“‘I wouldn’t like that at all,’ said the sand martin. ’I’d be seasick the first half hour. A good hole in a sandbank suits me much better. To be sure, the sand sometimes caves in. But that doesn’t matter much. A little hard work will clear your doorway.’
“‘What do you do when the high waters come?’ asked the phoebe bird. ‘For my part,’ continued she, ’I like a rock ledge for a foundation with another one above for a roof. The rock never caves in on you. A little hair and grass, nicely laid down, with a little moss on the outside, and you are comfortable and safe. You’ll never be drowned out there.’
“‘I don’t like rocks,’ said the robin. ’A fork in a tree suits me much better. Just lay down a few sticks for a foundation, then weave together some twigs and grass and plaster the inside with some good thick mud, and you have a serviceable nest, good enough for anyone. A few feathers in the bottom will make it soft and comfortable. It may not be so elegant as some others, but it suits me.’
“And so it went on. Each one of the birds praised its own nest and offered to show Mother Mo-lo how to build one like it.
“But Mother Mo-lo cared little for what they said. She wasn’t even polite enough to pretend to pay attention. She was too conceited. thought that she was handsome and knew about all there was to be known.”
“Handsome?” said little Luke; “the ugly old thing! It can’t be that she had ever looked at herself.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Nick-uts, “the sillier people are, the wiser they think themselves. And it’s always the ugly ones who think themselves the most beautiful.”
“Well,” said little Luke, “I’ve seen a good deal of her, but I never thought her handsome in the least. You know she follows the cows about so much that we house people call her the cowbird.”
“Well, at any rate,” said Nick-uts, “she thought she knew a great deal more than she really did.
“So she said to the other birds, very haughtily, ’You are all very kind, and I am very much obliged to you. But I think I can get along without your help. I know how to build a nest that will suit me better than any of yours.’
“‘Indeed, is that so?’ cried the other birds. ’You must have learned very quickly. Who was your teacher anyway?’
“‘Oh,’ said Mother Mo-lo, ’nobody taught me, but I know how just the same.’
“‘Very well,’ said the other birds, ’we only wanted to be kind and help you. But we won’t bother you any more. Good-bye.’ And they all flew away to attend to their own affairs.
“After a while Mother Mo-lo tried to build a nest. First she tried to bore a hole in a dead branch, but she couldn’t do it. Then she tried the sandbank, but the sand caved in and got in her eyes and almost smothered her. Then she tried the other kinds of nests. But every one was a failure. At last she gave it up, and ever since then she has laid her eggs in other birds’ nests and let them rear her young ones for her.”