“It’s all right. There’s nothing to be afraid of,” said Jerry Muskrat.
“Are you sure?” asked Mrs. Quack anxiously. “I’ve been fooled too often by men with their terrible guns to ever feel absolutely sure that one isn’t hiding and waiting to shoot me.” As she spoke she swam about nervously. “Peter Rabbit and I have been here ever since you left, and I guess we ought to know,” replied Jerry Muskrat rather shortly. “There hasn’t been anybody near here excepting Farmer Brown’s boy, and we told you he wouldn’t hurt you.”
“He brought us each a carrot,” Peter Rabbit broke in eagerly.
“Just the same, I wouldn’t trust him,” replied Mrs. Quack. “Where is he now?”
“He left ever so long ago, and he won’t be back to-night,” declared Peter confidently.
“I hope not,” said Mrs. Quack, with a sigh. “Did you hear the bang of that terrible gun just after I left here?”
“Yes,” replied Jerry Muskrat. “Was it fired at you?”
Mrs. Quack nodded and held up one wing. Peter and Jerry could see that one of the long feathers was missing. “I thought I was flying high enough to be safe,” said she, “but when I reached the Big River there was a bang from the bushes on the bank, and something cut that feather out of my wing, and I felt a sharp pain in my side. It made me feel quite ill for a while, and the place is very sore now, but I guess I’m lucky that it was no worse. It is very hard work to know just how far those terrible guns can throw things at you. Next time I will fly higher.”
“Where have you been since you left us?” asked Peter.
“Eight in the middle of the Big River,” replied Mrs. Quack. “It was the only safe place. I didn’t dare go near either shore, and I’m nearly starved. I haven’t had a mouthful to eat to-day.”
Peter opened his mouth to tell her of the wheat and corn left by Farmer Brown’s boy and then closed it again. He would let her find it for herself. If he told her about it, she might suspect a trick and refuse to go near the place. He never had seen any one so suspicious, not even Old Man Coyote. But he couldn’t blame her, after all she had been through. So he kept still and waited. He was learning, was Peter Rabbit. He was learning a great deal about Mrs. Quack.
MRS. QUACK HAS A GOOD MEAL AND A REST
There’s nothing like a stomach full To make the heart feel light; To chase away the clouds of care And make the world seem bright.
That’s a fact. A full stomach makes the whole world seem different, brighter, better, and more worth living in. It is the hardest kind of hard work to be cheerful and see only the bright side of things when your stomach is empty. But once fill that empty stomach, and everything is changed. It was just that way with Mrs. Quack. For days at a time she hadn’t had a full stomach because of the hunters with their terrible guns, and when just before dark that night she returned to the Smiling Pool, her stomach was quite empty.