296 THE BIRD OF TRUTH
'Of course not,' answered the city lady, with some contempt for their stupidity. 'The children were alive at that very moment in the gardener's cottage; but at night the chamberlain came down and put them in a cradle of crystal, which he carried to the river.
'For a whole day they floated safely, for though the stream was deep it was very still, and the children took no harm. In the morning — so I am told by my friend the kingfisher — they were rescued by a fisherman who lived near the river bank.'
The children had been lying on the bench, listening lazily to the chatter up to this point; but when they heard the story of the crystal cradle which their foster-mother had always been fond of telling them, they sat upright and looked at each other.
'Oh, how glad I am I learnt the birds' language!' said the eyes of one to the eyes of the other.
Meanwhile the swallows had spoken again.
'That was indeed good fortune!' cried they.
'And when the children are grown up they can return to their father and set their mother free.'
'It will not be so easy as you think,' answered the city swallow, shaking her head; 'for they will have to prove that they are the king's children, and also that their mother never went mad at all. In fact, it is so difficult that there is only one way of proving it to the king.'
'And what is that?' cried all the swallows at once. 'And how do you know it?'
'I know it,' answered the city swallow 'because, one day, when I was passing through the palace garden, I met a cuckoo, who, as I need not tell you, always pretends to be able to see into the future. We began to talk about certain things which were happening in the palace, and of the events of past years. "Ah," said he, "the only person who can expose the wickedness of the