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Cock-alu And Hen-alie

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - LITTLE STORIES that GROW BIG





BY MARY HOWITT

In this tale is shown to you
How large the boast of Cock-alu;
But, when he comes to act, you'll see
Small hope indeed for Hen-alie;
And thus you clearly will perceive
That who has great things to achieve
Must not stand talking but must do,
Else he will fail like Cock-alu.
For he who would perform the most
Will utter no vainglorious boast;
But still press onward, staunch and true,
With but the honest end in view.

Cock-alu and Hen-alie sat on the perch above the bean-straw. It was four
o'clock in the morning, and Cock-alu clapped his wings and crowed; then,
turning to Hen-alie, he said: "Hen-alie, my little wife, I love you
better than all the world, you know I do. I always told you so! I will
do anything for you; I'll go round the world for you, I'll travel as far
as the sun for you! You know I would! Tell me, what shall I do for you?"

"Crow!" said Hen-alie.

"Oh, that is such a little thing!" said Cock-alu, and crowed with all
his might. He crowed so loud that he woke the farmer's wife, and the dog
and the cat, and all the pigeons and horses in the stable, and the cow
in the stall. He crowed so loud that all the neighbors' cocks heard him
and answered him, and they woke all their people; and thus Cock-alu woke
the whole parish.

"I've done it rarely this morning!" said Cock-alu; "I told you I would
do anything to please you!"

The next morning, at breakfast, as Hen-alie was picking beans out of the
bean-straw, one stuck in her throat; and she was soon so ill that she
was just ready to die.

"Oh, Cock-alu," said she, calling to him in the yard, where he stood
clapping his wings in the sunshine, "run and fetch me a drop of water
from the silver-spring in the Beech-wood! Fetch me a drop quickly, while
the dew is in it; for that is the true remedy."

But Cock-alu was so busy crowing against a neighbor that he took no
notice.

"Oh, Cock-alu, do run and fetch me the water from the silver-spring, or
I shall die; for the bean sticks in my throat, and nothing but water
with dew in it can cure me! Oh, Cock-alu, dear, run quickly!"

Cock-alu heard her this time, and set off, crowing as he went. He had
not gone far before he met the snail.

"Where are you going, snails?" says he.

"I'm going to the cow-cabbage," says the snail; "and what urgent
business may it be that takes you out thus early, Cock-alu?" says the
snail.

"I'm going to the silver-spring in the Beech-wood, to fetch a drop of
water for my wife, Hen-alie, who has got a bean in her throat," says
Cock-alu.

"Oh," says the snail, "run along quickly, and get the water while the
dew is in it; for nothing else will get a bean out of the throat. Don't
stop by the way, for the bull is coming down to the silver-spring to
drink, and he'll trouble the water. Gather up my silver-trail, however,
and give it to Hen-alie with my love, and I hope she'll soon be better!"

Cock-alu hastily gathered up the silver-trail which the snail left.
"This will make Hen-alie a pair of stockings!" said he, and went on his
way.

He had not gone far before he met the wood-pigeon. "Good morning,
pigeon," says he; "and which way are you going?"

"I am going to the pea-field," says the pigeon, "to get peas for my
young ones; and what may your business be this morning, Cock-alu!"

"I'm going to the silver-spring in the Beech-wood, to fetch a drop of
water for my wife, Hen-alie, who has got a bean in her throat."

"I'm sorry to hear that," says the pigeon; "but don't let me detain you,
for water with the dew in it is the best thing to get a bean out of the
throat; and let me advise you to make haste, for the bloodhound is going
to lap at the spring, and he'll trouble the water. So run along, and
here, take with you my blue velvet neck-ribbon, and give it to Hen-alie
with my love, and I hope she'll soon be better."

"Oh, what a nice pair of garters this will make for Hen-alie!" exclaimed
Cock-alu, and went on his way.

He had not gone far before he met the wild-cat. "Good morning, friend,"
says Cock-alu, "and where may you be going this morning?"

"I'm going to get a young wood-pigeon for my breakfast, while the mother
is gone to the pea-field," says the wild-cat; "and where may you be
traveling to this morning, Cock-alu?"

"I'm going to the silver-spring in the Beech-wood," replied Cock-alu,
"to get a drop of water for my little wife Hen-alie, who has got a bean
in her throat."

"That's a bad business," says the wild-cat, "but a drop of water with
the dew in it is the right remedy; so don't let me keep you; and you had
better make haste, for the woodman is on his way to fell a tree by the
spring, and if a branch falls into it, the water will be troubled; so
off with you! But carry with you a flash of green fire from my right
eye, and give it to Hen-alie with my love, and I hope she'll soon be
better."

"Oh, what a beautiful green light, like the green on my best
tail-feathers! I'll keep it for myself; it's fitter for me than for
Hen-alie!" said Cock-alu.

So he hung the green light on his tail-feathers, which made them very
handsome, and he went on his way.

He had not gone far before he met with the sheep-dog. "Good morning,
sheep-dog," says Cock-alu; "where are you going?"

"I'm going to hunt up a stray lamb for my master," says the sheep-dog,
"and what brings you abroad?"

"I'm going to the silver-spring in the Beech-wood, to get a drop of
water for my little wife Hen-alie, who has got a bean in her throat,"
says Cock-alu.

"Then why do you stop talking to me?" says the sheep-dog, in his short
way; "your wife's bad enough, I'll warrant me; and a drop of water with
the dew in it is the thing to do her good. Be off with you! The farmer
is coming to lay the spring dry this morning. I left him sharpening his
mattock when I set out. You'll be too late, if you don't mind!" and with
that the sheep-dog went his way.

"An unmannerly fellow," says Cock-alu, and stood looking after him;
"I'll not go at his bidding, not I!" So he clapped his wings and crowed
in the wood, just to show that he set light by his advice. "And never to
give me anything for poor Hen-alie, that lies sick at home with a bean
in her throat! The ill-natured churl!" cried Cock-alu to himself, and
then he stood and crowed again with all his might.

After that he marched on, and before long reached the Beech-wood, but as
the silver-spring lay yet a good way off, he had not gone far in the
wood before he met the squirrel.

"Good morning, squirrel," says he; "what brings you abroad so early?"

"Early do you call it, Cock-alu?" says the squirrel; "why, I've been up
these four hours; I just stopped to give the young ones their
breakfasts, and then set off to silver-spring for a drop of water while
the dew was in it; I've got it here in a cherry-leaf. And pray you, what
business may take you abroad, Cock-alu?"

"The same as yours," replied Cock-alu; "I'm going for water, too, for my
wife Hen-alie, who has got a bean in her throat."

"Ah, well-a-day!" says the squirrel, "that's a bad thing! But run along
with you; for the old sow is coming down with her nine little pigs, and
if they trouble the water it will be all too late for poor little
Hen-alie!"

And with that the squirrel leaped up into the oak-tree above where
Cock-alu stood, for that was her way home, and left him without further
ceremony.

"Humph!" said Cock-alu; "she might have given me some of the water out
of her cherry-leaf for my poor little Hen-alie!" And so saying, he
walked on through the Beech-wood, and as he met no more creatures he
soon reached the silver-spring.

But it was now noon-day, and there was not a drop of dew in the water,
and the bull had been down and drunk, and the bloodhound had lapped, and
the old sow and her nine little pigs had wallowed in it, so the water
was troubled, and besides that the woodman had felled the tree which now
lay across the spring, and the farmer was digging the new watercourse,
so the spring was getting lower every minute. Cock-alu had come quite
too late; there was not a drop left for poor little Hen-alie.

When Cock-alu saw this he was very much disconcerted; he did not know
what to do, he stood a little while considering, and then he set off as
hard as he could go to the squirrel's house to beg a drop of water from
her. But the squirrel lived a long way off in the wood, and thus it was
a considerable time before he got there.

When he reached the squirrel's house, however, nobody was at home. He
knocked and knocked for a long time, and at last he walked in, but they
were all gone out; he peeped therefore into the pantry to see if he
could find the water; there was plenty of hazel-nuts and beech-nuts,
heaps and heaps of them all laid up in store for winter, but no water;
at length he saw the curled-up cherry-leaf, like a water-jug, standing
at the squirrel's bed-side, but it was empty; there was not a single
drop in it.

"This is bad business!" said Cock-alu to himself, and turned to leave
the house. At the squirrel's door he met a woodpecker.

"Woodpecker," says he, "where is the squirrel gone to? I want to beg a
drop of water from the silver-spring for my wife Hen-alie, who has got a
bean in her throat!"

"Lack-a-day!" said the woodpecker, "the old squirrel drank every drop,
and drained the jug into the bargain; he lay sick in bed this morning,
but there was such virtue in the water that he got well as soon as he
drank it; and now he has taken his wife and the little ones out for an
airing; they will not be back till night, I know. But if you will leave
any message with me I will be sure and deliver it, for the squirrel and
I are very neighborly."

"Oh!" groaned Cock-alu; "but what would be the use of leaving a message
if they have no water to give me!"

With that he came down from the old pine tree where the squirrel lived,
set out on his way home again, and came at length out of the Beech-wood,
but it was then getting toward evening.

He came to his own yard. There was the perch on which he and Hen-alie
had so often sat, and there was the bean-straw, and there lay poor
Hen-alie just as he had left her.

"Hen-alie, my little wife," said he, crowing loudly as he came up, that
he might put a cheerful face on the matter, "I have been very unlucky; I
could not get you any water, but I have got something so nice for you! I
have brought you a pair of silver-gauze stockings which the snail has
sent you, and a pair of blue velvet garters to wear with them, which the
ring-tail dove gave me!"

"Thank you," said poor little Hen-alie, in a very weak voice, "but I
wish you could have brought me some water, these things will do me no
good!"

"I could not bring you water, for the silver-spring is dry," said
Cock-alu, feeling very unhappy, and yet wishing to excuse himself;
"there's not a drop of water left in it!"

"Then it's all over with me!" sighed poor little Hen-alie.

"Don't be down-hearted, my little wife," said Cock-alu, trying to seem
cheerful, "I will give you something better than all, I will give you
the green-fire flash from the wild-cat's eye, which he gave me to wear
on my tail-feathers. Look up, my poor little Hen-alie, and I'll give it
all to you!"

"Alas!" sighed poor little Hen-alie, "what good will they do me! Oh,
that somebody only loved me well enough to have brought me one drop of
silver-spring water!"

All this while something very nice was happening, which I must tell you.

There was in the poultry-yard a shabby little drab-colored hen, very
small and very much despised; Cock-alu would not look at her, nor
Hen-alie either; she had no tail-feathers at all, and long black legs
which looked as if she had borrowed them from a hen twice her size; she
was, in short, the meanest, most ill-conditioned hen in the yard.

All the time, however, that Cock-alu was out on his fruitless errand,
she had been comforting Hen-alie in the best way she could, and assuring
her that Cock-alu would soon be back again with the water from the
silver-spring. But when he came back without a single drop, and only
offered the fine silk stockings and blue velvet garters instead, she set
off, without saying a word, as fast as her long legs would carry her out
of the wood and down to the silver-spring, which she reached in a
wonderfully short time.

Fortunately the silver-spring had flowed into its new channel as clearly
as ever, and the evening dew had dropped its virtues into it. The owls
were shouting "Kla-vit!" from one end of the wood to the other, The dark
leathern-winged bats and the dusky white and buff-colored moths were
flitting about the broad shadows of the trees, but the little hen took
no notice of any of them. On she went, thinking of nothing but that
which she had to do; and reaching the silver-spring, she gathered up
twelve drops of water, and, hurrying back again, came into the yard just
as poor Hen-alie was saying: "Oh, that somebody had loved me well enough
to fetch me only one drop of silver-spring water!"

"That I do!" said the shabby little hen, and dropped one drop after
another into her beak.

The first drop loosened the bean, the second softened it, and the third
sent it down her throat.

Hen-alie was well again; Cock-alu was ready to clap his wings and crow
for joy; and the little hen turned quietly away to her solitary perch.

"Nay," said Hen-alie, "but you shall not go unrewarded; see, here is a
pair of silk stockings for you, and here is green fire which will make
the most beautiful feathers in the world grow all over your body! Take
them all, you good little thing, and to-morrow morning you will come out
the handsomest hen in the yard!"

So it was. There must have been magic in those silk stockings and that
green fire, for the shabby little thing was now transformed into a
regular queen-hen. The farmer's wife thought she must have strayed away
from some beautiful foreign country, and gave her a famous breakfast to
keep her. Cock-alu was very attentive to her; and as to Hen-alie, she
never ceased singing her praises as long as she lived.





Next: There Is The Key Of The Kingdom

Previous: Song Of The Pear Tree



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