248 THE UGLY DUCKLING
And the winter grew cold, very cold ! The Duckling was forced to swim about in the water, to prevent the surface from freezing entirely ; but every night the hole in which it swam about became smaller and smaller. It froze so hard that the icy covering crackled again; and the -Duckling was obliged to use its legs continually to prevent the hole from freezing up. At last it become exhausted, and lay quite still, and thus froze fast into the ice.
Early in the morning a peasant came by, and when he saw what had happened, he took his wooden shoe, broke the ice-crust to pieces, and carried the Duckling home to his wife. Then it came to itself again. The children wanted to play with it; but the Duckling thought they would do it an injury, and in its terror fluttered up into the milk-pan, so that the milk spurted down into the room. The woman screamed and clapped her hands, at which the Duckling flew down into the butter-tub, and then into the meal-barrel and out again. How it looked then ! The woman screamed, and struck at it with the fire-tongs ; the children tumbled over one another, in their efforts to catch the Duckling ; and they laughed and screamed finely ! Happily the door stood open, and the poor creature was able to slip out between the shrubs into the newly-fallen snow ; and there it lay quite exhausted.
But it would be too melancholy if I were to tell all the misery and care which the Duckling had to endure in the hard winter. It lay out on the swamp among the reeds, when the sun began to shine again and the larks to sing : it was a beautiful spring.
Then all at once the Duckling raised its wings : they beat the air more strongly than before, and bore it strongly away ; and before it well knew how all this happened, it found itself in a great garden, where the apple trees stood in blossom, where the lilac flowers smelt sweet, and hung their long green branches down to the winding canals. Oh, here it was so beautiful, such a gladness of spring ! and from the thicket came three glorious white swans ; —they rustled their wings, and swam lightly on the watero The Duckling knew the splendid creatures, and felt oppressed by a peculiar sadness.
' I will fly away to them, to the royal birds ! and they