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Once upon a time a widow and her two daughters lived in a little cottage near a grove. They were so poor that it took the most careful managing to earn a humble living. Their meals were very simple; indeed, they often had nothing but milk and brown bread, and once in a while a bit of bacon and an egg or two.

Around the cottage was a henyard, fenced in with sticks and a dry ditch, and here the old widow kept a handsome rooster called Chanticleer. His match for crowing could not be found; his voice was merrier than the merry organ heard in the church on Mass days, and the wonder of it was one could tell the hour of the day by his crowing! His comb 139was redder than fine coral, and all notched like a castle wall. His bill was black and shone like jet, his legs and his toes were like azure, his nails whiter than the lily flower, and his feathers the color of burnished gold.

Chanticleer lived a happy life. He had with him seven plump wives, all very much like him in color, but by far the cheeriest companion among them was Demoiselle Partlet, who was not only beautiful but also wise and courteous. Chanticleer loved her dearly. What joy it was to hear them sing together at sunrise,
“My love is far away.”

Early one morning when Chanticleer and his seven hens sat on the perch, Partlet, who was beside her lord, heard a loud groan. “My dear,” she said, astonished and alarmed, “what can be the matter with you? For shame, to wake us all up in this way!”

“Madam,” replied the rooster, “do not be anxious about me. It was only a dream, but it has frightened me almost beyond words. I thought I was roaming up and down the yard, 140when suddenly I saw a beast somewhat like a hound ready to spring at me. He was between yellow and red in color, his tail and ears were tipped with black, his nose was small and his eyes glowed like fire. I almost died of fright! That is what made me groan.”

“Fie for shame!” retorted Partlet. “Do you admit to your love that anything could fill your heart with fear? Alas! Alas! You know that dreams mean nothing. Let me explain what causes them. Overeating creates too much black humor, and in consequence one is likely to dream that black bears, or black bulls, or even devils will catch him. Then again, if one has too much red humor he may dream of arrows, of fire with red blazes, or of great and small whelps that will bite. I could go on, but further talk is unnecessary. Dearest, when we fly down from these rafters I will point out to you herbs and berries that will cure you; also for a day or two you shall have a light diet of worms. Cheer up, I say, and in a little while all will be well. Should this occur again, remember 141the words of the wise Cato: ‘Take no heed of dreams!’”

“Thank you for your excellent advice, my dear,” replied Chanticleer. “I know that Cato had much wisdom, but I can give you examples of other very wise men who did not agree with him. Do you not remember the story of Daniel in the Old Testament? Did he think dreams mean nothing? Also read the story of Joseph and you will see that a dream held warnings of future things. Recall for a moment Pharaoh, King of Egypt, his baker and his butler! See what they thought about the meaning of dreams. Wonderful stories on this subject I could point out to you, so do not be surprised that this dream of mine makes me anxious. But now, my dearest Partlet, let us talk about merrier things, for, when I see the beauty of your face and the lovely scarlet hue about your eyes, all my fears leave me. I am so full of joy and comfort in your company that I forget dreams.”

Daybreak had come and the rooster and his seven wives flew down from the perch. 142“Cluck! Cluck!” he called gayly when he found a tidbit in the yard. Behold Chanticleer in all his glory! Brave as a lion, he roamed proudly on his tiptoes up and down the henyard, never dreaming that an enemy was watching him with cunning interest.

Now it happened that a wicked fox had lived for three years in the grove near the cottage. All this time he had been watching his chance to fall upon the handsome rooster. During the night of Chanticleer’s dream, the fox had pushed slyly through the hedge into the garden and had carefully hidden himself among the vegetables.

The sun was shining gloriously! Partlet and her sisters were bathing merrily in the warm sand! Gallant Chanticleer, singing merrier than a mermaid, was watching a butterfly flitting about in the sunshine among the herbs when suddenly his eye caught sight of the fox lying low among the leaves! Terror seized him. The song died in his throat. “Cok! Cok!” he gasped. In a moment he would have fled, but the fox began right 143away to speak to him in a very persuasive tone.

“Gentle sir, I hope you are not afraid of me, your own good friend. Certainly I should be worse than a fiend if I harmed you. Indeed I did not come here to spy upon you, but, pardon me, to hear your glorious voice. No angel in heaven could sing sweeter than you do. How well I remember my lord, your father, and my lady, your honorable mother. They have been guests at my house many times. Shall I ever again hear a voice as beautiful as your father’s when he greeted the sunrise! I remember exactly how he looked. He stood on his tiptoes, shut his eyes tightly, stretched out his long slender neck and then poured forth his glorious song. He was indeed a wonder. Also, he was very wise and careful. I have heard it said that no one could surpass him in song or wisdom. I wonder, kind sir, if your voice is as beautiful as your father’s. For sweet charity’s sake, will you not sing one song for me and let me compare the two voices?”

144How could Chanticleer refuse one so kind and courteous? He began to flap his wings. He stood on tiptoe. He closed his eyes. He stretched his long, slender neck and began to crow. Snap! In a twinkling the fox seized Chanticleer by the throat, swung him across his back, and was off to the woods with him.

Never was there such a commotion! The hens screamed and cried pitifully. Partlet shrieked at the top of her voice. This brought the widow and her daughters to the door, and then they saw the wicked fox with Chanticleer across his back making for the wood. “Help! Help! A fox! A fox!” they cried, and started after him as fast as they could go. Men snatched up sticks and joined them. The dog Coll ran yelping and barking. Malkin started with the distaff in her hand. The cow and the calf ran. The hogs, frightened at the loud barking of the dogs and the screaming of the people, set up a squealing like fiends and followed in the chase. The ducks quacked as if they were being murdered, the geese in terror took flight over the tree tops. The hideous deafening noise started a swarm of bees forth from their hive. Soon other people followed with horns of brass, wood, and bone. They blew, they bellowed, they cried, they screamed, they whooped, they shrieked, and made such a bedlam that it seemed the very heavens would fall. And on ran the fox with the rooster on his back.

147Now Chanticleer in all his breathless terror was rapidly turning over in his mind how he could help his friends to rescue him. Controlling his fright as best he could, he said,

“Sir, if I were you, I’d scoff at these followers. Say to them, ‘Turn back you proud churls! A plague upon you! The rooster is mine and I’ll soon be where I can eat him.’”

“In faith,” replied the fox, “I’ll do what you say.” As soon as the fox opened his mouth, Chanticleer flew high up into a tree which stood near. Now the fox saw his mistake, but was not ready to give up.

“Alas, alas, Chanticleer,” he began, “I’ve 148done you a great wrong. I seized you and carried you entirely too roughly. Forgive me for frightening you. Come now, fly down a moment and let me explain.”

“No thank you,” crowed Chanticleer. “Your flattery will not catch me a second time, and make me sing again with my eyes closed. For no good can come to anyone who closes his eyes when they should be open.”

“Bad luck to the one who talks when he should hold his peace,” grumbled the fox.


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