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

The Duck Pond

S OMETIMES Peter Mink grew tired of not knowing where he was going to sleep. And now and then, when he happened to be in some neighborhood that he liked, he would try to find a place where he might stay until he felt like roaming on again.

There was one neighborhood that Peter liked very much. He often said that of all the places in Pleasant Valley that he knew anything about, there was no other as charming as Farmer Green's duck pond.

The reason for his thinking that was that he was specially fond of duck meat. And, of course, it was convenient to be able to swim under water, and steal upon a fat duck, and seize her before she knew that Peter was anywhere near.

Now, Peter Mink learned that there was a muskrat who had built him a house in the bank of the duck pond. And as soon as Peter found out where the muskrat's home was, he drove away the owner and began to live in the house himself.

He found it very comfortable. And he caught a duck every day, until at last Farmer Green noticed that his ducks were disappearing.

"I believe it's a mink that's taking them," Farmer Green said to his son Johnnie. "If it was a coon, he'd steal more than just one a day. . . . Now, you take the old gun and go down to the pond and hide. And when I let the ducks go out for their swim, I want you to watch for a mink."

Naturally, Peter Mink didn't hear what Farmer Green said. If he had, no doubt he would have left the muskrat's house at once and moved on to some other neighborhood.

Early the next morning Johnnie Green put the old gun on his shoulder and stole down to the edge of the duck pond, where he hid among some cat-tails. He kept his sharp eyes on the bank of the pond, for the ducks were just waddling down from the barnyard, to enjoy their morning swim.

As sharp as Johnnie's eyes were, they did not see Peter Mink as he crept out of his house and stretched himself in the sun. Peter had fallen into the habit of sleeping late and awaking each morning just as the ducks reached the pond.

He saw them as they picked their way down the bank. And for once he didn't seem to care anything about them. To tell the truth, he had breakfasted on duck so often that he had at last grown a bit tired of duck meat. And now he thought that for a change an eel would taste good. For the first time since Peter had driven the muskrat from his home the ducks were safe.

Peter paid no attention to them. And unnoticed by Johnnie Green, he slipped into the water and swam quickly to a place in the pond where there was a warm spring. He knew that the warm water rose to the top of the pond. And he knew, as well, that if an eel should happen to swim over the spring, the rising water would bear him to the surface of the duck pond.

Peter Mink must have been a lucky fellow. For he had hardly reached the spring when he saw an eel right in front of him. He seized the eel and swam toward the bank. And there was such a commotion in the water that Johnnie Green couldn't help noticing it.

You see, the eel did not want to leave the duck pond. He had always lived there, and he liked it, too. So he twisted and squirmed, trying his hardest to break away from Peter Mink.

But Peter swam steadily on, though to be sure he couldn't swim very fast, dragging such a slippery fellow along with him.

But finally he reached the shore. And then he pulled the eel out of the water.

Still the eel tried to get away from him. He wound himself about Peter Mink. And several times he managed to throw Peter head over heels. But Peter Mink always rushed upon the eel again before he could wriggle into the pond.

All this time Johnnie Green had entirely forgotten about his gun. He had never seen such a sight before. And he looked on with staring eyes, until at last Peter dragged the eel away from the pond and into some bushes.

Then Johnnie Green remembered why his father had sent him down to the duck pond. And he ran forward, all ready to shoot.

But Peter Mink had vanished. He had heard Johnnie running; and that was enough to send him skipping away.

Peter was disappointed, because he lost his breakfast. And Johnnie Green was disappointed, because he lost Peter.

In fact, of all those present, the ducks seemed to be the only ones that were really contented. They had a fine swim. And when night came, not one of them was missing.

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