WHEN a man dies two angels appear, the good one and the evil one. The good one walking on his right, and the evil on his left, each one holds a book in his hand in which man's deeds are written. When the soul appears before the divine judge, there comes first the cat accusing the man, and the cat says, "He gave me no peace all my life through; he put me to catch mice and I often remained hungry. Then man drives me out of the house, and during daytime he never lets me in."
"What are you talking of? you should be ashamed of yourself," is the rejoinder of the dog, "you live in a warm house, you have food in plenty, you have nothing to complain of. What am I to say, who am kept out in the cold and rain, and have to watch day and night, and if ever I get a bone thrown at me I think myself happy." The judge replies: "That is your work; to that you have been appointed: off with you." The evil angel writes it all down and puts the weight of guilt on the one scale, and the good angel writes it in his book and he puts a counter-weight in the other scale.
Then come the birds. First the wild duck. He says, "O unfailing judge, see how this man has ill-treated us, he comes to our resting-place and shoots us down mercilessly." "It serves you right," is the reply of the judge, "if you live as a wild bird, you must be treated like a wild bird. You ought to be domesticated and no hurt will befall you."
Then the sparrow comes, and he says, "O mighty Lord, this man here snared us and killed us." And the judge replies, "You have stolen his corn and destroyed his crop." And other birds, like the finch and the thrush and the heron, come, and all bring accusations against the man, and the evil angel enters them in his book.
Then come the good witnesses. First the swallow, and she says, "O Lord, this man has been kind to us. We built our nest in his house and under his roof, and he never as much as molested us, and even when my young spoil the food, which he is preparing under their nest, he never hurts them." Then the stork comes, he says, "I build my nest on the very roof of his house, and on his storehouses, and he never interferes with us, and we hatch our young and feel no hurt. All merciful father, have mercy on him, as he was full of pity for us."
Then the cuckoo comes, and he said, "I who have been thy servant pray thee to forgive his sins, for even to me he does no hurt, and though I often announce death to him, he none the less listens with pleasure to my call. Have mercy on him and forgive his sins." And so the other birds come and ask the forgiveness of sin. And the good angel writes it all down in his book and puts it as counter-weights in his balance, and often the pleading of the birds opens the gates of heaven to the human soul.