Chapter XII: Jerry Muskrat Learns Something.
     If you think you know it all
     You are riding for a fall.
     Use your ears and use your eyes,
     But hold your tongue and you'll be wise.

Jerry Muskrat will tell you that is as true as true can be. Jerry knows. He found it out for himself. Now he is very careful what he says about other people or what they are doing. But he wasn't so careful when his cousin, Paddy the Beaver, was building his house. No, Sir, Jerry wasn't so careful then. He though he knew more about building a house than Paddy did. He was sure of it when he watched Paddy heap up a great pile of mud right in the middle where his room ought to be, and then build a wall of sticks around it. He said as much to Peter Rabbit.

Now it is never safe to say anything to Peter Rabbit that you don't care to have others know. Peter has a great deal of respect for Jerry Muskrat's opinion on house-building. You see, he very much admires Jerry's snug house in the Smiling Pool. It really is a very fine house, and Jerry may be excused for being proud of it. But that doesn't excuse Jerry for thinking that he knows all there is to know about house-building. Of course Peter told everyone he met that Paddy the Beaver was making a foolish mistake in building his house, and that Jerry Muskrat, who ought to know, said so.

So whenever they got the chance, the little people of the Green Forest and Green Meadows would steal up to the shore of Paddy's new pond and chuckle as they looked out at the great pile of sticks and mud which Paddy had built for a house, but in which he had forgotten to make a room. At least they supposed that he had forgotten this very important thing. He must have, for there wasn't any room. It was a great joke. They laughed a lot about it, and they lost a great deal of the respect for Paddy which they had had since he built his wonderful dam.

Jerry and Peter sat in the moonlight talking it over. Paddy had stopped bringing sticks for his wall. He had dived down out of sight, and he was gone a long time. Suddenly Jerry noticed that the water had grown very, very muddy all around Paddy's new house. He wrinkled his brows trying to think what Paddy could be doing. Presently Paddy came up for air. Then he went down again, and the water grew muddier than ever. This went on for a long time. Every little while Paddy would come up for air and a few minutes of rest. Then down he would go, and the water would grow muddier and muddier.

At last Jerry could stand it no longer. He just had to see what was going on. He slipped into the water and swam over to where the water was muddiest. Just as he got there up came Paddy.

"Hello, Cousin Jerry!" said he. "I was just going to invite you over to see what you think of my house inside. Just follow me."

Paddy dived, and Jerry dived after him. He followed Paddy in at one of the three doorways under water and up a smooth hall right into the biggest, nicest bedroom Jerry had ever seen in all his life. He just gasped in sheer surprise. He couldn't do anything else. He couldn't find his tongue to say a word. Here he was in this splendid great room up above the water, and he had been so sure that there wasn't any room at all! He just didn't know what to make of it.

Paddy's eyes twinkled. "Well," said he, "what do you think of it?"

"I--I--think it is splendid, just perfectly splendid! But I don't understand it at all, Cousin Paddy. I--I--Where is that great pile of mud I helped you build in the middle?" Jerry looked as foolish as he felt when he asked this.

"Why, I've dug it all away. That's what made the water so muddy," replied Paddy.

"But what did you build it for in the first place?" Jerry asked.

"Because I had to have something solid to rest my sticks against while I was building my walls, of course," replied Paddy. When I got the tops fastened together for a roof, they didn't need a support any longer, and then I dug it away to make this room. I couldn't have built such a big room any other way. I see you don't know very much about house-building, Cousin Jerry."

"I--I'm afraid I don't," confessed Jerry sadly.