THE BIRD OF TRUTH
and in the end the king published a proclamation that whoever found the Bird of Truth should bring her to him without delay.
As soon as he saw this proclamation the boy called his sister, and they hastened to the palace. The bird was buttoned inside his tunic, but, as might have been expected, the courtiers barred the way, and told the child that he could not enter. It was in vain that the boy declared that he was only obeying the king's commands; the courtiers only replied that his majesty was not yet out of bed, and it was forbidden to wake him.
They were still talking, when, suddenly, the bird settled the question by flying upwards through an open window into the king's own room. Alighting on the pillow, close to the king's head, she bowed respectfully, and said:
'My lord, I am the Bird of Truth whom you wished to see, and I have been obliged to approach you in this manner because the boy who brought me is kept out of the palace by your courtiers.'
'They shall pay for their insolence,' said the king. And he instantly ordered one of his attendants to conduct the boy at once to his apartments; and in a moment more the prince entered, holding his sister by the hand.
'Who are you?' asked the king; 'and what has the Bird of Truth to do with you?'
'If it please your majesty, the Bird of Truth will explain that herself,' answered the boy.
And the bird did explain; and the king heard for the first time of the wicked plot that had been successful for so many years. He took his children in his arms, with tears in his eyes, and hurried off with them to the tower in the mountains where the queen was shut up. The poor woman was as white as marble, for she had been living almost in darkness; but when she saw her husband and children, the colour came back to her face, and she was as beautiful as ever.