Tales of Old Lusitania/The Big-Bellied Chick

Tales of Old Lusitania - chapter 33 headpiece.jpg


A little chick, which was very precocious for its age, one fine summer day left its mother and its brothers and sisters to seek a livelihood for itself; and as it went along it came to a heap of mould, and, going up to the top, began to scratch the earth, and, greatly to its surprise and delight, found a bag of money hidden in the heap. The chick thought now that it would go to court, and present the bag of money to the king; so off it started.

On the way to the court it came to a river, and, finding that it could not cross it, said to the river: "Oh, river, draw back your waters, that I may cross you safely."

As the river took no notice of what it said, but continued to run its course as usual, the little chick drank up all the water, and so was able to cross to the other side.

The chick went on its way, and very soon met a fox, who stood in its path, and, as it could not pass him, it cried out: "Move out of the way, and let me pass."

But the fox looked at the little creature before him with contempt, and an expression of face which seemed to say: "If you don't take care, I'll gulp you down in a minute."

However, the fox was spell-bound by the chickling, for he was swallowed up himself by the little one he despised.

After a while, as the chick went along, it came to a pine tree, which, though the little chick spurred it and struck it angrily with its tiny wing, stood obstinately in the way, and would not move; so, without more ado, the chickling gobbled up the tree also.

It next met a wolf, who looked down fiercely at the little chick, and was ready to put his large paw upon it and crush it; but the impudent little thing stuck up its tiny head, and begged the wolf to turn aside and make room for it to pass. The big animal only stared at it, and would not move an inch; so the chick had no other remedy but to eat him up also.

Finally, as the chickling was passing by a field, a large horned owl that had a nest full of young ones on a tree near the path, flew at the chick's head and tried to fasten her talons in its tiny face; but, after repeated attacks, the little chick gulped down the owl.

Having got rid of this assailant, it went along merrily for three days and three nights, until it reached the king's palace, and asked to see the king; and when the king granted it an audience, it proudly presented his majesty with the bag of money. The king was glad to receive it, and then ordered the chick to be taken to the poultry yard, shut up in the hen-coop, and to be fed and well treated. But as soon as the chick found itself a prisoner in such a narrow space, it began to cry aloud, and from its wiry dungeon began to crow:

Bring my money bag back to me!
My heart does ache
Fit to break.

But finding that no attention was paid to its cry, it opened its mouth wide and let out the fox it had swallowed, who soon made a meal of the other cocks and hens.

The king's servants immediately went and told his majesty what had happened, and the king commanded that the chick should be shut up in a cupboard; but when it was there, it began to sing as before:

Bring my money bag back to me!
My heart does ache
Fit to break.

But as they did not bring the money bag, it threw up the pine tree, which fell on the cups and glasses that were kept in the cupboard, which were all smashed into a thousand pieces.

The king then ordered the chick to be confined in the stable, but here it began to cry aloud and sing for its money bag as before; and, as the king seemed determined not to deliver up the coins, the chickling in revenge opened its mouth and ejected the wolf, who killed and ate up the horses.

The king, in despair, had the troublesome chick shut up inside an oil jar; but the chickling threw up the owl, and the bird drank up the oil.

The king was now fairly puzzled what else to do to keep the chick quiet and out of mischief; and after much consideration, determined to kill it by baking it. He ordered the oven to be heated, and the little creature to be put inside and baked; but even inside the oven this saucy bird began to cry and sing aloud, and then began to pour out of its mouth all the water it had drunk from the river. The water completely swamped the oven, put out the fire, and even the palace itself soon began to be flooded, the water reaching up to the very windows. But the king, wringing his hands in consternation and despair, ordered that the bag of money should be returned to the dreadful chick, and that it should be sent away at once, before it had time to throw up all the water it had drunk from the river.

The chick then returned home very contented, carrying the bag of money in its beak.