Some of them were not so strong as others, and at times they would squat upon the ground to rest. Mother Mit-chee would wait as long as she thought proper, and then tell them to “come along.” And away they would go down the mountainside.
At last they reached the spring. The little ones had never seen water before, and did not know what to do. But Mother Mit-chee took a drop of clear, cold water in her bill, and raised her head before she swallowed it. Each chick copied her motion exactly. It was fun for the little boy to watch them. Nearly the whole dozen would clip their little bills into the water at once, and raise their heads to swallow it, as they had seen their mother do.
“Mother Mit-chee,” said the little boy, after they had all finished drinking, “what makes you raise your head before you swallow the water?”
“Oh,” said Mother Mit-chee, “that is our way of giving thanks to the Master of Life for the cool, sweet water. Our family learned to do it a long time ago, and we have always done it since.”
“That sounds as if there might be a story about it,” said the little boy, who was always on the watch for stories.
“Well,” said Mother Mit-chee, “there is a story about it.”
“A long time ago,” she went on, “there came a summer when no rain fell for many weeks. As you know, all the feathered folk can get along pretty well if there are only dew-drops to drink. But after a time there was no dew, and even the grass withered and died.
“All the feathered tribes suffered terribly from thirst. At last they gathered together in a great council, and asked the Master of Life to take pity on them in their sad state. He heard their prayer, and sent the angel who cares for the wild folk to speak to them.
“‘The Master of Life,’ said he, ’has seen your sufferings and heard your prayers. He is merciful and kind, and has given orders to the Angel of the Rain Clouds to supply your needs. Look!’ said he, pointing to the west. All the feathered folk looked, and behold, in the distance, the dark Rain Clouds were already flying toward them, driven by the breath of the Angel of the Winds.
“Soon the rain began to fall, the grass, the flowers, and the trees revived, the springs were filled, and the sweet murmur of running water was again heard in the brooks and rivers. The wild folk drank and were refreshed.
“Before the Angel of the Wild Folk departed, he said, ’From this time on forever when you drink, you must raise your head as a token of thankfulness to the Master of Life who has sent you the refreshing rain.’
“If you watch them, you will notice that all the feathered folk show their gratitude to the Master of Life in the same way.”