82 THE UGLY DUCKLING
mother, who by this time had some secret doubts of its loveliness. 'Of course, when you see it by itself it is all right, though it is different, somehow, from the others. But one cannot expect all one's children to be beautiful!'
By this time they had reached the centre of the yard, where a very old duck was sitting, who was treated with great respect by all the fowls present.
'You must go up and bow low before her,' whispered the mother to her children, nodding her head in the direction of the old lady, 'and keep your legs well apart, as you see me do. No well-bred duckling turns in its toes. It is a sign of common parents.'
The little ducks tried hard to make their small fat bodies copy the movements of their mother, and the old lady was quite pleased with them; but the rest of the ducks looked on discontentedly, and said to each other:
'Oh, dear me, here are ever so many more! The yard is full already; and did you ever see anything quite as ugly as that great tall creature? He is a disgrace to any brood. I shall go and chase him out!' So saying she put up her feathers, and running to the big duckling bit his neck.
The duckling gave a loud quack; it was the first time he had felt any pain, and at the sound his mother turned quickly.
'Leave him alone,' she said fiercely, 'or I will send for his father. He was not troubling you.'
'No; but he is so ugly and awkward no one can put up with him,' answered the stranger. And though the duckling did not understand the meaning of the words, he felt he was being blamed, and became more uncomfortable still when the old Spanish duck who ruled the fowl-yard struck in:
'It certainly is a great pity he is so different from these beautiful darlings. If he could only be hatched over again!'
The poor little fellow drooped his head, and did not