Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE DISCONTENTED GUINEA HEN
ELL," said the Gobbler, "I should like
to know what next! Last spring it was
White Pig, when we had never had any but
black and brown ones on the place. Next
was Ducks, because one of the farmer's
boys wanted them. Then it was the
to please the farmer's wife. Now it is
Guinea Fowls for the farmer's other son.
Society isn't what it used to be here,
and while some of the new people may be
pleasant, I must say that I preferred
the good old quiet days."
"I think it is lovely," cackled the
cheerful little Bantam Hen. "One hears
of the world outside, and for
 people like myself, who stay at home,
that is a
good thing. Everybody loved the White
Pig before she had been here two days,
children are very fond of the Ducklings.
I like to have them together, too, for
after I had told them positively that my
Chickens could not go in swimming, they
stopped teasing and became most
"What would you say about the Peacock?"
asked the Shanghai Cock, who had never
friendly with him, although, to tell the
truth, the Shanghai Cock was not so
as he used to be.
"Er—er—well," said the Bantam Hen, who
tried not to say unpleasant things about
people unless she really had to, "he—he
is certainly beautiful, although I can't
that I am fond of hearing him sing."
This made all the fowls laugh, even the
Gobbler looking a little smiling around
beak on the side where his hanging
 wattle did not hide his face. When the
Turkeys on the smiling side saw that he
was pleased, they began to smile too;
then the Hen Turkeys on the other side,
who hadn't been sure that it was safe
them to do so, smiled also. And it did
them all a great deal of good.
"I didn't see the Guinea Fowls," said
one of the Geese. "We were swimming
they came. How do they look? Are they
handsomely dressed? We shall not call
them unless they are our kind of
people." It was some time since their
plucking for the season, and the Geese
were growing more airy every day now.
"They are really very peculiar," said
the Black Spanish Hen, "and not at all
common-looking. I should call them
decidedly genteel." Here the Geese
each other and nodded. They were always
talking about being genteel, although if
you had asked them, they
 might not
have been able to tell what they meant
the word. "They are shaped quite like
small Hen Turkeys," added the Black
Hen "and their feathers are a dark
bluish-gray with round white spots all
They do not wear any feathers on top of
their heads. When I saw the first one,
thought she must have lost hers in an
accident, but after the other came up, I
it must be the custom in their family."
"And they are shaped like us?" asked the
Hen Turkeys all together. They were
thinking that perhaps the Black Spanish
Hen would call them genteel-looking
but she didn't.
"Very much like you," she replied. "In
fact, I think they said something about
being related to your family, although I
am not sure. Do you remember, dear?"
said, turning to the Black Spanish Cock.
"Certainly," he answered. "The Guinea
 Hen with the orange-colored legs
that their family was related to both
the Turkeys and the Peacocks, and that
were pleased to see members of those
"Gobble-gobble-gobble," called the
Gobbler to the Hen Turkeys. "You must
our relatives as soon as you can. I
will go later. I always wait to find
about strangers before calling. It is
my way." He didn't stop to think that
everybody waited as long as he did, the
strangers would be very lonely.
After this, they scattered to feed, and
the Hen Turkeys and their children
for the Guinea Fowls. "Listen," said
one, "and we may hear them talking to
other." They stood still, with their
heads well up and turned a little to one
They heard a harsh voice saying,
"Ca-mac! Ca-mac!" and as none of their
ever said "Ca-mac!" they knew at once
that it was one of the
walked around the corner of the
Sheep-shed, and there found them, a
Guinea Cock and
two Guinea Hens. One of the Guinea Hens
had orange-colored legs, while the
had dark grayish-brown ones.
"Good-morning," said the Hen Turkeys.
"Are you the Guinea Fowls?"
"We are," said the one with the
bright-colored legs, "and you are the
"We are the Hen Turkeys," said they,
"and these are our children. The
Gobbler didn't feel that he could come with us this
morning, but he will come later. He got
very tired in Grasshopper season and is
hardly over it yet."
"That is too bad," said the Guinea Cock
politely. "We hope he will soon be
It is a hard time for all Turkeys—so
much running to and fro, besides the
of the neck whenever a Grasshopper comes
 "Perhaps he overate somewhat,"
said one of the Hen Turkeys. "We were
worried about him for a time. He slept
so poorly and dreamed that he was being
chased. He always had a good appetite,
and you know how it is when there is so
food around. On cannot let it alone."
So they chatted on about one thing and
another, and walked as they visited.
Guinea Fowls were more fussy and
restless than the Turkeys, and even when
speaking would run after some dainty bit
of food that had just caught their eyes.
Of course the Hen Turkeys said how glad
they were to have the Guinea Fowls come
there to live, and hoped that they would
enjoy their new home. All of the
people thought it a most delightful
"Oh, yes," cried the Guinea Hen with the
bright-colored legs, "it is very
of course, but I wish you could see the
farm we left."
 "Why! Was it better than this?"
asked the Turkey Chicks, crowding around
her. They were so surprised that they
forgot their mothers' telling them that
they came they must be very quiet, and
making them all repeat together, "Little
Turkeys should be seen and not heard."
"Better? My dears, it was not to be
spoken of in the same breath. I
that when one has always lived here,
this may seem very nice, but when one
better things, it is hard to be
"Still, we shall be very happy here, I
am sure," said the other Guinea Hen, the
with the brown legs. "People all seem
so bright and pleasant. I like it very
"We are glad of that," said the Turkeys
all together. "We really must be going.
fear we have stayed too long already.
The Gobbler will wonder if we are never
coming back. Good-morning."
 As they walked off to look for
him, one Hen Turkey said to another, "It
be hard to come here after living on
"Yes," was the answer, "I suppose that
we don't really know what comfort is
When the Gobbler asked them about the
Guinea Fowls, and how they were enjoying
new home, the Hen Turkeys sighed and
answered, "Oh, as well as they can enjoy
farm, we suppose." The Gobbler was a
little surprised by this reply, but he
nothing, and as he pecked at the corn
which had just been spilled form the
Oxen were drawing, he thought, "I wish
we could have better corn to eat. This
not taste quite as it should."
When the Geese met the Guinea Fowls,
they began to speak of the pleasure of
on such a fine farm. "Ah," said the
Guinea Hen with the bright-colored
 legs, "how I wish you might see the one we
left when we came here. It was so
The other Guinea Fowls looked
uncomfortable when she spoke in this
way, and stood
first on one foot and then on the other.
Then the Cock said something about the
sunshiny fall weather, and the good
The Gander spoke again of the farm. "It
is not all that we could wish," said he:
"still there are some good things about
it. There are several swimming places
are fine and cold in winter."
"If it were only better cared for," said
the Gray Goose. "I had a dreadful time
while ago, when I tried to get through a
hole in the fence. I don't remember
was the matter with the hole, and
perhaps I never knew, but the farmer
such things fixed. My neck was lame for
days afterward, and he was wholly to
 After this, the Geese found fault
with almost everything, and when there
no one thing to grumble about, they
sighed because, "It was so different from
what it might be."
It was not long before
spring Chickens, the Goslings, and the
Ducklings were speaking in the same way,
the poultry-yard was a most doleful
place. The Bantam Hen was the only
cheerful fowl there, and she got so
tired of hearing the rest sigh and
she often slipped between the pickets of
the fence and went to have a comfortable
chat with the Oxen.
One day she fluttered toward them in a
most excited manner. "Do I look nearly
crazy?" said she. "I feel so. Ever
since our last storm, the Guinea Fowls
been shut in with us, and I would give
half of my tail-feathers if they had
come here. That one with the
orange-colored legs can't see good in
all of our steady, sensible fowls
 have heard it until they begin to
that this farm is a wretched place."
"What do they do?" asked the Nigh Ox,
who always enjoyed hearing the Bantam
"Do?" said she, shaking her dainty
little head. "They don't do much of
That is what is the matter, and the
young fowls are the worst of all. You
it used to be at feeding time? We all
fluttered and squabbled for the first
at the food. Some Hen got the biggest
piece, and then the rest would chase her
one corner to another, and not give her
a chance to break and swallow any of it
until she would share with them. It was
great fun, and we never left a scrap
uneaten. Now, what do you think?"
"Can't imagine," exclaimed the Oxen in
"Well, they all stand around on one foot
for a while, and I am the only one
 eating. Then somebody says, 'I wonder
if this is any better than the last we
Another will groan, 'Oh, it is time to
eat again?' or, 'Suppose I must eat
to keep up my strength.' Then I hear
the bright-legged Guinea Hen say,
Ca-mac! This is all so different, so
very different from what I have been
The Cock and the other Hen of that
family are nice enough if you only get
"What nonsense!" exclaimed the Oxen
together, and they spoke quite sharply
"I wish," said the Bantam Hen very
slowly, and as though she meant every
wish the bright-legged one were back
where it was 'so different.' Perhaps
friends would begin to act like
"Where did she come from?" asked the Off
Ox. "It seems to me that I saw a
bright-legged Guinea Hen somewhere
 not long ago." He thought very hard, so
hard that he swallowed his cud without
knowing he did so.
"Wasn't it at the place where we took
that load of stone, the other day?"
Nigh Ox, trying to help his brother. He
knew how disagreeable it is not to be
to recall anything of that sort.
"It was," cried the Off Ox; "and a very
poor farm it is. It was the same Hen
Talk about its being different! I
should say it was different from this
there are a good many ways of being
different. Um-hum! I think I will talk
the discontented Guinea Hen before long,
and I want you to see that the other
are listening when I do."
Although he would say nothing more, the
Bantam Hen saw from the look in his eyes
that he meant to stop the Guinea Hen's
complaining, so she went away feeling
happier. Then the Off Ox unswallowed
his cud and began to chew it
nothing had happened. His brother heard
him chuckle once in a while, and say,
"Different!" under his breath.
When the Off Ox awakened from time to
time during that night and heard the
Hens talking in the dark, he chuckled
again to himself. The Guinea Cock was a
sleeper, but the Hens always talked a
great deal between sunset and sunrise,
especially if it were about to rain.
Other people thought that they might
in the daytime and then keep quiet when
their neighbors wanted to sleep. They
declared that they always remembered so
many things to say as soon as they went
roost, and that if they waited until
morning, they might forget more than
The very next day, the Off Ox had the
chance he wanted. He and his brother
yoked to the stone-boat and left
standing by the poultry-yard.
"Good-  afternoon," said he. "Is the
bright-legged Guinea Hen here?"
"I am," she answered, coming close to
"We are just going over to your old
home," said he, "with this load of
you any messages to send to your
The Guinea Hen looked rather
uncomfortable, and stood first on one
foot and then the
other. "Tell them I am well," said she.
"I will," said the Off Ox, in his hearty
way. "I will try to tell them all. I
think I can, too, for there did not seem
to be many people in that farmyard. I
didn't see Ducks or Geese at all. Are
there any living there?"
"No," said the Guinea Hen. She did not
seem to think of anything else to say,
although nobody spoke for a long time.
"Of course not!" exclaimed the Off Ox.
 "How stupid of me to ask. There
brook or river on that farm."
Still the Guinea Hen said nothing.
"We are dragging stone for the new
barn," said the Off Ox. "Or perhaps I
for their barn. One could hardly say
that they have any yet, although I
they use those loosely built sheds for
barns. I wonder people can spend a
where there are such drafts; still, home
is always home, and people love it for
reason. We are glad to have your family
with us, not only to keep away the Crows
(which was part of the Guinea Fowls'
work), but because you will be more
comfortable. I've never yet in all my
travels seen so good a farm as this, and
one you left was so different!
There was not much talking in the
poultry-yard the rest of the afternoon,
most of the fowls looked happier than
they had for many days. When
 supper-time came, the Dorking Hens
snatched the biggest pieces of food, and
others chased her form corner to corner
in quite the old way. Every scrap was
eaten, and nobody laughed when the
Shanghai Cock said that the fine weather
given him a better appetite. It was
really a dark and chilly day, but they
stopped thinking how much better off
they would be if they only lived
else. As soon as they stopped thinking
that, they could see how well they were
cared for at home. And so, although
nobody had really looked at the sky or
about the weather, everybody had a
feeling that the sun must have been
Perhaps the Guinea Cock and the other
Guinea Hen were the happiest of all, for
had known what to do or say when the
bright-legged one talked about her old
It all seemed like a joke now, yet she
never like the Off Ox after
The other fowls were as nice to her as
ever, for they knew it was a sad thing
discontented, and they knew, also, that
if they had not been foolish enough to
her, she could never have made them