When I flew to my country nest in the forest I met a country sparrow who had made her nest next to me, under the eaves of an abandoned hut. I had inherited the nest from my parents and they had left it to me so I hoped to make it my home. I asked the country sparrow how the birds had been doing. Was the nightingale singing? Did the larks soar as high as ever? Did the linnet dress herself up as smartly as ever?
The country swallow said she never spoke gossip, not like the other swallows who had been corrupted by the bad examples of men. I was surprised to hear that even the country birds were being affected by city people. Oh yes she said, the linnet’s were setting out for the north and the cold, the lark that was formerly so timid and shy was now stealing maize and corn whenever she could find them. Worse than that, the country swallow’s nest had been occupied by a shameless sparrow who rudely claimed it as his own. The country swallow said, “I am sure nothing of this sort ever happens in town.”
“Oh, but I have seen a great deal,” I said, and I proceeded to tell her that the king had fallen in love with a tailor’s daughter, and when he went off to war, the queen gave birth to two babies. When the king returned, he was told that the children had died and that the queen had gone out of her mind and had to be shut into a tower in the mountains.
“Was that not true?” asked the sparrow. “Of course not,” I said tersely. “The children were alive and they had been kept by the gardener. But that very night the chamberlain came down, put them in a crystal cradle, and launched it in the river. The babies floated safely for a day, for the stream was deep and still. In the morning they were rescued by a fisherman who lived near the river bank.”
Just then I noticed two children lying on a bench in front of the hut. They were listening intently and right away I knew that they were the two children of the king.
City Swallow in The Bird of Truth, Orange Fairy Book. Vintage picture, artist unknown.