Would I had the tongue to curse that day! That star-cursed day, that black Friday on which the noble Chanticleer was borne away by the foul deceiver! The hens, in terror, set up such a clamour, cackling and wailing, that out ran the widow and her daughters to see what was the matter. Out came the neighbours, out the dogs, out the very cows and pigs, and joined in the chase. All cry, “Out! harrow! Stop thief!” Like fiends in hell they scream. The geese in fear fly over the tree-tops, the swarming bees stream from their hive. Verily, not a mob of rioters seeking to destroy the heretic in their midst ever raised half so fearful a din and clamour as did these pursuers; but in spite of them all the fox reached the very edge of the wood in safety.
There Chanticleer recovered from his terror and said, “You have me fast. If I were you I would call these base pursuers churls to their faces.” “Why, so I shall!” said the fox. But, as he opened his mouth to speak, away flew the cock and perched on the branch of a tree. “Come down,” cried the fox, “I mean you no harm. If you will but come down I will explain all my intentions towards you.” “No,” said the cock. “I have been deceived once; twice is too much. Never again will I be caught by flattery.” “And I,” said the fox, “will never speak when I should keep my mouth shut.”
Sirs, if you think this tale mere foolishness, then look deeper for the moral, for, I assure you, there is one. Do you find it! Are not all things written for our instruction? Now God make us all good men and bring us to happiness at last. Amen.
As he finished the Host praised him. “Excellent, Sir Priest,” he said. “Your tale is like yourself, all wit and laughter, but with some seriousness too, I’ll be bound. I knew by the twinkle in that sharp grey eye of yours that you could joke on occasion. Let’s see now if your fellow-priests can match you.”
Then the other two priests took their turns. They told us no tales, however, but spoke to us of morals and the great power of Holy Church. Their words were full of high meaning, but my poor wit cannot remember all they said. Also the Wife of Bath had grown confidential towards evening, and, amid her talk of husbands and clothes, pilgrimages and cloth measures, I could hear little of the priests.
Their solemn talk was a fitting conclusion to our second day’s riding, and that night we lay at Rochester.
TALES OF THE THIRD DAY
The Doctor began the story-telling of the third day with a tale about a wicked judge who caused the death of a fair maid in Rome. During the telling of it Harry Bailey grew more and more excited with pity for the girl, and anger against the judge. At the end he burst out, “This was a false churl, I say! A shameful death befall all such treacherous men! The maid paid dearly for her beauty, did she not, good Doctor? Truly, it was so pitiful