GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES - online book

130 Fairy Stories Adapted & Arranged for young people

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86                    ANIMAL LANGUAGE.
In times of old there once lived a king, whose wisdom was so great that the whole land depended upon his judgments. Nothing remained long unknown to him; it appeared as if intelli­gence of the most carefully concealed event was carried to him through the air. It was the custom of this king each day at noon when the dinner had been removed, and no one else present, for a trustworthy servant to bring in a large bowl, which was always covered up. Neither the servant nor any one else knew what it contained, for the king never took off the cover to eat of the con­tents till he was quite alone. This had continued for a long time, but there came a day when the curiosity of the servant was too strong to be overcome, and after removing the dish from the king's table he took it into his own room. After carefully locking the door he lifted up the cover, and saw to his surprise a white snake lying at full length in the dish. He no sooner caught sight of it than he became unable to resist a desire to taste, so he cut a little piece off and put it in his mouth. Scarcely had it touched his tongue than he heard outside his window strange whisperings, and soft voices. He went and listened, and then noticed two sparrows who were talking together and relating to each other all that they had seen in the woods and fields. The littlepiece of snake which he had so enjoyed hadgiven him the power to understand the languages of animals.
Now it happened that on this very day the queen had lost one of her beautiful rings, and she suspected that this trustworthy servant had stolen it, because he, above all others, had most access to the room in which she had left it. The king sent for him, and with harsh, angry words told him he should be brought to justice and punished for a deed which till that moment he had never heard of. It was of no use for him to protest his innocence ; the king was inexorable. In his sorrow and distress of mind he went out into the court behind the castle and tried to think of some means by which he might get himself out of this trouble.