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  1. The Chickens
  2. Quackling

The Chickens

A little chicken one day got a beating by his parents and ran away from the hen house with his two brothers. All day long they looked for a place to stay, but found neither a cave or an abandoned house. So they went into the wood, chose a small clearing and began to build a hut.

After eight days they had finished their hut and placed a bouquet on the roof to celebrate their new home. Unfortunately the elder brother among them danced and wiggled so long that in the end he broke wind. It came so fast and strongly that it knocked down the hut.

The noise was so loud that their parents heard it and said to themselves: "It can only be our chickens!" At that they hurried into the wood, and there they found their chickens. Quite ashamed they took them home to the farm again.

[County of Venaissin. Told in 1883 by Raphaél Paulin, who had learnt it from his grandmother from Avignon. From Carnoy 1885]

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Quackling

Quackling was very little, that is why he was called Quackling. However, tiny as he was he had brains, and he knew what he was about, for having begun with nothing he ended by amassing a hundred crowns.

Now the king of the country was a spendthrift who never kept any money. When he heard that Quackling had some, he went one day to him himself and borrowed his hoard.

For quite some time afterwards, Quackling was proud of having lent money to the king. But after the first and second year, seeing that they king never even dreamed of paying the interest, Quackling became uneasy, so much so that at last he resolved to go to the king to get repaid. So one fine morning Quackling, very trim and fresh, took to the road, singing,

Quack, quack, quack,
when shall I get my money back?

He had not gone far when he met his friend, the fox, who was on his rounds that way.

"Good-morning, neighbour," said the fox, "where are you off to so early?"

"I am going to the king for what he owes me."

"Oh! take me with you!"

Quackling said to himself: "One cannot have too many friends." . . . "I will," said he, "but going on all-fours you will soon be tired. Make yourself quite small, get into my throat - go into my gizzard and I will carry you."

"Happy thought!" said the fox.

He took bag and baggage, and, entered the little duck.

Quackling walked further, all trim and fresh, still singing,

Quack, quack, quack,
when shall I get my money back?

He had not gone far when he met his lady-friend Ladder, leaning on her wall.

"Good morning, my duckling," said the lady friend, "where are you off so bold?"

"I am going to the king for what he owes me."

"Oh! take me with you!"

Quackling said to himself: "One can't have too many friends." . . . "I will," said he, "but with your wooden legs you will soon be tired. Make yourself quite small, get into my throat - go into my gizzard and I will carry you."

"Happy thought!" said Ladder, and entered the little duck to keep company with their friend, the fox.

And "Quack, quack, quack," Quackling was off again, singing and trim as before. A little farther he meets his friend River, who was wandering quietly in the sunshine.

"Where are you going on this muddy road?" asked River.

"I am going to the king for what he owes me."

"Oh! take me with you!"

Quackling said to himself: "We can't be too many friends." . . . "I will," said he, "but to spare you of the road, make yourself quite small, get into my throat - go into my gizzard and I will carry you."

"Ah! happy thought!" said the friendly River.

She took bag and baggage, and glou, glou, glou, found a place between the fox and the ladder in the little duck.

And "Quack, quack, quack." Quackling was off again singing.

A little farther on he met his comrade, Wasp's-nest. He was manoeuvring its wasps.

"Well, good-morning, Quackling," said Wasp's-nest, "where are you bound for so trim and fresh?"

"I am going to the king for what he owes me."

"Oh! take me with you!"

Quackling said to himself, "One can't have too many friends." . . . "I will," said he, "but with your many wasps to drag along, you may soon be tired. Make yourself quite small, go into my throat - get into my gizzard and I will carry you."

"That's a good idea!" said Wasp's-nest and very soon joined the others with all his party. There was not much more room, but by closing up a bit they managed. Very soon Quackling was off again singing.

He arrived at the capital, and threaded his way straight up the High Street, still running and singing,

Quack, quack, quack,
when shall I get my money back?

The good folks who heard it, were greatly astonished. Soon enough Quackling came to the king's castle.

He struck with the knocker: "Toc! toc!"

"Who is there?" asks the porter, putting his head out of the an opening beside the door.

"It is I, Quackling. I wish to speak to the king."

"Speak to the king! . . . That's easily said. The king is dining, and will not be disturbed."

"Tell him that it is I, and he knows very well why I have come."

The porter shut his opening and went up to say it to the king, who was just sitting down to dinner with a napkin round his neck, with all his ministers.

"Good, good!" said the king laughing. "I know what it is about! Make him come in, and put him with the turkeys and chickens."

The porter descended.

"Have the goodness to enter."

"Good!" said Quackling to himself, "I shall now see how they eat at court."

"This way, this way," said the porter. "One step further. . . . There, there you are."

"How? What? in the poultry yard?"

How vexed Quackling was!

"Ah! so that's it," said he. "Wait! I will compel you to receive me. Quack, quack, quack, when shall I get my money back?"

But turkeys and chickens don't like those who re not as themselves. When they saw the newcomer and how he was made, and when they heard him crying too, they began to look black at him.

"What is it? What does he want?"

Finally they rushed at him all together, to overwhelm him with pecks.

"I am lost!" said Quackling to himself, when by good luck he remembered the fox in his gullet and cried to him:

"Reynard, Reynard, come out fast,
Or my life may justy not last."

The fox was only waiting for these words. He hastened out, threw himself on the wicked fowls, and quick! quack! he tore them to pieces; so much so that after five minutes there was not one left alive. Quackling, quite content, began to sing again,

Quack, quack, quack,
when shall I get my money back?

When the king who was still at table heard this refrain, and the poultry woman came to tell him what had been going on in the yard, he was terribly annoyed, and ordered them to throw Quackling into the well to make an end of him.

It was done as the king commanded. Quackling was at first in despair of getting himself out of such a deep hole, but then he remembered his lady friend, the Ladder.<

"Ladder, Ladder, come out fast,
Or it over for me at last."

The friendly ladder was only waiting for these words. She hastened out, leant her two arms on the edge of the well, and then Quackling climbed nimbly up and hop! he was in the yard, and began to sing louder than ever.

When the king, who was still at table and laughing at the good trick he had played someone he owed money, heard him reclaiming his money again, he became outraged with rage.

He commanded that the furnace should be heated, and the little duck thrown into it as a sorcerer.

The furnace was soon hot, but this time Quackling was not so afraid; he counted on his sweet friend River.

"River, River, flow out fast,
Or I doubt that I can last."

The river hastened out, and errouf! threw herself into the furnace and flooed it and all the people who had lighted it. Afterwards she flowed growlingly into the hall of the palace to the height of more than four feet.

And Quackling, quite content, began to swim, singing deafeningly,

Quack, quack, quack,
when shall I get my money back?

The king was still at table and thought himself quite sure of his game, but when he heard Quackling singing again and when others told him all that had passed, he became furious and got up from table, waving his fists.

"Bring him here, and I'll cut his throat! bring him here quick!" he cried.

Quickly two footmen ran to fetch Quackling.

"At last they have decided to receive me," said Quackling, going up the great stairs.

Imagine his terror when on entering he sees the king as red as a turkey cock, and all the ministers attending the king standing sword in hand. Quackling thought this time it was all up with him, but luckily he remembered that there was still one friend left in him, and he cried with dying accents:

"Wasp's-nest, Wasp's-nest, make a sally,
Or Quackling nevermore may rally."

The wasps flew out and the scene changed. "Bs, bs, bayonet them!" The wasps threw themselves on the infuriated king and his ministers and stung them so fiercely in the face that they lost control, and not knowing where to hide themselves they all jumped pell-mell from the window and broke their necks on the pavement.

Quackling was much astonished to find himself all alone in the big hall. Nevertheless, he remembered what he had come for to the palace, and set to work to hunt for his dear money. But he rummaged in all the drawers in vain; he found nothing; all had been spent.

Ferreting in this way from room to room he came at last to the one with the throne in it. He felt fatigued and sat down on it to think over his adventure. In the meantime the people had found their king and his ministers with their feet in the air on the pavement, and they had gone into the palace to know how it had happened. On entering the throne-room, the crowd saw that there was already someone on the royal seat, and broke out in cries of surprise and joy:

"The king is dead, long live the king! Heaven has sent us down this thing."

Quackling, who was no longer much surprised at anything, received the applause of the people as if he had never done anything else all his life.

A few of them murmured that a duck might not be a fine king, but those who knew him replied that a wise Quackling was a much worthier king than a spendthrift like the one who was lying on the pavement. In short, they ran and took the crown off the head of the deceased king, and placed it on the head of Quackling. It fitted.

Thus he became king.

"And now," he said after the ceremony, "ladies and gentlemen, let's go to supper. I'm so hungry!"

[A conte of Ch. Marelles retold]

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