“Then there was another fellow we had to watch out for, a queer fellow whom we never see anywhere but down there. It was never safe to swim too near an old log floating in the water or lying on the bank, because it might suddenly open a great mouth and swallow one of us whole.”
“What’s that?” Peter Rabbit leaned forward and stared at Mrs. Quack with his eyes popping right out. “What’s that?” he repeated. “How can an old log have a mouth?”
Mrs. Quack just had to smile, Peter was so in earnest and looked so astonished.
“Of course,” said she, “no really truly log has a mouth or is alive, but this queer fellow I was speaking of looks so much like an old log floating in the water unless you look at him very sharply, that many a heedless young Duck has discovered the difference when it was too late. Then, too, he will swim under water and come up underneath and seize you without any warning. He has the biggest mouth I’ve ever seen, with terrible-looking teeth, and could swallow me whole.”
[Illustration with caption: “Some folks call him Alligator and some just ’Gator.”]
By this time Peter’s eyes looked as if they would fall out of his head. “What is his name?” whispered Peter.
“It’s Old Ally the ’Gator,” replied Mrs. Quack. “Some folks call him Alligator and some just ’Gator, but we call him Old Ally. He’s a very interesting old fellow. Some time perhaps I’ll tell you more about him. Mr. Quack and I kept out of his reach, you may be sure. We lived quietly and tried to get in as good condition as possible for the long journey back to our home in the North. When it was time to start, a lot of us got together, just as we did when we came down from the North, only this time the young Ducks felt themselves quite grown up. In fact, before we started there was a great deal of love-making, and each one chose a mate. That was a very happy time, a very happy time indeed, but it was a sad time too for us older Ducks, because we knew what dreadful things were likely to happen on the long journey. It is hard enough to lose father or mother or brother or sister, but it is worse to lose a dear mate.”
Mrs. Quack’s eyes suddenly filled with tears again. “Oh, dear,” she sobbed, “I wish I knew what became of Mr. Quack.”
Peter said nothing, but looked the sympathy he felt. Presently Mrs. Quack went on with her story. “We had a splendid big flock when we started, made up wholly of pairs, each pair dreaming of the home they would build when they reached the far North. Mr. Quack was the leader as usual, and I flew right behind him. We hadn’t gone far before we began to hear the terrible guns, and the farther we went, the worse they got. Mr. Quack led us to the safest feeding and resting grounds he knew of, and for a time our flock escaped the terrible guns. But the farther we went, the more guns there were.” Mrs. Quack paused and Peter waited.