Clever Duck

Dick King-Smith, illustrated by Nick Bruel

Roaring Brook Press

Clever Duck
1
"Ignoramus"
"Ignoramuses!"said Mrs. Stout. "That's what they are. Ignoramuses, every one of them."
"Who, dear?" asked her friend Mrs. Portly.
"Why, the other animals on this farm, of course."
"Leaving aside us pigs, you mean?" said another friend, Mrs. O'Bese.
"Naturally, Mrs. O'Bese," replied Mrs. Stout. "All pigs are born with a high degree of intelligence, that goes without saying." There came grunts of agreement from the other sows--Mrs. Chubby, Mrs. Tubby, Mrs. Swagbelly, and Mrs. Roly-Poly--as they rooted in the mud of their paddock.
"I am speaking," went on Mrs. Stout, "of such creatures as the cows ..."
"Dullards!" put in Mrs. Chubby.
" ... and the sheep ..."
"Simpletons!" said Mrs. Tubby.
" ... and the chickens ..."
"Morons! said Mrs. Swagbelly. " ... and the ducks." "Idiots!" cried Mrs. Roly-Poly.
"Imbeciles! Half-wits! Dimwits! Nitwits!"
"Just so," said Mrs. Stout. "Each and every other creature on the farm is, as I said, an ignoramus. Why, there's not one of them that would even know what the word meant."
"Surely, dear," said Mrs. Portly, "they couldn't be that stupid?"
"There's one sure way to find out," said Mrs. O'Bese.
Unlike the others, Mrs. O'Bese was a pig with a sense of humor, and it struck her that here was a chance for a bit of fun.
On one side of the sows' paddock was a field in which the dairy herd was grazing, and Mrs. O'Bese made her way up to the fence, close to which one of the cows stood watching her approach.
"Good morning," said Mrs. O'Bese.
"Good moo-ning," said the cow.
"Are you," asked Mrs. O'Bese, "an ignoramus?"
"Noo," said the cow. "I'm a Holstein."
Mrs. O'Bese went to a second side of the paddock, where there was a field full of sheep, and spoke to one.
"Hey, ewe!" she said.
"Me?" said the sheep.
"Yes, you. Who did you think I was talking to?"
"Ma?" said the sheep.
Some mothers do have 'em, thought the sow.
"Ignoramus," she said.
"Baa," said the sheep.
"D'you know what it means?"
"Na, na," said the sheep.
"Well," said Mrs. O'Bese, "that cow over there is one and you are too."
"Na, na," said the sheep. "Me not two. Me one."
Mrs. O'Bese shook her head so that her ears flapped.
"Ass," she grunted.
"Na, na," said the sheep. "Me ewe."
On the third side of the paddock was an orchard with a duck pond in it. A flock of chickens was pecking around under the apple trees, and there were a number of ducks, some walking around, some swimming in the pond.
Mrs. O'Bese addressed a hen.
"Ignoramus," she said.
"What?" said the hen.
"Ignoramus. That's what you are, isn't it?"
"I don't get you, said the hen.
"It's a word," said Mrs. O'Bese, "used to describe someone who has very little knowledge.
"Knowledge?" said the hen. "What does that mean?"
Mrs. O'Bese sighed.
"How many beans make five?" she said.
The hen put her head on one side, considering.
"What's a bean?" she said.
"Oh, go lay an egg!" said Mrs. O'Bese.
"Okay," said the hen, and went.
A duck waddled past.
I'll try a different approach, thought the sow. Maybe I've been too abrupt. I'll turn on the charm.
"Top of the mornin' to ye, me fine friend!" she cried. "Would you be after sparin' me a minute of your valuable time?"
The duck stopped. It was an ordinary sort of bird, brown and white in color, and looking, Mrs. O'Bese thought, as stupid as all of its kind. It stared at her with beady eyes.
Then it said, "Quack!"
At this moment Mrs. O'Bese heard the sound of heavy bodies squelching through the mud and looked around to see that Mrs. Stout and Mrs. Portly, Mrs. Chubby, Mrs. Tubby, Mrs. Swagbelly, and Mrs. Roly-Poly were all standing behind her.
"Listen to this," she grunted softly at them, and to the duck she said, loudly and slowly asone does to foreigners, "Now then, my friend. I wonder if perhaps you'd be able to help me. There's this long word I've heard, and I'm just a silly old sow, so I don't know the meaning of it."
"Quack!" said the duck again.
"The word," said Mrs. O'Bese, "is 'ignoramus.'"
"Is that so?" said the duck.
"Yes. Can you tell me what it means?"
"I must say," said the duck, "you surprise me. I had been under the distinct impression that pigs were reasonably intelligent. If you don't know what an ignoramus is, then you must be one."
Text copyright © 1996 by Foxbusters Ltd.