I. THE RIVER BANK
II. THE OPEN ROAD
III. THE WILD WOOD
IV. MR. BADGER
V. DULCE DOMUM
VI. MR. TOAD
VII. THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN
VIII. TOAD'S ADVENTURES
IX. WAYFARERS ALL
X. THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF TOAD
XI. "LIKE SUMMER TEMPESTS CAME HIS TEARS"
XII. THE RETURN OF ULYSSES
THE RIVER BANK
The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-
cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters;
then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of
whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes
of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary
arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below
and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house
with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small
wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor,
said `Bother!' and `O blow!' and also `Hang spring-cleaning!'
and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his
coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he
made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to
the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences
are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and
scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled
and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws
and muttering to himself, `Up we go! Up we go!' till at last,
pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself
rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.
`This is fine!' he said to himself. `This is better than
whitewashing!' The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes
caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the
cellarage he had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell
on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his
four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring
without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow till
he reached the hedge on the further side.
`Hold up!' said an elderly rabbit at the gap. `Sixpence for the
privilege of passing by the private road!' He was bowled over in
an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted
along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they
peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about.
`Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!' he remarked jeeringly, and was gone
before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply. Then
they all started grumbling at each other. `How STUPID you
are! Why didn't you tell him----' `Well, why didn't YOU
say----' `You might have reminded him----' and so on, in the
usual way; but, of course, it was then much too late, as is
always the case.
It all seemed too good to be true. Hither and thither through
the meadows he rambled busily, along the hedgerows, across the
copses, finding everywhere birds building, flowers budding,
leaves thrusting--everything happy, and progressive, and
occupied. And instead of having an uneasy conscience pricking
him and whispering `whitewash!' he somehow could only feel how
jolly it was to be the only idle dog among all these busy
citizens. After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps
not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other
fellows busy working.
He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered
aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed
river. Never in his life had he seen a river before--this sleek,
sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping
things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling
itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were
caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver--glints and
gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The
Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the
river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a
man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired
at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on
to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world,
sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the
As he sat on the grass and looked across the river, a dark hole
in the bank opposite, just above the water's edge, caught his
eye, and dreamily he fell to considering what a nice snug
dwelling-place it would make for an animal with few wants and
fond of a bijo riverside residence, above flood level and remote
from noise and dust. As he gazed, something bright and small
seemed to twinkle down in the heart of it, vanished, then
twinkled once more like a tiny star. But it could hardly be a
star in such an unlikely situation; and it was too glittering and
small for a glow-worm. Then, as he looked, it winked at him, and
so declared itself to be an eye; and a small face began gradually
to grow up round it, like a frame round a picture.
A brown little face, with whiskers.
A grave round face, with the same twinkle in its eye that had
first attracted his notice.
Small neat ears and thick silky hair.
It was the Water Rat!
Then the two animals stood and regarded each other cautiously.
`Hullo, Mole!' said the Water Rat.
`Hullo, Rat!' said the Mole.
`Would you like to come over?' enquired the Rat presently.
`Oh, its all very well to TALK,' said the Mole, rather
pettishly, he being new to a river and riverside life and its
The Rat said nothing, but stooped and unfastened a rope and
hauled on it; then lightly stepped into a little boat which the
Mole had not observed. It was painted blue outside and white
within, and was just the size for two animals; and the Mole's
whole heart went out to it at once, even though he did not yet
fully understand its uses.
The Rat sculled smartly across and made fast. Then he held up
his forepaw as the Mole stepped gingerly down. `Lean on that!'
he said. `Now then, step lively!' and the Mole to his surprise
and rapture found himself actually seated in the stern of a real
`This has been a wonderful day!' said he, as the Rat shoved off
and took to the sculls again. `Do you know, I`ve never been in a
boat before in all my life.'
`What?' cried the Rat, open-mouthed: `Never been in a--you
never--well I--what have you been doing, then?'
`Is it so nice as all that?' asked the Mole shyly, though he was
quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and
surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the
fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.
`Nice? It's the ONLY thing,' said the Water Rat solemnly, as
he leant forward for his stroke. `Believe me, my young friend,
there is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing
as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,' he went on
dreamily: `messing--about--in--boats; messing----'
`Look ahead, Rat!' cried the Mole suddenly.
It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The
dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the
boat, his heels in the air.
`--about in boats--or WITH boats,' the Rat went on composedly,
picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. `In or out of 'em, it
doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm
of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you
arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else,
or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and
you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it
there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you
like, but you'd much better not. Look here! If you've really
nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the
river together, and have a long day of it?'
The Mole waggled his toes from sheer happiness, spread his chest
with a sigh of full contentment, and leaned back blissfully into
the soft cushions. `WHAT a day I'm having!' he said. `Let us
start at once!'
`Hold hard a minute, then!' said the Rat. He looped the painter
through a ring in his landing-stage, climbed up into his hole
above, and after a short interval reappeared staggering under a
fat, wicker luncheon-basket.
`Shove that under your feet,' he observed to the Mole, as he
passed it down into the boat. Then he untied the painter and
took the sculls again.
`What's inside it?' asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.
`There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly;
`O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: `This is too much!'
`Do you really think so?' enquired the Rat seriously. `It's only
what I always take on these little excursions; and the other
animals are always telling me that I'm a mean beast and cut it
The Mole never heard a word he was saying. Absorbed in the new
life he was entering upon, intoxicated with the sparkle, the
ripple, the scents and the sounds and the sunlight, he trailed a
paw in the water and dreamed long waking dreams. The Water Rat,
like the good little fellow he was, sculled steadily on and
forebore to disturb him.
`I like your clothes awfully, old chap,' he remarked after some
half an hour or so had passed. `I'm going to get a black velvet
smoking-suit myself some day, as soon as I can afford it.'
`I beg your pardon,' said the Mole, pulling himself together with
an effort. `You must think me very rude; but all this is so new
to me. So--this--is--a--River!'
`THE River,' corrected the Rat.
`And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!'
`By it and with it and on it and in it,' said the Rat. `It's
brother and sister to me, and aunts, and company, and food and
drink, and (naturally) washing. It's my world, and I don't want
any other. What it hasn't got is not worth having, and what it
doesn't know is not worth knowing. Lord! the times we've had
together! Whether in winter or summer, spring or autumn, it's
always got its fun and its excitements. When the floods are on
in February, and my cellars and basement are brimming with drink
that's no good to me, and the brown water runs by my best bedroom
window; or again when it all drops away and, shows patches of mud
that smells like plum-cake, and the rushes and weed clog the
channels, and I can potter about dry shod over most of the bed of
it and find fresh food to eat, and things careless people have
dropped out of boats!'
`But isn't it a bit dull at times?' the Mole ventured to ask.
`Just you and the river, and no one else to pass a word with?'
`No one else to--well, I mustn't be hard on you,' said the Rat
with forbearance. `You're new to it, and of course you don't
know. The bank is so crowded nowadays that many people are
moving away altogether: O no, it isn't what it used to be,
at all. Otters, kingfishers, dabchicks, moorhens, all of them
about all day long and always wanting you to DO something--as
if a fellow had no business of his own to attend to!'
`What lies over THERE' asked the Mole, waving a paw towards a
background of woodland that darkly framed the water-meadows on
one side of the river.
`That? O, that's just the Wild Wood,' said the Rat shortly. `We
don't go there very much, we river-bankers.'
`Aren't they--aren't they very NICE people in there?' said the
Mole, a trifle nervously.
`W-e-ll,' replied the Rat, `let me see. The squirrels are all
right. AND the rabbits--some of 'em, but rabbits are a mixed
lot. And then there's Badger, of course. He lives right in the
heart of it; wouldn't live anywhere else, either, if you paid him
to do it. Dear old Badger! Nobody interferes with HIM.
They'd better not,' he added significantly.
`Why, who SHOULD interfere with him?' asked the Mole.
`Well, of course--there--are others,' explained the Rat in a
hesitating sort of way.
`Weasels--and stoats--and foxes--and so on. They're all right in
a way--I'm very good friends with them--pass the time of day when
we meet, and all that--but they break out sometimes, there's no
denying it, and then--well, you can't really trust them, and
that's the fact.'
The Mole knew well that it is quite against animal-etiquette to
dwell on possible trouble ahead, or even to allude to it; so he
dropped the subject.
`And beyond the Wild Wood again?' he asked: `Where it's all blue
and dim, and one sees what may be hills or perhaps they mayn't,
and something like the smoke of towns, or is it only cloud-
`Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World,' said the Rat. `And
that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or me. I've
never been there, and I'm never going, nor you either, if you've
got any sense at all. Don't ever refer to it again, please. Now
then! Here's our backwater at last, where we're going to lunch.'
Leaving the main stream, they now passed into what seemed at
first sight like a little land-locked lake. Green turf
sloped down to either edge, brown snaky tree-roots gleamed below
the surface of the quiet water, while ahead of them the silvery
shoulder and foamy tumble of a weir, arm-in-arm with a restless
dripping mill-wheel, that held up in its turn a grey-gabled mill-
house, filled the air with a soothing murmur of sound, dull and
smothery, yet with little clear voices speaking up cheerfully out
of it at intervals. It was so very beautiful that the Mole could
only hold up both forepaws and gasp, `O my! O my! O my!'
The Rat brought the boat alongside the bank, made her fast,
helped the still awkward Mole safely ashore, and swung out the
luncheon-basket. The Mole begged as a favour to be allowed to
unpack it all by himself; and the Rat was very pleased to indulge
him, and to sprawl at full length on the grass and rest, while
his excited friend shook out the table-cloth and spread it, took
out all the mysterious packets one by one and arranged their
contents in due order, still gasping, `O my! O my!' at each
fresh revelation. When all was ready, the Rat said, `Now, pitch
in, old fellow!' and the Mole was indeed very glad to obey, for
he had started his spring-cleaning at a very early hour that
morning, as people WILL do, and had not paused for bite or
sup; and he had been through a very great deal since that distant
time which now seemed so many days ago.
`What are you looking at?' said the Rat presently, when the edge
of their hunger was somewhat dulled, and the Mole's eyes were
able to wander off the table-cloth a little.
`I am looking,' said the Mole, `at a streak of bubbles that I see
travelling along the surface of the water. That is a thing that
strikes me as funny.'
`Bubbles? Oho!' said the Rat, and chirruped cheerily in an
inviting sort of way.
A broad glistening muzzle showed itself above the edge of the
bank, and the Otter hauled himself out and shook the water from
`Greedy beggars!' he observed, making for the provender. `Why
didn't you invite me, Ratty?'
`This was an impromptu affair,' explained the Rat. `By the way--
my friend Mr. Mole.'
`Proud, I'm sure,' said the Otter, and the two animals were
`Such a rumpus everywhere!' continued the Otter. `All the world
seems out on the river to-day. I came up this backwater to try
and get a moment's peace, and then stumble upon you fellows!--At
least--I beg pardon--I don't exactly mean that, you know.'
There was a rustle behind them, proceeding from a hedge wherein
last year's leaves still clung thick, and a stripy head, with
high shoulders behind it, peered forth on them.
`Come on, old Badger!' shouted the Rat.
The Badger trotted forward a pace or two; then grunted, `H'm!
Company,' and turned his back and disappeared from view.
`That's JUST the sort of fellow he is!' observed the
disappointed Rat. `Simply hates Society! Now we shan't see any
more of him to-day. Well, tell us, WHO'S out on the river?'
`Toad's out, for one,' replied the Otter. `In his brand-new
wager-boat; new togs, new everything!'
The two animals looked at each other and laughed.
`Once, it was nothing but sailing,' said the Rat, `Then he tired
of that and took to punting. Nothing would please him but to
punt all day and every day, and a nice mess he made of it. Last
year it was house-boating, and we all had to go and stay with him
in his house-boat, and pretend we liked it. He was going to
spend the rest of his life in a house-boat. It's all the same,
whatever he takes up; he gets tired of it, and starts on
`Such a good fellow, too,' remarked the Otter reflectively: `But
no stability--especially in a boat!'
From where they sat they could get a glimpse of the main stream
across the island that separated them; and just then a wager-boat
flashed into view, the rower--a short, stout figure--splashing
badly and rolling a good deal, but working his hardest. The Rat
stood up and hailed him, but Toad--for it was he--shook his head
and settled sternly to his work.
`He'll be out of the boat in a minute if he rolls like that,'
said the Rat, sitting down again.
`Of course he will,' chuckled the Otter. `Did I ever tell you
that good story about Toad and the lock-keeper? It happened this
way. Toad. . . .'
An errant May-fly swerved unsteadily athwart the current in
the intoxicated fashion affected by young bloods of May-flies
seeing life. A swirl of water and a `cloop!' and the May-fly was
visible no more.
Neither was the Otter.
The Mole looked down. The voice was still in his ears, but the
turf whereon he had sprawled was clearly vacant. Not an Otter to
be seen, as far as the distant horizon.
But again there was a streak of bubbles on the surface of the
The Rat hummed a tune, and the Mole recollected that animal-
etiquette forbade any sort of comment on the sudden disappearance
of one's friends at any moment, for any reason or no reason
`Well, well,' said the Rat, `I suppose we ought to be moving. I
wonder which of us had better pack the luncheon-basket?' He did
not speak as if he was frightfully eager for the treat.
`O, please let me,' said the Mole. So, of course, the Rat let
Packing the basket was not quite such pleasant work as unpacking'
the basket. It never is. But the Mole was bent on enjoying
everything, and although just when he had got the basket
packed and strapped up tightly he saw a plate staring up at him
from the grass, and when the job had been done again the Rat
pointed out a fork which anybody ought to have seen, and last of
all, behold! the mustard pot, which he had been sitting on
without knowing it--still, somehow, the thing got finished at
last, without much loss of temper.
The afternoon sun was getting low as the Rat sculled gently
homewards in a dreamy mood, murmuring poetry-things over to
himself, and not paying much attention to Mole. But the Mole was
very full of lunch, and self-satisfaction, and pride, and already
quite at home in a boat (so he thought) and was getting a bit
restless besides: and presently he said, `Ratty! Please, _I_
want to row, now!'
The Rat shook his head with a smile. `Not yet, my young friend,'
he said--'wait till you've had a few lessons. It's not so easy
as it looks.'
The Mole was quiet for a minute or two. But he began to feel
more and more jealous of Rat, sculling so strongly and so easily
along, and his pride began to whisper that he could do it every
bit as well. He jumped up and seized the sculls, so
suddenly, that the Rat, who was gazing out over the water and
saying more poetry-things to himself, was taken by surprise and
fell backwards off his seat with his legs in the air for the
second time, while the triumphant Mole took his place and grabbed
the sculls with entire confidence.
`Stop it, you SILLY ass!' cried the Rat, from the bottom of
the boat. `You can't do it! You'll have us over!'
The Mole flung his sculls back with a flourish, and made a great
dig at the water. He missed the surface altogether, his legs
flew up above his head, and he found himself lying on the top of
the prostrate Rat. Greatly alarmed, he made a grab at the side
of the boat, and the next moment--Sploosh!
Over went the boat, and he found himself struggling in the river.
O my, how cold the water was, and O, how VERY wet it felt.
How it sang in his ears as he went down, down, down! How bright
and welcome the sun looked as he rose to the surface coughing and
spluttering! How black was his despair when he felt himself
sinking again! Then a firm paw gripped him by the back of
his neck. It was the Rat, and he was evidently laughing--the
Mole could FEEL him laughing, right down his arm and through
his paw, and so into his--the Mole's--neck.
The Rat got hold of a scull and shoved it under the Mole's arm;
then he did the same by the other side of him and, swimming
behind, propelled the helpless animal to shore, hauled him out,
and set him down on the bank, a squashy, pulpy lump of misery.
When the Rat had rubbed him down a bit, and wrung some of the wet
out of him, he said, `Now, then, old fellow! Trot up and down
the towing-path as hard as you can, till you're warm and dry
again, while I dive for the luncheon-basket.'
So the dismal Mole, wet without and ashamed within, trotted about
till he was fairly dry, while the Rat plunged into the water
again, recovered the boat, righted her and made her fast, fetched
his floating property to shore by degrees, and finally dived
successfully for the luncheon-basket and struggled to land with
When all was ready for a start once more, the Mole, limp and
dejected, took his seat in the stern of the boat; and as they set
off, he said in a low voice, broken with emotion, `Ratty, my
generous friend! I am very sorry indeed for my foolish and
ungrateful conduct. My heart quite fails me when I think how I
might have lost that beautiful luncheon-basket. Indeed, I have
been a complete ass, and I know it. Will you overlook it this
once and forgive me, and let things go on as before?'
`That's all right, bless you!' responded the Rat cheerily.
`What's a little wet to a Water Rat? I'm more in the water than
out of it most days. Don't you think any more about it; and,
look here! I really think you had better come and stop with me
for a little time. It's very plain and rough, you know--not like
Toad's house at all--but you haven't seen that yet; still, I can
make you comfortable. And I'll teach you to row, and to swim,
and you'll soon be as handy on the water as any of us.'
The Mole was so touched by his kind manner of speaking that he
could find no voice to answer him; and he had to brush away a
tear or two with the back of his paw. But the Rat kindly looked
in another direction, and presently the Mole's spirits revived
again, and he was even able to give some straight back-talk
to a couple of moorhens who were sniggering to each other
about his bedraggled appearance.
When they got home, the Rat made a bright fire in the parlour,
and planted the Mole in an arm-chair in front of it, having
fetched down a dressing-gown and slippers for him, and told him
river stories till supper-time. Very thrilling stories they
were, too, to an earth-dwelling animal like Mole. Stories about
weirs, and sudden floods, and leaping pike, and steamers that
flung hard bottles--at least bottles were certainly flung, and
FROM steamers, so presumably BY them; and about herons, and
how particular they were whom they spoke to; and about adventures
down drains, and night-fishings with Otter, or excursions far a-
field with Badger. Supper was a most cheerful meal; but very
shortly afterwards a terribly sleepy Mole had to be escorted
upstairs by his considerate host, to the best bedroom, where he
soon laid his head on his pillow in great peace and contentment,
knowing that his new-found friend the River was lapping the sill
of his window.
This day was only the first of many similar ones for the
emancipated Mole, each of them longer and full of interest as
the ripening summer moved onward. He learnt to swim and to row,
and entered into the joy of running water; and with his ear to
the reed-stems he caught, at intervals, something of what the
wind went whispering so constantly among them.
THE OPEN ROAD
`Ratty,' said the Mole suddenly, one bright summer morning, `if
you please, I want to ask you a favour.'
The Rat was sitting on the river bank, singing a little song. He
had just composed it himself, so he was very taken up with it,
and would not pay proper attention to Mole or anything else.
Since early morning he had been swimming in the river, in company
with his friends the ducks. And when the ducks stood on their
heads suddenly, as ducks will, he would dive down and tickle
their necks, just under where their chins would be if ducks had
chins, till they were forced to come to the surface again in a
hurry, spluttering and angry and shaking their feathers at him,
for it is impossible to say quite ALL you feel when your head
is under water. At last they implored him to go away and
attend to his own affairs and leave them to mind theirs. So the
Rat went away, and sat on the river bank in the sun, and made up
a song about them, which he called
All along the backwater,
Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling,
Up tails all!
Ducks' tails, drakes' tails,
Yellow feet a-quiver,
Yellow bills all out of sight
Busy in the river!
Slushy green undergrowth
Where the roach swim--
Here we keep our larder,
Cool and full and dim.
Everyone for what he likes!
WE like to be
Heads down, tails up,
High in the blue above
Swifts whirl and call--
WE are down a-dabbling
Up tails all!
`I don't know that I think so VERY much of that little song,
Rat,' observed the Mole cautiously. He was no poet himself
and didn't care who knew it; and he had a candid nature.
`Nor don't the ducks neither,' replied the Rat cheerfully. `They
say, "WHY can't fellows be allowed to do what they like
WHEN they like and AS they like, instead of other fellows
sitting on banks and watching them all the time and making
remarks and poetry and things about them? What NONSENSE it
all is!" That's what the ducks say.'
`So it is, so it is,' said the Mole, with great heartiness.
`No, it isn't!' cried the Rat indignantly.
`Well then, it isn't, it isn't,' replied the Mole soothingly.
`But what I wanted to ask you was, won't you take me to call on
Mr. Toad? I've heard so much about him, and I do so want to make
`Why, certainly,' said the good-natured Rat, jumping to his feet
and dismissing poetry from his mind for the day. `Get the boat
out, and we'll paddle up there at once. It's never the wrong
time to call on Toad. Early or late he's always the same fellow.
Always good-tempered, always glad to see you, always sorry when
`He must be a very nice animal,' observed the Mole, as he got
into the boat and took the sculls, while the Rat settled himself
comfortably in the stern.
`He is indeed the best of animals,' replied Rat. `So simple, so
good-natured, and so affectionate. Perhaps he's not very
clever--we can't all be geniuses; and it may be that he is both
boastful and conceited. But he has got some great qualities, has
Rounding a bend in the river, they came in sight of a handsome,
dignified old house of mellowed red brick, with well-kept lawns
reaching down to the water's edge.
`There's Toad Hall,' said the Rat; `and that creek on the left,
where the notice-board says, "Private. No landing allowed,"
leads to his boat-house, where we'll leave the boat. The stables
are over there to the right. That's the banqueting-hall you're
looking at now--very old, that is. Toad is rather rich, you
know, and this is really one of the nicest houses in these parts,
though we never admit as much to Toad.'
They glided up the creek, and the Mole slipped his sculls as they
passed into the shadow of a large boat-house. Here they saw
many handsome boats, slung from the cross beams or hauled up on a
slip, but none in the water; and the place had an unused and a
The Rat looked around him. `I understand,' said he. `Boating is
played out. He's tired of it, and done with it. I wonder what
new fad he has taken up now? Come along and let's look him up.
We shall hear all about it quite soon enough.'
They disembarked, and strolled across the gay flower-decked lawns
in search of Toad, whom they presently happened upon resting in a
wicker garden-chair, with a pre-occupied expression of face, and
a large map spread out on his knees.
`Hooray!' he cried, jumping up on seeing them, `this is
splendid!' He shook the paws of both of them warmly, never
waiting for an introduction to the Mole. `How KIND of you!'
he went on, dancing round them. `I was just going to send a boat
down the river for you, Ratty, with strict orders that you were
to be fetched up here at once, whatever you were doing. I want
you badly--both of you. Now what will you take? Come inside
and have something! You don't know how lucky it is, your turning
up just now!'
`Let's sit quiet a bit, Toady!' said the Rat, throwing himself
into an easy chair, while the Mole took another by the side of
him and made some civil remark about Toad's `delightful
`Finest house on the whole river,' cried Toad boisterously. `Or
anywhere else, for that matter,' he could not help adding.
Here the Rat nudged the Mole. Unfortunately the Toad saw him do
it, and turned very red. There was a moment's painful silence.
Then Toad burst out laughing. `All right, Ratty,' he said.
`It's only my way, you know. And it's not such a very bad house,
is it? You know you rather like it yourself. Now, look here.
Let's be sensible. You are the very animals I wanted. You've
got to help me. It's most important!'
`It's about your rowing, I suppose,' said the Rat, with an
innocent air. `You're getting on fairly well, though you splash
a good bit still. With a great deal of patience, and any
quantity of coaching, you may----'
`O, pooh! boating!' interrupted the Toad, in great disgust.
Silly boyish amusement. I've given that up LONG ago. Sheer
waste of time, that's what it is. It makes me downright sorry to
see you fellows, who ought to know better, spending all your
energies in that aimless manner. No, I've discovered the real
thing, the only genuine occupation for a life time. I propose to
devote the remainder of mine to it, and can only regret the
wasted years that lie behind me, squandered in trivialities.
Come with me, dear Ratty, and your amiable friend also, if he
will be so very good, just as far as the stable-yard, and you
shall see what you shall see!'
He led the way to the stable-yard accordingly, the Rat following
with a most mistrustful expression; and there, drawn out of the
coach house into the open, they saw a gipsy caravan, shining with
newness, painted a canary-yellow picked out with green, and red
`There you are!' cried the Toad, straddling and expanding
himself. `There's real life for you, embodied in that little
cart. The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common,
the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns,
cities! Here to-day, up and off to somewhere else to-morrow!
Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before
you, and a horizon that's always changing! And mind! this is the
very finest cart of its sort that was ever built, without any
exception. Come inside and look at the arrangements. Planned
'em all myself, I did!'
The Mole was tremendously interested and excited, and followed
him eagerly up the steps and into the interior of the caravan.
The Rat only snorted and thrust his hands deep into his pockets,
remaining where he was.
It was indeed very compact and comfortable. Little sleeping
bunks--a little table that folded up against the wall--a cooking-
stove, lockers, bookshelves, a bird-cage with a bird in it; and
pots, pans, jugs and kettles of every size and variety.
`All complete!' said the Toad triumphantly, pulling open a
locker. `You see--biscuits, potted lobster, sardines--everything
you can possibly want. Soda-water here--baccy there--letter-
paper, bacon, jam, cards and dominoes--you'll find,' he
continued, as they descended the steps again, `you'll find that
nothing what ever has been forgotten, when we make our start
`I beg your pardon,' said the Rat slowly, as he chewed a straw,
`but did I overhear you say something about "WE," and
"START," and "THIS AFTERNOON?"'
`Now, you dear good old Ratty,' said Toad, imploringly, `don't
begin talking in that stiff and sniffy sort of way, because you
know you've GOT to come. I can't possibly manage without you,
so please consider it settled, and don't argue--it's the one
thing I can't stand. You surely don't mean to stick to your dull
fusty old river all your life, and just live in a hole in a bank,
and BOAT? I want to show you the world! I'm going to make an
ANIMAL of you, my boy!'
`I don't care,' said the Rat, doggedly. `I'm not coming, and
that's flat. And I AM going to stick to my old river, AND
live in a hole, AND boat, as I've always done. And what's
more, Mole's going to stick me and do as I do, aren't you, Mole?'
`Of course I am,' said the Mole, loyally. `I'll always stick to
you, Rat, and what you say is to be--has got to be. All the
same, it sounds as if it might have been--well, rather fun,
you know!' he added, wistfully. Poor Mole! The Life Adventurous
was so new a thing to him, and so thrilling; and this fresh
aspect of it was so tempting; and he had fallen in love at first
sight with the canary-coloured cart and all its little fitments.
The Rat saw what was passing in his mind, and wavered. He hated
disappointing people, and he was fond of the Mole, and would do
almost anything to oblige him. Toad was watching both of them
`Come along in, and have some lunch,' he said, diplomatically,
`and we'll talk it over. We needn't decide anything in a hurry.
Of course, _I_ don't really care. I only want to give pleasure
to you fellows. "Live for others!" That's my motto in life.'
During luncheon--which was excellent, of course, as everything at
Toad Hall always was--the Toad simply let himself go.
Disregarding the Rat, he proceeded to play upon the inexperienced
Mole as on a harp. Naturally a voluble animal, and always
mastered by his imagination, he painted the prospects of the trip
and the joys of the open life and the roadside in such
glowing colours that the Mole could hardly sit in his chair for
excitement. Somehow, it soon seemed taken for granted by all
three of them that the trip was a settled thing; and the Rat,
though still unconvinced in his mind, allowed his good-nature to
over-ride his personal objections. He could not bear to
disappoint his two friends, who were already deep in schemes and
anticipations, planning out each day's separate occupation for
several weeks ahead.
When they were quite ready, the now triumphant Toad led his
companions to the paddock and set them to capture the old grey
horse, who, without having been consulted, and to his own extreme
annoyance, had been told off by Toad for the dustiest job in this
dusty expedition. He frankly preferred the paddock, and took a
deal of catching. Meantime Toad packed the lockers still tighter
with necessaries, and hung nosebags, nets of onions, bundles of
hay, and baskets from the bottom of the cart. At last the horse
was caught and harnessed, and they set off, all talking at once,
each animal either trudging by the side of the cart or sitting on
the shaft, as the humour took him. It was a golden
afternoon. The smell of the dust they kicked up was rich and
satisfying; out of thick orchards on either side the road, birds
called and whistled to them cheerily; good-natured wayfarers,
passing them, gave them `Good-day,' or stopped to say nice things
about their beautiful cart; and rabbits, sitting at their front
doors in the hedgerows, held up their fore-paws, and said, `O my!
O my! O my!'
Late in the evening, tired and happy and miles from home, they
drew up on a remote common far from habitations, turned the horse
loose to graze, and ate their simple supper sitting on the grass
by the side of the cart. Toad talked big about all he was going
to do in the days to come, while stars grew fuller and larger all
around them, and a yellow moon, appearing suddenly and silently
from nowhere in particular, came to keep them company and listen
to their talk. At last they turned in to their little bunks in
the cart; and Toad, kicking out his legs, sleepily said, `Well,
good night, you fellows! This is the real life for a gentleman!
Talk about your old river!'
`I DON'T talk about my river,' replied the patient Rat.
`You KNOW I don't, Toad. But I THINK about it,' he added
pathetically, in a lower tone: `I think about it--all the time!'
The Mole reached out from under his blanket, felt for the Rat's
paw in the darkness, and gave it a squeeze. `I'll do whatever
you like, Ratty,' he whispered. `Shall we run away to-morrow
morning, quite early--VERY early--and go back to our dear old
hole on the river?'
`No, no, we'll see it out,' whispered back the Rat. `Thanks
awfully, but I ought to stick by Toad till this trip is ended.
It wouldn't be safe for him to be left to himself. It won't take
very long. His fads never do. Good night!'
The end was indeed nearer than even the Rat suspected.
After so much open air and excitement the Toad slept very
soundly, and no amount of shaking could rouse him out of bed next
morning. So the Mole and Rat turned to, quietly and manfully,
and while the Rat saw to the horse, and lit a fire, and cleaned
last night's cups and platters, and got things ready for
breakfast, the Mole trudged off to the nearest village, a long
way off, for milk and eggs and various necessaries the Toad had,
of course, forgotten to provide. The hard work had all been
done, and the two animals were resting, thoroughly exhausted, by
the time Toad appeared on the scene, fresh and gay, remarking
what a pleasant easy life it was they were all leading now, after
the cares and worries and fatigues of housekeeping at home.
They had a pleasant ramble that day over grassy downs and along
narrow by-lanes, and camped as before, on a common, only this
time the two guests took care that Toad should do his fair share
of work. In consequence, when the time came for starting next
morning, Toad was by no means so rapturous about the simplicity
of the primitive life, and indeed attempted to resume his place
in his bunk, whence he was hauled by force. Their way lay, as
before, across country by narrow lanes, and it was not till the
afternoon that they came out on the high-road, their first high-
road; and there disaster, fleet and unforeseen, sprang out on
them--disaster momentous indeed to their expedition, but simply
overwhelming in its effect on the after-career of Toad.
They were strolling along the high-road easily, the Mole by
the horse's head, talking to him, since the horse had complained
that he was being frightfully left out of it, and nobody
considered him in the least; the Toad and the Water Rat walking
behind the cart talking together--at least Toad was talking, and
Rat was saying at intervals, `Yes, precisely; and what did YOU
say to HIM?'--and thinking all the time of something very
different, when far behind them they heard a faint warning hum;
like the drone of a distant bee. Glancing back, they saw a small
cloud of dust, with a dark centre of energy, advancing on them at
incredible speed, while from out the dust a faint `Poop-poop!'
wailed like an uneasy animal in pain. Hardly regarding it, they
turned to resume their conversation, when in an instant (as it
seemed) the peaceful scene was changed, and with a blast of wind
and a whirl of sound that made them jump for the nearest ditch,
It was on them! The `Poop-poop' rang with a brazen shout in
their ears, they had a moment's glimpse of an interior of
glittering plate-glass and rich morocco, and the magnificent
motor-car, immense, breath-snatching, passionate, with its pilot
tense and hugging his wheel, possessed all earth and air for
the fraction of a second, flung an enveloping cloud of dust that
blinded and enwrapped them utterly, and then dwindled to a speck
in the far distance, changed back into a droning bee once more.
The old grey horse, dreaming, as he plodded along, of his quiet
paddock, in a new raw situation such as this simply abandoned
himself to his natural emotions. Rearing, plunging, backing
steadily, in spite of all the Mole's efforts at his head, and all
the Mole's lively language directed at his better feelings, he
drove the cart backwards towards the deep ditch at the side of
the road. It wavered an instant--then there was a heartrending
crash--and the canary-coloured cart, their pride and their joy,
lay on its side in the ditch, an irredeemable wreck.
The Rat danced up and down in the road, simply transported with
passion. `You villains!' he shouted, shaking both fists, `You
scoundrels, you highwaymen, you--you--roadhogs!--I'll have the
law of you! I'll report you! I'll take you through all the
Courts!' His home-sickness had quite slipped away from him, and
for the moment he was the skipper of the canary-coloured
vessel driven on a shoal by the reckless jockeying of rival
mariners, and he was trying to recollect all the fine and biting
things he used to say to masters of steam-launches when their
wash, as they drove too near the bank, used to flood his parlour-
carpet at home.
Toad sat straight down in the middle of the dusty road, his legs
stretched out before him, and stared fixedly in the direction of
the disappearing motor-car. He breathed short, his face wore a
placid satisfied expression, and at intervals he faintly murmured
The Mole was busy trying to quiet the horse, which he succeeded
in doing after a time. Then he went to look at the cart, on its
side in the ditch. It was indeed a sorry sight. Panels and
windows smashed, axles hopelessly bent, one wheel off, sardine-
tins scattered over the wide world, and the bird in the bird-cage
sobbing pitifully and calling to be let out.
The Rat came to help him, but their united efforts were not
sufficient to right the cart. `Hi! Toad!' they cried. `Come and
bear a hand, can't you!'
The Toad never answered a word, or budged from his seat in the
road; so they went to see what was the matter with him. They
found him in a sort of a trance, a happy smile on his face, his
eyes still fixed on the dusty wake of their destroyer. At
intervals he was still heard to murmur `Poop-poop!'
The Rat shook him by the shoulder. `Are you coming to help us,
Toad?' he demanded sternly.
`Glorious, stirring sight!' murmured Toad, never offering to
move. `The poetry of motion! The REAL way to travel! The
ONLY way to travel! Here to-day--in next week to-morrow!
Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped--always somebody else's
horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!'
`O STOP being an ass, Toad!' cried the Mole despairingly.
`And to think I never KNEW!' went on the Toad in a dreamy
monotone. `All those wasted years that lie behind me, I never
knew, never even DREAMT! But NOW--but now that I know, now
that I fully realise! O what a flowery track lies spread before
me, henceforth! What dust-clouds shall spring up behind me as I
speed on my reckless way! What carts I shall fling
carelessly into the ditch in the wake of my magnificent onset!
Horrid little carts--common carts--canary-coloured carts!'
`What are we to do with him?' asked the Mole of the Water Rat.
`Nothing at all,' replied the Rat firmly. `Because there is
really nothing to be done. You see, I know him from of old. He
is now possessed. He has got a new craze, and it always takes
him that way, in its first stage. He'll continue like that for
days now, like an animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless
for all practical purposes. Never mind him. Let's go and see
what there is to be done about the cart.'
A careful inspection showed them that, even if they succeeded in
righting it by themselves, the cart would travel no longer. The
axles were in a hopeless state, and the missing wheel was
shattered into pieces.
The Rat knotted the horse's reins over his back and took him by
the head, carrying the bird cage and its hysterical occupant in
the other hand. `Come on!' he said grimly to the Mole. `It's
five or six miles to the nearest town, and we shall just have
to walk it. The sooner we make a start the better.'
`But what about Toad?' asked the Mole anxiously, as they set off
together. `We can't leave him here, sitting in the middle of the
road by himself, in the distracted state he's in! It's not safe.
Supposing another Thing were to come along?'
`O, BOTHER Toad,' said the Rat savagely; `I've done with him!'
They had not proceeded very far on their way, however, when there
was a pattering of feet behind them, and Toad caught them up and
thrust a paw inside the elbow of each of them; still breathing
short and staring into vacancy.
`Now, look here, Toad!' said the Rat sharply: `as soon as we get
to the town, you'll have to go straight to the police-station,
and see if they know anything about that motor-car and who it
belongs to, and lodge a complaint against it. And then you'll
have to go to a blacksmith's or a wheelwright's and arrange for
the cart to be fetched and mended and put to rights. It'll take
time, but it's not quite a hopeless smash. Meanwhile, the Mole
and I will go to an inn and find comfortable rooms where we can
stay till the cart's ready, and till your nerves have
recovered their shock.'
`Police-station! Complaint!'murmured Toad dreamily. `Me
COMPLAIN of that beautiful, that heavenly vision that has been
vouchsafed me! MEND THE CART! I've done with carts for ever.
I never want to see the cart, or to hear of it, again. O, Ratty!
You can't think how obliged I am to you for consenting to come on
this trip! I wouldn't have gone without you, and then I might
never have seen that--that swan, that sunbeam, that thunderbolt!
I might never have heard that entrancing sound, or smelt that
bewitching smell! I owe it all to you, my best of friends!'
The Rat turned from him in despair. `You see what it is?' he
said to the Mole, addressing him across Toad's head: `He's quite
hopeless. I give it up--when we get to the town we'll go to the
railway station, and with luck we may pick up a train there
that'll get us back to riverbank to-night. And if ever you catch
me going a-pleasuring with this provoking animal again!'
He snorted, and during the rest of that weary trudge addressed
his remarks exclusively to Mole.
On reaching the town they went straight to the station and
deposited Toad in the second-class waiting-room, giving a porter
twopence to keep a strict eye on him. They then left the horse
at an inn stable, and gave what directions they could about the
cart and its contents. Eventually, a slow train having landed
them at a station not very far from Toad Hall, they escorted the
spell-bound, sleep-walking Toad to his door, put him inside it,
and instructed his housekeeper to feed him, undress him, and put
him to bed. Then they got out their boat from the boat-house,
sculled down the river home, and at a very late hour sat down to
supper in their own cosy riverside parlour, to the Rat's great
joy and contentment.
The following evening the Mole, who had risen late and taken
things very easy all day, was sitting on the bank fishing, when
the Rat, who had been looking up his friends and gossiping, came
strolling along to find him. `Heard the news?' he said.
`There's nothing else being talked about, all along the river
bank. Toad went up to Town by an early train this morning. And
he has ordered a large and very expensive motor-car.'
THE WILD WOOD
The Mole had long wanted to make the I acquaintance of the
Badger. He seemed, by all accounts, to be such an important
personage and, though rarely visible, to make his unseen
influence felt by everybody about the place. But whenever the
Mole mentioned his wish to the Water Rat he always found himself
put off. `It's all right,' the Rat would say. `Badger'll turn
up some day or other--he's always turning up--and then I'll
introduce you. The best of fellows! But you must not only take
him AS you find him, but WHEN you find him.'
`Couldn't you ask him here dinner or something?' said the Mole.
`He wouldn't come,' replied the Rat simply. `Badger hates
Society, and invitations, and dinner, and all that sort of
`Well, then, supposing we go and call on HIM?' suggested the
`O, I'm sure he wouldn't like that at ALL,' said the Rat,
quite alarmed. `He's so very shy, he'd be sure to be offended.
I've never even ventured to call on him at his own home myself,
though I know him so well. Besides, we can't. It's quite out of
the question, because he lives in the very middle of the Wild
`Well, supposing he does,' said the Mole. `You told me the Wild
Wood was all right, you know.'
`O, I know, I know, so it is,' replied the Rat evasively. `But I
think we won't go there just now. Not JUST yet. It's a long
way, and he wouldn't be at home at this time of year anyhow, and
he'll be coming along some day, if you'll wait quietly.'
The Mole had to be content with this. But the Badger never came
along, and every day brought its amusements, and it was not till
summer was long over, and cold and frost and miry ways kept them
much indoors, and the swollen river raced past outside their
windows with a speed that mocked at boating of any sort or
kind, that he found his thoughts dwelling again with much
persistence on the solitary grey Badger, who lived his own life
by himself, in his hole in the middle of the Wild Wood.
In the winter time the Rat slept a great deal, retiring early and
rising late. During his short day he sometimes scribbled poetry
or did other small domestic jobs about the house; and, of course,
there were always animals dropping in for a chat, and
consequently there was a good deal of story-telling and comparing
notes on the past summer and all its doings.
Such a rich chapter it had been, when one came to look back on it
all! With illustrations so numerous and so very highly coloured!
The pageant of the river bank had marched steadily along,
unfolding itself in scene-pictures that succeeded each other in
stately procession. Purple loosestrife arrived early, shaking
luxuriant tangled locks along the edge of the mirror whence its
own face laughed back at it. Willow-herb, tender and wistful,
like a pink sunset cloud, was not slow to follow. Comfrey, the
purple hand-in-hand with the white, crept forth to take its place
in the line; and at last one morning the diffident and
delaying dog-rose stepped delicately on the stage, and one knew,
as if string-music had announced it in stately chords that
strayed into a gavotte, that June at last was here. One member
of the company was still awaited; the shepherd-boy for the nymphs
to woo, the knight for whom the ladies waited at the window, the
prince that was to kiss the sleeping summer back to life and
love. But when meadow-sweet, debonair and odorous in amber
jerkin, moved graciously to his place in the group, then the play
was ready to begin.
And what a play it had been! Drowsy animals, snug in their holes
while wind and rain were battering at their doors, recalled still
keen mornings, an hour before sunrise, when the white mist, as
yet undispersed, clung closely along the surface of the water;
then the shock of the early plunge, the scamper along the bank,
and the radiant transformation of earth, air, and water, when
suddenly the sun was with them again, and grey was gold and
colour was born and sprang out of the earth once more. They
recalled the languorous siesta of hot mid-day, deep in green
undergrowth, the sun striking through in tiny golden shafts and
spots; the boating and bathing of the afternoon, the rambles
along dusty lanes and through yellow cornfields; and the long,
cool evening at last, when so many threads were gathered up, so
many friendships rounded, and so many adventures planned for the
morrow. There was plenty to talk about on those short winter
days when the animals found themselves round the fire; still, the
Mole had a good deal of spare time on his hands, and so one
afternoon, when the Rat in his arm-chair before the blaze was
alternately dozing and trying over rhymes that wouldn't fit, he
formed the resolution to go out by himself and explore the Wild
Wood, and perhaps strike up an acquaintance with Mr. Badger.
It was a cold still afternoon with a hard steely sky overhead,
when he slipped out of the warm parlour into the open air. The
country lay bare and entirely leafless around him, and he thought
that he had never seen so far and so intimately into the insides
of things as on that winter day when Nature was deep in her
annual slumber and seemed to have kicked the clothes off.
Copses, dells, quarries and all hidden places, which had been
mysterious mines for exploration in leafy summer, now exposed
themselves and their secrets pathetically, and seemed to ask him
to overlook their shabby poverty for a while, till they could
riot in rich masquerade as before, and trick and entice him with
the old deceptions. It was pitiful in a way, and yet cheering--
even exhilarating. He was glad that he liked the country
undecorated, hard, and stripped of its finery. He had got down
to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and
simple. He did not want the warm clover and the play of seeding
grasses; the screens of quickset, the billowy drapery of beech
and elm seemed best away; and with great cheerfulness of spirit
he pushed on towards the Wild Wood, which lay before him low and
threatening, like a black reef in some still southern sea.
There was nothing to alarm him at first entry. Twigs crackled
under his feet, logs tripped him, funguses on stumps resembled
caricatures, and startled him for the moment by their likeness to
something familiar and far away; but that was all fun, and
exciting. It led him on, and he penetrated to where the light
was less, and trees crouched nearer and nearer, and holes
made ugly mouths at him on either side.
Everything was very still now. The dusk advanced on him
steadily, rapidly, gathering in behind and before; and the light
seemed to be draining away like flood-water.
Then the faces began.
It was over his shoulder, and indistinctly, that he first thought
he saw a face; a little evil wedge-shaped face, looking out at
him from a hole. When he turned and confronted it, the thing had
He quickened his pace, telling himself cheerfully not to begin
imagining things, or there would be simply no end to it. He
passed another hole, and another, and another; and then--yes!--
no!--yes! certainly a little narrow face, with hard eyes, had
flashed up for an instant from a hole, and was gone. He
hesitated--braced himself up for an effort and strode on. Then
suddenly, and as if it had been so all the time, every hole, far
and near, and there were hundreds of them, seemed to possess its
face, coming and going rapidly, all fixing on him glances of
malice and hatred: all hard-eyed and evil and sharp.
If he could only get away from the holes in the banks, he
thought, there would be no more faces. He swung off the path and
plunged into the untrodden places of the wood.
Then the whistling began.
Very faint and shrill it was, and far behind him, when first he
heard it; but somehow it made him hurry forward. Then, still
very faint and shrill, it sounded far ahead of him, and made him
hesitate and want to go back. As he halted in indecision it
broke out on either side, and seemed to be caught up and passed
on throughout the whole length of the wood to its farthest limit.
They were up and alert and ready, evidently, whoever they were!
And he--he was alone, and unarmed, and far from any help; and the
night was closing in.
Then the pattering began.
He thought it was only falling leaves at first, so slight and
delicate was the sound of it. Then as it grew it took a regular
rhythm, and he knew it for nothing else but the pat-pat-pat of
little feet still a very long way off. Was it in front or
behind? It seemed to be first one, and then the other, then
both. It grew and it multiplied, till from every quarter as
he listened anxiously, leaning this way and that, it seemed to be
closing in on him. As he stood still to hearken, a rabbit came
running hard towards him through the trees. He waited, expecting
it to slacken pace, or to swerve from him into a different
course. Instead, the animal almost brushed him as it dashed
past, his face set and hard, his eyes staring. `Get out of this,
you fool, get out!' the Mole heard him mutter as he swung round a
stump and disappeared down a friendly burrow.
The pattering increased till it sounded like sudden hail on the
dry leaf-carpet spread around him. The whole wood seemed running
now, running hard, hunting, chasing, closing in round something
or--somebody? In panic, he began to run too, aimlessly, he knew
not whither. He ran up against things, he fell over things and
into things, he darted under things and dodged round things. At
last he took refuge in the deep dark hollow of an old beech tree,
which offered shelter, concealment--perhaps even safety, but who
could tell? Anyhow, he was too tired to run any further, and
could only snuggle down into the dry leaves which had drifted
into the hollow and hope he was safe for a time. And as he lay
there panting and trembling, and listened to the whistlings and
the patterings outside, he knew it at last, in all its fullness,
that dread thing which other little dwellers in field and
hedgerow had encountered here, and known as their darkest
moment--that thing which the Rat had vainly tried to shield him
from--the Terror of the Wild Wood!
Meantime the Rat, warm and comfortable, dozed by his fireside.
His paper of half-finished verses slipped from his knee, his head
fell back, his mouth opened, and he wandered by the verdant banks
of dream-rivers. Then a coal slipped, the fire crackled and sent
up a spurt of flame, and he woke with a start. Remembering what
he had been engaged upon, he reached down to the floor for his
verses, pored over them for a minute, and then looked round for
the Mole to ask him if he knew a good rhyme for something or
But the Mole was not there.
He listened for a time. The house seemed very quiet.
Then he called `Moly!' several times, and, receiving no
answer, got up and went out into the hall.
The Mole's cap was missing from its accustomed peg. His
goloshes, which always lay by the umbrella-stand, were also gone.
The Rat left the house, and carefully examined the muddy surface
of the ground outside, hoping to find the Mole's tracks. There
they were, sure enough. The goloshes were new, just bought for
the winter, and the pimples on their soles were fresh and sharp.
He could see the imprints of them in the mud, running along
straight and purposeful, leading direct to the Wild Wood.
The Rat looked very grave, and stood in deep thought for a minute
or two. Then he re-entered the house, strapped a belt round his
waist, shoved a brace of pistols into it, took up a stout cudgel
that stood in a corner of the hall, and set off for the Wild Wood
at a smart pace.
It was already getting towards dusk when he reached the first
fringe of trees and plunged without hesitation into the wood,
looking anxiously on either side for any sign of his friend.
Here and there wicked little faces popped out of holes, but
vanished immediately at sight of the valorous animal, his
pistols, and the great ugly cudgel in his grasp; and the
whistling and pattering, which he had heard quite plainly on his
first entry, died away and ceased, and all was very still. He
made his way manfully through the length of the wood, to its
furthest edge; then, forsaking all paths, he set himself to
traverse it, laboriously working over the whole ground, and all
the time calling out cheerfully, `Moly, Moly, Moly! Where are
you? It's me--it's old Rat!'
He had patiently hunted through the wood for an hour or more,
when at last to his joy he heard a little answering cry. Guiding
himself by the sound, he made his way through the gathering
darkness to the foot of an old beech tree, with a hole in it, and
from out of the hole came a feeble voice, saying `Ratty! Is that
The Rat crept into the hollow, and there he found the Mole,
exhausted and still trembling. `O Rat!' he cried, `I've been so
frightened, you can't think!'
`O, I quite understand,' said the Rat soothingly. `You shouldn't
really have gone and done it, Mole. I did my best to keep
you from it. We river-bankers, we hardly ever come here by
ourselves. If we have to come, we come in couples, at least;
then we're generally all right. Besides, there are a hundred
things one has to know, which we understand all about and you
don't, as yet. I mean passwords, and signs, and sayings which
have power and effect, and plants you carry in your pocket, and
verses you repeat, and dodges and tricks you practise; all simple
enough when you know them, but they've got to be known if you're
small, or you'll find yourself in trouble. Of course if you were
Badger or Otter, it would be quite another matter.'
`Surely the brave Mr. Toad wouldn't mind coming here by himself,
would he?' inquired the Mole.
`Old Toad?' said the Rat, laughing heartily. `He wouldn't show
his face here alone, not for a whole hatful of golden guineas,
The Mole was greatly cheered by the sound of the Rat's careless
laughter, as well as by the sight of his stick and his gleaming
pistols, and he stopped shivering and began to feel bolder and
more himself again.
`Now then,' said the Rat presently, `we really must pull
ourselves together and make a start for home while there's still
a little light left. It will never do to spend the night here,
you understand. Too cold, for one thing.'
`Dear Ratty,' said the poor Mole, `I'm dreadfully sorry, but I'm
simply dead beat and that's a solid fact. You MUST let me
rest here a while longer, and get my strength back, if I'm to get
home at all.'
`O, all right,' said the good-natured Rat, `rest away. It's
pretty nearly pitch dark now, anyhow; and there ought to be a bit
of a moon later.'
So the Mole got well into the dry leaves and stretched himself
out, and presently dropped off into sleep, though of a broken and
troubled sort; while the Rat covered himself up, too, as best he
might, for warmth, and lay patiently waiting, with a pistol in
When at last the Mole woke up, much refreshed and in his usual
spirits, the Rat said, `Now then! I'll just take a look outside
and see if everything's quiet, and then we really must be off.'
He went to the entrance of their retreat and put his head
out. Then the Mole heard him saying quietly to himself, `Hullo!
hullo! here-- is--a--go!'
`What's up, Ratty?' asked the Mole.
`SNOW is up,' replied the Rat briefly; `or rather, DOWN.
It's snowing hard.'
The Mole came and crouched beside him, and, looking out, saw the
wood that had been so dreadful to him in quite a changed aspect.
Holes, hollows, pools, pitfalls, and other black menaces to the
wayfarer were vanishing fast, and a gleaming carpet of faery was
springing up everywhere, that looked too delicate to be trodden
upon by rough feet. A fine powder filled the air and caressed
the cheek with a tingle in its touch, and the black boles of the
trees showed up in a light that seemed to come from below.
`Well, well, it can't be helped,' said the Rat, after pondering.
`We must make a start, and take our chance, I suppose. The worst
of it is, I don't exactly know where we are. And now this snow
makes everything look so very different.'
It did indeed. The Mole would not have known that it was the
same wood. However, they set out bravely, and took the line
that seemed most promising, holding on to each other and
pretending with invincible cheerfulness that they recognized an
old friend in every fresh tree that grimly and silently greeted
them, or saw openings, gaps, or paths with a familiar turn in
them, in the monotony of white space and black tree-trunks that
refused to vary.
An hour or two later--they had lost all count of time--they
pulled up, dispirited, weary, and hopelessly at sea, and sat down
on a fallen tree-trunk to recover their breath and consider what
was to be done. They were aching with fatigue and bruised with
tumbles; they had fallen into several holes and got wet through;
the snow was getting so deep that they could hardly drag their
little legs through it, and the trees were thicker and more like
each other than ever. There seemed to be no end to this wood,
and no beginning, and no difference in it, and, worst of all, no
`We can't sit here very long,' said the Rat. `We shall have to
make another push for it, and do something or other. The cold is
too awful for anything, and the snow will soon be too deep for us
to wade through.' He peered about him and considered. `Look
here,' he went on, `this is what occurs to me. There's a sort of
dell down here in front of us, where the ground seems all hilly
and humpy and hummocky. We'll make our way down into that, and
try and find some sort of shelter, a cave or hole with a dry
floor to it, out of the snow and the wind, and there we'll have a
good rest before we try again, for we're both of us pretty dead
beat. Besides, the snow may leave off, or something may turn
So once more they got on their feet, and struggled down into the
dell, where they hunted about for a cave or some corner that was
dry and a protection from the keen wind and the whirling snow.
They were investigating one of the hummocky bits the Rat had
spoken of, when suddenly the Mole tripped up and fell forward on
his face with a squeal.
`O my leg!' he cried. `O my poor shin!' and he sat up on the
snow and nursed his leg in both his front paws.
`Poor old Mole!' said the Rat kindly.
`You don't seem to be having much luck to-day, do you? Let's
have a look at the leg. Yes,' he went on, going down on his
knees to look, `you've cut your shin, sure enough. Wait till
I get at my handkerchief, and I'll tie it up for you.'
`I must have tripped over a hidden branch or a stump,' said the
Mole miserably. `O, my! O, my!'
`It's a very clean cut,' said the Rat, examining it again
attentively. `That was never done by a branch or a stump. Looks
as if it was made by a sharp edge of something in metal. Funny!'
He pondered awhile, and examined the humps and slopes that
`Well, never mind what done it,' said the Mole, forgetting his
grammar in his pain. `It hurts just the same, whatever done it.'
But the Rat, after carefully tying up the leg with his
handkerchief, had left him and was busy scraping in the snow. He
scratched and shovelled and explored, all four legs working
busily, while the Mole waited impatiently, remarking at
intervals, `O, COME on, Rat!'
Suddenly the Rat cried `Hooray!' and then `Hooray-oo-ray-oo-ray-
oo-ray!' and fell to executing a feeble jig in the snow.
`What HAVE you found, Ratty?' asked the Mole, still nursing
`Come and see!' said the delighted Rat, as he jigged on.
The Mole hobbled up to the spot and had a good look.
`Well,' he said at last, slowly, `I SEE it right enough. Seen
the same sort of thing before, lots of times. Familiar object, I
call it. A door-scraper! Well, what of it? Why dance jigs
around a door-scraper?'
`But don't you see what it MEANS, you--you dull-witted
animal?' cried the Rat impa-tiently.
`Of course I see what it means,' replied the Mole. `It simply
means that some VERY careless and forgetful person has left
his door-scraper lying about in the middle of the Wild Wood,
JUST where it's SURE to trip EVERYBODY up. Very
thoughtless of him, I call it. When I get home I shall go and
complain about it to--to somebody or other, see if I don't!'
`O, dear! O, dear!' cried the Rat, in despair at his obtuseness.
`Here, stop arguing and come and scrape!' And he set to work
again and made the snow fly in all directions around him.
After some further toil his efforts were rewarded, and a very
shabby door-mat lay exposed to view.
`There, what did I tell you?' exclaimed the Rat in great triumph.
`Absolutely nothing whatever,' replied the Mole, with perfect
truthfulness. `Well now,' he went on, `you seem to have found
another piece of domestic litter, done for and thrown away, and I
suppose you're perfectly happy. Better go ahead and dance your
jig round that if you've got to, and get it over, and then
perhaps we can go on and not waste any more time over rubbish-
heaps. Can we EAT a doormat? or sleep under a door-mat? Or
sit on a door-mat and sledge home over the snow on it, you
`Do--you--mean--to--say,' cried the excited Rat, `that this door-
mat doesn't TELL you anything?'
`Really, Rat,' said the Mole, quite pettishly, `I think we'd had
enough of this folly. Who ever heard of a door-mat TELLING
anyone anything? They simply don't do it. They are not that
sort at all. Door-mats know their place.'
`Now look here, you--you thick-headed beast,' replied the Rat,
really angry, `this must stop. Not another word, but scrape--
scrape and scratch and dig and hunt round, especially on the
sides of the hummocks, if you want to sleep dry and warm to-
night, for it's our last chance!'
The Rat attacked a snow-bank beside them with ardour, probing
with his cudgel everywhere and then digging with fury; and the
Mole scraped busily too, more to oblige the Rat than for any
other reason, for his opinion was that his friend was getting
Some ten minutes' hard work, and the point of the Rat's cudgel
struck something that sounded hollow. He worked till he could
get a paw through and feel; then called the Mole to come and help
him. Hard at it went the two animals, till at last the result of
their labours stood full in view of the astonished and hitherto
In the side of what had seemed to be a snow-bank stood a solid-
looking little door, painted a dark green. An iron bell-pull
hung by the side, and below it, on a small brass plate, neatly
engraved in square capital letters, they could read by the aid of
The Mole fell backwards on the snow from sheer surprise and
delight. `Rat!' he cried in penitence, `you're a wonder! A
real wonder, that's what you are. I see it all now! You argued
it out, step by step, in that wise head of yours, from the very
moment that I fell and cut my shin, and you looked at the cut,
and at once your majestic mind said to itself, "Door-scraper!"
And then you turned to and found the very door-scraper that done
it! Did you stop there? No. Some people would have been quite
satisfied; but not you. Your intellect went on working. "Let me
only just find a door-mat," says you to yourself, "and my theory
is proved!" And of course you found your door-mat. You're so
clever, I believe you could find anything you liked. "Now," says
you, "that door exists, as plain as if I saw it. There's nothing
else remains to be done but to find it!" Well, I've read about
that sort of thing in books, but I've never come across it before
in real life. You ought to go where you'll be properly
appreciated. You're simply wasted here, among us fellows. If I
only had your head, Ratty----'
`But as you haven't,' interrupted the Rat, rather unkindly, `I
suppose you're going to sit on the snow all night and TALK
Get up at once and hang on to that bell-pull you see there,
and ring hard, as hard as you can, while I hammer!'
While the Rat attacked the door with his stick, the Mole sprang
up at the bell-pull, clutched it and swung there, both feet well
off the ground, and from quite a long way off they could faintly
hear a deep-toned bell respond.
THEY waited patiently for what seemed a very long time, stamping
in the snow to keep their feet warm. At last they heard the
sound of slow shuflling footsteps approaching the door from the
inside. It seemed, as the Mole remarked to the Rat, like some
one walking in carpet slippers that were too large for him and
down at heel; which was intelligent of Mole, because that was
exactly what it was.
There was the noise of a bolt shot back, and the door opened a
few inches, enough to show a long snout and a pair of sleepy
`Now, the VERY next time this happens,' said a gruff and
suspicious voice, `I shall be exceedingly angry. Who is it
THIS time, disturbing people on such a night? Speak up!'
`Oh, Badger,' cried the Rat, `let us in, please. It's
me, Rat, and my friend Mole, and we've lost our way in the snow.'
`What, Ratty, my dear little man!' exclaimed the Badger, in quite
a different voice. `Come along in, both of you, at once. Why,
you must be perished. Well I never! Lost in the snow! And in
the Wild Wood, too, and at this time of night! But come in with
The two animals tumbled over each other in their eagerness to get
inside, and heard the door shut behind them with great joy and
The Badger, who wore a long dressing-gown, and whose slippers
were indeed very down at heel, carried a flat candlestick in his
paw and had probably been on his way to bed when their summons
sounded. He looked kindly down on them and patted both their
heads. `This is not the sort of night for small animals to be
out,' he said paternally. `I'm afraid you've been up to some of
your pranks again, Ratty. But come along; come into the kitchen.
There's a first-rate fire there, and supper and everything.'
He shuffled on in front of them, carrying the light, and they
followed him, nudging each other in an anticipating sort of way,
down a long, gloomy, and, to tell the truth, decidedly shabby
passage, into a sort of a central hall; out of which they could
dimly see other long tunnel-like passages branching, passages
mysterious and without apparent end. But there were doors in the
hall as well--stout oaken comfortable-looking doors. One of
these the Badger flung open, and at once they found themselves in
all the glow and warmth of a large fire-lit kitchen.
The floor was well-worn red brick, and on the wide hearth burnt a
fire of logs, between two attractive chimney-corners tucked away
in the wall, well out of any suspicion of draught. A couple of
high-backed settles, facing each other on either side of the
fire, gave further sitting accommodations for the sociably
disposed. In the middle of the room stood a long table of plain
boards placed on trestles, with benches down each side. At one
end of it, where an arm-chair stood pushed back, were spread the
remains of the Badger's plain but ample supper. Rows of spotless
plates winked from the shelves of the dresser at the far end of
the room, and from the rafters overhead hung hams, bundles of
dried herbs, nets of onions, and baskets of eggs. It seemed
a place where heroes could fitly feast after victory, where weary
harvesters could line up in scores along the table and keep their
Harvest Home with mirth and song, or where two or three friends
of simple tastes could sit about as they pleased and eat and
smoke and talk in comfort and contentment. The ruddy brick floor
smiled up at the smoky ceiling; the oaken settles, shiny with
long wear, exchanged cheerful glances with each other; plates on
the dresser grinned at pots on the shelf, and the merry firelight
flickered and played over everything without distinction.
The kindly Badger thrust them down on a settle to toast
themselves at the fire, and bade them remove their wet coats and
boots. Then he fetched them dressing-gowns and slippers, and
himself bathed the Mole's shin with warm water and mended the cut
with sticking-plaster till the whole thing was just as good as
new, if not better. In the embracing light and warmth, warm and
dry at last, with weary legs propped up in front of them, and a
suggestive clink of plates being arranged on the table behind, it
seemed to the storm-driven animals, now in safe anchorage,
that the cold and trackless Wild Wood just left outside was miles
and miles away, and all that they had suffered in it a half-
When at last they were thoroughly toasted, the Badger summoned
them to the table, where he had been busy laying a repast. They
had felt pretty hungry before, but when they actually saw at last
the supper that was spread for them, really it seemed only a
question of what they should attack first where all was so
attractive, and whether the other things would obligingly wait
for them till they had time to give them attention. Conversation
was impossible for a long time; and when it was slowly resumed,
it was that regrettable sort of conversation that results from
talking with your mouth full. The Badger did not mind that sort
of thing at all, nor did he take any notice of elbows on the
table, or everybody speaking at once. As he did not go into
Society himself, he had got an idea that these things belonged to
the things that didn't really matter. (We know of course that he
was wrong, and took too narrow a view; because they do matter
very much, though it would take too long to explain why.) He
sat in his arm-chair at the head of the table, and nodded gravely
at intervals as the animals told their story; and he did not seem
surprised or shocked at anything, and he never said, `I told you
so,' or, `Just what I always said,' or remarked that they ought
to have done so-and-so, or ought not to have done something else.
The Mole began to feel very friendly towards him.
When supper was really finished at last, and each animal felt
that his skin was now as tight as was decently safe, and that by
this time he didn't care a hang for anybody or anything, they
gathered round the glowing embers of the great wood fire, and
thought how jolly it was to be sitting up SO late, and SO
independent, and SO full; and after they had chatted for a
time about things in general, the Badger said heartily, `Now
then! tell us the news from your part of the world. How's old
Toad going on?'
`Oh, from bad to worse,' said the Rat gravely, while the Mole,
cocked up on a settle and basking in the firelight, his heels
higher than his head, tried to look properly mournful. `Another
smash-up only last week, and a bad one. You see, he will insist
on driving himself, and he's hopelessly incapable. If he'd
only employ a decent, steady, well-trained animal, pay him good
wages, and leave everything to him, he'd get on all right. But
no; he's convinced he's a heaven-born driver, and nobody can
teach him anything; and all the rest follows.'
`How many has he had?' inquired the Badger gloomily.
`Smashes, or machines?' asked the Rat. `Oh, well, after all,
it's the same thing--with Toad. This is the seventh. As for the
others--you know that coach-house of his? Well, it's piled up--
literally piled up to the roof--with fragments of motor-cars,
none of them bigger than your hat! That accounts for the other
six--so far as they can be accounted for.'
`He's been in hospital three times,' put in the Mole; `and as for
the fines he's had to pay, it's simply awful to think of.'
`Yes, and that's part of the trouble,' continued the Rat.
`Toad's rich, we all know; but he's not a millionaire. And he's
a hopelessly bad driver, and quite regardless of law and order.
Killed or ruined--it's got to be one of the two things,
sooner or later. Badger! we're his friends--oughtn't we to do
The Badger went through a bit of hard thinking. `Now look here!'
he said at last, rather severely; `of course you know I can't do
His two friends assented, quite understanding his point. No
animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever
expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately
active during the off-season of winter. All are sleepy--some
actually asleep. All are weather-bound, more or less; and all
are resting from arduous days and nights, during which every
muscle in them has been severely tested, and every energy kept at
`Very well then!' continued the Badger. `BUT, when once the
year has really turned, and the nights are shorter, and halfway
through them one rouses and feels fidgety and wanting to be up
and doing by sunrise, if not before--YOU know!----'
Both animals nodded gravely. THEY knew!
`Well, THEN,' went on the Badger, `we--that is, you and me and
our friend the Mole here--we'll take Toad seriously in hand.
We'll stand no nonsense whatever. We'll bring him back to
reason, by force if need be. We'll MAKE him be a sensible
Toad. We'll--you're asleep, Rat!'
`Not me!' said the Rat, waking up with a jerk.
`He's been asleep two or three times since supper,' said the
Mole, laughing. He himself was feeling quite wakeful and even
lively, though he didn't know why. The reason was, of course,
that he being naturally an underground animal by birth and
breeding, the situation of Badger's house exactly suited him and
made him feel at home; while the Rat, who slept every night in a
bedroom the windows of which opened on a breezy river, naturally
felt the atmosphere still and oppressive.
`Well, it's time we were all in bed,' said the Badger, getting up
and fetching flat candlesticks. `Come along, you two, and I'll
show you your quarters. And take your time tomorrow morning--
breakfast at any hour you please!'
He conducted the two animals to a long room that seemed half
bedchamber and half loft. The Badger's winter stores, which
indeed were visible everywhere, took up half the room--piles
of apples, turnips, and potatoes, baskets full of nuts, and jars
of honey; but the two little white beds on the remainder of the
floor looked soft and inviting, and the linen on them, though
coarse, was clean and smelt beautifully of lavender; and the Mole
and the Water Rat, shaking off their garments in some thirty
seconds, tumbled in between the sheets in great joy and
In accordance with the kindly Badger's injunctions, the two tired
animals came down to breakfast very late next morning, and found
a bright fire burning in the kitchen, and two young hedgehogs
sitting on a bench at the table, eating oatmeal porridge out of
wooden bowls. The hedgehogs dropped their spoons, rose to their
feet, and ducked their heads respectfully as the two entered.
`There, sit down, sit down,' said the Rat pleasantly, `and go on
with your porridge. Where have you youngsters come from? Lost
your way in the snow, I suppose?'
`Yes, please, sir,' said the elder of the two hedgehogs
respectfully. `Me and little Billy here, we was trying to find
our way to school--mother WOULD have us go, was the
weather ever so--and of course we lost ourselves, sir, and Billy
he got frightened and took and cried, being young and faint-
hearted. And at last we happened up against Mr. Badger's back
door, and made so bold as to knock, sir, for Mr. Badger he's a
kind-hearted gentleman, as everyone knows----'
`I understand,' said the Rat, cutting himself some rashers from a
side of bacon, while the Mole dropped some eggs into a saucepan.
`And what's the weather like outside? You needn't "sir" me quite
so much?' he added.
`O, terrible bad, sir, terrible deep the snow is,' said the
hedgehog. `No getting out for the likes of you gentlemen to-
`Where's Mr. Badger?' inquired the Mole, as he warmed the coffee-
pot before the fire.
`The master's gone into his study, sir,' replied the hedgehog,
`and he said as how he was going to be particular busy this
morning, and on no account was he to be disturbed.'
This explanation, of course, was thoroughly understood by every
one present. The fact is, as already set forth, when you live a
life of intense activity for six months in the year, and of
comparative or actual somnolence for the other six, during the
latter period you cannot be continually pleading sleepiness when
there are people about or things to be done. The excuse gets
monotonous. The animals well knew that Badger, having eaten a
hearty breakfast, had retired to his study and settled himself in
an arm-chair with his legs up on another and a red cotton
handkerchief over his face, and was being `busy' in the usual way
at this time of the year.
The front-door bell clanged loudly, and the Rat, who was very
greasy with buttered toast, sent Billy, the smaller hedgehog, to
see who it might be. There was a sound of much stamping in the
hall, and presently Billy returned in front of the Otter, who
threw himself on the Rat with an embrace and a shout of
`Get off!' spluttered the Rat, with his mouth full.
`Thought I should find you here all right,' said the Otter
cheerfully. `They were all in a great state of alarm along River
Bank when I arrived this morning. Rat never been home all
night--nor Mole either--something dreadful must have
happened, they said; and the snow had covered up all your tracks,
of course. But I knew that when people were in any fix they
mostly went to Badger, or else Badger got to know of it somehow,
so I came straight off here, through the Wild Wood and the snow!
My! it was fine, coming through the snow as the red sun was
rising and showing against the black tree-trunks! As you went
along in the stillness, every now and then masses of snow slid
off the branches suddenly with a flop! making you jump and run
for cover. Snow-castles and snow-caverns had sprung up out of
nowhere in the night--and snow bridges, terraces, ramparts--I
could have stayed and played with them for hours. Here and there
great branches had been torn away by the sheer weight of the
snow, and robins perched and hopped on them in their perky
conceited way, just as if they had done it themselves. A ragged
string of wild geese passed overhead, high on the grey sky, and a
few rooks whirled over the trees, inspected, and flapped off
homewards with a disgusted expression; but I met no sensible
being to ask the news of. About halfway across I came on a
rabbit sitting on a stump, cleaning his silly face with his
paws. He was a pretty scared animal when I crept up behind him
and placed a heavy forepaw on his shoulder. I had to cuff his
head once or twice to get any sense out of it at all. At last I
managed to extract from him that Mole had been seen in the Wild
Wood last night by one of them. It was the talk of the burrows,
he said, how Mole, Mr. Rat's particular friend, was in a bad fix;
how he had lost his way, and "They" were up and out hunting, and
were chivvying him round and round. "Then why didn't any of you
DO something?" I asked. "You mayn't be blest with brains, but
there are hundreds and hundreds of you, big, stout fellows, as
fat as butter, and your burrows running in all directions, and
you could have taken him in and made him safe and comfortable, or
tried to, at all events." "What, US?" he merely said: "DO
something? us rabbits?" So I cuffed him again and left him.
There was nothing else to be done. At any rate, I had learnt
something; and if I had had the luck to meet any of "Them" I'd
have learnt something more--or THEY would.'
`Weren't you at all--er--nervous?' asked the Mole, some of
yesterday's terror coming back to him at the mention of the Wild
`Nervous?' The Otter showed a gleaming set of strong white teeth
as he laughed. `I'd give 'em nerves if any of them tried
anything on with me. Here, Mole, fry me some slices of ham, like
the good little chap you are. I'm frightfully hungry, and I've
got any amount to say to Ratty here. Haven't seen him for an
So the good-natured Mole, having cut some slices of ham, set the
hedgehogs to fry it, and returned to his own breakfast, while the
Otter and the Rat, their heads together, eagerly talked river-
shop, which is long shop and talk that is endless, running on
like the babbling river itself.
A plate of fried ham had just been cleared and sent back for
more, when the Badger entered, yawning and rubbing his eyes, and
greeted them all in his quiet, simple way, with kind enquiries
for every one. `It must be getting on for luncheon time,' he
remarked to the Otter. `Better stop and have it with us. You
must be hungry, this cold morning.'
`Rather!' replied the Otter, winking at the Mole. `The sight of
these greedy young hedgehogs stuffing themselves with fried ham
makes me feel positively famished.'
The hedgehogs, who were just beginning to feel hungry again after
their porridge, and after working so hard at their frying, looked
timidly up at Mr. Badger, but were too shy to say anything.
`Here, you two youngsters be off home to your mother,' said the
Badger kindly. `I'll send some one with you to show you the way.
You won't want any dinner to-day, I'll be bound.'
He gave them sixpence apiece and a pat on the head, and they went
off with much respectful swinging of caps and touching of
Presently they all sat down to luncheon together. The Mole found
himself placed next to Mr. Badger, and, as the other two were
still deep in river-gossip from which nothing could divert them,
he took the opportunity to tell Badger how comfortable and home-
like it all felt to him. `Once well underground,' he said, `you
know exactly where you are. Nothing can happen to you, and
nothing can get at you. You're entirely your own master, and you
don't have to consult anybody or mind what they say. Things go
on all the same overhead, and you let 'em, and don't bother about
'em. When you want to, up you go, and there the things are,
waiting for you.'
The Badger simply beamed on him. `That's exactly what I say,' he
replied. `There's no security, or peace and tranquillity, except
underground. And then, if your ideas get larger and you want to
expand--why, a dig and a scrape, and there you are! If you feel
your house is a bit too big, you stop up a hole or two, and there
you are again! No builders, no tradesmen, no remarks passed on
you by fellows looking over your wall, and, above all, no
WEATHER. Look at Rat, now. A couple of feet of flood water,
and he's got to move into hired lodgings; uncomfortable,
inconveniently situated, and horribly expensive. Take Toad. I
say nothing against Toad Hall; quite the best house in these
parts, AS a house. But supposing a fire breaks out--where's
Toad? Supposing tiles are blown off, or walls sink or crack, or
windows get broken--where's Toad? Supposing the rooms are
draughty--I HATE a draught myself--where's Toad? No, up and
out of doors is good enough to roam about and get one's living
in; but underground to come back to at last--that's my idea of
The Mole assented heartily; and the Badger in consequence got
very friendly with him. `When lunch is over,' he said, `I'll
take you all round this little place of mine. I can see you'll
appreciate it. You understand what domestic architecture ought
to be, you do.'
After luncheon, accordingly, when the other two had settled
themselves into the chimney-corner and had started a heated
argument on the subject of EELS, the Badger lighted a lantern
and bade the Mole follow him. Crossing the hall, they passed
down one of the principal tunnels, and the wavering light of the
lantern gave glimpses on either side of rooms both large and
small, some mere cupboards, others nearly as broad and imposing
as Toad's dining-hall. A narrow passage at right angles led them
into another corridor, and here the same thing was repeated. The
Mole was staggered at the size, the extent, the ramifications of
it all; at the length of the dim passages, the solid
vaultings of the crammed store-chambers, the masonry
everywhere, the pillars, the arches, the pavements. `How on
earth, Badger,' he said at last, `did you ever find time and
strength to do all this? It's astonishing!'
`It WOULD be astonishing indeed,' said the Badger simply, `if
I HAD done it. But as a matter of fact I did none of it--only
cleaned out the passages and chambers, as far as I had need of
them. There's lots more of it, all round about. I see you don't
understand, and I must explain it to you. Well, very long ago,
on the spot where the Wild Wood waves now, before ever it had
planted itself and grown up to what it now is, there was a city--
a city of people, you know. Here, where we are standing, they
lived, and walked, and talked, and slept, and carried on their
business. Here they stabled their horses and feasted, from here
they rode out to fight or drove out to trade. They were a
powerful people, and rich, and great builders. They built to
last, for they thought their city would last for ever.'
`But what has become of them all?' asked the Mole.
`Who can tell?' said the Badger. `People come--they stay for
a while, they flourish, they build--and they go. It is their
way. But we remain. There were badgers here, I've been told,
long before that same city ever came to be. And now there are
badgers here again. We are an enduring lot, and we may move out
for a time, but we wait, and are patient, and back we come. And
so it will ever be.'
`Well, and when they went at last, those people?' said the Mole.
`When they went,' continued the Badger, `the strong winds and
persistent rains took the matter in hand, patiently, ceaselessly,
year after year. Perhaps we badgers too, in our small way,
helped a little--who knows? It was all down, down, down,
gradually--ruin and levelling and disappearance. Then it was all
up, up, up, gradually, as seeds grew to saplings, and saplings to
forest trees, and bramble and fern came creeping in to help.
Leaf-mould rose and obliterated, streams in their winter freshets
brought sand and soil to clog and to cover, and in course of time
our home was ready for us again, and we moved in. Up above us,
on the surface, the same thing happened. Animals arrived, liked
the look of the place, took up their quarters, settled down,
spread, and flourished. They didn't bother themselves about the
past--they never do; they're too busy. The place was a bit humpy
and hillocky, naturally, and full of holes; but that was rather
an advantage. And they don't bother about the future, either--
the future when perhaps the people will move in again--for a
time--as may very well be. The Wild Wood is pretty well
populated by now; with all the usual lot, good, bad, and
indifferent--I name no names. It takes all sorts to make a
world. But I fancy you know something about them yourself by
`I do indeed,' said the Mole, with a slight shiver.
`Well, well,' said the Badger, patting him on the shoulder, `it
was your first experience of them, you see. They're not so bad
really; and we must all live and let live. But I'll pass the
word around to-morrow, and I think you'll have no further
trouble. Any friend of MINE walks where he likes in this
country, or I'll know the reason why!'
When they got back to the kitchen again, they found the Rat
walking up and down, very restless. The underground
atmosphere was oppressing him and getting on his nerves, and he
seemed really to be afraid that the river would run away if he
wasn't there to look after it. So he had his overcoat on, and
his pistols thrust into his belt again. `Come along, Mole,' he
said anxiously, as soon as he caught sight of them. `We must get
off while it's daylight. Don't want to spend another night in
the Wild Wood again.'
`It'll be all right, my fine fellow,' said the Otter. `I'm
coming along with you, and I know every path blindfold; and if
there's a head that needs to be punched, you can confidently rely
upon me to punch it.'
`You really needn't fret, Ratty,' added the Badger placidly. `My
passages run further than you think, and I've bolt-holes to the
edge of the wood in several directions, though I don't care for
everybody to know about them. When you really have to go, you
shall leave by one of my short cuts. Meantime, make yourself
easy, and sit down again.'
The Rat was nevertheless still anxious to be off and attend to
his river, so the Badger, taking up his lantern again, led the
way along a damp and airless tunnel that wound and dipped,
part vaulted, part hewn through solid rock, for a weary distance
that seemed to be miles. At last daylight began to show itself
confusedly through tangled growth overhanging the mouth of the
passage; and the Badger, bidding them a hasty good-bye, pushed
them hurriedly through the opening, made everything look as
natural as possible again, with creepers, brushwood, and dead
leaves, and retreated.
They found themselves standing on the very edge of the Wild Wood.
Rocks and brambles and tree-roots behind them, confusedly heaped
and tangled; in front, a great space of quiet fields, hemmed by
lines of hedges black on the snow, and, far ahead, a glint of the
familiar old river, while the wintry sun hung red and low on the
horizon. The Otter, as knowing all the paths, took charge of the
party, and they trailed out on a bee-line for a distant stile.
Pausing there a moment and looking back, they saw the whole mass
of the Wild Wood, dense, menacing, compact, grimly set in vast
white surroundings; simultaneously they turned and made swiftly
for home, for firelight and the familiar things it played on,
for the voice, sounding cheerily outside their window, of the
river that they knew and trusted in all its moods, that never
made them afraid with any amazement.
As he hurried along, eagerly anticipating the moment when he
would be at home again among the things he knew and liked, the
Mole saw clearly that he was an animal of tilled field and hedge-
row, linked to the ploughed furrow, the frequented pasture, the
lane of evening lingerings, the cultivated garden-plot. For
others the asperities, the stubborn endurance, or the clash of
actual conflict, that went with Nature in the rough; he must be
wise, must keep to the pleasant places in which his lines were
laid and which held adventure enough, in their way, to last for a
The sheep ran huddling together against the hurdles, blowing out
thin nostrils and stamping with delicate fore-feet, their heads
thrown back and a light steam rising from the crowded sheep-pen
into the frosty air, as the two animals hastened by in high
spirits, with much chatter and laughter. They were returning
across country after a long day's outing with Otter, hunting and
exploring on the wide uplands where certain streams tributary to
their own River had their first small beginnings; and the shades
of the short winter day were closing in on them, and they had
still some distance to go. Plodding at random across the plough,
they had heard the sheep and had made for them; and now, leading
from the sheep-pen, they found a beaten track that made walking a
lighter business, and responded, moreover, to that small
inquiring something which all animals carry inside them, saying
unmistakably, `Yes, quite right; THIS leads home!'
`It looks as if we were coming to a village,' said the Mole
somewhat dubiously, slackening his pace, as the track, that had
in time become a path and then had developed into a lane, now
handed them over to the charge of a well-metalled road. The
animals did not hold with villages, and their own highways,
thickly frequented as they were, took an independent course,
regardless of church, post office, or public-house.
`Oh, never mind!' said the Rat. `At this season of the year
they're all safe indoors by this time, sitting round the fire;
men, women, and children, dogs and cats and all. We shall slip
through all right, without any bother or unpleasantness, and we
can have a look at them through their windows if you like, and
see what they're doing.'
The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little
village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall
of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky
orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight
or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements
into the dark world without. Most of the low latticed windows
were innocent of blinds, and to the lookers-in from outside, the
inmates, gathered round the tea-table, absorbed in handiwork, or
talking with laughter and gesture, had each that happy grace
which is the last thing the skilled actor shall capture--the
natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of
observation. Moving at will from one theatre to another, the two
spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of
wistfulness in their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a
sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man
stretch and knock out his pipe on the end of a smouldering log.
But it was from one little window, with its blind drawn down, a
mere blank transparency on the night, that the sense of home and
the little curtained world within walls--the larger stressful
world of outside Nature shut out and forgotten--most pulsated.
Close against the white blind hung a bird-cage, clearly
silhouetted, every wire, perch, and appurtenance distinct and
recognisable, even to yesterday's dull-edged lump of sugar. On
the middle perch the fluffy occupant, head tucked well into
feathers, seemed so near to them as to be easily stroked, had
they tried; even the delicate tips of his plumped-out plumage
pencilled plainly on the illuminated screen. As they looked, the
sleepy little fellow stirred uneasily, woke, shook himself, and
raised his head. They could see the gape of his tiny beak as he
yawned in a bored sort of way, looked round, and then settled his
head into his back again, while the ruffled feathers gradually
subsided into perfect stillness. Then a gust of bitter wind took
them in the back of the neck, a small sting of frozen sleet on
the skin woke them as from a dream, and they knew their toes to
be cold and their legs tired, and their own home distant a weary
Once beyond the village, where the cottages ceased abruptly, on
either side of the road they could smell through the darkness the
friendly fields again; and they braced themselves for the last
long stretch, the home stretch, the stretch that we know is bound
to end, some time, in the rattle of the door-latch, the sudden
firelight, and the sight of familiar things greeting us as
long-absent travellers from far over-sea. They plodded along
steadily and silently, each of them thinking his own thoughts.
The Mole's ran a good deal on supper, as it was pitch-dark, and
it was all a strange country for him as far as he knew, and he
was following obediently in the wake of the Rat, leaving the
guidance entirely to him. As for the Rat, he was walking a
little way ahead, as his habit was, his shoulders humped, his
eyes fixed on the straight grey road in front of him; so he did
not notice poor Mole when suddenly the summons reached him, and
took him like an electric shock.
We others, who have long lost the more subtle of the physical
senses, have not even proper terms to express an animal's inter-
communications with his surroundings, living or otherwise, and
have only the word `smell,' for instance, to include the whole
range of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal
night and day, summoning, warning? inciting, repelling. It was
one of these mysterious fairy calls from out the void that
suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through
and through with its very familiar appeal, even while yet he
could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his
tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to
recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so
strongly moved him. A moment, and he had caught it again; and
with it this time came recollection in fullest flood.
Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those
soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands
pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by
him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken
and never sought again, that day when he first found the river!
And now it was sending out its scouts and its messengers to
capture him and bring him in. Since his escape on that bright
morning he had hardly given it a thought, so absorbed had he been
in his new life, in all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh
and captivating experiences. Now, with a rush of old memories,
how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! Shabby
indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he
had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back
to after his day's work. And the home had been happy with
him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back,
and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully,
reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with
plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him.
The call was clear, the summons was plain. He must obey it
instantly, and go. `Ratty!' he called, full of joyful
excitement, `hold on! Come back! I want you, quick!'
`Oh, COME along, Mole, do!' replied the Rat cheerfully, still
`PLEASE stop, Ratty!' pleaded the poor Mole, in anguish of
heart. `You don't understand! It's my home, my old home! I've
just come across the smell of it, and it's close by here, really
quite close. And I MUST go to it, I must, I must! Oh, come
back, Ratty! Please, please come back!'
The Rat was by this time very far ahead, too far to hear clearly
what the Mole was calling, too far to catch the sharp note of
painful appeal in his voice. And he was much taken up with the
weather, for he too could smell something--something suspiciously
like approaching snow.
`Mole, we mustn't stop now, really!' he called back. `We'll
come for it to-morrow, whatever it is you've found. But I
daren't stop now--it's late, and the snow's coming on again, and
I'm not sure of the way! And I want your nose, Mole, so come on
quick, there's a good fellow!' And the Rat pressed forward on
his way without waiting for an answer.
Poor Mole stood alone in the road, his heart torn asunder, and a
big sob gathering, gathering, somewhere low down inside him, to
leap up to the surface presently, he knew, in passionate escape.
But even under such a test as this his loyalty to his friend
stood firm. Never for a moment did he dream of abandoning him.
Meanwhile, the wafts from his old home pleaded, whispered,
conjured, and finally claimed him imperiously. He dared not
tarry longer within their magic circle. With a wrench that tore
his very heartstrings he set his face down the road and followed
submissively in the track of the Rat, while faint, thin little
smells, still dogging his retreating nose, reproached him for his
new friendship and his callous forgetfulness.
With an effort he caught up to the unsuspecting Rat, who began
chattering cheerfully about what they would do when they got
back, and how jolly a fire of logs in the parlour would be,
and what a supper he meant to eat; never noticing his companion's
silence and distressful state of mind. At last, however, when
they had gone some considerable way further, and were passing
some tree-stumps at the edge of a copse that bordered the road,
he stopped and said kindly, `Look here, Mole old chap, you seem
dead tired. No talk left in you, and your feet dragging like
lead. We'll sit down here for a minute and rest. The snow has
held off so far, and the best part of our journey is over.'
The Mole subsided forlornly on a tree-stump and tried to control
himself, for he felt it surely coming. The sob he had fought
with so long refused to be beaten. Up and up, it forced its way
to the air, and then another, and another, and others thick and
fast; till poor Mole at last gave up the struggle, and cried
freely and helplessly and openly, now that he knew it was all
over and he had lost what he could hardly be said to have found.
The Rat, astonished and dismayed at the violence of Mole's
paroxysm of grief, did not dare to speak for a while. At last he
said, very quietly and sympathetically, `What is it, old
fellow? Whatever can be the matter? Tell us your trouble, and
let me see what I can do.'
Poor Mole found it difficult to get any words out between the
upheavals of his chest that followed one upon another so quickly
and held back speech and choked it as it came. `I know it's a--
shabby, dingy little place,' he sobbed forth at last, brokenly:
`not like--your cosy quarters--or Toad's beautiful hall--or
Badger's great house--but it was my own little home--and I was
fond of it--and I went away and forgot all about it--and then I
smelt it suddenly--on the road, when I called and you wouldn't
listen, Rat--and everything came back to me with a rush--and I
WANTED it!--O dear, O dear!--and when you WOULDN'T turn
back, Ratty--and I had to leave it, though I was smelling it all
the time--I thought my heart would break.--We might have just
gone and had one look at it, Ratty--only one look--it was close
by--but you wouldn't turn back, Ratty, you wouldn't turn back! O
dear, O dear!'
Recollection brought fresh waves of sorrow, and sobs again
took full charge of him, preventing further speech.
The Rat stared straight in front of him, saying nothing, only
patting Mole gently on the shoulder. After a time he muttered
gloomily, `I see it all now! What a PIG I have been! A pig--
that's me! Just a pig--a plain pig!'
He waited till Mole's sobs became gradually less stormy and more
rhythmical; he waited till at last sniffs were frequent and sobs
only intermittent. Then he rose from his seat, and, remarking
carelessly, `Well, now we'd really better be getting on, old
chap!' set off up the road again, over the toilsome way they had
`Wherever are you (hic) going to (hic), Ratty?' cried the tearful
Mole, looking up in alarm.
`We're going to find that home of yours, old fellow,' replied the
Rat pleasantly; `so you had better come along, for it will take
some finding, and we shall want your nose.'
`Oh, come back, Ratty, do!' cried the Mole, getting up and
hurrying after him. `It's no good, I tell you! It's too late,
and too dark, and the place is too far off, and the snow's
coming! And--and I never meant to let you know I was feeling
that way about it--it was all an accident and a mistake! And
think of River Bank, and your supper!'
`Hang River Bank, and supper too!' said the Rat heartily. `I
tell you, I'm going to find this place now, if I stay out all
night. So cheer up, old chap, and take my arm, and we'll very
soon be back there again.'
Still snuffling, pleading, and reluctant, Mole suffered himself
to be dragged back along the road by his imperious companion, who
by a flow of cheerful talk and anecdote endeavoured to beguile
his spirits back and make the weary way seem shorter. When at
last it seemed to the Rat that they must be nearing that part of
the road where the Mole had been `held up,' he said, `Now, no
more talking. Business! Use your nose, and give your mind to
They moved on in silence for some little way, when suddenly the
Rat was conscious, through his arm that was linked in Mole's, of
a faint sort of electric thrill that was passing down that
animal's body. Instantly he disengaged himself, fell back a
pace, and waited, all attention.
The signals were coming through!
Mole stood a moment rigid, while his uplifted nose, quivering
slightly, felt the air.
Then a short, quick run forward--a fault--a check--a try back;
and then a slow, steady, confident advance.
The Rat, much excited, kept close to his heels as the Mole, with
something of the air of a sleep-walker, crossed a dry ditch,
scrambled through a hedge, and nosed his way over a field open
and trackless and bare in the faint starlight.
Suddenly, without giving warning, he dived; but the Rat was on
the alert, and promptly followed him down the tunnel to which his
unerring nose had faithfully led him.
It was close and airless, and the earthy smell was strong, and it
seemed a long time to Rat ere the passage ended and he could
stand erect and stretch and shake himself. The Mole struck a
match, and by its light the Rat saw that they were standing in an
open space, neatly swept and sanded underfoot, and directly
facing them was Mole's little front door, with `Mole End'
painted, in Gothic lettering, over the bell-pull at the side.
Mole reached down a lantern from a nail on the wail and lit it,
and the Rat, looking round him, saw that they were in a sort of
fore-court. A garden-seat stood on one side of the door, and on
the other a roller; for the Mole, who was a tidy animal when at
home, could not stand having his ground kicked up by other
animals into little runs that ended in earth-heaps. On the walls
hung wire baskets with ferns in them, alternating with brackets
carrying plaster statuary--Garibaldi, and the infant Samuel, and
Queen Victoria, and other heroes of modern Italy. Down on one
side of the forecourt ran a skittle-alley, with benches along it
and little wooden tables marked with rings that hinted at beer-
mugs. In the middle was a small round pond containing gold-fish
and surrounded by a cockle-shell border. Out of the centre of
the pond rose a fanciful erection clothed in more cockle-shells
and topped by a large silvered glass ball that reflected
everything all wrong and had a very pleasing effect.
Mole's face-beamed at the sight of all these objects so dear to
him, and he hurried Rat through the door, lit a lamp in the
hall, and took one glance round his old home. He saw the dust
lying thick on everything, saw the cheerless, deserted look of
the long-neglected house, and its narrow, meagre dimensions, its
worn and shabby contents--and collapsed again on a hall-chair,
his nose to his paws. `O Ratty!' he cried dismally, `why ever
did I do it? Why did I bring you to this poor, cold little
place, on a night like this, when you might have been at River
Bank by this time, toasting your toes before a blazing fire, with
all your own nice things about you!'
The Rat paid no heed to his doleful self-reproaches. He was
running here and there, opening doors, inspecting rooms and
cupboards, and lighting lamps and candles and sticking them, up
everywhere. `What a capital little house this is!' he called out
cheerily. `So compact! So well planned! Everything here and
everything in its place! We'll make a jolly night of it. The
first thing we want is a good fire; I'll see to that--I always
know where to find things. So this is the parlour? Splendid!
Your own idea, those little sleeping-bunks in the wall? Capital!
Now, I'll fetch the wood and the coals, and you get a
duster, Mole--you'll find one in the drawer of the kitchen
table--and try and smarten things up a bit. Bustle about, old
Encouraged by his inspiriting companion, the Mole roused himself
and dusted and polished with energy and heartiness, while the
Rat, running to and fro with armfuls of fuel, soon had a cheerful
blaze roaring up the chimney. He hailed the Mole to come and
warm himself; but Mole promptly had another fit of the blues,
dropping down on a couch in dark despair and burying his face in
his duster. `Rat,' he moaned, `how about your supper, you poor,
cold, hungry, weary animal? I've nothing to give you--nothing--
not a crumb!'
`What a fellow you are for giving in!' said the Rat
reproachfully. `Why, only just now I saw a sardine-opener on the
kitchen dresser, quite distinctly; and everybody knows that means
there are sardines about somewhere in the neighbourhood. Rouse
yourself! pull yourself together, and come with me and forage.'
They went and foraged accordingly, hunting through every cupboard
and turning out every drawer. The result was not so very
depressing after all, though of course it might have been
better; a tin of sardines--a box of captain's biscuits, nearly
full--and a German sausage encased in silver paper.
`There's a banquet for you!' observed the Rat, as he arranged the
table. `I know some animals who would give their ears to be
sitting down to supper with us to-night!'
`No bread!' groaned the Mole dolorously; `no butter, no----'
`No pate de foie gras, no champagne!' continued the Rat,
grinning. `And that reminds me--what's that little door at the
end of the passage? Your cellar, of course! Every luxury in
this house! Just you wait a minute.'
He made for the cellar-door, and presently reappeared, somewhat
dusty, with a bottle of beer in each paw and another under each
arm, `Self-indulgent beggar you seem to be, Mole,' he observed.
`Deny yourself nothing. This is really the jolliest little place
I ever was in. Now, wherever did you pick up those prints? Make
the place look so home-like, they do. No wonder you're so fond
of it, Mole. Tell us all about it, and how you came to make it
what it is.'
Then, while the Rat busied himself fetching plates, and knives
and forks, and mustard which he mixed in an egg-cup, the Mole,
his bosom still heaving with the stress of his recent emotion,
related--somewhat shyly at first, but with more freedom as he
warmed to his subject--how this was planned, and how that was
thought out, and how this was got through a windfall from an
aunt, and that was a wonderful find and a bargain, and this other
thing was bought out of laborious savings and a certain amount of
`going without.' His spirits finally quite restored, he must
needs go and caress his possessions, and take a lamp and show off
their points to his visitor and expatiate on them, quite
forgetful of the supper they both so much needed; Rat, who was
desperately hungry but strove to conceal it, nodding seriously,
examining with a puckered brow, and saying, `wonderful,' and
`most remarkable,' at intervals, when the chance for an
observation was given him.
At last the Rat succeeded in decoying him to the table, and had
just got seriously to work with the sardine-opener when sounds
were heard from the fore-court without--sounds like the
scuffling of small feet in the gravel and a confused murmur
of tiny voices, while broken sentences reached them--`Now, all in
a line--hold the lantern up a bit, Tommy--clear your throats
first--no coughing after I say one, two, three.--Where's young
Bill?--Here, come on, do, we're all a-waiting----'
`What's up?' inquired the Rat, pausing in his labours.
`I think it must be the field-mice,' replied the Mole, with a
touch of pride in his manner. `They go round carol-singing
regularly at this time of the year. They're quite an institution
in these parts. And they never pass me over--they come to Mole
End last of all; and I used to give them hot drinks, and supper
too sometimes, when I could afford it. It will be like old times
to hear them again.'
`Let's have a look at them!' cried the Rat, jumping up and
running to the door.
It was a pretty sight, and a seasonable one, that met their eyes
when they flung the door open. In the fore-court, lit by the dim
rays of a horn lantern, some eight or ten little fieldmice stood
in a semicircle, red worsted comforters round their throats,
their fore-paws thrust deep into their pockets, their feet
jigging for warmth. With bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at
each other, sniggering a little, sniffing and applying coat-
sleeves a good deal. As the door opened, one of the elder ones
that carried the lantern was just saying, `Now then, one, two,
three!' and forthwith their shrill little voices uprose on the
air, singing one of the old-time carols that their forefathers
composed in fields that were fallow and held by frost, or when
snow-bound in chimney corners, and handed down to be sung in the
miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yule-time.
Villagers all, this frosty tide,
Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow, and snow beside,
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide;
Joy shall be yours in the morning!
Here we stand in the cold and the sleet,
Blowing fingers and stamping feet,
Come from far away you to greet--
You by the fire and we in the street--
Bidding you joy in the morning!
For ere one half of the night was gone,
Sudden a star has led us on,
Raining bliss and benison--
Bliss to-morrow and more anon,
Joy for every morning!
Goodman Joseph toiled through the snow--
Saw the star o'er a stable low;
Mary she might not further go--
Welcome thatch, and litter below!
Joy was hers in the morning!
And then they heard the angels tell
`Who were the first to cry NOWELL?
Animals all, as it befell,
In the stable where they did dwell!
Joy shall be theirs in the morning!'
The voices ceased, the singers, bashful but smiling, exchanged
sidelong glances, and silence succeeded--but for a moment only.
Then, from up above and far away, down the tunnel they had so
lately travelled was borne to their ears in a faint musical hum
the sound of distant bells ringing a joyful and clangorous peal.
`Very well sung, boys!' cried the Rat heartily. `And now come
along in, all of you, and warm yourselves by the fire, and have
`Yes, come along, field-mice,' cried the Mole eagerly. `This is
quite like old times! Shut the door after you. Pull up that
settle to the fire. Now, you just wait a minute, while we--O,
Ratty!' he cried in despair, plumping down on a seat, with tears
impending. `Whatever are we doing? We've nothing to give them!'
`You leave all that to me,' said the masterful Rat. `Here, you
with the lantern! Come over this way. I want to talk to you.
Now, tell me, are there any shops open at this hour of the
`Why, certainly, sir,' replied the field-mouse respectfully. `At
this time of the year our shops keep open to all sorts of hours.'
`Then look here!' said the Rat. `You go off at once, you and
your lantern, and you get me----'
Here much muttered conversation ensued, and the Mole only heard
bits of it, such as--`Fresh, mind!--no, a pound of that will do--
see you get Buggins's, for I won't have any other--no, only the
best--if you can't get it there, try somewhere else--yes, of
course, home-made, no tinned stuff--well then, do the best you
can!' Finally, there was a chink of coin passing from paw to
paw, the field-mouse was provided with an ample basket for his
purchases, and off he hurried, he and his lantern.
The rest of the field-mice, perched in a row on the settle, their
small legs swinging, gave themselves up to enjoyment of the fire,
and toasted their chilblains till they tingled; while the
Mole, failing to draw them into easy conversation, plunged into
family history and made each of them recite the names of his
numerous brothers, who were too young, it appeared, to be allowed
to go out a-carolling this year, but looked forward very shortly
to winning the parental consent.
The Rat, meanwhile, was busy examining the label on one of the
beer-bottles. `I perceive this to be Old Burton,' he remarked
approvingly. `SENSIBLE Mole! The very thing! Now we shall
be able to mull some ale! Get the things ready, Mole, while I
draw the corks.'
It did not take long to prepare the brew and thrust the tin
heater well into the red heart of the fire; and soon every field-
mouse was sipping and coughing and choking (for a little mulled
ale goes a long way) and wiping his eyes and laughing and
forgetting he had ever been cold in all his life.
`They act plays too, these fellows,' the Mole explained to the
Rat. `Make them up all by themselves, and act them afterwards.
And very well they do it, too! They gave us a capital one last
year, about a field-mouse who was captured at sea by a
Barbary corsair, and made to row in a galley; and when he escaped
and got home again, his lady-love had gone into a convent. Here,
YOU! You were in it, I remember. Get up and recite a bit.'
The field-mouse addressed got up on his legs, giggled shyly,
looked round the room, and remained absolutely tongue-tied. His
comrades cheered him on, Mole coaxed and encouraged him, and the
Rat went so far as to take him by the shoulders and shake him;
but nothing could overcome his stage-fright. They were all
busily engaged on him like watermen applying the Royal Humane
Society's regulations to a case of long submersion, when the
latch clicked, the door opened, and the field-mouse with the
lantern reappeared, staggering under the weight of his basket.
There was no more talk of play-acting once the very real and
solid contents of the basket had been tumbled out on the table.
Under the generalship of Rat, everybody was set to do something
or to fetch something. In a very few minutes supper was ready,
and Mole, as he took the head of the table in a sort of a dream,
saw a lately barren board set thick with savoury comforts;
saw his little friends' faces brighten and beam as they fell to
without delay; and then let himself loose--for he was famished
indeed--on the provender so magically provided, thinking what a
happy home-coming this had turned out, after all. As they ate,
they talked of old times, and the field-mice gave him the local
gossip up to date, and answered as well as they could the hundred
questions he had to ask them. The Rat said little or nothing,
only taking care that each guest had what he wanted, and plenty
of it, and that Mole had no trouble or anxiety about anything.
They clattered off at last, very grateful and showering wishes of
the season, with their jacket pockets stuffed with remembrances
for the small brothers and sisters at home. When the door had
closed on the last of them and the chink of the lanterns had died
away, Mole and Rat kicked the fire up, drew their chairs in,
brewed themselves a last nightcap of mulled ale, and discussed
the events of the long day. At last the Rat, with a tremendous
yawn, said, `Mole, old chap, I'm ready to drop. Sleepy is simply
not the word. That your own bunk over on that side? Very well,
then, I'll take this. What a ripping little house this is!
Everything so handy!'
He clambered into his bunk and rolled himself well up in the
blankets, and slumber gathered him forthwith, as a swathe of
barley is folded into the arms of the reaping machine.
The weary Mole also was glad to turn in without delay, and soon
had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment. But
ere he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room,
mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on
familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a
part of him, and now smilingly received him back, without
rancour. He was now in just the frame of mind that the tactful
Rat had quietly worked to bring about in him. He saw clearly how
plain and simple--how narrow, even--it all was; but clearly, too,
how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such
anchorage in one's existence. He did not at all want to abandon
the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and
air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the
upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down
there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But
it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place
which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him
again and could always be counted upon for the same simple
It was a bright morning in the early part of summer; the river
had resumed its wonted banks and its accustomed pace, and a hot
sun seemed to be pulling everything green and bushy and spiky up
out of the earth towards him, as if by strings. The Mole and the
Water Rat had been up since dawn, very busy on matters connected
with boats and the opening of the boating season; painting and
varnishing, mending paddles, repairing cushions, hunting for
missing boat-hooks, and so on; and were finishing breakfast in
their little parlour and eagerly discussing their plans for the
day, when a heavy knock sounded at the door.
`Bother!' said the Rat, all over egg. `See who it is, Mole, like
a good chap, since you've finished.'
The Mole went to attend the summons, and the Rat heard
him utter a cry of surprise. Then he flung the parlour door
open, and announced with much importance, `Mr. Badger!'
This was a wonderful thing, indeed, that the Badger should pay a
formal call on them, or indeed on anybody. He generally had to
be caught, if you wanted him badly, as he slipped quietly along a
hedgerow of an early morning or a late evening, or else hunted up
in his own house in the middle of the Wood, which was a serious
The Badger strode heavily into the room, and stood looking at the
two animals with an expression full of seriousness. The Rat let
his egg-spoon fall on the table-cloth, and sat open-mouthed.
`The hour has come!' said the Badger at last with great
`What hour?' asked the Rat uneasily, glancing at the clock on the
`WHOSE hour, you should rather say,' replied the Badger.
`Why, Toad's hour! The hour of Toad! I said I would take him in
hand as soon as the winter was well over, and I'm going to take
him in hand to-day!'
`Toad's hour, of course!' cried the Mole delightedly.
`Hooray! I remember now! WE'LL teach him to be a sensible
`This very morning,' continued the Badger, taking an arm-chair,
`as I learnt last night from a trustworthy source, another new
and exceptionally powerful motor-car will arrive at Toad Hall on
approval or return. At this very moment, perhaps, Toad is busy
arraying himself in those singularly hideous habiliments so dear
to him, which transform him from a (comparatively) good-looking
Toad into an Object which throws any decent-minded animal that
comes across it into a violent fit. We must be up and doing, ere
it is too late. You two animals will accompany me instantly to
Toad Hall, and the work of rescue shall be accomplished.'
`Right you are!' cried the Rat, starting up. `We'll rescue the
poor unhappy animal! We'll convert him! He'll be the most
converted Toad that ever was before we've done with him!'
They set off up the road on their mission of mercy, Badger
leading the way. Animals when in company walk in a proper and
sensible manner, in single file, instead of sprawling all
across the road and being of no use or support to each other
in case of sudden trouble or danger.
They reached the carriage-drive of Toad Hall to find, as the
Badger had anticipated, a shiny new motor-car, of great size,
painted a bright red (Toad's favourite colour), standing in front
of the house. As they neared the door it was flung open, and Mr.
Toad, arrayed in goggles, cap, gaiters, and enormous overcoat,
came swaggering down the steps, drawing on his gauntleted gloves.
`Hullo! come on, you fellows!' he cried cheerfully on catching
sight of them. `You're just in time to come with me for a
jolly--to come for a jolly--for a--er--jolly----'
His hearty accents faltered and fell away as he noticed the stern
unbending look on the countenances of his silent friends, and his
invitation remained unfinished.
The Badger strode up the steps. `Take him inside,' he said
sternly to his companions. Then, as Toad was hustled through the
door, struggling and protesting, he turned to the chauffeur in
charge of the new motor-car.
`I'm afraid you won't be wanted to-day,' he said. `Mr. Toad
has changed his mind. He will not require the car. Please
understand that this is final. You needn't wait.' Then he
followed the others inside and shut the door.
`Now then!' he said to the Toad, when the four of them stood
together in the Hall, `first of all, take those ridiculous things
`Shan't!' replied Toad, with great spirit. `What is the meaning
of this gross outrage? I demand an instant explanation.'
`Take them off him, then, you two,' ordered the Badger briefly.
They had to lay Toad out on the floor, kicking and calling all
sorts of names, before they could get to work properly. Then the
Rat sat on him, and the Mole got his motor-clothes off him bit by
bit, and they stood him up on his legs again. A good deal of his
blustering spirit seemed to have evaporated with the removal of
his fine panoply. Now that he was merely Toad, and no longer the
Terror of the Highway, he giggled feebly and looked from one to
the other appealingly, seeming quite to understand the situation.
`You knew it must come to this, sooner or later, Toad,' the
Badger explained severely.
You've disregarded all the warnings we've given you, you've gone
on squandering the money your father left you, and you're getting
us animals a bad name in the district by your furious driving and
your smashes and your rows with the police. Independence is all
very well, but we animals never allow our friends to make fools
of themselves beyond a certain limit; and that limit you've
reached. Now, you're a good fellow in many respects, and I don't
want to be too hard on you. I'll make one more effort to bring
you to reason. You will come with me into the smoking-room, and
there you will hear some facts about yourself; and we'll see
whether you come out of that room the same Toad that you went
He took Toad firmly by the arm, led him into the smoking-room,
and closed the door behind them.
`THAT'S no good!' said the Rat contemptuously. `TALKING to
Toad'll never cure him. He'll SAY anything.'
They made themselves comfortable in armchairs and waited
patiently. Through the closed door they could just hear the long
continuous drone of the Badger's voice, rising and falling
in waves of oratory; and presently they noticed that the sermon
began to be punctuated at intervals by long-drawn sobs, evidently
proceeding from the bosom of Toad, who was a soft-hearted and
affectionate fellow, very easily converted--for the time being--
to any point of view.
After some three-quarters of an hour the door opened, and the
Badger reappeared, solemnly leading by the paw a very limp and
dejected Toad. His skin hung baggily about him, his legs
wobbled, and his cheeks were furrowed by the tears so plentifully
called forth by the Badger's moving discourse.
`Sit down there, Toad,' said the Badger kindly, pointing to a
chair. `My friends,' he went on, `I am pleased to inform you
that Toad has at last seen the error of his ways. He is truly
sorry for his misguided conduct in the past, and he has
undertaken to give up motor-cars entirely and for ever. I have
his solemn promise to that effect.'
`That is very good news,' said the Mole gravely.
`Very good news indeed,' observed the Rat dubiously, `if only--
He was looking very hard at Toad as he said this, and could not
help thinking he perceived something vaguely resembling a twinkle
in that animal's still sorrowful eye.
`There's only one thing more to be done,' continued the gratified
Badger. `Toad, I want you solemnly to repeat, before your
friends here, what you fully admitted to me in the smoking-room
just now. First, you are sorry for what you've done, and you see
the folly of it all?'
There was a long, long pause. Toad looked desperately this way
and that, while the other animals waited in grave silence. At
last he spoke.
`No!' he said, a little sullenly, but stoutly; `I'm NOT sorry.
And it wasn't folly at all! It was simply glorious!'
`What?' cried the Badger, greatly scandalised. `You backsliding
animal, didn't you tell me just now, in there----'
`Oh, yes, yes, in THERE,' said Toad impatiently. `I'd have
said anything in THERE. You're so eloquent, dear Badger, and
so moving, and so convincing, and put all your points so
frightfully well--you can do what you like with me in
THERE, and you know it. But I've been searching my mind
since, and going over things in it, and I find that I'm not a bit
sorry or repentant really, so it's no earthly good saying I am;
now, is it?'
`Then you don't promise,' said the Badger, `never to touch a
`Certainly not!' replied Toad emphatically. `On the contrary, I
faithfully promise that the very first motor-car I see, poop-
poop! off I go in it!'
`Told you so, didn't I?' observed the Rat to the Mole.
`Very well, then,' said the Badger firmly, rising to his feet.
`Since you won't yield to persuasion, we'll try what force can
do. I feared it would come to this all along. You've often
asked us three to come and stay with you, Toad, in this handsome
house of yours; well, now we're going to. When we've converted
you to a proper point of view we may quit, but not before. Take
him upstairs, you two, and lock him up in his bedroom, while we
arrange matters between ourselves.'
`It's for your own good, Toady, you know,' said the Rat kindly,
as Toad, kicking and struggling, was hauled up the stairs by
his two faithful friends. `Think what fun we shall all have
together, just as we used to, when you've quite got over this--
this painful attack of yours!'
`We'll take great care of everything for you till you're well,
Toad,' said the Mole; `and we'll see your money isn't wasted, as
it has been.'
`No more of those regrettable incidents with the police, Toad,'
said the Rat, as they thrust him into his bedroom.
`And no more weeks in hospital, being ordered about by female
nurses, Toad,' added the Mole, turning the key on him.
They descended the stair, Toad shouting abuse at them through the
keyhole; and the three friends then met in conference on the
`It's going to be a tedious business,' said the Badger, sighing.
`I've never seen Toad so determined. However, we will see it
out. He must never be left an instant unguarded. We shall have
to take it in turns to be with him, till the poison has worked
itself out of his system.'
They arranged watches accordingly. Each animal took it in turns
to sleep in Toad's room at night, and they divided the day up
between them. At first Toad was undoubtedly very trying to his
careful guardians. When his violent paroxysms possessed him he
would arrange bedroom chairs in rude resemblance of a motor-car
and would crouch on the foremost of them, bent forward and
staring fixedly ahead, making uncouth and ghastly noises, till
the climax was reached, when, turning a complete somersault, he
would lie prostrate amidst the ruins of the chairs, apparently
completely satisfied for the moment. As time passed, however,
these painful seizures grew gradually less frequent, and his
friends strove to divert his mind into fresh channels. But his
interest in other matters did not seem to revive, and he grew
apparently languid and depressed.
One fine morning the Rat, whose turn it was to go on duty, went
upstairs to relieve Badger, whom he found fidgeting to be off and
stretch his legs in a long ramble round his wood and down his
earths and burrows. `Toad's still in bed,' he told the Rat,
outside the door. `Can't get much out of him, except, "O leave
him alone, he wants nothing, perhaps he'll be better
presently, it may pass off in time, don't be unduly anxious," and
so on. Now, you look out, Rat! When Toad's quiet and submissive
and playing at being the hero of a Sunday-school prize, then he's
at his artfullest. There's sure to be something up. I know him.
Well, now, I must be off.'
`How are you to-day, old chap?' inquired the Rat cheerfully, as
he approached Toad's bedside.
He had to wait some minutes for an answer. At last a feeble
voice replied, `Thank you so much, dear Ratty! So good of you to
inquire! But first tell me how you are yourself, and the
`O, WE'RE all right,' replied the Rat. `Mole,' he added
incautiously, `is going out for a run round with Badger. They'll
be out till luncheon time, so you and I will spend a pleasant
morning together, and I'll do my best to amuse you. Now jump up,
there's a good fellow, and don't lie moping there on a fine
morning like this!'
`Dear, kind Rat,' murmured Toad, `how little you realise my
condition, and how very far I am from "jumping up" now--if ever!
But do not trouble about me. I hate being a burden to my
friends, and I do not expect to be one much longer. Indeed, I
almost hope not.'
`Well, I hope not, too,' said the Rat heartily. `You've been a
fine bother to us all this time, and I'm glad to hear it's going
to stop. And in weather like this, and the boating season just
beginning! It's too bad of you, Toad! It isn't the trouble we
mind, but you're making us miss such an awful lot.'
`I'm afraid it IS the trouble you mind, though,' replied the
Toad languidly. `I can quite understand it. It's natural
enough. You're tired of bothering about me. I mustn't ask you
to do anything further. I'm a nuisance, I know.'
`You are, indeed,' said the Rat. `But I tell you, I'd take any
trouble on earth for you, if only you'd be a sensible animal.'
`If I thought that, Ratty,' murmured Toad, more feebly than ever,
`then I would beg you--for the last time, probably--to step round
to the village as quickly as possible--even now it may be too
late--and fetch the doctor. But don't you bother. It's only a
trouble, and perhaps we may as well let things take their
`Why, what do you want a doctor for?' inquired the Rat, coming
closer and examining him. He certainly lay very still and flat,
and his voice was weaker and his manner much changed.
`Surely you have noticed of late----' murmured Toad. `But, no--
why should you? Noticing things is only a trouble. To-morrow,
indeed, you may be saying to yourself, "O, if only I had noticed
sooner! If only I had done something!" But no; it's a trouble.
Never mind--forget that I asked.'
`Look here, old man,' said the Rat, beginning to get rather
alarmed, `of course I'll fetch a doctor to you, if you really
think you want him. But you can hardly be bad enough for that
yet. Let's talk about something else.'
`I fear, dear friend,' said Toad, with a sad smile, `that "talk"
can do little in a case like this--or doctors either, for that
matter; still, one must grasp at the slightest straw. And, by
the way--while you are about it--I HATE to give you additional
trouble, but I happen to remember that you will pass the door--
would you mind at the same time asking the lawyer to step up? It
would be a convenience to me, and there are moments--perhaps
I should say there is A moment--when one must face
disagreeable tasks, at whatever cost to exhausted nature!'
`A lawyer! O, he must be really bad!' the affrighted Rat said to
himself, as he hurried from the room, not forgetting, however, to
lock the door carefully behind him.
Outside, he stopped to consider. The other two were far away,
and he had no one to consult.
`It's best to be on the safe side,' he said, on reflection.
`I've known Toad fancy himself frightfully bad before, without
the slightest reason; but I've never heard him ask for a lawyer!
If there's nothing really the matter, the doctor will tell him
he's an old ass, and cheer him up; and that will be something
gained. I'd better humour him and go; it won't take very long.'
So he ran off to the village on his errand of mercy.
The Toad, who had hopped lightly out of bed as soon as he heard
the key turned in the lock, watched him eagerly from the window
till he disappeared down the carriage-drive. Then, laughing
heartily, he dressed as quickly as possible in the smartest
suit he could lay hands on at the moment, filled his pockets with
cash which he took from a small drawer in the dressing-table, and
next, knotting the sheets from his bed together and tying one end
of the improvised rope round the central mullion of the handsome
Tudor window which formed such a feature of his bedroom, he
scrambled out, slid lightly to the ground, and, taking the
opposite direction to the Rat, marched off lightheartedly,
whistling a merry tune.
It was a gloomy luncheon for Rat when the Badger and the Mole at
length returned, and he had to face them at table with his
pitiful and unconvincing story. The Badger's caustic, not to say
brutal, remarks may be imagined, and therefore passed over; but
it was painful to the Rat that even the Mole, though he took his
friend's side as far as possible, could not help saying, `You've
been a bit of a duffer this time, Ratty! Toad, too, of all
`He did it awfully well,' said the crestfallen Rat.
`He did YOU awfully well!' rejoined the Badger hotly.
`However, talking won't mend matters. He's got clear away for
the time, that's certain; and the worst of it is, he'll be
so conceited with what he'll think is his cleverness that he may
commit any folly. One comfort is, we're free now, and needn't
waste any more of our precious time doing sentry-go. But we'd
better continue to sleep at Toad Hall for a while longer. Toad
may be brought back at any moment--on a stretcher, or between two
So spoke the Badger, not knowing what the future held in store,
or how much water, and of how turbid a character, was to run
under bridges before Toad should sit at ease again in his
Meanwhile, Toad, gay and irresponsible, was walking briskly along
the high road, some miles from home. At first he had taken by-
paths, and crossed many fields, and changed his course several
times, in case of pursuit; but now, feeling by this time safe
from recapture, and the sun smiling brightly on him, and all
Nature joining in a chorus of approval to the song of self-praise
that his own heart was singing to him, he almost danced along the
road in his satisfaction and conceit.
`Smart piece of work that!' he remarked to himself chuckling.
`Brain against brute force--and brain came out on the top--as
it's bound to do. Poor old Ratty! My! won't he catch it when
the Badger gets back! A worthy fellow, Ratty, with many good
qualities, but very little intelligence and absolutely no
education. I must take him in hand some day, and see if I can
make something of him.'
Filled full of conceited thoughts such as these he strode along,
his head in the air, till he reached a little town, where the
sign of `The Red Lion,' swinging across the road halfway down the
main street, reminded him that he had not breakfasted that day,
and that he was exceedingly hungry after his long walk. He
marched into the Inn, ordered the best luncheon that could be
provided at so short a notice, and sat down to eat it in the
He was about half-way through his meal when an only too familiar
sound, approaching down the street, made him start and fall a-
trembling all over. The poop-poop! drew nearer and nearer, the
car could be heard to turn into the inn-yard and come to a stop,
and Toad had to hold on to the leg of the table to conceal
his over-mastering emotion. Presently the party entered the
coffee-room, hungry, talkative, and gay, voluble on their
experiences of the morning and the merits of the chariot that had
brought them along so well. Toad listened eagerly, all ears, for
a time; at last he could stand it no longer. He slipped out of
the room quietly, paid his bill at the bar, and as soon as he got
outside sauntered round quietly to the inn-yard. `There cannot
be any harm,' he said to himself, `in my only just LOOKING at
The car stood in the middle of the yard, quite unattended, the
stable-helps and other hangers-on being all at their dinner.
Toad walked slowly round it, inspecting, criticising, musing
`I wonder,' he said to himself presently, `I wonder if this sort
of car STARTS easily?'
Next moment, hardly knowing how it came about, he found he had
hold of the handle and was turning it. As the familiar sound
broke forth, the old passion seized on Toad and completely
mastered him, body and soul. As if in a dream he found himself,
somehow, seated in the driver's seat; as if in a dream, he
pulled the lever and swung the car round the yard and out through
the archway; and, as if in a dream, all sense of right and wrong,
all fear of obvious consequences, seemed temporarily suspended.
He increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and
leapt forth on the high road through the open country, he was
only conscious that he was Toad once more, Toad at his best and
highest, Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the
lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into
nothingness and everlasting night. He chanted as he flew, and
the car responded with sonorous drone; the miles were eaten up
under him as he sped he knew not whither, fulfilling his
instincts, living his hour, reckless of what might come to him.
* * * * * *
`To my mind,' observed the Chairman of the Bench of Magistrates
cheerfully, `the ONLY difficulty that presents itself in this
otherwise very clear case is, how we can possibly make it
sufficiently hot for the incorrigible rogue and hardened ruffian
whom we see cowering in the dock before us. Let me see: he has
been found guilty, on the clearest evidence, first, of
stealing a valuable motor-car; secondly, of driving to the public
danger; and, thirdly, of gross impertinence to the rural police.
Mr. Clerk, will you tell us, please, what is the very stiffest
penalty we can impose for each of these offences? Without, of
course, giving the prisoner the benefit of any doubt, because
there isn't any.'
The Clerk scratched his nose with his pen. `Some people would
consider,' he observed, `that stealing the motor-car was the
worst offence; and so it is. But cheeking the police undoubtedly
carries the severest penalty; and so it ought. Supposing you
were to say twelve months for the theft, which is mild; and three
years for the furious driving, which is lenient; and fifteen
years for the cheek, which was pretty bad sort of cheek, judging
by what we've heard from the witness-box, even if you only
believe one-tenth part of what you heard, and I never believe
more myself--those figures, if added together correctly, tot up
to nineteen years----'
`First-rate!' said the Chairman.
`--So you had better make it a round twenty years and be on
the safe side,' concluded the Clerk.
`An excellent suggestion!' said the Chairman approvingly.
`Prisoner! Pull yourself together and try and stand up straight.
It's going to be twenty years for you this time. And mind, if
you appear before us again, upon any charge whatever, we shall
have to deal with you very seriously!'
Then the brutal minions of the law fell upon the hapless Toad;
loaded him with chains, and dragged him from the Court House,
shrieking, praying, protesting; across the marketplace, where the
playful populace, always as severe upon detected crime as they
are sympathetic and helpful when one is merely `wanted,' assailed
him with jeers, carrots, and popular catch-words; past hooting
school children, their innocent faces lit up with the pleasure
they ever derive from the sight of a gentleman in difficulties;
across the hollow-sounding drawbridge, below the spiky
portcullis, under the frowning archway of the grim old castle,
whose ancient towers soared high overhead; past guardrooms full
of grinning soldiery off duty, past sentries who coughed in a
horrid, sarcastic way, because that is as much as a sentry
on his post dare do to show his contempt and abhorrence of crime;
up time-worn winding stairs, past men-at-arms in casquet and
corselet of steel, darting threatening looks through their
vizards; across courtyards, where mastiffs strained at their
leash and pawed the air to get at him; past ancient warders,
their halberds leant against the wall, dozing over a pasty and a
flagon of brown ale; on and on, past the rack-chamber and the
thumbscrew-room, past the turning that led to the private
scaffold, till they reached the door of the grimmest dungeon that
lay in the heart of the innermost keep. There at last they
paused, where an ancient gaoler sat fingering a bunch of mighty
`Oddsbodikins!' said the sergeant of police, taking off his
helmet and wiping his forehead. `Rouse thee, old loon, and take
over from us this vile Toad, a criminal of deepest guilt and
matchless artfulness and resource. Watch and ward him with all
thy skill; and mark thee well, greybeard, should aught untoward
befall, thy old head shall answer for his--and a murrain on both
The gaoler nodded grimly, laying his withered hand on the
shoulder of the miserable Toad. The rusty key creaked in the
lock, the great door clanged behind them; and Toad was a helpless
prisoner in the remotest dungeon of the best-guarded keep of the
stoutest castle in all the length and breadth of Merry England.
THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN
The Willow-Wren was twittering his thin little song, hidden
himself in the dark selvedge of the river bank. Though it was
past ten o'clock at night, the sky still clung to and retained
some lingering skirts of light from the departed day; and the
sullen heats of the torrid afternoon broke up and rolled away at
the dispersing touch of the cool fingers of the short midsummer
night. Mole lay stretched on the bank, still panting from the
stress of the fierce day that had been cloudless from dawn to
late sunset, and waited for his friend to return. He had been on
the river with some companions, leaving the Water Rat free to
keep a engagement of long standing with Otter; and he had come
back to find the house dark and deserted, and no sign of Rat, who
was doubtless keeping it up late with his old comrade.
It was still too hot to think of staying indoors, so he lay on
some cool dock-leaves, and thought over the past day and its
doings, and how very good they all had been.
The Rat's light footfall was presently heard approaching over the
parched grass. `O, the blessed coolness!' he said, and sat down,
gazing thoughtfully into the river, silent and pre-occupied.
`You stayed to supper, of course?' said the Mole presently.
`Simply had to,' said the Rat. `They wouldn't hear of my going
before. You know how kind they always are. And they made things
as jolly for me as ever they could, right up to the moment I
left. But I felt a brute all the time, as it was clear to me
they were very unhappy, though they tried to hide it. Mole, I'm
afraid they're in trouble. Little Portly is missing again; and
you know what a lot his father thinks of him, though he never
says much about it.'
`What, that child?' said the Mole lightly. `Well, suppose he is;
why worry about it? He's always straying off and getting lost,
and turning up again; he's so adventurous. But no harm ever
happens to him. Everybody hereabouts knows him and likes him,
just as they do old Otter, and you may be sure some animal or
other will come across him and bring him back again all right.
Why, we've found him ourselves, miles from home, and quite self-
possessed and cheerful!'
`Yes; but this time it's more serious,' said the Rat gravely.
`He's been missing for some days now, and the Otters have hunted
everywhere, high and low, without finding the slightest trace.
And they've asked every animal, too, for miles around, and no one
knows anything about him. Otter's evidently more anxious than
he'll admit. I got out of him that young Portly hasn't learnt to
swim very well yet, and I can see he's thinking of the weir.
There's a lot of water coming down still, considering the time of
the year, and the place always had a fascination for the child.
And then there are--well, traps and things--YOU know. Otter's
not the fellow to be nervous about any son of his before it's
time. And now he IS nervous. When I left, he came out with
me--said he wanted some air, and talked about stretching his
legs. But I could see it wasn't that, so I drew him out and
pumped him, and got it all from him at last. He was going to
spend the night watching by the ford. You know the place where
the old ford used to be, in by-gone days before they built the
`I know it well,' said the Mole. `But why should Otter choose to
`Well, it seems that it was there he gave Portly his first
swimming-lesson,' continued the Rat. `From that shallow,
gravelly spit near the bank. And it was there he used to teach
him fishing, and there young Portly caught his first fish, of
which he was so very proud. The child loved the spot, and Otter
thinks that if he came wandering back from wherever he is--if he
IS anywhere by this time, poor little chap--he might make for
the ford he was so fond of; or if he came across it he'd remember
it well, and stop there and play, perhaps. So Otter goes there
every night and watches--on the chance, you know, just on the
They were silent for a time, both thinking of the same thing--the
lonely, heart-sore animal, crouched by the ford, watching and
waiting, the long night through--on the chance.
`Well, well,' said the Rat presently, `I suppose we ought to be
thinking about turning in.' But he never offered to move.
`Rat,' said the Mole, `I simply can't go and turn in, and go to
sleep, and DO nothing, even though there doesn't seem to be
anything to be done. We'll get the boat out, and paddle up
stream. The moon will be up in an hour or so, and then we will
search as well as we can--anyhow, it will be better than going to
bed and doing NOTHING.'
`Just what I was thinking myself,' said the Rat. `It's not the
sort of night for bed anyhow; and daybreak is not so very far
off, and then we may pick up some news of him from early risers
as we go along.'
They got the boat out, and the Rat took the sculls, paddling with
caution. Out in midstream, there was a clear, narrow track that
faintly reflected the sky; but wherever shadows fell on the water
from bank, bush, or tree, they were as solid to all appearance as
the banks themselves, and the Mole had to steer with judgment
accordingly. Dark and deserted as it was, the night was full of
small noises, song and chatter and rustling, telling of the busy
little population who were up and about, plying their trades
and vocations through the night till sunshine should fall on them
at last and send them off to their well-earned repose. The
water's own noises, too, were more apparent than by day, its
gurglings and `cloops' more unexpected and near at hand; and
constantly they started at what seemed a sudden clear call from
an actual articulate voice.
The line of the horizon was clear and hard against the sky, and
in one particular quarter it showed black against a silvery
climbing phosphorescence that grew and grew. At last, over the
rim of the waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty till
it swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings; and
once more they began to see surfaces--meadows wide-spread, and
quiet gardens, and the river itself from bank to bank, all softly
disclosed, all washed clean of mystery and terror, all radiant
again as by day, but with a difference that was tremendous.
Their old haunts greeted them again in other raiment, as if they
had slipped away and put on this pure new apparel and come
quietly back, smiling as they shyly waited to see if they would
be recognised again under it.
Fastening their boat to a willow, the friends landed in this
silent, silver kingdom, and patiently explored the hedges, the
hollow trees, the runnels and their little culverts, the ditches
and dry water-ways. Embarking again and crossing over, they
worked their way up the stream in this manner, while the moon,
serene and detached in a cloudless sky, did what she could,
though so far off, to help them in their quest; till her hour
came and she sank earthwards reluctantly, and left them, and
mystery once more held field and river.
Then a change began slowly to declare itself. The horizon became
clearer, field and tree came more into sight, and somehow with a
different look; the mystery began to drop away from them. A bird
piped suddenly, and was still; and a light breeze sprang up and
set the reeds and bulrushes rustling. Rat, who was in the stern
of the boat, while Mole sculled, sat up suddenly and listened
with a passionate intentness. Mole, who with gentle strokes was
just keeping the boat moving while he scanned the banks with
care, looked at him with curiosity.
`It's gone!' sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. `So
beautiful and strange and new. Since it was to end so soon,
I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing
in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to
hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever.
No! There it is again!' he cried, alert once more. Entranced,
he was silent for a long space, spellbound.
`Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,' he said presently. `O
Mole! the beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin,
clear, happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never
dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is
sweet! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be
The Mole, greatly wondering, obeyed. `I hear nothing myself,' he
said, `but the wind playing in the reeds and rushes and osiers.'
The Rat never answered, if indeed he heard. Rapt, transported,
trembling, he was possessed in all his senses by this new divine
thing that caught up his helpless soul and swung and dandled it,
a powerless but happy infant in a strong sustaining grasp.
In silence Mole rowed steadily, and soon they came to a point
where the river divided, a long backwater branching off to
one side. With a slight movement of his head Rat, who had long
dropped the rudder-lines, directed the rower to take the
backwater. The creeping tide of light gained and gained, and now
they could see the colour of the flowers that gemmed the water's
`Clearer and nearer still,' cried the Rat joyously. `Now you
must surely hear it! Ah--at last--I see you do!'
Breathless and transfixed the Mole stopped rowing as the liquid
run of that glad piping broke on him like a wave, caught him up,
and possessed him utterly. He saw the tears on his comrade's
cheeks, and bowed his head and understood. For a space they hung
there, brushed by the purple loose-strife that fringed the bank;
then the clear imperious summons that marched hand-in-hand with
the intoxicating melody imposed its will on Mole, and
mechanically he bent to his oars again. And the light grew
steadily stronger, but no birds sang as they were wont to do at
the approach of dawn; and but for the heavenly music all was
On either side of them, as they glided onwards, the rich
meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness
unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the
willow-herb so riotous, the meadow-sweet so odorous and
pervading. Then the murmur of the approaching weir began to hold
the air, and they felt a consciousness that they were nearing the
end, whatever it might be, that surely awaited their expedition.
A wide half-circle of foam and glinting lights and shining
shoulders of green water, the great weir closed the backwater
from bank to bank, troubled all the quiet surface with twirling
eddies and floating foam-streaks, and deadened all other sounds
with its solemn and soothing rumble. In midmost of the stream,
embraced in the weir's shimmering arm-spread, a small island lay
anchored, fringed close with willow and silver birch and alder.
Reserved, shy, but full of significance, it hid whatever it might
hold behind a veil, keeping it till the hour should come, and,
with the hour, those who were called and chosen.
Slowly, but with no doubt or hesitation whatever, and in
something of a solemn expectancy, the two animals passed through
the broken tumultuous water and moored their boat at the
flowery margin of the island. In silence they landed, and pushed
through the blossom and scented herbage and undergrowth that led
up to the level ground, till they stood on a little lawn of a
marvellous green, set round with Nature's own orchard-trees--
crab-apple, wild cherry, and sloe.
`This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played
to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. `Here, in this
holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!'
Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe
that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his
feet to the ground. It was no panic terror--indeed he felt
wonderfully at peace and happy--but it was an awe that smote and
held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that
some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he
turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed,
stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter
silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and
still the light grew and grew.
Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that,
though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed
still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death
himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with
mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed,
and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of
the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of
incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he
looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the
backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing
daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that
were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth
broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles
on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand
still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted
lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in
majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between
his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and
contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the
baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and
intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he
lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.
`Rat!' he found breath to whisper, shaking. `Are you afraid?'
`Afraid?' murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable
love. `Afraid! Of HIM? O, never, never! And yet--and yet--
O, Mole, I am afraid!'
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads
and did worship.
Sudden and magnificent, the sun's broad golden disc showed itself
over the horizon facing them; and the first rays, shooting across
the level water-meadows, took the animals full in the eyes and
dazzled them. When they were able to look once more, the Vision
had vanished, and the air was full of the carol of birds that
hailed the dawn.
As they stared blankly. in dumb misery deepening as they slowly
realised all they had seen and all they had lost, a capricious
little breeze, dancing up from the surface of the water, tossed
the aspens, shook the dewy roses and blew lightly and caressingly
in their faces; and with its soft touch came instant
oblivion. For this is the last best gift that the kindly demi-
god is careful to bestow on those to whom he has revealed himself
in their helping: the gift of forgetfulness. Lest the awful
remembrance should remain and grow, and overshadow mirth and
pleasure, and the great haunting memory should spoil all the
after-lives of little animals helped out of difficulties, in
order that they should be happy and lighthearted as before.
Mole rubbed his eyes and stared at Rat, who was looking about him
in a puzzled sort of way. `I beg your pardon; what did you say,
Rat?' he asked.
`I think I was only remarking,' said Rat slowly, `that this was
the right sort of place, and that here, if anywhere, we should
find him. And look! Why, there he is, the little fellow!' And
with a cry of delight he ran towards the slumbering Portly.
But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened
suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, and
can re-capture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty of it, the
beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the
dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its
penalties; so Mole, after struggling with his memory for a brief
space, shook his head sadly and followed the Rat.
Portly woke up with a joyous squeak, and wriggled with pleasure
at the sight of his father's friends, who had played with him so
often in past days. In a moment, however, his face grew blank,
and he fell to hunting round in a circle with pleading whine. As
a child that has fallen happily asleep in its nurse's arms, and
wakes to find itself alone and laid in a strange place, and
searches corners and cupboards, and runs from room to room,
despair growing silently in its heart, even so Portly searched
the island and searched, dogged and unwearying, till at last the
black moment came for giving it up, and sitting down and crying
The Mole ran quickly to comfort the little animal; but Rat,
lingering, looked long and doubtfully at certain hoof-marks deep
in the sward.
`Some--great--animal--has been here,' he murmured slowly and
thoughtfully; and stood musing, musing; his mind strangely
`Come along, Rat!' called the Mole. `Think of poor Otter,
waiting up there by the ford!'
Portly had soon been comforted by the promise of a treat--a jaunt
on the river in Mr. Rat's real boat; and the two animals
conducted him to the water's side, placed him securely between
them in the bottom of the boat, and paddled off down the
backwater. The sun was fully up by now, and hot on them, birds
sang lustily and without restraint, and flowers smiled and nodded
from either bank, but somehow--so thought the animals--with less
of richness and blaze of colour than they seemed to remember
seeing quite recently somewhere--they wondered where.
The main river reached again, they turned the boat's head
upstream, towards the point where they knew their friend was
keeping his lonely vigil. As they drew near the familiar ford,
the Mole took the boat in to the bank, and they lifted Portly out
and set him on his legs on the tow-path, gave him his marching
orders and a friendly farewell pat on the back, and shoved out
into mid-stream. They watched the little animal as he waddled
along the path contentedly and with importance; watched him
till they saw his muzzle suddenly lift and his waddle break into
a clumsy amble as he quickened his pace with shrill whines and
wriggles of recognition. Looking up the river, they could see
Otter start up, tense and rigid, from out of the shallows where
he crouched in dumb patience, and could hear his amazed and
joyous bark as he bounded up through the osiers on to the path.
Then the Mole, with a strong pull on one oar, swung the boat
round and let the full stream bear them down again whither it
would, their quest now happily ended.
`I feel strangely tired, Rat,' said the Mole, leaning wearily
over his oars as the boat drifted. `It's being up all night,
you'll say, perhaps; but that's nothing. We do as much half the
nights of the week, at this time of the year. No; I feel as if I
had been through something very exciting and rather terrible, and
it was just over; and yet nothing particular has happened.'
`Or something very surprising and splendid and beautiful,'
murmured the Rat, leaning back and closing his eyes. `I feel
just as you do, Mole; simply dead tired, though not body
tired. It's lucky we've got the stream with us, to take us
home. Isn't it jolly to feel the sun again, soaking into one's
bones! And hark to the wind playing in the reeds!'
`It's like music--far away music,' said the Mole nodding
`So I was thinking,' murmured the Rat, dreamful and languid.
`Dance-music--the lilting sort that runs on without a stop--but
with words in it, too--it passes into words and out of them
again--I catch them at intervals--then it is dance-music once
more, and then nothing but the reeds' soft thin whispering.'
`You hear better than I,' said the Mole sadly. `I cannot catch
`Let me try and give you them,' said the Rat softly, his eyes
still closed. `Now it is turning into words again--faint but
clear-- Lest the awe should dwell--And turn your frolic to
fret--You shall look on my power at the helping hour--But then
you shall forget! Now the reeds take it up--forget, forget,
they sigh, and it dies away in a rustle and a whisper. Then the
`Lest limbs be reddened and rent--I spring the trap that is
set--As I loose the snare you may glimpse me there--For
surely you shall forget! Row nearer, Mole, nearer to the reeds!
It is hard to catch, and grows each minute fainter.
`Helper and healer, I cheer--Small waifs in the woodland wet--
Strays I find in it, wounds I bind in it--Bidding them all
forget! Nearer, Mole, nearer! No, it is no good; the song has
died away into reed-talk.'
`But what do the words mean?' asked the wondering Mole.
`That I do not know,' said the Rat simply. `I passed them on to
you as they reached me. Ah! now they return again, and this time
full and clear! This time, at last, it is the real, the
unmistakable thing, simple--passionate--perfect----'
`Well, let's have it, then,' said the Mole, after he had waited
patiently for a few minutes, half-dozing in the hot sun.
But no answer came. He looked, and understood the silence. With
a smile of much happiness on his face, and something of a
listening look still lingering there, the weary Rat was fast
When Toad found himself immured in a dank and noisome dungeon,
and knew that all the grim darkness of a medieval fortress lay
between him and the outer world of sunshine and well-metalled
high roads where he had lately been so happy, disporting himself
as if he had bought up every road in England, he flung himself at
full length on the floor, and shed bitter tears, and abandoned
himself to dark despair. `This is the end of everything' (he
said), `at least it is the end of the career of Toad, which is
the same thing; the popular and handsome Toad, the rich and
hospitable Toad, the Toad so free and careless and debonair! How
can I hope to be ever set at large again' (he said), `who have
been imprisoned so justly for stealing so handsome a motor-car in
such an audacious manner, and for such lurid and
imaginative cheek, bestowed upon such a number of fat, red-faced
policemen!' (Here his sobs choked him.) `Stupid animal that I
was' (he said), `now I must languish in this dungeon, till people
who were proud to say they knew me, have forgotten the very name
of Toad! O wise old Badger!' (he said), `O clever, intelligent
Rat and sensible Mole! What sound judgments, what a knowledge of
men and matters you possess! O unhappy and forsaken Toad!' With
lamentations such as these he passed his days and nights for
several weeks, refusing his meals or intermediate light
refreshments, though the grim and ancient gaoler, knowing that
Toad's pockets were well lined, frequently pointed out that many
comforts, and indeed luxuries, could by arrangement be sent in--
at a price--from outside.
Now the gaoler had a daughter, a pleasant wench and good-hearted,
who assisted her father in the lighter duties of his post. She
was particularly fond of animals, and, besides her canary, whose
cage hung on a nail in the massive wall of the keep by day, to
the great annoyance of prisoners who relished an afterdinner
nap, and was shrouded in an antimacassar on the parlour table at
night, she kept several piebald mice and a restless revolving
squirrel. This kind-hearted girl, pitying the misery of Toad,
said to her father one day, `Father! I can't bear to see that
poor beast so unhappy, and getting so thin! You let me have the
managing of him. You know how fond of animals I am. I'll make
him eat from my hand, and sit up, and do all sorts of things.'
Her father replied that she could do what she liked with him. He
was tired of Toad, and his sulks and his airs and his meanness.
So that day she went on her errand of mercy, and knocked at the
door of Toad's cell.
`Now, cheer up, Toad,' she said, coaxingly, on entering, `and sit
up and dry your eyes and be a sensible animal. And do try and
eat a bit of dinner. See, I've brought you some of mine, hot
from the oven!'
It was bubble-and-squeak, between two plates, and its fragrance
filled the narrow cell. The penetrating smell of cabbage reached
the nose of Toad as he lay prostrate in his misery on the floor,
and gave him the idea for a moment that perhaps life was not such
a blank and desperate thing as he had imagined. But still
he wailed, and kicked with his legs, and refused to be comforted.
So the wise girl retired for the time, but, of course, a good
deal of the smell of hot cabbage remained behind, as it will do,
and Toad, between his sobs, sniffed and reflected, and gradually
began to think new and inspiring thoughts: of chivalry, and
poetry, and deeds still to be done; of broad meadows, and cattle
browsing in them, raked by sun and wind; of kitchen-gardens, and
straight herb-borders, and warm snap-dragon beset by bees; and of
the comforting clink of dishes set down on the table at Toad
Hall, and the scrape of chair-legs on the floor as every one
pulled himself close up to his work. The air of the narrow cell
took a rosy tinge; he began to think of his friends, and how they
would surely be able to do something; of lawyers, and how they
would have enjoyed his case, and what an ass he had been not to
get in a few; and lastly, he thought of his own great cleverness
and resource, and all that he was capable of if he only gave his
great mind to it; and the cure was almost complete.
When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a
tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate
piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on
both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in
great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of
that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain
voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty
mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when
one's ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the
fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of
sleepy canaries. Toad sat up on end once more, dried his eyes,
sipped his tea and munched his toast, and soon began talking
freely about himself, and the house he lived in, and his doings
there, and how important he was, and what a lot his friends
thought of him.
The gaoler's daughter saw that the topic was doing him as much
good as the tea, as indeed it was, and encouraged him to go on.
`Tell me about Toad Hall," said she. `It sounds beautiful.'
`Toad Hall,' said the Toad proudly, `is an eligible self-
contained gentleman's residence very unique; dating in part
from the fourteenth century, but replete with every modern
convenience. Up-to-date sanitation. Five minutes from church,
post-office, and golf-links, Suitable for----'
`Bless the animal,' said the girl, laughing, `I don't want to
TAKE it. Tell me something REAL about it. But first wait
till I fetch you some more tea and toast.'
She tripped away, and presently returned with a fresh trayful;
and Toad, pitching into the toast with avidity, his spirits quite
restored to their usual level, told her about the boathouse, and
the fish-pond, and the old walled kitchen-garden; and about the
pig-styes, and the stables, and the pigeon-house, and the hen-
house; and about the dairy, and the wash-house, and the china-
cupboards, and the linen-presses (she liked that bit especially);
and about the banqueting-hall, and the fun they had there when
the other animals were gathered round the table and Toad was at
his best, singing songs, telling stories, carrying on generally.
Then she wanted to know about his animal-friends, and was very
interested in all he had to tell her about them and how they
lived, and what they did to pass their time. Of course, she
did not say she was fond of animals as PETS, because she had
the sense to see that Toad would be extremely offended. When she
said good night, having filled his water-jug and shaken up his
straw for him, Toad was very much the same sanguine, self-
satisfied animal that he had been of old. He sang a little song
or two, of the sort he used to sing at his dinner-parties, curled
himself up in the straw, and had an excellent night's rest and
the pleasantest of dreams.
They had many interesting talks together, after that, as the
dreary days went on; and the gaoler's daughter grew very sorry
for Toad, and thought it a great shame that a poor little animal
should be locked up in prison for what seemed to her a very
trivial offence. Toad, of course, in his vanity, thought that
her interest in him proceeded from a growing tenderness; and he
could not help half-regretting that the social gulf between them
was so very wide, for she was a comely lass, and evidently
admired him very much.
One morning the girl was very thoughtful, and answered at random,
and did not seem to Toad to be paying proper attention to
his witty sayings and sparkling comments.
`Toad,' she said presently, `just listen, please. I have an aunt
who is a washerwoman.'
`There, there,' said Toad, graciously and affably, `never mind;
think no more about it. _I_ have several aunts who OUGHT to
`Do be quiet a minute, Toad,' said the girl. `You talk too much,
that's your chief fault, and I'm trying to think, and you hurt my
head. As I said, I have an aunt who is a washerwoman; she does
the washing for all the prisoners in this castle--we try to keep
any paying business of that sort in the family, you understand.
She takes out the washing on Monday morning, and brings it in on
Friday evening. This is a Thursday. Now, this is what occurs to
me: you're very rich--at least you're always telling me so--and
she's very poor. A few pounds wouldn't make any difference to
you, and it would mean a lot to her. Now, I think if she were
properly approached--squared, I believe is the word you animals
use--you could come to some arrangement by which she would let
you have her dress and bonnet and so on, and you could
escape from the castle as the official washerwoman. You're very
alike in many respects--particularly about the figure.'
`We're NOT,' said the Toad in a huff. `I have a very elegant
figure--for what I am.'
`So has my aunt,' replied the girl, `for what SHE is. But
have it your own way. You horrid, proud, ungrateful animal, when
I'm sorry for you, and trying to help you!'
`Yes, yes, that's all right; thank you very much indeed,' said
the Toad hurriedly. `But look here! you wouldn't surely have Mr.
Toad of Toad Hall, going about the country disguised as a
`Then you can stop here as a Toad,' replied the girl with much
spirit. `I suppose you want to go off in a coach-and-four!'
Honest Toad was always ready to admit himself in the wrong. `You
are a good, kind, clever girl,' he said, `and I am indeed a proud
and a stupid toad. Introduce me to your worthy aunt, if you will
be so kind, and I have no doubt that the excellent lady and I
will be able to arrange terms satisfactory to both parties.'
Next evening the girl ushered her aunt into Toad's cell,
bearing his week's washing pinned up in a towel. The old lady
had been prepared beforehand for the interview, and the sight of
certain gold sovereigns that Toad had thoughtfully placed on the
table in full view practically completed the matter and left
little further to discuss. In return for his cash, Toad received
a cotton print gown, an apron, a shawl, and a rusty black bonnet;
the only stipulation the old lady made being that she should be
gagged and bound and dumped down in a corner. By this not very
convincing artifice, she explained, aided by picturesque fiction
which she could supply herself, she hoped to retain her
situation, in spite of the suspicious appearance of things.
Toad was delighted with the suggestion. It would enable him to
leave the prison in some style, and with his reputation for being
a desperate and dangerous fellow untarnished; and he readily
helped the gaoler's daughter to make her aunt appear as much as
possible the victim of circumstances over which she had no
`Now it's your turn, Toad,' said the girl. `Take off that coat
and waistcoat of yours; you're fat enough as it is.'
Shaking with laughter, she proceeded to `hook-and-eye' him into
the cotton print gown, arranged the shawl with a professional
fold, and tied the strings of the rusty bonnet under his chin.
`You're the very image of her,' she giggled, `only I'm sure you
never looked half so respectable in all your life before. Now,
good-bye, Toad, and good luck. Go straight down the way you came
up; and if any one says anything to you, as they probably will,
being but men, you can chaff back a bit, of course, but remember
you're a widow woman, quite alone in the world, with a character
With a quaking heart, but as firm a footstep as he could command,
Toad set forth cautiously on what seemed to be a most hare-
brained and hazardous undertaking; but he was soon agreeably
surprised to find how easy everything was made for him, and a
little humbled at the thought that both his popularity, and the
sex that seemed to inspire it, were really another's. The
washerwoman's squat figure in its familiar cotton print seemed a
passport for every barred door and grim gateway; even when he
hesitated, uncertain as to the right turning to take, he
found himself helped out of his difficulty by the warder at the
next gate, anxious to be off to his tea, summoning him to come
along sharp and not keep him waiting there all night. The chaff
and the humourous sallies to which he was subjected, and to
which, of course, he had to provide prompt and effective reply,
formed, indeed, his chief danger; for Toad was an animal with a
strong sense of his own dignity, and the chaff was mostly (he
thought) poor and clumsy, and the humour of the sallies entirely
lacking. However, he kept his temper, though with great
difficulty, suited his retorts to his company and his supposed
character, and did his best not to overstep the limits of good
It seemed hours before he crossed the last courtyard, rejected
the pressing invitations from the last guardroom, and dodged the
outspread arms of the last warder, pleading with simulated
passion for just one farewell embrace. But at last he heard the
wicket-gate in the great outer door click behind him, felt the
fresh air of the outer world upon his anxious brow, and knew that
he was free!
Dizzy with the easy success of his daring exploit, he walked
quickly towards the lights of the town, not knowing in the least
what he should do next, only quite certain of one thing, that he
must remove himself as quickly as possible from the neighbourhood
where the lady he was forced to represent was so well-known and
so popular a character.
As he walked along, considering, his attention was caught by some
red and green lights a little way off, to one side of the town,
and the sound of the puffing and snorting of engines and the
banging of shunted trucks fell on his ear. `Aha!' he thought,
`this is a piece of luck! A railway station is the thing I want
most in the whole world at this moment; and what's more, I
needn't go through the town to get it, and shan't have to support
this humiliating character by repartees which, though thoroughly
effective, do not assist one's sense of self-respect.'
He made his way to the station accordingly, consulted a time-
table, and found that a train, bound more or less in the
direction of his home, was due to start in half-an-hour. `More
luck!' said Toad, his spirits rising rapidly, and went off to the
booking-office to buy his ticket.
He gave the name of the station that he knew to be nearest to the
village of which Toad Hall was the principal feature, and
mechanically put his fingers, in search of the necessary money,
where his waiscoat pocket should have been. But here the cotton
gown, which had nobly stood by him so far, and which he had
basely forgotten, intervened, and frustrated his efforts. In a
sort of nightmare he struggled with the strange uncanny thing
that seemed to hold his hands, turn all muscular strivings to
water, and laugh at him all the time; while other travellers,
forming up in a line behind, waited with impatience, making
suggestions of more or less value and comments of more or less
stringency and point. At last--somehow--he never rightly
understood how--he burst the barriers, attained the goal, arrived
at where all waistcoat pockets are eternally situated, and
found--not only no money, but no pocket to hold it, and no
waistcoat to hold the pocket!
To his horror he recollected that he had left both coat and
waistcoat behind him in his cell, and with them his pocket-book,
money, keys, watch, matches, pencil-case--all that makes life
worth living, all that distinguishes the many-pocketed
animal, the lord of creation, from the inferior one-pocketed or
no-pocketed productions that hop or trip about permissively,
unequipped for the real contest.
In his misery he made one desperate effort to carry the thing
off, and, with a return to his fine old manner--a blend of the
Squire and the College Don--he said, `Look here! I find I've
left my purse behind. Just give me that ticket, will you, and
I'll send the money on to-morrow? I'm well-known in these
The clerk stared at him and the rusty black bonnet a moment, and
then laughed. `I should think you were pretty well known in
these parts,' he said, `if you've tried this game on often.
Here, stand away from the window, please, madam; you're
obstructing the other passengers!'
An old gentleman who had been prodding him in the back for some
moments here thrust him away, and, what was worse, addressed him
as his good woman, which angered Toad more than anything that had
occurred that evening.
Baffled and full of despair, he wandered blindly down the
platform where the train was standing, and tears trickled down
each side of his nose. It was hard, he thought, to be
within sight of safety and almost of home, and to be baulked by
the want of a few wretched shillings and by the pettifogging
mistrustfulness of paid officials. Very soon his escape would be
discovered, the hunt would be up, he would be caught, reviled,
loaded with chains, dragged back again to prison and bread-and-
water and straw; his guards and penalities would be doubled; and
O, what sarcastic remarks the girl would make! What was to be
done? He was not swift of foot; his figure was unfortunately
recognisable. Could he not squeeze under the seat of a carriage?
He had seen this method adopted by schoolboys, when the journey-
money provided by thoughtful parents had been diverted to other
and better ends. As he pondered, he found himself opposite the
engine, which was being oiled, wiped, and generally caressed by
its affectionate driver, a burly man with an oil-can in one hand
and a lump of cotton-waste in the other.
`Hullo, mother!' said the engine-driver, `what's the trouble?
You don't look particularly cheerful.'
`O, sir!' said Toad, crying afresh, `I am a poor unhappy
washerwoman, and I've lost all my money, and can't pay for a
ticket, and I must get home to-night somehow, and whatever I am
to do I don't know. O dear, O dear!'
`That's a bad business, indeed,' said the engine-driver
reflectively. `Lost your money--and can't get home--and got some
kids, too, waiting for you, I dare say?'
`Any amount of 'em,' sobbed Toad. `And they'll be hungry--and
playing with matches--and upsetting lamps, the little
innocents!--and quarrelling, and going on generally. O dear, O
`Well, I'll tell you what I'll do,' said the good engine-driver.
`You're a washerwoman to your trade, says you. Very well, that's
that. And I'm an engine-driver, as you well may see, and there's
no denying it's terribly dirty work. Uses up a power of shirts,
it does, till my missus is fair tired of washing of 'em. If
you'll wash a few shirts for me when you get home, and send 'em
along, I'll give you a ride on my engine. It's against the
Company's regulations, but we're not so very particular in these
The Toad's misery turned into rapture as he eagerly
scrambled up into the cab of the engine. Of course, he had never
washed a shirt in his life, and couldn't if he tried and, anyhow,
he wasn't going to begin; but he thought: `When I get safely home
to Toad Hall, and have money again, and pockets to put it in, I
will send the engine-driver enough to pay for quite a quantity of
washing, and that will be the same thing, or better.'
The guard waved his welcome flag, the engine-driver whistled in
cheerful response, and the train moved out of the station. As
the speed increased, and the Toad could see on either side of him
real fields, and trees, and hedges, and cows, and horses, all
flying past him, and as he thought how every minute was bringing
him nearer to Toad Hall, and sympathetic friends, and money to
chink in his pocket, and a soft bed to sleep in, and good things
to eat, and praise and admiration at the recital of his
adventures and his surpassing cleverness, he began to skip up and
down and shout and sing snatches of song, to the great
astonishment of the engine-driver, who had come across
washerwomen before, at long intervals, but never one at all like
They had covered many and many a mile, and Toad was already
considering what he would have for supper as soon as he got home,
when he noticed that the engine-driver, with a puzzled expression
on his face, was leaning over the side of the engine and
listening hard. Then he saw him climb on to the coals and gaze
out over the top of the train; then he returned and said to Toad:
`It's very strange; we're the last train running in this
direction to-night, yet I could be sworn that I heard another
Toad ceased his frivolous antics at once. He became grave and
depressed, and a dull pain in the lower part of his spine,
communicating itself to his legs, made him want to sit down and
try desperately not to think of all the possibilities.
By this time the moon was shining brightly, and the engine-
driver, steadying himself on the coal, could command a view of
the line behind them for a long distance.
Presently he called out, `I can see it clearly now! It is an
engine, on our rails, coming along at a great pace! It looks as
if we were being pursued!'
The miserable Toad, crouching in the coal-dust, tried hard
to think of something to do, with dismal want of success.
`They are gaining on us fast!' cried the engine-driver. And the
engine is crowded with the queerest lot of people! Men like
ancient warders, waving halberds; policemen in their helmets,
waving truncheons; and shabbily dressed men in pot-hats, obvious
and unmistakable plain-clothes detectives even at this distance,
waving revolvers and walking-sticks; all waving, and all shouting
the same thing--"Stop, stop, stop!"'
Then Toad fell on his knees among the coals and, raising his
clasped paws in supplication, cried, `Save me, only save me, dear
kind Mr. Engine-driver, and I will confess everything! I am not
the simple washerwoman I seem to be! I have no children waiting
for me, innocent or otherwise! I am a toad--the well-known and
popular Mr. Toad, a landed proprietor; I have just escaped, by my
great daring and cleverness, from a loathsome dungeon into which
my enemies had flung me; and if those fellows on that engine
recapture me, it will be chains and bread-and-water and straw and
misery once more for poor, unhappy, innocent Toad!'
The engine-driver looked down upon him very sternly, and said,
`Now tell the truth; what were you put in prison for?'
`It was nothing very much,' said poor Toad, colouring deeply. `I
only borrowed a motorcar while the owners were at lunch; they had
no need of it at the time. I didn't mean to steal it, really;
but people--especially magistrates--take such harsh views of
thoughtless and high-spirited actions.'
The engine-driver looked very grave and said, `I fear that you
have been indeed a wicked toad, and by rights I ought to give you
up to offended justice. But you are evidently in sore trouble
and distress, so I will not desert you. I don't hold with motor-
cars, for one thing; and I don't hold with being ordered about by
policemen when I'm on my own engine, for another. And the sight
of an animal in tears always makes me feel queer and softhearted.
So cheer up, Toad! I'll do my best, and we may beat them yet!'
They piled on more coals, shovelling furiously; the furnace
roared, the sparks flew, the engine leapt and swung but still
their pursuers slowly gained. The engine-driver, with a sigh,
wiped his brow with a handful of cotton-waste, and said,
`I'm afraid it's no good, Toad. You see, they are running light,
and they have the better engine. There's just one thing left for
us to do, and it's your only chance, so attend very carefully to
what I tell you. A short way ahead of us is a long tunnel, and
on the other side of that the line passes through a thick wood.
Now, I will put on all the speed I can while we are running
through the tunnel, but the other fellows will slow down a bit,
naturally, for fear of an accident. When we are through, I will
shut off steam and put on brakes as hard as I can, and the moment
it's safe to do so you must jump and hide in the wood, before
they get through the tunnel and see you. Then I will go full
speed ahead again, and they can chase me if they like, for as
long as they like, and as far as they like. Now mind and be
ready to jump when I tell you!'
They piled on more coals, and the train shot into the tunnel, and
the engine rushed and roared and rattled, till at last they shot
out at the other end into fresh air and the peaceful moonlight,
and saw the wood lying dark and helpful upon either side of the
line. The driver shut off steam and put on brakes, the Toad
got down on the step, and as the train slowed down to almost a
walking pace he heard the driver call out, `Now, jump!'
Toad jumped, rolled down a short embankment, picked himself up
unhurt, scrambled into the wood and hid.
Peeping out, he saw his train get up speed again and disappear at
a great pace. Then out of the tunnel burst the pursuing engine,
roaring and whistling, her motley crew waving their various
weapons and shouting, `Stop! stop! stop!' When they were past,
the Toad had a hearty laugh--for the first time since he was
thrown into prison.
But he soon stopped laughing when he came to consider that it was
now very late and dark and cold, and he was in an unknown wood,
with no money and no chance of supper, and still far from friends
and home; and the dead silence of everything, after the roar and
rattle of the train, was something of a shock. He dared not
leave the shelter of the trees, so he struck into the wood, with
the idea of leaving the railway as far as possible behind him.
After so many weeks within walls, he found the wood strange
and unfriendly and inclined, he thought, to make fun of him.
Night-jars, sounding their mechanical rattle, made him think that
the wood was full of searching warders, closing in on him. An
owl, swooping noiselessly towards him, brushed his shoulder with
its wing, making him jump with the horrid certainty that it was a
hand; then flitted off, moth-like, laughing its low ho! ho! ho;
which Toad thought in very poor taste. Once he met a fox, who
stopped, looked him up and down in a sarcastic sort of way, and
said, `Hullo, washerwoman! Half a pair of socks and a pillow-
case short this week! Mind it doesn't occur again!' and
swaggered off, sniggering. Toad looked about for a stone to
throw at him, but could not succeed in finding one, which vexed
him more than anything. At last, cold, hungry, and tired out, he
sought the shelter of a hollow tree, where with branches and dead
leaves he made himself as comfortable a bed as he could, and
slept soundly till the morning.
The Water Rat was restless, and he did not exactly know why. To
all appearance the summer's pomp was still at fullest height, and
although in the tilled acres green had given way to gold, though
rowans were reddening, and the woods were dashed here and there
with a tawny fierceness, yet light and warmth and colour were
still present in undiminished measure, clean of any chilly
premonitions of the passing year. But the constant chorus of the
orchards and hedges had shrunk to a casual evensong from a few
yet unwearied performers; the robin was beginning to assert
himself once more; and there was a feeling in the air of change
and departure. The cuckoo, of course, had long been silent; but
many another feathered friend, for months a part of the familiar
landscape and its small society, was missing too and it
seemed that the ranks thinned steadily day by day. Rat, ever
observant of all winged movement, saw that it was taking daily a
southing tendency; and even as he lay in bed at night he thought
he could make out, passing in the darkness overhead, the beat and
quiver of impatient pinions, obedient to the peremptory call.
Nature's Grand Hotel has its Season, like the others. As the
guests one by one pack, pay, and depart, and the seats at the
table-d'hote shrink pitifully at each succeeding meal; as
suites of rooms are closed, carpets taken up, and waiters sent
away; those boarders who are staying on, en pension, until the
next year's full re-opening, cannot help being somewhat affected
by all these flittings and farewells, this eager discussion of
plans, routes, and fresh quarters, this daily shrinkage in the
stream of comradeship. One gets unsettled, depressed, and
inclined to be querulous. Why this craving for change? Why not
stay on quietly here, like us, and be jolly? You don't know this
hotel out of the season, and what fun we have among ourselves, we
fellows who remain and see the whole interesting year out. All
very true, no doubt the others always reply; we quite envy
you--and some other year perhaps--but just now we have
engagements--and there's the bus at the door--our time is up! So
they depart, with a smile and a nod, and we miss them, and feel
resentful. The Rat was a self-sufficing sort of animal, rooted
to the land, and, whoever went, he stayed; still, he could not
help noticing what was in the air, and feeling some of its
influence in his bones.
It was difficult to settle down to anything seriously, with all
this flitting going on. Leaving the water-side, where rushes
stood thick and tall in a stream that was becoming sluggish and
low, he wandered country-wards, crossed a field or two of
pasturage already looking dusty and parched, and thrust into the
great sea of wheat, yellow, wavy, and murmurous, full of quiet
motion and small whisperings. Here he often loved to wander,
through the forest of stiff strong stalks that carried their own
golden sky away over his head--a sky that was always dancing,
shimmering, softly talking; or swaying strongly to the passing
wind and recovering itself with a toss and a merry laugh. Here,
too, he had many small friends, a society complete in
itself, leading full and busy lives, but always with a spare
moment to gossip, and exchange news with a visitor. Today,
however, though they were civil enough, the field-mice and
harvest-mice seemed preoccupied. Many were digging and
tunnelling busily; others, gathered together in small groups,
examined plans and drawings of small flats, stated to be
desirable and compact, and situated conveniently near the Stores.
Some were hauling out dusty trunks and dress-baskets, others were
already elbow-deep packing their belongings; while everywhere
piles and bundles of wheat, oats, barley, beech-mast and nuts,
lay about ready for transport.
`Here's old Ratty!' they cried as soon as they saw him. `Come
and bear a hand, Rat, and don't stand about idle!'
`What sort of games are you up to?' said the Water Rat severely.
`You know it isn't time to be thinking of winter quarters yet, by
a long way!'
`O yes, we know that,' explained a field-mouse rather
shamefacedly; `but it's always as well to be in good time, isn't
it? We really MUST get all the furniture and baggage and
stores moved out of this before those horrid machines begin
clicking round the fields; and then, you know, the best flats get
picked up so quickly nowadays, and if you're late you have to put
up with ANYTHING; and they want such a lot of doing up, too,
before they're fit to move into. Of course, we're early, we know
that; but we're only just making a start.'
`O, bother STARTS,' said the Rat. `It's a splendid day. Come
for a row, or a stroll along the hedges, or a picnic in the
woods, or something.'
`Well, I THINK not TO-DAY, thank you,' replied the field-
mouse hurriedly. `Perhaps some OTHER day--when we've more
The Rat, with a snort of contempt, swung round to go, tripped
over a hat-box, and fell, with undignified remarks.
`If people would be more careful,' said a field-mouse rather
stiffly, `and look where they're going, people wouldn't hurt
themselves--and forget themselves. Mind that hold-all, Rat!
You'd better sit down somewhere. In an hour or two we may be
more free to attend to you.'
`You won't be "free" as you call it much this side of
Christmas, I can see that,' retorted the Rat grumpily, as he
picked his way out of the field.
He returned somewhat despondently to his river again--his
faithful, steady-going old river, which never packed up, flitted,
or went into winter quarters.
In the osiers which fringed the bank he spied a swallow sitting.
Presently it was joined by another, and then by a third; and the
birds, fidgeting restlessly on their bough, talked together
earnestly and low.
`What, ALREADY,' said the Rat, strolling up to them. `What's
the hurry? I call it simply ridiculous.'
`O, we're not off yet, if that's what you mean,' replied the
first swallow. `We're only making plans and arranging things.
Talking it over, you know--what route we're taking this year, and
where we'll stop, and so on. That's half the fun!'
`Fun?' said the Rat; `now that's just what I don't understand.
If you've GOT to leave this pleasant place, and your friends
who will miss you, and your snug homes that you've just settled
into, why, when the hour strikes I've no doubt you'll go
bravely, and face all the trouble and discomfort and change and
newness, and make believe that you're not very unhappy. But to
want to talk about it, or even think about it, till you really
`No, you don't understand, naturally,' said the second swallow.
`First, we feel it stirring within us, a sweet unrest; then back
come the recollections one by one, like homing pigeons. They
flutter through our dreams at night, they fly with us in our
wheelings and circlings by day. We hunger to inquire of each
other, to compare notes and assure ourselves that it was all
really true, as one by one the scents and sounds and names of
long-forgotten places come gradually back and beckon to us.'
`Couldn't you stop on for just this year?' suggested the Water
Rat, wistfully. `We'll all do our best to make you feel at home.
You've no idea what good times we have here, while you are far
`I tried "stopping on" one year,' said the third swallow. `I had
grown so fond of the place that when the time came I hung back
and let the others go on without me. For a few weeks it was all
well enough, but afterwards, O the weary length of the
nights! The shivering, sunless days! The air so clammy and
chill, and not an insect in an acre of it! No, it was no good;
my courage broke down, and one cold, stormy night I took wing,
flying well inland on account of the strong easterly gales. It
was snowing hard as I beat through the passes of the great
mountains, and I had a stiff fight to win through; but never
shall I forget the blissful feeling of the hot sun again on my
back as I sped down to the lakes that lay so blue and placid
below me, and the taste of my first fat insect! The past was
like a bad dream; the future was all happy holiday as I moved
southwards week by week, easily, lazily, lingering as long as I
dared, but always heeding the call! No, I had had my warning;
never again did I think of disobedience.'
`Ah, yes, the call of the South, of the South!' twittered the
other two dreamily. `Its songs its hues, its radiant air! O, do
you remember----' and, forgetting the Rat, they slid into
passionate reminiscence, while he listened fascinated, and his
heart burned within him. In himself, too, he knew that it was
vibrating at last, that chord hitherto dormant and
unsuspected. The mere chatter of these southern-bound
birds, their pale and second-hand reports, had yet power to
awaken this wild new sensation and thrill him through and through
with it; what would one moment of the real thing work in him--one
passionate touch of the real southern sun, one waft of the
authentic odor? With closed eyes he dared to dream a moment in
full abandonment, and when he looked again the river seemed
steely and chill, the green fields grey and lightless. Then his
loyal heart seemed to cry out on his weaker self for its
`Why do you ever come back, then, at all?' he demanded of the
swallows jealously. `What do you find to attract you in this
poor drab little country?'
`And do you think,' said the first swallow, `that the other call
is not for us too, in its due season? The call of lush meadow-
grass, wet orchards, warm, insect-haunted ponds, of browsing
cattle, of haymaking, and all the farm-buildings clustering round
the House of the perfect Eaves?'
`Do you suppose,' asked the second one, that you are the only
living thing that craves with a hungry longing to hear the
cuckoo's note again?'
`In due time,' said the third, `we shall be home-sick once more
for quiet water-lilies swaying on the surface of an English
stream. But to-day all that seems pale and thin and very far
away. Just now our blood dances to other music.'
They fell a-twittering among themselves once more, and this time
their intoxicating babble was of violet seas, tawny sands, and
Restlessly the Rat wandered off once more, climbed the slope that
rose gently from the north bank of the river, and lay looking out
towards the great ring of Downs that barred his vision further
southwards--his simple horizon hitherto, his Mountains of the
Moon, his limit behind which lay nothing he had cared to see or
to know. To-day, to him gazing South with a new-born need
stirring in his heart, the clear sky over their long low outline
seemed to pulsate with promise; to-day, the unseen was
everything, the unknown the only real fact of life. On this side
of the hills was now the real blank, on the other lay the crowded
and coloured panorama that his inner eye was seeing so
clearly. What seas lay beyond, green, leaping, and crested!
What sun-bathed coasts, along which the white villas glittered
against the olive woods! What quiet harbours, thronged with
gallant shipping bound for purple islands of wine and spice,
islands set low in languorous waters!
He rose and descended river-wards once more; then changed his
mind and sought the side of the dusty lane. There, lying half-
buried in the thick, cool under-hedge tangle that bordered it, he
could muse on the metalled road and all the wondrous world that
it led to; on all the wayfarers, too, that might have trodden it,
and the fortunes and adventures they had gone to seek or found
unseeking--out there, beyond--beyond!
Footsteps fell on his ear, and the figure of one that walked
somewhat wearily came into view; and he saw that it was a Rat,
and a very dusty one. The wayfarer, as he reached him, saluted
with a gesture of courtesy that had something foreign about it--
hesitated a moment--then with a pleasant smile turned from the
track and sat down by his side in the cool herbage. He seemed
tired, and the Rat let him rest unquestioned, understanding
something of what was in his thoughts; knowing, too, the value
all animals attach at times to mere silent companionship, when
the weary muscles slacken and the mind marks time.
The wayfarer was lean and keen-featured, and somewhat bowed at
the shoulders; his paws were thin and long, his eyes much
wrinkled at the corners, and he wore small gold ear rings in his
neatly-set well-shaped ears. His knitted jersey was of a faded
blue, his breeches, patched and stained, were based on a blue
foundation, and his small belongings that he carried were tied up
in a blue cotton handkerchief.
When he had rested awhile the stranger sighed, snuffed the air,
and looked about him.
`That was clover, that warm whiff on the breeze,' he remarked;
`and those are cows we hear cropping the grass behind us and
blowing softly between mouthfuls. There is a sound of distant
reapers, and yonder rises a blue line of cottage smoke against
the woodland. The river runs somewhere close by, for I hear the
call of a moorhen, and I see by your build that you're a
freshwater mariner. Everything seems asleep, and yet going
on all the time. It is a goodly life that you lead, friend; no
doubt the best in the world, if only you are strong enough to
`Yes, it's THE life, the only life, to live,' responded the
Water Rat dreamily, and without his usual whole-hearted
`I did not say exactly that,' replied the stranger cautiously;
`but no doubt it's the best. I've tried it, and I know. And
because I've just tried it--six months of it--and know it's the
best, here am I, footsore and hungry, tramping away from it,
tramping southward, following the old call, back to the old life,
THE life which is mine and which will not let me go.'
`Is this, then, yet another of them?' mused the Rat. `And where
have you just come from?' he asked. He hardly dared to ask where
he was bound for; he seemed to know the answer only too well.
`Nice little farm,' replied the wayfarer, briefly. `Upalong in
that direction'--he nodded northwards. `Never mind about it. I
had everything I could want--everything I had any right to expect
of life, and more; and here I am! Glad to be here all the same,
though, glad to be here! So many miles further on the road,
so many hours nearer to my heart's desire!'
His shining eyes held fast to the horizon, and he seemed to be
listening for some sound that was wanting from that inland
acreage, vocal as it was with the cheerful music of pasturage and
`You are not one of US,' said the Water Rat, `nor yet a
farmer; nor even, I should judge, of this country.'
`Right,' replied the stranger. `I'm a seafaring rat, I am, and
the port I originally hail from is Constantinople, though I'm a
sort of a foreigner there too, in a manner of speaking. You will
have heard of Constantinople, friend? A fair city, and an
ancient and glorious one. And you may have heard, too, of
Sigurd, King of Norway, and how he sailed thither with sixty
ships, and how he and his men rode up through streets all
canopied in their honour with purple and gold; and how the
Emperor and Empress came down and banqueted with him on board his
ship. When Sigurd returned home, many of his Northmen remained
behind and entered the Emperor's body-guard, and my
ancestor, a Norwegian born, stayed behind too, with the ships
that Sigurd gave the Emperor. Seafarers we have ever been, and
no wonder; as for me, the city of my birth is no more my home
than any pleasant port between there and the London River. I
know them all, and they know me. Set me down on any of their
quays or foreshores, and I am home again.'
`I suppose you go great voyages,' said the Water Rat with growing
interest. `Months and months out of sight of land, and
provisions running short, and allowanced as to water, and your
mind communing with the mighty ocean, and all that sort of
`By no means,' said the Sea Rat frankly. `Such a life as you
describe would not suit me at all. I'm in the coasting trade,
and rarely out of sight of land. It's the jolly times on shore
that appeal to me, as much as any seafaring. O, those southern
seaports! The smell of them, the riding-lights at night, the
`Well, perhaps you have chosen the better way,' said the Water
Rat, but rather doubtfully. `Tell me something of your coasting,
then, if you have a mind to, and what sort of harvest an
animal of spirit might hope to bring home from it to warm his
latter days with gallant memories by the fireside; for my life, I
confess to you, feels to me to-day somewhat narrow and
`My last voyage,' began the Sea Rat, `that landed me eventually
in this country, bound with high hopes for my inland farm, will
serve as a good example of any of them, and, indeed, as an
epitome of my highly-coloured life. Family troubles, as usual,
began it. The domestic storm-cone was hoisted, and I shipped
myself on board a small trading vessel bound from Constantinople,
by classic seas whose every wave throbs with a deathless memory,
to the Grecian Islands and the Levant. Those were golden days
and balmy nights! In and out of harbour all the time--old
friends everywhere--sleeping in some cool temple or ruined
cistern during the heat of the day--feasting and song after
sundown, under great stars set in a velvet sky! Thence we turned
and coasted up the Adriatic, its shores swimming in an atmosphere
of amber, rose, and aquamarine; we lay in wide land-locked
harbours, we roamed through ancient and noble cities, until
at last one morning, as the sun rose royally behind us, we rode
into Venice down a path of gold. O, Venice is a fine city,
wherein a rat can wander at his ease and take his pleasure! Or,
when weary of wandering, can sit at the edge of the Grand Canal
at night, feasting with his friends, when the air is full of
music and the sky full of stars, and the lights flash and shimmer
on the polished steel prows of the swaying gondolas, packed so
that you could walk across the canal on them from side to side!
And then the food--do you like shellfish? Well, well, we won't
linger over that now.'
He was silent for a time; and the Water Rat, silent too and
enthralled, floated on dream-canals and heard a phantom song
pealing high between vaporous grey wave-lapped walls.
`Southwards we sailed again at last,' continued the Sea Rat,
`coasting down the Italian shore, till finally we made Palermo,
and there I quitted for a long, happy spell on shore. I never
stick too long to one ship; one gets narrow-minded and
prejudiced. Besides, Sicily is one of my happy hunting-grounds.
I know everybody there, and their ways just suit me. I
spent many jolly weeks in the island, staying with friends up
country. When I grew restless again I took advantage of a ship
that was trading to Sardinia and Corsica; and very glad I was to
feel the fresh breeze and the sea-spray in my face once more.'
`But isn't it very hot and stuffy, down in the--hold, I think you
call it?' asked the Water Rat.
The seafarer looked at him with the suspicion go a wink. `I'm an
old hand,' he remarked with much simplicity. `The captain's
cabin's good enough for me.'
`It's a hard life, by all accounts,' murmured the Rat, sunk in
`For the crew it is,' replied the seafarer gravely, again with
the ghost of a wink.
`From Corsica,' he went on, `I made use of a ship that was taking
wine to the mainland. We made Alassio in the evening, lay to,
hauled up our wine-casks, and hove them overboard, tied one to
the other by a long line. Then the crew took to the boats and
rowed shorewards, singing as they went, and drawing after them
the long bobbing procession of casks, like a mile of
porpoises. On the sands they had horses waiting, which dragged
the casks up the steep street of the little town with a fine rush
and clatter and scramble. When the last cask was in, we went and
refreshed and rested, and sat late into the night, drinking with
our friends, and next morning I took to the great olive-woods for
a spell and a rest. For now I had done with islands for the
time, and ports and shipping were plentiful; so I led a lazy life
among the peasants, lying and watching them work, or stretched
high on the hillside with the blue Mediterranean far below me.
And so at length, by easy stages, and partly on foot, partly by
sea, to Marseilles, and the meeting of old shipmates, and the
visiting of great ocean-bound vessels, and feasting once more.
Talk of shell-fish! Why, sometimes I dream of the shell-fish of
Marseilles, and wake up crying!'
`That reminds me,' said the polite Water Rat; `you happened to
mention that you were hungry, and I ought to have spoken earlier.
Of course, you will stop and take your midday meal with me? My
hole is close by; it is some time past noon, and you are very
welcome to whatever there is.'
`Now I call that kind and brotherly of you,' said the Sea Rat.
`I was indeed hungry when I sat down, and ever since I
inadvertently happened to mention shell-fish, my pangs have been
extreme. But couldn't you fetch it along out here? I am none
too fond of going under hatches, unless I'm obliged to; and then,
while we eat, I could tell you more concerning my voyages and the
pleasant life I lead--at least, it is very pleasant to me, and by
your attention I judge it commends itself to you; whereas if we
go indoors it is a hundred to one that I shall presently fall
`That is indeed an excellent suggestion,' said the Water Rat, and
hurried off home. There he got out the luncheon-basket and
packed a simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger's origin
and preferences, he took care to include a yard of long French
bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which
lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein
lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes.
Thus laden, he returned with all speed, and blushed for pleasure
at the old seaman's commendations of his taste and judgment, as
together they unpacked the basket and laid out the contents
on the grass by the roadside.
The Sea Rat, as soon as his hunger was somewhat assuaged,
continued the history of his latest voyage, conducting his simple
hearer from port to port of Spain, landing him at Lisbon, Oporto,
and Bordeaux, introducing him to the pleasant harbours of
Cornwall and Devon, and so up the Channel to that final quayside,
where, landing after winds long contrary, storm-driven and
weather-beaten, he had caught the first magical hints and
heraldings of another Spring, and, fired by these, had sped on a
long tramp inland, hungry for the experiment of life on some
quiet farmstead, very far from the weary beating of any sea.
Spell-bound and quivering with excitement, the Water Rat followed
the Adventurer league by league, over stormy bays, through
crowded roadsteads, across harbour bars on a racing tide, up
winding rivers that hid their busy little towns round a sudden
turn; and left him with a regretful sigh planted at his dull
inland farm, about which he desired to hear nothing.
By this time their meal was over, and the Seafarer, refreshed and
strengthened, his voice more vibrant, his eye lit with a
brightness that seemed caught from some far-away sea-beacon,
filled his glass with the red and glowing vintage of the South,
and, leaning towards the Water Rat, compelled his gaze and held
him, body and soul, while he talked. Those eyes were of the
changing foam-streaked grey-green of leaping Northern seas; in
the glass shone a hot ruby that seemed the very heart of the
South, beating for him who had courage to respond to its
pulsation. The twin lights, the shifting grey and the steadfast
red, mastered the Water Rat and held him bound, fascinated,
powerless. The quiet world outside their rays receded far away
and ceased to be. And the talk, the wonderful talk flowed on--or
was it speech entirely, or did it pass at times into song--chanty
of the sailors weighing the dripping anchor, sonorous hum of the
shrouds in a tearing North-Easter, ballad of the fisherman
hauling his nets at sundown against an apricot sky, chords of
guitar and mandoline from gondola or caique? Did it change into
the cry of the wind, plaintive at first, angrily shrill as it
freshened, rising to a tearing whistle, sinking to a musical
trickle of air from the leech of the bellying sail? All
these sounds the spell-bound listener seemed to hear, and
with them the hungry complaint of the gulls and the sea-mews, the
soft thunder of the breaking wave, the cry of the protesting
shingle. Back into speech again it passed, and with beating
heart he was following the adventures of a dozen seaports, the
fights, the escapes, the rallies, the comradeships, the gallant
undertakings; or he searched islands for treasure, fished in
still lagoons and dozed day-long on warm white sand. Of deep-sea
fishings he heard tell, and mighty silver gatherings of the mile-
long net; of sudden perils, noise of breakers on a moonless
night, or the tall bows of the great liner taking shape overhead
through the fog; of the merry home-coming, the headland rounded,
the harbour lights opened out; the groups seen dimly on the quay,
the cheery hail, the splash of the hawser; the trudge up the
steep little street towards the comforting glow of red-curtained
Lastly, in his waking dream it seemed to him that the Adventurer
had risen to his feet, but was still speaking, still holding him
fast with his sea-grey eyes.
`And now,' he was softly saying, `I take to the road again,
holding on southwestwards for many a long and dusty day; till at
last I reach the little grey sea town I know so well, that clings
along one steep side of the harbour. There through dark doorways
you look down flights of stone steps, overhung by great pink
tufts of valerian and ending in a patch of sparkling blue water.
The little boats that lie tethered to the rings and stanchions of
the old sea-wall are gaily painted as those I clambered in and
out of in my own childhood; the salmon leap on the flood tide,
schools of mackerel flash and play past quay-sides and
foreshores, and by the windows the great vessels glide, night and
day, up to their moorings or forth to the open sea. There,
sooner or later, the ships of all seafaring nations arrive; and
there, at its destined hour, the ship of my choice will let go
its anchor. I shall take my time, I shall tarry and bide, till
at last the right one lies waiting for me, warped out into
midstream, loaded low, her bowsprit pointing down harbour. I
shall slip on board, by boat or along hawser; and then one
morning I shall wake to the song and tramp of the sailors, the
clink of the capstan, and the rattle of the anchor-chain
coming merrily in. We shall break out the jib and the
foresail, the white houses on the harbour side will glide slowly
past us as she gathers steering-way, and the voyage will have
begun! As she forges towards the headland she will clothe
herself with canvas; and then, once outside, the sounding slap of
great green seas as she heels to the wind, pointing South!
`And you, you will come too, young brother; for the days pass,
and never return, and the South still waits for you. Take the
Adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes!'
'Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step
forward, and you are out of the old life and into the new! Then
some day, some day long hence, jog home here if you will, when
the cup has been drained and the play has been played, and sit
down by your quiet river with a store of goodly memories for
company. You can easily overtake me on the road, for you are
young, and I am ageing and go softly. I will linger, and look
back; and at last I will surely see you coming, eager and light-
hearted, with all the South in your face!'
The voice died away and ceased as an insect's tiny trumpet
dwindles swiftly into silence; and the Water Rat, paralysed
and staring, saw at last but a distant speck on the white surface
of the road.
Mechanically he rose and proceeded to repack the luncheon-basket,
carefully and without haste. Mechanically he returned home,
gathered together a few small necessaries and special treasures
he was fond of, and put them in a satchel; acting with slow
deliberation, moving about the room like a sleep-walker;
listening ever with parted lips. He swung the satchel over his
shoulder, carefully selected a stout stick for his wayfaring, and
with no haste, but with no hesitation at all, he stepped across
the threshold just as the Mole appeared at the door.
`Why, where are you off to, Ratty?' asked the Mole in great
surprise, grasping him by the arm.
`Going South, with the rest of them,' murmured the Rat in a
dreamy monotone, never looking at him. `Seawards first and then
on shipboard, and so to the shores that are calling me!'
He pressed resolutely forward, still without haste, but with
dogged fixity of purpose; but the Mole, now thoroughly
alarmed, placed himself in front of him, and looking into his
eyes saw that they were glazed and set and turned a streaked and
shifting grey--not his friend's eyes, but the eyes of some other
animal! Grappling with him strongly he dragged him inside, threw
him down, and held him.
The Rat struggled desperately for a few moments, and then his
strength seemed suddenly to leave him, and he lay still and
exhausted, with closed eyes, trembling. Presently the Mole
assisted him to rise and placed him in a chair, where he sat
collapsed and shrunken into himself, his body shaken by a violent
shivering, passing in time into an hysterical fit of dry sobbing.
Mole made the door fast, threw the satchel into a drawer and
locked it, and sat down quietly on the table by his friend,
waiting for the strange seizure to pass. Gradually the Rat sank
into a troubled doze, broken by starts and confused murmurings of
things strange and wild and foreign to the unenlightened Mole;
and from that he passed into a deep slumber.
Very anxious in mind, the Mole left him for a time and busied
himself with household matters; and it was getting dark when
he returned to the parlour and found the Rat where he had left
him, wide awake indeed, but listless, silent, and dejected. He
took one hasty glance at his eyes; found them, to his great
gratification, clear and dark and brown again as before; and then
sat down and tried to cheer him up and help him to relate what
had happened to him.
Poor Ratty did his best, by degrees, to explain things; but how
could he put into cold words what had mostly been suggestion?
How recall, for another's benefit, the haunting sea voices that
had sung to him, how reproduce at second-hand the magic of the
Seafarer's hundred reminiscences? Even to himself, now the spell
was broken and the glamour gone, he found it difficult to account
for what had seemed, some hours ago, the inevitable and only
thing. It is not surprising, then, that he failed to convey to
the Mole any clear idea of what he had been through that day.
To the Mole this much was plain: the fit, or attack, had passed
away, and had left him sane again, though shaken and cast down by
the reaction. But he seemed to have lost all interest for
the time in the things that went to make up his daily life, as
well as in all pleasant forecastings of the altered days and
doings that the changing season was surely bringing.
Casually, then, and with seeming indifference, the Mole turned
his talk to the harvest that was being gathered in, the towering
wagons and their straining teams, the growing ricks, and the
large moon rising over bare acres dotted with sheaves. He talked
of the reddening apples around, of the browning nuts, of jams and
preserves and the distilling of cordials; till by easy stages
such as these he reached midwinter, its hearty joys and its snug
home life, and then he became simply lyrical.
By degrees the Rat began to sit up and to join in. His dull eye
brightened, and he lost some of his listening air.
Presently the tactful Mole slipped away and returned with a
pencil and a few half-sheets of paper, which he placed on the
table at his friend's elbow.
`It's quite a long time since you did any poetry,' he remarked.
`You might have a try at it this evening, instead of--well,
brooding over things so much. I've an idea that you'll feel
a lot better when you've got something jotted down--if it's only
just the rhymes.'
The Rat pushed the paper away from him wearily, but the discreet
Mole took occasion to leave the room, and when he peeped in again
some time later, the Rat was absorbed and deaf to the world;
alternately scribbling and sucking the top of his pencil. It is
true that he sucked a good deal more than he scribbled; but it
was joy to the Mole to know that the cure had at least begun.
THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF TOAD
The front door of the hollow tree faced eastwards, so Toad was
called at an early hour; partly by the bright sunlight streaming
in on him, partly by the exceeding coldness of his toes, which
made him dream that he was at home in bed in his own handsome
room with the Tudor window, on a cold winter's night, and his
bedclothes had got up, grumbling and protesting they couldn't
stand the cold any longer, and had run downstairs to the kitchen
fire to warm themselves; and he had followed, on bare feet, along
miles and miles of icy stone-paved passages, arguing and
beseeching them to be reasonable. He would probably have been
aroused much earlier, had he not slept for some weeks on straw
over stone flags, and almost forgotten the friendly
feeling of thick blankets pulled well up round the chin.
Sitting up, he rubbed his eyes first and his complaining toes
next, wondered for a moment where he was, looking round for
familiar stone wall and little barred window; then, with a leap
of the heart, remembered everything--his escape, his flight, his
pursuit; remembered, first and best thing of all, that he was
Free! The word and the thought alone were worth fifty blankets.
He was warm from end to end as he thought of the jolly world
outside, waiting eagerly for him to make his triumphal entrance,
ready to serve him and play up to him, anxious to help him and to
keep him company, as it always had been in days of old before
misfortune fell upon him. He shook himself and combed the dry
leaves out of his hair with his fingers; and, his toilet
complete, marched forth into the comfortable morning sun, cold
but confident, hungry but hopeful, all nervous terrors of
yesterday dispelled by rest and sleep and frank and heartening
He had the world all to himself, that early summer morning. The
dewy woodland, as he threaded it, was solitary and still: the
green fields that succeeded the trees were his own to do as
he liked with; the road itself, when he reached it, in that
loneliness that was everywhere, seemed, like a stray dog, to be
looking anxiously for company. Toad, however, was looking for
something that could talk, and tell him clearly which way he
ought to go. It is all very well, when you have a light heart,
and a clear conscience, and money in your pocket, and nobody
scouring the country for you to drag you off to prison again, to
follow where the road beckons and points, not caring whither.
The practical Toad cared very much indeed, and he could have
kicked the road for its helpless silence when every minute was of
importance to him.
The reserved rustic road was presently joined by a shy little
brother in the shape of a canal, which took its hand and ambled
along by its side in perfect confidence, but with the same
tongue-tied, uncommunicative attitude towards strangers. `Bother
them!' said Toad to himself. `But, anyhow, one thing's clear.
They must both be coming FROM somewhere, and going TO
somewhere. You can't get over that. Toad, my boy!' So he
marched on patiently by the water's edge.
Round a bend in the canal came plodding a solitary horse,
stooping forward as if in anxious thought. From rope traces
attached to his collar stretched a long line, taut, but dipping
with his stride, the further part of it dripping pearly drops.
Toad let the horse pass, and stood waiting for what the fates
were sending him.
With a pleasant swirl of quiet water at its blunt bow the barge
slid up alongside of him, its gaily painted gunwale level with
the towing-path, its sole occupant a big stout woman wearing a
linen sun-bonnet, one brawny arm laid along the tiller.
`A nice morning, ma'am!' she remarked to Toad, as she drew up
level with him.
`I dare say it is, ma'am!' responded Toad politely, as he walked
along the tow-path abreast of her. `I dare it IS a nice
morning to them that's not in sore trouble, like what I am.
Here's my married daughter, she sends off to me post-haste to
come to her at once; so off I comes, not knowing what may be
happening or going to happen, but fearing the worst, as you will
understand, ma'am, if you're a mother, too. And I've left my
business to look after itself--I'm in the washing and
laundering line, you must know, ma'am--and I've left my young
children to look after themselves, and a more mischievous and
troublesome set of young imps doesn't exist, ma'am; and I've lost
all my money, and lost my way, and as for what may be happening
to my married daughter, why, I don't like to think of it, ma'am!'
`Where might your married daughter be living, ma'am?' asked the
`She lives near to the river, ma'am,' replied Toad. `Close to a
fine house called Toad Hall, that's somewheres hereabouts in
these parts. Perhaps you may have heard of it.'
`Toad Hall? Why, I'm going that way myself,' replied the barge-
woman. `This canal joins the river some miles further on, a
little above Toad Hall; and then it's an easy walk. You come
along in the barge with me, and I'll give you a lift.'
She steered the barge close to the bank, and Toad, with many
humble and grateful acknowledgments, stepped lightly on board and
sat down with great satisfaction. `Toad's luck again!' thought
he. `I always come out on top!'
`So you're in the washing business, ma'am?' said the barge-woman
politely, as they glided along. `And a very good business you've
got too, I dare say, if I'm not making too free in saying so.'
`Finest business in the whole country,' said Toad airily. `All
the gentry come to me--wouldn't go to any one else if they were
paid, they know me so well. You see, I understand my work
thoroughly, and attend to it all myself. Washing, ironing,
clear-starching, making up gents' fine shirts for evening wear--
everything's done under my own eye!'
`But surely you don't DO all that work yourself, ma'am?' asked
the barge-woman respectfully.
`O, I have girls,' said Toad lightly: `twenty girls or
thereabouts, always at work. But you know what GIRLS are,
ma'am! Nasty little hussies, that's what _I_ call 'em!'
`So do I, too,' said the barge-woman with great heartiness. `But
I dare say you set yours to rights, the idle trollops! And are
you very fond of washing?'
`I love it,' said Toad. `I simply dote on it. Never so happy as
when I've got both arms in the wash-tub. But, then, it comes so
easy to me! No trouble at all! A real pleasure, I assure
`What a bit of luck, meeting you!' observed the barge-woman,
thoughtfully. `A regular piece of good fortune for both of us!'
`Why, what do you mean?' asked Toad, nervously.
`Well, look at me, now,' replied the barge-woman. `_I_ like
washing, too, just the same as you do; and for that matter,
whether I like it or not I have got to do all my own, naturally,
moving about as I do. Now my husband, he's such a fellow for
shirking his work and leaving the barge to me, that never a
moment do I get for seeing to my own affairs. By rights he ought
to be here now, either steering or attending to the horse, though
luckily the horse has sense enough to attend to himself. Instead
of which, he's gone off with the dog, to see if they can't pick
up a rabbit for dinner somewhere. Says he'll catch me up at the
next lock. Well, that's as may be--I don't trust him, once he
gets off with that dog, who's worse than he is. But meantime,
how am I to get on with my washing?'
`O, never mind about the washing,' said Toad, not liking the
subject. `Try and fix your mind on that rabbit. A nice fat
young rabbit, I'll be bound. Got any onions?'
`I can't fix my mind on anything but my washing,' said the barge-
woman, `and I wonder you can be talking of rabbits, with such a
joyful prospect before you. There's a heap of things of mine
that you'll find in a corner of the cabin. If you'll just take
one or two of the most necessary sort--I won't venture to
describe them to a lady like you, but you'll recognise them at a
glance--and put them through the wash-tub as we go along, why,
it'll be a pleasure to you, as you rightly say, and a real help
to me. You'll find a tub handy, and soap, and a kettle on the
stove, and a bucket to haul up water from the canal with. Then I
shall know you're enjoying yourself, instead of sitting here
idle, looking at the scenery and yawning your head off.'
`Here, you let me steer!' said Toad, now thoroughly frightened,
`and then you can get on with your washing your own way. I might
spoil your things, or not do 'em as you like. I'm more used to
gentlemen's things myself. It's my special line.'
`Let you steer?' replied the barge-woman, laughing. `It takes
some practice to steer a barge properly. Besides, it's dull
work, and I want you to be happy. No, you shall do the washing
you are so fond of, and I'll stick to the steering that I
understand. Don't try and deprive me of the pleasure of giving
you a treat!'
Toad was fairly cornered. He looked for escape this way and
that, saw that he was too far from the bank for a flying leap,
and sullenly resigned himself to his fate. `If it comes to
that,' he thought in desperation, `I suppose any fool can
He fetched tub, soap, and other necessaries from the cabin,
selected a few garments at random, tried to recollect what he had
seen in casual glances through laundry windows, and set to.
A long half-hour passed, and every minute of it saw Toad getting
crosser and crosser. Nothing that he could do to the things
seemed to please them or do them good. He tried coaxing, he
tried slapping, he tried punching; they smiled back at him out of
the tub unconverted, happy in their original sin. Once or twice
he looked nervously over his shoulder at the barge-woman,
but she appeared to be gazing out in front of her, absorbed in
her steering. His back ached badly, and he noticed with dismay
that his paws were beginning to get all crinkly. Now Toad was
very proud of his paws. He muttered under his breath words that
should never pass the lips of either washerwomen or Toads; and
lost the soap, for the fiftieth time.
A burst of laughter made him straighten himself and look round.
The barge-woman was leaning back and laughing unrestrainedly,
till the tears ran down her cheeks.
`I've been watching you all the time,' she gasped. `I thought
you must be a humbug all along, from the conceited way you
talked. Pretty washerwoman you are! Never washed so much as a
dish-clout in your life, I'll lay!'
Toad's temper which had been simmering viciously for some time,
now fairly boiled over, and he lost all control of himself.
`You common, low, FAT barge-woman!' he shouted; `don't you
dare to talk to your betters like that! Washerwoman indeed! I
would have you to know that I am a Toad, a very well-known,
respected, distinguished Toad! I may be under a bit of a
cloud at present, but I will NOT be laughed at by a
The woman moved nearer to him and peered under his bonnet keenly
and closely. `Why, so you are!' she cried. `Well, I never! A
horrid, nasty, crawly Toad! And in my nice clean barge, too!
Now that is a thing that I will NOT have.'
She relinquished the tiller for a moment. One big mottled arm
shot out and caught Toad by a fore-leg, while the other-gripped
him fast by a hind-leg. Then the world turned suddenly upside
down, the barge seemed to flit lightly across the sky, the wind
whistled in his ears, and Toad found himself flying through the
air, revolving rapidly as he went.
The water, when he eventually reached it with a loud splash,
proved quite cold enough for his taste, though its chill was not
sufficient to quell his proud spirit, or slake the heat of his
furious temper. He rose to the surface spluttering, and when he
had wiped the duck-weed out of his eyes the first thing he saw
was the fat barge-woman looking back at him over the stern of the
retreating barge and laughing; and he vowed, as he coughed
and choked, to be even with her.
He struck out for the shore, but the cotton gown greatly impeded
his efforts, and when at length he touched land he found it hard
to climb up the steep bank unassisted. He had to take a minute
or two's rest to recover his breath; then, gathering his wet
skirts well over his arms, he started to run after the barge as
fast as his legs would carry him, wild with indignation,
thirsting for revenge.
The barge-woman was still laughing when he drew up level with
her. `Put yourself through your mangle, washerwoman,' she called
out, `and iron your face and crimp it, and you'll pass for quite
a decent-looking Toad!'
Toad never paused to reply. Solid revenge was what he wanted,
not cheap, windy, verbal triumphs, though he had a thing or two
in his mind that he would have liked to say. He saw what he
wanted ahead of him. Running swiftly on he overtook the horse,
unfastened the towrope and cast off, jumped lightly on the
horse's back, and urged it to a gallop by kicking it vigorously
in the sides. He steered for the open country, abandoning the
tow-path, and swinging his steed down a rutty lane. Once he
looked back, and saw that the barge had run aground on the other
side of the canal, and the barge-woman was gesticulating wildly
and shouting, `Stop, stop, stop!' `I've heard that song before,'
said Toad, laughing, as he continued to spur his steed onward in
its wild career.
The barge-horse was not capable of any very sustained effort, and
its gallop soon subsided into a trot, and its trot into an easy
walk; but Toad was quite contented with this, knowing that he, at
any rate, was moving, and the barge was not. He had quite
recovered his temper, now that he had done something he thought
really clever; and he was satisfied to jog along quietly in the
sun, steering his horse along by-ways and bridle-paths, and
trying to forget how very long it was since he had had a square
meal, till the canal had been left very far behind him.
He had travelled some miles, his horse and he, and he was feeling
drowsy in the hot sunshine, when the horse stopped, lowered his
head, and began to nibble the grass; and Toad, waking up, just
saved himself from falling off by an effort. He looked
about him and found he was on a wide common, dotted with patches
of gorse and bramble as far as he could see. Near him stood a
dingy gipsy caravan, and beside it a man was sitting on a bucket
turned upside down, very busy smoking and staring into the wide
world. A fire of sticks was burning near by, and over the fire
hung an iron pot, and out of that pot came forth bubblings and
gurglings, and a vague suggestive steaminess. Also smells--warm,
rich, and varied smells--that twined and twisted and wreathed
themselves at last into one complete, voluptuous, perfect smell
that seemed like the very soul of Nature taking form and
appearing to her children, a true Goddess, a mother of solace and
comfort. Toad now knew well that he had not been really hungry
before. What he had felt earlier in the day had been a mere
trifling qualm. This was the real thing at last, and no mistake;
and it would have to be dealt with speedily, too, or there would
be trouble for somebody or something. He looked the gipsy over
carefully, wondering vaguely whether it would be easier to fight
him or cajole him. So there he sat, and sniffed and sniffed, and
looked at the gipsy; and the gipsy sat and smoked, and
looked at him.
Presently the gipsy took his pipe out of his mouth and remarked
in a careless way, `Want to sell that there horse of yours?'
Toad was completely taken aback. He did not know that gipsies
were very fond of horse-dealing, and never missed an opportunity,
and he had not reflected that caravans were always on the move
and took a deal of drawing. It had not occurred to him to turn
the horse into cash, but the gipsy's suggestion seemed to smooth
the way towards the two things he wanted so badly--ready money,
and a solid breakfast.
`What?' he said, `me sell this beautiful young horse of mine? O,
no; it's out of the question. Who's going to take the washing
home to my customers every week? Besides, I'm too fond of him,
and he simply dotes on me.'
`Try and love a donkey,' suggested the gipsy. `Some people do.'
`You don't seem to see,' continued Toad, `that this fine horse of
mine is a cut above you altogether. He's a blood horse, he is,
partly; not the part you see, of course--another part. And
he's been a Prize Hackney, too, in his time--that was the time
before you knew him, but you can still tell it on him at a
glance, if you understand anything about horses. No, it's not to
be thought of for a moment. All the same, how much might you be
disposed to offer me for this beautiful young horse of mine?'
The gipsy looked the horse over, and then he looked Toad over
with equal care, and looked at the horse again. `Shillin' a
leg,' he said briefly, and turned away, continuing to smoke and
try to stare the wide world out of countenance.
`A shilling a leg?' cried Toad. `If you please, I must take a
little time to work that out, and see just what it comes to.'
He climbed down off his horse, and left it to graze, and sat down
by the gipsy, and did sums on his fingers, and at last he said,
`A shilling a leg? Why, that comes to exactly four shillings,
and no more. O, no; I could not think of accepting four
shillings for this beautiful young horse of mine.'
`Well,' said the gipsy, `I'll tell you what I will do. I'll make
it five shillings, and that's three-and-sixpence more than the
animal's worth. And that's my last word.'
Then Toad sat and pondered long and deeply. For he was hungry
and quite penniless, and still some way--he knew not how far--
from home, and enemies might still be looking for him. To one in
such a situation, five shillings may very well appear a large sum
of money. On the other hand, it did not seem very much to get
for a horse. But then, again, the horse hadn't cost him
anything; so whatever he got was all clear profit. At last he
said firmly, `Look here, gipsy! I tell you what we will do; and
this is MY last word. You shall hand me over six shillings
and sixpence, cash down; and further, in addition thereto, you
shall give me as much breakfast as I can possibly eat, at one
sitting of course, out of that iron pot of yours that keeps
sending forth such delicious and exciting smells. In return, I
will make over to you my spirited young horse, with all the
beautiful harness and trappings that are on him, freely thrown
in. If that's not good enough for you, say so, and I'll be
getting on. I know a man near here who's wanted this horse of
mine for years.'
The gipsy grumbled frightfully, and declared if he did a few more
deals of that sort he'd be ruined. But in the end he lugged
a dirty canvas bag out of the depths of his trouser pocket, and
counted out six shillings and sixpence into Toad's paw. Then he
disappeared into the caravan for an instant, and returned with a
large iron plate and a knife, fork, and spoon. He tilted up the
pot, and a glorious stream of hot rich stew gurgled into the
plate. It was, indeed, the most beautiful stew in the world,
being made of partridges, and pheasants, and chickens, and hares,
and rabbits, and pea-hens, and guinea-fowls, and one or two other
things. Toad took the plate on his lap, almost crying, and
stuffed, and stuffed, and stuffed, and kept asking for more, and
the gipsy never grudged it him. He thought that he had never
eaten so good a breakfast in all his life.
When Toad had taken as much stew on board as he thought he could
possibly hold, he got up and said good-bye to the gipsy, and took
an affectionate farewell of the horse; and the gipsy, who knew
the riverside well, gave him directions which way to go, and he
set forth on his travels again in the best possible spirits. He
was, indeed, a very different Toad from the animal of an hour
ago. The sun was shining brightly, his wet clothes were
quite dry again, he had money in his pocket once more, he was
nearing home and friends and safety, and, most and best of all,
he had had a substantial meal, hot and nourishing, and felt big,
and strong, and careless, and self-confident.
As he tramped along gaily, he thought of his adventures and
escapes, and how when things seemed at their worst he had always
managed to find a way out; and his pride and conceit began to
swell within him. `Ho, ho!' he said to himself as he marched
along with his chin in the air, `what a clever Toad I am! There
is surely no animal equal to me for cleverness in the whole
world! My enemies shut me up in prison, encircled by sentries,
watched night and day by warders; I walk out through them all, by
sheer ability coupled with courage. They pursue me with engines,
and policemen, and revolvers; I snap my fingers at them, and
vanish, laughing, into space. I am, unfortunately, thrown into a
canal by a woman fat of body and very evil-minded. What of it?
I swim ashore, I seize her horse, I ride off in triumph, and I
sell the horse for a whole pocketful of money and an excellent
breakfast! Ho, ho! I am The Toad, the handsome, the
popular, the successful Toad!' He got so puffed up with conceit
that he made up a song as he walked in praise of himself, and
sang it at the top of his voice, though there was no one to hear
it but him. It was perhaps the most conceited song that any
animal ever composed.
`The world has held great Heroes,
As history-books have showed;
But never a name to go down to fame
Compared with that of Toad!
`The clever men at Oxford
Know all that there is to be knowed.
But they none of them know one half as much
As intelligent Mr. Toad!
`The animals sat in the Ark and cried,
Their tears in torrents flowed.
Who was it said, "There's land ahead?"
Encouraging Mr. Toad!
`The army all saluted
As they marched along the road.
Was it the King? Or Kitchener?
No. It was Mr. Toad.
`The Queen and her Ladies-in-waiting
Sat at the window and sewed.
She cried, "Look! who's that HANDSOME man?"
They answered, "Mr. Toad."'
There was a great deal more of the same sort, but too dreadfully
conceited to be written down. These are some of the milder
He sang as he walked, and he walked as he sang, and got more
inflated every minute. But his pride was shortly to have a
After some miles of country lanes he reached the high road, and
as he turned into it and glanced along its white length, he saw
approaching him a speck that turned into a dot and then into a
blob, and then into something very familiar; and a double note of
warning, only too well known, fell on his delighted ear.
`This is something like!' said the excited Toad. `This is real
life again, this is once more the great world from which I have
been missed so long! I will hail them, my brothers of the wheel,
and pitch them a yarn, of the sort that has been so successful
hitherto; and they will give me a lift, of course, and then I
will talk to them some more; and, perhaps, with luck, it may even
end in my driving up to Toad Hall in a motor-car! That will be
one in the eye for Badger!'
He stepped confidently out into the road to hail the motor-
car, which came along at an easy pace, slowing down as it neared
the lane; when suddenly he became very pale, his heart turned to
water, his knees shook and yielded under him, and he doubled up
and collapsed with a sickening pain in his interior. And well he
might, the unhappy animal; for the approaching car was the very
one he had stolen out of the yard of the Red Lion Hotel on that
fatal day when all his troubles began! And the people in it were
the very same people he had sat and watched at luncheon in the
He sank down in a shabby, miserable heap in the road, murmuring
to himself in his despair, `It's all up! It's all over now!
Chains and policemen again! Prison again! Dry bread and water
again! O, what a fool I have been! What did I want to go
strutting about the country for, singing conceited songs, and
hailing people in broad day on the high road, instead of hiding
till nightfall and slipping home quietly by back ways! O hapless
Toad! O ill-fated animal!'
The terrible motor-car drew slowly nearer and nearer, till at
last he heard it stop just short of him. Two gentlemen got
out and walked round the trembling heap of crumpled misery lying
in the road, and one of them said, `O dear! this is very sad!
Here is a poor old thing--a washerwoman apparently--who has
fainted in the road! Perhaps she is overcome by the heat, poor
creature; or possibly she has not had any food to-day. Let us
lift her into the car and take her to the nearest village, where
doubtless she has friends.'
They tenderly lifted Toad into the motor-car and propped him up
with soft cushions, and proceeded on their way.
When Toad heard them talk in so kind and sympathetic a way, and
knew that he was not recognised, his courage began to revive, and
he cautiously opened first one eye and then the other.
`Look!' said one of the gentlemen, `she is better already. The
fresh air is doing her good. How do you feel now, ma'am?'
`Thank you kindly, Sir,' said Toad in a feeble voice, `I'm
feeling a great deal better!' `That's right,' said the
gentleman. `Now keep quite still, and, above all, don't try to
`I won't,' said Toad. `I was only thinking, if I might sit on
the front seat there, beside the driver, where I could get the
fresh air full in my face, I should soon be all right again.'
`What a very sensible woman!' said the gentleman. `Of course you
shall.' So they carefully helped Toad into the front seat beside
the driver, and on they went again.
Toad was almost himself again by now. He sat up, looked about
him, and tried to beat down the tremors, the yearnings, the old
cravings that rose up and beset him and took possession of him
`It is fate!' he said to himself. `Why strive? why struggle?'
and he turned to the driver at his side.
`Please, Sir,' he said, `I wish you would kindly let me try and
drive the car for a little. I've been watching you carefully,
and it looks so easy and so interesting, and I should like to be
able to tell my friends that once I had driven a motor-car!'
The driver laughed at the proposal, so heartily that the
gentleman inquired what the matter was. When he heard, he
said, to Toad's delight, `Bravo, ma'am! I like your spirit.
Let her have a try, and look after her. She won't do any
Toad eagerly scrambled into the seat vacated by the driver, took
the steering-wheel in his hands, listened with affected humility
to the instructions given him, and set the car in motion, but
very slowly and carefully at first, for he was determined to be
The gentlemen behind clapped their hands and applauded, and Toad
heard them saying, `How well she does it! Fancy a washerwoman
driving a car as well as that, the first time!'
Toad went a little faster; then faster still, and faster.
He heard the gentlemen call out warningly, `Be careful,
washerwoman!' And this annoyed him, and he began to lose his
The driver tried to interfere, but he pinned him down in his seat
with one elbow, and put on full speed. The rush of air in his
face, the hum of the engines, and the light jump of the car
beneath him intoxicated his weak brain. `Washerwoman, indeed!'
he shouted recklessly. `Ho! ho! I am the Toad, the motor-car
snatcher, the prison-breaker, the Toad who always escapes! Sit
still, and you shall know what driving really is, for you
are in the hands of the famous, the skilful, the entirely
With a cry of horror the whole party rose and flung themselves on
him. `Seize him!' they cried, `seize the Toad, the wicked animal
who stole our motor-car! Bind him, chain him, drag him to the
nearest police-station! Down with the desperate and dangerous
Alas! they should have thought, they ought to have been more
prudent, they should have remembered to stop the motor-car
somehow before playing any pranks of that sort. With a half-turn
of the wheel the Toad sent the car crashing through the low hedge
that ran along the roadside. One mighty bound, a violent shock,
and the wheels of the car were churning up the thick mud of a
Toad found himself flying through the air with the strong upward
rush and delicate curve of a swallow. He liked the motion, and
was just beginning to wonder whether it would go on until he
developed wings and turned into a Toad-bird, when he landed on
his back with a thump, in the soft rich grass of a meadow.
Sitting up, he could just see the motor-car in the pond,
nearly submerged; the gentlemen and the driver, encumbered by
their long coats, were floundering helplessly in the water.
He picked himself up rapidly, and set off running across country
as hard as he could, scrambling through hedges, jumping ditches,
pounding across fields, till he was breathless and weary, and had
to settle down into an easy walk. When he had recovered his
breath somewhat, and was able to think calmly, he began to
giggle, and from giggling he took to laughing, and he laughed
till he had to sit down under a hedge. `Ho, ho!' he cried, in
ecstasies of self-admiration, `Toad again! Toad, as usual, comes
out on the top! Who was it got them to give him a lift? Who
managed to get on the front seat for the sake of fresh air? Who
persuaded them into letting him see if he could drive? Who
landed them all in a horse-pond? Who escaped, flying gaily and
unscathed through the air, leaving the narrow-minded, grudging,
timid excursionists in the mud where they should rightly be?
Why, Toad, of course; clever Toad, great Toad, GOOD Toad!'
Then he burst into song again, and chanted with uplifted voice--
`The motor-car went Poop-poop-poop,
As it raced along the road.
Who was it steered it into a pond?
Ingenious Mr. Toad!
O, how clever I am! How clever, how clever, how very clev----'
A slight noise at a distance behind him made him turn his head
and look. O horror! O misery! O despair!
About two fields off, a chauffeur in his leather gaiters and two
large rural policemen were visible, running towards him as hard
as they could go!
Poor Toad sprang to his feet and pelted away again, his heart in
his mouth. O, my!' he gasped, as he panted along, `what an
ASS I am! What a CONCEITED and heedless ass! Swaggering
again! Shouting and singing songs again! Sitting still and
gassing again! O my! O my! O my!'
He glanced back, and saw to his dismay that they were gaining on
him. On he ran desperately, but kept looking back, and saw that
they still gained steadily. He did his best, but he was a fat
animal, and his legs were short, and still they gained. He could
hear them close behind him now. Ceasing to heed where he
was going, he struggled on blindly and wildly, looking back over
his shoulder at the now triumphant enemy, when suddenly the earth
failed under his feet, he grasped at the air, and, splash! he
found himself head over ears in deep water, rapid water, water
that bore him along with a force he could not contend with; and
he knew that in his blind panic he had run straight into the
He rose to the surface and tried to grasp the reeds and the
rushes that grew along the water's edge close under the bank, but
the stream was so strong that it tore them out of his hands. `O
my!' gasped poor Toad, `if ever I steal a motor-car again! If
ever I sing another conceited song'--then down he went, and came
up breathless and spluttering. Presently he saw that he was
approaching a big dark hole in the bank, just above his head, and
as the stream bore him past he reached up with a paw and caught
hold of the edge and held on. Then slowly and with difficulty he
drew himself up out of the water, till at last he was able to
rest his elbows on the edge of the hole. There he remained for
some minutes, puffing and panting, for he was quite
As he sighed and blew and stared before him into the dark hole,
some bright small thing shone and twinkled in its depths, moving
towards him. As it approached, a face grew up gradually around
it, and it was a familiar face!
Brown and small, with whiskers.
Grave and round, with neat ears and silky hair.
It was the Water Rat!
`LIKE SUMMER TEMPESTS CAME HIS TEARS'
The Rat put out a neat little brown paw, gripped Toad firmly by
the scruff of the neck, and gave a great hoist and a pull; and
the water-logged Toad came up slowly but surely over the edge of
the hole, till at last he stood safe and sound in the hall,
streaked with mud and weed to be sure, and with the water
streaming off him, but happy and high-spirited as of old, now
that he found himself once more in the house of a friend, and
dodgings and evasions were over, and he could lay aside a
disguise that was unworthy of his position and wanted such a lot
of living up to.
`O, Ratty!' he cried. `I've been through such times since I saw
you last, you can't think! Such trials, such sufferings, and all
so nobly borne! Then such escapes, such disguises such
subterfuges, and all so cleverly planned and carried out! Been
in prison--got out of it, of course! Been thrown into a canal--
swam ashore! Stole a horse--sold him for a large sum of money!
Humbugged everybody--made 'em all do exactly what I wanted! Oh,
I AM a smart Toad, and no mistake! What do you think my last
exploit was? Just hold on till I tell you----'
`Toad,' said the Water Rat, gravely and firmly, `you go off
upstairs at once, and take off that old cotton rag that looks as
if it might formerly have belonged to some washerwoman, and clean
yourself thoroughly, and put on some of my clothes, and try and
come down looking like a gentleman if you CAN; for a more
shabby, bedraggled, disreputable-looking object than you are I
never set eyes on in my whole life! Now, stop swaggering and
arguing, and be off! I'll have something to say to you later!'
Toad was at first inclined to stop and do some talking back at
him. He had had enough of being ordered about when he was in
prison, and here was the thing being begun all over again,
apparently; and by a Rat, too! However, he caught sight of
himself in the looking-glass over the hat-stand, with the
rusty black bonnet perched rakishly over one eye, and he changed
his mind and went very quickly and humbly upstairs to the Rat's
dressing-room. There he had a thorough wash and brush-up,
changed his clothes, and stood for a long time before the glass,
contemplating himself with pride and pleasure, and thinking what
utter idiots all the people must have been to have ever mistaken
him for one moment for a washerwoman.
By the time he came down again luncheon was on the table, and
very glad Toad was to see it, for he had been through some trying
experiences and had taken much hard exercise since the excellent
breakfast provided for him by the gipsy. While they ate Toad
told the Rat all his adventures, dwelling chiefly on his own
cleverness, and presence of mind in emergencies, and cunning in
tight places; and rather making out that he had been having a gay
and highly-coloured experience. But the more he talked and
boasted, the more grave and silent the Rat became.
When at last Toad had talked himself to a standstill, there was
silence for a while; and then the Rat said, `Now, Toady, I don't
want to give you pain, after all you've been through
already; but, seriously, don't you see what an awful ass you've
been making of yourself? On your own admission you have been
handcuffed, imprisoned, starved, chased, terrified out of your
life, insulted, jeered at, and ignominiously flung into the
water--by a woman, too! Where's the amusement in that? Where
does the fun come in? And all because you must needs go and
steal a motor-car. You know that you've never had anything but
trouble from motor-cars from the moment you first set eyes on
one. But if you WILL be mixed up with them--as you generally
are, five minutes after you've started--why STEAL them? Be a
cripple, if you think it's exciting; be a bankrupt, for a change,
if you've set your mind on it: but why choose to be a convict?
When are you going to be sensible, and think of your friends, and
try and be a credit to them? Do you suppose it's any pleasure to
me, for instance, to hear animals saying, as I go about, that I'm
the chap that keeps company with gaol-birds?'
Now, it was a very comforting point in Toad's character that he
was a thoroughly good-hearted animal and never minded being
jawed by those who were his real friends. And even when
most set upon a thing, he was always able to see the other side
of the question. So although, while the Rat was talking so
seriously, he kept saying to himself mutinously, `But it WAS
fun, though! Awful fun!' and making strange suppressed noises
inside him, k-i-ck-ck-ck, and poop-p-p, and other sounds
resembling stifled snorts, or the opening of soda-water bottles,
yet when the Rat had quite finished, he heaved a deep sigh and
said, very nicely and humbly, `Quite right, Ratty! How SOUND
you always are! Yes, I've been a conceited old ass, I can quite
see that; but now I'm going to be a good Toad, and not do it any
more. As for motor-cars, I've not been at all so keen about them
since my last ducking in that river of yours. The fact is, while
I was hanging on to the edge of your hole and getting my breath,
I had a sudden idea--a really brilliant idea--connected with
motor-boats--there, there! don't take on so, old chap, and stamp,
and upset things; it was only an idea, and we won't talk any more
about it now. We'll have our coffee, AND a smoke, and a quiet
chat, and then I'm going to stroll quietly down to Toad
Hall, and get into clothes of my own, and set things going again
on the old lines. I've had enough of adventures. I shall lead a
quiet, steady, respectable life, pottering about my property, and
improving it, and doing a little landscape gardening at times.
There will always be a bit of dinner for my friends when they
come to see me; and I shall keep a pony-chaise to jog about the
country in, just as I used to in the good old days, before I got
restless, and wanted to DO things.'
`Stroll quietly down to Toad Hall?' cried the Rat, greatly
excited. `What are you talking about? Do you mean to say you
`Heard what?' said Toad, turning rather pale. `Go on, Ratty!
Quick! Don't spare me! What haven't I heard?'
`Do you mean to tell me,' shouted the Rat, thumping with his
little fist upon the table, `that you've heard nothing about the
Stoats and Weasels?'
What, the Wild Wooders?' cried Toad, trembling in every limb.
`No, not a word! What have they been doing?'
`--And how they've been and taken Toad Hall?' continued the Rat.
Toad leaned his elbows on the table, and his chin on his paws;
and a large tear welled up in each of his eyes, overflowed and
splashed on the table, plop! plop!
`Go on, Ratty,' he murmured presently; `tell me all. The worst
is over. I am an animal again. I can bear it.'
`When you--got--into that--that--trouble of yours,' said the Rat,
slowly and impressively; `I mean, when you--disappeared from
society for a time, over that misunderstanding about a--a
machine, you know--'
Toad merely nodded.
`Well, it was a good deal talked about down here, naturally,'
continued the Rat, `not only along the river-side, but even in
the Wild Wood. Animals took sides, as always happens. The
River-bankers stuck up for you, and said you had been infamously
treated, and there was no justice to be had in the land nowadays.
But the Wild Wood animals said hard things, and served you right,
and it was time this sort of thing was stopped. And they got
very cocky, and went about saying you were done for this
time! You would never come back again, never, never!'
Toad nodded once more, keeping silence.
`That's the sort of little beasts they are,' the Rat went on.
`But Mole and Badger, they stuck out, through thick and thin,
that you would come back again soon, somehow. They didn't know
exactly how, but somehow!'
Toad began to sit up in his chair again, and to smirk a little.
`They argued from history,' continued the Rat. `They said that
no criminal laws had ever been known to prevail against cheek and
plausibility such as yours, combined with the power of a long
purse. So they arranged to move their things in to Toad Hall,
and sleep there, and keep it aired, and have it all ready for you
when you turned up. They didn't guess what was going to happen,
of course; still, they had their suspicions of the Wild Wood
animals. Now I come to the most painful and tragic part of my
story. One dark night--it was a VERY dark night, and blowing
hard, too, and raining simply cats and dogs--a band of weasels,
armed to the teeth, crept silently up the carriage-drive to the
front entrance. Simultaneously, a body of desperate
ferrets, advancing through the kitchen-garden, possessed
themselves of the backyard and offices; while a company of
skirmishing stoats who stuck at nothing occupied the conservatory
and the billiard-room, and held the French windows opening on to
`The Mole and the Badger were sitting by the fire in the smoking-
room, telling stories and suspecting nothing, for it wasn't a
night for any animals to be out in, when those bloodthirsty
villains broke down the doors and rushed in upon them from every
side. They made the best fight they could, but what was the
good? They were unarmed, and taken by surprise, and what can two
animals do against hundreds? They took and beat them severely
with sticks, those two poor faithful creatures, and turned them
out into the cold and the wet, with many insulting and uncalled-
Here the unfeeling Toad broke into a snigger, and then pulled
himself together and tried to look particularly solemn.
`And the Wild Wooders have been living in Toad Hall ever since,'
continued the Rat; `and going on simply anyhow! Lying in bed
half the day, and breakfast at all hours, and the place in
such a mess (I'm told) it's not fit to be seen! Eating your
grub, and drinking your drink, and making bad jokes about you,
and singing vulgar songs, about--well, about prisons and
magistrates, and policemen; horrid personal songs, with no humour
in them. And they're telling the tradespeople and everybody that
they've come to stay for good.'
`O, have they!' said Toad getting up and seizing a stick. `I'll
jolly soon see about that!'
`It's no good, Toad!' called the Rat after him. `You'd better
come back and sit down; you'll only get into trouble.'
But the Toad was off, and there was no holding him. He marched
rapidly down the road, his stick over his shoulder, fuming and
muttering to himself in his anger, till he got near his front
gate, when suddenly there popped up from behind the palings a
long yellow ferret with a gun.
`Who comes there?' said the ferret sharply.
`Stuff and nonsense!' said Toad, very angrily. `What do you mean
by talking like that to me? Come out of that at once, or
The ferret said never a word, but he brought his gun up to
his shoulder. Toad prudently dropped flat in the road, and
BANG! a bullet whistled over his head.
The startled Toad scrambled to his feet and scampered off down
the road as hard as he could; and as he ran he heard the ferret
laughing and other horrid thin little laughs taking it up and
carrying on the sound.
He went back, very crestfallen, and told the Water Rat.
`What did I tell you?' said the Rat. `It's no good. They've got
sentries posted, and they are all armed. You must just wait.'
Still, Toad was not inclined to give in all at once. So he got
out the boat, and set off rowing up the river to where the garden
front of Toad Hall came down to the waterside.
Arriving within sight of his old home, he rested on his oars and
surveyed the land cautiously. All seemed very peaceful and
deserted and quiet. He could see the whole front of Toad Hall,
glowing in the evening sunshine, the pigeons settling by twos and
threes along the straight line of the roof; the garden, a blaze
of flowers; the creek that led up to the boat-house, the little
wooden bridge that crossed it; all tranquil, uninhabited,
apparently waiting for his return. He would try the boat-house
first, he thought. Very warily he paddled up to the mouth of the
creek, and was just passing under the bridge,
when . . . CRASH!
A great stone, dropped from above, smashed through the bottom of
the boat. It filled and sank, and Toad found himself struggling
in deep water. Looking up, he saw two stoats leaning over the
parapet of the bridge and watching him with great glee. `It will
be your head next time, Toady!' they called out to him. The
indignant Toad swam to shore, while the stoats laughed and
laughed, supporting each other, and laughed again, till they
nearly had two fits--that is, one fit each, of course.
The Toad retraced his weary way on foot, and related his
disappointing experiences to the Water Rat once more.
`Well, WHAT did I tell you?' said the Rat very crossly. `And,
now, look here! See what you've been and done! Lost me my boat
that I was so fond of, that's what you've done! And simply
ruined that nice suit of clothes that I lent you! Really,
Toad, of all the trying animals--I wonder you manage to keep any
friends at all!'
The Toad saw at once how wrongly and foolishly he had acted. He
admitted his errors and wrong-headedness and made a full apology
to Rat for losing his boat and spoiling his clothes. And he
wound up by saying, with that frank self-surrender which always
disarmed his friend's criticism and won them back to his side,
`Ratty! I see that I have been a headstrong and a wilful Toad!
Henceforth, believe me, I will be humble and submissive, and will
take no action without your kind advice and full approval!'
`If that is really so,' said the good-natured Rat, already
appeased, `then my advice to you is, considering the lateness of
the hour, to sit down and have your supper, which will be on the
table in a minute, and be very patient. For I am convinced that
we can do nothing until we have seen the Mole and the Badger, and
heard their latest news, and held conference and taken their
advice in this difficult matter.'
`Oh, ah, yes, of course, the Mole and the Badger,' said Toad,
lightly. `What's become of them, the dear fellows? I had
forgotten all about them.'
`Well may you ask!' said the Rat reproachfully. `While you were
riding about the country in expensive motor-cars, and galloping
proudly on blood-horses, and breakfasting on the fat of the land,
those two poor devoted animals have been camping out in the open,
in every sort of weather, living very rough by day and lying very
hard by night; watching over your house, patrolling your
boundaries, keeping a constant eye on the stoats and the weasels,
scheming and planning and contriving how to get your property
back for you. You don't deserve to have such true and loyal
friends, Toad, you don't, really. Some day, when it's too late,
you'll be sorry you didn't value them more while you had them!'
`I'm an ungrateful beast, I know,' sobbed Toad, shedding bitter
tears. `Let me go out and find them, out into the cold, dark
night, and share their hardships, and try and prove by----Hold on
a bit! Surely I heard the chink of dishes on a tray! Supper's
here at last, hooray! Come on, Ratty!'
The Rat remembered that poor Toad had been on prison fare
for a considerable time, and that large allowances had therefore
to be made. He followed him to the table accordingly, and
hospitably encouraged him in his gallant efforts to make up for
They had just finished their meal and resumed their arm-chairs,
when there came a heavy knock at the door.
Toad was nervous, but the Rat, nodding mysteriously at him, went
straight up to the door and opened it, and in walked Mr. Badger.
He had all the appearance of one who for some nights had been
kept away from home and all its little comforts and conveniences.
His shoes were covered with mud, and he was looking very rough
and touzled; but then he had never been a very smart man, the
Badger, at the best of times. He came solemnly up to Toad, shook
him by the paw, and said, `Welcome home, Toad! Alas! what am I
saying? Home, indeed! This is a poor home-coming. Unhappy
Toad!' Then he turned his back on him, sat down to the table,
drew his chair up, and helped himself to a large slice of cold
Toad was quite alarmed at this very serious and portentous style
of greeting; but the Rat whispered to him, `Never mind;
don't take any notice; and don't say anything to him just yet.
He's always rather low and despondent when he's wanting his
victuals. In half an hour's time he'll be quite a different
So they waited in silence, and presently there came another and a
lighter knock. The Rat, with a nod to Toad, went to the door and
ushered in the Mole, very shabby and unwashed, with bits of hay
and straw sticking in his fur.
`Hooray! Here's old Toad!' cried the Mole, his face beaming.
`Fancy having you back again!' And he began to dance round him.
`We never dreamt you would turn up so soon! Why, you must have
managed to escape, you clever, ingenious, intelligent Toad!'
The Rat, alarmed, pulled him by the elbow; but it was too late.
Toad was puffing and swelling already.
`Clever? O, no!' he said. `I'm not really clever, according to
my friends. I've only broken out of the strongest prison in
England, that's all! And captured a railway train and escaped on
it, that's all! And disguised myself and gone about the country
humbugging everybody, that's all! O, no! I'm a stupid ass,
I am! I'll tell you one or two of my little adventures, Mole,
and you shall judge for yourself!'
`Well, well,' said the Mole, moving towards the supper-table;
`supposing you talk while I eat. Not a bite since breakfast! O
my! O my!' And he sat down and helped himself liberally to cold
beef and pickles.
Toad straddled on the hearth-rug, thrust his paw into his
trouser-pocket and pulled out a handful of silver. `Look at
that!' he cried, displaying it. `That's not so bad, is it, for a
few minutes' work? And how do you think I done it, Mole? Horse-
dealing! That's how I done it!'
`Go on, Toad,' said the Mole, immensely interested.
`Toad, do be quiet, please!' said the Rat. `And don't you egg
him on, Mole, when you know what he is; but please tell us as
soon as possible what the position is, and what's best to be
done, now that Toad is back at last.'
`The position's about as bad as it can be,' replied the Mole
grumpily; `and as for what's to be done, why, blest if I know!
The Badger and I have been round and round the place, by
night and by day; always the same thing. Sentries posted
everywhere, guns poked out at us, stones thrown at us; always an
animal on the look-out, and when they see us, my! how they do
laugh! That's what annoys me most!'
`It's a very difficult situation,' said the Rat, reflecting
deeply. `But I think I see now, in the depths of my mind, what
Toad really ought to do. I will tell you. He ought to----'
`No, he oughtn't!' shouted the Mole, with his mouth full.
`Nothing of the sort! You don't understand. What he ought to do
is, he ought to----'
`Well, I shan't do it, anyway!' cried Toad, getting excited.
`I'm not going to be ordered about by you fellows! It's my house
we're talking about, and I know exactly what to do, and I'll tell
you. I'm going to----'
By this time they were all three talking at once, at the top of
their voices, and the noise was simply deafening, when a thin,
dry voice made itself heard, saying, `Be quiet at once, all of
you!' and instantly every one was silent.
It was the Badger, who, having finished his pie, had turned round
in his chair and was looking at them severely. When he saw that
he had secured their attention, and that they were evidently
waiting for him to address them, he turned back to the table
again and reached out for the cheese. And so great was the
respect commanded by the solid qualities of that admirable
animal, that not another word was uttered until he had quite
finished his repast and brushed the crumbs from his knees. The
Toad fidgeted a good deal, but the Rat held him firmly down.
When the Badger had quite done, he got up from his seat and stood
before the fireplace, reflecting deeply. At last he spoke.
`Toad!' he said severely. `You bad, troublesome little animal!
Aren't you ashamed of youself? What do you think your father, my
old friend, would have said if he had been here to-night, and had
known of all your goings on?'
Toad, who was on the sofa by this time, with his legs up, rolled
over on his face, shaken by sobs of contrition.
`There, there!' went on the Badger, more kindly. `Never mind.
Stop crying. We're going to let bygones be bygones, and try and
turn over a new leaf. But what the Mole says is quite true. The
stoats are on guard, at every point, and they make the best
sentinels in the world. It's quite useless to think of attacking
the place. They're too strong for us.'
`Then it's all over,' sobbed the Toad, crying into the sofa
cushions. `I shall go and enlist for a soldier, and never see my
dear Toad Hall any more!'
`Come, cheer up, Toady!' said the Badger. `There are more ways
of getting back a place than taking it by storm. I haven't said
my last word yet. Now I'm going to tell you a great secret.'
Toad sat up slowly and dried his eyes. Secrets had an immense
attraction for him, because he never could keep one, and he
enjoyed the sort of unhallowed thrill he experienced when he went
and told another animal, after having faithfully promised not to.
`There--is--an--underground--passage,' said the Badger,
impressively, `that leads from the river-bank, quite near here,
right up into the middle of Toad Hall.'
`O, nonsense! Badger,' said Toad, rather airily. `You've been
listening to some of the yarns they spin in the public-houses
about here. I know every inch of Toad Hall, inside and out.
Nothing of the sort, I do assure you!'
`My young friend,' said the Badger, with great severity, `your
father, who was a worthy animal--a lot worthier than some others
I know--was a particular friend of mine, and told me a great deal
he wouldn't have dreamt of telling you. He discovered that
passage--he didn't make it, of course; that was done hundreds of
years before he ever came to live there--and he repaired it and
cleaned it out, because he thought it might come in useful some
day, in case of trouble or danger; and he showed it to me.
"Don't let my son know about it," he said. "He's a good boy, but
very light and volatile in character, and simply cannot hold his
tongue. If he's ever in a real fix, and it would be of use to
him, you may tell him about the secret passage; but not before."'
The other animals looked hard at Toad to see how he would take
it. Toad was inclined to be sulky at first; but he brightened up
immediately, like the good fellow he was.
`Well, well,' he said; `perhaps I am a bit of a talker. A
popular fellow such as I am--my friends get round me--we chaff,
we sparkle, we tell witty stories--and somehow my tongue
gets wagging. I have the gift of conversation. I've been told I
ought to have a salon, whatever that may be. Never mind. Go
on, Badger. How's this passage of yours going to help us?'
`I've found out a thing or two lately,' continued the Badger. `I
got Otter to disguise himself as a sweep and call at the back-
door with brushes over his shoulder, asking for a job. There's
going to be a big banquet to-morrow night. It's somebody's
birthday--the Chief Weasel's, I believe--and all the weasels will
be gathered together in the dining-hall, eating and drinking and
laughing and carrying on, suspecting nothing. No guns, no
swords, no sticks, no arms of any sort whatever!'
`But the sentinels will be posted as usual,' remarked the Rat.
`Exactly,' said the Badger; `that is my point. The weasels will
trust entirely to their excellent sentinels. And that is where
the passage comes in. That very useful tunnel leads right up
under the butler's pantry, next to the dining-hall!'
`Aha! that squeaky board in the butler's pantry!' said Toad.
`Now I understand it!'
`We shall creep out quietly into the butler's pantry--' cried the
`--with our pistols and swords and sticks--' shouted the Rat.
`--and rush in upon them,' said the Badger.
`--and whack 'em, and whack 'em, and whack 'em!' cried the Toad
in ecstasy, running round and round the room, and jumping over
`Very well, then,' said the Badger, resuming his usual dry
manner, `our plan is settled, and there's nothing more for you to
argue and squabble about. So, as it's getting very late, all of
you go right off to bed at once. We will make all the necessary
arrangements in the course of the morning to-morrow.'
Toad, of course, went off to bed dutifully with the rest--he knew
better than to refuse--though he was feeling much too excited to
sleep. But he had had a long day, with many events crowded into
it; and sheets and blankets were very friendly and comforting
things, after plain straw, and not too much of it, spread on the
stone floor of a draughty cell; and his head had not been many
seconds on his pillow before he was snoring happily. Naturally,
he dreamt a good deal; about roads that ran away from him
just when he wanted them, and canals that chased him and caught
him, and a barge that sailed into the banqueting-hall with his
week's washing, just as he was giving a dinner-party; and he was
alone in the secret passage, pushing onwards, but it twisted and
turned round and shook itself, and sat up on its end; yet
somehow, at the last, he found himself back in Toad Hall, safe
and triumphant, with all his friends gathered round about him,
earnestly assuring him that he really was a clever Toad.
He slept till a late hour next morning, and by the time he got
down he found that the other animals had finished their breakfast
some time before. The Mole had slipped off somewhere by himself,
without telling any one where he was going to. The Badger sat in
the arm-chair, reading the paper, and not concerning himself in
the slightest about what was going to happen that very evening.
The Rat, on the other hand, was running round the room busily,
with his arms full of weapons of every kind, distributing them in
four little heaps on the floor, and saying excitedly under his
breath, as he ran, `Here's-a-sword-for-the-Rat, here's-a-sword-
for-the Mole, here's-a-sword-for-the-Toad, here's-a-sword-
for-the-Badger! Here's-a-pistol-for-the-Rat, here's-a-pistol-
for-the-Mole, here's-a-pistol-for-the-Toad, here's-a-pistol-for-
the-Badger!' And so on, in a regular, rhythmical way, while the
four little heaps gradually grew and grew.
`That's all very well, Rat,' said the Badger presently, looking
at the busy little animal over the edge of his newspaper; `I'm
not blaming you. But just let us once get past the stoats, with
those detestable guns of theirs, and I assure you we shan't want
any swords or pistols. We four, with our sticks, once we're
inside the dining-hall, why, we shall clear the floor of all the
lot of them in five minutes. I'd have done the whole thing by
myself, only I didn't want to deprive you fellows of the fun!'
`It's as well to be on the safe side,' said the Rat reflectively,
polishing a pistol-barrel on his sleeve and looking along it.
The Toad, having finished his breakfast, picked up a stout stick
and swung it vigorously, belabouring imaginary animals. `I'll
learn 'em to steal my house!' he cried. `I'll learn 'em, I'll
`Don't say "learn 'em," Toad,' said the Rat, greatly shocked.
`It's not good English.'
`What are you always nagging at Toad for?' inquired the Badger,
rather peevishly. `What's the matter with his English? It's the
same what I use myself, and if it's good enough for me, it ought
to be good enough for you!'
`I'm very sorry,' said the Rat humbly. `Only I THINK it ought
to be "teach 'em," not "learn 'em."'
`But we don't WANT to teach 'em,' replied the Badger. `We
want to LEARN 'em--learn 'em, learn 'em! And what's more,
we're going to DO it, too!'
`Oh, very well, have it your own way,' said the Rat. He was
getting rather muddled about it himself, and presently he retired
into a corner, where he could be heard muttering, `Learn 'em,
teach 'em, teach 'em, learn 'em!' till the Badger told him rather
sharply to leave off.
Presently the Mole came tumbling into the room, evidently very
pleased with himself. `I've been having such fun!' he began at
once; `I've been getting a rise out of the stoats!'
`I hope you've been very careful, Mole?' said the Rat anxiously.
`I should hope so, too,' said the Mole confidently. `I got the
idea when I went into the kitchen, to see about Toad's
breakfast being kept hot for him. I found that old washerwoman-
dress that he came home in yesterday, hanging on a towel-horse
before the fire. So I put it on, and the bonnet as well, and the
shawl, and off I went to Toad Hall, as bold as you please. The
sentries were on the look-out, of course, with their guns and
their "Who comes there?" and all the rest of their nonsense.
"Good morning, gentlemen!" says I, very respectful. "Want any
washing done to-day?"
`They looked at me very proud and stiff and haughty, and said,
"Go away, washerwoman! We don't do any washing on duty." "Or
any other time?" says I. Ho, ho, ho! Wasn't I FUNNY, Toad?'
`Poor, frivolous animal!' said Toad, very loftily. The fact is,
he felt exceedingly jealous of Mole for what he had just done.
It was exactly what he would have liked to have done himself, if
only he had thought of it first, and hadn't gone and overslept
`Some of the stoats turned quite pink,' continued the Mole, `and
the Sergeant in charge, he said to me, very short, he said, "Now
run away, my good woman, run away! Don't keep my men idling
and talking on their posts." "Run away?" says I; "it won't be me
that'll be running away, in a very short time from now!"'
`O MOLY, how could you?' said the Rat, dismayed.
The Badger laid down his paper.
`I could see them pricking up their ears and looking at each
other,' went on the Mole; `and the Sergeant said to them, "Never
mind HER; she doesn't know what she's talking about."'
`"O! don't I?"' said I. `"Well, let me tell you this. My
daughter, she washes for Mr. Badger, and that'll show you whether
I know what I'm talking about; and YOU'LL know pretty soon,
too! A hundred bloodthirsty badgers, armed with rifles, are
going to attack Toad Hall this very night, by way of the paddock.
Six boatloads of Rats, with pistols and cutlasses, will come up
the river and effect a landing in the garden; while a picked body
of Toads, known at the Die-hards, or the Death-or-Glory Toads,
will storm the orchard and carry everything before them, yelling
for vengeance. There won't be much left of you to wash, by the
time they've done with you, unless you clear out while you have
the chance!" Then I ran away, and when I was out of sight I
hid; and presently I came creeping back along the ditch and took
a peep at them through the hedge. They were all as nervous and
flustered as could be, running all ways at once, and falling over
each other, and every one giving orders to everybody else and not
listening; and the Sergeant kept sending off parties of stoats to
distant parts of the grounds, and then sending other fellows to
fetch 'em back again; and I heard them saying to each other,
"That's just like the weasels; they're to stop comfortably in the
banqueting-hall, and have feasting and toasts and songs and all
sorts of fun, while we must stay on guard in the cold and the
dark, and in the end be cut to pieces by bloodthirsty Badgers!'"
`Oh, you silly ass, Mole!' cried Toad, `You've been and spoilt
`Mole,' said the Badger, in his dry, quiet way, `I perceive you
have more sense in your little finger than some other animals
have in the whole of their fat bodies. You have managed
excellently, and I begin to have great hopes of you. Good Mole!
The Toad was simply wild with jealousy, more especially as
he couldn't make out for the life of him what the Mole had done
that was so particularly clever; but, fortunately for him, before
he could show temper or expose himself to the Badger's sarcasm,
the bell rang for luncheon.
It was a simple but sustaining meal--bacon and broad beans, and a
macaroni pudding; and when they had quite done, the Badger
settled himself into an arm-chair, and said, `Well, we've got our
work cut out for us to-night, and it will probably be pretty late
before we're quite through with it; so I'm just going to take
forty winks, while I can.' And he drew a handkerchief over his
face and was soon snoring.
The anxious and laborious Rat at once resumed his preparations,
and started running between his four little heaps, muttering,
`Here's-a-belt-for-the-Rat, here's-a-belt-for-the Mole, here's-a-
belt-for-the-Toad, here's-a-belt-for-the-Badger!' and so on, with
every fresh accoutrement he produced, to which there seemed
really no end; so the Mole drew his arm through Toad's, led him
out into the open air, shoved him into a wicker chair, and made
him tell him all his adventures from beginning to end, which
Toad was only too willing to do. The Mole was a good listener,
and Toad, with no one to check his statements or to criticise in
an unfriendly spirit, rather let himself go. Indeed, much that
he related belonged more properly to the category of what-might-
minutes-afterwards. Those are always the best and the raciest
adventures; and why should they not be truly ours, as much as the
somewhat inadequate things that really come off?
THE RETURN OF ULYSSES
When it began to grow dark, the Rat, with an air of excitement
and mystery, summoned them back into the parlour, stood each of
them up alongside of his little heap, and proceeded to dress them
up for the coming expedition. He was very earnest and
thoroughgoing about it, and the affair took quite a long time.
First, there was a belt to go round each animal, and then a sword
to be stuck into each belt, and then a cutlass on the other side
to balance it. Then a pair of pistols, a policeman's truncheon,
several sets of handcuffs, some bandages and sticking-plaster,
and a flask and a sandwich-case. The Badger laughed good-
humouredly and said, `All right, Ratty! It amuses you and it
doesn't hurt me. I'm going to do all I've got to do with this
here stick.' But the Rat only said, `PLEASE, Badger.
You know I shouldn't like you to blame me afterwards and say
I had forgotten ANYTHING!'
When all was quite ready, the Badger took a dark lantern in one
paw, grasped his great stick with the other, and said, `Now then,
follow me! Mole first, `cos I'm very pleased with him; Rat next;
Toad last. And look here, Toady! Don't you chatter so much as
usual, or you'll be sent back, as sure as fate!'
The Toad was so anxious not to be left out that he took up the
inferior position assigned to him without a murmur, and the
animals set off. The Badger led them along by the river for a
little way, and then suddenly swung himself over the edge into a
hole in the river-bank, a little above the water. The Mole and
the Rat followed silently, swinging themselves successfully into
the hole as they had seen the Badger do; but when it came to
Toad's turn, of course he managed to slip and fall into the water
with a loud splash and a squeal of alarm. He was hauled out by
his friends, rubbed down and wrung out hastily, comforted, and
set on his legs; but the Badger was seriously angry, and told him
that the very next time he made a fool of himself he would
most certainly be left behind.
So at last they were in the secret passage, and the cutting-out
expedition had really begun!
It was cold, and dark, and damp, and low, and narrow, and poor
Toad began to shiver, partly from dread of what might be before
him, partly because he was wet through. The lantern was far
ahead, and he could not help lagging behind a little in the
darkness. Then he heard the Rat call out warningly, `COME on,
Toad!' and a terror seized him of being left behind, alone in the
darkness, and he `came on' with such a rush that he upset the Rat
into the Mole and the Mole into the Badger, and for a moment all
was confusion. The Badger thought they were being attacked from
behind, and, as there was no room to use a stick or a cutlass,
drew a pistol, and was on the point of putting a bullet into
Toad. When he found out what had really happened he was very
angry indeed, and said, `Now this time that tiresome Toad
SHALL be left behind!'
But Toad whimpered, and the other two promised that they would be
answerable for his good conduct, and at last the Badger was
pacified, and the procession moved on; only this time the Rat
brought up the rear, with a firm grip on the shoulder of Toad.
So they groped and shuffled along, with their ears pricked up and
their paws on their pistols, till at last the Badger said, `We
ought by now to be pretty nearly under the Hall.'
Then suddenly they heard, far away as it might be, and yet
apparently nearly over their heads, a confused murmur of sound,
as if people were shouting and cheering and stamping on the floor
and hammering on tables. The Toad's nervous terrors all
returned, but the Badger only remarked placidly, `They ARE
going it, the Weasels!'
The passage now began to slope upwards; they groped onward a
little further, and then the noise broke out again, quite
distinct this time, and very close above them. `Ooo-ray-ooray-
oo-ray-ooray!' they heard, and the stamping of little feet on the
floor, and the clinking of glasses as little fists pounded on the
table. `WHAT a time they're having!' said the Badger. `Come
on!' They hurried along the passage till it came to a full stop,
and they found themselves standing under the trap-door that
led up into the butler's pantry.
Such a tremendous noise was going on in the banqueting-hall that
there was little danger of their being overheard. The Badger
said, `Now, boys, all together!' and the four of them put their
shoulders to the trap-door and heaved it back. Hoisting each
other up, they found themselves standing in the pantry, with only
a door between them and the banqueting-hall, where their
unconscious enemies were carousing.
The noise, as they emerged from the passage, was simply
deafening. At last, as the cheering and hammering slowly
subsided, a voice could be made out saying, `Well, I do not
propose to detain you much longer'--(great applause)--`but before
I resume my seat'--(renewed cheering)--`I should like to say one
word about our kind host, Mr. Toad. We all know Toad!'--(great
laughter)--`GOOD Toad, MODEST Toad, HONEST Toad!'
(shrieks of merriment).
`Only just let me get at him!' muttered Toad, grinding his teeth.
`Hold hard a minute!' said the Badger, restraining him with
difficulty. `Get ready, all of you!'
`--Let me sing you a little song,' went on the voice, `which I
have composed on the subject of Toad'--(prolonged applause).
Then the Chief Weasel--for it was he--began in a high, squeaky
`Toad he went a-pleasuring
Gaily down the street--'
The Badger drew himself up, took a firm grip of his stick with
both paws, glanced round at his comrades, and cried--
`The hour is come! Follow me!'
And flung the door open wide.
What a squealing and a squeaking and a screeching filled the air!
Well might the terrified weasels dive under the tables and spring
madly up at the windows! Well might the ferrets rush wildly for
the fireplace and get hopelessly jammed in the chimney! Well
might tables and chairs be upset, and glass and china be sent
crashing on the floor, in the panic of that terrible moment when
the four Heroes strode wrathfully into the room! The mighty
Badger, his whiskers bristling, his great cudgel whistling
through the air; Mole, black and grim, brandishing his stick and
shouting his awful war-cry, `A Mole! A Mole!' Rat; desperate
and determined, his belt bulging with weapons of every age and
every variety; Toad, frenzied with excitement and injured pride,
swollen to twice his ordinary size, leaping into the air and
emitting Toad-whoops that chilled them to the marrow! `Toad he
went a-pleasuring!' he yelled. `I'LL pleasure 'em!' and he
went straight for the Chief Weasel. They were but four in all,
but to the panic-stricken weasels the hall seemed full of
monstrous animals, grey, black, brown and yellow, whooping and
flourishing enormous cudgels; and they broke and fled with
squeals of terror and dismay, this way and that, through the
windows, up the chimney, anywhere to get out of reach of those
The affair was soon over. Up and down, the whole length of the
hall, strode the four Friends, whacking with their sticks at
every head that showed itself; and in five minutes the room was
cleared. Through the broken windows the shrieks of terrified
weasels escaping across the lawn were borne faintly to their
ears; on the floor lay prostrate some dozen or so of the enemy,
on whom the Mole was busily engaged in fitting handcuffs. The
Badger, resting from his labours, leant on his stick and wiped
his honest brow.
`Mole,' he said,' `you're the best of fellows! Just cut along
outside and look after those stoat-sentries of yours, and see
what they're doing. I've an idea that, thanks to you, we shan't
have much trouble from them to-night!'
The Mole vanished promptly through a window; and the Badger bade
the other two set a table on its legs again, pick up knives and
forks and plates and glasses from the debris on the floor, and
see if they could find materials for a supper. `I want some
grub, I do,' he said, in that rather common way he had of
speaking. `Stir your stumps, Toad, and look lively! We've got
your house back for you, and you don't offer us so much as a
sandwich.' Toad felt rather hurt that the Badger didn't say
pleasant things to him, as he had to the Mole, and tell him what
a fine fellow he was, and how splendidly he had fought; for he
was rather particularly pleased with himself and the way he had
gone for the Chief Weasel and sent him flying across the
table with one blow of his stick. But he bustled about, and so
did the Rat, and soon they found some guava jelly in a glass
dish, and a cold chicken, a tongue that had hardly been touched,
some trifle, and quite a lot of lobster salad; and in the pantry
they came upon a basketful of French rolls and any quantity of
cheese, butter, and celery. They were just about to sit down
when the Mole clambered in through the window, chuckling, with an
armful of rifles.
`It's all over,' he reported. `From what I can make out, as soon
as the stoats, who were very nervous and jumpy already, heard the
shrieks and the yells and the uproar inside the hall, some of
them threw down their rifles and fled. The others stood fast for
a bit, but when the weasels came rushing out upon them they
thought they were betrayed; and the stoats grappled with the
weasels, and the weasels fought to get away, and they wrestled
and wriggled and punched each other, and rolled over and over,
till most of 'em rolled into the river! They've all disappeared
by now, one way or another; and I've got their rifles. So that's
`Excellent and deserving animal!' said the Badger, his mouth full
of chicken and trifle. `Now, there's just one more thing I want
you to do, Mole, before you sit down to your supper along of us;
and I wouldn't trouble you only I know I can trust you to see a
thing done, and I wish I could say the same of every one I know.
I'd send Rat, if he wasn't a poet. I want you to take those
fellows on the floor there upstairs with you, and have some
bedrooms cleaned out and tidied up and made really comfortable.
See that they sweep UNDER the beds, and put clean sheets and
pillow-cases on, and turn down one corner of the bed-clothes,
just as you know it ought to be done; and have a can of hot
water, and clean towels, and fresh cakes of soap, put in each
room. And then you can give them a licking a-piece, if it's any
satisfaction to you, and put them out by the back-door, and we
shan't see any more of THEM, I fancy. And then come along and
have some of this cold tongue. It's first rate. I'm very
pleased with you, Mole!'
The goodnatured Mole picked up a stick, formed his prisoners up
in a line on the floor, gave them the order `Quick march!' and
led his squad off to the upper floor. After a time, he
appeared again, smiling, and said that every room was ready, and
as clean as a new pin. `And I didn't have to lick them, either,'
he added. `I thought, on the whole, they had had licking enough
for one night, and the weasels, when I put the point to them,
quite agreed with me, and said they wouldn't think of troubling
me. They were very penitent, and said they were extremely sorry
for what they had done. but it was all the fault of the Chief
Weasel and the stoats, and if ever they could do anything for us
at any time to make up, we had only got to mention it. So I gave
them a roll a-piece, and let them out at the back, and off they
ran, as hard as they could!'
Then the Mole pulled his chair up to the table, and pitched into
the cold tongue; and Toad, like the gentleman he was, put all his
jealousy from him, and said heartily, `Thank you kindly, dear
Mole, for all your pains and trouble tonight, and especially for
your cleverness this morning!' The Badger was pleased at that,
and said, `There spoke my brave Toad!' So they finished their
supper in great joy and contentment, and presently retired to
rest between clean sheets, safe in Toad's ancestral home,
won back by matchless valour, consummate strategy, and a proper
handling of sticks.
The following morning, Toad, who had overslept himself as usual,
came down to breakfast disgracefully late, and found on the table
a certain quantity of egg-shells, some fragments of cold and
leathery toast, a coffee-pot three-fourths empty, and really very
little else; which did not tend to improve his temper,
considering that, after all, it was his own house. Through the
French windows of the breakfast-room he could see the Mole and
the Water Rat sitting in wicker-chairs out on the lawn, evidently
telling each other stories; roaring with laughter and kicking
their short legs up in the air. The Badger, who was in an arm-
chair and deep in the morning paper, merely looked up and nodded
when Toad entered the room. But Toad knew his man, so he sat
down and made the best breakfast he could, merely observing to
himself that he would get square with the others sooner or later.
When he had nearly finished, the Badger looked up and remarked
rather shortly: `I'm sorry, Toad, but I'm afraid there's a heavy
morning's work in front of you. You see, we really ought to
have a Banquet at once, to celebrate this affair. It's expected
of you--in fact, it's the rule.'
`O, all right!' said the Toad, readily. `Anything to oblige.
Though why on earth you should want to have a Banquet in the
morning I cannot understand. But you know I do not live to
please myself, but merely to find out what my friends want, and
then try and arrange it for 'em, you dear old Badger!'
`Don't pretend to be stupider than you really are,' replied the
Badger, crossly; `and don't chuckle and splutter in your coffee
while you're talking; it's not manners. What I mean is, the
Banquet will be at night, of course, but the invitations will
have to be written and got off at once, and you've got to write
'em. Now, sit down at that table--there's stacks of letter-paper
on it, with "Toad Hall" at the top in blue and gold--and write
invitations to all our friends, and if you stick to it we shall
get them out before luncheon. And I'LL bear a hand, too; and
take my share of the burden. I'LL order the Banquet.'
`What!' cried Toad, dismayed. `Me stop indoors and write a lot
of rotten letters on a jolly morning like this, when I want
to go around my property, and set everything and everybody to
rights, and swagger about and enjoy myself! Certainly not! I'll
be--I'll see you----Stop a minute, though! Why, of course, dear
Badger! What is my pleasure or convenience compared with that of
others! You wish it done, and it shall be done. Go, Badger,
order the Banquet, order what you like; then join our young
friends outside in their innocent mirth, oblivious of me and my
cares and toils. I sacrifice this fair morning on the altar of
duty and friendship!'
The Badger looked at him very suspiciously, but Toad's frank,
open countenance made it difficult to suggest any unworthy motive
in this change of attitude. He quitted the room, accordingly, in
the direction of the kitchen, and as soon as the door had closed
behind him, Toad hurried to the writing-table. A fine idea had
occurred to him while he was talking. He WOULD write the
invitations; and he would take care to mention the leading part
he had taken in the fight, and how he had laid the Chief Weasel
flat; and he would hint at his adventures, and what a career of
triumph he had to tell about; and on the fly-leaf he would
set out a sort of a programme of entertainment for the evening--
something like this, as he sketched it out in his head:--
SPEECH . . . . BY TOAD.
(There will be other speeches by TOAD during the evening.)
ADDRESS . . . BY TOAD
SYNOPSIS--Our Prison System--the Waterways of Old England--Horse-
dealing, and how to deal--Property, its rights and its duties--
Back to the Land--A Typical English Squire.
SONG . . . . BY TOAD.
(Composed by himself.)
OTHER COMPOSITIONS . BY TOAD
will be sung in the course of the
evening by the . . . COMPOSER.
The idea pleased him mightly, and he worked very hard and got all
the letters finished by noon, at which hour it was reported to
him that there was a small and rather bedraggled weasel at the
door, inquiring timidly whether he could be of any service to the
gentlemen. Toad swaggered out and found it was one of the
prisoners of the previous evening, very respectful and
anxious to please. He patted him on the head, shoved the bundle
of invitations into his paw, and told him to cut along quick and
deliver them as fast as he could, and if he liked to come back
again in the evening, perhaps there might be a shilling for him,
or, again, perhaps there mightn't; and the poor weasel seemed
really quite grateful, and hurried off eagerly to do his mission.
When the other animals came back to luncheon, very boisterous and
breezy after a morning on the river, the Mole, whose conscience
had been pricking him, looked doubtfully at Toad, expecting to
find him sulky or depressed. Instead, he was so uppish and
inflated that the Mole began to suspect something; while the Rat
and the Badger exchanged significant glances.
As soon as the meal was over, Toad thrust his paws deep into his
trouser-pockets, remarked casually, `Well, look after yourselves,
you fellows! Ask for anything you want!' and was swaggering off
in the direction of the garden, where he wanted to think out an
idea or two for his coming speeches, when the Rat caught him by
Toad rather suspected what he was after, and did his best to get
away; but when the Badger took him firmly by the other arm he
began to see that the game was up. The two animals conducted him
between them into the small smoking-room that opened out of the
entrance-hall, shut the door, and put him into a chair. Then
they both stood in front of him, while Toad sat silent and
regarded them with much suspicion and ill-humour.
`Now, look here, Toad,' said the Rat. `It's about this Banquet,
and very sorry I am to have to speak to you like this. But we
want you to understand clearly, once and for all, that there are
going to be no speeches and no songs. Try and grasp the fact
that on this occasion we're not arguing with you; we're just
Toad saw that he was trapped. They understood him, they saw
through him, they had got ahead of him. His pleasant dream was
`Mayn't I sing them just one LITTLE song?' he pleaded
`No, not ONE little song,' replied the Rat firmly, though his
heart bled as he noticed the trembling lip of the poor
disappointed Toad. `It's no good, Toady; you know well that your
songs are all conceit and boasting and vanity; and your speeches
are all self-praise and--and--well, and gross exaggeration and--
`And gas,' put in the Badger, in his common way.
`It's for your own good, Toady,' went on the Rat. `You know you
MUST turn over a new leaf sooner or later, and now seems a
splendid time to begin; a sort of turning-point in your career.
Please don't think that saying all this doesn't hurt me more than
it hurts you.'
Toad remained a long while plunged in thought. At last he raised
his head, and the traces of strong emotion were visible on his
features. `You have conquered, my friends,' he said in broken
accents. `It was, to be sure, but a small thing that I asked--
merely leave to blossom and expand for yet one more evening, to
let myself go and hear the tumultuous applause that always seems
to me--somehow--to bring out my best qualities. However, you are
right, I know, and I am wrong. Hence forth I will be a very
different Toad. My friends, you shall never have occasion to
blush for me again. But, O dear, O dear, this is a hard
And, pressing his handkerchief to his face, he left the room,
with faltering footsteps.
`Badger,' said the Rat, `_I_ feel like a brute; I wonder what
YOU feel like?'
`O, I know, I know,' said the Badger gloomily. `But the thing
had to be done. This good fellow has got to live here, and hold
his own, and be respected. Would you have him a common laughing-
stock, mocked and jeered at by stoats and weasels?'
`Of course not,' said the Rat. `And, talking of weasels, it's
lucky we came upon that little weasel, just as he was setting out
with Toad's invitations. I suspected something from what you
told me, and had a look at one or two; they were simply
disgraceful. I confiscated the lot, and the good Mole is now
sitting in the blue boudoir, filling up plain, simple
* * * * *
At last the hour for the banquet began to draw near, and Toad,
who on leaving the others had retired to his bedroom, was still
sitting there, melancholy and thoughtful. His brow resting
on his paw, he pondered long and deeply. Gradually his
countenance cleared, and he began to smile long, slow smiles.
Then he took to giggling in a shy, self-conscious manner. At
last he got up, locked the door, drew the curtains across the
windows, collected all the chairs in the room and arranged them
in a semicircle, and took up his position in front of them,
swelling visibly. Then he bowed, coughed twice, and, letting
himself go, with uplifted voice he sang, to the enraptured
audience that his imagination so clearly saw,
TOAD'S LAST LITTLE SONG!
There was panic in the parlours and bowling in the halls,
There was crying in the cow-sheds and shrieking in the stalls,
When the Toad--came--home!
When the Toad--came--home!
There was smashing in of window and crashing in of door,
There was chivvying of weasels that fainted on the floor,
When the Toad--came--home!
Bang! go the drums!
The trumpeters are tooting and the soldiers are saluting,
And the cannon they are shooting and the motor-cars are hooting,
And let each one of the crowd try and shout it very loud,
In honour of an animal of whom you're justly proud,
For it's Toad's--great--day!
He sang this very loud, with great unction and expression; and
when he had done, he sang it all over again.
Then he heaved a deep sigh; a long, long, long sigh.
Then he dipped his hairbrush in the water-jug, parted his hair in
the middle, and plastered it down very straight and sleek on each
side of his face; and, unlocking the door, went quietly down the
stairs to greet his guests, who he knew must be assembling in the
All the animals cheered when he entered, and crowded round to
congratulate him and say nice things about his courage, and his
cleverness, and his fighting qualities; but Toad only smiled
faintly, and murmured, `Not at all!' Or, sometimes, for a
change, `On the contrary!' Otter, who was standing on the
hearthrug, describing to an admiring circle of friends exactly
how he would have managed things had he been there, came
forward with a shout, threw his arm round Toad's neck, and tried
to take him round the room in triumphal progress; but Toad, in a
mild way, was rather snubby to him, remarking gently, as he
disengaged himself, `Badger's was the mastermind; the Mole and
the Water Rat bore the brunt of the fighting; I merely served in
the ranks and did little or nothing.' The animals were evidently
puzzled and taken aback by this unexpected attitude of his; and
Toad felt, as he moved from one guest to the other, making his
modest responses, that he was an object of absorbing interest to
The Badger had ordered everything of the best, and the banquet
was a great success. There was much talking and laughter and
chaff among the animals, but through it all Toad, who of course
was in the chair, looked down his nose and murmured pleasant
nothings to the animals on either side of him. At intervals he
stole a glance at the Badger and the Rat, and always when he
looked they were staring at each other with their mouths open;
and this gave him the greatest satisfaction. Some of the younger
and livelier animals, as the evening wore on, got whispering to
each other that things were not so amusing as they used to be in
the good old days; and there were some knockings on the table and
cries of `Toad! Speech! Speech from Toad! Song! Mr. Toad's
song!' But Toad only shook his head gently, raised one paw in
mild protest, and, by pressing delicacies on his guests, by
topical small-talk, and by earnest inquiries after members of
their families not yet old enough to appear at social functions,
managed to convey to them that this dinner was being run on
strictly conventional lines.
He was indeed an altered Toad!
* * * * *
After this climax, the four animals continued to lead their
lives, so rudely broken in upon by civil war, in great joy and
contentment, undisturbed by further risings or invasions. Toad,
after due consultation with his friends, selected a handsome gold
chain and locket set with pearls, which he dispatched to the
gaoler's daughter with a letter that even the Badger admitted to
be modest, grateful, and appreciative; and the engine-driver, in
his turn, was properly thanked and compensated for all his pains
and trouble. Under severe compulsion from the Badger, even the
barge-woman was, with some trouble, sought out and the value of
her horse discreetly made good to her; though Toad kicked
terribly at this, holding himself to be an instrument of Fate,
sent to punish fat women with mottled arms who couldn't tell a
real gentleman when they saw one. The amount involved, it was
true, was not very burdensome, the gipsy's valuation being
admitted by local assessors to be approximately correct.
Sometimes, in the course of long summer evenings, the friends
would take a stroll together in the Wild Wood, now successfully
tamed so far as they were concerned; and it was pleasing to see
how respectfully they were greeted by the inhabitants, and how
the mother-weasels would bring their young ones to the mouths of
their holes, and say, pointing, `Look, baby! There goes the
great Mr. Toad! And that's the gallant Water Rat, a
terrible fighter, walking along o' him! And yonder comes the
famous Mr. Mole, of whom you so often have heard your father
tell!' But when their infants were fractious and quite beyond
control, they would quiet them by telling how, if they didn't
hush them and not fret them, the terrible grey Badger would up
and get them. This was a base libel on Badger, who, though he
cared little about Society, was rather fond of children; but it
never failed to have its full effect.
End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Wind in the Willows