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THE UGLY DUCKLING
Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen by Charles Eliot Norton. "Heart of Oak," Book III. D. C. Heath & Co.
 IT was lovely summer weather in the country, and the
golden corn, the green oats, and the haystacks in the
meadows looked beautiful. On a sunny slope stood a
pleasant old farmhouse, and close by, under some
burdock leaves on a river bank, sat a mother duck on
her nest, waiting for her eggs to hatch.
At length, one shell cracked and then another, and from
each egg came a little duck, crying: "Peep! Peep!"
"Quack, quack!" said the mother duck, and they all
quacked as well as they could, and looked about at the
large, green leaves.
"How big the world is!" said the young ducks.
"Do you imagine this is the whole world?" asked the
mother. "Wait till you see the garden! Are you all
out?" she continued, rising. "No; I declare the
biggest egg is here still," and she seated herself
again upon her nest.
"How are you getting on?" asked an old duck who paid
her a visit. "Let me see the egg that will not hatch.
I have no doubt it is a turkey's egg. I hatched some,
once, and the young ones would not go into the water.
Take my advice and leave the egg where it is."
"I think I will sit upon it a little longer," said the
"Please yourself," said the old duck.
At last the large egg was hatched, and a young one
crept out, crying: "Peep, peep!" It was very large
and ugly—quite different from the rest. The duck
 stared at it. "I wonder if it is a turkey," she said.
"It shall go in the water, if I have to push it in."
The next day the sun shone brightly on the burdock
leaves, and the mother duck took her brood to the water
and jumped in. The little ducks swam about her quite
prettily, and the ugly duckling swam by himself.
"He is not a turkey," said the mother duck. "How well
he uses his legs! Quack, quack! Come to the barnyard
The little ducks did as they were bid, and they soon
got to feel at home in the barnyard, but the poor ugly
duckling grew, each day, more awkward. He was bitten
and pushed and made fun of by the big ducks and all the
poultry. "He is too big," they said. The turkey cock,
who fancied himself an emperor, because of his spurs,
flew at him, quite red in the head with rage. Even his
brothers and sisters drove him about; the chickens beat
him, and the girl who fed the poultry kicked him. His
mother told him she wished he had never been hatched;
so, one day, he ran away, frightening the little birds
in the hedge as he flew over.
"They are afraid of me because I am so ugly," he said,
as he flew farther and came out on a large moor where
the wild ducks lived.
"What sort of a duck are you?" asked the wild ducks,
coming round him.
The ugly duckling bowed as politely as he could, but he
felt very sad, and he did not reply.
"You are exceedingly ugly," said the wild ducks; "but
that will not matter if you do not marry into our
After a day or so, some men came to the moor to
 shoot the birds there. Oh, how terrified the poor
duckling was! He hid himself and lay quite still;
then, looking carefully about him, he ran over field
and meadow away from the moor. A storm arose, but,
toward night, he reached a poor little cottage. He was
too tired to go any farther, and he slipped through a
hole under the door, and found a shelter for the night.
A woman, a tom-cat, and a hen lived in the cottage.
The tom-cat could raise his back, and purr, and throw
out sparks when he was stroked the wrong way. The hen,
who was called Chickie Shortlegs, could lay very good
eggs. In the morning the duckling was discovered, and
the tom-cat began to purr, and the hen to cluck.
"What a prize!" said the old woman. "Now we shall have
some duck-eggs." So they allowed him to remain for
three days on trial, but there were no eggs.
"Can you not lay eggs?" asked the hen. "Because if you
can't, have the goodness to hold your tongue."
"Can you raise your back, and purr, and throw out
sparks?" asked the tom-cat. "No? Then don't talk
when sensible people are speaking."
So the duckling sat in the corner, feeling very
low-spirited, till the sunshine and the fresh air came
into the room through the open door, and he began to
have such a great longing to swim that he had to tell
the hen. "I believe I must go out into the world
again," said the duckling.
"Do go!" said the hen. So the duckling left the
cottage, and found a place where he could swim and
dive; but no other creature came near him, because he
was so ugly.
Autumn came, and the leaves turned red and gold.
 Winter approached, and the clouds hung low in the
sky—full of snowflakes; the raven stood in the ferns,
crying: "Croak, croak." All this was very sad for the
poor little duckling. One evening, just as the sun
set, a flock of beautiful birds flew out of the bushes.
They were swans, and they gave a strange cry as they
spread their glorious wings, and flew toward the warm
countries across the sea.
The little ugly duckling uttered a strange cry, too, as
he saw them. Could he ever be as lovely as they? When
they were out of sight, he dived under the water in
excitement; but the weather grew colder and colder, and
at last he was not able to paddle with his legs. He
froze fast in the ice.
A peasant found him one morning and broke the ice, and
took the duckling home to his wife. The warmth revived
him, but the children wished to play with him, which
frightened him. He started up in terror, fluttered into
the milkpan, and splashed the milk all over the floor.
He flew into the butter cask and into the meal tub, and
out again. What a condition he was in! The children
tried to catch him, the woman chased him with the
fire-tongs, but he slipped out through the open door
and laid himself down in the newly fallen snow.
So, all winter, he was cold and hungry, and sad; but
one morning he knew that it was spring, for the warm
sun was shining upon him, and he lay in the moor among
The lark was singing, and the duckling felt that his
wings were strong; so he flapped them against his sides
and flew high into the air. He flew to a large garden,
where the elder trees bent their green branches down to
a stream which wound about the
 lawn. From a
thicket came three beautiful swans. The duckling
"I will fly to those royal birds," he said. "They will
kill me for being so ugly, but that will not matter."
Then he flew toward the beautiful swans. As soon as
they saw him they rushed to meet him with outstretched
"Kill me!" said the poor duckling; but what did he see
reflected in the water, as he bent his head? His own
image—not a dark, gray bird, ugly to see—but a graceful
swan; and the great swans swam round him,
and stroked his neck with their beaks for a welcome!
Some little children came into the garden. "See!" they
cried, clapping their hands. "A new swan has come, and
he is more beautiful than any of the others!" And the
old swans bowed their heads before him.
Then he felt quite ashamed and hid his head under his
wing, thinking how he had once been so ugly. But the
elder tree bent its boughs into the water before him,
and the sun shone warm and bright. So he rustled his
feathers, and curved his slender neck, and thought how
wonderful it all was—that a poor little ugly duckling
could be changed into a beautiful swan.