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Madam Cluck, and Her Family
by [?]

There never was a prouder mamma than Madam Cluck when she led forth her family of eight downy little chicks. Chanticleer, Strut, Snowball, Speckle, Peep, Peck, Downy, and Blot were their names; and no sooner were they out of the shell than they began to chirp and scratch as gaily as if the big world in which they suddenly found themselves was made for their especial benefit. It was a fine brood; but poor Madam Cluck had bad luck with her chicks, for they were her first, and she didn’t know how to manage them. Old Aunt Cockletop told her that she didn’t, and predicted that ‘those poor dears would come to bad ends.’

Aunt Cockletop was right, as you will see, when I have told the sad history of this unfortunate family. The tragedy began with Chanty, who was the boldest little cockadoodle who ever tried to crow. Before he had a feather to his bit of a tail, Chanty began to fight, and soon was known as the most quarrelsome chick in the farm-yard. Having pecked his brothers and sisters, he tried to do the same to his playmates, the ducklings, goslings, and young turkeys, and was so disagreeable that all the fowls hated him. One day, a pair of bantams arrived,–pretty little white birds, with red crests and nice yellow feet. Chanty thought he could beat Mr. Bantam easily, he was so small, and invited him to fight. Mr. B. declined. Then Chanty called him a coward, and gave Mrs. B. a peck, which so enraged her spouse that he flew at Chanty like a gamecock, and a dreadful fight followed, which ended in Chanty’s utter defeat, for he died from his wounds.

Downy and Snowball soon followed; for the two sweet little things would swing on the burdock-leaves that grew over the brook. Sitting side by side, the plump sisters were placidly swaying up and down over the clear brown water rippling below, when–ah! sad to relate–the stem broke, and down went leaf, chickens and all, to a watery death.

‘I’m the most unlucky hen ever hatched!’ groaned poor Madam Cluck; and it did seem so, for the very next week, Speckle, the best and prettiest of the brood, went to walk with Aunt Cockletop, ‘grasshoppering’ they called it, in the great field across the road. What a nice time Speckle did have, to be sure; for the grasshoppers were lively and fat, and aunt was in an unusually amiable mood.

‘Never run away from anything, but face danger and conquer it, like a brave chick,’ said the old biddy, as she went clucking through the grass, with her gray turban wagging in the wind. Speckle had hopped away from a toad with a startled chirp, which caused aunt to utter that remark. The words had hardly left her beak, when a shadow above made her look up, give one loud croak of alarm, and then scuttle away, as fast as legs and wings could carry her.

Little Speckle, remembering the advice, and unconscious of the danger, stood her ground as a great hawk came circling nearer and nearer, till, with a sudden dart he pounced on the poor chicken, and bore it away chirping dismally,

‘Aunty told me not to run. Oh, dear! oh, dear! What shall I do?’

It was a dreadful blow to Mrs. Cluck; and Aunt Cockletop didn’t show herself for a whole day after that story was known, for every fowl in the yard twitted her with the difference between her preaching and her practice.

Strut, the other son, was the vainest chick ever seen; and the great aim of his life was to crow louder than any other cock in the neighbourhood. He was at it from morning till night, and everyone was tired to death of hearing his shrill, small voice making funny attempts to produce hoarse little crows, as he sat on the wall and stretched his yellow neck, till his throat quite ached with the effort.