Mr. and Mrs. Duck had five new ducklings. Their names were Dora, Dolly, Dinah, Daphne, and Harold.
When it was time for their first swimming lesson, Mrs. Duck took them to the pond. She showed them how to float. She showed them how to wiggle-waggle their feet.
“Now,” she said, “away you go!”
And splish-splash! Away went Dora and Dolly.
Splash-splish! Away went Dinah and Daphne.
Glub-glub-glub! went Harold. And he sank straight down to the bottom of the pond.
“No, no, no!” cried Mrs. Duck, as she fished Harold out. “That’s not right at all! You float like this. You wiggle-waggle your feet like this. And away you go!”
And away Harold went, glub-glub-glub! Straight to the bottom again.
It happened the next time he tried to swim, and the next, and the time after that. By the end of the day, poor Harold had seen more of the pond’s bottom than he’d seen of its top.
When Mrs. Duck told him the news, Mr. Duck roared, “Harold can’t swim? Nonsense! You must have been doing something wrong, my dear. Tomorrow I will teach Harold.”
And the next day he took Harold to the pond.
“You float like this,” said Mr. Duck. “You wiggle-waggle your feet like this. And away you go, Harold! Harold?”
“Glub-glub-glub!” said Harold.
By the end of that day, the fish were getting to know Harold very well.
“Hello again, Harold,” they said.
“Glub-glub-glub!” said Harold, on his way to the bottom.
Mr. and Mrs. Duck took Harold to the family doctor.
“A sinking feeling?” said Doctor Quack, as he stroked his chin. “Straight to the bottom, you say? Hmmm!” Then he said, “I can’t find anything wrong with him at all. He’ll learn to swim soon, you’ll see.”
But Harold didn’t learn to swim, not that day, nor the next, nor the one after that.
Harold didn’t seem to mind at all. He practiced floating when his mother asked him to. He practiced wiggle-waggling his feet when his father asked him to.
And sometimes, because he knew his parents were worried, he pretended to swim in the shallow water. But he always kept one foot on the bottom.
Then early one morning, Harold disappeared. Mrs. Duck couldn’t find him anywhere.
She set up a terrible fuss.
“Don’t anyone leave this duck pond!” she shouted. “Someone has stolen my Harold!”
“I saw a duckling in the middle of the pond,” said a frog. “Don’t ask me who he is. All you ducks look alike to me.”
Mr. and Mrs. Duck dived and dived under the water. They found a rubber tire, some rusty cans, and an old boot. But they didn’t find Harold.
“I shall never hear his little glub-glub-glub again!” sobbed Mrs. Duck.
“Glub-glub-glub?” asked a voice behind them.
And there was Harold.
“Harold’s floating!” gasped Mrs. Duck.
“Harold’s wiggle-waggling his feet!” cried Mr. Duck.
“Harold’s swimming!” shouted Dora, Dolly, Dinah, and Daphne.
And he was.
Mr. and Mrs. Duck watched proudly as Harold swam with his sisters.
“Sometimes things just take patience,” said Mrs. Duck.
“Sometimes things just take practice,” said Mr. Duck.
But Harold only smiled.
Little as he was, he had known all along that sometimes things just take time.