Ocean was sorry to see Peter go and brought up a beautiful shell for Peter to take with him. It was a cowrie that Peter could put to his ear and hear Ocean roaring far away, as if it were inside the shell. He walked for a long time, meeting many strange things, but quite often he would stop and take the shell out of his pocket and listen to the song of Ocean deep inside.
One day he was walking through a wood. There were many trees and they were all full of bright green leaves, and dull green leaves, light green leaves and dark green leaves, and most of them had flowers and smelled good.
Peter sniffed the air and listened to their whispering about him.
"That's Peter," he heard one tree say to another. "He's been given the Big Year. Do you think we should talk to him or shall we wait until he asks us something?" Because trees are very well-bred and never upset your thoughts if you want to be quiet. But Peter had heard the soft murmur. He turned to the walnut-tree and smiled.
"I didn't mean to listen," he said, "but I couldn't help hearing what you said. Would you like to talk to me?"
"Of course, said Walnut. "Is there anything you want to talk about particularly?"
"I was just wondering," said Peter, "where you got your pretty clothes. You looked quite sad and bare when I passed this way before."
"We grow them ourselves," rustled Birch. She swayed gracefully in the breeze. "I'm glad you like them."
"I think they're beautiful," said Peter. "How do you do it?"
"Oh, it all comes from the root, you know," chimed in Maple. "The life starts underground and grows from inside, until we get big and grow more and more leaves and pretty things."
"I wish I could do that, 11 said Peter sadly. "My clothes are kind of ragged-looking next to yours."
"Oh, but you do grow yours," growled a big oak. "Never grumble, young man. You grow even more wonderful clothes than we do."
"I don't mean your outside clothes. I mean your body," said Oak.
"What about it?" Peter was really puzzled now.
"Uh-huh! I knew you wouldn't get far without calling on me, came the voice of Uncle Peppercorn from Peter's shoulder. "NOW what's puzzling you?"
"Oak there says I grow my body. How can I?"
"Well, look at yourself," said Uncle Peppercorn. "You've got a different body from everybody else, haven't you?"
"Oh, sure," said Peter.
"Well, it's a Peter-body. See? Oak has an Oak-body. I have an Uncle Peppercorn-body - more or less. Rather less, really, because mine is kind of special."
"I see that, said Peter. "You keep vanishing, so it isn't a very solid one. But how do I grow mine?"
"From inside, of course. You're you, so you grow one to fit you. You wouldn't fit in any other."
Peter thought for a long time. Then he said: "Of course. That explains why everybody looks different. Because they ARE diff erent."
"Hm!" said Uncle Peppercorn. "It's time you met some other flowers. Have you delivered that message to the rose yet?"
"I haven't seen a rose yet," said Peter.
"O.K., come along." Uncle Peppercorn leaped to the ground and started off. His little legs took him along so fast that Peter could only just manage to keep up. Soon they came to a lovely garden. There were white roses and red roses, iris, lilies and lupine, purple pansies and golden primroses. And here and there was a dandelion that had managed to keep out of the gardener's sight long enough to blossom.
Uncle Peppercorn stopped by a bush with pale pink roses. A big golden bee fumbled past Peter and crept into a half open rose.
"What's he doing?" asked Peter.
"He's getting honey from the rose," said Uncle Peppercorn.
"That isn't all he's doing," smiled Rose. "He's picking up pollen on his woolly coat and taking it over to the other roses."
"Because the pollen has to go to other roses so they can grow seeds. The bees all help us and we help them. Didn't you know that everything works together?"
Peter was thinking. "I think I see," he murmured. "The brook helps the ocean, the ocean washes the land, the land feeds the trees, the flowers feed the insects, the insects carry the pollen. Gee, it's wonderful, isn't it?"
Then a new thought struck him.
"What do I do?" he asked. "I seem to be the only useless one in the whole lot. Maybe I could carry pollen or something. I'm afraid I'd be too clumsy, though," he added sadly.
"Don't worry, Peter." Uncle Peppercorn's voice was unusually kind. "You'll have your own work to do. You can't ever do somebody else's, so you'll just have to find your own. But you will in time."
He jumped up on Peter's shoulder, and snuggled into his collar.
"Walk along a bit," he whispered, "I don't want Rose to hear this."
"Just a minute, " said Peter, remembering his promise to Violet. "Violet sent you her love, Rose. Goodby now."
"Goodby," whispered Rose, opening a new petal.
As Peter walked away from the rose-bush, Uncle Peppercorn said:
"I don't want to hurt her feelings, because she can't do the wonderful things you are going to do."
"Me! Why I'm no good for anything," said Peter unhappily.
"You are good for much more than these others." Uncle Peppercorn was stern again. "Remember I said you can think?"
"M-m-m - yes."
"Well, ALL this is a great big thought," said Uncle Peppercorn, waving his arm to the garden and the fields around. "It's a beautiful thought of a great and wonderful mind."
"0h , Gee! Do you think I can think . . . "
"Now, wait a minute," said Uncle Peppercorn, "you're only just starting. But you can think fine and useful thoughts, and if,you remember not to think of yourself, some day you'll be a thinker of worlds like this too."
Suddenly Uncle Peppercorn was gone and Peter was alone again. But he didn't mind. He had so much to think about.
|Table of Contents|