The Dove Who Spoke the Truth
by Abbie Farwell
The Curious Book of Birds
The dove and the wrinkled little bat
once went on
a journey together. When it came toward night
a storm arose, and the two companions sought
everywhere for a shelter. But all the birds were
sound asleep in their nests and the animals in their
holes and dens. They could find no welcome
anywhere until they came to the hollow tree
where old Master Owl lived, wide awake in the
"Let us knock here," said the
shrewd bat; "I know the old fellow is not asleep. This
is his prowling hour, and but that it is a stormy night
he would be abroad hunting. What ho, Master
Owl!" he squeaked, "will you let in two storm-tossed travelers
for a night's lodging?"
Gruffly the selfish old owl bade them
enter, and grudgingly invited them to share his supper.
The poor dove was so tired that she could scarcely eat,
but the greedy bat's spirits rose as soon as he saw
the viands spread before him. He was a sly fellow,
and immediately began to flatter his host into
good humor. He praised the owl's wisdom and his
courage, his gallantry and his generosity - though
every one knew that however wise old Master Owl
might be, he was neither brave nor gallant. As for
his generosity, both the dove and the bat well
remembered his selfishness toward the poor wren,
when the owl alone of all the birds refused to give
the little fire-bringer a feather to help cover his
scorched and shivering body.
All this flattery pleased the owl. He puffed and
ruffled himself, trying to look as wise, gallant, and
brave as possible. He pressed the bat to help
himself more generously to the viands, which
invitation the sly fellow was not slow to accept.
During this time the dove had not uttered a
word. She sat quite still staring at the bat, and
wondering to hear such insincere speeches of
flattery. Suddenly the owl turned to her.
"As for you, Miss Pink-Eyes,"
he said gruffly, "you keep careful silence. You are a dull
table companion. Pray, have you nothing to say for
"Yes," exclaimed the mischievous
bat; "have you no words of praise for our kind host? Methinks
he deserves some return for this wonderfully
generous, agreeable, tasteful, well-appointed,
luxurious, elegant, and altogether acceptable
banquet. What have you to say, O little dove?"
But the dove hung her head, ashamed
of her companion, and said very simply, "O Master
Owl, I can only thank you with all my heart for
the hospitality and shelter which you have given
me this night. I was beaten by the storm, and
you took me in. I was hungry, and you gave me
your best to eat. I cannot flatter nor make pretty
speeches like the bat. I never learned such
manners. But I thank you."
"What!" cried the bat, pretending to be
shocked, "is that all you have to say to our
obliging host? Is he not the wisest, bravest, most
gallant and generous of gentlemen? Have you no
praise for his noble character as well as for his
goodness to us? I am ashamed of you! You do
not deserve such hospitality. You do not deserve
The dove remained silent. Like Cordelia in the
play she could not speak untruths even for her
"Truly, you are an unamiable guest," snarled
the owl, his yellow eyes growing keen and fierce
with anger and mortified pride. "You are an
ungrateful bird, Miss, and the bat is right. You
do not deserve this generous hospitality which I
have offered, this goodly shelter which you asked.
Away with you! Leave my dwelling! Pack off
into the storm and see whether or not your silence
will soothe the rain and the wind. Be off, I say!"
"Yes, away with her!" echoed the bat, flapping
his leathery wings.
And the two heartless creatures fell upon the
poor little dove and drove her out into the dark
and stormy night.
Poor little dove! All night she was tossed and
beaten about shelterless in the storm, because she
had been too truthful to flatter the vain old owl.
But when the bright morning dawned, draggled
and weary as she was, she flew to the court of
King Eagle and told him all her trouble. Great
was the indignation of that noble bird.
"For his flattery and his cruelty
let the bat never presume to fly abroad until the sun goes
down," he cried. "As for the owl, I have already
doomed him to this punishment for his treatment
of the wren. But henceforth let no bird have anything
to do with either of them, the bat or the owl.
Let them be outcasts and night-prowlers, enemies
to be attacked and punished if they appear
among us, to be avoided by all in their loneliness.
Flattery and inhospitality, deceit and cruelty -
what are more hideous than these? Let them
cover themselves in darkness and shun the happy
light of day.
"As for you, little dove, let this be a lesson to
you to shun the company of flatterers, who are
sure to get you into trouble. But you shall
always be loved for your simplicity and truth. And
as a token of our affection your name shall be
used by poets as long as the world shall last to
rhyme with LOVE."