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

Uncle Jerry Helps

T HE concert given by the Grouse boys and the Woodchuck brothers came to an end early. Billy Woodchuck, who was one of the fifers—because he was such a good whistler—made a short speech.

"We shall have to stop now," he said, "because so many people keep bobbing up and looking around that they make us nervous. Maybe the piece we just played didn't sound quite right. So I want to explain that each of us was playing a different tune, we were so upset. And, of course, we can't keep on." Then he made a low bow.

All at once there was a great rush toward the place where Peter Mink was waiting, with the hats and sticks, umbrellas and spectacles, coats and rubbers, and other things that he had checked for the people who came to the concert.

When Peter Mink saw everybody hurrying up all at the same time the smile faded from his face.

"Don't crowd!" he begged them. "There's something here for everybody." He took the half oak leaf that Mr. Rabbit handed to him and hunted around until he found another half that seemed to match it. And since that other half was stuck in an old umbrella, he gave the umbrella to Mr. Rabbit.

"But I didn't leave an umbrella with you. I left a hat!" Mr. Rabbit cried.

Peter Mink shook his head.

"You must be mistaken," he replied. "You said yourself my idea was a good one, you remember."

Now, Mr. Rabbit didn't intend to lose his new hat. So he began to hunt for it, though Peter Mink told him to stand back.

That was only the first of a number of disputes. There was Mr. Woodchuck—he had left his favorite walking-stick with Peter; and all he received in its place was one worn-out rubber and one mitten with a hole in it.

Old Mr. Crow made a terrible noise when Peter Mink tried to make him take an overcoat that was at least four times too big for him. And Peter insisted on attempting to squeeze Fatty Coon into a coat that was twenty-three sizes too small for him, and which really belonged to Sandy Chipmunk.

There was such an uproar, with all the people complaining, and trying to find their own things, that Peter Mink began to think he had better leave before he found himself in worse trouble. So he slipped away. And nobody noticed that he was gone, because there was such confusion.

It was a long time before everybody went home. And even then there were many who weren't satisfied. For instance, there was Mrs. Rabbit. To be sure, she found a pair of spectacles. But they weren't the ones she had given Peter. And she couldn't see through them very well.

Uncle Jerry Chuck did everything he could to help. He pushed right in where the crowd was thickest and pawed over everything he could find. There were some unkind people who objected, and said that he had no business there, because Peter Mink had checked nothing for him.

But that made no difference to Uncle Jerry. He wouldn't leave until he was ready to go. And the next day he appeared in a brand new hat. He said that his old one had really become shabby. But whenever any one asked him where he got his new hat he pretended not to hear, and hurried away. And after that people liked him even less than they had before.

As for Peter Mink, he never tried to work again. Some of the forest-people said that he had never meant to work, anyhow. They claimed that he had mixed up everything on purpose, to play a trick on people. And for a long time no one saw Peter Mink in that neighborhood.

Mr. Rabbit said that that was the only pleasant part of the whole affair.

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