A Rumour Takes Wing

A pious man crossing a field felt something in his mouth and spat it out. It was a pigeon feather. He couldn’t understand how it had got there and it worried him. At home he told his wife about it but asked her not to tell anyone lest somebody put a bad interpretation on it.

His wife swore her neighbour to secrecy and told her what happened. Perhaps it was the way she told it, but her neighbour got the impression several feathers had come out of the pious man's mouth. ‘Please don't tell anyone,’ said the pious man's wife. ‘My lips are sealed,’ said the woman. But she saw the butcher's wife and told her the story. Only, she made it sound as if a whole pigeon had come out of the pious man's mouth. The butcher’s wife went away promising not to tell anyone but on the way met her friend and the story tumbled out. Perhaps in her excitement she said ‘pigeons’ instead of ‘pigeon’ or maybe her friend imagined it but when she told her husband the story later, she was emphatic that it was a flock of pigeons.

As the story spread ‘pigeons’ became ‘pigeons and other birds’ and then ‘hundreds of birds of all shapes and sizes’. By evening the whole village heard the story and people came see witness the miracle. The pious man denied any bird had come out of his mouth but nobody believed him and they begged him to demonstrate his miracle. Finally, he asked them all to sit in front of his house, ran out back and hid for several days till people realised the news was false.

Be very careful in what you report for even a true rumour can very quickly turn to lies.