A Diligent Biddy was scratching one day,
And pecking at morsels that came in her way,
When all of a sudden she widened her eyes,
And the feathers stood up on her head with surprise!
A strange-looking treasure Dame Biddy had found,
‘Twixt a brick and a clam-shell it lay on the ground;
The hen with a peck turned it over and over,
But the longer she looked the less could discover.
“Cluck, cluck!” said the hen, “as sure as I stand,
This never was grown upon solid dry land;
I’ll take it along to Dame Duck and her daughter,
They’re wise about things that come out of the water.”
So she carried the thing in her beak to the brook,
And called to Dame Duck to come quickly and look,
And the dame and her child relinquished their pleasure,
And waddled ashore to examine the treasure.
“Alack!” said the duck and “A-quack!” said the daughter,
“We’ve never seen objects like this in the water!
Suppose we submit it to old Mrs. Ewe?
She’s wise about wool, and has seen the world, too!”
So the duck took it carefully up in her bill,
And the duckling and hen followed on to the mill,
Where the miller’s fat sheep was placidly grazing,
And there they displayed this treasure amazing.
“Ah, bah!” said the sheep, “what a queer-looking piece!
This never was parcel or part of a fleece!
Our flock would disown it!—but take it, I pray,
To Brindle, the cow, she’s wise about hay!”
So the sheep and the duckling, the duck and the hen,
With the treasure set forth in procession again,
To where the cow stood,—in the shade, as she ought,—
A-chewing her cud and a-thinking her thought.
“Bless my horns!” said the cow, “I really must say,
I’ve ne’er seen the like in straw or in hay!
Why don’t you ask Dobbin, the farmer’s gray mare?
She’s traveled so much, and she’s wise about hair.”
So the hen and the ducks, the sheep and the cow,
Went seeking for Dobbin, just loosed from the plow;
They all talked at once, to make things explicit,
And finally showed her the cause of their visit.
But Dobbin gave snorts of dislike and dismay;
“Why don’t you,” said she, “pass it on to old Tray?
He hunts for his food where the refuse is thrown,
And he’s wise about cinders, and rubbish, and bone.”
So Dobbin and Brindle, and fat Mrs. Ewe,
And the duckling and duck, and the Biddy-hen too,
All eager for knowledge, went down the wide road
To the kennel where Tray had his pleasant abode.
Now Tray was a dog with a gift for detecting,
He never would bark without briefly reflecting;
He snuffed at the treasure and turned it about,
And soon would have uttered his sentence, no doubt,—
But just then our Tommy ran up to the crowd.
“Where did you get those, sir?” he cried out aloud.
“They’re my new Sunday gloves! They fell out of my hat!
I took them to school to show them to Matt!
“And, you see, Matt and I had some liquorice candy,
Our fingers were sticky, the gloves were just handy;
And then, when the teacher said, ‘Tom, wash your slate,’
My sponge was all lost, and the class couldn’t wait.
“And ’cause I was hurrying, what do you think?
That bothersome ink-bottle slopped out the ink!
You can’t expect gloves to look nobby and new
When they have to be used for a slate and ink too.
Now, that’s reasons enough!” said poor Tommy, “I guess!”
And the company bowed a unanimous “Yes,”
And the horse, cow and sheep, duck, duckling and hen,
Complacently turned themselves homeward again.