[They all rush upon the Ugly Duckling, who escapes them, running out of the farmyard into the moor.]
TIME: the next winter.
PLACE: the Peasant’s cottage.
* * * * *
THE UGLY DUCKLING.
* * * * *
[The PEASANT enters the cottage, carrying the UGLY DUCKLING.]
PEASANT. See what I’m bringing you!
WIFE. Why, ’t is a duckling—half frozen, too!
PEASANT. I found him frozen in the pond. I had to break the ice to get him out.
ELIZABETH. Give him to me, father. I will put him behind the stove.
PEASANT (giving Duckling to Elizabeth). That’s a good child.
WIFE. Handle him tenderly, daughter.
ELIZABETH (taking off her shawl). He shall lie upon my shawl. You poor, dear, ugly little duckling!
[She places the Duckling upon the shawl behind the stove, near the CAT and HEN.]
PEASANT. ’T is the duckling I told you of!
WIFE. The one you saw on the pond yesterday?
PEASANT. Aye, and the day before, and all winter long, for that matter. Yesterday I saw him try to join the wild ducks on the river, but they drove him back to the pond.
ELIZABETH. Poor duckling! The pond was freezing then!
PEASANT (nodding). Then he tried to find a place among the rushes on the moor, but the birds drove him from there.
ELIZABETH. Why did they all treat him so, father?
PEASANT. I do not know, unless it is because he is so ugly.
WIFE. Come now to dinner, father—Elizabeth. By the time we have finished, our duckling will be warmed and awake.
[They go into the kitchen. The Duckling stirs and looks about.]
HEN. Can you lay eggs?
DUCKLING (politely). No, madam.
CAT. Can you set up your back?
DUCKLING. No, dear sir.
CAT. Can you purr?
DUCKLING (frightened). No.
HEN. Then you can’t stay here.
DUCKLING. Do not drive me out, I pray you!
CAT. Will you learn to purr?
HEN. And to lay eggs?
DUCKLING (sadly). Alas, I can do nothing but swim.
CAT. Swim! Well, I must say that is very queer.
DUCKLING. Oh, no, dear sir! It is most pleasant when the waters close over your head and you plunge to the bottom.
CAT. Plunge to the bottom, indeed! I’d never think of doing such a silly thing!
HEN. Nor I!
CAT. ’T is clear you can’t remain here.
DUCKLING. Where am I to go?
CAT. Go lie in the rushes. The birds flew south this morning.