Chapter XX. Happy Days for Mr. and Mrs. Quack
 
  Whose heart is true and brave and strong,
  Who ne'er gives up to grim despair,
  Will find some day that skies are blue
  And all the world is bright and fair.

If you don't believe it, just ask Mr. and Mrs. Quack. They know. Certainly the world never looked darker for any one than it did for them when the terrible gun of a hunter broke Mr. Quack's wing on the Big River and ended all their dreams of a home in the far Northland. Then, through the help of Jerry Muskrat, they found the lonely pond of Paddy the Beaver deep in the Green Forest, and there, because their secret had been well kept, presently they found peace and hope and then happiness. You see, the heart of Mrs. Quack was true and brave and strong. She was the kind to make the best of things, and she at once decided that if they couldn't have their home where they wanted it, they would have it where they could have it. She was determined that they should have a home anyway, and Paddy the Beaver's little pond was not such a bad place after all.

So she wasted no time. She examined every inch of the shore of that little pond. At last, a little back from the water, she found a place to suit her, a place so well hidden by bushes that only the sharpest eyes ever would find it. And a little later it would be still harder to find, as she well knew, for all about clumps of tall ferns were springing up, and when they had fully unfolded, not even the keen eyes of Sammy Jay looking down from a near-by tree would be able to discover her secret. There she made a nest on the ground, a nest of dried grass and leaves, and lined it with the softest and most beautiful of linings, down plucked from her own breast. In it she laid ten eggs. Then came long weeks of patient sitting on them, watching the wonder of growing things about her, the bursting into bloom of shy wood flowers, the unfolding of leaves on bush and tree, the springing up in a night of queer mushrooms, which people call toadstools, and all the time dreaming beautiful Duck dreams of the babies which would one day hatch from those precious eggs. She never left them save to get a little food and just enough exercise to keep her well and strong, and when she did leave them, she always carefully pulled soft down over them to keep them warm while she was away.

Mr. Quack knew all about that nest, though he had taken no part in building it and had no share in the care of those eggs. He was very willing that she should do all the work and thought it quite sufficient that he should be on guard to give warning if danger should appear. So he spent the long beautiful days lazily swimming about in the little pond, gossiping with Paddy the Beaver, and taking the best of care of himself. The broken wing healed and grew strong again, for it had not been so badly broken, after all. If he missed the company of others of his kind which he would have had during these long days of waiting had they been able to reach their usual nesting-place in the far Northland, he never mentioned it.

Unknown to them, Farmer Brown's boy discovered where they were. Later he came often to the pond and was content to sit quietly on the shore and watch Mr. Quack, so that Mr. Quack grew quite used to him and did not fear him at all. In fact, after the first few times, he made no attempt to hide. You see he discovered that Farmer Brown's boy was a friend. Always after he had left, there was something good to eat near where he had been sitting, for Farmer Brown's boy brought corn and oats and sometimes a handful of wheat.

He knew, and Mr. Quack knew that he knew, that somewhere near was a nest, but he did not try to find it much as he longed to, for he knew that would frighten and worry Mrs. Quack. So the dear, precious secret of Mr. and Mrs. Quack was kept, for not even Paddy the Beaver knew just where that nest was, and in due time, early one morning, Mrs. Quack proudly led forth for their first swim ten downy, funny ducklings.

Oh, those were happy days indeed for Mr. and Mrs. Quack in the pond of Paddy the Beaver, and in their joy they quite forgot for a time the terrible journey which had brought them there. But finally the Ducklings grew up, and when Jack Frost came in the fall, the whole family started on the long journey to the sunny Southland. I hope they got there safely, don't you?

Among those whom Mr. and Mrs. Quack came to know very well while they lived in the pond of Paddy the Beaver was that funny fellow who wears rings on his tail--Bobby Coon. In the next book I will tell you of some of Bobby's adventures.

THE END