“Where is Father Mit-chee?” asked the little boy of the Mother Partridge, one day.
“I don’t know,” she answered; “I haven’t seen him since I began to sit.”
“Well,” said the little boy, “I think he’s a mean, lazy scamp, to go off and leave you to take care of the family alone.”
“Well,” said Mother Mit-chee, “it would be rather nice to have some help. I feel a bit lonesome sometimes, especially when I notice how kind Father O-loo-la is to his wife and family. But it isn’t the custom in our family. The fathers leave the mothers to take care of the family. They never come near us until their children are able to take care of themselves. I’ve taught these youngsters of mine what to eat and where to find it. They have learned to fly pretty well, and taken some lessons in whirring, so that they can frighten their enemies. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Father Mit-chee any day. Why, there he is now! I can tell his drumming any time.”
The little boy listened. Far off in the distance he heard thump!—thump!—thump!—thump!—thr-r-r-r-r-r!
“Let’s go and meet him,” said Mother Mit-chee. “He doesn’t know you, so I’ll go ahead. Then he won’t be frightened.”
So they went through the woods, Mother Mit-chee in the lead, till they came in sight of the Father Partridge. He was standing on a fallen log and drumming. Just how he did it the little boy could not tell. He flapped his wings like a rooster, and seemed to beat the log or his own sides. As the little boy watched him, he thought that perhaps the sound was made by Father Mit-chee’s wings striking together over his back. When he saw Mother Mit-chee coming, he walked up and down the log very proudly. Then he stopped and drummed louder than ever.
“Well,” said Mother Mit-chee, “so you’ve come back at last, have you? Here are your children. Don’t they look as if I had taken good care of them?”
“Why, yes,” replied Father Mit-chee, “they’re looking pretty well. I’ve heard of you several times, and knew that you were getting along all right. But who’s that over yonder?” he asked, as he caught sight of Little Luke.
“Oh,” answered Mother Mit-chee, “you’ve heard of him before. He’s the boy who found the Magic Flower, and learned the animal talk.”
That was the way little Luke came to know Father Mit-chee.
XXIII. THE STORY OF THE FIRST PARTRIDGE
“Father Mit-Chee,” said little Luke one day as the two were sitting together on the drumming log, “can’t you tell me a story?”
“Why, yes,” said Father Mit-chee, “I suppose I might, I might tell you the story of the first partridge.”
Long, long ago an Indian was hunting in the woods. As he went along, he heard a noise as of people jumping and dancing on hard ground. “That is queer,” said he to himself. “I will go and see what is going on.”