The Farm‑Yard Cock and the Weather‑Cock
T HERE were two cocks—one on the dunghill, the other on the roof. Both were conceited; but which of the two did most? Tell us your opinion; but we shall keep our own, nevertheless.
The poultry-yard was divided by a partition of boards from another yard, in which lay a manure-heap, and on it lay and grew a great cucumber, which was fully conscious of being a forcing-bed plant.
"That's a privilege of birth," the Cucumber said to herself. "Not all can be born cucumbers—there must be other kinds, too. The fowls, the ducks, and all the cattle in the neighboring yard are creatures, too. I now look up to the Yard Cock on the partition. He certainly is of very much greater consequence than the Weather-cock, who is so highly placed, and who can't even creak, much less crow; and he has neither hens nor chickens, and thinks only of himself, and perspires verdigris. But the Yard Cock—he's something like a cock! His gait is like a dance, his crowing is music; and wherever he comes it is known directly. What a trumpeter he is! If he would only come in here! Even if he were to eat me up, stalk and all, it would be quite a blissful death," said the Cucumber.
In the night the weather became very bad. Hens, chickens, and even the Cock himself sought shelter. The wind blew down the partition between the two yards with a crash; the tiles came tumbling down but the Weather-cock sat firm. He did not even turn round; he could not turn round; and yet he was young and newly cast, but steady and sedate. He had been "born old," and did not at all resemble the birds that fly beneath the vault of heaven, such as the sparrows and swallows. He despised those, considering them piping birds of trifling stature—ordinary song birds. The pigeons, he allowed, were big and shining, and gleamed like mother-o'-pearl, and looked like a kind of weather-cock; but then they were fat and stupid, and their whole endeavor was to fill themselves with food.
"Moreover, they are such tedious things to converse with," said the Weather-cock.
The birds of passage had also paid a visit to the Weather-cock, and told him tales of foreign lands—of airy caravans and exciting robber stories of encounters with birds of prey; and that was interesting for the first time, but the Weather-cock knew that afterwards they always repeated themselves, and that was tedious.
"They are tedious, and all is tedious," he said. "No one is fit to associate with, and one and all of them are wearisome and stupid. The world is worth nothing," he cried. "The whole thing is a stupidity."
The Weather-cock was what is called "used up"; and that quality would certainly have made him interesting in the eyes of the Cucumber, if she had known it; but she had only eyes for the Yard Cock, who had now actually come into her own yard.
The wind had blown down the plank, but the storm had passed over.
"What do you think of that crowing?" inquired the Yard Cock of his hens and chickens. "It was a little rough—the elegance was wanting."
And hens and chickens stepped upon the muck-heap, and the Cock strutted to and fro upon it like a knight.
"Garden plant!" he cried out to the Cucumber; and in this one word she understood his deep feeling and forgot that he was pecking at her and eating her up—a happy death!
And the hens came, and the chickens came, and when one of them runs the rest run also; they clucked and chirped and looked at the Cock, and were proud that he was of their kind.
"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" he crowed. "The chickens will grow up to be large fowls if I make a noise in the poultry-yard of the world."
And hens and chickens clucked and chirped, and the Cock told them a great piece of news:
"A cock can lay an egg; and do you know what there is in that egg? In that egg lies a basilisk. Men know that, and now you know it, too—you know what is in me, and what a cock of the world I am."
And with this the Yard Cock flapped his wings and made his comb swell up, and crowed again; and all of them shuddered—all the hens and the chickens; but they were proud that one of their people should be such a cock of the world. They clucked and chirped, so that the Weather-cock heard it; and he heard it, but he never stirred.
"It's all stupid stuff!" said a voice within the Weather-cock. "The Yard Cock does not lay eggs, and I am too lazy to lay any. If I liked, I could lay a wind-egg, but the world is not worth a wind-egg. And now I don't like even to sit here any longer."
And with this the Weather-cock broke off; but he did not kill the Yard Cock, though he intended to do so, as the hens declared. And what does the moral say? "Better to crow than to be 'used up' and break off."