Page images

Southward, from Surrey's pleasant hills flew those bright

couriers forth; High on bleak Hampstead's swarthy moor they started for the North;

16. And on, and on, without a pause, untired they bounded

still, All night from tower to tower they sprang—they sprang

from hill to hill, Till the proud Peak unfurled the flag o'er Darwin's rocky

dales Till like volcanoes flared to heaven the stormy hills of


17. Till twelve fair counties saw the blaze on Malvern's lonely

height Till streamed in crimson on the wind the Wrekin's crest

of lightTill broad and fierce the star came forth on Ely's stately

fane, And tower and hamlet rose in arms o'er all the boundless plain;

18. Till Belvoir's lordly terraces the sign to Lincoln sent, And Lincoln sped the message on o'er the wide vale of

Trent; Till Skiddaw saw the fire that burned on Gaunt's embattled

pile, And the red glare of Skiddaw roused the burghers of



How beautiful looked everything out in the fields ! It was summer, and the corn was yellow, the oats were green, the hay-ricks were standing in the verdant meadows, and the stork was walking about on his long, red legs, chattering away in Egyptian—the language he had learned from his lady-mother. The cornfields and meadows were surrounded by large forests, in the middle of which lay deep lakes. Oh, it was lovely indeed to walk abroad in the country just then !

In a sunny spot stood an old country-house, encircled by canals. Between the wall and the water's-edge there grew huge burdock leaves, that had shot up to such a height that a little child might have stood upright under the tallest of them; and this spot was as wild as though it had been situated in the depths of a wood. In this snug retirement a duck was sitting on her nest to hatch her young; but she began to think it a wearisome task, as the little ones seemed very backward in making their appearance ; besides, she had few visitors, for the other ducks preferred swimming about in the canals, instead of being at the trouble of climbing up the slope, and then sitting under a burdock leaf to gossip with her.

At length one egg cracked, and then another. "Peep! peep !' cried they, as each yolk became a live thing, and popped out its head.

Quack ! quack !' said the mother, and they tried to cackle like her, while they looked all about them under the green leaves; and she allowed them to look to their hearts' content, because green is good for the eyes.

[ocr errors]





How large the world is, to be sure !' said the young

And truly enough, they had rather more room than when they were still in the egg-shell.

*Do you fancy this is the whole world f' cried the mother. " Why, it reaches far away beyond the other side of the garden, down to the parson's field; though

l I never went to such a distance as that! But are you all there ? continued she, rising. “No, faith! you are not; for there still lies the largest egg. I wonder how long this business is to last-I really begin to grow quite tired of it!' And she sat down once more.

Well, how are you getting on?' inquired an old duck, who came to pay her a visit.

• This egg takes a deal of hatching,' answered the sitting duck, “it won't break; but just look at the others, are they not the prettiest ducklings ever seen? They are the image of their father, who, by-the-by, does not trouble himself to come and see me.'

'Let me look at the egg that won't break,' quoth the old duck. * Take my word for it, it must be a guinea-fowl's egg. I was once deceived in the same way, and I bestowed a deal of care and anxiety on the youngsters, for they are afraid of water. I could not make them take to it. I stormed and raved, but it was of no use. Let's see the egg. Sure enough, it is a guinea-fowl's egg. Leave it alone, and set about teaching your own children to swim.'

*I'll just sit upon it a bit longer,' said the duck; 'for since I have sat so long, a few days more won't make much odds.'

Please yourself,' said the old duck, as she waddled away.

At length the large egg cracked. Peep! peep!




squeaked the youngster, as he crept out.

How big and ugly he was to be sure ! The duck looked at him, saying : 'Really this is a most enormous duckling! None of the others are like him. I wonder whether he is a guinea-chick after all ? Well, we shall soon see when we get down to the water; for in he shall go, though I push him in myself.'

On the following morning the weather was most delightful, and the sun was shining brightly on the green burdock leaves. The mother-duck took her young brood down to the canal. Splash into the water she went. Quack! quack ! cried she, and forthwith one duckling after another jumped in. The water closed over their heads for a moment; but they soon rose to the surface again, and swam about so nicely, just as if their legs paddled them about of their own accord; and they had all taken to the water ; even the ugly, gray-coated youngster swam about with the rest.

Nay, he is no guinea-chick,' said she ; only look how capitally he uses his legs, and how steady he keeps himself-he's every inch my own child! And really he's very pretty when one comes to look at him attentively. Quack ! quack !' added she; ‘now come along, and I'll take you into high society, and introduce you to the duck-yard; but mind you keep close to me, that nobody may tread upon you; and, above all, beware of the cat.'

They now reached the farm-yard, where there was a great hubbub. Two families were fighting for an eel's head, which, in the end, was carried off by the cat.

See, children, that's the way with the world !' remarked the mother of the ducklings, smacking her beak, for she would have been very glad to have had the eel's head for herself. “Now, move on !' said she, and



[ocr errors]

apart, like

mind you cackle, properly, and bow your head before that old duck yonder. Now, cackle--and don't turn in your toes; a well-bred duckling spreads his feet wide

papa and mamma, in this sort of way! Now, bend your neck, and say: Quack !")

The ducklings did as they were bid ; but the other ducks, after looking at them, only cried : 'Now, look ! here comes another set, as if we were not numerous enough already. And bless me! what a queer-looking chap one of the ducklings is to be sure—we can't put up with him!' And one of the throng darted forward, and bit him in the neck.

Leave him alone,' said the mother; "he has done no harm to any one.'

'No; but he is too big and uncouth,' said the biting duck; and therefore he requires a thrashing.'

• Mamma has a sweet little family,' said the old duck, with the rag about her leg : 'they are all pretty except one, who is rather ill-favoured. I wish mamma could polish him a bit.

"I'm afraid that will be impossible, your Grace,' said the mother of the ducklings. It's true he is not pretty, but he has a very good disposition, and swims as well, or perhaps better, than all the others put together. However, he may grow prettier, and perhaps become smaller ; he remained too long in the egg-shell, and therefore his figure is not properly formed.' And with this she smoothed down the ruffled feathers of his neck, adding : • At all events, as he is a male duck, it won't matter so much. I think he'll prove strong, and be able to fight his way through the world.'

The other ducklings are elegant little creatures,' said the old duck. Now, make yourself at home; and





« PreviousContinue »