The ground was hard and it was getting colder. Peter knew that the Big Year was almost over.
"Round the sun! Round the sun!" he was thinking to himself. "Wonder what the sun goes round?"
"Peter!" said the voice of Uncle Peppercorn.
Peter looked around and saw the little man leaning on a small mushroom.
"You've got to go home now," said Uncle Peppercorn.
"Oh, Uncle Peppercorn," Peter almost cried, "I haven't found out half the things I want to yet." Then he remembered he had been away a whole year. He wondered if his mother and father would be very worried. Funny how he had forgotten all about them for a whole year!
"Don't worry," said Uncle Peppercorn. "They don't know you've been away."
"But a whole year!" exclaimed Peter.
"That's what you think," said Uncle Peppercorn.
Suddenly he jumped up on Peter's foot and quickly scrambled up to his shoulder.
"Hang on tight!" he shouted, and they were suddenly off, away into the blue sky.
They landed as before on the big beautiful star that Peter remembered.
"The beginning and the end," said Uncle Peppercorn. "Always the same, you know."
Peter didn't quite understand.
"Why do we have to come here?" he asked.
"Because you have to see for yourself," said Uncle Peppercorn. "Now, where is the earth?"
"The third speck from the little sun to the left of the big one.
"Quite right! Can you see whereabouts it is on the track?"
"The same place as last time," said Peter.
"What does that mean?" asked Uncle Peppercorn in his sternest voice.
"Well, doesn't it mean that it has been once round the sun and come back?" said Peter.
"Peter, said Uncle Peppercorn, patting Peter's neck - it felt like a kiss from a firefly, thought Peter - "Peter, you are a credit to me. I'm going to take you back now. just remember this. If you always love the earth and everything on it, as you do now, you'll continue to have the Big Year all your life. And you must never be afraid of anything, because INSIDE you are the real Peter, and nothing can ever hurt YOU."
Uncle Peppercorn gave Peter's ear a friendly tug. Then he shouted:
They raced through the heavens with the thousand flashing diamond-stars. Peter felt as if he were a star too, shooting along a great road that nobody could see, but that he knew about somehow.
Suddenly he found himself in his little white bed and felt himself just waking up. His eyes opened slowly. It was his own room. Nothing was changed. His rollerskates lay in the corner where he had left them last night. The wildflowers on the dresser weren't even faded.
"Why!" Peter cried, sitting up, "it was only a dream after all!"
But was it only a dream? For years later Peter could still hear the voices of nature. And sometimes, when he listened very carefully, he could understand.
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