legs and
feelers and shield and tail; even the skins of the eyes on their little
stalks. She herself stood in a new shell, exactly the same in shape,
but quite soft.
Afterwards Kitty became accustomed to these wonderful changes; for she
grew so fast that she had to have a new shell eight times during the
first year of her life, five times the second year, and once every year
after that till she stopped growing. Each time she had to hide in her
house till the new shell became hard enough to protect her; then she
swam out again, hungrier and stronger than ever.
She has been living in her burrowed house for years, making it bigger
as she herself grew bigger. She is there to-day. She is a
mother-crayfish now, and carries her little ones under her tail until
they, too, are big enough to keep house for themselves.