"W HAT a dreary day this is!" said the old gray goose to the brown hen, as they stood at the hen-house window and watched the falling snow which covered every nook and corner of the farmyard.
"Yes, indeed," said the brown hen; "I would be almost willing to be made into chicken pie on such a day."
She had scarcely stopped talking, when the Pekin duck said, fretfully: "I am dreadfully hungry," and a little flock of speckled chickens all huddled together wailed in sad chorus: "And we're so thirsty!"
In fact, the feathered folks in the hen-house were very much inclined to be cross and discontented. Since the farmer's boy fed them, early in the morning, they had been given nothing to eat or drink, and, as hour after hour went by, and the cold winter wind howled around their house, it is no wonder they felt deserted.
The handsome white rooster, however, appeared quite as happy as usual, and that is saying a great deal, for a jollier, better-natured old fellow than he never graced a farmyard. Sunshine, rain, or snow were all the same to him, and he crowed quite as lustily in stormy, as fair, weather.
"Well," he said, laughing heartily, as his bright eyes glanced about the hen-house, "you all seem to be having a fit of the dumps."
Nobody answered the white rooster, but a faint cluck or two came from some hens who immediately put their heads back under their wings, as if ashamed of having spoken at all.
This was quite too much for the white rooster, who, standing first on one yellow foot and then on the other, turning his head from side to side, said: "Well, we are a lively set! Any one would think, to look in here, that we were surrounded by a band of hungry foxes."
Just then a daring little white bantam rooster hopped down from his perch, and, strutting pompously over to the big rooster, created quite a stir among the feathered folk by saying:
"We're all lively enough when our crops are full, but when we're starving the wonder is that we can hold our heads up at all. If I ever see that farmer's boy again, I'll—I'll peck his foot!"
"You won't see him until he feeds us," said the white rooster, "and then I guess you will peck his corn."
"Oh, oh!" moaned the brown hen, "don't mention a peck of corn."
"Madam," remarked the white rooster, bowing politely,
"your trouble is my own—that is, I'm hungry, too. But
we might be worse off; we might be on our way to market
in a box. Then, too, suppose we haven't had enough to
"Why, that is a fact," answered the brown hen; and all the feathered family—the smallest chickens included—stretched their wings, preened their feathers and looked a trifle more animated.
"Now, then," went on the rooster, "suppose we have a little music to cheer us and help pass the hours until roosting time. We will all crow—there, I beg your pardon, ladies; I am sorry you can't crow—we will sing a merry song. Will you be kind enough to start a lively tune, Mrs. Brown Hen?"
The brown hen shook herself proudly, tossed her head
back, and began:
Now the horses, cows, and sheep were not far away, and, hearing the happy voices in the hen-house, they, too, joined in the grand chorus, while the pigs did their best to sing louder than all the rest. Higher and higher, stronger and stronger, rose the chorus; louder and louder quacked the ducks, and shriller and shriller squeaked the pigs.
They were all so happy that they quite forgot their hunger until the door of the hen-house burst open, and in came three chubby children, each carrying a dish full of steaming chicken food.
"Don't stop your music, Mr. Rooster," said the little
girl, who was so snugly bundled up that you could
scarcely see her dear little face. "You see, we were
so lonesome that we didn't know what to do; but when we
heard all you folks singing out here in your house, we
laughed and laughed until we pretty near cried. Then
we went to tell Jack about you; he was lonesome,
too—poor Jack's sick with a sore throat—and he said:
'Why, those poor hens; they haven't been fed since
"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" said the white rooster. "This comes of making the best of things. Cock-a-doodle-doo!" and nobody asked him to stop his crowing.
|— Frances M. Fox, "The Outlook"|