Gateway to the Classics: For the Children's Hour by Carolyn S. Bailey
For the Children's Hour by  Carolyn S. Bailey

The Little Red Hen

O NCE upon a time, in a wee little house, there lived a frog, a cat and a little red hen. The frog was such a lazy frog he would do no work. The cat was such a lazy cat she would do no work; so the little red hen had to do it all herself.

One morning she said: "Who will build the fire?"

"Not I," said the frog.

"Not I," said the cat.

"I will," said the little red hen, and she built a bright fire.

"Who will make a cake for breakfast?" said the little red hen.

"Not I," said the frog.

"Not I," said the cat.

"I will," said the little red hen, and she made a cake for breakfast. When the cake was cooking by the fire the little red hen said: "Who will lay the table for breakfast?"

"Not I," said the frog.

"Not I," said the cat.

"I will," said the little red hen, and she laid the table. She tried the cake with a broom straw, took it from the fire, put it on a warm plate, and started to carry it to the table. The lazy frog was already sitting in his high chair, waiting for his breakfast. The lazy cat was smoothing out her napkin, ready for her breakfast. Then the little red hen stopped and said: "Who will eat this cake?"

"I will," said the frog.

"I will," said the cat.

"You are not going to have a bit," said the little red hen, and out the door she flew with the cake safely tucked under her wing. On down the road she flew till at last she came to a sunny pasture on a side hill. "Here," she said, "I will eat my cake."

Away over the hills that morning Papa Fox was awake. All his family were awake, too, and teasing for their breakfast. There was nothing in the little brown pantry for Mamma Fox, or the baby foxes; so Papa Fox started out to find something for them all.

On down the road he ran until he found a cool, dark forest on a side hill close to a sunny pasture.

"Surely I will find something here," he said, but he found no partridge or rabbit in the woods. As he came to the pasture, he said: "Oh, I smell fresh cake!" And then: "Oh, I smell a little red hen!" And there was our little red hen eating her cake. Softly Papa Fox stole up behind her, and grabbed her, and put her into the bag on his back. Quickly Papa Fox ran off down the hill.

Then the little red hen was so frightened she could only whisper: "Oh, dear! Oh, dear!"

Just then she thought she should sneeze, and she put her claw in her pocket for her handkerchief, and, in pulling it out, she dropped her little scissors right in her lap.

As fast as she could, she cut a little peek-hole in the bag. Peeking out, she saw a great hill just ahead, all covered with stones. As Papa Fox toiled slowly up the hill she cut a big hole in the bag; out she jumped and quickly put a big stone in the bag.

Straight up the hill went Papa Fox, and he thought the bag was so heavy, but he said: "She is a fat little red hen."

Mamma Fox met him at the front door. "Come in and put our breakfast in the kettle," she said, "the water is boiling."

So into the kettle Papa Fox emptied his bag, and down into the water fell the great stone, splashing the water all over the kitchen, and if Papa Fox had not jumped he would have been burned.

Then Papa Fox said: "What is that?" and he went back and peeped in the kettle, and then how he laughed!

"What was that?" asked Mamma Fox, and she went over and peered into the kettle, and, oh! how she laughed!

"What is that?" asked the little foxes, as they peeped into the kettle, and then, oh! how they laughed!

"I am glad the little red hen got away," said Papa Fox as he brought in some turnips for breakfast.

After the little red hen was out of the bag she kept very quiet until the fox was over the hill and out of sight. Then she ran, and she flew, as fast as she could go, but it was night before she reached home. As she flew into the garden she heard a deep voice say: "Oh, I wish the little red hen would come back," and that was the frog. Then she heard a soft voice say: "Oh, I wish the little red hen would come back," and that was the cat.

"Here I am!" said the little red hen.

"I won't be lazy any more," said the frog as he rubbed against her little yellow leg.

"I won't be lazy any more," said the cat as she rubbed against the little red hen's wing. And so the frog, the cat and the little red hen all worked together in the wee little house.

— Irish ballad of the "Little Red Hen"
Adapted by Harriet Peirce Dow

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