the wind in the willows by kenneth grahame author of "the golden age," "dream days,"etc. contents chapteri. the river bank ii. the open roadiii. the wild wood iv. mr. badgerv. dulce domum vi. mr. toadvii. the piper at the gates of dawn viii. toad's adventuresix. wayfarers all
x. the further adventures of toadxi. "like summer tempests came his tears" xii. the return of ulysses i. the river bank the mole had been working very hard all themorning, spring-cleaning his little home. first with brooms, then withdusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pailof whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewashall over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. springwas moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him,penetrating even his dark
and lowly little house with its spirit ofdivine discontent and longing. it was small wonder, then, that he suddenlyflung down his brush on the floor, said 'bother!' and 'o blow!' and also'hang spring-cleaning!' and bolted out of the house without even waitingto put on his coat. something up above was calling him imperiously,and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered inhis case to the gavelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residencesare nearer to the sun and air. so he scraped and scratched and scrabbledand scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratchedand scraped, working
busily with his little paws and mutteringto himself, 'up we go! up we go!' till at last, pop! his snout came outinto the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass ofa great meadow. 'this is fine!' he said to himself. 'thisis better than whitewashing!' the sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezescaressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellaragehe had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell on his dulledhearing almost like a shout. jumping off all his four legs at once, inthe joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, hepursued his way across the
meadow till he reached the hedge on the furtherside. '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 contemptuousmole, who trotted along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbitsas they peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about.'onion-sauce! onion-sauce!' he remarked jeeringly, and wasgone 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----' 'youmight 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. hitherand 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 himand whispering 'whitewash!' he somehow could only feel how jolly it wasto 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 afull-fed river. never in his life had he seen a river before--thissleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping thingswith a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itselfon fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and heldagain. 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 verysmall, 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 riverstill chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best storiesin the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to theinsatiable sea. as he sat on the grass and looked across theriver, 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-placeit would make for an animal with few wants and fond of a bijouriverside residence, above flood level and remote from noise and dust.as he gazed, something bright and small seemed to twinkle down inthe 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 wastoo glittering and small for a glow-worm. then, as he looked, it winked athim, and so declared itself to be an eye; and a small face began graduallyto grow up round it, like a frame round a picture.
a brown little face, with whiskers. a grave round face, with the same twinklein 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 eachother cautiously. 'hullo, mole!' said the water rat. 'hullo, rat!' said the mole. 'would you like to come over?' enquired therat presently.
'oh, its all very well to talk,' said themole, rather pettishly, he being new to a river and riverside life andits ways. the rat said nothing, but stooped and unfasteneda rope and hauled on it; then lightly stepped into a littleboat which the mole had not observed. it was painted blue outside andwhite within, and was just the size for two animals; and the mole's wholeheart went out to it at once, even though he did not yet fully understandits 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 hissurprise and rapture found himself actually seated in the stern of areal boat. 'this has been a wonderful day!' said he,as the rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. 'do you know, i've neverbeen in a boat before in all my life.' 'what?' cried the rat, open-mouthed: 'neverbeen in a--you never--well i--what have you been doing, then?' 'is it so nice as all that?' asked the moleshyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back inhis seat and surveyed the
cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and allthe fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him. 'nice? it's the only thing,' said the waterrat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. 'believe me,my young friend, there is nothing--absolute nothing--half so much worthdoing as simply messing about in boats. simply messing,' hewent on dreamily: 'messing--about--in--boats; messing----' 'look ahead, rat!' cried the mole suddenly. it was too late. the boat struck the bankfull tilt. the dreamer, the
joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottomof the boat, his heels in the air. '--about in boats--or with boats,' the ratwent on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. 'in or outof 'em, it doesn't matter. nothing seems really to matter, that's thecharm of it. whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arriveat your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whetheryou never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never doanything in particular; and when you've done it there's always somethingelse 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, supposingwe 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 backblissfully 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 intohis hole above, and after a short interval reappeared staggering undera fat, wicker
luncheon-basket. 'shove that under your feet,' he observedto the mole, as he passed it down into the boat. then he untied thepainter and took the sculls again. 'what's inside it?' asked the mole, wrigglingwith curiosity. 'there's cold chicken inside it,' repliedthe rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssan-dwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater----' 'o stop, stop,' cried the mole in ecstacies:'this is too much!' 'do you really think so?' enquired the ratseriously. 'it's only what i
always take on these little excursions; andthe other animals are always telling me that i'm a mean beast and cut itvery fine!' 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 traileda paw in the water and dreamed long waking dreams. the water rat,like the good little fellow he was, sculled steadily on and forebore todisturb him. 'i like your clothes awfully, old chap,' heremarked after some half an hour or so had passed. 'i'm going to geta black velvet smoking-suit
myself some day, as soon as i can afford it.' 'i beg your pardon,' said the mole, pullinghimself together with an effort. 'you must think me very rude; butall this is so new to me. so--this--is--a--river!' 'the river,' corrected the rat. 'and you really live by the river? what ajolly life!' 'by it and with it and on it and in it,' saidthe rat. 'it's brother and sister to me, and aunts, and company,and food and drink, and (naturally) washing. it's my world, and idon't want any other. what it
hasn't got is not worth having, and what itdoesn't know is not worth knowing. lord! the times we've had together!whether in winter or summer, spring or autumn, it's always gotits fun and its excitements. when the floods are on in february, and mycellars 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 alldrops away and, shows patches of mud that smells like plum-cake, and therushes and weed clog the channels, and i can potter about dry shodover most of the bed of it and find fresh food to eat, and things carelesspeople have dropped out of
boats!' 'but isn't it a bit dull at times?' the moleventured to ask. 'just you and the river, and no one else to pass a wordwith?' 'no one else to--well, i mustn't be hard onyou,' said the rat with forbearance. 'you're new to it, and of courseyou don't know. the bank is so crowded nowadays that many people aremoving 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 andalways wanting you to do something--as if a fellow had no businessof his own to attend to!'
'what lies over there' asked the mole, wavinga paw towards a background of woodland that darkly framed the water-meadowson one side of the river. 'that? o, that's just the wild wood,' saidthe rat shortly. 'we don't go there very much, we river-bankers.' 'aren't they--aren't they very nice peoplein there?' said the mole, a trifle nervously. 'w-e-ll,' replied the rat, 'let me see. thesquirrels are all right. and the rabbits--some of 'em, but rabbits area mixed lot. and then there's
badger, of course. he lives right in the heartof it; wouldn't live anywhere else, either, if you paid him todo it. dear old badger! nobody interferes with him. they'd better not,' headded significantly. 'why, who should interfere with him?' askedthe mole. 'well, of course--there--are others,' explainedthe 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--passthe 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, andthat's the fact.' the mole knew well that it is quite againstanimal-etiquette to dwell on possible trouble ahead, or even to alludeto 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 orperhaps they mayn't, and something like the smoke of towns, or is itonly cloud-drift?' 'beyond the wild wood comes the wide world,'said the rat. 'and that's something that doesn't matter, either to youor 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 intowhat seemed at first sight like a little land-locked lake. green turfsloped down to either edge, brown snaky tree-roots gleamed below the surfaceof the quiet water, while ahead of them the silvery shoulder andfoamy 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 theair with a soothing murmur
of sound, dull and smothery, yet with littleclear voices speaking up cheerfully out of it at intervals. it wasso very beautiful that the mole could only hold up both forepaws andgasp, '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 swungout the luncheon-basket. the mole begged as a favour to be allowed to unpackit all by himself; and the rat was very pleased to indulge him, andto sprawl at full length on the grass and rest, while his excited friendshook out the table-cloth and spread it, took out all the mysteriouspackets one by one and
arranged their contents in due order, stillgasping, '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 veryglad to obey, for he had started his spring-cleaning at a very earlyhour 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 whichnow seemed so many days ago. 'what are you looking at?' said the rat presently,when the edge of their hunger was somewhat dulled, and themole's eyes were able to
wander off the table-cloth a little. 'i am looking,' said the mole, 'at a streakof 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 chirrupedcheerily in an inviting sort of way. a broad glistening muzzle showed itself abovethe edge of the bank, and the otter hauled himself out and shook thewater from his coat. 'greedy beggars!' he observed, making forthe provender. 'why didn't you
invite me, ratty?' 'this was an impromptu affair,' explainedthe rat. 'by the way--my friend mr. mole.' 'proud, i'm sure,' said the otter, and thetwo animals were friends forthwith. 'such a rumpus everywhere!' continued theotter. 'all the world seems out on the river to-day. i came up this backwaterto try and get a moment's peace, and then stumble upon youfellows!--at least--i beg pardon--i don't exactly mean that, you know.'
there was a rustle behind them, proceedingfrom a hedge wherein last year's leaves still clung thick, and a stripyhead, 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!' observedthe disappointed rat. 'simply hates society! now we shan't see anymore 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 therat, 'then he tired of that and took to punting. nothing would pleasehim but to punt all day and every day, and a nice mess he made ofit. last year it was house-boating, and we all had to go and staywith him in his house-boat, and pretend we liked it. he was going to spendthe rest of his life in a house-boat. it's all the same, whateverhe takes up; he gets tired of
it, and starts on something fresh.' 'such a good fellow, too,' remarked the otterreflectively: 'but no stability--especially in a boat!' from where they sat they could get a glimpseof the main stream across the island that separated them; and just thena wager-boat flashed into view, the rower--a short, stout figure--splashingbadly and rolling a good deal, but working his hardest. the ratstood up and hailed him, but toad--for it was he--shook his head and settledsternly to his work. 'he'll be out of the boat in a minute if herolls like that,' said the
rat, sitting down again. 'of course he will,' chuckled the otter. 'didi ever tell you that good story about toad and the lock-keeper? it happenedthis way. toad....' an errant may-fly swerved unsteadily athwartthe current in the intoxicated fashion affected by young bloodsof may-flies seeing life. a swirl of water and a 'cloop!' and the may-flywas visible no more. neither was the otter. the mole looked down. the voice was stillin 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 onthe surface of the river. the rat hummed a tune, and the mole recollectedthat animal-etiquette forbade any sort of comment on the suddendisappearance of one's friends at any moment, for any reason or no reasonwhatever. 'well, well,' said the rat, 'i suppose weought 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, ofcourse, the rat let him.
packing the basket was not quite such pleasantwork as unpacking' the basket. it never is. but the mole was benton enjoying everything, and although just when he had got the basket packedand strapped up tightly he saw a plate staring up at him from thegrass, and when the job had been done again the rat pointed out a forkwhich anybody ought to have seen, and last of all, behold! the mustardpot, 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 ratsculled gently homewards in
a dreamy mood, murmuring poetry-things overto himself, and not paying much attention to mole. but the mole was veryfull of lunch, and self-satisfaction, and pride, and alreadyquite 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. 'notyet, 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. buthe began to feel more and
more jealous of rat, sculling so stronglyand so easily along, and his pride began to whisper that he could do itevery bit as well. he jumped up and seized the sculls, so suddenly, thatthe rat, who was gazing out over the water and saying more poetry-thingsto himself, was taken by surprise and fell backwards off his seat withhis legs in the air for the second time, while the triumphant moletook his place and grabbed the sculls with entire confidence. 'stop it, you silly ass!' cried the rat, fromthe 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 thetop of the prostrate rat. greatly alarmed, he made a grab at the sideof the boat, and the next moment--sploosh! over went the boat, and he found himself strugglingin the river. o my, how cold the water was, and o, how verywet it felt. how it sang in his ears as he went down, down, down! howbright and welcome the sun looked as he rose to the surface coughingand 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 itunder 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, andwrung some of the wet out of
him, he said, 'now, then, old fellow! trotup and down the towing-path as hard as you can, till you're warm and dryagain, while i dive for the luncheon-basket.' so the dismal mole, wet without and ashamedwithin, trotted about till he was fairly dry, while the rat plunged intothe water again, recovered the boat, righted her and made her fast, fetchedhis floating property to shore by degrees, and finallydived successfully for the luncheon-basket and struggled to land withit. when all was ready for a start once more,the mole, limp and dejected,
took his seat in the stern of the boat; andas 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 ungratefulconduct. my heart quite fails me when i think how i might have lost thatbeautiful luncheon-basket. indeed, i have been a complete ass, and iknow it. will you overlook it this once and forgive me, and let things goon as before?' 'that's all right, bless you!' responded therat cheerily. 'what's a little wet to a water rat? i'm more in thewater 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 alittle time. it's very plain and rough, you know--not like toad's houseat 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 onthe water as any of us.' the mole was so touched by his kind mannerof speaking that he could find no voice to answer him; and he had tobrush away a tear or two with the back of his paw. but the rat kindly lookedin 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 moorhenswho were sniggering to
each other about his bedraggled appearance. when they got home, the rat made a brightfire in the parlour, and planted the mole in an arm-chair in frontof it, having fetched down a dressing-gown and slippers for him, andtold him river stories till supper-time. very thrilling stories they were,too, to an earth-dwelling animal like mole. stories about weirs, andsudden floods, and leaping pike, and steamers that flung hard bottles--atleast bottles were certainly flung, and from steamers, so presumablyby them; and about herons, and how particular they were whomthey spoke to; and about
adventures down drains, and night-fishingswith otter, or excursions far a-field with badger. supper was a most cheerfulmeal; but very shortly afterwards a terribly sleepy mole had to beescorted upstairs by his considerate host, to the best bedroom, wherehe 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 hiswindow. this day was only the first of many similarones for the emancipated mole, each of them longer and full of interestas 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 thereed-stems he caught, at intervals, something of what the wind wentwhispering so constantly among them. ii. the open road 'ratty,' said the mole suddenly, one brightsummer morning, 'if you please, i want to ask you a favour.' the rat was sitting on the river bank, singinga little song. he had just composed it himself, so he was very takenup with it, and would not pay proper attention to mole or anything else.since early morning he
had been swimming in the river, in companywith his friends the ducks. and when the ducks stood on their heads suddenly,as ducks will, he would dive down and tickle their necks, justunder where their chins would be if ducks had chins, till they wereforced to come to the surface again in a hurry, spluttering andangry and shaking their feathers at him, for it is impossible to sayquite all you feel when your head is under water. at last they imploredhim to go away and attend to his own affairs and leave them tomind 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 'ducks' ditty.' 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 sightbusy in the river! slushy green undergrowthwhere 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,dabbling free! high in the blue aboveswifts whirl and call-- _we_ are down a-dabblinguptails all! 'i don't know that i think so very much ofthat little song, rat,' observed the mole cautiously. he was no poethimself and didn't care who knew it; and he had a candid nature. 'nor don't the ducks neither,' replied therat cheerfully. 'they say, "why can't fellows be allowed to do what theylike when they like and as they like, instead of other fellows sittingon banks and watching them
all the time and making remarks and poetryand things about them? what nonsense it all is!" that's what the duckssay.' 'so it is, so it is,' said the mole, withgreat heartiness. 'no, it isn't!' cried the rat indignantly. 'well then, it isn't, it isn't,' replied themole soothingly. 'but what i wanted to ask you was, won't you take meto call on mr. toad? i've heard so much about him, and i do so wantto make his acquaintance.' '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 neverthe 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 whenyou go!' 'he must be a very nice animal,' observedthe mole, as he got into the boat and took the sculls, while the rat settledhimself comfortably in the stern. 'he is indeed the best of animals,' repliedrat. 'so simple, so good-natured, and so affectionate. perhapshe's not very clever--we can't all be geniuses; and it may be thathe is both boastful and
conceited. but he has got some great qualities,has toady.' rounding a bend in the river, they came insight 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 thatcreek on the left, where the notice-board says, "private. no landingallowed," leads to his boat-house, where we'll leave the boat. thestables are over there to the right. that's the banqueting-hall you'relooking at now--very old, that is. toad is rather rich, you know, andthis is really one of the
nicest houses in these parts, though we neveradmit as much to toad.' they glided up the creek, and the mole shippedhis sculls as they passed into the shadow of a large boat-house. herethey saw many handsome boats, slung from the cross beams or hauledup on a slip, but none in the water; and the place had an unused anda deserted air. the rat looked around him. 'i understand,'said he. 'boating is played out. he's tired of it, and done with it. iwonder what new fad he has taken up now? come along and let's look himup. we shall hear all about it quite soon enough.'
they disembarked, and strolled across thegay flower-decked lawns in search of toad, whom they presently happenedupon resting in a wicker garden-chair, with a pre-occupied expressionof 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, neverwaiting 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 foryou, ratty, with strict orders that you were to be fetched up hereat once, whatever you were
doing. i want you badly--both of you. nowwhat will you take? come inside and have something! you don't knowhow 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 bythe side of him and made some civil remark about toad's 'delightful residence.' 'finest house on the whole river,' cried toadboisterously. 'or anywhere else, for that matter,' he could not helpadding. here the rat nudged the mole. unfortunatelythe toad saw him do it, and
turned very red. there was a moment's painfulsilence. 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,' saidthe rat, with an innocent air. 'you're getting on fairly well, though yousplash a good bit still. with a great deal of patience, and any quantityof coaching, you may----' 'o, pooh! boating!' interrupted the toad,in great disgust. silly boyish
amusement. i've given that up long ago. sheerwaste of time, that's what it is. it makes me downright sorry to seeyou fellows, who ought to know better, spending all your energies inthat aimless manner. no, i've discovered the real thing, the only genuineoccupation for a life time. i propose to devote the remainder of mineto it, and can only regret the wasted years that lie behind me, squanderedin 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, andyou 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, shiningwith newness, painted a canary-yellow picked out with green, and redwheels. 'there you are!' cried the toad, straddlingand expanding himself. 'there's real life for you, embodied in thatlittle cart. the open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common,the hedgerows, the rolling downs! camps, villages, towns, cities! hereto-day, up and off to somewhere else to-morrow! travel, change,interest, excitement! the
whole world before you, and a horizon that'salways changing! and mind! this is the very finest cart of its sort thatwas ever built, without any exception. come inside and look at thearrangements. planned 'em all myself, i did!' the mole was tremendously interested and excited,and followed him eagerly up the steps and into the interiorof the caravan. the rat only snorted and thrust his hands deep into hispockets, remaining where he was. it was indeed very compact and comfortable.little sleeping bunks--a
little table that folded up against the wall--acooking-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--everythingyou can possibly want. soda-water here--baccy there--letter-paper,bacon, jam, cards and dominoes--you'll find,' he continued, as theydescended the steps again, 'you'll find that nothing what ever has beenforgotten, when we make our start this afternoon.'
'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 withoutyou, so please consider it settled, and don't argue--it's the one thingi can't stand. you surely don't mean to stick to your dull fusty oldriver all your life, and just live in a hole in a bank, and boat? i wantto show you the world! i'm
going to make an animal of you, my boy!' 'i don't care,' said the rat, doggedly. 'i'mnot 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 to 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 tobe. all the same, it sounds as if it might have been--well, rather fun,you know!' he added, wistfully. poor mole! the life adventurouswas so new a thing to him,
and so thrilling; and this fresh aspect ofit was so tempting; and he had fallen in love at first sight with thecanary-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 themole, and would do almost anything to oblige him. toad was watchingboth of them closely. 'come along in, and have some lunch,' he said,diplomatically, 'and we'll talk it over. we needn't decide anythingin a hurry. of course, _i_ don't really care. i only want to givepleasure 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 himselfgo. disregarding the rat, he proceeded to play upon the inexperiencedmole as on a harp. naturally a voluble animal, and always mastered by hisimagination, he painted the prospects of the trip and the joys of theopen life and the roadside in such glowing colours that the mole couldhardly sit in his chair for excitement. somehow, it soon seemed takenfor 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-natureto over-ride his personal objections. he could not bear todisappoint his two friends, who were already deep in schemes and anticipations,planning out each day's separate occupation for several weeksahead. when they were quite ready, the now triumphanttoad led his companions to the paddock and set them to capture theold grey horse, who, without having been consulted, and to his own extremeannoyance, had been told off by toad for the dustiest job in this dustyexpedition. he frankly preferred the paddock, and took a deal ofcatching. meantime toad packed
the lockers still tighter with necessaries,and hung nosebags, nets of onions, bundles of hay, and baskets from thebottom of the cart. at last the horse was caught and harnessed, and theyset off, all talking at once, each animal either trudging by the sideof the cart or sitting on the shaft, as the humour took him. it wasa golden afternoon. the smell of the dust they kicked up was richand satisfying; out of thick orchards on either side the road, birds calledand whistled to them cheerily; good-natured wayfarers, passingthem, gave them 'good-day,' or stopped to say nice things about theirbeautiful 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 milesfrom home, they drew up on a remote common far from habitations,turned the horse loose to graze, and ate their simple supper sittingon the grass by the side of the cart. toad talked big about all he wasgoing to do in the days to come, while stars grew fuller and larger allaround them, and a yellow moon, appearing suddenly and silently fromnowhere 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! thisis the real life for a gentleman! talk about your old river!' 'i don't talk about my river,' replied thepatient rat. 'you know i don't, toad. but i think about it,' he addedpathetically, 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'lldo whatever you like, ratty,' he whispered. 'shall we run away to-morrowmorning, quite early--very
early--and go back to our dear old hole onthe river?' 'no, no, we'll see it out,' whispered backthe rat. 'thanks awfully, but i ought to stick by toad till this trip isended. it wouldn't be safe for him to be left to himself. it won't takevery long. his fads never do. good night!' the end was indeed nearer than even the ratsuspected. after so much open air and excitement thetoad slept very soundly, and no amount of shaking could rouse him out ofbed 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 lastnight's cups and platters, and got things ready for breakfast, the moletrudged off to the nearest village, a long way off, for milk and eggsand various necessaries the toad had, of course, forgotten to provide.the hard work had all been done, and the two animals were resting, thoroughlyexhausted, by the time toad appeared on the scene, freshand gay, remarking what a pleasant easy life it was they were all leadingnow, after the cares and worries and fatigues of housekeeping at home. they had a pleasant ramble that day over grassydowns and along narrow
by-lanes, and camped as before, on a common,only this time the two guests took care that toad should do hisfair share of work. in consequence, when the time came for startingnext morning, toad was by no means so rapturous about the simplicityof the primitive life, and indeed attempted to resume his place in hisbunk, whence he was hauled by force. their way lay, as before, acrosscountry by narrow lanes, and it was not till the afternoon that they cameout on the high-road, their first high-road; and there disaster, fleetand unforeseen, sprang out on them--disaster momentous indeed to theirexpedition, but simply
overwhelming in its effect on the after-careerof toad. they were strolling along the high-road easily,the mole by the horse's head, talking to him, since the horse hadcomplained that he was being frightfully left out of it, and nobody consideredhim in the least; the toad and the water rat walking behindthe cart talking together--at least toad was talking, and rat was sayingat intervals, 'yes, precisely; and what did you say to him?'--andthinking all the time of something very different, when far behindthem 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 ofenergy, advancing on them at incredible speed, while from out the dusta faint 'poop-poop!' wailed like an uneasy animal in pain. hardly regardingit, they turned to resume their conversation, when in an instant(as it seemed) the peaceful scene was changed, and with a blastof wind and a whirl of sound that made them jump for the nearestditch, it was on them! the 'poop-poop' rang with a brazen shout in theirears, they had a moment's glimpse of an interior of glittering plate-glassand rich morocco, and the magnificent motor-car, immense, breath-snatching,passionate, with
its pilot tense and hugging his wheel, possessedall earth and air for the fraction of a second, flung an envelopingcloud of dust that blinded and enwrapped them utterly, and then dwindledto a speck in the far distance, changed back into a droning beeonce more. the old grey horse, dreaming, as he ploddedalong, of his quiet paddock, in a new raw situation such as this simplyabandoned himself to his natural emotions. rearing, plunging, backingsteadily, in spite of all the mole's efforts at his head, and allthe mole's lively language directed at his better feelings, he drovethe cart backwards towards the
deep ditch at the side of the road. it waveredan instant--then there was a heartrending crash--and the canary-colouredcart, their pride and their joy, lay on its side in the ditch, anirredeemable wreck. the rat danced up and down in the road, simplytransported with passion. 'you villains!' he shouted, shaking both fists,'you scoundrels, you highwaymen, you--you--roadhogs!--i'll havethe 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 momenthe was the skipper of the canary-coloured vessel driven on a shoal bythe reckless jockeying of
rival mariners, and he was trying to recollectall the fine and biting things he used to say to masters of steam-launcheswhen their wash, as they drove too near the bank, used to floodhis parlour-carpet at home. toad sat straight down in the middle of thedusty road, his legs stretched out before him, and stared fixedlyin the direction of the disappearing motor-car. he breathed short,his face wore a placid satisfied expression, and at intervals hefaintly murmured 'poop-poop!' the mole was busy trying to quiet the horse,which he succeeded in doing after a time. then he went to look atthe cart, on its side in the
ditch. it was indeed a sorry sight. panelsand windows smashed, axles hopelessly bent, one wheel off, sardine-tinsscattered over the wide world, and the bird in the bird-cage sobbingpitifully and calling to be let out. the rat came to help him, but their unitedefforts 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 budgedfrom his seat in the road; so they went to see what was the matter withhim. they found him in a sort
of a trance, a happy smile on his face, hiseyes still fixed on the dusty wake of their destroyer. at intervalshe was still heard to murmur 'poop-poop!' the rat shook him by the shoulder. 'are youcoming 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! obliss! o poop-poop! o my! o
my!' 'o stop being an ass, toad!' cried the moledespairingly. 'and to think i never knew!' went on the toadin a dreamy monotone. 'all those wasted years that lie behind me, i neverknew, never even dreamt! but now--but now that i know, now that i fullyrealise! o what a flowery track lies spread before me, henceforth! whatdust-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 mymagnificent onset! horrid little carts--common carts--canary-colouredcarts!'
'what are we to do with him?' asked the moleof the water rat. 'nothing at all,' replied the rat firmly.'because there is really nothing to be done. you see, i know him fromof old. he is now possessed. he has got a new craze, and italways takes him that way, in its first stage. he'll continue like thatfor days now, like an animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless forall practical purposes. never mind him. let's go and see what thereis to be done about the cart.' a careful inspection showed them that, evenif they succeeded in
righting it by themselves, the cart wouldtravel no longer. the axles were in a hopeless state, and the missingwheel was shattered into pieces. the rat knotted the horse's reins over hisback and took him by the head, carrying the bird cage and its hystericaloccupant 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 towalk 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, sittingin 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'vedone with him!' they had not proceeded very far on their way,however, when there was a pattering of feet behind them, and toad caughtthem up and thrust a paw inside the elbow of each of them; still breathingshort 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 whoit belongs to, and lodge a complaint against it. and then you'll haveto go to a blacksmith's or a wheelwright's and arrange for the cart tobe fetched and mended and put to rights. it'll take time, but it's notquite a hopeless smash. meanwhile, the mole and i will go to an innand find comfortable rooms where we can stay till the cart's ready, andtill your nerves have recovered their shock.' 'police-station! complaint!'murmured toaddreamily. 'me complain of that
beautiful, that heavenly vision that has beenvouchsafed me! mend the cart! i've done with carts for ever. i neverwant to see the cart, or to hear of it, again. o, ratty! you can't thinkhow obliged i am to you for consenting to come on this trip! i wouldn'thave gone without you, and then i might never have seen that--thatswan, that sunbeam, that thunderbolt! i might never have heard thatentrancing sound, or smelt that bewitching smell! i owe it all to you,my best of friends!' the rat turned from him in despair. 'you seewhat it is?' he said to the mole, addressing him across toad's head: 'he'squite hopeless. i give
it up--when we get to the town we'll go tothe railway station, and with luck we may pick up a train there that'llget us back to riverbank to-night. and if ever you catch me going a-pleasuringwith this provoking animal again!'--he snorted, andduring the rest of that weary trudge addressed hisremarks exclusively to mole. on reaching the town they went straight tothe station and deposited toad in the second-class waiting-room, givinga porter twopence to keep a strict eye on him. they then left the horseat an inn stable, and gave what directions they could about the cartand its contents. eventually,
a slow train having landed them at a stationnot very far from toad hall, they escorted the spell-bound, sleep-walkingtoad to his door, put him inside it, and instructed his housekeeperto feed him, undress him, and put him to bed. then they got out theirboat from the boat-house, sculled down the river home, and at a verylate 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 risenlate 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'snothing else being talked about, all along the river bank. toad wentup to town by an early train this morning. and he has ordered a large andvery expensive motor-car.' iii. the wild wood the mole had long wanted to make the acquaintanceof the badger. he seemed, by all accounts, to be such an importantpersonage and, though rarely visible, to make his unseen influencefelt by everybody about the place. but whenever the mole mentionedhis wish to the water rat
he always found himself put off. 'it's allright,' the rat would say. 'badger'll turn up some day or other--he'salways turning up--and then i'll introduce you. the best of fellows! butyou 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 sortof thing.' 'well, then, supposing we go and call on him?'suggested the mole. '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, thoughi 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 wood.' '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 therat 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. butthe badger never came along, and every day brought its amusements, andit was not till summer was long over, and cold and frost and miry wayskept them much indoors, and the swollen river raced past outside theirwindows with a speed that mocked at boating of any sort or kind, thathe found his thoughts dwelling again with much persistence on thesolitary grey badger, who lived his own life by himself, in his holein 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 scribbledpoetry or did other small domestic jobs about the house; and,of course, there were always animals dropping in for a chat, and consequentlythere was a good deal of story-telling and comparing notes on thepast summer and all its doings. such a rich chapter it had been, when onecame to look back on it all! with illustrations so numerous and so veryhighly coloured! the pageant of the river bank had marched steadily along,unfolding itself in
scene-pictures that succeeded each other instately procession. purple loosestrife arrived early, shaking luxurianttangled locks along the edge of the mirror whence its own face laughedback at it. willow-herb, tender and wistful, like a pink sunset cloud,was not slow to follow. comfrey, the purple hand-in-hand with thewhite, crept forth to take its place in the line; and at last one morningthe diffident and delaying dog-rose stepped delicately on the stage,and one knew, as if string-music had announced it in stately chordsthat strayed into a gavotte, that june at last was here. one memberof the company was still
awaited; the shepherd-boy for the nymphs towoo, the knight for whom the ladies waited at the window, the prince thatwas to kiss the sleeping summer back to life and love. but when meadow-sweet,debonair and odorous in amber jerkin, moved graciouslyto 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 theirdoors, recalled still keen mornings, an hour before sunrise, whenthe white mist, as yet undispersed, clung closely along the surfaceof the water; then the
shock of the early plunge, the scamper alongthe bank, and the radiant transformation of earth, air, and water, whensuddenly the sun was with them again, and grey was gold and colour wasborn and sprang out of the earth once more. they recalled the languoroussiesta of hot mid-day, deep in green undergrowth, the sun strikingthrough in tiny golden shafts and spots; the boating and bathingof the afternoon, the rambles along dusty lanes and through yellow cornfields;and the long, cool evening at last, when so many threads weregathered up, so many friendships rounded, and so many adventuresplanned for the morrow.
there was plenty to talk about on those shortwinter 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 alternatelydozing and trying over rhymes that wouldn't fit, he formed the resolutionto go out by himself and explore the wild wood, and perhaps strikeup an acquaintance with mr. badger. it was a cold still afternoon with a hardsteely sky overhead, when he slipped out of the warm parlour into the openair. the country lay bare
and entirely leafless around him, and he thoughtthat he had never seen so far and so intimately into the insidesof things as on that winter day when nature was deep in her annual slumberand seemed to have kicked the clothes off. copses, dells, quarries andall hidden places, which had been mysterious mines for explorationin 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 enticehim with the old deceptions. it was pitiful in a way, and yet cheering--evenexhilarating. he was
glad that he liked the country undecorated,hard, and stripped of its finery. he had got down to the bare bonesof it, and they were fine and strong and simple. he did not want thewarm clover and the play of seeding grasses; the screens of quickset,the billowy drapery of beech and elm seemed best away; and with great cheerfulnessof spirit he pushed on towards the wild wood, whichlay before him low and threatening, like a black reef in some stillsouthern sea. there was nothing to alarm him at first entry.twigs crackled under his feet, logs tripped him, funguses on stumpsresembled caricatures, and
startled him for the moment by their likenessto 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, andtrees crouched nearer and nearer, and holes made ugly mouths at himon either side. everything was very still now. the dusk advancedon him steadily, rapidly, gathering in behind and before; andthe 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, lookingout at him from a hole. when he turned and confronted it, the thinghad vanished. he quickened his pace, telling himself cheerfullynot to begin imagining things, or there would be simply no end toit. he passed another hole, and another, and another; and then--yes!--no!--yes!certainly a little narrow face, with hard eyes, had flashed upfor an instant from a hole, and was gone. he hesitated--braced himselfup for an effort and strode on. then suddenly, and as if it had been soall the time, every hole, far and near, and there were hundreds of them,seemed to possess its
face, coming and going rapidly, all fixingon him glances of malice and hatred: all hard-eyed and evil and sharp. if he could only get away from the holes inthe banks, he thought, there would be no more faces. he swung offthe path and plunged into the untrodden places of the wood. then the whistling began. very faint and shrill it was, and far behindhim, 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 madehim hesitate and want to
go back. as he halted in indecision it brokeout on either side, and seemed to be caught up and passed on throughoutthe whole length of the wood to its farthest limit. they were up andalert and ready, evidently, whoever they were! and he--he was alone, andunarmed, 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 tooka regular rhythm, and he knew it for nothing else but the pat-pat-patof little feet still a very
long way off. was it in front or behind? itseemed to be first one, and then the other, then both. it grew and itmultiplied, till from every quarter as he listened anxiously, leaningthis way and that, it seemed to be closing in on him. as he stood stillto hearken, a rabbit came running hard towards him through the trees.he waited, expecting it to slacken pace, or to swerve from him into adifferent course. instead, the animal almost brushed him as it dashedpast, 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 disappeareddown a friendly
burrow. the pattering increased till it sounded likesudden hail on the dry leaf-carpet spread around him. the whole woodseemed running now, running hard, hunting, chasing, closing inround something or--somebody? in panic, he began to run too, aimlessly,he knew not whither. he ran up against things, he fell over things andinto things, he darted under things and dodged round things. at last hetook refuge in the deep dark hollow of an old beech tree, which offeredshelter, concealment--perhaps even safety, but who could tell? anyhow, hewas too tired to run any
further, and could only snuggle down intothe dry leaves which had drifted into the hollow and hope he was safefor a time. and as he lay there panting and trembling, and listenedto the whistlings and the patterings outside, he knew it at last, inall its fullness, that dread thing which other little dwellers in fieldand hedgerow had encountered here, and known as their darkest moment--thatthing which the rat had vainly tried to shield him from--the terrorof the wild wood! meantime the rat, warm and comfortable, dozedby his fireside. his paper of half-finished verses slipped from his knee,his head fell back, his
mouth opened, and he wandered by the verdantbanks of dream-rivers. then a coal slipped, the fire crackled and sentup a spurt of flame, and he woke with a start. remembering what he hadbeen engaged upon, he reached down to the floor for his verses, pored overthem for a minute, and then looked round for the mole to ask himif he knew a good rhyme for something or other. but the mole was not there. he listened for a time. the house seemed veryquiet. 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 accustomedpeg. his goloshes, which always lay by the umbrella-stand, were alsogone. the rat left the house, and carefully examinedthe muddy surface of the ground outside, hoping to find the mole'stracks. there they were, sure enough. the goloshes were new, just boughtfor the winter, and the pimples on their soles were fresh and sharp.he could see the imprints of them in the mud, running along straightand purposeful, leading direct to the wild wood.
the rat looked very grave, and stood in deepthought for a minute or two. then he re-entered the house, strappeda belt round his waist, shoved a brace of pistols into it, took upa stout cudgel that stood in a corner of the hall, and set off for thewild wood at a smart pace. it was already getting towards dusk when hereached the first fringe of trees and plunged without hesitation intothe wood, looking anxiously on either side for any sign of his friend.here and there wicked little faces popped out of holes, but vanished immediatelyat sight of the valorous animal, his pistols, and the greatugly cudgel in his grasp;
and the whistling and pattering, which hehad heard quite plainly on his first entry, died away and ceased, and allwas 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 traverseit, laboriously working over the whole ground, and all the time callingout cheerfully, 'moly, moly, moly! where are you? it's me--it's oldrat!' he had patiently hunted through the wood foran hour or more, when at last to his joy he heard a little answeringcry. guiding himself by the sound, he made his way through the gatheringdarkness to the foot of
an old beech tree, with a hole in it, andfrom out of the hole came a feeble voice, saying 'ratty! is that reallyyou?' the rat crept into the hollow, and there hefound the mole, exhausted and still trembling. 'o rat!' he cried, 'i'vebeen 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 bestto keep you from it. we river-bankers, we hardly ever come here byourselves. if we have to come, we come in couples, at least; then we'regenerally all right.
besides, there are a hundred things one hasto 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 plantsyou carry in your pocket, and verses you repeat, and dodgesand tricks you practise; all simple enough when you know them, but they'vegot 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 cominghere 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 goldenguineas, toad wouldn't.' the mole was greatly cheered by the soundof the rat's careless laughter, as well as by the sight of his stickand his gleaming pistols, and he stopped shivering and began to feelbolder and more himself 'now then,' said the rat presently, 'we reallymust pull ourselves together and make a start for home while there'sstill a little light left. it will never do to spend the nighthere, you understand. too cold, for one thing.'
'dear ratty,' said the poor mole, 'i'm dreadfullysorry, but i'm simply dead beat and that's a solid fact. you mustlet me rest here a while longer, and get my strength back, if i'm toget home at all.' 'o, all right,' said the good-natured rat,'rest away. it's pretty nearly pitch dark now, anyhow; and there oughtto be a bit of a moon later.' so the mole got well into the dry leaves andstretched himself out, and presently dropped off into sleep, though ofa broken and troubled sort; while the rat covered himself up, too, asbest he might, for warmth, and
lay patiently waiting, with a pistol in hispaw. when at last the mole woke up, much refreshedand in his usual spirits, the rat said, 'now then! i'll just take alook outside and see if everything's quiet, and then we really mustbe off.' he went to the entrance of their retreat andput 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; 'orrather, 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 quitea changed aspect. holes, hollows, pools, pitfalls, and other blackmenaces to the wayfarer were vanishing fast, and a gleaming carpetof faery was springing up everywhere, that looked too delicate to betrodden upon by rough feet. a fine powder filled the air and caressedthe cheek with a tingle in its touch, and the black boles of the trees showedup in a light that seemed to come from below.
'well, well, it can't be helped,' said therat, after pondering. 'we must make a start, and take our chance, isuppose. the worst of it is, i don't exactly know where we are. and now thissnow makes everything look so very different.' it did indeed. the mole would not have knownthat it was the same wood. however, they set out bravely, and tookthe line that seemed most promising, holding on to each other andpretending with invincible cheerfulness that they recognized an old friendin every fresh tree that grimly and silently greeted them, or saw openings,gaps, or paths with
a familiar turn in them, in the monotony ofwhite space and black tree-trunks that refused to vary. an hour or two later--they had lost all countof time--they pulled up, dispirited, weary, and hopelessly at sea,and sat down on a fallen tree-trunk to recover their breath and considerwhat was to be done. they were aching with fatigue and bruisedwith tumbles; they had fallen into several holes and got wet through; thesnow was getting so deep that they could hardly drag their little legsthrough it, and the trees were thicker and more like each other thanever. there seemed to be no
end to this wood, and no beginning, and nodifference in it, and, worst of all, no way out. '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 soonbe 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 sortof dell down here in front of us, where the ground seems all hilly and humpyand hummocky. we'll make our way down into that, and try and find somesort of shelter, a cave
or hole with a dry floor to it, out of thesnow 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 up.' so once more they got on their feet, and struggleddown into the dell, where they hunted about for a cave or somecorner that was dry and a protection from the keen wind and the whirlingsnow. they were investigating one of the hummocky bits therat had spoken of, when suddenly the mole tripped up and fell forwardon his face with a squeal. 'o my leg!' he cried. 'o my poor shin!' andhe 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 onhis knees to look, 'you've cut your shin, sure enough. wait till i getat my handkerchief, and i'll tie it up for you.' 'i must have tripped over a hidden branchor a stump,' said the mole miserably. 'o, my! o, my!' 'it's a very clean cut,' said the rat, examiningit 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 surroundedthem. 'well, never mind what done it,' said themole, forgetting his grammar in his pain. 'it hurts just the same, whateverdone it.' but the rat, after carefully tying up theleg 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, comeon, rat!'
suddenly the rat cried 'hooray!' and then'hooray-oo-ray-oo-ray-oo-ray!' and fell to executing a feeble jig in thesnow. 'what have you found, ratty?' asked the mole,still nursing his leg. 'come and see!' said the delighted rat, ashe jigged on. the mole hobbled up to the spot and had agood look. 'well,' he said at last, slowly, 'i see itright enough. seen the same sort of thing before, lots of times. familiarobject, i call it. a door-scraper! well, what of it? why dancejigs around a door-scraper?' 'but don't you see what it means, you--youdull-witted animal?' cried
the rat impatiently. 'of course i see what it means,' replied themole. 'it simply means that some very careless and forgetful person hasleft his door-scraper lying about in the middle of the wild wood, justwhere it's sure to trip everybody up. very thoughtless of him, i callit. when i get home i shall go and complain about it to--to somebodyor other, see if i don't!' 'o, dear! o, dear!' cried the rat, in despairat his obtuseness. 'here, stop arguing and come and scrape!' and heset 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 therat in great triumph. 'absolutely nothing whatever,' replied themole, with perfect truthfulness. 'well now,' he went on, 'youseem to have found another piece of domestic litter, done for and thrownaway, and i suppose you're perfectly happy. better go ahead and danceyour jig round that if you've got to, and get it over, and then perhapswe can go on and not waste
any more time over rubbish-heaps. can we eata doormat? or sleep under a door-mat? or sit on a door-mat and sledgehome over the snow on it, you exasperating rodent?' 'do--you--mean--to--say,' cried the excitedrat, '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-mattelling anyone anything? they simply don't do it. they are not thatsort 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 thesides of the hummocks, if you want to sleep dry and warm to-night, for it'sour last chance!' the rat attacked a snow-bank beside them withardour, probing with his cudgel everywhere and then digging withfury; and the mole scraped busily too, more to oblige the rat than forany other reason, for his opinion was that his friend was getting light-headed. some ten minutes' hard work, and the pointof the rat's cudgel struck
something that sounded hollow. he worked tillhe could get a paw through and feel; then called the mole to come andhelp him. hard at it went the two animals, till at last the result of theirlabours stood full in view of the astonished and hitherto incredulousmole. in the side of what had seemed to be a snow-bankstood a solid-looking little door, painted a dark green. an ironbell-pull hung by the side, and below it, on a small brass plate, neatlyengraved in square capital letters, they could read by the aid of moonlightmr. badger. the mole fell backwards on the snow from sheersurprise 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 arguedit out, step by step, in that wise head of yours, from the very moment thati fell and cut my shin, and you looked at the cut, and at once yourmajestic mind said to itself, "door-scraper!" and then you turnedto and found the very door-scraper that done it! did you stop there?no. some people would have been quite satisfied; but not you. yourintellect went on working. "let me only just find a door-mat," says youto 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 nothingelse remains to be done but to find it!" well, i've read about thatsort 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 simplywasted 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 nightand talk? get up at once and hang on to that bell-pull you see there, andring 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 offthey could faintly hear a deep-toned bell respond. iv. mr. badger they waited patiently for what seemed a verylong time, stamping in the snow to keep their feet warm. at lastthey heard the sound of slow shuffling footsteps approaching the door fromthe inside. it seemed, as
the mole remarked to the rat, like some onewalking 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, andthe door opened a few inches, enough to show a long snout and apair of sleepy blinking eyes. 'now, the very next time this happens,' saida gruff and suspicious voice, 'i shall be exceedingly angry. whois 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 thesnow.' 'what, ratty, my dear little man!' exclaimedthe 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 you.' the two animals tumbled over each other intheir eagerness to get inside, and heard the door shut behind themwith great joy and relief. the badger, who wore a long dressing-gown,and whose slippers were indeed very down at heel, carried a flat candlestickin his paw and had
probably been on his way to bed when theirsummons sounded. he looked kindly down on them and patted both theirheads. 'this is not the sort of night for small animals to be out,' hesaid 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-ratefire there, and supper and everything.' he shuffled on in front of them, carryingthe light, and they followed him, nudging each other in an anticipatingsort of way, down a long, gloomy, and, to tell the truth, decidedlyshabby passage, into a sort of
a central hall; out of which they could dimlysee other long tunnel-like passages branching, passages mysterious andwithout apparent end. but there were doors in the hall as well--stoutoaken comfortable-looking doors. one of these the badger flung open,and at once they found themselves in all the glow and warmth of alarge fire-lit kitchen. the floor was well-worn red brick, and onthe wide hearth burnt a fire of logs, between two attractive chimney-cornerstucked away in the wall, well out of any suspicion of draught. a coupleof 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 placedon trestles, with benches down each side. at one end of it, where an arm-chairstood pushed back, were spread the remains of the badger's plainbut ample supper. rows of spotless plates winked from the shelves ofthe dresser at the far end of the room, and from the rafters overheadhung hams, bundles of dried herbs, nets of onions, and baskets of eggs.it seemed a place where heroes could fitly feast after victory, whereweary harvesters could line up in scores along the table and keeptheir harvest home with mirth
and song, or where two or three friends ofsimple tastes could sit about as they pleased and eat and smoke and talkin comfort and contentment. the ruddy brick floor smiled up at the smokyceiling; the oaken settles, shiny with long wear, exchanged cheerful glanceswith each other; plates on the dresser grinned at pots on the shelf,and the merry firelight flickered and played over everything withoutdistinction. the kindly badger thrust them down on a settleto toast themselves at the fire, and bade them remove their wetcoats and boots. then he fetched them dressing-gowns and slippers,and himself bathed the mole's
shin with warm water and mended the cut withsticking-plaster till the whole thing was just as good as new, if notbetter. in the embracing light and warmth, warm and dry at last, withweary legs propped up in front of them, and a suggestive clink of platesbeing arranged on the table behind, it seemed to the storm-drivenanimals, now in safe anchorage, that the cold and trackless wildwood just left outside was miles and miles away, and all that theyhad suffered in it a half-forgotten dream. when at last they were thoroughly toasted,the badger summoned them to
the table, where he had been busy laying arepast. they had felt pretty hungry before, but when they actually sawat last the supper that was spread for them, really it seemed only a questionof what they should attack first where all was so attractive,and whether the other things would obligingly wait for them tillthey had time to give them attention. conversation was impossible fora long time; and when it was slowly resumed, it was that regrettablesort 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 anynotice of elbows on the table,
or everybody speaking at once. as he did notgo into society himself, he had got an idea that these things belongedto the things that didn't really matter. (we know of course that hewas 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 atthe head of the table, and nodded gravely at intervals as the animalstold 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,' orremarked that they ought to have done so-and-so, or ought not to havedone something else. the mole
began to feel very friendly towards him. when supper was really finished at last, andeach 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, andthought 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 ingeneral, the badger said heartily, 'now then! tell us the news fromyour 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. 'anothersmash-up only last week, and a bad one. you see, he will insist ondriving himself, and he's hopelessly incapable. if he'd only employa decent, steady, well-trained animal, pay him good wages, and leave everythingto him, he'd get on all right. but no; he's convinced he's a heaven-borndriver, and nobody can teach him anything; and all the rest follows.' 'how many has he had?' inquired the badgergloomily.
'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 piledup--literally piled up to the roof--with fragments of motor-cars, none ofthem bigger than your hat! that accounts for the other six--so far asthey can be accounted for.' 'he's been in hospital three times,' put inthe mole; 'and as for the fines he's had to pay, it's simply awful tothink of.' 'yes, and that's part of the trouble,' continuedthe rat. 'toad's rich, we all know; but he's not a millionaire. andhe'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 orlater. badger! we're his friends--oughtn't we to do something?' the badger went through a bit of hard thinking.'now look here!' he said at last, rather severely; 'of course you knowi can't do anything now?' his two friends assented, quite understandinghis point. no animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette,is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderatelyactive during the off-season of winter. all are sleepy--someactually asleep. all are
weather-bound, more or less; and all are restingfrom arduous days and nights, during which every muscle in themhas been severely tested, and every energy kept at full stretch. '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 beup and doing by sunrise, if not before--you know!----' both animals nodded gravely. they knew! 'well, then,' went on the badger, 'we--thatis, you and me and our
friend the mole here--we'll take toad seriouslyin hand. we'll stand no nonsense whatever. we'll bring him back toreason, by force if need be. we'll make him be a sensible toad. we'll--you'reasleep, rat!' 'not me!' said the rat, waking up with a jerk. 'he's been asleep two or three times sincesupper,' said the mole, laughing. he himself was feeling quite wakefuland 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 feelat home; while the rat, who
slept every night in a bedroom the windowsof which opened on a breezy river, naturally felt the atmosphere stilland oppressive. 'well, it's time we were all in bed,' saidthe badger, getting up and fetching flat candlesticks. 'come along, youtwo, and i'll show you your quarters. and take your time tomorrow morning--breakfastat any hour you please!' he conducted the two animals to a long roomthat seemed half bedchamber and half loft. the badger's winter stores,which indeed were visible everywhere, took up half the room--piles ofapples, turnips, and
potatoes, baskets full of nuts, and jars ofhoney; but the two little white beds on the remainder of the floor lookedsoft and inviting, and the linen on them, though coarse, was cleanand smelt beautifully of lavender; and the mole and the water rat,shaking off their garments in some thirty seconds, tumbled in betweenthe sheets in great joy and in accordance with the kindly badger's injunctions,the two tired animals came down to breakfast very late nextmorning, and found a bright fire burning in the kitchen, and twoyoung hedgehogs sitting on a bench at the table, eating oatmeal porridgeout of wooden bowls. the
hedgehogs dropped their spoons, rose to theirfeet, and ducked their heads respectfully as the two entered. 'there, sit down, sit down,' said the ratpleasantly, 'and go on with your porridge. where have you youngsters comefrom? lost your way in the snow, i suppose?' 'yes, please, sir,' said the elder of thetwo hedgehogs respectfully. 'me and little billy here, we was trying tofind our way to school--mother would have us go, was the weatherever so--and of course we lost ourselves, sir, and billy he got frightenedand took and cried,
being young and faint-hearted. and at lastwe happened up against mr. badger's back door, and made so bold as toknock, sir, for mr. badger he's a kind-hearted gentleman, as everyoneknows----' 'i understand,' said the rat, cutting himselfsome rashers from a side of bacon, while the mole dropped some eggsinto 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 snowis,' said the hedgehog. 'no getting out for the likes of you gentlemento-day.' 'where's mr. badger?' inquired the mole, ashe warmed the coffee-pot
before the fire. 'the master's gone into his study, sir,' repliedthe hedgehog, 'and he said as how he was going to be particularbusy this morning, and on no account was he to be disturbed.' this explanation, of course, was thoroughlyunderstood 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, duringthe latter period you cannot be continually pleading sleepiness when thereare people about or things
to be done. the excuse gets monotonous. theanimals well knew that badger, having eaten a hearty breakfast, hadretired to his study and settled himself in an arm-chair with his legsup on another and a red cotton handkerchief over his face, and wasbeing 'busy' in the usual way at this time of the year. the front-door bell clanged loudly, and therat, who was very greasy with buttered toast, sent billy, the smallerhedgehog, to see who it might be. there was a sound of much stampingin the hall, and presently billy returned in front of the otter, whothrew himself on the rat with
an embrace and a shout of affectionate greeting. 'get off!' spluttered the rat, with his mouthfull. 'thought i should find you here all right,'said the otter cheerfully. 'they were all in a great state of alarm alongriver bank when i arrived this morning. rat never been home all night--normole either--something dreadful must have happened, they said; andthe snow had covered up all your tracks, of course. but i knew that whenpeople were in any fix they mostly went to badger, or else badger gotto know of it somehow, so i came straight off here, through the wild woodand the snow! my! it was
fine, coming through the snow as the red sunwas rising and showing against the black tree-trunks! as you wentalong in the stillness, every now and then masses of snow slid off the branchessuddenly with a flop! making you jump and run for cover. snow-castlesand snow-caverns had sprung up out of nowhere in the night--andsnow bridges, terraces, ramparts--i could have stayed and played withthem for hours. here and there great branches had been torn away bythe sheer weight of the snow, and robins perched and hopped on them in theirperky conceited way, just as if they had done it themselves. a raggedstring of wild geese passed
overhead, high on the grey sky, and a fewrooks whirled over the trees, inspected, and flapped off homewards witha 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 hissilly face with his paws. he was a pretty scared animal when i crept upbehind him and placed a heavy forepaw on his shoulder. i had to cuff hishead once or twice to get any sense out of it at all. at last i managedto extract from him that mole had been seen in the wild wood last nightby 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 andround. "then why didn't any of you do something?" i asked. "you mayn't beblest with brains, but there are hundreds and hundreds of you, big, stoutfellows, 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 elseto be done. at any rate, i had learnt something; and if i had had theluck to meet any of "them"
i'd have learnt something more--or they would.' 'weren't you at all--er--nervous?' asked themole, some of yesterday's terror coming back to him at the mention ofthe wild wood. 'nervous?' the otter showed a gleaming setof strong white teeth as he laughed. 'i'd give 'em nerves if any of themtried anything on with me. here, mole, fry me some slices of ham, likethe good little chap you are. i'm frightfully hungry, and i've gotany amount to say to ratty here. haven't seen him for an age.' so the good-natured mole, having cut someslices of ham, set the
hedgehogs to fry it, and returned to his ownbreakfast, while the otter and the rat, their heads together, eagerlytalked river-shop, which is long shop and talk that is endless, runningon like the babbling river itself. a plate of fried ham had just been clearedand sent back for more, when the badger entered, yawning and rubbing hiseyes, and greeted them all in his quiet, simple way, with kind enquiriesfor every one. 'it must be getting on for luncheon time,' he remarkedto the otter. 'better stop and have it with us. you must be hungry, thiscold morning.'
'rather!' replied the otter, winking at themole. 'the sight of these greedy young hedgehogs stuffing themselveswith fried ham makes me feel positively famished.' the hedgehogs, who were just beginning tofeel hungry again after their porridge, and after working so hard at theirfrying, looked timidly up at mr. badger, but were too shy to say anything. 'here, you two youngsters be off home to yourmother,' said the badger kindly. 'i'll send some one with you to showyou the way. you won't want any dinner to-day, i'll be bound.'
he gave them sixpence apiece and a pat onthe head, and they went off with much respectful swinging of caps andtouching of forelocks. presently they all sat down to luncheon together.the mole found himself placed next to mr. badger, and, as the othertwo were still deep in river-gossip from which nothing could divertthem, he took the opportunity to tell badger how comfortableand home-like it all felt to him. 'once well underground,' he said, 'youknow exactly where you are. nothing can happen to you, and nothing canget at you. you're entirely your own master, and you don't have to consultanybody 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 yougo, and there the things are, waiting for you.' the badger simply beamed on him. 'that's exactlywhat i say,' he replied. 'there's no security, or peace andtranquillity, except underground. and then, if your ideas get largerand you want to expand--why, a dig and a scrape, and thereyou are! if you feel your house is a bit too big, you stop up a holeor two, and there you are again! no builders, no tradesmen, no remarkspassed on you by fellows
looking over your wall, and, above all, noweather. look at rat, now. a couple of feet of flood water, and he's gotto move into hired lodgings; uncomfortable, inconveniently situated, andhorribly expensive. take toad. i say nothing against toad hall; quitethe best house in these parts, as a house. but supposing a fire breaksout--where's toad? supposing tiles are blown off, or walls sinkor crack, or windows get broken--where's toad? supposing the roomsare draughty--i hate a draught myself--where's toad? no, up and out of doorsis good enough to roam about and get one's living in; but undergroundto come back to at
last--that's my idea of home.' the mole assented heartily; and the badgerin consequence got very friendly with him. 'when lunch is over,' hesaid, 'i'll take you all round this little place of mine. i can seeyou'll appreciate it. you understand what domestic architecture oughtto be, you do.' after luncheon, accordingly, when the othertwo had settled themselves into the chimney-corner and had started aheated argument on the subject of eels, the badger lighted a lantern andbade the mole follow him. crossing the hall, they passed down one ofthe principal tunnels, and
the wavering light of the lantern gave glimpseson either side of rooms both large and small, some mere cupboards,others nearly as broad and imposing as toad's dining-hall. a narrow passageat right angles led them into another corridor, and here the samething was repeated. the mole was staggered at the size, the extent,the ramifications of it all; at the length of the dim passages, the solidvaultings of the crammed store-chambers, the masonry everywhere, thepillars, the arches, the pavements. 'how on earth, badger,' he saidat last, 'did you ever find time and strength to do all this? it's astonishing!'
'it would be astonishing indeed,' said thebadger simply, 'if i had done it. but as a matter of fact i did noneof it--only cleaned out the passages and chambers, as far as i had needof 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 spotwhere the wild wood waves now, before ever it had planted itself andgrown up to what it now is, there was a city--a city of people, youknow. here, where we are standing, they lived, and walked, and talked,and slept, and carried on their business. here they stabled their horsesand feasted, from here
they rode out to fight or drove out to trade.they were a powerful people, and rich, and great builders. theybuilt to last, for they thought their city would last for ever.' 'but what has become of them all?' asked themole. 'who can tell?' said the badger. 'people come--theystay for a while, they flourish, they build--and they go. itis their way. but we remain. there were badgers here, i've been told, longbefore that same city ever came to be. and now there are badgers hereagain. we are an enduring lot, and we may move out for a time, but wewait, 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, 'thestrong 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--ruinand 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 clogand 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 theirquarters, settled down, spread, and flourished. they didn't botherthemselves about the past--they never do; they're too busy. theplace was a bit humpy and hillocky, naturally, and full of holes;but that was rather an advantage. and they don't bother about thefuture, either--the future when perhaps the people will move in again--fora time--as may very well
be. the wild wood is pretty well populatedby now; with all the usual lot, good, bad, and indifferent--i name nonames. it takes all sorts to make a world. but i fancy you know somethingabout them yourself by this time.' 'i do indeed,' said the mole, with a slightshiver. 'well, well,' said the badger, patting himon the shoulder, 'it was your first experience of them, you see. they'renot so bad really; and we must all live and let live. but i'll passthe word around to-morrow, and i think you'll have no further trouble. anyfriend of mine walks where
he likes in this country, or i'll know thereason why!' when they got back to the kitchen again, theyfound the rat walking up and down, very restless. the underground atmospherewas oppressing him and getting on his nerves, and he seemed reallyto be afraid that the river would run away if he wasn't there tolook after it. so he had his overcoat on, and his pistols thrust into hisbelt again. 'come along, mole,' he said anxiously, as soon as he caughtsight of them. 'we must get off while it's daylight. don't want tospend another night in the wild wood again.'
'it'll be all right, my fine fellow,' saidthe 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 relyupon me to punch it.' 'you really needn't fret, ratty,' added thebadger placidly. 'my passages run further than you think, and i'vebolt-holes to the edge of the wood in several directions, thoughi 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 tobe off and attend to his
river, so the badger, taking up his lanternagain, led the way along a damp and airless tunnel that wound and dipped,part vaulted, part hewn through solid rock, for a weary distance thatseemed to be miles. at last daylight began to show itself confusedlythrough tangled growth overhanging the mouth of the passage; andthe badger, bidding them a hasty good-bye, pushed them hurriedly throughthe opening, made everything look as natural as possible again,with creepers, brushwood, and dead leaves, and retreated. they found themselves standing on the veryedge of the wild wood. rocks
and brambles and tree-roots behind them, confusedlyheaped and tangled; in front, a great space of quiet fields, hemmedby lines of hedges black on the snow, and, far ahead, a glint of thefamiliar 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, andthey trailed out on a bee-line for a distant stile. pausing therea moment and looking back, they saw the whole mass of the wild wood,dense, menacing, compact, grimly set in vast white surroundings; simultaneouslythey turned and made swiftly for home, for firelight and thefamiliar things it played
on, for the voice, sounding cheerily outsidetheir 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 anticipatingthe 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 ofevening lingerings, the cultivated garden-plot. for others theasperities, the stubborn endurance, or the clash of actual conflict,that went with nature in the
rough; he must be wise, must keep to the pleasantplaces in which his lines were laid and which held adventure enough,in their way, to last for a lifetime. v. dulce domum the sheep ran huddling together against thehurdles, blowing out thin nostrils and stamping with delicate fore-feet,their heads thrown back and a light steam rising from the crowdedsheep-pen into the frosty air, as the two animals hastened by in high spirits,with much chatter and laughter. they were returning across countryafter a long day's outing
with otter, hunting and exploring on the wideuplands where certain streams tributary to their own river had theirfirst small beginnings; and the shades of the short winter day wereclosing in on them, and they had still some distance to go. plodding atrandom across the plough, they had heard the sheep and had made forthem; and now, leading from the sheep-pen, they found a beaten track thatmade walking a lighter business, and responded, moreover, to thatsmall inquiring something which all animals carry inside them, sayingunmistakably, '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 animalsdid not hold with villages, and their own highways, thickly frequentedas they were, took an independent course, regardless of church,post office, or public-house. 'oh, never mind!' said the rat. 'at this seasonof the year they're all safe indoors by this time, sitting roundthe fire; men, women, and children, dogs and cats and all. we shallslip through all right,
without any bother or unpleasantness, andwe can have a look at them through their windows if you like, and seewhat they're doing.' the rapid nightfall of mid-december had quitebeset the little village as they approached it on soft feet over afirst thin fall of powdery snow. little was visible but squares of adusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight orlamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into thedark world without. most of the low latticed windows were innocent ofblinds, and to the lookers-in from outside, the inmates, gathered roundthe tea-table, absorbed in
handiwork, or talking with laughter and gesture,had each that happy grace which is the last thing the skilledactor shall capture--the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousnessof observation. moving at will from one theatre to another,the two spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of wistfulnessin their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy childpicked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock outhis pipe on the end of a smouldering log. but it was from one little window, with itsblind drawn down, a mere
blank transparency on the night, that thesense of home and the little curtained world within walls--the larger stressfulworld 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, evento yesterday's dull-edged lump of sugar. on the middle perch the fluffyoccupant, head tucked well into feathers, seemed so near to them as tobe easily stroked, had they tried; even the delicate tips of hisplumped-out plumage pencilled plainly on the illuminated screen. as theylooked, the sleepy little
fellow stirred uneasily, woke, shook himself,and raised his head. they could see the gape of his tiny beak as heyawned in a bored sort of way, looked round, and then settled his head intohis back again, while the ruffled feathers gradually subsided into perfectstillness. then a gust of bitter wind took them in the backof the neck, a small sting of frozen sleet on the skin woke them as froma dream, and they knew their toes to be cold and their legs tired, andtheir own home distant a weary way. once beyond the village, where the cottagesceased abruptly, on either
side of the road they could smell throughthe darkness the friendly fields again; and they braced themselves forthe last long stretch, the home stretch, the stretch that we know isbound to end, some time, in the rattle of the door-latch, the sudden firelight,and the sight of familiar things greeting us as long-absenttravellers 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 asfar as he knew, and he was following obediently in the wake of therat, leaving the guidance
entirely to him. as for the rat, he was walkinga little way ahead, as his habit was, his shoulders humped, his eyesfixed on the straight grey road in front of him; so he did not noticepoor mole when suddenly the summons reached him, and took him like anelectric shock. we others, who have long lost the more subtleof the physical senses, have not even proper terms to express an animal'sinter-communications with his surroundings, living or otherwise,and have only the word 'smell,' for instance, to include the wholerange of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal nightand day, summoning,
warning, inciting, repelling. it was one ofthese mysterious fairy calls from out the void that suddenly reached molein the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiarappeal, even while yet he could not clearly remember what itwas. he stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither andthither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphiccurrent, that had so strongly moved him. a moment, and he had caughtit again; and with it this time came recollection in fullest flood. home! that was what they meant, those caressingappeals, those soft
touches wafted through the air, those invisiblelittle hands pulling and tugging, all one way! why, it must be quiteclose by him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsakenand never sought again, that day when he first found the river! and nowit was sending out its scouts and its messengers to capture him and bringhim in. since his escape on that bright morning he had hardly given ita thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its pleasures,its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences. now, with a rushof old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! shabbyindeed, and small and
poorly furnished, and yet his, the home hehad made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to afterhis 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, throughhis 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 joyfulexcitement, 'hold on! come back! i want you, quick!'
'oh, come along, mole, do!' replied the ratcheerfully, still plodding along. '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, reallyquite 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, toofar to hear clearly what the mole was calling, too far to catch thesharp note of painful appeal in his voice. and he was much taken up withthe weather, for he too
could smell something--something suspiciouslylike approaching snow. 'mole, we mustn't stop now, really!' he calledback. '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, andi'm not sure of the way! and i want your nose, mole, so come on quick, there'sa good fellow!' and the rat pressed forward on his way without waitingfor an answer. poor mole stood alone in the road, his hearttorn asunder, and a big sob gathering, gathering, somewhere low down insidehim, to leap up to the surface presently, he knew, in passionateescape. but even under such
a test as this his loyalty to his friend stoodfirm. never for a moment did he dream of abandoning him. meanwhile,the wafts from his old home pleaded, whispered, conjured, and finallyclaimed him imperiously. he dared not tarry longer within their magiccircle. with a wrench that tore his very heartstrings he set his facedown the road and followed submissively in the track of the rat, whilefaint, thin little smells, still dogging his retreating nose, reproachedhim for his new friendship and his callous forgetfulness. with an effort he caught up to the unsuspectingrat, who began
chattering cheerfully about what they woulddo when they got back, and how jolly a fire of logs in the parlour wouldbe, and what a supper he meant to eat; never noticing his companion'ssilence and distressful state of mind. at last, however, when theyhad gone some considerable way further, and were passing some tree-stumpsat the edge of a copse that bordered the road, he stopped and saidkindly, 'look here, mole old chap, you seem dead tired. no talk left inyou, and your feet dragging like lead. we'll sit down here for a minuteand rest. the snow has held off so far, and the best part of our journeyis over.'
the mole subsided forlornly on a tree-stumpand tried to control himself, for he felt it surely coming. thesob he had fought with so long refused to be beaten. up and up, it forcedits way to the air, and then another, and another, and others thickand fast; till poor mole at last gave up the struggle, and cried freelyand helplessly and openly, now that he knew it was all over and he hadlost what he could hardly be said to have found. the rat, astonished and dismayed at the violenceof 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 seewhat i can do.' poor mole found it difficult to get any wordsout between the upheavals of his chest that followed one upon anotherso quickly and held back speech and choked it as it came. 'i know it'sa--shabby, dingy little place,' he sobbed forth at last, brokenly:'not like--your cosy quarters--or toad's beautiful hall--or badger'sgreat house--but it was my own little home--and i was fond of it--andi went away and forgot all about it--and then i smelt it suddenly--onthe road, when i called
and you wouldn't listen, rat--and everythingcame back to me with a rush--and i wanted it!--o dear, o dear!--andwhen you wouldn't turn back, ratty--and i had to leave it, thoughi was smelling it all the time--i thought my heart would break.--wemight have just gone and had one look at it, ratty--only one look--it wasclose 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, sayingnothing, only patting
mole gently on the shoulder. after a timehe muttered gloomily, 'i see it all now! what a pig i have been! a pig--that'sme! just a pig--a plain pig!' he waited till mole's sobs became graduallyless stormy and more rhythmical; he waited till at last sniffswere 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 hadcome. '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, oldfellow,' 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'stoo 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 aboutit--it was all an accident and a mistake! and think of river bank, andyour supper!'
'hang river bank, and supper too!' said therat heartily. 'i tell you, i'm going to find this place now, if i stayout all night. so cheer up, old chap, and take my arm, and we'll verysoon be back there again.' still snuffling, pleading, and reluctant,mole suffered himself to be dragged back along the road by his imperiouscompanion, who by a flow of cheerful talk and anecdote endeavoured tobeguile his spirits back and make the weary way seem shorter. when at lastit seemed to the rat that they must be nearing that part of the roadwhere the mole had been 'held up,' he said, 'now, no more talking. business!use your nose, and give
your mind to it.' they moved on in silence for some little way,when suddenly the rat was conscious, through his arm that was linkedin mole's, of a faint sort of electric thrill that was passing down thatanimal's body. instantly he disengaged himself, fell back a pace, andwaited, all attention. the signals were coming through! mole stood a moment rigid, while his upliftednose, quivering slightly, felt the air. then a short, quick run forward--a fault--acheck--a try back; and then
a slow, steady, confident advance. the rat, much excited, kept close to his heelsas the mole, with something of the air of a sleep-walker, crosseda dry ditch, scrambled through a hedge, and nosed his way over afield 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 thetunnel to which his unerring nose had faithfully led him. it was close and airless, and the earthy smellwas strong, and it seemed
a long time to rat ere the passage ended andhe could stand erect and stretch and shake himself. the mole strucka match, and by its light the rat saw that they were standing in anopen space, neatly swept and sanded underfoot, and directly facing themwas 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 onthe wail and lit it... and the rat, looking round him, saw that they werein 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 athome, could not stand having his ground kicked up by other animals intolittle runs that ended in earth-heaps. on the walls hung wire basketswith ferns in them, alternating with brackets carrying plasterstatuary--garibaldi, and the infant samuel, and queen victoria, and otherheroes of modern italy. down on one side of the forecourt ran a skittle-alley,with benches along it and little wooden tables marked withrings that hinted at beer-mugs. in the middle was a small roundpond containing gold-fish and surrounded by a cockle-shell border. out ofthe centre of the pond rose
a fanciful erection clothed in more cockle-shellsand topped by a large silvered glass ball that reflected everythingall wrong and had a very pleasing effect. mole's face-beamed at the sight of all theseobjects so dear to him, and he hurried rat through the door, lit a lampin the hall, and took one glance round his old home. he saw the dustlying thick on everything, saw the cheerless, deserted look of the long-neglectedhouse, and its narrow, meagre dimensions, its worn and shabbycontents--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 ibring you to this poor, cold little place, on a night like this, when youmight have been at river bank by this time, toasting your toes beforea 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 roomsand 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 inits place! we'll make a jolly
night of it. the first thing we want is agood fire; i'll see to that--i always know where to find things. so thisis the parlour? splendid! your own idea, those little sleeping-bunks in thewall? capital! now, i'll fetch the wood and the coals, and you geta duster, mole--you'll find one in the drawer of the kitchen table--andtry and smarten things up a bit. bustle about, old chap!' encouraged by his inspiriting companion, themole roused himself and dusted and polished with energy and heartiness,while the rat, running to and fro with armfuls of fuel, soon hada cheerful blaze roaring
up the chimney. he hailed the mole to comeand warm himself; but mole promptly had another fit of the blues, droppingdown on a couch in dark despair and burying his face in his duster.'rat,' he moaned, 'how about your supper, you poor, cold, hungry, wearyanimal? i've nothing to give you--nothing--not a crumb!' 'what a fellow you are for giving in!' saidthe rat reproachfully. 'why, only just now i saw a sardine-openeron the kitchen dresser, quite distinctly; and everybody knows that meansthere are sardines about somewhere in the neighbourhood. rouse yourself!pull yourself together,
and come with me and forage.' they went and foraged accordingly, huntingthrough every cupboard and turning out every drawer. the result was notso very depressing after all, though of course it might have been better;a tin of sardines--a box of captain's biscuits, nearly full--anda german sausage encased in silver paper. 'there's a banquet for you!' observed therat, as he arranged the table. 'i know some animals who would give theirears to be sitting down to supper with us to-night!'
'no bread!' groaned the mole dolorously; 'nobutter, no----' 'no pate de foie gras, no champagne!' continuedthe rat, grinning. 'and that reminds me--what's that little door atthe 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 presentlyreappeared, somewhat dusty, with a bottle of beer in each paw andanother under each arm, 'self-indulgent beggar you seem to be, mole,'he observed. 'deny yourself nothing. this is really the jolliestlittle 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 fondof it, mole. tell us all about it, and how you came to make it whatit is.' then, while the rat busied himself fetchingplates, and knives and forks, and mustard which he mixed in an egg-cup,the mole, his bosom still heaving with the stress of his recentemotion, related--somewhat shyly at first, but with more freedom as hewarmed to his subject--how this was planned, and how that was thoughtout, and how this was got through a windfall from an aunt, and thatwas a wonderful find and a bargain, and this other thing was bought outof laborious savings and a
certain amount of 'going without.' his spiritsfinally quite restored, he must needs go and caress his possessions,and take a lamp and show off their points to his visitor and expatiateon 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 himto the table, and had just got seriously to work with the sardine-openerwhen sounds were heard from
the fore-court without--sounds like the scufflingof small feet in the gravel and a confused murmur of tiny voices,while broken sentences reached them--'now, all in a line--hold thelantern up a bit, tommy--clear your throats first--no coughingafter 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 inhis labours. 'i think it must be the field-mice,' repliedthe mole, with a touch of pride in his manner. 'they go round carol-singingregularly at this time of the year. they're quite an institutionin these parts. and they never
pass me over--they come to mole end last ofall; and i used to give them hot drinks, and supper too sometimes, wheni 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 fieldmicestood in a semicircle, red worsted comforters round their throats,their fore-paws thrust deep
into their pockets, their feet jigging forwarmth. with bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at each other, sniggeringa little, sniffing and applying coat-sleeves a good deal. as thedoor opened, one of the elder ones that carried the lantern was just saying,'now then, one, two, three!' and forthwith their shrill littlevoices uprose on the air, singing one of the old-time carols that theirforefathers composed in fields that were fallow and held by frost,or when snow-bound in chimney corners, and handed down to be sung in themiry street to lamp-lit windows at yule-time.
carol 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 butsmiling, exchanged sidelong glances, and silence succeeded--but for amoment only. then, from up
above and far away, down the tunnel they hadso lately travelled was borne to their ears in a faint musical humthe 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 something hot!' 'yes, come along, field-mice,' cried the moleeagerly. 'this is quite like old times! shut the door after you. pullup 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 tearsimpending. 'whatever are we
doing? we've nothing to give them!' 'you leave all that to me,' said the masterfulrat. 'here, you with the lantern! come over this way. i want to talkto you. now, tell me, are there any shops open at this hour of the night?' 'why, certainly, sir,' replied the field-mouserespectfully. 'at this time of the year our shops keep open to allsorts of hours.' 'then look here!' said the rat. 'you go offat once, you and your lantern, and you get me----' here much muttered conversation ensued, andthe mole only heard bits
of it, such as--'fresh, mind!--no, a poundof 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, ofcourse, 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-mousewas 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 rowon the settle, their small legs swinging, gave themselves up to enjoymentof the fire, and toasted their chilblains till they tingled; whilethe mole, failing to draw them
into easy conversation, plunged into familyhistory 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-carollingthis year, but looked forward very shortly to winning the parentalconsent. the rat, meanwhile, was busy examining thelabel 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 andthrust the tin heater well
into the red heart of the fire; and soon everyfield-mouse was sipping and coughing and choking (for a little mulledale goes a long way) and wiping his eyes and laughing and forgettinghe had ever been cold in all his life. 'they act plays too, these fellows,' the moleexplained to the rat. 'make them up all by themselves, and act themafterwards. and very well they do it, too! they gave us a capitalone last year, about a field-mouse who was captured at sea by a barbarycorsair, and made to row in a galley; and when he escaped and gothome again, his lady-love
had gone into a convent. here, you! you werein 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 encouragedhim, and the rat went so far as to take him by the shoulders and shakehim; but nothing could overcome his stage-fright. they were all busilyengaged on him like watermen applying the royal humane society'sregulations to a case of long submersion, when the latch clicked,the door opened, and the
field-mouse with the lantern reappeared, staggeringunder the weight of his basket. there was no more talk of play-acting oncethe very real and solid contents of the basket had been tumbled outon the table. under the generalship of rat, everybody was set to dosomething or to fetch something. in a very few minutes supper wasready, 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 littlefriends' faces brighten and beam as they fell to without delay; andthen let himself loose--for
he was famished indeed--on the provender somagically provided, thinking what a happy home-coming this had turned out,after all. as they ate, they talked of old times, and the field-micegave him the local gossip up to date, and answered as well as they couldthe hundred questions he had to ask them. the rat said little or nothing,only taking care that each guest had what he wanted, and plentyof it, and that mole had no trouble or anxiety about anything. they clattered off at last, very gratefuland showering wishes of the season, with their jacket pockets stuffedwith remembrances for the
small brothers and sisters at home. when thedoor had closed on the last of them and the chink of the lanterns haddied away, mole and rat kicked the fire up, drew their chairs in, brewedthemselves a last nightcap of mulled ale, and discussed the events of thelong 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 bunkover on that side? very well, then, i'll take this. what a ripping littlehouse this is! everything so handy!' he clambered into his bunk and rolled himselfwell up in the blankets,
and slumber gathered him forthwith, as a swatheof barley is folded into the arms of the reaping machine. the weary mole also was glad to turn in withoutdelay, 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 familiarand friendly things which had long been unconsciously a part of him,and now smilingly received him back, without rancour. he was now in justthe frame of mind that the tactful rat had quietly worked to bring aboutin him. he saw clearly how
plain and simple--how narrow, even--it allwas; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the specialvalue of some such anchorage in one's existence. he did not at all wantto abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his backon 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 downthere, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. but it was goodto 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 becounted upon for the same
simple welcome. vi. mr. toad it was a bright morning in the early partof summer; the river had resumed its wonted banks and its accustomedpace, and a hot sun seemed to be pulling everything green and bushy andspiky up out of the earth towards him, as if by strings. the mole andthe water rat had been up since dawn, very busy on matters connectedwith 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 eagerlydiscussing their plans for the day, when a heavy knock sounded at thedoor. 'bother!' said the rat, all over egg. 'seewho it is, mole, like a good chap, since you've finished.' the mole went to attend the summons, and therat heard him utter a cry of surprise. then he flung the parlour dooropen, and announced with much importance, 'mr. badger!' this was a wonderful thing, indeed, that thebadger should pay a formal call on them, or indeed on anybody. he generallyhad to be caught, if
you wanted him badly, as he slipped quietlyalong a hedgerow of an early morning or a late evening, or else huntedup in his own house in the middle of the wood, which was a serious undertaking. the badger strode heavily into the room, andstood looking at the two animals with an expression full of seriousness.the rat let his egg-spoon fall on the table-cloth, and satopen-mouthed. 'the hour has come!' said the badger at lastwith great solemnity. 'what hour?' asked the rat uneasily, glancingat the clock on the mantelpiece.
'whose hour, you should rather say,' repliedthe badger. 'why, toad's hour! the hour of toad! i said i would takehim in hand as soon as the winter was well over, and i'm going to takehim in hand to-day!' 'toad's hour, of course!' cried the mole delightedly.'hooray! i remember now! we'll teach him to be a sensibletoad!' '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 arriveat toad hall on approval or return. at this very moment, perhaps, toadis busy arraying himself in
those singularly hideous habiliments so dearto him, which transform him from a (comparatively) good-looking toad intoan object which throws any decent-minded animal that comes across itinto a violent fit. we must be up and doing, ere it is too late. you twoanimals will accompany me instantly to toad hall, and the work of rescueshall be accomplished.' 'right you are!' cried the rat, starting up.'we'll rescue the poor unhappy animal! we'll convert him! he'll bethe most converted toad that ever was before we've done with him!' they set off up the road on their missionof mercy, badger leading the
way. animals when in company walk in a properand sensible manner, in single file, instead of sprawling all acrossthe road and being of no use or support to each other in case of suddentrouble or danger. they reached the carriage-drive of toad hallto find, as the badger had anticipated, a shiny new motor-car, of greatsize, painted a bright red (toad's favourite colour), standing infront of the house. as they neared the door it was flung open, and mr.toad, arrayed in goggles, cap, gaiters, and enormous overcoat, cameswaggering down the steps, drawing on his gauntleted gloves.
'hullo! come on, you fellows!' he cried cheerfullyon catching sight of them. 'you're just in time to come with mefor a jolly--to come for a jolly--for a--er--jolly----' his hearty accents faltered and fell awayas he noticed the stern unbending look on the countenances of hissilent friends, and his invitation remained unfinished. the badger strode up the steps. 'take himinside,' he said sternly to his companions. then, as toad was hustledthrough the door, struggling and protesting, he turned to the chauffeurin charge of the new
motor-car. 'i'm afraid you won't be wanted to-day,' hesaid. 'mr. toad has changed his mind. he will not require the car. pleaseunderstand that this is final. you needn't wait.' then he followedthe others inside and shut 'now then!' he said to the toad, when thefour of them stood together in the hall, 'first of all, take those ridiculousthings off!' '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,' orderedthe badger briefly.
they had to lay toad out on the floor, kickingand 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 himbit by bit, and they stood him up on his legs again. a good deal of hisblustering spirit seemed to have evaporated with the removal of hisfine panoply. now that he was merely toad, and no longer the terror of thehighway, 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 orlater, toad,' the badger
explained severely. you've disregarded all the warnings we'vegiven 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 yourfurious driving and your smashes and your rows with the police. independenceis all very well, but we animals never allow our friends tomake fools of themselves beyond a certain limit; and that limit you'vereached. now, you're a good fellow in many respects, and i don'twant to be too hard on you. i'll make one more effort to bring you toreason. you will come with
me into the smoking-room, and there you willhear some facts about yourself; and we'll see whether you come outof that room the same toad that you went in.' he took toad firmly by the arm, led him intothe 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 armchairsand waited patiently. through the closed door they could just hearthe long continuous drone
of the badger's voice, rising and fallingin waves of oratory; and presently they noticed that the sermon beganto be punctuated at intervals by long-drawn sobs, evidently proceedingfrom the bosom of toad, who was a soft-hearted and affectionatefellow, very easily converted--for the time being--to any pointof view. after some three-quarters of an hour the dooropened, and the badger reappeared, solemnly leading by the paw avery limp and dejected toad. his skin hung baggily about him, his legswobbled, and his cheeks were furrowed by the tears so plentifully calledforth 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 informyou that toad has at last seen the error of his ways. he is truly sorryfor his misguided conduct in the past, and he has undertaken to giveup motor-cars entirely and for ever. i have his solemn promise to thateffect.' 'that is very good news,' said the mole gravely. 'very good news indeed,' observed the ratdubiously, 'if only--if only----'
he was looking very hard at toad as he saidthis, and could not help thinking he perceived something vaguely resemblinga 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-roomjust now. first, you are sorry for what you've done, and you seethe folly of it all?' there was a long, long pause. toad lookeddesperately 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 frightfullywell--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, andi find that i'm not a bit
sorry or repentant really, so it's no earthlygood saying i am; now, is it?' 'then you don't promise,' said the badger,'never to touch a motor-car again?' 'certainly not!' replied toad emphatically.'on the contrary, i faithfully promise that the very first motor-cari see, poop-poop! off i go in it!' 'told you so, didn't i?' observed the ratto the mole. 'very well, then,' said the badger firmly,rising to his feet. 'since
you won't yield to persuasion, we'll try whatforce can do. i feared it would come to this all along. you've oftenasked us three to come and stay with you, toad, in this handsome houseof yours; well, now we're going to. when we've converted you to a properpoint of view we may quit, but not before. take him upstairs, youtwo, and lock him up in his bedroom, while we arrange matters betweenourselves.' 'it's for your own good, toady, you know,'said the rat kindly, as toad, kicking and struggling, was hauled up thestairs by his two faithful friends. 'think what fun we shall all havetogether, just as we used to,
when you've quite got over this--this painfulattack of yours!' 'we'll take great care of everything for youtill you're well, toad,' said the mole; 'and we'll see your money isn'twasted, as it has been.' 'no more of those regrettable incidents withthe police, toad,' said the rat, as they thrust him into his bedroom. 'and no more weeks in hospital, being orderedabout by female nurses, toad,' added the mole, turning the key onhim. they descended the stair, toad shouting abuseat them through the keyhole; and the three friends then met inconference on the situation.
'it's going to be a tedious business,' saidthe badger, sighing. 'i've never seen toad so determined. however, wewill see it out. he must never be left an instant unguarded. we shallhave to take it in turns to be with him, till the poison has worked itselfout of his system.' they arranged watches accordingly. each animaltook it in turns to sleep in toad's room at night, and they dividedthe day up between them. at first toad was undoubtedly very trying tohis careful guardians. when his violent paroxysms possessed him he wouldarrange bedroom chairs in rude resemblance of a motor-car and wouldcrouch 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 amidstthe ruins of the chairs, apparently completely satisfied for the moment.as time passed, however, these painful seizures grew gradually lessfrequent, and his friends strove to divert his mind into fresh channels.but his interest in other matters did not seem to revive, andhe grew apparently languid and depressed. one fine morning the rat, whose turn it wasto go on duty, went upstairs
to relieve badger, whom he found fidgetingto be off and stretch his legs in a long ramble round his wood and downhis earths and burrows. 'toad's still in bed,' he told the rat, outsidethe 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 offin 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 ofa sunday-school prize, then he's at his artfullest. there's sure to besomething up. i know him. well, now, i must be off.'
'how are you to-day, old chap?' inquired therat 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! sogood of you to inquire! but first tell me how you are yourself, and theexcellent mole?' '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 morningtogether, and i'll do my best to amuse you. now jump up, there'sa good fellow, and don't lie
moping there on a fine morning like this!' 'dear, kind rat,' murmured toad, 'how littleyou realise my condition, and how very far i am from "jumping up" now--ifever! 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 tohear it's going to stop. and in weather like this, and the boating seasonjust beginning! it's too bad of you, toad! it isn't the trouble wemind, 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'snatural enough. you're tired of bothering about me. i mustn't ask you todo anything further. i'm a nuisance, i know.' 'you are, indeed,' said the rat. 'but i tellyou, i'd take any trouble on earth for you, if only you'd be a sensibleanimal.' 'if i thought that, ratty,' murmured toad,more feebly than ever, 'then i would beg you--for the last time, probably--tostep round to the
village as quickly as possible--even now itmay be too late--and fetch the doctor. but don't you bother. it's onlya trouble, and perhaps we may as well let things take their course.' 'why, what do you want a doctor for?' inquiredthe rat, coming closer and examining him. he certainly lay very stilland flat, and his voice was weaker and his manner much changed. 'surely you have noticed of late----' murmuredtoad. 'but, no--why should you? noticing things is only a trouble.to-morrow, indeed, you may be saying to yourself, "o, if only i hadnoticed 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, beginningto get rather alarmed, 'of course i'll fetch a doctor to you, if youreally 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 sadsmile, '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 additionaltrouble, but i happen to remember that you will pass the door--wouldyou mind at the same time asking the lawyer to step up? it would bea convenience to me, and there are moments--perhaps i should say there isa moment--when one must face disagreeable tasks, at whatever cost to exhaustednature!' 'a lawyer! o, he must be really bad!' theaffrighted rat said to himself, as he hurried from the room, notforgetting, however, to lock the door carefully behind him. outside, he stopped to consider. the othertwo 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 oldass, and cheer him up; and that will be something gained. i'd betterhumour him and go; it won't take very long.' so he ran off to the villageon his errand of mercy. the toad, who had hopped lightly out of bedas soon as he heard the key turned in the lock, watched him eagerlyfrom the window till he
disappeared down the carriage-drive. then,laughing heartily, he dressed as quickly as possible in the smartest suithe could lay hands on at the moment, filled his pockets with cash whichhe took from a small drawer in the dressing-table, and next, knottingthe sheets from his bed together and tying one end of the improvisedrope round the central mullion of the handsome tudor window whichformed such a feature of his bedroom, he scrambled out, slid lightly tothe ground, and, taking the opposite direction to the rat, marched offlightheartedly, whistling a merry tune.
it was a gloomy luncheon for rat when thebadger and the mole at length returned, and he had to face them attable with his pitiful and unconvincing story. the badger's caustic,not to say brutal, remarks may be imagined, and therefore passed over; butit was painful to the rat that even the mole, though he took his friend'sside as far as possible, could not help saying, 'you've been a bitof a duffer this time, ratty! toad, too, of all animals!' 'he did it awfully well,' said the crestfallenrat. 'he did you awfully well!' rejoined the badgerhotly. 'however, talking
won't mend matters. he's got clear away forthe time, that's certain; and the worst of it is, he'll be so conceitedwith 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 precioustime doing sentry-go. but we'd better continue to sleep at toadhall for a while longer. toad may be brought back at any moment--ona stretcher, or between two policemen.' so spoke the badger, not knowing what thefuture 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 hisancestral hall. meanwhile, toad, gay and irresponsible, waswalking briskly along the high road, some miles from home. at firsthe had taken by-paths, and crossed many fields, and changed his courseseveral times, in case of pursuit; but now, feeling by this time safefrom recapture, and the sun smiling brightly on him, and all nature joiningin a chorus of approval to the song of self-praise that his own heartwas singing to him, he almost danced along the road in his satisfactionand conceit. 'smart piece of work that!' he remarked tohimself chuckling. 'brain
against brute force--and brain came out onthe top--as it's bound to do. poor old ratty! my! won't he catch itwhen 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 asthese he strode along, his head in the air, till he reached a littletown, where the sign of 'the red lion,' swinging across the road halfwaydown the main street, reminded him that he had not breakfasted thatday, and that he was
exceedingly hungry after his long walk. hemarched into the inn, ordered the best luncheon that could be provided atso short a notice, and sat down to eat it in the coffee-room. he was about half-way through his meal whenan only too familiar sound, approaching down the street, made him startand 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-masteringemotion. presently the party entered the coffee-room, hungry,talkative, and gay, voluble
on their experiences of the morning and themerits of the chariot that had brought them along so well. toad listenedeagerly, 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, andas soon as he got outside sauntered round quietly to the inn-yard. 'therecannot be any harm,' he said to himself, 'in my only just lookingat it!' the car stood in the middle of the yard, quiteunattended, the stable-helps and other hangers-on being allat their dinner. toad walked slowly round it, inspecting, criticising,musing deeply.
'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 familiarsound broke forth, the old passion seized on toad and completelymastered 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 andswung the car round the yard and out through the archway; and, as if ina dream, all sense of right and wrong, all fear of obvious consequences,seemed temporarily
suspended. he increased his pace, and as thecar devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through theopen country, he was only conscious that he was toad once more, toadat his best and highest, toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the lordof the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingnessand everlasting night. he chanted as he flew, and the car respondedwith sonorous drone; the miles were eaten up under him as he sped heknew not whither, fulfilling his instincts, living his hour, reckless ofwhat might come to him. * * * * * *
'to my mind,' observed the chairman of thebench of magistrates cheerfully, 'the only difficulty that presentsitself in this otherwise very clear case is, how we can possibly makeit sufficiently hot for the incorrigible rogue and hardened ruffian whomwe see cowering in the dock before us. let me see: he has been foundguilty, on the clearest evidence, first, of stealing a valuable motor-car;secondly, of driving to the public danger; and, thirdly, of grossimpertinence 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-carwas the worst offence; and so it is. but cheeking the police undoubtedlycarries the severest penalty; and so it ought. supposing you were to saytwelve months for the theft, which is mild; and three years forthe 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 thewitness-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 twentyyears and be on the safe side,' concluded the clerk. 'an excellent suggestion!' said the chairmanapprovingly. 'prisoner! pull yourself together and try and stand upstraight. it's going to be twenty years for you this time. and mind,if you appear before us again, upon any charge whatever, we shallhave to deal with you very
seriously!' then the brutal minions of the law fell uponthe hapless toad; loaded him with chains, and dragged him from thecourt house, shrieking, praying, protesting; across the marketplace,where the playful populace, always as severe upon detected crime as theyare sympathetic and helpful when one is merely 'wanted,' assailed himwith jeers, carrots, and popular catch-words; past hooting school children,their innocent faces lit up with the pleasure they ever derivefrom the sight of a gentleman in difficulties; across the hollow-soundingdrawbridge, below the spiky
portcullis, under the frowning archway ofthe grim old castle, whose ancient towers soared high overhead; pastguardrooms full of grinning soldiery off duty, past sentries who coughedin a horrid, sarcastic way, because that is as much as a sentry onhis post dare do to show his contempt and abhorrence of crime; up time-wornwinding 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 overa pasty and a flagon of
brown ale; on and on, past the rack-chamberand the thumbscrew-room, past the turning that led to the private scaffold,till they reached the door of the grimmest dungeon that layin the heart of the innermost keep. there at last they paused, where anancient gaoler sat fingering a bunch of mighty keys. '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 andmatchless artfulness and resource. watch and ward him with all thyskill; and mark thee well,
greybeard, should aught untoward befall, thyold head shall answer for his--and a murrain on both of them!' the gaoler nodded grimly, laying his witheredhand on the shoulder of the miserable toad. the rusty key creakedin the lock, the great door clanged behind them; and toad was a helplessprisoner in the remotest dungeon of the best-guarded keep of the stoutestcastle in all the length and breadth of merry england. vii. the piper at the gates of dawn the willow-wren was twittering his thin littlesong, hidden himself in
the dark selvedge of the river bank. thoughit was past ten o'clock at night, the sky still clung to and retainedsome lingering skirts of light from the departed day; and the sullenheats of the torrid afternoon broke up and rolled away at thedispersing touch of the cool fingers of the short midsummer night. molelay stretched on the bank, still panting from the stress of the fierceday that had been cloudless from dawn to late sunset, and waited for hisfriend to return. he had been on the river with some companions, leavingthe 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 signof rat, who was doubtless keeping it up late with his old comrade. itwas still too hot to think of staying indoors, so he lay on some cooldock-leaves, and thought over the past day and its doings, and how verygood they all had been. the rat's light footfall was presently heardapproaching 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 themole presently. 'simply had to,' said the rat. 'they wouldn'thear of my going before.
you know how kind they always are. and theymade things as jolly for me as ever they could, right up to the momenti left. but i felt a brute all the time, as it was clear to me they werevery unhappy, though they tried to hide it. mole, i'm afraid they'rein trouble. little portly is missing again; and you know what a lot hisfather 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 andgetting lost, and turning up again; he's so adventurous. but no harmever 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 willcome across him and bring him back again all right. why, we've foundhim ourselves, miles from home, and quite self-possessed and cheerful!' 'yes; but this time it's more serious,' saidthe rat gravely. 'he's been missing for some days now, and the ottershave hunted everywhere, high and low, without finding the slightest trace.and they've asked every animal, too, for miles around, and no oneknows anything about him. otter's evidently more anxious than he'lladmit. i got out of him that
young portly hasn't learnt to swim very wellyet, and i can see he's thinking of the weir. there's a lot ofwater coming down still, considering the time of the year, and theplace always had a fascination for the child. and then there are--well, trapsand things--you know. otter's not the fellow to be nervous aboutany 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 stretchinghis legs. but i could see it wasn't that, so i drew him out and pumpedhim, and got it all from him at last. he was going to spend the nightwatching by the ford. you
know the place where the old ford used tobe, in by-gone days before they built the bridge?' 'i know it well,' said the mole. 'but whyshould otter choose to watch there?' 'well, it seems that it was there he gaveportly his first swimming-lesson,' continued the rat. 'fromthat shallow, gravelly spit near the bank. and it was there he used toteach him fishing, and there young portly caught his first fish, of whichhe was so very proud. the child loved the spot, and otter thinks thatif he came wandering
back from wherever he is--if he is anywhereby this time, poor little chap--he might make for the ford he was sofond of; or if he came across it he'd remember it well, and stop there andplay, perhaps. so otter goes there every night and watches--on thechance, you know, just on the chance!' they were silent for a time, both thinkingof the same thing--the lonely, heart-sore animal, crouched by theford, watching and waiting, the long night through--on the chance. 'well, well,' said the rat presently, 'i supposewe ought to be thinking
about turning in.' but he never offered tomove. 'rat,' said the mole, 'i simply can't go andturn in, and go to sleep, and do nothing, even though there doesn'tseem to be anything to be done. we'll get the boat out, and paddle upstream. the moon will be up in an hour or so, and then we will searchas well as we can--anyhow, it will be better than going to bed and doingnothing.' 'just what i was thinking myself,' said therat. 'it's not the sort of night for bed anyhow; and daybreak is notso very far off, and then we may pick up some news of him from early risersas we go along.'
they got the boat out, and the rat took thesculls, paddling with caution. out in midstream, there was a clear,narrow track that faintly reflected the sky; but wherever shadows fellon the water from bank, bush, or tree, they were as solid to all appearanceas the banks themselves, and the mole had to steer withjudgment accordingly. dark and deserted as it was, the night was fullof small noises, song and chatter and rustling, telling of the busylittle population who were up and about, plying their trades and vocationsthrough the night till sunshine should fall on them at lastand 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 unexpectedand near at hand; and constantly they started at what seemeda sudden clear call from an actual articulate voice. the line of the horizon was clear and hardagainst the sky, and in one particular quarter it showed black againsta silvery climbing phosphorescence that grew and grew. at last,over the rim of the waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty tillit swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings; andonce more they began to see
surfaces--meadows wide-spread, and quiet gardens,and the river itself from bank to bank, all softly disclosed, allwashed clean of mystery and terror, all radiant again as by day, butwith a difference that was tremendous. their old haunts greeted themagain in other raiment, as if they had slipped away and put on this purenew apparel and come quietly back, smiling as they shyly waited to seeif they would be recognised again under it. fastening their boat to a willow, the friendslanded in this silent, silver kingdom, and patiently explored thehedges, the hollow trees,
the runnels and their little culverts, theditches and dry water-ways. embarking again and crossing over, they workedtheir way up the stream in this manner, while the moon, serene anddetached in a cloudless sky, did what she could, though so far off, tohelp 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 dropaway from them. a bird piped
suddenly, and was still; and a light breezesprang up and set the reeds and bulrushes rustling. rat, who was in thestern of the boat, while mole sculled, sat up suddenly and listenedwith a passionate intentness. mole, who with gentle strokes was just keepingthe boat moving while he scanned the banks with care, looked at himwith curiosity. 'it's gone!' sighed the rat, sinking backin his seat again. 'so beautiful and strange and new. since it wasto end so soon, i almost wish i had never heard it. for it has rouseda longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but justto 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 wassilent 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 neverdreamed 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 for us.' the mole, greatly wondering, obeyed. 'i hearnothing myself,' he said,
'but the wind playing in the reeds and rushesand osiers.' the rat never answered, if indeed he heard.rapt, transported, trembling, he was possessed in all his sensesby this new divine thing that caught up his helpless soul and swungand dandled it, a powerless but happy infant in a strong sustaining grasp. in silence mole rowed steadily, and soon theycame to a point where the river divided, a long backwater branchingoff to one side. with a slight movement of his head rat, who had longdropped the rudder-lines, directed the rower to take the backwater.the creeping tide of light
gained and gained, and now they could seethe colour of the flowers that gemmed the water's edge. 'clearer and nearer still,' cried the ratjoyously. 'now you must surely hear it! ah--at last--i see you do!' breathless and transfixed the mole stoppedrowing 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'scheeks, and bowed his head and understood. for a space they hungthere, brushed by the purple loose-strife that fringed the bank; then theclear imperious summons
that marched hand-in-hand with the intoxicatingmelody imposed its will on mole, and mechanically he bent to his oarsagain. and the light grew steadily stronger, but no birds sang as theywere wont to do at the approach of dawn; and but for the heavenlymusic all was marvellously still. on either side of them, as they glided onwards,the rich meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greennessunsurpassable. never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willow-herbso riotous, the meadow-sweet so odorous and pervading.then the murmur of the
approaching weir began to hold the air, andthey felt a consciousness that they were nearing the end, whatever itmight be, that surely awaited their expedition. a wide half-circle of foam and glinting lightsand shining shoulders of green water, the great weir closed thebackwater from bank to bank, troubled all the quiet surface withtwirling eddies and floating foam-streaks, and deadened all other soundswith its solemn and soothing rumble. in midmost of the stream, embracedin the weir's shimmering arm-spread, a small island lay anchored, fringedclose with willow and
silver birch and alder. reserved, shy, butfull of significance, it hid whatever it might hold behind a veil, keepingit till the hour should come, and, with the hour, those who were calledand chosen. slowly, but with no doubt or hesitation whatever,and in something of a solemn expectancy, the two animals passedthrough the broken tumultuous water and moored their boat at the flowerymargin of the island. in silence they landed, and pushed through theblossom and scented herbage and undergrowth that led up to the level ground,till they stood on a little lawn of a marvellous green, set roundwith nature's own
orchard-trees--crab-apple, wild cherry, andsloe. 'this is the place of my song-dream, the placethe 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 fallupon 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 hefelt wonderfully at peace and happy--but it was an awe that smote and heldhim and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august presencewas very, very near.
with difficulty he turned to look for hisfriend and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently.and still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branchesaround them; and still the light grew and grew. perhaps he would never have dared to raisehis eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and thesummons seemed still dominant and imperious. he might not refuse,were death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had lookedwith mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. trembling he obeyed,and raised his humble head;
and then, in that utter clearness of the imminentdawn, while nature, flushed with fullness of incredible colour,seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyesof the friend and helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns,gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose betweenthe kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while thebearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the ripplingmuscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple handstill holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips;saw the splendid curves of
the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic easeon the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleepingsoundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy,childish form of the baby otter. all this he saw, for one moment breathlessand 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 shiningwith unutterable love. 'afraid! of him? o, never, never! and yet--andyet--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 goldendisc showed itself over the horizon facing them; and the first rays,shooting across the level water-meadows, took the animals full in theeyes and dazzled them. when they were able to look once more, the visionhad vanished, and the air was full of the carol of birds that hailedthe dawn. as they stared blankly in dumb misery deepeningas they slowly realised
all they had seen and all they had lost, acapricious little breeze, dancing up from the surface of the water,tossed the aspens, shook the dewy roses and blew lightly and caressinglyin their faces; and with its soft touch came instant oblivion. for thisis the last best gift that the kindly demi-god is careful to bestowon those to whom he has revealed himself in their helping: the giftof forgetfulness. lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow,and overshadow mirth and pleasure, and the great haunting memory shouldspoil 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, whowas 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 recallit, 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 bitterlyaccepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties; so mole, afterstruggling with his memory for a brief space, shook his head sadly andfollowed the rat. portly woke up with a joyous squeak, and wriggledwith pleasure at the sight of his father's friends, who had playedwith him so often in past days. in a moment, however, his face grewblank, and he fell to hunting round in a circle with pleading whine. asa child that has fallen
happily asleep in its nurse's arms, and wakesto find itself alone and laid in a strange place, and searches cornersand cupboards, and runs from room to room, despair growing silentlyin its heart, even so portly searched the island and searched, dogged andunwearying, till at last the black moment came for giving it up, andsitting down and crying bitterly. the mole ran quickly to comfort the littleanimal; but rat, lingering, looked long and doubtfully at certain hoof-marksdeep in the sward. 'some--great--animal--has been here,' he murmuredslowly and
thoughtfully; and stood musing, musing; hismind strangely stirred. 'come along, rat!' called the mole. 'thinkof poor otter, waiting up there by the ford!' portly had soon been comforted by the promiseof a treat--a jaunt on the river in mr. rat's real boat; and the twoanimals conducted him to the water's side, placed him securely betweenthem 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 withoutrestraint, and flowers smiled and nodded from either bank, but somehow--sothought the
animals--with less of richness and blaze ofcolour than they seemed to remember seeing quite recently somewhere--theywondered where. the main river reached again, they turnedthe boat's head upstream, towards the point where they knew their friendwas 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 andset him on his legs on the tow-path, gave him his marching orders anda friendly farewell pat on the back, and shoved out into mid-stream.they watched the little animal as he waddled along the path contentedly andwith importance; watched
him till they saw his muzzle suddenly liftand his waddle break into a clumsy amble as he quickened his pace withshrill whines and wriggles of recognition. looking up the river, they couldsee otter start up, tense and rigid, from out of the shallows wherehe crouched in dumb patience, and could hear his amazed and joyous barkas he bounded up through the osiers on to the path. then the mole, witha strong pull on one oar, swung the boat round and let the full streambear them down again whither it would, their quest now happilyended. 'i feel strangely tired, rat,' said the mole,leaning wearily over his
oars as the boat drifted. 'it's being up allnight, you'll say, perhaps; but that's nothing. we do as much half thenights of the week, at this time of the year. no; i feel as if i had beenthrough something very exciting and rather terrible, and it was justover; and yet nothing particular has happened.' 'or something very surprising and splendidand beautiful,' murmured the rat, leaning back and closing his eyes. 'ifeel 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 itjolly to feel the sun again,
soaking into one's bones! and hark to thewind playing in the reeds!' 'it's like music--far away music,' said themole nodding drowsily. 'so i was thinking,' murmured the rat, dreamfuland languid. 'dance-music--the lilting sort that runs onwithout a stop--but with words in it, too--it passes into words andout of them again--i catch them at intervals--then it is dance-musiconce more, and then nothing but the reeds' soft thin whispering.' 'you hear better than i,' said the mole sadly.'i cannot catch the words.'
'let me try and give you them,' said the ratsoftly, his eyes still closed. 'now it is turning into words again--faintbut clear--lest the awe should dwell--and turn your frolic tofret--you shall look on my power at the helping hour--but then you shallforget! now the reeds take it up--forget, forget, they sigh, and it diesaway in a rustle and a whisper. then the voice returns-- 'lest limbs be reddened and rent--i springthe trap that is set--as i loose the snare you may glimpse me there--forsurely you shall forget! row nearer, mole, nearer to the reeds! itis hard to catch, and grows
each minute fainter. 'helper and healer, i cheer--small waifs inthe woodland wet--strays i find in it, wounds i bind in it--bidding themall forget! nearer, mole, nearer! no, it is no good; the song has diedaway into reed-talk.' 'but what do the words mean?' asked the wonderingmole. '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 inthe hot sun. but no answer came. he looked, and understoodthe silence. with a smile of much happiness on his face, and somethingof a listening look still lingering there, the weary rat was fast asleep. viii. toad's adventures when toad found himself immured in a dankand noisome dungeon, and knew that all the grim darkness of a medieval fortresslay between him and the outer world of sunshine and well-metalledhigh roads where he had
lately been so happy, disporting himself asif he had bought up every road in england, he flung himself at fulllength on the floor, and shed bitter tears, and abandoned himself to darkdespair. 'this is the end of everything' (he said), 'at least it isthe end of the career of toad, which is the same thing; the popular and handsometoad, the rich and hospitable toad, the toad so free and carelessand 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-carin such an audacious manner, and for such lurid and imaginativecheek, bestowed upon such a
number of fat, red-faced policemen!' (herehis sobs choked him.) 'stupid animal that i was' (he said), 'now i mustlanguish 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), 'oclever, intelligent rat and sensible mole! what sound judgments, whata knowledge of men and matters you possess! o unhappy and forsaken toad!'with lamentations such as these he passed his days and nights for severalweeks, refusing his meals or intermediate light refreshments,though the grim and ancient gaoler, knowing that toad's pockets were welllined, 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 pleasantwench and good-hearted, who assisted her father in the lighter dutiesof his post. she was particularly fond of animals, and, besidesher canary, whose cage hung on a nail in the massive wall of the keepby day, to the great annoyance of prisoners who relished an after-dinnernap, and was shrouded in an antimacassar on the parlour table at night,she kept several piebald mice and a restless revolving squirrel. thiskind-hearted girl, pitying
the misery of toad, said to her father oneday, 'father! i can't bear to see that poor beast so unhappy, and gettingso thin! you let me have the managing of him. you know how fond of animalsi am. i'll make him eat from my hand, and sit up, and do all sortsof things.' her father replied that she could do whatshe liked with him. he was tired of toad, and his sulks and his airsand his meanness. so that day she went on her errand of mercy, and knockedat 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 ofcabbage reached the nose of toad as he lay prostrate in his misery onthe floor, and gave him the idea for a moment that perhaps life was notsuch 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 girlretired for the time, but, of course, a good deal of the smell of hotcabbage remained behind, as it will do, and toad, between his sobs,sniffed and reflected, and
gradually began to think new and inspiringthoughts: of chivalry, and poetry, and deeds still to be done; ofbroad meadows, and cattle browsing in them, raked by sun and wind; ofkitchen-gardens, and straight herb-borders, and warm snap-dragonbeset by bees; and of the comforting clink of dishes set down on thetable at toad hall, and the scrape of chair-legs on the floor as everyone pulled himself close up to his work. the air of the narrow cell tooka rosy tinge; he began to think of his friends, and how they would surelybe able to do something; of lawyers, and how they would have enjoyedhis 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 wascapable of if he only gave his great mind to it; and the cure was almostcomplete. when the girl returned, some hours later,she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and aplate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on bothsides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great goldendrops, like honey from the honeycomb. the smell of that butteredtoast simply talked to toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warmkitchens, of breakfasts on
bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesideson winter evenings, when one's ramble was over and slippered feetwere propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats,and the twitter of sleepy canaries. toad sat up on end once more, driedhis eyes, sipped his tea and munched his toast, and soon began talkingfreely 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 wasdoing him as much good as the tea, as indeed it was, and encouragedhim to go on.
'tell me about toad hall,' said she. 'it soundsbeautiful.' 'toad hall,' said the toad proudly, 'is aneligible self-contained gentleman's residence very unique; datingin 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 firstwait till i fetch you some more tea and toast.'
she tripped away, and presently returned witha fresh trayful; and toad, pitching into the toast with avidity, hisspirits quite restored to their usual level, told her about the boathouse,and the fish-pond, and the old walled kitchen-garden; and about thepig-styes, and the stables, and the pigeon-house, and the hen-house; andabout the dairy, and the wash-house, and the china-cupboards, and thelinen-presses (she liked that bit especially); and about the banqueting-hall,and the fun they had there when the other animals were gatheredround 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 aboutthem 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 thesense to see that toad would be extremely offended. when she saidgood 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 hadbeen of old. he sang a little song or two, of the sort he used tosing at his dinner-parties, curled himself up in the straw, and had anexcellent 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 verysorry for toad, and thought it a great shame that a poor little animalshould 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 himproceeded from a growing tenderness; and he could not help half-regrettingthat the social gulf between them was so very wide, for she wasa 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 attentionto 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 andaffably, 'never mind; think no more about it. _i_ have several aunts whoought to be washerwomen.' '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 keepany paying business of that sort in the family, you understand. she takesout 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--atleast you're always telling me so--and she's very poor. a fewpounds wouldn't make any difference to you, and it would mean a lotto her. now, i think if she were properly approached--squared, i believeis the word you animals use--you could come to some arrangement bywhich she would let you have
her dress and bonnet and so on, and you couldescape from the castle as the official washerwoman. you'revery alike in many respects--particularly about the figure.' 'we're not,' said the toad in a huff. 'i havea very elegant figure--for what i am.' 'so has my aunt,' replied the girl, 'for whatshe 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 verymuch indeed,' said the toad
hurriedly. 'but look here! you wouldn't surelyhave mr. toad of toad hall, going about the country disguised asa washerwoman!' 'then you can stop here as a toad,' repliedthe girl with much spirit. 'i suppose you want to go off in a coach-and-four!' honest toad was always ready to admit himselfin the wrong. 'you are a good, kind, clever girl,' he said, 'and iam indeed a proud and a stupid toad. introduce me to your worthy aunt, ifyou will be so kind, and i have no doubt that the excellent lady andi will be able to arrange terms satisfactory to both parties.'
next evening the girl ushered her aunt intotoad's cell, bearing his week's washing pinned up in a towel. the oldlady had been prepared beforehand for the interview, and the sightof certain gold sovereigns that toad had thoughtfully placed on the tablein full view practically completed the matter and left little furtherto discuss. in return for his cash, toad received a cotton print gown,an apron, a shawl, and a rusty black bonnet; the only stipulation theold lady made being that she should be gagged and bound and dumpeddown in a corner. by this not very convincing artifice, she explained, aidedby picturesque fiction
which she could supply herself, she hopedto retain her situation, in spite of the suspicious appearance of things. toad was delighted with the suggestion. itwould enable him to leave the prison in some style, and with his reputationfor being a desperate and dangerous fellow untarnished; and he readilyhelped the gaoler's daughter to make her aunt appear as much aspossible the victim of circumstances over which she had no control. 'now it's your turn, toad,' said the girl.'take off that coat and waistcoat of yours; you're fat enough as itis.'
shaking with laughter, she proceeded to 'hook-and-eye'him into the cotton print gown, arranged the shawl witha professional fold, and tied the strings of the rusty bonnet under hischin. 'you're the very image of her,' she giggled,'only i'm sure you never looked half so respectable in all your lifebefore. now, good-bye, toad, and good luck. go straight down the way youcame up; and if any one says anything to you, as they probably will, beingbut men, you can chaff back a bit, of course, but remember you'rea widow woman, quite alone in the world, with a character to lose.'
with a quaking heart, but as firm a footstepas he could command, toad set forth cautiously on what seemed tobe a most hare-brained and hazardous undertaking; but he was soon agreeablysurprised to find how easy everything was made for him, and a littlehumbled at the thought that both his popularity, and the sex thatseemed to inspire it, were really another's. the washerwoman's squatfigure in its familiar cotton print seemed a passport for every barred doorand grim gateway; even when he hesitated, uncertain as to the rightturning to take, he found himself helped out of his difficulty by thewarder at the next gate,
anxious to be off to his tea, summoning himto come along sharp and not keep him waiting there all night. the chaffand the humourous sallies to which he was subjected, and to which, ofcourse, he had to provide prompt and effective reply, formed, indeed,his chief danger; for toad was an animal with a strong sense of his owndignity, and the chaff was mostly (he thought) poor and clumsy, andthe humour of the sallies entirely lacking. however, he kept his temper,though with great difficulty, suited his retorts to his companyand his supposed character, and did his best not to overstepthe limits of good taste.
it seemed hours before he crossed the lastcourtyard, rejected the pressing invitations from the last guardroom,and dodged the outspread arms of the last warder, pleading with simulatedpassion for just one farewell embrace. but at last he heard thewicket-gate in the great outer door click behind him, felt the freshair of the outer world upon his anxious brow, and knew that he was free! dizzy with the easy success of his daringexploit, he walked quickly towards the lights of the town, not knowingin the least what he should do next, only quite certain of one thing,that he must remove himself as
quickly as possible from the neighbourhoodwhere the lady he was forced to represent was so well-known and so populara character. as he walked along, considering, his attentionwas caught by some red and green lights a little way off, to oneside of the town, and the sound of the puffing and snorting of enginesand 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 mostin the whole world at this moment; and what's more, i needn't go throughthe town to get it, and shan't have to support this humiliating characterby repartees which,
though thoroughly effective, do not assistone'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 inthe 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-officeto buy his ticket. he gave the name of the station that he knewto be nearest to the village of which toad hall was the principalfeature, and mechanically put his fingers, in search of the necessarymoney, where his waistcoat pocket should have been. but here the cottongown, which had nobly
stood by him so far, and which he had baselyforgotten, intervened, and frustrated his efforts. in a sort of nightmarehe struggled with the strange uncanny thing that seemed to holdhis hands, turn all muscular strivings to water, and laugh at him all thetime; while other travellers, forming up in a line behind, waitedwith impatience, making suggestions of more or less value andcomments of more or less stringency and point. at last--somehow--henever 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 waistcoatto hold the pocket! to his horror he recollected that he had leftboth coat and waistcoat behind him in his cell, and with them hispocket-book, money, keys, watch, matches, pencil-case--all that makeslife worth living, all that distinguishes the many-pocketed animal, thelord of creation, from the inferior one-pocketed or no-pocketed productionsthat hop or trip about permissively, unequipped for the real contest. in his misery he made one desperate effortto carry the thing off, and, with a return to his fine old manner--a blendof the squire and the
college don--he said, 'look here! i find i'veleft my purse behind. just give me that ticket, will you, and i'll sendthe money on to-morrow? i'm well-known in these parts.' the clerk stared at him and the rusty blackbonnet a moment, and then laughed. 'i should think you were pretty wellknown in these parts,' he said, 'if you've tried this game on often.here, stand away from the window, please, madam; you're obstructingthe other passengers!' an old gentleman who had been prodding himin the back for some moments here thrust him away, and, what was worse,addressed him as his good
woman, which angered toad more than anythingthat had occurred that evening. baffled and full of despair, he wandered blindlydown the platform where the train was standing, and tears trickleddown each side of his nose. it was hard, he thought, to be within sightof safety and almost of home, and to be baulked by the want of a fewwretched 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 toprison and bread-and-water and
straw; his guards and penalties would be doubled;and o, what sarcastic remarks the girl would make! what was to bedone? he was not swift of foot; his figure was unfortunately recognisable.could he not squeeze under the seat of a carriage? he had seenthis method adopted by schoolboys, when the journey-money providedby thoughtful parents had been diverted to other and better ends. ashe pondered, he found himself opposite the engine, which was beingoiled, wiped, and generally caressed by its affectionate driver, a burlyman with an oil-can in one hand and a lump of cotton-waste in the other.
'hullo, mother!' said the engine-driver, 'what'sthe trouble? you don't look particularly cheerful.' 'o, sir!' said toad, crying afresh, 'i ama poor unhappy washerwoman, and i've lost all my money, and can't payfor a ticket, and i must get home to-night somehow, and whatever i am todo i don't know. o dear, o dear!' 'that's a bad business, indeed,' said theengine-driver reflectively. 'lost your money--and can't get home--andgot some kids, too, waiting for you, i dare say?'
'any amount of 'em,' sobbed toad. 'and they'llbe hungry--and playing with matches--and upsetting lamps,the little innocents!--and quarrelling, and going on generally. o dear,o dear!' 'well, i'll tell you what i'll do,' said thegood engine-driver. 'you're a washerwoman to your trade, says you. verywell, 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'llwash a few shirts for me when you get home, and send 'em along, i'll giveyou a ride on my engine.
it's against the company's regulations, butwe're not so very particular in these out-of-the-way parts.' the toad's misery turned into rapture as heeagerly scrambled up into the cab of the engine. of course, he had neverwashed 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 totoad hall, and have money again, and pockets to put it in, i will sendthe engine-driver enough to pay for quite a quantity of washing, and thatwill be the same thing, or better.'
the guard waved his welcome flag, the engine-driverwhistled in cheerful response, and the train moved outof the station. as the speed increased, and the toad could see on eitherside of him real fields, and trees, and hedges, and cows, and horses, allflying past him, and as he thought how every minute was bringing himnearer to toad hall, and sympathetic friends, and money to chink inhis pocket, and a soft bed to sleep in, and good things to eat, and praiseand admiration at the recital of his adventures and his surpassingcleverness, he began to skip up and down and shout and sing snatchesof song, to the great
astonishment of the engine-driver, who hadcome across washerwomen before, at long intervals, but never one atall like this. they had covered many and many a mile, andtoad was already considering what he would have for supper as soon as hegot home, when he noticed that the engine-driver, with a puzzled expressionon his face, was leaning over the side of the engine and listeninghard. then he saw him climb on to the coals and gaze out over thetop 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 icould be sworn that i heard
another following us!' 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 trydesperately 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 commanda view of the line behind them for a long distance. presently he called out, 'i can see it clearlynow! it is an engine, on
our rails, coming along at a great pace! itlooks 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, obviousand unmistakable plain-clothes detectives even at this distance, waving revolversand walking-sticks;
all waving, and all shouting the same thing--"stop,stop, stop!"' then toad fell on his knees among the coalsand, raising his clasped paws in supplication, cried, 'save me, onlysave me, dear kind mr. engine-driver, and i will confess everything!i am not the simple washerwoman i seem to be! i have no childrenwaiting for me, innocent or otherwise! i am a toad--the well-knownand popular mr. toad, a landed proprietor; i have just escaped, by my greatdaring and cleverness, from a loathsome dungeon into which my enemieshad flung me; and if those fellows on that engine recapture me,it will be chains and
bread-and-water and straw and misery oncemore for poor, unhappy, innocent toad!' the engine-driver looked down upon him verysternly, 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 wereat lunch; they had no need of it at the time. i didn't mean to stealit, really; but people--especially magistrates--take suchharsh 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 oughtto give you up to offended justice. but you are evidently in sore troubleand 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 policemenwhen i'm on my own engine, for another. and the sight of an animal intears 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 butstill their pursuers slowly gained. the engine-driver, with a sigh, wipedhis brow with a handful of cotton-waste, and said, 'i'm afraid it'sno good, toad. you see, they are running light, and they have the betterengine. there's just one thing left for us to do, and it's your onlychance, so attend very carefully to what i tell you. a short wayahead of us is a long tunnel, and on the other side of that the line passesthrough a thick wood. now, i will put on all the speed i can whilewe are running through the tunnel, but the other fellows will slow downa bit, naturally, for fear
of an accident. when we are through, i willshut off steam and put on brakes as hard as i can, and the moment it'ssafe to do so you must jump and hide in the wood, before they get throughthe tunnel and see you. then i will go full speed ahead again, andthey can chase me if they like, for as long as they like, and as faras they like. now mind and be ready to jump when i tell you!' they piled on more coals, and the train shotinto the tunnel, and the engine rushed and roared and rattled, tillat last they shot out at the other end into fresh air and the peacefulmoonlight, and saw the wood
lying dark and helpful upon either side ofthe line. the driver shut off steam and put on brakes, the toad got downon the step, and as the train slowed down to almost a walking pace he heardthe 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 speedagain and disappear at a great pace. then out of the tunnel burst thepursuing engine, roaring and whistling, her motley crew waving theirvarious weapons and
shouting, 'stop! stop! stop!' when they werepast, the toad had a hearty laugh--for the first time since he was throwninto prison. but he soon stopped laughing when he cameto consider that it was now very late and dark and cold, and he was inan unknown wood, with no money and no chance of supper, and still farfrom friends and home; and the dead silence of everything, after theroar and rattle of the train, was something of a shock. he dared not leavethe shelter of the trees, so he struck into the wood, with the ideaof leaving the railway as far as possible behind him.
after so many weeks within walls, he foundthe wood strange and unfriendly and inclined, he thought, to makefun of him. night-jars, sounding their mechanical rattle, made himthink that the wood was full of searching warders, closing in on him. anowl, swooping noiselessly towards him, brushed his shoulder with itswing, making him jump with the horrid certainty that it was a hand; thenflitted off, moth-like, laughing its low ho! ho! ho; which toad thoughtin very poor taste. once he met a fox, who stopped, looked him up anddown in a sarcastic sort of way, and said, 'hullo, washerwoman! halfa pair of socks and a
pillow-case short this week! mind it doesn'toccur again!' and swaggered off, sniggering. toad looked about for a stoneto throw at him, but could not succeed in finding one, which vexedhim more than anything. at last, cold, hungry, and tired out, he soughtthe shelter of a hollow tree, where with branches and dead leaveshe made himself as comfortable a bed as he could, and slept soundly tillthe morning. ix. wayfarers all the water rat was restless, and he did not exactlyknow why. to all appearance the summer's pomp was still atfullest height, and although
in the tilled acres green had given way togold, though rowans were reddening, and the woods were dashed hereand there with a tawny fierceness, yet light and warmth and colourwere still present in undiminished measure, clean of any chillypremonitions of the passing year. but the constant chorus of the orchardsand hedges had shrunk to a casual evensong from a few yet unweariedperformers; the robin was beginning to assert himself once more; andthere 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 dailya southing tendency; and even as he lay in bed at night he thoughthe could make out, passing in the darkness overhead, the beat and quiverof impatient pinions, obedient to the peremptory call. nature's grand hotel has its season, likethe others. as the guests one by one pack, pay, and depart, and the seatsat the table-d'hote shrink pitifully at each succeeding meal; as suitesof rooms are closed,
carpets taken up, and waiters sent away; thoseboarders who are staying on, en pension, until the next year's fullre-opening, cannot help being somewhat affected by all these flittingsand 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 knowthis hotel out of the season, and what fun we have among ourselves,we fellows who remain and see the whole interesting year out. all verytrue, no doubt the others
always reply; we quite envy you--and someother year perhaps--but just now we have engagements--and there's the busat 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 sortof 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 itsinfluence in his bones. it was difficult to settle down to anythingseriously, with all this flitting going on. leaving the water-side,where rushes stood thick and tall in a stream that was becoming sluggishand low, he wandered
country-wards, crossed a field or two of pasturagealready looking dusty and parched, and thrust into the great seaof wheat, yellow, wavy, and murmurous, full of quiet motion and smallwhisperings. here he often loved to wander, through the forest of stiffstrong stalks that carried their own golden sky away over his head--asky that was always dancing, shimmering, softly talking; or swaying stronglyto the passing wind and recovering itself with a toss and a merrylaugh. here, too, he had many small friends, a society complete initself, leading full and busy lives, but always with a spare moment to gossip,and exchange news with
a visitor. today, however, though they werecivil enough, the field-mice and harvest-mice seemed preoccupied. manywere digging and tunnelling busily; others, gathered together in smallgroups, examined plans and drawings of small flats, stated to bedesirable and compact, and situated conveniently near the stores. somewere hauling out dusty trunks and dress-baskets, others were alreadyelbow-deep packing their belongings; while everywhere piles and bundlesof wheat, oats, barley, beech-mast and nuts, lay about ready for transport. 'here's old ratty!' they cried as soon asthey saw him. 'come and bear a
hand, rat, and don't stand about idle!' 'what sort of games are you up to?' said thewater rat severely. 'you know it isn't time to be thinking of winterquarters yet, by a long way!' 'o yes, we know that,' explained a field-mouserather shamefacedly; 'but it's always as well to be in good time, isn'tit? we really must get all the furniture and baggage and stores movedout 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 wantsuch 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 asplendid day. come for a row, or a stroll along the hedges, or a picnicin the woods, or something.' 'well, i think not to-day, thank you,' repliedthe field-mouse hurriedly. 'perhaps some other day--when we'vemore time----' the rat, with a snort of contempt, swung roundto go, tripped over a hat-box, and fell, with undignified remarks.
'if people would be more careful,' said afield-mouse rather stiffly, 'and look where they're going, people wouldn'thurt themselves--and forget themselves. mind that hold-all, rat!you'd better sit down somewhere. in an hour or two we may be morefree to attend to you.' 'you won't be "free" as you call it much thisside of christmas, i can see that,' retorted the rat grumpily, as hepicked his way out of the field. he returned somewhat despondently to his riveragain--his faithful, steady-going old river, which never packedup, flitted, or went into
winter quarters. in the osiers which fringed the bank he spieda swallow sitting. presently it was joined by another, and thenby a third; and the birds, fidgeting restlessly on their bough, talkedtogether earnestly and low. 'what, already,' said the rat, strolling upto them. 'what's the hurry? i call it simply ridiculous.' 'o, we're not off yet, if that's what youmean,' replied the first swallow. 'we're only making plans and arrangingthings. 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 whati don't understand. if you've got to leave this pleasant place, and yourfriends who will miss you, and your snug homes that you've just settledinto, why, when the hour strikes i've no doubt you'll go bravely, andface all the trouble and discomfort and change and newness, and makebelieve that you're not very unhappy. but to want to talk about it, oreven think about it, till you really need----' 'no, you don't understand, naturally,' saidthe 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 wheelingsand circlings by day. we hunger to inquire of each other, tocompare notes and assure ourselves that it was all really true, asone by one the scents and sounds and names of long-forgotten placescome 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 makeyou feel at home. you've no
idea what good times we have here, while youare far away.' 'i tried "stopping on" one year,' said thethird swallow. 'i had grown so fond of the place that when the time camei hung back and let the others go on without me. for a few weeks itwas all well enough, but afterwards, o the weary length of the nights!the shivering, sunless days! the air so clammy and chill, and notan 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 ofthe strong easterly gales. it was snowing hard as i beat through thepasses of the great mountains,
and i had a stiff fight to win through; butnever shall i forget the blissful feeling of the hot sun again on myback 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 radiantair! o, do you remember----'
and, forgetting the rat, they slid into passionatereminiscence, while he listened fascinated, and his heart burnedwithin him. in himself, too, he knew that it was vibrating at last,that chord hitherto dormant and unsuspected. the mere chatter of thesesouthern-bound birds, their pale and second-hand reports, had yet powerto awaken this wild new sensation and thrill him through and throughwith it; what would one moment of the real thing work in him--onepassionate touch of the real southern sun, one waft of the authentic odor?with closed eyes he dared to dream a moment in full abandonment, andwhen he looked again the
river seemed steely and chill, the green fieldsgrey and lightless. then his loyal heart seemed to cry out on his weakerself for its treachery. 'why do you ever come back, then, at all?'he demanded of the swallows jealously. 'what do you find to attract youin 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 callof lush meadow-grass, wet orchards, warm, insect-haunted ponds, of browsingcattle, of haymaking, and all the farm-buildings clustering roundthe house of the perfect
eaves?' 'do you suppose,' asked the second one, thatyou are the only living thing that craves with a hungry longing tohear the cuckoo's note 'in due time,' said the third, 'we shall behome-sick once more for quiet water-lilies swaying on the surfaceof an english stream. but to-day all that seems pale and thin and veryfar away. just now our blood dances to other music.' they fell a-twittering among themselves oncemore, and this time their intoxicating babble was of violet seas, tawnysands, and lizard-haunted
walls. restlessly the rat wandered off once more,climbed the slope that rose gently from the north bank of the river, andlay looking out towards the great ring of downs that barred his visionfurther southwards--his simple horizon hitherto, his mountains ofthe moon, his limit behind which lay nothing he had cared to see or toknow. to-day, to him gazing south with a new-born need stirring in hisheart, the clear sky over their long low outline seemed to pulsate withpromise; to-day, the unseen was everything, the unknown the onlyreal 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 wasseeing so clearly. what seas lay beyond, green, leaping, and crested!what sun-bathed coasts, along which the white villas glittered againstthe olive woods! what quiet harbours, thronged with gallant shippingbound for purple islands of wine and spice, islands set low in languorouswaters! 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 borderedit, he could muse on the
metalled road and all the wondrous world thatit led to; on all the wayfarers, too, that might have trodden it,and the fortunes and adventures they had gone to seek or foundunseeking--out there, beyond--beyond! footsteps fell on his ear, and the figureof one that walked somewhat wearily came into view; and he saw that itwas a rat, and a very dusty one. the wayfarer, as he reached him, salutedwith a gesture of courtesy that had something foreign about it--hesitateda moment--then with a pleasant smile turned from the track and satdown by his side in the
cool herbage. he seemed tired, and the ratlet him rest unquestioned, understanding something of what was in histhoughts; knowing, too, the value all animals attach at times to meresilent companionship, when the weary muscles slacken and the mind marks time. the wayfarer was lean and keen-featured, andsomewhat bowed at the shoulders; his paws were thin and long, hiseyes much wrinkled at the corners, and he wore small gold ear ringsin 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 grassbehind us and blowing softly between mouthfuls. there is a sound of distantreapers, and yonder rises a blue line of cottage smoke againstthe woodland. the river runs somewhere close by, for i hear the call ofa moorhen, and i see by your build that you're a freshwater mariner. everythingseems asleep, and
yet going on all the time. it is a goodlylife that you lead, friend; no doubt the best in the world, if only you arestrong enough to lead it!' 'yes, it's the life, the only life, to live,'responded the water rat dreamily, and without his usual whole-heartedconviction. 'i did not say exactly that,' replied thestranger cautiously; 'but no doubt it's the best. i've tried it, and iknow. and because i've just tried it--six months of it--and know it'sthe best, here am i, footsore and hungry, tramping away from it, trampingsouthward, following the old call, back to the old life, the life whichis mine and which will not
let me go.' 'is this, then, yet another of them?' musedthe rat. 'and where have you just come from?' he asked. he hardly daredto ask where he was bound for; he seemed to know the answer only toowell. 'nice little farm,' replied the wayfarer,briefly. 'upalong in that direction'--he nodded northwards. 'never mindabout it. i had everything i could want--everything i had any right toexpect 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 manyhours 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 thatinland acreage, vocal as it was with the cheerful music of pasturage andfarmyard. '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 seafaringrat, 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 anancient and glorious one. and you may have heard, too, of sigurd, kingof norway, and how he sailed thither with sixty ships, and how heand his men rode up through streets all canopied in their honour withpurple and gold; and how the emperor and empress came down and banquetedwith him on board his ship. when sigurd returned home, many of his northmenremained behind and entered the emperor's body-guard, and my ancestor,a norwegian born, stayed behind too, with the ships that sigurdgave 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 pleasantport between there and the london river. i know them all, and they knowme. set me down on any of their quays or foreshores, and i am home again.' 'i suppose you go great voyages,' said thewater rat with growing interest. 'months and months out of sightof land, and provisions running short, and allowanced as to water,and your mind communing with the mighty ocean, and all that sort of thing?' 'by no means,' said the sea rat frankly. 'sucha life as you describe would not suit me at all. i'm in the coastingtrade, and rarely out of
sight of land. it's the jolly times on shorethat appeal to me, as much as any seafaring. o, those southern seaports!the smell of them, the riding-lights at night, the glamour!' 'well, perhaps you have chosen the betterway,' said the water rat, but rather doubtfully. 'tell me something of yourcoasting, then, if you have a mind to, and what sort of harvest ananimal of spirit might hope to bring home from it to warm his latter dayswith gallant memories by the fireside; for my life, i confess to you,feels to me to-day somewhat narrow and circumscribed.'
'my last voyage,' began the sea rat, 'thatlanded me eventually in this country, bound with high hopes for my inlandfarm, will serve as a good example of any of them, and, indeed, as anepitome of my highly-coloured life. family troubles, as usual, began it.the domestic storm-cone was hoisted, and i shipped myself on board a smalltrading vessel bound from constantinople, by classic seas whose everywave throbs with a deathless memory, to the grecian islands and the levant.those were golden days and balmy nights! in and out of harbour allthe time--old friends everywhere--sleeping in some cool temple orruined cistern during the
heat of the day--feasting and song after sundown,under great stars set in a velvet sky! thence we turned andcoasted up the adriatic, its shores swimming in an atmosphere of amber,rose, and aquamarine; we lay in wide land-locked harbours, we roamedthrough ancient and noble cities, until at last one morning, as thesun rose royally behind us, we rode into venice down a path of gold. o, veniceis a fine city, wherein a rat can wander at his ease and take hispleasure! or, when weary of wandering, can sit at the edge of the grandcanal at night, feasting with his friends, when the air is full ofmusic and the sky full of
stars, and the lights flash and shimmer onthe polished steel prows of the swaying gondolas, packed so that you couldwalk across the canal on them from side to side! and then the food--doyou 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 phantomsong pealing high between vaporous grey wave-lapped walls. 'southwards we sailed again at last,' continuedthe sea rat, 'coasting down the italian shore, till finally we madepalermo, 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 everybodythere, 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 tookadvantage of a ship that was trading to sardinia and corsica; and veryglad 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 inthe--hold, i think you call it?' asked the water rat.
the seafarer looked at him with the suspicionof a wink. 'i'm an old hand,' he remarked with much simplicity. 'thecaptain's cabin's good enough for me.' 'it's a hard life, by all accounts,' murmuredthe rat, sunk in deep thought. 'for the crew it is,' replied the seafarergravely, again with the ghost of a wink. 'from corsica,' he went on, 'i made use ofa 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, tiedone to the other by a long line. then the crew took to the boats androwed shorewards, singing as they went, and drawing after them the longbobbing procession of casks, like a mile of porpoises. on the sands theyhad horses waiting, which dragged the casks up the steep street of thelittle town with a fine rush and clatter and scramble. when the lastcask was in, we went and refreshed and rested, and sat late into thenight, drinking with our friends, and next morning i took to the greatolive-woods for a spell and a rest. for now i had done with islandsfor the time, and ports and
shipping were plentiful; so i led a lazy lifeamong the peasants, lying and watching them work, or stretched highon 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, andthe meeting of old shipmates, and the visiting of great ocean-bound vessels,and feasting once more. talk of shell-fish! why, sometimes idream 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 havespoken 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 welcometo 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 sincei inadvertently happened to mention shell-fish, my pangs have beenextreme. but couldn't you fetch it along out here? i am none too fondof going under hatches, unless i'm obliged to; and then, while weeat, i could tell you more concerning my voyages and the pleasant lifei lead--at least, it is very pleasant to me, and by your attention i judgeit commends itself to you;
whereas if we go indoors it is a hundred toone that i shall presently fall asleep.' 'that is indeed an excellent suggestion,'said the water rat, and hurried off home. there he got out the luncheon-basketand packed a simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger'sorigin and preferences, he took care to include a yardof long french bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, somecheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-coveredflask wherein lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far southernslopes. thus laden, he
returned with all speed, and blushed for pleasureat the old seaman's commendations of his taste and judgment, astogether they unpacked the basket and laid out the contents on the grassby the roadside. the sea rat, as soon as his hunger was somewhatassuaged, continued the history of his latest voyage, conducting hissimple hearer from port to port of spain, landing him at lisbon, oporto,and bordeaux, introducing him to the pleasant harbours of cornwall anddevon, and so up the channel to that final quayside, where, landingafter 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 theexperiment of life on some quiet farmstead, very far from the weary beatingof any sea. spell-bound and quivering with excitement,the water rat followed the adventurer league by league, over stormybays, through crowded roadsteads, across harbour bars on a racingtide, up winding rivers that hid their busy little towns round a suddenturn; and left him with a regretful sigh planted at his dull inlandfarm, about which he desired to hear nothing.
by this time their meal was over, and theseafarer, refreshed and strengthened, his voice more vibrant, hiseye 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, bodyand soul, while he talked. those eyes were of the changing foam-streakedgrey-green of leaping northern seas; in the glass shone a hot rubythat seemed the very heart of the south, beating for him who hadcourage to respond to its pulsation. the twin lights, the shifting greyand the steadfast red,
mastered the water rat and held him bound,fascinated, powerless. the quiet world outside their rays receded faraway and ceased to be. and the talk, the wonderful talk flowed on--orwas it speech entirely, or did it pass at times into song--chantyof the sailors weighing the dripping anchor, sonorous hum of the shroudsin a tearing north-easter, ballad of the fisherman hauling his nets atsundown against an apricot sky, chords of guitar and mandoline from gondolaor caique? did it change into the cry of the wind, plaintiveat 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 withthem the hungry complaint of the gulls and the sea-mews, the soft thunderof the breaking wave, the cry of the protesting shingle. back intospeech again it passed, and with beating heart he was following the adventuresof a dozen seaports, the fights, the escapes, the rallies, thecomradeships, 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 ofthe mile-long net; of sudden
perils, noise of breakers on a moonless night,or the tall bows of the great liner taking shape overhead throughthe fog; of the merry home-coming, the headland rounded, the harbourlights opened out; the groups seen dimly on the quay, the cheeryhail, the splash of the hawser; the trudge up the steep little streettowards the comforting glow of red-curtained windows. lastly, in his waking dream it seemed to himthat 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 tothe 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, thatclings along one steep side of the harbour. there through dark doorways youlook down flights of stone steps, overhung by great pink tufts of valerianand ending in a patch of sparkling blue water. the little boatsthat lie tethered to the rings and stanchions of the old sea-wall aregaily painted as those i clambered in and out of in my own childhood;the salmon leap on the flood tide, schools of mackerel flash andplay past quay-sides and
foreshores, and by the windows the great vesselsglide, night and day, up to their moorings or forth to the opensea. 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 itsanchor. i shall take my time, i shall tarry and bide, till at lastthe right one lies waiting for me, warped out into midstream, loadedlow, her bowsprit pointing down harbour. i shall slip on board, by boator along hawser; and then one morning i shall wake to the song and trampof the sailors, the clink of the capstan, and the rattle of the anchor-chaincoming merrily in.
we shall break out the jib and the foresail,the white houses on the harbour side will glide slowly past us asshe gathers steering-way, and the voyage will have begun! as she forgestowards the headland she will clothe herself with canvas; and then, onceoutside, 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, someday long hence, jog home here if you will, when the cup has been drainedand the play has been played, and sit down by your quiet river with a storeof goodly memories for company. you can easily overtake me on theroad, 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'stiny trumpet dwindles swiftly into silence; and the water rat, paralysedand staring, saw at
last but a distant speck on the white surfaceof the road. mechanically he rose and proceeded to repackthe luncheon-basket, carefully and without haste. mechanicallyhe returned home, gathered together a few small necessaries and specialtreasures he was fond of, and put them in a satchel; acting with slowdeliberation, moving about the room like a sleep-walker; listening everwith parted lips. he swung the satchel over his shoulder, carefully selecteda stout stick for his wayfaring, and with no haste, but with nohesitation at all, he stepped across the threshold just as the mole appearedat the door.
'why, where are you off to, ratty?' askedthe mole in great surprise, grasping him by the arm. 'going south, with the rest of them,' murmuredthe rat in a dreamy monotone, never looking at him. 'seawardsfirst and then on shipboard, and so to the shores that are calling me!' he pressed resolutely forward, still withouthaste, but with dogged fixity of purpose; but the mole, now thoroughlyalarmed, placed himself in front of him, and looking into his eyessaw that they were glazed and set and turned a streaked and shifting grey--nothis friend's eyes, but
the eyes of some other animal! grappling withhim 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 stilland exhausted, with closed eyes, trembling. presently the moleassisted him to rise and placed him in a chair, where he sat collapsedand shrunken into himself, his body shaken by a violent shivering,passing in time into an hysterical fit of dry sobbing. mole madethe door fast, threw the satchel into a drawer and locked it, and satdown quietly on the table
by his friend, waiting for the strange seizureto pass. gradually the rat sank into a troubled doze, broken by startsand confused murmurings of things strange and wild and foreign tothe unenlightened mole; and from that he passed into a deep slumber. very anxious in mind, the mole left him fora time and busied himself with household matters; and it was gettingdark when he returned to the parlour and found the rat where he had lefthim, wide awake indeed, but listless, silent, and dejected. he took onehasty glance at his eyes; found them, to his great gratification, clearand dark and brown again
as before; and then sat down and tried tocheer him up and help him to relate what had happened to him. poor ratty did his best, by degrees, to explainthings; but how could he put into cold words what had mostly beensuggestion? how recall, for another's benefit, the haunting sea voicesthat had sung to him, how reproduce at second-hand the magic ofthe seafarer's hundred reminiscences? even to himself, now the spellwas broken and the glamour gone, he found it difficult to account forwhat had seemed, some hours ago, the inevitable and only thing. it isnot surprising, then, that he
failed to convey to the mole any clear ideaof 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, thoughshaken and cast down by the reaction. but he seemed to have lost all interestfor 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 doingsthat 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 thelarge moon rising over bare acres dotted with sheaves. he talked of thereddening apples around, of the browning nuts, of jams and preserves andthe distilling of cordials; till by easy stages such as these he reachedmidwinter, its hearty joys and its snug home life, and then he becamesimply lyrical. by degrees the rat began to sit up and tojoin in. his dull eye brightened, and he lost some of his listeningair. presently the tactful mole slipped away andreturned with a pencil and
a few half-sheets of paper, which he placedon the table at his friend's elbow. 'it's quite a long time since you did anypoetry,' he remarked. 'you might have a try at it this evening, insteadof--well, brooding over things so much. i've an idea that you'll feela lot better when you've got something jotted down--if it's only justthe rhymes.' the rat pushed the paper away from him wearily,but the discreet mole took occasion to leave the room, and whenhe peeped in again some time later, the rat was absorbed and deafto 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 itwas joy to the mole to know that the cure had at least begun. x. 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 sunlightstreaming in on him, partly by the exceeding coldness of his toes, whichmade him dream that he was at home in bed in his own handsome room withthe tudor window, on a cold winter's night, and his bedclothes had gotup, grumbling and protesting
they couldn't stand the cold any longer, andhad run downstairs to the kitchen fire to warm themselves; and he hadfollowed, on bare feet, along miles and miles of icy stone-paved passages,arguing and beseeching them to be reasonable. he wouldprobably have been aroused much earlier, had he not slept for some weekson straw over stone flags, and almost forgotten the friendly feelingof thick blankets pulled well up round the chin. sitting up, he rubbed his eyes first and hiscomplaining toes next, wondered for a moment where he was, lookinground 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! free! the word and the thought alone wereworth fifty blankets. he was warm from end to end as he thought of thejolly world outside, waiting eagerly for him to make his triumphal entrance,ready to serve him and play up to him, anxious to help him andto keep him company, as it always had been in days of old before misfortunefell upon him. he shook himself and combed the dry leaves out of hishair with his fingers; and,
his toilet complete, marched forth into thecomfortable morning sun, cold but confident, hungry but hopeful, allnervous terrors of yesterday dispelled by rest and sleep and frank andheartening sunshine. he had the world all to himself, that earlysummer morning. the dewy woodland, as he threaded it, was solitaryand still: the green fields that succeeded the trees were his own to doas he liked with; the road itself, when he reached it, in that lonelinessthat was everywhere, seemed, like a stray dog, to be looking anxiouslyfor company. toad, however, was looking for something that couldtalk, 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 inyour pocket, and nobody scouring the country for you to drag you offto prison again, to follow where the road beckons and points, not caringwhither. the practical toad cared very much indeed, and he couldhave kicked the road for its helpless silence when every minute was ofimportance to him. the reserved rustic road was presently joinedby a shy little brother in the shape of a canal, which took its handand 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 bothbe coming from somewhere, and going to somewhere. you can't get overthat. toad, my boy!' so he marched on patiently by the water's edge. round a bend in the canal came plodding asolitary horse, stooping forward as if in anxious thought. from ropetraces attached to his collar stretched a long line, taut, but dippingwith his stride, the further part of it dripping pearly drops.toad let the horse pass, and stood waiting for what the fates were sendinghim.
with a pleasant swirl of quiet water at itsblunt bow the barge slid up alongside of him, its gaily painted gunwalelevel with the towing-path, its sole occupant a big stout woman wearinga 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 toadpolitely, as he walked along the tow-path abreast of her. 'i dare it isa nice morning to them that's not in sore trouble, like what i am. here'smy married daughter, she
sends off to me post-haste to come to herat once; so off i comes, not knowing what may be happening or going tohappen, but fearing the worst, as you will understand, ma'am, if you're amother, too. and i've left my business to look after itself--i'm in thewashing and laundering line, you must know, ma'am--and i've left my youngchildren to look after themselves, and a more mischievous and troublesomeset of young imps doesn't exist, ma'am; and i've lost all mymoney, and lost my way, and as for what may be happening to my marrieddaughter, why, i don't like to think of it, ma'am!'
'where might your married daughter be living,ma'am?' asked the barge-woman. 'she lives near to the river, ma'am,' repliedtoad. 'close to a fine house called toad hall, that's somewhereshereabouts 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 furtheron, a little above toad hall; and then it's an easy walk. you comealong in the barge with me, and i'll give you a lift.'
she steered the barge close to the bank, andtoad, with many humble and grateful acknowledgments, stepped lightlyon board and sat down with great satisfaction. 'toad's luck again!' thoughthe. '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 verygood business you've got too, i dare say, if i'm not making too freein saying so.' 'finest business in the whole country,' saidtoad airily. 'all the gentry come to me--wouldn't go to any oneelse if they were paid, they
know me so well. you see, i understand mywork thoroughly, and attend to it all myself. washing, ironing, clear-starching,making up gents' fine shirts for evening wear--everything's doneunder 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: 'twentygirls 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 withgreat 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 onit. 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 assureyou, ma'am!' 'what a bit of luck, meeting you!' observedthe barge-woman, thoughtfully. 'a regular piece of good fortunefor 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 thatmatter, 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 hiswork and leaving the barge to me, that never a moment do i get for seeingto my own affairs. by rights he ought to be here now, either steeringor attending to the horse, though luckily the horse has senseenough 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'llcatch me up at the next lock. well, that's as may be--i don't trusthim, 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 nicefat 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 minethat you'll find in a corner of the cabin. if you'll just takeone or two of the most
necessary sort--i won't venture to describethem to a lady like you, but you'll recognise them at a glance--and putthem 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 fromthe canal with. then i shall know you're enjoying yourself, instead ofsitting here idle, looking at the scenery and yawning your head off.' 'here, you let me steer!' said toad, now thoroughlyfrightened, 'and then you can get on with your washing yourown way. i might spoil your
things, or not do 'em as you like. i'm moreused 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 washingyou 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 escapethis way and that, saw that he was too far from the bank fora flying leap, and sullenly
resigned himself to his fate. 'if it comesto that,' he thought in desperation, 'i suppose any fool can wash!' he fetched tub, soap, and other necessariesfrom the cabin, selected a few garments at random, tried to recollectwhat he had seen in casual glances through laundry windows, and set to. a long half-hour passed, and every minuteof it saw toad getting crosser and crosser. nothing that he could do to thethings seemed to please them or do them good. he tried coaxing, hetried slapping, he tried punching; they smiled back at him out of thetub unconverted, happy in
their original sin. once or twice he lookednervously over his shoulder at the barge-woman, but she appeared to begazing out in front of her, absorbed in her steering. his back ached badly,and he noticed with dismay that his paws were beginning to getall crinkly. now toad was very proud of his paws. he muttered underhis breath words that should never pass the lips of either washerwomenor toads; and lost the soap, for the fiftieth time. a burst of laughter made him straighten himselfand look round. the barge-woman was leaning back and laughingunrestrainedly, till the tears
ran down her cheeks. 'i've been watching you all the time,' shegasped. 'i thought you must be a humbug all along, from the conceitedway you talked. pretty washerwoman you are! never washed so muchas a dish-clout in your life, i'll lay!' toad's temper which had been simmering viciouslyfor some time, now fairly boiled over, and he lost all controlof 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 bargewoman!' the woman moved nearer to him and peered underhis 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-grippedhim fast by a
hind-leg. then the world turned suddenly upsidedown, the barge seemed to flit lightly across the sky, the wind whistledin his ears, and toad found himself flying through the air, revolvingrapidly as he went. the water, when he eventually reached it witha loud splash, proved quite cold enough for his taste, though itschill was not sufficient to quell his proud spirit, or slake the heatof his furious temper. he rose to the surface spluttering, and when he hadwiped the duck-weed out of his eyes the first thing he saw was the fatbarge-woman looking back at him over the stern of the retreating bargeand laughing; and he vowed,
as he coughed and choked, to be even withher. he struck out for the shore, but the cottongown greatly impeded his efforts, and when at length he touched landhe found it hard to climb up the steep bank unassisted. he had to takea minute or two's rest to recover his breath; then, gathering his wetskirts well over his arms, he started to run after the barge as fastas his legs would carry him, wild with indignation, thirsting for revenge. the barge-woman was still laughing when hedrew up level with her. 'put yourself through your mangle, washerwoman,'she called out, 'and iron
your face and crimp it, and you'll pass forquite a decent-looking toad!' toad never paused to reply. solid revengewas what he wanted, not cheap, windy, verbal triumphs, though he had a thingor two in his mind that he would have liked to say. he saw what hewanted ahead of him. running swiftly on he overtook the horse, unfastenedthe towrope and cast off, jumped lightly on the horse's back, and urgedit to a gallop by kicking it vigorously in the sides. he steered forthe open country, abandoning the tow-path, and swinging his steed downa rutty lane. once he looked
back, and saw that the barge had run agroundon the other side of the canal, and the barge-woman was gesticulatingwildly and shouting, 'stop, stop, stop!' 'i've heard that song before,'said toad, laughing, as he continued to spur his steed onward in itswild career. the barge-horse was not capable of any verysustained effort, and its gallop soon subsided into a trot, and itstrot into an easy walk; but toad was quite contented with this, knowingthat he, at any rate, was moving, and the barge was not. he had quiterecovered his temper, now that he had done something he thoughtreally clever; and he was
satisfied to jog along quietly in the sun,steering his horse along by-ways and bridle-paths, and trying to forgethow very long it was since he had had a square meal, till the canalhad been left very far behind him. he had travelled some miles, his horse andhe, and he was feeling drowsy in the hot sunshine, when the horse stopped,lowered his head, and began to nibble the grass; and toad, wakingup, just saved himself from falling off by an effort. he looked abouthim and found he was on a wide common, dotted with patches of gorse and brambleas far as he could see.
near him stood a dingy gipsy caravan, andbeside it a man was sitting on a bucket turned upside down, very busy smokingand 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 bubblingsand gurglings, and a vague suggestive steaminess. also smells--warm,rich, and varied smells--that twined and twisted and wreathedthemselves at last into one complete, voluptuous, perfect smell that seemedlike the very soul of nature taking form and appearing to her children,a true goddess, a mother of solace and comfort. toad now knewwell that he had not been
really hungry before. what he had felt earlierin the day had been a mere trifling qualm. this was the real thingat last, and no mistake; and it would have to be dealt with speedily,too, or there would be trouble for somebody or something. he lookedthe gipsy over carefully, wondering vaguely whether it would be easierto 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 hismouth and remarked in a careless way, 'want to sell that there horseof yours?'
toad was completely taken aback. he did notknow that gipsies were very fond of horse-dealing, and never missed anopportunity, and he had not reflected that caravans were always onthe move and took a deal of drawing. it had not occurred to him to turnthe horse into cash, but the gipsy's suggestion seemed to smooth the waytowards the two things he wanted so badly--ready money, and a solidbreakfast. 'what?' he said, 'me sell this beautiful younghorse of mine? o, no; it's out of the question. who's going to takethe washing home to my customers every week? besides, i'm too fondof 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, 'thatthis fine horse of mine is a cut above you altogether. he's a bloodhorse, 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 timebefore 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 offor a moment. all the same, how much might you be disposed to offer mefor this beautiful young
horse of mine?' the gipsy looked the horse over, and thenhe 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 tryto 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 itcomes to.' he climbed down off his horse, and left itto graze, and sat down by the gipsy, and did sums on his fingers, and atlast 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 shillingsfor this beautiful young horse of mine.' 'well,' said the gipsy, 'i'll tell you whati will do. i'll make it five shillings, and that's three-and-sixpence morethan 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 nothow far--from home, and enemies might still be looking for him. toone in such a situation, five
shillings may very well appear a large sumof 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 gotwas all clear profit. at last he said firmly, 'look here, gipsy! itell you what we will do; and this is my last word. you shall hand me oversix shillings and sixpence, cash down; and further, in addition thereto,you shall give me as much breakfast as i can possibly eat, at one sittingof course, out of that iron pot of yours that keeps sending forthsuch delicious and exciting smells. in return, i will make over to youmy spirited young horse, with
all the beautiful harness and trappings thatare on him, freely thrown in. if that's not good enough for you, sayso, and i'll be getting on. i know a man near here who's wanted this horseof mine for years.' the gipsy grumbled frightfully, and declaredif he did a few more deals of that sort he'd be ruined. but in the endhe lugged a dirty canvas bag out of the depths of his trouser pocket, andcounted out six shillings and sixpence into toad's paw. then he disappearedinto the caravan for an instant, and returned with a large ironplate and a knife, fork, and spoon. he tilted up the pot, and a gloriousstream of hot rich stew
gurgled into the plate. it was, indeed, themost 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, almostcrying, and stuffed, and stuffed, and stuffed, and kept askingfor more, and the gipsy never grudged it him. he thought that he had nevereaten so good a breakfast in all his life. when toad had taken as much stew on boardas he thought he could possibly hold, he got up and said good-byeto the gipsy, and took
an affectionate farewell of the horse; andthe gipsy, who knew the riverside well, gave him directions whichway 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 hourago. the sun was shining brightly, his wet clothes were quite dry again,he had money in his pocket once more, he was nearing home andfriends and safety, and, most and best of all, he had had a substantialmeal, hot and nourishing, and felt big, and strong, and careless, and self-confident. as he tramped along gaily, he thought of hisadventures and escapes, and
how when things seemed at their worst he hadalways managed to find a way out; and his pride and conceit began toswell within him. 'ho, ho!' he said to himself as he marched along withhis chin in the air, 'what a clever toad i am! there is surely no animalequal to me for cleverness in the whole world! my enemies shut me upin prison, encircled by sentries, watched night and day by warders;i walk out through them all, by sheer ability coupled with courage. theypursue me with engines, and policemen, and revolvers; i snap my fingersat them, and vanish, laughing, into space. i am, unfortunately,thrown into a canal by a
woman fat of body and very evil-minded. whatof it? i swim ashore, i seize her horse, i ride off in triumph, andi sell the horse for a whole pocketful of money and an excellent breakfast!ho, ho! i am the toad, the handsome, the popular, the successfultoad!' he got so puffed up with conceit that he made up a song as hewalked in praise of himself, and sang it at the top of his voice, thoughthere was no one to hear it but him. it was perhaps the most conceitedsong that any animal ever composed. 'the world has held great heroes,as history-books have showed;
but never a name to go down to famecompared with that of toad! 'the clever men at oxfordknow all that there is to be knowed. but they none of them know one half as muchas 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 salutedas they marched along the road. was it the king? or kitchener?no. it was mr. toad. 'the queen and her ladies-in-waitingsat 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 someof the milder verses. he sang as he walked, and he walked as hesang, and got more inflated every minute. but his pride was shortly tohave a severe fall. after some miles of country lanes he reachedthe high road, and as he turned into it and glanced along its whitelength, he saw approaching him a speck that turned into a dot and theninto a blob, and then into something very familiar; and a double noteof warning, only too well known, fell on his delighted ear.
'this is something like!' said the excitedtoad. 'this is real life again, this is once more the great world fromwhich i have been missed so long! i will hail them, my brothers ofthe wheel, and pitch them a yarn, of the sort that has been so successfulhitherto; and they will give me a lift, of course, and then i willtalk to them some more; and, perhaps, with luck, it may even end in mydriving up to toad hall in a motor-car! that will be one in the eye forbadger!' he stepped confidently out into the road tohail the motor-car, which came along at an easy pace, slowing down asit neared the lane; when
suddenly he became very pale, his heart turnedto water, his knees shook and yielded under him, and he doubled up andcollapsed with a sickening pain in his interior. and well he might, theunhappy animal; for the approaching car was the very one he had stolenout of the yard of the red lion hotel on that fatal day when allhis troubles began! and the people in it were the very same peoplehe had sat and watched at luncheon in the coffee-room! he sank down in a shabby, miserable heap inthe road, murmuring to himself in his despair, 'it's all up! it'sall over now! chains and
policemen again! prison again! dry bread andwater again! o, what a fool i have been! what did i want to go struttingabout the country for, singing conceited songs, and hailing peoplein broad day on the high road, instead of hiding till nightfall andslipping home quietly by back ways! o hapless toad! o ill-fated animal!' the terrible motor-car drew slowly nearerand nearer, till at last he heard it stop just short of him. two gentlemengot out and walked round the trembling heap of crumpled misery lyingin the road, and one of them said, 'o dear! this is very sad! here is apoor old thing--a washerwoman
apparently--who has fainted in the road! perhapsshe is overcome by the heat, poor creature; or possibly she has nothad any food to-day. let us lift her into the car and take her to thenearest village, where doubtless she has friends.' they tenderly lifted toad into the motor-carand propped him up with soft cushions, and proceeded on their way. when toad heard them talk in so kind and sympathetica way, and knew that he was not recognised, his couragebegan to revive, and he cautiously opened first one eye and then theother.
'look!' said one of the gentlemen, 'she isbetter already. the fresh air is doing her good. how do you feel now, ma'am?' 'thank you kindly, sir,' said toad in a feeblevoice, 'i'm feeling a great deal better!' 'that's right,' said thegentleman. 'now keep quite still, and, above all, don't try to talk.' 'i won't,' said toad. 'i was only thinking,if i might sit on the front seat there, beside the driver, where i couldget 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 frontseat beside the driver, and on they went again. toad was almost himself again by now. he satup, looked about him, and tried to beat down the tremors, the yearnings,the old cravings that rose up and beset him and took possessionof him entirely. '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 wouldkindly let me try and drive the car for a little. i've been watching youcarefully, and it looks so
easy and so interesting, and i should liketo be able to tell my friends that once i had driven a motor-car!' the driver laughed at the proposal, so heartilythat the gentleman inquired what the matter was. when he heard,he said, to toad's delight, 'bravo, ma'am! i like your spirit. let herhave a try, and look after her. she won't do any harm.' toad eagerly scrambled into the seat vacatedby the driver, took the steering-wheel in his hands, listened withaffected humility to the instructions given him, and set the car inmotion, but very slowly and
carefully at first, for he was determinedto be prudent. the gentlemen behind clapped their hands andapplauded, and toad heard them saying, 'how well she does it! fancya 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 losehis head. the driver tried to interfere, but he pinnedhim down in his seat with one elbow, and put on full speed. the rushof air in his face, the hum
of the engines, and the light jump of thecar beneath him intoxicated his weak brain. 'washerwoman, indeed!' heshouted recklessly. 'ho! ho! i am the toad, the motor-car snatcher, theprison-breaker, the toad who always escapes! sit still, and you shall knowwhat driving really is, for you are in the hands of the famous,the skilful, the entirely fearless toad!' with a cry of horror the whole party roseand 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 anddangerous toad!' alas! they should have thought, they oughtto have been more prudent, they should have remembered to stop the motor-carsomehow before playing any pranks of that sort. with a half-turnof the wheel the toad sent the car crashing through the low hedge thatran along the roadside. one mighty bound, a violent shock, and the wheelsof the car were churning up the thick mud of a horse-pond. toad found himself flying through the airwith the strong upward rush and delicate curve of a swallow. he likedthe motion, and was just
beginning to wonder whether it would go onuntil he developed wings and turned into a toad-bird, when he landed onhis back with a thump, in the soft rich grass of a meadow. sitting up, hecould just see the motor-car in the pond, nearly submerged; the gentlemenand the driver, encumbered by their long coats, were floundering helplesslyin the water. he picked himself up rapidly, and set offrunning across country as hard as he could, scrambling through hedges, jumpingditches, pounding across fields, till he was breathless and weary,and had to settle down into an easy walk. when he had recovered his breathsomewhat, and was able to
think calmly, he began to giggle, and fromgiggling he took to laughing, and he laughed till he had to sit down undera hedge. 'ho, ho!' he cried, in ecstasies of self-admiration, 'toadagain! toad, as usual, comes out on the top! who was it got themto give him a lift? who managed to get on the front seat for the sakeof fresh air? who persuaded them into letting him see if hecould drive? who landed them all in a horse-pond? who escaped, flying gailyand unscathed through the air, leaving the narrow-minded, grudging,timid excursionists in the mud where they should rightly be? why, toad, ofcourse; clever toad, great
toad, good toad!' then he burst into song again, and chantedwith 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 madehim turn his head and look. o horror! o misery! o despair! about two fields off, a chauffeur in his leathergaiters and two large rural policemen were visible, running towardshim as hard as they could
go! poor toad sprang to his feet and pelted awayagain, 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! omy! o my! o my!' he glanced back, and saw to his dismay thatthey 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 wasa fat animal, and his legs were short, and still they gained. he couldhear them close behind him
now. ceasing to heed where he was going, hestruggled on blindly and wildly, looking back over his shoulder atthe now triumphant enemy, when suddenly the earth failed under his feet,he grasped at the air, and, splash! he found himself head over ears indeep water, rapid water, water that bore him along with a force hecould not contend with; and he knew that in his blind panic he had run straightinto the river! he rose to the surface and tried to graspthe reeds and the rushes that grew along the water's edge close under thebank, 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 everi sing another conceited song'--then down he went, and came up breathlessand spluttering. presently he saw that he was approaching abig dark hole in the bank, just above his head, and as the stream borehim past he reached up with a paw and caught hold of the edge and heldon. 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 quiteexhausted. as he sighed and blew and stared before himinto the dark hole, some
bright small thing shone and twinkled in itsdepths, moving towards him. as it approached, a face grew up graduallyaround it, and it was a familiar face! brown and small, with whiskers. grave and round, with neat ears and silkyhair. xi. 'like summer tempests came his tears' the rat put out a neat little brown paw, grippedtoad firmly by the scruff of the neck, and gave a great hoistand a pull; and the water-logged toad came up slowly but surelyover the edge of the hole,
till at last he stood safe and sound in thehall, streaked with mud and weed to be sure, and with the water streamingoff him, but happy and high-spirited as of old, now that he foundhimself once more in the house of a friend, and dodgings and evasionswere over, and he could lay aside a disguise that was unworthy of hisposition and wanted such a lot of living up to. 'o, ratty!' he cried. 'i've been through suchtimes since i saw you last, you can't think! such trials, such sufferings,and all so nobly borne! then such escapes, such disguises suchsubterfuges, and all so
cleverly planned and carried out! been inprison--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, andno mistake! what do you think my last exploit was? just hold on till i tellyou----' 'toad,' said the water rat, gravely and firmly,'you go off upstairs at once, and take off that old cotton ragthat 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 amore shabby, bedraggled, disreputable-looking object than you are inever set eyes on in my whole life! now, stop swaggering and arguing, andbe off! i'll have something to say to you later!' toad was at first inclined to stop and dosome talking back at him. he had had enough of being ordered about whenhe 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 inthe looking-glass over the hat-stand, with the rusty black bonnet perchedrakishly over one eye,
and he changed his mind and went very quicklyand humbly upstairs to the rat's dressing-room. there he had a thoroughwash and brush-up, changed his clothes, and stood for a long time beforethe glass, contemplating himself with pride and pleasure, and thinkingwhat utter idiots all the people must have been to have ever mistakenhim for one moment for a washerwoman. by the time he came down again luncheon wason the table, and very glad toad was to see it, for he had been throughsome trying experiences and had taken much hard exercise since the excellentbreakfast provided for
him by the gipsy. while they ate toad toldthe rat all his adventures, dwelling chiefly on his own cleverness, andpresence of mind in emergencies, and cunning in tight places;and rather making out that he had been having a gay and highly-colouredexperience. but the more he talked and boasted, the more grave and silentthe rat became. when at last toad had talked himself to astandstill, 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 makingof yourself? on your
own admission you have been handcuffed, imprisoned,starved, chased, terrified out of your life, insulted, jeeredat, and ignominiously flung into the water--by a woman, too! where's theamusement in that? where does the fun come in? and all because youmust needs go and steal a motor-car. you know that you've never hadanything but trouble from motor-cars from the moment you first set eyeson 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, ifyou think it's exciting; be a bankrupt, for a change, if you've set yourmind on it: but why choose
to be a convict? when are you going to besensible, 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 animalssaying, as i go about, that i'm the chap that keeps company withgaol-birds?' now, it was a very comforting point in toad'scharacter that he was a thoroughly good-hearted animal and never mindedbeing jawed by those who were his real friends. and even when mostset 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 keptsaying to himself mutinously,
'but it was fun, though! awful fun!' and makingstrange suppressed noises inside him, k-i-ck-ck-ck, and poop-p-p,and other sounds resembling stifled snorts, or the openingof soda-water bottles, yet when the rat had quite finished, he heaveda deep sigh and said, very nicely and humbly, 'quite right, ratty! howsound you always are! yes, i've been a conceited old ass, i can quitesee 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 lastducking in that river of yours. the fact is, while i was hanging onto the edge of your hole
and getting my breath, i had a sudden idea--areally brilliant idea--connected with motor-boats--there, there!don't take on so, old chap, and stamp, and upset things; it wasonly an idea, and we won't talk any more about it now. we'll have ourcoffee, and a smoke, and a quiet chat, and then i'm going to stroll quietlydown to toad hall, and get into clothes of my own, and set thingsgoing again on the old lines. i've had enough of adventures. i shall leada quiet, steady, respectable life, pottering about my property, and improvingit, and doing a little landscape gardening at times. there will alwaysbe a bit of dinner for
my friends when they come to see me; and ishall keep a pony-chaise to jog about the country in, just as i used toin the good old days, before i got restless, and wanted to do things.' 'stroll quietly down to toad hall?' criedthe rat, greatly excited. 'what are you talking about? do you mean tosay you haven't heard?' '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 nothingabout the stoats and
weasels?' what, the wild wooders?' cried toad, tremblingin 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 hischin 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; 'tellme all. the worst is over. i am an animal again. i can bear it.'
'when you--got--into that--that--trouble ofyours,' said the rat, slowly and impressively; 'i mean, when you--disappearedfrom society for a time, over that misunderstanding about a--amachine, you know--' toad merely nodded. 'well, it was a good deal talked about downhere, naturally,' continued the rat, 'not only along the river-side, buteven in the wild wood. animals took sides, as always happens. theriver-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 wildwood animals said hard
things, and served you right, and it was timethis sort of thing was stopped. and they got very cocky, and wentabout 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 thickand thin, that you would come back again soon, somehow. they didn't knowexactly how, but somehow!' toad began to sit up in his chair again, andto smirk a little. 'they argued from history,' continued therat. 'they said that
no criminal laws had ever been known to prevailagainst cheek and plausibility such as yours, combined withthe power of a long purse. so they arranged to move their things in to toadhall, and sleep there, and keep it aired, and have it all ready for youwhen you turned up. they didn't guess what was going to happen, ofcourse; still, they had their suspicions of the wild wood animals. now icome to the most painful and tragic part of my story. one dark night--itwas a very dark night, and blowing hard, too, and raining simply catsand dogs--a band of weasels, armed to the teeth, crept silently up thecarriage-drive to the front
entrance. simultaneously, a body of desperateferrets, advancing through the kitchen-garden, possessed themselves ofthe backyard and offices; while a company of skirmishing stoats whostuck at nothing occupied the conservatory and the billiard-room, and heldthe french windows opening on to the lawn. 'the mole and the badger were sitting by thefire in the smoking-room, telling stories and suspecting nothing, forit wasn't a night for any animals to be out in, when those bloodthirstyvillains 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 wereunarmed, and taken by surprise, and what can two animals do againsthundreds? they took and beat them severely with sticks, those twopoor faithful creatures, and turned them out into the cold and thewet, with many insulting and uncalled-for remarks!' 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 intoad hall ever since,' continued the rat; 'and going on simply anyhow!lying in bed half the
day, and breakfast at all hours, and the placein 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 vulgarsongs, about--well, about prisons and magistrates, and policemen; horridpersonal songs, with no humour in them. and they're telling the tradespeopleand everybody that they've come to stay for good.' 'o, have they!' said toad getting up and seizinga stick. 'i'll jolly soon see about that!' 'it's no good, toad!' called the rat afterhim. 'you'd better come back
and sit down; you'll only get into trouble.' but the toad was off, and there was no holdinghim. he marched rapidly down the road, his stick over his shoulder,fuming and muttering to himself in his anger, till he got near hisfront gate, when suddenly there popped up from behind the palings along 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 thatat once, or i'll----' the ferret said never a word, but he broughthis gun up to his shoulder.
toad prudently dropped flat in the road, andbang! a bullet whistled over his head. the startled toad scrambled to his feet andscampered off down the road as hard as he could; and as he ran he heardthe ferret laughing and other horrid thin little laughs taking itup and carrying on the sound. he went back, very crestfallen, and told thewater rat. 'what did i tell you?' said the rat. 'it'sno good. they've got sentries posted, and they are all armed. you must justwait.' still, toad was not inclined to give in allat once. so he got out the
boat, and set off rowing up the river to wherethe garden front of toad hall came down to the waterside. arriving within sight of his old home, herested on his oars and surveyed the land cautiously. all seemed verypeaceful and deserted and quiet. he could see the whole front of toadhall, glowing in the evening sunshine, the pigeons settling by twos andthrees 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 bridgethat crossed it; all tranquil, uninhabited, apparently waitingfor his return. he would try
the boat-house first, he thought. very warilyhe paddled up to the mouth of the creek, and was just passing under thebridge, when ... crash! a great stone, dropped from above, smashedthrough the bottom of the boat. it filled and sank, and toad found himselfstruggling in deep water. looking up, he saw two stoats leaningover the parapet of the bridge and watching him with great glee. 'itwill be your head next time, toady!' they called out to him. theindignant toad swam to shore, while the stoats laughed and laughed, supportingeach other, and laughed again, till they nearly had two fits--thatis, one fit each, of course.
the toad retraced his weary way on foot, andrelated his disappointing experiences to the water rat once more. 'well, what did i tell you?' said the ratvery crossly. 'and, now, look here! see what you've been and done! lostme my boat that i was so fond of, that's what you've done! and simply ruinedthat nice suit of clothes that i lent you! really, toad, of all thetrying animals--i wonder you manage to keep any friends at all!' the toad saw at once how wrongly and foolishlyhe had acted. he admitted his errors and wrong-headedness and made afull apology to rat for
losing his boat and spoiling his clothes.and he wound up by saying, with that frank self-surrender which alwaysdisarmed 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 withoutyour kind advice and full approval!' 'if that is really so,' said the good-naturedrat, already appeased, 'then my advice to you is, considering thelateness of the hour, to sit down and have your supper, which will be onthe table in a minute, and
be very patient. for i am convinced that wecan do nothing until we have seen the mole and the badger, and heardtheir latest news, and held conference and taken their advice in thisdifficult matter.' 'oh, ah, yes, of course, the mole and thebadger,' 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 fatof the land, those two poor
devoted animals have been camping out in theopen, in every sort of weather, living very rough by day and lyingvery hard by night; watching over your house, patrolling your boundaries,keeping a constant eye on the stoats and the weasels, scheming and planningand contriving how to get your property back for you. you don'tdeserve to have such true and loyal friends, toad, you don't, really. someday, when it's too late, you'll be sorry you didn't value them morewhile you had them!' 'i'm an ungrateful beast, i know,' sobbedtoad, shedding bitter tears. 'let me go out and find them, out into thecold, dark night, and share
their hardships, and try and prove by----holdon a bit! surely i heard the chink of dishes on a tray! supper's hereat last, hooray! come on, ratty!' the rat remembered that poor toad had beenon prison fare for a considerable time, and that large allowanceshad therefore to be made. he followed him to the table accordingly,and hospitably encouraged him in his gallant efforts to make up for pastprivations. they had just finished their meal and resumedtheir arm-chairs, when there came a heavy knock at the door.
toad was nervous, but the rat, nodding mysteriouslyat him, went straight up to the door and opened it, andin walked mr. badger. he had all the appearance of one who for somenights had been kept away from home and all its little comforts andconveniences. his shoes were covered with mud, and he was looking veryrough 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 thepaw, 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 onhim, sat down to the table,
drew his chair up, and helped himself to alarge slice of cold pie. toad was quite alarmed at this very seriousand portentous style of greeting; but the rat whispered to him, 'nevermind; don't take any notice; and don't say anything to him justyet. 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 animal.' so they waited in silence, and presently therecame 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, withbits 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 danceround him. 'we never dreamt you would turn up so soon! why, youmust 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 reallyclever, according to my friends. i've only broken out of the strongestprison in england, that's
all! and captured a railway train and escapedon it, that's all! and disguised myself and gone about the countryhumbugging everybody, that's all! o, no! i'm a stupid ass, i am! i'll tellyou one or two of my little adventures, mole, and you shall judgefor yourself!' 'well, well,' said the mole, moving towardsthe 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 coldbeef and pickles. toad straddled on the hearth-rug, thrust hispaw into his trouser-pocket and pulled out a handful of silver. 'lookat 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'show 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 pleasetell us as soon as possible what the position is, and what's best to bedone, 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, blestif i know! the badger and i
have been round and round the place, by nightand by day; always the same thing. sentries posted everywhere, gunspoked 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 annoysme most!' 'it's a very difficult situation,' said therat, 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, withhis mouth full. 'nothing of the sort! you don't understand. what he oughtto 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, andi'll tell you. i'm going to----' by this time they were all three talking atonce, 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, allof you!' and instantly every one was silent. it was the badger, who, having finished hispie, had turned round in his
chair and was looking at them severely. whenhe saw that he had secured their attention, and that they were evidentlywaiting for him to address them, he turned back to the table again andreached out for the cheese. and so great was the respect commanded bythe solid qualities of that admirable animal, that not another word wasuttered until he had quite finished his repast and brushed the crumbsfrom his knees. the toad fidgeted a good deal, but the rat held himfirmly down. when the badger had quite done, he got upfrom his seat and stood before the fireplace, reflecting deeply. at lasthe spoke.
'toad!' he said severely. 'you bad, troublesomelittle animal! aren't you ashamed of yourself? what do you thinkyour 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, withhis 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 quitetrue. the stoats are on guard,
at every point, and they make the best sentinelsin 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, cryinginto the sofa cushions. 'i shall go and enlist for a soldier, and neversee 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 greatsecret.'
toad sat up slowly and dried his eyes. secretshad an immense attraction for him, because he never could keep one,and he enjoyed the sort of unhallowed thrill he experienced when he wentand told another animal, after having faithfully promised not to. 'there--is--an--underground--passage,' saidthe badger, impressively, 'that leads from the river-bank, quite nearhere, 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-housesabout here. i know
every inch of toad hall, inside and out. nothingof the sort, i do assure you!' 'my young friend,' said the badger, with greatseverity, 'your father, who was a worthy animal--a lot worthier thansome others i know--was a particular friend of mine, and told me agreat deal he wouldn't have dreamt of telling you. he discovered thatpassage--he didn't make it, of course; that was done hundreds of yearsbefore 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 oftrouble or danger; and he
showed it to me. "don't let my son know aboutit," 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, andit 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 seehow he would take it. toad was inclined to be sulky at first; but hebrightened up immediately, like the good fellow he was. 'well, well,' he said; 'perhaps i am a bitof a talker. a popular fellow such as i am--my friends get round me--wechaff, we sparkle, we tell
witty stories--and somehow my tongue getswagging. i have the gift of conversation. i've been told i ought to havea salon, whatever that may be. never mind. go on, badger. how's thispassage of yours going to help us?' 'i've found out a thing or two lately,' continuedthe badger. 'i got otter to disguise himself as a sweep and callat 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--thechief weasel's, i believe--and all the weasels will be gatheredtogether in the
dining-hall, eating and drinking and laughingand carrying on, suspecting nothing. no guns, no swords, nosticks, 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. andthat is where the passage comes in. that very useful tunnel leads rightup 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'spantry--' cried the mole. '--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 the chairs. 'very well, then,' said the badger, resuminghis usual dry manner, 'our plan is settled, and there's nothing morefor you to argue and squabble about. so, as it's getting very late, allof you go right off to bed at
once. we will make all the necessary arrangementsin the course of the morning to-morrow.' toad, of course, went off to bed dutifullywith the rest--he knew better than to refuse--though he was feeling muchtoo excited to sleep. but he had had a long day, with many events crowdedinto it; and sheets and blankets were very friendly and comfortingthings, after plain straw, and not too much of it, spread on the stonefloor of a draughty cell; and his head had not been many seconds onhis pillow before he was snoring happily. naturally, he dreamt a gooddeal; about roads that ran
away from him just when he wanted them, andcanals that chased him and caught him, and a barge that sailed into thebanqueting-hall with his week's washing, just as he was giving a dinner-party;and he was alone in the secret passage, pushing onwards, butit twisted and turned round and shook itself, and sat up on its end; yetsomehow, at the last, he found himself back in toad hall, safe andtriumphant, with all his friends gathered round about him, earnestlyassuring him that he really was a clever toad. he slept till a late hour next morning, andby the time he got down
he found that the other animals had finishedtheir breakfast some time before. the mole had slipped off somewhereby himself, without telling any one where he was going to. the badgersat in the arm-chair, reading the paper, and not concerning himself in theslightest about what was going to happen that very evening. the rat,on the other hand, was running round the room busily, with his armsfull of weapons of every kind, distributing them in four little heapson 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 graduallygrew and grew. 'that's all very well, rat,' said the badgerpresently, 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 anyswords 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 wantto deprive you fellows of the
fun!' 'it's as well to be on the safe side,' saidthe rat reflectively, polishing a pistol-barrel on his sleeve andlooking along it. the toad, having finished his breakfast, pickedup a stout stick and swung it vigorously, belabouring imaginaryanimals. 'i'll learn 'em to steal my house!' he cried. 'i'll learn 'em,i'll learn 'em!' '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, itought to be good enough for 'i'm very sorry,' said the rat humbly. 'onlyi think it ought to be "teach 'em," not "learn 'em."' 'but we don't want to teach 'em,' repliedthe 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,' saidthe rat. he was getting rather muddled about it himself, and presentlyhe retired into a corner, where he could be heard muttering, 'learn'em, teach 'em, teach 'em,
learn 'em!' till the badger told him rathersharply to leave off. presently the mole came tumbling into theroom, 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?' saidthe 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'sbreakfast being kept hot for him. i found that old washerwoman-dressthat he came home in yesterday, hanging on a towel-horse beforethe fire. so i put it on, and
the bonnet as well, and the shawl, and offi 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 allthe 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 andhaughty, 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, veryloftily. the fact is, he felt
exceedingly jealous of mole for what he hadjust 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 himself. 'some of the stoats turned quite pink,' continuedthe 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 menidling and talking on their posts." "run away?" says i; "it won't be methat'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 andlooking at each other,' went on the mole; 'and the sergeant said tothem, "never mind her; she doesn't know what she's talking about."' '"o! don't i?"' said i. '"well, let me tellyou this. my daughter, she washes for mr. badger, and that'll show youwhether i know what i'm talking about; and you'll know pretty soon,too! a hundred bloodthirsty badgers, armed with rifles, are going to attacktoad hall this very night, by way of the paddock. six boatloadsof rats, with pistols and
cutlasses, will come up the river and effecta landing in the garden; while a picked body of toads, knownat the die-hards, or the death-or-glory toads, will storm the orchardand carry everything before them, yelling for vengeance. there won't bemuch left of you to wash, by the time they've done with you, unless youclear out while you have the chance!" then i ran away, and when i wasout of sight i hid; and presently i came creeping back along the ditchand took a peep at them through the hedge. they were all as nervousand flustered as could be, running all ways at once, and falling overeach other, and every one
giving orders to everybody else and not listening;and the sergeant kept sending off parties of stoats to distant partsof the grounds, and then sending other fellows to fetch 'em back again;and i heard them saying to each other, "that's just like theweasels; they're to stop comfortably in the banqueting-hall, and havefeasting and toasts and songs and all sorts of fun, while we muststay on guard in the cold and the dark, and in the end be cut to piecesby bloodthirsty badgers!'" 'oh, you silly ass, mole!' cried toad, 'you'vebeen and spoilt everything!'
'mole,' said the badger, in his dry, quietway, 'i perceive you have more sense in your little finger than someother animals have in the whole of their fat bodies. you have managedexcellently, and i begin to have great hopes of you. good mole! clevermole!' the toad was simply wild with jealousy, moreespecially as he couldn't make out for the life of him what the molehad done that was so particularly clever; but, fortunately forhim, 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--baconand broad beans, and a macaroni pudding; and when they had quitedone, 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 prettylate before we're quite through with it; so i'm just going to takeforty winks, while i can.' and he drew a handkerchief over his face andwas soon snoring. the anxious and laborious rat at once resumedhis preparations, and started running between his four littleheaps, 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 reallyno end; so the mole drew his arm through toad's, led him out into theopen air, shoved him into a wicker chair, and made him tell him all hisadventures from beginning to end, which toad was only too willing todo. the mole was a good listener, and toad, with no one to check hisstatements or to criticise in an unfriendly spirit, rather let himselfgo. indeed, much that he related belonged more properly to the categoryof what-might-have-happened-had-i-only-thought-of-it-in-time-instead-of ten-minutes-afterwards. those are always thebest and the raciest
adventures; and why should they not be trulyours, as much as the somewhat inadequate things that really comeoff? xii. the return of ulysses when it began to grow dark, the rat, withan air of excitement and mystery, summoned them back into the parlour,stood each of them up alongside of his little heap, and proceededto dress them up for the coming expedition. he was very earnest andthoroughgoing 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 stuckinto 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'vegot 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 ihad forgotten anything!' when all was quite ready, the badger tooka dark lantern in one paw,
grasped his great stick with the other, andsaid, '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 muchas usual, or you'll be sent back, as sure as fate!' the toad was so anxious not to be left outthat 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 littleway, and then suddenly swung himself over the edge into a hole inthe river-bank, a little above the water. the mole and the rat followedsilently, swinging
themselves successfully into the hole as theyhad seen the badger do; but when it came to toad's turn, of coursehe managed to slip and fall into the water with a loud splash and a squealof alarm. he was hauled out by his friends, rubbed down and wrungout hastily, comforted, and set on his legs; but the badger was seriouslyangry, and told him that the very next time he made a fool of himselfhe 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 whatmight be before him, partly because he was wet through. the lantern wasfar 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 terrorseized him of being left behind, alone in the darkness, and he 'cameon' with such a rush that he upset the rat into the mole and the moleinto the badger, and for a moment all was confusion. the badger thoughtthey were being attacked from behind, and, as there was no room touse a stick or a cutlass, drew
a pistol, and was on the point of puttinga bullet into toad. when he found out what had really happened he wasvery angry indeed, and said, 'now this time that tiresome toad shall beleft behind!' but toad whimpered, and the other two promisedthat they would be answerable for his good conduct, and at lastthe badger was pacified, and the procession moved on; only this timethe rat brought up the rear, with a firm grip on the shoulder of toad. so they groped and shuffled along, with theirears pricked up and their paws on their pistols, till at last the badgersaid, 'we ought by now to
be pretty nearly under the hall.' then suddenly they heard, far away as it mightbe, and yet apparently nearly over their heads, a confused murmurof sound, as if people were shouting and cheering and stamping on thefloor and hammering on tables. the toad's nervous terrors all returned, butthe badger only remarked placidly, 'they are going it, the weasels!' the passage now began to slope upwards; theygroped 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. 'whata time they're having!' said the badger. 'come on!' they hurried alongthe passage till it came to a full stop, and they found themselves standingunder the trap-door that led up into the butler's pantry. such a tremendous noise was going on in thebanqueting-hall that there was little danger of their being overheard.the badger said, 'now, boys, all together!' and the four of them put theirshoulders to the trap-door and heaved it back. hoisting each other up,they found themselves
standing in the pantry, with only a door betweenthem and the banqueting-hall, where their unconscious enemieswere carousing. the noise, as they emerged from the passage,was simply deafening. at last, as the cheering and hammering slowlysubsided, a voice could be made out saying, 'well, i do not proposeto detain you much longer'--(great applause)--'but before i resumemy seat'--(renewed cheering)--'i should like to say one wordabout our kind host, mr. toad. we all know toad!'--(great laughter)--'goodtoad, 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, restraininghim with difficulty. 'get ready, all of you!' '--let me sing you a little song,' went onthe voice, 'which i have composed on the subject of toad'--(prolongedapplause). then the chief weasel--for it was he--beganin a high, squeaky voice-- 'toad he went a-pleasuringgaily down the street--' the badger drew himself up, took a firm gripof his stick with both paws, glanced round at his comrades, and cried--
'the hour is come! follow me!' and flung the door open wide. my! what a squealing and a squeaking and a screechingfilled the air! well might the terrified weasels dive underthe tables and spring madly up at the windows! well might the ferretsrush wildly for the fireplace and get hopelessly jammed in the chimney!well might tables and chairs be upset, and glass and china be sent crashingon the floor, in the panic of that terrible moment when the fourheroes strode wrathfully
into the room! the mighty badger, his whiskersbristling, his great cudgel whistling through the air; mole, blackand grim, brandishing his stick and shouting his awful war-cry, 'a mole!a mole!' rat; desperate and determined, his belt bulging with weaponsof every age and every variety; toad, frenzied with excitement andinjured pride, swollen to twice his ordinary size, leaping into theair and emitting toad-whoops that chilled them to the marrow! 'toad hewent a-pleasuring!' he yelled. 'i'll pleasure 'em!' and he went straightfor the chief weasel. they were but four in all, but to the panic-strickenweasels the hall seemed
full of monstrous animals, grey, black, brownand yellow, whooping and flourishing enormous cudgels; and they brokeand fled with squeals of terror and dismay, this way and that, throughthe windows, up the chimney, anywhere to get out of reach of thoseterrible sticks. the affair was soon over. up and down, thewhole length of the hall, strode the four friends, whacking with theirsticks at every head that showed itself; and in five minutes the roomwas cleared. through the broken windows the shrieks of terrified weaselsescaping across the lawn were borne faintly to their ears; on the floorlay prostrate some dozen
or so of the enemy, on whom the mole was busilyengaged 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, weshan'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, pickup knives and forks and
plates and glasses from the debris on thefloor, and see if they could find materials for a supper. 'i want somegrub, i do,' he said, in that rather common way he had of speaking. 'stiryour 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 hurtthat 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 hehad fought; for he was rather particularly pleased with himself and theway he had gone for the chief weasel and sent him flying across the tablewith 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 lotof lobster salad; and in the pantry they came upon a basketful of frenchrolls and any quantity of cheese, butter, and celery. they were justabout 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 ican 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 fora bit, but when the weasels came rushing out upon them they thought theywere betrayed; and the stoats grappled with the weasels, and theweasels fought to get away, and they wrestled and wriggled and punchedeach other, and rolled over and over, till most of 'em rolled intothe river! they've all disappeared by now, one way or another; andi've got their rifles. so that's all right!' 'excellent and deserving animal!' said thebadger, his mouth full of
chicken and trifle. 'now, there's just onemore thing i want you to do, mole, before you sit down to your supper alongof us; and i wouldn't trouble you only i know i can trust you tosee 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 onthe floor there upstairs with you, and have some bedrooms cleaned out andtidied up and made really comfortable. see that they sweep under thebeds, and put clean sheets and pillow-cases on, and turn down one cornerof the bed-clothes, just as you know it ought to be done; and havea can of hot water, and clean
towels, and fresh cakes of soap, put in eachroom. and then you can give them a licking a-piece, if it's any satisfactionto you, and put them out by the back-door, and we shan't see anymore of them, i fancy. and then come along and have some of this coldtongue. it's first rate. i'm very pleased with you, mole!' the goodnatured mole picked up a stick, formedhis prisoners up in a line on the floor, gave them the order 'quickmarch!' and led his squad off to the upper floor. after a time, he appearedagain, smiling, and said that every room was ready, and as cleanas 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 theweasels, when i put the point to them, quite agreed with me, and said theywouldn't think of troubling me. they were very penitent, and said theywere extremely sorry for what they had done, but it was all the faultof the chief weasel and the stoats, and if ever they could do anythingfor us at any time to make up, we had only got to mention it. so i gavethem 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 gentlemanhe was, put all his jealousy from him, and said heartily, 'thank you kindly,dear mole, for all your pains and trouble tonight, and especiallyfor your cleverness this morning!' the badger was pleased at that,and said, 'there spoke my brave toad!' so they finished their supperin great joy and contentment, and presently retired to rest between cleansheets, 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 overslepthimself as usual, came
down to breakfast disgracefully late, andfound on the table a certain quantity of egg-shells, some fragments ofcold and leathery toast, a coffee-pot three-fourths empty, and reallyvery little else; which did not tend to improve his temper, consideringthat, after all, it was his own house. through the french windows of thebreakfast-room he could see the mole and the water rat sitting inwicker-chairs out on the lawn, evidently telling each other stories; roaringwith 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 upand nodded when toad entered
the room. but toad knew his man, so he satdown and made the best breakfast he could, merely observing to himselfthat he would get square with the others sooner or later. when he hadnearly finished, the badger looked up and remarked rather shortly: 'i'msorry, toad, but i'm afraid there's a heavy morning's work in front ofyou. you see, we really ought to have a banquet at once, to celebrate thisaffair. it's expected of you--in fact, it's the rule.' 'o, all right!' said the toad, readily. 'anythingto oblige. though why on earth you should want to have a banquetin the morning i cannot
understand. but you know i do not live toplease myself, but merely to find out what my friends want, and then tryand arrange it for 'em, you dear old badger!' 'don't pretend to be stupider than you reallyare,' replied the badger, crossly; 'and don't chuckle and splutter inyour 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 tobe written and got off at once, and you've got to write 'em. now, sitdown 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. andi'll bear a hand, too; and take my share of the burden. i'll order thebanquet.' 'what!' cried toad, dismayed. 'me stop indoorsand write a lot of rotten letters on a jolly morning like this,when i want to go around my property, and set everything and everybodyto rights, and swagger about and enjoy myself! certainly not! i'll be--i'llsee you----stop a minute, though! why, of course, dear badger! whatis my pleasure or convenience compared with that of others! you wish itdone, and it shall be done.
go, badger, order the banquet, order whatyou like; then join our young friends outside in their innocent mirth, obliviousof me and my cares and toils. i sacrifice this fair morning onthe altar of duty and friendship!' the badger looked at him very suspiciously,but toad's frank, open countenance made it difficult to suggest anyunworthy motive in this change of attitude. he quitted the room, accordingly,in the direction of the kitchen, and as soon as the door hadclosed behind him, toad hurried to the writing-table. a fine ideahad 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 thefight, and how he had laid the chief weasel flat; and he would hint athis adventures, and what a career of triumph he had to tell about; andon the fly-leaf he would set out a sort of a programme of entertainmentfor 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 waterwaysof 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 toadwill be sung in the course of the evening by the. . . composer. the idea pleased him mightily, and he workedvery hard and got all the letters finished by noon, at which hour itwas reported to him that there was a small and rather bedraggled weaselat the door, inquiring
timidly whether he could be of any serviceto the gentlemen. toad swaggered out and found it was one of theprisoners of the previous evening, very respectful and anxious to please.he patted him on the head, shoved the bundle of invitations intohis paw, and told him to cut along quick and deliver them as fast ashe could, and if he liked to come back again in the evening, perhapsthere might be a shilling for him, or, again, perhaps there mightn't;and the poor weasel seemed really quite grateful, and hurried off eagerlyto 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, expectingto find him sulky or depressed. instead, he was so uppish and inflatedthat the mole began to suspect something; while the rat and thebadger exchanged significant glances. as soon as the meal was over, toad thrusthis paws deep into his trouser-pockets, remarked casually, 'well,look after yourselves, you fellows! ask for anything you want!' and wasswaggering off in the direction of the garden, where he wanted tothink out an idea or two for
his coming speeches, when the rat caught himby the arm. toad rather suspected what he was after, anddid his best to get away; but when the badger took him firmly by theother arm he began to see that the game was up. the two animals conductedhim between them into the small smoking-room that opened out ofthe entrance-hall, shut the door, and put him into a chair. then theyboth stood in front of him, while toad sat silent and regarded themwith much suspicion and ill-humour. 'now, look here, toad,' said the rat. 'it'sabout this banquet, and
very sorry i am to have to speak to you likethis. but we want you to understand clearly, once and for all, thatthere are going to be no speeches and no songs. try and grasp the factthat on this occasion we're not arguing with you; we're just tellingyou.' toad saw that he was trapped. they understoodhim, they saw through him, they had got ahead of him. his pleasant dreamwas shattered. 'mayn't i sing them just one little song?'he pleaded piteously. 'no, not one little song,' replied the ratfirmly, though his heart bled as he noticed the trembling lip of the poordisappointed toad. 'it's no
good, toady; you know well that your songsare all conceit and boasting and vanity; and your speeches are all self-praiseand--and--well, and gross exaggeration and--and----' 'and gas,' put in the badger, in his commonway. 'it's for your own good, toady,' went on therat. 'you know you must turn over a new leaf sooner or later, andnow 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 thanit hurts you.' toad remained a long while plunged in thought.at last he raised his
head, and the traces of strong emotion werevisible on his features. 'you have conquered, my friends,' he saidin broken accents. 'it was, to be sure, but a small thing that i asked--merelyleave to blossom and expand for yet one more evening, to letmyself go and hear the tumultuous applause that always seems to me--somehow--tobring out my best qualities. however, you are right, iknow, and i am wrong. hence forth i will be a very different toad. myfriends, you shall never have occasion to blush for me again. but, o dear,o dear, this is a hard world!'
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, talkingof weasels, it's lucky we
came upon that little weasel, just as he wassetting out with toad's invitations. i suspected something from whatyou 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 blueboudoir, filling up plain, simple invitation cards.' * * * * * at last the hour for the banquet began todraw near, and toad, who on leaving the others had retired to his bedroom,was still sitting there, melancholy and thoughtful. his brow restingon his paw, he pondered long
and deeply. gradually his countenance cleared,and he began to smile long, slow smiles. then he took to gigglingin a shy, self-conscious manner. at last he got up, locked the door,drew the curtains across the windows, collected all the chairs in theroom and arranged them in a semicircle, and took up his position in frontof them, swelling visibly. then he bowed, coughed twice, and, lettinghimself go, with uplifted voice he sang, to the enraptured audiencethat his imagination so clearly saw. toad's last little song!
the toad--came--home!there was panic in the parlours and howling 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,as the--hero--comes!
shout--hoo-ray!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 unctionand 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 straightand sleek on each side of his face; and, unlocking the door, went quietlydown the stairs to greet
his guests, who he knew must be assemblingin the drawing-room. all the animals cheered when he entered, andcrowded round to congratulate him and say nice things abouthis courage, and his cleverness, and his fighting qualities; buttoad only smiled faintly, and murmured, 'not at all!' or, sometimes,for a change, 'on the contrary!' otter, who was standing on thehearthrug, describing to an admiring circle of friends exactly how hewould 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 roomin triumphal progress; but
toad, in a mild way, was rather snubby tohim, remarking gently, as he disengaged himself, 'badger's was the mastermind;the mole and the water rat bore the brunt of the fighting; i merelyserved in the ranks and did little or nothing.' the animals were evidentlypuzzled and taken aback by this unexpected attitude of his; and toadfelt, as he moved from one guest to the other, making his modest responses,that he was an object of absorbing interest to every one. the badger had ordered everything of the best,and the banquet was a great success. there was much talking andlaughter and chaff among the
animals, but through it all toad, who of coursewas in the chair, looked down his nose and murmured pleasant nothingsto the animals on either side of him. at intervals he stole a glanceat the badger and the rat, and always when he looked they were staringat each other with their mouths open; and this gave him the greatestsatisfaction. some of the younger and livelier animals, as the eveningwore on, got whispering to each other that things were not so amusingas they used to be in the good old days; and there were some knockingson 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 mildprotest, and, by pressing delicacies on his guests, by topical small-talk,and by earnest inquiries after members of their familiesnot yet old enough to appear at social functions, managed to convey tothem that this dinner was being run on strictly conventional lines. he was indeed an altered toad! after this climax, the four animals continuedto lead their lives, so rudely broken in upon by civil war, ingreat joy and contentment, undisturbed by further risings or invasions.toad, after due
consultation with his friends, selected ahandsome gold chain and locket set with pearls, which he dispatched to thegaoler's daughter with a letter that even the badger admitted tobe modest, grateful, and appreciative; and the engine-driver, in histurn, 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 discreetlymade good to her; though toad kicked terribly at this, holding himself tobe an instrument of fate, sent to punish fat women with mottled armswho couldn't tell a real
gentleman when they saw one. the amount involved,it was true, was not very burdensome, the gipsy's valuation beingadmitted 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 successfullytamed so far as they were concerned; and it was pleasing tosee how respectfully they were greeted by the inhabitants, and how themother-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'sthe gallant water rat, a
terrible fighter, walking along o' him! andyonder comes the famous mr. mole, of whom you so often have heard yourfather tell!' but when their infants were fractious and quite beyond control,they would quiet them by telling how, if they didn't hush them andnot fret them, the terrible grey badger would up and get them. this wasa base libel on badger, who, though he cared little about society, wasrather fond of children; but it never failed to have its full effect.My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic Jumbo Coloring And Activity Book