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THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
I. THE RIVER BANK
II. THE OPEN ROAD
III. THE WILD WOOD
IV. MR. BADGER
V. DULCE DOMUM
VI. MR. TOAD
VII. THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN
VIII. TOAD'S ADVENTURES
IX. WAYFARERS ALL
X. THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF TOAD
XI. "LIKE SUMMER TEMPESTS CAME HIS TEARS"
XII. THE RETURN OF ULYSSES
THE RIVER BANK
The Mole had been working very hard all the morningspringcleaning
his little home. First with broomsthen with dusters;
then on ladders and steps and chairswith a brush and a pail of
whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyesand splashes
of whitewash all over his black furand an aching back and weary
arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below
and around himpenetrating even his dark and lowly little house
with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small
wonderthenthat he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor
said `Bother!' and `O blow!' and also `Hang spring-cleaning!'
and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his
coat. Something up above was calling him imperiouslyand he
made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to
the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences
are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and
scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled
and scratched and scrapedworking busily with his little paws
and muttering to himself`Up we go! Up we go!' till at last
pop! his snout came out into the sunlightand he found himself
rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.
`This is fine!' he said to himself. `This is better than
whitewashing!' The sunshine struck hot on his fursoft breezes
caressed his heated browand after the seclusion of the
cellarage he had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell
on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his
four legs at oncein the joy of living and the delight of spring
without its cleaninghe pursued his way across the meadow till
he reached the hedge on the further side.
`Hold up!' said an elderly rabbit at the gap. `Sixpence for the
privilege of passing by the private road!' He was bowled over in
an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Molewho trotted
along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they
peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about.
`Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!' he remarked jeeringlyand was gone
before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply. Then
they all started grumbling at each other. `How STUPID you
are! Why didn't you tell him----' `Wellwhy didn't YOU
say----' `You might have reminded him----' and so onin the
usual way; butof courseit was then much too lateas is
always the case.
It all seemed too good to be true. Hither and thither through
the meadows he rambled busilyalong the hedgerowsacross the
copsesfinding everywhere birds buildingflowers budding
leaves thrusting--everything happyand progressiveand
occupied. And instead of having an uneasy conscience pricking
him and whispering `whitewash!' he somehow could only feel how
jolly it was to be the only idle dog among all these busy
citizens. After allthe best part of a holiday is perhaps
not so much to be resting yourselfas to see all the other
fellows busy working.
He thought his happiness was complete whenas he meandered
aimlessly alongsuddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed
river. Never in his life had he seen a river before--this sleek
sinuousfull-bodied animalchasing and chucklinggripping
things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laughto fling
itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves freeand were
caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver--glints and
gleams and sparklesrustle and swirlchatter and bubble. The
Mole was bewitchedentrancedfascinated. By the side of the
river he trotted as one trotswhen very smallby the side of a
man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired
at lasthe sat on the bankwhile the river still chattered on
to hima babbling procession of the best stories in the world
sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the
As he sat on the grass and looked across the rivera dark hole
in the bank oppositejust above the water's edgecaught his
eyeand dreamily he fell to considering what a nice snug
dwelling-place it would make for an animal with few wants and
fond of a bijo riverside residenceabove flood level and remote
from noise and dust. As he gazedsomething bright and small
seemed to twinkle down in the heart of itvanishedthen
twinkled once more like a tiny star. But it could hardly be a
star in such an unlikely situation; and it was too glittering and
small for a glow-worm. Thenas he lookedit winked at himand
so declared itself to be an eye; and a small face began gradually
to grow up round itlike a frame round a picture.
A brown little facewith whiskers.
A grave round facewith the same twinkle in its eye that had
first attracted his notice.
Small neat ears and thick silky hair.
It was the Water Rat!
Then the two animals stood and regarded each other cautiously.
`HulloMole!' said the Water Rat.
`HulloRat!' said the Mole.
`Would you like to come over?' enquired the Rat presently.
`Ohits all very well to TALK' said the Molerather
pettishlyhe being new to a river and riverside life and its
The Rat said nothingbut stooped and unfastened a rope and
hauled on it; then lightly stepped into a little boat which the
Mole had not observed. It was painted blue outside and white
withinand was just the size for two animals; and the Mole's
whole heart went out to it at onceeven though he did not yet
fully understand its uses.
The Rat sculled smartly across and made fast. Then he held up
his forepaw as the Mole stepped gingerly down. `Lean on that!'
he said. `Now thenstep lively!' and the Mole to his surprise
and rapture found himself actually seated in the stern of a real
`This has been a wonderful day!' said heas the Rat shoved off
and took to the sculls again. `Do you knowI`ve never been in a
boat before in all my life.'
`What?' cried the Ratopen-mouthed: `Never been in a--you
never--well I--what have you been doingthen?'
`Is it so nice as all that?' asked the Mole shylythough he was
quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and
surveyed the cushionsthe oarsthe rowlocksand all the
fascinating fittingsand felt the boat sway lightly under him.
`Nice? It's the ONLY thing' said the Water Rat solemnlyas
he leant forward for his stroke. `Believe memy young friend
there is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing
as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing' he went on
dreamily: `messing--about--in--boats; messing----'
`Look aheadRat!' cried the Mole suddenly.
It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The
dreamerthe joyous oarsmanlay on his back at the bottom of the
boathis heels in the air.
`--about in boats--or WITH boats' the Rat went on composedly
picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. `In or out of 'emit
doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matterthat's the charm
of it. Whether you get awayor whether you don't; whether you
arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else
or whether you never get anywhere at allyou're always busyand
you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it
there's always something else to doand you can do it if you
likebut you'd much better not. Look here! If you've really
nothing else on hand this morningsupposing we drop down the
river togetherand have a long day of it?'
The Mole waggled his toes from sheer happinessspread his chest
with a sigh of full contentmentand leaned back blissfully into
the soft cushions. `WHAT a day I'm having!' he said. `Let us
start at once!'
`Hold hard a minutethen!' said the Rat. He looped the painter
through a ring in his landing-stageclimbed up into his hole
aboveand after a short interval reappeared staggering under a
`Shove that under your feet' he observed to the Moleas he
passed it down into the boat. Then he untied the painter and
took the sculls again.
`What's inside it?' asked the Molewriggling with curiosity.
`There's cold chicken inside it' replied the Rat briefly;
`O stopstop' cried the Mole in ecstacies: `This is too much!'
`Do you really think so?' enquired the Rat seriously. `It's only
what I always take on these little excursions; and the other
animals are always telling me that I'm a mean beast and cut it
The Mole never heard a word he was saying. Absorbed in the new
life he was entering uponintoxicated with the sparklethe
ripplethe scents and the sounds and the sunlighthe trailed a
paw in the water and dreamed long waking dreams. The Water Rat
like the good little fellow he wassculled steadily on and
forebore to disturb him.
`I like your clothes awfullyold chap' he remarked after some
half an hour or so had passed. `I'm going to get a black velvet
smoking-suit myself some dayas soon as I can afford it.'
`I beg your pardon' said the Molepulling himself together with
an effort. `You must think me very rude; but all this is so new
to me. So--this--is--a--River!'
`THE River' corrected the Rat.
`And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!'
`By it and with it and on it and in it' said the Rat. `It's
brother and sister to meand auntsand companyand food and
drinkand (naturally) washing. It's my worldand I don't want
any other. What it hasn't got is not worth havingand what it
doesn't know is not worth knowing. Lord! the times we've had
together! Whether in winter or summerspring or autumnit's
always got its fun and its excitements. When the floods are on
in Februaryand my cellars and basement are brimming with drink
that's no good to meand the brown water runs by my best bedroom
window; or again when it all drops away andshows patches of mud
that smells like plum-cakeand the rushes and weed clog the
channelsand I can potter about dry shod over most of the bed of
it and find fresh food to eatand things careless people have
dropped out of boats!'
`But isn't it a bit dull at times?' the Mole ventured to ask.
`Just you and the riverand no one else to pass a word with?'
`No one else to--wellI mustn't be hard on you' said the Rat
with forbearance. `You're new to itand of course you don't
know. The bank is so crowded nowadays that many people are
moving away altogether: O noit isn't what it used to be
at all. Otterskingfishersdabchicksmoorhensall of them
about all day long and always wanting you to DO something--as
if a fellow had no business of his own to attend to!'
`What lies over THERE' asked the Molewaving a paw towards a
background of woodland that darkly framed the water-meadows on
one side of the river.
`That? Othat's just the Wild Wood' said the Rat shortly. `We
don't go there very muchwe river-bankers.'
`Aren't they--aren't they very NICE people in there?' said the
Molea trifle nervously.
`W-e-ll' replied the Rat`let me see. The squirrels are all
right. AND the rabbits--some of 'embut rabbits are a mixed
lot. And then there's Badgerof course. He lives right in the
heart of it; wouldn't live anywhere elseeitherif you paid him
to do it. Dear old Badger! Nobody interferes with HIM.
They'd better not' he added significantly.
`Whywho SHOULD interfere with him?' asked the Mole.
`Wellof course--there--are others' explained the Rat in a
hesitating sort of way.
`Weasels--and stoats--and foxes--and so on. They're all right in
a way--I'm very good friends with them--pass the time of day when
we meetand all that--but they break out sometimesthere's no
denying itand then--wellyou can't really trust themand
that's the fact.'
The Mole knew well that it is quite against animal-etiquette to
dwell on possible trouble aheador even to allude to it; so he
dropped the subject.
`And beyond the Wild Wood again?' he asked: `Where it's all blue
and dimand one sees what may be hills or perhaps they mayn't
and something like the smoke of townsor is it only clouddrift?'
`Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World' said the Rat. `And
that's something that doesn't mattereither to you or me. I've
never been thereand I'm never goingnor you eitherif you've
got any sense at all. Don't ever refer to it againplease. Now
then! Here's our backwater at lastwhere we're going to lunch.'
Leaving the main streamthey now passed into what seemed at
first sight like a little land-locked lake. Green turf
sloped down to either edgebrown snaky tree-roots gleamed below
the surface of the quiet waterwhile ahead of them the silvery
shoulder and foamy tumble of a weirarm-in-arm with a restless
dripping mill-wheelthat held up in its turn a grey-gabled millhouse
filled the air with a soothing murmur of sounddull and
smotheryyet with little clear voices speaking up cheerfully out
of it at intervals. It was so very beautiful that the Mole could
only hold up both forepaws and gasp`O my! O my! O my!'
The Rat brought the boat alongside the bankmade her fast
helped the still awkward Mole safely ashoreand swung out the
luncheon-basket. The Mole begged as a favour to be allowed to
unpack it all by himself; and the Rat was very pleased to indulge
himand to sprawl at full length on the grass and restwhile
his excited friend shook out the table-cloth and spread ittook
out all the mysterious packets one by one and arranged their
contents in due orderstill gasping`O my! O my!' at each
fresh revelation. When all was readythe Rat said`Nowpitch
inold fellow!' and the Mole was indeed very glad to obeyfor
he had started his spring-cleaning at a very early hour that
morningas people WILL doand had not paused for bite or
sup; and he had been through a very great deal since that distant
time which now seemed so many days ago.
`What are you looking at?' said the Rat presentlywhen the edge
of their hunger was somewhat dulledand the Mole's eyes were
able to wander off the table-cloth a little.
`I am looking' said the Mole`at a streak of bubbles that I see
travelling along the surface of the water. That is a thing that
strikes me as funny.'
`Bubbles? Oho!' said the Ratand chirruped cheerily in an
inviting sort of way.
A broad glistening muzzle showed itself above the edge of the
bankand the Otter hauled himself out and shook the water from
`Greedy beggars!' he observedmaking for the provender. `Why
didn't you invite meRatty?'
`This was an impromptu affair' explained the Rat. `By the way-my
friend Mr. Mole.'
`ProudI'm sure' said the Otterand the two animals were
`Such a rumpus everywhere!' continued the Otter. `All the world
seems out on the river to-day. I came up this backwater to try
and get a moment's peaceand then stumble upon you fellows!--At
least--I beg pardon--I don't exactly mean thatyou know.'
There was a rustle behind themproceeding from a hedge wherein
last year's leaves still clung thickand a stripy headwith
high shoulders behind itpeered forth on them.
`Come onold Badger!' shouted the Rat.
The Badger trotted forward a pace or two; then grunted`H'm!
Company' and turned his back and disappeared from view.
`That's JUST the sort of fellow he is!' observed the
disappointed Rat. `Simply hates Society! Now we shan't see any
more of him to-day. Welltell usWHO'S out on the river?'
`Toad's outfor one' replied the Otter. `In his brand-new
wager-boat; new togsnew everything!'
The two animals looked at each other and laughed.
`Onceit was nothing but sailing' said the Rat`Then he tired
of that and took to punting. Nothing would please him but to
punt all day and every dayand a nice mess he made of it. Last
year it was house-boatingand we all had to go and stay with him
in his house-boatand pretend we liked it. He was going to
spend the rest of his life in a house-boat. It's all the same
whatever he takes up; he gets tired of itand starts on
`Such a good fellowtoo' remarked the Otter reflectively: `But
no stability--especially in a boat!'
From where they sat they could get a glimpse of the main stream
across the island that separated them; and just then a wager-boat
flashed into viewthe rower--a shortstout figure--splashing
badly and rolling a good dealbut working his hardest. The Rat
stood up and hailed himbut Toad--for it was he--shook his head
and settled sternly to his work.
`He'll be out of the boat in a minute if he rolls like that'
said the Ratsitting down again.
`Of course he will' chuckled the Otter. `Did I ever tell you
that good story about Toad and the lock-keeper? It happened this
way. Toad. . . .'
An errant May-fly swerved unsteadily athwart the current in
the intoxicated fashion affected by young bloods of May-flies
seeing life. A swirl of water and a `cloop!' and the May-fly was
visible no more.
Neither was the Otter.
The Mole looked down. The voice was still in his earsbut the
turf whereon he had sprawled was clearly vacant. Not an Otter to
be seenas far as the distant horizon.
But again there was a streak of bubbles on the surface of the
The Rat hummed a tuneand the Mole recollected that animaletiquette
forbade any sort of comment on the sudden disappearance
of one's friends at any momentfor any reason or no reason
`Wellwell' said the Rat`I suppose we ought to be moving. I
wonder which of us had better pack the luncheon-basket?' He did
not speak as if he was frightfully eager for the treat.
`Oplease let me' said the Mole. Soof coursethe Rat let
Packing the basket was not quite such pleasant work as unpacking'
the basket. It never is. But the Mole was bent on enjoying
everythingand although just when he had got the basket
packed and strapped up tightly he saw a plate staring up at him
from the grassand when the job had been done again the Rat
pointed out a fork which anybody ought to have seenand last of
allbehold! the mustard potwhich he had been sitting on
without knowing it--stillsomehowthe thing got finished at
lastwithout much loss of temper.
The afternoon sun was getting low as the Rat sculled gently
homewards in a dreamy moodmurmuring poetry-things over to
himselfand not paying much attention to Mole. But the Mole was
very full of lunchand self-satisfactionand prideand already
quite at home in a boat (so he thought) and was getting a bit
restless besides: and presently he said`Ratty! Please_I_
want to rownow!'
The Rat shook his head with a smile. `Not yetmy young friend'
he said--'wait till you've had a few lessons. It's not so easy
as it looks.'
The Mole was quiet for a minute or two. But he began to feel
more and more jealous of Ratsculling so strongly and so easily
alongand his pride began to whisper that he could do it every
bit as well. He jumped up and seized the scullsso
suddenlythat the Ratwho was gazing out over the water and
saying more poetry-things to himselfwas taken by surprise and
fell backwards off his seat with his legs in the air for the
second timewhile the triumphant Mole took his place and grabbed
the sculls with entire confidence.
`Stop ityou SILLY ass!' cried the Ratfrom the bottom of
the boat. `You can't do it! You'll have us over!'
The Mole flung his sculls back with a flourishand made a great
dig at the water. He missed the surface altogetherhis legs
flew up above his headand he found himself lying on the top of
the prostrate Rat. Greatly alarmedhe made a grab at the side
of the boatand the next moment--Sploosh!
Over went the boatand he found himself struggling in the river.
O myhow cold the water wasand Ohow VERY wet it felt.
How it sang in his ears as he went downdowndown! How bright
and welcome the sun looked as he rose to the surface coughing and
spluttering! How black was his despair when he felt himself
sinking again! Then a firm paw gripped him by the back of
his neck. It was the Ratand he was evidently laughing--the
Mole could FEEL him laughingright down his arm and through
his pawand so into his--the Mole's--neck.
The Rat got hold of a scull and shoved it under the Mole's arm;
then he did the same by the other side of him andswimming
behindpropelled the helpless animal to shorehauled him out
and set him down on the banka squashypulpy lump of misery.
When the Rat had rubbed him down a bitand wrung some of the wet
out of himhe said`Nowthenold fellow! Trot up and down
the towing-path as hard as you cantill you're warm and dry
againwhile I dive for the luncheon-basket.'
So the dismal Molewet without and ashamed withintrotted about
till he was fairly drywhile the Rat plunged into the water
againrecovered the boatrighted her and made her fastfetched
his floating property to shore by degreesand finally dived
successfully for the luncheon-basket and struggled to land with
When all was ready for a start once morethe Molelimp and
dejectedtook his seat in the stern of the boat; and as they set
offhe said in a low voicebroken with emotion`Rattymy
generous friend! I am very sorry indeed for my foolish and
ungrateful conduct. My heart quite fails me when I think how I
might have lost that beautiful luncheon-basket. IndeedI have
been a complete assand I know it. Will you overlook it this
once and forgive meand let things go on as before?'
`That's all rightbless you!' responded the Rat cheerily.
`What's a little wet to a Water Rat? I'm more in the water than
out of it most days. Don't you think any more about it; and
look here! I really think you had better come and stop with me
for a little time. It's very plain and roughyou know--not like
Toad's house at all--but you haven't seen that yet; stillI can
make you comfortable. And I'll teach you to rowand to swim
and you'll soon be as handy on the water as any of us.'
The Mole was so touched by his kind manner of speaking that he
could find no voice to answer him; and he had to brush away a
tear or two with the back of his paw. But the Rat kindly looked
in another directionand presently the Mole's spirits revived
againand he was even able to give some straight back-talk
to a couple of moorhens who were sniggering to each other
about his bedraggled appearance.
When they got homethe Rat made a bright fire in the parlour
and planted the Mole in an arm-chair in front of ithaving
fetched down a dressing-gown and slippers for himand told him
river stories till supper-time. Very thrilling stories they
weretooto an earth-dwelling animal like Mole. Stories about
weirsand sudden floodsand leaping pikeand steamers that
flung hard bottles--at least bottles were certainly flungand
FROM steamersso presumably BY them; and about heronsand
how particular they were whom they spoke to; and about adventures
down drainsand night-fishings with Otteror excursions far a-
field with Badger. Supper was a most cheerful meal; but very
shortly afterwards a terribly sleepy Mole had to be escorted
upstairs by his considerate hostto the best bedroomwhere he
soon laid his head on his pillow in great peace and contentment
knowing that his new-found friend the River was lapping the sill
of his window.
This day was only the first of many similar ones for the
emancipated Moleeach of them longer and full of interest as
the ripening summer moved onward. He learnt to swim and to row
and entered into the joy of running water; and with his ear to
the reed-stems he caughtat intervalssomething of what the
wind went whispering so constantly among them.
THE OPEN ROAD
`Ratty' said the Mole suddenlyone bright summer morning`if
you pleaseI want to ask you a favour.'
The Rat was sitting on the river banksinging a little song. He
had just composed it himselfso he was very taken up with it
and would not pay proper attention to Mole or anything else.
Since early morning he had been swimming in the riverin company
with his friends the ducks. And when the ducks stood on their
heads suddenlyas ducks willhe would dive down and tickle
their necksjust under where their chins would be if ducks had
chinstill they were forced to come to the surface again in a
hurryspluttering and angry and shaking their feathers at him
for it is impossible to say quite ALL you feel when your head
is under water. At last they implored him to go away and
attend to his own affairs and leave them to mind theirs. So the
Rat went awayand sat on the river bank in the sunand made up
a song about themwhich he called
All along the backwater
Through the rushes tall
Ducks are a-dabbling
Up tails all!
Ducks' tailsdrakes' tails
Yellow feet a-quiver
Yellow bills all out of sight
Busy in the river!
Slushy green undergrowth
Where the roach swim--
Here we keep our larder
Cool and full and dim.
Everyone for what he likes!
WE like to be
Heads downtails up
High in the blue above
Swifts whirl and call--
WE are down a-dabbling
Up tails all!
`I don't know that I think so VERY much of that little song
Rat' observed the Mole cautiously. He was no poet himself
and didn't care who knew it; and he had a candid nature.
`Nor don't the ducks neither' replied the Rat cheerfully. `They
sayWHY can't fellows be allowed to do what they like
WHEN they like and AS they like, instead of other fellows
sitting on banks and watching them all the time and making
remarks and poetry and things about them? What NONSENSE it
all is!That's what the ducks say.'
`So it isso it is' said the Molewith great heartiness.
`Noit isn't!' cried the Rat indignantly.
`Well thenit isn'tit isn't' replied the Mole soothingly.
`But what I wanted to ask you waswon't you take me to call on
Mr. Toad? I've heard so much about himand I do so want to make
`Whycertainly' said the good-natured Ratjumping to his feet
and dismissing poetry from his mind for the day. `Get the boat
outand we'll paddle up there at once. It's never the wrong
time to call on Toad. Early or late he's always the same fellow.
Always good-temperedalways glad to see youalways sorry when
`He must be a very nice animal' observed the Moleas he got
into the boat and took the scullswhile the Rat settled himself
comfortably in the stern.
`He is indeed the best of animals' replied Rat. `So simpleso
good-naturedand so affectionate. Perhaps he's not very
clever--we can't all be geniuses; and it may be that he is both
boastful and conceited. But he has got some great qualitieshas
Rounding a bend in the riverthey came in sight of a handsome
dignified old house of mellowed red brickwith well-kept lawns
reaching down to the water's edge.
`There's Toad Hall' said the Rat; `and that creek on the left
where the notice-board saysPrivate. No landing allowed,
leads to his boat-housewhere we'll leave the boat. The stables
are over there to the right. That's the banqueting-hall you're
looking at now--very oldthat is. Toad is rather richyou
knowand this is really one of the nicest houses in these parts
though we never admit as much to Toad.'
They glided up the creekand the Mole slipped his sculls as they
passed into the shadow of a large boat-house. Here they saw
many handsome boatsslung from the cross beams or hauled up on a
slipbut none in the water; and the place had an unused and a
The Rat looked around him. `I understand' said he. `Boating is
played out. He's tired of itand done with it. I wonder what
new fad he has taken up now? Come along and let's look him up.
We shall hear all about it quite soon enough.'
They disembarkedand strolled across the gay flower-decked lawns
in search of Toadwhom they presently happened upon resting in a
wicker garden-chairwith a pre-occupied expression of faceand
a large map spread out on his knees.
`Hooray!' he criedjumping up on seeing them`this is
splendid!' He shook the paws of both of them warmlynever
waiting for an introduction to the Mole. `How KIND of you!'
he went ondancing round them. `I was just going to send a boat
down the river for youRattywith strict orders that you were
to be fetched up here at oncewhatever you were doing. I want
you badly--both of you. Now what will you take? Come inside
and have something! You don't know how lucky it isyour turning
up just now!'
`Let's sit quiet a bitToady!' said the Ratthrowing himself
into an easy chairwhile the Mole took another by the side of
him and made some civil remark about Toad's `delightful
`Finest house on the whole river' cried Toad boisterously. `Or
anywhere elsefor that matter' he could not help adding.
Here the Rat nudged the Mole. Unfortunately the Toad saw him do
itand turned very red. There was a moment's painful silence.
Then Toad burst out laughing. `All rightRatty' he said.
`It's only my wayyou know. And it's not such a very bad house
is it? You know you rather like it yourself. Nowlook 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 rowingI suppose' said the Ratwith an
innocent air. `You're getting on fairly wellthough you splash
a good bit still. With a great deal of patienceand any
quantity of coachingyou may----'
`Opooh! boating!' interrupted the Toadin great disgust.
Silly boyish amusement. I've given that up LONG ago. Sheer
waste of timethat's what it is. It makes me downright sorry to
see you fellowswho ought to know betterspending all your
energies in that aimless manner. NoI've discovered the real
thingthe only genuine occupation for a life time. I propose to
devote the remainder of mine to itand can only regret the
wasted years that lie behind mesquandered in trivialities.
Come with medear Rattyand your amiable friend alsoif he
will be so very goodjust as far as the stable-yardand you
shall see what you shall see!'
He led the way to the stable-yard accordinglythe Rat following
with a most mistrustful expression; and theredrawn out of the
coach house into the openthey saw a gipsy caravanshining with
newnesspainted a canary-yellow picked out with greenand red
`There you are!' cried the Toadstraddling and expanding
himself. `There's real life for youembodied in that little
cart. The open roadthe dusty highwaythe heaththe common
the hedgerowsthe rolling downs! Campsvillagestowns
cities! Here to-dayup and off to somewhere else to-morrow!
Travelchangeinterestexcitement! The whole world before
youand a horizon that's always changing! And mind! this is the
very finest cart of its sort that was ever builtwithout any
exception. Come inside and look at the arrangements. Planned
'em all myselfI did!'
The Mole was tremendously interested and excitedand followed
him eagerly up the steps and into the interior of the caravan.
The Rat only snorted and thrust his hands deep into his pockets
remaining where he was.
It was indeed very compact and comfortable. Little sleeping
bunks--a little table that folded up against the wall--a cooking-
stovelockersbookshelvesa bird-cage with a bird in it; and
potspansjugs and kettles of every size and variety.
`All complete!' said the Toad triumphantlypulling open a
locker. `You see--biscuitspotted lobstersardines--everything
you can possibly want. Soda-water here--baccy there--letter-
paperbaconjamcards and dominoes--you'll find' he
continuedas they descended the steps again`you'll find that
nothing what ever has been forgottenwhen we make our start
`I beg your pardon' said the Rat slowlyas he chewed a straw
`but did I overhear you say something about "WE and
START and THIS AFTERNOON?"'
`Nowyou dear good old Ratty' said Toadimploringly`don't
begin talking in that stiff and sniffy sort of waybecause you
know you've GOT to come. I can't possibly manage without you
so please consider it settledand don't argue--it's the one
thing I can't stand. You surely don't mean to stick to your dull
fusty old river all your lifeand just live in a hole in a bank
and BOAT? I want to show you the world! I'm going to make an
ANIMAL of youmy boy!'
`I don't care' said the Ratdoggedly. `I'm not comingand
that's flat. And I AM going to stick to my old riverAND
live in a holeAND boatas I've always done. And what's
moreMole's going to stick me and do as I doaren't youMole?'
`Of course I am' said the Moleloyally. `I'll always stick to
youRatand what you say is to be--has got to be. All the
sameit sounds as if it might have been--wellrather fun
you know!' he addedwistfully. Poor Mole! The Life Adventurous
was so new a thing to himand so thrilling; and this fresh
aspect of it was so tempting; and he had fallen in love at first
sight with the canary-coloured cart and all its little fitments.
The Rat saw what was passing in his mindand wavered. He hated
disappointing peopleand he was fond of the Moleand would do
almost anything to oblige him. Toad was watching both of them
`Come along inand have some lunch' he saiddiplomatically
`and we'll talk it over. We needn't decide anything in a hurry.
Of course_I_ don't really care. I only want to give pleasure
to you fellows. "Live for others!" That's my motto in life.'
During luncheon--which was excellentof courseas everything at
Toad Hall always was--the Toad simply let himself go.
Disregarding the Rathe proceeded to play upon the inexperienced
Mole as on a harp. Naturally a voluble animaland always
mastered by his imaginationhe painted the prospects of the trip
and the joys of the open life and the roadside in such
glowing colours that the Mole could hardly sit in his chair for
excitement. Somehowit soon seemed taken for granted by all
three of them that the trip was a settled thing; and the Rat
though still unconvinced in his mindallowed his good-nature to
over-ride his personal objections. He could not bear to
disappoint his two friendswho were already deep in schemes and
anticipationsplanning out each day's separate occupation for
several weeks ahead.
When they were quite readythe now triumphant Toad led his
companions to the paddock and set them to capture the old grey
horsewhowithout having been consultedand to his own extreme
annoyancehad been told off by Toad for the dustiest job in this
dusty expedition. He frankly preferred the paddockand took a
deal of catching. Meantime Toad packed the lockers still tighter
with necessariesand hung nosebagsnets of onionsbundles of
hayand baskets from the bottom of the cart. At last the horse
was caught and harnessedand they set offall talking at once
each animal either trudging by the side of the cart or sitting on
the shaftas the humour took him. It was a golden
afternoon. The smell of the dust they kicked up was rich and
satisfying; out of thick orchards on either side the roadbirds
called and whistled to them cheerily; good-natured wayfarers
passing themgave them `Good-day' or stopped to say nice things
about their beautiful cart; and rabbitssitting at their front
doors in the hedgerowsheld up their fore-pawsand said`O my!
O my! O my!'
Late in the eveningtired and happy and miles from homethey
drew up on a remote common far from habitationsturned the horse
loose to grazeand ate their simple supper sitting on the grass
by the side of the cart. Toad talked big about all he was going
to do in the days to comewhile stars grew fuller and larger all
around themand a yellow moonappearing suddenly and silently
from nowhere in particularcame to keep them company and listen
to their talk. At last they turned in to their little bunks in
the cart; and Toadkicking out his legssleepily said`Well
good nightyou fellows! This is the real life for a gentleman!
Talk about your old river!'
`I DON'T talk about my river' replied the patient Rat.
`You KNOW I don'tToad. But I THINK about it' he added
patheticallyin a lower tone: `I think about it--all the time!'
The Mole reached out from under his blanketfelt for the Rat's
paw in the darknessand gave it a squeeze. `I'll do whatever
you likeRatty' he whispered. `Shall we run away to-morrow
morningquite early--VERY early--and go back to our dear old
hole on the river?'
`Nonowe'll see it out' whispered back the Rat. `Thanks
awfullybut I ought to stick by Toad till this trip is ended.
It wouldn't be safe for him to be left to himself. It won't take
very long. His fads never do. Good night!'
The end was indeed nearer than even the Rat suspected.
After so much open air and excitement the Toad slept very
soundlyand no amount of shaking could rouse him out of bed next
morning. So the Mole and Rat turned toquietly and manfully
and while the Rat saw to the horseand lit a fireand cleaned
last night's cups and plattersand got things ready for
breakfastthe Mole trudged off to the nearest villagea long
way offfor milk and eggs and various necessaries the Toad had
of courseforgotten to provide. The hard work had all been
doneand the two animals were restingthoroughly exhaustedby
the time Toad appeared on the scenefresh and gayremarking
what a pleasant easy life it was they were all leading nowafter
the cares and worries and fatigues of housekeeping at home.
They had a pleasant ramble that day over grassy downs and along
narrow by-lanesand camped as beforeon a commononly this
time the two guests took care that Toad should do his fair share
of work. In consequencewhen the time came for starting next
morningToad was by no means so rapturous about the simplicity
of the primitive lifeand indeed attempted to resume his place
in his bunkwhence he was hauled by force. Their way layas
beforeacross country by narrow lanesand it was not till the
afternoon that they came out on the high-roadtheir first highroad;
and there disasterfleet and unforeseensprang out on
them--disaster momentous indeed to their expeditionbut simply
overwhelming in its effect on the after-career of Toad.
They were strolling along the high-road easilythe Mole by
the horse's headtalking to himsince the horse had complained
that he was being frightfully left out of itand nobody
considered him in the least; the Toad and the Water Rat walking
behind the cart talking together--at least Toad was talkingand
Rat was saying at intervals`Yesprecisely; and what did YOU
say to HIM?'--and thinking all the time of something very
differentwhen far behind them they heard a faint warning hum;
like the drone of a distant bee. Glancing backthey saw a small
cloud of dustwith a dark centre of energyadvancing on them at
incredible speedwhile from out the dust a faint `Poop-poop!'
wailed like an uneasy animal in pain. Hardly regarding itthey
turned to resume their conversationwhen in an instant (as it
seemed) the peaceful scene was changedand with a blast of wind
and a whirl of sound that made them jump for the nearest ditch
It was on them! The `Poop-poop' rang with a brazen shout in
their earsthey had a moment's glimpse of an interior of
glittering plate-glass and rich moroccoand the magnificent
motor-carimmensebreath-snatchingpassionatewith its pilot
tense and hugging his wheelpossessed all earth and air for
the fraction of a secondflung an enveloping cloud of dust that
blinded and enwrapped them utterlyand then dwindled to a speck
in the far distancechanged back into a droning bee once more.
The old grey horsedreamingas he plodded alongof his quiet
paddockin a new raw situation such as this simply abandoned
himself to his natural emotions. Rearingplungingbacking
steadilyin spite of all the Mole's efforts at his headand all
the Mole's lively language directed at his better feelingshe
drove the cart backwards towards the deep ditch at the side of
the road. It wavered an instant--then there was a heartrending
crash--and the canary-coloured carttheir pride and their joy
lay on its side in the ditchan irredeemable wreck.
The Rat danced up and down in the roadsimply transported with
passion. `You villains!' he shoutedshaking both fists`You
scoundrelsyou highwaymenyou--you--roadhogs!--I'll have the
law of you! I'll report you! I'll take you through all the
Courts!' His home-sickness had quite slipped away from himand
for the moment he was the skipper of the canary-coloured
vessel driven on a shoal by the reckless jockeying of rival
marinersand he was trying to recollect all the fine and biting
things he used to say to masters of steam-launches when their
washas they drove too near the bankused to flood his parlourcarpet
Toad sat straight down in the middle of the dusty roadhis legs
stretched out before himand stared fixedly in the direction of
the disappearing motor-car. He breathed shorthis face wore a
placid satisfied expressionand at intervals he faintly murmured
The Mole was busy trying to quiet the horsewhich he succeeded
in doing after a time. Then he went to look at the carton its
side in the ditch. It was indeed a sorry sight. Panels and
windows smashedaxles hopelessly bentone wheel offsardinetins
scattered over the wide worldand the bird in the bird-cage
sobbing pitifully and calling to be let out.
The Rat came to help himbut their united efforts were not
sufficient to right the cart. `Hi! Toad!' they cried. `Come and
bear a handcan't you!'
The Toad never answered a wordor budged from his seat in the
road; so they went to see what was the matter with him. They
found him in a sort of a trancea happy smile on his facehis
eyes still fixed on the dusty wake of their destroyer. At
intervals he was still heard to murmur `Poop-poop!'
The Rat shook him by the shoulder. `Are you coming to help us
Toad?' he demanded sternly.
`Gloriousstirring sight!' murmured Toadnever 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 skippedtowns and cities jumped--always somebody else's
horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!'
`O STOP being an assToad!' cried the Mole despairingly.
`And to think I never KNEW!' went on the Toad in a dreamy
monotone. `All those wasted years that lie behind meI never
knewnever even DREAMT! But NOW--but now that I knownow
that I fully realise! O what a flowery track lies spread before
mehenceforth! What dust-clouds shall spring up behind me as I
speed on my reckless way! What carts I shall fling
carelessly into the ditch in the wake of my magnificent onset!
Horrid little carts--common carts--canary-coloured carts!'
`What are we to do with him?' asked the Mole of the Water Rat.
`Nothing at all' replied the Rat firmly. `Because there is
really nothing to be done. You seeI know him from of old. He
is now possessed. He has got a new crazeand it always takes
him that wayin its first stage. He'll continue like that for
days nowlike an animal walking in a happy dreamquite useless
for all practical purposes. Never mind him. Let's go and see
what there is to be done about the cart.'
A careful inspection showed them thateven if they succeeded in
righting it by themselvesthe cart would travel no longer. The
axles were in a hopeless stateand the missing wheel was
shattered into pieces.
The Rat knotted the horse's reins over his back and took him by
the headcarrying the bird cage and its hysterical occupant in
the other hand. `Come on!' he said grimly to the Mole. `It's
five or six miles to the nearest townand we shall just have
to walk it. The sooner we make a start the better.'
`But what about Toad?' asked the Mole anxiouslyas they set off
together. `We can't leave him heresitting in the middle of the
road by himselfin the distracted state he's in! It's not safe.
Supposing another Thing were to come along?'
`OBOTHER Toad' said the Rat savagely; `I've done with him!'
They had not proceeded very far on their wayhoweverwhen there
was a pattering of feet behind themand Toad caught them up and
thrust a paw inside the elbow of each of them; still breathing
short and staring into vacancy.
`Nowlook hereToad!' said the Rat sharply: `as soon as we get
to the townyou'll have to go straight to the police-station
and see if they know anything about that motor-car and who it
belongs toand lodge a complaint against it. And then you'll
have to go to a blacksmith's or a wheelwright's and arrange for
the cart to be fetched and mended and put to rights. It'll take
timebut it's not quite a hopeless smash. Meanwhilethe Mole
and I will go to an inn and find comfortable rooms where we can
stay till the cart's readyand till your nerves have
recovered their shock.'
`Police-station! Complaint!'murmured Toad dreamily. `Me
COMPLAIN of that beautifulthat heavenly vision that has been
vouchsafed me! MEND THE CART! I've done with carts for ever.
I never want to see the cartor to hear of itagain. ORatty!
You can't think how obliged I am to you for consenting to come on
this trip! I wouldn't have gone without youand then I might
never have seen that--that swanthat sunbeamthat thunderbolt!
I might never have heard that entrancing soundor smelt that
bewitching smell! I owe it all to youmy best of friends!'
The Rat turned from him in despair. `You see what it is?' he
said to the Moleaddressing him across Toad's head: `He's quite
hopeless. I give it up--when we get to the town we'll go to the
railway stationand with luck we may pick up a train there
that'll get us back to riverbank to-night. And if ever you catch
me going a-pleasuring with this provoking animal again!'
He snortedand during the rest of that weary trudge addressed
his remarks exclusively to Mole.
On reaching the town they went straight to the station and
deposited Toad in the second-class waiting-roomgiving a porter
twopence to keep a strict eye on him. They then left the horse
at an inn stableand gave what directions they could about the
cart and its contents. Eventuallya slow train having landed
them at a station not very far from Toad Hallthey escorted the
spell-boundsleep-walking Toad to his doorput him inside it
and instructed his housekeeper to feed himundress himand put
him to bed. Then they got out their boat from the boat-house
sculled down the river homeand at a very late hour sat down to
supper in their own cosy riverside parlourto the Rat's great
joy and contentment.
The following evening the Molewho had risen late and taken
things very easy all daywas sitting on the bank fishingwhen
the Ratwho had been looking up his friends and gossipingcame
strolling along to find him. `Heard the news?' he said.
`There's nothing else being talked aboutall along the river
bank. Toad went up to Town by an early train this morning. And
he has ordered a large and very expensive motor-car.'
THE WILD WOOD
The Mole had long wanted to make the I acquaintance of the
Badger. He seemedby all accountsto be such an important
personage andthough rarely visibleto make his unseen
influence felt by everybody about the place. But whenever the
Mole mentioned his wish to the Water Rat he always found himself
put off. `It's all right' the Rat would say. `Badger'll turn
up some day or other--he's always turning up--and then I'll
introduce you. The best of fellows! But you must not only take
him AS you find himbut 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
Societyand invitationsand dinnerand all that sort of
`Wellthensupposing we go and call on HIM?' suggested the
`OI'm sure he wouldn't like that at ALL' said the Rat
quite alarmed. `He's so very shyhe'd be sure to be offended.
I've never even ventured to call on him at his own home myself
though I know him so well. Besideswe can't. It's quite out of
the questionbecause he lives in the very middle of the Wild
`Wellsupposing he does' said the Mole. `You told me the Wild
Wood was all rightyou know.'
`OI knowI knowso it is' replied the Rat evasively. `But I
think we won't go there just now. Not JUST yet. It's a long
wayand he wouldn't be at home at this time of year anyhowand
he'll be coming along some dayif you'll wait quietly.'
The Mole had to be content with this. But the Badger never came
alongand every day brought its amusementsand it was not till
summer was long overand cold and frost and miry ways kept them
much indoorsand the swollen river raced past outside their
windows with a speed that mocked at boating of any sort or
kindthat he found his thoughts dwelling again with much
persistence on the solitary grey Badgerwho lived his own life
by himselfin his hole in the middle of the Wild Wood.
In the winter time the Rat slept a great dealretiring early and
rising late. During his short day he sometimes scribbled poetry
or did other small domestic jobs about the house; andof course
there were always animals dropping in for a chatand
consequently there was a good deal of story-telling and comparing
notes on the past summer and all its doings.
Such a rich chapter it had beenwhen one came to look back on it
all! With illustrations so numerous and so very highly coloured!
The pageant of the river bank had marched steadily along
unfolding itself in scene-pictures that succeeded each other in
stately procession. Purple loosestrife arrived earlyshaking
luxuriant tangled locks along the edge of the mirror whence its
own face laughed back at it. Willow-herbtender and wistful
like a pink sunset cloudwas not slow to follow. Comfreythe
purple hand-in-hand with the whitecrept forth to take its place
in the line; and at last one morning the diffident and
delaying dog-rose stepped delicately on the stageand one knew
as if string-music had announced it in stately chords that
strayed into a gavottethat June at last was here. One member
of the company was still awaited; the shepherd-boy for the nymphs
to woothe knight for whom the ladies waited at the windowthe
prince that was to kiss the sleeping summer back to life and
love. But when meadow-sweetdebonair and odorous in amber
jerkinmoved graciously to his place in the groupthen the play
was ready to begin.
And what a play it had been! Drowsy animalssnug in their holes
while wind and rain were battering at their doorsrecalled still
keen morningsan hour before sunrisewhen the white mistas
yet undispersedclung closely along the surface of the water;
then the shock of the early plungethe scamper along the bank
and the radiant transformation of earthairand waterwhen
suddenly the sun was with them againand grey was gold and
colour was born and sprang out of the earth once more. They
recalled the languorous siesta of hot mid-daydeep in green
undergrowththe sun striking through in tiny golden shafts and
spots; the boating and bathing of the afternoonthe rambles
along dusty lanes and through yellow cornfields; and the long
cool evening at lastwhen so many threads were gathered upso
many friendships roundedand so many adventures planned for the
morrow. There was plenty to talk about on those short winter
days when the animals found themselves round the fire; stillthe
Mole had a good deal of spare time on his handsand so one
afternoonwhen the Rat in his arm-chair before the blaze was
alternately dozing and trying over rhymes that wouldn't fithe
formed the resolution to go out by himself and explore the Wild
Woodand perhaps strike up an acquaintance with Mr. Badger.
It was a cold still afternoon with a hard steely sky overhead
when he slipped out of the warm parlour into the open air. The
country lay bare and entirely leafless around himand he thought
that he had never seen so far and so intimately into the insides
of things as on that winter day when Nature was deep in her
annual slumber and seemed to have kicked the clothes off.
Copsesdellsquarries and all hidden placeswhich had been
mysterious mines for exploration in leafy summernow exposed
themselves and their secrets patheticallyand seemed to ask him
to overlook their shabby poverty for a whiletill they could
riot in rich masquerade as beforeand trick and entice him with
the old deceptions. It was pitiful in a wayand yet cheering-
even exhilarating. He was glad that he liked the country
undecoratedhardand stripped of its finery. He had got down
to the bare bones of itand they were fine and strong and
simple. He did not want the warm clover and the play of seeding
grasses; the screens of quicksetthe billowy drapery of beech
and elm seemed best away; and with great cheerfulness of spirit
he pushed on towards the Wild Woodwhich lay before him low and
threateninglike a black reef in some still southern sea.
There was nothing to alarm him at first entry. Twigs crackled
under his feetlogs tripped himfunguses on stumps resembled
caricaturesand startled him for the moment by their likeness to
something familiar and far away; but that was all funand
exciting. It led him onand he penetrated to where the light
was lessand trees crouched nearer and nearerand holes
made ugly mouths at him on either side.
Everything was very still now. The dusk advanced on him
steadilyrapidlygathering in behind and before; and the light
seemed to be draining away like flood-water.
Then the faces began.
It was over his shoulderand indistinctlythat he first thought
he saw a face; a little evil wedge-shaped facelooking out at
him from a hole. When he turned and confronted itthe thing had
He quickened his pacetelling himself cheerfully not to begin
imagining thingsor there would be simply no end to it. He
passed another holeand anotherand another; and then--yes!-no!--
yes! certainly a little narrow facewith hard eyeshad
flashed up for an instant from a holeand was gone. He
hesitated--braced himself up for an effort and strode on. Then
suddenlyand as if it had been so all the timeevery holefar
and nearand there were hundreds of themseemed to possess its
facecoming and going rapidlyall fixing on him glances of
malice and hatred: all hard-eyed and evil and sharp.
If he could only get away from the holes in the bankshe
thoughtthere would be no more faces. He swung off the path and
plunged into the untrodden places of the wood.
Then the whistling began.
Very faint and shrill it wasand far behind himwhen first he
heard it; but somehow it made him hurry forward. Thenstill
very faint and shrillit sounded far ahead of himand made him
hesitate and want to go back. As he halted in indecision it
broke out on either sideand seemed to be caught up and passed
on throughout the whole length of the wood to its farthest limit.
They were up and alert and readyevidentlywhoever they were!
And he--he was aloneand unarmedand far from any help; and the
night was closing in.
Then the pattering began.
He thought it was only falling leaves at firstso slight and
delicate was the sound of it. Then as it grew it took a regular
rhythmand he knew it for nothing else but the pat-pat-pat of
little feet still a very long way off. Was it in front or
behind? It seemed to be first oneand then the otherthen
both. It grew and it multipliedtill from every quarter as
he listened anxiouslyleaning this way and thatit seemed to be
closing in on him. As he stood still to hearkena rabbit came
running hard towards him through the trees. He waitedexpecting
it to slacken paceor to swerve from him into a different
course. Insteadthe animal almost brushed him as it dashed
pasthis face set and hardhis eyes staring. `Get out of this
you foolget out!' the Mole heard him mutter as he swung round a
stump and disappeared down a friendly burrow.
The pattering increased till it sounded like sudden hail on the
dry leaf-carpet spread around him. The whole wood seemed running
nowrunning hardhuntingchasingclosing in round something
or--somebody? In paniche began to run tooaimlesslyhe knew
not whither. He ran up against thingshe fell over things and
into thingshe darted under things and dodged round things. At
last he took refuge in the deep dark hollow of an old beech tree
which offered shelterconcealment--perhaps even safetybut who
could tell? Anyhowhe was too tired to run any furtherand
could only snuggle down into the dry leaves which had drifted
into the hollow and hope he was safe for a time. And as he lay
there panting and tremblingand listened to the whistlings and
the patterings outsidehe knew it at lastin all its fullness
that dread thing which other little dwellers in field and
hedgerow had encountered hereand known as their darkest
moment--that thing which the Rat had vainly tried to shield him
from--the Terror of the Wild Wood!
Meantime the Ratwarm and comfortabledozed by his fireside.
His paper of half-finished verses slipped from his kneehis head
fell backhis mouth openedand he wandered by the verdant banks
of dream-rivers. Then a coal slippedthe fire crackled and sent
up a spurt of flameand he woke with a start. Remembering what
he had been engaged uponhe reached down to the floor for his
versespored over them for a minuteand then looked round for
the Mole to ask him if he knew a good rhyme for something or
But the Mole was not there.
He listened for a time. The house seemed very quiet.
Then he called `Moly!' several timesandreceiving no
answergot up and went out into the hall.
The Mole's cap was missing from its accustomed peg. His
golosheswhich always lay by the umbrella-standwere also gone.
The Rat left the houseand carefully examined the muddy surface
of the ground outsidehoping to find the Mole's tracks. There
they weresure enough. The goloshes were newjust bought for
the winterand the pimples on their soles were fresh and sharp.
He could see the imprints of them in the mudrunning along
straight and purposefulleading direct to the Wild Wood.
The Rat looked very graveand stood in deep thought for a minute
or two. Then he re-entered the housestrapped a belt round his
waistshoved a brace of pistols into ittook up a stout cudgel
that stood in a corner of the halland set off for the Wild Wood
at a smart pace.
It was already getting towards dusk when he reached the first
fringe of trees and plunged without hesitation into the wood
looking anxiously on either side for any sign of his friend.
Here and there wicked little faces popped out of holesbut
vanished immediately at sight of the valorous animalhis
pistolsand the great ugly cudgel in his grasp; and the
whistling and patteringwhich he had heard quite plainly on his
first entrydied away and ceasedand all was very still. He
made his way manfully through the length of the woodto its
furthest edge; thenforsaking all pathshe set himself to
traverse itlaboriously working over the whole groundand all
the time calling out cheerfully`MolyMolyMoly! Where are
you? It's me--it's old Rat!'
He had patiently hunted through the wood for an hour or more
when at last to his joy he heard a little answering cry. Guiding
himself by the soundhe made his way through the gathering
darkness to the foot of an old beech treewith a hole in itand
from out of the hole came a feeble voicesaying `Ratty! Is that
The Rat crept into the hollowand there he found the Mole
exhausted and still trembling. `O Rat!' he cried`I've been so
frightenedyou can't think!'
`OI quite understand' said the Rat soothingly. `You shouldn't
really have gone and done itMole. I did my best to keep
you from it. We river-bankerswe hardly ever come here by
ourselves. If we have to comewe come in couplesat least;
then we're generally all right. Besidesthere are a hundred
things one has to knowwhich we understand all about and you
don'tas yet. I mean passwordsand signsand sayings which
have power and effectand plants you carry in your pocketand
verses you repeatand dodges and tricks you practise; all simple
enough when you know thembut they've got to be known if you're
smallor you'll find yourself in trouble. Of course if you were
Badger or Otterit would be quite another matter.'
`Surely the brave Mr. Toad wouldn't mind coming here by himself
would he?' inquired the Mole.
`Old Toad?' said the Ratlaughing heartily. `He wouldn't show
his face here alonenot for a whole hatful of golden guineas
The Mole was greatly cheered by the sound of the Rat's careless
laughteras well as by the sight of his stick and his gleaming
pistolsand he stopped shivering and began to feel bolder and
more himself again.
`Now then' said the Rat presently`we really must pull
ourselves together and make a start for home while there's still
a little light left. It will never do to spend the night here
you understand. Too coldfor one thing.'
`Dear Ratty' said the poor Mole`I'm dreadfully sorrybut I'm
simply dead beat and that's a solid fact. You MUST let me
rest here a while longerand get my strength backif I'm to get
home at all.'
`Oall right' said the good-natured Rat`rest away. It's
pretty nearly pitch dark nowanyhow; and there ought to be a bit
of a moon later.'
So the Mole got well into the dry leaves and stretched himself
outand presently dropped off into sleepthough of a broken and
troubled sort; while the Rat covered himself uptooas best he
mightfor warmthand lay patiently waitingwith a pistol in
When at last the Mole woke upmuch refreshed and in his usual
spiritsthe Rat said`Now then! I'll just take a look outside
and see if everything's quietand then we really must be off.'
He went to the entrance of their retreat and put his head
out. Then the Mole heard him saying quietly to himself`Hullo!
hullo! here-- is--a--go!'
`What's upRatty?' asked the Mole.
`SNOW is up' replied the Rat briefly; `or ratherDOWN.
It's snowing hard.'
The Mole came and crouched beside himandlooking outsaw the
wood that had been so dreadful to him in quite a changed aspect.
Holeshollowspoolspitfallsand other black menaces to the
wayfarer were vanishing fastand a gleaming carpet of faery was
springing up everywherethat looked too delicate to be trodden
upon by rough feet. A fine powder filled the air and caressed
the cheek with a tingle in its touchand the black boles of the
trees showed up in a light that seemed to come from below.
`Wellwellit can't be helped' said the Ratafter pondering.
`We must make a startand take our chanceI suppose. The worst
of it isI don't exactly know where we are. And now this snow
makes everything look so very different.'
It did indeed. The Mole would not have known that it was the
same wood. Howeverthey set out bravelyand took the line
that seemed most promisingholding on to each other and
pretending with invincible cheerfulness that they recognized an
old friend in every fresh tree that grimly and silently greeted
themor saw openingsgapsor paths with a familiar turn in
themin the monotony of white space and black tree-trunks that
refused to vary.
An hour or two later--they had lost all count of time--they
pulled updispiritedwearyand hopelessly at seaand sat down
on a fallen tree-trunk to recover their breath and consider what
was to be done. They were aching with fatigue and bruised with
tumbles; they had fallen into several holes and got wet through;
the snow was getting so deep that they could hardly drag their
little legs through itand the trees were thicker and more like
each other than ever. There seemed to be no end to this wood
and no beginningand no difference in itandworst of allno
`We can't sit here very long' said the Rat. `We shall have to
make another push for itand do something or other. The cold is
too awful for anythingand the snow will soon be too deep for us
to wade through.' He peered about him and considered. `Look
here' he went on`this is what occurs to me. There's a sort of
dell down here in front of uswhere the ground seems all hilly
and humpy and hummocky. We'll make our way down into thatand
try and find some sort of sheltera cave or hole with a dry
floor to itout of the snow and the windand there we'll have a
good rest before we try againfor we're both of us pretty dead
beat. Besidesthe snow may leave offor something may turn
So once more they got on their feetand struggled down into the
dellwhere they hunted about for a cave or some corner that was
dry and a protection from the keen wind and the whirling snow.
They were investigating one of the hummocky bits the Rat had
spoken ofwhen suddenly the Mole tripped up and fell forward on
his face with a squeal.
`O my leg!' he cried. `O my poor shin!' and he sat up on the
snow and nursed his leg in both his front paws.
`Poor old Mole!' said the Rat kindly.
`You don't seem to be having much luck to-daydo you? Let's
have a look at the leg. Yes' he went ongoing down on his
knees to look`you've cut your shinsure enough. Wait till
I get at my handkerchiefand I'll tie it up for you.'
`I must have tripped over a hidden branch or a stump' said the
Mole miserably. `Omy! Omy!'
`It's a very clean cut' said the Ratexamining it again
attentively. `That was never done by a branch or a stump. Looks
as if it was made by a sharp edge of something in metal. Funny!'
He pondered awhileand examined the humps and slopes that
`Wellnever mind what done it' said the Moleforgetting his
grammar in his pain. `It hurts just the samewhatever done it.'
But the Ratafter carefully tying up the leg with his
handkerchiefhad left him and was busy scraping in the snow. He
scratched and shovelled and exploredall four legs working
busilywhile the Mole waited impatientlyremarking at
Suddenly the Rat cried `Hooray!' and then `Hooray-oo-ray-oo-rayoo-
ray!' and fell to executing a feeble jig in the snow.
`What HAVE you foundRatty?' asked the Molestill nursing
`Come and see!' said the delighted Ratas he jigged on.
The Mole hobbled up to the spot and had a good look.
`Well' he said at lastslowly`I SEE it right enough. Seen
the same sort of thing beforelots of times. Familiar objectI
call it. A door-scraper! Wellwhat of it? Why dance jigs
around a door-scraper?'
`But don't you see what it MEANSyou--you dull-witted
animal?' cried the Rat impa-tiently.
`Of course I see what it means' replied the Mole. `It simply
means that some VERY careless and forgetful person has left
his door-scraper lying about in the middle of the Wild Wood
JUST where it's SURE to trip EVERYBODY up. Very
thoughtless of himI call it. When I get home I shall go and
complain about it to--to somebody or othersee if I don't!'
`Odear! Odear!' cried the Ratin despair at his obtuseness.
`Herestop arguing and come and scrape!' And he set to work
again and made the snow fly in all directions around him.
After some further toil his efforts were rewardedand a very
shabby door-mat lay exposed to view.
`Therewhat did I tell you?' exclaimed the Rat in great triumph.
`Absolutely nothing whatever' replied the Molewith perfect
truthfulness. `Well now' he went on`you seem to have found
another piece of domestic litterdone for and thrown awayand I
suppose you're perfectly happy. Better go ahead and dance your
jig round that if you've got toand get it overand then
perhaps we can go on and not waste any more time over rubbishheaps.
Can we EAT a doormat? or sleep under a door-mat? Or
sit on a door-mat and sledge home over the snow on ityou
`Do--you--mean--to--say' cried the excited Rat`that this doormat
doesn't TELL you anything?'
`ReallyRat' said the Molequite pettishly`I think we'd had
enough of this folly. Who ever heard of a door-mat TELLING
anyone anything? They simply don't do it. They are not that
sort at all. Door-mats know their place.'
`Now look hereyou--you thick-headed beast' replied the Rat
really angry`this must stop. Not another wordbut scrape-scrape
and scratch and dig and hunt roundespecially on the
sides of the hummocksif you want to sleep dry and warm to-
nightfor it's our last chance!'
The Rat attacked a snow-bank beside them with ardourprobing
with his cudgel everywhere and then digging with fury; and the
Mole scraped busily toomore to oblige the Rat than for any
other reasonfor his opinion was that his friend was getting
Some ten minutes' hard workand the point of the Rat's cudgel
struck something that sounded hollow. He worked till he could
get a paw through and feel; then called the Mole to come and help
him. Hard at it went the two animalstill at last the result of
their labours stood full in view of the astonished and hitherto
In the side of what had seemed to be a snow-bank stood a solidlooking
little doorpainted a dark green. An iron bell-pull
hung by the sideand below iton a small brass plateneatly
engraved in square capital lettersthey could read by the aid of
The Mole fell backwards on the snow from sheer surprise and
delight. `Rat!' he cried in penitence`you're a wonder! A
real wonderthat's what you are. I see it all now! You argued
it outstep by stepin that wise head of yoursfrom the very
moment that I fell and cut my shinand you looked at the cut
and at once your majestic mind said to itselfDoor-scraper!
And then you turned to and found the very door-scraper that done
it! Did you stop there? No. Some people would have been quite
satisfied; but not you. Your intellect went on working. "Let me
only just find a door-mat says you to yourself, and my theory
is proved!" And of course you found your door-mat. You're so
cleverI believe you could find anything you liked. "Now says
you, that door existsas plain as if I saw it. There's nothing
else remains to be done but to find it!" WellI've read about
that sort of thing in booksbut I've never come across it before
in real life. You ought to go where you'll be properly
appreciated. You're simply wasted hereamong us fellows. If I
only had your headRatty----'
`But as you haven't' interrupted the Ratrather unkindly`I
suppose you're going to sit on the snow all night and TALK
Get up at once and hang on to that bell-pull you see there
and ring hardas hard as you canwhile I hammer!'
While the Rat attacked the door with his stickthe Mole sprang
up at the bell-pullclutched it and swung thereboth feet well
off the groundand from quite a long way off they could faintly
hear a deep-toned bell respond.
THEY waited patiently for what seemed a very long timestamping
in the snow to keep their feet warm. At last they heard the
sound of slow shuflling footsteps approaching the door from the
inside. It seemedas the Mole remarked to the Ratlike some
one walking in carpet slippers that were too large for him and
down at heel; which was intelligent of Molebecause that was
exactly what it was.
There was the noise of a bolt shot backand the door opened a
few inchesenough to show a long snout and a pair of sleepy
`Nowthe VERY next time this happens' said a gruff and
suspicious voice`I shall be exceedingly angry. Who is it
THIS timedisturbing people on such a night? Speak up!'
`OhBadger' cried the Rat`let us inplease. It's
meRatand my friend Moleand we've lost our way in the snow.'
`WhatRattymy dear little man!' exclaimed the Badgerin quite
a different voice. `Come along inboth of youat once. Why
you must be perished. Well I never! Lost in the snow! And in
the Wild Woodtooand at this time of night! But come in with
The two animals tumbled over each other in their eagerness to get
insideand heard the door shut behind them with great joy and
The Badgerwho wore a long dressing-gownand whose slippers
were indeed very down at heelcarried a flat candlestick in his
paw and had probably been on his way to bed when their summons
sounded. He looked kindly down on them and patted both their
heads. `This is not the sort of night for small animals to be
out' he said paternally. `I'm afraid you've been up to some of
your pranks againRatty. But come along; come into the kitchen.
There's a first-rate fire thereand supper and everything.'
He shuffled on in front of themcarrying the lightand they
followed himnudging each other in an anticipating sort of way
down a longgloomyandto tell the truthdecidedly shabby
passageinto a sort of a central hall; out of which they could
dimly see other long tunnel-like passages branchingpassages
mysterious and without apparent end. But there were doors in the
hall as well--stout oaken comfortable-looking doors. One of
these the Badger flung openand at once they found themselves in
all the glow and warmth of a large fire-lit kitchen.
The floor was well-worn red brickand on the wide hearth burnt a
fire of logsbetween two attractive chimney-corners tucked away
in the wallwell out of any suspicion of draught. A couple of
high-backed settlesfacing each other on either side of the
firegave further sitting accommodations for the sociably
disposed. In the middle of the room stood a long table of plain
boards placed on trestleswith benches down each side. At one
end of itwhere an arm-chair stood pushed backwere spread the
remains of the Badger's plain but ample supper. Rows of spotless
plates winked from the shelves of the dresser at the far end of
the roomand from the rafters overhead hung hamsbundles of
dried herbsnets of onionsand baskets of eggs. It seemed
a place where heroes could fitly feast after victorywhere weary
harvesters could line up in scores along the table and keep their
Harvest Home with mirth and songor where two or three friends
of simple tastes could sit about as they pleased and eat and
smoke and talk in comfort and contentment. The ruddy brick floor
smiled up at the smoky ceiling; the oaken settlesshiny with
long wearexchanged cheerful glances with each other; plates on
the dresser grinned at pots on the shelfand the merry firelight
flickered and played over everything without distinction.
The kindly Badger thrust them down on a settle to toast
themselves at the fireand bade them remove their wet coats and
boots. Then he fetched them dressing-gowns and slippersand
himself bathed the Mole's shin with warm water and mended the cut
with sticking-plaster till the whole thing was just as good as
newif not better. In the embracing light and warmthwarm and
dry at lastwith weary legs propped up in front of themand a
suggestive clink of plates being arranged on the table behindit
seemed to the storm-driven animalsnow in safe anchorage
that the cold and trackless Wild Wood just left outside was miles
and miles awayand all that they had suffered in it a halfforgotten
When at last they were thoroughly toastedthe Badger summoned
them to the tablewhere he had been busy laying a repast. They
had felt pretty hungry beforebut when they actually saw at last
the supper that was spread for themreally it seemed only a
question of what they should attack first where all was so
attractiveand whether the other things would obligingly wait
for them till they had time to give them attention. Conversation
was impossible for a long time; and when it was slowly resumed
it was that regrettable sort of conversation that results from
talking with your mouth full. The Badger did not mind that sort
of thing at allnor did he take any notice of elbows on the
tableor everybody speaking at once. As he did not go into
Society himselfhe had got an idea that these things belonged to
the things that didn't really matter. (We know of course that he
was wrongand took too narrow a view; because they do matter
very muchthough it would take too long to explain why.) He
sat in his arm-chair at the head of the tableand nodded gravely
at intervals as the animals told their story; and he did not seem
surprised or shocked at anythingand he never said`I told you
so' or`Just what I always said' or remarked that they ought
to have done so-and-soor ought not to have done something else.
The Mole began to feel very friendly towards him.
When supper was really finished at lastand each animal felt
that his skin was now as tight as was decently safeand that by
this time he didn't care a hang for anybody or anythingthey
gathered round the glowing embers of the great wood fireand
thought how jolly it was to be sitting up SO lateand SO
independentand SO full; and after they had chatted for a
time about things in generalthe Badger said heartily`Now
then! tell us the news from your part of the world. How's old
Toad going on?'
`Ohfrom bad to worse' said the Rat gravelywhile the Mole
cocked up on a settle and basking in the firelighthis heels
higher than his headtried to look properly mournful. `Another
smash-up only last weekand a bad one. You seehe will insist
on driving himselfand he's hopelessly incapable. If he'd
only employ a decentsteadywell-trained animalpay him good
wagesand leave everything to himhe'd get on all right. But
no; he's convinced he's a heaven-born driverand nobody can
teach him anything; and all the rest follows.'
`How many has he had?' inquired the Badger gloomily.
`Smashesor machines?' asked the Rat. `Ohwellafter all
it's the same thing--with Toad. This is the seventh. As for the
others--you know that coach-house of his? Wellit's piled up-literally
piled up to the roof--with fragments of motor-cars
none of them bigger than your hat! That accounts for the other
six--so far as they can be accounted for.'
`He's been in hospital three times' put in the Mole; `and as for
the fines he's had to payit's simply awful to think of.'
`Yesand that's part of the trouble' continued the Rat.
`Toad's richwe all know; but he's not a millionaire. And he's
a hopelessly bad driverand quite regardless of law and order.
Killed or ruined--it's got to be one of the two things
sooner or later. Badger! we're his friends--oughtn't we to do
The Badger went through a bit of hard thinking. `Now look here!'
he said at lastrather severely; `of course you know I can't do
His two friends assentedquite understanding his point. No
animalaccording to the rules of animal-etiquetteis ever
expected to do anything strenuousor heroicor even moderately
active during the off-season of winter. All are sleepy--some
actually asleep. All are weather-boundmore or less; and all
are resting from arduous days and nightsduring which every
muscle in them has been severely testedand every energy kept at
`Very well then!' continued the Badger. `BUTwhen once the
year has really turnedand the nights are shorterand halfway
through them one rouses and feels fidgety and wanting to be up
and doing by sunriseif not before--YOU know!----'
Both animals nodded gravely. THEY knew!
`WellTHEN' went on the Badger`we--that isyou and me and
our friend the Mole here--we'll take Toad seriously in hand.
We'll stand no nonsense whatever. We'll bring him back to
reasonby force if need be. We'll MAKE him be a sensible
Toad. We'll--you're asleepRat!'
`Not me!' said the Ratwaking up with a jerk.
`He's been asleep two or three times since supper' said the
Molelaughing. He himself was feeling quite wakeful and even
livelythough he didn't know why. The reason wasof course
that he being naturally an underground animal by birth and
breedingthe situation of Badger's house exactly suited him and
made him feel at home; while the Ratwho slept every night in a
bedroom the windows of which opened on a breezy rivernaturally
felt the atmosphere still and oppressive.
`Wellit's time we were all in bed' said the Badgergetting up
and fetching flat candlesticks. `Come alongyou twoand I'll
show you your quarters. And take your time tomorrow morning-breakfast
at any hour you please!'
He conducted the two animals to a long room that seemed half
bedchamber and half loft. The Badger's winter storeswhich
indeed were visible everywheretook up half the room--piles
of applesturnipsand potatoesbaskets full of nutsand jars
of honey; but the two little white beds on the remainder of the
floor looked soft and invitingand the linen on themthough
coarsewas clean and smelt beautifully of lavender; and the Mole
and the Water Ratshaking off their garments in some thirty
secondstumbled in between the sheets in great joy and
In accordance with the kindly Badger's injunctionsthe two tired
animals came down to breakfast very late next morningand found
a bright fire burning in the kitchenand two young hedgehogs
sitting on a bench at the tableeating oatmeal porridge out of
wooden bowls. The hedgehogs dropped their spoonsrose to their
feetand ducked their heads respectfully as the two entered.
`Theresit downsit down' said the Rat pleasantly`and go on
with your porridge. Where have you youngsters come from? Lost
your way in the snowI suppose?'
`Yespleasesir' said the elder of the two hedgehogs
respectfully. `Me and little Billy herewe was trying to find
our way to school--mother WOULD have us gowas the
weather ever so--and of course we lost ourselvessirand Billy
he got frightened and took and criedbeing young and fainthearted.
And at last we happened up against Mr. Badger's back
doorand made so bold as to knocksirfor Mr. Badger he's a
kind-hearted gentlemanas everyone knows----'
`I understand' said the Ratcutting himself some rashers from a
side of baconwhile the Mole dropped some eggs into a saucepan.
`And what's the weather like outside? You needn't "sir" me quite
so much?' he added.
`Oterrible badsirterrible deep the snow is' said the
hedgehog. `No getting out for the likes of you gentlemen today.'
`Where's Mr. Badger?' inquired the Moleas he warmed the coffeepot
before the fire.
`The master's gone into his studysir' replied the hedgehog
`and he said as how he was going to be particular busy this
morningand on no account was he to be disturbed.'
This explanationof coursewas thoroughly understood by every
one present. The fact isas already set forthwhen you live a
life of intense activity for six months in the yearand of
comparative or actual somnolence for the other sixduring the
latter period you cannot be continually pleading sleepiness when
there are people about or things to be done. The excuse gets
monotonous. The animals well knew that Badgerhaving eaten a
hearty breakfasthad retired to his study and settled himself in
an arm-chair with his legs up on another and a red cotton
handkerchief over his faceand was being `busy' in the usual way
at this time of the year.
The front-door bell clanged loudlyand the Ratwho was very
greasy with buttered toastsent Billythe smaller hedgehogto
see who it might be. There was a sound of much stamping in the
halland presently Billy returned in front of the Otterwho
threw himself on the Rat with an embrace and a shout of
`Get off!' spluttered the Ratwith his mouth full.
`Thought I should find you here all right' said the Otter
cheerfully. `They were all in a great state of alarm along River
Bank when I arrived this morning. Rat never been home all
night--nor Mole either--something dreadful must have
happenedthey said; and the snow had covered up all your tracks
of course. But I knew that when people were in any fix they
mostly went to Badgeror else Badger got to know of it somehow
so I came straight off herethrough the Wild Wood and the snow!
My! it was finecoming through the snow as the red sun was
rising and showing against the black tree-trunks! As you went
along in the stillnessevery now and then masses of snow slid
off the branches suddenly with a flop! making you jump and run
for cover. Snow-castles and snow-caverns had sprung up out of
nowhere in the night--and snow bridgesterracesramparts--I
could have stayed and played with them for hours. Here and there
great branches had been torn away by the sheer weight of the
snowand robins perched and hopped on them in their perky
conceited wayjust as if they had done it themselves. A ragged
string of wild geese passed overheadhigh on the grey skyand a
few rooks whirled over the treesinspectedand flapped off
homewards with a disgusted expression; but I met no sensible
being to ask the news of. About halfway across I came on a
rabbit sitting on a stumpcleaning his silly face with his
paws. He was a pretty scared animal when I crept up behind him
and placed a heavy forepaw on his shoulder. I had to cuff his
head once or twice to get any sense out of it at all. At last I
managed to extract from him that Mole had been seen in the Wild
Wood last night by one of them. It was the talk of the burrows
he saidhow MoleMr. Rat's particular friendwas in a bad fix;
how he had lost his wayand "They" were up and out huntingand
were chivvying him round and round. "Then why didn't any of you
DO something?" I asked. "You mayn't be blest with brainsbut
there are hundreds and hundreds of youbigstout fellowsas
fat as butterand your burrows running in all directionsand
you could have taken him in and made him safe and comfortableor
tried toat all events." "WhatUS?" he merely said: "DO
something? us rabbits?" So I cuffed him again and left him.
There was nothing else to be done. At any rateI had learnt
something; and if I had had the luck to meet any of "Them" I'd
have learnt something more--or THEY would.'
`Weren't you at all--er--nervous?' asked the Molesome of
yesterday's terror coming back to him at the mention of the Wild
`Nervous?' The Otter showed a gleaming set of strong white teeth
as he laughed. `I'd give 'em nerves if any of them tried
anything on with me. HereMolefry me some slices of hamlike
the good little chap you are. I'm frightfully hungryand I've
got any amount to say to Ratty here. Haven't seen him for an
So the good-natured Molehaving cut some slices of hamset the
hedgehogs to fry itand returned to his own breakfastwhile the
Otter and the Rattheir heads togethereagerly talked rivershop
which is long shop and talk that is endlessrunning on
like the babbling river itself.
A plate of fried ham had just been cleared and sent back for
morewhen the Badger enteredyawning and rubbing his eyesand
greeted them all in his quietsimple waywith kind enquiries
for every one. `It must be getting on for luncheon time' he
remarked to the Otter. `Better stop and have it with us. You
must be hungrythis cold morning.'
`Rather!' replied the Otterwinking at the Mole. `The sight of
these greedy young hedgehogs stuffing themselves with fried ham
makes me feel positively famished.'
The hedgehogswho were just beginning to feel hungry again after
their porridgeand after working so hard at their fryinglooked
timidly up at Mr. Badgerbut were too shy to say anything.
`Hereyou two youngsters be off home to your mother' said the
Badger kindly. `I'll send some one with you to show you the way.
You won't want any dinner to-dayI'll be bound.'
He gave them sixpence apiece and a pat on the headand they went
off with much respectful swinging of caps and touching of
Presently they all sat down to luncheon together. The Mole found
himself placed next to Mr. Badgerandas the other two were
still deep in river-gossip from which nothing could divert them
he took the opportunity to tell Badger how comfortable and homelike
it all felt to him. `Once well underground' he said`you
know exactly where you are. Nothing can happen to youand
nothing can get at you. You're entirely your own masterand you
don't have to consult anybody or mind what they say. Things go
on all the same overheadand you let 'emand don't bother about
'em. When you want toup you goand there the things are
waiting for you.'
The Badger simply beamed on him. `That's exactly what I say' he
replied. `There's no securityor peace and tranquillityexcept
underground. And thenif your ideas get larger and you want to
expand--whya dig and a scrapeand there you are! If you feel
your house is a bit too bigyou stop up a hole or twoand there
you are again! No buildersno tradesmenno remarks passed on
you by fellows looking over your wallandabove allno
WEATHER. Look at Ratnow. A couple of feet of flood water
and he's got to move into hired lodgings; uncomfortable
inconveniently situatedand horribly expensive. Take Toad. I
say nothing against Toad Hall; quite the best house in these
partsAS a house. But supposing a fire breaks out--where's
Toad? Supposing tiles are blown offor walls sink or crackor
windows get broken--where's Toad? Supposing the rooms are
draughty--I HATE a draught myself--where's Toad? Noup and
out of doors is good enough to roam about and get one's living
in; but underground to come back to at last--that's my idea of
The Mole assented heartily; and the Badger in consequence got
very friendly with him. `When lunch is over' he said`I'll
take you all round this little place of mine. I can see you'll
appreciate it. You understand what domestic architecture ought
to beyou do.'
After luncheonaccordinglywhen the other two had settled
themselves into the chimney-corner and had started a heated
argument on the subject of EELSthe Badger lighted a lantern
and bade the Mole follow him. Crossing the hallthey passed
down one of the principal tunnelsand the wavering light of the
lantern gave glimpses on either side of rooms both large and
smallsome mere cupboardsothers nearly as broad and imposing
as Toad's dining-hall. A narrow passage at right angles led them
into another corridorand here the same thing was repeated. The
Mole was staggered at the sizethe extentthe ramifications of
it all; at the length of the dim passagesthe solid
vaultings of the crammed store-chambersthe masonry
everywherethe pillarsthe archesthe pavements. `How on
earthBadger' he said at last`did you ever find time and
strength to do all this? It's astonishing!'
`It WOULD be astonishing indeed' said the Badger simply`if
I HAD done it. But as a matter of fact I did none of it--only
cleaned out the passages and chambersas far as I had need of
them. There's lots more of itall round about. I see you don't
understandand I must explain it to you. Wellvery long ago
on the spot where the Wild Wood waves nowbefore ever it had
planted itself and grown up to what it now isthere was a city-a
city of peopleyou know. Herewhere we are standingthey
livedand walkedand talkedand sleptand carried on their
business. Here they stabled their horses and feastedfrom here
they rode out to fight or drove out to trade. They were a
powerful peopleand richand great builders. They built to
lastfor they thought their city would last for ever.'
`But what has become of them all?' asked the Mole.
`Who can tell?' said the Badger. `People come--they stay for
a whilethey flourishthey build--and they go. It is their
way. But we remain. There were badgers hereI've been told
long before that same city ever came to be. And now there are
badgers here again. We are an enduring lotand we may move out
for a timebut we waitand are patientand back we come. And
so it will ever be.'
`Welland when they went at lastthose people?' said the Mole.
`When they went' continued the Badger`the strong winds and
persistent rains took the matter in handpatientlyceaselessly
year after year. Perhaps we badgers tooin our small way
helped a little--who knows? It was all downdowndown
gradually--ruin and levelling and disappearance. Then it was all
upupupgraduallyas seeds grew to saplingsand saplings to
forest treesand bramble and fern came creeping in to help.
Leaf-mould rose and obliteratedstreams in their winter freshets
brought sand and soil to clog and to coverand in course of time
our home was ready for us againand we moved in. Up above us
on the surfacethe same thing happened. Animals arrivedliked
the look of the placetook up their quarterssettled down
spreadand flourished. They didn't bother themselves about the
past--they never do; they're too busy. The place was a bit humpy
and hillockynaturallyand full of holes; but that was rather
an advantage. And they don't bother about the futureeither-
the future when perhaps the people will move in again--for a
time--as may very well be. The Wild Wood is pretty well
populated by now; with all the usual lotgoodbadand
indifferent--I name no names. It takes all sorts to make a
world. But I fancy you know something about them yourself by
`I do indeed' said the Molewith a slight shiver.
`Wellwell' said the Badgerpatting him on the shoulder`it
was your first experience of themyou see. They're not so bad
really; and we must all live and let live. But I'll pass the
word around to-morrowand I think you'll have no further
trouble. Any friend of MINE walks where he likes in this
countryor I'll know the reason why!'
When they got back to the kitchen againthey found the Rat
walking up and downvery restless. The underground
atmosphere was oppressing him and getting on his nervesand he
seemed really to be afraid that the river would run away if he
wasn't there to look after it. So he had his overcoat onand
his pistols thrust into his belt again. `Come alongMole' he
said anxiouslyas soon as he caught sight of them. `We must get
off while it's daylight. Don't want to spend another night in
the Wild Wood again.'
`It'll be all rightmy fine fellow' said the Otter. `I'm
coming along with youand I know every path blindfold; and if
there's a head that needs to be punchedyou can confidently rely
upon me to punch it.'
`You really needn't fretRatty' added the Badger placidly. `My
passages run further than you thinkand I've bolt-holes to the
edge of the wood in several directionsthough I don't care for
everybody to know about them. When you really have to goyou
shall leave by one of my short cuts. Meantimemake yourself
easyand sit down again.'
The Rat was nevertheless still anxious to be off and attend to
his riverso the Badgertaking up his lantern againled the
way along a damp and airless tunnel that wound and dipped
part vaultedpart hewn through solid rockfor a weary distance
that seemed to be miles. At last daylight began to show itself
confusedly through tangled growth overhanging the mouth of the
passage; and the Badgerbidding them a hasty good-byepushed
them hurriedly through the openingmade everything look as
natural as possible againwith creepersbrushwoodand dead
They found themselves standing on the very edge of the Wild Wood.
Rocks and brambles and tree-roots behind themconfusedly heaped
and tangled; in fronta great space of quiet fieldshemmed by
lines of hedges black on the snowandfar aheada glint of the
familiar old riverwhile the wintry sun hung red and low on the
horizon. The Otteras knowing all the pathstook charge of the
partyand they trailed out on a bee-line for a distant stile.
Pausing there a moment and looking backthey saw the whole mass
of the Wild Wooddensemenacingcompactgrimly set in vast
white surroundings; simultaneously they turned and made swiftly
for homefor firelight and the familiar things it played on
for the voicesounding cheerily outside their windowof the
river that they knew and trusted in all its moodsthat never
made them afraid with any amazement.
As he hurried alongeagerly anticipating the moment when he
would be at home again among the things he knew and likedthe
Mole saw clearly that he was an animal of tilled field and hedgerow
linked to the ploughed furrowthe frequented pasturethe
lane of evening lingeringsthe cultivated garden-plot. For
others the asperitiesthe stubborn enduranceor the clash of
actual conflictthat went with Nature in the rough; he must be
wisemust keep to the pleasant places in which his lines were
laid and which held adventure enoughin their wayto last for a
The sheep ran huddling together against the hurdlesblowing out
thin nostrils and stamping with delicate fore-feettheir heads
thrown back and a light steam rising from the crowded sheep-pen
into the frosty airas the two animals hastened by in high
spiritswith much chatter and laughter. They were returning
across country after a long day's outing with Otterhunting and
exploring on the wide uplands where certain streams tributary to
their own River had their first small beginnings; and the shades
of the short winter day were closing in on themand they had
still some distance to go. Plodding at random across the plough
they had heard the sheep and had made for them; and nowleading
from the sheep-penthey found a beaten track that made walking a
lighter businessand respondedmoreoverto that small
inquiring something which all animals carry inside themsaying
unmistakably`Yesquite right; THIS leads home!'
`It looks as if we were coming to a village' said the Mole
somewhat dubiouslyslackening his paceas the trackthat had
in time become a path and then had developed into a lanenow
handed them over to the charge of a well-metalled road. The
animals did not hold with villagesand their own highways
thickly frequented as they weretook an independent course
regardless of churchpost officeor public-house.
`Ohnever mind!' said the Rat. `At this season of the year
they're all safe indoors by this timesitting round the fire;
menwomenand childrendogs and cats and all. We shall slip
through all rightwithout any bother or unpleasantnessand we
can have a look at them through their windows if you likeand
see what they're doing.'
The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little
village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall
of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky
orange-red on either side of the streetwhere the firelight
or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements
into the dark world without. Most of the low latticed windows
were innocent of blindsand to the lookers-in from outsidethe
inmatesgathered round the tea-tableabsorbed in handiworkor
talking with laughter and gesturehad each that happy grace
which is the last thing the skilled actor shall capture--the
natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of
observation. Moving at will from one theatre to anotherthe two
spectatorsso far from home themselveshad something of
wistfulness in their eyes as they watched a cat being strokeda
sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bedor a tired man
stretch and knock out his pipe on the end of a smouldering log.
But it was from one little windowwith its blind drawn downa
mere blank transparency on the nightthat the sense of home and
the little curtained world within walls--the larger stressful
world of outside Nature shut out and forgotten--most pulsated.
Close against the white blind hung a bird-cageclearly
silhouettedevery wireperchand appurtenance distinct and
recognisableeven to yesterday's dull-edged lump of sugar. On
the middle perch the fluffy occupanthead tucked well into
feathersseemed so near to them as to be easily strokedhad
they tried; even the delicate tips of his plumped-out plumage
pencilled plainly on the illuminated screen. As they lookedthe
sleepy little fellow stirred uneasilywokeshook himselfand
raised his head. They could see the gape of his tiny beak as he
yawned in a bored sort of waylooked roundand then settled his
head into his back againwhile the ruffled feathers gradually
subsided into perfect stillness. Then a gust of bitter wind took
them in the back of the necka small sting of frozen sleet on
the skin woke them as from a dreamand they knew their toes to
be cold and their legs tiredand their own home distant a weary
Once beyond the villagewhere the cottages ceased abruptlyon
either side of the road they could smell through the darkness the
friendly fields again; and they braced themselves for the last
long stretchthe home stretchthe stretch that we know is bound
to endsome timein the rattle of the door-latchthe sudden
firelightand the sight of familiar things greeting us as
long-absent travellers from far over-sea. They plodded along
steadily and silentlyeach of them thinking his own thoughts.
The Mole's ran a good deal on supperas it was pitch-darkand
it was all a strange country for him as far as he knewand he
was following obediently in the wake of the Ratleaving the
guidance entirely to him. As for the Rathe was walking a
little way aheadas his habit washis shoulders humpedhis
eyes fixed on the straight grey road in front of him; so he did
not notice poor Mole when suddenly the summons reached himand
took him like an electric shock.
We otherswho have long lost the more subtle of the physical
senseshave not even proper terms to express an animal's intercommunications
with his surroundingsliving or otherwiseand
have only the word `smell' for instanceto include the whole
range of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal
night and daysummoningwarning? incitingrepelling. It was
one of these mysterious fairy calls from out the void that
suddenly reached Mole in the darknessmaking him tingle through
and through with its very familiar appealeven while yet he
could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his
trackshis nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to
recapture the fine filamentthe telegraphic currentthat had so
strongly moved him. A momentand he had caught it again; and
with it this time came recollection in fullest flood.
Home! That was what they meantthose caressing appealsthose
soft touches wafted through the airthose invisible little hands
pulling and tuggingall one way! Whyit must be quite close by
him at that momenthis old home that he had hurriedly forsaken
and never sought againthat day when he first found the river!
And now it was sending out its scouts and its messengers to
capture him and bring him in. Since his escape on that bright
morning he had hardly given it a thoughtso absorbed had he been
in his new lifein all its pleasuresits surprisesits fresh
and captivating experiences. Nowwith a rush of old memories
how clearly it stood up before himin the darkness! Shabby
indeedand small and poorly furnishedand yet histhe home he
had made for himselfthe home he had been so happy to get back
to after his day's work. And the home had been happy with
himtooevidentlyand was missing himand wanted him back
and was telling him sothrough his nosesorrowfully
reproachfullybut with no bitterness or anger; only with
plaintive reminder that it was thereand wanted him.
The call was clearthe summons was plain. He must obey it
instantlyand go. `Ratty!' he calledfull of joyful
excitement`hold on! Come back! I want youquick!'
`OhCOME alongMoledo!' replied the Rat cheerfullystill
`PLEASE stopRatty!' pleaded the poor Molein anguish of
heart. `You don't understand! It's my homemy old home! I've
just come across the smell of itand it's close by herereally
quite close. And I MUST go to itI mustI must! Ohcome
backRatty! Pleaseplease come back!'
The Rat was by this time very far aheadtoo far to hear clearly
what the Mole was callingtoo far to catch the sharp note of
painful appeal in his voice. And he was much taken up with the
weatherfor he too could smell something--something suspiciously
like approaching snow.
`Molewe mustn't stop nowreally!' he called back. `We'll
come for it to-morrowwhatever it is you've found. But I
daren't stop now--it's lateand the snow's coming on againand
I'm not sure of the way! And I want your noseMoleso come on
quickthere's a good fellow!' And the Rat pressed forward on
his way without waiting for an answer.
Poor Mole stood alone in the roadhis heart torn asunderand a
big sob gatheringgatheringsomewhere low down inside himto
leap up to the surface presentlyhe knewin passionate escape.
But even under such a test as this his loyalty to his friend
stood firm. Never for a moment did he dream of abandoning him.
Meanwhilethe wafts from his old home pleadedwhispered
conjuredand finally claimed him imperiously. He dared not
tarry longer within their magic circle. With a wrench that tore
his very heartstrings he set his face down the road and followed
submissively in the track of the Ratwhile faintthin little
smellsstill dogging his retreating nosereproached him for his
new friendship and his callous forgetfulness.
With an effort he caught up to the unsuspecting Ratwho began
chattering cheerfully about what they would do when they got
backand how jolly a fire of logs in the parlour would be
and what a supper he meant to eat; never noticing his companion's
silence and distressful state of mind. At lasthoweverwhen
they had gone some considerable way furtherand were passing
some tree-stumps at the edge of a copse that bordered the road
he stopped and said kindly`Look hereMole old chapyou seem
dead tired. No talk left in youand your feet dragging like
lead. We'll sit down here for a minute and rest. The snow has
held off so farand the best part of our journey is over.'
The Mole subsided forlornly on a tree-stump and tried to control
himselffor he felt it surely coming. The sob he had fought
with so long refused to be beaten. Up and upit forced its way
to the airand then anotherand anotherand others thick and
fast; till poor Mole at last gave up the struggleand cried
freely and helplessly and openlynow that he knew it was all
over and he had lost what he could hardly be said to have found.
The Ratastonished and dismayed at the violence of Mole's
paroxysm of griefdid not dare to speak for a while. At last he
saidvery quietly and sympathetically`What is itold
fellow? Whatever can be the matter? Tell us your troubleand
let me see what I can do.'
Poor Mole found it difficult to get any words out between the
upheavals of his chest that followed one upon another so quickly
and held back speech and choked it as it came. `I know it's a-shabby
dingy little place' he sobbed forth at lastbrokenly:
`not like--your cosy quarters--or Toad's beautiful hall--or
Badger's great house--but it was my own little home--and I was
fond of it--and I went away and forgot all about it--and then I
smelt it suddenly--on the roadwhen I called and you wouldn't
listenRat--and everything came back to me with a rush--and I
WANTED it!--O dearO dear!--and when you WOULDN'T turn
backRatty--and I had to leave itthough I was smelling it all
the time--I thought my heart would break.--We might have just
gone and had one look at itRatty--only one look--it was close
by--but you wouldn't turn backRattyyou wouldn't turn back! O
Recollection brought fresh waves of sorrowand sobs again
took full charge of himpreventing further speech.
The Rat stared straight in front of himsaying nothingonly
patting Mole gently on the shoulder. After a time he muttered
gloomily`I see it all now! What a PIG I have been! A pig-that's
me! Just a pig--a plain pig!'
He waited till Mole's sobs became gradually less stormy and more
rhythmical; he waited till at last sniffs were frequent and sobs
only intermittent. Then he rose from his seatandremarking
carelessly`Wellnow we'd really better be getting onold
chap!' set off up the road againover the toilsome way they had
`Wherever are you (hic) going to (hic)Ratty?' cried the tearful
Molelooking up in alarm.
`We're going to find that home of yoursold fellow' replied the
Rat pleasantly; `so you had better come alongfor it will take
some findingand we shall want your nose.'
`Ohcome backRattydo!' cried the Molegetting up and
hurrying after him. `It's no goodI tell you! It's too late
and too darkand the place is too far offand the snow's
coming! And--and I never meant to let you know I was feeling
that way about it--it was all an accident and a mistake! And
think of River Bankand your supper!'
`Hang River Bankand supper too!' said the Rat heartily. `I
tell youI'm going to find this place nowif I stay out all
night. So cheer upold chapand take my armand we'll very
soon be back there again.'
Still snufflingpleadingand reluctantMole suffered himself
to be dragged back along the road by his imperious companionwho
by a flow of cheerful talk and anecdote endeavoured to beguile
his spirits back and make the weary way seem shorter. When at
last it seemed to the Rat that they must be nearing that part of
the road where the Mole had been `held up' he said`Nowno
more talking. Business! Use your noseand give your mind to
They moved on in silence for some little waywhen suddenly the
Rat was consciousthrough his arm that was linked in Mole'sof
a faint sort of electric thrill that was passing down that
animal's body. Instantly he disengaged himselffell back a
paceand waitedall attention.
The signals were coming through!
Mole stood a moment rigidwhile his uplifted nosequivering
slightlyfelt the air.
Then a shortquick run forward--a fault--a check--a try back;
and then a slowsteadyconfident advance.
The Ratmuch excitedkept close to his heels as the Molewith
something of the air of a sleep-walkercrossed a dry ditch
scrambled through a hedgeand nosed his way over a field open
and trackless and bare in the faint starlight.
Suddenlywithout giving warninghe dived; but the Rat was on
the alertand promptly followed him down the tunnel to which his
unerring nose had faithfully led him.
It was close and airlessand the earthy smell was strongand it
seemed a long time to Rat ere the passage ended and he could
stand erect and stretch and shake himself. The Mole struck a
matchand by its light the Rat saw that they were standing in an
open spaceneatly swept and sanded underfootand directly
facing them was Mole's little front doorwith `Mole End'
paintedin Gothic letteringover the bell-pull at the side.
Mole reached down a lantern from a nail on the wail and lit it
and the Ratlooking round himsaw that they were in a sort of
fore-court. A garden-seat stood on one side of the doorand on
the other a roller; for the Molewho was a tidy animal when at
homecould not stand having his ground kicked up by other
animals into little runs that ended in earth-heaps. On the walls
hung wire baskets with ferns in themalternating with brackets
carrying plaster statuary--Garibaldiand the infant Samueland
Queen Victoriaand other heroes of modern Italy. Down on one
side of the forecourt ran a skittle-alleywith benches along it
and little wooden tables marked with rings that hinted at beermugs.
In the middle was a small round pond containing gold-fish
and surrounded by a cockle-shell border. Out of the centre of
the pond rose a fanciful erection clothed in more cockle-shells
and topped by a large silvered glass ball that reflected
everything all wrong and had a very pleasing effect.
Mole's face-beamed at the sight of all these objects so dear to
himand he hurried Rat through the doorlit a lamp in the
halland took one glance round his old home. He saw the dust
lying thick on everythingsaw the cheerlessdeserted look of
the long-neglected houseand its narrowmeagre dimensionsits
worn and shabby contents--and collapsed again on a hall-chair
his nose to his paws. `O Ratty!' he cried dismally`why ever
did I do it? Why did I bring you to this poorcold little
placeon a night like thiswhen you might have been at River
Bank by this timetoasting your toes before a blazing firewith
all your own nice things about you!'
The Rat paid no heed to his doleful self-reproaches. He was
running here and thereopening doorsinspecting rooms and
cupboardsand lighting lamps and candles and sticking themup
everywhere. `What a capital little house this is!' he called out
cheerily. `So compact! So well planned! Everything here and
everything in its place! We'll make a jolly night of it. The
first thing we want is a good fire; I'll see to that--I always
know where to find things. So this is the parlour? Splendid!
Your own ideathose little sleeping-bunks in the wall? Capital!
NowI'll fetch the wood and the coalsand you get a
dusterMole--you'll find one in the drawer of the kitchen
table--and try and smarten things up a bit. Bustle aboutold
Encouraged by his inspiriting companionthe Mole roused himself
and dusted and polished with energy and heartinesswhile the
Ratrunning to and fro with armfuls of fuelsoon had a cheerful
blaze roaring up the chimney. He hailed the Mole to come and
warm himself; but Mole promptly had another fit of the blues
dropping down on a couch in dark despair and burying his face in
his duster. `Rat' he moaned`how about your supperyou poor
coldhungryweary animal? I've nothing to give you--nothing-not
`What a fellow you are for giving in!' said the Rat
reproachfully. `Whyonly just now I saw a sardine-opener on the
kitchen dresserquite distinctly; and everybody knows that means
there are sardines about somewhere in the neighbourhood. Rouse
yourself! pull yourself togetherand come with me and forage.'
They went and foraged accordinglyhunting through every cupboard
and turning out every drawer. The result was not so very
depressing after allthough of course it might have been
better; a tin of sardines--a box of captain's biscuitsnearly
full--and a German sausage encased in silver paper.
`There's a banquet for you!' observed the Ratas he arranged the
table. `I know some animals who would give their ears to be
sitting down to supper with us to-night!'
`No bread!' groaned the Mole dolorously; `no butterno----'
`No pate de foie grasno champagne!' continued the Rat
grinning. `And that reminds me--what's that little door at the
end of the passage? Your cellarof course! Every luxury in
this house! Just you wait a minute.'
He made for the cellar-doorand presently reappearedsomewhat
dustywith a bottle of beer in each paw and another under each
arm`Self-indulgent beggar you seem to beMole' he observed.
`Deny yourself nothing. This is really the jolliest little place
I ever was in. Nowwherever did you pick up those prints? Make
the place look so home-likethey do. No wonder you're so fond
of itMole. Tell us all about itand how you came to make it
what it is.'
Thenwhile the Rat busied himself fetching platesand knives
and forksand mustard which he mixed in an egg-cupthe Mole
his bosom still heaving with the stress of his recent emotion
related--somewhat shyly at firstbut with more freedom as he
warmed to his subject--how this was plannedand how that was
thought outand how this was got through a windfall from an
auntand that was a wonderful find and a bargainand this other
thing was bought out of laborious savings and a certain amount of
`going without.' His spirits finally quite restoredhe must
needs go and caress his possessionsand take a lamp and show off
their points to his visitor and expatiate on themquite
forgetful of the supper they both so much needed; Ratwho was
desperately hungry but strove to conceal itnodding seriously
examining with a puckered browand saying`wonderful' and
`most remarkable' at intervalswhen the chance for an
observation was given him.
At last the Rat succeeded in decoying him to the tableand had
just got seriously to work with the sardine-opener when sounds
were heard from the fore-court without--sounds like the
scuffling of small feet in the gravel and a confused murmur
of tiny voiceswhile broken sentences reached them--`Nowall in
a line--hold the lantern up a bitTommy--clear your throats
first--no coughing after I say onetwothree.--Where's young
Bill?--Herecome ondowe're all a-waiting----'
`What's up?' inquired the Ratpausing in his labours.
`I think it must be the field-mice' replied the Molewith a
touch of pride in his manner. `They go round carol-singing
regularly at this time of the year. They're quite an institution
in these parts. And they never pass me over--they come to Mole
End last of all; and I used to give them hot drinksand supper
too sometimeswhen I could afford it. It will be like old times
to hear them again.'
`Let's have a look at them!' cried the Ratjumping up and
running to the door.
It was a pretty sightand a seasonable onethat met their eyes
when they flung the door open. In the fore-courtlit by the dim
rays of a horn lanternsome eight or ten little fieldmice stood
in a semicirclered worsted comforters round their throats
their fore-paws thrust deep into their pocketstheir feet
jigging for warmth. With bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at
each othersniggering a littlesniffing and applying coat-
sleeves a good deal. As the door openedone of the elder ones
that carried the lantern was just saying`Now thenonetwo
three!' and forthwith their shrill little voices uprose on the
airsinging one of the old-time carols that their forefathers
composed in fields that were fallow and held by frostor when
snow-bound in chimney cornersand handed down to be sung in the
miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yule-time.
Villagers allthis frosty tide
Let your doors swing open wide
Though wind may followand 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 thatchand litter below!
Joy was hers in the morning!
And then they heard the angels tell
`Who were the first to cry NOWELL?
Animals allas it befell
In the stable where they did dwell!
Joy shall be theirs in the morning!'
The voices ceasedthe singersbashful but smilingexchanged
sidelong glancesand silence succeeded--but for a moment only.
Thenfrom up above and far awaydown the tunnel they had so
lately travelled was borne to their ears in a faint musical hum
the sound of distant bells ringing a joyful and clangorous peal.
`Very well sungboys!' cried the Rat heartily. `And now come
along inall of youand warm yourselves by the fireand have
`Yescome alongfield-mice' cried the Mole eagerly. `This is
quite like old times! Shut the door after you. Pull up that
settle to the fire. Nowyou just wait a minutewhile we--O
Ratty!' he cried in despairplumping down on a seatwith tears
impending. `Whatever are we doing? We've nothing to give them!'
`You leave all that to me' said the masterful Rat. `Hereyou
with the lantern! Come over this way. I want to talk to you.
Nowtell meare there any shops open at this hour of the
`Whycertainlysir' replied the field-mouse respectfully. `At
this time of the year our shops keep open to all sorts of hours.'
`Then look here!' said the Rat. `You go off at onceyou and
your lanternand you get me----'
Here much muttered conversation ensuedand the Mole only heard
bits of itsuch as--`Freshmind!--noa pound of that will do-see
you get Buggins'sfor I won't have any other--noonly the
best--if you can't get it theretry somewhere else--yesof
coursehome-madeno tinned stuff--well thendo the best you
can!' Finallythere was a chink of coin passing from paw to
pawthe field-mouse was provided with an ample basket for his
purchasesand off he hurriedhe and his lantern.
The rest of the field-miceperched in a row on the settletheir
small legs swinginggave themselves up to enjoyment of the fire
and toasted their chilblains till they tingled; while the
Molefailing to draw them into easy conversationplunged into
family history and made each of them recite the names of his
numerous brotherswho were too youngit appearedto be allowed
to go out a-carolling this yearbut looked forward very shortly
to winning the parental consent.
The Ratmeanwhilewas busy examining the label on one of the
beer-bottles. `I perceive this to be Old Burton' he remarked
approvingly. `SENSIBLE Mole! The very thing! Now we shall
be able to mull some ale! Get the things readyMolewhile I
draw the corks.'
It did not take long to prepare the brew and thrust the tin
heater well into the red heart of the fire; and soon every fieldmouse
was sipping and coughing and choking (for a little mulled
ale goes a long way) and wiping his eyes and laughing and
forgetting he had ever been cold in all his life.
`They act plays toothese fellows' the Mole explained to the
Rat. `Make them up all by themselvesand act them afterwards.
And very well they do ittoo! They gave us a capital one last
yearabout a field-mouse who was captured at sea by a
Barbary corsairand made to row in a galley; and when he escaped
and got home againhis lady-love had gone into a convent. Here
YOU! You were in itI remember. Get up and recite a bit.'
The field-mouse addressed got up on his legsgiggled shyly
looked round the roomand remained absolutely tongue-tied. His
comrades cheered him onMole coaxed and encouraged himand the
Rat went so far as to take him by the shoulders and shake him;
but nothing could overcome his stage-fright. They were all
busily engaged on him like watermen applying the Royal Humane
Society's regulations to a case of long submersionwhen the
latch clickedthe door openedand the field-mouse with the
lantern reappearedstaggering under the weight of his basket.
There was no more talk of play-acting once the very real and
solid contents of the basket had been tumbled out on the table.
Under the generalship of Rateverybody was set to do something
or to fetch something. In a very few minutes supper was ready
and Moleas he took the head of the table in a sort of a dream
saw a lately barren board set thick with savoury comforts;
saw his little friends' faces brighten and beam as they fell to
without delay; and then let himself loose--for he was famished
indeed--on the provender so magically providedthinking what a
happy home-coming this had turned outafter all. As they ate
they talked of old timesand the field-mice gave him the local
gossip up to dateand answered as well as they could the hundred
questions he had to ask them. The Rat said little or nothing
only taking care that each guest had what he wantedand plenty
of itand that Mole had no trouble or anxiety about anything.
They clattered off at lastvery grateful and showering wishes of
the seasonwith their jacket pockets stuffed with remembrances
for the small brothers and sisters at home. When the door had
closed on the last of them and the chink of the lanterns had died
awayMole and Rat kicked the fire updrew their chairs in
brewed themselves a last nightcap of mulled aleand discussed
the events of the long day. At last the Ratwith a tremendous
yawnsaid`Moleold chapI'm ready to drop. Sleepy is simply
not the word. That your own bunk over on that side? Very well
thenI'll take this. What a ripping little house this is!
Everything so handy!'
He clambered into his bunk and rolled himself well up in the
blanketsand slumber gathered him forthwithas a swathe of
barley is folded into the arms of the reaping machine.
The weary Mole also was glad to turn in without delayand soon
had his head on his pillowin great joy and contentment. But
ere he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room
mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on
familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a
part of himand now smilingly received him backwithout
rancour. He was now in just the frame of mind that the tactful
Rat had quietly worked to bring about in him. He saw clearly how
plain and simple--how narroweven--it all was; but clearlytoo
how much it all meant to himand the special value of some such
anchorage in one's existence. He did not at all want to abandon
the new life and its splendid spacesto turn his back on sun and
air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the
upper world was all too strongit called to him stilleven down
thereand he knew he must return to the larger stage. But
it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place
which was all his ownthese things which were so glad to see him
again and could always be counted upon for the same simple
It was a bright morning in the early part of summer; the river
had resumed its wonted banks and its accustomed paceand a hot
sun seemed to be pulling everything green and bushy and spiky up
out of the earth towards himas if by strings. The Mole and the
Water Rat had been up since dawnvery busy on matters connected
with boats and the opening of the boating season; painting and
varnishingmending paddlesrepairing cushionshunting for
missing boat-hooksand so on; and were finishing breakfast in
their little parlour and eagerly discussing their plans for the
daywhen a heavy knock sounded at the door.
`Bother!' said the Ratall over egg. `See who it isMolelike
a good chapsince you've finished.'
The Mole went to attend the summonsand the Rat heard
him utter a cry of surprise. Then he flung the parlour door
openand announced with much importance`Mr. Badger!'
This was a wonderful thingindeedthat the Badger should pay a
formal call on themor indeed on anybody. He generally had to
be caughtif you wanted him badlyas he slipped quietly along a
hedgerow of an early morning or a late eveningor else hunted up
in his own house in the middle of the Woodwhich was a serious
The Badger strode heavily into the roomand stood looking at the
two animals with an expression full of seriousness. The Rat let
his egg-spoon fall on the table-clothand sat open-mouthed.
`The hour has come!' said the Badger at last with great
`What hour?' asked the Rat uneasilyglancing at the clock on the
`WHOSE houryou should rather say' replied the Badger.
`WhyToad's hour! The hour of Toad! I said I would take him in
hand as soon as the winter was well overand I'm going to take
him in hand to-day!'
`Toad's hourof course!' cried the Mole delightedly.
`Hooray! I remember now! WE'LL teach him to be a sensible
`This very morning' continued the Badgertaking an arm-chair
`as I learnt last night from a trustworthy sourceanother new
and exceptionally powerful motor-car will arrive at Toad Hall on
approval or return. At this very momentperhapsToad is busy
arraying himself in those singularly hideous habiliments so dear
to himwhich transform him from a (comparatively) good-looking
Toad into an Object which throws any decent-minded animal that
comes across it into a violent fit. We must be up and doingere
it is too late. You two animals will accompany me instantly to
Toad Halland the work of rescue shall be accomplished.'
`Right you are!' cried the Ratstarting up. `We'll rescue the
poor unhappy animal! We'll convert him! He'll be the most
converted Toad that ever was before we've done with him!'
They set off up the road on their mission of mercyBadger
leading the way. Animals when in company walk in a proper and
sensible mannerin single fileinstead of sprawling all
across the road and being of no use or support to each other
in case of sudden trouble or danger.
They reached the carriage-drive of Toad Hall to findas the
Badger had anticipateda shiny new motor-carof great size
painted a bright red (Toad's favourite colour)standing in front
of the house. As they neared the door it was flung openand Mr.
Toadarrayed in gogglescapgaitersand enormous overcoat
came swaggering down the stepsdrawing on his gauntleted gloves.
`Hullo! come onyou fellows!' he cried cheerfully on catching
sight of them. `You're just in time to come with me for a
jolly--to come for a jolly--for a--er--jolly----'
His hearty accents faltered and fell away as he noticed the stern
unbending look on the countenances of his silent friendsand his
invitation remained unfinished.
The Badger strode up the steps. `Take him inside' he said
sternly to his companions. Thenas Toad was hustled through the
doorstruggling and protestinghe turned to the chauffeur in
charge of the new motor-car.
`I'm afraid you won't be wanted to-day' he said. `Mr. Toad
has changed his mind. He will not require the car. Please
understand that this is final. You needn't wait.' Then he
followed the others inside and shut the door.
`Now then!' he said to the Toadwhen the four of them stood
together in the Hall`first of alltake those ridiculous things
`Shan't!' replied Toadwith great spirit. `What is the meaning
of this gross outrage? I demand an instant explanation.'
`Take them off himthenyou two' ordered the Badger briefly.
They had to lay Toad out on the floorkicking and calling all
sorts of namesbefore they could get to work properly. Then the
Rat sat on himand the Mole got his motor-clothes off him bit by
bitand they stood him up on his legs again. A good deal of his
blustering spirit seemed to have evaporated with the removal of
his fine panoply. Now that he was merely Toadand no longer the
Terror of the Highwayhe giggled feebly and looked from one to
the other appealinglyseeming quite to understand the situation.
`You knew it must come to thissooner or laterToad' the
Badger explained severely.
You've disregarded all the warnings we've given youyou've gone
on squandering the money your father left youand you're getting
us animals a bad name in the district by your furious driving and
your smashes and your rows with the police. Independence is all
very wellbut we animals never allow our friends to make fools
of themselves beyond a certain limit; and that limit you've
reached. Nowyou're a good fellow in many respectsand I don't
want to be too hard on you. I'll make one more effort to bring
you to reason. You will come with me into the smoking-roomand
there you will hear some facts about yourself; and we'll see
whether you come out of that room the same Toad that you went
He took Toad firmly by the armled him into the smoking-room
and closed the door behind them.
`THAT'S no good!' said the Rat contemptuously. `TALKING to
Toad'll never cure him. He'll SAY anything.'
They made themselves comfortable in armchairs and waited
patiently. Through the closed door they could just hear the long
continuous drone of the Badger's voicerising and falling
in waves of oratory; and presently they noticed that the sermon
began to be punctuated at intervals by long-drawn sobsevidently
proceeding from the bosom of Toadwho was a soft-hearted and
affectionate fellowvery easily converted--for the time being-to
any point of view.
After some three-quarters of an hour the door openedand the
Badger reappearedsolemnly leading by the paw a very limp and
dejected Toad. His skin hung baggily about himhis legs
wobbledand his cheeks were furrowed by the tears so plentifully
called forth by the Badger's moving discourse.
`Sit down thereToad' said the Badger kindlypointing to a
chair. `My friends' he went on`I am pleased to inform you
that Toad has at last seen the error of his ways. He is truly
sorry for his misguided conduct in the pastand he has
undertaken to give up motor-cars entirely and for ever. I have
his solemn promise to that effect.'
`That is very good news' said the Mole gravely.
`Very good news indeed' observed the Rat dubiously`if only-IF
He was looking very hard at Toad as he said thisand could not
help thinking he perceived something vaguely resembling a twinkle
in that animal's still sorrowful eye.
`There's only one thing more to be done' continued the gratified
Badger. `ToadI want you solemnly to repeatbefore your
friends herewhat you fully admitted to me in the smoking-room
just now. Firstyou are sorry for what you've doneand you see
the folly of it all?'
There was a longlong pause. Toad looked desperately this way
and thatwhile the other animals waited in grave silence. At
last he spoke.
`No!' he saida little sullenlybut stoutly; `I'm NOT sorry.
And it wasn't folly at all! It was simply glorious!'
`What?' cried the Badgergreatly scandalised. `You backsliding
animaldidn't you tell me just nowin there----'
`Ohyesyesin THERE' said Toad impatiently. `I'd have
said anything in THERE. You're so eloquentdear Badgerand
so movingand so convincingand put all your points so
frightfully well--you can do what you like with me in
THEREand you know it. But I've been searching my mind
sinceand going over things in itand I find that I'm not a bit
sorry or repentant reallyso it's no earthly good saying I am;
`Then you don't promise' said the Badger`never to touch a
`Certainly not!' replied Toad emphatically. `On the contraryI
faithfully promise that the very first motor-car I seepooppoop!
off I go in it!'
`Told you sodidn't I?' observed the Rat to the Mole.
`Very wellthen' said the Badger firmlyrising to his feet.
`Since you won't yield to persuasionwe'll try what force can
do. I feared it would come to this all along. You've often
asked us three to come and stay with youToadin this handsome
house of yours; wellnow we're going to. When we've converted
you to a proper point of view we may quitbut not before. Take
him upstairsyou twoand lock him up in his bedroomwhile we
arrange matters between ourselves.'
`It's for your own goodToadyyou know' said the Rat kindly
as Toadkicking and strugglingwas hauled up the stairs by
his two faithful friends. `Think what fun we shall all have
togetherjust as we used towhen you've quite got over this-this
painful attack of yours!'
`We'll take great care of everything for you till you're well
Toad' said the Mole; `and we'll see your money isn't wastedas
it has been.'
`No more of those regrettable incidents with the policeToad'
said the Ratas they thrust him into his bedroom.
`And no more weeks in hospitalbeing ordered about by female
nursesToad' added the Moleturning the key on him.
They descended the stairToad shouting abuse at them through the
keyhole; and the three friends then met in conference on the
`It's going to be a tedious business' said the Badgersighing.
`I've never seen Toad so determined. Howeverwe will see it
out. He must never be left an instant unguarded. We shall have
to take it in turns to be with himtill the poison has worked
itself out of his system.'
They arranged watches accordingly. Each animal took it in turns
to sleep in Toad's room at nightand they divided the day up
between them. At first Toad was undoubtedly very trying to his
careful guardians. When his violent paroxysms possessed him he
would arrange bedroom chairs in rude resemblance of a motor-car
and would crouch on the foremost of thembent forward and
staring fixedly aheadmaking uncouth and ghastly noisestill
the climax was reachedwhenturning a complete somersaulthe
would lie prostrate amidst the ruins of the chairsapparently
completely satisfied for the moment. As time passedhowever
these painful seizures grew gradually less frequentand his
friends strove to divert his mind into fresh channels. But his
interest in other matters did not seem to reviveand he grew
apparently languid and depressed.
One fine morning the Ratwhose turn it was to go on dutywent
upstairs to relieve Badgerwhom he found fidgeting to be off and
stretch his legs in a long ramble round his wood and down his
earths and burrows. `Toad's still in bed' he told the Rat
outside the door. `Can't get much out of himexceptO leave
him alone, he wants nothing, perhaps he'll be better
presently, it may pass off in time, don't be unduly anxious,and
so on. Nowyou look outRat! When Toad's quiet and submissive
and playing at being the hero of a Sunday-school prizethen he's
at his artfullest. There's sure to be something up. I know him.
WellnowI must be off.'
`How are you to-dayold chap?' inquired the Rat cheerfullyas
he approached Toad's bedside.
He had to wait some minutes for an answer. At last a feeble
voice replied`Thank you so muchdear Ratty! So good of you to
inquire! But first tell me how you are yourselfand the
`OWE'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 timeso you and I will spend a pleasant
morning togetherand I'll do my best to amuse you. Now jump up
there's a good fellowand don't lie moping there on a fine
morning like this!'
`Dearkind Rat' murmured Toad`how little you realise my
conditionand how very far I am from "jumping up" now--if ever!
But do not trouble about me. I hate being a burden to my
friendsand I do not expect to be one much longer. IndeedI
almost hope not.'
`WellI hope nottoo' said the Rat heartily. `You've been a
fine bother to us all this timeand I'm glad to hear it's going
to stop. And in weather like thisand the boating season just
beginning! It's too bad of youToad! It isn't the trouble we
mindbut you're making us miss such an awful lot.'
`I'm afraid it IS the trouble you mindthough' replied the
Toad languidly. `I can quite understand it. It's natural
enough. You're tired of bothering about me. I mustn't ask you
to do anything further. I'm a nuisanceI know.'
`You areindeed' said the Rat. `But I tell youI'd take any
trouble on earth for youif only you'd be a sensible animal.'
`If I thought thatRatty' murmured Toadmore feebly than ever
`then I would beg you--for the last timeprobably--to step round
to the village as quickly as possible--even now it may be too
late--and fetch the doctor. But don't you bother. It's only a
troubleand perhaps we may as well let things take their
`Whywhat do you want a doctor for?' inquired the Ratcoming
closer and examining him. He certainly lay very still and flat
and his voice was weaker and his manner much changed.
`Surely you have noticed of late----' murmured Toad. `Butno-why
should you? Noticing things is only a trouble. To-morrow
indeedyou may be saying to yourselfO, if only I had noticed
sooner! If only I had done something!But no; it's a trouble.
Never mind--forget that I asked.'
`Look hereold man' said the Ratbeginning to get rather
alarmed`of course I'll fetch a doctor to youif you really
think you want him. But you can hardly be bad enough for that
yet. Let's talk about something else.'
`I feardear friend' said Toadwith a sad smile`that "talk"
can do little in a case like this--or doctors eitherfor that
matter; stillone must grasp at the slightest straw. Andby
the way--while you are about it--I HATE to give you additional
troublebut I happen to remember that you will pass the door-would
you mind at the same time asking the lawyer to step up? It
would be a convenience to meand there are moments--perhaps
I should say there is A moment--when one must face
disagreeable tasksat whatever cost to exhausted nature!'
`A lawyer! Ohe must be really bad!' the affrighted Rat said to
himselfas he hurried from the roomnot forgettinghoweverto
lock the door carefully behind him.
Outsidehe stopped to consider. The other two were far away
and he had no one to consult.
`It's best to be on the safe side' he saidon reflection.
`I've known Toad fancy himself frightfully bad beforewithout
the slightest reason; but I've never heard him ask for a lawyer!
If there's nothing really the matterthe doctor will tell him
he's an old assand cheer him up; and that will be something
gained. I'd better humour him and go; it won't take very long.'
So he ran off to the village on his errand of mercy.
The Toadwho had hopped lightly out of bed as soon as he heard
the key turned in the lockwatched him eagerly from the window
till he disappeared down the carriage-drive. Thenlaughing
heartilyhe dressed as quickly as possible in the smartest
suit he could lay hands on at the momentfilled his pockets with
cash which he took from a small drawer in the dressing-tableand
nextknotting the sheets from his bed together and tying one end
of the improvised rope round the central mullion of the handsome
Tudor window which formed such a feature of his bedroomhe
scrambled outslid lightly to the groundandtaking the
opposite direction to the Ratmarched off lightheartedly
whistling a merry tune.
It was a gloomy luncheon for Rat when the Badger and the Mole at
length returnedand he had to face them at table with his
pitiful and unconvincing story. The Badger's causticnot to say
brutalremarks may be imaginedand therefore passed over; but
it was painful to the Rat that even the Molethough he took his
friend's side as far as possiblecould not help saying`You've
been a bit of a duffer this timeRatty! Toadtooof all
`He did it awfully well' said the crestfallen Rat.
`He did YOU awfully well!' rejoined the Badger hotly.
`Howevertalking won't mend matters. He's got clear away for
the timethat's certain; and the worst of it ishe'll be
so conceited with what he'll think is his cleverness that he may
commit any folly. One comfort iswe're free nowand needn't
waste any more of our precious time doing sentry-go. But we'd
better continue to sleep at Toad Hall for a while longer. Toad
may be brought back at any moment--on a stretcheror between two
So spoke the Badgernot knowing what the future held in store
or how much waterand of how turbid a characterwas to run
under bridges before Toad should sit at ease again in his
MeanwhileToadgay and irresponsiblewas walking briskly along
the high roadsome miles from home. At first he had taken bypaths
and crossed many fieldsand changed his course several
timesin case of pursuit; but nowfeeling by this time safe
from recaptureand the sun smiling brightly on himand all
Nature joining in a chorus of approval to the song of self-praise
that his own heart was singing to himhe almost danced along the
road in his satisfaction and conceit.
`Smart piece of work that!' he remarked to himself chuckling.
`Brain against brute force--and brain came out on the top--as
it's bound to do. Poor old Ratty! My! won't he catch it when
the Badger gets back! A worthy fellowRattywith many good
qualitiesbut very little intelligence and absolutely no
education. I must take him in hand some dayand see if I can
make something of him.'
Filled full of conceited thoughts such as these he strode along
his head in the airtill he reached a little townwhere the
sign of `The Red Lion' swinging across the road halfway down the
main streetreminded him that he had not breakfasted that day
and that he was exceedingly hungry after his long walk. He
marched into the Innordered the best luncheon that could be
provided at so short a noticeand sat down to eat it in the
He was about half-way through his meal when an only too familiar
soundapproaching down the streetmade him start and fall atrembling
all over. The poop-poop! drew nearer and nearerthe
car could be heard to turn into the inn-yard and come to a stop
and Toad had to hold on to the leg of the table to conceal
his over-mastering emotion. Presently the party entered the
coffee-roomhungrytalkativeand gayvoluble on their
experiences of the morning and the merits of the chariot that had
brought them along so well. Toad listened eagerlyall earsfor
a time; at last he could stand it no longer. He slipped out of
the room quietlypaid his bill at the barand as soon as he got
outside sauntered round quietly to the inn-yard. `There cannot
be any harm' he said to himself`in my only just LOOKING at
The car stood in the middle of the yardquite unattendedthe
stable-helps and other hangers-on being all at their dinner.
Toad walked slowly round itinspectingcriticisingmusing
`I wonder' he said to himself presently`I wonder if this sort
of car STARTS easily?'
Next momenthardly knowing how it came abouthe found he had
hold of the handle and was turning it. As the familiar sound
broke forththe old passion seized on Toad and completely
mastered himbody and soul. As if in a dream he found himself
somehowseated in the driver's seat; as if in a dreamhe
pulled the lever and swung the car round the yard and out through
the archway; andas if in a dreamall sense of right and wrong
all fear of obvious consequencesseemed temporarily suspended.
He increased his paceand as the car devoured the street and
leapt forth on the high road through the open countryhe was
only conscious that he was Toad once moreToad at his best and
highestToad the terrorthe traffic-quellerthe Lord of the
lone trailbefore whom all must give way or be smitten into
nothingness and everlasting night. He chanted as he flewand
the car responded with sonorous drone; the miles were eaten up
under him as he sped he knew not whitherfulfilling his
instinctsliving his hourreckless of what might come to him.
* * * * * *
`To my mind' observed the Chairman of the Bench of Magistrates
cheerfully`the ONLY difficulty that presents itself in this
otherwise very clear case ishow we can possibly make it
sufficiently hot for the incorrigible rogue and hardened ruffian
whom we see cowering in the dock before us. Let me see: he has
been found guiltyon the clearest evidencefirstof
stealing a valuable motor-car; secondlyof driving to the public
danger; andthirdlyof gross impertinence to the rural police.
Mr. Clerkwill you tell uspleasewhat is the very stiffest
penalty we can impose for each of these offences? Withoutof
coursegiving the prisoner the benefit of any doubtbecause
there isn't any.'
The Clerk scratched his nose with his pen. `Some people would
consider' he observed`that stealing the motor-car was the
worst offence; and so it is. But cheeking the police undoubtedly
carries the severest penalty; and so it ought. Supposing you
were to say twelve months for the theftwhich is mild; and three
years for the furious drivingwhich is lenient; and fifteen
years for the cheekwhich was pretty bad sort of cheekjudging
by what we've heard from the witness-boxeven if you only
believe one-tenth part of what you heardand I never believe
more myself--those figuresif added together correctlytot up
to nineteen years----'
`First-rate!' said the Chairman.
`--So you had better make it a round twenty years and be on
the safe side' concluded the Clerk.
`An excellent suggestion!' said the Chairman approvingly.
`Prisoner! Pull yourself together and try and stand up straight.
It's going to be twenty years for you this time. And mindif
you appear before us againupon any charge whateverwe shall
have to deal with you very seriously!'
Then the brutal minions of the law fell upon the hapless Toad;
loaded him with chainsand dragged him from the Court House
shriekingprayingprotesting; across the marketplacewhere the
playful populacealways as severe upon detected crime as they
are sympathetic and helpful when one is merely `wanted' assailed
him with jeerscarrotsand popular catch-words; past hooting
school childrentheir innocent faces lit up with the pleasure
they ever derive from the sight of a gentleman in difficulties;
across the hollow-sounding drawbridgebelow the spiky
portcullisunder the frowning archway of the grim old castle
whose ancient towers soared high overhead; past guardrooms full
of grinning soldiery off dutypast sentries who coughed in a
horridsarcastic waybecause that is as much as a sentry
on his post dare do to show his contempt and abhorrence of crime;
up time-worn winding stairspast men-at-arms in casquet and
corselet of steeldarting threatening looks through their
vizards; across courtyardswhere mastiffs strained at their
leash and pawed the air to get at him; past ancient warders
their halberds leant against the walldozing over a pasty and a
flagon of brown ale; on and onpast the rack-chamber and the
thumbscrew-roompast the turning that led to the private
scaffoldtill they reached the door of the grimmest dungeon that
lay in the heart of the innermost keep. There at last they
pausedwhere an ancient gaoler sat fingering a bunch of mighty
`Oddsbodikins!' said the sergeant of policetaking off his
helmet and wiping his forehead. `Rouse theeold loonand take
over from us this vile Toada criminal of deepest guilt and
matchless artfulness and resource. Watch and ward him with all
thy skill; and mark thee wellgreybeardshould aught untoward
befallthy old head shall answer for his--and a murrain on both
The gaoler nodded grimlylaying his withered hand on the
shoulder of the miserable Toad. The rusty key creaked in the
lockthe great door clanged behind them; and Toad was a helpless
prisoner in the remotest dungeon of the best-guarded keep of the
stoutest castle in all the length and breadth of Merry England.
THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN
The Willow-Wren was twittering his thin little songhidden
himself in the dark selvedge of the river bank. Though it was
past ten o'clock at nightthe sky still clung to and retained
some lingering skirts of light from the departed day; and the
sullen heats of the torrid afternoon broke up and rolled away at
the dispersing touch of the cool fingers of the short midsummer
night. Mole lay stretched on the bankstill panting from the
stress of the fierce day that had been cloudless from dawn to
late sunsetand waited for his friend to return. He had been on
the river with some companionsleaving the Water Rat free to
keep a engagement of long standing with Otter; and he had come
back to find the house dark and desertedand no sign of Ratwho
was doubtless keeping it up late with his old comrade.
It was still too hot to think of staying indoorsso he lay on
some cool dock-leavesand thought over the past day and its
doingsand how very good they all had been.
The Rat's light footfall was presently heard approaching over the
parched grass. `Othe blessed coolness!' he saidand sat down
gazing thoughtfully into the riversilent and pre-occupied.
`You stayed to supperof course?' said the Mole presently.
`Simply had to' said the Rat. `They wouldn't hear of my going
before. You know how kind they always are. And they made things
as jolly for me as ever they couldright up to the moment I
left. But I felt a brute all the timeas it was clear to me
they were very unhappythough they tried to hide it. MoleI'm
afraid they're in trouble. Little Portly is missing again; and
you know what a lot his father thinks of himthough he never
says much about it.'
`Whatthat child?' said the Mole lightly. `Wellsuppose he is;
why worry about it? He's always straying off and getting lost
and turning up again; he's so adventurous. But no harm ever
happens to him. Everybody hereabouts knows him and likes him
just as they do old Otterand you may be sure some animal or
other will come across him and bring him back again all right.
Whywe've found him ourselvesmiles from homeand quite selfpossessed
`Yes; but this time it's more serious' said the Rat gravely.
`He's been missing for some days nowand the Otters have hunted
everywherehigh and lowwithout finding the slightest trace.
And they've asked every animaltoofor miles aroundand no one
knows anything about him. Otter's evidently more anxious than
he'll admit. I got out of him that young Portly hasn't learnt to
swim very well yetand I can see he's thinking of the weir.
There's a lot of water coming down stillconsidering the time of
the yearand the place always had a fascination for the child.
And then there are--welltraps and things--YOU know. Otter's
not the fellow to be nervous about any son of his before it's
time. And now he IS nervous. When I lefthe came out with
me--said he wanted some airand talked about stretching his
legs. But I could see it wasn't thatso I drew him out and
pumped himand got it all from him at last. He was going to
spend the night watching by the ford. You know the place where
the old ford used to bein by-gone days before they built the
`I know it well' said the Mole. `But why should Otter choose to
`Wellit seems that it was there he gave Portly his first
swimming-lesson' continued the Rat. `From that shallow
gravelly spit near the bank. And it was there he used to teach
him fishingand there young Portly caught his first fishof
which he was so very proud. The child loved the spotand Otter
thinks that if he came wandering back from wherever he is--if he
IS anywhere by this timepoor little chap--he might make for
the ford he was so fond of; or if he came across it he'd remember
it welland stop there and playperhaps. So Otter goes there
every night and watches--on the chanceyou knowjust on the
They were silent for a timeboth thinking of the same thing--the
lonelyheart-sore animalcrouched by the fordwatching and
waitingthe long night through--on the chance.
`Wellwell' said the Rat presently`I suppose we ought to be
thinking about turning in.' But he never offered to move.
`Rat' said the Mole`I simply can't go and turn inand go to
sleepand DO nothingeven though there doesn't seem to be
anything to be done. We'll get the boat outand paddle up
stream. The moon will be up in an hour or soand then we will
search as well as we can--anyhowit will be better than going to
bed and doing NOTHING.'
`Just what I was thinking myself' said the Rat. `It's not the
sort of night for bed anyhow; and daybreak is not so very far
offand then we may pick up some news of him from early risers
as we go along.'
They got the boat outand the Rat took the scullspaddling with
caution. Out in midstreamthere was a clearnarrow track that
faintly reflected the sky; but wherever shadows fell on the water
from bankbushor treethey were as solid to all appearance as
the banks themselvesand the Mole had to steer with judgment
accordingly. Dark and deserted as it wasthe night was full of
small noisessong and chatter and rustlingtelling of the busy
little population who were up and aboutplying their trades
and vocations through the night till sunshine should fall on them
at last and send them off to their well-earned repose. The
water's own noisestoowere more apparent than by dayits
gurglings and `cloops' more unexpected and near at hand; and
constantly they started at what seemed a sudden clear call from
an actual articulate voice.
The line of the horizon was clear and hard against the skyand
in one particular quarter it showed black against a silvery
climbing phosphorescence that grew and grew. At lastover the
rim of the waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty till
it swung clear of the horizon and rode offfree of moorings; and
once more they began to see surfaces--meadows wide-spreadand
quiet gardensand the river itself from bank to bankall softly
disclosedall washed clean of mystery and terrorall radiant
again as by daybut with a difference that was tremendous.
Their old haunts greeted them again in other raimentas if they
had slipped away and put on this pure new apparel and come
quietly backsmiling as they shyly waited to see if they would
be recognised again under it.
Fastening their boat to a willowthe friends landed in this
silentsilver kingdomand patiently explored the hedgesthe
hollow treesthe runnels and their little culvertsthe ditches
and dry water-ways. Embarking again and crossing overthey
worked their way up the stream in this mannerwhile the moon
serene and detached in a cloudless skydid what she could
though so far offto help them in their quest; till her hour
came and she sank earthwards reluctantlyand left themand
mystery once more held field and river.
Then a change began slowly to declare itself. The horizon became
clearerfield and tree came more into sightand somehow with a
different look; the mystery began to drop away from them. A bird
piped suddenlyand was still; and a light breeze sprang up and
set the reeds and bulrushes rustling. Ratwho was in the stern
of the boatwhile Mole sculledsat up suddenly and listened
with a passionate intentness. Molewho with gentle strokes was
just keeping the boat moving while he scanned the banks with
carelooked at him with curiosity.
`It's gone!' sighed the Ratsinking back in his seat again. `So
beautiful and strange and new. Since it was to end so soon
I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing
in me that is painand nothing seems worth while but just to
hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever.
No! There it is again!' he criedalert once more. Entranced
he was silent for a long spacespellbound.
`Now it passes on and I begin to lose it' he said presently. `O
Mole! the beauty of it! The merry bubble and joythe thin
clearhappy call of the distant piping! Such music I never
dreamed ofand the call in it is stronger even than the music is
sweet! Row onMolerow! For the music and the call must be
The Molegreatly wonderingobeyed. `I hear nothing myself' he
said`but the wind playing in the reeds and rushes and osiers.'
The Rat never answeredif indeed he heard. Rapttransported
tremblinghe was possessed in all his senses by this new divine
thing that caught up his helpless soul and swung and dandled it
a powerless but happy infant in a strong sustaining grasp.
In silence Mole rowed steadilyand soon they came to a point
where the river divideda long backwater branching off to
one side. With a slight movement of his head Ratwho had long
dropped the rudder-linesdirected the rower to take the
backwater. The creeping tide of light gained and gainedand now
they could see the colour of the flowers that gemmed the water's
`Clearer and nearer still' cried the Rat joyously. `Now you
must surely hear it! Ah--at last--I see you do!'
Breathless and transfixed the Mole stopped rowing as the liquid
run of that glad piping broke on him like a wavecaught him up
and possessed him utterly. He saw the tears on his comrade's
cheeksand bowed his head and understood. For a space they hung
therebrushed by the purple loose-strife that fringed the bank;
then the clear imperious summons that marched hand-in-hand with
the intoxicating melody imposed its will on Moleand
mechanically he bent to his oars again. And the light grew
steadily strongerbut no birds sang as they were wont to do at
the approach of dawn; and but for the heavenly music all was
On either side of themas they glided onwardsthe rich
meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness
unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vividthe
willow-herb so riotousthe meadow-sweet so odorous and
pervading. Then the murmur of the approaching weir began to hold
the airand they felt a consciousness that they were nearing the
endwhatever it might bethat surely awaited their expedition.
A wide half-circle of foam and glinting lights and shining
shoulders of green waterthe great weir closed the backwater
from bank to banktroubled all the quiet surface with twirling
eddies and floating foam-streaksand deadened all other sounds
with its solemn and soothing rumble. In midmost of the stream
embraced in the weir's shimmering arm-spreada small island lay
anchoredfringed close with willow and silver birch and alder.
Reservedshybut full of significanceit hid whatever it might
hold behind a veilkeeping it till the hour should comeand
with the hourthose who were called and chosen.
Slowlybut with no doubt or hesitation whateverand in
something of a solemn expectancythe two animals passed through
the broken tumultuous water and moored their boat at the
flowery margin of the island. In silence they landedand pushed
through the blossom and scented herbage and undergrowth that led
up to the level groundtill they stood on a little lawn of a
marvellous greenset round with Nature's own orchard-trees-crab-
applewild cherryand sloe.
`This is the place of my song-dreamthe place the music played
to me' whispered the Ratas if in a trance. `Herein this
holy placehere if anywheresurely we shall find Him!'
Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon himan awe
that turned his muscles to waterbowed his headand rooted his
feet to the ground. It was no panic terror--indeed he felt
wonderfully at peace and happy--but it was an awe that smote and
held him andwithout seeinghe knew it could only mean that
some august Presence was veryvery near. With difficulty he
turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed
strickenand trembling violently. And still there was utter
silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and
still the light grew and grew.
Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyesbut that
though the piping was now hushedthe call and the summons seemed
still dominant and imperious. He might not refusewere Death
himself waiting to strike him instantlyonce he had looked with
mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed
and raised his humble head; and thenin that utter clearness of
the imminent dawnwhile Natureflushed with fulness of
incredible colourseemed to hold her breath for the eventhe
looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the
backward sweep of the curved hornsgleaming in the growing
daylight; saw the sternhooked nose between the kindly eyes that
were looking down on them humourouslywhile the bearded mouth
broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles
on the arm that lay across the broad chestthe long supple hand
still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted
lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in
majestic ease on the sward; sawlast of allnestling between
his very hoovessleeping soundly in entire peace and
contentmentthe littleroundpodgychildish form of the
baby otter. All this he sawfor one moment breathless and
intensevivid on the morning sky; and stillas he lookedhe
lived; and stillas he livedhe wondered.
`Rat!' he found breath to whispershaking. `Are you afraid?'
`Afraid?' murmured the Rathis eyes shining with unutterable
love. `Afraid! Of HIM? Onevernever! And yet--and yet-O
MoleI am afraid!'
Then the two animalscrouching to the earthbowed their heads
and did worship.
Sudden and magnificentthe sun's broad golden disc showed itself
over the horizon facing them; and the first raysshooting across
the level water-meadowstook the animals full in the eyes and
dazzled them. When they were able to look once morethe Vision
had vanishedand the air was full of the carol of birds that
hailed the dawn.
As they stared blankly. in dumb misery deepening as they slowly
realised all they had seen and all they had losta capricious
little breezedancing up from the surface of the watertossed
the aspensshook the dewy roses and blew lightly and caressingly
in their faces; and with its soft touch came instant
oblivion. For this is the last best gift that the kindly demigod
is careful to bestow on those to whom he has revealed himself
in their helping: the gift of forgetfulness. Lest the awful
remembrance should remain and growand overshadow mirth and
pleasureand the great haunting memory should spoil all the
after-lives of little animals helped out of difficultiesin
order that they should be happy and lighthearted as before.
Mole rubbed his eyes and stared at Ratwho was looking about him
in a puzzled sort of way. `I beg your pardon; what did you say
Rat?' he asked.
`I think I was only remarking' said Rat slowly`that this was
the right sort of placeand that hereif anywherewe should
find him. And look! Whythere he isthe little fellow!' And
with a cry of delight he ran towards the slumbering Portly.
But Mole stood still a momentheld in thought. As one wakened
suddenly from a beautiful dreamwho struggles to recall itand
can re-capture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty of itthe
beauty! Till thattoofades away in its turnand the
dreamer bitterly accepts the hardcold waking and all its
penalties; so Moleafter struggling with his memory for a brief
spaceshook his head sadly and followed the Rat.
Portly woke up with a joyous squeakand wriggled with pleasure
at the sight of his father's friendswho had played with him so
often in past days. In a momenthoweverhis face grew blank
and he fell to hunting round in a circle with pleading whine. As
a child that has fallen happily asleep in its nurse's armsand
wakes to find itself alone and laid in a strange placeand
searches corners and cupboardsand runs from room to room
despair growing silently in its hearteven so Portly searched
the island and searcheddogged and unwearyingtill at last the
black moment came for giving it upand sitting down and crying
The Mole ran quickly to comfort the little animal; but Rat
lingeringlooked long and doubtfully at certain hoof-marks deep
in the sward.
`Some--great--animal--has been here' he murmured slowly and
thoughtfully; and stood musingmusing; his mind strangely
`Come alongRat!' called the Mole. `Think of poor Otter
waiting up there by the ford!'
Portly had soon been comforted by the promise of a treat--a jaunt
on the river in Mr. Rat's real boat; and the two animals
conducted him to the water's sideplaced him securely between
them in the bottom of the boatand paddled off down the
backwater. The sun was fully up by nowand hot on thembirds
sang lustily and without restraintand flowers smiled and nodded
from either bankbut somehow--so thought the animals--with less
of richness and blaze of colour than they seemed to remember
seeing quite recently somewhere--they wondered where.
The main river reached againthey turned the boat's head
upstreamtowards the point where they knew their friend was
keeping his lonely vigil. As they drew near the familiar ford
the Mole took the boat in to the bankand they lifted Portly out
and set him on his legs on the tow-pathgave him his marching
orders and a friendly farewell pat on the backand shoved out
into mid-stream. They watched the little animal as he waddled
along the path contentedly and with importance; watched him
till they saw his muzzle suddenly lift and his waddle break into
a clumsy amble as he quickened his pace with shrill whines and
wriggles of recognition. Looking up the riverthey could see
Otter start uptense and rigidfrom out of the shallows where
he crouched in dumb patienceand could hear his amazed and
joyous bark as he bounded up through the osiers on to the path.
Then the Molewith a strong pull on one oarswung the boat
round and let the full stream bear them down again whither it
wouldtheir quest now happily ended.
`I feel strangely tiredRat' said the Moleleaning wearily
over his oars as the boat drifted. `It's being up all night
you'll sayperhaps; but that's nothing. We do as much half the
nights of the weekat this time of the year. No; I feel as if I
had been through something very exciting and rather terribleand
it was just over; and yet nothing particular has happened.'
`Or something very surprising and splendid and beautiful'
murmured the Ratleaning back and closing his eyes. `I feel
just as you doMole; simply dead tiredthough not body
tired. It's lucky we've got the stream with usto take us
home. Isn't it jolly to feel the sun againsoaking into one's
bones! And hark to the wind playing in the reeds!'
`It's like music--far away music' said the Mole nodding
`So I was thinking' murmured the Ratdreamful and languid.
`Dance-music--the lilting sort that runs on without a stop--but
with words in ittoo--it passes into words and out of them
again--I catch them at intervals--then it is dance-music once
moreand then nothing but the reeds' soft thin whispering.'
`You hear better than I' said the Mole sadly. `I cannot catch
`Let me try and give you them' said the Rat softlyhis eyes
still closed. `Now it is turning into words again--faint but
clear-- Lest the awe should dwell--And turn your frolic to
fret--You shall look on my power at the helping hour--But then
you shall forget! Now the reeds take it up--forgetforget
they sighand it dies away in a rustle and a whisper. Then the
`Lest limbs be reddened and rent--I spring the trap that is
set--As I loose the snare you may glimpse me there--For
surely you shall forget! Row nearerMolenearer to the reeds!
It is hard to catchand grows each minute fainter.
`Helper and healerI cheer--Small waifs in the woodland wet--
Strays I find in itwounds I bind in it--Bidding them all
forget! NearerMolenearer! Noit is no good; the song has
died away into reed-talk.'
`But what do the words mean?' asked the wondering Mole.
`That I do not know' said the Rat simply. `I passed them on to
you as they reached me. Ah! now they return againand this time
full and clear! This timeat lastit is the realthe
`Welllet's have itthen' said the Moleafter he had waited
patiently for a few minuteshalf-dozing in the hot sun.
But no answer came. He lookedand understood the silence. With
a smile of much happiness on his faceand something of a
listening look still lingering therethe weary Rat was fast
When Toad found himself immured in a dank and noisome dungeon
and knew that all the grim darkness of a medieval fortress lay
between him and the outer world of sunshine and well-metalled
high roads where he had lately been so happydisporting himself
as if he had bought up every road in Englandhe flung himself at
full length on the floorand shed bitter tearsand abandoned
himself to dark despair. `This is the end of everything' (he
said)`at least it is the end of the career of Toadwhich is
the same thing; the popular and handsome Toadthe rich and
hospitable Toadthe Toad so free and careless and debonair! How
can I hope to be ever set at large again' (he said)`who have
been imprisoned so justly for stealing so handsome a motor-car in
such an audacious mannerand for such lurid and
imaginative cheekbestowed upon such a number of fatred-faced
policemen!' (Here his sobs choked him.) `Stupid animal that I
was' (he said)`now I must languish in this dungeontill people
who were proud to say they knew mehave forgotten the very name
of Toad! O wise old Badger!' (he said)`O cleverintelligent
Rat and sensible Mole! What sound judgmentswhat a knowledge of
men and matters you possess! O unhappy and forsaken Toad!' With
lamentations such as these he passed his days and nights for
several weeksrefusing his meals or intermediate light
refreshmentsthough the grim and ancient gaolerknowing that
Toad's pockets were well linedfrequently pointed out that many
comfortsand indeed luxuriescould by arrangement be sent in-at
a price--from outside.
Now the gaoler had a daughtera pleasant wench and good-hearted
who assisted her father in the lighter duties of his post. She
was particularly fond of animalsandbesides her canarywhose
cage hung on a nail in the massive wall of the keep by dayto
the great annoyance of prisoners who relished an afterdinner
napand was shrouded in an antimacassar on the parlour table at
nightshe kept several piebald mice and a restless revolving
squirrel. This kind-hearted girlpitying the misery of Toad
said to her father one day`Father! I can't bear to see that
poor beast so unhappyand getting so thin! You let me have the
managing of him. You know how fond of animals I am. I'll make
him eat from my handand sit upand do all sorts of things.'
Her father replied that she could do what she liked with him. He
was tired of Toadand his sulks and his airs and his meanness.
So that day she went on her errand of mercyand knocked at the
door of Toad's cell.
`Nowcheer upToad' she saidcoaxinglyon entering`and sit
up and dry your eyes and be a sensible animal. And do try and
eat a bit of dinner. SeeI've brought you some of minehot
from the oven!'
It was bubble-and-squeakbetween two platesand its fragrance
filled the narrow cell. The penetrating smell of cabbage reached
the nose of Toad as he lay prostrate in his misery on the floor
and gave him the idea for a moment that perhaps life was not such
a blank and desperate thing as he had imagined. But still
he wailedand kicked with his legsand refused to be comforted.
So the wise girl retired for the timebutof coursea good
deal of the smell of hot cabbage remained behindas it will do
and Toadbetween his sobssniffed and reflectedand gradually
began to think new and inspiring thoughts: of chivalryand
poetryand deeds still to be done; of broad meadowsand cattle
browsing in themraked by sun and wind; of kitchen-gardensand
straight herb-bordersand warm snap-dragon beset by bees; and of
the comforting clink of dishes set down on the table at Toad
Halland the scrape of chair-legs on the floor as every one
pulled himself close up to his work. The air of the narrow cell
took a rosy tinge; he began to think of his friendsand how they
would surely be able to do something; of lawyersand how they
would have enjoyed his caseand what an ass he had been not to
get in a few; and lastlyhe thought of his own great cleverness
and resourceand all that he was capable of if he only gave his
great mind to it; and the cure was almost complete.
When the girl returnedsome hours latershe carried a
traywith a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate
piled up with very hot buttered toastcut thickvery brown on
both sideswith the butter running through the holes in it in
great golden dropslike honey from the honeycomb. The smell of
that buttered toast simply talked to Toadand with no uncertain
voice; talked of warm kitchensof breakfasts on bright frosty
morningsof cosy parlour firesides on winter eveningswhen
one's ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the
fender; of the purring of contented catsand the twitter of
sleepy canaries. Toad sat up on end once moredried his eyes
sipped his tea and munched his toastand soon began talking
freely about himselfand the house he lived inand his doings
thereand how important he wasand what a lot his friends
thought of him.
The gaoler's daughter saw that the topic was doing him as much
good as the teaas indeed it wasand encouraged him to go on.
`Tell me about Toad Hall said she. `It sounds beautiful.'
`Toad Hall,' said the Toad proudly, `is an eligible selfcontained
gentleman's residence very unique; dating in part
from the fourteenth century, but replete with every modern
convenience. Up-to-date sanitation. Five minutes from church,
post-office, and golf-links, Suitable for----'
`Bless the animal,' said the girl, laughing, `I don't want to
TAKE it. Tell me something REAL about it. But first wait
till I fetch you some more tea and toast.'
She tripped away, and presently returned with a fresh trayful;
and Toad, pitching into the toast with avidity, his spirits quite
restored to their usual level, told her about the boathouse, and
the fish-pond, and the old walled kitchen-garden; and about the
pig-styes, and the stables, and the pigeon-house, and the henhouse;
and about the dairy, and the wash-house, and the chinacupboards,
and the linen-presses (she liked that bit especially);
and about the banqueting-hall, and the fun they had there when
the other animals were gathered round the table and Toad was at
his best, singing songs, telling stories, carrying on generally.
Then she wanted to know about his animal-friends, and was very
interested in all he had to tell her about them and how they
lived, and what they did to pass their time. Of course, she
did not say she was fond of animals as PETS, because she had
the sense to see that Toad would be extremely offended. When she
said good night, having filled his water-jug and shaken up his
straw for him, Toad was very much the same sanguine, selfsatisfied
animal that he had been of old. He sang a little song
or two, of the sort he used to sing at his dinner-parties, curled
himself up in the straw, and had an excellent night's rest and
the pleasantest of dreams.
They had many interesting talks together, after that, as the
dreary days went on; and the gaoler's daughter grew very sorry
for Toad, and thought it a great shame that a poor little animal
should be locked up in prison for what seemed to her a very
trivial offence. Toad, of course, in his vanity, thought that
her interest in him proceeded from a growing tenderness; and he
could not help half-regretting that the social gulf between them
was so very wide, for she was a comely lass, and evidently
admired him very much.
One morning the girl was very thoughtful, and answered at random,
and did not seem to Toad to be paying proper attention to
his witty sayings and sparkling comments.
`Toad,' she said presently, `just listen, please. I have an aunt
who is a washerwoman.'
`There, there,' said Toad, graciously and affably, `never mind;
think no more about it. _I_ have several aunts who OUGHT to
`Do be quiet a minute, Toad,' said the girl. `You talk too much,
that's your chief fault, and I'm trying to think, and you hurt my
head. As I said, I have an aunt who is a washerwoman; she does
the washing for all the prisoners in this castle--we try to keep
any paying business of that sort in the family, you understand.
She takes out the washing on Monday morning, and brings it in on
Friday evening. This is a Thursday. Now, this is what occurs to
me: you're very rich--at least you're always telling me so--and
she's very poor. A few pounds wouldn't make any difference to
you, and it would mean a lot to her. Now, I think if she were
properly approached--squared, I believe is the word you animals
use--you could come to some arrangement by which she would let
you have her dress and bonnet and so on, and you could
escape from the castle as the official washerwoman. You're very
alike in many respects--particularly about the figure.'
`We're NOT,' said the Toad in a huff. `I have a very elegant
figure--for what I am.'
`So has my aunt,' replied the girl, `for what SHE is. But
have it your own way. You horrid, proud, ungrateful animal, when
I'm sorry for you, and trying to help you!'
`Yes, yes, that's all right; thank you very much indeed,' said
the Toad hurriedly. `But look here! you wouldn't surely have Mr.
Toad of Toad Hall, going about the country disguised as a
`Then you can stop here as a Toad,' replied the girl with much
spirit. `I suppose you want to go off in a coach-and-four!'
Honest Toad was always ready to admit himself in the wrong. `You
are a good, kind, clever girl,' he said, `and I am indeed a proud
and a stupid toad. Introduce me to your worthy aunt, if you will
be so kind, and I have no doubt that the excellent lady and I
will be able to arrange terms satisfactory to both parties.'
Next evening the girl ushered her aunt into Toad's cell,
bearing his week's washing pinned up in a towel. The old lady
had been prepared beforehand for the interview, and the sight of
certain gold sovereigns that Toad had thoughtfully placed on the
table in full view practically completed the matter and left
little further to discuss. In return for his cash, Toad received
a cotton print gown, an apron, a shawl, and a rusty black bonnet;
the only stipulation the old lady made being that she should be
gagged and bound and dumped down in a corner. By this not very
convincing artifice, she explained, aided by picturesque fiction
which she could supply herself, she hoped to retain her
situation, in spite of the suspicious appearance of things.
Toad was delighted with the suggestion. It would enable him to
leave the prison in some style, and with his reputation for being
a desperate and dangerous fellow untarnished; and he readily
helped the gaoler's daughter to make her aunt appear as much as
possible the victim of circumstances over which she had no
`Now it's your turn, Toad,' said the girl. `Take off that coat
and waistcoat of yours; you're fat enough as it is.'
Shaking with laughter, she proceeded to `hook-and-eye' him into
the cotton print gown, arranged the shawl with a professional
fold, and tied the strings of the rusty bonnet under his chin.
`You're the very image of her,' she giggled, `only I'm sure you
never looked half so respectable in all your life before. Now,
good-bye, Toad, and good luck. Go straight down the way you came
up; and if any one says anything to you, as they probably will,
being but men, you can chaff back a bit, of course, but remember
you're a widow woman, quite alone in the world, with a character
With a quaking heart, but as firm a footstep as he could command,
Toad set forth cautiously on what seemed to be a most harebrained
and hazardous undertaking; but he was soon agreeably
surprised to find how easy everything was made for him, and a
little humbled at the thought that both his popularity, and the
sex that seemed to inspire it, were really another's. The
washerwoman's squat figure in its familiar cotton print seemed a
passport for every barred door and grim gateway; even when he
hesitated, uncertain as to the right turning to take, he
found himself helped out of his difficulty by the warder at the
next gate, anxious to be off to his tea, summoning him to come
along sharp and not keep him waiting there all night. The chaff
and the humourous sallies to which he was subjected, and to
which, of course, he had to provide prompt and effective reply,
formed, indeed, his chief danger; for Toad was an animal with a
strong sense of his own dignity, and the chaff was mostly (he
thought) poor and clumsy, and the humour of the sallies entirely
lacking. However, he kept his temper, though with great
difficulty, suited his retorts to his company and his supposed
character, and did his best not to overstep the limits of good
It seemed hours before he crossed the last courtyard, rejected
the pressing invitations from the last guardroom, and dodged the
outspread arms of the last warder, pleading with simulated
passion for just one farewell embrace. But at last he heard the
wicket-gate in the great outer door click behind him, felt the
fresh air of the outer world upon his anxious brow, and knew that
he was free!
Dizzy with the easy success of his daring exploit, he walked
quickly towards the lights of the town, not knowing in the least
what he should do next, only quite certain of one thing, that he
must remove himself as quickly as possible from the neighbourhood
where the lady he was forced to represent was so well-known and
so popular a character.
As he walked along, considering, his attention was caught by some
red and green lights a little way off, to one side of the town,
and the sound of the puffing and snorting of engines and the
banging of shunted trucks fell on his ear. `Aha!' he thought,
`this is a piece of luck! A railway station is the thing I want
most in the whole world at this moment; and what's more, I
needn't go through the town to get it, and shan't have to support
this humiliating character by repartees which, though thoroughly
effective, do not assist one's sense of self-respect.'
He made his way to the station accordingly, consulted a timetable,
and found that a train, bound more or less in the
direction of his home, was due to start in half-an-hour. `More
luck!' said Toad, his spirits rising rapidly, and went off to the
booking-office to buy his ticket.
He gave the name of the station that he knew to be nearest to the
village of which Toad Hall was the principal feature, and
mechanically put his fingers, in search of the necessary money,
where his waiscoat pocket should have been. But here the cotton
gown, which had nobly stood by him so far, and which he had
basely forgotten, intervened, and frustrated his efforts. In a
sort of nightmare he struggled with the strange uncanny thing
that seemed to hold his hands, turn all muscular strivings to
water, and laugh at him all the time; while other travellers,
forming up in a line behind, waited with impatience, making
suggestions of more or less value and comments of more or less
stringency and point. At last--somehow--he never rightly
understood how--he burst the barriers, attained the goal, arrived
at where all waistcoat pockets are eternally situated, and
found--not only no money, but no pocket to hold it, and no
waistcoat to hold the pocket!
To his horror he recollected that he had left both coat and
waistcoat behind him in his cell, and with them his pocket-book,
money, keys, watch, matches, pencil-case--all that makes life
worth living, all that distinguishes the many-pocketed
animal, the lord of creation, from the inferior one-pocketed or
no-pocketed productions that hop or trip about permissively,
unequipped for the real contest.
In his misery he made one desperate effort to carry the thing
off, and, with a return to his fine old manner--a blend of the
Squire and the College Don--he said, `Look here! I find I've
left my purse behind. Just give me that ticket, will you, and
I'll send the money on to-morrow? I'm well-known in these
The clerk stared at him and the rusty black bonnet a moment, and
then laughed. `I should think you were pretty well known in
these parts,' he said, `if you've tried this game on often.
Here, stand away from the window, please, madam; you're
obstructing the other passengers!'
An old gentleman who had been prodding him in the back for some
moments here thrust him away, and, what was worse, addressed him
as his good woman, which angered Toad more than anything that had
occurred that evening.
Baffled and full of despair, he wandered blindly down the
platform where the train was standing, and tears trickled down
each side of his nose. It was hard, he thought, to be
within sight of safety and almost of home, and to be baulked by
the want of a few wretched shillings and by the pettifogging
mistrustfulness of paid officials. Very soon his escape would be
discovered, the hunt would be up, he would be caught, reviled,
loaded with chains, dragged back again to prison and bread-andwater
and straw; his guards and penalities would be doubled; and
O, what sarcastic remarks the girl would make! What was to be
done? He was not swift of foot; his figure was unfortunately
recognisable. Could he not squeeze under the seat of a carriage?
He had seen this method adopted by schoolboys, when the journeymoney
provided by thoughtful parents had been diverted to other
and better ends. As he pondered, he found himself opposite the
engine, which was being oiled, wiped, and generally caressed by
its affectionate driver, a burly man with an oil-can in one hand
and a lump of cotton-waste in the other.
`Hullo, mother!' said the engine-driver, `what's the trouble?
You don't look particularly cheerful.'
`O, sir!' said Toad, crying afresh, `I am a poor unhappy
washerwoman, and I've lost all my money, and can't pay for a
ticket, and I must get home to-night somehow, and whatever I am
to do I don't know. O dear, O dear!'
`That's a bad business, indeed,' said the engine-driver
reflectively. `Lost your money--and can't get home--and got some
kids, too, waiting for you, I dare say?'
`Any amount of 'em,' sobbed Toad. `And they'll be hungry--and
playing with matches--and upsetting lamps, the little
innocents!--and quarrelling, and going on generally. O dear, O
`Well, I'll tell you what I'll do,' said the good engine-driver.
`You're a washerwoman to your trade, says you. Very well, that's
that. And I'm an engine-driver, as you well may see, and there's
no denying it's terribly dirty work. Uses up a power of shirts,
it does, till my missus is fair tired of washing of 'em. If
you'll wash a few shirts for me when you get home, and send 'em
along, I'll give you a ride on my engine. It's against the
Company's regulations, but we're not so very particular in these
The Toad's misery turned into rapture as he eagerly
scrambled up into the cab of the engine. Of course, he had never
washed a shirt in his life, and couldn't if he tried and, anyhow,
he wasn't going to begin; but he thought: `When I get safely home
to Toad Hall, and have money again, and pockets to put it in, I
will send the engine-driver enough to pay for quite a quantity of
washing, and that will be the same thing, or better.'
The guard waved his welcome flag, the engine-driver whistled in
cheerful response, and the train moved out of the station. As
the speed increased, and the Toad could see on either side of him
real fields, and trees, and hedges, and cows, and horses, all
flying past him, and as he thought how every minute was bringing
him nearer to Toad Hall, and sympathetic friends, and money to
chink in his pocket, and a soft bed to sleep in, and good things
to eat, and praise and admiration at the recital of his
adventures and his surpassing cleverness, he began to skip up and
down and shout and sing snatches of song, to the great
astonishment of the engine-driver, who had come across
washerwomen before, at long intervals, but never one at all like
They had covered many and many a mile, and Toad was already
considering what he would have for supper as soon as he got home,
when he noticed that the engine-driver, with a puzzled expression
on his face, was leaning over the side of the engine and
listening hard. Then he saw him climb on to the coals and gaze
out over the top of the train; then he returned and said to Toad:
`It's very strange; we're the last train running in this
direction to-night, yet I could be sworn that I heard another
Toad ceased his frivolous antics at once. He became grave and
depressed, and a dull pain in the lower part of his spine,
communicating itself to his legs, made him want to sit down and
try desperately not to think of all the possibilities.
By this time the moon was shining brightly, and the enginedriver,
steadying himself on the coal, could command a view of
the line behind them for a long distance.
Presently he called out, `I can see it clearly now! It is an
engine, on our rails, coming along at a great pace! It looks as
if we were being pursued!'
The miserable Toad, crouching in the coal-dust, tried hard
to think of something to do, with dismal want of success.
`They are gaining on us fast!' cried the engine-driver. And the
engine is crowded with the queerest lot of people! Men like
ancient warders, waving halberds; policemen in their helmets,
waving truncheons; and shabbily dressed men in pot-hats, obvious
and unmistakable plain-clothes detectives even at this distance,
waving revolvers and walking-sticks; all waving, and all shouting
the same thing--Stopstopstop!"'
Then Toad fell on his knees among the coals andraising his
clasped paws in supplicationcried`Save meonly save medear
kind Mr. Engine-driverand I will confess everything! I am not
the simple washerwoman I seem to be! I have no children waiting
for meinnocent or otherwise! I am a toad--the well-known and
popular Mr. Toada landed proprietor; I have just escapedby my
great daring and clevernessfrom a loathsome dungeon into which
my enemies had flung me; and if those fellows on that engine
recapture meit will be chains and bread-and-water and straw and
misery once more for poorunhappyinnocent Toad!'
The engine-driver looked down upon him very sternlyand said
`Now tell the truth; what were you put in prison for?'
`It was nothing very much' said poor Toadcolouring deeply. `I
only borrowed a motorcar while the owners were at lunch; they had
no need of it at the time. I didn't mean to steal itreally;
but people--especially magistrates--take such harsh views of
thoughtless and high-spirited actions.'
The engine-driver looked very grave and said`I fear that you
have been indeed a wicked toadand by rights I ought to give you
up to offended justice. But you are evidently in sore trouble
and distressso I will not desert you. I don't hold with motorcars
for one thing; and I don't hold with being ordered about by
policemen when I'm on my own enginefor another. And the sight
of an animal in tears always makes me feel queer and softhearted.
So cheer upToad! I'll do my bestand we may beat them yet!'
They piled on more coalsshovelling furiously; the furnace
roaredthe sparks flewthe engine leapt and swung but still
their pursuers slowly gained. The engine-driverwith a sigh
wiped his brow with a handful of cotton-wasteand said
`I'm afraid it's no goodToad. You seethey are running light
and they have the better engine. There's just one thing left for
us to doand it's your only chanceso attend very carefully to
what I tell you. A short way ahead of us is a long tunneland
on the other side of that the line passes through a thick wood.
NowI will put on all the speed I can while we are running
through the tunnelbut the other fellows will slow down a bit
naturallyfor fear of an accident. When we are throughI will
shut off steam and put on brakes as hard as I canand the moment
it's safe to do so you must jump and hide in the woodbefore
they get through the tunnel and see you. Then I will go full
speed ahead againand they can chase me if they likefor as
long as they likeand as far as they like. Now mind and be
ready to jump when I tell you!'
They piled on more coalsand the train shot into the tunneland
the engine rushed and roared and rattledtill at last they shot
out at the other end into fresh air and the peaceful moonlight
and saw the wood lying dark and helpful upon either side of the
line. The driver shut off steam and put on brakesthe Toad
got down on the stepand as the train slowed down to almost a
walking pace he heard the driver call out`Nowjump!'
Toad jumpedrolled down a short embankmentpicked himself up
unhurtscrambled into the wood and hid.
Peeping outhe saw his train get up speed again and disappear at
a great pace. Then out of the tunnel burst the pursuing engine
roaring and whistlingher motley crew waving their various
weapons and shouting`Stop! stop! stop!' When they were past
the Toad had a hearty laugh--for the first time since he was
thrown into prison.
But he soon stopped laughing when he came to consider that it was
now very late and dark and coldand he was in an unknown wood
with no money and no chance of supperand still far from friends
and home; and the dead silence of everythingafter the roar and
rattle of the trainwas something of a shock. He dared not
leave the shelter of the treesso he struck into the woodwith
the idea of leaving the railway as far as possible behind him.
After so many weeks within wallshe found the wood strange
and unfriendly and inclinedhe thoughtto make fun of him.
Night-jarssounding their mechanical rattlemade him think that
the wood was full of searching wardersclosing in on him. An
owlswooping noiselessly towards himbrushed his shoulder with
its wingmaking him jump with the horrid certainty that it was a
hand; then flitted offmoth-likelaughing its low ho! ho! ho;
which Toad thought in very poor taste. Once he met a foxwho
stoppedlooked him up and down in a sarcastic sort of wayand
said`Hullowasherwoman! Half a pair of socks and a pillowcase
short this week! Mind it doesn't occur again!' and
swaggered offsniggering. Toad looked about for a stone to
throw at himbut could not succeed in finding onewhich vexed
him more than anything. At lastcoldhungryand tired outhe
sought the shelter of a hollow treewhere with branches and dead
leaves he made himself as comfortable a bed as he couldand
slept soundly till the morning.
The Water Rat was restlessand he did not exactly know why. To
all appearance the summer's pomp was still at fullest heightand
although in the tilled acres green had given way to goldthough
rowans were reddeningand the woods were dashed here and there
with a tawny fiercenessyet light and warmth and colour were
still present in undiminished measureclean of any chilly
premonitions of the passing year. But the constant chorus of the
orchards and hedges had shrunk to a casual evensong from a few
yet unwearied performers; the robin was beginning to assert
himself once more; and there was a feeling in the air of change
and departure. The cuckooof coursehad long been silent; but
many another feathered friendfor months a part of the familiar
landscape and its small societywas missing too and it
seemed that the ranks thinned steadily day by day. Ratever
observant of all winged movementsaw that it was taking daily a
southing tendency; and even as he lay in bed at night he thought
he could make outpassing in the darkness overheadthe beat and
quiver of impatient pinionsobedient to the peremptory call.
Nature's Grand Hotel has its Seasonlike the others. As the
guests one by one packpayand departand the seats at the
table-d'hote shrink pitifully at each succeeding meal; as
suites of rooms are closedcarpets taken upand waiters sent
away; those boarders who are staying onen pensionuntil the
next year's full re-openingcannot help being somewhat affected
by all these flittings and farewellsthis eager discussion of
plansroutesand fresh quartersthis daily shrinkage in the
stream of comradeship. One gets unsettleddepressedand
inclined to be querulous. Why this craving for change? Why not
stay on quietly herelike usand be jolly? You don't know this
hotel out of the seasonand what fun we have among ourselveswe
fellows who remain and see the whole interesting year out. All
very trueno doubt the others always reply; we quite envy
you--and some other year perhaps--but just now we have
engagements--and there's the bus at the door--our time is up! So
they departwith a smile and a nodand we miss themand feel
resentful. The Rat was a self-sufficing sort of animalrooted
to the landandwhoever wenthe stayed; stillhe could not
help noticing what was in the airand feeling some of its
influence in his bones.
It was difficult to settle down to anything seriouslywith all
this flitting going on. Leaving the water-sidewhere rushes
stood thick and tall in a stream that was becoming sluggish and
lowhe wandered country-wardscrossed a field or two of
pasturage already looking dusty and parchedand thrust into the
great sea of wheatyellowwavyand murmurousfull of quiet
motion and small whisperings. Here he often loved to wander
through the forest of stiff strong stalks that carried their own
golden sky away over his head--a sky that was always dancing
shimmeringsoftly talking; or swaying strongly to the passing
wind and recovering itself with a toss and a merry laugh. Here
toohe had many small friendsa society complete in
itselfleading full and busy livesbut always with a spare
moment to gossipand exchange news with a visitor. Today
howeverthough they were civil enoughthe field-mice and
harvest-mice seemed preoccupied. Many were digging and
tunnelling busily; othersgathered together in small groups
examined plans and drawings of small flatsstated to be
desirable and compactand situated conveniently near the Stores.
Some were hauling out dusty trunks and dress-basketsothers were
already elbow-deep packing their belongings; while everywhere
piles and bundles of wheatoatsbarleybeech-mast and nuts
lay about ready for transport.
`Here's old Ratty!' they cried as soon as they saw him. `Come
and bear a handRatand don't stand about idle!'
`What sort of games are you up to?' said the Water Rat severely.
`You know it isn't time to be thinking of winter quarters yetby
a long way!'
`O yeswe know that' explained a field-mouse rather
shamefacedly; `but it's always as well to be in good timeisn't
it? We really MUST get all the furniture and baggage and
stores moved out of this before those horrid machines begin
clicking round the fields; and thenyou knowthe best flats get
picked up so quickly nowadaysand if you're late you have to put
up with ANYTHING; and they want such a lot of doing uptoo
before they're fit to move into. Of coursewe're earlywe know
that; but we're only just making a start.'
`Obother STARTS' said the Rat. `It's a splendid day. Come
for a rowor a stroll along the hedgesor a picnic in the
`WellI THINK not TO-DAYthank you' replied the fieldmouse
hurriedly. `Perhaps some OTHER day--when we've more
The Ratwith a snort of contemptswung round to gotripped
over a hat-boxand fellwith undignified remarks.
`If people would be more careful' said a field-mouse rather
stiffly`and look where they're goingpeople wouldn't hurt
themselves--and forget themselves. Mind that hold-allRat!
You'd better sit down somewhere. In an hour or two we may be
more free to attend to you.'
`You won't be "free" as you call it much this side of
ChristmasI can see that' retorted the Rat grumpilyas he
picked his way out of the field.
He returned somewhat despondently to his river again--his
faithfulsteady-going old riverwhich never packed upflitted
or went into winter quarters.
In the osiers which fringed the bank he spied a swallow sitting.
Presently it was joined by anotherand then by a third; and the
birdsfidgeting restlessly on their boughtalked together
earnestly and low.
`WhatALREADY' said the Ratstrolling up to them. `What's
the hurry? I call it simply ridiculous.'
`Owe're not off yetif that's what you mean' replied the
first swallow. `We're only making plans and arranging things.
Talking it overyou know--what route we're taking this yearand
where we'll stopand so on. That's half the fun!'
`Fun?' said the Rat; `now that's just what I don't understand.
If you've GOT to leave this pleasant placeand your friends
who will miss youand your snug homes that you've just settled
intowhywhen the hour strikes I've no doubt you'll go
bravelyand face all the trouble and discomfort and change and
newnessand make believe that you're not very unhappy. But to
want to talk about itor even think about ittill you really
`Noyou don't understandnaturally' said the second swallow.
`Firstwe feel it stirring within usa sweet unrest; then back
come the recollections one by onelike homing pigeons. They
flutter through our dreams at nightthey fly with us in our
wheelings and circlings by day. We hunger to inquire of each
otherto compare notes and assure ourselves that it was all
really trueas one by one the scents and sounds and names of
long-forgotten places come gradually back and beckon to us.'
`Couldn't you stop on for just this year?' suggested the Water
Ratwistfully. `We'll all do our best to make you feel at home.
You've no idea what good times we have herewhile you are far
`I tried "stopping on" one year' said the third swallow. `I had
grown so fond of the place that when the time came I hung back
and let the others go on without me. For a few weeks it was all
well enoughbut afterwardsO the weary length of the
nights! The shiveringsunless days! The air so clammy and
chilland not an insect in an acre of it! Noit was no good;
my courage broke downand one coldstormy night I took wing
flying well inland on account of the strong easterly gales. It
was snowing hard as I beat through the passes of the great
mountainsand I had a stiff fight to win through; but never
shall I forget the blissful feeling of the hot sun again on my
back as I sped down to the lakes that lay so blue and placid
below meand 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 weekeasilylazilylingering as long as I
daredbut always heeding the call! NoI had had my warning;
never again did I think of disobedience.'
`Ahyesthe call of the Southof the South!' twittered the
other two dreamily. `Its songs its huesits radiant air! Odo
you remember----' andforgetting the Ratthey slid into
passionate reminiscencewhile he listened fascinatedand his
heart burned within him. In himselftoohe knew that it was
vibrating at lastthat chord hitherto dormant and
unsuspected. The mere chatter of these southern-bound
birdstheir pale and second-hand reportshad yet power to
awaken this wild new sensation and thrill him through and through
with it; what would one moment of the real thing work in him--one
passionate touch of the real southern sunone waft of the
authentic odor? With closed eyes he dared to dream a moment in
full abandonmentand when he looked again the river seemed
steely and chillthe green fields grey and lightless. Then his
loyal heart seemed to cry out on his weaker self for its
`Why do you ever come backthenat all?' he demanded of the
swallows jealously. `What do you find to attract you in this
poor drab little country?'
`And do you think' said the first swallow`that the other call
is not for us tooin its due season? The call of lush meadowgrass
wet orchardswarminsect-haunted pondsof browsing
cattleof haymakingand all the farm-buildings clustering round
the House of the perfect Eaves?'
`Do you suppose' asked the second onethat you are the only
living thing that craves with a hungry longing to hear the
cuckoo's note again?'
`In due time' said the third`we shall be home-sick once more
for quiet water-lilies swaying on the surface of an English
stream. But to-day all that seems pale and thin and very far
away. Just now our blood dances to other music.'
They fell a-twittering among themselves once moreand this time
their intoxicating babble was of violet seastawny sandsand
Restlessly the Rat wandered off once moreclimbed the slope that
rose gently from the north bank of the riverand lay looking out
towards the great ring of Downs that barred his vision further
southwards--his simple horizon hithertohis Mountains of the
Moonhis limit behind which lay nothing he had cared to see or
to know. To-dayto him gazing South with a new-born need
stirring in his heartthe clear sky over their long low outline
seemed to pulsate with promise; to-daythe unseen was
everythingthe unknown the only real fact of life. On this side
of the hills was now the real blankon the other lay the crowded
and coloured panorama that his inner eye was seeing so
clearly. What seas lay beyondgreenleapingand crested!
What sun-bathed coastsalong which the white villas glittered
against the olive woods! What quiet harboursthronged with
gallant shipping bound for purple islands of wine and spice
islands set low in languorous waters!
He rose and descended river-wards once more; then changed his
mind and sought the side of the dusty lane. Therelying halfburied
in the thickcool under-hedge tangle that bordered ithe
could muse on the metalled road and all the wondrous world that
it led to; on all the wayfarerstoothat might have trodden it
and the fortunes and adventures they had gone to seek or found
Footsteps fell on his earand the figure of one that walked
somewhat wearily came into view; and he saw that it was a Rat
and a very dusty one. The wayfareras he reached himsaluted
with a gesture of courtesy that had something foreign about it-hesitated
a moment--then with a pleasant smile turned from the
track and sat down by his side in the cool herbage. He seemed
tiredand the Rat let him rest unquestionedunderstanding
something of what was in his thoughts; knowingtoothe value
all animals attach at times to mere silent companionshipwhen
the weary muscles slacken and the mind marks time.
The wayfarer was lean and keen-featuredand somewhat bowed at
the shoulders; his paws were thin and longhis eyes much
wrinkled at the cornersand he wore small gold ear rings in his
neatly-set well-shaped ears. His knitted jersey was of a faded
bluehis breechespatched and stainedwere based on a blue
foundationand his small belongings that he carried were tied up
in a blue cotton handkerchief.
When he had rested awhile the stranger sighedsnuffed the air
and looked about him.
`That was cloverthat warm whiff on the breeze' he remarked;
`and those are cows we hear cropping the grass behind us and
blowing softly between mouthfuls. There is a sound of distant
reapersand yonder rises a blue line of cottage smoke against
the woodland. The river runs somewhere close byfor I hear the
call of a moorhenand I see by your build that you're a
freshwater mariner. Everything seems asleepand yet going
on all the time. It is a goodly life that you leadfriend; no
doubt the best in the worldif only you are strong enough to
`Yesit's THE lifethe only lifeto live' responded the
Water Rat dreamilyand without his usual whole-hearted
`I did not say exactly that' replied the stranger cautiously;
`but no doubt it's the best. I've tried itand I know. And
because I've just tried it--six months of it--and know it's the
besthere am Ifootsore and hungrytramping away from it
tramping southwardfollowing the old callback to the old life
THE life which is mine and which will not let me go.'
`Is thisthenyet another of them?' mused the Rat. `And where
have you just come from?' he asked. He hardly dared to ask where
he was bound for; he seemed to know the answer only too well.
`Nice little farm' replied the wayfarerbriefly. `Upalong in
that direction'--he nodded northwards. `Never mind about it. I
had everything I could want--everything I had any right to expect
of lifeand more; and here I am! Glad to be here all the same
thoughglad to be here! So many miles further on the road
so many hours nearer to my heart's desire!'
His shining eyes held fast to the horizonand he seemed to be
listening for some sound that was wanting from that inland
acreagevocal as it was with the cheerful music of pasturage and
`You are not one of US' said the Water Rat`nor yet a
farmer; nor evenI should judgeof this country.'
`Right' replied the stranger. `I'm a seafaring ratI amand
the port I originally hail from is Constantinoplethough I'm a
sort of a foreigner there tooin a manner of speaking. You will
have heard of Constantinoplefriend? A fair cityand an
ancient and glorious one. And you may have heardtooof
SigurdKing of Norwayand how he sailed thither with sixty
shipsand how he and his men rode up through streets all
canopied in their honour with purple and gold; and how the
Emperor and Empress came down and banqueted with him on board his
ship. When Sigurd returned homemany of his Northmen remained
behind and entered the Emperor's body-guardand my
ancestora Norwegian bornstayed behind toowith the ships
that Sigurd gave the Emperor. Seafarers we have ever beenand
no wonder; as for methe city of my birth is no more my home
than any pleasant port between there and the London River. I
know them alland they know me. Set me down on any of their
quays or foreshoresand I am home again.'
`I suppose you go great voyages' said the Water Rat with growing
interest. `Months and months out of sight of landand
provisions running shortand allowanced as to waterand your
mind communing with the mighty oceanand all that sort of
`By no means' said the Sea Rat frankly. `Such a life as you
describe would not suit me at all. I'm in the coasting trade
and rarely out of sight of land. It's the jolly times on shore
that appeal to meas much as any seafaring. Othose southern
seaports! The smell of themthe riding-lights at nightthe
`Wellperhaps you have chosen the better way' said the Water
Ratbut rather doubtfully. `Tell me something of your coasting
thenif you have a mind toand what sort of harvest an
animal of spirit might hope to bring home from it to warm his
latter days with gallant memories by the fireside; for my lifeI
confess to youfeels to me to-day somewhat narrow and
`My last voyage' began the Sea Rat`that landed me eventually
in this countrybound with high hopes for my inland farmwill
serve as a good example of any of themandindeedas an
epitome of my highly-coloured life. Family troublesas usual
began it. The domestic storm-cone was hoistedand I shipped
myself on board a small trading vessel bound from Constantinople
by classic seas whose every wave throbs with a deathless memory
to the Grecian Islands and the Levant. Those were golden days
and balmy nights! In and out of harbour all the time--old
friends everywhere--sleeping in some cool temple or ruined
cistern during the heat of the day--feasting and song after
sundownunder great stars set in a velvet sky! Thence we turned
and coasted up the Adriaticits shores swimming in an atmosphere
of amberroseand aquamarine; we lay in wide land-locked
harbourswe roamed through ancient and noble citiesuntil
at last one morningas the sun rose royally behind uswe rode
into Venice down a path of gold. OVenice is a fine city
wherein a rat can wander at his ease and take his pleasure! Or
when weary of wanderingcan sit at the edge of the Grand Canal
at nightfeasting with his friendswhen the air is full of
music and the sky full of starsand the lights flash and shimmer
on the polished steel prows of the swaying gondolaspacked so
that you could walk across the canal on them from side to side!
And then the food--do you like shellfish? Wellwellwe won't
linger over that now.'
He was silent for a time; and the Water Ratsilent too and
enthralledfloated on dream-canals and heard a phantom song
pealing high between vaporous grey wave-lapped walls.
`Southwards we sailed again at last' continued the Sea Rat
`coasting down the Italian shoretill finally we made Palermo
and there I quitted for a longhappy spell on shore. I never
stick too long to one ship; one gets narrow-minded and
prejudiced. BesidesSicily is one of my happy hunting-grounds.
I know everybody thereand their ways just suit me. I
spent many jolly weeks in the islandstaying with friends up
country. When I grew restless again I took advantage of a ship
that was trading to Sardinia and Corsica; and very glad I was to
feel the fresh breeze and the sea-spray in my face once more.'
`But isn't it very hot and stuffydown in the--holdI think you
call it?' asked the Water Rat.
The seafarer looked at him with the suspicion go a wink. `I'm an
old hand' he remarked with much simplicity. `The captain's
cabin's good enough for me.'
`It's a hard lifeby all accounts' murmured the Ratsunk in
`For the crew it is' replied the seafarer gravelyagain with
the ghost of a wink.
`From Corsica' he went on`I made use of a ship that was taking
wine to the mainland. We made Alassio in the eveninglay to
hauled up our wine-casksand hove them overboardtied one to
the other by a long line. Then the crew took to the boats and
rowed shorewardssinging as they wentand drawing after them
the long bobbing procession of caskslike a mile of
porpoises. On the sands they had horses waitingwhich dragged
the casks up the steep street of the little town with a fine rush
and clatter and scramble. When the last cask was inwe went and
refreshed and restedand sat late into the nightdrinking with
our friendsand next morning I took to the great olive-woods for
a spell and a rest. For now I had done with islands for the
timeand ports and shipping were plentiful; so I led a lazy life
among the peasantslying and watching them workor stretched
high on the hillside with the blue Mediterranean far below me.
And so at lengthby easy stagesand partly on footpartly by
seato Marseillesand the meeting of old shipmatesand the
visiting of great ocean-bound vesselsand feasting once more.
Talk of shell-fish! Whysometimes I dream of the shell-fish of
Marseillesand wake up crying!'
`That reminds me' said the polite Water Rat; `you happened to
mention that you were hungryand I ought to have spoken earlier.
Of courseyou will stop and take your midday meal with me? My
hole is close by; it is some time past noonand you are very
welcome to whatever there is.'
`Now I call that kind and brotherly of you' said the Sea Rat.
`I was indeed hungry when I sat downand ever since I
inadvertently happened to mention shell-fishmy pangs have been
extreme. But couldn't you fetch it along out here? I am none
too fond of going under hatchesunless I'm obliged to; and then
while we eatI could tell you more concerning my voyages and the
pleasant life I lead--at leastit is very pleasant to meand by
your attention I judge it commends itself to you; whereas if we
go indoors it is a hundred to one that I shall presently fall
`That is indeed an excellent suggestion' said the Water Ratand
hurried off home. There he got out the luncheon-basket and
packed a simple mealin whichremembering the stranger's origin
and preferenceshe took care to include a yard of long French
breada sausage out of which the garlic sangsome cheese which
lay down and criedand a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein
lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes.
Thus ladenhe returned with all speedand blushed for pleasure
at the old seaman's commendations of his taste and judgmentas
together they unpacked the basket and laid out the contents
on the grass by the roadside.
The Sea Ratas soon as his hunger was somewhat assuaged
continued the history of his latest voyageconducting his simple
hearer from port to port of Spainlanding him at LisbonOporto
and Bordeauxintroducing him to the pleasant harbours of
Cornwall and Devonand so up the Channel to that final quayside
wherelanding after winds long contrarystorm-driven and
weather-beatenhe had caught the first magical hints and
heraldings of another Springandfired by thesehad sped on a
long tramp inlandhungry for the experiment of life on some
quiet farmsteadvery far from the weary beating of any sea.
Spell-bound and quivering with excitementthe Water Rat followed
the Adventurer league by leagueover stormy baysthrough
crowded roadsteadsacross harbour bars on a racing tideup
winding rivers that hid their busy little towns round a sudden
turn; and left him with a regretful sigh planted at his dull
inland farmabout which he desired to hear nothing.
By this time their meal was overand the Seafarerrefreshed and
strengthenedhis voice more vibranthis eye lit with a
brightness that seemed caught from some far-away sea-beacon
filled his glass with the red and glowing vintage of the South
andleaning towards the Water Ratcompelled his gaze and held
himbody and soulwhile he talked. Those eyes were of the
changing foam-streaked grey-green of leaping Northern seas; in
the glass shone a hot ruby that seemed the very heart of the
Southbeating for him who had courage to respond to its
pulsation. The twin lightsthe shifting grey and the steadfast
redmastered the Water Rat and held him boundfascinated
powerless. The quiet world outside their rays receded far away
and ceased to be. And the talkthe wonderful talk flowed on--or
was it speech entirelyor did it pass at times into song--chanty
of the sailors weighing the dripping anchorsonorous hum of the
shrouds in a tearing North-Easterballad of the fisherman
hauling his nets at sundown against an apricot skychords of
guitar and mandoline from gondola or caique? Did it change into
the cry of the windplaintive at firstangrily shrill as it
freshenedrising to a tearing whistlesinking to a musical
trickle of air from the leech of the bellying sail? All
these sounds the spell-bound listener seemed to hearand
with them the hungry complaint of the gulls and the sea-mewsthe
soft thunder of the breaking wavethe cry of the protesting
shingle. Back into speech again it passedand with beating
heart he was following the adventures of a dozen seaportsthe
fightsthe escapesthe ralliesthe comradeshipsthe gallant
undertakings; or he searched islands for treasurefished in
still lagoons and dozed day-long on warm white sand. Of deep-sea
fishings he heard telland mighty silver gatherings of the milelong
net; of sudden perilsnoise of breakers on a moonless
nightor the tall bows of the great liner taking shape overhead
through the fog; of the merry home-comingthe headland rounded
the harbour lights opened out; the groups seen dimly on the quay
the cheery hailthe splash of the hawser; the trudge up the
steep little street towards the comforting glow of red-curtained
Lastlyin his waking dream it seemed to him that the Adventurer
had risen to his feetbut was still speakingstill holding him
fast with his sea-grey eyes.
`And now' he was softly saying`I take to the road again
holding on southwestwards for many a long and dusty day; till at
last I reach the little grey sea town I know so wellthat clings
along one steep side of the harbour. There through dark doorways
you look down flights of stone stepsoverhung by great pink
tufts of valerian and ending in a patch of sparkling blue water.
The little boats that lie tethered to the rings and stanchions of
the old sea-wall are gaily painted as those I clambered in and
out of in my own childhood; the salmon leap on the flood tide
schools of mackerel flash and play past quay-sides and
foreshoresand by the windows the great vessels glidenight and
dayup to their moorings or forth to the open sea. There
sooner or laterthe ships of all seafaring nations arrive; and
thereat its destined hourthe ship of my choice will let go
its anchor. I shall take my timeI shall tarry and bidetill
at last the right one lies waiting for mewarped out into
midstreamloaded lowher bowsprit pointing down harbour. I
shall slip on boardby boat or along hawser; and then one
morning I shall wake to the song and tramp of the sailorsthe
clink of the capstanand the rattle of the anchor-chain
coming merrily in. We shall break out the jib and the
foresailthe white houses on the harbour side will glide slowly
past us as she gathers steering-wayand the voyage will have
begun! As she forges towards the headland she will clothe
herself with canvas; and thenonce outsidethe sounding slap of
great green seas as she heels to the windpointing South!
`And youyou will come tooyoung brother; for the days pass
and never returnand the South still waits for you. Take the
Adventureheed the callnow ere the irrevocable moment passes!'
'Tis but a banging of the door behind youa blithesome step
forwardand you are out of the old life and into the new! Then
some daysome day long hencejog home here if you willwhen
the cup has been drained and the play has been playedand sit
down by your quiet river with a store of goodly memories for
company. You can easily overtake me on the roadfor you are
youngand I am ageing and go softly. I will lingerand look
back; and at last I will surely see you comingeager and lighthearted
with all the South in your face!'
The voice died away and ceased as an insect's tiny trumpet
dwindles swiftly into silence; and the Water Ratparalysed
and staringsaw at last but a distant speck on the white surface
of the road.
Mechanically he rose and proceeded to repack the luncheon-basket
carefully and without haste. Mechanically he returned home
gathered together a few small necessaries and special treasures
he was fond ofand put them in a satchel; acting with slow
deliberationmoving about the room like a sleep-walker;
listening ever with parted lips. He swung the satchel over his
shouldercarefully selected a stout stick for his wayfaringand
with no hastebut with no hesitation at allhe stepped across
the threshold just as the Mole appeared at the door.
`Whywhere are you off toRatty?' asked the Mole in great
surprisegrasping him by the arm.
`Going Southwith the rest of them' murmured the Rat in a
dreamy monotonenever looking at him. `Seawards first and then
on shipboardand so to the shores that are calling me!'
He pressed resolutely forwardstill without hastebut with
dogged fixity of purpose; but the Molenow thoroughly
alarmedplaced himself in front of himand looking into his
eyes saw that they were glazed and set and turned a streaked and
shifting grey--not his friend's eyesbut the eyes of some other
animal! Grappling with him strongly he dragged him insidethrew
him downand held him.
The Rat struggled desperately for a few momentsand then his
strength seemed suddenly to leave himand he lay still and
exhaustedwith closed eyestrembling. Presently the Mole
assisted him to rise and placed him in a chairwhere he sat
collapsed and shrunken into himselfhis body shaken by a violent
shiveringpassing in time into an hysterical fit of dry sobbing.
Mole made the door fastthrew the satchel into a drawer and
locked itand sat down quietly on the table by his friend
waiting for the strange seizure to pass. Gradually the Rat sank
into a troubled dozebroken by starts and confused murmurings of
things strange and wild and foreign to the unenlightened Mole;
and from that he passed into a deep slumber.
Very anxious in mindthe Mole left him for a time and busied
himself with household matters; and it was getting dark when
he returned to the parlour and found the Rat where he had left
himwide awake indeedbut listlesssilentand dejected. He
took one hasty glance at his eyes; found themto his great
gratificationclear and dark and brown again as before; and then
sat down and tried to cheer him up and help him to relate what
had happened to him.
Poor Ratty did his bestby degreesto explain things; but how
could he put into cold words what had mostly been suggestion?
How recallfor another's benefitthe haunting sea voices that
had sung to himhow reproduce at second-hand the magic of the
Seafarer's hundred reminiscences? Even to himselfnow the spell
was broken and the glamour gonehe found it difficult to account
for what had seemedsome hours agothe inevitable and only
thing. It is not surprisingthenthat he failed to convey to
the Mole any clear idea of what he had been through that day.
To the Mole this much was plain: the fitor attackhad passed
awayand had left him sane againthough shaken and cast down by
the reaction. But he seemed to have lost all interest for
the time in the things that went to make up his daily lifeas
well as in all pleasant forecastings of the altered days and
doings that the changing season was surely bringing.
Casuallythenand with seeming indifferencethe Mole turned
his talk to the harvest that was being gathered inthe towering
wagons and their straining teamsthe growing ricksand the
large moon rising over bare acres dotted with sheaves. He talked
of the reddening apples aroundof the browning nutsof jams and
preserves and the distilling of cordials; till by easy stages
such as these he reached midwinterits hearty joys and its snug
home lifeand then he became simply lyrical.
By degrees the Rat began to sit up and to join in. His dull eye
brightenedand he lost some of his listening air.
Presently the tactful Mole slipped away and returned with a
pencil and a few half-sheets of paperwhich he placed on the
table at his friend's elbow.
`It's quite a long time since you did any poetry' he remarked.
`You might have a try at it this eveninginstead of--well
brooding over things so much. I've an idea that you'll feel
a lot better when you've got something jotted down--if it's only
just the rhymes.'
The Rat pushed the paper away from him wearilybut the discreet
Mole took occasion to leave the roomand when he peeped in again
some time laterthe Rat was absorbed and deaf to the world;
alternately scribbling and sucking the top of his pencil. It is
true that he sucked a good deal more than he scribbled; but it
was joy to the Mole to know that the cure had at least begun.
THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF TOAD
The front door of the hollow tree faced eastwardsso Toad was
called at an early hour; partly by the bright sunlight streaming
in on himpartly by the exceeding coldness of his toeswhich
made him dream that he was at home in bed in his own handsome
room with the Tudor windowon a cold winter's nightand his
bedclothes had got upgrumbling and protesting they couldn't
stand the cold any longerand had run downstairs to the kitchen
fire to warm themselves; and he had followedon bare feetalong
miles and miles of icy stone-paved passagesarguing and
beseeching them to be reasonable. He would probably have been
aroused much earlierhad he not slept for some weeks on straw
over stone flagsand almost forgotten the friendly
feeling of thick blankets pulled well up round the chin.
Sitting uphe rubbed his eyes first and his complaining toes
nextwondered for a moment where he waslooking round for
familiar stone wall and little barred window; thenwith a leap
of the heartremembered everything--his escapehis flighthis
pursuit; rememberedfirst and best thing of allthat he was
Free! The word and the thought alone were worth fifty blankets.
He was warm from end to end as he thought of the jolly world
outsidewaiting eagerly for him to make his triumphal entrance
ready to serve him and play up to himanxious to help him and to
keep him companyas it always had been in days of old before
misfortune fell upon him. He shook himself and combed the dry
leaves out of his hair with his fingers; andhis toilet
completemarched forth into the comfortable morning suncold
but confidenthungry but hopefulall nervous terrors of
yesterday dispelled by rest and sleep and frank and heartening
He had the world all to himselfthat early summer morning. The
dewy woodlandas he threaded itwas solitary and still: the
green fields that succeeded the trees were his own to do as
he liked with; the road itselfwhen he reached itin that
loneliness that was everywhereseemedlike a stray dogto be
looking anxiously for company. Toadhoweverwas looking for
something that could talkand tell him clearly which way he
ought to go. It is all very wellwhen you have a light heart
and a clear conscienceand money in your pocketand nobody
scouring the country for you to drag you off to prison againto
follow where the road beckons and pointsnot caring whither.
The practical Toad cared very much indeedand he could have
kicked the road for its helpless silence when every minute was of
importance to him.
The reserved rustic road was presently joined by a shy little
brother in the shape of a canalwhich took its hand and ambled
along by its side in perfect confidencebut with the same
tongue-tieduncommunicative attitude towards strangers. `Bother
them!' said Toad to himself. `Butanyhowone thing's clear.
They must both be coming FROM somewhereand going TO
somewhere. You can't get over that. Toadmy boy!' So he
marched on patiently by the water's edge.
Round a bend in the canal came plodding a solitary horse
stooping forward as if in anxious thought. From rope traces
attached to his collar stretched a long linetautbut dipping
with his stridethe further part of it dripping pearly drops.
Toad let the horse passand stood waiting for what the fates
were sending him.
With a pleasant swirl of quiet water at its blunt bow the barge
slid up alongside of himits gaily painted gunwale level with
the towing-pathits sole occupant a big stout woman wearing a
linen sun-bonnetone brawny arm laid along the tiller.
`A nice morningma'am!' she remarked to Toadas she drew up
level with him.
`I dare say it isma'am!' responded Toad politelyas he walked
along the tow-path abreast of her. `I dare it IS a nice
morning to them that's not in sore troublelike what I am.
Here's my married daughtershe sends off to me post-haste to
come to her at once; so off I comesnot knowing what may be
happening or going to happenbut fearing the worstas you will
understandma'amif you're a mothertoo. And I've left my
business to look after itself--I'm in the washing and
laundering lineyou must knowma'am--and I've left my young
children to look after themselvesand a more mischievous and
troublesome set of young imps doesn't existma'am; and I've lost
all my moneyand lost my wayand as for what may be happening
to my married daughterwhyI don't like to think of itma'am!'
`Where might your married daughter be livingma'am?' asked the
`She lives near to the riverma'am' replied Toad. `Close to a
fine house called Toad Hallthat's somewheres hereabouts in
these parts. Perhaps you may have heard of it.'
`Toad Hall? WhyI'm going that way myself' replied the bargewoman.
`This canal joins the river some miles further ona
little above Toad Hall; and then it's an easy walk. You come
along in the barge with meand I'll give you a lift.'
She steered the barge close to the bankand Toadwith many
humble and grateful acknowledgmentsstepped lightly on board and
sat down with great satisfaction. `Toad's luck again!' thought
he. `I always come out on top!'
`So you're in the washing businessma'am?' said the barge-woman
politelyas they glided along. `And a very good business you've
got tooI dare sayif I'm not making too free in saying so.'
`Finest business in the whole country' said Toad airily. `All
the gentry come to me--wouldn't go to any one else if they were
paidthey know me so well. You seeI understand my work
thoroughlyand attend to it all myself. Washingironing
clear-starchingmaking up gents' fine shirts for evening wear-everything's
done under my own eye!'
`But surely you don't DO all that work yourselfma'am?' asked
the barge-woman respectfully.
`OI have girls' said Toad lightly: `twenty girls or
thereaboutsalways at work. But you know what GIRLS are
ma'am! Nasty little hussiesthat's what _I_ call 'em!'
`So do Itoo' said the barge-woman with great heartiness. `But
I dare say you set yours to rightsthe idle trollops! And are
you very fond of washing?'
`I love it' said Toad. `I simply dote on it. Never so happy as
when I've got both arms in the wash-tub. Butthenit comes so
easy to me! No trouble at all! A real pleasureI assure
`What a bit of luckmeeting you!' observed the barge-woman
thoughtfully. `A regular piece of good fortune for both of us!'
`Whywhat do you mean?' asked Toadnervously.
`Welllook at menow' replied the barge-woman. `_I_ like
washingtoojust the same as you do; and for that matter
whether I like it or not I have got to do all my ownnaturally
moving about as I do. Now my husbandhe's such a fellow for
shirking his work and leaving the barge to methat never a
moment do I get for seeing to my own affairs. By rights he ought
to be here noweither steering or attending to the horsethough
luckily the horse has sense enough to attend to himself. Instead
of whichhe's gone off with the dogto see if they can't pick
up a rabbit for dinner somewhere. Says he'll catch me up at the
next lock. Wellthat's as may be--I don't trust himonce he
gets off with that dogwho's worse than he is. But meantime
how am I to get on with my washing?'
`Onever mind about the washing' said Toadnot liking the
subject. `Try and fix your mind on that rabbit. A nice fat
young rabbitI'll be bound. Got any onions?'
`I can't fix my mind on anything but my washing' said the bargewoman
`and I wonder you can be talking of rabbitswith such a
joyful prospect before you. There's a heap of things of mine
that you'll find in a corner of the cabin. If you'll just take
one or two of the most necessary sort--I won't venture to
describe them to a lady like youbut you'll recognise them at a
glance--and put them through the wash-tub as we go alongwhy
it'll be a pleasure to youas you rightly sayand a real help
to me. You'll find a tub handyand soapand a kettle on the
stoveand a bucket to haul up water from the canal with. Then I
shall know you're enjoying yourselfinstead of sitting here
idlelooking at the scenery and yawning your head off.'
`Hereyou let me steer!' said Toadnow thoroughly frightened
`and then you can get on with your washing your own way. I might
spoil your thingsor not do 'em as you like. I'm more used to
gentlemen's things myself. It's my special line.'
`Let you steer?' replied the barge-womanlaughing. `It takes
some practice to steer a barge properly. Besidesit's dull
workand I want you to be happy. Noyou shall do the washing
you are so fond ofand I'll stick to the steering that I
understand. Don't try and deprive me of the pleasure of giving
you a treat!'
Toad was fairly cornered. He looked for escape this way and
thatsaw that he was too far from the bank for a flying leap
and sullenly resigned himself to his fate. `If it comes to
that' he thought in desperation`I suppose any fool can
He fetched tubsoapand other necessaries from the cabin
selected a few garments at randomtried to recollect what he had
seen in casual glances through laundry windowsand set to.
A long half-hour passedand every minute of it saw Toad getting
crosser and crosser. Nothing that he could do to the things
seemed to please them or do them good. He tried coaxinghe
tried slappinghe tried punching; they smiled back at him out of
the tub unconvertedhappy in their original sin. Once or twice
he looked nervously over his shoulder at the barge-woman
but she appeared to be gazing out in front of herabsorbed in
her steering. His back ached badlyand he noticed with dismay
that his paws were beginning to get all crinkly. Now Toad was
very proud of his paws. He muttered under his breath words that
should never pass the lips of either washerwomen or Toads; and
lost the soapfor the fiftieth time.
A burst of laughter made him straighten himself and look round.
The barge-woman was leaning back and laughing unrestrainedly
till the tears ran down her cheeks.
`I've been watching you all the time' she gasped. `I thought
you must be a humbug all alongfrom the conceited way you
talked. Pretty washerwoman you are! Never washed so much as a
dish-clout in your lifeI'll lay!'
Toad's temper which had been simmering viciously for some time
now fairly boiled overand he lost all control of himself.
`You commonlowFAT 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 Toada very well-known
respecteddistinguished Toad! I may be under a bit of a
cloud at presentbut I will NOT be laughed at by a
The woman moved nearer to him and peered under his bonnet keenly
and closely. `Whyso you are!' she cried. `WellI never! A
horridnastycrawly Toad! And in my nice clean bargetoo!
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-legwhile the other-gripped
him fast by a hind-leg. Then the world turned suddenly upside
downthe barge seemed to flit lightly across the skythe wind
whistled in his earsand Toad found himself flying through the
airrevolving rapidly as he went.
The waterwhen he eventually reached it with a loud splash
proved quite cold enough for his tastethough its chill was not
sufficient to quell his proud spiritor slake the heat of his
furious temper. He rose to the surface splutteringand when he
had wiped the duck-weed out of his eyes the first thing he saw
was the fat barge-woman looking back at him over the stern of the
retreating barge and laughing; and he vowedas he coughed
and chokedto be even with her.
He struck out for the shorebut the cotton gown greatly impeded
his effortsand when at length he touched land he found it hard
to climb up the steep bank unassisted. He had to take a minute
or two's rest to recover his breath; thengathering his wet
skirts well over his armshe started to run after the barge as
fast as his legs would carry himwild with indignation
thirsting for revenge.
The barge-woman was still laughing when he drew up level with
her. `Put yourself through your manglewasherwoman' she called
out`and iron your face and crimp itand you'll pass for quite
a decent-looking Toad!'
Toad never paused to reply. Solid revenge was what he wanted
not cheapwindyverbal triumphsthough he had a thing or two
in his mind that he would have liked to say. He saw what he
wanted ahead of him. Running swiftly on he overtook the horse
unfastened the towrope and cast offjumped lightly on the
horse's backand urged it to a gallop by kicking it vigorously
in the sides. He steered for the open countryabandoning the
tow-pathand swinging his steed down a rutty lane. Once he
looked backand saw that the barge had run aground on the other
side of the canaland the barge-woman was gesticulating wildly
and shouting`Stopstopstop!' `I've heard that song before'
said Toadlaughingas he continued to spur his steed onward in
its wild career.
The barge-horse was not capable of any very sustained effortand
its gallop soon subsided into a trotand its trot into an easy
walk; but Toad was quite contented with thisknowing that heat
any ratewas movingand the barge was not. He had quite
recovered his tempernow that he had done something he thought
really clever; and he was satisfied to jog along quietly in the
sunsteering his horse along by-ways and bridle-pathsand
trying to forget how very long it was since he had had a square
mealtill the canal had been left very far behind him.
He had travelled some mileshis horse and heand he was feeling
drowsy in the hot sunshinewhen the horse stoppedlowered his
headand began to nibble the grass; and Toadwaking upjust
saved himself from falling off by an effort. He looked
about him and found he was on a wide commondotted with patches
of gorse and bramble as far as he could see. Near him stood a
dingy gipsy caravanand beside it a man was sitting on a bucket
turned upside downvery busy smoking and staring into the wide
world. A fire of sticks was burning near byand over the fire
hung an iron potand out of that pot came forth bubblings and
gurglingsand a vague suggestive steaminess. Also smells--warm
richand varied smells--that twined and twisted and wreathed
themselves at last into one completevoluptuousperfect smell
that seemed like the very soul of Nature taking form and
appearing to her childrena true Goddessa mother of solace and
comfort. Toad now knew well that he had not been really hungry
before. What he had felt earlier in the day had been a mere
trifling qualm. This was the real thing at lastand no mistake;
and it would have to be dealt with speedilytooor there would
be trouble for somebody or something. He looked the gipsy over
carefullywondering vaguely whether it would be easier to fight
him or cajole him. So there he satand sniffed and sniffedand
looked at the gipsy; and the gipsy sat and smokedand
looked at him.
Presently the gipsy took his pipe out of his mouth and remarked
in a careless way`Want to sell that there horse of yours?'
Toad was completely taken aback. He did not know that gipsies
were very fond of horse-dealingand never missed an opportunity
and he had not reflected that caravans were always on the move
and took a deal of drawing. It had not occurred to him to turn
the horse into cashbut the gipsy's suggestion seemed to smooth
the way towards the two things he wanted so badly--ready money
and a solid breakfast.
`What?' he said`me sell this beautiful young horse of mine? O
no; it's out of the question. Who's going to take the washing
home to my customers every week? BesidesI'm too fond of him
and he simply dotes on me.'
`Try and love a donkey' suggested the gipsy. `Some people do.'
`You don't seem to see' continued Toad`that this fine horse of
mine is a cut above you altogether. He's a blood horsehe is
partly; not the part you seeof course--another part. And
he's been a Prize Hackneytooin his time--that was the time
before you knew himbut you can still tell it on him at a
glanceif you understand anything about horses. Noit's not to
be thought of for a moment. All the samehow much might you be
disposed to offer me for this beautiful young horse of mine?'
The gipsy looked the horse overand then he looked Toad over
with equal careand looked at the horse again. `Shillin' a
leg' he said brieflyand turned awaycontinuing to smoke and
try to stare the wide world out of countenance.
`A shilling a leg?' cried Toad. `If you pleaseI must take a
little time to work that outand see just what it comes to.'
He climbed down off his horseand left it to grazeand sat down
by the gipsyand did sums on his fingersand at last he said
`A shilling a leg? Whythat comes to exactly four shillings
and no more. Ono; I could not think of accepting four
shillings for this beautiful young horse of mine.'
`Well' said the gipsy`I'll tell you what I will do. I'll make
it five shillingsand that's three-and-sixpence more than the
animal's worth. And that's my last word.'
Then Toad sat and pondered long and deeply. For he was hungry
and quite pennilessand still some way--he knew not how far-from
homeand enemies might still be looking for him. To one in
such a situationfive shillings may very well appear a large sum
of money. On the other handit did not seem very much to get
for a horse. But thenagainthe horse hadn't cost him
anything; so whatever he got was all clear profit. At last he
said firmly`Look heregipsy! I tell you what we will do; and
this is MY last word. You shall hand me over six shillings
and sixpencecash down; and furtherin addition theretoyou
shall give me as much breakfast as I can possibly eatat one
sitting of courseout of that iron pot of yours that keeps
sending forth such delicious and exciting smells. In returnI
will make over to you my spirited young horsewith all the
beautiful harness and trappings that are on himfreely thrown
in. If that's not good enough for yousay soand I'll be
getting on. I know a man near here who's wanted this horse of
mine for years.'
The gipsy grumbled frightfullyand declared if he did a few more
deals of that sort he'd be ruined. But in the end he lugged
a dirty canvas bag out of the depths of his trouser pocketand
counted out six shillings and sixpence into Toad's paw. Then he
disappeared into the caravan for an instantand returned with a
large iron plate and a knifeforkand spoon. He tilted up the
potand a glorious stream of hot rich stew gurgled into the
plate. It wasindeedthe most beautiful stew in the world
being made of partridgesand pheasantsand chickensand hares
and rabbitsand pea-hensand guinea-fowlsand one or two other
things. Toad took the plate on his lapalmost cryingand
stuffedand stuffedand stuffedand kept asking for moreand
the gipsy never grudged it him. He thought that he had never
eaten so good a breakfast in all his life.
When Toad had taken as much stew on board as he thought he could
possibly holdhe got up and said good-bye to the gipsyand took
an affectionate farewell of the horse; and the gipsywho knew
the riverside wellgave him directions which way to goand he
set forth on his travels again in the best possible spirits. He
wasindeeda very different Toad from the animal of an hour
ago. The sun was shining brightlyhis wet clothes were
quite dry againhe had money in his pocket once morehe was
nearing home and friends and safetyandmost and best of all
he had had a substantial mealhot and nourishingand felt big
and strongand carelessand self-confident.
As he tramped along gailyhe thought of his adventures and
escapesand how when things seemed at their worst he had always
managed to find a way out; and his pride and conceit began to
swell within him. `Hoho!' he said to himself as he marched
along with his chin in the air`what a clever Toad I am! There
is surely no animal equal to me for cleverness in the whole
world! My enemies shut me up in prisonencircled by sentries
watched night and day by warders; I walk out through them allby
sheer ability coupled with courage. They pursue me with engines
and policemenand revolvers; I snap my fingers at themand
vanishlaughinginto space. I amunfortunatelythrown into a
canal by a woman fat of body and very evil-minded. What of it?
I swim ashoreI seize her horseI ride off in triumphand I
sell the horse for a whole pocketful of money and an excellent
breakfast! Hoho! I am The Toadthe handsomethe
popularthe successful Toad!' He got so puffed up with conceit
that he made up a song as he walked in praise of himselfand
sang it at the top of his voicethough there was no one to hear
it but him. It was perhaps the most conceited song that any
animal ever composed.
`The world has held great Heroes
As history-books have showed;
But never a name to go down to fame
Compared with that of Toad!
`The clever men at Oxford
Know all that there is to be knowed.
But they none of them know one half as much
As intelligent Mr. Toad!
`The animals sat in the Ark and cried
Their tears in torrents flowed.
Who was it saidThere's land ahead?
Encouraging Mr. Toad!
`The army all saluted
As they marched along the road.
Was it the King? Or Kitchener?
No. It was Mr. Toad.
`The Queen and her Ladies-in-waiting
Sat at the window and sewed.
She criedLook! who's that HANDSOME man?
They answeredMr. Toad.'
There was a great deal more of the same sortbut too dreadfully
conceited to be written down. These are some of the milder
He sang as he walkedand he walked as he sangand got more
inflated every minute. But his pride was shortly to have a
After some miles of country lanes he reached the high roadand
as he turned into it and glanced along its white lengthhe saw
approaching him a speck that turned into a dot and then into a
bloband then into something very familiar; and a double note of
warningonly too well knownfell on his delighted ear.
`This is something like!' said the excited Toad. `This is real
life againthis is once more the great world from which I have
been missed so long! I will hail themmy brothers of the wheel
and pitch them a yarnof the sort that has been so successful
hitherto; and they will give me a liftof courseand then I
will talk to them some more; andperhapswith luckit may even
end in my driving up to Toad Hall in a motor-car! That will be
one in the eye for Badger!'
He stepped confidently out into the road to hail the motorcar
which came along at an easy paceslowing down as it neared
the lane; when suddenly he became very palehis heart turned to
waterhis knees shook and yielded under himand he doubled up
and collapsed with a sickening pain in his interior. And well he
mightthe unhappy animal; for the approaching car was the very
one he had stolen out of the yard of the Red Lion Hotel on that
fatal day when all his troubles began! And the people in it were
the very same people he had sat and watched at luncheon in the
He sank down in a shabbymiserable heap in the roadmurmuring
to himself in his despair`It's all up! It's all over now!
Chains and policemen again! Prison again! Dry bread and water
again! Owhat a fool I have been! What did I want to go
strutting about the country forsinging conceited songsand
hailing people in broad day on the high roadinstead of hiding
till nightfall and slipping home quietly by back ways! O hapless
Toad! O ill-fated animal!'
The terrible motor-car drew slowly nearer and nearertill at
last he heard it stop just short of him. Two gentlemen got
out and walked round the trembling heap of crumpled misery lying
in the roadand one of them said`O dear! this is very sad!
Here is a poor old thing--a washerwoman apparently--who has
fainted in the road! Perhaps she is overcome by the heatpoor
creature; or possibly she has not had any food to-day. Let us
lift her into the car and take her to the nearest villagewhere
doubtless she has friends.'
They tenderly lifted Toad into the motor-car and propped him up
with soft cushionsand proceeded on their way.
When Toad heard them talk in so kind and sympathetic a wayand
knew that he was not recognisedhis courage began to reviveand
he cautiously opened first one eye and then the other.
`Look!' said one of the gentlemen`she is better already. The
fresh air is doing her good. How do you feel nowma'am?'
`Thank you kindlySir' said Toad in a feeble voice`I'm
feeling a great deal better!' `That's right' said the
gentleman. `Now keep quite stillandabove alldon't try to
`I won't' said Toad. `I was only thinkingif I might sit on
the front seat therebeside the driverwhere I could get the
fresh air full in my faceI should soon be all right again.'
`What a very sensible woman!' said the gentleman. `Of course you
shall.' So they carefully helped Toad into the front seat beside
the driverand on they went again.
Toad was almost himself again by now. He sat uplooked about
himand tried to beat down the tremorsthe yearningsthe old
cravings that rose up and beset him and took possession of him
`It is fate!' he said to himself. `Why strive? why struggle?'
and he turned to the driver at his side.
`PleaseSir' he said`I wish you would kindly let me try and
drive the car for a little. I've been watching you carefully
and it looks so easy and so interestingand I should like to be
able to tell my friends that once I had driven a motor-car!'
The driver laughed at the proposalso heartily that the
gentleman inquired what the matter was. When he heardhe
saidto Toad's delight`Bravoma'am! I like your spirit.
Let her have a tryand look after her. She won't do any
Toad eagerly scrambled into the seat vacated by the drivertook
the steering-wheel in his handslistened with affected humility
to the instructions given himand set the car in motionbut
very slowly and carefully at firstfor he was determined to be
The gentlemen behind clapped their hands and applaudedand Toad
heard them saying`How well she does it! Fancy a washerwoman
driving a car as well as thatthe first time!'
Toad went a little faster; then faster stilland faster.
He heard the gentlemen call out warningly`Be careful
washerwoman!' And this annoyed himand he began to lose his
The driver tried to interferebut he pinned him down in his seat
with one elbowand put on full speed. The rush of air in his
facethe hum of the enginesand the light jump of the car
beneath him intoxicated his weak brain. `Washerwomanindeed!'
he shouted recklessly. `Ho! ho! I am the Toadthe motor-car
snatcherthe prison-breakerthe Toad who always escapes! Sit
stilland you shall know what driving really isfor you
are in the hands of the famousthe skilfulthe entirely
With a cry of horror the whole party rose and flung themselves on
him. `Seize him!' they cried`seize the Toadthe wicked animal
who stole our motor-car! Bind himchain himdrag him to the
nearest police-station! Down with the desperate and dangerous
Alas! they should have thoughtthey ought to have been more
prudentthey should have remembered to stop the motor-car
somehow before playing any pranks of that sort. With a half-turn
of the wheel the Toad sent the car crashing through the low hedge
that ran along the roadside. One mighty bounda violent shock
and the wheels of the car were churning up the thick mud of a
Toad found himself flying through the air with the strong upward
rush and delicate curve of a swallow. He liked the motionand
was just beginning to wonder whether it would go on until he
developed wings and turned into a Toad-birdwhen he landed on
his back with a thumpin the soft rich grass of a meadow.
Sitting uphe could just see the motor-car in the pond
nearly submerged; the gentlemen and the driverencumbered by
their long coatswere floundering helplessly in the water.
He picked himself up rapidlyand set off running across country
as hard as he couldscrambling through hedgesjumping ditches
pounding across fieldstill he was breathless and wearyand had
to settle down into an easy walk. When he had recovered his
breath somewhatand was able to think calmlyhe began to
giggleand from giggling he took to laughingand he laughed
till he had to sit down under a hedge. `Hoho!' he criedin
ecstasies of self-admiration`Toad again! Toadas usualcomes
out on the top! Who was it got them to give him a lift? Who
managed to get on the front seat for the sake of fresh air? Who
persuaded them into letting him see if he could drive? Who
landed them all in a horse-pond? Who escapedflying gaily and
unscathed through the airleaving the narrow-mindedgrudging
timid excursionists in the mud where they should rightly be?
WhyToadof course; clever Toadgreat ToadGOOD Toad!'
Then he burst into song againand chanted with uplifted voice-
`The motor-car went Poop-poop-poop
As it raced along the road.
Who was it steered it into a pond?
Ingenious Mr. Toad!
Ohow clever I am! How cleverhow cleverhow very clev----'
A slight noise at a distance behind him made him turn his head
and look. O horror! O misery! O despair!
About two fields offa chauffeur in his leather gaiters and two
large rural policemen were visiblerunning towards him as hard
as they could go!
Poor Toad sprang to his feet and pelted away againhis heart in
his mouth. Omy!' he gaspedas he panted along`what an
ASS I am! What a CONCEITED and heedless ass! Swaggering
again! Shouting and singing songs again! Sitting still and
gassing again! O my! O my! O my!'
He glanced backand saw to his dismay that they were gaining on
him. On he ran desperatelybut kept looking backand saw that
they still gained steadily. He did his bestbut he was a fat
animaland his legs were shortand still they gained. He could
hear them close behind him now. Ceasing to heed where he
was goinghe struggled on blindly and wildlylooking back over
his shoulder at the now triumphant enemywhen suddenly the earth
failed under his feethe grasped at the airandsplash! he
found himself head over ears in deep waterrapid waterwater
that bore him along with a force he could not contend with; and
he knew that in his blind panic he had run straight into the
He rose to the surface and tried to grasp the reeds and the
rushes that grew along the water's edge close under the bankbut
the stream was so strong that it tore them out of his hands. `O
my!' gasped poor Toad`if ever I steal a motor-car again! If
ever I sing another conceited song'--then down he wentand came
up breathless and spluttering. Presently he saw that he was
approaching a big dark hole in the bankjust above his headand
as the stream bore him past he reached up with a paw and caught
hold of the edge and held on. Then slowly and with difficulty he
drew himself up out of the watertill at last he was able to
rest his elbows on the edge of the hole. There he remained for
some minutespuffing and pantingfor he was quite
As he sighed and blew and stared before him into the dark hole
some bright small thing shone and twinkled in its depthsmoving
towards him. As it approacheda face grew up gradually around
itand it was a familiar face!
Brown and smallwith whiskers.
Grave and roundwith neat ears and silky hair.
It was the Water Rat!
`LIKE SUMMER TEMPESTS CAME HIS TEARS'
The Rat put out a neat little brown pawgripped Toad firmly by
the scruff of the neckand gave a great hoist and a pull; and
the water-logged Toad came up slowly but surely over the edge of
the holetill at last he stood safe and sound in the hall
streaked with mud and weed to be sureand with the water
streaming off himbut happy and high-spirited as of oldnow
that he found himself once more in the house of a friendand
dodgings and evasions were overand he could lay aside a
disguise that was unworthy of his position and wanted such a lot
of living up to.
`ORatty!' he cried. `I've been through such times since I saw
you lastyou can't think! Such trialssuch sufferingsand all
so nobly borne! Then such escapessuch disguises such
subterfugesand all so cleverly planned and carried out! Been
in prison--got out of itof 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 Toadand no mistake! What do you think my last
exploit was? Just hold on till I tell you----'
`Toad' said the Water Ratgravely and firmly`you go off
upstairs at onceand take off that old cotton rag that looks as
if it might formerly have belonged to some washerwomanand clean
yourself thoroughlyand put on some of my clothesand try and
come down looking like a gentleman if you CAN; for a more
shabbybedraggleddisreputable-looking object than you are I
never set eyes on in my whole life! Nowstop swaggering and
arguingand be off! I'll have something to say to you later!'
Toad was at first inclined to stop and do some talking back at
him. He had had enough of being ordered about when he was in
prisonand here was the thing being begun all over again
apparently; and by a Rattoo! Howeverhe caught sight of
himself in the looking-glass over the hat-standwith the
rusty black bonnet perched rakishly over one eyeand he changed
his mind and went very quickly and humbly upstairs to the Rat's
dressing-room. There he had a thorough wash and brush-up
changed his clothesand stood for a long time before the glass
contemplating himself with pride and pleasureand thinking what
utter idiots all the people must have been to have ever mistaken
him for one moment for a washerwoman.
By the time he came down again luncheon was on the tableand
very glad Toad was to see itfor he had been through some trying
experiences and had taken much hard exercise since the excellent
breakfast provided for him by the gipsy. While they ate Toad
told the Rat all his adventuresdwelling chiefly on his own
clevernessand presence of mind in emergenciesand cunning in
tight places; and rather making out that he had been having a gay
and highly-coloured experience. But the more he talked and
boastedthe more grave and silent the Rat became.
When at last Toad had talked himself to a standstillthere was
silence for a while; and then the Rat said`NowToadyI don't
want to give you painafter all you've been through
already; butseriouslydon't you see what an awful ass you've
been making of yourself? On your own admission you have been
handcuffedimprisonedstarvedchasedterrified out of your
lifeinsultedjeered atand ignominiously flung into the
water--by a womantoo! Where's the amusement in that? Where
does the fun come in? And all because you must needs go and
steal a motor-car. You know that you've never had anything but
trouble from motor-cars from the moment you first set eyes on
one. But if you WILL be mixed up with them--as you generally
arefive minutes after you've started--why STEAL them? Be a
crippleif you think it's exciting; be a bankruptfor a change
if you've set your mind on it: but why choose to be a convict?
When are you going to be sensibleand think of your friendsand
try and be a credit to them? Do you suppose it's any pleasure to
mefor instanceto hear animals sayingas I go aboutthat I'm
the chap that keeps company with gaol-birds?'
Nowit was a very comforting point in Toad's character that he
was a thoroughly good-hearted animal and never minded being
jawed by those who were his real friends. And even when
most set upon a thinghe was always able to see the other side
of the question. So althoughwhile the Rat was talking so
seriouslyhe kept saying to himself mutinously`But it WAS
funthough! Awful fun!' and making strange suppressed noises
inside himk-i-ck-ck-ckand poop-p-pand other sounds
resembling stifled snortsor the opening of soda-water bottles
yet when the Rat had quite finishedhe heaved a deep sigh and
saidvery nicely and humbly`Quite rightRatty! How SOUND
you always are! YesI've been a conceited old assI can quite
see that; but now I'm going to be a good Toadand not do it any
more. As for motor-carsI've not been at all so keen about them
since my last ducking in that river of yours. The fact iswhile
I was hanging on to the edge of your hole and getting my breath
I had a sudden idea--a really brilliant idea--connected with
motor-boats--therethere! don't take on soold chapand stamp
and upset things; it was only an ideaand we won't talk any more
about it now. We'll have our coffeeAND a smokeand a quiet
chatand then I'm going to stroll quietly down to Toad
Halland get into clothes of my ownand set things going again
on the old lines. I've had enough of adventures. I shall lead a
quietsteadyrespectable lifepottering about my propertyand
improving itand doing a little landscape gardening at times.
There will always be a bit of dinner for my friends when they
come to see me; and I shall keep a pony-chaise to jog about the
country injust as I used to in the good old daysbefore I got
restlessand wanted to DO things.'
`Stroll quietly down to Toad Hall?' cried the Ratgreatly
excited. `What are you talking about? Do you mean to say you
`Heard what?' said Toadturning rather pale. `Go onRatty!
Quick! Don't spare me! What haven't I heard?'
`Do you mean to tell me' shouted the Ratthumping with his
little fist upon the table`that you've heard nothing about the
Stoats and Weasels?'
Whatthe Wild Wooders?' cried Toadtrembling in every limb.
`Nonot 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 tableand his chin on his paws;
and a large tear welled up in each of his eyesoverflowed and
splashed on the tableplop! plop!
`Go onRatty' he murmured presently; `tell me all. The worst
is over. I am an animal again. I can bear it.'
`When you--got--into that--that--trouble of yours' said the Rat
slowly and impressively; `I meanwhen you--disappeared from
society for a timeover that misunderstanding about a--a
Toad merely nodded.
`Wellit was a good deal talked about down herenaturally'
continued the Rat`not only along the river-sidebut even in
the Wild Wood. Animals took sidesas always happens. The
River-bankers stuck up for youand said you had been infamously
treatedand there was no justice to be had in the land nowadays.
But the Wild Wood animals said hard thingsand served you right
and it was time this sort of thing was stopped. And they got
very cockyand went about saying you were done for this
time! You would never come back againnevernever!'
Toad nodded once morekeeping silence.
`That's the sort of little beasts they are' the Rat went on.
`But Mole and Badgerthey stuck outthrough thick and thin
that you would come back again soonsomehow. They didn't know
exactly howbut somehow!'
Toad began to sit up in his chair againand to smirk a little.
`They argued from history' continued the Rat. `They said that
no criminal laws had ever been known to prevail against cheek and
plausibility such as yourscombined with the power of a long
purse. So they arranged to move their things in to Toad Hall
and sleep thereand keep it airedand have it all ready for you
when you turned up. They didn't guess what was going to happen
of course; stillthey had their suspicions of the Wild Wood
animals. Now I come to the most painful and tragic part of my
story. One dark night--it was a VERY dark nightand blowing
hardtooand raining simply cats and dogs--a band of weasels
armed to the teethcrept silently up the carriage-drive to the
front entrance. Simultaneouslya body of desperate
ferretsadvancing through the kitchen-gardenpossessed
themselves of the backyard and offices; while a company of
skirmishing stoats who stuck at nothing occupied the conservatory
and the billiard-roomand held the French windows opening on to
`The Mole and the Badger were sitting by the fire in the smokingroom
telling stories and suspecting nothingfor it wasn't a
night for any animals to be out inwhen those bloodthirsty
villains broke down the doors and rushed in upon them from every
side. They made the best fight they couldbut what was the
good? They were unarmedand taken by surpriseand what can two
animals do against hundreds? They took and beat them severely
with sticksthose two poor faithful creaturesand turned them
out into the cold and the wetwith many insulting and uncalledfor
Here the unfeeling Toad broke into a sniggerand then pulled
himself together and tried to look particularly solemn.
`And the Wild Wooders have been living in Toad Hall ever since'
continued the Rat; `and going on simply anyhow! Lying in bed
half the dayand breakfast at all hoursand the place in
such a mess (I'm told) it's not fit to be seen! Eating your
gruband drinking your drinkand making bad jokes about you
and singing vulgar songsabout--wellabout prisons and
magistratesand policemen; horrid personal songswith no humour
in them. And they're telling the tradespeople and everybody that
they've come to stay for good.'
`Ohave they!' said Toad getting up and seizing a stick. `I'll
jolly soon see about that!'
`It's no goodToad!' called the Rat after him. `You'd better
come back and sit down; you'll only get into trouble.'
But the Toad was offand there was no holding him. He marched
rapidly down the roadhis stick over his shoulderfuming and
muttering to himself in his angertill he got near his front
gatewhen suddenly there popped up from behind the palings a
long yellow ferret with a gun.
`Who comes there?' said the ferret sharply.
`Stuff and nonsense!' said Toadvery angrily. `What do you mean
by talking like that to me? Come out of that at onceor
The ferret said never a wordbut he brought his gun up to
his shoulder. Toad prudently dropped flat in the roadand
BANG! a bullet whistled over his head.
The startled Toad scrambled to his feet and scampered off down
the road as hard as he could; and as he ran he heard the ferret
laughing and other horrid thin little laughs taking it up and
carrying on the sound.
He went backvery crestfallenand told the Water Rat.
`What did I tell you?' said the Rat. `It's no good. They've got
sentries postedand they are all armed. You must just wait.'
StillToad was not inclined to give in all at once. So he got
out the boatand set off rowing up the river to where the garden
front of Toad Hall came down to the waterside.
Arriving within sight of his old homehe rested on his oars and
surveyed the land cautiously. All seemed very peaceful and
deserted and quiet. He could see the whole front of Toad Hall
glowing in the evening sunshinethe pigeons settling by twos and
threes along the straight line of the roof; the gardena blaze
of flowers; the creek that led up to the boat-housethe little
wooden bridge that crossed it; all tranquiluninhabited
apparently waiting for his return. He would try the boat-house
firsthe thought. Very warily he paddled up to the mouth of the
creekand was just passing under the bridge
when . . . CRASH!
A great stonedropped from abovesmashed through the bottom of
the boat. It filled and sankand Toad found himself struggling
in deep water. Looking uphe saw two stoats leaning over the
parapet of the bridge and watching him with great glee. `It will
be your head next timeToady!' they called out to him. The
indignant Toad swam to shorewhile the stoats laughed and
laughedsupporting each otherand laughed againtill they
nearly had two fits--that isone fit eachof course.
The Toad retraced his weary way on footand related his
disappointing experiences to the Water Rat once more.
`WellWHAT did I tell you?' said the Rat very crossly. `And
nowlook here! See what you've been and done! Lost me my boat
that I was so fond ofthat's what you've done! And simply
ruined that nice suit of clothes that I lent you! Really
Toadof all the trying animals--I wonder you manage to keep any
friends at all!'
The Toad saw at once how wrongly and foolishly he had acted. He
admitted his errors and wrong-headedness and made a full apology
to Rat for losing his boat and spoiling his clothes. And he
wound up by sayingwith that frank self-surrender which always
disarmed his friend's criticism and won them back to his side
`Ratty! I see that I have been a headstrong and a wilful Toad!
Henceforthbelieve meI will be humble and submissiveand will
take no action without your kind advice and full approval!'
`If that is really so' said the good-natured Ratalready
appeased`then my advice to you isconsidering the lateness of
the hourto sit down and have your supperwhich will be on the
table in a minuteand be very patient. For I am convinced that
we can do nothing until we have seen the Mole and the Badgerand
heard their latest newsand held conference and taken their
advice in this difficult matter.'
`Ohahyesof coursethe Mole and the Badger' said Toad
lightly. `What's become of themthe 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-carsand galloping
proudly on blood-horsesand breakfasting on the fat of the land
those two poor devoted animals have been camping out in the open
in every sort of weatherliving very rough by day and lying very
hard by night; watching over your housepatrolling your
boundarieskeeping a constant eye on the stoats and the weasels
scheming and planning and contriving how to get your property
back for you. You don't deserve to have such true and loyal
friendsToadyou don'treally. Some daywhen it's too late
you'll be sorry you didn't value them more while you had them!'
`I'm an ungrateful beastI know' sobbed Toadshedding bitter
tears. `Let me go out and find themout into the colddark
nightand share their hardshipsand try and prove by----Hold on
a bit! Surely I heard the chink of dishes on a tray! Supper's
here at lasthooray! Come onRatty!'
The Rat remembered that poor Toad had been on prison fare
for a considerable timeand that large allowances had therefore
to be made. He followed him to the table accordinglyand
hospitably encouraged him in his gallant efforts to make up for
They had just finished their meal and resumed their arm-chairs
when there came a heavy knock at the door.
Toad was nervousbut the Ratnodding mysteriously at himwent
straight up to the door and opened itand in walked Mr. Badger.
He had all the appearance of one who for some nights had been
kept away from home and all its little comforts and conveniences.
His shoes were covered with mudand he was looking very rough
and touzled; but then he had never been a very smart manthe
Badgerat the best of times. He came solemnly up to Toadshook
him by the pawand said`Welcome homeToad! Alas! what am I
saying? Homeindeed! This is a poor home-coming. Unhappy
Toad!' Then he turned his back on himsat down to the table
drew his chair upand helped himself to a large slice of cold
Toad was quite alarmed at this very serious and portentous style
of greeting; but the Rat whispered to him`Never mind;
don't take any notice; and don't say anything to him just yet.
He's always rather low and despondent when he's wanting his
victuals. In half an hour's time he'll be quite a different
So they waited in silenceand presently there came another and a
lighter knock. The Ratwith a nod to Toadwent to the door and
ushered in the Molevery shabby and unwashedwith bits of hay
and straw sticking in his fur.
`Hooray! Here's old Toad!' cried the Molehis face beaming.
`Fancy having you back again!' And he began to dance round him.
`We never dreamt you would turn up so soon! Whyyou must have
managed to escapeyou cleveringeniousintelligent Toad!'
The Ratalarmedpulled him by the elbow; but it was too late.
Toad was puffing and swelling already.
`Clever? Ono!' he said. `I'm not really cleveraccording to
my friends. I've only broken out of the strongest prison in
Englandthat's all! And captured a railway train and escaped on
itthat's all! And disguised myself and gone about the country
humbugging everybodythat's all! Ono! I'm a stupid ass
I am! I'll tell you one or two of my little adventuresMole
and you shall judge for yourself!'
`Wellwell' said the Molemoving towards the supper-table;
`supposing you talk while I eat. Not a bite since breakfast! O
my! O my!' And he sat down and helped himself liberally to cold
beef and pickles.
Toad straddled on the hearth-rugthrust his paw into his
trouser-pocket and pulled out a handful of silver. `Look at
that!' he crieddisplaying it. `That's not so badis itfor a
few minutes' work? And how do you think I done itMole? Horsedealing!
That's how I done it!'
`Go onToad' said the Moleimmensely interested.
`Toaddo be quietplease!' said the Rat. `And don't you egg
him onMolewhen you know what he is; but please tell us as
soon as possible what the position isand what's best to be
donenow 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 donewhyblest if I know!
The Badger and I have been round and round the placeby
night and by day; always the same thing. Sentries posted
everywhereguns poked out at usstones thrown at us; always an
animal on the look-outand when they see usmy! how they do
laugh! That's what annoys me most!'
`It's a very difficult situation' said the Ratreflecting
deeply. `But I think I see nowin the depths of my mindwhat
Toad really ought to do. I will tell you. He ought to----'
`Nohe oughtn't!' shouted the Molewith his mouth full.
`Nothing of the sort! You don't understand. What he ought to do
ishe ought to----'
`WellI shan't do itanyway!' cried Toadgetting excited.
`I'm not going to be ordered about by you fellows! It's my house
we're talking aboutand I know exactly what to doand I'll tell
you. I'm going to----'
By this time they were all three talking at onceat the top of
their voicesand the noise was simply deafeningwhen a thin
dry voice made itself heardsaying`Be quiet at onceall of
you!' and instantly every one was silent.
It was the Badgerwhohaving finished his piehad turned round
in his chair and was looking at them severely. When he saw that
he had secured their attentionand that they were evidently
waiting for him to address themhe turned back to the table
again and reached out for the cheese. And so great was the
respect commanded by the solid qualities of that admirable
animalthat not another word was uttered until he had quite
finished his repast and brushed the crumbs from his knees. The
Toad fidgeted a good dealbut the Rat held him firmly down.
When the Badger had quite donehe got up from his seat and stood
before the fireplacereflecting deeply. At last he spoke.
`Toad!' he said severely. `You badtroublesome little animal!
Aren't you ashamed of youself? What do you think your fathermy
old friendwould have said if he had been here to-nightand had
known of all your goings on?'
Toadwho was on the sofa by this timewith his legs uprolled
over on his faceshaken by sobs of contrition.
`Therethere!' went on the Badgermore kindly. `Never mind.
Stop crying. We're going to let bygones be bygonesand try and
turn over a new leaf. But what the Mole says is quite true. The
stoats are on guardat every pointand they make the best
sentinels in the world. It's quite useless to think of attacking
the place. They're too strong for us.'
`Then it's all over' sobbed the Toadcrying into the sofa
cushions. `I shall go and enlist for a soldierand never see my
dear Toad Hall any more!'
`Comecheer upToady!' said the Badger. `There are more ways
of getting back a place than taking it by storm. I haven't said
my last word yet. Now I'm going to tell you a great secret.'
Toad sat up slowly and dried his eyes. Secrets had an immense
attraction for himbecause he never could keep oneand he
enjoyed the sort of unhallowed thrill he experienced when he went
and told another animalafter having faithfully promised not to.
`There--is--an--underground--passage' said the Badger
impressively`that leads from the river-bankquite near here
right up into the middle of Toad Hall.'
`Ononsense! Badger' said Toadrather airily. `You've been
listening to some of the yarns they spin in the public-houses
about here. I know every inch of Toad Hallinside and out.
Nothing of the sortI do assure you!'
`My young friend' said the Badgerwith great severity`your
fatherwho was a worthy animal--a lot worthier than some others
I know--was a particular friend of mineand told me a great deal
he wouldn't have dreamt of telling you. He discovered that
passage--he didn't make itof course; that was done hundreds of
years before he ever came to live there--and he repaired it and
cleaned it outbecause he thought it might come in useful some
dayin case of trouble or danger; and he showed it to me.
Don't let my son know about it,he said. "He's a good boybut
very light and volatile in characterand simply cannot hold his
tongue. If he's ever in a real fixand it would be of use to
himyou may tell him about the secret passage; but not before."'
The other animals looked hard at Toad to see how he would take
it. Toad was inclined to be sulky at first; but he brightened up
immediatelylike the good fellow he was.
`Wellwell' he said; `perhaps I am a bit of a talker. A
popular fellow such as I am--my friends get round me--we chaff
we sparklewe tell witty stories--and somehow my tongue
gets wagging. I have the gift of conversation. I've been told I
ought to have a salonwhatever that may be. Never mind. Go
onBadger. How's this passage of yours going to help us?'
`I've found out a thing or two lately' continued the Badger. `I
got Otter to disguise himself as a sweep and call at the backdoor
with brushes over his shoulderasking for a job. There's
going to be a big banquet to-morrow night. It's somebody's
birthday--the Chief Weasel'sI believe--and all the weasels will
be gathered together in the dining-halleating and drinking and
laughing and carrying onsuspecting nothing. No gunsno
swordsno sticksno arms of any sort whatever!'
`But the sentinels will be posted as usual' remarked the Rat.
`Exactly' said the Badger; `that is my point. The weasels will
trust entirely to their excellent sentinels. And that is where
the passage comes in. That very useful tunnel leads right up
under the butler's pantrynext to the dining-hall!'
`Aha! that squeaky board in the butler's pantry!' said Toad.
`Now I understand it!'
`We shall creep out quietly into the butler's pantry--' cried the
`--with our pistols and swords and sticks--' shouted the Rat.
`--and rush in upon them' said the Badger.
`--and whack 'emand whack 'emand whack 'em!' cried the Toad
in ecstasyrunning round and round the roomand jumping over
`Very wellthen' said the Badgerresuming his usual dry
manner`our plan is settledand there's nothing more for you to
argue and squabble about. Soas it's getting very lateall of
you go right off to bed at once. We will make all the necessary
arrangements in the course of the morning to-morrow.'
Toadof coursewent off to bed dutifully with the rest--he knew
better than to refuse--though he was feeling much too excited to
sleep. But he had had a long daywith many events crowded into
it; and sheets and blankets were very friendly and comforting
thingsafter plain strawand not too much of itspread on the
stone floor of a draughty cell; and his head had not been many
seconds on his pillow before he was snoring happily. Naturally
he dreamt a good deal; about roads that ran away from him
just when he wanted themand canals that chased him and caught
himand a barge that sailed into the banqueting-hall with his
week's washingjust as he was giving a dinner-party; and he was
alone in the secret passagepushing onwardsbut it twisted and
turned round and shook itselfand sat up on its end; yet
somehowat the lasthe found himself back in Toad Hallsafe
and triumphantwith all his friends gathered round about him
earnestly assuring him that he really was a clever Toad.
He slept till a late hour next morningand by the time he got
down he found that the other animals had finished their breakfast
some time before. The Mole had slipped off somewhere by himself
without telling any one where he was going to. The Badger sat in
the arm-chairreading the paperand not concerning himself in
the slightest about what was going to happen that very evening.
The Raton the other handwas running round the room busily
with his arms full of weapons of every kinddistributing them in
four little heaps on the floorand saying excitedly under his
breathas he ran`Here's-a-sword-for-the-Rathere's-a-swordfor-
Badger!' And so onin a regularrhythmical waywhile the
four little heaps gradually grew and grew.
`That's all very wellRat' said the Badger presentlylooking
at the busy little animal over the edge of his newspaper; `I'm
not blaming you. But just let us once get past the stoatswith
those detestable guns of theirsand I assure you we shan't want
any swords or pistols. We fourwith our sticksonce we're
inside the dining-hallwhywe shall clear the floor of all the
lot of them in five minutes. I'd have done the whole thing by
myselfonly I didn't want to deprive you fellows of the fun!'
`It's as well to be on the safe side' said the Rat reflectively
polishing a pistol-barrel on his sleeve and looking along it.
The Toadhaving finished his breakfastpicked up a stout stick
and swung it vigorouslybelabouring imaginary animals. `I'll
learn 'em to steal my house!' he cried. `I'll learn 'emI'll
`Don't say "learn 'em Toad,' said the Rat, greatly shocked.
`It's not good English.'
`What are you always nagging at Toad for?' inquired the Badger,
rather peevishly. `What's the matter with his English? It's the
same what I use myself, and if it's good enough for me, it ought
to be good enough for you!'
`I'm very sorry,' said the Rat humbly. `Only I THINK it ought
to be teach 'em not learn 'em."'
`But we don't WANT to teach 'em' replied the Badger. `We
want to LEARN 'em--learn 'emlearn 'em! And what's more
we're going to DO ittoo!'
`Ohvery wellhave it your own way' said the Rat. He was
getting rather muddled about it himselfand presently he retired
into a cornerwhere he could be heard muttering`Learn 'em
teach 'emteach 'emlearn 'em!' till the Badger told him rather
sharply to leave off.
Presently the Mole came tumbling into the roomevidently 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 carefulMole?' said the Rat anxiously.
`I should hope sotoo' said the Mole confidently. `I got the
idea when I went into the kitchento see about Toad's
breakfast being kept hot for him. I found that old washerwomandress
that he came home in yesterdayhanging on a towel-horse
before the fire. So I put it onand the bonnet as welland the
shawland off I went to Toad Hallas bold as you please. The
sentries were on the look-outof coursewith their guns and
their "Who comes there?" and all the rest of their nonsense.
Good morning, gentlemen!says Ivery respectful. "Want any
washing done to-day?"
`They looked at me very proud and stiff and haughtyand said
Go away, washerwoman! We don't do any washing on duty.Or
any other time?says I. Hohoho! Wasn't I FUNNYToad?'
`Poorfrivolous animal!' said Toadvery loftily. The fact is
he felt exceedingly jealous of Mole for what he had just done.
It was exactly what he would have liked to have done himselfif
only he had thought of it firstand hadn't gone and overslept
`Some of the stoats turned quite pink' continued the Mole`and
the Sergeant in chargehe said to mevery shorthe saidNow
run away, my good woman, run away! Don't keep my men idling
and talking on their posts.Run away?says I; "it won't be me
that'll be running awayin a very short time from now!"'
`O MOLYhow could you?' said the Ratdismayed.
The Badger laid down his paper.
`I could see them pricking up their ears and looking at each
other' went on the Mole; `and the Sergeant said to themNever
mind HER; she doesn't know what she's talking about.'
`"O! don't I?"' said I. `"Welllet me tell you this. My
daughtershe washes for Mr. Badgerand that'll show you whether
I know what I'm talking about; and YOU'LL know pretty soon
too! A hundred bloodthirsty badgersarmed with riflesare
going to attack Toad Hall this very nightby way of the paddock.
Six boatloads of Ratswith pistols and cutlasseswill come up
the river and effect a landing in the garden; while a picked body
of Toadsknown at the Die-hardsor the Death-or-Glory Toads
will storm the orchard and carry everything before themyelling
for vengeance. There won't be much left of you to washby the
time they've done with youunless you clear out while you have
the chance!" Then I ran awayand when I was out of sight I
hid; and presently I came creeping back along the ditch and took
a peep at them through the hedge. They were all as nervous and
flustered as could berunning all ways at onceand falling over
each otherand every one giving orders to everybody else and not
listening; and the Sergeant kept sending off parties of stoats to
distant parts of the groundsand then sending other fellows to
fetch 'em back again; and I heard them saying to each other
That's just like the weasels; they're to stop comfortably in the
banqueting-hall, and have feasting and toasts and songs and all
sorts of fun, while we must stay on guard in the cold and the
dark, and in the end be cut to pieces by bloodthirsty Badgers!'
`Ohyou silly assMole!' cried Toad`You've been and spoilt
`Mole' said the Badgerin his dryquiet way`I perceive you
have more sense in your little finger than some other animals
have in the whole of their fat bodies. You have managed
excellentlyand I begin to have great hopes of you. Good Mole!
The Toad was simply wild with jealousymore especially as
he couldn't make out for the life of him what the Mole had done
that was so particularly clever; butfortunately for himbefore
he could show temper or expose himself to the Badger's sarcasm
the bell rang for luncheon.
It was a simple but sustaining meal--bacon and broad beansand a
macaroni pudding; and when they had quite donethe Badger
settled himself into an arm-chairand said`Wellwe've got our
work cut out for us to-nightand it will probably be pretty late
before we're quite through with it; so I'm just going to take
forty winkswhile I can.' And he drew a handkerchief over his
face and was soon snoring.
The anxious and laborious Rat at once resumed his preparations
and started running between his four little heapsmuttering
for-the-Toadhere's-a-belt-for-the-Badger!' and so onwith
every fresh accoutrement he producedto which there seemed
really no end; so the Mole drew his arm through Toad'sled him
out into the open airshoved him into a wicker chairand made
him tell him all his adventures from beginning to endwhich
Toad was only too willing to do. The Mole was a good listener
and Toadwith no one to check his statements or to criticise in
an unfriendly spiritrather let himself go. Indeedmuch that
he related belonged more properly to the category of what-mighthave-
afterwards. Those are always the best and the raciest
adventures; and why should they not be truly oursas much as the
somewhat inadequate things that really come off?
THE RETURN OF ULYSSES
When it began to grow darkthe Ratwith an air of excitement
and mysterysummoned them back into the parlourstood each of
them up alongside of his little heapand proceeded to dress them
up for the coming expedition. He was very earnest and
thoroughgoing about itand the affair took quite a long time.
Firstthere was a belt to go round each animaland then a sword
to be stuck into each beltand then a cutlass on the other side
to balance it. Then a pair of pistolsa policeman's truncheon
several sets of handcuffssome bandages and sticking-plaster
and a flask and a sandwich-case. The Badger laughed goodhumouredly
and said`All rightRatty! It amuses you and it
doesn't hurt me. I'm going to do all I've got to do with this
here stick.' But the Rat only said`PLEASEBadger.
You know I shouldn't like you to blame me afterwards and say
I had forgotten ANYTHING!'
When all was quite readythe Badger took a dark lantern in one
pawgrasped his great stick with the otherand said`Now then
follow me! Mole first`cos I'm very pleased with him; Rat next;
Toad last. And look hereToady! Don't you chatter so much as
usualor you'll be sent backas sure as fate!'
The Toad was so anxious not to be left out that he took up the
inferior position assigned to him without a murmurand the
animals set off. The Badger led them along by the river for a
little wayand then suddenly swung himself over the edge into a
hole in the river-banka little above the water. The Mole and
the Rat followed silentlyswinging themselves successfully into
the hole as they had seen the Badger do; but when it came to
Toad's turnof course he managed to slip and fall into the water
with a loud splash and a squeal of alarm. He was hauled out by
his friendsrubbed down and wrung out hastilycomfortedand
set on his legs; but the Badger was seriously angryand told him
that the very next time he made a fool of himself he would
most certainly be left behind.
So at last they were in the secret passageand the cutting-out
expedition had really begun!
It was coldand darkand dampand lowand narrowand poor
Toad began to shiverpartly from dread of what might be before
himpartly because he was wet through. The lantern was far
aheadand he could not help lagging behind a little in the
darkness. Then he heard the Rat call out warningly`COME on
Toad!' and a terror seized him of being left behindalone in the
darknessand he `came on' with such a rush that he upset the Rat
into the Mole and the Mole into the Badgerand for a moment all
was confusion. The Badger thought they were being attacked from
behindandas there was no room to use a stick or a cutlass
drew a pistoland was on the point of putting a bullet into
Toad. When he found out what had really happened he was very
angry indeedand said`Now this time that tiresome Toad
SHALL be left behind!'
But Toad whimperedand the other two promised that they would be
answerable for his good conductand at last the Badger was
pacifiedand the procession moved on; only this time the Rat
brought up the rearwith a firm grip on the shoulder of Toad.
So they groped and shuffled alongwith their ears pricked up and
their paws on their pistolstill at last the Badger said`We
ought by now to be pretty nearly under the Hall.'
Then suddenly they heardfar away as it might beand yet
apparently nearly over their headsa confused murmur of sound
as if people were shouting and cheering and stamping on the floor
and hammering on tables. The Toad's nervous terrors all
returnedbut the Badger only remarked placidly`They ARE
going itthe Weasels!'
The passage now began to slope upwards; they groped onward a
little furtherand then the noise broke out againquite
distinct this timeand very close above them. `Ooo-ray-oorayoo-
ray-ooray!' they heardand the stamping of little feet on the
floorand the clinking of glasses as little fists pounded on the
table. `WHAT a time they're having!' said the Badger. `Come
on!' They hurried along the passage till it came to a full stop
and they found themselves standing under the trap-door that
led up into the butler's pantry.
Such a tremendous noise was going on in the banqueting-hall that
there was little danger of their being overheard. The Badger
said`Nowboysall together!' and the four of them put their
shoulders to the trap-door and heaved it back. Hoisting each
other upthey found themselves standing in the pantrywith only
a door between them and the banqueting-hallwhere their
unconscious enemies were carousing.
The noiseas they emerged from the passagewas simply
deafening. At lastas the cheering and hammering slowly
subsideda voice could be made out saying`WellI do not
propose to detain you much longer'--(great applause)--`but before
I resume my seat'--(renewed cheering)--`I should like to say one
word about our kind hostMr. Toad. We all know Toad!'--(great
laughter)--`GOOD ToadMODEST ToadHONEST Toad!'
(shrieks of merriment).
`Only just let me get at him!' muttered Toadgrinding his teeth.
`Hold hard a minute!' said the Badgerrestraining him with
difficulty. `Get readyall of you!'
`--Let me sing you a little song' went on the voice`which I
have composed on the subject of Toad'--(prolonged applause).
Then the Chief Weasel--for it was he--began in a highsqueaky
`Toad he went a-pleasuring
Gaily down the street--'
The Badger drew himself uptook a firm grip of his stick with
both pawsglanced round at his comradesand cried-
`The hour is come! Follow me!'
And flung the door open wide.
What a squealing and a squeaking and a screeching filled the air!
Well might the terrified weasels dive under the tables and spring
madly up at the windows! Well might the ferrets rush wildly for
the fireplace and get hopelessly jammed in the chimney! Well
might tables and chairs be upsetand glass and china be sent
crashing on the floorin the panic of that terrible moment when
the four Heroes strode wrathfully into the room! The mighty
Badgerhis whiskers bristlinghis great cudgel whistling
through the air; Moleblack and grimbrandishing his stick and
shouting his awful war-cry`A Mole! A Mole!' Rat; desperate
and determinedhis belt bulging with weapons of every age and
every variety; Toadfrenzied with excitement and injured pride
swollen to twice his ordinary sizeleaping into the air and
emitting Toad-whoops that chilled them to the marrow! `Toad he
went a-pleasuring!' he yelled. `I'LL pleasure 'em!' and he
went straight for the Chief Weasel. They were but four in all
but to the panic-stricken weasels the hall seemed full of
monstrous animalsgreyblackbrown and yellowwhooping and
flourishing enormous cudgels; and they broke and fled with
squeals of terror and dismaythis way and thatthrough the
windowsup the chimneyanywhere to get out of reach of those
The affair was soon over. Up and downthe whole length of the
hallstrode the four Friendswhacking with their sticks at
every head that showed itself; and in five minutes the room was
cleared. Through the broken windows the shrieks of terrified
weasels escaping across the lawn were borne faintly to their
ears; on the floor lay prostrate some dozen or so of the enemy
on whom the Mole was busily engaged in fitting handcuffs. The
Badgerresting from his laboursleant 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 yoursand see
what they're doing. I've an idea thatthanks to youwe shan't
have much trouble from them to-night!'
The Mole vanished promptly through a window; and the Badger bade
the other two set a table on its legs againpick up knives and
forks and plates and glasses from the debris on the floorand
see if they could find materials for a supper. `I want some
grubI do' he saidin that rather common way he had of
speaking. `Stir your stumpsToadand look lively! We've got
your house back for youand you don't offer us so much as a
sandwich.' Toad felt rather hurt that the Badger didn't say
pleasant things to himas he had to the Moleand tell him what
a fine fellow he wasand how splendidly he had fought; for he
was rather particularly pleased with himself and the way he had
gone for the Chief Weasel and sent him flying across the
table with one blow of his stick. But he bustled aboutand so
did the Ratand soon they found some guava jelly in a glass
dishand a cold chickena tongue that had hardly been touched
some trifleand quite a lot of lobster salad; and in the pantry
they came upon a basketful of French rolls and any quantity of
cheesebutterand celery. They were just about to sit down
when the Mole clambered in through the windowchucklingwith an
armful of rifles.
`It's all over' he reported. `From what I can make outas soon
as the stoatswho were very nervous and jumpy alreadyheard the
shrieks and the yells and the uproar inside the hallsome of
them threw down their rifles and fled. The others stood fast for
a bitbut when the weasels came rushing out upon them they
thought they were betrayed; and the stoats grappled with the
weaselsand the weasels fought to get awayand they wrestled
and wriggled and punched each otherand rolled over and over
till most of 'em rolled into the river! They've all disappeared
by nowone way or another; and I've got their rifles. So that's
`Excellent and deserving animal!' said the Badgerhis mouth full
of chicken and trifle. `Nowthere's just one more thing I want
you to doMolebefore you sit down to your supper along of us;
and I wouldn't trouble you only I know I can trust you to see a
thing doneand I wish I could say the same of every one I know.
I'd send Ratif he wasn't a poet. I want you to take those
fellows on the floor there upstairs with youand have some
bedrooms cleaned out and tidied up and made really comfortable.
See that they sweep UNDER the bedsand put clean sheets and
pillow-cases onand turn down one corner of the bed-clothes
just as you know it ought to be done; and have a can of hot
waterand clean towelsand fresh cakes of soapput in each
room. And then you can give them a licking a-pieceif it's any
satisfaction to youand put them out by the back-doorand we
shan't see any more of THEMI fancy. And then come along and
have some of this cold tongue. It's first rate. I'm very
pleased with youMole!'
The goodnatured Mole picked up a stickformed his prisoners up
in a line on the floorgave them the order `Quick march!' and
led his squad off to the upper floor. After a timehe
appeared againsmilingand said that every room was readyand
as clean as a new pin. `And I didn't have to lick themeither'
he added. `I thoughton the wholethey had had licking enough
for one nightand the weaselswhen I put the point to them
quite agreed with meand said they wouldn't think of troubling
me. They were very penitentand said they were extremely sorry
for what they had done. but it was all the fault of the Chief
Weasel and the stoatsand if ever they could do anything for us
at any time to make upwe had only got to mention it. So I gave
them a roll a-pieceand let them out at the backand off they
ranas hard as they could!'
Then the Mole pulled his chair up to the tableand pitched into
the cold tongue; and Toadlike the gentleman he wasput all his
jealousy from himand said heartily`Thank you kindlydear
Molefor all your pains and trouble tonightand especially for
your cleverness this morning!' The Badger was pleased at that
and said`There spoke my brave Toad!' So they finished their
supper in great joy and contentmentand presently retired to
rest between clean sheetssafe in Toad's ancestral home
won back by matchless valourconsummate strategyand a proper
handling of sticks.
The following morningToadwho had overslept himself as usual
came down to breakfast disgracefully lateand found on the table
a certain quantity of egg-shellssome fragments of cold and
leathery toasta coffee-pot three-fourths emptyand really very
little else; which did not tend to improve his temper
considering thatafter allit was his own house. Through the
French windows of the breakfast-room he could see the Mole and
the Water Rat sitting in wicker-chairs out on the lawnevidently
telling each other stories; roaring with laughter and kicking
their short legs up in the air. The Badgerwho was in an armchair
and deep in the morning papermerely looked up and nodded
when Toad entered the room. But Toad knew his manso he sat
down and made the best breakfast he couldmerely observing to
himself that he would get square with the others sooner or later.
When he had nearly finishedthe Badger looked up and remarked
rather shortly: `I'm sorryToadbut I'm afraid there's a heavy
morning's work in front of you. You seewe really ought to
have a Banquet at onceto celebrate this affair. It's expected
of you--in factit's the rule.'
`Oall right!' said the Toadreadily. `Anything to oblige.
Though why on earth you should want to have a Banquet in the
morning I cannot understand. But you know I do not live to
please myselfbut merely to find out what my friends wantand
then try and arrange it for 'emyou dear old Badger!'
`Don't pretend to be stupider than you really are' replied the
Badgercrossly; `and don't chuckle and splutter in your coffee
while you're talking; it's not manners. What I mean isthe
Banquet will be at nightof coursebut the invitations will
have to be written and got off at onceand you've got to write
'em. Nowsit down at that table--there's stacks of letter-paper
on itwith "Toad Hall" at the top in blue and gold--and write
invitations to all our friendsand if you stick to it we shall
get them out before luncheon. And I'LL bear a handtoo; and
take my share of the burden. I'LL order the Banquet.'
`What!' cried Toaddismayed. `Me stop indoors and write a lot
of rotten letters on a jolly morning like thiswhen I want
to go around my propertyand set everything and everybody to
rightsand swagger about and enjoy myself! Certainly not! I'll
be--I'll see you----Stop a minutethough! Whyof coursedear
Badger! What is my pleasure or convenience compared with that of
others! You wish it doneand it shall be done. GoBadger
order the Banquetorder what you like; then join our young
friends outside in their innocent mirthoblivious of me and my
cares and toils. I sacrifice this fair morning on the altar of
duty and friendship!'
The Badger looked at him very suspiciouslybut Toad's frank
open countenance made it difficult to suggest any unworthy motive
in this change of attitude. He quitted the roomaccordinglyin
the direction of the kitchenand as soon as the door had closed
behind himToad hurried to the writing-table. A fine idea had
occurred to him while he was talking. He WOULD write the
invitations; and he would take care to mention the leading part
he had taken in the fightand how he had laid the Chief Weasel
flat; and he would hint at his adventuresand what a career of
triumph he had to tell about; and on the fly-leaf he would
set out a sort of a programme of entertainment for the evening-something
like thisas he sketched it out in his head:-
SPEECH . . . . BY TOAD.
(There will be other speeches by TOAD during the evening.)
ADDRESS . . . BY TOAD
SYNOPSIS--Our Prison System--the Waterways of Old England--Horsedealing
and how to deal--Propertyits rights and its duties--
Back to the Land--A Typical English Squire.
SONG . . . . BY TOAD.
(Composed by himself.)
OTHER COMPOSITIONS . BY TOAD
will be sung in the course of the
evening by the . . . COMPOSER.
The idea pleased him mightlyand he worked very hard and got all
the letters finished by noonat which hour it was reported to
him that there was a small and rather bedraggled weasel at the
doorinquiring timidly whether he could be of any service to the
gentlemen. Toad swaggered out and found it was one of the
prisoners of the previous eveningvery respectful and
anxious to please. He patted him on the headshoved the bundle
of invitations into his pawand told him to cut along quick and
deliver them as fast as he couldand if he liked to come back
again in the eveningperhaps there might be a shilling for him
oragainperhaps there mightn't; and the poor weasel seemed
really quite gratefuland hurried off eagerly to do his mission.
When the other animals came back to luncheonvery boisterous and
breezy after a morning on the riverthe Molewhose conscience
had been pricking himlooked doubtfully at Toadexpecting to
find him sulky or depressed. Insteadhe was so uppish and
inflated that the Mole began to suspect something; while the Rat
and the Badger exchanged significant glances.
As soon as the meal was overToad thrust his paws deep into his
trouser-pocketsremarked casually`Welllook after yourselves
you fellows! Ask for anything you want!' and was swaggering off
in the direction of the gardenwhere he wanted to think out an
idea or two for his coming speecheswhen the Rat caught him by
Toad rather suspected what he was afterand did his best to get
away; but when the Badger took him firmly by the other arm he
began to see that the game was up. The two animals conducted him
between them into the small smoking-room that opened out of the
entrance-hallshut the doorand put him into a chair. Then
they both stood in front of himwhile Toad sat silent and
regarded them with much suspicion and ill-humour.
`Nowlook hereToad' said the Rat. `It's about this Banquet
and very sorry I am to have to speak to you like this. But we
want you to understand clearlyonce and for allthat there are
going to be no speeches and no songs. Try and grasp the fact
that on this occasion we're not arguing with you; we're just
Toad saw that he was trapped. They understood himthey saw
through himthey had got ahead of him. His pleasant dream was
`Mayn't I sing them just one LITTLE song?' he pleaded
`Nonot ONE little song' replied the Rat firmlythough his
heart bled as he noticed the trembling lip of the poor
disappointed Toad. `It's no goodToady; you know well that your
songs are all conceit and boasting and vanity; and your speeches
are all self-praise and--and--welland gross exaggeration and-and----'
`And gas' put in the Badgerin his common way.
`It's for your own goodToady' went on the Rat. `You know you
MUST turn over a new leaf sooner or laterand now seems a
splendid time to begin; a sort of turning-point in your career.
Please don't think that saying all this doesn't hurt me more than
it hurts you.'
Toad remained a long while plunged in thought. At last he raised
his headand the traces of strong emotion were visible on his
features. `You have conqueredmy friends' he said in broken
accents. `It wasto be surebut a small thing that I asked-merely
leave to blossom and expand for yet one more eveningto
let myself go and hear the tumultuous applause that always seems
to me--somehow--to bring out my best qualities. Howeveryou are
rightI knowand I am wrong. Hence forth I will be a very
different Toad. My friendsyou shall never have occasion to
blush for me again. ButO dearO dearthis is a hard
Andpressing his handkerchief to his facehe left the room
with faltering footsteps.
`Badger' said the Rat`_I_ feel like a brute; I wonder what
YOU feel like?'
`OI knowI know' said the Badger gloomily. `But the thing
had to be done. This good fellow has got to live hereand hold
his ownand be respected. Would you have him a common laughingstock
mocked and jeered at by stoats and weasels?'
`Of course not' said the Rat. `Andtalking of weaselsit's
lucky we came upon that little weaseljust as he was setting out
with Toad's invitations. I suspected something from what you
told meand had a look at one or two; they were simply
disgraceful. I confiscated the lotand the good Mole is now
sitting in the blue boudoirfilling up plainsimple
* * * * *
At last the hour for the banquet began to draw nearand Toad
who on leaving the others had retired to his bedroomwas still
sitting theremelancholy and thoughtful. His brow resting
on his pawhe pondered long and deeply. Gradually his
countenance clearedand he began to smile longslow smiles.
Then he took to giggling in a shyself-conscious manner. At
last he got uplocked the doordrew the curtains across the
windowscollected all the chairs in the room and arranged them
in a semicircleand took up his position in front of them
swelling visibly. Then he bowedcoughed twiceandletting
himself gowith uplifted voice he sangto the enraptured
audience that his imagination so clearly saw
TOAD'S LAST LITTLE SONG!
There was panic in the parlours and bowling in the halls
There was crying in the cow-sheds and shrieking in the stalls
When the Toad--came--home!
When the Toad--came--home!
There was smashing in of window and crashing in of door
There was chivvying of weasels that fainted on the floor
When the Toad--came--home!
Bang! go the drums!
The trumpeters are tooting and the soldiers are saluting
And the cannon they are shooting and the motor-cars are hooting
And let each one of the crowd try and shout it very loud
In honour of an animal of whom you're justly proud
For it's Toad's--great--day!
He sang this very loudwith great unction and expression; and
when he had donehe sang it all over again.
Then he heaved a deep sigh; a longlonglong sigh.
Then he dipped his hairbrush in the water-jugparted his hair in
the middleand plastered it down very straight and sleek on each
side of his face; andunlocking the doorwent quietly down the
stairs to greet his guestswho he knew must be assembling in the
All the animals cheered when he enteredand crowded round to
congratulate him and say nice things about his courageand his
clevernessand his fighting qualities; but Toad only smiled
faintlyand murmured`Not at all!' Orsometimesfor a
change`On the contrary!' Otterwho was standing on the
hearthrugdescribing to an admiring circle of friends exactly
how he would have managed things had he been therecame
forward with a shoutthrew his arm round Toad's neckand tried
to take him round the room in triumphal progress; but Toadin a
mild waywas rather snubby to himremarking gentlyas he
disengaged himself`Badger's was the mastermind; the Mole and
the Water Rat bore the brunt of the fighting; I merely served in
the ranks and did little or nothing.' The animals were evidently
puzzled and taken aback by this unexpected attitude of his; and
Toad feltas he moved from one guest to the othermaking his
modest responsesthat he was an object of absorbing interest to
The Badger had ordered everything of the bestand the banquet
was a great success. There was much talking and laughter and
chaff among the animalsbut through it all Toadwho of course
was in the chairlooked down his nose and murmured pleasant
nothings to the animals on either side of him. At intervals he
stole a glance at the Badger and the Ratand always when he
looked they were staring at each other with their mouths open;
and this gave him the greatest satisfaction. Some of the younger
and livelier animalsas the evening wore ongot whispering to
each other that things were not so amusing as they used to be in
the good old days; and there were some knockings on the table and
cries of `Toad! Speech! Speech from Toad! Song! Mr. Toad's
song!' But Toad only shook his head gentlyraised one paw in
mild protestandby pressing delicacies on his guestsby
topical small-talkand by earnest inquiries after members of
their families not yet old enough to appear at social functions
managed to convey to them that this dinner was being run on
strictly conventional lines.
He was indeed an altered Toad!
* * * * *
After this climaxthe four animals continued to lead their
livesso rudely broken in upon by civil warin great joy and
contentmentundisturbed by further risings or invasions. Toad
after due consultation with his friendsselected a handsome gold
chain and locket set with pearlswhich he dispatched to the
gaoler's daughter with a letter that even the Badger admitted to
be modestgratefuland appreciative; and the engine-driverin
his turnwas properly thanked and compensated for all his pains
and trouble. Under severe compulsion from the Badgereven the
barge-woman waswith some troublesought out and the value of
her horse discreetly made good to her; though Toad kicked
terribly at thisholding himself to be an instrument of Fate
sent to punish fat women with mottled arms who couldn't tell a
real gentleman when they saw one. The amount involvedit was
truewas not very burdensomethe gipsy's valuation being
admitted by local assessors to be approximately correct.
Sometimesin the course of long summer eveningsthe friends
would take a stroll together in the Wild Woodnow successfully
tamed so far as they were concerned; and it was pleasing to see
how respectfully they were greeted by the inhabitantsand how
the mother-weasels would bring their young ones to the mouths of
their holesand saypointing`Lookbaby! There goes the
great Mr. Toad! And that's the gallant Water Rata
terrible fighterwalking along o' him! And yonder comes the
famous Mr. Moleof whom you so often have heard your father
tell!' But when their infants were fractious and quite beyond
controlthey would quiet them by telling howif they didn't
hush them and not fret themthe terrible grey Badger would up
and get them. This was a base libel on Badgerwhothough he
cared little about Societywas rather fond of children; but it
never failed to have its full effect.