It was summertime. There was a garden near an old house. There were many trees there, and among them a duck made her nest. She was sitting on her eggs for a very long time.
At last the eggs began to crack, and one little head after another looked out.
“Quack, quack!” said the duck and looked at her family. “Are you all here? No, the largest egg is still in the nest. How long! I am so tired.” And then she sat down again. The great egg burst at last. “Peep, peep”, said the little duckling. The mother-duck looked at him. How large, strong and ugly he was! He was not like the others.
Next day the mother-duck with her family went down to the river. Splash! She went into the water and all the duckling went after her. All swam quite easily.
“Quack, quack!” said the mother-duck, “now come with me”.
They went to to the duckyard where many other ducks were. They looked at all the ducklings and said:
“Oh, see, how ugly that one is”, and all at once of the ducks came up to him and bit him.
“Don’t bite him. He is ugly but he is a very good child and swims very well. He is very strong”.
So they lived. The poor duckling was very sorry because everybody bit him, even his brothers and sisters.
One day he decided to run away. The duckling came to a place where there lived some wild ducks. There he lay the whole night. In the morning the wild ducks came up to him and asked: “Who are you?” The poor duckling greeted them and told them about himself.
“Yes, you are very ugly”, said the wild ducks, “but you can live with us”.
There he stayed for teo whole days. These were happy days for him. On the third day there came a great shooting party with the dogs. The men shot and some ducks lay dead. How frightened the poor little duck was!
He was lying in the grass when a large dog passed near him.
He turned away his head and tried to hued it under his wing. He was afraid to move. The dog didn’t bite him.
“I am so ugly”, thought the poor duckling, “that even a dog didn’t want to bite me”. He waited for some hours before he looked round and then ran away as fast as he could. In the evening the poor little duckling came to a house where there lived an old woman with her cat and her hen. As the day was very cold he went into the house. Nobody saw him at first. Next day the cat began to mew when she saw the new guest. “What is that?” asked the old woman and looked round. She saw the duck but as her eyes were not good, she thought he was a fat duck.
“Now I can have duck’s eggs”, said the old woman.
So the duckling stayed there, but not for a very long time. Once he was sitting in a corner when he left the fresh air which came into the room through the open door. The poor duckling wanted to swim very much. He told the cat and the hen about it. But they couldn’t understand him, they laughed at him.
“Lay eggs”, said the hen.
“Catch mice”, said the cat.
“Are you not in a warm room? Was the old woman not kind to you?” asked the hen.
“You don’t understand me”, said the duckling, “I want to go out into the fresh air”. And he left the room. Soon he found water and swam among the reeds. But all other animals passed him by and nobody noticed him because the duckling was so ugly.
The autumn came. The leaves turned yellow and brown. The air was cold. One evening many large birds rose from the wood. They were so beautifull. They were white and had long necks. They were big swans.
They flew away from these cold places to warmer countries across the sea. They flew so high, so very high!