Cock-alu And Hen-alie

★ Cock-alu And Hen-alie Story:

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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