Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Canterbury Tales: The Cock, the Hen, and the Fox (end)

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 (end)

When Troy was burned, the women wept and lamented but, truly, never before was there heard such crying and screaming as came from the feathered ladies of the yard when they saw the terrible fate that had befallen their noble lord and master. Poor Dame Partelote shrieked louder than all the rest, but the outcries of any one of them might well have reached the skies.

The widow and her daughters heard the alarm and ran to the door. There were the hens and the yard and the grove, and there was the wicked fox, the thief and murderer, running at the top of his speed with the rooster on his back.

The women cried, "Stop, stop! A fox, a fox!" and ran after him as fast as they could go. The men caught up sticks and ran; the dog Coll ran; and Talbot and Garland and Malkin with a distaff in her hand; the cow and the calf ran; and even the hogs, for they were so frightened at the shouting of the people and the barking of the dogs that they ran, squealing all the way like very fiends. The ducks quacked as if they thought men were trying to kill them; the geese squawked, took wing, and flew over the tops of the trees; and a swarm of bees came buzzing out of their hives and flew after them.

And this was not all, for the people ran home to get trumpets of brass and boxwood and horn and bone. They bellowed, they blew, they shouted, they bawled, they hooted and roared and yelled and howled and screeched and screamed, till they raised such a hullaballoo as was never heard on the earth before — and all this time the fox was running toward the wood with the cock on his back.

Some folk behave better when they are in trouble than when all goes smoothly with them, and Chanticleer was one of these people. He knew well that the fox could reach his hole before the pursuers could catch up with him, and that whatever was done must be done at once. He had grown far wiser since he had been taken prisoner, and he said calmly to his captor, "Sir, if I were you, I would defy all that rabble. I would say to them, 'Turn back, proud men, a plague upon you all! I am close to the grove, and I will eat the cock in spite of you.'"

"In faith," declared the fox, "that is the very thing I will do."

But the cock was ready, and the instant the fox opened his mouth to speak, he broke loose, flapped his wings, and in another moment he was perched high upon a tree.

The fox was too wily to be put out of countenance by even such a surprise as this. He looked up meekly into the tree and said in a humble voice, "My dear Chanticleer, I am heartily ashamed of myself, and I beg your pardon most submissively. I ought to have remembered that you were not used to my ways and not to have startled you so when I brought you out of your yard. Honestly, sir, I never thought of doing you harm. If you will kindly come down to the ground where we may talk more comfortably, I shall be glad to explain the matter to you."

"No, sir," replied the cock, with just a bit of an exultant crow; "may the fiends take me if you cheat me more than once. You will not get me to sing and shut up my eyes again, for no one will ever thrive who shuts up his eyes when he ought to keep them open."

"Not that," replied the fox, "but bad luck to him who talks when he ought to hold his peace."

Thus ends the story of the cock and the hen and the fox.


(700 words)












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