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The Ugly Duckling


 Once, living on a large pond surrounded on one side by trees and on the other, by fields, lived a flock of ducks. Perhaps they were all related, but perhaps not, because sometimes a handsome or occasionally not too handsome, stranger would pass by in the spring and stay for a few days. By and large the drakes were pleasing to the eye. They kept themselves well-groomed, but some were quite vain and conceited. There was much preening and bragging and, I am afraid to say, the occasional brawl. The women-folk pretended to take no notice of all this, as women-folk do, but really they thought that it was all rather fine, if perhaps a little foolish.

 Of course, in the nature of things, not all of the birds were well-favoured. Some were really quite ordinary, and it is with one of these that our story starts. His family lived on the very edge of the pond where the mud was thick and the water shallow. In many ways this was ideal for duck life, but in just one respect it was not, for it was here that foxes, or occasionally, cats (who really do not like water very much) could most easily steal the young ducklings. It was not a good place for a nest, but it was all that his parents could get at the time. He was not ugly. If you had to find a word for it, you would call him plain. He grew up to lead an ordinary life, but one without any real high points, because he could not make up in bravery or strength for what he lacked in looks. As a result he married a duck who was almost as plain as he was and they built a nest not far from his parents place. It is well-known that plain parents can have handsome children, but equally well-known that the offspring way be one step even further down the road than their parents, and this is precisely what happened here.

 Spring came and with much quacking and jostling, the ducks went about the business of courtship and nesting. Then it was all excitement. The eggs started to hatch and the young ducklings were on display. The big day was when the little flotilla first set out from the nest, guided by their anxious parents. They had good reason for fear because some drakes, especially when they were out alone, could treat any duckling, who happened to be separated its parents, in a most cruel way. Here, however, it was peaceful. Our duck family set out on their way with a look of purpose as though they knew where they were going and had a very clear idea of what they were going to do there.