The Emperor Penguin
T OMMY SMITH felt so encouraged at having had a conversation with the lion that now he wanted to have one with the elephant. But on his way to the tunnel—for he had been told to go through the tunnel to get to the elephants—he came to a little plot of grass that had a path and then a railing round it, and there was a stone tank of water in the middle that looked rather large for a bath, but not large enough for a swimming-bath. Beside it, a little group of such funny birds were standing, quite upright, as if they were people, and Tommy Smith knew at once that they were penguins because he had read about them, and seen the pictures of some of them in natural history books. But one of them was much handsomer and very much larger than the others, and this one looked at Tommy Smith, as he was going by, in a way that there was no mistaking, and made him a very low bow. It was really a wonderful bow, for the bird brought its head right down till its beak and chin were pressed against the front of its body. It was easy to see that if it had been wearing a hat, it would have taken it off, at the same time, and held it nearly touching the ground, for that was just the attitude it stood in. Of course, Tommy Smith felt obliged to bow, too, only he couldn't do it nearly so well, and then the penguin bowed again, still lower than before, and said: "Here we are, all waiting for a conversation, only, as Emperor, I come first, of course."
"Emperor, Mr. Penguin?" cried Tommy Smith. He was surprised, as you may think.
"Yes, and not a common kind of one, either," said the penguin. "There's no other that's at all like me."
"But how are you an emperor, Mr. Penguin?" asked Tommy Smith.
"I'm more than an emperor," said the penguin. "Just to be an emperor would not be so remarkable. But I'm more than that, because I'm the Emperor Penguin." And, with this, there was another bow.
"Oh, I see, that's your name, Mr. Penguin," said Tommy Smith.
"If you think so, you should call me by it," said the emperor penguin. "But it's my name and my title both; and now that you know them both, I shall expect you to say them together."
"Oh, yes, I will, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith, "but I think it's only your name."
"It must be either one or the other," said the emperor penguin, "so, if you don't say them both together, you will be leaving out either the whole of my title, or the half of my name. Either would be ill-bred."
"I wasn't going to leave either of them out, and I said I wasn't, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith.
"I'm glad I've convinced you," said the emperor penguin.
"I suppose it's because you're called the emperor penguin," said Tommy Smith (he wanted him to understand that he knew he wasn't one really), "that you bow in that grand sort of way."
"To my equals in rank I do," said the emperor penguin, "but not to anyone else, except as a condescension."
Then, before Tommy Smith (who understood what he meant, although "condescension" was a long word) could say anything, he turned to the others who were standing a little behind him, and said, quite as grandly as he had bowed, "You may all retire."
On this, the other penguins made their bow, which was a much more ordinary one, and walked—or rather hopped, for that was their way of going fast—to the farther side of the enclosure. They did not seem at all offended, but Tommy Smith thought it was a shame. "You're all of you penguins, you know," he couldn't help saying.
"But not all emperors," said the emperor penguin quickly, and then added: "You see I'm going to be quite chatty and familiar with you, only when one has a position to keep up one should not relax too publicly. They won't notice anything from where they are."
At first Tommy Smith felt almost inclined to be angry with this, but afterwards he thought it was only funny, which was a much more sensible way of looking at it. After all, if the penguin couldn't get over his name, and thought himself an emperor when he was only just a bird, that was only a curious idea of his which did no harm to anybody. Perhaps, too, his appearance was some excuse for his thinking so, for he was really a very magnificent bird. His breast, which, of course, as he stood upright, was very conspicuous, and his throat, too, was of a beautiful lemon-yellow colour, and so smooth and glossy that it shone in the sun like satin. Lower down the feathers were white, and not yellow, but the one colour passed gradually into the other, and the whole effect was very fine. All the front and top part of the emperor penguin's head was of a rich velvety black, but on each side of it there was a patch of the beautiful yellow, and, just where this came highest up, the colour grew deeper, until it was quite golden and looked like a little sun. Then the under part of his bill was a beautiful pinky-red, and it looked all the brighter because the tip and the upper part were only brown. His back was not black, like his head, and it could hardly be called blue either, but there was both black and blue in it, and they were so mixed and dappled together that sometimes it looked almost black and sometimes almost blue. As for his wings, they were not at all like the wings of another bird, because their feathers were so short and smooth that they did not look like feathers at all, but much more like scales; but that was because a penguin's wings are used for swimming, and not for flying. They were funny wings, certainly, but Tommy Smith thought that the emperor penguin held them in a graceful manner; and there was great dignity, too, in the way he stood, and all the more so because he was three and half feet high. It even seemed to Tommy Smith (though, of course, it was a childish idea) that some real emperors might not be so handsome and grand-looking as this very handsome emperor penguin, and although the next thing he said was only: "What a funny bird you are, Mr. Emperor Penguin," that was not quite all that he meant, so that when the answer came, as it did directly: "Handsome I suppose you mean," he said at once: "Yes, Mr. Emperor Penguin, I meant that, too."
"Always say what you mean, said the emperor penguin. "As for my being handsome, everyone, of course, can see that, but what there is funny about me I'm sure I don't know."
"But you do stand and walk in a funny way, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "I mean for a bird," he explained.
"For what bird?" said the emperor penguin. "Not for a penguin, I hope."
"Oh, no, not for a penguin, of course, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith, "but—but for any other kind of bird, you know."
"As for that," said the emperor penguin, "you might just as well say that any other kind of bird stood and walked in a funny way for a penguin. And so it does."
"Yes, but then other birds are not penguins, you know, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith.
"And penguins are not other birds, thank goodness," said the emperor penguin: "so it's no use trying to get out of it in that way."
Tommy Smith felt sure he was right, only perhaps he had not explained it properly. "But you see
you're so different from other birds, Mr. Emperor Penguin," he began again. "That's what makes
you look funny. No other bird walks in the way that you do. Only, of course, it's a very good
way," he added, for the penguin began to look ruffled. "And then almost all other birds fly,
and you don't fly, because your
"Almost all, did you say?" said the emperor penguin. "Then are there any besides us who don't?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "There's the ostrich—he can't fly, of
course—and the emu and rhea can't either, and no more can the cassowary,
"Dear me, you surprise me," said the emperor penguin. "But I live so out of the world. Why, I don't know their names even. But I'm glad to think the world does move on."
"Do you mean that it's better not to fly, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"Much more sensible," said the emperor penguin. "And so we penguins have left it off altogether."
"But did you fly once, then, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"A long time ago we did," said the emperor penguin, "but we grew more and more ashamed of such a silly flighty habit, and so we gave it up. No penguin would think of flying now."
"Yes, but that's because you can't, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "Your wings haven't got any feathers on them—at least, I mean not any long feathers. They couldn't hold you up without those, you know, and so you wouldn't be able to fly now, even if you were to try to."
"Thank goodness for that," said the emperor penguin. "It was not always so, as I told you. For a very long time, the wings of our ancestors still had those nasty long spikey things which, I suppose, is what you mean. It seemed as if we'd never get rid of them. But as we grew more and more accustomed to the water, they got shorter and shorter, till at last what had been the mere clumsy wing of a bird was improved into the true penguin paddle or flipper—that wonderful instrument—which I here have the honour of presenting to you." And the emperor penguin made another low bow and put out his right flipper (or paddle) between the bars of the railings (for he had come up to them) for Tommy Smith to look at. Of course, Tommy Smith did look at it (he even shook it), and, the more he did, the more wonderful it seemed to him that it could ever have been a wing, like another bird's.
"It seems very funny for it to have changed, Mr. Emperor Penguin," he said.
"It took a very long time," said the emperor penguin. "Oh, ages. It seemed as if it never would come. But you see it has come—there it is—and it's the greatest comfort in the world, now, to be able to think that no penguin, even if he were to wish it, can be betrayed into habits of flight."
Tommy Smith couldn't help feeling surprised at what the emperor penguin had told him, but that a bird should not want to fly, and even talk as though flying were silly, didn't surprise him at all, because he had found out that animals always thought that whatever they did was just the right thing to do, and whatever they didn't do, the wrong thing. Of course, it was funny, but Tommy Smith could always explain it by saying to himself that they were animals and not people. So instead of trying to show the penguin how wrong his ideas were, as he would have done if he had been a person instead of just a bird, he only said: "I suppose you can swim very fast in the water, Mr. Emperor Penguin?"
"I should think so," said the penguin; "a great deal faster I'm sure that you could run on the ice, if you wanted to race me like that."
"I couldn't run very fast on the ice," said Tommy Smith, "because I should slip and fall down. It would have to be the land for me to run on, and I think you ought to run on it, too. Then, it would be a fair race."
"As fair as if you were to swim me," said the emperor penguin. "But I wouldn't mind trying on the ice. The ice is my land. I live in the Antarctic Ocean, and whatever is not ice, there, is sea, and whatever is not sea, is ice."
"But isn't there any land at all, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"It's only ice that I go on," said the emperor penguin, "and when I want to catch fish I dive into the sea, through a hole in it. One can't do that here, so I suppose what you call the land is a sort of bad ice, which I consider this to be (by 'this' the penguin meant the ground). But if you wanted to race me in that way, it would have to be upon the good ice, and that would only be fair, because it's what I've always been accustomed to."
Tommy Smith didn't think it would be quite fair to him, because he was much more accustomed to run upon dry ground. But even upon ice he thought he would run faster than the penguin, because of his much longer legs and the longer strides he could take with them; and even if he did fall down sometimes, it wouldn't take him long to get up again. So he told him that he would be ready to race him on the ice, too, if ever they were on it together.
"Well," said the emperor penguin, "you'd have to go at about ten miles an hour, to beat me. That's all."
"Ten miles an hour, Mr. Emperor Penguin!" cried Tommy Smith. (He could hardly believe it.) "Surely you can't run so fast as that."
"Run!" said the penguin. "I should not run. I should toboggan."
"Toboggan? Oh, but how would you do that, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" asked Tommy Smith. He had heard of tobogganing in Canada, and even done a little of it himself, too, in England.
"Yes," continued the emperor penguin, "that is what I should do, and then I would glide over the ice at such a rate that I should soon get ahead of you, and I don't believe you would ever catch me up."
"Oh, but then, have you a sledge, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith. Of course that didn't seem probable, but what else could he mean?
"A sledge! Why, whatever are you talking about?" said the emperor penguin, not at all in a pleased tone of voice. "I've nothing to do with sledges, and I wish they'd nothing to do with me. Don't talk to me about them, please, for they bring the men to my country who are always interfering with me, and even go so far as to kill me and eat me, which is a shocking way of treating an emperor. Let me hear nothing more of sledges, I beg."
"But you said you tobogganed, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith, "and one does use a sledge, or at least a kind of one, for that, you know. It's a little thing made of wood, that you sit on, with your legs out on each side, and slide down the hills when there's snow on them."
"A clumsy imitation," said the emperor penguin. "When we penguins toboggan, we go down on our breasts, on the ice and push ourselves along, over it, with our legs and wings. That's our tobogganing. We're our own sledges, and I wish no other ones ever came into my country."
"Oh, I see now, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "Only I thought penguins always walked upright."
"That's our favourite way when we're left alone," said the emperor penguin. "Nothing can be more graceful and dignified" (here the penguin made a little promenade over the ground just to show Tommy Smith, and really he did walk in a quite stately manner); "only when we're interfered with—as we have been since those sledges have come—it usen't to be so before—we try to go as fast as we can, so as to get away, and then we toboggan."
"I should like to see you do that as well, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith.
"How can I on ice like this?" said the emperor penguin, with a glance round about him. "I couldn't possibly do myself justice if I were to try to. Such bad ice is really not fit for tobogganing."
But, for all that, the penguin did try to, after a little, and though, of course, it was much more difficult for him than if he had been on the ice in his own country, still he got along quite well enough to show Tommy Smith how it was done. In doing this, his beautiful white and yellow breast became all soiled with mud, so that if he had got up, at once, he would not have looked nearly so handsome a bird, but, instead of that, he pushed himself along into his little basin of water, and gave himself a good wash there, before coming out again.
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "It is kind of you. Now I know what tobogganing is with penguins, and I never should have done, properly, if I hadn't seen it."
"It's the only right way," said the emperor penguin, "and, now you know it, you must promise me always to practice it. I have done my best to show you, and that is all I ask from you in return. I have suffered so much from sledges that I don't like to think of any friend of mine using one."
Tommy Smith didn't quite know what to say to this, in fact he felt very much embarrassed, only luckily the penguin went on without waiting, so that he hadn't to say anything, and of course when one hasn't said anything one hasn't promised.
"I would show you the right way to swim too,"—that was how the emperor penguin went on,—"if only the sea here were large enough, but somehow it isn't. How it comes to be so small I don't know."
"It isn't the sea, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "It's only a sort of basin that's been made for you."
"A bay I suppose you mean," said the emperor penguin. "Only that's just a part of the sea, and where should the rest of it have got to? It's the sea, of course—all water is the sea—but why it's so small, and what's become of the ice that there ought to be in it, I'm sure I don't know. As for it's having been made for me, that may be true. I can believe that part of your story. The beautiful sea that I used to have, that was so large and had everything I wanted in it, was made for me—at least I have always supposed so. But when things are made for emperors they ought to be made properly, and a sea that one can only just wash in is not large enough. Besides, there are no fish or anything else to eat in it, so that I call it a thoroughly bad sea—quite unworthy of an emperor penguin."
Tommy Smith could understand the penguin's making the mistakes that he did, because until he came away from where he used to live, he had never seen any water that was not the sea, or been on any land that was not ice. So after all, it was natural, even if he had been a person; but that he should think that all the ice and sea had been made for him was one of those queer sort of conceited ideas that animals had. Tommy Smith knew that there would be no getting that out of his head, and besides, it would be difficult to prove. As for those other things he was wrong about, he thought he might be able to explain them to him, only another day (for of course he meant to come again) would do as well, or even better, because now he wanted to get on with the conversation.
"Do you catch a great many fish, to eat, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" was the next question that Tommy Smith asked.
"Why, it's my principal occupation," the emperor penguin answered, "at least for all the year round. Of course there are the domestic duties, which are higher, but they don't go on for such a time. To catch and eat fish is always a duty."
"I suppose you like eating them, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith, who thought this rather a high way of talking.
"I should think I did," said the emperor penguin, "and so I do catching them. In fact I hardly know which is the higher pleasure of the two."
Tommy Smith didn't either, so he only said: "Isn't it very difficult for you to catch them, Mr. Emperor Penguin?"
"Difficult! What can you mean?" said the emperor penguin. "It's almost too easy for a duty. Oh, the dear little shining silver things, how they do shoot about when I come amongst them! It's the prettiest sight in the world. They do hurry and scurry so, all trying to get out of my way. So polite, but it's no use. It's just 'Here you are,' 'Down you go,' 'Pray don't hurry,' 'Now, can't I persuade you?' 'Thank you, you are so very nice,' with one after another of them, till I've had as many as I want. Oh, the dear little silver things. I do like them so."
"I think it is very funny that you catch them so easily, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith, "because you see they are fish, and you're only a bird in the water."
"It would seem very funny to me," said the penguin, "if I couldn't catch them as easily as I do. Dear me, how puzzled I should be if ever I found the smallest difficulty. A penguin that couldn't catch fish would be the funniest thing in the world, I think."
"I didn't mean that, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "Only, you see, fishes were made for the water, and they live in it always, and don't have to come out of it for anything. But birds do, of course, to lay their eggs, you know, Mr. Emperor Penguin, and for other things, and a lot of them never go into the water at all, and then most birds fly, and you said that even penguins could fly once, and so they must have gone into the water and got accustomed to it afterwards. But fishes were always there, and don't come on land, so that they're much more accustomed to it, and so it does seem funny that any bird can swim faster than they can in the water, so as to catch them and eat them."
"Well," said the emperor penguin, "I never thought of it like that before. However, it all shows one thing, and that is, how wonderfully clever emperor penguins are. If there is any difficulty, that's how I account for it."
"But there are other penguins besides emperor penguins, you know, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "And other birds catch fish in the water as well." (He didn't want him to be too conceited.)
"In their case there may be some other reason," said the emperor penguin, after looking puzzled (for the first time) and scratching his head a little, which he did, very cleverly, with one of his big black feet. "But come, let's get on. I don't call this conversation."
"Do you eat anything else besides fish, Mr. Emperor Penguin," asked Tommy Smith.
"Yes, cuttle-fish," said the emperor penguin—plenty of them. And then there are crabs—I like crabs."
"But don't the cuttle-fish catch hold of you with their—with their feelers, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith. "And don't the crabs pinch you?"
"I dare say they do, both of them—inside me," said the emperor penguin, "but I don't feel it, and it doesn't last long. You see I only eat small ones, and so can afford to despise their spiteful efforts to injure me."
"Is that all you eat, then, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"That and a few stones," said the penguin.
"Stones, Mr. Emperor Penguin," cried Tommy Smith.
"Certainly," said the penguin. "I always like to have a few in my gizzard, because it helps to triturate my food."
"Do you mean to grind it up, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"Exactly," said the emperor penguin; "but when there's a choice of words I like to use an elegant one."
Tommy Smith remembered, then, that fowls swallowed stones, just for the very same purpose, and that the wood-pigeon had told him that there was a little mill inside him, by which he meant his gizzard, for that is where the hard things that a bird eats are ground up—the elegant word for which is "triturated." So he wasn't surprised about the penguin's swallowing them, any more. Only, as it was all ice and sea where he lived, he couldn't help asking him where he found these stones.
"At the bottom of the sea when it isn't too deep," said the emperor penguin, "so now you know."
"How do you swim under water, please, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" was the next question that Tommy Smith asked.
"Why, with my paddles, to be sure," the penguin answered, "and so I do above water too. That is to say when I do swim on the top of the sea, but I like going down much better. I can shoot through it ever so much more quickly then. I'd soon show you how, if the sea here were what it ought to be, but it isn't."
"But don't you use your feet, too, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" asked Tommy Smith.
"Yes, to steer with," said the penguin. "I hold them together and stretch them straight out behind me, so that by turning them to this or that side they act like a rudder."
"Oh, I see, like the tail of a fish," said Tommy Smith.
"Like the tail of an emperor penguin," said the emperor penguin.
"I suppose there are a lot of seals where you live, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"Oh, ever so many," said the penguin. "There's the waddling seal, as they call him (only they all waddle), and the crab-eating seal, and the sea-lion and sea-elephant, that great mountain of flesh. They're all of them large enough, but he's perfectly enormous. You never saw such a monster, but he's quite loyal and well behaved."
"But aren't they all friendly with you, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"Not quite that," said the emperor penguin, drawing himself up a little, though he was very upright before. "I have nothing to complain of in my subjects, as a whole. Only the sea-leopard, and he thinks nothing of eating me."
"Oh, that is horrid of him, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith.
"I can't understand it," said the penguin. "Me—his emperor. It seems very strange, only perhaps he doesn't recognize me in the water—it only happens there. You see I can't walk upright on it as I do on the ice, and so I don't look so imperial. I feel sure that's the reason, for when he sees me on the ice he knows me at once, and he never thinks of eating me then."
"But could he catch you on the ice, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" asked Tommy Smith.
"He might easily when I'm hatching my eggs or rearing my young," said the emperor penguin. "We're in a great crowd then, and we stand only a little higher up on the ice than where the sea-leopards crawl up, out of the sea, to. They might easily get as many of us as they wanted, if they were only to try, for the cliffs are behind us then, and we couldn't all get by them into the sea, and, even if we could, our chicks and eggs would be left. But they never do try because then we look like emperors, and so they know who we are, and that restrains them."
"But then, wouldn't some of the other seals not
"Anyhow, that's my idea," said the emperor penguin, "and, as I find it a comforting one, I hope you won't try to take it away from me."
So, of course, Tommy Smith couldn't say anything more about it after that, but he didn't think the emperor penguin's idea was a good one.
"Perhaps you would like to know something about our domestic arrangements, now," said the emperor penguin.
"Oh, yes, I should, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith—for that was just the very
thing he had been going to ask about. "You come away from the ice, then, I suppose,
"Come away from it! Why, it's everywhere," said the emperor penguin. "There are some cliffs where some of us go to, but it's all ice where we sit underneath them, and if it wasn't ice it would be the sea. Eggs can't be hatched in the sea, you know."
"But do you lay your eggs on the ice, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"My empress lays her egg there," said the emperor penguin. "There is only one egg and one chick. No emperor penguin has more."
This surprised Tommy Smith very much. "Then you've nothing to make a nest with, Mr. Emperor Penguin," he said.
"The ice is our nest," said the emperor penguin. "Except to catch fish for ourselves and our
families, we never leave it, from the time when we first lay our egg in the winter
"Don't you mean in the spring, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"Certainly not," said the penguin. "We emperor penguins take so long to grow up that, if we laid our eggs in the spring, our little ones would only just be ready to leave us as winter was beginning, and they would not be strong enough to get through it, alone. The storms of wind and snow, which we call blizzards, would kill them. To prevent anything so dreadful, we arrange for them to be little during the winter, and then, when they are the right size to go, it is springtime, and that won't hurt them. Next winter, of course, they will be properly grown."
"It is clever of you to think of it all, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith.
"Rational foresight, that's all," said the penguin. "And so during the cold dark days of early
"July!" cried Tommy Smith. "Oh, but that's the summer, when it's quite hot. It's midsummer, you know in July, Mr. Emperor Penguin."
"What it may be here, where everything's peculiar," said the emperor penguin, "where there's no proper ice or icebergs, and the sea's not large enough to swim in, I'm sure I don't know. But in my country, where things are not all topsy-turvy, July is midwinter, and that is the time when our empresses feel they have a duty before them, and lay their egg upon the ice."
"But doesn't it get frozen, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"It would if we let it stay there too long," said the emperor penguin. "But, as soon as it's laid, we put our feet underneath it, and the soft warm feathers of our body fall down all over it, so that it is quite protected, and the cold can't get to it at all."
"It's clever of you to sit on your egg like that, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith.
"We don't sit on our egg, we stand on it," said the emperor penguin.
"Stand on it, Mr. Emperor Penguin!" cried Tommy Smith.
"Yes," said the emperor penguin, "only we don't stand on it, of course, because that would break it."
"Yes, of course, it would, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "And besides you put your feet under the egg, you know."
"That's right," said the emperor penguin. "No,
we don't stand on it, of course, only we do stand on it, because we don't sit on
"Yes, I think I do, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith.
"Oh, that's enough," said the penguin. "Ask me another question about something else, before my head turns round. It's the most puzzling thing that I know."
"But then, how do your feathers fall down over the egg, please, Mr. Emperor Penguin, as you said they did?" asked Tommy Smith. "Because they're not very long, you know."
"They fall down over it because my skin does," the emperor penguin answered. "A little above my feet, just at the right place for it, I have a rather large fold or flap of skin—see here it is (and the penguin showed it), which comes right down over the egg and quite wraps it up. And then, besides that, we lift up our feet—like this, you see, this is the attitude—so as to press the egg close up against its beautiful warm feather-coat. In fact, the egg is in a snug little warm room, and whoever heard of anything getting frozen in a snug little warm room?"
"It is clever of you, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith, again. "And, of course, when the chick comes out of the egg, it's there too."
"Of course it is," said the emperor penguin. "Where else should it be?—and it stays there as long as it's little enough. Only, of course, from time to time there's a change from one room to another."
"Do you mean that first one of the two penguins takes it and then the other?" asked Tommy Smith.
"Of the two! Of the twenty—or more," said the emperor penguin. "That's what I mean."
Tommy Smith didn't understand this at all. "Of course there's the mother penguin and the father
penguin," he was beginning, "but with other
"I don't know how it may be with other birds," said the emperor penguin, "but every emperor penguin is the child of the penguinary."
"Of the pen-guin-a-ry?" said Tommy Smith. He had never heard such a word before, but, of course, he knew it must have something to do with penguins.
"Certainly," said the emperor penguin. "When an assemblage of penguins is gathered together for a certain purpose, at a certain place, that place is the penguinary. Many quite well-meaning people call it a rookery, but let me tell them that every time they do, they insult penguins, and especially emperor penguins. Rookery indeed! Do they ever call rookeries penguinaries? No. Then where's the justice of it?"
"But do all the penguins at the penguinary take care of the young penguins, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" asked Tommy Smith.
"They do," said the emperor penguin proudly, "and all honour to them for doing so."
"But don't they all have their own young penguin to look after?" said Tommy Smith. And indeed it was a very natural question.
"Oh, no," said the emperor penguin, "because, you see, a great many of our empresses don't lay their egg."
"Oh, but why not, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"Imperial caprice—and the climate's so severe," said the emperor penguin hurriedly, and then went on without stopping: "The consequence is, that, round every bird that is either hatching its egg or nursing its young one, there stands a devoted band of friends, both emperors and empresses, determined to help it to do so, and as soon as it goes off to sea, to catch fish, they all make a rush, and fight together to take charge of the precious young life."
"Do they really fight, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"How can they help it when all of them want the little thing?" said the emperor penguin. "You see, it's a battle of love for our offspring. Oh, it's a grand sight to see a dozen or twenty fine, splendid emperor penguins, all struggling, in a mass, over one little white fluffy thing that can hardly be seen, in the confusion, all kicking and clawing at each other, and trying to push each other away, until, at last, the strongest wins, and the chick—God bless it!—is tenderly nursed and fostered, until that bird has to leave in its turn. Then, of course, there's the same thing again."
"I wonder the chick isn't hurt, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith.
"Oh, but it is, very often," said the emperor penguin, "and very often, too, it's killed."
"Killed?" cried Tommy Smith.
"Why, you can see, it can't always be avoided," said the emperor penguin. "You know we're so heavy, we emperor penguins are, seventy or eighty pounds we weigh, and more than that very often. Sometimes one of us will weigh ninety pounds, so that it's really too much for a tender little baby to have first one of us, and then another, standing upon him, and sometimes kicking, and scratching him by mistake. You can't wonder, and, after all, it's all through the tender love we have for him, and our strong wish to help one another."
"Yes, that's all very well, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith, "but if it kills the
"It doesn't always," said the emperor penguin. "You mustn't get exaggerated ideas. And even when it does, there is many and many a one among us who will go on nursing it, all the same."
"Oh, whatever good can that do, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith, indignantly. "He isn't
"No, but he's frozen," said the emperor penguin. "As soon as a chick's dead, he freezes—everything does in our country—and then he can be nursed just the same. Only he won't eat then, poor little thing. That's the worst part of it. Oh dear! He doesn't seem dead, only he won't grow and he refuses his food. And yet we nurse him so. Oh dear!"
"Oh, what is the use of nursing him when he's dead, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith. He couldn't help speaking impatiently.
"We act for the best," said the poor penguin, looking quite unhappy. "You see it's our way—it's come down to us."
"I think it's a very bad way, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "Why should the poor little penguins be killed by the great big ones fighting for them and hurting them? And what good does it do them to nurse them after they're dead, when they're frozen? I think that's horrid."
"Come, come," said the emperor penguin, "we must remember that nothing is quite perfect in this world, and that some flaw or other can always be discovered if we make up in our minds to find fault. Perhaps we may not do everything quite so well as we might, but we do as well as we can, and we mean still better. Oh, how we do love our little chicks, and how sorry we are when we kill them! But we live in a rough country, and the climate's very much against us."
"How often does the poor little chick get killed, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" asked Tommy Smith.
"Full of snowstorms and blizzards," the emperor penguin went on, without answering; "and the winters are very long, and it's dark all the time, and then fish and crabs and cuttle-fish all have to be caught, whatever the season of the year. And stones must be found, too."
"Yes, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "But do
"And what with all that," continued the emperor penguin, "and the cliffs under which we sit, with our eggs and our young ones, sometimes breaking and tumbling right down on us, so that quite a lot of us are killed, every winter, and what with sea-leopards and killer-whales—which are worse (I've not told you about them)—eating hundreds and hundreds of us, it's all we can do to keep ourselves alive, very often, and, just as often, we can't."
"It is very dreadful, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "But how often does the little chick get killed? I wish you'd tell me."
"Let me see," said the emperor penguin. "Why, sometimes, out of about eighty, thirty will be brought up and go away with us upon the floating ice, when the sea breaks it off at our penguinaries. But then a good many eggs will not be hatched out as well."
"Only thirty!" cried Tommy Smith. "Then fifty must be killed! Oh, how dreadful, Mr. Emperor Penguin!" It was even worse than he had felt sure it was.
"The climate's so severe," said the emperor penguin.
"It isn't all the climate," said Tommy Smith.
"Of course that's counting the blizzards and the cliffs falling and all the rest that I've told you, and a lot of other things too," said the emperor penguin. "Oh, you don't know what a winter in my country's like. If only you could spend one there and try for yourself—I'd go with you, if you'd take me, of course."
"No, I don't want to go there at all, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. "It must be a dreadful country, and I'm sure I shouldn't like it."
"But you like me, don't you?" said the emperor penguin.
"Oh, yes, Mr. Emperor Penguin," said Tommy Smith. Perhaps he wasn't quite so sure as that, but he didn't know what else to say. It was such a funny question.
"Then you mustn't be ungrateful to my country," said the emperor penguin. "Without it you would never have had me, because it's the only country where I'm found."
"Is it, Mr. Emperor Penguin?" said Tommy Smith.
"The only one," said the emperor penguin, "so that if it had not been there, I should not have been anywhere. Try to think what that means."
Tommy Smith did try, but before he was quite able to, the emperor penguin went on speaking: "Always remember," he said, "and always feel grateful when you do remember, that if it had not been for that country of mine, with its ice and its snow and its cold and its blizzards, and its long winter night, and everything else you think 'dreadful,' there would be no such bird now, in the whole wide world, as—the emperor penguin!"
And when the emperor penguin had said that he made Tommy Smith a still lower bow than any of the other ones he had made him before, and then walked off, in a very stately way, to where the rest of the penguins were standing. Of course Tommy Smith had to bow, too, again, as well as he could, and then he walked off to the elephant.