Lily and Her Ducklings

by the American Sunday-School Union

The white duck, Lily, made a nest on the ground, in a small enclosure, from which some tame rabbits had been removed. She gathered the scattered straw into one corner, and made a much neater nest than the other ducks did, who laid their eggs under the wood-pile among the small chips.

She laid several large, smooth, white eggs, and when she had as many as she could conveniently take care of, she began to sit on them to keep them warm, till the little ducks should be ready to peck their way out. She plucked the soft white down from her breast, to line the nest, and to make it of a more even temperature for the eggs; and, whenever she left to procure food, or to take a short swim on the pond, she carefully covered them.

The duck cannot spread her wings as wide as the hen, so she has to be much more particular about her nest. She makes it deeper and warmer than Biddy. It is wonderful with what skill all animals rear their young. It shows the great goodness and kindness of God, that he should thus fit the creatures he has made for the duties they must perform. His care is continual, not only over us, but over them all. He hears the young ravens when they cry, and the ducks and the chickens are not forgotten by him. To the duck he has not given the brooding wings of the hen-mother; but he has given her a coat of down, from which she can make a warm bed for her cherished eggs.

It was a very pretty sight to see Lily on her nest, almost covered by the straw, her head turned back, and her broad yellow bill partially hidden beneath her wing. The down lay scattered about like snow-flakes. She looked patient and hopeful, as she opened her eyes to see who had intruded on her solitude.

When a sitting-duck goes in search of food, she acts so queerly that you would surely laugh to see her, if you are not accustomed to her odd ways. She bends her head back, and draws it close to her body, and waddles about in the greatest haste, quacking all the time.

Lily waited four weeks before the ducklings appeared. Some of the brood were of a straw-colour, and some were marked with spots of black. They were all pretty. When I first saw them, they were partly hidden beneath their mother. Their glossy bills and bright eyes were visible, but they were afraid to venture from their shelter. They were provided with water and food in the old rabbit-house, because, if they followed their mother to the pond, the musk-rats would probably devour some of them.

While the little ones remained with their mother, they were safe, but when they became discontented, and wandered from home, they were sometimes lost. The rats were their principal enemies, and those from which they had most to fear. They were constantly lurking about to catch the ducklings, and sometimes the defenseless little ones ran directly into their deep holes, from which there was no possibility of escape. Quite a number of Lily's family came to an untimely end in this way.

When I saw them roving about in the high grass, seeking in vain to find their way to their mother's presence, and hearing their calls for help, and her answering cry of distress, I could but think of the dear children who forget their mother's counsel, and leave her protection before they are old enough to take care of themselves.

The ducklings, I observed, did not know who were their friends; for, one day, when the prettiest of the brood had found a way out of the rabbit-house, I thought I would catch it, and give it back to its mother. It was much alarmed, and Lily was in equal trouble. It ran away from me, thinking, perhaps that I was a greater enemy than the rats, against which it had probably been warned. Just as I was going to put my hand on it, it hid itself in a rat-hole, from which there was no escape. I could not rescue it, neither could its mother. The next morning, when I went to look at the ducks, and give them their breakfast, there lay the poor duckling, close by the fatal hole. The rat had brought it out, and partly devoured it.

Children often think they know what is best for them quite as well, if not better, than their parents, and when told not to do this or that, they are not satisfied to obey quietly, but ask, "Why not?" I think children may often be told why they are bidden to do this, or forbidden to do that; but they should obey their parents promptly, whether they know their reasons or not.

Sometimes there are reasons which children cannot understand, sometimes there are reasons which it would not be wise to tell them, and sometimes it is not convenient to give the why and the wherefore. Children are commanded to obey their parents,—not the reasons their parents may give them. The young ducks could not understand why their mother did not wish them to go out of that enclosure. They could not comprehend the dangers which surrounded them. They saw the birds flying about in the air, and heard the hum of the bees as they were going abroad for honey, or returning loaded to the hive, and they could not understand why they might not wander about too. The red clover looked very beautiful, and the white clover was so fragrant, they longed to ramble in it. They thought their mother unnecessarily strict, because she wished to keep them with her, instead of permitting them to see all the pretty things of which they could now and then catch a glimpse, as they peeped through the cracks of the rabbit-house.

Children sometimes feel unpleasantly because they are not permitted to play in the street. Ah! they are as ignorant of danger as the poor ducklings and they are too young to understand the peril to which they are exposed. Even if their mother should explain it to them, they could realize but little about it. It is by far the better way for children to feel that their mother knows best, and to be satisfied that her reasons are good and sufficient even if they do not know what they are.

I once heard a distinguished clergyman say he had always observed that those persons who had learned to obey their parents promptly, most readily yielded to the claims of God, and became converted, while those who had always liked their own way had generally a long, severe struggle, before they were willing to give up their sins, and oftentimes could not make up their minds to do so, and, though deeply convicted, remained impenitent.

It is a fearful thought that, if you form a habit of disobedience to your parents, it may cost you the salvation of your soul.