Chauntecleer

Excerpt Two:

Through the black night he ran, and he began to whimper:  “It’s here!  I want to see.  I want to see.  I want to see.  O God, where am I?”

Then blindly, he ran straight into a soft flank.  He yelped, then tumbled off the wall, down into the ditch.

The Dun Cow followed him down, and once there she breathed on him.  Immediately poor Chauntecleer drove himself like a child into her neck, curled, and gave himself over to the refuge.  He had absolutely no doubt who she was.  And, strangely, her presence did not surprise him.  Neither did he stop for his own dignity.  Simply, he was thankful for the shelter, and he hid himself there, and he waited for the trembling to quit.

When the rooster’s reason had come back again, he discovered that the laughter was gone and the night silent once again–save that he heard wind in the trees of the forest.  Trees!  Ah, the Dun Cow had brought him down on the north side of the wall; the camp stood between him and the river, and he was relieved.  And he knew where he was.

Chauntecleer lay a long while against the fine fur of her neck.  He let his mind free to think of the night; and soon his mouth was free as well.  He found that he was talking his thoughts aloud.  The Dun Cow listened.  Low and long he shed his private fears into her silence–all of them, right up to the final idiocy that he, Chauntecleer, Lord and leader, should be reduced to racing wildly in circles!  Long and low he shared every piece of apprehension with the Cow who lay beside him in the ditch, and this, too, relieved him.

But then, even in this special hour, a tiny thing began to nag the Rooster:  that the Dun Cow, who had filled Mundo Cani’s ear yesterday with such a steady stream of talk, now was saying nothing at all to him.

“Speak to me,” he said bluntly and loudly in the night.  “Have you nothing to say to me?  Who are you?  Why are you here?  Where do you come from?  And then, a question which Chauntecleer never formed on his own, nor ever would have asked, had he thought about it first:         “–Why do I love you?”

His own question so shocked him that he shrugged his shoulders as if there were light in the ditch and he could be seen, as if to say, Forget it:  I didn’t mean it.  And he consciously shut his mouth and said no more.

So the last hour of the night passed by.  Once or twice he felt–just barely–the prick of her horns upon his back.  They kept him wide awake.  And in that time it seemed to Chauntecleer that the Dun Cow did speak to him, though he could never remember the language she used, nor the timbre of her voice; and she did not offer any answer to any one of his questions.

But what he learned from her made his spirit bold and his body ready.  Three things she gave him:  weapons against the enemy.  And two he understood immediately.  But the third remained a mystery.

Rue, she said, protection.  Rooster’s crow, confusion.  One thing else to end the deed–A Dog with no illusion.

Shortly the Dun Cow was gone again, and the Rooster alone in his ditch.  And then, with a faint light to make shadows of every solid thing, the night was done and the dire day had begun.

[The Book of the Dun Cow, Walter Wangerin, Jr., pg. 174-175

 

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