Chapter XXX: The Mystery Is Solved

It was very mysterious. Yes, Sir, it was very mysterious. Mr. Quack thought so. Mrs. Quack thought so. There, out in the Big River, in the midst of the Black Shadows, was something which looked like the branch of a tree. But instead of moving down the river, as the branch of a tree would if it were floating, this was coming straight across the river as if it were swimming. But how could the branch of a tree swim? That was too much for Mr. Quack. It was too much for Mrs. Quack.

So they sat perfectly still among the brown stalks of the wild rice along the edge of the Big River, and not for a second did they take their eyes from that strange thing moving towards them. They were ready to spring into the air and trust to their swift wings the instant they should detect danger. But they did not want to fly unless they had to. Besides, they were curious. They were very curious indeed. They wanted to find out what that mysterious thing moving through the water towards them was.

So Mr. and Mrs. Quack watched that thing that looked like a swimming branch draw nearer and nearer, and the nearer it drew the more they were puzzled, and the more curious they felt. If it had been the pond of Paddy the Beaver instead of the Big River, they would have thought it was Paddy swimming with a branch for his winter food pile. But Paddy the Beaver was way back in his own pond, deep in the Green Forest, and they knew it. So this thing became more and more of a mystery. The nearer it came, the more nervous and anxious they grew, and at the same time the greater became their curiosity.

At last Mr. Quack felt that not even to gratify his curiosity would it be safe to wait longer. He prepared to spring into the air, knowing that Mrs. Quack would follow him. It was just then that a funny little sound reached him. It was half snort, half cough, as if some one had sniffed some water up his nose. There was something familiar about that sound. Mr. Quack decided to wait a few minutes longer.

"I'll wait," thought Mr. Quack," until that thing, whatever it is, comes out of those Black Shadows into the moonlight. Somehow I have a feeling that we are in no danger."

So Mr. and Mrs. Quack waited and watched. In a few minutes the thing that looked like the branch of a tree came out of the Black Shadows into the moonlight, and then the mystery was solved. It was a mystery no longer. They saw that they had mistaken the antlers of Lightfoot the Deer for the branch of a tree. Lightfoot was swimming across the Big River on his way back to his home in the Green Forest. At once Mr. and Mrs. Quack swam out to meet him and to tell him how glad they were that he was alive and safe.