Where's Papa going with that ax ?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. "Out to the hoghouse," replied Mrs. Arable. "Some pigs were born last night." "I don't see why he needs an ax ," continued Fern , who was only eight. "Well," said her mother, "one of the pigs is a runt. It's very small and weak, and it will never amount to anything. So your father has decided to do away with it." "Do away with it?" shrieked Fern . "You mean kill it? Just because it's smaller than the others?" Mrs. Arable put a pitcher of cream on the table. "Don't yell, Fern !" she said . "Your father is right. The pig would probably die anyway." Fern pushed a chair out of the way and ran outdoors. The grass was wet and the earth smelled of springtime. Fern's sneakers were sopping by the time she caught up with her father. "Please don't kill it!" she sobbed. "It's unfair." Mr. Arable stopped walking. " Fern ," he said gently, "you will have to learn to control yourself." "Control myself?" yelled Fern . "This is a matter of life and death, and you talk about controlling myself." Tears ran down her cheeks and she took hold of the ax and tried to pull it out of her father's hand. background image " Fern ," said Mr. Arable, "I know more about raising a litter of pigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble. Now run along!" "But it's unfair," cried Fern . "The pig couldn't help being born small, could it? If I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?" Mr. Arable smiled. "Certainly not," he said , looking down at his daughter with love. "But this is different. A little girl is one thing, a little runty pig is another." "I see no difference," replied Fern , still hanging on to the ax . "This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of." A queer look came over John Arable's face. He seemed almost ready to cry himself. "All right," he said. "You go back to the house and I will bring the runt when I come in. I'll let you start it on a bottle, like a baby. Then you'll see what trouble a pig can be." When Mr. Arable returned to the house half an hour later, he carried a carton under his arm. Fern was upstairs changing her sneakers. The kitchen table was set for breakfast, and the room smelled of coffee, bacon, damp plaster, and wood smoke from the stove. "Put it on her chair!" said Mrs. Arable. Mr. Arable set the carton down at Fern's place. Then he walked to the sink and washed his hands and dried them on the roller towel. Fern came slowly down the stairs. Her eyes were red from crying. As she approached her chair, the carton wobbled, and there was a scratching noise. Fern looked at her father. Then she lifted the lid of the carton. There , inside, looking up at her, was the newborn pig. It was a white one. The morning light shone through its ears, turning them pink. "He's yours," said Mr. Arable. "Saved from an untimely death. And may the good Lord forgive me for this foolishness." Fern couldn't take her eyes off the tiny pig. "Oh," she whispered. "Oh, look at him! He's absolutely perfect."
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