In a pretty little house, there once lived a neat old widow who wore the cleanest caps and the finest kerchief you ever saw in your life. She was very fond of washing and scrubbing and baking and sewing! Everybody who knew her used to say that she was the most hard-working lady they had ever seen and an example to the whole village.
This good woman had two little girls living with her whom she was always trying to make as clean and neat as herself. She taught them how to knead bread, cook rice and meals. She also taught them to spin fine thread on their spinning wheels. Every morning, the moment the big brown cockerel in the yard gave his first crow, she would get out of the bed, go to the room where the little girls slept and shake them until they woke.
“Get up! Get up!” she would say. “Don’t you hear the cockerel crowing outside? The Sun will be shining over the hill in a moment. Nobody in this house must stay in bed when once the cockerel has crowed!”
The little girls were always dreadfully sleepy and did not want to get up in the least. But the bustling old woman would stand over them, till they got out of bed, yawning and blinking their eyes. Then she would start her household chores, telling them to wash and dress and to follow her into the kitchen as quickly as they could.
Now one of the things the little girls had to do was to feed the poultry – the big brown cockerel among the others. He was rather a greedy bird and always ate a lot of the scraps and corn that were thrown on the ground. The old lady would stand at the kitchen door to watch the feeding and the more the cockerel ate, the better she was pleased.
“Is he not a fine bird?” she would say to the little girls. “Be sure and give him the best bits of food. If he doesn’t crow we would always be oversleeping, for there would be nobody to wake us in the morning!”
Then the little girls would look at each other under their eyelashes and pout. For they both hated the brown bird which tried to wake everybody at sunrise when it would be so much nicer to sleep on until eight or nine o clock.
At last, one day, when the cockerel seemed to have crowed even earlier than usual, they decided they could stand it no longer. They waited until their mother had gone to market… then they caught the poor brown cockerel and wrung his neck! After that they buried him as quickly as they could in the field on the other side of the fence. Then, rather frightened at what they had done, they set to work to cook for the lunch.
The lady came home and found that her dear bird was missing. She searched for the cockerel everywhere while the girls also pretended as much so that their mother might not suspect them.
The lady missed the cockerel very much. But when they went to bed, however, they the girls told each other how glad they were that they had killed the horrid bird at last.
“Now” they said to each other, “we shall have a little peace. How lovely it will be to sleep as long as we want to with no crowing to wake our mother in the morning!”
They cuddled down into their pillows and fell asleep. But in the middle of the night or so it seemed to them, the old lady came to their bedside in her nightcap, carrying a lighted candle!
‘Get up! Get up!” she said to them all in a bustle. We have no cockerel to wake us now and it will never do to oversleep! The dawn has not broken yet…I know! Bui it will break presently and without the crowing in the yard, we shall not even know that day has come. Get up! Get up! Follow me into the kitchen as quickly as possible!”
How sad and disappointed those little maidens were! But they were obliged to do as their mother told them. So they got up and stalled scrubbing and washing and spinning by candle light, sleepier than they had ever been in their lives.
And as the old lady has been too fond of that cockerel to wish to buy another to take his place, she went on waking the little girls in the middle of the night. She was insisting on getting them up to work as no single minute of the coming daylight should be wasted.
Oh, how those two blinking, yawning little girls wished that they had never killed the big brown cockerel!
MORAL : As you sow, so you reap.