Read Clever Duck Online

Authors: Dick King-Smith

Clever Duck (7 page)

Clever Duck!
“There's no place like home,” grunted Mrs. Stout to Mrs. Portly as the pigs made their way down the tailgate of the cattle truck and through the freshly mended gate into their old paddock.
“Quite right, dear,” said Mrs. Portly.
“Journey's end,” said Mrs. O'Bese, “and it was a miserable old journey, so it was.”
“Hear, hear!” said Mrs. Chubby, Mrs. Tubby, Mrs. Swagbelly, and Mrs. Roly-Poly.
Only Firingclose General Lord Nicholas of Winningshot said nothing. The promised land had not lived up to its promise, and for once he thought it wise to keep his mouth shut. What's more, he soon found that he no longer had one of the two pig huts to himself, for the sows took over both of them. They grumbled so loudly when he meekly tried to push in, that he often
found himself sleeping outside. A male chauvinist pig he may once have been, but now he was to his wives just a boring old boar, and they did not hesitate to tell him so.
Two months later, however, the General had the paddock to himself. His wives had all been moved to a range of farrowing houses to await the birth of their children.
Damaris felt sorry for the boar. Once her wing was fully healed, she flew over now and again for a chat. Not that she got a word in edgewise. The General had lost much of his authority but none of his gift of gab. He appeared quite unaware of the duck's part in the rescue, as indeed were all the sows except one.
Mrs. O'Bese alone mentioned it when Damaris went visiting the expectant mothers.
“Sure and it was you that found us, wasn't it, duck?” she said. “I knew you were the clever one, right from the start. ‘If you don't know what an ignoramus is,' you said, ‘then you must be one.' Begorra, you could have knocked me down with a duck's feather. And I never thought much of ducks before.”
“Why not?” said Damaris.
“Too stupid, I thought. Don't know anything.”
“Actually,” said Damaris, “I never thought much of pigs before.”
“Why not?” said Mrs. O'Bese.
“Too clever by half. Think they know everything.”
Mrs. O'Bese gave a fusillade of little grunts that sounded like “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
“I know one thing, duck,” she said. “I like you, so I do. Good luck to you.”
“Thanks,” said Damaris, “and I hope all your troubles will be little ones.”
Which they were, because before long, all the sows farrowed.
Most had eight, nine, or ten piglets, but Mrs. O'Bese, just to be different, gave birth to no less than thirteen little babies.
“Let us only hope,”she said, “hat they don't grow up to be as longwinded as their dad, or it will be an unlucky number.”
“I like that sow,″ said Damaris to Rory. They were having one of their evening conversations out in the orchard, Rory lying in the grass, Damaris squatting beside him.
“She's the best of a bad lot,” said Rory, “but none of them has changed, really They still patronize all the other animals on the farm. They still think they're the greatest and they don't hide it.”
“Look at those two, Emma,” said the farmer to his wife, as side by side they leaned against the orchard gate, enjoying the end of the day.
“It's the strangest friendship, Jim,” she said.
“That's the strangest duck,” he said. “I've said it many times before, I know, but she saved us a packet of money. We'd never have seen our pigs again, and that dealer would have been laughing. She found them, all by herself.”
“And could have lost her life.”
“Yes. Why should a duck worry about pigs? She goes visiting them, you know. I saw her
today, quacking away to that old sow and the sow grunting back at her. Look at her now, bending Rory's ear about something or other. I'd dearly love to understand what animals say to one another.”
“Look at the farmer and his wife chatting away, Rory,”Damaris said. “I'd dearly love to understand what humans say to one another.”
“That,” said Rory, “is one thing you're never going to be able to do. I can understand the odd word—‘Come, boy!' ‘Away to me!'‘Down!' ‘Stay!'—that sort of thing. But most of what they say is gibberish.”
He got up and moved toward the two people, Damaris waddling behind.
“Listen,” he said. “They'll say something when we reach them,” and when they did, the man patted him and said a couple of words.

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