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Chantecter is a fantasy play about bird and animal life, with the characters being denizens of the farmyard and the woods.
38,130 words, with a reading time of ~ 2.3 hours (~ 152 pages), and first published in 1910. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2014.
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A farmyard such as the sounds from behind the curtain have described. At the right, a house over-clambered with wistaria. At the left, the farmyard gate, letting on to the road. A dog-kennel. At the back, a low wall, beyond which distant country landscape. The details of the setting define themselves in the course of the act.
The whole barnyard company, HENS, CHICKENS, CHICKS, DUCKS, TURKEYS, etc.; THE BLACKBIRD in his cage, THE CAT asleep on the wall, later A BUTTERFLY on the flowers.
THE WHITE HEN [Pecking.] Ah! Delicious!
ANOTHER HEN What are you eating?
ALL THE HENS [Rushing to the spot.] What’s she eating?
THE WHITE HEN A small green beetle, crisp and nice, tasting of the rose-leaves he had lived on.
THE BLACK HEN [Standing before the BLACKBIRD’S cage.] Really, the Blackbird whistles amazingly!
THE WHITE HEN Any little street urchin can do as much!
THE TURKEY [Solemnly.] An urchin who had learned of a shepherd in Sicily!
THE DUCK He never whistles his tune to the end–
THE TURKEY That’s too easy, carrying it to the end! [He hums the tune the BLACKBIRD has been whistling.] “How sweet to fare afield, and cull–and cull–” You should know, Duck, that the thing in art is to leave off before the end! “And cull–and cull–” Bravo, Blackbird!
[The BLACKBIRD comes out on the little platform in front of his cage and bows.]
A CHICK [Astonished.] Can he get out?
BLACKBIRD Applause is salt on my tail!
THE CHICK But his cage?
THE TURKEY He can come out, and he can go in again. His cage has that sort of spring.–“And cull–and cull–” The whole point is missed if you tell them what you cull!
THE BLACK HEN [Catching sight of a BUTTERFLY alighting on the flowers above the wall at the back.] Oh, what a gorgeous butterfly!
THE WHITE HEN Where?
THE BLACK HEN On the honey-suckle.
THE TURKEY That kind is called an Admiral.
THE CHICK [Looking after the BUTTERFLY.] Now he has settled on a pink.
THE WHITE HEN [To the TURKEY.] An Admiral, wherefore?
THE BLACKBIRD Obviously because he is neither a seaman nor a soldier.
THE WHITE HEN Our Blackbird has a pretty wit!
THE TURKEY [Nodding and swinging his red stalactite.] He has better than wit, my dear!
ANOTHER HEN [Watching the BUTTERFLY.] It’s sweet–a butterfly!
THE BLACKBIRD Easy as possible to make! You take a W and set it on top of a Y!
A HEN [Delighted.] A flourish of his bill, and there you have your caricature!
THE TURKEY He does better than execute caricatures! Hen, our Blackbird forces you to think while obliging you to laugh. He is a Teacher in wit’s clothing.
A CHICK [To a HEN.] Mother, why does the Cat hate the Dog?
THE BLACKBIRD Because he appropriates his seat at the theatre.
THE CHICK [Surprised.] They have a theatre?
THE BLACKBIRD Where dumb-shows are given.
THE CHICK Eh?
THE BLACKBIRD The hearthstone from whence both alike wish to watch the play of the Fire among the Logs.
THE TURKEY [Delighted.] How aptly he conveys that the hatred of peoples is at bottom a question of wanting the other’s territory. There’s a brain for you!
THE SPECKLED HEN [To the WHITE HEN, who is pecking.] Do you peck peppers?
THE WHITE HEN Constantly.
THE SPECKLED HEN How can you stand the sting?
THE WHITE HEN It imparts to the feathers a delicate rosy tint.
THE SPECKLED HEN Oh, does it!
A VOICE IN THE DISTANCE Cuckoo!
THE WHITE HEN Listen!
THE VOICE [From a greater distance.] Cuckoo!
THE WHITE HEN The Cuckoo!
A GREY HEN [Comes running excitedly.] Which Cuckoo? The one who lives in the woods, or the one who lives in the clock?
THE VOICE [Still further off.] Cuckoo!
THE WHITE HEN The one of the woods.
THE GREY HEN [With a sigh of relief.] Oh, I was so afraid of having missed the other!
THE WHITE HEN [Going near enough to her to speak in an undertone.] Do you mean to say you love him?
THE GREY HEN [Sadly.] Without ever having set eyes on him. He lives in a chalet hanging on the kitchen wall, above the farmer’s great-coat and fowling-piece. The moment he sings, I rush to the spot, but I never get there in time to see anything but his little wicket closing. This evening I mean to stay right here beside the door–[She takes up her position on the threshold.]
A VOICE White Hen!