ON the last house in a little village the storks had built
a nest, and the mother stork sat in it with her four young
ones, who stretched out their necks and pointed their black
beaks, which had not yet turned red like those of the parent
birds. A little way off, on the edge of the roof, stood the
father stork, quite upright and stiff; not liking to be quite
idle, he drew up one leg, and stood on the other, so still
that it seemed almost as if he were carved in wood. 'It must
look very grand,' thought he, 'for my wife to have a sentry
guarding her nest. They do not know that I am her husband;
they will think I have been commanded to stand here, which is
quite aristocratic;' and so he continued standing on one leg.
In the street below were a number of children at play, and
when they caught sight of the storks, one of the boldest
amongst the boys began to sing a song about them, and very
soon he was joined by the rest. These are the words of the
song, but each only sang what he could remember of them in his
'Stork, stork, fly away,
Stand not on one leg, I pray,
See your wife is in her nest,
With her little ones at rest.
They will hang one,
And fry another;
They will shoot a third,
And roast his brother.'
'Just hear what those boys are singing,' said the young
storks; 'they say we shall be hanged and roasted.'
'Never mind what they say; you need not listen,' said the
mother. 'They can do no harm.'
But the boys went on singing and pointing at the storks,
and mocking at them, excepting one of the boys whose name was
Peter; he said it was a shame to make fun of animals, and
would not join with them at all. The mother stork comforted
her young ones, and told them not to mind. 'See,' she said,
'How quiet your father stands, although he is only on one
'But we are very much frightened,' said the young storks,
and they drew back their heads into the nests.
The next day when the children were playing together, and
saw the storks, they sang the song again-
'They will hang one,
And roast another.'
'Shall we be hanged and roasted?' asked the young storks.
'No, certainly not,' said the mother. 'I will teach you to
fly, and when you have learnt, we will fly into the meadows,
and pay a visit to the frogs, who will bow themselves to us in
the water, and cry 'Croak, croak,' and then we shall eat them
up; that will be fun.'
'And what next?' asked the young storks.
'Then,' replied the mother, 'all the storks in the country
will assemble together, and go through their autumn
manoeuvres, so that it is very important for every one to know
how to fly properly. If they do not, the general will thrust
them through with his beak, and kill them. Therefore you must
take pains and learn, so as to be ready when the drilling
'Then we may be killed after all, as the boys say; and
hark! they are singing again.'
'Listen to me, and not to them,' said the mother stork.
'After the great review is over, we shall fly away to warm
countries far from hence, where there are mountains and
forests. To Egypt, where we shall see three-cornered houses
built of stone, with pointed tops that reach nearly to the
clouds. They are called Pyramids, and are older than a stork
could imagine; and in that country, there is a river that
overflows its banks, and then goes back, leaving nothing but
mire; there we can walk about, and eat frogs in abundance.'
'Oh, o- h!' cried the young storks.
'Yes, it is a delightful place; there is nothing to do all
day long but eat, and while we are so well off out there, in
this country there will not be a single green leaf on the
trees, and the weather will be so cold that the clouds will
freeze, and fall on the earth in little white rags.' The stork
meant snow, but she could not explain it in any other way.
'Will the naughty boys freeze and fall in pieces?' asked
the young storks.
'No, they will not freeze and fall into pieces,' said the
mother, 'but they will be very cold, and be obliged to sit all
day in a dark, gloomy room, while we shall be flying about in
foreign lands, where there are blooming flowers and warm
Time passed on, and the young storks grew so large that
they could stand upright in the nest and look about them. The
father brought them, every day, beautiful frogs, little
snakes, and all kinds of stork-dainties that he could find.
And then, how funny it was to see the tricks he would perform
to amuse them. He would lay his head quite round over his
tail, and clatter with his beak, as if it had been a rattle;
and then he would tell them stories all about the marshes and
'Come,' said the mother one day, 'Now you must learn to
fly.' And all the four young ones were obliged to come out on
the top of the roof. Oh, how they tottered at first, and were
obliged to balance themselves with their wings, or they would
have fallen to the ground below.
'Look at me,' said the mother, 'you must hold your heads
in this way, and place your feet so. Once, twice, once, twice-
that is it. Now you will be able to take care of yourselves in
Then she flew a little distance from them, and the young
ones made a spring to follow her; but down they fell plump,
for their bodies were still too heavy.
'I don't want to fly,' said one of the young storks,
creeping back into the nest. 'I don't care about going to warm
'Would you like to stay here and freeze when the winter
comes?' said the mother, 'or till the boys comes to hang you,
or to roast you?- Well then, I'll call them.'
'Oh no, no,' said the young stork, jumping out on the roof
with the others; and now they were all attentive, and by the
third day could fly a little. Then they began to fancy they
could soar, so they tried to do so, resting on their wings,
but they soon found themselves falling, and had to flap their
wings as quickly as possible. The boys came again in the
street singing their song:-
'Stork, stork, fly away.'
'Shall we fly down, and pick their eyes out?' asked the
'No; leave them alone,' said the mother. 'Listen to me;
that is much more important. Now then. One-two-three. Now to
the right. One-two-three. Now to the left, round the chimney.
There now, that was very good. That last flap of the wings was
so easy and graceful, that I shall give you permission to fly
with me to-morrow to the marshes. There will be a number of
very superior storks there with their families, and I expect
you to show them that my children are the best brought up of
any who may be present. You must strut about proudly- it will
look well and make you respected.'
'But may we not punish those naughty boys?' asked the
'No; let them scream away as much as they like. You can
fly from them now up high amid the clouds, and will be in the
land of the pyramids when they are freezing, and have not a
green leaf on the trees or an apple to eat.'
'We will revenge ourselves,' whispered the young storks to
each other, as they again joined the exercising.
Of all the boys in the street who sang the mocking song
about the storks, not one was so determined to go on with it
as he who first began it. Yet he was a little fellow not more
than six years old. To the young storks he appeared at least a
hundred, for he was so much bigger than their father and
mother. To be sure, storks cannot be expected to know how old
children and grown-up people are. So they determined to have
their revenge on this boy, because he began the song first and
would keep on with it. The young storks were very angry, and
grew worse as they grew older; so at last their mother was
obliged to promise that they should be revenged, but not until
the day of their departure.
'We must see first, how you acquit yourselves at the grand
review,' said she. 'If you get on badly there, the general
will thrust his beak through you, and you will be killed, as
the boys said, though not exactly in the same manner. So we
must wait and see.'
'You shall see,' said the young birds, and then they took
such pains and practised so well every day, that at last it
was quite a pleasure to see them fly so lightly and prettily.
As soon as the autumn arrived, all the storks began to
assemble together before taking their departure for warm
countries during the winter. Then the review commenced. They
flew over forests and villages to show what they could do, for
they had a long journey before them. The young storks
performed their part so well that they received a mark of
honor, with frogs and snakes as a present. These presents were
the best part of the affair, for they could eat the frogs and
snakes, which they very quickly did.
'Now let us have our revenge,' they cried.
'Yes, certainly,' cried the mother stork. 'I have thought
upon the best way to be revenged. I know the pond in which all
the little children lie, waiting till the storks come to take
them to their parents. The prettiest little babies lie there
dreaming more sweetly than they will ever dream in the time to
come. All parents are glad to have a little child, and
children are so pleased with a little brother or sister. Now
we will fly to the pond and fetch a little baby for each of
the children who did not sing that naughty song to make game
of the storks.'
'But the naughty boy, who began the song first, what shall
we do to him?' cried the young storks.
'There lies in the pond a little dead baby who has dreamed
itself to death,' said the mother. 'We will take it to the
naughty boy, and he will cry because we have brought him a
little dead brother. But you have not forgotten the good boy
who said it was a shame to laugh at animals: we will take him
a little brother and sister too, because he was good. He is
called Peter, and you shall all be called Peter in future.'
So they all did what their mother had arranged, and from
that day, even till now, all the storks have been called