“Please take the egg out,” he went on. “I can’t do it myself, and if you don’t take it out, we shall have to leave the nest and our own eggs and build a new one.”
Little Luke took the egg out of the nest and threw it on the ground. “Why don’t Mother Mo-lo build a nest of her own?” he asked.
“Oh, she can’t. She doesn’t know enough,” answered Nick-uts. “In the old days she had a chance to learn the same as the rest of us. She wouldn’t learn then, and now she can’t. I don’t believe she ever tries.
“She sneaks around and steals her eggs into the nests of other birds, and some of them are so silly they don’t know the difference. They hatch the egg and bring up the young one as if it were their own. The young Mo-los are greedy things and they eat up everything away from the other little birds. Besides, they grow so fast that they crowd out the other young ones, so that they fall to the ground and die. I’ve known old Mother Mo-lo to fool O-loo-la the Wood Thrush that way. It’s a shame for a decent bird to be imposed upon like that.
“She tried the trick twice on me last year. Once we managed to roll the egg out, and once we built a second floor to the nest, but we lost two of our own eggs by doing it.”
“You said that Mother Mo-lo had a chance to learn to build a nest,” said little Luke. “Tell me about it.”
“Well,” said Nick-uts, “since you have been so kind as to help me, I’ll try. I haven’t heard the story for a long while, perhaps I can’t remember it very well. But I’ll do the best I can.”
IX. WHY MOTHER MO-LO THE COWBIRD LAYS HER EGGS IN OTHER BIRDS’ NESTS
“In the beginning,” said he, “the Master of Life made the world. When he had finished the land and the sea, the mountains and the meadows, he made the fishes, and then the four-footed kindreds. Last of all, he created the birds. But he didn’t make them all at the same time. The last ones were Father and Mother Mo-lo.
“When Mother Mo-lo began to fly about, the other birds went to her and offered to teach her how to build a nest.
“‘Come with me,’ said the oven bird; ’I’ll show you how to build a nest on the ground where no one will find it. You must just push up some of the dry leaves in the forest, and then put some grass and twigs under them. It’s very easy.’
“‘For my part,’ said the woodpecker, ’I wouldn’t build on the ground anyway. I should be afraid that a deer or a bear or some other creature would step on me. If you want a safe nest, I’ll show you how to build one. You just find a dead limb, not too dead, and bore a deep hole into it. Put a little soft, rotten wood in the bottom, and there you are!
“‘That must be a close, stuffy kind of a nest; enough to smother one,’ said the oriole scornfully. Come with me and I will teach you to hang your nest on the end of an elm branch. You just weave together some hair and grass and moss and hang it on a slender, swinging branch, where nothing can get to it. Then you’ll be safe. The wind will rock your babies to sleep for you and you’ll have plenty of fresh air.’