J ERRY MUSKRAT thinks there is no place in the world like the Smiling Pool. So, for the matter of that, does Grandfather Frog and also Spotty the Turtle. You see, they have spent their lives there and know little about the rest of the Great World. When Mrs. Quack explained that all she feared was that a two-legged creature with a terrible gun might find her there, Jerry Muskrat hastened to tell her that she had nothing to worry about on that account.
"No one hunts here now that Farmer Brown's boy has put away his terrible gun," explained Jerry. "There was a time when he used to hunt here and set traps, which are worse than terrible guns, but that was long ago, before he knew any better."
"Who is Farmer Brown's boy?" demanded Mrs. Quack, looking more anxious than ever. "Is he one of those two-legged creatures?"
"Yes," said Peter Rabbit, who had been listening with all his ears, "but he is the best friend we Quaddies have got. He is such a good friend that he ought to be a Quaddy himself. Why, this last winter he fed some of us when food was scarce, and he saved Mrs. Grouse when she was caught in a snare, which you know is a kind of trap. He won't let any harm come to you here, Mrs. Quack."
"I wouldn't trust him, not for one single little minute," declared Mrs. Quack. "I wouldn't trust one of those two-legged creatures, not one. You say he fed some of you last winter, but that doesn't mean anything good. Do you know what I've known these two-legged creatures to do?"
"What?" demanded Peter and Jerry together.
"I've known them to scatter food where we Ducks would be sure to find it and to take the greatest care that nothing should frighten us while we were eating. And then, after we had got in the habit of feeding in that particular place and had grown to feel perfectly safe there, they have hidden close by until a lot of us were feeding together and then fired their terrible guns and killed a lot of my friends and dreadfully hurt a lot more. I wouldn't trust one of them, not one!"
"Oh, how dreadful!" cried Peter, looking quite as shocked as he felt. Then he added eagerly, "But our Farmer Brown's boy wouldn't do anything like that. You haven't the least thing to fear from him."
"Perhaps not," said Mrs. Quack, shaking her head doubtfully, "but I wouldn't trust him. I wouldn't trust him as far off as I could see him. The Smiling Pool is a very nice place, although it is dreadfully small, but if Farmer Brown's boy is likely to come over here, I guess I better look for some other place, though goodness knows where I will find one where I will feel perfectly safe."
"You are safe right here, if you have sense enough to stay here," declared Jerry Muskrat rather testily. "Don't you suppose Peter and I know what we are talking about?"
"I wish I could believe so," returned Mrs. Quack sadly, "but if you had been through what I've been through, and suffered what I've suffered, you wouldn't believe any place safe, and you certainly wouldn't trust one of those two-legged creatures. Why, for weeks they haven't given me a chance to get a square meal, and—and—I don't know what has become of Mr. Quack, and I'm all alone!" There was a little sob in her voice and tears in her eyes.
"Tell us all about it," begged Peter. "Perhaps we can help you."