Chapter IX. Peter Rabbit Makes an Early Call
 

Peter Rabbit was so full of interest in Mrs. Quack and her troubles that he was back at the Smiling Pool before Mr. Sun had kicked off his rosy blankets and begun his daily climb up in the blue, blue sky. You see, he felt that he had heard only a part of Mrs. Quack's story, and he was dreadfully afraid that she would get away before he could hear the rest. With the first bit of daylight, Mrs. Quack swam out from her hiding-place among the brown rushes. It looked to Peter as if she sat up on the end of her tail as she stretched her neck and wings just as far as she could, and he wanted to laugh right out. Then she quickly ducked her head under water two or three times so that the water rolled down over her back, and again Peter wanted to laugh. But he didn't. He kept perfectly still. Mrs. Quack shook herself and then began to carefully dress her feathers. That is, she carefully put back in place every feather that had been rumpled up. She took a great deal of time for this, for Mrs. Quack is very neat and tidy and takes the greatest pride in looking as fine as she can.

Of course it was very impolite of Peter to watch her make her toilet, but he didn't think of that. He didn't mean to be impolite. And then it was so interesting. "Huh!" said he to himself, "I don't see what any one wants to waste so much time on their clothes for."

You know Peter doesn't waste any time on his clothes. In fact, he doesn't seem to care a bit how he looks. He hasn't learned yet that it always pays to be as neat and clean as possible and that you must think well of yourself if you want others to think well of you.

When at last Mrs. Quack had taken a final shower bath and appeared satisfied that she was looking her best, Peter opened his mouth to ask her the questions he was so full of, but closed it again as he remembered people are usually better natured when their stomachs are full, and Mrs. Quack had not yet breakfasted. So he waited as patiently as he could, which wasn't patiently at all. At last Mrs. Quack finished her breakfast, and then she had to make her toilet all over again. Finally Peter hopped to the edge of the bank where she would see him.

"Good morning, Mrs. Quack," said he very politely. "I hope you had a good rest and are feeling very well this morning."

"Thank you," replied Mrs. Quack. "I'm feeling as well as could be expected. In fact, I'm feeling better than I have felt for some time in spite of the sore place made by that terrible gun yesterday. You see, I have had a good rest and two square meals, and these are things I haven't had since goodness knows when. This is a very nice place. Let me see, what is it you call it?"

"The Smiling Pool," said Peter.

"That's a good name for it," returned Mrs. Quack. "If only I could be sure that none of those hunters would find me here, and if only Mr. Quack were here, I would be content to stay a while." At the mention of Mr. Quack, the eyes of Mrs. Quack suddenly filled with tears. Peter felt tears of sympathy in his own eyes.

"Where is Mr. Quack?" he asked.

"I don't know," sobbed Mrs. Quack. "I wish I did. I haven't seen him since one of those terrible guns was fired at us over on the Big River yesterday morning a little while before Little Joe Otter told me about the Smiling Pool. Ever since we started for our home in the far North, I have been fearing that something of this kind might happen. I ought to be on my way there now, but what is the use without Mr. Quack? Without him, I would be all alone up there and wouldn't have any home."

"Won't you tell me all that has happened since you started on your long journey?" asked Peter. "Perhaps some of us can help you."

"I'm afraid you can't," replied Mrs. Quack sadly, "but I'll tell you all about it so that you may know just how thankful you ought to feel that you do not have to suffer what some of us do."