IN THE DUCK-YARD
after his bath, so that he seemed to them to have quite the appearance of a little Cochin-China fowl.
' He 's charming,' they cried, and began a conversation with him, speaking in whispers, and using the most aristocratic Chinese dialect.
1 We are of your race/ they continued. ' The Ducks, even the Portuguese, are swimming birds, as you cannot fail to have noticed. You do not know us yet; very few know us, or give themselves the trouble to make our acquaintance—not even any of the fowls, though we are born to sit on a higher perch than most of the rest. But that does not disturb us : we quietly pursue our path amid the others, whose principles are certainly not ours ; but we look at things on the favourable side, and only speak of what is good, though it is difficult sometimes to find something when nothing exists. Except us two and the Cock, there 's no one in the whole poultry-yard who is at once talented and polite. It cannot even be said of the inhabitants of the duck-yard. We warn you, little Singing Bird : don't trust that one yonder with the short tail-feathers, for she 's cunning. The pied one there, with the crooked stripes on her wings, is a strife-seeker, and lets nobody have the last word, though she 's always in the wrong. The fat duck yonder speaks evil of every one, and that's against our principles ; if we have nothing good to tell, we should hold our beaks. The Portuguese is the only one who has any education, and with whom one can associate, but she is passionate, and talks too much about Portugal.'
' What a lot those two Chinese have to whisper,' whispered one Duck to her friend. ' They annoy me—I have never spoken to them.'
Now the Drake came up. He thought the little Singing Bird was a sparrow.
1 Well, I don't understand the difference,' he said ; ' and indeed it's all the same thing. He 's only a plaything, and if one has them, why, one has them.'
* Don't attach any value to what he says,' the Portuguese whispered. ' He 's very respectable in business matters ; and with him business takes precedence of everything. But now I shall lie down for a rest. One owes that to oneself,
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