The Story of Coquerico
THE STORY OF COQUERICO
 ONCE upon a time there was a handsome hen who lived
like a great lady in the poultry yard of a rich
farmer, surrounded by numerous family that clucked
about her, and none of which clamored more loudly or
picked up the corn faster than a poor little deformed
and crippled chicken. This was precisely the one that
the mother loved best. It is the way with all mothers;
the weakest and most unsightly are always the
favorites. This misshapen creature had but one eye,
one wing, and one leg in good condition; it might have
been thought that Solomon had executed his memorable
sentence on Coquerico, for that was the name of the
wretched chicken, and cut him in two with his famous
sword. When a person is one-eyed, lame, and one-armed,
he may reasonably be expected to be modest; but our
Castilian ragamuffin was prouder than his father, the
best spurred, most elegant, bravest, and most gallant
cock to be seen from Burgos to Madrid. He thought
himself a phoenix of grace and beauty, and passed the
best part of the day in admiring himself in the brook. If
one of his brothers ran against him by accident, he
abused him, called him envious and jealous, and risked
his only remaining eye in battle; if the hens clucked
on seeing him, he said it was to hide their spite
because he did not condescend to look at them.
One day, when he was more puffed up with vanity than
usual, he resolved no longer to remain in such a
narrow sphere, but to go out into the world, where he
would be better appreciated.
"My lady mother," said he, "I am tired of Spain; I am
going to Rome to see the Pope and cardinals."
"What are you thinking of, my poor child!" cried his
mother. "Who has put such a folly into your head?
Never has one of our family been known to quit his
country, and, for this reason, we are the honor of our
race, and are proud
 of our genealogy. Where will you
find a poultry yard like this—;mulberry trees to
shade you, a whitewashed hen roost, a magnificent
dunghill, worms and corn everywhere, brothers that
love you, and three great dogs to guard you from the
foxes? Do you not think that at Rome itself you will
regret the ease and plenty of such a life?"
Coquerico shrugged his crippled wing in token of
disdain. "You are a simple woman, my good mother,"
said he; "everything is accounted worthy of admiration
by him who has never quitted his dunghill. But I have
wit enough to see that my brothers have no ideas, and
that my cousins are nothing but rustics. My genius is
stifling in this hole; I wish to roam the world and
seek my fortune."
"But, my son, have you never looked in the brook?"
resumed the poor hen. "Don't you know that you lack an
eye, a leg, and a wing? To make your fortune, you need
the eyes of a fox, the legs of a spider, and the wings
of a vulture. Once outside these walls, you are lost."
"My good mother," replied Coquerico, "when a hen
hatches a duck, she is always frightened on seeing it
run to the water. You know me no better. It is my
nature to succeed by my wit and talent. I must have a
public capable of appreciating the charms of my
person; my place is not among inferior people."
"My son," said the hen, seeing all her counsels
useless, "my son, listen at least to your mother's
last words. If you go to Rome, take care to avoid St.
Peter's Church; the saint, it is said, dislikes cocks,
especially when they crow. Shun, moreover, certain
personages called cooks and scullions; you will know
them by their paper caps, and their tucked-up sleeves,
and the great knives which they wear at their sides.
They are licensed assassins, who track our steps
without pity, and cut our throats without giving us
time to cry mercy. And now, my child," she added,
raising her claw, "receive my blessing. May St. James,
the patron saint of pilgrims, protect thee!"
Coquerico pretended not to see the tear that trembled
 his mother's eye, nor did he trouble himself any
more about his father, who bristled his plumage and
seemed about to call him back. Without caring for
those whom he left behind, he glided through the half-open
door, and, once outside, flapped his only wing
and crowed three times, to celebrate his
As he half-flew, half-hopped over the fields, he came
to the bed of a brook which had been dried up by the
sun. In the middle of the sands, however, still
trickled a tiny thread of water, so small that it was
choked by a couple of dead leaves that had fallen into
"My friend," exclaimed the Streamlet at the sight of
our traveler, "my friend, you see my weakness; I have
not even the strength to carry away these leaves which
obstruct my passage, much less to make a circuit, so
completely am I exhausted. With a stroke of your beak
you can restore me to life. I am not an ingrate; if
you oblige me, you may count on my gratitude the first
rainy day, when the water from heaven shall have
restored my strength."
"You are jesting?" said Coquerico. "Do I look like one
whose business it is to sweep the brooks? Apply to
those of your own sort." And, with his sound leg, he
leaped across the Streamlet.
"You will remember me when you least expect it,"
murmured the Brook, but with so feeble a voice that it
was lost on the proud cock.
A little farther on, Coquerico saw the Wind lying
breathless on the ground.
"Dear Coquerico, come to my aid," it cried; "here on
earth we should help each other. You see to what I am
reduced by the heat of the day; I, who in former times
uprooted the olive trees and lashed the waves to
frenzy, lie here well nigh slain by the dog star. I
suffered myself to be lulled to sleep by the perfume
of the roses with which I was playing; and lo! here I
am, stretched almost lifeless upon the ground. If you
will raise me a couple of inches with your beak and
fan me a little with your wing, I shall have
 the strength to mount to yonder white clouds which I see
in the distance, where I shall receive aid enough from
my family to keep me alive till I gain fresh strength
from the next whirlwind."
"My lord," answered the spiteful Coquerico, "your
excellency has more than once amused himself by
playing tricks at my expense. It is not a week since
your lordship glided like a traitor behind me, and
diverted himself by opening my tail like a fan and
covering me with confusion in the face of nations.
Have patience, therefore, my worthy friend; mockers
always have their turn; it does them good to repent,
and to learn to respect those whose birth, wit, and
beauty should screen them from the jests of a fool."
And Coquerico, bristling his plumage, crowed three
times in his shrillest voice and proudly strutted
A little farther on he came to a newly mown field,
where the farmers had piled up the weeds in order to
burn them. Coquerico approached a smoking heap, hoping
to find some stray kernels of corn, and saw a little
flame which was charring the green stalks without
being able to set them on fire.
"My good friend," cried the Flame to the newcomer,
"you are just in time to save my life; I am dying for
want of air. I cannot imagine what has become of my
cousin, the Wind, who cares for nothing but his own
amusement. Bring me a few dry straws to rekindle my
strength, and you will not have obliged an ingrate.
"Wait a moment," said Coquerico, "and I will serve you
as you deserve, insolent fellow that dares ask my
help!" And behold! he leaped on the heap of dried
weeds, and trampled it down till he smothered both
Flame and smoke; after which he exultingly shouted
three times "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" and flapped his
wings, as if he had done a great deed.
Proudly strutting onward and crowing, Coquerico at
last arrived at Rome, the place to which all roads
lead. Scarcely had he reached the city when he
hastened to the great church
 of St. Peter. Grand and
beautiful as it was, he did not stop to admire it,
but, planting himself in front of the main entrance,
where he looked like a fly among the great columns, he
raised himself on tiptoe and began to shout "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"
only to enrage the saint and disobey his
He had not yet ended his song when one of the Pope's
guards, who chanced to hear him, laid hands on the
insolent wretch who dared thus to insult the saint,
and carried him home in order to roast him for supper.
"Quick!" said he to his wife on entering the house,
"give me some boiling water; here is a sinner to be
"Pardon, pardon, Madam Water!" cried Coquerico. "O
good and gentle Water, the best and purest thing in
the world, do not scald me, I pray you!"
"Did you have pity on me when I implored your aid,
ungrateful wretch?" answered the Water, boiling with
indignation. And with a single gush it inundated him
from head to foot, and left not a bit of down on his
The unhappy Coquerico stripped of all his feathers,
the soldier took him and laid him on the gridiron.
"O Fire, do not burn me!" cried he, in an agony of
terror. "O beautiful and brilliant Fire, the brother
of the Sun and the cousin of the Diamond, spare an
unhappy creature; restrain thy ardor and soften thy
flame; do not roast me!"
"Did you have pity on me when I implored your aid,
ungrateful wretch?" answered the Fire, and, fiercely
blazing with anger, in an instant it burned Coquerico
to a coal.
The soldier, seeing his roast chicken in this
deplorable condition, took him by the leg and threw
him out of the window. The Wind bore the unhappy fowl
to a dunghill, where it left him for a moment.
"O Wind," murmured Coquerico, who still breathed, "oh,
kindly zephyr, protecting breeze, behold me cured of
my vain follies; let me rest on the paternal
"Let you rest!" roared the Wind. "Wait and I will
 you how I treat ingrates." And with one blast it
sent him so high in the air that, as he fell back, he
was transfixed by a steeple.
There St. Peter was awaiting him. With his own hand he
nailed him to the highest steeple in Rome, where he is
still shown to travelers. However high placed he may
be, all despise him because he turns with the
slightest wind; black, dried up, stripped of his
feathers, and beaten by the rain, he is no longer
called Coquerico, but Weathercock; and thus expiates,
and must expiate eternally, his disobedience, vanity,