THE UGLY DUCKLING
everyone, with nobody to bite him and tell him how ugly he was.
He was thinking these thoughts, when two young ganders caught sight of him as they were having their evening splash among the reeds, looking for their supper.
'We are getting tired of this moor,' they said, 'and to-morrow we think of trying another, where the lakes are larger and the feeding better. Will you come with us?'
'Is it nicer than this?' asked the duckling doubtfully. And the words were hardly out of his mouth, when 'Pif! paf!' and the two new-comers were stretched dead beside him.
At the sound of the gun the wild ducks in the rushes flew into the air, and for a few minutes the firing continued.
Luckily for himself the duckling could not fly, and he floundered along through the water till he could hide himself amidst some tall ferns which grew in a hollow. But before he got there he met a huge creature on four legs, which he afterwards knew to be a dog, who stood and gazed at him with a long red tongue hanging out of his mouth. The duckling grew cold with terror, and tried to hide his head beneath his little wings; but the dog snuffed at him and passed on, and he was able to reach his place of shelter.
'I am too ugly even for a dog to eat,' said he to himself. 'Well, that is a great mercy.' And he curled himself up in the soft grass till the shots died away in the distance.
When all had been quiet for a long time, and there were only the stars to see him, he crept out and looked about him.
He would never go near a pool again, never, thought he; and seeing that the moor stretched far away in the opposite direction from which he had come, he marched