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

The Lecture

P ETER MINK was going to give a lecture. He had invited everybody.

"It's something you all ought to hear," he said. "And it will cost you nothing to come. Another time," he explained, "whoever hears my lecture will have to pay. But this one is free."

Old Mr. Crow remarked that he supposed Peter Mink was going to tell people how to catch ducks. And since he never cared anything at all about ducks, he said he didn't expect to be present.

"I'm glad you're not coming," Peter Mink answered, "because I'm afraid there won't be room for all the people who intend to hear me. As for ducks—I'd no more think of giving a lecture about ducks than I would about crows."

Old Mr. Crow pretended not to hear what Peter said. He did not care even to be seen talking with such a worthless fellow.

But there were many other people living in Pleasant Valley and on Blue Mountain who decided to go to Peter Mink's lecture—when they learned that they might get in free.

And when the night of the lecture arrived even Peter himself was surprised to see how many were present.

To be sure, Peter noticed that some of the audience were smiling; and some of them were nudging one another, as if they thought the whole thing was nothing but a joke. And when the full moon climbed over the top of Blue Mountain, and Peter Mink climbed on top of an old stump and faced the gathering, a few rude persons laughed aloud.

"What about ducks?" somebody called from a tree above Peter's head.


"What about ducks?"

Everybody tittered at that, because everybody knew that Peter was very fond of ducks and spent much of his time at Farmer Green's duck pond.

It was old Mr. Crow who asked that question. He had come to the lecture, in spite of what he had said.

"My lecture," Peter Mink began, when all was quiet, "my lecture to-night is going to be about a poor boy who has no one to take care of him. He has no home. And very often he goes about in rags. Sometimes he begs for food and clothes. I think," Peter said, "we all ought to be very sorry for him."

As soon as Peter said that, Mrs. Squirrel and Mrs. Woodchuck took out their pocket-handkerchiefs and wiped their eyes. And Mrs. Squirrel's husband was heard to remark that it was a shame, and that he thought something ought to be done.

Well, Peter Mink went on and told them as many as twenty-three different tales about that poor boy, to show them what a hard life he led. Every tale was sadder than the one just before it. And by the time Peter had finished the twenty-third, there were very few dry eyes in the place. And Mr. Squirrel spoke up loudly and said once more that something  ought to be done about it.

When he said that, Uncle Jerry Chuck rose hurriedly and hobbled away from the lecture. He had sat in one of the best seats, because it was free. And he had wept quite noisily, once or twice, because it cost no more to weep and he wanted all he could get for nothing. But when Mr. Squirrel said what he did, Uncle Jerry at once thought of a collection.  And he decided that he had better leave before it was too late.

Peter Mink saw him go. And here and there he noticed other people who looked as if they would like to leave, too. And he knew that there was no time to lose.

"I see one gentleman leaving," Peter Mink said in a loud voice. "I hope no more will go—unless, of course, they're so stingy that they wouldn't care to give a little something to help this poor boy I've been telling you about."

After that, nobody wanted to leave, because nobody wanted to be thought stingy.

"I appoint Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Woodchuck to take up a collection  for this poor boy," Peter Mink said. "And I've no doubt that they will be glad to give all they can, themselves."

Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Woodchuck saw that everybody was looking at them. And they at once emptied their pocket-books into their hats.

"What's his name? What's the poor boy's name?" a hoarse voice called. It was Mr. Crow who asked the question.

"That," said Peter Mink, "is something I do not care to tell to everybody."

And many people clapped their hands. They were beginning to have a better opinion of Peter Mink.

But old Mr. Crow only laughed loudly from his perch in the tree.

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