Chapter VI. Farmer Brown's Boy Visits the Smiling Pool

Farmer Brown's boy had heard Welcome Robin singing in the Old Orchard quite as soon as Peter Rabbit had, and that song of "Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheer!" had awakened quite as much gladness in his heart as it had in Peter's heart. It meant that Mistress Spring really had arrived, and that over in the Green Forest and down on the Green Meadows there would soon be shy blue, and just as shy white violets to look for, and other flowers almost if not quite as sweet and lovely. It meant that his feathered friends would soon be busy house-hunting and building. It meant that his little friends in fur would also be doing something very similar, if they had not already done so. It meant that soon there would be a million lovely things to see and a million joyous sounds to hear.

So the sound of Welcome Robin's voice made the heart of Farmer Brown's boy even more happy than it was before, and as Welcome Robin just had to sing, so Farmer Brown's boy just had to whistle. When his work was finished, it seemed to Farmer Brown's boy that something was calling him, calling him to get out on the Green Meadows or over in the Green Forest and share in the happiness of all the little people there. So presently he decided that he would go down to the Smiling Pool to find out how Jerry Muskrat was, and if Grandfather Frog was awake yet, and if the sweet singers of the Smiling Pool had begun their wonderful spring chorus.

Down the Crooked Little Path cross the Green Meadows he tramped, and as he drew near the Smiling Pool, he stopped whistling lest the sound should frighten some of the little people there. He was still some distance from the Smiling Pool when out of it sprang a big bird and on swift, whistling wings flew away in the direction of the Big River. Farmer Brown's boy stopped and watched until the bird had disappeared, and on his face was a look of great surprise.

"As I live, that was a Duck!" he exclaimed. "That is the first time I've ever known a wild Duck to be in the Smiling Pool. I wonder what under the sun could have brought her over here."

Just then there was a distant bang in the direction of the Big River. Farmer Brown's boy scowled, and it made his face very angry-looking. "That's it," he muttered. "Hunters are shooting the Ducks on their way north and have driven the poor things to look for any little mudhole where they can get a little rest. Probably that Duck has been shot at so many times on the Big River that she felt safer over here in the Smiling Pool, little as it is."

Farmer Brown's boy had guessed exactly right, as you and I know, and as Peter Rabbit and Jerry Muskrat knew. "It's a shame, a downright shame that any one should want to shoot birds on their way to their nesting-grounds and that the law should let them if they do want to. Some people haven't any hearts; they're all stomachs. I hope that fellow who shot just now over there on the Big River didn't hit anything, and I wish that gun of his might have kicked a little sense of what is right and fair into his head, but of course it didn't."

He grinned at the idea, and then he continued his way towards the Smiling Pool. He hoped he might find another Duck there, and he approached the Smiling Pool very, very carefully.

But when he reached a point where he could see all over the Smiling Pool, there was no one to be seen save Jerry Muskrat sitting on the Big Rock and Peter Rabbit on the bank on the other side. Farmer Brown's boy smiled when he saw them. "Hello, Jerry Muskrat!" said he. "I wonder how a bite of carrot would taste to you." He felt in his pocket and brought out a couple of carrots. One he put on a little tussock in the water where he knew Jerry would find it. The other he tossed across the Smiling Pool where he felt sure Peter would find it. Presently he noticed two or three feathers on the water close to the edge of the bank. Mrs. Quack had left them there. "I believe that was a Mallard Duck," said he, as he studied them. "I know what I'll do. I'll go straight back home and get some wheat and corn and put it here on the edge of the Smiling Pool. Perhaps she will come back and find it."

And this is just what Farmer Brown's boy did.