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The ugly duckling.
From Fairy tales every child should know
Start of Story
by Hamilton Wright Mabie.
Age Rating 6 to 8.
It was so glorious out in the country; it was summer; the cornfields
were yellow, the oats were green, the hay had been put up in stacks in
the green meadows, and the stork went about on his long red legs, and
chattered Egyptian, for this was the language he had learned from his
good mother. All around the fields and meadows were great forests, and
in the midst of these forests lay deep lakes. Yes, it was right glorious
out in the country. In the midst of the sunshine there lay an old farm,
with deep canals about it, and from the wall down to the water grew
great burdocks, so high that little children could stand upright under
the loftiest of them. It was just as wild there as in the deepest wood,
and here sat a Duck upon her nest; she had to hatch her ducklings; but
she was almost tired out before the little ones came and then she so
seldom had visitors. The other ducks liked better to swim about in the
canals than to run up to sit down under a burdock, and cackle with her.
At last one egg-shell after another burst open. "Piep! piep!" it cried,
and in all the eggs there were little creatures that stuck out their
"Quack! quack!" they said; and they all came quacking out as fast as
they could, looking all round them under the green leaves; and the
mother let them look as much as they chose, for green is good for the
"How wide the world is!" said all the young ones, for they certainly had
much more room now than when they were in the eggs.
"D'ye think this is all the world?" said the mother. "That stretches far
across the other side of the garden, quite into the parson's field; but
I have never been there yet. I hope you are all together," and she stood
up. "No, I have not all. The largest egg still lies there. How long is
that to last? I am really tired of it." And she sat down again.
"Well, how goes it?" asked an old Duck who had come to pay her a visit.
"It lasts a long time with that one egg," said the Duck who sat there.
"It will not burst. Now, only look at the others; are they not the
prettiest little ducks one could possibly see? They are all like their
father. The rogue, he never comes to see me."
"Let me see the egg which will not burst," said the old visitor. "You
may be sure it is a turkey's egg. I was once cheated in that way, and
had much anxiety and trouble with the young ones, for they are afraid of
the water. Must I say it to you, I could not get them to venture in. I
quacked and I clacked, but it was no use. Let me see the egg. Yes,
that's a turkey's egg. Let it lie there, and teach the other children to
"I think I will sit on it a little longer," said the Duck. "I've sat so
long now that I can sit a few days more."
"Just as you please," said the old Duck; and she went away.
At last the great egg burst. "Piep! piep!" said the little one, and
crept forth. It was very large and very ugly. The Duck looked at it.
"It's a very large duckling," said she; "none of the others look like
that. Can it really be a turkey chick? Well, we shall soon find out. It
must go into the water, even if I have to thrust it in myself."
The next day it was bright, beautiful weather; the sun shone on all the
green trees. The Mother-Duck went down to the canal with all her family.
Splash! she jumped into the water. "Quack! quack!" she said, and one
duckling after another plunged in. The water closed over their heads,
but they came up in an instant, and swam capitally; their legs went of
themselves, and they were all in the water. The ugly gray Duckling swam
"No, it's not a turkey," said she; "look how well it can use its legs,
and how straight it holds itself. It is my own child! On the whole it's
quite pretty, if one looks at it rightly. Quack! quack! come with me,
and I'll lead you out into the great world, and present you in the
duck-yard; but keep close to me, so that no one may tread on you, and
take care of the cats!"
And so they came into the duck-yard. There was a terrible riot going on
in there, for two families were quarrelling about an eel's head, and the
cat got it after all.
"See, that's how it goes in the world!" said the Mother-Duck; and she
whetted her beak, for she too wanted the eel's head. "Only use your
legs," she said. "See that you can bustle about, and bow your heads
before the old Duck yonder. She's the grandest of all here; she's of
Spanish blood--that's why she's so fat; and d'ye see? she has a red rag
round her leg; that's something particularly fine, and the greatest
distinction a duck can enjoy; it signifies that one does not want to
lose her, and that she's to be known by the animals and by men too.
Shake yourselves--don't turn in your toes; a well brought-up duck turns
its toes quite out, just like father and mother--so! Now bend your necks
and say 'Quack!'"
And they did so: but the other ducks round about looked at them, and
said quite boldly:
"Look there! now we're to have these hanging on, as if there were not
enough of us already! And--fie!--how that duckling yonder looks; we
won't stand that!" And one duck flew up at it, and bit it in the neck.
"Let it alone," said the mother; "it does no harm to any one."
"Yes, but it's too large and peculiar," said the Duck who had bitten it;
"and therefore it must be put down."
"Those are pretty children that the mother has there," said the old Duck
with the rag round her leg. "They're all pretty but that one; that was
rather unlucky. I wish she could bear it over again."