(a Spanish tale)
His mother shook her head sadly as she looked at him and said: 'My youngest born is only a half-chick. He can never grow up a tall, handsome cock like his brothers. They will go out into the world and rule over poultry yards of their own, but this poor little fellow will always have to stay at home with his mother.' And she called him Medio Pollito, which is Spanish for half-chick.
Now though Medio Pollito was such an odd, helpless-looking little thing, his mother soon found that he was not at all willing to remain under her wing and protection. Indeed, in character he was as unlike his brothers and sisters as he was in appearance. They were good, obedient chickens, and when the old hen chicked after them, they chirped and ran back to her side.
But Medio Pollito had a roving spirit in spite of his one leg, and when his mother called to him to return to the coop, he pretended that he could not hear because he had only one ear. When she took the whole family out for a walk in the fields, Medio Pollito would hop away by himself and hide among the Indian corn. Many an anxious minute his brothers and sisters had looking for him while his mother ran to and fro cackling in fear and dismay. As he grew older, he became more self-willed and disobedient, and his manner to his mother was often very rude, and his temper to the other chickens very disagreeable.
One day, he had been out for a longer expedition than usual in the fields. On his return, he strutted up to his mother with the peculiar little hop and kick which was his way of walking and, cocking his one eye at her in a very bold way, he said: 'Mother, I am tired of this life in a dull farmyard, with nothing but a dreary maize field to look at. I'm off to Madrid to see the King.'
'To Madrid, Medio Pollito!' exclaimed his mother. 'Why, you silly chick, it would be a long journey for a grown-up cock, and a poor little thing like you would be tired out before you had gone half the distance. No, no, stay at home with your mother, and someday, when you are bigger, we will go a little journey together.'
But Medio Pollito had made up his mind, and he would not listen to his mother's advice, nor to the prayers and entreaties of his brothers and sisters. 'What is the use of our all crowding each other up in this poky little place?' he said. 'When I have a fine courtyard of my own at the King's palace, I shall perhaps ask some of you to come and pay me a short visit,' and, scarcely waiting to say good-bye to his family, away he stumped down the high road that led to Madrid.
'Be sure that you are kind and civil to everyone you meet,' called his mother, running after him, but he was in such a hurry to be off that he did not wait to answer her or even to look back.
A little later in the day, as he was taking a short cut through a field, he passed a stream. Now the stream was all choked up and overgrown with weeds and water-plants, so that its waters could not flow freely.
'Oh! Medio Pollito,' it cried, as the half-chick hopped along its banks, 'do come and help me by clearing away these weeds.'
'Help you, indeed!' exclaimed Medio Pollito, tossing his head and shaking the few feathers in his tail. 'Do you think I have nothing to do but to waste my time on such trifles? Help yourself, and don't trouble busy travellers. I am off to Madrid to see the King,' and hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick, away stumped Medio Pollito.
A little later, he came to a fire that had been left by some gipsies in a wood. It was burning very low, and would soon be out.
'Oh! Medio Pollito,' cried the fire, in a weak, wavering voice as the half-chick approached, 'in a few minutes I shall go quite out unless you put some sticks and dry leaves upon me. Do help me, or I shall die!'
'Help you, indeed!' answered Medio Pollito. 'I have other things to do. Gather sticks for yourself, and don't trouble me. I am off to Madrid to see the King,' and hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick, away stumped Medio Pollito.
Next: Half-Chick (cont.)