Abbildungen der Seite

harm; so he started up in terror, fluttered into the milk-pan, and splashed the milk about the room. Then the woman clapped her hands, which frightened him still more. He flew first into the butter-cask, then into the meal-tub, and out again. What a condition he was in! The woman screamed and struck at him with the tongs; and the children laughed and screamed, and tumbled over each other, in their efforts to catch him; but luckily he escaped. The door stood open; the poor creature could just manage to slip out among the bushes, and lie down quite exhausted in the newlyfallen snow.

It would be very sad, were I to relate all the misery and privations which the poor little duckling endured during the hard winter; but when it had passed he found himself lying one morning in a moor, amongst the rushes. He felt the warm sun shining, and heard the lark singing, and saw that all around was beautiful spring

Then the young bird felt that his wings were strong, as he flapped them against his sides, and rose high into the air. They bore him onwards until he found himself in a large garden, before he well knew how it had happened. The apple trees were in full blossom, and the fragrant elders bent their long green branches down to the stream which wound round a smooth lawn. Everything looked beautiful in the freshness of early spring. From a thicket close by came three beautiful white swans, rustling their feathers, and swimming lightly over the smooth water. The duckling remembered the lovely birds, and felt more strangely unhappy than ever,

“I will fly to these royal birds," he exclaimed, “and they will kill me because, ugly as I am, I dare to approach them. But it does not matter; better be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter.”

Then he flew to the water, and swam towards the beautiful swans. The moment they espied the stranger, they rushed to meet him with outstretched wings.

“Kill me," said the poor bird; and he bent his head down to the surface of the water, and awaited death.

But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan.

To be born in a duck's nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it be hatched from a swan's egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam around the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.

Into the garden presently came some little children, and threw bread and cake into the water.

"See," cried the youngest, "there is a new one;" and the rest were delighted, and ran to their father and mother, dancing and clapping their hands, and shouting joyously, “There is another swan come; a new one has arrived.'

Then they threw more bread and cake into the water and said, “The new one is the most beautiful of all;

he is so young and pretty.” And the old swans bowed their heads before him.

Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his wing; for he did not know what to do, he was so happy; yet he was not at all proud. He had been persecuted and despised for his ugliness, and now he heard them say he was the most beautiful of all the birds. Even the elder-tree bent down its boughs into the water before him, and the sun shone warm and bright, Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was the despised ugly duckling.”

What Robin Told.*

[ocr errors]

OW do the robins build their nests?

Robin Redbreast told me.
First a wisp of yellow hay
In a pretty round they lay;
Then some shreds of downy floss,
Feathers, too, and bits of moss,
Woven with a sweet, sweet song,
This way, that way, and across;

That's what Robin told me.

Where do the robins hide their nest?

Robin Redbreast told me.
Up among the leaves so deep,
Where the sunbeams rarely creep.
Long before the winds are cold,
Long before the leaves are gold,
Bright-eyed stars will peep and see
Baby-robins-one, two, three!

That's what Robin told me.

* From Harper's Second Reader, by permission of American Book Co.

The Story of a Bird.*

BUILT me a nest

In the old oak-tree-
As pretty a nest

As ever could be.
I wove it with threads

To the oak-tree bough;
And the three little birdies

Are sleeping there now.
One day as I sang

My “Cheer-up, chee, chee,”
A spry little squirrel

Sprang up in the tree.
I thought he was coming

Right up on the bough-
It makes my heart tremble

To think of it now.

I flew like an eagle

Right down through the air;
And soon he was running,

He did not know where.
I pecked him, and pecked him,

And flew in his track;
He will be in no haste,

I think, to come back.
* From Harper's Second Reader, by permission of American
Book Co.

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »