THE BIRD OF TRUTH 297
ministers and show the king how wrong he has been is the Bird of Truth, who can speak the language of men."
'"And where can this bird be found?" I asked.
'"It is shut up in a castle guarded by a fierce giant, who only sleeps one quarter of an hour out of the whole twenty-four," replied the cuckoo.'
'And where is this castle?' inquired the country swallow, who, like all the rest, and the children most of all, had been listening with deep attention.
'That is just what I don't know,' answered her friend. 'All I can tell you is that not far from here is a tower, where dwells an old witch, and it is she who knows the way, and she will only teach it to the person who promises to bring her the water from the fountain of many colours, which she uses for her enchantments. But never will she betray the place where the Bird of Truth is hidden, for she hates him, and would kill him if she could; knowing well, however, that this bird cannot die, as he is immortal, she keeps him closely shut up, and guarded night and day by the Birds of Bad Faith, who seek to gag him so that his voice should not be heard.'
'And is there no one else who can tell the poor boy where to find the bird, if he should ever manage to reach the tower ?' asked the city swallows.
'No one,' replied she, 'except an owl, who lives a hermit's life in that desert, and he knows only one word of man's speech, and that is "cross." So that even if the prince did succeed in getting there, he could never understand what the owl said. But, look, the sun is sinking to his nest in the depths of the sea, and I must go to mine. Goodnight, friends, good-night!'
Then the swallow flew away, and the children, who had forgotten both hunger and weariness in the joy of this strange news, rose up and followed in the direction of her flight. After two hours' walking, they arrived at a