THE serpent is the grandfather of the owl, and once upon a time if the owl needed help, she would say, "My grandfather will come and help me," but now he never comes to her. This story tells why.
When the owl carried away the little quail, she went to the serpent and said, "Grandfather, you will not tell the quail that I have her son, will you?"
"No," answered the serpent, "I will keep your secret. I will not whisper it to any one." So when the mother quail asked all the animals, "Can you tell me who has carried away my little son?" the serpent answered, "I have been sound asleep. How could I know?"
After the quail had become a snipe and had gone to live in the marsh among the reeds, the cruel owl looked everywhere for him, and at last she saw him standing beside a great stone in the water.
She went to the serpent and said, "Grandfather, will you do something for me?"
"I will," hissed the serpent softly, "What is it?"
"Only to take a drink of water," answered the owl. "Come and drink all the water in the marsh, and then I can catch the quail that I made into a snipe."
The serpent drank and drank, but still there was water in the marsh.
"Why do you not drink faster?" cried the owl. "I shall never get the snipe."
The serpent drank till he could drink no more, and still the water stood in the marsh. The owl could not see well by day, and the serpent could not see above the reeds and rushes, so they did not know that the water from the pond was coming into the marsh faster than the serpent could drink it.
Still the serpent drank, and at last his skin burst.
"Oh," he cried, "my skin has burst. Help me to fasten it together."
"My skin never bursts," said the owl. "If you will drink the water from the marsh, I will help you, but I will not fasten any skin together till I get that snipe."
The serpent had done all that he could to help the owl, and now he was angry. He was afraid, too, for he did not know what would happen to him, and he lay on the ground trembling and quivering. It was not long before his old skin fell off, and then he saw that under it was a beautiful new one, all bright and shining. He sheds his old skin every year now, but never again has he done anything to help the owl.