Chapter XVIII. Sammy Jay Sends Mrs. Quack to the Swamp

When Sammy Jay left Mr. Quack in the swamp over by the bank of the Big River, he flew straight back to the Smiling Pool. At first he thought of flying out over the Big River and screaming the news to Mrs. Quack, who, you know, was swimming about out there. But he knew that if he did, she would very likely fly right over where Mr. Quack was, and that wouldn't do at all. No, indeed, that wouldn't do at all. One of the hunters would be sure to see her. So Sammy wisely flew back to the Smiling Pool to wait until Mrs. Quack should come back there for the night.

Of course he told Peter Rabbit all about Mr. Quack, and Peter was so delighted at the thought that Mr. Quack was alive that he capered about in quite the craziest way. "Does Mrs. Quack know yet?" asked Peter.

Sammy shook his head. "I'm going to tell her when she comes back here to-night," he explained. "I was afraid if I told her before then she would fly straight to him and perhaps get them both in trouble."

"Quite right, Sammy! Quite right!" Peter exclaimed. "I wouldn't have thought of that. My, won't she be happy when you do tell her! I wonder what she'll say and what she'll do. I'm going to stay right here so as to see her when she hears the good news. Here comes your cousin, Blacky the Crow. Does he know yet?"

"No," replied Sammy, "but I'm going to tell him as soon as he gets here." They watched Blacky draw nearer and nearer, and as soon as he was within hearing Sammy shouted the news. "Caw, caw, caw," replied Blacky, hurrying a little faster.

As soon as he reached the Big Hickory-tree, Sammy told the whole story over again, and Blacky was quite as glad as the others. While they waited for Mrs. Quack he told how he had hunted and hunted along the farther bank of the Big River and how he had seen the hunters with their terrible guns hiding and had warned Mrs. Quack just where each one was.

Jolly, round, red Mr. Sun was getting ready to go to bed behind the Purple Hills and the Black Shadows were beginning to creep out over the Green Meadows before Mrs. Quack came. In fact, Sammy Jay and Blacky were getting very uneasy. It was almost bed-time for them, for neither of them dared stay out after dark. They had almost made up their minds to leave Peter to tell the news when they saw Mrs. Quack coming swiftly from the direction of the Big River. She looked so sad and discouraged that even Blacky the Crow was sorry for her, and you know Blacky isn't much given to such feelings.

"What's the news, Mrs. Quack?" asked Peter, his eyes dancing.

"There isn't any," replied Mrs. Quack.

"Oh, yes, there is!" cried Sammy Jay, who couldn't possibly keep still any longer.

"What is it?" demanded Mrs. Quack eagerly, and it seemed to Peter that there was a wee bit of hope in her voice.

"Did you happen to notice that just before the Laughing Brook joins the Big River it flows through a little swamp?" asked Sammy.

Mrs. Quack nodded her head rapidly. "What of it?" she demanded.

"Nothing much, only if I were you I would go down there after dark," replied Sammy.

Mrs. Quack looked up at Sammy sharply. "Why should I go down there?" she asked.

"If I tell you, will you wait until I get quite through?" asked Sammy in his turn.

Mrs. Quack promised that she would.

"Well, then," replied Sammy, "this afternoon I found a stranger hiding in there, a stranger with a beautiful green head and neck and a white collar."

"Mr. Quack! Oh, it was Mr. Quack!" cried Mrs. Quack joyfully and lifted her wings as if she would start for the swamp at once.

"Stop!" cried Sammy sharply. "You said you would wait until I am through. It won't do for you to go there until after dark, because there is a hunter hiding very near Mr. Quack's hiding-place. Wait until it is dark and he has gone home. Then take my advice, and when you have found Mr. Quack, bring him right up here to the Smiling Pool. He can't fly, but he can swim up the Laughing Brook, and this is the safest place for both of you. Now good night and good luck."