The Ugly Duckling.

One summer's day, when the corn was golden yellow and the hay was being dried in the fields, a mother duck was sitting on her nest of eggs. She sat in the rushes of a deep moat that surrounded a lovely country manor and waited for her eggs to hatch. They were taking a very long time and she was getting very tired.

At last she felt a movement beneath her. The eggs began to crack and out popped tiny fluffy ducklings. All the eggs hatched except for one, which was larger than the rest. The mother duck was impatient to take her new ducklings swimming but could not leave the last egg unhatched. She sat, and she sat, and she sat, and just as she was about to give up, she heard a tap. Out of the egg tumbled the oddest ugliest duckling imaginable.

She took the babies into the water and proudly watched as they all swam straightaway, even the ugly duckling. She led them in a procession around the moat, showing them off to the other ducks. As they bobbed along behind her she heard many quacks of admiration and praise for her fine family. But she also heard quacks of laughter and scorn poured on the ugly duckling at the end of the line.

"He was too long in the egg", she explained. "He has not come out quite the right shape. But he will soon grow into a fine duck, just like the others".

As the weeks went by, and the corn was harvested in the fields, the ducklings grew up into ducks. But the ugly duckling with his grey feathers and clumsy shape remained different. All the ducks on the moat made fun of him and refused to let him join in their games on the water.

The ugly duckling could bear it no more. As the autumn leaves began to fall he flew away to a great marsh. There he stayed alone, hiding from the ducks among the reeds.

One day he heard a strange cry and the sound of wings in the air. Looking up he saw three dazzling white birds flying majestically overhead. The ugly duckling felt a strange longing. He did not know the name of those birds but he felt he loved them more than he had loved anything before. He watched as they passed over his head and flew beyond until they were out of sight.

Autumn turned to winter, and the ugly duckling suffered many hardships. The marshy water froze and for a while he was trapped fast in the ice. A kind man broke the ice and took him to his home, but the ugly duckling was frightened by the noise and confusion inside the house. He flapped his wings, upset a bucket of milk and fled as people shouted at him.

At last spring came, and with it warm sunshine. The ugly duckling flapped his wings. To his surprise they felt bigger and stronger, and he found he was flying easily away from the marsh towards a large and beautiful lake.

On the lake were the three wonderful birds the ugly duckling had seen flying overhead several months before. As the swans glided smoothly over the lake, he felt drawn to them, but he was sure they would tease him like the ducks because he was so ugly. He hung his head in shame.

All at once he saw a reflection in the smooth lake waters. A beautiful swan with glossy white feathers and a fine yellow beak stared up at him. He moved; the swan moved. He opened his wings; so did the swan. The ugly duckling suddenly realized - he was a swan.

The other swans swam gracefully towards him, welcoming him. Some children ran down to the lake, calling, "Look, a new swan has appeared", and they threw bread into the water for him.

The young and beautiful swan felt quite shy with all this attention, and hid his head under his wing. But, as the lilac trees bent their branches down over the water and the sun shone warm and bright, he felt a deep happiness. He rustled his feathers, arched his sleek long neck and said to himself, "I never dreamed of such great happiness when I was the Ugly Duckling".