“‘Why do you stop here?’ asked Flaps. ‘If you had any pluck at all you would run away.’
“‘Ah! Perhaps so–but who has enough courage for such a desperate step?’ sighed the young cockerels. ‘Why, you yourself are no more courageous than we, else why do you stop here chained up all day, and allow those tiresome children to come and tease you?’
“‘Well,’ replied the dog, ‘I earn a good livelihood by putting up with these small discomforts, and besides that, I am not going to be set twisting on a spit. However, if you particularly wish it, we can go away somewhere together; but if we do, I may as well tell you at once, that you will have to feed me.’
“The cockerels, fired by this bold advice, betook themselves at once to the henroost with the courage of young lions; and after a short but animated discussion, persuaded the whole of the cocks and hens to run away and to take Flaps as protector of the community.
“When darkness fell, the dog was unchained for the night as usual, and as soon as the coast seemed clear, he went to the henhouse, pushed back the sliding door with his nose, and let them all out.
“Then he and the whole company stole away as quietly as possible through the yard-gate, away out into the open country.
“The fowls flew and wandered on, the livelong night, perfectly happy in their freedom, and feeding themselves from the sheaves of corn that stood in the stubble-fields.
“Whenever Flaps felt hungry, the hens laid him a couple of eggs or so which he found far nicer than barley-meal and dog-biscuit.
“When they passed through thinly-populated places where they were not likely to be observed, they marched gaily forward; but whenever there was a chance of danger, they only travelled by night.
“Meanwhile the cook went early in the morning to kill the chickens; but on finding the whole place as empty as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, she fell into a violent fit of hysterics, and the kitchen-maid and pig-boy had to put her under the pump, and work it hard for a quarter of an hour before they could revive her.
“After some days’ journeying, the wanderers arrived at a large desolate-looking heath, in the middle of which stood an old weather-beaten house, apparently uninhabited. Flaps was sent forward to examine it, and he searched from garret to cellar without finding a trace of a human being. The fowls then examined the neighbourhood for two whole days and nights with a like result, and so they determined to take up their abode in the dwelling.
“In they trooped, and set themselves to work to turn it into a strong castle, well fortified against all danger. They stopped up the holes and cracks with tufts of grass, and piled a wall of big and little stones right round the house. When the repairs were completed they called it Hencastle.
“During the autumn some of the fowls ventured forth into the cornfields that lay near the haunts of men, and collected a store of grain to supply them with food during the winter. They kept it on the floor of a loft, and when spring came they sowed the remainder of the stock in a field, where it produced such an abundant crop that they had plenty of provisions for the following winter.
“Thus they lived a peaceful and happy life, which was so uneventful that it has no history; and Mark, the watchman, who always stood on the coping-stone of the highest chimney to act as sentinel, used constantly to fall asleep, partly from sheer boredom, and partly from the combined effects of old age, good living, and having nothing on earth to do. Flaps, too, who had undertaken to guard the castle against intruders, and who at first used to patrol the house carefully inside and out every night, soon came to the conclusion that the game was not worth the candle.