The Diary of a Goose Girl

Author: Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin

Chapter VIII - July 13th.

I like to watch the Belgian hares eating their trifolium or peapods or grass; graceful, gentle things they are, crowding about Mr. Heaven, and standing prettily, not greedily, on their hind legs, to reach for the clover, their delicate nostrils and whiskers all aquiver with excitement.

As I look out of my window in the dusk I can see one of the mothers galloping across the enclosure, the soft white lining of her tail acting as a beacon-light to the eight infant hares following her, a quaint procession of eight white spots in it glancing line. In the darkest night those baby creatures could follow their mother through grass or hedge or thicket, and she would need no warning note to show them where to flee in case of danger. "All you have to do is to follow the white night-light that I keep in the lining of my tail," she says, when she is giving her first maternal lectures; and it seems a beneficent provision of Nature. To be sure, Mr. Heaven took his gun and went out to shoot wild rabbits to-day, and I noted that he marked them by those same selfbetraying tails, as they scuttled toward their holes or leaped toward the protecting cover of the hedge; so it does not appear whether Nature is on the side of the farmer or the rabbit . . .

There is as much comedy and as much tragedy in poultry life as anywhere, and already I see rifts within lutes. We have in a cage a French gentleman partridge married to a Hungarian lady of defective sight. He paces back and forth in the pen restlessly, anything but content with the domestic fireside. One can see plainly that he is devoted to the Boulevards, and that if left to his own inclinations he would never have chosen any spouse but a thorough Parisienne.

The Hungarian lady is blind of one eye, from some stray shot, I suppose. She is melancholy at all times, and occasionally goes so far as to beat her head against the wire netting. If liberated, Mr. Heaven says that her blindness would only expose her to death at the hands of the first sportsman, and it always seems to me as if she knows this, and is ever trying to decide whether a loveless marriage is any better than the tomb.

Then, again, the great, grey gander is, for some mysterious reason, out of favour with the entire family. He is a noble and amiable bird, by far the best all-round character in the flock, for dignity of mien and large-minded common-sense. What is the treatment vouchsafed to this blameless husband and father? One that puts anybody out of sorts with virtue and its scant rewards. To begin with, the others will not allow him to go into the pond. There is an organised cabal against it, and he sits solitary on the bank, calm and resigned, but, naturally, a trifle hurt. His favourite retreat is a tiny sort of island on the edge of the pool under the alders, where with his bent head, and red-rimmed philosophic eyes he regards his own breast and dreams of happier days. When the others walk into the country twenty-three of them keep together, and Burd Alane (as I have named him from the old ballad) walks by himself. The lack of harmony is so evident here, and the slight so intentional and direct, that it almost moves me to tears. The others walk soberly, always in couples, but even Burd Alane’s rightful spouse is on the side of the majority, and avoids her consort.

What is the nature of his offence? There can be no connubial jealousies, I judge, as geese are strictly monogamous, and having chosen a partner of their joys and sorrows they cleave to each other until death or some other inexorable circumstance does them part. If they are ever mistaken in their choice, and think they might have done better, the world is none the wiser. Burd Alane looks in good condition, but Phoebe thinks he is not quite himself, and that some day when he is in greater strength he will turn on his foes and rend them, regaining thus his lost prestige, for formerly he was king of the flock.

* * *

Phoebe has not a vestige of sentiment. She just asked me if I would have a duckling or a gosling for dinner; that there were two quite ready—the brown and yellow duckling, that is the last to leave the water at night, and the white gosling that never knows his own ’ouse. Which would I ’ave, and would I ’ave it with sage and onion?

Now, had I found a duckling on the table at dinner I should have eaten it without thinking at all, or with the thought that it had come from Barbury Green. But eat a duckling that I have stoned out of the pond, pursued up the bank, chased behind the wire netting, caught, screaming, in a corner, and carried struggling to his bed? Feed upon an idiot gosling that I have found in nine different coops on nine successive nights—in with the newly-hatched chicks, the half-grown pullets, the setting hen, the "invaleed goose," the drake with the gapes, the old ducks in the pen?—Eat a gosling that I have caught and put in with his brothers and sisters (whom he never recognises) so frequently and regularly that I am familiar with every joint in his body?

In the first place, with my own small bump of locality and lack of geography, I would never willingly consume a creature who might, by some strange process of assimilation, make me worse in this respect; in the second place, I should have to be ravenous indeed to sit down deliberately and make a meal of an intimate friend, no matter if I had not a high opinion of his intelligence. I should as soon think of eating the Square Baby, stuffed with sage and onion and garnished with green apple-sauce, as the yellow duckling or the idiot gosling.

Mrs. Heaven has just called me into her sitting-room, ostensibly to ask me to order breakfast, but really for the pleasure of conversation. Why she should inquire whether I would relish some gammon of bacon with eggs, when she knows that there has not been, is not now, and never will be, anything but gammon of bacon with eggs, is more than I can explain.

"Would you like to see my flowers, miss?" she asks, folding her plump hands over her white apron. "They are looking beautiful this morning. I am so fond of potted plants, of plants in pots. Look at these geraniums! Now, I consider that pink one a perfect bloom; yes, a perfect bloom. This is a fine red one, is it not, miss? Especially fine, don’t you think? The trouble with the red variety is that they’re apt to get "bobby" and have to be washed regularly; quite bobby they do get indeed, I assure you. That white one has just gone out of blossom, and it was really wonderful. You could ’ardly have told it from a paper flower, miss, not from a white paper flower. My plants are my children nowadays, since Albert Edward is my only care. I have been the mother of eleven children, miss, all of them living, so far as I know; I know nothing to the contrary. I ’ope you are not wearying of this solitary place, miss? It will grow upon you, I am sure, as it did upon Mrs. Pollock, with all her peculiar fancies, and as it ’as grown upon us.—We formerly had a butcher’s shop in Buffington, and it was naturally a great responsibility. Mr. Heaven’s nerves are not strong, and at last he wanted a life of more quietude, more quietude was what he craved. The life of a retail butcher is a most exciting and wearying one. Nobody satisfied with their meat; as if it mattered in a world of change! Everybody complaining of too much bone or too little fat; nobody wishing tough chops or cutlets, but always seeking after fine joints, when it’s against reason and nature that all joints should be juicy and all cutlets tender; always complaining if livers are not sent with every fowl, always asking you to remember the trimmin’s, always wanting their beef well ’ung, and then if you ’ang it a minute too long, it’s left on your ’ands! I often used to say to Mr. Heaven, yes many’s the time I’ve said it, that if people would think more of the great ’ereafter and less about their own little stomachs, it would be a deal better for them, yes, a deal better, and make it much more comfortable for the butchers!"

* * *

Burd Alane has had a good quarter of an hour to-day.

His spouse took a brief promenade with him. To be sure, it was during an absence of the flock on the other side of the hedge so that the moral effect of her spasm of wifely loyalty was quite lost upon them. I strongly suspect that she would not have granted anything but a secret interview. What a petty, weak, ignoble character! I really don’t like to think so badly of any fellowcreature as I am forced to think of that politic, time-serving, pusillanimous goose. I believe she laid the egg that produced the idiot gosling!


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Chicago: Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin, "Chapter VIII - July 13th.," The Diary of a Goose Girl, ed. Altemus, Henry and trans. Holcomb, Thomas Addis Emmett, an Holcomb, Martha A. Lyon in The Diary of a Goose Girl Original Sources, accessed June 4, 2023,

MLA: Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith. "Chapter VIII - July 13th." The Diary of a Goose Girl, edited by Altemus, Henry, and translated by Holcomb, Thomas Addis Emmett, an Holcomb, Martha A. Lyon, in The Diary of a Goose Girl, Original Sources. 4 Jun. 2023.

Harvard: Wiggin, KD, 'Chapter VIII - July 13th.' in The Diary of a Goose Girl, ed. and trans. . cited in , The Diary of a Goose Girl. Original Sources, retrieved 4 June 2023, from