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knew not what the birds were called, nor whither they flew; but still he loved them as he had never loved any one before.
Now the winter became so cold, so piercing cold, that our duckling was forced to keep swimming about in the water for fear of being frozen. But every night the space wherein he swam became smaller and smaller; the surface of the ice kept increasing in thickness. At last he becaine so weary, that he was forced to remain fase frozen in the ice.
Early in the morning a peasant came past, and seeing the nnhappy bird, ventured on the ice, which he broke with his wooden shoe, and rescued the halfdead captive, and carried him home, where he quickly recovered.
The children wished to play with him, but the young duckling thought they would do him some harm, and in his terror he flew into an earthen milk
pan, and splashed the milk all over the room. The housewife shrieked and wrung her hands, so that our bird became more and more confused, and flew into the churn, and from thence into the meal-barrel. The housewife tried to hit him with the tongs, while the children tumbled over one another in their haste to catch him.
Happily for our duckling, the door stood open, and he escaped into the open air, and flying with difficulty to the nearest bushes, he sank down on the snow, where he lay quite exhausted.
It would, indeed, be very mournful to describe all the trouble and misery that the poor duckling felt during the cold winter. Enough, that he remained cowering under the reeds in a marsh, until the sun again shone warmly on the earth, and the larks once more welcomed spring with their songs.
Then the young duckling raised his wings, which
were much stronger than formerly, and carried him far away to a large garden, where the apple trees were in full flower, while the long green twigs of the eldertree hung down almost into the water, which meandered picturesquely through the soft grass. Oh, how beautiful, how fresh all nature seemed! And now there came from out of the thicket three noble white swans, who began to swim lightly on the water. The poor duckling knew the stately birds, and a feeling of melancholy came over him.
“I will fly towards these royal birds, and they shall kill me for my presumption in daring to go near them—1, who am so ugly. But it matters not: better is it to be killed by them than to be bitten by the ducks, pecked at by the hens, and pushed about by the peasant girls, and to want for food in the winter.” With these thoughts the duckling flew into the middle of the water, and swam towards the three
beautiful swans, who, as they perceived the little stranger, came to welcome him.
“Do but kill me," said the poor bird, bending its head towards the water, and awaiting death in quiet submission; when lo! it saw its own image in the clear surface, and instead of an ugly dark-green duckling, beheld a stately swan.
It matters little being born in a duck-yard, provided one is hatched from a swan's egg! He now blessed his former trials, which had taught him to appreciate the delights that surrounded him; while the larger swans gathered about him, and stroked him lovingly with their beaks. Just then two little children came into the garden and ran towards the canal. They threw corn and bread down to the swans.
“Oh, there is a new one!” exclaimed the smallest child, and both clapped their hands for joy; then they
ran away to call papa and mamma. So more bread and cake were thrown into the water, and all said, “ The new one is the most beautiful—so young, and so graceful!" and the old swans bowed down to their new companion.
Then the once ugly bird felt quite ashamed, and put his head under his wing; for, though happy to excess, still he was none the prouder—for a good heart is never proud. But when he compared the persecution and scorn he had endured from every body, with the flattering epithets now bestowed upon him, as the most beautiful of these beautiful birds, he stretched his graceful neck upwards, and exclaimed, in the fulness of his heart, “I never dreamt of such happiness when I used to be called an ugly duckling!"