the Duck - Yard
By Hans Christian Andersen
A duck arrived from Portugal. Some said from
Spain, but that 's all the same. She was
called the Portuguese, and laid eggs, and
was killed and cooked, and that was her
career. But the ducklings which crept forth
from her eggs were afterwards also called
Portuguese, and there is
something in that. Now, of the whole family
there was only one left in the duck-yard, a
yard to which the chickens had access
likewise, and where the cock strutted about
with infinite pride.
' He annoys me with his loud crowing ! '
observed the Portuguese Duck. ' But he is a
handsome bird, there 's no denying that,
though he is not a drake. He ought to
moderate himself, but that 's an art which
shows superior breeding, like that possessed
by the little singing birds over in the lime
trees in the neighbour's garden. How
charmingly they sing ! There 's something
in their warbling. I call it Portugal. If I
had only such a little singing bird, I'd be
a mother to him, kind and good, for that 's
in my blood, my Portuguese blood ! '
And while she was still speaking, a little
Singing Bird came head over heels from the
roof into the yard. The cat was behind him,
but the Bird escaped with a broken wing, and
came tumbling into the yard.
' That 's just like the cat, the villain ! '
said the Portuguese Duck. ' I remember him
when I had children of my own. That such a
creature should be allowed to live, and to
wander about upon the roofs ! I don't think
they do such things in Portugal ! '
And she pitied the little Singing Bird, and
the other Ducks who were not of Portuguese
descent pitied him too.
' Poor little creature ! ' they said, as one
after another came up. ' We certainly can't
sing,' they said, ' but we have an internal
feeling for song, or something of the kind,
within us ; we can feel that, though we
don't talk of it.'
' But I can talk of it,' said the Portuguese
Duck ; ' and I'll do something for the
little fellow, for that 's my duty ! ' And
she stepped into the water-trough, and beat
her wings upon the water so heartily, that
the little Singing Bird was almost drowned
by the bath he got, but the Duck meant
it kindly. ' That 's a good deed,' she said
: ' the others may take example by it.'
' Piep ! ' said the little Bird : one of his
wings was broken, and he found it difficult
to shake himself ; but he quite understood
that the bath was kindly meant. ' You are
very kind-hearted, madam,' he said ; but he
did not wish for a second bath.
' I have never thought about my heart,'
continued the Portuguese Duck, ' but I know
this much, that I love all my fellow
creatures except the cat ; but nobody can
expect me to love him, for he ate up two of
my ducklings. But pray make yourself at home,
for one can make oneself comfortable. I
myself am from a strange country, as you may
see from my bearing and from my feathery
dress. My drake is a native of these parts,
he 's not of my race ; but for all that I'm
not proud ! If any one here in the yard can
understand you, I may assert that / am that
' She 's quite full of Portulak,' said a
little common Duck, who was witty ; and all
the other common Ducks considered the word
Portulak quite a good joke, for it sounded
like Portugal ; and they nudged each other
and said ' Rapp ! ' It was too witty ! And
all the other Ducks now began to notice the
little Singing Bird.
' The Portuguese has certainly a greater
command of language,' they said. ' For our
part, we don't care to fill our beaks with
such long words, but our sympathy is just as
great. If we don't do anything for you, we
do not say anything about it ; and we think
that the best thing we
You have a lovely voice,' said one of the
oldest. ' It must be a great satisfaction to
be able to give so much pleasure as you are
able to impart. I certainly am no great
judge of your song, and consequently I keep
my beak shut ; and even that is better than
talking nonsense to you, as others do.'
' Don't plague him so,' interposed the
Portuguese Duck : ' he requires rest and
nursing. Little Singing Bird, shall I splash
you again ? '
' Oh, no ! pray let me be dry ! ' he begged.
' The water cure is the only thing that
helps me,' quoth the Portuguese. ' Amusement
is beneficial too. The neighbouring fowls
will soon come to pay their visit. There are
two Cochin-Chinas among them. They wear
feathers on their legs, are well educated,
and have been brought from
afar, that raises them in my regard.'
And the Fowls came, and the Cock came ;
to-day he was polite enough to abstain from
' You are a true Singing Bird,' he said, '
and you do as much with your little voice as
can possibly be done with it. But one
requires a little more shrillness, that
every hearer may hear that one is a male.'
The two Chinese stood quite enchanted with
the appearance of the Singing Bird. He
looked very much rumpled after his bath, so
that he seemed to them to have quite the
appearance of a little Cochin-China fowl.
' He 's charming,' they cried, and began a
conversation with him, speaking in whispers,
and using the most aristocratic Chinese
' We are of your race/ they continued. ' The
Ducks, even the Portuguese, are swimming
birds, as you cannot fail to 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 sit on a higher perch
than most of the rest. But that does not
disturb us : we quietly pursue our path amid
the others, whose principles are certainly
not ours ; but we look at things on the
favourable side, and only speak of what is
good, though it is difficult sometimes to
find something when nothing exists. Except
us two and the Cock, there 's no one in the
whole poultry-yard who is at once talented
and polite. It cannot even be said of the
inhabitants of the duck-yard. We warn you,
little Singing Bird : don't trust that one
yonder with the short tailfeathers, for she
's cunning. The pied one there, with the
crooked stripes on her wings, is a
strife-seeker, and lets nobody have the last
word, though she 's always in the wrong. The
fat duck yonder speaks evil of every one,
and that 's against our principles ; if we
have nothing good to tell, we should hold
our teaks. The Portuguese is the only one
who has any education, and with whom one can
associate, but she is passionate, and talks
too much about Portugal.'
' What a lot those two Chinese have to
whisper,' whispered one Duck to her friend.
' They annoy me I have never spoken to them.'
Now the Drake came up. He thought the little
Singing Bird was a sparrow.
' Well, I don't understand the difference,'
he said ; ' and indeed it 's all the same
thing. He 's only a plaything, and if one
has them, why, one has them.
Don't attach any value to what he says,' the
Portuguese whispered. He 's very respectable
in business matters ; and with him business
takes precedence of everything. But now I
shall lie down for a rest. One owes that to
oneself, that one may be nice and fat when
one is to be embalmed with apples and prunes.'
And accordingly she lay down in the sun, and
winked with one eye ; and she lay very
comfortably, and she felt very comfortable,
and she slept very comfortably.
The little Singing Bird busied himself with
his broken wing. At last he lay down too,
close to his protectress : the sun shone
warm and bright, and he had found a very
But the neighbour's fowls went about
scratching up the earth ; and, to tell the
truth, they had paid the visit simply and
solely to find food for themselves. The
Chinese were the first to leave the
duck-yard, and the other fowls soon followed
them. The witty little Duck said of the
Portuguese that the old lady would soon be
in her second ducklinghood. At this the
other Ducks laughed and cackled aloud. '
Second ducklinghood,' they said ; ' that 's
too witty 1 ' and then they repeated the
former joke about Portulak, and declared
that it was vastly amusing. And then they
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 thwack, that the whole company
started up from sleep and clapped their
wings. The Portuguese awoke too, and threw
herself over on the other side, pressing the
little Singing Bird very hard as she did so.
' Piep ! ' he cried ; * you trod very hard
upon me, madam.'
' Well, why do you lie in my way ? ' the
Duck retorted. ' You must not be so touchy.
I have nerves of my own, but yet I never
called out " Piep ! " '
' Don't be angry,' said the little Bird ; '
the " piep " came 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 this was ended, and she
lay down again, the little Bird came up, and
wanted to be amiable, and sang :
Of your dear heart
I'll sing so oft
As far and wide I flee.'
' Now I want to rest after my dinner,' said
the Portuguese. ' You must conform to the
rules of the house while you're here. I want
to sleep now.'
The little Singing Bird was quite taken
aback, for he had meant it kindly. When
Madam afterwards awoke, he stood before her
again with a little corn that he had found,
and laid it at her feet ; but as she had not
slept well, she was naturally in a very bad
' 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 expression is not exactly
genteel ; a fact to which I must call your
' Yesterday it was sunshine here,' said the
little Bird, ' but to-day it 's cloudy and
You don't know much about the weather, I
fancy,' retorted the Portuguese. ' The day
is not done yet. Don't stand there looking
1 But you are looking at me just as the
wicked eyes looked when I fell into the yard
' 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 will teach you good manners.'
And so saying, she bit off the Singing
Bird's head, and he lay dead on the ground.
* Now, what 's the meaning of this ? ' she
said, ' could he not bear even that ? 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 heart.'
Then the neighbour's Cock stuck his head
into the yard, and crowed with steam-engine
' You'll kill me with your crowing ! ' she
cried. ' It 's all your fault. He 's lost
his head, and I am very near losing mine.'
' There 's not much lying where he fell ! '
observed the Cock.
' Speak of him with respect,' retorted the
Portuguese Duck, ' for he had song, manners,
and education. He was affectionate and soft,
and that 's as good in animals as in your so
called human beings.'
And all the Ducks came crowding round the
little dead Singing Bird. Ducks have strong
passions, whether they feel envy or pity ;
and as there was nothing here to envy, pity
manifested itself, even in the two Chinese.
We shall never get such a singing bird again
; he was almost a Chinese,' they whispered ;
and they wept with a mighty clucking sound,
and all the fowls clucked too, but the Ducks
went about with the redder eyes.
' We've hearts of our own,' they said ; '
nobody can deny that.'
' Hearts ! ' repeated the Portuguese, yes,
that we have, almost as much as in
' Let us think of getting something to
satisfy our hunger,' said the Drake, ' for
that 's the most important point. If one of
our toys is broken, why, we have plenty more