The Diary of a Goose Girl
O the pathos of a poultry farm! Catherine of Aragon, the black Spanish hen that stole her
nest, brought out nine chicks this morning, and the business-like and marble-hearted
Phoebe has taken them away and given them to another hen who has only seven. Two
mothers cannot be wasted on these small families--it would not be profitable; and the
older mother, having been tried and found faithful over seven, has been given the other
nine and accepted them. What of the bereft one? She is miserable and stands about
moping and forlorn, but it is no use fighting against the inevitable; hens' hearts must obey
the same laws that govern the rotation of crops. Catherine of Aragon feels her lot a bitter
one just now, but in time she will succumb, and lay, which is more to the point.
We have had a very busy evening, beginning with the rats' supper-- delicate sandwiches
of bread-and-butter spread with Paris green.
We have a new brood of seventeen ducklings just hatched this afternoon. When we came
to the nest the yellow and brown bunches of down and fluff were peeping out from under
the hen's wings in the prettiest fashion in the world.
"It's a noble hen!" I said to Phoebe.
"She ain't so nowble as she looks," Phoebe answered grimly. "It was another 'en that
brooded these eggs for near on three weeks and then this big one come along with a fancy
she'd like a family 'erself if she could steal one without too much trouble; so she drove
the rightful 'en off the nest, finished up the last few days, and 'ere she is in possession of
"Why don't you take them away from her and give them back to the first hen, who did
most of the work?" I asked, with some spirit.
"Like as not she wouldn't tyke them now," said Phoebe, as she lifted the hen off the
broken egg-shells and moved her gently into a clean box, on a bed of fresh hay. We put
food and drink within reach of the family, and very proud and handsome that highway
robber of a hen looked, as she stretched her wings over the seventeen easily-earned
Going back to the old nesting-box, I found one egg forgotten among the shells. It was still
warm, and I took it up to run across the field with it to Phoebe. It was heavy, and the
carrying of it was a queer sensation, inasmuch as it squirmed and "yipped" vociferously
in transit, threatening so unmistakably to hatch in my hand that I was decidedly nervous.
The intrepid little youngster burst his shell as he touched Phoebe's apron, and has become
the strongest and handsomest of the brood.