THE STORY THAT THE SWALLOW DIDN'T TELL
ISTEN!" said the Nigh Ox, "don't you hear some friends coming?"
The Off Ox raised his head from the grass and stopped
to brush away a Fly, for you never could hurry either of the
brothers. "I don't hear any footfalls," said he.
"You should listen for wings, not feet," said the Nigh
Ox, "and for voices, too."
Even as he spoke there floated down from the clean air
overhead a soft "tit-tle-ittle-ittle-ee," as though some
birds were laughing for happiness. There was not a
cloud in the sky, and the meadow was covered with
thousands and thousands of green grass blades each so
ten-  der and yet together making a most beautiful carpet
for the feet of the farmyard people, and offering them
sweet and juicy food after their winter fare of hay and
grain. Truly it was a day to make one laugh aloud joy.
The alder tassels fluttered and danced in the spring
breeze while the smallest and shyest of the willow
pussies crept from their little brown houses on the
branches to grow in the sunshine.
"Tittle-ittle-ittle-ee! Tittle-ittle-ittle-ee!" And
this time it was louder and clearer than before.
"The Swallows!" cried the Oxen to each other. Then they
straightened their strong necks and bellowed to the
Horses, who were drawing the plow in the field beyond,
"The Swallows are coming!"
THE SWALLOWS ARE COMING
As soon as the Horses reached the end of the furrow and
could rest a minute, they tossed their heads and
whinnied with delight. Then they looked around
 at the farmer, and wished that he knew enough
of the farmyard language to understand what they wanted
to tell him. They knew he would be glad to hear of
their friends' return, for had they not seen him pick
up a young Swallow one day and put him in a safer
"Tittle-ittle-ittle-ee!" and there was a sudden
darkening of the sky above their heads, a whirr of many
wings, a chattering and laughing of soft voices, and
the Swallows had come. Perched on the ridge-pole of
the big barn, they rested and visited and heard all the
The Doves were there, walking up and down the sloping
sides of the roof and cooing to each other about the
simple things of every-day life. You know the Doves
stay at home all winter, and so it makes a great change
when their neighbors, the Swallows, return. They are
firm friends in spite of their very different ways of
living. There was never a
 Dove who would be a Swallow if he could, yet the plump,
quiet, gray and white Doves dearly love the dashing
Swallows, and happy is the Squab who can get a Swallow
to tell him stories of the great world.
"Isn't it good to be home, home, home!" sang one
Swallow. "I never
set my claws on another
ridge-pole as comfortable as this."
"I'm going to look at my old nest," said a young
Swallow, as she suddenly flew down to the eaves.
"I think I'll go, too," said another young Swallow,
springing away from his perch. He was a handsome
fellow, with a glistening dark blue head and back, a
long forked tail which showed a white stripe on the
under side, a rich buff vest, and a deep blue collar,
all of the finest feathers. He loved the young Swallow
whom he was following, and he wanted to tell her so.
 "There is the nest where I was hatched," she said.
"Would you think I was ever crowded in there with five
brothers and sisters? It was a comfortable nest, too,
before the winter winds and snow wore it away. I
wonder how it would seem to be a fledgling again"? She
snuggled down in the old nest until he could see only
her forked tail and her dainty head over the edge.
Her vest was quite hidden, and the only light feathers
that showed were the reddish-buff ones on throat and
face; these were not so bright as his, but still she
was beautiful to him. He loved every feather on her
"I don't want you to be a fledgling again," he cried.
"I want you to help me make a home under the eaves, at
a lovely little nest of mud and straw, where you can
rest as you are now doing while I bring food to you.
"Yes," she cried.
"Tittle-ittle-ittle-ee! Oh, tittle-ittle-ittle-ee!"
 flew far up into the blue sky, while he followed her,
twittering and singing.
"Where are those young people going?" said an older
Swallow. "I should think they had flown far enough
for to-day without circling around for the fun of it."
"Don't you remember the days when you were young?" said
the Swallow next to him.
"When I was young?" he answered. "My dear, I am young
now. I shall always be young in the springtime. I
shall never be old except when I am moulting."
Just then a family of Doves came pattering over the
roof, swaying their heads at every step. "We are so
glad to see you back," said the father. "We had a
long, cold winter, and we thought often of you."
"A very cold winter," cooed his plump little wife.
"Tell me a story," said a young Dove, their son.
 "Hush, hush," said the Father Dove. "This is our son,"
he added, "and this is his sister. We think them quite
a pair. Our last brood, you know."
"Tell us a story," said the young Dove again.
"Hush, dear. You mustn't tease the Swallow," said the
mother. "They are so fond of stories," she cooed, "and
they have heard that your family are great travellers."
"But I want him to tell us a story," said the young
Dove. "I think he might."
This made the Swallow feel very uncomfortable, for he
could see that the children had been badly brought up,
and he did not want to tell a story just then.
"Perhaps you would like to hear about our journey
south," said he. "Last fall, when the maples began to
show red and yellow leaves among the green, we felt
like flying away. It was quite warm
 weather, and the forest birds were still here, but when
we feel like flying south we always begin to get
"I never feel like flying south," said the young Dove.
"I don't see why you should."
"That is because I am a Swallow and you are a farmyard
Dove. We talked about it to each other, and one day
we were ready to start. We all had on our new feathers
and felt strong and well. We started out together, but
the young birds and their mothers could not keep up
with the rest, so we went on ahead."
"Ahead of whom?" said the young Dove, who had been
preening his feathers when he should have been
"Ahead of the mothers and their fledglings. We flew
over farms where there were Doves like you; over rivers
where the Wild Ducks were feeding by the shore; and
over towns where crowds of boys and girls were going
 buildings, while on top of these buildings were large
bells singing, 'Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong.' "
"I don't think that was a very pretty song," said the
"Hush," said his mother, "you mustn't interrupt the
"And at last we came to a great lake," said the
Swallow. "It was so great that when we had flown over
it for a little while we could not see land at all, and
our eyes would not tell us which way to go. We just
went on as birds must in such places, flying as we felt
we ought, and not stopping to ask why or to wonder if
we were right. Of course we Swallows never stop to
eat, for we catch our food as we fly, but we did
sometimes stop to rest. Just after we had crossed this
great lake we alighted. It was then that a very queer
thing happened, and this is really the story that I
started to tell."
"Oh!" said the young Dove and his
 sister. "How very exciting. But wait just a minute
while we peep over the edge of the roof and see what
the farmer is doing." And before anybody could say a
word they had pattered away to look.
The birds who were there say that the Swallow seemed
quite disgusted, and surely nobody could blame him if
"You must excuse them," cooed their mother. "They are
really hardly more than Squabs yet, and I can't bear to
speak severely to them. I'm sure
they didn't mean to
"Certainly, certainly," said the Swallow. "I will
excuse them and you must excuse me. I wish to see a
few of my old friends before the sun goes down. Good
afternoon!" And he darted away.
The young Doves came pattering back, swaying their
heads as they walked. "Why, where is the Swallow?"
 cried. "What made him go away? Right at the best part
of the story, too. We don't see why folks are so
disagreeable. People never are as nice to us as they
are to the other young Doves."
"Hush," said their mother. "You mustn't talk in that
way. Fly off for something to eat, and never mind
about the rest of the story."
When they were gone, she said to her husband, "I wonder
if they did hurt the Swallow's feelings? But then,
they are so young, hardly more than Squabs."
She forgot that even Squabs should be thoughtful of
others, and that no Dove ever amounts to anything
unless he begins in the right way as a Squab.