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The ugly duckling.
Start of Story
"That cannot be done, my lady," replied the Mother-Duck. "It is not
pretty, but it has a really good disposition, and swims as well as any
other; yes, I may even say it, swims better. I think it will grow up
pretty, and become smaller in time; it has lain too long in the egg, and
therefore is not properly shaped." And then she pinched it in the neck,
and smoothed its feathers. "Moreover, it is a drake," she said, "and
therefore it is not of so much consequence. I think he will be very
strong. He makes his way already."
"The other ducklings are graceful enough," said the old Duck. "Make
yourself at home; and if you find an eel's head, you may bring it me."
And now they were at home. But the poor Duckling which had crept last
out of the egg, and looked so ugly, was bitten and pushed and jeered, as
much by the ducks as by the chickens.
"It is too big!" they all said. And the turkey-cock, who had been born
with spurs, and therefore thought himself an emperor, blew himself up
like a ship in full sail, and bore straight down upon it; then he
gobbled and grew quite red in the face. The poor Duckling did not know
where it should stand or walk; it was quite melancholy because it looked
ugly, and was the butt of the whole duck-yard.
So it went on the first day; and afterwards it became worse and worse.
The poor Duckling was hunted about by every one; even its brothers and
sisters were quite angry with it, and said, "If the cat would only catch
you, you ugly creature!" And the mother said, "If you were only far
away!" And the ducks bit it, and the chickens beat it, and the girl who
had to feed the poultry kicked at it with her foot.
Then it ran and flew over the fence, and the little birds in the bushes
flew up in fear.
"That is because I am so ugly!" thought the Duckling; and it shut its
eyes, but flew on farther, and so it came out into the great moor, where
the wild ducks lived. Here it lay the whole night long; and it was weary
Towards morning the wild ducks flew up, and looked at their new
"What sort of a one are you?" they asked; and the Duckling turned in
every direction, and bowed as well as it could. "You are remarkably
ugly!" said the Wild Ducks. "But that is nothing to us, so long as you
do not marry into our family."
Poor thing! it certainly did not think of marrying, and only hoped to
obtain leave to lie among the reeds and drink some of the swamp water.
Thus it lay two whole days; then came thither two wild geese, or,
properly speaking, two wild ganders. It was not long since each had
crept out of an egg, and that's why they were so saucy.
"Listen, comrade," said one of them. "You're so ugly that I like you.
Will you go with us, and become a bird of passage? Near here, in another
moor, there are a few sweet lovely wild geese, all unmarried, and all
able to say 'Rap!' You've a chance of making your fortune, ugly as you
"Piff! paff!" resounded through the air; and the two ganders fell down
dead in the swamp, and the water became blood red. "Piff! paff!" it
sounded again, and the whole flock of wild geese rose up from the reeds.
And then there was another report. A great hunt was going on. The
sportsmen were lying in wait all round the moor, and some were even
sitting up in the branches of the trees, which spread far over the
reeds. The blue smoke rose up like clouds among the dark trees, and was
wafted far away across the water; and the hunting dogs came--splash,
splash!--into the swamp, and the rushes and the reeds bent down on every
side. That was a fright for the poor Duckling! It turned its head, and
put it under its wing; but at that moment a frightful great dog stood
close by the Duckling. His tongue hung far out of his mouth, and his
eyes gleamed horrible and ugly; he thrust out his nose close against the
Duckling, showed his sharp teeth, and--splash, splash!--on he went,
without seizing it.
"Oh, Heaven be thanked!" sighed the Duckling. "I am so ugly that even
the dog does not like to bite me!"
And so it lay quite quiet, while the shots rattled through the reeds and
gun after gun was fired. At last, late in the day, all was still; but
the poor Duckling did not dare to rise up; it waited several hours
before it looked round, and then hastened away out of the moor as fast
as it could. It ran on over field and meadow; there was such a storm
raging that it was difficult to get from one place to another.
Towards evening the Duck came to a little miserable peasant's hut. This
hut was so dilapidated that it did not itself know on which side it
should fall; and that's why it remained standing. The storm whistled
round the Duckling in such a way that the poor creature was obliged to
sit down, to stand against it; and the wind blew worse and worse. Then
the Duckling noticed that one of the hinges of the door had given way,
and the door hung so slanting that the Duckling could slip through the
crack into the room; and that is what it did.
Here lived a woman, with her Cat and her Hen. And the Cat, whom she
called Sonnie, could arch his back and purr, he could even give out
sparks; but to make him do it one had to stroke his fur the wrong way.
The Hen had quite little, short legs, and therefore she was called
Chickabiddy Short-shanks. She laid good eggs, and the woman loved her
like her own child.
In the morning the strange Duckling was at once noticed, and the Cat
began to purr and the Hen to cluck.
"What's this?" said the woman, and looked all round; but she could not
see well, and therefore she thought the Duckling was a fat duck that had
strayed. "This is a rare prize!" she said. "Now I shall have duck's
eggs. I hope it is not a drake. We must try that."
And so the Duckling was admitted on trial for three weeks; but no eggs
came. And the Cat was master of the House, and the Hen was the lady, and
always said, "We and the world!" for she thought they were half the
world, and by far the better half.
The Duckling thought one might have a different opinion, but the Hen
would not allow it.
"Can you lay eggs?" she asked.