Peter stopped by a little stream that was frozen solid except for a tiny trickle in the middle. Suddenly he heard a gruff voice, saying:
"Grrmph! Peter, Grrr!"
A big black bear was coming toward him with its funny clumsy walk. Peter was so frightened he couldn't even run away. He just stood there and expected that the bear would swallow him whole. "Grrmph!" said the bear again.
"How do you do," said Peter, trying not to tremble. Uncle Peppercorn had said that he could ask anybody anything, but he hadn't said anything about big black bears and what you were supposed to do with them.
"Fine, " said Bear, "but sleepy."
Then Peter understood that the bear wasn't angry at all. He only said "Grrmph!" as a sort of greeting.
Suddenly Bear gave a huge yawn. Peter jumped. Was the bear going to eat him after all?
"Just going to turn in," yawned Bear. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know," said Peter.
"Room for one more," growled Bear. "You'd better come with me."
Peter wasn't quite sure that he wanted to. The bear was so very gruff. But it was cold outside, so he thought he would at, least go and see where the bear lived.
There was a nice big hole in a rock. Almost like a cave, thought Peter. It was dry and carefully furnished with twigs and dry leaves that were soft to lie on.
The bear curled up in the den and showed Peter where he could curl up beside him. Peter sat down carefully. With a last "Grrmph!" the bear was fast asleep.
It was cozy in the den. Peter curled up close to the rough woolly coat of the
bear and soon he was fast asleep too.
Peter was asleep for a long time when a sharp voice awoke him saying, "Come on, Peter! You can't stay here all your life." It was Uncle Peppercorn.
"Time you got up," said Uncle Peppercorn. "You've been asleep nearly a week."
"A week!" shouted Peter. The bear stirred uneasily, and Peter lowered his voice. "A week!" he whispered. "But why is HE still asleep?" he asked.
"He sleeps for a couple of months," said Uncle Peppercorn. "Come on!"
Peter crawled out of the bear's den as quietly as he could. When they were outside he asked: "Why does he sleep so long?"
"He sleeps all winter. That's just like a night to him."
"Does he stay awake all summer then?" asked Peter.
"Not quite. He sleeps and wakes, nights and days, just like you do during one lifetime."
Peter thought for a while. Then he said:
"I suppose that's right-if he knows about the earth going round the sun. Does he, Uncle Peppercorn?"
"Well," said Uncle Peppercorn, "he knows in a way, but not like you do. He feels it. You UNDERSTAND it."
"Oh!" said Peter, not quite sure that he did.
"By the way," said Uncle Peppercorn, "you were afraid of the bear, weren't you?"
"Yes," Peter said, a little ashamed of himself.
"You needn't be," said Uncle Peppercorn. "As long as you have the Big Year, everything is friendly. Bear has a gruff voice, but he would never hurt anybody who has the Big Year."
"Oh!" said Peter. "Then I needn't ever be afraid."
"That's the point," said Uncle Peppercorn. "If you are afraid, you lose the Big Year. You nearly lost it then. If you had run away from the bear, he MIGHT have hurt you."
Peter remembered how he had wanted to run away.
"Never be afraid, Peter," said Uncle Peppercorn.
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