“Help Mrs. Quack!” exclaimed Sammy in surprise. “Where under the sun did you get acquainted with Mrs. Quack? What’s the matter with her? She always has looked to me quite able to help herself.”
“Well, she isn’t. That is, she needs others to help her just now,” replied Peter, “and I’ve been most thinking my head off trying to find a way to help her.” Then he told Sammy how he had met Mrs. Quack at the Smiling Pool and how terrible her long journey up from the sunny Southland had been, and how Mr. Quack had been shot by a hunter with a terrible gun, and how poor Mrs. Quack was quite heartbroken, and how she had gone over to the Big River to look for him but didn’t dare go near the places where he might be hiding if he were still alive and hurt so that he couldn’t fly, and how cruel and terribly unfair were the men with terrible guns, and all the other things he had learned from Mrs. Quack.
Sammy listened with his head cocked on one side, and for once he didn’t interrupt Peter or try to tease him or make fun of him. In fact, as Peter looked up at him, he could see that Sammy was very serious and thoughtful, and that the more he heard of Mrs. Quack’s story the more thoughtful he looked. When Peter finished, Sammy flew down a little nearer to Peter.
“I beg your pardon for saying your head is empty, Peter,” said he. “Your heart is right, anyway. Of course, there isn’t anything you can do to help Mrs. Quack, but as I told you in the beginning, what you can’t do others can. Now I don’t say that I can help Mrs. Quack, but I can try. I believe I’ll do a little thinking myself.”
So Sammy Jay in his turn went into a brown study, and Peter watched him anxiously and a little hopefully.
SAMMY JAY’S PLAN TO HELP MRS. QUACK
Sammy Jay sat on the lowest branch of a little tree in the dear Old Briar-patch just over Peter Rabbit’s head, thinking as hard as ever he could. Peter watched him and wondered if Sammy would be able to think of any plan for helping poor Mrs. Quack. He hoped so. He himself had thought and thought until he felt as if his brains were all mixed up and he couldn’t think any more. So he watched Sammy and waited and hoped.
Presently Sammy flirted his wings in a way which Peter knew meant that he had made up his mind. “Did I understand you to say that Mrs. Quack said that if Mr. Quack is alive, he probably is hiding among the rushes along the banks of the Big River?” he asked.
“And that she said that she doesn’t dare go near the banks because of fear of the terrible guns?”
Again Peter nodded.