How the Quail Became a Snipe
"IT is lonely living in this great tree far away from the other birds," said the owl to herself. "I will get some one to come and live with me. The quail has many children, and I will ask her for one of them."
The owl went to the quail and said, "Will you let me have one of your children to come and live with me?"
"Live with you? No," answered the quail. "I would as soon let my child live with the serpent. You are hidden in the tree all day long, and when it is dark, you come down like a thief and catch little animals that are fast asleep in their nests. You shall never have one of my children."
"I will have one," thought the owl.
She waited till the night had come. It was dark and gloomy, for the moon was not to be seen, and not a star twinkled in the sky. Not a leaf stirred, and not a ripple was on the pond. The owl crept up to the quail's home as softly as she could. The young birds were chattering together, and she listened to their talk.
"My mother is gone a long time," said one. "It is lonely, and I am afraid."
"What is there to be afraid of?" asked another. "You are a little coward. Shut your eyes and go to sleep. See me! I am not afraid, if it is dark and gloomy. Oh, oh!" cried the boaster, for the owl had seized him and was carrying him away from home and his little brothers.
When the mother quail came home, she asked, "Where is your brother?" The little quails did not know. All they could say was that something had seized him in the darkness and taken him away.
"It crept up to the nest in the dark," said one.
"And oh, mother, never, never go away from us again!" cried another. "Do not leave us at home all alone."
"But, my dear little ones," the mother said, "how could you have any food if I never went away from our home?"
The mother quail was very sad, and she would have been still more sorrowful if she had known what was happening to her little son far away in the owl's nest. The cruel owl had pulled and pulled on the quail's bill and legs, till they were so long that his mother would not have known him.
One night the mole came to the quail and said, "Your little son is in the owl's nest."
"How do you know?" asked the quail.
"I cannot see very well," answered the mole, "but I heard him call, and I know that he is there."
"How shall I get him away from the owl?" the quail asked the mole.
"The owl crept up to your home in the dark," said the mole, "but you must go to her nest at sunrise when the light shines in her eyes and she cannot see you."
At sunrise the quail crept up to the owl's nest and carried away her dear little son to his old home. As the light grew brighter, she saw what had happened to him. His bill and his legs were so long that he did not look like her son.
"He is not like our brother," said the other little quails.
"That is because the cruel owl that carried him away has pulled his bill and his legs," answered the mother sorrowfully. "You must be very good to him."
But the other little quails were not good to him. They laughed at him, and the quail with the long bill and legs was never again merry and glad with them. Before long he ran away and hid among the great reeds that stand in the water and on the shores of the pond.
"I will not be called quail," he said to himself, "for quails never have long bills and legs. I will have a new name, and it shall be snipe. I like the sound of that name."
So it was that the bird whose name was once quail came to be called snipe. His children live among the reeds of the pond, and they, too, are called snipes.