440 ' IT'S QUITE TRUE ! ■
* Prenez garde aux enfants' said the Father-Owl. ' That's not fit for the children to hear.'
' I'll tell it to the neighbour owl; she 's a very proper owl to associate with.' And she flew away.
' Hoo ! hoo ! to-whoo ! ' they both hooted in front of the neighbour's dovecot to the doves within. ' Have you heard it ? Have you heard it ? Hoo ! hoo ! there 's a hen who has pulled out all her feathers for the sake of the cock. She'll die with cold, if she 's not dead already/
' Coo ! coo ! Where, where ? ' cried the Pigeons.
' In the neighbour's poultry-yard. I've as good as seen it myself. It's hardly proper to repeat the story, but it's quite true ! '
' Believe it! believe every single word of it! ' cooed the Pigeons, and they cooed down into their own poultry-yard. * There's a hen, and some say that there are two of them, that have plucked out all their feathers, that they may not look like the rest, and that they may attract the cock's attention. That's a bold game, for one may catch cold and die of a fever, and they are both dead.'
' Wake up ! wake up ! ' crowed the Cock, and he flew up on to the fence ; his eyes were still very heavy with sleep, but yet he crowed. ' Three hens have died of an unfortunate attachment to a cock. They have plucked out all their feathers. That's a terrible story. I won't keep it to myself ; let it travel farther.'
* Let it travel farther ! ' piped the Bats ; and the fowls clucked and the cocks crowed, ' Let it go farther ! let it go farther ! ' And so the story travelled from poultry-yard to poultry-yard, and at last came back to the place from which it had gone forth.
' Five fowls,' it was told, ' have plucked out all their feathers to show which of them had become thinnest out of love to the cock ; and then they have pecked each other and fallen down dead, to the shame and disgrace of their families, and to the great loss of the proprietor.'
And the Hen who had lost the little loose feather, of course did not know her own story again ; and as she was a very respectable Hen, she said,
' I despise those fowls ; but there are many of that sort. One ought not to hush up such a thing, and I shall do what