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THE DUCKLING WHO DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO
UACK! Quack!" called the Duck who had been sitting on her
nest so long. "My first
egg is cracked, and I can see the broad yellow bill of
my eldest child. Ah! Now I
can see his downy white head." The Drake heard her and
quacked the news to every
one around, and flapped his wings, and preened his
feathers, for was not this the
first Duckling ever hatched on the farm?
The Drake had not been there long himself. It was only
a few days before the Duck
began sitting that she and her five sisters had come
with him to this place. It had
not taken them long to become acquainted with the other
 people, and
all had been kind to them. The Geese had rather put on
airs, at first, because they
were bigger and had longer legs, but the Ducks and
Drake were too wise to notice
this in any way, and before long the Geese were as
friendly as possible. They would
have shown the Ducks the way to the water if it had
been necessary, but it was not,
for the Ducks always know without being told just where
to find it. They know, and
they do not know why they know. It is one of the
things that are.
Now that the first Duckling had chipped the shell,
everybody wanted to see him, and
there was soon a crowd of fowls around the nest
watching him free himself from it.
The Drake stood by, as proud as a Peacock. "I think he
looks much like his mother,"
"Yes, yes," cackled all the Hens. "The same broad
yellow bill, the same short
yellow legs, and the same webbed feet."
 The mother Duck smiled. "He looks more like me
now than he will by and by,"
she said, "for when his feathers grow and cover the
down, he will have a stiff
little one curled up on his back like the Drake's. And
really, except for the
curled feather, his father and I look very much alike."
"That is so," said the Black Spanish Cock. "You do
look alike; the same white
feathers, the same broad breast, the same strong wings,
the same pointed tail, the
same long neck, the same sweet expression around the
bill!" That was just like the
Black Spanish Cock. He always said something pleasant
about people when he could,
and it was much better than saying unpleasant things.
Indeed, he was the most
polite fowl in the poultry-yard, and the Black Spanish
Hen thought his manners quite
Then the Duckling's five aunts pushed their way through
the crowd to the nest under
the edge of the strawstack. "Have
 you noticed
what fine large feet he has?"
said one of them. "That is like his mother's people.
See what a strong web is
between the tree long toes on each foot! He will be a
good swimmer. The one toe
that points backward is small, to be sure, but he does
not need that in swimming.
That is only to make waddling easier."
"Yes, yes," "A fine web," and "Very large feet," cried
the fowls around the nest,
but most of them didn't care so much about the size of
his feet as the Ducks did.
Large feet are always useful, you know, yet nobody
needs them so badly as Geese and
Ducks. The Geese were off swimming, and so could not
see the Duckling when
first he came out of the shell.
"Tap-tap, tap-tap," sounded inside another shell, and
they knew that there would
soon be a second damp little Duckling beside the first.
The visitors could
stay to see this one come out, and they went away for a
time. The eldest Duckling
had supposed that this was life, to have people around
saying, "How bright he is!"
"What fine legs!" or "He has a beautiful bill!" And
now that they all walked away
and his mother was looking after the Duckling who was
just breaking her shell, he
didn't like it—he
didn't like it at all.
Still, it was much better so. If he had had no
brothers and sisters, he would have
been a lonely little fellow; besides, he would have had
his own way nearly all the
time, and that is likely to make any Duckling selfish.
Then, too, if all the other
fowls had petted him and given him the best of
everything, he would have become
vain. Truly, it was a good thing for him not to be the
only child, and he soon
learned to think so.
After there were two Ducklings, a third one came, and a
fourth, and a fifth, and
 so on until, when the broken shells were cleared
away and the mother had
counted bills, she could call to the Drake and her
sisters, "Nine Ducklings hatched,
and there were only nine eggs in the nest."
"Then come to the brook," said the Drake, "and let the
children have a bath. I have
been swimming a great many times to-day, and they have
not even set foot in water
yet. Why, our eldest son was out of his shell before
the Horses were harnessed this
morning, and here it is nearly time for their supper."
"I couldn't help it," said the mother Duck. "I
couldn't leave the nest to take
him swimming until the rest were ready to go. I am
doing the best I can."
"I didn't mean to find fault," said the Drake, "and I
suppose you couldn't get
away, but we know that Ducklings should be taught to
bathe often, and there is
nothing like beginning in time."
"I might have taken some of them to
 the brook,"
said one of the aunts. The
mother straightened her neck and held her head very
high, while she answered, "You?
You are very kind, but what do you know about bringing
Now the aunt might have said, "I know just about as
much as you do," for it was the
young mother's first brood, yet she kept still. She
thought, "I may hatch Ducklings
of my own some day, and then I suppose I shall want to
care for them myself."
"Wait," said the Drake, as they reached the brook.
"Let us wait and see what the
children will do." The words were hardly out of his
when—flutter—splash—splash!—there were nine
yellow-white Ducklings floating on the
brook and murmuring happily to each other as though
they had never done anything
The Dorking Cock stood on the bank. "Who taught them
to swim?" said he.
"Nobody," answered their mother
 proudly. "They
knew without being told. That
is the way a Duck takes to water." And she gave a
dainty lurch and was among her
"Well!" exclaimed the Dorking Cock. "I thought the
little Dorkings were as bright
as children could be, but they didn't know as much as
that. I must tell them." He
stalked off, talking under his breath.
"They know more than that," said the Drake. "Did you
see how they ran ahead of us
when we stopped to talk? They knew where to find water
as soon as they were out of
the shell. Still, the Cock might not have believed
that if I had told him."
THEY HAD A GOOD SWIM.
They had a good swim, and then all stood on the bank
and dried themselves. This
they did by squeezing the water out of their down with
their bills. The Drake, the
mother Duck, the five aunts, and the nine Ducklings all
stood as tall and straight
as they could, and turned and twisted their
necks, and flapped their
wings, and squeezed their down, and murmured to each
other. And their father didn't tell
the little ones how, and their mother didn't tell
them how, and their five
aunts didn't tell them how, but they knew without
The Ducklings grew fast, and made friends of all the
farmyard people. Early every
morning they went to the brook. They learned to follow
the brook to the river, and
here were wonderful things to be seen. There was
plenty to eat, too, in the soft
mud under the water, and it was easy enough to dive to
it, or to reach down their
long necks while only their pointed tails and part of
their body could be seen above
the water. Not that they ate the mud. They kept only
the food that they found in
it, and then let the mud slip out between the rough
edges of their bills. They swam
and ate all day, and slept all night, and were dutiful
Duck-  lings who minded
their mother, so it was not strange that they were
plump and happy.
At last there came a morning when the eldest Duckling
could not go to the brook with
the others. A Weasel had bitten him in the night, and
if it had not been for his
mother and the Drake, would have carried him away. The
rest had to go in swimming,
and his lame leg would not let him waddle as far as the
brook, or swim after he got
"I don't know what to do," he said to his mother. "I
can't swim and I can't waddle
far, and I've eaten so much already that I can't eat
anything more for a long, long
"You might play with the little Shanghais," said his
"They run around too much," he replied. "I can't keep
up with them."
"Then why not lie near the corn crib and visit with the
 "Oh, they don't like the things that I like, and
it isn't any fun."
"How would it suit you to watch the Peacock for a
"I'm tired of watching the Peacock."
"Then," said the mother, "you must help somebody else.
You are old enough to think
of such things now, and you must remember this wise
saying: 'When you don't know
what to do, help somebody.' "
"Whom can I help?" said the lame Duckling. "People can
all do things for themselves."
"There is the Blind Horse," answered his mother. "He
is alone to-day, and I'm sure
he would like somebody to visit him."
"Quack!" said the Duckling. "I will go to see him."
He waddled slowly away,
stopping now and then to rest, and shaking his little
pointed tail from side to side
as Ducks do. The Blind Horse was grazing in the
 "I've come to see you, sir," said the Duckling.
"Shall I be in your way?"
The Blind Horse looked much pleased. "I think from
your voice that you must be one
of the young Ducks," said he. "I shall be very glad to
have you visit me, only you
must be careful to keep away from my feet, for I can't
see, and I might step on
"I'll be careful," said the Duckling. "I can't waddle
much anyway this morning,
because my leg hurts me so."
"Why, I'm sorry you are lame," said the Horse. "What
is the matter?"
"A Weasel bit me in the night, sir. But it doesn't hurt
so much as it did before I
came to see you. Perhaps the pasture is a better place
for lame legs that the
farmyard." He didn't know that it was because he was
trying to make somebody else
happy that he felt so much better, yet that was the
The Blind Horse and the Duckling
be-  came very
fond of each other and had a
fine time. The Horse told stories of his Colthood, and
of the things he had seen in
his travels before he became blind. And the Duckling
told him what the other
farmyard people were doing, and about the soft, fleecy
clouds that drifted across
the blue sky. When the mother Duck came to look for
him, the little fellow was much
surprised. "Didn't you go to the brook?" he asked.
"Yes," said his mother, with a smile. "We have been
there all the morning. Don't
you see how high the sun is?"
"Why-ee!" said the Duckling. "I didn't think I had
been here long at all. We've been
having the nicest time. And I'm coming again, am
I not?" He asked this
question of the Blind Horse.
"I wish you would come often," answered the Blind
Horse. "You have given me a very
pleasant morning. Good-bye!"
 The mother Duck and her son waddled off together.
"How is your leg?" said she.
"I forgot all about it until I began to walk," answered
the Duckling. "Isn't that
"Not at all," said his mother. "It was because you
were making somebody else happy.
'When you don't know what to do, help somebody.' "