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A SPECKLED BEAUTY
Henrietta Hen thought highly of herself. Not only did she consider herself a "speckled beauty" (to use her own words) but she had an excellent opinion of her own ways, her own ideas--even of her own belongings. When she pulled a fat worm--or a grub--out of the ground she did it with an air of pride; and she was almost sure to say, "There! I'd like to see anybody else find a bigger one than that!"
Of course, it wouldn't really have pleased her at all to have one of her neighbors do better than she did. That was only her way of boasting that no one could beat her.
If any one happened to mention speckles Henrietta Hen was certain to speak of her own, claiming that they were the handsomest and most speckly to be found in Pleasant Valley. And if a person chanced to say anything about combs, Henrietta never failed to announce that hers was the reddest and most beautiful in the whole world.
Nobody could ever find out how she knew that. She had never been off the farm. But it was useless to remind her that she had never travelled. Such a remark only made her angry.
Having such a good opinion of herself, Henrietta Hen always had a great deal to talk about. She kept up a constant cluck from dawn till dusk. It made no difference to her whether she happened to be alone, or with friends. She talked just the same--though naturally she preferred to have others hear what she said, because she considered her remarks most important.
There were times when Henrietta Hen took pains that all her neighbors should hear her. She was never so proud as when she had a newly-laid egg to exhibit. Then an ordinary cluck was not loud enough to express her feelings. To announce such important news Henrietta Hen never failed to raise her voice in a high-pitched "Cut-cut-cut, ca-dah-cut!" This interesting speech she always repeated several times. For she wanted everybody to know that Henrietta Hen had laid another of her famous eggs.
After such an event she always went about asking people if they had heard the news--just as if they could have helped hearing her silly racket!
Now, it sometimes happened, when she was on such an errand, that Henrietta Hen met with snubs. Now and then her question--"Have you heard the news?"--brought some such sallies as these: "Polly Plymouth Rock has just laid an enormous egg! Have you seen it?" Or maybe, "Don't be disappointed, Henrietta! Somebody has to lay the littlest ones!"
Such jibes were certain to make Henrietta Hen lose her temper. And she would talk very fast (and, alas! very loud, too) about jealous neighbors and how unpleasant it was to live among folk that were so stingy of their praise that they couldn't say a good word for the finest eggs that ever were seen! On such occasions Henrietta Hen generally talked in a lofty way about moving to the village to live.
"They think enough of my eggs down there," she would boast. "Boiled, fried, poached, scrambled, or for an omelette--my eggs can't be beaten."
"If the villagers can't beat your eggs they certainly can't use them for omelettes," Polly Plymouth Rock told Henrietta one day. "Everybody knows you have to beat eggs to make an omelette."
Henrietta Hen didn't know what to say to that. It was almost the only time she was ever known to be silent.
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