Mr. Popper signed the receipt and examined the box. It was covered all over with markings. “UNPACK AT ONCE,” said one. “KEEP COOL,” said another. He noticed that the box was punched here and there with air holes.
You can imagine that once he had the box inside the house, Mr. Popper lost no time in getting the screw driver, for by this time, of course, he had guessed that it was the surprise from Admiral Drake.
He had succeeded in removing the outer boards and part of the packing, which was a layer of dry ice, when from the depths of the packing case he suddenly heard a faint “Ork.” His heart stood still. Surely he had heard that sound before at the Drake Expedition movies. His hands were trembling so that he could scarcely lift off the last of the wrappings.
There was not the slightest doubt about it. It was a penguin.
Mr. Popper was speechless with delight.
But the penguin was not speechless. “Ork,” it said again, and this time it held out its flippers and jumped over the packing debris.
It was a stout little fellow about two and a half feet high. Although it was about the size of a small child, it looked much more like a little gentleman, with its smooth white waistcoat in front and its long black tailcoat dragging a little behind. Its eyes were set in two white circles in its black head. It turned its head from one side to the other, as first with one eye and then with the other, it examined Mr. Popper.
Mr. Popper had read that penguins are extremely curious, and he soon found that this was true, for stepping out, the visitor began to inspect the house. Down the hall it went and into the bedrooms, with its strange, pompous little strut. When it, or he—Mr. Popper had already begun to think of it as he—got to the bathroom, it looked around with a pleased expression on its face.
“Perhaps,” thought Mr. Popper, “all that white tiling reminds him of the ice and snow at the South Pole. Poor thing, maybe he’s thirsty.”
Carefully Mr. Popper began to fill the bathtub with cold water. This was a little difficult because the inquisitive bird kept reaching over and trying to bite the faucets with its sharp red beak. Finally, however, he succeeded in getting the tub all filled. Since the penguin kept looking over, Mr. Popper picked it up and dropped it in. The penguin seemed not to mind.
“Anyway, you’re not shy,” said Mr. Popper. “I guess you’ve got sort of used to playing around with those explorers at the Pole.”
When he thought the penguin had had enough of a bath, he drew out the stopper. He was just wondering what to do next when Janie and Bill burst in from school.