The Nightingale

“Which of your works of fiction do you consider the best?”

“My last income tax return.”

 

The Chamberlain went out and asked all the great lords and ladies and pages where the Nightingale could be found, but not one of them had ever heard of him. So the Chamberlain went back to the Emperor and said, “There is no such person.”

“The book says there is a Nightingale,” said the Emperor; “if the Nightingale is not here to sing for me this evening I will have the court trampled upon, immediately after supper.”

The Chamberlain did not want to be trampled upon, so he ran out and asked everybody in the palace about the Nightingale. At last, a little girl who worked in the kitchen to help the cook’s helper, said, “Oh, yes, I know the Nightingale very well. Every night, when I go to carry scraps from the kitchen to my mother, who lives in the wood beyond the forest, I hear the Nightingale sing.”

The Chamberlain asked the little cook-maid to take him to the Nightingale’s home, and many of the lords and ladies followed after. When they had gone a little way, they heard a cow moo.

“Ah!” said the lords and ladies, “that must be the Nightingale; what a large voice for so small a creature.”

“Oh, no,” said the little girl, “that is just a cow, mooing.”

A little farther on they heard some bullfrogs, in a swamp. “Surely that is the Nightingale,” said the courtiers; “it really sounds like church-bells!”

“Oh, no,” said the little girl, “those are bullfrogs, croaking.”

 

The Nightingale

“Papa, what’s a ‘liberal Republican’?”

“Wait, son, I’ll look it up.”

“But papa, that book you are consulting is Bullfinch’s Mythology.”

“I know, son, I know.”

 

A long, long time ago, as long ago as when there were fairies, there lived an emperor in China, who had a most beautiful palace, all made of crystal. Outside the palace, was the loveliest garden in the whole world, and farther away was a forest where the trees were taller than any other trees in the world, and farther away, still, was a deep wood. And in this wood lived a little Nightingale. The Nightingale sang so beautifully that everybody who heard her remembered her song better than anything else that he had heard or saw. People came from all over the world to see the crystal palace and the wonderful garden and the great forest, but when they went home and wrote books about these things they always wrote, “But the Nightingale is the best of all.”

At last is happened that the Emperor came upon a book which said this, and he at once sent for his Chamberlain.

“Who is this Nightingale?” said the Emperor. “Why have I never heard him sing?”

The Chamberlain, who was a very important person said, “There cannot be any such person; I have never heard his name.”

“The book says there is a Nightingale,” said the Emperor. “I command that the Nightingale be brought here to sing for me this evening.”