Chapter XIV: Blacky Makes A Call
 
  Judge no one by his style of dress;
  Your ignorance you thus confess.
   - Blacky the Crow.

"Caw, caw, caw, caw." There was no need of looking to see who that was. Peter Rabbit knew without looking. Mrs. Quack knew without looking. Just the same, both looked up. Just alighting in the top of a tall tree was Blacky the Crow. "Caw, caw, caw, caw," he repeated, looking down at Peter and Mrs. Quack and Mr. Quack and the six young Quacks. "I hope I am not interrupting any secret gossip."

"Not at all," Peter hastened to say. "Mrs. Quack was just telling me of the troubles and clangers in bringing up a young family in the Far North. How did you know the Quacks had arrived?"

Blacky chuckled hoarsely. "I didn't, " said he. "I simply thought there might be something going on I didn't know about over here in the pond of Paddy the Beaver, so I came over to find out. Mr. Quack, you and Mrs. Quack are looking very fine this fall. And those handsome young Quacks, you don't mean to tell me that they are your children!"

Mrs. Quack nodded proudly. "They are," said she.

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Blacky, as if he were very much surprised, when all the time he wasn't surprised at all. "They are a credit to their parents. Yes, indeed, they are a credit to their parents. Never have I seen finer young Ducks in all my life. How glad the hunters with terrible guns will be to see them."

Mrs. Quack shivered at that, and Blacky saw it. He chuckled softly. You know he dearly loves to make others uncomfortable. "I saw three hunters over on the edge of the Big River early this very morning," said he.

Mrs. Quack looked more anxious than ever. Blacky's sharp eyes noted this.

"That is why I came over here," he added kindly. "I wanted to give you warning."

"But you didn't know the Quacks were here!" spoke up Peter.

"True enough, Peter. True enough," replied Blacky, his eyes twinkling. "But I thought they might be. I had heard a rumor that those who go south are traveling earlier than usual this fall, so I knew I might find Mr. and Mrs. Quack over here any time now. Is it true, Mrs. Quack, that we are going to have a long, hard, cold winter?"

"That is what they say up in the Far North," replied Mrs. Quack. "And it is true that Jack Frost had started down earlier than usual. That is how it happens we are here now. But about those hunters over by the Big River, do you suppose they will come over here?" There was an anxious note in Mrs. Quack's voice.

"No," replied Blacky promptly. "Farmer Brown's boy won't let them. I know. I've been watching him and he has been watching those hunters. As long as you stay here, you will be safe. What a great world this would be if all those two-legged creatures were like Farmer Brown's boy."

"Wouldn't it!" cried Peter. Then he added, "I wish they were."

"You don't wish it half as much as I do," declared Mrs. Quack.

"Yet I can remember when he used to hunt with a terrible gun and was as bad as the worst of them," said Blacky.

"What changed him?" asked Mrs. Quack, looking interested.

"Just getting really acquainted with some of the little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows," replied Blacky. "He found them ready to meet him more than halfway in friendship and that some of them really are his best friends."

"And now he is their best friend," spoke up Peter.

Blacky nodded. "Right, Peter," said he. "That is why the Quacks are safe here and will be as long as they stay."