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grey king.

From The suns babies by Edith Howes.
Age Rating 2 to 4.

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The Pigeons left their house and flew out for their morning exercise. Up and down, and round and round, they went in a flock. "Follow me," called the leader. "Fly fast and swoop!" The white of their under-wings flashed as they passed, and they made a soft, silken rustle as they skimmed lightly through the air. It was beautiful to watch them. But Grey-King sat on top of the house, and would not exercise. He was the swiftest flyer amongst them, and had won so many races that he had grown conceited. "No," he said, "I am going to rest. I can easily beat you all without any practice." "But the great race of the year is to come off in a fortnight," said the others. "Pigeons from all the country-side will be flying. Think what a disappointment it would be to everyone if a stranger won! We look to you to uphold the honour of our house." Grey-King only laughed. "Haven't I won every race for years?" he asked. "The honour of our house is safe, for no stranger can beat me." He turned himself round and round in the sunshine, fluffed out his grey feathers proudly, and sat down on the housetop again. Every day while the others exercised he sat there, watching their movements and giving them plenty of good advice, but feeling quite certain that he had no need to join them.

The day before the great race the pigeons were all put into their boxes and sent away by train to their starting-point. "Grey-King is sure to win, I suppose," said a friend to the master as he helped him place the pigeons in their boxes. "I thought so till a fortnight ago," said the master; "but he has not been exercising lately. I cannot understand what is the matter with him, but I am afraid he has no chance of winning." He did not know that Grey-King's only ailment was conceit. Grey-King was angry. "How absurd to say I have no chance!" he thought. "I'll show him how superior I am when I start. I feel quite upset." He fussed and fumed for a long time in his box before he could settle down to the train journey; when they were set free the next day he started off for home with a great sweep of wings to show how well he could fly. He was soon ahead of all the rest. But there was a head wind, and he had grown fatter and heavier with sitting about so much; his muscles were soft from want of exercise. Soon he began to tire and to fly more and more slowly. One by one the others passed him; and the race was won by a stranger. Grey-King came home last, tired out and utterly ashamed. "I will never again be too proud to exercise," he thought. "It serves me right."


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