I had gone through many trials through the winter. I had suffered loneliness and the frigid cold, but nothing and no one was crueler to me than my own kind. It was very difficult for me to forget the old mother duck who said, “Have you ever seen anything quite as ugly as that great tall creature? He is a disgrace to any brood!” Then she came running towards me and bit me on the neck.
She was the leader, and so all the other ducks followed suit. Everyone snapped at me, even the turkey-cock, who was bigger and uglier than me!
I was much happier when I set off into the wild. I nearly died, though, when winter came. I would have perished if a man hadn’t come along. The ice on the river had trapped me, and he cracked it and freed me. He put me under his warm sheepskin coat and took me home to his children. They gave me a warm place to sleep, and I stayed there for some time. Then one day, they tried to play with me, and I ran away in terror.
I found my way down to the canal. While I was gazing at the water, a flock of beautiful white birds walked slowly past. One by one, they stepped into the canal and floated so quietly on the water that it seemed to be a part of them.
“I will follow them,” I said to myself. “It doesn’t matter what they do to me.” I swam after the white birds as fast as I could. I joined them when they came to rest in a green pool under the shade of a tree. As soon as they saw me, one of the younger birds approached me.
I trembled and said, “If I am to die, I would rather that you kill me. I don’t know why I was ever hatched, anyway, because I am too ugly to live.”
The bird seemed shocked. I looked into the still pool and saw many white shapes with long necks and golden bills. I looked for my awkward grey body and skinny neck, but I couldn’t find myself. All I saw was a beautiful white bird.
“The new swan is the best of all,” I heard the children say. They were standing on the banks, feeding us biscuits. In that happy moment, all my trials seemed worthwhile.