The Sparrow and his Four Children
A sparrow had four young ones in a swallow's nest. When they were fledged, some naughty boys pulled out the nest, but fortunately all the birds got safely away in the high wind. Then the old bird was grieved that as his sons had all gone out into the world, he had not first warned them of every kind of danger, and given them good instruction how to deal with each. In the autumn a great many sparrows assembled together in a wheatfield, and there the old bird met his four children again, and full of joy took them home with him. "Ah, my dear sons, what pain I have been in about you all through the summer, because you got away in the wind without my teaching; listen to my words, obey your father, and be well on your guard. Little birds have to encounter great dangers!" And then he asked the eldest where he had spent the summer, and how he had supported himself? "I stayed in the gardens, and looked for caterpillars and small worms, until the cherries got ripe." "Ah, my son," said the father, "tit-bits are not bad, but there is great risk about them; on that account take great care of thyself henceforth, and particularly when people are going about the gardens who carry long green poles which are hollow inside and have a little hole at the top." "Yes, father, but what if a little green leaf is stuck over the hole with wax?" said the son. "Where hast thou seen that?" "In a merchant's garden," said the youngster. "Oh, my son, merchant folks are quick folks," said the father. "If thou hast been among the children of the world, thou hast learned worldly shiftiness enough, only see that thou usest it well, and do not be too confident." After this he asked the next, "Where hast thou passed thy time?" "At court," said the son. "Sparrows and silly little birds are of no use in that place there one finds much gold, velvet, silk, armour, harnesses, sparrow-hawks, screech-owls and hen-harriers; keep to the horses' stable where they winnow oats, or thresh, and then fortune may give thee thy daily grain of corn in peace.