“Oh, very well,” answered Mother Kit-chee, “I’ll do anything to oblige you, when you speak in that way.” And out she came.
Both Father Kit-chee and Mother Kit-chee were rather handsome, dignified birds. They each wore a coat of butternut brown, mixed with olive green, and a vest pearl gray toward the throat and yellow lower down.
“Thank you,” said the little boy to Mother Kit-chee as she came out, “I’ll not disturb anything. I’ll be very careful.” And so he was. He looked down into the hole, where he saw five creamy-white eggs, streaked lengthwise with brown. But the queerest thing he saw was a snake-skin which formed part of the nest.
“There’s the skin of a snake,” exclaimed the little boy. “How did that come there? Did the snake try to steal your eggs, and did you kill him?”
“Oh, no,” replied Father Kit-chee, “I found that skin over yonder in the pasture. You know that A-tos-sa the Snake sheds his skin when it grows old and stiff, and grows a new one that fits him better. We just pick up the cast-off skins and build them into our nests.”
“What on earth do you do it for?” asked the little boy. “I wouldn’t want such a thing around my bed. I don’t like snakes, or even their skins.”
“I don’t like snakes either,” said Kit-chee, “but it’s a custom in our family to use their skins in nest-building. Wherever you find a home of one of our tribe, there you will find a snake-skin. I’ve heard my grandfather say that our kinfolk, who dwell far to the south beyond the big seawater, have the same custom. There’s a tradition about it, too.”
“Oh, please tell me about it,” said the little boy. “I’m sure it will be an interesting story.”
“Very well; anything to please you,” said Kit-chee.
VII. WHY THE KIT-CHEE PEOPLE ALWAYS USE SNAKE-SKINS IN NEST-BUILDING
“Long, long ago,” began he, “when the world was new, all the beasts and birds were at peace with each other. In those days it was summer all the year round. After a while a change came.”
“Oh, yes, I’ve heard about that,” said the little boy. “Pe-boan the cruel Winter King came down from the frozen North and drove off Ni-pon the Queen of Summer. Then the animals and birds got hungry and began to kill each other. I’ve heard about that several times.”
“Yes,” said Kit-chee, “that was the way it was. The animals and birds began to kill and rob each other. No nest was safe. Mee-ko the Red Squirrel, A-tos-sa the Snake, Ka-ka-go the Crow, and many others learned to rob our nests and eat our young ones.
“Every one of the birds tried to hide her nest, but in spite of the best that they could do, the robbers would often find them. The worst of all our enemies was Kag-ax the Weasel. The Kit-chee families suffered terribly. They built their nests as we do now in holes in trees. Kag-ax is a good climber and has sharp eyes. It was almost impossible to hide a nest from him.