The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck
 

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.

Jemima Puddle-duck came every
afternoon; she laid nine eggs in the
nest. They were greeny white and very
large. The foxy gentleman admired
them immensely. He used to turn
them over and count them when
Jemima was not there.

At last Jemima told him that she
intended to begin to sit next day--"and
I will bring a bag of corn with me, so
that I need never leave my nest until
the eggs are hatched. They might catch
cold," said the conscientious Jemima.

"Madam, I beg you not to trouble
yourself with a bag; I will provide
oats. But before you commence your
tedious sitting, I intend to give you a
treat. Let us have a dinner party all to
ourselves!

"May I ask you to bring up some
herbs from the farm garden to make
a savory omelet? Sage and thyme, and
mint and two onions, and some
parsley. I will provide lard for the
stuff--lard for the omelet," said the
hospitable gentleman with sandy
whiskers.

Jemima Puddle-duck was a
simpleton: not even the mention of
sage and onions made her suspicious.

She went round the farm garden,
nibbling off snippets of all the
different sorts of herbs that are used
for stuffing roast duck.

And she waddled into the kitchen
and got two onions out of a basket.

The collie dog Kep met her coming
out, "What are you doing with those
onions? Where do you go every
afternoon by yourself, Jemima
Puddle-duck?"

Jemima was rather in awe of the
collie; she told him the whole story.

The collie listened, with his wise
head on one side; he grinned when
she described the polite gentleman
with sandy whiskers.

He asked several questions about
the wood and about the exact position
of the house and shed.

Then he went out, and trotted
down the village. He went to look for
two foxhound puppies who were out
at walk with the butcher.

Jemima Puddle-duck went up the
cart road for the last time, on a sunny
afternoon. She was rather burdened
with bunches of herbs and two onions
in a bag.

She flew over the wood, and
alighted opposite the house of the
bushy long-tailed gentleman.

He was sitting on a log; he sniffed
the air and kept glancing uneasily
round the wood. When Jemima
alighted he quite jumped.

"Come into the house as soon as
you have looked at your eggs. Give me
the herbs for the omelet. Be sharp!"

He was rather abrupt. Jemima
Puddle-duck had never heard him
speak like that.

She felt surprised and uncomfortable.

While she was inside she heard
pattering feet round the back of the
shed. Someone with a black nose
sniffed at the bottom of the door, and
them locked it.

Jemima became much alarmed.

A moment afterward there were
most awful noises--barking, baying,
growls and howls, squealing and
groans.

And nothing more was ever seen of
that foxy-whiskered gentleman.

Presently Kep opened the door of
the shed and let out Jemima Puddle-
duck.

Unfortunately the puppies rushed
in and gobbled up all the eggs before
he could stop them.

He had a bite on his ear, and both
the puppies were limping.

Jemima Puddle-duck was escorted
home in tears on account of those
eggs.

She laid some more in June, and she
was permitted to keep them herself:
but only four of them hatched.

Jemima Puddle-duck said that it
was because of her nerves; but she
had always been a bad sitter.