Fiction

The Hen

by Lord Dunsany

ALL ALONG the farmyard gables the swallows sat a-row, twittering
uneasily to one another, telling of many things, but thinking only of
Summer and the South, for Autumn was afoot and the North wind
waiting.

And suddenly one day they were all quite gone. And everyone
spoke of the swallows and the South.

“I think I shall go South myself next year,” said a hen.

And the year wore on and the swallows came again, and the year
wore on and they sat again on the gables, and all the poultry discussed
the departure of the hen.

And very early one morning, the wind being from the North, the
swallows all soared suddenly and felt the wind in their wings; and a
strength came upon them and a strange old knowledge and a more
than human faith, and flying high they left the smoke of our cities and
small remembered eaves, and saw at last the huge and homeless sea,
and steering by grey sea-currents went southward with the wind. And
going South they went by glittering fog-banks and saw old islands lifting
their heads above them; they saw the slow quests of the wandering
ships, and divers seeking pearls, and lands at war, till there came in
view the mountains that they sought and the sight of the peaks they
knew; and they descended into an austral valley, and saw Summer
sometimes sleeping and sometimes singing song.

“I think the wind is about right,” said the hen; and she spread her
wings and ran out of the poultry-yard. And she ran fluttering out on
to the road and some way down it until she came to a garden.

At evening she came back panting.

And in the poultry-yard she told the poultry how she had gone South
as far as the high road, and saw the great world’s traffic going by,
and came to lands where the potato grew, and saw the stubble upon
which men live, and at the end of the road had found a garden, and
there were roses in it–beautiful roses!–and the gardener himself was
there with his braces on.

“How extremely interesting,” the poultry said, “and what a really
beautiful description!”

And the Winter wore away, and the bitter months went by, and the
Spring of the year appeared, and the swallows came again.

“We have been to the South,” they said, “and the valleys beyond
the sea.”

But the poultry would not agree that there was a sea in the South:
“You should hear our hen,” they said.

* * *

Source: Fifty-One Tales

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