The Ugly Duckling

This time, Fenton felt that it would take all of fath­er's wiles to make sense of what he had just heard.  Fent­on's head was set spinning by the chance remark of the serving man's daughter.  She was a short, badly kept little girl with crooked teeth.   This seemed as natural as any­thing else in Fenton's world and remained so until that fateful day when, right in the middle of picking up his toys, she said, "You know, Sir, when I grow up I am going to be beau­tiful.  Mama says I am like a flower that will some­day bloom!"

Fenton was stunned.  He suspected, of course, that she could speak. But her words revealed a most puz­zling opti­mism.  Fenton had always been told he would display his father's sharp, tanned features when he grew up.  And so he would.  But what explained this assurance about her future chances?  Could the simple act of growing up transform her from an ugly little girl to a beautiful, blossoming woman?  Was this an example of the help finally taking initiative?  If so, was she taking it from someone else?  Where would it all end?

Father was not available, so Warren, his elder, was assigned to Fenton.

"Fenton," began Warren, crossing his legs and putt­ing his cupped hand where a pipe would go, "let me tell you the story of the Ugly Duckling.

"Once upon a time," began Warren again, "there was a mother duck who gave birth to a litter of little duck­lings.

"In this litter was a little duck unlike all the others. Mother duck was quite puzzled about this strange creature.

"Checking further, she discovered that this rag of an animal didn't appear to be a duck at all!  She wasn't sure what it was, but on the off‑chance that it was hers, she decided to let it continue."

Fenton thought this a fair decision under the circumstances.  He felt he would become a judge some day and hoped to have a somber judge's chamber in which to make such decisions.  He would have mother decorate his room thusly.

"Well," said Warren, "this state of affairs con­tinued unabated," [Warren had been to the College] "until one day the mother duck happened upon a family of swans.  It was suddenly clear that the baby "duckling" was actually a swan who had wandered off from its fami­ly.  Swans were looked down on in that swamp, speaking as they did a foreign 'lengua,' being know," said Warren.  They nodded in unison.

"Not wanting to give up her considerable investment, mother swan decided to make the best use of this infor­ma­tion.  So she set the baby swan to work doing such chores as a baby swan would be suited for. 

"Of course all of the other baby ducks ridic­uled the imposter.  And the baby swan grew more and more upset.  One day, while doing chores for a real duck, she boasted about how she was going to grow up to be beautiful.

"Nobody could take this threat seriously, as she was indeed frightfully ugly.

"Then one day (the creature's boast quite forgotten) a most wondrous thing occurred.  Before their very eyes, the ugly duckling had grown up.  She had, as it were, blossomed into a full grown swan!"

Warren stood up to his full height at this point.  Was brother preparing to leave for the College again, or was he merely stretching?  Fenton finally decided to stand up at an angle.  Eventually brother sat down again, and Fenton did likewise.

"Uh, Warren," Fenton ventured uncertainly, "what did the full grown swan look like?  Was she beautiful?"

"The ugly duckling," Warren said soothingly, "grew up to be an ugly swan."   

"Lineage," concluded Warren, tapping out what would have been his pipe.

"Lineage," thought Warren to himself, as he left the room.