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The poor exile was safe enough on that point,he only wanted leave to remain quietly lying amongst the reeds, and drinking a little marsh-water. Here he lay two whole days. Then came two wild geese, who by chance were ganders, and having just broken out of the egg-shell, were very pert on that account.
“ Listen, comrade,” said they; “ you are so ugly that we shall not object to you for a companion. Fly with us to another marsh hard by, wherein some exceedingly pretty wild geese have dwelt since last autumn. You may perhaps obtain one of them, in the dearth of beaux, ugly as you are.”
“Bang! bang!" sounded at this moment over them, and both wild geese sank down dead, while the water around them was dyed red! “ Bang! bang!" it went again, and whole flocks of wild geese rose up out of the reeds. The sportsman beat about the marsh on all sides, and a spaniel dashed through
the thick morass. It was a terrible fright for the poor ugly duckling, when the fearful dog opened his jaws and showed his teeth; but, splash, splash-the hound ran off, without troubling himself about this easy booty.
“God be praised !" sighed the little duck; “I am so ugly, that even the hound will not touch me.” And so he remained quite still, while the shots rattled briskly over his head among the rushes.
It was tolerably late in the afternoon before the noise had ceased, and the poor duckling dared to come out of his hiding-place, and then ran away from the terrible marsh.
Towards evening our fugitive reached a poor peasant's hut, the rotten door of which had fallen from its hinges, so that a very welcome chink was left through which he could slip into the room.
An old woman with her cat and hen were the
only inhabitants; and they next morning discovered their strange unbidden guest.
" What is that ?" said the dame, who, not seeing well, took the poor lean bird for a fat duck who had mistaken his way in the dark. “Here is indeed a piece of good luck!” exclaimed she, overjoyed. “ Now I can have duck's eggs, provided the stupid thing be not a drake after all!” added she. “But we will let it remain on trial.” And so the youngster remained three weeks, but without laying any eggs, when, one morning, after a sleepless night, he felt himself seized with an unconquerable longing to swim once more in the clear water. At last he could bear it no longer, and he spoke his wish to the hen. “What whim has seized upon you now ?” answered she, quite angrily; “ this comes of having nothing to do. Lay some eggs, and then you will be all
“But it is so beautiful to swim on the water," answered the young drake, sighing.
“A mighty pleasure, truly!” scolded the hen. “You are certainly crazy; ask the cat, who is wiser than I, if he likes swimming on the water.”
“ You do not understand me,” sighed the duck.
“Not understand you, indeed! If we don't, who should, you yellow beak ?” exclaimed madam hen.
“I am determined I will wander out into the world,” said the little drake, taking courage.
“Yes, do so!" answered the hen, uncivilly.
And the poor duckling set off again on his travels, for which he had so longed; but no sooner did any animal see him, than he was sure to be twitted with his ugliness.
Autumn was now waning; the leaves in the wood became yellow and brown, and being driven by the
wind, danced about in mournful eddies; the air was quite biting, and on the hedge the crow sat and cried, “ Caw! caw!" from sheer cold. The poor persecuted duckling was even worse off than
One evening, while the sun was going down so red that it looked like a fiery wheel, a flock of large birds suddenly rose from the bushes, sprinkled by the foam of the waves; the ugly green duckling had never seen any creatures so beautiful as they appeared, with their spotless feathers as white as new-fallen snow, and their long graceful necks. The swans, for such they were, after uttering their peculiar cry, extended their beautiful wings and flew away from this cold land to a warmer latitude beyond the sea. As they rose up high into the air, the young duckling stretched his neck after them, and uttered a cry so shrill, that he himself was frightened. He