"It Is Quite True!"
by Laure Claire Foucher
"That is a terrible story!" said a Hen in a quarter of the town where the
affair had not happened. "That is a terrible story from a poultry-yard. I
dare not sleep alone to-night! It is quite fortunate that there are so many
of us on the roost together!" And she told a tale, which made the feathers
of the other hens stand on end, and the cock's comb fall down flat. It is
But we will begin at the beginning; and that took place in a poultry-yard
in another part of the town. The sun went down, and the fowls jumped up on
their perch to roost. There was a Hen, with white feathers and short legs,
who laid eggs regularly and was a respectable hen in every way; as she flew
up on to the roost she pecked herself with her beak, and a little feather
fell from her.
"There it goes!" said she; "the more I peck myself the handsomer I grow!"
And she said it quite merrily, for she was a joker among the hens, though,
as I have said, she was very respectable; and then she went to sleep.
It was dark all around; the hens sat side by side on the roost, but the one
that sat next to the merry Hen did not sleep: she heard and she didn't
hear, as one should do in this world if one wishes to live in peace; but
she could not help telling it to her neighbor.
"Did you hear what was said here just now? I name no names; but here is a
hen who wants to peck her feathers out to look well. If I were a cock I
should despise her."
And just above the hens sat the Owl, with her husband and her children; the
family had sharp ears, and they all heard every word that the neighboring
Hen had spoken. They rolled their eyes, and the Mother-Owl clapped her
wings and said, "Don't listen to it! But I suppose you heard what was said
there? I heard it with my own ears, and one must hear much before one's
ears fall off. There is one among the fowls who has so completely forgotten
what is becoming conduct in a hen that she pulls out all her feathers,
while the cock sits looking at her."
"Prenez garde aux enfants," said the Father-Owl. "That's not a story for
the children to hear."
"I'll tell it to the neighbor owl; she's a very proper owl to associate
with." And she flew away.
"Hoo! hoo! to-whoo!" they both screeched in front of the neighbor's
dove-cote to the doves within. "Have you heard it? Have you heard it? Hoo!
hoo! there's a hen who has pulled out all her feathers for the sake of the
cock. She'll die with cold, if she's not dead already."
"Coo! coo! Where, where?" cried the Pigeons.
"In the neighbor's poultry-yard. I've as good as seen it myself. It's
hardly proper to repeat the story, but it's quite true!"
"Believe it! believe every single word of it!" cooed the Pigeons, and they
cooed down into their own poultry-yard. "There's a hen, and some say that
there are two of them that have plucked out all their feathers, that they
not look like the rest, and that they may attract the cock's
attention. That's a dangerous thing to do, for one may catch cold and die
of a fever, and they are both dead."
"Pass it on," piped the bats.
"Wake up! wake up!" crowed the Cock, and he flew up on to the plank; his
eyes were still heavy with sleep, but yet he crowed. "Three hens have died
of a broken heart. They have plucked out all their feathers. That's a
terrible story. I won't keep it to myself; pass it on."
"Pass it on!" piped the Bats; and the fowls clucked and the cocks crowed,
"Pass it on! Pass it on!" And so the story traveled from poultry-yard to
poultry-yard, and at last came back to the place from which it had gone
"Five fowls," it was told, "have plucked out all their feathers to show
which of them had become thinnest out of love to the cock; and then they
have pecked each other, and fallen down dead, to the shame and disgrace of
their families, and to the great loss of their master."
And the Hen who had lost the little loose feather, of course did not know
her own story again; and as she was a very respectable Hen, she said,—
"I despise those hens; but there are many of that sort. One ought not to
hush up such a thing, and I shall do what I can that the story may get into
the papers, and then it will be spread over all the country, and that will
serve those hens right, and their families too."
It was put into the newspaper; it was printed; and it's quite true—that
one little feather may easily become five hens.