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
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
"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
"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
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