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post Feb 5 2011, 02:34 PM
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IT was lovely summer weather in the country, and the
golden corn, the green oats, and the haystacks piled up in the
meadows looked beautiful. The stork walking about on his long
red legs chattered in the Egyptian language, which he had
learnt from his mother. The corn-fields and meadows were
surrounded by large forests, in the midst of which were deep
pools. It was, indeed, delightful to walk about in the
country. In a sunny spot stood a pleasant old farm-house close
by a deep river, and from the house down to the water side
grew great burdock leaves, so high, that under the tallest of
them a little child could stand upright. The spot was as wild
as the centre of a thick wood. In this snug retreat sat a duck
on her nest, watching for her young brood to hatch; she was
beginning to get tired of her task, for the little ones were a
long time coming out of their shells, and she seldom had any
visitors. The other ducks liked much better to swim about in
the river than to climb the slippery banks, and sit under a
burdock leaf, to have a gossip with her. At length one shell
cracked, and then another, and from each egg came a living
creature that lifted its head and cried, "Peep, peep." "Quack,
quack," said the mother, and then they all quacked as well as
they could, and looked about them on every side at the large
green leaves. Their mother allowed them to look as much as
they liked, because green is good for the eyes. "How large the
world is," said the young ducks, when they found how much more
room they now had than while they were inside the egg-shell.
"Do you imagine this is the whole world?" asked the mother;
"Wait till you have seen the garden; it stretches far beyond
that to the parson's field, but I have never ventured to such
a distance. Are you all out?" she continued, rising; "No, I
declare, the largest egg lies there still. I wonder how long
this is to last, I am quite tired of it;" and she seated
herself again on the nest.

"Well, how are you getting on?" asked an old duck, who
paid her a visit.

"One egg is not hatched yet," said the duck, "it will not
break. But just look at all the others, are they not the
prettiest little ducklings you ever saw? They are the image of
their father, who is so unkind, he never comes to see."

"Let me see the egg that will not break," said the duck;
"I have no doubt it is a turkey's egg. I was persuaded to
hatch some once, and after all my care and trouble with the
young ones, they were afraid of the water. I quacked and
clucked, but all to no purpose. I could not get them to
venture in. Let me look at the egg. Yes, that is a turkey's
egg; take my advice, leave it where it is and teach the other
children to swim."

"I think I will sit on it a little while longer," said the
duck; "as I have sat so long already, a few days will be

"Please yourself," said the old duck, and she went away.

At last the large egg broke, and a young one crept forth
crying, "Peep, peep." It was very large and ugly. The duck
stared at it and exclaimed, "It is very large and not at all
like the others. I wonder if it really is a turkey. We shall
soon find it out, however when we go to the water. It must go
in, if I have to push it myself."

On the next day the weather was delightful, and the sun
shone brightly on the green burdock leaves, so the mother duck
took her young brood down to the water, and jumped in with a
splash. "Quack, quack," cried she, and one after another the
little ducklings jumped in. The water closed over their heads,
but they came up again in an instant, and swam about quite
prettily with their legs paddling under them as easily as
possible, and the ugly duckling was also in the water swimming
with them.

"Oh," said the mother, "that is not a turkey; how well he
uses his legs, and how upright he holds himself! He is my own
child, and he is not so very ugly after all if you look at him
properly. Quack, quack! come with me now, I will take you into
grand society, and introduce you to the farmyard, but you must
keep close to me or you may be trodden upon; and, above all,
beware of the cat."

When they reached the farmyard, there was a great
disturbance, two families were fighting for an eel's head,
which, after all, was carried off by the cat. "See, children,
that is the way of the world," said the mother duck, whetting
her beak, for she would have liked the eel's head herself.
"Come, now, use your legs, and let me see how well you can
behave. You must bow your heads prettily to that old duck
yonder; she is the highest born of them all, and has Spanish
blood, therefore, she is well off. Don't you see she has a red
flag tied to her leg, which is something very grand, and a
great honor for a duck; it shows that every one is anxious not
to lose her, as she can be recognized both by man and beast.
Come, now, don't turn your toes, a well-bred duckling spreads
his feet wide apart, just like his father and mother, in this
way; now bend your neck, and say 'quack.'"

The ducklings did as they were bid, but the other duck
stared, and said, "Look, here comes another brood, as if there
were not enough of us already! and what a queer looking object
one of them is; we don't want him here," and then one flew out
and bit him in the neck.

"Let him alone," said the mother; "he is not doing any

"Yes, but he is so big and ugly," said the spiteful duck
"and therefore he must be turned out."

"The others are very pretty children," said the old duck,
with the rag on her leg, "all but that one; I wish his mother
could improve him a little."

"That is impossible, your grace," replied the mother; "he
is not pretty; but he has a very good disposition, and swims
as well or even better than the others. I think he will grow
up pretty, and perhaps be smaller; he has remained too long in
the egg, and therefore his figure is not properly formed;" and
then she stroked his neck and smoothed the feathers, saying,
"It is a drake, and therefore not of so much consequence. I
think he will grow up strong, and able to take care of

"The other ducklings are graceful enough," said the old
duck. "Now make yourself at home, and if you can find an eel's
head, you can bring it to me."

And so they made themselves comfortable; but the poor
duckling, who had crept out of his shell last of all, and
looked so ugly, was bitten and pushed and made fun of, not
only by the ducks, but by all the poultry. "He is too big,"
they all said, and the turkey cock, who had been born into the
world with spurs, and fancied himself really an emperor,
puffed himself out like a vessel in full sail, and flew at the
duckling, and became quite red in the head with passion, so
that the poor little thing did not know where to go, and was
quite miserable because he was so ugly and laughed at by the
whole farmyard. So it went on from day to day till it got
worse and worse. The poor duckling was driven about by every
one; even his brothers and sisters were unkind to him, and
would say, "Ah, you ugly creature, I wish the cat would get
you," and his mother said she wished he had never been born.
The ducks pecked him, the chickens beat him, and the girl who
fed the poultry kicked him with her feet. So at last he ran
away, frightening the little birds in the hedge as he flew
over the palings.

"They are afraid of me because I am ugly," he said. So he
closed his eyes, and flew still farther, until he came out on
a large moor, inhabited by wild ducks. Here he remained the
whole night, feeling very tired and sorrowful.

In the morning, when the wild ducks rose in the air, they
stared at their new comrade. "What sort of a duck are you?"
they all said, coming round him.

He bowed to them, and was as polite as he could be, but he
did not reply to their question. "You are exceedingly ugly,"
said the wild ducks, "but that will not matter if you do not
want to marry one of our family."

Poor thing! he had no thoughts of marriage; all he wanted
was permission to lie among the rushes, and drink some of the
water on the moor. After he had been on the moor two days,
there came two wild geese, or rather goslings, for they had
not been out of the egg long, and were very saucy. "Listen,
friend," said one of them to the duckling, "you are so ugly,
that we like you very well. Will you go with us, and become a
bird of passage? Not far from here is another moor, in which
there are some pretty wild geese, all unmarried. It is a
chance for you to get a wife; you may be lucky, ugly as you

"Pop, pop," sounded in the air, and the two wild geese
fell dead among the rushes, and the water was tinged with
blood. "Pop, pop," echoed far and wide in the distance, and
whole flocks of wild geese rose up from the rushes. The sound
continued from every direction, for the sportsmen surrounded
the moor, and some were even seated on branches of trees,
overlooking the rushes. The blue smoke from the guns rose like
clouds over the dark trees, and as it floated away across the
water, a number of sporting dogs bounded in among the rushes,
which bent beneath them wherever they went. How they terrified
the poor duckling! He turned away his head to hide it under
his wing, and at the same moment a large terrible dog passed
quite near him. His jaws were open, his tongue hung from his
mouth, and his eyes glared fearfully. He thrust his nose close
to the duckling, showing his sharp teeth, and then, "splash,
splash," he went into the water without touching him, "Oh,"
sighed the duckling, "how thankful I am for being so ugly;
even a dog will not bite me." And so he lay quite still, while
the shot rattled through the rushes, and gun after gun was
fired over him. It was late in the day before all became
quiet, but even then the poor young thing did not dare to
move. He waited quietly for several hours, and then, after
looking carefully around him, hastened away from the moor as
fast as he could. He ran over field and meadow till a storm
arose, and he could hardly struggle against it. Towards
evening, he reached a poor little cottage that seemed ready to
fall, and only remained standing because it could not decide
on which side to fall first. The storm continued so violent,
that the duckling could go no farther; he sat down by the
cottage, and then he noticed that the door was not quite
closed in consequence of one of the hinges having given way.
There was therefore a narrow opening near the bottom large
enough for him to slip through, which he did very quietly, and
got a shelter for the night. A woman, a tom cat, and a hen
lived in this cottage. The tom cat, whom the mistress called,
"My little son," was a great favorite; he could raise his
back, and purr, and could even throw out sparks from his fur
if it were stroked the wrong way. The hen had very short legs,
so she was called "Chickie short legs." She laid good eggs,
and her mistress loved her as if she had been her own child.
In the morning, the strange visitor was discovered, and the
tom cat began to purr, and the hen to cluck.

"What is that noise about?" said the old woman, looking
round the room, but her sight was not very good; therefore,
when she saw the duckling she thought it must be a fat duck,
that had strayed from home. "Oh what a prize!" she exclaimed,
"I hope it is not a drake, for then I shall have some duck's
eggs. I must wait and see." So the duckling was allowed to
remain on trial for three weeks, but there were no eggs. Now
the tom cat was the master of the house, and the hen was
mistress, and they always said, "We and the world," for they
believed themselves to be half the world, and the better half
too. The duckling thought that others might hold a different
opinion on the subject, but the hen would not listen to such
doubts. "Can you lay eggs?" she asked. "No." "Then have the
goodness to hold your tongue." "Can you raise your back, or
purr, or throw out sparks?" said the tom cat. "No." "Then you
have no right to express an opinion when sensible people are
speaking." So the duckling sat in a corner, feeling very low
spirited, till the sunshine and the fresh air came into the
room through the open door, and then he began to feel such a
great longing for a swim on the water, that he could not help
telling the hen.

"What an absurd idea," said the hen. "You have nothing
else to do, therefore you have foolish fancies. If you could
purr or lay eggs, they would pass away."

"But it is so delightful to swim about on the water," said
the duckling, "and so refreshing to feel it close over your
head, while you dive down to the bottom."

"Delightful, indeed!" said the hen, "why you must be
crazy! Ask the cat, he is the cleverest animal I know, ask him
how he would like to swim about on the water, or to dive under
it, for I will not speak of my own opinion; ask our mistress,
the old woman- there is no one in the world more clever than
she is. Do you think she would like to swim, or to let the
water close over her head?"

"You don't understand me," said the duckling.

"We don't understand you? Who can understand you, I
wonder? Do you consider yourself more clever than the cat, or
the old woman? I will say nothing of myself. Don't imagine
such nonsense, child, and thank your good fortune that you
have been received here. Are you not in a warm room, and in
society from which you may learn something. But you are a
chatterer, and your company is not very agreeable. Believe me,
I speak only for your own good. I may tell you unpleasant
truths, but that is a proof of my friendship. I advise you,
therefore, to lay eggs, and learn to purr as quickly as

"I believe I must go out into the world again," said the

"Yes, do," said the hen. So the duckling left the cottage,
and soon found water on which it could swim and dive, but was
avoided by all other animals, because of its ugly appearance.
Autumn came, and the leaves in the forest turned to orange and
gold. then, as winter approached, the wind caught them as they
fell and whirled them in the cold air. The clouds, heavy with
hail and snow-flakes, hung low in the sky, and the raven stood
on the ferns crying, "Croak, croak." It made one shiver with
cold to look at him. All this was very sad for the poor little
duckling. One evening, just as the sun set amid radiant
clouds, there came a large flock of beautiful birds out of the
bushes. The duckling had never seen any like them before. They
were swans, and they curved their graceful necks, while their
soft plumage shown with dazzling whiteness. They uttered a
singular cry, as they spread their glorious wings and flew
away from those cold regions to warmer countries across the
sea. As they mounted higher and higher in the air, the ugly
little duckling felt quite a strange sensation as he watched
them. He whirled himself in the water like a wheel, stretched
out his neck towards them, and uttered a cry so strange that
it frightened himself. Could he ever forget those beautiful,
happy birds; and when at last they were out of his sight, he
dived under the water, and rose again almost beside himself
with excitement. He knew not the names of these birds, nor
where they had flown, but he felt towards them as he had never
felt for any other bird in the world. He was not envious of
these beautiful creatures, but wished to be as lovely as they.
Poor ugly creature, how gladly he would have lived even with
the ducks had they only given him encouragement. The winter
grew colder and colder; he was obliged to swim about on the
water to keep it from freezing, but every night the space on
which he swam became smaller and smaller. At length it froze
so hard that the ice in the water crackled as he moved, and
the duckling had to paddle with his legs as well as he could,
to keep the space from closing up. He became exhausted at
last, and lay still and helpless, frozen fast in the ice.
Early in the morning, a peasant, who was passing by, saw
what had happened. He broke the ice in pieces with his wooden
shoe, and carried the duckling home to his wife. The warmth
revived the poor little creature; but when the children wanted
to play with him, the duckling thought they would do him some
harm; so he started up in terror, fluttered into the milk-pan,
and splashed the milk about the room. Then the woman clapped
her hands, which frightened him still more. He flew first into
the butter-cask, then into the meal-tub, and out again. What a
condition he was in! The woman screamed, and struck at him
with the tongs; the children laughed and screamed, and tumbled
over each other, in their efforts to catch him; but luckily he
escaped. The door stood open; the poor creature could just
manage to slip out among the bushes, and lie down quite
exhausted in the newly fallen snow.
It would be very sad, were I to relate all the misery and
privations which the poor little duckling endured during the
hard winter; but when it had passed, he found himself lying
one morning in a moor, amongst the rushes. He felt the warm
sun shining, and heard the lark singing, and saw that all
around was beautiful spring. Then the young bird felt that his
wings were strong, as he flapped them against his sides, and
rose high into the air. They bore him onwards, until he found
himself in a large garden, before he well knew how it had
happened. The apple-trees were in full blossom, and the
fragrant elders bent their long green branches down to the
stream which wound round a smooth lawn. Everything looked
beautiful, in the freshness of early spring. From a thicket
close by came three beautiful white swans, rustling their
feathers, and swimming lightly over the smooth water. The
duckling remembered the lovely birds, and felt more strangely
unhappy than ever.

"I will fly to those royal birds," he exclaimed, "and they
will kill me, because I am so ugly, and dare to approach them;
but it does not matter: better be killed by them than pecked
by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden
who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter."

Then he flew to the water, and swam towards the beautiful
swans. The moment they espied the stranger, they rushed to
meet him with outstretched wings.

"Kill me," said the poor bird; and he bent his head down
to the surface of the water, and awaited death.

But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own
image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to
look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a
duck's nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if
it is hatched from a swan's egg. He now felt glad at having
suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy
so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for
the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck
with their beaks, as a welcome.
Into the garden presently came some little children, and
threw bread and cake into the water.

"See," cried the youngest, "there is a new one;" and the
rest were delighted, and ran to their father and mother,
dancing and clapping their hands, and shouting joyously,
"There is another swan come; a new one has arrived."

Then they threw more bread and cake into the water, and
said, "The new one is the most beautiful of all; he is so
young and pretty." And the old swans bowed their heads before

Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his
wing; for he did not know what to do, he was so happy, and yet
not at all proud. He had been persecuted and despised for his
ugliness, and now he heard them say he was the most beautiful
of all the birds. Even the elder-tree bent down its bows into
the water before him, and the sun shone warm and bright. Then
he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried
joyfully, from the depths of his heart, "I never dreamed of
such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling."

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