Cockyloo by Louisa M. Alcott
In the barnyard a gray hen sat on her nest,
feeling very happy because it was time
for her eggs to hatch, and she hoped to have
a fine brood of chickens. Presently crack,
crack, went the shells; "Peep, peep!" cried
the chicks; "Cluck, cluck!" called the hen;
and out came ten downy little things one after
the other, all ready to run and eat and
scratch,--for chickens are not like babies, and don't
have to be tended at all.
There were eight little hens and two little
cockerels, one black and one as white as snow,
with yellow legs, bright eyes, and a tiny red
comb on his head. This was Cockyloo, the
good chick; but the black one was named
Peck, and was a quarrelsome bad fowl, as we
Mrs. Partlet, the mamma, was very proud
of her fine family; for the eight little
daughters were all white and very pretty. She led
them out into the farmyard, clucking and
scratching busily; for all were hungry, and ran
chirping round her to pick up the worms and
seeds she found for them. Cocky soon
began to help take care of his sisters; and when
a nice corn or a fat bug was found, he would
step back and let little Downy or Snowball have
it. But Peck would run and push them away,
and gobble up the food greedily. He chased
them away from the pan where the meal was,
and picked the down off their necks if they
tried to get their share. His mother scolded
him when the little ones ran to hide under her
wings; but he did n't care, and was very naughty.
Cocky began to crow when he was very young,
and had such a fine voice that people liked
to hear his loud, clear "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"
early in the morning; for he woke before the
sun was up, and began his song. Peck used
to grumble at being roused at dawn, for he
was lazy; but the hens bustled up, and were
glad to get out of the hen-house.
The father cock had been killed by a dog;
so they made Cocky king of the farmyard,
and Peck was very jealous of him.
"I came out of the shell first, and I am the
oldest; so I ought to be king," he said.
"But we don't like you, because you are
selfish, cross, and lazy. We want Cocky; he
is so lively, kind, and brave. He will make
a splendid bird, and he must be our king,"
answered the hens; and Peck had to mind,
or they would have pulled every feather out
of his little tail.
He resolved to do some harm to his good
brother, and plagued him all he could. One
day, when Cocky was swinging with three of
his sisters on a bush that hung over the brook,
Peck asked a stupid donkey feeding near to
come and put his heavy foot on the bush.
He did it, and crack went the branch, splash
went the poor chicks into the water, and all
were drowned but Cocky, who flew across
and was saved. Poor little Hop, Chirp, and
Downy went floating down the brook like balls
of white foam, and were never seen again.
All the hens mourned for them, and put a black
feather in their heads to show how sorry they
were. Mamma Partlet was heart-broken to
lose three darlings at once; but Cocky
comforted her, and never told how it happened,
because he was ashamed to have people know
what a bad bird Peck was.
A butterfly saw it all, and he told Granny
Cockletop about it; and the hens were so angry
that they turned Peck out of the barnyard, and
he had to go and live in the woods alone. He
said he did n't care; but he did, and was very
unhappy, and used to go and peep into the
pleasant field where the fowls scratched and
talked together. He dared not show himself,
for they would have driven him out. But
kind Cocky saw him, and would run with some
nice bit and creep through the fence into the
"Poor brother, I'm sorry for you, and I'll
come and play with you, and tell you the news."
Now in this wood lived a fox, and he had
been planning to eat Peck as soon as he was
fat; for he missed the good corn and meal he
used to have, and grew very thin living on
grasshoppers and berries. While he waited the sly
fellow made friends with Peck, though the bird
knew that foxes ate hens.
"I 'm not afraid, and I don't believe old
Granny Cockletop's tales. I can take care of
myself, I guess," he said, and went on playing
with the fox, who got him to tell all about the
hen-house,--how the door was fastened, and
where the plump chickens roosted, and what
time they went to bed,--so that he could creep
in and steal a good supper by and by. Silly
Peck never guessed what harm he was doing,
and only laughed when Cocky said,--
"You will be sorry if you play with the
fox. He is a bad fellow; so be careful and
sleep on a high branch, and keep out of his way,
as I do."
Cocky was fat and large, and the fox longed
to eat him, but never could, because he wisely
ran home whenever he saw the rogue hiding in
the wood. This made Peck angry, for he wanted
his brother to stay and play; and so one day,
when Cocky ran off in the midst of a nice game,
Peck said to the fox,--
"See here, if you want to catch that fellow,
I 'll tell you how to do it. He has promised to
bring me some food to-night, when all the rest
are at roost. He will hide and not get shut up;
then, when those cross old biddies are asleep,
he will cluck softly, and I am to go in and eat
all I want out of the pan. You hide on the top
of the hen-house; and while he talks to me, you
can pounce on him. Then I shall be the only
cock here, and they will have to make me king."
"All right," said the fox, much pleased with
the plan, and very glad that Peck had a chance
to get fatter.
So when it was night, Peck crept through
the broken paling and waited till he heard the
signal. Now, good Cocky had saved up nice bits
from his own dinner, and put them in a paper
hidden under a bush. He spread them all out
in the barnyard and called; and Peck came in
a great hurry to eat them, never stopping to say,
Cocky stood by talking pleasantly till a little
shower came up.
"Peck, dear, put this nice thick paper over
you; then you will be dry, and can go on eating.
I'll step under that burdock leaf and wait till
you are done," said Cocky; and Peck was too
busy gobbling up the food to remember
Now the fox had just crept up on the
hen-house roof; and when he peeped down, there
was just light enough to see a white thing
"Ah, ha! that's Cockyloo; now for a good
supper!" And with a jump he seized Peck by
the head before he could explain the mistake.
One squawk, and the naughty bird was dead;
but though the paper fell off, and the fox saw
what he had done, it was too late, and he began
to eat Peck up, while Cocky flew into a tree
and crowed so loud that the farmer ran with his
gun and shot the fox before he could squeeze
through the hole in the fence with the fowl in
After that the hens felt safe, for there were no
more foxes; and when they heard about Peck
they did not mourn at all, but liked Cocky
better than ever, and lived happily together, with
nothing to trouble them.
King Cockyloo grew to be a splendid bird,--pure
white, with a tall red comb on his head,
long spurs on his yellow legs, many fine feathers
in his tail, and eyes that shone like diamonds.
His crow was so loud that it could be heard all
over the neighborhood, and people used to say,
"Hark! hear Farmer Hunt's cock crow. Is n't
it a sweet sound to wake us in the dawn?" All
the other cocks used to answer him, and
there was a fine matinée concert every day.
He was a good brother, and led his five little
sisters all about the field, feeding, guarding,
and amusing them; for mamma was lame now,
and could not stir far from the yard. It was a
pretty sight to see Cocky run home with a worm
in his bill or a nice berry, and give it to his
mother, who was very proud of her handsome
son. Even old Granny Cockletop, who scolded
about everything, liked him; and often said, as
the hens sat scuffling in the dust,--
"A fine bird, my dears, a very fine bird, and
I know he will do something remarkable before
She was right for once; and this is what he did.
One day the farmer had to go away and stay
all night, leaving the old lady alone with two
boys. They were not afraid; for they had a
gun, and quite longed for a chance to fire it.
Now it happened that the farmer had a good
deal of money in the house, and some bad men
knew it; so they waited for him to go away that
they might steal it. Cocky was picking about
in the field when he heard voices behind the
wall, and peeping through a hole saw two
shabby men hiding there.
"At twelve, to-night, when all are asleep, we
will creep in at the kitchen window and steal the
money. You shall watch on the outside and
whistle if any one comes along while I 'm
looking for the box where the farmer keeps it," said
"You need n't be afraid; there is no dog, and
no one to wake the family, so we are quite
safe," said the other man; and then they both
went to sleep till night came.
Cocky was much troubled, and did n't know
what to do. He could not tell the old lady
about it; for he could only cackle and crow, and
she would not understand that language. So
he went about all day looking very sober, and
would not chase grasshoppers, play hide-and-seek
under the big burdock leaves, or hunt the
cricket with his sisters. At sunset he did not
go into the hen-house with the rest, but flew up
to the shed roof over the kitchen, and sat there
in the cold ready to scare the robbers with a
loud crow, as he could do nothing else.
At midnight the men came creeping along;
one stopped outside, and the other went in.
Presently he handed a basket of silver out, and
went back for the money. Just as he came
creeping along with the box, Cocky gave a
loud, long crow, that frightened the robbers and
woke the boys. The man with the basket ran
away in such a hurry that he tumbled into a
well; the other was going to get out of the
window, when Cocky flew down and picked at his
eyes and flapped his wings in his face, so that
he turned to run some other way, and met the
boys, who fired at him and shot him in the legs.
The old lady popped her head out of the upper
window and rang the dinner-bell, and called
"Fire! fire!" so loud that it roused the
neighbors, who came running to see what the trouble
They fished one man out of the well and
picked up the wounded one, and carried them
both off to prison.
"Who caught them?" asked the people.
"We did," cried the boys, very proud of what
they had done; "but we should n't have waked
if our good Cocky had not crowed, and scared
the rascals. He deserves half the praise, for this
is the second time he has caught a thief."
So Cocky was brought in, and petted, and
called a fine fellow; and his family were so
proud of him they clucked about it for weeks
When the robbers were tried, it was found
that they were the men who had robbed the
bank, and taken a great deal of money; so
every one was glad to have them shut up for
twenty years. It made a great stir, and people
would go to see Cocky and tell how he helped
catch the men; and he was so brave and
handsome, they said at last,--
"We want a new weather-cock on our courthouse,
and instead of an arrow let us have a
cock; and he shall look like this fine fellow."
"Yes, yes," cried the young folks, much
pleased; for they thought Cocky ought to be
remembered in some way.
So a picture was taken, and Cocky stood very
still, with his bright eye on the man; then one
like it was made of brass, and put high up on
the court-house, where all could see the
splendid bird shining like gold, and twirling about to
tell which way the wind was. The children were
never tired of admiring him; and all the hens
and chickens went in a procession one
moonlight night to see it,--yes, even Mamma
Partlet and Granny Cockletop, though one was lame
and the other very old, so full of pride were
they in the great honor done King Cockyloo.
This was not the end of his good deeds; and
the last was the best of all, though it cost him
his life. He ruled for some years, and kept his
kingdom in good order; for no one would kill
him, when many of the other fowls were taken
for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. But
he did die at last; and even then he was good
and brave, as you shall hear.
One of the boys wanted to smoke a pipe, and
went behind the hen-house, so nobody should
see him do such a silly thing. He thought he
heard his father coming, and hid the pipe under
the house. Some straw and dry leaves lay
about, and took fire, setting the place in a blaze;
for the boy ran away when he saw the mischief
he had done, and the fire got to burning nicely
before the cries of the poor hens called people
to help. The door was locked, and could not
be opened, because the key was in the pocket
of the naughty boy; so the farmer got an axe
and chopped down the wall, letting the poor
biddies fly out, squawking and smoking.
"Where is Cocky?" cried the other boy, as
he counted the hens and missed the king of the
"Burnt up, I 'm afraid," said the farmer, who
was throwing water on the flames.
Alas! yes, he was; for when the fire was out
they found good old Cocky sitting on a nest,
with his wide wings spread over some little
chicks whose mother had left them. They were
too small to run away, and sat chirping sadly
till Cocky covered and kept them safe, though
the smoke choked him to death.
Every one was very sorry; and the children
gave the good bird a fine funeral, and buried
him in the middle of the field, with a green
mound over him, and a white stone, on which
Here lies the bravest cock that ever crew:
We mourn for him with sorrow true.
Now nevermore at dawn his music shall we hear,
Waking the world like trumpet shrill and clear.
The hens all hang their heads, the chickens sadly peep;
The boys look sober, and the girls all weep.
Good-by, dear Cocky: sleep and rest.
With grass and daisies on your faithful breast;
And when you wake, brave bird, so good and true,
Clap your white wings and crow, "Cock-a-doodle-doo."