294 THE BIRD OF TRUTH
Then they sat down, and for some time they were too tired even to notice anything; but by-and-by they saw that under the tiles of the roof a quantity of swallows were sitting, chattering merrily to each other. Of course the swallows had no idea that the children understood their language, or they would not have talked so freely; but, as it was, they said whatever came into their heads.
'Good evening, my fine city madam,' remarked a swallow, whose manners were rather rough and country-fied, to another who looked particularly distinguished. 'Happy, indeed, are the eyes that behold you! Only think of your having returned to your long-forgotten country friends, after you have lived for years in a palace!'
'I have inherited this nest from my parents,' replied the other, 'and as they left it to me I certainly shall make it my home. But,' she added politely, T hope that you and all your family are well ?'
'Very well indeed, I am glad to say. But my poor daughter had, a short time ago, such bad inflammation in her eyes that she would have gone blind had I not been able to find the magic herb, which cured her at once.'
'And how is the nightingale singing? Does the lark soar as high as ever? And does the linnet dress herself as smartly?' But here the country swallow drew herself up.
'I never talk gossip,' she said severely. 'Our people, who were once so innocent and well-behaved, have been corrupted by the bad examples of men. It is a thousand pities.'
'What! innocence and good behaviour are not to be met with among birds, nor in the country! My dear friend, what are you saying?'
'The truth and nothing more. Imagine, when we returned here, we met some linnets who, just as the spring and the flowers and the long days had come, were setting out for the north and the cold? Out of pure compassion