The Swallows

by Lenore Elizabeth Mulets

Once upon a time some Eskimo children were playing in the wet clay by the seashore. They were making tiny toy houses of the clay. These houses they fastened high on the face of the cliff.

The children chattered and laughed. They ran gaily to and fro in their happy play.

The people of the village heard their merry voices. Their busy mother paused with her long bone needle between her fingers. She looked up and smiled at her little ones.

"How happy my children are to-day!" she said, and she hummed a little tune to herself.

"They are very wise children!" said a neighbour. "They say so many wonderful things. Indeed, they seem to know more of some things than even the wise men of the village!"

"Yes, they are quite wonderful," said the mother. "I sometimes listen to their chatter and watch their nimble little fingers, and I wonder who taught them all they know."

"Oh," said another woman, "they do not seem so extraordinary to me. In fact, they look to me like little birds, flitting about in their dark dresses."

"They do look like birds!" said the mother, gazing at the children.

"I do believe they are birds," said the neighbour.

"But the voices are my children's voices," said the mother, looking again in wonder.

"And they are still building tiny clay houses on the cliffs!" said the other woman.

"But those toy clay houses are birds' nests," said the neighbour, "and those little figures darting back and forth are no longer children. They have changed to birds!"

"Yes," said the mother, peering from under her hand. "Yes, those are birds building their funny clay nests on the cliffs yonder.

"But the birds have the happy twittering voices of my children. You were right. They were wonderful children!

"Ah, well, my only wish is that they may remain near us. They will cheer us and keep us from becoming lonely!"

"Surely that is a reasonable wish—since they are your own little ones," said the neighbour. "I, too, hope that the little birds will remain near our village!"

And indeed the mother's wish was granted. Even to this day the little swallows do not fear man.

In fact, they still choose to build their nests near the camps of the people. They still fix their tiny toy houses on the faces of the sea cliffs.