Gateway to the Classics: The Tale of Peter Mink by Arthur Scott Bailey
The Tale of Peter Mink by  Arthur Scott Bailey

How Peter Was Different

T HERE were two ways in which Peter Mink was different from any other person in Pleasant Valley, or on Blue Mountain, either. In the first place, he had no home; and in the second, he had a very long neck.

The reason why Peter had no home was because he didn't want one. And the reason why he had such a long neck was because he couldn't help it.

When he grew sleepy he would crawl into any snug place he happened to find—sometimes in a hollow stump, or in a pile of rocks, or a haystack. And often he even drove a muskrat out of his house, so he could sleep there.

Most of the time Peter Mink went about in rags and tatters. Whenever he did have a new suit (which wasn't often) it never looked well for long. Naturally, sleeping in all sorts of places did not improve it. But what specially wore out his clothes was the way he was always squeezing through small holes and cracks. Wherever Peter saw a narrow place he never could resist trying to get through it.

He was a long, slim fellow, with a small, snake-like head. And he always knew that if he could squeeze his head through a crack he could get his body through it, too.

It is not at all strange that Mrs. Rabbit and Mrs. Squirrel and Mrs. Woodchuck—as well as a good many other people—did not care to have their sons in Peter Mink's company. They said that any one who went about looking as untidy as he did, and without a home, was not likely to set a good example to the young.

But Jimmy Rabbit and Frisky Squirrel and Billy Woodchuck loved to be with Peter Mink. To be sure, he was quarrelsome. And he was always ready to fight any one four times as big as he was. So they had to be careful not to offend him. But in spite of that, they found him interesting—he was such a fine swimmer. He could swim under water just as well as he could swim with his head above the surface. And in winter he was not afraid to swim under the ice in Broad Brook.

There was another thing about Peter Mink that made the younger  forest people admire him. He was a famous fisherman. He could dive for a trout and catch him, too, just as likely as not. And there was nothing more exciting than to see Peter Mink pull an eel out of the water.

It is really a great pity that he was so rough. But you see, he left home at an early age and grew up without having any one to tell him what he ought—and ought not—to do. No doubt he didn't know the difference between right and wrong. Jimmy Rabbit's mother used to call him "the Pest." She often remarked that she wished Peter would leave the neighborhood and never come back.

I am sure that Johnnie Green's father would have agreed with her, because Peter Mink was too fond of ducks to suit Farmer Green. Of course, Peter didn't care to eat ducks all  the time. Sometimes he dined on a fat hen. But even then Farmer Green was angry. No doubt Peter Mink thought him hard to please.

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