Three cocks and four hens were now standing on the roof of the cart, looking very comical, for their clever owner, who doubtless knew what pleases the eyes of children and peasants, had colored their white feathers, here and there, with brilliant red and glaring yellow.
Beside the cart stood a pale, sorrowful-looking boy, playing a merry tune on the monaulus. Lysander, Xanthe’s father, had been helped out of the house into the sunlight, and, seated in his arm-chair of polished olive-wood, was gazing at the show.
As soon as he saw his daughter, he beckoned to her, and stroking her hair, while she pressed her lips to his forehead, said:
“An amusing sight! The two hens obey the little man as if they were dutiful children. I’m glad he came, for a person like me, forbidden by fate to enjoy the comical things to be seen out of doors, must be grateful when they come in his way. Your feet are twitching, Dorippe. Whenever a flute raises its voice, it moves young girls’ limbs, as the wind stirs the leaves of the poplars. You would doubtless like to begin to dance at once.”
At these words, Mopsus, keeping time to the music, advanced toward his sweetheart, but Semestre stepped before him, exclaiming half to the lad and half to her master:
“There must be no jumping about now. Whoever dances in the morning will break a leg at night.”
Lysander nodded assent.
“Then go into the house, Chloris, and fetch this king of hens a jug of wine, some bread, and two cheeses.”
“How many cheeses?” asked the housekeeper.”
“Two,” replied Lysander.
“One will be more than enough,” cried Semestre.—” Bring only one, Chloris.” The invalid smilingly shrugged his shoulders, clasped Xanthe’s hand as she stood beside him, and said in so low a tone that the old woman could not hear:
“Haven’t I grown like little thick-skull’s hens? Semestre commands and I must obey. There she goes after Chloris, to save the second cheese.”
Xanthe smiled assent. Her father raised his voice and called to the juggler:
“Well, my little friend, show what your actors can do.—You young people, Mopsus and Dorippe, for aught I care, can dance as long as the monaulus sounds, and Semestre stays in the house.”
“We want first to see what the hens can do,” cried the dark-haired girl, clinging to her lover’s arm, and turning with Mopsus toward the exhibition, which now began again.
There was many an exclamation of astonishment, many a laugh, for, when the little man ordered his largest cock to show its skill in riding, it jumped nimbly on the donkey’s back; when he ordered it to clean its horse, it pulled a red feather out of the ornaments on the ass’s head; and finally proved itself a trumpeter, by stretching its neck and beginning to crow.
The hens performed still more difficult feats, for they drew from a wooden box for each spectator a leaf of a tree, on which certain characters were visible.