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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 apart, like
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
if you should happen to find an eel's head, you can bring it to me.'
And so the family made themselves comfortable.
But the poor duckling who had been the last to creep out of his egg-shell, and looked so ugly, was bitten, pushed about, and made game of, not only by the ducks, but by the hens.
Nor did matters mend the next day, or the following ones, but rather grew worse and worse. duckling was hunted down by everybody. Even his sisters were so unkind to him, that they were continually saying : ‘I wish the cat would run away with you, you ugly creature ! While his mother added: 'I wish you had never been born !' And the ducks pecked at him, the hens struck him, and the girl who fed the poultry used to kick him.
So he ran away, and flew over the palings. The little birds in the bushes were startled, and took wing. That is because I am so ugly,' thought the duckling, as he closed his eyes, though he ran on further, till he came to a large marsh inhabited by wild ducks. Here he spent the whole night-and tired and sorrowful enough he was.
On the following morning, when the wild ducks saw their new comrade, they said : "What sort of a creature are you? Upon which the duckling greeted them all round as civilly as he knew how.
You are remarkably ugly,' observed the wild ducks; 'but we don't care about that, so long as you do not want to marry into our family.' Poor forlorn creature ! He had truly no such thoughts in his head. All he wanted was to obtain leave to lie among the rushes, and drink a little of the marsh water.
He remained there for two whole days, at the end of which time there came two wild geese, or, more properly speaking, goslings, who were only just out of the egg-shell, and consequently very pert.
'I say, friend,' quoth they, 'you are so ugly, that we should have no objection to take you with us for a travelling-companion. In the neighbouring marsh there dwell some sweetly pretty female geese, all of them unmarried, and who cackle most charmingly. Perhaps you may have a chance to pick up a wife amongst them, ugly as you are.
Bang! sounded through the air, and the two wild goslings fell dead amongst the rushes, while the water turned as red as blood. Bang! again echoed around, and whole flocks of wild geese flew up from the rushes. Again and again the same alarming noise was heard. It was a shooting-party, and the sportsmen surrounded the whole marsh, while others had climbed into the branches of the trees that overshadowed the rushes. A blue mist rose in clouds and mingled with the green leaves, and sailed far away across the water; a pack of dogs next flounced into the marsh. Splash, splash they went, while the reeds and rushes bent beneath them on all sides. What a fright they occasioned the poor duckling! He turned away his head to hide it under his wing, when, lo! a tremendous-looking dog, with his tongue lolling out, and his eyes glaring fearfully, stood right before him, opening his jaws and shewing his sharp teeth, as though he would gobble up the poor little duckling at a mouthful but splash ! splash ! on he went without touching him.
Thank goodness!' sighed the duckling, I am so ugly that even a dog won't bite me.'
And he lay quite still, while the shot rattled through the rushes, and bang after bang echoed through the air.
It was not till late in the day that all became quiet; but the poor youngster did not yet venture to rise, but waited several hours before he looked about him, and then hastened out of the marsh as fast as he could go. He ran across fields and meadows, till there arose such a storm that he could scarcely get on at all.
Towards evening he reached a wretched little cottage, that was in such a tumble-down condition, that if it remained standing at all, it could only be from not yet having made up its mind on which side it should fall.
The inmates of the cottage were a woman, a tom-cat, and a hen. The tom-cat, whom she called her darling, could raise his back and purr; and he could even throw out sparks, provided he were stroked against the grain. The hen had small, short legs, for which reason she was called Henny Shortlegs; she laid good eggs, and her mistress loved her as if she had been her own child.
Next morning, they perceived the little stranger, when the tom-cat began to purr, and the hen to cluck.
What's that?' said the woman looking round. Not seeing very distinctly, she mistook the duckling for a fat duck that had lost its way. Why, this is quite a prize !' added she ; 'I can now get duck's eggs, unless indeed it be a drake! We must wait a bit and see.'
So the duckling was kept on trial for three weeks; but no eggs were forthcoming. The tom-cat and the hen were the master and mistress of the house, and always said : We and the world'-for they fancied themselves to be the half, and by far the best half too, of the whole universe. The duckling thought there might be two
opinions on this point; but the hen would not admit of any such doubts. •Can you lay eggs?' asked she.
No. • Then have the goodness to hold your tongue.'
And the tom-cat inquired : 'Can you raise your back, or purr, or throw out sparks ?'
* Then you have no business to have any opinion at all, when rational people are talking.'
The duckling sat in a corner very much out of spirits, when in came the fresh air and the sunshine, which gave him such a strange longing to swim on the water, that he could not help saying so to the hen.
• What's this whim ?' said she : that comes of being idle. If you could either lay eggs or purr, you would not indulge in such fancies.'
But it is so delightful to swim about on the water !' observed the duckling, and to feel it close over your head when you dive down to the bottom.'
A great pleasure, indeed,' quoth the hen. "You must be crazy, surely! Only ask the cat—for he is the wisest creature I know-how he would like to swim on the water, or to dive under it. To say nothing of myself, just ask our old mistress, who is wiser than anybody in the world, whether she'd relish swimming and feeling the waters close above her head.'
• You can't understand me!' said the duckling.
*We can't understand you? I should like to know who could. You don't suppose you are wiser than the tom-cat and our mistress—to say nothing of myself ? Now, look to it, and mind that you either lay eggs, or learn to purr and emit sparks.'