The trees were bare and quiet. All the world seemed to be asleep. Peter felt very lonely after Uncle Peppercorn had left him and he didn't know which way to go. He wanted to cry, but then he remembered that he was seven years old, and boys don't cry when they're seven.
So he started to run through the woods to see if he couldn't find Uncle Peppercorn.
"Uncle Peppercorn!" he cried. "Uncle Peppercorn!" But there was only silence.
Peter stood there sadly and wondered what to do next. It was funny that Uncle Peppercorn, who was only as big as one of Peter's fingers, should make all that difference. Peter was very, very lonely.
He had just sat down on the root of a tree when he heard a small voice beside him.
"Excuse me!" said the voice.
Peter looked all around, but he didn't see anybody. Only a squirrel that was trying to get by him to climb up to its home in a hollow of the tree.
"Excuse me!" said the squirrel again.
"Oh!" said Peter and moved aside quickly. "I didn't know you were speaking to me. I never heard a squirrel speak before."
"That's all right," said Squirrel. "You haven't got used to the Big Year yet, I suppose. Uncle Peppercorn told me about you. You're Peter."
"Yes, said Peter. And there the conversation ended. Squirrel busied herself cleaning out her nest and was sweeping it with a straw, while Peter watched.
She swept a large dead beetle out of the nest and leaned on her straw.
"Uncle Peppercorn told me it's going to snow today, so
"I — I don't know," said Peter.
"I'd like to invite you in," said Squirrel, "but you're rather big. Perhaps you'd better try somewhere else."
Just then a big snowflake drifted down and melted on Peter's nose.
He turned to Squirrel and laughed.
"Did you see that?" he asked. "I love snow, don't you?" Then he remembered his manners and said politely:
"Thank you very much for inviting me even if I can't get in."
Another big flake lighted on his sleeve, and soon the air was white with whirling specks of snow. There was a deep soft silence and the snowflakes danced their graceful way to the earth. Soon every branch and twig was covered.
Peter caught hundreds of snowflakes in his hands and looked at their pretty little six-pointed stars. "You are beautiful, he murmured.
"Hullo, Peter tinkled a little voice. "Do you think we look nice?"
"I'm trying to find two of you that are alike," said Peter. "Will you help me?"
The snowflakes all laughed together.
"Oh, Peter!" they laughed. "Don't you know that no two of us are alike? Try if you want to, but you'll never find a pair."
And they all laughed again.
Suddenly a gruff voice spoke:
"It isn't very nice of you to laugh at poor Peter. How was he to know that you're all different? He's no snowflake."
It was Uncle Peppercorn. He was standing on a twig and looking around him very sternly.
"Hullo, Uncle Peppercorn!" sang the snowflakes. "If he isn't a snowflake, he must be a snowman." And the impudent snowflakes laughed some more.
Peter looked at himself, and he laughed too.
"I look like one, don't I?"
"You certainly do," smiled Uncle Peppercorn. "How would you like to build one?"
All the snowflakes shouted together:
"Build a snowman, Peter! Build a snowman!"
"Sure," said Peter. He scraped up snowflakes in both hands, and they all snuggled as close together as they could.
Soon he had a lovely snowman. Uncle Peppercorn tried to help too, but he couldn't do very much because he was so small. So he just stood on the twig and told Peter what to do.
"Now you want two acorns," said Uncle Peppercorn, when the snowman was ready.
Peter picked up two acorns that had been lying under the snow and put them in the snowman's face.
"What about a pipe?" said Uncle Peppercorn. Peter looked
for a bent twig to put in the snowman's mouth. At last he chose the one Uncle Peppercorn was standing on. As he started to break it off, his little friend suddenly disappeared.
"Oh!" said Peter. "I hope he didn't think I was rude."
He was quite worried because he had begun to depend on having Uncle Peppercorn around to show him what to do.
He looked everywhere, but he couldn't find him.
The snowflakes wanted him to come and play some more, but Peter was too worried about losing Uncle Peppercorn.
At last he walked sadly away through the snow, wondering what was to become of him in the big white silence.
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