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Somehow Henrietta Hen never noticed that one of her brood was different from the rest. They were her first youngsters and they all looked beautiful to her.
Just as soon as Henrietta began to take her children for strolls about the farmyard she taught them a number of things. She showed them how to scratch in the dirt for food, how to drink by raising their heads and letting the water trickle down their throats. She bade them beware of hawks--and of Miss Kitty Cat, too. And she was always warning them to keep their feet dry.
"Water's good for nothing except to drink," Henrietta informed her chicks. "Some strange people, like old dog Spot, jump right into it. And how they manage to keep well is more than I can understand. Dust baths are the only safe ones."
So much did she fear water that Henrietta Hen wouldn't even let her children walk in the grass until the sun had dried the morning's dew. And the first sprinkle of rain was enough to send her scurrying for cover, calling frantically for her chicks to hurry.
Now, there was one of her family that always lagged behind when the rain-drops began to fall. And often Henrietta had fairly to drive him away from a puddle of water. She sometimes remarked with a sigh that he gave her more trouble than all the rest of her children together.
This was the youngster that Mrs. Hen's neighbors told one another was different from his brothers and sisters. But poor Henrietta Hen only knew that he was unusually hard to manage.
As her family grew bigger, Henrietta Hen took them on longer strolls, always casting a careful eye aloft now and then, lest some hawk should swoop down upon her darlings. And though no hawk tried to surprise her, something happened one day that gave Henrietta almost as great a fright as any cruel hawk could have caused her.
They had strayed down by the duck-pond--had Henrietta and her children, stopping here and there to scratch for some tidbit, or to flutter in an inviting dust-heap. Once they had reached the bank of the pond Henrietta began to wish she hadn't brought her family in that direction. For one of the youngsters--the one that never would hurry in out of the rain--insisted on toddling down to the water's edge.
"Come away this instant!" Henrietta shrieked, as soon as she noticed where he was. "You'll get your feet wet the first thing you know."
She never said anything truer than that. The words were scarcely out of her bill when the odd member of her family flung himself into the water. Or to be more exact, he flung himself upon it; for he floated on the surface as easily as a chip and began to paddle about as if he had swum all his life.
"Come back! Come back!" Henrietta Hen shrieked. "You'll be drowned--and you'll get your feet wet!"
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