Arthur Scott Bailey.

The Tale of Henrietta Hen online

. (page 1 of 4)
Online LibraryArthur Scott BaileyThe Tale of Henrietta Hen → online text (page 1 of 4)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by Roger Frank and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at

_(Trademark Registered)_



Author of
(Trademark Registered)
(Trademark Registered)



Made in the United States of America

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Copyright, 1921, By

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

[Illustration: Henrietta Hen is Afraid the Duck Will Drown. (_Page 14_)]

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Henrietta Hen is Afraid the Duck Will Drown. (_Page 14_) Frontispiece
"Come Up to My Nest!" Cried Henrietta Hen. (_Page 50_) 51
Henrietta Hen Scolds Jimmy Rabbit. (_Page 62_) 62
"Don't Worry!" Said Aunt Polly Woodchuck. (_Page 91_) 89

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




Henrietta Hen thought highly of herself. Not only did she consider
herself a "speckled beauty" (to use her own words) but she had an
excellent opinion of her own ways, her own ideas - even of her own
belongings. When she pulled a fat worm - or a grub - out of the ground she
did it with an air of pride; and she was almost sure to say, "There! I'd
like to see anybody else find a bigger one than that!"

Of course, it wouldn't really have pleased her at all to have one of her
neighbors do better than she did. That was only her way of boasting that
no one could beat her.

If any one happened to mention speckles Henrietta Hen was certain to
speak of her own, claiming that they were the handsomest and most speckly
to be found in Pleasant Valley. And if a person chanced to say anything
about combs, Henrietta never failed to announce that hers was the reddest
and most beautiful in the whole world.

Nobody could ever find out how she knew that. She had never been off the
farm. But it was useless to remind her that she had never travelled. Such
a remark only made her angry.

Having such a good opinion of herself, Henrietta Hen always had a great
deal to talk about. She kept up a constant cluck from dawn till dusk. It
made no difference to her whether she happened to be alone, or with
friends. She talked just the same - though naturally she preferred to have
others hear what she said, because she considered her remarks most

There were times when Henrietta Hen took pains that all her neighbors
should hear her. She was never so proud as when she had a newly-laid egg
to exhibit. Then an ordinary cluck was not loud enough to express her
feelings. To announce such important news Henrietta Hen never failed to
raise her voice in a high-pitched "Cut-cut-cut, ca-dah-cut!" This
interesting speech she always repeated several times. For she wanted
everybody to know that Henrietta Hen had laid another of her famous eggs.

After such an event she always went about asking people if they had heard
the news - just as if they could have _helped_ hearing her silly racket!

Now, it sometimes happened, when she was on such an errand, that
Henrietta Hen met with snubs. Now and then her question - "Have you heard
the news?" - brought some such sallies as these: "Polly Plymouth Rock has
just laid an _enormous_ egg! Have you seen it?" Or maybe, "Don't be
disappointed, Henrietta! Somebody has to lay the littlest ones!"

Such jibes were certain to make Henrietta Hen lose her temper. And she
would talk very fast (and, alas! very loud, too) about jealous neighbors
and how unpleasant it was to live among folk that were so stingy of their
praise that they couldn't say a good word for the finest eggs that ever
were seen! On such occasions Henrietta Hen generally talked in a lofty
way about moving to the village to live.

"They think enough of my eggs down there," she would boast. "Boiled,
fried, poached, scrambled, or for an omelette - my eggs can't be beaten."

"If the villagers can't beat your eggs they certainly can't use them for
omelettes," Polly Plymouth Rock told Henrietta one day. "Everybody knows
you have to beat eggs to make an omelette."

Henrietta Hen didn't know what to say to that. It was almost the only
time she was ever known to be silent.



Henrietta Hen's neighbors paid little attention to her boasting, because
they had to listen to it so often. At last, however, there came a day
when she set up such a cackling as they had never heard from her before.
She kept calling out at the top of her lungs, "Come-come-come!
See-what-I've-got! Come-come-come! See-what-I've-got!" And she acted even
more important than ever, until her friends began to say to one another,
"What _can_ Henrietta be so proud about? If it's only another egg, she's
making a terrible fuss about it."

They decided at last that if they were to have any peace they'd better go
and look at whatever it was that Henrietta Hen was squawking about. So
they went - in a body - to the place where she had her nest, in the haymow.

When Henrietta caught sight of her visitors she set up a greater clamor
than ever.

"Well, well!" cried the oldest of the party, a rather sharp-tongued dame
with white feathers. "What's all this hubbub about?" And then they
learned what it was that Henrietta wanted them to see.

"Did you ever set eyes on such a fine family?" she demanded as she
stepped aside from her nest and let them peer into it.

"A brood of chicks - eh?" said the lady in white. "Well, what's all the
noise about?"

Henrietta Hen turned her back on her questioner.

"I knew you'd all want to have a look at these prize youngsters," she
said to the rest of the company. "You'll agree with me, of course, that
there were never any other chicks as handsome as these."

Henrietta's neighbors all crowded up to gaze upon the soft balls of down.

"This is the first family you've hatched, isn't it?" Polly Plymouth Rock

Henrietta Hen said that it was her first brood.

Her neighbors wanted to be pleasant. So they told her that her children
were as fine youngsters as anybody could ask for. And the old white dame,
squinting at the nestlings, said to Henrietta:

"They're the finest you've ever had.... But there's one of them that has
a queer look."

All the other visitors tried to hush her up. They didn't want to hurt
Henrietta Hen's feelings. It was her first brood of chicks; and they
could forgive her for thinking them the best in the whole world. So when
they saw that old Whitey intended to be disagreeable they began to cluck
their approval of the youngsters, hoping that Henrietta wouldn't notice
what Whitey said.

Nor did she. Henrietta Hen was altogether too pleased with herself and
her new family to pay much attention to anybody else's remarks.

"I hope," said Henrietta, "that you'll all come to see my family often.
As the youngsters grow, I'm sure they'll get handsomer every day."

The neighbors thanked her. And crowding about old Whitey they moved away.
Old Whitey just had to go too. She couldn't help spluttering a little.

"What a vain, empty-headed creature Henrietta Hen is!" she exclaimed.
"She doesn't know that one of her brood is nothing but a duckling!"



Somehow Henrietta Hen never noticed that one of her brood was different
from the rest. They were her first youngsters and they all looked
beautiful to her.

Just as soon as Henrietta began to take her children for strolls about
the farmyard she taught them a number of things. She showed them how to
scratch in the dirt for food, how to drink by raising their heads and
letting the water trickle down their throats. She bade them beware of
hawks - and of Miss Kitty Cat, too. And she was always warning them to
keep their feet dry.

"Water's good for nothing except to drink," Henrietta informed her
chicks. "Some strange people, like old dog Spot, jump right into it. And
how they manage to keep well is more than I can understand. Dust baths
are the only safe ones."

So much did she fear water that Henrietta Hen wouldn't even let her
children walk in the grass until the sun had dried the morning's dew. And
the first sprinkle of rain was enough to send her scurrying for cover,
calling frantically for her chicks to hurry.

Now, there was one of her family that always lagged behind when the
rain-drops began to fall. And often Henrietta had fairly to drive him
away from a puddle of water. She sometimes remarked with a sigh that he
gave her more trouble than all the rest of her children together.

This was the youngster that Mrs. Hen's neighbors told one another was
different from his brothers and sisters. But poor Henrietta Hen only knew
that he was unusually hard to manage.

As her family grew bigger, Henrietta Hen took them on longer strolls,
always casting a careful eye aloft now and then, lest some hawk should
swoop down upon her darlings. And though no hawk tried to surprise her,
something happened one day that gave Henrietta almost as great a fright
as any cruel hawk could have caused her.

They had strayed down by the duck-pond - had Henrietta and her children,
stopping here and there to scratch for some tidbit, or to flutter in an
inviting dust-heap. Once they had reached the bank of the pond Henrietta
began to wish she hadn't brought her family in that direction. For one of
the youngsters - the one that never would hurry in out of the
rain - insisted on toddling down to the water's edge.

"Come away this instant!" Henrietta shrieked, as soon as she noticed
where he was. "You'll get your feet wet the first thing you know."

She never said anything truer than that. The words were scarcely out of
her bill when the odd member of her family flung himself into the water.
Or to be more exact, he flung himself _upon_ it; for he floated on the
surface as easily as a chip and began to paddle about as if he had swum
all his life.

"Come back! Come back!" Henrietta Hen shrieked. "You'll be drowned - and
you'll get your feet wet!"



Henrietta Hen ran as fast as she could down the bank and stood as near
the water as she dared, cackling loudly and flapping her wings.

Her child, who was swimming in the duck-pond, seemed to have no intention
of minding her. Nor did he seem to have any intention of drowning; and as
for getting his feet wet, he acted as if he liked _that_.

"What shall I do? Oh, what shall I do?" Henrietta Hen squawked. She made
so much noise that some of her neighbors came a-running, to see what was
the matter. And as soon as they discovered what had happened they began
to laugh.

"We may as well tell you," they said to Henrietta Hen, "that that chap
out there is a duckling. The water won't hurt him."

Henrietta Hen gasped and gaped. She was astonished. But she soon pulled
herself together. And it was just like her to begin to boast.

"See!" she cried to her friends, and waved a wing toward the water with
an air of pride. "There isn't one of you that has a child that can beat
him swimming."

"I should hope not!" said Polly Plymouth Rock with a shrug of her fine
shoulders. And all the others agreed that they wanted no swimmers in
their families.

Henrietta Hen announced that she was sorry for them. "Every brood," she
declared, "should have at least one swimmer in it." She began to strut up
and down the edge of the duck-pond, clucking in a most overbearing
fashion. Really, she had never felt quite so important before - not even
when her first brood pecked their way out of their shells.

"There's nothing quite like swimming," Henrietta Hen remarked with a
silly smirk. "If it weren't for getting my feet wet I'd be tempted to
learn myself. No doubt my son could teach me."

"Your son!" the old white hen sniffed. "He's not your son, Henrietta Hen.
Somebody played a joke on you. Somebody put a duck's egg under you while
you were hatching your eggs. And I think I can guess who it was that did

For just a moment Henrietta Hen stood still. The news almost took her
breath away. Her comb trembled on the top of her head. She even stopped
clucking. And she looked from one to another of her companions as if in
hopes of finding one face, at least, that looked doubtful.... Alas!
Everybody appeared to agree with old Whitey.

"If this is so," Henrietta muttered at last, "it's strange nobody ever
noticed before that there was a duckling in my brood."

"We knew from the very first!" Polly Plymouth Rock told her. "You were
the only one on the farm that didn't see that one of your family was
different from the rest."

All this time the young duckling was swimming further and further away.
He seemed to have forgotten all about his foster mother.

Henrietta Hen took one long last look at him. She guessed that she might
have stood there forever cackling for him to come back and he wouldn't
have paid the slightest heed to her.

Then she gathered her children - her really own - about her. "Come!" she
said to them, "We'll go back home now."

"What about him?" they demanded, pointing to the truant duckling who was
bobbing about on the rippling water. "Aren't you going to make him come,

"No!" said their mother. "We're well rid of him. He has been more trouble
to me than all the rest of you.... To tell the truth, I never liked him
very well."



It wasn't far to the edge of the cornfield from the farmyard fence. And
Henrietta Hen was quick to discover that the freshly ploughed and
harrowed field offered a fine place to scratch for all kinds of worms and
bugs and grubs.

Not being what you might call a wise bird - like old Mr. Crow - Henrietta
didn't know that Farmer Green had carefully planted corn in that field,
in long rows. She did exclaim, however, that she was in great luck when
now and then she unearthed a few kernels of corn. But she wasn't
_looking_ for corn. She merely ate it when she happened to find any.

It is no wonder, then, that she was amazed when a hoarse voice suddenly
cried right in her ear, almost, "You're a thief and you can't deny it!"

She jumped. How could she have helped it? And the voice exclaimed,
"There! You're guilty or you'd never have jumped like that."

Turning, Henrietta saw that a black, beady-eyed gentleman was staring at
her sternly.

"It takes Mr. Crow to catch 'em," he croaked. "He can tell a corn-thief
half a mile away."

All this time Henrietta Hen hadn't said a word. At first she was too
surprised. And afterward she was too angry.

"Why don't you speak?" he demanded. He dearly loved a quarrel. And
somehow it wasn't much fun quarrelling with anybody when the other party
wouldn't say a word.

Still Henrietta Hen didn't open her mouth. She puzzled Mr. Crow. He even
forgot his rage (for it always made him angry if anybody but himself
scratched up any corn).

"What's the matter with you?" he asked. "What's the reason you don't

"I'm too proud to talk with you," said Henrietta Hen. "I don't care to be
seen speaking to you, sir."

"Ha!" Mr. Crow exploded. "Don't you think I'm as good as you are?"

"No!" said Henrietta Hen. "No, I don't!"

Mr. Crow was all for arguing with her. He began to tell Henrietta many
things about himself, how he had spent dozens of summers in Pleasant
Valley, what a great traveller he was, how far he could fly in a day.
There was no end to his boasting.

Yet Henrietta Hen never looked the least bit interested. Indeed, she
began scratching for worms while he was talking. And that made the old
fellow angrier than ever.

"Don't you dare eat another kernel of corn!" he thundered. "If you do,
I'll have to tell Farmer Green."

"He feeds me corn every day - cracked corn!" said Henrietta.

"Well, I never!" cried Mr. Crow. "What's he thinking of, wasting good
corn like that?"

"Really, I mustn't be seen talking with you," Henrietta Hen told Mr.
Crow. "If you want to know the answer to your question, come over to the
barnyard and ask the Rooster. He'll give you an answer that you won't

And then she walked away with stately steps.

Mr. Crow watched her with a baleful gleam in his eyes. He knew well
enough what Henrietta meant. The Rooster would rather fight him than not.
And though Mr. Crow loved a quarrel, he never cared to indulge in
anything more dangerous than harsh words.

"I don't know what the farm's coming to," he croaked. "Here's Farmer
Green wasting corn on such as her - and cracking it for her, too!"

So saying, the old gentleman turned his back on Henrietta Hen, who was
already fluttering through the farmyard fence. And thereupon he scratched
up enough corn for a hearty meal, grumbling meanwhile because it wasn't
cracked for him.

"Somehow," he muttered, "I can't help wishing I was a speckled hen."



There was another member of Farmer Green's flock, besides Henrietta Hen,
that was proud. Nobody needed to look twice at the Rooster to tell that
he had an excellent opinion of himself. He had a way of walking about the
farmyard that said quite plainly that he believed himself to be a person
of great importance. And it was true that things went according to his
ideas, among the flock.

He was always spoken of as "the Rooster." For although there were other
roosters in the flock, they were both younger and smaller than he, and he
would never permit anybody to call them - in his hearing - anything but

These cockerels usually took great pains to keep out of the Rooster's
way. If they were careless, and he caught them napping, he was more than
likely to make matters unpleasant for them. He knew how to make their
feathers fly.

Now, Henrietta Hen thought that the Rooster behaved in a most silly
fashion. She said it pained her to see him prancing about, with his two
long, arched tail-feathers nodding as he walked. The truth was, Henrietta
could not endure it to have any one more elegantly dressed than she. And
there was no denying that the Rooster's finery outshone everybody else's.
Why, he wore a comb on his head that was even bigger than Henrietta's!
And he had spurs, too, for his legs.

But what Henrietta Hen disliked most about the Rooster was the way he
crowed each morning. It wasn't so much the _kind_ of crowing that he
indulged in; it was rather the early hour he chose for it that annoyed
Henrietta. He always began his _Cockle-doodle-doo_ while it was yet dark.
Then everybody in the henhouse had to wake up, whether he wanted to or
not. And Henrietta Hen did wish the Rooster would keep still at least
till daylight came. She often remarked that it was perfectly ridiculous
for any one from a fine family - as she was - to get up at such an
unearthly hour. She said it was a wonder she kept her good looks, just on
account of the Rooster's crowing.

"Why don't you ask him to wait until it's light, before he begins to
crow?" Polly Plymouth Rock asked Henrietta one day.

"I'll do it!" cried Henrietta. Right then she called to one of the
cockerels, who was near-by. "Just skip across the yard and ask the
Rooster - " she began.

The cockerel broke right in upon her message.

"Oh! I can't do that!" he exclaimed. "I've never gone up to the Rooster
and spoken to him. If I did, he'd be sure to fight me."

"Just tell him that I sent you," said Henrietta. And she made the
cockerel listen to her message. But he wouldn't be persuaded. He told
Henrietta that the Rooster would be sure to jump at him the moment he
opened his mouth. "Besides," he added, "it wouldn't do any good, anyhow.
The Rooster can't wait until after daylight, before he begins to crow."

"He can't, eh?" Henrietta Hen spoke up somewhat sharply. "I'd like to
know the reason why!" And fixing her gaze sternly upon the Rooster, she
marched straight across the farmyard towards him, to find out.



"Good Afternoon!" Henrietta Hen greeted the Rooster. He had not seen her
as she walked towards him. And when she spoke he hastily arranged his two
long tail-feathers in what he considered a more becoming droop.

"Good afternoon, madam!" he answered - for the Rooster prided himself that
he was always polite to the ladies. "Er - there's nothing wrong, I hope,"
he added quickly as he noticed an odd gleam in Henrietta Hen's eye.

"Yes - there is," she said. The cockerels might fear the Rooster, but
Henrietta certainly didn't. She considered him a good deal of a braggart.
Indeed, she even had an idea that she could have whipped him herself, had
she cared to be so unladylike as to fight. "I've been bothered for a long
time because you crow so early in the morning. You make such a racket
that you wake me up every day."

The Booster hemmed and hawed. Somehow he felt uncomfortable.

"That's unfortunate," he stammered. And then he had a happy thought.
"Anyhow," he continued, with a smile at Henrietta, "you don't look as if
you lacked for sleep, madam. You grow more beautiful every day."

Henrietta Hen admitted that it was so. "But," she said, "I believe I'd be
even handsomer if I weren't disturbed so early. I don't like to get up
while it's dark. So I'm going to ask you to delay your crowing, from now
on, until after sunrise."

"Impossible!" cried the Rooster. "I'm sorry to disoblige you, madam. But
what you ask can't be done."

"That's just what the cockerel said!" Henrietta Hen exclaimed.

"The cockerel!" the Rooster echoed angrily. "Which one? Has one of those
upstarts been talking about me? Point him out to me and I'll soon teach
him a lesson."

Henrietta Hen said that she hadn't noticed which cockerel it was. Somehow
they all looked alike to her.

"Good!" the Rooster cried. "Then I'll have to whip them all, to make sure
of punishing the guilty one." He looked very fierce.

"Don't be absurd!" Henrietta told him. "I asked one of the cockerels to
give you a message about not crowing so early. And he declined. He said
it wouldn't do any good."

"It wouldn't have done _him_ any good," the Rooster declared, stamping a
foot and thrusting his bill far forward, to show Henrietta Hen how brave
he was.

"What's the matter?" she inquired. "Have you eaten something that
disagrees with you?"

The Rooster couldn't help looking foolish. Henrietta Hen believed in
letting him know that she stood in no awe of him. And while he was
feeling ill at ease she hastened to tell him that hereafter he must _hold
onto_ his first crow until after sunrise.

"I can't do that," he told her again, unhappily.

"Don't you dare let go of it!" she warned him. "If that first crow gets
away from you while it's dark, there'll be so many others to follow it
that I shan't be able to close an eye for even a cat-nap."



Henrietta Hen had commanded the Rooster to wait until daylight before he
began to crow.

He saw that she had made up her mind that he must obey her. But he knew
he couldn't. And he always took great pains to be polite to the ladies.

It was a wonder the Rooster didn't turn red in the face. He had never
found himself in such a corner before.

1 3 4

Online LibraryArthur Scott BaileyThe Tale of Henrietta Hen → online text (page 1 of 4)