The author needs great faith in his reader's sympathy; else he must

hesitate to give details so minute, and incidents apparently so

trifling, as are essential to make up the idea of this garden-life. It

was the Eden of a thunder-smitten Adam, who had fled for refuge thither

out of the same dreary and perilous wilderness into which the original

Adam was expelled.

One of the available means of amusement, of which Phoebe made the most

in Clifford's behalf, was that feathered society, the hens, a breed of

whom, as we have already said, was an immemorial heirloom in the

Pyncheon family. In compliance with a whim of Clifford, as it troubled

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him to see them in confinement, they had been set at liberty, and now

roamed at will about the garden; doing some little mischief, but

hindered from escape by buildings on three sides, and the difficult

peaks of a wooden fence on the other. They spent much of their

abundant leisure on the margin of Maule's well, which was haunted by a

kind of snail, evidently a titbit to their palates; and the brackish

water itself, however nauseous to the rest of the world, was so greatly

esteemed by these fowls, that they might be seen tasting, turning up

their heads, and smacking their bills, with precisely the air of

wine-bibbers round a probationary cask. Their generally quiet, yet

often brisk, and constantly diversified talk, one to another, or

sometimes in soliloquy,--as they scratched worms out of the rich, black

soil, or pecked at such plants as suited their taste,--had such a

domestic tone, that it was almost a wonder why you could not establish

a regular interchange of ideas about household matters, human and

gallinaceous. All hens are well worth studying for the piquancy and

rich variety of their manners; but by no possibility can there have

been other fowls of such odd appearance and deportment as these

ancestral ones. They probably embodied the traditionary peculiarities

of their whole line of progenitors, derived through an unbroken

succession of eggs; or else this individual Chanticleer and his two

wives had grown to be humorists, and a little crack-brained withal, on

account of their solitary way of life, and out of sympathy for

Hepzibah, their lady-patroness.

Queer, indeed, they looked! Chanticleer himself, though stalking on two

stilt-like legs, with the dignity of interminable descent in all his

gestures, was hardly bigger than an ordinary partridge; his two wives

were about the size of quails; and as for the one chicken, it looked

small enough to be still in the egg, and, at the same time,

sufficiently old, withered, wizened, and experienced, to have been

founder of the antiquated race. Instead of being the youngest of the

family, it rather seemed to have aggregated into itself the ages, not

only of these living specimens of the breed, but of all its forefathers

and foremothers, whose united excellences and oddities were squeezed

into its little body. Its mother evidently regarded it as the one

chicken of the world, and as necessary, in fact, to the world's

continuance, or, at any rate, to the equilibrium of the present system

of affairs, whether in church or state. No lesser sense of the infant

fowl's importance could have justified, even in a mother's eyes, the

perseverance with which she watched over its safety, ruffling her small

person to twice its proper size, and flying in everybody's face that so

much as looked towards her hopeful progeny. No lower estimate could

have vindicated the indefatigable zeal with which she scratched, and

her unscrupulousness in digging up the choicest flower or vegetable,

for the sake of the fat earthworm at its root. Her nervous cluck, when

the chicken happened to be hidden in the long grass or under the

squash-leaves; her gentle croak of satisfaction, while sure of it

beneath her wing; her note of ill-concealed fear and obstreperous

defiance, when she saw her arch-enemy, a neighbor's cat, on the top of

the high fence,--one or other of these sounds was to be heard at almost

every moment of the day. By degrees, the observer came to feel nearly

as much interest in this chicken of illustrious race as the mother-hen

did.