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
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
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.