A secret is a dreadful weighty thing:
Few women carry secrets very far;
And this remark doth to my memory bring
Some men, too, born beneath the female star.
To try his wife, a husband one night cried,
"Ye gods, I perish! spare me, spare, I pray:
For, lo! I have just laid an egg." "An egg?" she sighed.
"Here it is—newly laid: but do not say
A single word, or they will call me ′hen.′
Be silent, darling." Then, in full belief,
She swore by all the gods to keep all men
Quite in the dark, so she assured her chief.
But with the shadows pass those words of hers.
Foolish and indiscreet, at earliest dawn,
She seeks her neighbour, and she thus avers:
"My gossip, such a thing took place last night!
You must say nothing, or I shall be beat.
My husband laid an egg, yes, large and white.
And big as any four; but don′t repeat,
In Heaven′s name, nor mention anywhere
This strange occurrence." "Now, I see you mock,"
The other said. "What! mention the affair!
You know me not. Go, I am like a rock!"
The hen′s wife hastened homeward presently;
The other spreads the tale in twenty places.
The one big egg she quickly turns to three;
Nor was this all: to many startled faces
Another chatterer makes the number four.
Whispering is no more needful—all is known.
Before the day was over there had flown
A rumour that the man had forty score
Of chickens of his own all cackling round his door.