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For the Children's Hour by  Carolyn S. Bailey

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LITTLE HALF CHICK

C. S. B. Adapted from a Spanish folk-tale.

A LONG, long time ago there was a handsome black hen who had a large brood of chickens. They were all plump little birds, except the youngest, and he was quite different from all the rest. He was such a queer-looking little fellow that when he first clipped his shell the hen could scarcely believe her eyes. The other twelve were fluffy, downy little chicks, but this one had only one leg, and one wing, and one eye, and one ear, and half of a bill, and half of a tail! His mother shook her head when she looked at him.

"You're only a Little Half Chick," she said; "and you'll never be able to rule a poultry yard."

But Little Half Chick thought differently. In spite of having only one leg, he loved to run away. When the family went out to walk, he would hide in the maize, and when his good mother called him he pretended not to hear, because he had only one ear. One day, when he had been away for longer than usual, he strutted up to his mother in the barnyard, hoppity-kick, and he said:

"Mother, I'm tired of this dull farm; I'm going off to Madrid to see the king."

"To Madrid!" said his mother. "Why, you silly chick, [153] it is too long a way. Stay at home, and some day, when you are bigger, I'll take you a journey."

But, no; Little Half Chick had made up his mind. Without saying "good-bye" even, off he stumped along the highroad that led to Madrid. As he went along he took a short cut which led through a field and he came to a brook. Now, the brook was so choked with weeds that it could not flow.

"Oh, Little Half Chick, help me!" it cried. "Pull out my weeds!" it called, as Little Half Chick stumped along the bank.

"Help you, indeed!" cried Little Half Chick, shaking the feathers in his little half tail; "help yourself. I'm off to Madrid to see the king." And, hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick, away stumped Little Half Chick. But before he had gone very far he came to a fire in the woods. Now, the fire was going out because it had no sticks.

"Oh, Little Half Chick," it cried in a weak, wavering voice, "help me! Fetch me some sticks and dry leaves!"

"Help you, indeed!" cried Little Half Chick; "help yourself. I'm off to Madrid to see the king." And, hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick, away stumped Little Half Chick.

The next morning, as he was coming near Madrid, he passed a large chestnut tree, and he heard a great moaning and sighing in its branches, for the wind was all caught and entangled there.

"Oh, Little Half Chick," cried the wind, "do help me. Hop up here and pull me out of the branches!"

"Help you, indeed!" cried Little Half Chick; "help yourself. I'm off to Madrid to see the king." And, hoppity-kick, hoppity-kick, away stumped Little Half [154] Chick in great glee, for now he saw the roofs and steeples of Madrid just ahead. When he entered the town he saw a splendid castle with soldiers before the gates. "This must be the king's house," said Little Half Chick, "and I have come to rule the king's poultry yard." But alas! So soon as the king's cook saw Little Half Chick stumping through the gates, he said:

"The very thing I wanted for the king's dinner," and he straightway caught Little Half Chick and popped him into the broth pot. Now, it was wet and uncomfortable in the broth pot.

"Water, water," cried Little Half Chick, "do not wet me so!"

"Ah!" cried the water, "when I was in trouble you would not help me." And the water bubbled and boiled around Little Half Chick.

"Fire, fire, do not cook me," cried Little Half Chick.

"Ah!" cried the fire, "when I was in trouble you would not help me." And the fire went on cooking Little Half Chick.

Just then the wind came hurrying along to see what all the noise in the king's kitchen was about, and Little Half Chick called to it:

"Wind, wind, come and help me!"

"Ah!" cried the wind, "when I was in trouble you would not help me; but come."

Then the wind lifted Little Half Chick out of the broth pot and blew him out of the window. Up and down the highways and over the roofs the wind whirled him, until Little Half Chick could scarcely breathe. On and on they went, until they came to the highest steeple in all Madrid. There the wind left Little Half Chick—on the tip-top of the steeple—stand- [155] ing on his one leg and looking off over the world with his one eye.

And there he stands to-day. Whichever way the wind blows that way must Little Half Chick turn. He can never step down, for this is the story of the first weather-cock.


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