[A Farmyard Tale for Ralph and Betsy]
What a funny sight it is to see a brood of ducklings with a hen!
Listen to the story of Jemima Puddle-duck, who was annoyed because the farmer’s wife would not let her hatch her own eggs.
Her sister-in-law, Mrs. Rebeccah Puddle-duck, was perfectly willing to leave the hatching to someone else– “I have not the patience to sit on a nest for twenty-eight days; and no more have you, Jemima. You would let them go cold; you know you would!”
“I wish to hatch my own eggs; I will hatch them all by myself,” quacked Jemima Puddle-duck.
She tried to hide her eggs; but they were always found and carried off.
Jemima Puddle-duck became quite desperate. She determined to make a nest right away from the farm.
She set off on a fine spring afternoon along the cart road that leads over the hill.
She was wearing a shawl and a poke bonnet.
When she reached the top of the hill, she saw a wood in the distance.
She thought that it looked a safe quiet spot.
Jemima Puddle-duck was not much in the habit of flying. She ran downhill a few yards flapping her shawl, and then she jumped off into the air.
She flew beautifully when she had got a good start.
She skimmed along over the treetops until she saw an open place in the middle of the wood, where the trees and brushwood had been cleared.
Jemima alighted rather heavily and began to waddle about in search of a convenient dry nesting place. She rather fancied a tree stump amongst some tall foxgloves.
But–seated upon the stump, she was startled to find an elegantly dressed gentleman reading a newspaper. He had black prick ears and sandy colored whiskers.
“Quack?” said Jemima Puddle- duck, with her head and her bonnet on the one side–“Quack?”
The gentleman raised his eyes above his newspaper and looked curiously at Jemima–
“Madam, have you lost your way?” said he. He had a long bushy tail which he was sitting upon, as the stump was somewhat damp.
Jemima thought him mighty civil and handsome. She explained that she had not lost her way, but that she was trying to find a convenient dry nesting place.
“Ah! is that so? Indeed!” said the gentleman with sandy whiskers, looking curiously at Jemima. He folded up the newspaper and put it in his coattail pocket.
Jemima complained of the superfluous hen.
“Indeed! How interesting! I wish I could meet with that fowl. I would teach it to mind its own business!
“But as to a nest–there is no difficulty: I have a sackful of feathers in my woodshed. No, my dear madam, you will be in nobody’s way. You may sit there as long as you like,” said the bushy long-tailed gentleman.
He led the way to a very retired, dismal-looking house amongst the foxgloves.
It was built of faggots and turf, and there were two broken pails, one on top of another, by way of a chimney.
“This is my summer residence; you would not find my earth–my winter house–so convenient,” said the hospitable gentleman.
There was a tumbledown shed at the back of the house, made of old soap boxes. The gentleman opened the door and showed Jemima in.
The shed was almost quite full of feathers–it was almost suffocating; but it was comfortable and very soft.
Jemima Puddle-duck was rather surprised to find such a vast quantity of feathers. But it was very comfortable; and she made a nest without any trouble at all.
When she came out, the sandy- whiskered gentleman was sitting on a log reading the newspaper–at least he had it spread out, but he was looking over the top of it.
He was so polite that he seemed almost sorry to let Jemima go home for the night. He promised to take great care of her nest until she came back again the next day.
He said he loved eggs and ducklings; he should be proud to see a fine nestful in his woodshed.