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IT was glorious out in the country. It was summer,and the cornfields were yellow, and 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 language he had learned from his mother. All around the fields and meadows were great forests, and in the midst of these forests lay deep lakes.Yes, it was really glorious out in the country. In the midst of the sunshine there lay an old manor, surrounded by deep canals, 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. Here sat a Duck upon her nest, for she had to hatch her young ones; 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 gossip 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 heads.

“Rap ! rap! ”she said; and they all came rapping 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 eyes.

“How wide the world is!”said the young ones, for they certainly had much more room now than when they were in the eggs.

“Do you think this is all the world?” asked the mother. “That extends 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,” she continued,and 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 ducklings one could possibly see? They are all like their father: the bad fellow never comes to see me.”

“Let me see the egg which will not burst,” said the old visitor. “Believe me, 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. I could not get them to venture in. I quacked and clucked, 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 swim.”

“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? Now we shall soon find it out. It must go into the water, even if I have to kick it in myself.”

The next day the weather was splendidly bright, and the sun shone on all the green burdocks. The Mother-Duck went down to the water with all her little ones. 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 there they were all in the water. The ugly grey Duckling swam with them.

“No, it's not a turkey, ” said she, “look how well it can use its legs, and how upright 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 poultryyard; but keep close to me, so that no one may tread on you, and take care of the cat!”

And so they came into the poultry-yard. There was a terrible riot going on 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 do you 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 recognized by man and beast. 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 ‘Rap!’”

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 him!”And one duck flew up immediately, 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 buffeted.”

“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 a failure. I wish she could alter it.”

“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; 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 will make his way all right.”

“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 at, 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 scoffed at by the whole 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; thus it came out into the great moor, where the wild ducks lived. Here it lay the whole night long; and it was weary and downcast.

Towards morning the wild ducks flew up, and looked at their new companion.

“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 very indifferent 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 became 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 are!”

“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 whole flocks of wild geese rose up from the reeds. And then there was another report. A great hunt was going on.The hunters 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 ree............

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