Jenny Wren Gives Peter Rabbit an Idea
"A S sure as you're alive now, Peter Rabbit, some day I will catch you," snarled Reddy Fox, as he poked his black nose in the hole between the roots of the Big Hickory-tree which grows close to the Smiling Pool. "It is lucky for you that you were not one jump farther away from this hole."
Peter, safe inside that hole, didn't have a word to say, or, if he
did, he didn't have breath enough to say it. It was quite true
that if he had been one jump farther from that hole, Reddy Fox
would have caught him. As it was, the hairs on Peter's funny
white tail actually had tickled Reddy's back as Peter plunged
frantically through the
Reddy Fox was too shrewd to waste any time trying to dig it larger.
He knew there wasn't room enough for him to get between those roots.
So, after trying to make Peter as uncomfortable as possible by
telling him what he, Reddy, would do to him when he did catch him,
Reddy trotted off across the Green Meadows. Peter remained where
he was for a long time. When he was quite sure that it was safe to
do so, he crept out and hurried, lipperty-
When Peter reached the Old Orchard, who should he see but
Peter chuckled. "I didn't have much trouble with Reddy during the winter," said he, "but this very morning he so nearly caught me that it is a wonder that my hair is not snow white from fright." Then he told Jenny all about his narrow escape. "Had it not been for that handy hole of Grandfather Chuck, I couldn't possibly have escaped," concluded Peter.
Jenny Wren cocked her pert little head on one side, and her sharp
little eyes snapped. "Why don't you learn to swim, Peter, like
your cousin down in the Sunny South?" she demanded. "If he had
been in your place, he would simply have plunged into the Smiling
Pool and laughed at
Peter sat bolt upright with his eyes very wide open. In them was
a funny look of surprise as he stared up at
"Tut, tut, tut, tut, Peter!" exclaimed Jenny Wren in her sharp, scolding voice. "Tut, tut, tut, tut! For a fellow who has been so curious about the ways of his feathered neighbors, you know very little about your own family. If I were in your place I would learn about my own relatives before I became curious about my neighbors. How many relatives have you, Peter?"
"One," replied Peter promptly, "my big cousin, Jumper the Hare."
Jenny Wren threw back her head and laughed and laughed and laughed. It was a most irritating and provoking laugh. Finally Peter began to lose patience. "What are you laughing at?" he demanded crossly. "You know very well that Jumper the Hare is the only cousin I have."
Jenny Wren laughed harder that ever.
"Peter!" she gasped. "Peter, you will be the death of me. Why,
down in the Sunny South, where I spent the winter, you have a
cousin who is more closely related to you than Jumper the Hare.
And what is more, he is almost as fond of the water as Jerry
Muskrat. He was called the Marsh Rabbit or
"I don't believe it!" declared Peter angrily. "I don't believe a
word of it. You are simply trying to fool me,
Jenny Wren suddenly became sober. "Peter," said she very earnestly,
"take my advice and go to school to Old Mother Nature for awhile.
What I have told you is true, every word of it. You have a cousin
down in the Sunny South who spends half his time in the water.
What is more, I suspect that you and Jumper have other relatives
of whom you've never heard. Such ignorance would be laughable if
it were not to be pitied. This is what comes of never having
traveled. Go to school to Old Mother Nature for a while, Peter.
It will pay you." With this,
Peter tried to believe that what Jenny Wren had told him was nothing
but a story, but do what he would, he couldn't rid himself of a
little doubt. He tried to interest himself in the affairs of the
other little people of Old Orchard, but it was useless. That little
doubt kept growing and
growing. Could it be possible that
Finally that growing doubt, together with the curiosity which has led poor Peter to do so many queer things, proved too much for him and he started for the Green Forest to look for Old Mother Nature. It didn't take long to find her. She was very busy, for there is no time in all the year when Old Mother Nature has quite so much to do as in the spring.
"If you please, Old Mother Nature," said Peter timidly but very politely, "I've some questions I want to ask you."
Old Mother Nature's eyes twinkled in a kindly way. "All right, Peter," she replied. "I guess I can talk and work at the same time. What is it you want to know?"
"I want to know if it is true that there are any other members of the Rabbit and the Hare family besides my big cousin, Jumper, who lives here in the Green Forest, and myself."
Old Mother Nature's eyes twinkled more than ever. "Why, of course, Peter," she replied. "There are several other members. You ought to know that. But then, I suppose you don't because you never have traveled. It is surprising how little some folks know about the very things they ought to know most about."
Peter looked very humble and as if he felt a little bit foolish. "Is—is—is it true that way down in the Sunny South I have a cousin who loves to spend his time in the water?" stammered Peter.
"It certainly is, Peter," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is called the Marsh Rabbit, and he is more nearly your size, and looks more like you, than any of your other cousins."
Peter gulped as if he were swallowing something that went down
hard. "That is what
Old Mother Nature nodded. "Quite true. Quite true," said she. "He is quite as much at home in the water as on land, if anything a little more so. He is one member of the family who takes to the water, and he certainly does love it. Is there anything else you want to know, Peter?"
Peter shifted about uneasily and hesitated. "What is it, Peter?" asked Old Mother Nature kindly. "There is nothing in the Great World equal to knowledge, and if I can add to your store of it I will be very glad to."
Peter took heart. "If—if you please, Mother Nature, I would like to learn all about my family. May I come to school to you every day?"
Old Mother Nature laughed right out. "Certainly you may go to
school to me, old Mr. Curiosity," said she. "It is a good idea;
a very good idea. I'm very busy, as you can see, but I'm never
too busy to teach those who really want to learn. We'll have a
lesson here every morning just at
"May I bring my cousin, Jumper the Hare, if he wants to come?" asked Peter, as he prepared to obey Old Mother Nature.
"Bring him along and any one else who wants to learn," replied Old Mother Nature kindly.
Peter bade her