Cock-alu And Hen-alie





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.





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