He was thankful that he had known so much want, and gone through so much suffering, for it made him appreciate his present happiness and the loveliness of everything about him all the more. The swans made a circle around him and caressed him with their beaks.
Some children came out into the garden. They had brought bread with them to feed the swans. The youngest child shouted, “Look, there’s a new one!” All the children joyfully clapped their hands, and they ran to tell their parents.
Cake and bread were cast on the water for the swans. Everyone agreed that the new swan was the most beautiful of them all. The older swans bowed toward him.
He felt so shy that he hid his head beneath his wing. He was too happy, but not proud, for a kind heart can never be proud. He thought of the time when he had been mocked and persecuted. And now everyone said that he was the most beautiful of the most beautiful birds. And the lilac bushes stretched their branches right down to the water for him. The sun shone so warm and brightly. He ruffled his feathers and raised his slender neck, while out of the joy in his heart, he thought, “Such happiness I did not dream of when I was the ugly duckling!”
— The Ugly Duckling, by Hans Christian Andersen.
[Artwork: The Most Beautiful of All Most Beautiful Birds, by Jerry Pinkney.]