THE UGLY DUCKLING
prize !' she said. ' Now I shall have duck's eggs. I hope it is not a drake. We must try that.'
And so the Duckling was admitted on trial for three weeks ; but no eggs came. And the Tom Cat was master of the house, and the Hen was the lady, and always said ' We and the world !' for they thought they were half the world, and by far the better half. The Duckling thought one might have a different opinion, but the Hen would not allow it.
' Can you lay eggs ? ' she asked.
' Then you'll have the goodness to hold your tongue.'
And the Tom Cat said, ' Can you curve your back, and purr, and give out sparks ? '
1 Then you cannot have any opinion of your own when sensible people are speaking.'
And the Duckling sat in a corner and was melancholy ; then the fresh air and the sunshine streamed in ; and it was seized with such a strange longing to swim on the water, that it could not help telling the Hen of it.
' What are you thinking of ? ' cried the Hen. ' You have nothing to do, that's why you have these fancies. Purr or lay eggs, and they will pass over.'
' But it is so charming to swim on the water !' said the Duckling, ' so refreshing to let it close above one's head, and to dive down to the bottom.'
; Yes, that must be a mighty pleasure truly,' quoth the Hen. ' I fancy you must have gone crazy. Ask the Cat about it,—he's the cleverest animal I know,—ask him if he likes to swim on the water, or to dive down : I won't speak about myself. Ask our mistress, the old woman; no one in the world is cleverer than she. Do you think she has any desire to swim, and to let the water close above her head ? '
You don't understand me,' said the Duckling.
' We don't understand you ? Then pray who is to understand you ? You surely don't pretend to be cleverer than the Tom Cat and the woman—I won't say anything of myself. Don't be conceited, child, and be grateful for all the kindness you have received. Did you not get into