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said the mother, as the little ducklings hastened out as fast as they could, looking about them in great amazement. How big the world is!” said the little ones. “Do you think that this is the whole world ?" said the mother. “Ah, no! it stretches far away beyond the garden. But are you all here ?” continued she, with true motherly care. “No, they are not all hatched yet,” added she; “ the biggest egg lies there still! How long will it last? I begin really to be quite tired.” However, she sat down on the nest again.
“Well, how are you to-day ?” exclaimed an old duck, who came bustling, to pay her friend a visit.
“Oh, there is no end to hatching this one egg!” complained the mother; “ the shell must be too hard for the duckling to break. But now you shall see the others. There is my pretty little family."
“ Show me the egg that will not break,” interrupted the old duck. “Believe me, it is a turkey's egg. The same thing happened to me once, and I had a precious trouble with the brood; for, let me entice, or even peck them as I might into the water they would not go. Yes, I am quite right; it is a turkey's egg. So get off your nest, and teach the other ones to swim.”
“I can but sit a little while longer,” replied the mother.
“Oh, very well, if you are contented!” said the old duck, taking her leave; “ but, trust me, the changeling will be a fine trouble to you.”
At last the great egg cracked. “ Piep! piep!” cried the little terrified new-comer, as he broke through the shell. Oh, how big and how ugly he was! The mother scarcely dared to look at him; she knew not what to think of him. At last she exclaimed, involuntarily: “ This is certainly a curious
young drake. It may turn out to be a turkey; but we will soon see, Into the water he must go, even should I be obliged to push him in.”
The next day was very beautiful, and the sun shone delightfully on the green burdock. The mother duck left home, with her whole family waddling about her. Splash! she went into the water. “Quack! quack!”' she exclaimed, and one duck after the other followed her example—not one remained behind; even the ugly gray last comer swam merrily about with the rest. : “He is no turkey after all, and will not disgrace my family,” said the old duck. “Really, if one examines him closely, he is rather pretty. Quack ! quack! Now come with me, and I will show you the world, and introduce you to the farm-yard.”
They soon reached the yard, but the other ducks viewed them with a contemptuous air, and said aloud, “Here comes another brood! as if we were not numerous enough already. But see, what an ugly thing that duckling is; he is not to be suffered among us.” At these words, an insolent drake bit the poor duckling in the neck.
“ Leave him alone,” exclaimed his mother; "he doesn't harm any one.”
“ Perhaps not,” answered the offending drake; “but he is much too big for his age, and a beating will do him good.”
The mother smoothed his ruffled feathers, but the poor ugly-looking duckling was pecked at, pushed, and ridiculed, by both ducks and chiekens. So the poor persecuted creature knew not where he might stand, or where he might go; and was quite cast down by the insults which he suffered on account of his unfortunate ugliness.
Thus the first day passed; but every succeeding
one was more and more full of trouble and vexation. The duckling was hunted by all like a wild animal; even his brothers and sisters behaved very badly to him; the hens pecked him, and the girl who fed the fowls pushed him roughly away.
Then he ran, and flew over the palings, until at last, by a great effort, he alighted on a hedge. The little singing-birds in the bushes flew away frightened. “That is because I am so ugly,” thought the the young duck, shutting his eyes; but nevertheless he continued to fly onwards till he reached a large marsh, where the wild ducks flock together. There he remained, sorrowful and tired to death, the whole night. Early in the morning the wild ducks perceived their new comrade.
“ You are ugly, indeed," said they; “but that is no consequence, if you do not marry into our family."