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The Child's First Grief ........ 73 'The Land above ...............
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THE MISCHIEVOUS HEN.
George was a good boy at school, and succeeded so well in his examination that his father thought he deserved some special reward. He therefore led him into the garden, and pointing to a vacant part of it, told him that this in the future would belong to him: “You may part it in two,” said he, “and plant flowers in one portion and vegetables in the other." * After this, his father took him to an outhouse, where he found a spade, a rake, and a wateringcan, exactly fitted to his size and strength. On the walls were shelves containing packets of flowerseeds and vegetable roots, each having its proper name upon it, and stating the time at which it should be sown or planted.
George was filled with delight at this new present from his father, and spent all his leisure time in attending to his garden. He sowed his flower-seeds in one part, and planted vegetables in the other. He was very anxious to notice when the little plants would appear above ground, and
for this purpose he ran to his flower-bed as soon as he was up in the morning, and cast a last look, at it every night before he went to bed.
One day when he came into the house from working in his garden, he forgot to shut the gate. A hen was pecking near the spot, and she took it into her head to go a hunting on his grounds. The flower-bed had been lately covered over with a layer of the richest mould, and was therefore full of worms.
The hen, charmed with such delicious fare, began to scratch the mould up, and employed her beak as well as her claws to pick out the worms; and, in particular, she took a great interest in a part of the flower-bed where George had the day before been planting some fine pinks.
How great, therefore, was his rage when coming back to his garden, he saw the door ajar, and this new-fashioned gardener digging up his beds. "Ah, ah! you impudent slut!” said he; “your bones shall pay for this.” Shutting the door, for fear his victim should escape, he picked up pieces of flint, stone, sand, earth, or whatever he could lay hold of, to throw them at the hen, all the while running after her as fast as he could.
The frightened hen ran away as fast as she could, and made a vain attempt to fly over the wall, but she found her wings would not carry her so far: more than once she fell back on George's flowers, and got her wings and feet entangled with the finest hyacinths.
George, seeing her in this state, supposed he had
got her fast. Two rows of tulips separated them. His anger was so vebement that instead of stepping over the tulips, as he meant to do, he trod them down himself. The hen, seeing her enemy approach so near, redoubled her efforts, and attempted now a second time to fly over the wall. She rose a great deal higher than before, but still came short; but what grieved George still more she took away with her in her flight one of his most beautiful hyacinths.
On this he seized his rake, and flung it at the hen with all his strength. The rake turned round, and while he fancied it was on the point of hitting his foe, it came heavily down, and broke two panes of glass in a melon frame, as well as two of its own teeth in striking the ground.
Still more furious at seeing this fresh damage, George ran for his spade, and now he would very likely have killed the hen, who, tired out, had crept between a rose bush and the wall, if his father, who had heard the noise of the glass, had not come out to see what was the matter.
The moment George saw his father, he stood stock still in evident confusion, but at last said, “See, papa, what damage this vile creature has done to my garden!”
“Had you shut the door," replied his father, “ this damage would not have been made. I saw your whole behaviour. Are you not ashamed at having put forth your strength against a harmless hen? She has no reason by which to guide her conduct. Though she has rooted up your pinks, it
was not with a wish to do you any injury, but to obtain her ordinary food. Should you have put yourself in this passion if she had scratched up nothing but as many nettle roots ? And how can she distinguish between pinks and nettles ?
“It is yourself," his father continued, who is to blame for all this havoc. If you had acted wisely you would have driven her out to prevent her doing further mischief; and in that case neither your rake nor my melon frame would have been broken, and your loss would only have been a few flowers. Therefore you alone are blameable for those disasters, and for the damage done to my melon frame. I shall take as much from your pocket money as will be sufficient to repair it, for it is not right that I should suffer from your rashness.”
George now saw how very foolish he had been, and that he had only himself to blame for the hen getting into the garden. The damage she had caused was trifling compared with that he had made himself in trying to be revenged on her. This lesson shows us that we should always conquer our passions, and think calmly and soberly on what we do. Had George acted in this manner, he would have driven the hen out of the garden, repaired his flower-bed as well as he could, and the next day would have forgotten the accident. By his violent and passionate conduct, he destroyed his most beautiful flowers, broke his rake, and two panes of glass in his father's melon frame, and these he had to pay for out of his pocket money,