Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Canterbury Tales: The Cock, the Hen, and the Fox (cont. again)

This story is part of the Canterbury Tales unit. Story source: The Chaucer Story Book by Eva March Tappan (1908).

The Cock, the Hen, and the Fox (cont. again)

But now the dawn had come. Chanticleer flew down from the roost and called his hens, and when he had found a kernel of corn, he clucked to them and stood one side to watch them eat it, and certainly no one who saw him looking as brave as a lion and walking up and down the yard on the tips of his toes as if he scorned the ground too much to more than touch it would ever imagine him afraid of anything, and yet trouble lay but a little way before him.

As evil fate would have it, there was a wicked fox that had lived for three years in the grove near the cottage. For a long while he had been trying to plan some way to get Chanticleer, and that same night he had slipped softly through a break in the hedge into the yard and had hidden in a bed of cabbages. There he lay, watching with his half-shut eyes the noble rooster walking proudly up and down the yard.

The early morning had passed, and nine o'clock had come. Dame Partelote, the beautiful, was bathing in the clean, warm sand, and her sisters were not far away. Chanticleer was singing as merry as a mermaid, but suddenly, while he was watching a butterfly fluttering here and there above the cabbages, he caught sight of the fox lying half hidden among them. His heart turned cold, and the beautiful music of his crowing died in his throat. He cried hoarsely, "Cok! Cok! in the greatest fear. In another moment he would have run away, but the fox spoke so gently and courteously that he could not help listening to him.

"Gentle sir," said the crafty fox, "I beg of you not to fear so true a friend as I. I should be worse than a fiend to do one like you any harm. I pray you do not think for an instant that I came for any other reason than because I longed so eagerly to hear your singing from nigh at hand that I could not stay away. Indeed, dear sir, you have as sweet a voice as any angel in heaven. Pardon me for addressing you, but, truly, I count myself no stranger to your noble family. My lord, your father — God bless his soul! — and also your mother have honored my poor house by becoming its guests. But to speak again of singing, I never heard any one except yourself sing so wondrous well as your father used to do at the dawning. He had a habit of making his voice stronger by standing on tip-toe and stretching out his neck. Then he would close his eyes and send forth the sweetest music, save your own, that was ever heard, and as for wisdom and discretion, there was not a person anywhere in the world who could surpass him. Kind sir, would you out of the pure goodness of your heart sing to me once more, and let me fancy that I am listening to your father's voice?"

No one had ever praised Chanticleer so delightfully before. Of course he could not refuse so small a request to one who had shown how fully he enjoyed the best of music. So he stood high upon his toes, stretched out his neck, closed his eyes, and began to crow. His song was, indeed, louder than ever before, so loud that he did not hear the fox stealthily creeping closer to him. And while he was straining his voice till the valley reechoed with his crowing, the treacherous fox caught him by the throat and ran toward the woods, the cock upon his back.


(600 words)









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