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Nursery Rhymes . . . for children.

Once upon a time . . . . .  from our fabulous collection of Fairy Tales for children . . .  they lived happily ever after . . .

The Portuguese Duck

A DUCK once arrived from Portugal, but there were some who
said she came from Spain, which is almost the same thing. At
all events, she was called the 'Portuguese,' and she laid
eggs, was killed, and cooked, and there was an end of her. But
the ducklings which crept forth from the eggs were also called
'Portuguese,' and about that there may be some question. But
of all the family one only remained in the duckyard, which may
be called a farmyard, as the chickens were admitted, and the
cock strutted about in a very hostile manner. 'He annoys me
with his loud crowing,' said the Portuguese duck; 'but, still,
he's a handsome bird, there's no denying that, although he's
not a drake. He ought to moderate his voice, like those little
birds who are singing in the lime-trees over there in our
neighbor's garden, but that is an art only acquired in polite
society. How sweetly they sing there; it is quite a pleasure
to listen to them! I call it Portuguese singing. If I had only
such a little singing-bird, I'd be kind and good as a mother
to him, for it's in my nature, in my Portuguese blood.'

While she was speaking, one of the little singing-birds
came tumbling head over heels from the roof into the yard. The
cat was after him, but he had escaped from her with a broken
wing, and so came tumbling into the yard. 'That's just like
the cat, she's a villain,' said the Portuguese duck. 'I
remember her ways when I had children of my own. How can such
a creature be allowed to live, and wander about upon the
roofs. I don't think they allow such things in Portugal.' She
pitied the little singing-bird, and so did all the other ducks
who were not Portuguese.

'Poor little creature!' they said, one after another, as
they came up. 'We can't sing, certainly; but we have a
sounding-board, or something of the kind, within us; we can
feel that, though we don't talk about it.'

'But I can talk,' said the Portuguese duck; 'and I'll do
something for the little fellow; it's my duty;' and she
stepped into the water-trough, and beat her wings upon the
water so strongly that the bird was nearly drowned by a
shower-bath; but the duck meant it kindly. 'That is a good
deed,' she said; 'I hope the others will take example by it.'

'Tweet, tweet!' said the little bird, for one of his wings
being broken, he found it difficult to shake himself; but he
quite understood that the bath was meant kindly, and he said,
'You are very kind-hearted, madam;' but he did not wish for a
second bath.

'I have never thought about my heart,' replied the
Portuguese duck, 'but I know that I love all my
fellow-creatures, except the cat, and nobody can expect me to
love her, for she ate up two of my ducklings. But pray make
yourself at home; it is easy to make one's self comfortable. I
am myself from a foreign country, as you may see by my
feathery dress. My drake is a native of these parts; he's not
of my race; but I am not proud on that account. If any one
here can understand you, I may say positively I am that

'She's quite full of 'Portulak,'' said a little common
duck, who was witty. All the common ducks considered the word
'Portulak' a good joke, for it sounded like Portugal. They
nudged each other, and said, 'Quack! that was witty!'

Then the other ducks began to notice the little bird. 'The
Portuguese had certainly a great flow of language,' they said
to the little bird. 'For our part we don't care to fill our
beaks with such long words, but we sympathize with you quite
as much. If we don't do anything else, we can walk about with
you everywhere, and we think that is the best thing we can

'You have a lovely voice,' said one of the eldest ducks;
'it must be great satisfaction to you to be able to give so
much pleasure as you do. I am certainly no judge of your
singing so I keep my beak shut, which is better than talking
nonsense, as others do.'

'Don't plague him so, interposed the Portuguese duck; 'he
requires rest and nursing. My little singing-bird do you wish
me to prepare another bath for you?'

'Oh, no! no! pray let me dry,' implored the little bird.

'The water-cure is the only remedy for me, when I am not
well,' said the Portuguese. 'Amusement, too, is very
beneficial. The fowls from the neighborhood will soon be here
to pay you a visit. There are two Cochin Chinese amongst them;
they wear feathers on their legs, and are well educated. They
have been brought from a great distance, and consequently I
treat them with greater respect than I do the others.'

Then the fowls arrived, and the cock was polite enough
to-day to keep from being rude. 'You are a real songster,' he
said, 'you do as much with your little voice as it is possible
to do; but there requires more noise and shrillness in any one
who wishes it to be known who he is.'

The two Chinese were quite enchanted with the appearance
of the singing-bird. His feathers had been much ruffled by his
bath, so that he seemed to them quite like a tiny Chinese
fowl. 'He's charming,' they said to each other, and began a
conversation with him in whispers, using the most aristocratic
Chinese dialect: 'We are of the same race as yourself,' they
said. 'The ducks, even the Portuguese, are all aquatic birds,
as you must 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
occupy a higher grade in society than most of them. But that
does not disturb us, we quietly go on in our own way among the
rest, whose ideas are certainly not ours; for we look at the
bright side of things, and only speak what is good, although
that is sometimes very difficult to find where none exists.
Except ourselves and the cock there is not one in the yard who
can be called talented or polite. It cannot even be said of
the ducks, and we warn you, little bird, not to trust that one
yonder, with the short tail feathers, for she is cunning; that
curiously marked one, with the crooked stripes on her wings,
is a mischief-maker, and never lets any one have the last
word, though she is always in the wrong. That fat duck yonder
speaks evil of every one, and that is against our principles.
If we have nothing good to tell, we close our beaks. The
Portuguese is the only one who has had any education, and with
whom we can associate, but she is passionate, and talks too
much about 'Portugal.''

'I wonder what those two Chinese are whispering about,'
whispered one duck to another; 'they are always doing it, and
it annoys me. We never speak to them.'

Now the drake came up, and he thought the little
singing-bird was a sparrow. 'Well, I don't understand the
difference,' he said; 'it appears to me all the same. He's
only a plaything, and if people will have playthings, why let
them, I say.'

'Don't take any notice of what he says,' whispered the
Portuguese; 'he's very well in matters of business, and with
him business is placed before everything. But now I shall lie
down and have a little rest. It is a duty we owe to ourselves
that we may be nice and fat when we come to be embalmed with
sage and onions and apples.' So she laid herself down in the
sun and winked with one eye; she had a very comfortable place,
and felt so comfortable that she fell asleep. The little
singing-bird busied himself for some time with his broken
wing, and at last he lay down, too, quite close to his
protectress. The sun shone warm and bright, and he found out
that it was a very good place. But the fowls of the
neighborhood were all awake, and, to tell the truth, they had
paid a visit to the duckyard, simply and solely to find food
for themselves. The Chinese were the first to leave, and the
other fowls soon followed them.

The witty little duck said of the Portuguese, that the old
lady was getting quite a 'doting ducky,' All the other ducks
laughed at this. 'Doting ducky,' they whispered. 'Oh, that's
too 'witty!'' And then they repeated the former joke about
'Portulak,' and declared it was most amusing. Then they all
lay down to have a nap.

They had been lying asleep for some time, when suddenly
something was thrown into the yard for them to eat. It came
down with such a bang, that the whole company started up and
clapped their wings. The Portuguese awoke too, and rushed over
to the other side: in so doing she trod upon the little

'Tweet,' he cried; 'you trod very hard upon me, madam.'

'Well, then, why do you lie in my way?' she retorted, 'you
must not be so touchy. I have nerves of my own, but I do not
cry 'tweet.''

'Don't be angry,' said the little bird; 'the 'tweet'
slipped out of my beak unawares.'

The Portuguese did not listen to him, but began eating as
fast as she could, and made a good meal. When she had
finished, she lay down again, and the little bird, who wished
to be amiable, began to sing,-

'Chirp and twitter,
The dew-drops glitter,
In the hours of sunny spring,
I'll sing my best,
Till I go to rest,
With my head behind my wing.'

'Now I want rest after my dinner,' said the Portuguese;
'you must conform to the rules of the house while you are
here. I want to sleep now.'

The little bird was quite taken aback, for he meant it
kindly. When madam awoke afterwards, there he stood before her
with a little corn he had found, and laid it at her feet; but
as she had not slept well, she was naturally in a bad temper.
'Give that to a chicken,' she said, 'and don't be always
standing in my way.'

'Why are you angry with me?' replied the little
singing-bird, 'what have I done?'

'Done!' repeated the Portuguese duck, 'your mode of
expressing yourself is not very polite. I must call your
attention to that fact.'

'It was sunshine here yesterday,' said the little bird,
'but to-day it is cloudy and the air is close.'

'You know very little about the weather, I fancy,' she
retorted, 'the day is not over yet. Don't stand there, looking
so stupid.'

'But you are looking at me just as the wicked eyes looked
when I fell into the yard yesterday.'

'Impertinent creature!' exclaimed the Portuguese duck:
'would you compare me with the cat- that beast of prey?
There's not a drop of malicious blood in me. I've taken your
part, and now I'll teach you better manners.' So saying, she
made a bite at the little singing-bird's head, and he fell
dead on the ground. 'Now whatever is the meaning of this?'
'she said; 'could he not bear even such a little peck as I
gave him? Then certainly he was not made for this world. I've
been like a mother to him, I know that, for I've a good

Then the cock from the neighboring yard stuck his head in,
and crowed with steam-engine power.

'You'll kill me with your crowing,' she cried, 'it's all
your fault. He's lost his life, and I'm very near losing

'There's not much of him lying there,' observed the cock.

'Speak of him with respect,' said the Portuguese duck,
'for he had manners and education, and he could sing. He was
affectionate and gentle, and that is as rare a quality in
animals as in those who call themselves human beings.'

Then all the ducks came crowding round the little dead
bird. Ducks have strong passions, whether they feel envy or
pity. There was nothing to envy here, so they all showed a
great deal of pity, even the two Chinese. 'We shall never have
another singing-bird again amongst us; he was almost a
Chinese,' they whispered, and then they wept with such a
noisy, clucking sound, that all the other fowls clucked too,
but the ducks went about with redder eyes afterwards. 'We have
hearts of our own,' they said, 'nobody can deny that.'

'Hearts!' repeated the Portuguese, 'indeed you have,
almost as tender as the ducks in Portugal.'

'Let us think of getting something to satisfy our hunger,'
said the drake, that's the most important business. If one of
our toys is broken, why we have plenty more.'

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