ANIMAL LANGUAGE. 37
On the smooth surface water of the lake two ducks were swimming peacefully together, side by side. They plumed their shining feathers with their smooth bills, while they held a very confidential conversation. The servant stood still to listen, and heard them talking of where they had been waddling, and of the good food they had found.
"Ah, yes," said one, " but some of it lies very heavy on my stomach; I think it must be that ring which lay under the queen's window. In my hurry, I dare say I swallowed it."
The servant no sooner heard this than he seized the duck by the neck, and, carrying her into the kitchen, said to the cook, " Kill this duck for dinner, will you, it is quite fat."
" Yes, I see it is," replied the cook, taking it in his hand. " I shall not have the trouble of fattening this one, at all events, or waiting till it is ready." Then he put an end to the poor duck's life; and on opening it to prepare for roasting, he found the queen's ring in her stomach.
The servant was overjoyed when he saw the ring, for now he could easily prove his innocence to the king, who was very anxious to make amends for having so unjustly accused him. He not only gave him his friendship, but also promised him whatever high position in the court he wished. The servant readily accepted an office in which he could have a horse, and money to travel, for he had a great desire to see the world, and visit different towns of which he had heard.
All his requests were granted, and he very speedily set out on his travels.
At the end of a few days he came to a pond in which he saw three fish, who had been caught by the rushes on the bank and were gasping for want of water. Although people say that fish are dumb, yet he understood the complaining tones well enough to know that without help they would quickly perish. He sympathized from his heart with their suffering. So he alighted from his horse and rescuing the little fish from the rushes, placed them again in the water. They wriggled about with joy, and one of them stretched out his head and cried, " We will always think of thee, and thou wilt be rewarded for having saved us."
He rode away, however, and presently beneath his feet a voice spoke, and he understood that the words were those of an ant-