“Well, how goes it?” asked an old Duck who had come to pay her a visit.
“It lasts a long time with that one egg,” said the Duck who sat there. “It will not burst. Now, only look at the others; are they not the prettiest little ducks one could possibly see? They are all like their father. The rogue, he never comes to see me.”
“Let me see the egg which will not burst,” said the old visitor. “You may be sure it is a turkey’s egg. I was once cheated in that way, and had much anxiety and trouble with the young ones, for they are afraid of the water. Must I say it to you, I could not get them to venture in. I quacked and I clacked, but it was no use. Let me see the egg. Yes, that’s a turkey’s egg. Let it lie there, and teach the other children to swim.”
“I think I will sit on it a little longer,” said the Duck. “I’ve sat so long now that I can sit a few days more.”
“Just as you please,” said the old Duck; and she went away.
At last the great egg burst. “Piep! piep!” said the little one, and crept forth. It was very large and very ugly. The Duck looked at it.
“It’s a very large duckling,” said she; “none of the others look like that. Can it really be a turkey chick? Well, we shall soon find out. It must go into the water, even if I have to thrust it in myself.”
The next day it was bright, beautiful weather; the sun shone on all the green trees. The Mother-Duck went down to the canal with all her family. Splash! she jumped into the water. “Quack! quack!” she said, and one duckling after another plunged in. The water closed over their heads, but they came up in an instant, and swam capitally; their legs went of themselves, and they were all in the water. The ugly gray Duckling swam with them.
“No, it’s not a turkey,” said she; “look how well it can use its legs, and how straight it holds itself. It is my own child! On the whole it’s quite pretty, if one looks at it rightly. Quack! quack! come with me, and I’ll lead you out into the great world, and present you in the duck-yard; but keep close to me, so that no one may tread on you, and take care of the cats!”
And so they came into the duck-yard. There was a terrible riot going on in there, for two families were quarrelling about an eel’s head, and the cat got it after all.
“See, that’s how it goes in the world!” said the Mother-Duck; and she whetted her beak, for she too wanted the eel’s head. “Only use your legs,” she said. “See that you can bustle about, and bow your heads before the old Duck yonder. She’s the grandest of all here; she’s of Spanish blood—that’s why she’s so fat; and d’ye see? she has a red rag round her leg; that’s something particularly fine, and the greatest distinction a duck can enjoy; it signifies that one does not want to lose her, and that she’s to be known by the animals and by men too. Shake yourselves—don’t turn in your toes; a well brought-up duck turns its toes quite out, just like father and mother—so! Now bend your necks and say ‘Quack!’”