The Chatty Duck

Once upon a time there lived a Duck with hairy legs and a fur hat on his head. Although he could not sing, he was fond of telling all kinds of fresh news to every bird and beast in the farmyard. Some of them soon grew tired of listening to him, the rest tried to avoid his company altogether.
«Have you heard the latest news? I'm going to tell you, but it's a BIG secret...» Duck would begin his gossip.
One day the Master of the house called his dog, tucked his sharp axe under his belt and went off to the woods.
«Be careful, don't tell a soul that I am not at home!» he warned all the fowls and animals in his household.
«Why does he want us to keep quiet?» Duck wondered to himself, but he never found an answer.
The animals spent the first night alone, without their Master. Nothing happened.
«It seems, the Master will not return even today», they worried, and decided to send someone to ask the Master to come back home.
«You can fly, you can swim and you can run», they said to Duck, «Why don't you go? But don't tell anyone what you are going for!» they cautioned.
«Very well», said Duck puffing out his chest, «for your sake's, I shall go».
Next morning, Duck, without a care, ate his fill and set out on his way. At first he flew, beating his wings against the air, until he came to a river There he swam, and why not, since his feet served him so well as paddles? Once he reached the shore, he started to run. After a while, Duck came to a big forest. There he nibbled on sweet, juicy berries and trapped the fat insects he found buzzing around his beak. As Duck was chasing butterflies in the thicket, who should he meet but Hedgehog.
«Where are you going?» asked Hedgehog. Well, that was all Duck needed. He hadn't met a soul on his way and bored by his own silence, he immediately forgot his friend's warning and the words just poured out, «I'm looking for my Master. He is cutting wood in the forest. He went away and his dog followed him, so there is no one to guard our household. That's why the others sent me to come and find our Master and bring him back home».
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«How far is it to your house?» asked Hedgehog. «Do you have any nice, fat mice, or nasty, slithery snakes there?» Hedgehog was very, very hungry.
«This path takes you all the way there, but don't tell anyone, not a soul!» warned Duck. And he told Hedgehog that there wasn't a snake to be seen in his house and that a smart cat was there getting the better of the mice.
«I'm not wicked», said Hedgehog, «and I won't harm you even though I've learnt all your secrets and know where you come from. But you MUST be more discreet! Don't tell your secrets to everyone you meet. If you keep them to yourself, your home will be safer and will stay so for longer». Alas, Duck did not listen to Hedgehog's sensible advice, but hurried off into the thicket.
After some time Duck met a long-eared Hare.
«Hey you, Duck in a fur hat», cried Hare, «why are you waddling about in the forest when there is a lake over there that you could be swimming in? It's beautiful as a mirror and large as a field».
«Our Master, along with our watch-dog went to the forest to cut wood and left us all alone in our house, unguarded», explained Duck, and told Hare all that he had revealed to Hedgehog just a while earlier. Hare thought, «If this is true, why now would be a fine time to go and gnaw his master's apple trees...» and he asked Duck where exactly his home was, and once again, Duck told all he knew to a complete stranger.
«No, I have not seen your Master», said Hare, and with his long ears flopping, he bounded off out of sight into the bushes.
On and on walked Duck, further and further into the forest until he came to a large cave. And inside, a huge bear lay snoring. Duck woke Bear and told him the same story he had told Hedgehog and Hare. Duck asked Bear, «Haven't you seen a man with a dog, and an axe tucked under his belt?»
«No, I have not», yawned Bear, but then pretending to share Duck's concern, he said, «if you go deeper into the woods — you will certainly find your Master».
Bear pointed to Duck which way to go, but meanwhile he thought to himself, «Now this would be a fine time to break his Master's bee-hives and enjoy the sweet honey!» and as soon as Duck was on his way, Bear loped off towards Duck's home.
The chatty Duck carried on searching for his Master. He went deeper into the forest where he met a Wolf. Wolf mocked, «Hey you, blockhead in a fur hat, why are you wandering alone in the thick, dark forest, afraid of no-one?» Without even thinking, Duck told Wolf everything. He blurted out that the Master was not at home, and neither was his dog. Wolf gritted his teeth, trying to hide his bloodthirsty thoughts, «Now, this would be a good time to go and devour the Master's sheep!»
«No, I have not seen such a man», snarled Wolf and leapt off into the bushes.
Duck never stopped walking. He looked high and low for his Master. He asked every bird and beast about him. He even asked the tiny insects. Along his path came a fox with a bright bushy tail.
Stupid Duck begged Fox to tell him, «Beautiful Foxy, haven't you seen my Master? He has a dog with him, and an axe in his hand?» And Duck explained to Fox how worried all the animals were without their Master and how afraid they
were about being left alone.
«Why, fairest of the fair, pearl of all pearls», cried Fox in a sweet and soothing voice, «l have certainly seen your Master, and the nice curve-tailed doggy, and the shiny steel axe under his belt». And Fox offered to show Duck where the Master was. So off Fox trotted, and Duck waddled after, all the way to the river with it banks covered in bushes. And there, near Fox's burrow, her cubs were playing. The cubs ran to meet Fox and jumping around her they barked, «Mother, have you brought us something to eat?» Fox nodded, then she
winked and tipped her head towards Duck, «Here's some tasty duck for you, my dears», she said and swiftly strangled Duck and divided the meat between her cubs. Mumuring, «Who would have thought that duck meat would be so tasty?» the cubs gobbled it all up and licked their tiny lips. But they were still hungry and asked their mother for more.
«Be patient my dears», said Fox, «l shall head down to the village and bring you several more ducks». And off she went leaving her children behind.
And so, all because of the chatty Duck, the entire household was about to perish, but the Master was a clever man and he had devised traps for every intruder. Hare could not get through the fence, so he turned back. Bear fell into the potato cellar. Neither could Wolf get to the sheep — he could not get into the fold. And, in spite of all her cunning, Fox could not reach the ducks and she too fell into a trap. When the Master returned, he got the better of her.
«Once I have caught a few more, I shall have myself a fur coat», he said as he hung the Fox skin out in the barn to dry.
The animals told the Master the whole story. They felt very sorry to have sent the chatterbox duck on such an important errand.

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Abdulla Alish
Translated from Tatar into English by Ravil Boharaev