“Ho! stop!” cried the Knight. “Good sir, I beg you no more of this. A little of sorrow suffices. It is as wearisome, Sir Monk, to hear the stories of those who from great prosperity have fallen to poverty and death, as it is cheering to hear of those who from poor estate rise to greatness and fame. Of the latter I pray you tell.” “Yes, indeed,” shouted the Host. “By St. Paul’s great bell, you say right, Sir Knight. The Monk must stop this doleful talk. It’s not worth a fly. Your tale annoys all the company, Sir Monk, Dan Piers, or whatever your name may be. I assure you it is only the tinkling of your bridle bells that has kept me awake this last half-hour. What’s the good of a tale if the audience is all asleep? Come, tell us a tale of hunting.” “No,” answered the Monk with dignity. “I take no pleasure in mere frivolity. Let another tell a tale. I have said my say.” At that the Host turned to the Nun’s Priest. “Come near, Sir John. You tell a tale to cheer us. What though your horse be a sorry jade, all bone and mud, you have a merry heart, I know.” “I have indeed,” laughed the Priest, “and here is my tale.”
THE NUN’S PRIEST’S TALE OF CHANTICLEER
Once upon a time there lived in a cottage an old widow with her two daughters. She made her living as best she could by keeping pigs and a cow, and by growing a few vegetables. Her cottage was small, and all sooty from the smoke of the fire. The cocks and hens roosted for the night on the rafters.
Now among the fowls was a wonderful cock whose name was Chanticleer. The whole country-side admired him. His comb was so red, his bill so black, his plumage such a magnificent colour, that his like had never been seen; and, moreover, he was a very wise bird. One might almost say that he was an expert astronomer. Every morning, just as the sun rose, he crowed, never making the least mistake whatever the time of year. He had seven hens who walked behind him in the yard. The fairest of them, and the one he loved best, was called Pertelot. She was so beautiful that Chanticleer had loved her ever since she was a week old, and now every night he roosted by her side. Every morning when it was time to go out he sang her a little song beginning, “My love is to the meadows gone.”
One morning, as Pertelot slept by Chanticleer’s side, she heard him begin to sigh and groan and murmur in his sleep. “What is it?” she asked. “In truth you seem to groan like a man in pain.” “Alas!” said Chanticleer, waking up; “may fortune guard me. I have had a horrible dream. Never in all my life was I so frightened. I dreamed that I saw a terrible beast ready to gobble me up. It was as big as a dog, and had a tawny coat with black on his ears and on the tip of his tail, and, though I have never seen such an animal, the minute it turned its eyes on me I was all of a tremble with fright.” “Shame on you!” cried