The Complete Fairy Tales & Other Stories
By Hans Christian Andersen - online book

Oxford Complete Illustrated Edition all his stories written between 1835 and 1872.

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* That is a terrible affair ! ' said a Hen ; and she said it in a quarter of the town where the occurrence had not happened. ' That is a terrible affair in the poultry-house. I cannot sleep alone to-night ! It is quite fortunate that there are many of us on the roost together ! ' And she told a tale at which the feathers of the other birds stood on end, and the cock's comb fell down flat. It's quite true !
But we will begin at the beginning ; and that was in a poultry-house in another part of the town. The sun went down, and the fowls jumped up on their perch to roost. There was a Hen, with white feathers and short legs, who laid her right number of eggs, and was a respectable hen in every way ; as she flew up on to the roost she pecked herself with her beak, and a little feather fell out.
' There it goes ! ' said she ; ' the more I peck myself the handsomer I grow ! ' And she said it quite merrily, for she was a joker among the hens, though, as I have said, she was very respectable ; and then she went to sleep.
It was dark all around ; hen sat by hen, but the one that sat next to the merry Hen did not sleep : she heard and she didn't hear, as one should do in this world if one wishes to live in quiet; but she could not refrain from telling it to her next neighbour.
' Did you hear what was said here just now ? I name no names ; but here is a hen who wants to peck her feathers out to look well. If I were a cock I should despise her.'
And just above the Hens sat the Owl, with her husband and her little owlets ; the family had sharp ears, and they all heard every word that the neighbouring Hen had spoken, and they rolled their eyes, and the Mother-Owl clapped her wings and said,
' Don't listen to it! But I suppose you heard what was said there ? I heard it with my own ears, and one must hear much before one's ears fall off. There is one among the fowls who has so completely forgotten what is becoming conduct in a hen that she pulls out all her feathers, and then lets the cock see her.'