After this, the Geese found fault with almost everything, and when there was no one thing to grumble about, they sighed because, "It was so different from what it might be." It was not long before even the spring Chickens, the Goslings, and the Ducklings were speaking in the same way, and the poultry-yard was a most doleful place. The Bantam Hen was the only really cheerful fowl there, and she got so tired of hearing the rest sigh and grumble, that 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 have been shut in with us, and I would give half of my tail-feathers if they had never come here. That one with the orange-colored legs can't see good in anything, and all of our steady, sensible fowls have heard it until they begin to believe that this farm is a wretched place."
"What do they do?" asked the Nigh Ox, who always enjoyed hearing the Bantam Hen talk.
"Do?" said she, shaking her dainty little head. "They don't do much of anything. That is what is the matter, and the young fowls are the worst of all. You know how it used to be at feeding time? We all fluttered and squabbled for the first chance at the food. Some Hen got the biggest piece, and then the rest would chase her from 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 one breath.
"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 had.' Another will groan, 'Oh, is it time to eat again?' or, 'Suppose I must eat something to keep up my strength.' Then I hear the bright-legged Guinea Hen say, 'Ca-mac! Ca-mac! This is all so different, so very different from what I have been used to.' The Cock and the other Hen of that family are nice enough if you only get them away from her."
"What nonsense!" exclaimed the Oxen together, and they spoke quite sharply for them.
"I wish," said the Bantam Hen very slowly, and as though she meant every word—"I wish the bright-legged one were back where it was 'so different.' Perhaps then my friends would begin to act like themselves."
"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?" asked the Nigh Ox, trying to help his brother. He knew how disagreeable it is not to be able to recall anything of that sort.
"It was," cried the Off Ox; "and a very poor farm it is. It was the same Hen too. Talk about its being different! I should say it was different from this place, but there are a good many ways of being different. Um-hum! I think I will talk with the discontented Guinea Hen before long, and I want you to see that the other fowls 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 as though 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 Guinea Hens talking in the dark, he chuckled again to himself. The Guinea Cock was a sound sleeper, but the Hens always talked a great deal between sunset and sunrise, and especially if it were about to rain. Other people thought that they might talk more 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 to roost, and that if they waited until morning they might forget more than half.
The very next day, the Off Ox had the chance he wanted. He and his brother were 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 the pickets.
"We are just going over to your old home," said he, "with this load of stone. Have you any messages to send to your friends?"
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 is no brook or river on that farm."
Still the Guinea Hen said nothing.
"We are dragging stone for their new barn," said the Off Ox. "Or perhaps I should say for their barn. One could hardly say that they have any yet, although I suppose they use those loosely built sheds for barns. I wonder people can spend a winter where there are such drafts; still, home is always home, and people love it for that 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 the one you left was so different! Good-bye."
There was not much talking in the poultry-yard the rest of the afternoon, although most of the fowls looked happier than they had for many days. When supper-time came, the Dorking Hen snatched the biggest pieces of food, and the others chased her from corner to corner in quite the old way. Every scrap was eaten, and nobody laughed when the Shanghai Cock said that the fine weather had given him a better appetite. It was really a dark and chilly day, but they had stopped thinking how much better off they would be if they only lived somewhere 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 thought about the weather, everybody had a feeling that the sun must have been shining.
Perhaps the Guinea Cock and the other Guinea Hen were the happiest of all, for they had not known what to do or say when the bright-legged one talked about her old home. It all seemed like a joke now, yet she never liked the Off Ox after that day. The other fowls were as nice to her as ever, for they knew it was a sad thing to be so discontented, and they knew, also, that if they had not been foolish enough to let her, she could never have made them unhappy.
THE OXEN TALK WITH THE CALVES
It was a clear, cold winter morning, and the Cattle stood in the barnyard where the great yellow straw-stacks were. They had nibbled away at the lower part of these stacks until there was a sheltered place underneath. The Calves liked to stand on the sunshiny side with an over-hanging ledge of straw above their heads. The wind did not strike them here, and they could reach up and pull out wisps to eat when they had nothing else to do. Not that they were so fond of eating straw, but it was fun to pull it out. There was, however, usually something else to be done, for there was always their cud to chew.
Among all the farmyard people, there were none more particular about their food. They might eat in a hurry when time was short, or when the grass was fresh and green, but after they had swallowed it and filled the first of their four stomachs with partly chewed food, they would find some quiet and comfortable place where they could stand or lie easily and finish their eating. To do this, they had to bring the partly chewed food from the first stomach to the mouth again. They called this "unswallowing it," although they should have said "regurgitating."
After the food was back in their mouths again, it was spoken of as their cud, and the stout muscles in the sides of their faces pulled their lower jaws up and down and sideways, and the food was caught over and over again between the blunt grinding teeth in the back part of their mouths, and was crushed, squeezed, and turned until it was fine, soft, and ready to swallow into the second stomach.
Then the Cattle do not have to think of it again, but while they are doing something quite different, and perhaps forgetting all about it, there are many nerves and muscles and fine red blood-drops as busy as can be, passing it into the third and fourth stomachs, and changing the strength of the food into the strength of the Cattle. The Cows and the Oxen do not know this. They never heard of muscles and nerves, and perhaps you never did before, yet these are wonderful little helpers and good friends if one is kind to them. All that Cattle know about eating is that they must have clean food, that they must eat because they are hungry and not just because it tastes good, and that they must chew it very carefully. And if they do these things as they should, they are quite sure to be well and comfortable.
The Oxen were standing by the barn door, and the Calves were talking about them. They liked their uncles, the Oxen, very much, but like many other Calves the world over, they thought them rather slow and old-fashioned. Now the Colts had been saying the same thing, and so these half-dozen shaggy youngsters, who hadn't a sign of a horn, were telling what they would do if they were Oxen. Sometimes they spoke more loudly than they meant to, and the Oxen heard them, but they did not know this.
"If I were an Ox," said one, "I wouldn't stand still and let the farmer put that heavy yoke on my neck. I'd edge away and kick."
"Tell you what I'd do," said another. "I'd stand right still when he tried to make me go, and I wouldn't stir until I got ready."
"I wouldn't do that," said a third. "I'd run away and upset the stone in a ditch. I don't think it's fair to always make them pull the heavy loads while the Horses have all the fun of taking the farmer to town and drawing the binder and all the other wonderful machines."
"Isn't it too bad that you are not Oxen?" said a deep voice behind them. The Calves jumped, and there was the Off Ox close to them. He was so near that you could not have set a Chicken coop between him and them, and he had heard every word. The Calves did not know where to look or what to say, for they had not been speaking very politely. The one who had just spoken wanted to act easy and as though he did not care, so he raised one hind hoof to scratch his ear, and gave his brushy tail a toss over one flank. "Oh, I don't know," said he.
"I used to talk in just that way when I was a Calf," said the Off Ox, with a twinkle in his large brown eyes. "All Calves think they'll do wonders when they're grown."
"I know I thought so," said the Nigh Ox, who had followed his brother.
"Well, if you wanted to," asked the Red Calf, "why don't you do those things now?" The others wondered how he dared to ask such a question.
"It doesn't pay," said the Nigh Ox. "Do all your frisking in playtime. I like fun as well as anybody, yet when our yoke is taken from its peg, I say business is business and the closer we stick to it the better. I knew a sitting Hen once who wanted to see everything that happened. She was always running out to see somebody or other, and sometimes she stayed longer than she meant to. I told her she'd better stick to her nest, and she said she didn't believe in working all the time."
"How soon did her Chickens hatch?" asked the Calves all together.
"Never did hatch, of course," chuckled the Nigh Ox. "She fooled herself into thinking she was working, and she made a great fuss about her legs aching and her giving up society, but she couldn't fool that nestful of eggs. They had gotten cold and they knew it, and not one of them would hatch."
"Wasn't she ashamed then?" asked the Calves.
"Didn't act so," snorted the Nigh Ox. "Went around talking about her great disappointment, and said she couldn't see why the other Hens had so much better luck."
The Off Ox chuckled. "He told her that he guessed it might have been something besides bad luck, and that the next time she'd better stay on her nest more. Then she asked him how many broods of Chickens he had hatched. Ho-ho-ho!"
Everybody laughed, and the Calves wondered how the Nigh Ox could think of it without being angry. "It wouldn't pay to be angry," he said. "What's the use of wasting a fine great Ox temper on a poor little Hen rudeness?"
This made them think. They remembered how cross and hot and uncomfortable they often became over very small things that bothered them, and they began to think that perhaps even Calf tempers were worth caring for.
At last the Black Calf, the prettiest one in the yard, said, "Do you like drawing that flat wagon which hasn't any wheels, and scrapes along in the dust?"
"The stone-boat?" asked the Off Ox. "We don't mind it. Never mind doing our kind of work. Wouldn't like to pull the binder with its shining knives and whirling arms, for whoever does that has to walk fast and make sudden turns and stops. Wouldn't like being hitched to the carriage to carry the farmer's family to town. Wouldn't like to take care of the Sheep, like Collie, or to grow feathers like the Geese—but we can draw stone-boats and all sorts of heavy loads, if we do say it."
The Red Calf, who was always running and kicking up his heels, said, "Oh, it's such slow work! I should think you'd feel that you would never reach the end of your journey."
"We don't think about that," answered the Nigh Ox. "It doesn't pay. We used to, though. I remember the time when I wished myself a Swallow, flying a mile a minute, instead of step-step-stepping my way through life. My mother was a sensible Cow, and wore the bell in our herd. She cured me of that foolishness. She told me that Swallows had to fly one wing-beat at a time, and that dinners had to be eaten one mouthful at a time, and that nothing really worth while could be done in a minute. She said that if we were forever thinking how much work we had to do and how tiresome it was, we'd never enjoy life, and we wouldn't live long either. Lazy Oxen never do. That's another thing which doesn't pay."
The Red Calf and the White Calf spoke together: "We will always be sensible. We will never lose our tempers. We will never be afraid to work. We will be fine and long-lived cattle."
"Might you not better say you will try to be sensible?" asked the Nigh Ox. "You know it is not always easy to do those things, and one has to begin over and over again."
"Oh, no," they answered. "We know what we can do."
"You might be mistaken," said the Oxen gently.
"I am never mistaken," said the Red Calf.
"Neither am I," said the White Calf.
"Well, good-morning," called the Oxen, as they moved off. "We are going to talk with our sisters, the Cows."
After they had gone, the pretty Black Calf spoke in her pleasant way: "It seems to me I shall be an old Cow before I can learn to be good and sensible like them, but I am going to try."
"Pooh!" said the Red Calf. "It is easy enough to be sensible if you want to be—as easy as eating."
"Yes," said the White Calf. "I shall never lose my temper again, now that I am sure it is foolish to do so."
"Dear me!" said the pretty Black Calf. "How strong and good you must be. I can only keep on trying."
"Pooh!" said the Red Calf again. Then he lowered his voice and spoke to her. "Move along," said he, "and let me stand beside you in the cubby while I chew my cud."
"Don't you do it," cried the White Calf. "I want that place myself."
"I guess not!" exclaimed the Red Calf. "I'll bunt you first."
"Bunt away, then," said the White Calf, "but I'll have that place."
"Oh, please don't fight!" exclaimed the Black Calf. "I'll let one of you have my corner."
"Don't you move," cried each of them. "I want to stand by you." Then they lowered their heads and looked into each other's eyes. Next, they put their hard foreheads together, and pushed and pushed and pushed. Sometimes the Red Calf made the White Calf go backward, and sometimes it was the other way. Once in a while they stood still and rested. Then they began pushing again.
While they were quarrelling in this way, getting warmer and more angry all the time, and losing those very tempers which they had said they would always keep, a young Jersey had stepped into the cubby beside the Black Calf, and they were having a pleasant visit. "What are those fellows fighting about?" he asked.
The Black Calf smiled a funny little smile. "They are fighting," said she, "to see which one shall stand in the cubby with me and chew his cud."
The Jersey Calf was a shrewd young fellow of very good family. "Perhaps," said he, "I ought to stay and guard the place until it is decided who shall have it."
"I wish you would," said she.
And that was how it happened that the two Calves who lost their tempers had a cross, tiresome, and uncomfortable day, while another had the very corner which they wanted. When night came, they grumbled because the Jersey Calf had come out ahead of them, and they thought it very strange. But it was not strange, for the people who are quiet and good-natured always come out ahead in the end. And the people who are so very sure that it is easy to be good when they really want to, are just the very ones who sometimes do not want to when they should.
The Black Calf was right. The only way to be sensible and happy is to try and try and try, and it does pay.
* * * * *
Among the Forest People.
By CLARA D. PIERSON.
Illustrated by F. C. Gordon.
12mo, 220 pages, cloth, gilt top—$1.25.
"A most charming series of stories for children—yes, and for children of all ages, both young and old—is given us in the volume before us. No one can read these realistic conversations of the little creatures of the wood without being most tenderly drawn toward them, and each story teaches many entertaining facts regarding the lives and habits of these little people. Mothers and teachers must welcome this little book most cordially. One cannot speak too strongly in praise of it."—Boston Transcript.
"In pleasant story-telling guise, much information is conveyed, and the pictures are a further help. A clever and charming book."—Philadelphia Eve. Telegraph.
"Is a book that every child will like to read."—Hartford Courant.
"The scheme of the book is felicitous, and it is worked out with an acute and sympathetic appreciation of methods for enlisting the attention and impressing intelligently the memory of children. The illustrations are distinctly helpful."—Troy Daily Press.
"One does not know which to admire most—the intimate footing upon which the author stands with the forest folk, or the intelligent sympathy she has with sweet child life. She seems to be equally in touch with both."—Churchman.
Sent by mail, post-paid, on receipt of price.
E. P. DUTTON & CO., Publishers, 31 West 23d Street, New York.
* * * * *
"Many a mother and teacher will accord a vote of thanks to the author."
Among the Meadow People.
STORIES OF FIELD LIFE, WRITTEN FOR THE LITTLE ONES.
By CLARA D. PIERSON.
Illustrated by F. C. GORDON.
12mo, 127 pages, cloth, gilt top $1.25.
* * * * *
"One of the daintiest and in many ways most attractive of the many books of nature study which the past year has brought forth."—Boston Advertiser.
"They are like Mrs. Gatty's well-known 'Parables from Nature,' written in the best of English, as fascinating as fairy tales, and yet 'really true,' a quality which we all know appeals to the childish mind."—N. Y. Evangelist.
"We have seen nothing better for its purpose, and hope many a teacher of kindergartens and many a mother may avail herself of the privilege of using these little tales."—N.Y. Christian Advocate.
"It will be a great advance in the work of education in the school and the home when such books are more generally utilized."—Zion's Herald.
"These charming stories of field life will delight many a child of kindergarten age; and it is safe to say that older brothers and sisters will also want to claim a share in them."—Christian Register.
* * * * *
Sent by mail, post-paid, on receipt of price.
E. P. DUTTON & CO., Publishers,
31 West 23d Street, New York.