Diary of a Goose Girl by Kate Douglas Wiggin
by the author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm - Chapter 9

 

CHAPTER IX


Here follows the true story of Sir Muscovy Drake, the Lady Blanche, and
Miss Malardina Crippletoes.

Phoebe's flock consisted at first mostly of Brown Mallards, but a friend
gave her a sitting of eggs warranted to produce a most beautiful variety
of white ducks. They were hatched in due time, but proved hard to raise,
till at length there was only one survivor, of such uncommon grace and
beauty that we called her the Lady Blanche. Presently a neighbour sold
Phoebe his favourite Muscovy drake, and these two splendid creatures by
"natural selection" disdained to notice the rest of the flock, but
forming a close friendship, wandered in the pleasant paths of duckdom
together, swimming and eating quite apart from the others.

In the brown flock there was one unfortunate, misshapen from the egg,
quite lame, and with no smoothness of plumage; but on that very account,
apparently, or because she was too weak to resist them, the others
treated her cruelly, biting her and pushing her away from the food.

One day it happened that the two ducks--Sir Muscovy and Lady Blanche--had
come up from the water before the others, and having taken their repast
were sitting together under the shade of a flowering currant-bush, when
they chanced to see poor Miss Crippletoes very badly used and crowded
away from the dish. Sir Muscovy rose to his feet; a few rapid words
seemed to pass between him and his mate, and then he fell upon the other
drake and the heartless minions who had persecuted the helpless one,
drove them far away out of sight, and, returning, went to the corner
where the victim was cowering, her face to the wall. He seemed to
whisper to her, or in some way to convey to her a sense of protection;
for after a few moments she tremblingly went with him to the dish, and
hurriedly ate her dinner while he stood by, repulsing the advances of the
few brown ducks who remained near and seemed inclined to attack her.

When she had eaten enough Lady Blanche joined them, and they went down
the hill together to their favourite swimming-place. After that Miss
Crippletoes always followed a little behind her protectors, and thus
shielded and fed she grew stronger and well-feathered, though she was
always smaller than she should have been and had a lowly manner, keeping
a few steps in the rear of her superiors and sitting at some distance
from their noon resting-place.

Phoebe noticed after a while that Lady Blanche was seldom to be seen, and
Sir Muscovy and Miss Crippletoes often came to their meals without her.
The would-be mother refused to inhabit the house Phoebe had given her,
and for a long time the place she had chosen for her sitting could not be
found. At length the Square Baby discovered her in a most ideal spot. A
large boulder had dropped years ago into the brook that fills our duck-
pond; dropped and split in halves with the two smooth walls leaning away
from each other. A grassy bank towered behind, and on either side of the
opening, tall bushes made a miniature forest where the romantic mother
could brood her treasures while her two guardians enjoyed the water close
by her retreat.

All this happened before my coming to Thornycroft Farm, but it was I who
named the hero and heroines of the romance when Phoebe had told me all
the particulars. Yesterday morning I was sitting by my open window. It
was warm, sunny, and still, but in the country sounds travel far, and I
could hear fowl conversation in various parts of the poultry-yard as well
as in all the outlying bits of territory occupied by our feathered
friends. Hens have only three words and a scream in their language, but
ducks, having more thoughts to express, converse quite fluently, so
fluently, in fact, that it reminds me of dinner at the Hydropathic Hotel.
I fancy I have learned to distinguish seven separate sounds, each varied
by degrees of intensity, and with upward or downward inflections like the
Chinese tongue.

In the distance, then, I heard the faint voice of a duck calling as if
breathless and excited. While I wondered what was happening, I saw Miss
Crippletoes struggling up the steep bank above the duck-pond. It was the
quickest way from the water to the house, but difficult for the little
lame webbed feet. When she reached the level grass sward she sank down a
moment, exhausted; but when she could speak again she cried out, a sharp
staccato call, and ran forward.

Instantly she was answered from a distant knoll, where for some reason
Sir Muscovy loved to retire for meditation. The cries grew lower and
softer as the birds approached each other, and they met at the corner
just under my window. Instantly they put their two bills together and
the loud cries changed to confiding murmurs. Evidently some hurried
questions and answers passed between them, and then Sir Muscovy waddled
rapidly by the quickest path, Miss Crippletoes following him at a slower
pace, and both passed out of sight, using their wings to help their feet
down the steep declivity. The next morning, when I wakened early, my
first thought was to look out, and there on the sunny greensward where
they were accustomed to be fed, Sir Muscovy, Lady Blanche, and their
humble maid, Malardina Crippletoes, were scattering their own breakfast
before the bills of twelve beautiful golden balls of ducklings. The
little creatures could never have climbed the bank, but must have started
from their nest at dawn, coming round by the brook to the level at the
foot of the garden, and so by slow degrees up to the house.

Judging from what I heard and knew of their habits, I am sure the
excitement of the previous morning was occasioned by the hatching of the
eggs, and that Lady Blanche had hastily sent her friend to call Sir
Muscovy, the family remaining together until they could bring the babies
with them and display their beauty to Phoebe and me.


 

 

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