'Where's Papa going with that axe?' 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 axe,' 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 axe and tried to pull it out of her father's hand. 'Fern,' said Mr. Arablet 'I know more about raising a litter of pigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble. Now run along!'
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