Mrs. Feathertop rose up out of her swoon, and Mr. Gray Cock was greatly enraged.
"What do you mean, sir, by such behaviour in the house of mourning?"
"My dear sir, pardon me; but there is no occasion for mourning. My dear madam, let me congratulate you. There is no harm done. The simple matter is, dear madam, you have been under a hallucination all along. The neighbourhood and my learned friend the doctor have all made a mistake in thinking that these children of yours were hens at all. They are ducks, ma'am, evidently ducks, and very finely-formed ducks I daresay."
At this moment a quack was heard, and at a distance the whole tribe were seen coming waddling home, their feathers gleaming in green and gold, and they themselves in high good spirits.
"Such a splendid day as we have had!" they all cried in a breath. "And we know now how to get our own living; we can take care of ourselves in future, so you need have no further trouble with us."
"Madam," said the doctor, making a bow with an air which displayed his tail-feathers to advantage, "let me congratulate you on the charming family you have raised. A finer brood of young, healthy ducks I never saw. Give me your claw, my dear friend," he said, addressing the eldest son. "In our barn-yard no family is more respected than that of the ducks."
And so Madam Feathertop came off glorious at last. And when after this the ducks used to go swimming up and down the river like so many nabobs among the admiring hens, Dr. Peppercorn used to look after them and say, "Ah, I had the care of their infancy!" and Mr. Gray Cock and his wife used to say, "It was our system of education did that!"
THE NUTCRACKERS OF NUTCRACKER LODGE