Infomotions, Inc.The Wind in the Willows / Grahame, Kenneth, 1859-1932



Author: Grahame, Kenneth, 1859-1932
Title: The Wind in the Willows
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): toad; mole; rat; badger; toad hall; water rat
Contributor(s): Rodwell, J. M. (John Medows), 1808-1900 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 59,655 words (short) Grade range: 8-10 (high school) Readability score: 69 (easy)
Identifier: etext289
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The Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame

July, 1995  [Etext #289]
[Date last updated: June 3, 2004]


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THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

BY KENNETH GRAHAME

AUTHOR OF "THE GOLDEN AGE," "DREAM DAYS," ETC.




CONTENTS

    CHAPTER
    I.    THE RIVER BANK
    II.   THE OPEN ROAD
    III.  THE WILD WOOD
    IV.   MR. BADGER
    V.    DULCE DOMUM
    VI.   MR. TOAD
    VII.  THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN
    VIII. TOAD'S ADVENTURES
    IX.   WAYFARERS ALL
    X.    THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF TOAD
    XI.   "LIKE SUMMER TEMPESTS CAME HIS TEARS"
    XII.  THE RETURN OF ULYSSES





THE RIVER BANK

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning
his little home.  First with brooms, then with dusters; then on
ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash;
till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all
over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms.  Spring was
moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him,
penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of
divine discontent and longing.  It was small wonder, then, that he
suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said 'Bother!' and 'O
blow!' and also 'Hang spring-cleaning!' and bolted out of the house
without even waiting to put on his coat.  Something up above was
calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which
answered in his case to the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals
whose residences are nearer to the sun and air.  So he scraped and
scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and
scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little
paws and muttering to himself, 'Up we go!  Up we go!' till at last,
pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself
rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

'This is fine!' he said to himself.  'This is better than
whitewashing!'  The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes
caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he
had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled
hearing almost like a shout.  Jumping off all his four legs at once,
in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning,
he pursued his way across the meadow till he reached the hedge on the
further side.

'Hold up!' said an elderly rabbit at the gap.  'Sixpence for the
privilege of passing by the private road!'  He was bowled over in an
instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted along the
side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they peeped hurriedly
from their holes to see what the row was about. 'Onion-sauce!
Onion-sauce!' he remarked jeeringly, and was gone before they could
think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply.  Then they all started
grumbling at each other.  'How STUPID you are!  Why didn't you tell
him----' 'Well, why didn't YOU say----'  'You might have reminded him
----' and so on, in the usual way; but, of course, it was then much too
late, as is always the case.

It all seemed too good to be true.  Hither and thither through the
meadows he rambled busily, along the hedgerows, across the copses,
finding everywhere birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting--
everything happy, and progressive, and occupied.  And instead of
having an uneasy conscience pricking him and whispering 'whitewash!'
he somehow could only feel how jolly it was to be the only idle dog
among all these busy citizens.  After all, the best part of a holiday
is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other
fellows busy working.

He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly
along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river.  Never in
his life had he seen a river before--this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied
animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and
leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that
shook themselves free, and were caught and held again.  All was
a-shake and a-shiver--glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and
swirl, chatter and bubble.  The Mole was bewitched, entranced,
fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when
very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting
stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river
still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories
in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to
the insatiable sea.

As he sat on the grass and looked across the river, a dark hole in the
bank opposite, just above the water's edge, caught his eye, and
dreamily he fell to considering what a nice snug dwelling-place it
would make for an animal with few wants and fond of a bijou riverside
residence, above flood level and remote from noise and dust.  As he
gazed, something bright and small seemed to twinkle down in the heart
of it, vanished, then twinkled once more like a tiny star.  But it
could hardly be a star in such an unlikely situation; and it was too
glittering and small for a glow-worm.  Then, as he looked, it winked
at him, and so declared itself to be an eye; and a small face began
gradually to grow up round it, like a frame round a picture.

A brown little face, with whiskers.

A grave round face, with the same twinkle in its eye that had first
attracted his notice.

Small neat ears and thick silky hair.

It was the Water Rat!

Then the two animals stood and regarded each other cautiously.

'Hullo, Mole!' said the Water Rat.

'Hullo, Rat!' said the Mole.

'Would you like to come over?' enquired the Rat presently.

'Oh, its all very well to TALK,' said the Mole, rather pettishly, he
being new to a river and riverside life and its ways.

The Rat said nothing, but stooped and unfastened a rope and hauled on
it; then lightly stepped into a little boat which the Mole had not
observed.  It was painted blue outside and white within, and was just
the size for two animals; and the Mole's whole heart went out to it at
once, even though he did not yet fully understand its uses.

The Rat sculled smartly across and made fast.  Then he held up his
forepaw as the Mole stepped gingerly down.  'Lean on that!' he said.
'Now then, step lively!' and the Mole to his surprise and rapture
found himself actually seated in the stern of a real boat.

'This has been a wonderful day!' said he, as the Rat shoved off and
took to the sculls again.  'Do you know, I've never been in a boat
before in all my life.'

'What?' cried the Rat, open-mouthed:  'Never been in a--you never--
well I--what have you been doing, then?'

'Is it so nice as all that?' asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite
prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the
cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings,
and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

'Nice?  It's the ONLY thing,' said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant
forward for his stroke.  'Believe me, my young friend, there is
NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing
about in boats.  Simply messing,' he went on dreamily: 'messing--
about--in--boats; messing----'

'Look ahead, Rat!' cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late.  The boat struck the bank full tilt.  The dreamer,
the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his
heels in the air.

'--about in boats--or WITH boats,' the Rat went on composedly, picking
himself up with a pleasant laugh.  'In or out of 'em, it doesn't
matter.  Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it.
Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your
destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never
get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in
particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to
do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not.  Look
here!  If you've really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing
we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?'

The Mole waggled his toes from sheer happiness, spread his chest with
a sigh of full contentment, and leaned back blissfully into the soft
cushions.  'WHAT a day I'm having!' he said.  'Let us start at once!'

'Hold hard a minute, then!' said the Rat.  He looped the painter
through a ring in his landing-stage, climbed up into his hole above,
and after a short interval reappeared staggering under a fat, wicker
luncheon-basket.

'Shove that under your feet,' he observed to the Mole, as he passed it
down into the boat.  Then he untied the painter and took the sculls
again.

'What's inside it?' asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.

'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly;
'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssan
dwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater----'

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies:  'This is too much!'

'Do you really think so?' enquired the Rat seriously.  'It's only what
I always take on these little excursions; and the other animals are
always telling me that I'm a mean beast and cut it VERY fine!'

The Mole never heard a word he was saying.  Absorbed in the new life
he was entering upon, intoxicated with the sparkle, the ripple, the
scents and the sounds and the sunlight, he trailed a paw in the water
and dreamed long waking dreams.  The Water Rat, like the good little
fellow he was, sculled steadily on and forebore to disturb him.

'I like your clothes awfully, old chap,' he remarked after some half
an hour or so had passed.  'I'm going to get a black velvet
smoking-suit myself some day, as soon as I can afford it.'

'I beg your pardon,' said the Mole, pulling himself together with an
effort.  'You must think me very rude; but all this is so new to me.
So--this--is--a--River!'

'THE River,' corrected the Rat.

'And you really live by the river?  What a jolly life!'

'By it and with it and on it and in it,' said the Rat.  'It's brother
and sister to me, and aunts, and company, and food and drink, and
(naturally) washing.  It's my world, and I don't want any other.  What
it hasn't got is not worth having, and what it doesn't know is not
worth knowing.  Lord! the times we've had together!  Whether in winter
or summer, spring or autumn, it's always got its fun and its
excitements.  When the floods are on in February, and my cellars and
basement are brimming with drink that's no good to me, and the brown
water runs by my best bedroom window; or again when it all drops away
and, shows patches of mud that smells like plum-cake, and the rushes
and weed clog the channels, and I can potter about dry shod over most
of the bed of it and find fresh food to eat, and things careless
people have dropped out of boats!'

'But isn't it a bit dull at times?' the Mole ventured to ask. 'Just
you and the river, and no one else to pass a word with?'

'No one else to--well, I mustn't be hard on you,' said the Rat with
forbearance.  'You're new to it, and of course you don't know.  The
bank is so crowded nowadays that many people are moving away
altogether:  O no, it isn't what it used to be, at all.  Otters,
kingfishers, dabchicks, moorhens, all of them about all day long and
always wanting you to DO something--as if a fellow had no business of
his own to attend to!'

'What lies over THERE' asked the Mole, waving a paw towards a
background of woodland that darkly framed the water-meadows on one
side of the river.

'That?  O, that's just the Wild Wood,' said the Rat shortly.  'We
don't go there very much, we river-bankers.'

'Aren't they--aren't they very NICE people in there?' said the Mole, a
trifle nervously.

'W-e-ll,' replied the Rat, 'let me see.  The squirrels are all right.
AND the rabbits--some of 'em, but rabbits are a mixed lot.  And then
there's Badger, of course.  He lives right in the heart of it;
wouldn't live anywhere else, either, if you paid him to do it.  Dear
old Badger!  Nobody interferes with HIM. They'd better not,' he added
significantly.

'Why, who SHOULD interfere with him?' asked the Mole.

'Well, of course--there--are others,' explained the Rat in a
hesitating sort of way.

'Weasels--and stoats--and foxes--and so on.  They're all right in a
way--I'm very good friends with them--pass the time of day when we
meet, and all that--but they break out sometimes, there's no denying
it, and then--well, you can't really trust them, and that's the fact.'

The Mole knew well that it is quite against animal-etiquette to dwell
on possible trouble ahead, or even to allude to it; so he dropped the
subject.

'And beyond the Wild Wood again?' he asked:  'Where it's all blue and
dim, and one sees what may be hills or perhaps they mayn't, and
something like the smoke of towns, or is it only cloud-drift?'

'Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World,' said the Rat.  'And
that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or me.  I've never
been there, and I'm never going, nor you either, if you've got any
sense at all.  Don't ever refer to it again, please.  Now then!
Here's our backwater at last, where we're going to lunch.'

Leaving the main stream, they now passed into what seemed at first
sight like a little land-locked lake.  Green turf sloped down to
either edge, brown snaky tree-roots gleamed below the surface of the
quiet water, while ahead of them the silvery shoulder and foamy tumble
of a weir, arm-in-arm with a restless dripping mill-wheel, that held
up in its turn a grey-gabled mill-house, filled the air with a
soothing murmur of sound, dull and smothery, yet with little clear
voices speaking up cheerfully out of it at intervals.  It was so very
beautiful that the Mole could only hold up both forepaws and gasp, 'O
my!  O my!  O my!'

The Rat brought the boat alongside the bank, made her fast, helped the
still awkward Mole safely ashore, and swung out the luncheon-basket.
The Mole begged as a favour to be allowed to unpack it all by himself;
and the Rat was very pleased to indulge him, and to sprawl at full
length on the grass and rest, while his excited friend shook out the
table-cloth and spread it, took out all the mysterious packets one by
one and arranged their contents in due order, still gasping, 'O my!  O
my!' at each fresh revelation.  When all was ready, the Rat said,
'Now, pitch in, old fellow!' and the Mole was indeed very glad to
obey, for he had started his spring-cleaning at a very early hour that
morning, as people WILL do, and had not paused for bite or sup; and he
had been through a very great deal since that distant time which now
seemed so many days ago.

'What are you looking at?' said the Rat presently, when the edge of
their hunger was somewhat dulled, and the Mole's eyes were able to
wander off the table-cloth a little.

'I am looking,' said the Mole, 'at a streak of bubbles that I see
travelling along the surface of the water.  That is a thing that
strikes me as funny.'

'Bubbles?  Oho!' said the Rat, and chirruped cheerily in an inviting
sort of way.

A broad glistening muzzle showed itself above the edge of the bank,
and the Otter hauled himself out and shook the water from his coat.

'Greedy beggars!' he observed, making for the provender.  'Why didn't
you invite me, Ratty?'

'This was an impromptu affair,' explained the Rat.  'By the way--my
friend Mr. Mole.'

'Proud, I'm sure,' said the Otter, and the two animals were friends
forthwith.

'Such a rumpus everywhere!' continued the Otter.  'All the world seems
out on the river to-day.  I came up this backwater to try and get a
moment's peace, and then stumble upon you fellows!--At least--I beg
pardon--I don't exactly mean that, you know.'

There was a rustle behind them, proceeding from a hedge wherein last
year's leaves still clung thick, and a stripy head, with high
shoulders behind it, peered forth on them.

'Come on, old Badger!' shouted the Rat.

The Badger trotted forward a pace or two; then grunted, 'H'm!
Company,' and turned his back and disappeared from view.

'That's JUST the sort of fellow he is!' observed the disappointed Rat.
'Simply hates Society!  Now we shan't see any more of him to-day.
Well, tell us, WHO'S out on the river?'

'Toad's out, for one,' replied the Otter.  'In his brand-new
wager-boat; new togs, new everything!'

The two animals looked at each other and laughed.

'Once, it was nothing but sailing,' said the Rat, 'Then he tired of
that and took to punting.  Nothing would please him but to punt all
day and every day, and a nice mess he made of it.  Last year it was
house-boating, and we all had to go and stay with him in his
house-boat, and pretend we liked it.  He was going to spend the rest
of his life in a house-boat.  It's all the same, whatever he takes up;
he gets tired of it, and starts on something fresh.'

'Such a good fellow, too,' remarked the Otter reflectively:  'But no
stability--especially in a boat!'

From where they sat they could get a glimpse of the main stream across
the island that separated them; and just then a wager-boat flashed
into view, the rower--a short, stout figure--splashing badly and
rolling a good deal, but working his hardest.  The Rat stood up and
hailed him, but Toad--for it was he--shook his head and settled
sternly to his work.

'He'll be out of the boat in a minute if he rolls like that,' said the
Rat, sitting down again.

'Of course he will,' chuckled the Otter.  'Did I ever tell you that
good story about Toad and the lock-keeper?  It happened this way.
Toad. . . .'

An errant May-fly swerved unsteadily athwart the current in the
intoxicated fashion affected by young bloods of May-flies seeing life.
A swirl of water and a 'cloop!' and the May-fly was visible no more.

Neither was the Otter.

The Mole looked down.  The voice was still in his ears, but the turf
whereon he had sprawled was clearly vacant.  Not an Otter to be seen,
as far as the distant horizon.

But again there was a streak of bubbles on the surface of the river.

The Rat hummed a tune, and the Mole recollected that animal-etiquette
forbade any sort of comment on the sudden disappearance of one's
friends at any moment, for any reason or no reason whatever.

'Well, well,' said the Rat, 'I suppose we ought to be moving.  I
wonder which of us had better pack the luncheon-basket?'  He did not
speak as if he was frightfully eager for the treat.

'O, please let me,' said the Mole.  So, of course, the Rat let him.

Packing the basket was not quite such pleasant work as unpacking' the
basket.  It never is.  But the Mole was bent on enjoying everything,
and although just when he had got the basket packed and strapped up
tightly he saw a plate staring up at him from the grass, and when the
job had been done again the Rat pointed out a fork which anybody ought
to have seen, and last of all, behold! the mustard pot, which he had
been sitting on without knowing it--still, somehow, the thing got
finished at last, without much loss of temper.

The afternoon sun was getting low as the Rat sculled gently homewards
in a dreamy mood, murmuring poetry-things over to himself, and not
paying much attention to Mole.  But the Mole was very full of lunch,
and self-satisfaction, and pride, and already quite at home in a boat
(so he thought) and was getting a bit restless besides: and presently
he said, 'Ratty!  Please, _I_ want to row, now!'

The Rat shook his head with a smile.  'Not yet, my young friend,' he
said--'wait till you've had a few lessons.  It's not so easy as it
looks.'

The Mole was quiet for a minute or two.  But he began to feel more and
more jealous of Rat, sculling so strongly and so easily along, and his
pride began to whisper that he could do it every bit as well.  He
jumped up and seized the sculls, so suddenly, that the Rat, who was
gazing out over the water and saying more poetry-things to himself,
was taken by surprise and fell backwards off his seat with his legs in
the air for the second time, while the triumphant Mole took his place
and grabbed the sculls with entire confidence.

'Stop it, you SILLY ass!' cried the Rat, from the bottom of the boat.
'You can't do it!  You'll have us over!'

The Mole flung his sculls back with a flourish, and made a great dig
at the water.  He missed the surface altogether, his legs flew up
above his head, and he found himself lying on the top of the prostrate
Rat.  Greatly alarmed, he made a grab at the side of the boat, and the
next moment--Sploosh!

Over went the boat, and he found himself struggling in the river.

O my, how cold the water was, and O, how VERY wet it felt. How it sang
in his ears as he went down, down, down!  How bright and welcome the
sun looked as he rose to the surface coughing and spluttering!  How
black was his despair when he felt himself sinking again!  Then a firm
paw gripped him by the back of his neck.  It was the Rat, and he was
evidently laughing--the Mole could FEEL him laughing, right down his
arm and through his paw, and so into his--the Mole's--neck.

The Rat got hold of a scull and shoved it under the Mole's arm; then
he did the same by the other side of him and, swimming behind,
propelled the helpless animal to shore, hauled him out, and set him
down on the bank, a squashy, pulpy lump of misery.

When the Rat had rubbed him down a bit, and wrung some of the wet out
of him, he said, 'Now, then, old fellow!  Trot up and down the
towing-path as hard as you can, till you're warm and dry again, while
I dive for the luncheon-basket.'

So the dismal Mole, wet without and ashamed within, trotted about till
he was fairly dry, while the Rat plunged into the water again,
recovered the boat, righted her and made her fast, fetched his
floating property to shore by degrees, and finally dived successfully
for the luncheon-basket and struggled to land with it.

When all was ready for a start once more, the Mole, limp and dejected,
took his seat in the stern of the boat; and as they set off, he said
in a low voice, broken with emotion, 'Ratty, my generous friend!  I am
very sorry indeed for my foolish and ungrateful conduct.  My heart
quite fails me when I think how I might have lost that beautiful
luncheon-basket.  Indeed, I have been a complete ass, and I know it.
Will you overlook it this once and forgive me, and let things go on as
before?'

'That's all right, bless you!' responded the Rat cheerily. 'What's a
little wet to a Water Rat?  I'm more in the water than out of it most
days.  Don't you think any more about it; and, look here!  I really
think you had better come and stop with me for a little time.  It's
very plain and rough, you know--not like Toad's house at all--but you
haven't seen that yet; still, I can make you comfortable.  And I'll
teach you to row, and to swim, and you'll soon be as handy on the
water as any of us.'

The Mole was so touched by his kind manner of speaking that he could
find no voice to answer him; and he had to brush away a tear or two
with the back of his paw.  But the Rat kindly looked in another
direction, and presently the Mole's spirits revived again, and he was
even able to give some straight back-talk to a couple of moorhens who
were sniggering to each other about his bedraggled appearance.

When they got home, the Rat made a bright fire in the parlour, and
planted the Mole in an arm-chair in front of it, having fetched down a
dressing-gown and slippers for him, and told him river stories till
supper-time.  Very thrilling stories they were, too, to an
earth-dwelling animal like Mole.  Stories about weirs, and sudden
floods, and leaping pike, and steamers that flung hard bottles--at
least bottles were certainly flung, and FROM steamers, so presumably
BY them; and about herons, and how particular they were whom they
spoke to; and about adventures down drains, and night-fishings with
Otter, or excursions far a-field with Badger.  Supper was a most
cheerful meal; but very shortly afterwards a terribly sleepy Mole had
to be escorted upstairs by his considerate host, to the best bedroom,
where he soon laid his head on his pillow in great peace and
contentment, knowing that his new-found friend the River was lapping
the sill of his window.

This day was only the first of many similar ones for the emancipated
Mole, each of them longer and full of interest as the ripening summer
moved onward.  He learnt to swim and to row, and entered into the joy
of running water; and with his ear to the reed-stems he caught, at
intervals, something of what the wind went whispering so constantly
among them.



II

THE OPEN ROAD

'Ratty,' said the Mole suddenly, one bright summer morning, 'if you
please, I want to ask you a favour.'

The Rat was sitting on the river bank, singing a little song.  He had
just composed it himself, so he was very taken up with it, and would
not pay proper attention to Mole or anything else. Since early morning
he had been swimming in the river, in company with his friends the
ducks.  And when the ducks stood on their heads suddenly, as ducks
will, he would dive down and tickle their necks, just under where
their chins would be if ducks had chins, till they were forced to come
to the surface again in a hurry, spluttering and angry and shaking
their feathers at him, for it is impossible to say quite ALL you feel
when your head is under water.  At last they implored him to go away
and attend to his own affairs and leave them to mind theirs.  So the
Rat went away, and sat on the river bank in the sun, and made up a
song about them, which he called


'DUCKS' DITTY.' All along the backwater, Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling, Up tails all!

Ducks' tails, drakes' tails, Yellow feet a-quiver, Yellow bills all
out of sight Busy in the river!

Slushy green undergrowth Where the roach swim--Here we keep our
larder, Cool and full and dim.

Everyone for what he likes! WE like to be Heads down, tails up,
Dabbling free!

High in the blue above Swifts whirl and call--WE are down a-dabbling
Up tails all!


'I don't know that I think so VERY much of that little song, Rat,'
observed the Mole cautiously.  He was no poet himself and didn't care
who knew it; and he had a candid nature.

'Nor don't the ducks neither,' replied the Rat cheerfully.  'They say,
"WHY can't fellows be allowed to do what they like WHEN they like and
AS they like, instead of other fellows sitting on banks and watching
them all the time and making remarks and poetry and things about them?
What NONSENSE it all is!"  That's what the ducks say.'

'So it is, so it is,' said the Mole, with great heartiness.

'No, it isn't!' cried the Rat indignantly.

'Well then, it isn't, it isn't,' replied the Mole soothingly. 'But
what I wanted to ask you was, won't you take me to call on Mr. Toad?
I've heard so much about him, and I do so want to make his
acquaintance.'

'Why, certainly,' said the good-natured Rat, jumping to his feet and
dismissing poetry from his mind for the day.  'Get the boat out, and
we'll paddle up there at once.  It's never the wrong time to call on
Toad.  Early or late he's always the same fellow. Always
good-tempered, always glad to see you, always sorry when you go!'

'He must be a very nice animal,' observed the Mole, as he got into the
boat and took the sculls, while the Rat settled himself comfortably in
the stern.

'He is indeed the best of animals,' replied Rat.  'So simple, so
good-natured, and so affectionate.  Perhaps he's not very clever--we
can't all be geniuses; and it may be that he is both boastful and
conceited. But he has got some great qualities, has Toady.'

Rounding a bend in the river, they came in sight of a handsome,
dignified old house of mellowed red brick, with well-kept lawns
reaching down to the water's edge.

'There's Toad Hall,' said the Rat; 'and that creek on the left, where
the notice-board says, "Private.  No landing allowed," leads to his
boat-house, where we'll leave the boat.  The stables are over there to
the right.  That's the banqueting-hall you're looking at now--very
old, that is.  Toad is rather rich, you know, and this is really one
of the nicest houses in these parts, though we never admit as much to
Toad.'

They glided up the creek, and the Mole slipped his sculls as they
passed into the shadow of a large boat-house.  Here they saw many
handsome boats, slung from the cross beams or hauled up on a slip, but
none in the water; and the place had an unused and a deserted air.

The Rat looked around him.  'I understand,' said he.  'Boating is
played out.  He's tired of it, and done with it.  I wonder what new
fad he has taken up now?  Come along and let's look him up. We shall
hear all about it quite soon enough.'

They disembarked, and strolled across the gay flower-decked lawns in
search of Toad, whom they presently happened upon resting in a wicker
garden-chair, with a pre-occupied expression of face, and a large map
spread out on his knees.

'Hooray!' he cried, jumping up on seeing them, 'this is splendid!'  He
shook the paws of both of them warmly, never waiting for an
introduction to the Mole.  'How KIND of you!' he went on, dancing
round them.  'I was just going to send a boat down the river for you,
Ratty, with strict orders that you were to be fetched up here at once,
whatever you were doing.  I want you badly--both of you.  Now what
will you take?  Come inside and have something!  You don't know how
lucky it is, your turning up just now!'

'Let's sit quiet a bit, Toady!' said the Rat, throwing himself into an
easy chair, while the Mole took another by the side of him and made
some civil remark about Toad's 'delightful residence.'

'Finest house on the whole river,' cried Toad boisterously.  'Or
anywhere else, for that matter,' he could not help adding.

Here the Rat nudged the Mole.  Unfortunately the Toad saw him do it,
and turned very red.  There was a moment's painful silence. Then Toad
burst out laughing.  'All right, Ratty,' he said. 'It's only my way,
you know.  And it's not such a very bad house, is it?  You know you
rather like it yourself.  Now, look here. Let's be sensible.  You are
the very animals I wanted.  You've got to help me.  It's most
important!'

'It's about your rowing, I suppose,' said the Rat, with an innocent
air.  'You're getting on fairly well, though you splash a good bit
still.  With a great deal of patience, and any quantity of coaching,
you may----'

'O, pooh! boating!' interrupted the Toad, in great disgust. Silly
boyish amusement.  I've given that up LONG ago.  Sheer waste of time,
that's what it is.  It makes me downright sorry to see you fellows,
who ought to know better, spending all your energies in that aimless
manner.  No, I've discovered the real thing, the only genuine
occupation for a life time.  I propose to devote the remainder of mine
to it, and can only regret the wasted years that lie behind me,
squandered in trivialities. Come with me, dear Ratty, and your amiable
friend also, if he will be so very good, just as far as the
stable-yard, and you shall see what you shall see!'

He led the way to the stable-yard accordingly, the Rat following with
a most mistrustful expression; and there, drawn out of the coach house
into the open, they saw a gipsy caravan, shining with newness, painted
a canary-yellow picked out with green, and red wheels.

'There you are!' cried the Toad, straddling and expanding himself.
'There's real life for you, embodied in that little cart.  The open
road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the
rolling downs!  Camps, villages, towns, cities!  Here to-day, up and
off to somewhere else to-morrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement!
The whole world before you, and a horizon that's always changing!  And
mind! this is the very finest cart of its sort that was ever built,
without any exception.  Come inside and look at the arrangements.
Planned 'em all myself, I did!'

The Mole was tremendously interested and excited, and followed him
eagerly up the steps and into the interior of the caravan. The Rat
only snorted and thrust his hands deep into his pockets, remaining
where he was.

It was indeed very compact and comfortable.  Little sleeping bunks--a
little table that folded up against the wall--a cooking-stove,
lockers, bookshelves, a bird-cage with a bird in it; and pots, pans,
jugs and kettles of every size and variety.

'All complete!' said the Toad triumphantly, pulling open a locker.
'You see--biscuits, potted lobster, sardines--everything you can
possibly want.  Soda-water here--baccy there--letter-paper, bacon,
jam, cards and dominoes--you'll find,' he continued, as they descended
the steps again, 'you'll find that nothing what ever has been
forgotten, when we make our start this afternoon.'

'I beg your pardon,' said the Rat slowly, as he chewed a straw, 'but
did I overhear you say something about "WE," and "START," and "THIS
AFTERNOON?"'

'Now, you dear good old Ratty,' said Toad, imploringly, 'don't begin
talking in that stiff and sniffy sort of way, because you know you've
GOT to come.  I can't possibly manage without you, so please consider
it settled, and don't argue--it's the one thing I can't stand.  You
surely don't mean to stick to your dull fusty old river all your life,
and just live in a hole in a bank, and BOAT?  I want to show you the
world!  I'm going to make an ANIMAL of you, my boy!'

'I don't care,' said the Rat, doggedly.  'I'm not coming, and that's
flat.  And I AM going to stick to my old river, AND live in a hole,
AND boat, as I've always done.  And what's more, Mole's going to stick
me and do as I do, aren't you, Mole?'

'Of course I am,' said the Mole, loyally.  'I'll always stick to you,
Rat, and what you say is to be--has got to be.  All the same, it
sounds as if it might have been--well, rather fun, you know!' he
added, wistfully.  Poor Mole!  The Life Adventurous was so new a thing
to him, and so thrilling; and this fresh aspect of it was so tempting;
and he had fallen in love at first sight with the canary-coloured cart
and all its little fitments.

The Rat saw what was passing in his mind, and wavered.  He hated
disappointing people, and he was fond of the Mole, and would do almost
anything to oblige him.  Toad was watching both of them closely.

'Come along in, and have some lunch,' he said, diplomatically, 'and
we'll talk it over.  We needn't decide anything in a hurry. Of course,
_I_ don't really care.  I only want to give pleasure to you fellows.
"Live for others!"  That's my motto in life.'

During luncheon--which was excellent, of course, as everything at Toad
Hall always was--the Toad simply let himself go. Disregarding the Rat,
he proceeded to play upon the inexperienced Mole as on a harp.
Naturally a voluble animal, and always mastered by his imagination, he
painted the prospects of the trip and the joys of the open life and
the roadside in such glowing colours that the Mole could hardly sit in
his chair for excitement.  Somehow, it soon seemed taken for granted
by all three of them that the trip was a settled thing; and the Rat,
though still unconvinced in his mind, allowed his good-nature to
over-ride his personal objections.  He could not bear to disappoint
his two friends, who were already deep in schemes and anticipations,
planning out each day's separate occupation for several weeks ahead.

When they were quite ready, the now triumphant Toad led his companions
to the paddock and set them to capture the old grey horse, who,
without having been consulted, and to his own extreme annoyance, had
been told off by Toad for the dustiest job in this dusty expedition.
He frankly preferred the paddock, and took a deal of catching.
Meantime Toad packed the lockers still tighter with necessaries, and
hung nosebags, nets of onions, bundles of hay, and baskets from the
bottom of the cart.  At last the horse was caught and harnessed, and
they set off, all talking at once, each animal either trudging by the
side of the cart or sitting on the shaft, as the humour took him.  It
was a golden afternoon.  The smell of the dust they kicked up was rich
and satisfying; out of thick orchards on either side the road, birds
called and whistled to them cheerily; good-natured wayfarers, passing
them, gave them 'Good-day,' or stopped to say nice things about their
beautiful cart; and rabbits, sitting at their front doors in the
hedgerows, held up their fore-paws, and said, 'O my! O my!  O my!'

Late in the evening, tired and happy and miles from home, they drew up
on a remote common far from habitations, turned the horse loose to
graze, and ate their simple supper sitting on the grass by the side of
the cart.  Toad talked big about all he was going to do in the days to
come, while stars grew fuller and larger all around them, and a yellow
moon, appearing suddenly and silently from nowhere in particular, came
to keep them company and listen to their talk.  At last they turned in
to their little bunks in the cart; and Toad, kicking out his legs,
sleepily said, 'Well, good night, you fellows!  This is the real life
for a gentleman! Talk about your old river!'

'I DON'T talk about my river,' replied the patient Rat. 'You KNOW I
don't, Toad.  But I THINK about it,' he added pathetically, in a lower
tone:  'I think about it--all the time!'

The Mole reached out from under his blanket, felt for the Rat's paw in
the darkness, and gave it a squeeze.  'I'll do whatever you like,
Ratty,' he whispered.  'Shall we run away to-morrow morning, quite
early--VERY early--and go back to our dear old hole on the river?'

'No, no, we'll see it out,' whispered back the Rat.  'Thanks awfully,
but I ought to stick by Toad till this trip is ended. It wouldn't be
safe for him to be left to himself.  It won't take very long.  His
fads never do.  Good night!'

The end was indeed nearer than even the Rat suspected.

After so much open air and excitement the Toad slept very soundly, and
no amount of shaking could rouse him out of bed next morning.  So the
Mole and Rat turned to, quietly and manfully, and while the Rat saw to
the horse, and lit a fire, and cleaned last night's cups and platters,
and got things ready for breakfast, the Mole trudged off to the
nearest village, a long way off, for milk and eggs and various
necessaries the Toad had, of course, forgotten to provide.  The hard
work had all been done, and the two animals were resting, thoroughly
exhausted, by the time Toad appeared on the scene, fresh and gay,
remarking what a pleasant easy life it was they were all leading now,
after the cares and worries and fatigues of housekeeping at home.

They had a pleasant ramble that day over grassy downs and along narrow
by-lanes, and camped as before, on a common, only this time the two
guests took care that Toad should do his fair share of work.  In
consequence, when the time came for starting next morning, Toad was by
no means so rapturous about the simplicity of the primitive life, and
indeed attempted to resume his place in his bunk, whence he was hauled
by force.  Their way lay, as before, across country by narrow lanes,
and it was not till the afternoon that they came out on the high-road,
their first high-road; and there disaster, fleet and unforeseen,
sprang out on them--disaster momentous indeed to their expedition, but
simply overwhelming in its effect on the after-career of Toad.

They were strolling along the high-road easily, the Mole by the
horse's head, talking to him, since the horse had complained that he
was being frightfully left out of it, and nobody considered him in the
least; the Toad and the Water Rat walking behind the cart talking
together--at least Toad was talking, and Rat was saying at intervals,
'Yes, precisely; and what did YOU say to HIM?'--and thinking all the
time of something very different, when far behind them they heard a
faint warning hum; like the drone of a distant bee.  Glancing back,
they saw a small cloud of dust, with a dark centre of energy,
advancing on them at incredible speed, while from out the dust a faint
'Poop-poop!' wailed like an uneasy animal in pain.  Hardly regarding
it, they turned to resume their conversation, when in an instant (as
it seemed) the peaceful scene was changed, and with a blast of wind
and a whirl of sound that made them jump for the nearest ditch, It was
on them!  The 'Poop-poop' rang with a brazen shout in their ears, they
had a moment's glimpse of an interior of glittering plate-glass and
rich morocco, and the magnificent motor-car, immense,
breath-snatching, passionate, with its pilot tense and hugging his
wheel, possessed all earth and air for the fraction of a second, flung
an enveloping cloud of dust that blinded and enwrapped them utterly,
and then dwindled to a speck in the far distance, changed back into a
droning bee once more.

The old grey horse, dreaming, as he plodded along, of his quiet
paddock, in a new raw situation such as this simply abandoned himself
to his natural emotions.  Rearing, plunging, backing steadily, in
spite of all the Mole's efforts at his head, and all the Mole's lively
language directed at his better feelings, he drove the cart backwards
towards the deep ditch at the side of the road.  It wavered an
instant--then there was a heartrending crash--and the canary-coloured
cart, their pride and their joy, lay on its side in the ditch, an
irredeemable wreck.

The Rat danced up and down in the road, simply transported with
passion.  'You villains!' he shouted, shaking both fists, 'You
scoundrels, you highwaymen, you--you--roadhogs!--I'll have the law of
you!  I'll report you!  I'll take you through all the Courts!'  His
home-sickness had quite slipped away from him, and for the moment he
was the skipper of the canary-coloured vessel driven on a shoal by the
reckless jockeying of rival mariners, and he was trying to recollect
all the fine and biting things he used to say to masters of
steam-launches when their wash, as they drove too near the bank,
used to flood his parlour-carpet at home.

Toad sat straight down in the middle of the dusty road, his legs
stretched out before him, and stared fixedly in the direction of the
disappearing motor-car.  He breathed short, his face wore a placid
satisfied expression, and at intervals he faintly murmured
'Poop-poop!'

The Mole was busy trying to quiet the horse, which he succeeded in
doing after a time.  Then he went to look at the cart, on its side in
the ditch.  It was indeed a sorry sight.  Panels and windows smashed,
axles hopelessly bent, one wheel off, sardine-tins scattered over the
wide world, and the bird in the bird-cage sobbing pitifully and
calling to be let out.

The Rat came to help him, but their united efforts were not sufficient
to right the cart.  'Hi! Toad!' they cried.  'Come and bear a hand,
can't you!'

The Toad never answered a word, or budged from his seat in the road;
so they went to see what was the matter with him.  They found him in a
sort of a trance, a happy smile on his face, his eyes still fixed on
the dusty wake of their destroyer.  At intervals he was still heard to
murmur 'Poop-poop!'

The Rat shook him by the shoulder.  'Are you coming to help us, Toad?'
he demanded sternly.

'Glorious, stirring sight!' murmured Toad, never offering to move.
'The poetry of motion!  The REAL way to travel!  The ONLY way to
travel!  Here to-day--in next week to-morrow! Villages skipped, towns
and cities jumped--always somebody else's horizon!  O bliss!
O poop-poop!  O my!  O my!'

'O STOP being an ass, Toad!' cried the Mole despairingly.

'And to think I never KNEW!' went on the Toad in a dreamy monotone.
'All those wasted years that lie behind me, I never knew, never even
DREAMT!  But NOW--but now that I know, now that I fully realise!  O
what a flowery track lies spread before me, henceforth!  What
dust-clouds shall spring up behind me as I speed on my reckless way!
What carts I shall fling carelessly into the ditch in the wake of my
magnificent onset! Horrid little carts--common carts--canary-coloured
carts!'

'What are we to do with him?' asked the Mole of the Water Rat.

'Nothing at all,' replied the Rat firmly.  'Because there is really
nothing to be done.  You see, I know him from of old.  He is now
possessed.  He has got a new craze, and it always takes him that way,
in its first stage.  He'll continue like that for days now, like an
animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless for all practical
purposes.  Never mind him.  Let's go and see what there is to be done
about the cart.'

A careful inspection showed them that, even if they succeeded in
righting it by themselves, the cart would travel no longer.  The axles
were in a hopeless state, and the missing wheel was shattered into
pieces.

The Rat knotted the horse's reins over his back and took him by the
head, carrying the bird cage and its hysterical occupant in the other
hand.  'Come on!' he said grimly to the Mole.  'It's five or six miles
to the nearest town, and we shall just have to walk it.  The sooner we
make a start the better.'

'But what about Toad?' asked the Mole anxiously, as they set off
together.  'We can't leave him here, sitting in the middle of the road
by himself, in the distracted state he's in!  It's not safe. Supposing
another Thing were to come along?'

'O, BOTHER Toad,' said the Rat savagely; 'I've done with him!'

They had not proceeded very far on their way, however, when there was
a pattering of feet behind them, and Toad caught them up and thrust a
paw inside the elbow of each of them; still breathing short and
staring into vacancy.

'Now, look here, Toad!' said the Rat sharply: 'as soon as we get to
the town, you'll have to go straight to the police-station, and see if
they know anything about that motor-car and who it belongs to, and
lodge a complaint against it.  And then you'll have to go to a
blacksmith's or a wheelwright's and arrange for the cart to be fetched
and mended and put to rights.  It'll take time, but it's not quite a
hopeless smash.  Meanwhile, the Mole and I will go to an inn and find
comfortable rooms where we can stay till the cart's ready, and till
your nerves have recovered their shock.'

'Police-station!  Complaint!'murmured Toad dreamily.  'Me COMPLAIN of
that beautiful, that heavenly vision that has been vouchsafed me!
MEND THE CART!  I've done with carts for ever. I never want to see the
cart, or to hear of it, again.  O, Ratty! You can't think how obliged
I am to you for consenting to come on this trip!  I wouldn't have gone
without you, and then I might never have seen that--that swan, that
sunbeam, that thunderbolt! I might never have heard that entrancing
sound, or smelt that bewitching smell!  I owe it all to you, my best
of friends!'

The Rat turned from him in despair.  'You see what it is?' he said to
the Mole, addressing him across Toad's head:  'He's quite hopeless.  I
give it up--when we get to the town we'll go to the railway station,
and with luck we may pick up a train there that'll get us back to
riverbank to-night.  And if ever you catch me going a-pleasuring with
this provoking animal again!'

He snorted, and during the rest of that weary trudge addressed his
remarks exclusively to Mole.

On reaching the town they went straight to the station and deposited
Toad in the second-class waiting-room, giving a porter twopence to
keep a strict eye on him.  They then left the horse at an inn stable,
and gave what directions they could about the cart and its contents.
Eventually, a slow train having landed them at a station not very far
from Toad Hall, they escorted the spell-bound, sleep-walking Toad to
his door, put him inside it, and instructed his housekeeper to feed
him, undress him, and put him to bed.  Then they got out their boat
from the boat-house, sculled down the river home, and at a very late
hour sat down to supper in their own cosy riverside parlour, to the
Rat's great joy and contentment.

The following evening the Mole, who had risen late and taken things
very easy all day, was sitting on the bank fishing, when the Rat, who
had been looking up his friends and gossiping, came strolling along to
find him.  'Heard the news?' he said. 'There's nothing else being
talked about, all along the river bank.  Toad went up to Town by an
early train this morning.  And he has ordered a large and very
expensive motor-car.'



III

THE WILD WOOD

The Mole had long wanted to make the acquaintance of the Badger.  He
seemed, by all accounts, to be such an important personage and, though
rarely visible, to make his unseen influence felt by everybody about
the place.  But whenever the Mole mentioned his wish to the Water Rat
he always found himself put off.  'It's all right,' the Rat would say.
'Badger'll turn up some day or other--he's always turning up--and then
I'll introduce you.  The best of fellows!  But you must not only take
him AS you find him, but WHEN you find him.'

'Couldn't you ask him here dinner or something?' said the Mole.

'He wouldn't come,' replied the Rat simply.  'Badger hates Society,
and invitations, and dinner, and all that sort of thing.'

'Well, then, supposing we go and call on HIM?' suggested the Mole.

'O, I'm sure he wouldn't like that at ALL,' said the Rat, quite
alarmed.  'He's so very shy, he'd be sure to be offended. I've never
even ventured to call on him at his own home myself, though I know him
so well.  Besides, we can't.  It's quite out of the question, because
he lives in the very middle of the Wild Wood.'

'Well, supposing he does,' said the Mole.  'You told me the Wild Wood
was all right, you know.'

'O, I know, I know, so it is,' replied the Rat evasively.  'But I
think we won't go there just now.  Not JUST yet.  It's a long way, and
he wouldn't be at home at this time of year anyhow, and he'll be
coming along some day, if you'll wait quietly.'

The Mole had to be content with this.  But the Badger never came
along, and every day brought its amusements, and it was not till
summer was long over, and cold and frost and miry ways kept them much
indoors, and the swollen river raced past outside their windows with a
speed that mocked at boating of any sort or kind, that he found his
thoughts dwelling again with much persistence on the solitary grey
Badger, who lived his own life by himself, in his hole in the middle
of the Wild Wood.

In the winter time the Rat slept a great deal, retiring early and
rising late.  During his short day he sometimes scribbled poetry or
did other small domestic jobs about the house; and, of course, there
were always animals dropping in for a chat, and consequently there was
a good deal of story-telling and comparing notes on the past summer
and all its doings.

Such a rich chapter it had been, when one came to look back on it all!
With illustrations so numerous and so very highly coloured! The
pageant of the river bank had marched steadily along, unfolding itself
in scene-pictures that succeeded each other in stately procession.
Purple loosestrife arrived early, shaking luxuriant tangled locks
along the edge of the mirror whence its own face laughed back at it.
Willow-herb, tender and wistful, like a pink sunset cloud, was not
slow to follow.  Comfrey, the purple hand-in-hand with the white,
crept forth to take its place in the line; and at last one morning the
diffident and delaying dog-rose stepped delicately on the stage, and
one knew, as if string-music had announced it in stately chords that
strayed into a gavotte, that June at last was here.  One member of the
company was still awaited; the shepherd-boy for the nymphs to woo, the
knight for whom the ladies waited at the window, the prince that was
to kiss the sleeping summer back to life and love.  But when
meadow-sweet, debonair and odorous in amber jerkin, moved graciously
to his place in the group, then the play was ready to begin.

And what a play it had been!  Drowsy animals, snug in their holes
while wind and rain were battering at their doors, recalled still keen
mornings, an hour before sunrise, when the white mist, as yet
undispersed, clung closely along the surface of the water; then the
shock of the early plunge, the scamper along the bank, and the radiant
transformation of earth, air, and water, when suddenly the sun was
with them again, and grey was gold and colour was born and sprang out
of the earth once more.  They recalled the languorous siesta of hot
mid-day, deep in green undergrowth, the sun striking through in tiny
golden shafts and spots; the boating and bathing of the afternoon, the
rambles along dusty lanes and through yellow cornfields; and the long,
cool evening at last, when so many threads were gathered up, so many
friendships rounded, and so many adventures planned for the morrow.
There was plenty to talk about on those short winter days when the
animals found themselves round the fire; still, the Mole had a good
deal of spare time on his hands, and so one afternoon, when the Rat in
his arm-chair before the blaze was alternately dozing and trying over
rhymes that wouldn't fit, he formed the resolution to go out by
himself and explore the Wild Wood, and perhaps strike up an
acquaintance with Mr. Badger.

It was a cold still afternoon with a hard steely sky overhead, when he
slipped out of the warm parlour into the open air.  The country lay
bare and entirely leafless around him, and he thought that he had
never seen so far and so intimately into the insides of things as on
that winter day when Nature was deep in her annual slumber and seemed
to have kicked the clothes off. Copses, dells, quarries and all hidden
places, which had been mysterious mines for exploration in leafy
summer, now exposed themselves and their secrets pathetically, and
seemed to ask him to overlook their shabby poverty for a while, till
they could riot in rich masquerade as before, and trick and entice him
with the old deceptions.  It was pitiful in a way, and yet cheering--
even exhilarating.  He was glad that he liked the country undecorated,
hard, and stripped of its finery.  He had got down to the bare bones
of it, and they were fine and strong and simple.  He did not want the
warm clover and the play of seeding grasses; the screens of quickset,
the billowy drapery of beech and elm seemed best away; and with great
cheerfulness of spirit he pushed on towards the Wild Wood, which lay
before him low and threatening, like a black reef in some still
southern sea.

There was nothing to alarm him at first entry.  Twigs crackled under
his feet, logs tripped him, funguses on stumps resembled caricatures,
and startled him for the moment by their likeness to something
familiar and far away; but that was all fun, and exciting.  It led him
on, and he penetrated to where the light was less, and trees crouched
nearer and nearer, and holes made ugly mouths at him on either side.

Everything was very still now.  The dusk advanced on him steadily,
rapidly, gathering in behind and before; and the light seemed to be
draining away like flood-water.

Then the faces began.

It was over his shoulder, and indistinctly, that he first thought he
saw a face; a little evil wedge-shaped face, looking out at him from a
hole.  When he turned and confronted it, the thing had vanished.

He quickened his pace, telling himself cheerfully not to begin
imagining things, or there would be simply no end to it.  He passed
another hole, and another, and another; and then--yes!--no!--yes!
certainly a little narrow face, with hard eyes, had flashed up for an
instant from a hole, and was gone.  He hesitated--braced himself up
for an effort and strode on.  Then suddenly, and as if it had been so
all the time, every hole, far and near, and there were hundreds of
them, seemed to possess its face, coming and going rapidly, all fixing
on him glances of malice and hatred: all hard-eyed and evil and sharp.

If he could only get away from the holes in the banks, he thought,
there would be no more faces.  He swung off the path and plunged into
the untrodden places of the wood.

Then the whistling began.

Very faint and shrill it was, and far behind him, when first he heard
it; but somehow it made him hurry forward.  Then, still very faint and
shrill, it sounded far ahead of him, and made him hesitate and want to
go back.  As he halted in indecision it broke out on either side, and
seemed to be caught up and passed on throughout the whole length of
the wood to its farthest limit. They were up and alert and ready,
evidently, whoever they were! And he--he was alone, and unarmed, and
far from any help; and the night was closing in.

Then the pattering began.

He thought it was only falling leaves at first, so slight and delicate
was the sound of it.  Then as it grew it took a regular rhythm, and he
knew it for nothing else but the pat-pat-pat of little feet still a
very long way off.  Was it in front or behind?  It seemed to be first
one, and then the other, then both.  It grew and it multiplied, till
from every quarter as he listened anxiously, leaning this way and
that, it seemed to be closing in on him.  As he stood still to
hearken, a rabbit came running hard towards him through the trees.  He
waited, expecting it to slacken pace, or to swerve from him into a
different course.  Instead, the animal almost brushed him as it dashed
past, his face set and hard, his eyes staring.  'Get out of this, you
fool, get out!' the Mole heard him mutter as he swung round a stump
and disappeared down a friendly burrow.

The pattering increased till it sounded like sudden hail on the dry
leaf-carpet spread around him.  The whole wood seemed running now,
running hard, hunting, chasing, closing in round something or--
somebody?  In panic, he began to run too, aimlessly, he knew not
whither.  He ran up against things, he fell over things and into
things, he darted under things and dodged round things.  At last he
took refuge in the deep dark hollow of an old beech tree, which
offered shelter, concealment--perhaps even safety, but who could tell?
Anyhow, he was too tired to run any further, and could only snuggle
down into the dry leaves which had drifted into the hollow and hope he
was safe for a time.  And as he lay there panting and trembling, and
listened to the whistlings and the patterings outside, he knew it at
last, in all its fullness, that dread thing which other little
dwellers in field and hedgerow had encountered here, and known as
their darkest moment--that thing which the Rat had vainly tried to
shield him from--the Terror of the Wild Wood!

Meantime the Rat, warm and comfortable, dozed by his fireside. His
paper of half-finished verses slipped from his knee, his head fell
back, his mouth opened, and he wandered by the verdant banks of
dream-rivers.  Then a coal slipped, the fire crackled and sent up a
spurt of flame, and he woke with a start.  Remembering what he had
been engaged upon, he reached down to the floor for his verses, pored
over them for a minute, and then looked round for the Mole to ask him
if he knew a good rhyme for something or other.

But the Mole was not there.

He listened for a time.  The house seemed very quiet.

Then he called 'Moly!' several times, and, receiving no answer, got up
and went out into the hall.

The Mole's cap was missing from its accustomed peg.  His goloshes,
which always lay by the umbrella-stand, were also gone.

The Rat left the house, and carefully examined the muddy surface of
the ground outside, hoping to find the Mole's tracks.  There they
were, sure enough.  The goloshes were new, just bought for the winter,
and the pimples on their soles were fresh and sharp. He could see the
imprints of them in the mud, running along straight and purposeful,
leading direct to the Wild Wood.

The Rat looked very grave, and stood in deep thought for a minute or
two.  Then he re-entered the house, strapped a belt round his waist,
shoved a brace of pistols into it, took up a stout cudgel that stood
in a corner of the hall, and set off for the Wild Wood at a smart
pace.

It was already getting towards dusk when he reached the first fringe
of trees and plunged without hesitation into the wood, looking
anxiously on either side for any sign of his friend. Here and there
wicked little faces popped out of holes, but vanished immediately at
sight of the valorous animal, his pistols, and the great ugly cudgel
in his grasp; and the whistling and pattering, which he had heard
quite plainly on his first entry, died away and ceased, and all was
very still.  He made his way manfully through the length of the wood,
to its furthest edge; then, forsaking all paths, he set himself to
traverse it, laboriously working over the whole ground, and all the
time calling out cheerfully, 'Moly, Moly, Moly!  Where are you?  It's
me--it's old Rat!'

He had patiently hunted through the wood for an hour or more, when at
last to his joy he heard a little answering cry.  Guiding himself by
the sound, he made his way through the gathering darkness to the foot
of an old beech tree, with a hole in it, and from out of the hole came
a feeble voice, saying 'Ratty!  Is that really you?'

The Rat crept into the hollow, and there he found the Mole, exhausted
and still trembling.  'O Rat!' he cried, 'I've been so frightened, you
can't think!'

'O, I quite understand,' said the Rat soothingly.  'You shouldn't
really have gone and done it, Mole.  I did my best to keep you from
it.  We river-bankers, we hardly ever come here by ourselves.  If we
have to come, we come in couples, at least; then we're generally all
right.  Besides, there are a hundred things one has to know, which we
understand all about and you don't, as yet.  I mean passwords, and
signs, and sayings which have power and effect, and plants you carry
in your pocket, and verses you repeat, and dodges and tricks you
practise; all simple enough when you know them, but they've got to be
known if you're small, or you'll find yourself in trouble.  Of course
if you were Badger or Otter, it would be quite another matter.'

'Surely the brave Mr. Toad wouldn't mind coming here by himself, would
he?' inquired the Mole.

'Old Toad?' said the Rat, laughing heartily.  'He wouldn't show his
face here alone, not for a whole hatful of golden guineas, Toad
wouldn't.'

The Mole was greatly cheered by the sound of the Rat's careless
laughter, as well as by the sight of his stick and his gleaming
pistols, and he stopped shivering and began to feel bolder and more
himself again.

'Now then,' said the Rat presently, 'we really must pull ourselves
together and make a start for home while there's still a little light
left.  It will never do to spend the night here, you understand.  Too
cold, for one thing.'

'Dear Ratty,' said the poor Mole, 'I'm dreadfully sorry, but I'm
simply dead beat and that's a solid fact.  You MUST let me rest here a
while longer, and get my strength back, if I'm to get home at all.'

'O, all right,' said the good-natured Rat, 'rest away.  It's pretty
nearly pitch dark now, anyhow; and there ought to be a bit of a moon
later.'

So the Mole got well into the dry leaves and stretched himself out,
and presently dropped off into sleep, though of a broken and troubled
sort; while the Rat covered himself up, too, as best he might, for
warmth, and lay patiently waiting, with a pistol in his paw.

When at last the Mole woke up, much refreshed and in his usual
spirits, the Rat said, 'Now then!  I'll just take a look outside and
see if everything's quiet, and then we really must be off.'

He went to the entrance of their retreat and put his head out.  Then
the Mole heard him saying quietly to himself, 'Hullo! hullo!
here--is--a--go!'

'What's up, Ratty?' asked the Mole.

'SNOW is up,' replied the Rat briefly; 'or rather, DOWN. It's snowing
hard.'

The Mole came and crouched beside him, and, looking out, saw the wood
that had been so dreadful to him in quite a changed aspect. Holes,
hollows, pools, pitfalls, and other black menaces to the wayfarer were
vanishing fast, and a gleaming carpet of faery was springing up
everywhere, that looked too delicate to be trodden upon by rough feet.
A fine powder filled the air and caressed the cheek with a tingle in
its touch, and the black boles of the trees showed up in a light that
seemed to come from below.

'Well, well, it can't be helped,' said the Rat, after pondering. 'We
must make a start, and take our chance, I suppose.  The worst of it
is, I don't exactly know where we are.  And now this snow makes
everything look so very different.'

It did indeed.  The Mole would not have known that it was the same
wood.  However, they set out bravely, and took the line that seemed
most promising, holding on to each other and pretending with
invincible cheerfulness that they recognized an old friend in every
fresh tree that grimly and silently greeted them, or saw openings,
gaps, or paths with a familiar turn in them, in the monotony of white
space and black tree-trunks that refused to vary.

An hour or two later--they had lost all count of time--they pulled up,
dispirited, weary, and hopelessly at sea, and sat down on a fallen
tree-trunk to recover their breath and consider what was to be done.
They were aching with fatigue and bruised with tumbles; they had
fallen into several holes and got wet through; the snow was getting so
deep that they could hardly drag their little legs through it, and the
trees were thicker and more like each other than ever.  There seemed
to be no end to this wood, and no beginning, and no difference in it,
and, worst of all, no way out.

'We can't sit here very long,' said the Rat.  'We shall have to make
another push for it, and do something or other.  The cold is too awful
for anything, and the snow will soon be too deep for us to wade
through.'  He peered about him and considered.  'Look here,' he went
on, 'this is what occurs to me.  There's a sort of dell down here in
front of us, where the ground seems all hilly and humpy and hummocky.
We'll make our way down into that, and try and find some sort of
shelter, a cave or hole with a dry floor to it, out of the snow and
the wind, and there we'll have a good rest before we try again, for
we're both of us pretty dead beat.  Besides, the snow may leave off,
or something may turn up.'

So once more they got on their feet, and struggled down into the dell,
where they hunted about for a cave or some corner that was dry and a
protection from the keen wind and the whirling snow. They were
investigating one of the hummocky bits the Rat had spoken of, when
suddenly the Mole tripped up and fell forward on his face with a
squeal.

'O my leg!' he cried.  'O my poor shin!' and he sat up on the snow and
nursed his leg in both his front paws.

'Poor old Mole!' said the Rat kindly.

'You don't seem to be having much luck to-day, do you?  Let's have a
look at the leg.  Yes,' he went on, going down on his knees to look,
'you've cut your shin, sure enough.  Wait till I get at my
handkerchief, and I'll tie it up for you.'

'I must have tripped over a hidden branch or a stump,' said the Mole
miserably.  'O, my! O, my!'

'It's a very clean cut,' said the Rat, examining it again attentively.
'That was never done by a branch or a stump.  Looks as if it was made
by a sharp edge of something in metal.  Funny!' He pondered awhile,
and examined the humps and slopes that surrounded them.

'Well, never mind what done it,' said the Mole, forgetting his grammar
in his pain.  'It hurts just the same, whatever done it.'

But the Rat, after carefully tying up the leg with his handkerchief,
had left him and was busy scraping in the snow.  He scratched and
shovelled and explored, all four legs working busily, while the Mole
waited impatiently, remarking at intervals, 'O, COME on, Rat!'

Suddenly the Rat cried 'Hooray!' and then 'Hooray-oo-ray-oo-ray-oo-ray!'
and fell to executing a feeble jig in the snow.

'What HAVE you found, Ratty?' asked the Mole, still nursing his leg.

'Come and see!' said the delighted Rat, as he jigged on.

The Mole hobbled up to the spot and had a good look.

'Well,' he said at last, slowly, 'I SEE it right enough.  Seen the
same sort of thing before, lots of times.  Familiar object, I call it.
A door-scraper!  Well, what of it?  Why dance jigs around a
door-scraper?'

'But don't you see what it MEANS, you--you dull-witted animal?' cried
the Rat impatiently.

'Of course I see what it means,' replied the Mole.  'It simply means
that some VERY careless and forgetful person has left his door-scraper
lying about in the middle of the Wild Wood, JUST where it's SURE to
trip EVERYBODY up.  Very thoughtless of him, I call it.  When I get
home I shall go and complain about it to--to somebody or other, see if
I don't!'

'O, dear! O, dear!' cried the Rat, in despair at his obtuseness.
'Here, stop arguing and come and scrape!'  And he set to work again
and made the snow fly in all directions around him.

After some further toil his efforts were rewarded, and a very shabby
door-mat lay exposed to view.

'There, what did I tell you?' exclaimed the Rat in great triumph.

'Absolutely nothing whatever,' replied the Mole, with perfect
truthfulness.  'Well now,' he went on, 'you seem to have found another
piece of domestic litter, done for and thrown away, and I suppose
you're perfectly happy.  Better go ahead and dance your jig round that
if you've got to, and get it over, and then perhaps we can go on and
not waste any more time over rubbish-heaps.  Can we EAT a doormat? or
sleep under a door-mat?  Or sit on a door-mat and sledge home over the
snow on it, you exasperating rodent?'

'Do--you--mean--to--say,' cried the excited Rat, 'that this door-mat
doesn't TELL you anything?'

'Really, Rat,' said the Mole, quite pettishly, 'I think we'd had
enough of this folly.  Who ever heard of a door-mat TELLING anyone
anything?  They simply don't do it.  They are not that sort at all.
Door-mats know their place.'

'Now look here, you--you thick-headed beast,' replied the Rat, really
angry, 'this must stop.  Not another word, but scrape--scrape and
scratch and dig and hunt round, especially on the sides of the
hummocks, if you want to sleep dry and warm to-night, for it's our
last chance!'

The Rat attacked a snow-bank beside them with ardour, probing with his
cudgel everywhere and then digging with fury; and the Mole scraped
busily too, more to oblige the Rat than for any other reason, for his
opinion was that his friend was getting light-headed.

Some ten minutes' hard work, and the point of the Rat's cudgel struck
something that sounded hollow.  He worked till he could get a paw
through and feel; then called the Mole to come and help him.  Hard at
it went the two animals, till at last the result of their labours
stood full in view of the astonished and hitherto incredulous Mole.

In the side of what had seemed to be a snow-bank stood a solid-looking
little door, painted a dark green.  An iron bell-pull hung by the
side, and below it, on a small brass plate, neatly engraved in square
capital letters, they could read by the aid of moonlight MR. BADGER.

The Mole fell backwards on the snow from sheer surprise and delight.
'Rat!' he cried in penitence, 'you're a wonder!  A real wonder, that's
what you are.  I see it all now!  You argued it out, step by step, in
that wise head of yours, from the very moment that I fell and cut my
shin, and you looked at the cut, and at once your majestic mind said
to itself, "Door-scraper!" And then you turned to and found the very
door-scraper that done it!  Did you stop there?  No.  Some people
would have been quite satisfied; but not you.  Your intellect went on
working.  "Let me only just find a door-mat," says you to yourself,
"and my theory is proved!"  And of course you found your door-mat.
You're so clever, I believe you could find anything you liked.  "Now,"
says you, "that door exists, as plain as if I saw it.  There's nothing
else remains to be done but to find it!"  Well, I've read about that
sort of thing in books, but I've never come across it before in real
life.  You ought to go where you'll be properly appreciated.  You're
simply wasted here, among us fellows.  If I only had your head,
Ratty----'

'But as you haven't,' interrupted the Rat, rather unkindly, 'I suppose
you're going to sit on the snow all night and TALK Get up at once and
hang on to that bell-pull you see there, and ring hard, as hard as you
can, while I hammer!'

While the Rat attacked the door with his stick, the Mole sprang up at
the bell-pull, clutched it and swung there, both feet well off the
ground, and from quite a long way off they could faintly hear a
deep-toned bell respond.



IV

MR. BADGER

THEY waited patiently for what seemed a very long time, stamping in
the snow to keep their feet warm.  At last they heard the sound of
slow shuffling footsteps approaching the door from the inside.  It
seemed, as the Mole remarked to the Rat, like some one walking in
carpet slippers that were too large for him and down at heel; which
was intelligent of Mole, because that was exactly what it was.

There was the noise of a bolt shot back, and the door opened a few
inches, enough to show a long snout and a pair of sleepy blinking
eyes.

'Now, the VERY next time this happens,' said a gruff and suspicious
voice, 'I shall be exceedingly angry.  Who is it THIS time, disturbing
people on such a night?  Speak up!'

'Oh, Badger,' cried the Rat, 'let us in, please. It's me, Rat, and my
friend Mole, and we've lost our way in the snow.'

'What, Ratty, my dear little man!' exclaimed the Badger, in quite a
different voice.  'Come along in, both of you, at once.  Why, you must
be perished.  Well I never!  Lost in the snow!  And in the Wild Wood,
too, and at this time of night!  But come in with you.'

The two animals tumbled over each other in their eagerness to get
inside, and heard the door shut behind them with great joy and relief.

The Badger, who wore a long dressing-gown, and whose slippers were
indeed very down at heel, carried a flat candlestick in his paw and
had probably been on his way to bed when their summons sounded.  He
looked kindly down on them and patted both their heads.  'This is not
the sort of night for small animals to be out,' he said paternally.
'I'm afraid you've been up to some of your pranks again, Ratty.  But
come along; come into the kitchen. There's a first-rate fire there,
and supper and everything.'

He shuffled on in front of them, carrying the light, and they followed
him, nudging each other in an anticipating sort of way, down a long,
gloomy, and, to tell the truth, decidedly shabby passage, into a sort
of a central hall; out of which they could dimly see other long
tunnel-like passages branching, passages mysterious and without
apparent end.  But there were doors in the hall as well--stout oaken
comfortable-looking doors.  One of these the Badger flung open, and at
once they found themselves in all the glow and warmth of a large
fire-lit kitchen.

The floor was well-worn red brick, and on the wide hearth burnt a fire
of logs, between two attractive chimney-corners tucked away in the
wall, well out of any suspicion of draught.  A couple of high-backed
settles, facing each other on either side of the fire, gave further
sitting accommodations for the sociably disposed.  In the middle of
the room stood a long table of plain boards placed on trestles, with
benches down each side.  At one end of it, where an arm-chair stood
pushed back, were spread the remains of the Badger's plain but ample
supper.  Rows of spotless plates winked from the shelves of the
dresser at the far end of the room, and from the rafters overhead hung
hams, bundles of dried herbs, nets of onions, and baskets of eggs.  It
seemed a place where heroes could fitly feast after victory, where
weary harvesters could line up in scores along the table and keep
their Harvest Home with mirth and song, or where two or three friends
of simple tastes could sit about as they pleased and eat and smoke and
talk in comfort and contentment.  The ruddy brick floor smiled up at
the smoky ceiling; the oaken settles, shiny with long wear, exchanged
cheerful glances with each other; plates on the dresser grinned at
pots on the shelf, and the merry firelight flickered and played over
everything without distinction.

The kindly Badger thrust them down on a settle to toast themselves at
the fire, and bade them remove their wet coats and boots.  Then he
fetched them dressing-gowns and slippers, and himself bathed the
Mole's shin with warm water and mended the cut with sticking-plaster
till the whole thing was just as good as new, if not better.  In the
embracing light and warmth, warm and dry at last, with weary legs
propped up in front of them, and a suggestive clink of plates being
arranged on the table behind, it seemed to the storm-driven animals,
now in safe anchorage, that the cold and trackless Wild Wood just left
outside was miles and miles away, and all that they had suffered in it
a half-forgotten dream.

When at last they were thoroughly toasted, the Badger summoned them to
the table, where he had been busy laying a repast.  They had felt
pretty hungry before, but when they actually saw at last the supper
that was spread for them, really it seemed only a question of what
they should attack first where all was so attractive, and whether the
other things would obligingly wait for them till they had time to give
them attention.  Conversation was impossible for a long time; and when
it was slowly resumed, it was that regrettable sort of conversation
that results from talking with your mouth full.  The Badger did not
mind that sort of thing at all, nor did he take any notice of elbows
on the table, or everybody speaking at once.  As he did not go into
Society himself, he had got an idea that these things belonged to the
things that didn't really matter.  (We know of course that he was
wrong, and took too narrow a view; because they do matter very much,
though it would take too long to explain why.)  He sat in his
arm-chair at the head of the table, and nodded gravely at intervals as
the animals told their story; and he did not seem surprised or shocked
at anything, and he never said, 'I told you so,' or, 'Just what I
always said,' or remarked that they ought to have done so-and-so, or
ought not to have done something else. The Mole began to feel very
friendly towards him.

When supper was really finished at last, and each animal felt that his
skin was now as tight as was decently safe, and that by this time he
didn't care a hang for anybody or anything, they gathered round the
glowing embers of the great wood fire, and thought how jolly it was to
be sitting up SO late, and SO independent, and SO full; and after they
had chatted for a time about things in general, the Badger said
heartily, 'Now then! tell us the news from your part of the world.
How's old Toad going on?'

'Oh, from bad to worse,' said the Rat gravely, while the Mole, cocked
up on a settle and basking in the firelight, his heels higher than his
head, tried to look properly mournful.  'Another smash-up only last
week, and a bad one.  You see, he will insist on driving himself, and
he's hopelessly incapable.  If he'd only employ a decent, steady,
well-trained animal, pay him good wages, and leave everything to him,
he'd get on all right.  But no; he's convinced he's a heaven-born
driver, and nobody can teach him anything; and all the rest follows.'

'How many has he had?' inquired the Badger gloomily.

'Smashes, or machines?' asked the Rat.  'Oh, well, after all, it's the
same thing--with Toad.  This is the seventh.  As for the others--you
know that coach-house of his?  Well, it's piled up--literally piled up
to the roof--with fragments of motor-cars, none of them bigger than
your hat!  That accounts for the other six--so far as they can be
accounted for.'

'He's been in hospital three times,' put in the Mole; 'and as for the
fines he's had to pay, it's simply awful to think of.'

'Yes, and that's part of the trouble,' continued the Rat. 'Toad's
rich, we all know; but he's not a millionaire.  And he's a hopelessly
bad driver, and quite regardless of law and order. Killed or ruined--
it's got to be one of the two things, sooner or later.  Badger! we're
his friends--oughtn't we to do something?'

The Badger went through a bit of hard thinking.  'Now look here!' he
said at last, rather severely; 'of course you know I can't do anything
NOW?'

His two friends assented, quite understanding his point.  No animal,
according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do
anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the
off-season of winter.  All are sleepy--some actually asleep.  All are
weather-bound, more or less; and all are resting from arduous days and
nights, during which every muscle in them has been severely tested,
and every energy kept at full stretch.

'Very well then!' continued the Badger.  'BUT, when once the year has
really turned, and the nights are shorter, and halfway through them
one rouses and feels fidgety and wanting to be up and doing by
sunrise, if not before--YOU know!----'

Both animals nodded gravely.  THEY knew!

'Well, THEN,' went on the Badger, 'we--that is, you and me and our
friend the Mole here--we'll take Toad seriously in hand. We'll stand
no nonsense whatever.  We'll bring him back to reason, by force if
need be.  We'll MAKE him be a sensible Toad.  We'll--you're asleep,
Rat!'

'Not me!' said the Rat, waking up with a jerk.

'He's been asleep two or three times since supper,' said the Mole,
laughing.  He himself was feeling quite wakeful and even lively,
though he didn't know why.  The reason was, of course, that he being
naturally an underground animal by birth and breeding, the situation
of Badger's house exactly suited him and made him feel at home; while
the Rat, who slept every night in a bedroom the windows of which
opened on a breezy river, naturally felt the atmosphere still and
oppressive.

'Well, it's time we were all in bed,' said the Badger, getting up and
fetching flat candlesticks.  'Come along, you two, and I'll show you
your quarters.  And take your time tomorrow morning--breakfast at any
hour you please!'

He conducted the two animals to a long room that seemed half
bedchamber and half loft.  The Badger's winter stores, which indeed
were visible everywhere, took up half the room--piles of apples,
turnips, and potatoes, baskets full of nuts, and jars of honey; but
the two little white beds on the remainder of the floor looked soft
and inviting, and the linen on them, though coarse, was clean and
smelt beautifully of lavender; and the Mole and the Water Rat, shaking
off their garments in some thirty seconds, tumbled in between the
sheets in great joy and contentment.

In accordance with the kindly Badger's injunctions, the two tired
animals came down to breakfast very late next morning, and found a
bright fire burning in the kitchen, and two young hedgehogs sitting on
a bench at the table, eating oatmeal porridge out of wooden bowls.
The hedgehogs dropped their spoons, rose to their feet, and ducked
their heads respectfully as the two entered.

'There, sit down, sit down,' said the Rat pleasantly, 'and go on with
your porridge.  Where have you youngsters come from?  Lost your way in
the snow, I suppose?'

'Yes, please, sir,' said the elder of the two hedgehogs respectfully.
'Me and little Billy here, we was trying to find our way to school--
mother WOULD have us go, was the weather ever so--and of course we
lost ourselves, sir, and Billy he got frightened and took and cried,
being young and faint-hearted.  And at last we happened up against Mr.
Badger's back door, and made so bold as to knock, sir, for Mr. Badger
he's a kind-hearted gentleman, as everyone knows----'

'I understand,' said the Rat, cutting himself some rashers from a side
of bacon, while the Mole dropped some eggs into a saucepan. 'And
what's the weather like outside?  You needn't "sir" me quite so much?'
he added.

'O, terrible bad, sir, terrible deep the snow is,' said the hedgehog.
'No getting out for the likes of you gentlemen to-day.'

'Where's Mr. Badger?' inquired the Mole, as he warmed the coffee-pot
before the fire.

'The master's gone into his study, sir,' replied the hedgehog, 'and he
said as how he was going to be particular busy this morning, and on no
account was he to be disturbed.'

This explanation, of course, was thoroughly understood by every one
present.  The fact is, as already set forth, when you live a life of
intense activity for six months in the year, and of comparative or
actual somnolence for the other six, during the latter period you
cannot be continually pleading sleepiness when there are people about
or things to be done.  The excuse gets monotonous.  The animals well
knew that Badger, having eaten a hearty breakfast, had retired to his
study and settled himself in an arm-chair with his legs up on another
and a red cotton handkerchief over his face, and was being 'busy' in
the usual way at this time of the year.

The front-door bell clanged loudly, and the Rat, who was very greasy
with buttered toast, sent Billy, the smaller hedgehog, to see who it
might be.  There was a sound of much stamping in the hall, and
presently Billy returned in front of the Otter, who threw himself on
the Rat with an embrace and a shout of affectionate greeting.

'Get off!' spluttered the Rat, with his mouth full.

'Thought I should find you here all right,' said the Otter cheerfully.
'They were all in a great state of alarm along River Bank when I
arrived this morning.  Rat never been home all night--nor Mole
either--something dreadful must have happened, they said; and the snow
had covered up all your tracks, of course.  But I knew that when
people were in any fix they mostly went to Badger, or else Badger got
to know of it somehow, so I came straight off here, through the Wild
Wood and the snow! My! it was fine, coming through the snow as the red
sun was rising and showing against the black tree-trunks!  As you went
along in the stillness, every now and then masses of snow slid off the
branches suddenly with a flop! making you jump and run for cover.
Snow-castles and snow-caverns had sprung up out of nowhere in the
night--and snow bridges, terraces, ramparts--I could have stayed and
played with them for hours.  Here and there great branches had been
torn away by the sheer weight of the snow, and robins perched and
hopped on them in their perky conceited way, just as if they had done
it themselves.  A ragged string of wild geese passed overhead, high on
the grey sky, and a few rooks whirled over the trees, inspected, and
flapped off homewards with a disgusted expression; but I met no
sensible being to ask the news of.  About halfway across I came on a
rabbit sitting on a stump, cleaning his silly face with his paws.  He
was a pretty scared animal when I crept up behind him and placed a
heavy forepaw on his shoulder.  I had to cuff his head once or twice
to get any sense out of it at all.  At last I managed to extract from
him that Mole had been seen in the Wild Wood last night by one of
them.  It was the talk of the burrows, he said, how Mole, Mr. Rat's
particular friend, was in a bad fix; how he had lost his way, and
"They" were up and out hunting, and were chivvying him round and
round.  "Then why didn't any of you DO something?" I asked.  "You
mayn't be blest with brains, but there are hundreds and hundreds of
you, big, stout fellows, as fat as butter, and your burrows running in
all directions, and you could have taken him in and made him safe and
comfortable, or tried to, at all events."  "What, US?" he merely said:
"DO something? us rabbits?"  So I cuffed him again and left him. There
was nothing else to be done.  At any rate, I had learnt something; and
if I had had the luck to meet any of "Them" I'd have learnt something
more--or THEY would.'

'Weren't you at all--er--nervous?' asked the Mole, some of yesterday's
terror coming back to him at the mention of the Wild Wood.

'Nervous?'  The Otter showed a gleaming set of strong white teeth as
he laughed.  'I'd give 'em nerves if any of them tried anything on
with me.  Here, Mole, fry me some slices of ham, like the good little
chap you are.  I'm frightfully hungry, and I've got any amount to say
to Ratty here.  Haven't seen him for an age.'

So the good-natured Mole, having cut some slices of ham, set the
hedgehogs to fry it, and returned to his own breakfast, while the
Otter and the Rat, their heads together, eagerly talked river-shop,
which is long shop and talk that is endless, running on like the
babbling river itself.

A plate of fried ham had just been cleared and sent back for more,
when the Badger entered, yawning and rubbing his eyes, and greeted
them all in his quiet, simple way, with kind enquiries for every one.
'It must be getting on for luncheon time,' he remarked to the Otter.
'Better stop and have it with us.  You must be hungry, this cold
morning.'

'Rather!' replied the Otter, winking at the Mole.  'The sight of these
greedy young hedgehogs stuffing themselves with fried ham makes me
feel positively famished.'

The hedgehogs, who were just beginning to feel hungry again after
their porridge, and after working so hard at their frying, looked
timidly up at Mr. Badger, but were too shy to say anything.

'Here, you two youngsters be off home to your mother,' said the Badger
kindly.  'I'll send some one with you to show you the way. You won't
want any dinner to-day, I'll be bound.'

He gave them sixpence apiece and a pat on the head, and they went off
with much respectful swinging of caps and touching of forelocks.

Presently they all sat down to luncheon together.  The Mole found
himself placed next to Mr. Badger, and, as the other two were still
deep in river-gossip from which nothing could divert them, he took the
opportunity to tell Badger how comfortable and home-like it all felt
to him.  'Once well underground,' he said, 'you know exactly where you
are.  Nothing can happen to you, and nothing can get at you.  You're
entirely your own master, and you don't have to consult anybody or
mind what they say.  Things go on all the same overhead, and you let
'em, and don't bother about 'em.  When you want to, up you go, and
there the things are, waiting for you.'

The Badger simply beamed on him.  'That's exactly what I say,' he
replied.  'There's no security, or peace and tranquillity, except
underground.  And then, if your ideas get larger and you want to
expand--why, a dig and a scrape, and there you are!  If you feel your
house is a bit too big, you stop up a hole or two, and there you are
again!  No builders, no tradesmen, no remarks passed on you by fellows
looking over your wall, and, above all, no WEATHER.  Look at Rat, now.
A couple of feet of flood water, and he's got to move into hired
lodgings; uncomfortable, inconveniently situated, and horribly
expensive.  Take Toad.  I say nothing against Toad Hall; quite the
best house in these parts, AS a house.  But supposing a fire breaks
out--where's Toad?  Supposing tiles are blown off, or walls sink or
crack, or windows get broken--where's Toad?  Supposing the rooms are
draughty--I HATE a draught myself--where's Toad?  No, up and out of
doors is good enough to roam about and get one's living in; but
underground to come back to at last--that's my idea of HOME'

The Mole assented heartily; and the Badger in consequence got very
friendly with him.  'When lunch is over,' he said, 'I'll take you all
round this little place of mine.  I can see you'll appreciate it.  You
understand what domestic architecture ought to be, you do.'

After luncheon, accordingly, when the other two had settled themselves
into the chimney-corner and had started a heated argument on the
subject of EELS, the Badger lighted a lantern and bade the Mole follow
him.  Crossing the hall, they passed down one of the principal
tunnels, and the wavering light of the lantern gave glimpses on either
side of rooms both large and small, some mere cupboards, others nearly
as broad and imposing as Toad's dining-hall.  A narrow passage at
right angles led them into another corridor, and here the same thing
was repeated.  The Mole was staggered at the size, the extent, the
ramifications of it all; at the length of the dim passages, the solid
vaultings of the crammed store-chambers, the masonry everywhere, the
pillars, the arches, the pavements.  'How on earth, Badger,' he said
at last, 'did you ever find time and strength to do all this?  It's
astonishing!'

'It WOULD be astonishing indeed,' said the Badger simply, 'if I HAD
done it.  But as a matter of fact I did none of it--only cleaned out
the passages and chambers, as far as I had need of them.  There's lots
more of it, all round about.  I see you don't understand, and I must
explain it to you.  Well, very long ago, on the spot where the Wild
Wood waves now, before ever it had planted itself and grown up to what
it now is, there was a city--a city of people, you know.  Here, where
we are standing, they lived, and walked, and talked, and slept, and
carried on their business.  Here they stabled their horses and
feasted, from here they rode out to fight or drove out to trade.  They
were a powerful people, and rich, and great builders.  They built to
last, for they thought their city would last for ever.'

'But what has become of them all?' asked the Mole.

'Who can tell?' said the Badger.  'People come--they stay for a while,
they flourish, they build--and they go.  It is their way.  But we
remain.  There were badgers here, I've been told, long before that
same city ever came to be.  And now there are badgers here again.  We
are an enduring lot, and we may move out for a time, but we wait, and
are patient, and back we come.  And so it will ever be.'

'Well, and when they went at last, those people?' said the Mole.

'When they went,' continued the Badger, 'the strong winds and
persistent rains took the matter in hand, patiently, ceaselessly, year
after year.  Perhaps we badgers too, in our small way, helped a
little--who knows?  It was all down, down, down, gradually--ruin and
levelling and disappearance.  Then it was all up, up, up, gradually,
as seeds grew to saplings, and saplings to forest trees, and bramble
and fern came creeping in to help. Leaf-mould rose and obliterated,
streams in their winter freshets brought sand and soil to clog and to
cover, and in course of time our home was ready for us again, and we
moved in.  Up above us, on the surface, the same thing happened.
Animals arrived, liked the look of the place, took up their quarters,
settled down, spread, and flourished.  They didn't bother themselves
about the past--they never do; they're too busy.  The place was a bit
humpy and hillocky, naturally, and full of holes; but that was rather
an advantage.  And they don't bother about the future, either--the
future when perhaps the people will move in again--for a time--as may
very well be.  The Wild Wood is pretty well populated by now; with all
the usual lot, good, bad, and indifferent--I name no names.  It takes
all sorts to make a world.  But I fancy you know something about them
yourself by this time.'

'I do indeed,' said the Mole, with a slight shiver.

'Well, well,' said the Badger, patting him on the shoulder, 'it was
your first experience of them, you see.  They're not so bad really;
and we must all live and let live.  But I'll pass the word around
to-morrow, and I think you'll have no further trouble.  Any friend of
MINE walks where he likes in this country, or I'll know the reason
why!'

When they got back to the kitchen again, they found the Rat walking up
and down, very restless.  The underground atmosphere was oppressing
him and getting on his nerves, and he seemed really to be afraid that
the river would run away if he wasn't there to look after it.  So he
had his overcoat on, and his pistols thrust into his belt again.
'Come along, Mole,' he said anxiously, as soon as he caught sight of
them.  'We must get off while it's daylight.  Don't want to spend
another night in the Wild Wood again.'

'It'll be all right, my fine fellow,' said the Otter.  'I'm coming
along with you, and I know every path blindfold; and if there's a head
that needs to be punched, you can confidently rely upon me to punch
it.'

'You really needn't fret, Ratty,' added the Badger placidly.  'My
passages run further than you think, and I've bolt-holes to the edge
of the wood in several directions, though I don't care for everybody
to know about them.  When you really have to go, you shall leave by
one of my short cuts.  Meantime, make yourself easy, and sit down
again.'

The Rat was nevertheless still anxious to be off and attend to his
river, so the Badger, taking up his lantern again, led the way along a
damp and airless tunnel that wound and dipped, part vaulted, part hewn
through solid rock, for a weary distance that seemed to be miles.  At
last daylight began to show itself confusedly through tangled growth
overhanging the mouth of the passage; and the Badger, bidding them a
hasty good-bye, pushed them hurriedly through the opening, made
everything look as natural as possible again, with creepers,
brushwood, and dead leaves, and retreated.

They found themselves standing on the very edge of the Wild Wood.
Rocks and brambles and tree-roots behind them, confusedly heaped and
tangled; in front, a great space of quiet fields, hemmed by lines of
hedges black on the snow, and, far ahead, a glint of the familiar old
river, while the wintry sun hung red and low on the horizon.  The
Otter, as knowing all the paths, took charge of the party, and they
trailed out on a bee-line for a distant stile. Pausing there a moment
and looking back, they saw the whole mass of the Wild Wood, dense,
menacing, compact, grimly set in vast white surroundings;
simultaneously they turned and made swiftly for home, for firelight
and the familiar things it played on, for the voice, sounding cheerily
outside their window, of the river that they knew and trusted in all
its moods, that never made them afraid with any amazement.

As he hurried along, eagerly anticipating the moment when he would be
at home again among the things he knew and liked, the Mole saw clearly
that he was an animal of tilled field and hedge-row, linked to the
ploughed furrow, the frequented pasture, the lane of evening
lingerings, the cultivated garden-plot.  For others the asperities,
the stubborn endurance, or the clash of actual conflict, that went
with Nature in the rough; he must be wise, must keep to the pleasant
places in which his lines were laid and which held adventure enough,
in their way, to last for a lifetime.


V

DULCE DOMUM

The sheep ran huddling together against the hurdles, blowing out thin
nostrils and stamping with delicate fore-feet, their heads thrown back
and a light steam rising from the crowded sheep-pen into the frosty
air, as the two animals hastened by in high spirits, with much chatter
and laughter.  They were returning across country after a long day's
outing with Otter, hunting and exploring on the wide uplands where
certain streams tributary to their own River had their first small
beginnings; and the shades of the short winter day were closing in on
them, and they had still some distance to go.  Plodding at random
across the plough, they had heard the sheep and had made for them; and
now, leading from the sheep-pen, they found a beaten track that made
walking a lighter business, and responded, moreover, to that small
inquiring something which all animals carry inside them, saying
unmistakably, 'Yes, quite right; THIS leads home!'

'It looks as if we were coming to a village,' said the Mole somewhat
dubiously, slackening his pace, as the track, that had in time become
a path and then had developed into a lane, now handed them over to the
charge of a well-metalled road.  The animals did not hold with
villages, and their own highways, thickly frequented as they were,
took an independent course, regardless of church, post office, or
public-house.

'Oh, never mind!' said the Rat.  'At this season of the year they're
all safe indoors by this time, sitting round the fire; men, women, and
children, dogs and cats and all.  We shall slip through all right,
without any bother or unpleasantness, and we can have a look at them
through their windows if you like, and see what they're doing.'

The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little village
as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery
snow.  Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either
side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage
overflowed through the casements into the dark world without.  Most of
the low latticed windows were innocent of blinds, and to the
lookers-in from outside, the inmates, gathered round the tea-table,
absorbed in handiwork, or talking with laughter and gesture, had each
that happy grace which is the last thing the skilled actor shall
capture--the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of
observation.  Moving at will from one theatre to another, the two
spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of wistfulness
in their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy child
picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock out
his pipe on the end of a smouldering log.

But it was from one little window, with its blind drawn down, a mere
blank transparency on the night, that the sense of home and the little
curtained world within walls--the larger stressful world of outside
Nature shut out and forgotten--most pulsated. Close against the white
blind hung a bird-cage, clearly silhouetted, every wire, perch, and
appurtenance distinct and recognisable, even to yesterday's dull-edged
lump of sugar.  On the middle perch the fluffy occupant, head tucked
well into feathers, seemed so near to them as to be easily stroked,
had they tried; even the delicate tips of his plumped-out plumage
pencilled plainly on the illuminated screen.  As they looked, the
sleepy little fellow stirred uneasily, woke, shook himself, and raised
his head.  They could see the gape of his tiny beak as he yawned in a
bored sort of way, looked round, and then settled his head into his
back again, while the ruffled feathers gradually subsided into perfect
stillness.  Then a gust of bitter wind took them in the back of the
neck, a small sting of frozen sleet on the skin woke them as from a
dream, and they knew their toes to be cold and their legs tired, and
their own home distant a weary way.

Once beyond the village, where the cottages ceased abruptly, on either
side of the road they could smell through the darkness the friendly
fields again; and they braced themselves for the last long stretch,
the home stretch, the stretch that we know is bound to end, some time,
in the rattle of the door-latch, the sudden firelight, and the sight
of familiar things greeting us as long-absent travellers from far
over-sea.  They plodded along steadily and silently, each of them
thinking his own thoughts. The Mole's ran a good deal on supper, as it
was pitch-dark, and it was all a strange country for him as far as he
knew, and he was following obediently in the wake of the Rat, leaving
the guidance entirely to him.  As for the Rat, he was walking a little
way ahead, as his habit was, his shoulders humped, his eyes fixed on
the straight grey road in front of him; so he did not notice poor Mole
when suddenly the summons reached him, and took him like an electric
shock.

We others, who have long lost the more subtle of the physical senses,
have not even proper terms to express an animal's inter-communications
with his surroundings, living or otherwise, and have only the word
'smell,' for instance, to include the whole range of delicate thrills
which murmur in the nose of the animal night and day, summoning,
warning? inciting, repelling.  It was one of these mysterious fairy
calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness,
making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal,
even while yet he could not clearly remember what it was.  He stopped
dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its
efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that
had so strongly moved him.  A moment, and he had caught it again; and
with it this time came recollection in fullest flood.

Home!  That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft
touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling
and tugging, all one way!  Why, it must be quite close by him at that
moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought
again, that day when he first found the river! And now it was sending
out its scouts and its messengers to capture him and bring him in.
Since his escape on that bright morning he had hardly given it a
thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its
pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences.  Now,
with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in
the darkness!  Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet
his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy
to get back to after his day's work.  And the home had been happy with
him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was
telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with
no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was
there, and wanted him.

The call was clear, the summons was plain.  He must obey it instantly,
and go.  'Ratty!' he called, full of joyful excitement, 'hold on!
Come back!  I want you, quick!'

'Oh, COME along, Mole, do!' replied the Rat cheerfully, still plodding
along.

'PLEASE stop, Ratty!' pleaded the poor Mole, in anguish of heart.
'You don't understand!  It's my home, my old home!  I've just come
across the smell of it, and it's close by here, really quite close.
And I MUST go to it, I must, I must!  Oh, come back, Ratty!  Please,
please come back!'

The Rat was by this time very far ahead, too far to hear clearly what
the Mole was calling, too far to catch the sharp note of painful
appeal in his voice.  And he was much taken up with the weather, for
he too could smell something--something suspiciously like approaching
snow.

'Mole, we mustn't stop now, really!' he called back.  'We'll come for
it to-morrow, whatever it is you've found.  But I daren't stop now--
it's late, and the snow's coming on again, and I'm not sure of the
way!  And I want your nose, Mole, so come on quick, there's a good
fellow!'  And the Rat pressed forward on his way without waiting for
an answer.

Poor Mole stood alone in the road, his heart torn asunder, and a big
sob gathering, gathering, somewhere low down inside him, to leap up to
the surface presently, he knew, in passionate escape. But even under
such a test as this his loyalty to his friend stood firm.  Never for a
moment did he dream of abandoning him. Meanwhile, the wafts from his
old home pleaded, whispered, conjured, and finally claimed him
imperiously.  He dared not tarry longer within their magic circle.
With a wrench that tore his very heartstrings he set his face down the
road and followed submissively in the track of the Rat, while faint,
thin little smells, still dogging his retreating nose, reproached him
for his new friendship and his callous forgetfulness.

With an effort he caught up to the unsuspecting Rat, who began
chattering cheerfully about what they would do when they got back, and
how jolly a fire of logs in the parlour would be, and what a supper he
meant to eat; never noticing his companion's silence and distressful
state of mind.  At last, however, when they had gone some considerable
way further, and were passing some tree-stumps at the edge of a copse
that bordered the road, he stopped and said kindly, 'Look here, Mole
old chap, you seem dead tired.  No talk left in you, and your feet
dragging like lead.  We'll sit down here for a minute and rest.  The
snow has held off so far, and the best part of our journey is over.'

The Mole subsided forlornly on a tree-stump and tried to control
himself, for he felt it surely coming.  The sob he had fought with so
long refused to be beaten.  Up and up, it forced its way to the air,
and then another, and another, and others thick and fast; till poor
Mole at last gave up the struggle, and cried freely and helplessly and
openly, now that he knew it was all over and he had lost what he could
hardly be said to have found.

The Rat, astonished and dismayed at the violence of Mole's paroxysm of
grief, did not dare to speak for a while.  At last he said, very
quietly and sympathetically, 'What is it, old fellow?  Whatever can be
the matter?  Tell us your trouble, and let me see what I can do.'

Poor Mole found it difficult to get any words out between the
upheavals of his chest that followed one upon another so quickly and
held back speech and choked it as it came.  'I know it's a--shabby,
dingy little place,' he sobbed forth at last, brokenly: 'not like--
your cosy quarters--or Toad's beautiful hall--or Badger's great
house--but it was my own little home--and I was fond of it--and I went
away and forgot all about it--and then I smelt it suddenly--on the
road, when I called and you wouldn't listen, Rat--and everything came
back to me with a rush--and I WANTED it!--O dear, O dear!--and when
you WOULDN'T turn back, Ratty--and I had to leave it, though I was
smelling it all the time--I thought my heart would break.--We might
have just gone and had one look at it, Ratty--only one look--it was
close by--but you wouldn't turn back, Ratty, you wouldn't turn back! O
dear, O dear!'

Recollection brought fresh waves of sorrow, and sobs again took full
charge of him, preventing further speech.

The Rat stared straight in front of him, saying nothing, only patting
Mole gently on the shoulder.  After a time he muttered gloomily, 'I
see it all now!  What a PIG I have been!  A pig--that's me!  Just a
pig--a plain pig!'

He waited till Mole's sobs became gradually less stormy and more
rhythmical; he waited till at last sniffs were frequent and sobs only
intermittent.  Then he rose from his seat, and, remarking carelessly,
'Well, now we'd really better be getting on, old chap!' set off up the
road again, over the toilsome way they had come.

'Wherever are you (hic) going to (hic), Ratty?' cried the tearful
Mole, looking up in alarm.

'We're going to find that home of yours, old fellow,' replied the Rat
pleasantly; 'so you had better come along, for it will take some
finding, and we shall want your nose.'

'Oh, come back, Ratty, do!' cried the Mole, getting up and hurrying
after him.  'It's no good, I tell you!  It's too late, and too dark,
and the place is too far off, and the snow's coming!  And--and I never
meant to let you know I was feeling that way about it--it was all an
accident and a mistake!  And think of River Bank, and your supper!'

'Hang River Bank, and supper too!' said the Rat heartily.  'I tell
you, I'm going to find this place now, if I stay out all night.  So
cheer up, old chap, and take my arm, and we'll very soon be back there
again.'

Still snuffling, pleading, and reluctant, Mole suffered himself to be
dragged back along the road by his imperious companion, who by a flow
of cheerful talk and anecdote endeavoured to beguile his spirits back
and make the weary way seem shorter.  When at last it seemed to the
Rat that they must be nearing that part of the road where the Mole had
been 'held up,' he said, 'Now, no more talking.  Business!  Use your
nose, and give your mind to it.'

They moved on in silence for some little way, when suddenly the Rat
was conscious, through his arm that was linked in Mole's, of a faint
sort of electric thrill that was passing down that animal's body.
Instantly he disengaged himself, fell back a pace, and waited, all
attention.

The signals were coming through!

Mole stood a moment rigid, while his uplifted nose, quivering
slightly, felt the air.

Then a short, quick run forward--a fault--a check--a try back; and
then a slow, steady, confident advance.

The Rat, much excited, kept close to his heels as the Mole, with
something of the air of a sleep-walker, crossed a dry ditch, scrambled
through a hedge, and nosed his way over a field open and trackless and
bare in the faint starlight.

Suddenly, without giving warning, he dived; but the Rat was on the
alert, and promptly followed him down the tunnel to which his unerring
nose had faithfully led him.

It was close and airless, and the earthy smell was strong, and it
seemed a long time to Rat ere the passage ended and he could stand
erect and stretch and shake himself.  The Mole struck a match, and by
its light the Rat saw that they were standing in an open space, neatly
swept and sanded underfoot, and directly facing them was Mole's little
front door, with 'Mole End' painted, in Gothic lettering, over the
bell-pull at the side.

Mole reached down a lantern from a nail on the wail and lit it, and
the Rat, looking round him, saw that they were in a sort of
fore-court.  A garden-seat stood on one side of the door, and on the
other a roller; for the Mole, who was a tidy animal when at home,
could not stand having his ground kicked up by other animals into
little runs that ended in earth-heaps.  On the walls hung wire baskets
with ferns in them, alternating with brackets carrying plaster
statuary--Garibaldi, and the infant Samuel, and Queen Victoria, and
other heroes of modern Italy.  Down on one side of the forecourt ran a
skittle-alley, with benches along it and little wooden tables marked
with rings that hinted at beer-mugs.  In the middle was a small round
pond containing gold-fish and surrounded by a cockle-shell border.
Out of the centre of the pond rose a fanciful erection clothed in more
cockle-shells and topped by a large silvered glass ball that reflected
everything all wrong and had a very pleasing effect.

Mole's face-beamed at the sight of all these objects so dear to him,
and he hurried Rat through the door, lit a lamp in the hall, and took
one glance round his old home.  He saw the dust lying thick on
everything, saw the cheerless, deserted look of the long-neglected
house, and its narrow, meagre dimensions, its worn and shabby
contents--and collapsed again on a hall-chair, his nose to his paws.
'O Ratty!' he cried dismally, 'why ever did I do it?  Why did I bring
you to this poor, cold little place, on a night like this, when you
might have been at River Bank by this time, toasting your toes before
a blazing fire, with all your own nice things about you!'

The Rat paid no heed to his doleful self-reproaches.  He was running
here and there, opening doors, inspecting rooms and cupboards, and
lighting lamps and candles and sticking them, up everywhere.  'What a
capital little house this is!' he called out cheerily.  'So compact!
So well planned!  Everything here and everything in its place!  We'll
make a jolly night of it.  The first thing we want is a good fire;
I'll see to that--I always know where to find things.  So this is the
parlour?  Splendid! Your own idea, those little sleeping-bunks in the
wall?  Capital! Now, I'll fetch the wood and the coals, and you get a
duster, Mole--you'll find one in the drawer of the kitchen table--and
try and smarten things up a bit.  Bustle about, old chap!'

Encouraged by his inspiriting companion, the Mole roused himself and
dusted and polished with energy and heartiness, while the Rat, running
to and fro with armfuls of fuel, soon had a cheerful blaze roaring up
the chimney.  He hailed the Mole to come and warm himself; but Mole
promptly had another fit of the blues, dropping down on a couch in
dark despair and burying his face in his duster.  'Rat,' he moaned,
'how about your supper, you poor, cold, hungry, weary animal?  I've
nothing to give you--nothing--not a crumb!'

'What a fellow you are for giving in!' said the Rat reproachfully.
'Why, only just now I saw a sardine-opener on the kitchen dresser,
quite distinctly; and everybody knows that means there are sardines
about somewhere in the neighbourhood.  Rouse yourself! pull yourself
together, and come with me and forage.'

They went and foraged accordingly, hunting through every cupboard and
turning out every drawer.  The result was not so very depressing after
all, though of course it might have been better; a tin of sardines--a
box of captain's biscuits, nearly full--and a German sausage encased
in silver paper.

'There's a banquet for you!' observed the Rat, as he arranged the
table.  'I know some animals who would give their ears to be sitting
down to supper with us to-night!'

'No bread!' groaned the Mole dolorously; 'no butter, no----'

'No pate de foie gras, no champagne!' continued the Rat, grinning.
'And that reminds me--what's that little door at the end of the
passage?  Your cellar, of course!  Every luxury in this house!  Just
you wait a minute.'

He made for the cellar-door, and presently reappeared, somewhat dusty,
with a bottle of beer in each paw and another under each arm,
'Self-indulgent beggar you seem to be, Mole,' he observed. 'Deny
yourself nothing.  This is really the jolliest little place I ever was
in. Now, wherever did you pick up those prints?  Make the place look
so home-like, they do.  No wonder you're so fond of it, Mole.  Tell us
all about it, and how you came to make it what it is.'

Then, while the Rat busied himself fetching plates, and knives and
forks, and mustard which he mixed in an egg-cup, the Mole, his bosom
still heaving with the stress of his recent emotion, related--somewhat
shyly at first, but with more freedom as he warmed to his subject--how
this was planned, and how that was thought out, and how this was got
through a windfall from an aunt, and that was a wonderful find and a
bargain, and this other thing was bought out of laborious savings and
a certain amount of 'going without.'  His spirits finally quite
restored, he must needs go and caress his possessions, and take a lamp
and show off their points to his visitor and expatiate on them, quite
forgetful of the supper they both so much needed; Rat, who was
desperately hungry but strove to conceal it, nodding seriously,
examining with a puckered brow, and saying, 'wonderful,' and 'most
remarkable,' at intervals, when the chance for an observation was
given him.

At last the Rat succeeded in decoying him to the table, and had just
got seriously to work with the sardine-opener when sounds were heard
from the fore-court without--sounds like the scuffling of small feet
in the gravel and a confused murmur of tiny voices, while broken
sentences reached them--'Now, all in a line--hold the lantern up a
bit, Tommy--clear your throats first--no coughing after I say one,
two, three.--Where's young Bill?--Here, come on, do, we're all
a-waiting----'

'What's up?' inquired the Rat, pausing in his labours.

'I think it must be the field-mice,' replied the Mole, with a touch of
pride in his manner.  'They go round carol-singing regularly at this
time of the year.  They're quite an institution in these parts.  And
they never pass me over--they come to Mole End last of all; and I used
to give them hot drinks, and supper too sometimes, when I could afford
it.  It will be like old times to hear them again.'

'Let's have a look at them!' cried the Rat, jumping up and running to
the door.

It was a pretty sight, and a seasonable one, that met their eyes when
they flung the door open.  In the fore-court, lit by the dim rays of a
horn lantern, some eight or ten little fieldmice stood in a
semicircle, red worsted comforters round their throats, their
fore-paws thrust deep into their pockets, their feet jigging for
warmth. With bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at each other,
sniggering a little, sniffing and applying coat-sleeves a good deal.
As the door opened, one of the elder ones that carried the lantern was
just saying, 'Now then, one, two, three!' and forthwith their shrill
little voices uprose on the air, singing one of the old-time carols
that their forefathers composed in fields that were fallow and held by
frost, or when snow-bound in chimney corners, and handed down to be
sung in the miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yule-time.


CAROL

Villagers all, this frosty tide, Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow, and snow beside, Yet draw us in by your fire
to bide; Joy shall be yours in the morning!

Here we stand in the cold and the sleet, Blowing fingers and stamping
feet, Come from far away you to greet--You by the fire and we in the
street--Bidding you joy in the morning!

For ere one half of the night was gone, Sudden a star has led us on,
Raining bliss and benison--Bliss to-morrow and more anon, Joy for
every morning!

Goodman Joseph toiled through the snow--Saw the star o'er a stable
low; Mary she might not further go--Welcome thatch, and litter below!
Joy was hers in the morning!

And then they heard the angels tell 'Who were the first to cry NOWELL?
Animals all, as it befell, In the stable where they did dwell! Joy
shall be theirs in the morning!'


The voices ceased, the singers, bashful but smiling, exchanged
sidelong glances, and silence succeeded--but for a moment only. Then,
from up above and far away, down the tunnel they had so lately
travelled was borne to their ears in a faint musical hum the sound of
distant bells ringing a joyful and clangorous peal.

'Very well sung, boys!' cried the Rat heartily.  'And now come along
in, all of you, and warm yourselves by the fire, and have something
hot!'

'Yes, come along, field-mice,' cried the Mole eagerly.  'This is quite
like old times!  Shut the door after you.  Pull up that settle to the
fire.  Now, you just wait a minute, while we--O, Ratty!' he cried in
despair, plumping down on a seat, with tears impending.  'Whatever are
we doing?  We've nothing to give them!'

'You leave all that to me,' said the masterful Rat.  'Here, you with
the lantern!  Come over this way.  I want to talk to you. Now, tell
me, are there any shops open at this hour of the night?'

'Why, certainly, sir,' replied the field-mouse respectfully.  'At this
time of the year our shops keep open to all sorts of hours.'

'Then look here!' said the Rat.  'You go off at once, you and your
lantern, and you get me----'

Here much muttered conversation ensued, and the Mole only heard bits
of it, such as--'Fresh, mind!--no, a pound of that will do--see you
get Buggins's, for I won't have any other--no, only the best--if you
can't get it there, try somewhere else--yes, of course, home-made, no
tinned stuff--well then, do the best you can!'  Finally, there was a
chink of coin passing from paw to paw, the field-mouse was provided
with an ample basket for his purchases, and off he hurried, he and his
lantern.

The rest of the field-mice, perched in a row on the settle, their
small legs swinging, gave themselves up to enjoyment of the fire, and
toasted their chilblains till they tingled; while the Mole, failing to
draw them into easy conversation, plunged into family history and made
each of them recite the names of his numerous brothers, who were too
young, it appeared, to be allowed to go out a-carolling this year, but
looked forward very shortly to winning the parental consent.

The Rat, meanwhile, was busy examining the label on one of the
beer-bottles.  'I perceive this to be Old Burton,' he remarked
approvingly. 'SENSIBLE Mole!  The very thing!  Now we shall be able to
mull some ale!  Get the things ready, Mole, while I draw the corks.'

It did not take long to prepare the brew and thrust the tin heater
well into the red heart of the fire; and soon every field-mouse was
sipping and coughing and choking (for a little mulled ale goes a long
way) and wiping his eyes and laughing and forgetting he had ever been
cold in all his life.

'They act plays too, these fellows,' the Mole explained to the Rat.
'Make them up all by themselves, and act them afterwards. And very
well they do it, too!  They gave us a capital one last year, about a
field-mouse who was captured at sea by a Barbary corsair, and made to
row in a galley; and when he escaped and got home again, his lady-love
had gone into a convent.  Here, YOU!  You were in it, I remember.  Get
up and recite a bit.'

The field-mouse addressed got up on his legs, giggled shyly, looked
round the room, and remained absolutely tongue-tied.  His comrades
cheered him on, Mole coaxed and encouraged him, and the Rat went so
far as to take him by the shoulders and shake him; but nothing could
overcome his stage-fright.  They were all busily engaged on him like
watermen applying the Royal Humane Society's regulations to a case of
long submersion, when the latch clicked, the door opened, and the
field-mouse with the lantern reappeared, staggering under the weight
of his basket.

There was no more talk of play-acting once the very real and solid
contents of the basket had been tumbled out on the table. Under the
generalship of Rat, everybody was set to do something or to fetch
something.  In a very few minutes supper was ready, and Mole, as he
took the head of the table in a sort of a dream, saw a lately barren
board set thick with savoury comforts; saw his little friends' faces
brighten and beam as they fell to without delay; and then let himself
loose--for he was famished indeed--on the provender so magically
provided, thinking what a happy home-coming this had turned out, after
all.  As they ate, they talked of old times, and the field-mice gave
him the local gossip up to date, and answered as well as they could
the hundred questions he had to ask them.  The Rat said little or
nothing, only taking care that each guest had what he wanted, and
plenty of it, and that Mole had no trouble or anxiety about anything.

They clattered off at last, very grateful and showering wishes of the
season, with their jacket pockets stuffed with remembrances for the
small brothers and sisters at home.  When the door had closed on the
last of them and the chink of the lanterns had died away, Mole and Rat
kicked the fire up, drew their chairs in, brewed themselves a last
nightcap of mulled ale, and discussed the events of the long day.  At
last the Rat, with a tremendous yawn, said, 'Mole, old chap, I'm ready
to drop.  Sleepy is simply not the word.  That your own bunk over on
that side?  Very well, then, I'll take this.  What a ripping little
house this is! Everything so handy!'

He clambered into his bunk and rolled himself well up in the blankets,
and slumber gathered him forthwith, as a swathe of barley is folded
into the arms of the reaping machine.

The weary Mole also was glad to turn in without delay, and soon had
his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment.  But ere he
closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the
glow of the firelight that played or rested on familiar and friendly
things which had long been unconsciously a part of him, and now
smilingly received him back, without rancour.  He was now in just the
frame of mind that the tactful Rat had quietly worked to bring about
in him.  He saw clearly how plain and simple--how narrow, even--it all
was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special
value of some such anchorage in one's existence.  He did not at all
want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back
on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there;
the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down
there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage.  But it was
good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all
his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could
always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.



VI

MR. TOAD

It was a bright morning in the early part of summer; the river had
resumed its wonted banks and its accustomed pace, and a hot sun seemed
to be pulling everything green and bushy and spiky up out of the earth
towards him, as if by strings.  The Mole and the Water Rat had been up
since dawn, very busy on matters connected with boats and the opening
of the boating season; painting and varnishing, mending paddles,
repairing cushions, hunting for missing boat-hooks, and so on; and
were finishing breakfast in their little parlour and eagerly
discussing their plans for the day, when a heavy knock sounded at the
door.

'Bother!' said the Rat, all over egg.  'See who it is, Mole, like a
good chap, since you've finished.'

The Mole went to attend the summons, and the Rat heard him utter a cry
of surprise.  Then he flung the parlour door open, and announced with
much importance, 'Mr. Badger!'

This was a wonderful thing, indeed, that the Badger should pay a
formal call on them, or indeed on anybody.  He generally had to be
caught, if you wanted him badly, as he slipped quietly along a
hedgerow of an early morning or a late evening, or else hunted up in
his own house in the middle of the Wood, which was a serious
undertaking.

The Badger strode heavily into the room, and stood looking at the two
animals with an expression full of seriousness.  The Rat let his
egg-spoon fall on the table-cloth, and sat open-mouthed.

'The hour has come!' said the Badger at last with great solemnity.

'What hour?' asked the Rat uneasily, glancing at the clock on the
mantelpiece.

'WHOSE hour, you should rather say,' replied the Badger. 'Why, Toad's
hour!  The hour of Toad!  I said I would take him in hand as soon as
the winter was well over, and I'm going to take him in hand to-day!'

'Toad's hour, of course!' cried the Mole delightedly. 'Hooray! I
remember now! WE'LL teach him to be a sensible Toad!'

'This very morning,' continued the Badger, taking an arm-chair, 'as I
learnt last night from a trustworthy source, another new and
exceptionally powerful motor-car will arrive at Toad Hall on approval
or return.  At this very moment, perhaps, Toad is busy arraying
himself in those singularly hideous habiliments so dear to him, which
transform him from a (comparatively) good-looking Toad into an Object
which throws any decent-minded animal that comes across it into a
violent fit.  We must be up and doing, ere it is too late.  You two
animals will accompany me instantly to Toad Hall, and the work of
rescue shall be accomplished.'

'Right you are!' cried the Rat, starting up.  'We'll rescue the poor
unhappy animal!  We'll convert him!  He'll be the most converted Toad
that ever was before we've done with him!'

They set off up the road on their mission of mercy, Badger leading the
way.  Animals when in company walk in a proper and sensible manner, in
single file, instead of sprawling all across the road and being of no
use or support to each other in case of sudden trouble or danger.

They reached the carriage-drive of Toad Hall to find, as the Badger
had anticipated, a shiny new motor-car, of great size, painted a
bright red (Toad's favourite colour), standing in front of the house.
As they neared the door it was flung open, and Mr. Toad, arrayed in
goggles, cap, gaiters, and enormous overcoat, came swaggering down the
steps, drawing on his gauntleted gloves.

'Hullo! come on, you fellows!' he cried cheerfully on catching sight
of them.  'You're just in time to come with me for a jolly--to come
for a jolly--for a--er--jolly----'

His hearty accents faltered and fell away as he noticed the stern
unbending look on the countenances of his silent friends, and his
invitation remained unfinished.

The Badger strode up the steps.  'Take him inside,' he said sternly to
his companions.  Then, as Toad was hustled through the door,
struggling and protesting, he turned to the chauffeur in charge of the
new motor-car.

'I'm afraid you won't be wanted to-day,' he said.  'Mr. Toad has
changed his mind.  He will not require the car.  Please understand
that this is final.  You needn't wait.'  Then he followed the others
inside and shut the door.

'Now then!' he said to the Toad, when the four of them stood together
in the Hall, 'first of all, take those ridiculous things off!'

'Shan't!' replied Toad, with great spirit.  'What is the meaning of
this gross outrage?  I demand an instant explanation.'

'Take them off him, then, you two,' ordered the Badger briefly.

They had to lay Toad out on the floor, kicking and calling all sorts
of names, before they could get to work properly.  Then the Rat sat on
him, and the Mole got his motor-clothes off him bit by bit, and they
stood him up on his legs again.  A good deal of his blustering spirit
seemed to have evaporated with the removal of his fine panoply.  Now
that he was merely Toad, and no longer the Terror of the Highway, he
giggled feebly and looked from one to the other appealingly, seeming
quite to understand the situation.

'You knew it must come to this, sooner or later, Toad,' the Badger
explained severely.

You've disregarded all the warnings we've given you, you've gone on
squandering the money your father left you, and you're getting us
animals a bad name in the district by your furious driving and your
smashes and your rows with the police.  Independence is all very well,
but we animals never allow our friends to make fools of themselves
beyond a certain limit; and that limit you've reached.  Now, you're a
good fellow in many respects, and I don't want to be too hard on you.
I'll make one more effort to bring you to reason.  You will come with
me into the smoking-room, and there you will hear some facts about
yourself; and we'll see whether you come out of that room the same
Toad that you went in.'

He took Toad firmly by the arm, led him into the smoking-room, and
closed the door behind them.

'THAT'S no good!' said the Rat contemptuously.  'TALKING to Toad'll
never cure him.  He'll SAY anything.'

They made themselves comfortable in armchairs and waited patiently.
Through the closed door they could just hear the long continuous drone
of the Badger's voice, rising and falling in waves of oratory; and
presently they noticed that the sermon began to be punctuated at
intervals by long-drawn sobs, evidently proceeding from the bosom of
Toad, who was a soft-hearted and affectionate fellow, very easily
converted--for the time being--to any point of view.

After some three-quarters of an hour the door opened, and the Badger
reappeared, solemnly leading by the paw a very limp and dejected Toad.
His skin hung baggily about him, his legs wobbled, and his cheeks were
furrowed by the tears so plentifully called forth by the Badger's
moving discourse.

'Sit down there, Toad,' said the Badger kindly, pointing to a chair.
'My friends,' he went on, 'I am pleased to inform you that Toad has at
last seen the error of his ways.  He is truly sorry for his misguided
conduct in the past, and he has undertaken to give up motor-cars
entirely and for ever.  I have his solemn promise to that effect.'

'That is very good news,' said the Mole gravely.

'Very good news indeed,' observed the Rat dubiously, 'if only--IF
only----'

He was looking very hard at Toad as he said this, and could not help
thinking he perceived something vaguely resembling a twinkle in that
animal's still sorrowful eye.

'There's only one thing more to be done,' continued the gratified
Badger.  'Toad, I want you solemnly to repeat, before your friends
here, what you fully admitted to me in the smoking-room just now.
First, you are sorry for what you've done, and you see the folly of it
all?'

There was a long, long pause.  Toad looked desperately this way and
that, while the other animals waited in grave silence.  At last he
spoke.

'No!' he said, a little sullenly, but stoutly; 'I'm NOT sorry. And it
wasn't folly at all!  It was simply glorious!'

'What?' cried the Badger, greatly scandalised.  'You backsliding
animal, didn't you tell me just now, in there----'

'Oh, yes, yes, in THERE,' said Toad impatiently.  'I'd have said
anything in THERE.  You're so eloquent, dear Badger, and so moving,
and so convincing, and put all your points so frightfully well--you
can do what you like with me in THERE, and you know it.  But I've been
searching my mind since, and going over things in it, and I find that
I'm not a bit sorry or repentant really, so it's no earthly good
saying I am; now, is it?'

'Then you don't promise,' said the Badger, 'never to touch a motor-car
again?'

'Certainly not!' replied Toad emphatically.  'On the contrary, I
faithfully promise that the very first motor-car I see, poop-poop! off
I go in it!'

'Told you so, didn't I?' observed the Rat to the Mole.

'Very well, then,' said the Badger firmly, rising to his feet. 'Since
you won't yield to persuasion, we'll try what force can do.  I feared
it would come to this all along.  You've often asked us three to come
and stay with you, Toad, in this handsome house of yours; well, now
we're going to.  When we've converted you to a proper point of view we
may quit, but not before.  Take him upstairs, you two, and lock him up
in his bedroom, while we arrange matters between ourselves.'

'It's for your own good, Toady, you know,' said the Rat kindly, as
Toad, kicking and struggling, was hauled up the stairs by his two
faithful friends.  'Think what fun we shall all have together, just as
we used to, when you've quite got over this--this painful attack of
yours!'

'We'll take great care of everything for you till you're well, Toad,'
said the Mole; 'and we'll see your money isn't wasted, as it has
been.'

'No more of those regrettable incidents with the police, Toad,' said
the Rat, as they thrust him into his bedroom.

'And no more weeks in hospital, being ordered about by female nurses,
Toad,' added the Mole, turning the key on him.

They descended the stair, Toad shouting abuse at them through the
keyhole; and the three friends then met in conference on the
situation.

'It's going to be a tedious business,' said the Badger, sighing. 'I've
never seen Toad so determined.  However, we will see it out.  He must
never be left an instant unguarded.  We shall have to take it in turns
to be with him, till the poison has worked itself out of his system.'

They arranged watches accordingly.  Each animal took it in turns to
sleep in Toad's room at night, and they divided the day up between
them.  At first Toad was undoubtedly very trying to his careful
guardians.  When his violent paroxysms possessed him he would arrange
bedroom chairs in rude resemblance of a motor-car and would crouch on
the foremost of them, bent forward and staring fixedly ahead, making
uncouth and ghastly noises, till the climax was reached, when, turning
a complete somersault, he would lie prostrate amidst the ruins of the
chairs, apparently completely satisfied for the moment.  As time
passed, however, these painful seizures grew gradually less frequent,
and his friends strove to divert his mind into fresh channels.  But
his interest in other matters did not seem to revive, and he grew
apparently languid and depressed.

One fine morning the Rat, whose turn it was to go on duty, went
upstairs to relieve Badger, whom he found fidgeting to be off and
stretch his legs in a long ramble round his wood and down his earths
and burrows.  'Toad's still in bed,' he told the Rat, outside the
door.  'Can't get much out of him, except, "O leave him alone, he
wants nothing, perhaps he'll be better presently, it may pass off in
time, don't be unduly anxious," and so on.  Now, you look out, Rat!
When Toad's quiet and submissive and playing at being the hero of a
Sunday-school prize, then he's at his artfullest.  There's sure to be
something up.  I know him. Well, now, I must be off.'

'How are you to-day, old chap?' inquired the Rat cheerfully, as he
approached Toad's bedside.

He had to wait some minutes for an answer.  At last a feeble voice
replied, 'Thank you so much, dear Ratty!  So good of you to inquire!
But first tell me how you are yourself, and the excellent Mole?'

'O, WE'RE all right,' replied the Rat.  'Mole,' he added incautiously,
'is going out for a run round with Badger.  They'll be out till
luncheon time, so you and I will spend a pleasant morning together,
and I'll do my best to amuse you.  Now jump up, there's a good fellow,
and don't lie moping there on a fine morning like this!'

'Dear, kind Rat,' murmured Toad, 'how little you realise my condition,
and how very far I am from "jumping up" now--if ever! But do not
trouble about me.  I hate being a burden to my friends, and I do not
expect to be one much longer.  Indeed, I almost hope not.'

'Well, I hope not, too,' said the Rat heartily.  'You've been a fine
bother to us all this time, and I'm glad to hear it's going to stop.
And in weather like this, and the boating season just beginning!  It's
too bad of you, Toad!  It isn't the trouble we mind, but you're making
us miss such an awful lot.'

'I'm afraid it IS the trouble you mind, though,' replied the Toad
languidly.  'I can quite understand it.  It's natural enough.  You're
tired of bothering about me.  I mustn't ask you to do anything
further.  I'm a nuisance, I know.'

'You are, indeed,' said the Rat.  'But I tell you, I'd take any
trouble on earth for you, if only you'd be a sensible animal.'

'If I thought that, Ratty,' murmured Toad, more feebly than ever,
'then I would beg you--for the last time, probably--to step round to
the village as quickly as possible--even now it may be too late--and
fetch the doctor.  But don't you bother.  It's only a trouble, and
perhaps we may as well let things take their course.'

'Why, what do you want a doctor for?' inquired the Rat, coming closer
and examining him.  He certainly lay very still and flat, and his
voice was weaker and his manner much changed.

'Surely you have noticed of late----' murmured Toad.  'But, no--why
should you?  Noticing things is only a trouble.  To-morrow, indeed,
you may be saying to yourself, "O, if only I had noticed sooner!  If
only I had done something!"  But no; it's a trouble. Never mind--
forget that I asked.'

'Look here, old man,' said the Rat, beginning to get rather alarmed,
'of course I'll fetch a doctor to you, if you really think you want
him.  But you can hardly be bad enough for that yet.  Let's talk about
something else.'

'I fear, dear friend,' said Toad, with a sad smile, 'that "talk" can
do little in a case like this--or doctors either, for that matter;
still, one must grasp at the slightest straw.  And, by the way--while
you are about it--I HATE to give you additional trouble, but I happen
to remember that you will pass the door--would you mind at the same
time asking the lawyer to step up?  It would be a convenience to me,
and there are moments--perhaps I should say there is A moment--when
one must face disagreeable tasks, at whatever cost to exhausted
nature!'

'A lawyer!  O, he must be really bad!' the affrighted Rat said to
himself, as he hurried from the room, not forgetting, however, to lock
the door carefully behind him.

Outside, he stopped to consider.  The other two were far away, and he
had no one to consult.

'It's best to be on the safe side,' he said, on reflection. 'I've
known Toad fancy himself frightfully bad before, without the slightest
reason; but I've never heard him ask for a lawyer! If there's nothing
really the matter, the doctor will tell him he's an old ass, and cheer
him up; and that will be something gained.  I'd better humour him and
go; it won't take very long.' So he ran off to the village on his
errand of mercy.

The Toad, who had hopped lightly out of bed as soon as he heard the
key turned in the lock, watched him eagerly from the window till he
disappeared down the carriage-drive.  Then, laughing heartily, he
dressed as quickly as possible in the smartest suit he could lay hands
on at the moment, filled his pockets with cash which he took from a
small drawer in the dressing-table, and next, knotting the sheets from
his bed together and tying one end of the improvised rope round the
central mullion of the handsome Tudor window which formed such a
feature of his bedroom, he scrambled out, slid lightly to the ground,
and, taking the opposite direction to the Rat, marched off
lightheartedly, whistling a merry tune.

It was a gloomy luncheon for Rat when the Badger and the Mole at
length returned, and he had to face them at table with his pitiful and
unconvincing story.  The Badger's caustic, not to say brutal, remarks
may be imagined, and therefore passed over; but it was painful to the
Rat that even the Mole, though he took his friend's side as far as
possible, could not help saying, 'You've been a bit of a duffer this
time, Ratty!  Toad, too, of all animals!'

'He did it awfully well,' said the crestfallen Rat.

'He did YOU awfully well!' rejoined the Badger hotly. 'However,
talking won't mend matters.  He's got clear away for the time, that's
certain; and the worst of it is, he'll be so conceited with what he'll
think is his cleverness that he may commit any folly.  One comfort is,
we're free now, and needn't waste any more of our precious time doing
sentry-go.  But we'd better continue to sleep at Toad Hall for a while
longer.  Toad may be brought back at any moment--on a stretcher, or
between two policemen.'

So spoke the Badger, not knowing what the future held in store, or how
much water, and of how turbid a character, was to run under bridges
before Toad should sit at ease again in his ancestral Hall.


Meanwhile, Toad, gay and irresponsible, was walking briskly along the
high road, some miles from home.  At first he had taken by-paths, and
crossed many fields, and changed his course several times, in case of
pursuit; but now, feeling by this time safe from recapture, and the
sun smiling brightly on him, and all Nature joining in a chorus of
approval to the song of self-praise that his own heart was singing to
him, he almost danced along the road in his satisfaction and conceit.

'Smart piece of work that!' he remarked to himself chuckling. 'Brain
against brute force--and brain came out on the top--as it's bound to
do.  Poor old Ratty!  My! won't he catch it when the Badger gets back!
A worthy fellow, Ratty, with many good qualities, but very little
intelligence and absolutely no education.  I must take him in hand
some day, and see if I can make something of him.'

Filled full of conceited thoughts such as these he strode along, his
head in the air, till he reached a little town, where the sign of 'The
Red Lion,' swinging across the road halfway down the main street,
reminded him that he had not breakfasted that day, and that he was
exceedingly hungry after his long walk.  He marched into the Inn,
ordered the best luncheon that could be provided at so short a notice,
and sat down to eat it in the coffee-room.

He was about half-way through his meal when an only too familiar
sound, approaching down the street, made him start and fall
a-trembling all over.  The poop-poop! drew nearer and nearer, the car
could be heard to turn into the inn-yard and come to a stop, and Toad
had to hold on to the leg of the table to conceal his over-mastering
emotion.  Presently the party entered the coffee-room, hungry,
talkative, and gay, voluble on their experiences of the morning and
the merits of the chariot that had brought them along so well.  Toad
listened eagerly, all ears, for a time; at last he could stand it no
longer.  He slipped out of the room quietly, paid his bill at the bar,
and as soon as he got outside sauntered round quietly to the inn-yard.
'There cannot be any harm,' he said to himself, 'in my only just
LOOKING at it!'

The car stood in the middle of the yard, quite unattended, the
stable-helps and other hangers-on being all at their dinner. Toad
walked slowly round it, inspecting, criticising, musing deeply.

'I wonder,' he said to himself presently, 'I wonder if this sort of
car STARTS easily?'

Next moment, hardly knowing how it came about, he found he had hold of
the handle and was turning it.  As the familiar sound broke forth, the
old passion seized on Toad and completely mastered him, body and soul.
As if in a dream he found himself, somehow, seated in the driver's
seat; as if in a dream, he pulled the lever and swung the car round
the yard and out through the archway; and, as if in a dream, all sense
of right and wrong, all fear of obvious consequences, seemed
temporarily suspended. He increased his pace, and as the car devoured
the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country,
he was only conscious that he was Toad once more, Toad at his best and
highest, Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone
trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness
and everlasting night.  He chanted as he flew, and the car responded
with sonorous drone; the miles were eaten up under him as he sped he
knew not whither, fulfilling his instincts, living his hour, reckless
of what might come to him.


*   *   *   *   *   *

'To my mind,' observed the Chairman of the Bench of Magistrates
cheerfully, 'the ONLY difficulty that presents itself in this
otherwise very clear case is, how we can possibly make it sufficiently
hot for the incorrigible rogue and hardened ruffian whom we see
cowering in the dock before us.  Let me see: he has been found guilty,
on the clearest evidence, first, of stealing a valuable motor-car;
secondly, of driving to the public danger; and, thirdly, of gross
impertinence to the rural police. Mr. Clerk, will you tell us, please,
what is the very stiffest penalty we can impose for each of these
offences?  Without, of course, giving the prisoner the benefit of any
doubt, because there isn't any.'

The Clerk scratched his nose with his pen.  'Some people would
consider,' he observed, 'that stealing the motor-car was the worst
offence; and so it is.  But cheeking the police undoubtedly carries
the severest penalty; and so it ought.  Supposing you were to say
twelve months for the theft, which is mild; and three years for the
furious driving, which is lenient; and fifteen years for the cheek,
which was pretty bad sort of cheek, judging by what we've heard from
the witness-box, even if you only believe one-tenth part of what you
heard, and I never believe more myself--those figures, if added
together correctly, tot up to nineteen years----'

'First-rate!' said the Chairman.

'--So you had better make it a round twenty years and be on the safe
side,' concluded the Clerk.

'An excellent suggestion!' said the Chairman approvingly. 'Prisoner!
Pull yourself together and try and stand up straight. It's going to be
twenty years for you this time.  And mind, if you appear before us
again, upon any charge whatever, we shall have to deal with you very
seriously!'

Then the brutal minions of the law fell upon the hapless Toad; loaded
him with chains, and dragged him from the Court House, shrieking,
praying, protesting; across the marketplace, where the playful
populace, always as severe upon detected crime as they are sympathetic
and helpful when one is merely 'wanted,' assailed him with jeers,
carrots, and popular catch-words; past hooting school children, their
innocent faces lit up with the pleasure they ever derive from the
sight of a gentleman in difficulties; across the hollow-sounding
drawbridge, below the spiky portcullis, under the frowning archway of
the grim old castle, whose ancient towers soared high overhead; past
guardrooms full of grinning soldiery off duty, past sentries who
coughed in a horrid, sarcastic way, because that is as much as a
sentry on his post dare do to show his contempt and abhorrence of
crime; up time-worn winding stairs, past men-at-arms in casquet and
corselet of steel, darting threatening looks through their vizards;
across courtyards, where mastiffs strained at their leash and pawed
the air to get at him; past ancient warders, their halberds leant
against the wall, dozing over a pasty and a flagon of brown ale; on
and on, past the rack-chamber and the thumbscrew-room, past the
turning that led to the private scaffold, till they reached the door
of the grimmest dungeon that lay in the heart of the innermost keep.
There at last they paused, where an ancient gaoler sat fingering a
bunch of mighty keys.

'Oddsbodikins!' said the sergeant of police, taking off his helmet and
wiping his forehead.  'Rouse thee, old loon, and take over from us
this vile Toad, a criminal of deepest guilt and matchless artfulness
and resource.  Watch and ward him with all thy skill; and mark thee
well, greybeard, should aught untoward befall, thy old head shall
answer for his--and a murrain on both of them!'

The gaoler nodded grimly, laying his withered hand on the shoulder of
the miserable Toad.  The rusty key creaked in the lock, the great door
clanged behind them; and Toad was a helpless prisoner in the remotest
dungeon of the best-guarded keep of the stoutest castle in all the
length and breadth of Merry England.



VII

THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN

The Willow-Wren was twittering his thin little song, hidden himself in
the dark selvedge of the river bank.  Though it was past ten o'clock
at night, the sky still clung to and retained some lingering skirts of
light from the departed day; and the sullen heats of the torrid
afternoon broke up and rolled away at the dispersing touch of the cool
fingers of the short midsummer night.  Mole lay stretched on the bank,
still panting from the stress of the fierce day that had been
cloudless from dawn to late sunset, and waited for his friend to
return.  He had been on the river with some companions, leaving the
Water Rat free to keep a engagement of long standing with Otter; and
he had come back to find the house dark and deserted, and no sign of
Rat, who was doubtless keeping it up late with his old comrade. It was
still too hot to think of staying indoors, so he lay on some cool
dock-leaves, and thought over the past day and its doings, and how
very good they all had been.

The Rat's light footfall was presently heard approaching over the
parched grass.  'O, the blessed coolness!' he said, and sat down,
gazing thoughtfully into the river, silent and pre-occupied.

'You stayed to supper, of course?' said the Mole presently.

'Simply had to,' said the Rat.  'They wouldn't hear of my going
before.  You know how kind they always are.  And they made things as
jolly for me as ever they could, right up to the moment I left.  But I
felt a brute all the time, as it was clear to me they were very
unhappy, though they tried to hide it.  Mole, I'm afraid they're in
trouble.  Little Portly is missing again; and you know what a lot his
father thinks of him, though he never says much about it.'

'What, that child?' said the Mole lightly.  'Well, suppose he is; why
worry about it?  He's always straying off and getting lost, and
turning up again; he's so adventurous.  But no harm ever happens to
him.  Everybody hereabouts knows him and likes him, just as they do
old Otter, and you may be sure some animal or other will come across
him and bring him back again all right. Why, we've found him
ourselves, miles from home, and quite self-possessed and cheerful!'

'Yes; but this time it's more serious,' said the Rat gravely. 'He's
been missing for some days now, and the Otters have hunted everywhere,
high and low, without finding the slightest trace. And they've asked
every animal, too, for miles around, and no one knows anything about
him.  Otter's evidently more anxious than he'll admit.  I got out of
him that young Portly hasn't learnt to swim very well yet, and I can
see he's thinking of the weir. There's a lot of water coming down
still, considering the time of the year, and the place always had a
fascination for the child. And then there are--well, traps and
things--YOU know.  Otter's not the fellow to be nervous about any son
of his before it's time.  And now he IS nervous.  When I left, he came
out with me--said he wanted some air, and talked about stretching his
legs.  But I could see it wasn't that, so I drew him out and pumped
him, and got it all from him at last.  He was going to spend the night
watching by the ford.  You know the place where the old ford used to
be, in by-gone days before they built the bridge?'

'I know it well,' said the Mole.  'But why should Otter choose to
watch there?'

'Well, it seems that it was there he gave Portly his first
swimming-lesson,' continued the Rat.  'From that shallow, gravelly
spit near the bank.  And it was there he used to teach him fishing,
and there young Portly caught his first fish, of which he was so very
proud. The child loved the spot, and Otter thinks that if he came
wandering back from wherever he is--if he IS anywhere by this time,
poor little chap--he might make for the ford he was so fond of; or if
he came across it he'd remember it well, and stop there and play,
perhaps.  So Otter goes there every night and watches--on the chance,
you know, just on the chance!'

They were silent for a time, both thinking of the same thing--the
lonely, heart-sore animal, crouched by the ford, watching and waiting,
the long night through--on the chance.

'Well, well,' said the Rat presently, 'I suppose we ought to be
thinking about turning in.'  But he never offered to move.

'Rat,' said the Mole, 'I simply can't go and turn in, and go to sleep,
and DO nothing, even though there doesn't seem to be anything to be
done.  We'll get the boat out, and paddle up stream.  The moon will be
up in an hour or so, and then we will search as well as we can--
anyhow, it will be better than going to bed and doing NOTHING.'

'Just what I was thinking myself,' said the Rat.  'It's not the sort
of night for bed anyhow; and daybreak is not so very far off, and then
we may pick up some news of him from early risers as we go along.'

They got the boat out, and the Rat took the sculls, paddling with
caution.  Out in midstream, there was a clear, narrow track that
faintly reflected the sky; but wherever shadows fell on the water from
bank, bush, or tree, they were as solid to all appearance as the banks
themselves, and the Mole had to steer with judgment accordingly.  Dark
and deserted as it was, the night was full of small noises, song and
chatter and rustling, telling of the busy little population who were
up and about, plying their trades and vocations through the night till
sunshine should fall on them at last and send them off to their
well-earned repose.  The water's own noises, too, were more apparent
than by day, its gurglings and 'cloops' more unexpected and near at
hand; and constantly they started at what seemed a sudden clear call
from an actual articulate voice.

The line of the horizon was clear and hard against the sky, and in one
particular quarter it showed black against a silvery climbing
phosphorescence that grew and grew.  At last, over the rim of the
waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of
the horizon and rode off, free of moorings; and once more they began
to see surfaces--meadows wide-spread, and quiet gardens, and the river
itself from bank to bank, all softly disclosed, all washed clean of
mystery and terror, all radiant again as by day, but with a difference
that was tremendous. Their old haunts greeted them again in other
raiment, as if they had slipped away and put on this pure new apparel
and come quietly back, smiling as they shyly waited to see if they
would be recognised again under it.

Fastening their boat to a willow, the friends landed in this silent,
silver kingdom, and patiently explored the hedges, the hollow trees,
the runnels and their little culverts, the ditches and dry water-ways.
Embarking again and crossing over, they worked their way up the stream
in this manner, while the moon, serene and detached in a cloudless
sky, did what she could, though so far off, to help them in their
quest; till her hour came and she sank earthwards reluctantly, and
left them, and mystery once more held field and river.

Then a change began slowly to declare itself.  The horizon became
clearer, field and tree came more into sight, and somehow with a
different look; the mystery began to drop away from them.  A bird
piped suddenly, and was still; and a light breeze sprang up and set
the reeds and bulrushes rustling.  Rat, who was in the stern of the
boat, while Mole sculled, sat up suddenly and listened with a
passionate intentness.  Mole, who with gentle strokes was just keeping
the boat moving while he scanned the banks with care, looked at him
with curiosity.

'It's gone!' sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again.  'So
beautiful and strange and new.  Since it was to end so soon, I almost
wish I had never heard it.  For it has roused a longing in me that is
pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once
more and go on listening to it for ever. No!  There it is again!' he
cried, alert once more.  Entranced, he was silent for a long space,
spellbound.

'Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,' he said presently.  'O
Mole! the beauty of it!  The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear,
happy call of the distant piping!  Such music I never dreamed of, and
the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet!  Row on,
Mole, row!  For the music and the call must be for us.'

The Mole, greatly wondering, obeyed.  'I hear nothing myself,' he
said, 'but the wind playing in the reeds and rushes and osiers.'

The Rat never answered, if indeed he heard.  Rapt, transported,
trembling, he was possessed in all his senses by this new divine thing
that caught up his helpless soul and swung and dandled it, a powerless
but happy infant in a strong sustaining grasp.

In silence Mole rowed steadily, and soon they came to a point where
the river divided, a long backwater branching off to one side.  With a
slight movement of his head Rat, who had long dropped the
rudder-lines, directed the rower to take the backwater.  The creeping
tide of light gained and gained, and now they could see the colour of
the flowers that gemmed the water's edge.

'Clearer and nearer still,' cried the Rat joyously.  'Now you must
surely hear it!  Ah--at last--I see you do!'

Breathless and transfixed the Mole stopped rowing as the liquid run of
that glad piping broke on him like a wave, caught him up, and
possessed him utterly.  He saw the tears on his comrade's cheeks, and
bowed his head and understood.  For a space they hung there, brushed
by the purple loose-strife that fringed the bank; then the clear
imperious summons that marched hand-in-hand with the intoxicating
melody imposed its will on Mole, and mechanically he bent to his oars
again.  And the light grew steadily stronger, but no birds sang as
they were wont to do at the approach of dawn; and but for the heavenly
music all was marvellously still.

On either side of them, as they glided onwards, the rich meadow-grass
seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness unsurpassable.
Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willow-herb so riotous,
the meadow-sweet so odorous and pervading.  Then the murmur of the
approaching weir began to hold the air, and they felt a consciousness
that they were nearing the end, whatever it might be, that surely
awaited their expedition.

A wide half-circle of foam and glinting lights and shining shoulders
of green water, the great weir closed the backwater from bank to bank,
troubled all the quiet surface with twirling eddies and floating
foam-streaks, and deadened all other sounds with its solemn and
soothing rumble.  In midmost of the stream, embraced in the weir's
shimmering arm-spread, a small island lay anchored, fringed close with
willow and silver birch and alder. Reserved, shy, but full of
significance, it hid whatever it might hold behind a veil, keeping it
till the hour should come, and, with the hour, those who were called
and chosen.

Slowly, but with no doubt or hesitation whatever, and in something of
a solemn expectancy, the two animals passed through the broken
tumultuous water and moored their boat at the flowery margin of the
island.  In silence they landed, and pushed through the blossom and
scented herbage and undergrowth that led up to the level ground, till
they stood on a little lawn of a marvellous green, set round with
Nature's own orchard-trees--crab-apple, wild cherry, and sloe.

'This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to
me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance.  'Here, in this holy place,
here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!'

Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that
turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to
the ground.  It was no panic terror--indeed he felt wonderfully at
peace and happy--but it was an awe that smote and held him and,
without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence
was very, very near.  With difficulty he turned to look for his
friend and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling
violently.  And still there was utter silence in the populous
bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.

Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though
the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still
dominant and imperious.  He might not refuse, were Death himself
waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on
things rightly kept hidden.  Trembling he obeyed, and raised his
humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn,
while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible colour, seemed to
hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the
Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns,
gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between
the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the
bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling
muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple
hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted
lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic
ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves,
sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round,
podgy, childish form of the baby otter.  All this he saw, for one
moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as
he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

'Rat!' he found breath to whisper, shaking.  'Are you afraid?'

'Afraid?' murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with  unutterable love.
'Afraid! Of HIM?  O, never, never!  And yet--and yet--O, Mole, I am
afraid!'

Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and
did worship.

Sudden and magnificent, the sun's broad golden disc showed itself over
the horizon facing them; and the first rays, shooting across the level
water-meadows, took the animals full in the eyes and dazzled them.
When they were able to look once more, the Vision had vanished, and
the air was full of the carol of birds that hailed the dawn.

As they stared blankly in dumb misery deepening as they slowly
realised all they had seen and all they had lost, a capricious little
breeze, dancing up from the surface of the water, tossed the aspens,
shook the dewy roses and blew lightly and caressingly in their faces;
and with its soft touch came instant oblivion.  For this is the last
best gift that the kindly demi-god is careful to bestow on those to
whom he has revealed himself in their helping: the gift of
forgetfulness.  Lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow, and
overshadow mirth and pleasure, and the great haunting memory should
spoil all the after-lives of little animals helped out of
difficulties, in order that they should be happy and lighthearted as
before.

Mole rubbed his eyes and stared at Rat, who was looking about him in a
puzzled sort of way.  'I beg your pardon; what did you say, Rat?' he
asked.

'I think I was only remarking,' said Rat slowly, 'that this was the
right sort of place, and that here, if anywhere, we should find him.
And look!  Why, there he is, the little fellow!'  And with a cry of
delight he ran towards the slumbering Portly.

But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought.  As one wakened
suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, and can
re-capture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty of it, the beauty!
Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly
accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties; so Mole, after
struggling with his memory for a brief space, shook his head sadly and
followed the Rat.

Portly woke up with a joyous squeak, and wriggled with pleasure at the
sight of his father's friends, who had played with him so often in
past days.  In a moment, however, his face grew blank, and he fell to
hunting round in a circle with pleading whine.  As a child that has
fallen happily asleep in its nurse's arms, and wakes to find itself
alone and laid in a strange place, and searches corners and cupboards,
and runs from room to room, despair growing silently in its heart,
even so Portly searched the island and searched, dogged and
unwearying, till at last the black moment came for giving it up, and
sitting down and crying bitterly.

The Mole ran quickly to comfort the little animal; but Rat, lingering,
looked long and doubtfully at certain hoof-marks deep in the sward.

'Some--great--animal--has been here,' he murmured slowly and
thoughtfully; and stood musing, musing; his mind strangely stirred.

'Come along, Rat!' called the Mole.  'Think of poor Otter, waiting up
there by the ford!'

Portly had soon been comforted by the promise of a treat--a jaunt on
the river in Mr. Rat's real boat; and the two animals conducted him to
the water's side, placed him securely between them in the bottom of
the boat, and paddled off down the backwater.  The sun was fully up by
now, and hot on them, birds sang lustily and without restraint, and
flowers smiled and nodded from either bank, but somehow--so thought
the animals--with less of richness and blaze of colour than they
seemed to remember seeing quite recently somewhere--they wondered
where.

The main river reached again, they turned the boat's head upstream,
towards the point where they knew their friend was keeping his lonely
vigil.  As they drew near the familiar ford, the Mole took the boat in
to the bank, and they lifted Portly out and set him on his legs on the
tow-path, gave him his marching orders and a friendly farewell pat on
the back, and shoved out into mid-stream.  They watched the little
animal as he waddled along the path contentedly and with importance;
watched him till they saw his muzzle suddenly lift and his waddle
break into a clumsy amble as he quickened his pace with shrill whines
and wriggles of recognition.  Looking up the river, they could see
Otter start up, tense and rigid, from out of the shallows where he
crouched in dumb patience, and could hear his amazed and joyous bark
as he bounded up through the osiers on to the path. Then the Mole,
with a strong pull on one oar, swung the boat round and let the full
stream bear them down again whither it would, their quest now happily
ended.

'I feel strangely tired, Rat,' said the Mole, leaning wearily over his
oars as the boat drifted.  'It's being up all night, you'll say,
perhaps; but that's nothing.  We do as much half the nights of the
week, at this time of the year.  No; I feel as if I had been through
something very exciting and rather terrible, and it was just over; and
yet nothing particular has happened.'

'Or something very surprising and splendid and beautiful,' murmured
the Rat, leaning back and closing his eyes.  'I feel just as you do,
Mole; simply dead tired, though not body tired.  It's lucky we've got
the stream with us, to take us home.  Isn't it jolly to feel the sun
again, soaking into one's bones!  And hark to the wind playing in the
reeds!'

'It's like music--far away music,' said the Mole nodding drowsily.

'So I was thinking,' murmured the Rat, dreamful and languid.
'Dance-music--the lilting sort that runs on without a stop--but with
words in it, too--it passes into words and out of them again--I catch
them at intervals--then it is dance-music once more, and then nothing
but the reeds' soft thin whispering.'

'You hear better than I,' said the Mole sadly.  'I cannot catch the
words.'

'Let me try and give you them,' said the Rat softly, his eyes still
closed.  'Now it is turning into words again--faint but clear--Lest
the awe should dwell--And turn your frolic to fret--You shall look on
my power at the helping hour--But then you shall forget!  Now the
reeds take it up--forget, forget, they sigh, and it dies away in a
rustle and a whisper.  Then the voice returns--

'Lest limbs be reddened and rent--I spring the trap that is set--As I
loose the snare you may glimpse me there--For surely you shall forget!
Row nearer, Mole, nearer to the reeds! It is hard to catch, and grows
each minute fainter.

'Helper and healer, I cheer--Small waifs in the woodland wet--Strays I
find in it, wounds I bind in it--Bidding them all forget!  Nearer,
Mole, nearer!  No, it is no good; the song has died away into
reed-talk.'

'But what do the words mean?' asked the wondering Mole.

'That I do not know,' said the Rat simply.  'I passed them on to you
as they reached me.  Ah! now they return again, and this time full and
clear!  This time, at last, it is the real, the unmistakable thing,
simple--passionate--perfect----'

'Well, let's have it, then,' said the Mole, after he had waited
patiently for a few minutes, half-dozing in the hot sun.

But no answer came.  He looked, and understood the silence.  With a
smile of much happiness on his face, and something of a listening look
still lingering there, the weary Rat was fast asleep.



VIII

TOAD'S ADVENTURES

When Toad found himself immured in a dank and noisome dungeon, and
knew that all the grim darkness of a medieval fortress lay between him
and the outer world of sunshine and well-metalled high roads where he
had lately been so happy, disporting himself as if he had bought up
every road in England, he flung himself at full length on the floor,
and shed bitter tears, and abandoned himself to dark despair.  'This
is the end of everything' (he said), 'at least it is the end of the
career of Toad, which is the same thing; the popular and handsome
Toad, the rich and hospitable Toad, the Toad so free and careless and
debonair!  How can I hope to be ever set at large again' (he said),
'who have been imprisoned so justly for stealing so handsome a
motor-car in such an audacious manner, and for such lurid and
imaginative cheek, bestowed upon such a number of fat, red-faced
policemen!' (Here his sobs choked him.)  'Stupid animal that I was'
(he said), 'now I must languish in this dungeon, till people who were
proud to say they knew me, have forgotten the very name of Toad!  O
wise old Badger!' (he said), 'O clever, intelligent Rat and sensible
Mole! What sound judgments, what a knowledge of men and matters you
possess! O unhappy and forsaken Toad!'  With lamentations such as
these he passed his days and nights for several weeks, refusing his
meals or intermediate light refreshments, though the grim and ancient
gaoler, knowing that Toad's pockets were well lined, frequently
pointed out that many comforts, and indeed luxuries, could by
arrangement be sent in--at a price--from outside.

Now the gaoler had a daughter, a pleasant wench and good-hearted, who
assisted her father in the lighter duties of his post.  She was
particularly fond of animals, and, besides her canary, whose cage hung
on a nail in the massive wall of the keep by day, to the great
annoyance of prisoners who relished an after-dinner nap, and was
shrouded in an antimacassar on the parlour table at night, she kept
several piebald mice and a restless revolving squirrel.  This
kind-hearted girl, pitying the misery of Toad, said to her father one
day, 'Father!  I can't bear to see that poor beast so unhappy, and
getting so thin!  You let me have the managing of him.  You know how
fond of animals I am.  I'll make him eat from my hand, and sit up, and
do all sorts of things.'

Her father replied that she could do what she liked with him.  He was
tired of Toad, and his sulks and his airs and his meanness. So that
day she went on her errand of mercy, and knocked at the door of Toad's
cell.

'Now, cheer up, Toad,' she said, coaxingly, on entering, 'and sit up
and dry your eyes and be a sensible animal.  And do try and eat a bit
of dinner.  See, I've brought you some of mine, hot from the oven!'

It was bubble-and-squeak, between two plates, and its fragrance filled
the narrow cell.  The penetrating smell of cabbage reached the nose of
Toad as he lay prostrate in his misery on the floor, and gave him the
idea for a moment that perhaps life was not such a blank and desperate
thing as he had imagined.  But still he wailed, and kicked with his
legs, and refused to be comforted. So the wise girl retired for the
time, but, of course, a good deal of the smell of hot cabbage remained
behind, as it will do, and Toad, between his sobs, sniffed and
reflected, and gradually began to think new and inspiring thoughts: of
chivalry, and poetry, and deeds still to be done; of broad meadows,
and cattle browsing in them, raked by sun and wind; of
kitchen-gardens, and straight herb-borders, and warm snap-dragon beset
by bees; and of the comforting clink of dishes set down on the table
at Toad Hall, and the scrape of chair-legs on the floor as every one
pulled himself close up to his work.  The air of the narrow cell took
a rosy tinge; he began to think of his friends, and how they would
surely be able to do something; of lawyers, and how they would have
enjoyed his case, and what an ass he had been not to get in a few; and
lastly, he thought of his own great cleverness and resource, and all
that he was capable of if he only gave his great mind to it; and the
cure was almost complete.

When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a
cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot
buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter
running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from
the honeycomb.  The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to
Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of
breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on
winter evenings, when one's ramble was over and slippered feet were
propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the
twitter of sleepy canaries.  Toad sat up on end once more, dried his
eyes, sipped his tea and munched his toast, and soon began talking
freely about himself, and the house he lived in, and his doings there,
and how important he was, and what a lot his friends thought of him.

The gaoler's daughter saw that the topic was doing him as much good as
the tea, as indeed it was, and encouraged him to go on.

'Tell me about Toad Hall,' said she.  'It sounds beautiful.'

'Toad Hall,' said the Toad proudly, 'is an eligible self-contained
gentleman's residence very unique; dating in part from the fourteenth
century, but replete with every modern convenience.  Up-to-date
sanitation.  Five minutes from church, post-office, and golf-links,
Suitable for----'

'Bless the animal,' said the girl, laughing, 'I don't want to TAKE it.
Tell me something REAL about it.  But first wait till I fetch you some
more tea and toast.'

She tripped away, and presently returned with a fresh trayful; and
Toad, pitching into the toast with avidity, his spirits quite restored
to their usual level, told her about the boathouse, and the fish-pond,
and the old walled kitchen-garden; and about the pig-styes, and the
stables, and the pigeon-house, and the hen-house; and about the dairy,
and the wash-house, and the china-cupboards, and the linen-presses
(she liked that bit especially); and about the banqueting-hall, and
the fun they had there when the other animals were gathered round the
table and Toad was at his best, singing songs, telling stories,
carrying on generally. Then she wanted to know about his
animal-friends, and was very interested in all he had to tell her
about them and how they lived, and what they did to pass their time.
Of course, she did not say she was fond of animals as PETS, because
she had the sense to see that Toad would be extremely offended.  When
she said good night, having filled his water-jug and shaken up his
straw for him, Toad was very much the same sanguine, self-satisfied
animal that he had been of old.  He sang a little song or two, of the
sort he used to sing at his dinner-parties, curled himself up in the
straw, and had an excellent night's rest and the pleasantest of
dreams.

They had many interesting talks together, after that, as the dreary
days went on; and the gaoler's daughter grew very sorry for Toad, and
thought it a great shame that a poor little animal should be locked up
in prison for what seemed to her a very trivial offence.  Toad, of
course, in his vanity, thought that her interest in him proceeded from
a growing tenderness; and he could not help half-regretting that the
social gulf between them was so very wide, for she was a comely lass,
and evidently admired him very much.

One morning the girl was very thoughtful, and answered at random, and
did not seem to Toad to be paying proper attention to his witty
sayings and sparkling comments.

'Toad,' she said presently, 'just listen, please.  I have an aunt who
is a washerwoman.'

'There, there,' said Toad, graciously and affably, 'never mind; think
no more about it.  _I_ have several aunts who OUGHT to be
washerwomen.'

'Do be quiet a minute, Toad,' said the girl.  'You talk too much,
that's your chief fault, and I'm trying to think, and you hurt my
head.  As I said, I have an aunt who is a washerwoman; she does the
washing for all the prisoners in this castle--we try to 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 washerwoman!'

'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 control.

'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 to lose.'

With a quaking heart, but as firm a footstep as he could command, Toad
set forth cautiously on what seemed to be a most hare-brained and
hazardous undertaking; but he was soon agreeably surprised to find how
easy everything was made for him, and a little humbled at the thought
that both his popularity, and the sex that seemed to inspire it, were
really another's.  The washerwoman's squat figure in its familiar
cotton print seemed a passport for every barred door and grim gateway;
even when he hesitated, uncertain as to the right turning to take, he
found himself helped out of his difficulty by the warder at the next
gate, anxious to be off to his tea, summoning him to come along sharp
and not keep him waiting there all night.  The chaff and the humourous
sallies to which he was subjected, and to which, of course, he had to
provide prompt and effective reply, formed, indeed, his chief danger;
for Toad was an animal with a strong sense of his own dignity, and the
chaff was mostly (he thought) poor and clumsy, and the humour of the
sallies entirely lacking.  However, he kept his temper, though with
great difficulty, suited his retorts to his company and his supposed
character, and did his best not to overstep the limits of good taste.

It seemed hours before he crossed the last courtyard, rejected the
pressing invitations from the last guardroom, and dodged the outspread
arms of the last warder, pleading with simulated passion for just one
farewell embrace.  But at last he heard the wicket-gate in the great
outer door click behind him, felt the fresh air of the outer world
upon his anxious brow, and knew that he was free!

Dizzy with the easy success of his daring exploit, he walked quickly
towards the lights of the town, not knowing in the least what he
should do next, only quite certain of one thing, that he must remove
himself as quickly as possible from the neighbourhood where the lady
he was forced to represent was so well-known and so popular a
character.

As he walked along, considering, his attention was caught by some red
and green lights a little way off, to one side of the town, and the
sound of the puffing and snorting of engines and the banging of
shunted trucks fell on his ear.  'Aha!' he thought, 'this is a piece
of luck!  A railway station is the thing I want most in the whole
world at this moment; and what's more, I needn't go through the town
to get it, and shan't have to support this humiliating character by
repartees which, though thoroughly effective, do not assist one's
sense of self-respect.'

He made his way to the station accordingly, consulted a time-table,
and found that a train, bound more or less in the direction of his
home, was due to start in half-an-hour.  'More luck!' said Toad, his
spirits rising rapidly, and went off to the booking-office to buy his
ticket.

He gave the name of the station that he knew to be nearest to the
village of which Toad Hall was the principal feature, and mechanically
put his fingers, in search of the necessary money, where his waistcoat
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 parts.'

The clerk stared at him and the rusty black bonnet a moment, and then
laughed.  'I should think you were pretty well known in these parts,'
he said, 'if you've tried this game on often. Here, stand away from
the window, please, madam; you're obstructing the other passengers!'

An old gentleman who had been prodding him in the back for some
moments here thrust him away, and, what was worse, addressed him as
his good woman, which angered Toad more than anything that had
occurred that evening.

Baffled and full of despair, he wandered blindly down the platform
where the train was standing, and tears trickled down each side of his
nose.  It was hard, he thought, to be within sight of safety and
almost of home, and to be baulked by the want of a few wretched
shillings and by the pettifogging mistrustfulness of paid officials.
Very soon his escape would be discovered, the hunt would be up, he
would be caught, reviled, loaded with chains, dragged back again to
prison and bread-and-water and straw; his guards and penalties would
be doubled; and O, what sarcastic remarks the girl would make!  What
was to be done?  He was not swift of foot; his figure was
unfortunately recognisable.  Could he not squeeze under the seat of a
carriage? He had seen this method adopted by schoolboys, when the
journey-money provided by thoughtful parents had been diverted to
other and better ends.  As he pondered, he found himself opposite the
engine, which was being oiled, wiped, and generally caressed by its
affectionate driver, a burly man with an oil-can in one hand and a
lump of cotton-waste in the other.

'Hullo, mother!' said the engine-driver, 'what's the trouble? You
don't look particularly cheerful.'

'O, sir!' said Toad, crying afresh, 'I am a poor unhappy washerwoman,
and I've lost all my money, and can't pay for a ticket, and I must get
home to-night somehow, and whatever I am to do I don't know.  O dear,
O dear!'

'That's a bad business, indeed,' said the engine-driver reflectively.
'Lost your money--and can't get home--and got some kids, too, waiting
for you, I dare say?'

'Any amount of 'em,' sobbed Toad.  'And they'll be hungry--and playing
with matches--and upsetting lamps, the little innocents!--and
quarrelling, and going on generally.  O dear, O dear!'

'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 out-of-the-way parts.'

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 this.

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 following us!'

Toad ceased his frivolous antics at once.  He became grave and
depressed, and a dull pain in the lower part of his spine,
communicating itself to his legs, made him want to sit down and try
desperately not to think of all the possibilities.

By this time the moon was shining brightly, and the engine-driver,
steadying himself on the coal, could command a view of the line behind
them for a long distance.

Presently he called out, 'I can see it clearly now!  It is an engine,
on our rails, coming along at a great pace!  It looks as if we were
being pursued!'

The miserable Toad, crouching in the coal-dust, tried hard to think of
something to do, with dismal want of success.

'They are gaining on us fast!' cried the engine-driver.  And the
engine is crowded with the queerest lot of people!  Men like ancient
warders, waving halberds; policemen in their helmets, waving
truncheons; and shabbily dressed men in pot-hats, obvious and
unmistakable plain-clothes detectives even at this distance, waving
revolvers and walking-sticks; all waving, and all shouting the same
thing--"Stop, stop, stop!"'

Then Toad fell on his knees among the coals and, raising his clasped
paws in supplication, cried, 'Save me, only save me, dear kind Mr.
Engine-driver, and I will confess everything!  I am not the simple
washerwoman I seem to be!  I have no children waiting for me, innocent
or otherwise!  I am a toad--the well-known and popular Mr. Toad, a
landed proprietor; I have just escaped, by my great daring and
cleverness, from a loathsome dungeon into which my enemies had flung
me; and if those fellows on that engine recapture me, it will be
chains and bread-and-water and straw and misery once more for poor,
unhappy, innocent Toad!'

The engine-driver looked down upon him very sternly, and said, 'Now
tell the truth; what were you put in prison for?'

'It was nothing very much,' said poor Toad, colouring deeply.  'I only
borrowed a motorcar while the owners were at lunch; they had no need
of it at the time.  I didn't mean to steal it, really; but people--
especially magistrates--take such harsh views of thoughtless and
high-spirited actions.'

The engine-driver looked very grave and said, 'I fear that you have
been indeed a wicked toad, and by rights I ought to give you up to
offended justice.  But you are evidently in sore trouble and distress,
so I will not desert you.  I don't hold with motor-cars, for one
thing; and I don't hold with being ordered about by policemen when I'm
on my own engine, for another.  And the sight of an animal in tears
always makes me feel queer and softhearted. So cheer up, Toad!  I'll
do my best, and we may beat them yet!'

They piled on more coals, shovelling furiously; the furnace roared,
the sparks flew, the engine leapt and swung but still their pursuers
slowly gained.  The engine-driver, with a sigh, wiped his brow with a
handful of cotton-waste, and said, 'I'm afraid it's no good, Toad.
You see, they are running light, and they have the better engine.
There's just one thing left for us to do, and it's your only chance,
so attend very carefully to what I tell you.  A short way ahead of us
is a long tunnel, and on the other side of that the line passes
through a thick wood. Now, I will put on all the speed I can while we
are running through the tunnel, but the other fellows will slow down a
bit, naturally, for fear of an accident.  When we are through, I will
shut off steam and put on brakes as hard as I can, and the moment it's
safe to do so you must jump and hide in the wood, before they get
through the tunnel and see you.  Then I will go full speed ahead
again, and they can chase me if they like, for as long as they like,
and as far as they like.  Now mind and be ready to jump when I tell
you!'

They piled on more coals, and the train shot into the tunnel, and the
engine rushed and roared and rattled, till at last they shot out at
the other end into fresh air and the peaceful moonlight, and saw the
wood lying dark and helpful upon either side of the line.  The driver
shut off steam and put on brakes, the Toad got down on the step, and
as the train slowed down to almost a walking pace he heard the driver
call out, 'Now, jump!'

Toad jumped, rolled down a short embankment, picked himself up unhurt,
scrambled into the wood and hid.

Peeping out, he saw his train get up speed again and disappear at a
great pace.  Then out of the tunnel burst the pursuing engine, roaring
and whistling, her motley crew waving their various weapons and
shouting, 'Stop! stop! stop!'  When they were past, the Toad had a
hearty laugh--for the first time since he was thrown into prison.

But he soon stopped laughing when he came to consider that it was now
very late and dark and cold, and he was in an unknown wood, with no
money and no chance of supper, and still far from friends and home;
and the dead silence of everything, after the roar and rattle of the
train, was something of a shock.  He dared not leave the shelter of
the trees, so he struck into the wood, with the idea of leaving the
railway as far as possible behind him.

After so many weeks within walls, he found the wood strange and
unfriendly and inclined, he thought, to make fun of him. Night-jars,
sounding their mechanical rattle, made him think that the wood was
full of searching warders, closing in on him.  An owl, swooping
noiselessly towards him, brushed his shoulder with its wing, making
him jump with the horrid certainty that it was a hand; then flitted
off, moth-like, laughing its low ho! ho! ho; which Toad thought in
very poor taste.  Once he met a fox, who stopped, looked him up and
down in a sarcastic sort of way, and said, 'Hullo, washerwoman!  Half
a pair of socks and a pillow-case short this week!  Mind it doesn't
occur again!' and swaggered off, sniggering.  Toad looked about for a
stone to throw at him, but could not succeed in finding one, which
vexed him more than anything.  At last, cold, hungry, and tired out,
he sought the shelter of a hollow tree, where with branches and dead
leaves he made himself as comfortable a bed as he could, and slept
soundly till the morning.



IX

WAYFARERS ALL

The Water Rat was restless, and he did not exactly know why.  To all
appearance the summer's pomp was still at fullest height, and although
in the tilled acres green had given way to gold, though rowans were
reddening, and the woods were dashed here and there with a tawny
fierceness, yet light and warmth and colour were still present in
undiminished measure, clean of any chilly premonitions of the passing
year.  But the constant chorus of the orchards and hedges had shrunk
to a casual evensong from a few yet unwearied performers; the robin
was beginning to assert himself once more; and there was a feeling in
the air of change and departure.  The cuckoo, of course, had long been
silent; but many another feathered friend, for months a part of the
familiar landscape and its small society, was missing too and it
seemed that the ranks thinned steadily day by day.  Rat, ever
observant of all winged movement, saw that it was taking daily a
southing tendency; and even as he lay in bed at night he thought he
could make out, passing in the darkness overhead, the beat and quiver
of impatient pinions, obedient to the peremptory call.

Nature's Grand Hotel has its Season, like the others.  As the guests
one by one pack, pay, and depart, and the seats at the table-d'hote
shrink pitifully at each succeeding meal; as suites of rooms are
closed, carpets taken up, and waiters sent away; those boarders who
are staying on, en pension, until the next year's full re-opening,
cannot help being somewhat affected by all these flittings and
farewells, this eager discussion of plans, routes, and fresh quarters,
this daily shrinkage in the stream of comradeship.  One gets
unsettled, depressed, and inclined to be querulous.  Why this craving
for change?  Why not stay on quietly here, like us, and be jolly?  You
don't know this hotel out of the season, and what fun we have among
ourselves, we fellows who remain and see the whole interesting year
out.  All very true, no doubt the others always reply; we quite envy
you--and some other year perhaps--but just now we have engagements--
and there's the bus at the door--our time is up!  So they depart, with
a smile and a nod, and we miss them, and feel resentful.  The Rat was
a self-sufficing sort of animal, rooted to the land, and, whoever
went, he stayed; still, he could not help noticing what was in the
air, and feeling some of its influence in his bones.

It was difficult to settle down to anything seriously, with all this
flitting going on.  Leaving the water-side, where rushes stood thick
and tall in a stream that was becoming sluggish and low, he wandered
country-wards, crossed a field or two of pasturage already looking
dusty and parched, and thrust into the great sea of wheat, yellow,
wavy, and murmurous, full of quiet motion and small whisperings.  Here
he often loved to wander, through the forest of stiff strong stalks
that carried their own golden sky away over his head--a sky that was
always dancing, shimmering, softly talking; or swaying strongly to the
passing wind and recovering itself with a toss and a merry laugh.
Here, too, he had many small friends, a society complete in itself,
leading full and busy lives, but always with a spare moment to gossip,
and exchange news with a visitor.  Today, however, though they were
civil enough, the field-mice and harvest-mice seemed preoccupied.
Many were digging and tunnelling busily; others, gathered together in
small groups, examined plans and drawings of small flats, stated to be
desirable and compact, and situated conveniently near the Stores. Some
were hauling out dusty trunks and dress-baskets, others were already
elbow-deep packing their belongings; while everywhere piles and
bundles of wheat, oats, barley, beech-mast and nuts, lay about ready
for transport.

'Here's old Ratty!' they cried as soon as they saw him.  'Come and
bear a hand, Rat, and don't stand about idle!'

'What sort of games are you up to?' said the Water Rat severely. 'You
know it isn't time to be thinking of winter quarters yet, by a long
way!'

'O yes, we know that,' explained a field-mouse rather shamefacedly;
'but it's always as well to be in good time, isn't it?  We really MUST
get all the furniture and baggage and stores moved out of this before
those horrid machines begin clicking round the fields; and then, you
know, the best flats get picked up so quickly nowadays, and if you're
late you have to put up with ANYTHING; and they want such a lot of
doing up, too, before they're fit to move into.  Of course, we're
early, we know that; but we're only just making a start.'

'O, bother STARTS,' said the Rat.  'It's a splendid day.  Come for a
row, or a stroll along the hedges, or a picnic in the woods, or
something.'

'Well, I THINK not TO-DAY, thank you,' replied the field-mouse
hurriedly.  'Perhaps some OTHER day--when we've more TIME----'

The Rat, with a snort of contempt, swung round to go, tripped over a
hat-box, and fell, with undignified remarks.

'If people would be more careful,' said a field-mouse rather stiffly,
'and look where they're going, people wouldn't hurt themselves--and
forget themselves.  Mind that hold-all, Rat! You'd better sit down
somewhere.  In an hour or two we may be more free to attend to you.'

'You won't be "free" as you call it much this side of Christmas, I can
see that,' retorted the Rat grumpily, as he picked his way out of the
field.

He returned somewhat despondently to his river again--his faithful,
steady-going old river, which never packed up, flitted, or went into
winter quarters.

In the osiers which fringed the bank he spied a swallow sitting.
Presently it was joined by another, and then by a third; and the
birds, fidgeting restlessly on their bough, talked together earnestly
and low.

'What, ALREADY,' said the Rat, strolling up to them.  'What's the
hurry?  I call it simply ridiculous.'

'O, we're not off yet, if that's what you mean,' replied the first
swallow.  'We're only making plans and arranging things. Talking it
over, you know--what route we're taking this year, and where we'll
stop, and so on.  That's half the fun!'

'Fun?' said the Rat; 'now that's just what I don't understand. If
you've GOT to leave this pleasant place, and your friends who will
miss you, and your snug homes that you've just settled into, why, when
the hour strikes I've no doubt you'll go bravely, and face all the
trouble and discomfort and change and newness, and make believe that
you're not very unhappy.  But to want to talk about it, or even think
about it, till you really need----'

'No, you don't understand, naturally,' said the second swallow.
'First, we feel it stirring within us, a sweet unrest; then back come
the recollections one by one, like homing pigeons.  They flutter
through our dreams at night, they fly with us in our wheelings and
circlings by day.  We hunger to inquire of each other, to compare
notes and assure ourselves that it was all really true, as one by one
the scents and sounds and names of long-forgotten places come
gradually back and beckon to us.'

'Couldn't you stop on for just this year?' suggested the Water Rat,
wistfully.  'We'll all do our best to make you feel at home. You've no
idea what good times we have here, while you are far away.'

'I tried "stopping on" one year,' said the third swallow.  'I had
grown so fond of the place that when the time came I hung back and let
the others go on without me.  For a few weeks it was all well enough,
but afterwards, O the weary length of the nights!  The shivering,
sunless days!  The air so clammy and chill, and not an insect in an
acre of it!  No, it was no good; my courage broke down, and one cold,
stormy night I took wing, flying well inland on account of the strong
easterly gales.  It was snowing hard as I beat through the passes of
the great mountains, and I had a stiff fight to win through; but never
shall I forget the blissful feeling of the hot sun again on my back as
I sped down to the lakes that lay so blue and placid below me, and the
taste of my first fat insect!  The past was like a bad dream; the
future was all happy holiday as I moved southwards week by week,
easily, lazily, lingering as long as I dared, but always heeding the
call!  No, I had had my warning; never again did I think of
disobedience.'

'Ah, yes, the call of the South, of the South!' twittered the other
two dreamily.  'Its songs its hues, its radiant air!  O, do you
remember----' and, forgetting the Rat, they slid into passionate
reminiscence, while he listened fascinated, and his heart burned
within him.  In himself, too, he knew that it was vibrating at last,
that chord hitherto dormant and unsuspected.  The mere chatter of
these southern-bound birds, their pale and second-hand reports, had
yet power to awaken this wild new sensation and thrill him through and
through with it; what would one moment of the real thing work in him--
one passionate touch of the real southern sun, one waft of the
authentic odor?  With closed eyes he dared to dream a moment in full
abandonment, and when he looked again the river seemed steely and
chill, the green fields grey and lightless.  Then his loyal heart
seemed to cry out on his weaker self for its treachery.

'Why do you ever come back, then, at all?' he demanded of the swallows
jealously.  'What do you find to attract you in this poor drab little
country?'

'And do you think,' said the first swallow, 'that the other call is
not for us too, in its due season?  The call of lush meadow-grass, wet
orchards, warm, insect-haunted ponds, of browsing cattle, of
haymaking, and all the farm-buildings clustering round the House of
the perfect Eaves?'

'Do you suppose,' asked the second one, that you are the only living
thing that craves with a hungry longing to hear the cuckoo's note
again?'

'In due time,' said the third, 'we shall be home-sick once more for
quiet water-lilies swaying on the surface of an English stream.  But
to-day all that seems pale and thin and very far away.  Just now our
blood dances to other music.'

They fell a-twittering among themselves once more, and this time their
intoxicating babble was of violet seas, tawny sands, and lizard-haunted
walls.

Restlessly the Rat wandered off once more, climbed the slope that rose
gently from the north bank of the river, and lay looking out towards
the great ring of Downs that barred his vision further southwards--his
simple horizon hitherto, his Mountains of the Moon, his limit behind
which lay nothing he had cared to see or to know.  To-day, to him
gazing South with a new-born need stirring in his heart, the clear sky
over their long low outline seemed to pulsate with promise; to-day,
the unseen was everything, the unknown the only real fact of life.  On
this side of the hills was now the real blank, on the other lay the
crowded and coloured panorama that his inner eye was seeing so
clearly.  What seas lay beyond, green, leaping, and crested! What
sun-bathed coasts, along which the white villas glittered against the
olive woods!  What quiet harbours, thronged with gallant shipping
bound for purple islands of wine and spice, islands set low in
languorous waters!

He rose and descended river-wards once more; then changed his mind and
sought the side of the dusty lane.  There, lying half-buried in the
thick, cool under-hedge tangle that bordered it, he could muse on the
metalled road and all the wondrous world that it led to; on all the
wayfarers, too, that might have trodden it, and the fortunes and
adventures they had gone to seek or found unseeking--out there,
beyond--beyond!

Footsteps fell on his ear, and the figure of one that walked somewhat
wearily came into view; and he saw that it was a Rat, and a very dusty
one.  The wayfarer, as he reached him, saluted with a gesture of
courtesy that had something foreign about it--hesitated a moment--then
with a pleasant smile turned from the track and sat down by his side
in the cool herbage.  He seemed tired, and the Rat let him rest
unquestioned, understanding something of what was in his thoughts;
knowing, too, the value all animals attach at times to mere silent
companionship, when the weary muscles slacken and the mind marks time.

The wayfarer was lean and keen-featured, and somewhat bowed at the
shoulders; his paws were thin and long, his eyes much wrinkled at the
corners, and he wore small gold ear rings in his neatly-set
well-shaped ears.  His knitted jersey was of a faded blue, his
breeches, patched and stained, were based on a blue foundation, and
his small belongings that he carried were tied up in a blue cotton
handkerchief.

When he had rested awhile the stranger sighed, snuffed the air, and
looked about him.

'That was clover, that warm whiff on the breeze,' he remarked; 'and
those are cows we hear cropping the grass behind us and blowing softly
between mouthfuls.  There is a sound of distant reapers, and yonder
rises a blue line of cottage smoke against the woodland.  The river
runs somewhere close by, for I hear the call of a moorhen, and I see
by your build that you're a freshwater mariner.  Everything seems
asleep, and yet going on all the time.  It is a goodly life that you
lead, friend; no doubt the best in the world, if only you are strong
enough to lead it!'

'Yes, it's THE life, the only life, to live,' responded the Water Rat
dreamily, and without his usual whole-hearted conviction.

'I did not say exactly that,' replied the stranger cautiously; 'but no
doubt it's the best.  I've tried it, and I know.  And because I've
just tried it--six months of it--and know it's the best, here am I,
footsore and hungry, tramping away from it, tramping southward,
following the old call, back to the old life, THE life which is mine
and which will not let me go.'

'Is this, then, yet another of them?' mused the Rat.  'And where have
you just come from?' he asked.  He hardly dared to ask where he was
bound for; he seemed to know the answer only too well.

'Nice little farm,' replied the wayfarer, briefly.  'Upalong in that
direction'--he nodded northwards.  'Never mind about it.  I had
everything I could want--everything I had any right to expect of life,
and more; and here I am!  Glad to be here all the same, though, glad
to be here!  So many miles further on the road, so many hours nearer
to my heart's desire!'

His shining eyes held fast to the horizon, and he seemed to be
listening for some sound that was wanting from that inland acreage,
vocal as it was with the cheerful music of pasturage and farmyard.

'You are not one of US,' said the Water Rat, 'nor yet a farmer; nor
even, I should judge, of this country.'

'Right,' replied the stranger.  'I'm a seafaring rat, I am, and the
port I originally hail from is Constantinople, though I'm a sort of a
foreigner there too, in a manner of speaking.  You will have heard of
Constantinople, friend?  A fair city, and an ancient and glorious one.
And you may have heard, too, of Sigurd, King of Norway, and how he
sailed thither with sixty ships, and how he and his men rode up
through streets all canopied in their honour with purple and gold; and
how the Emperor and Empress came down and banqueted with him on board
his ship.  When Sigurd returned home, many of his Northmen remained
behind and entered the Emperor's body-guard, and my ancestor, a
Norwegian born, stayed behind too, with the ships that Sigurd gave the
Emperor.  Seafarers we have ever been, and no wonder; as for me, the
city of my birth is no more my home than any pleasant port between
there and the London River.  I know them all, and they know me.  Set
me down on any of their quays or foreshores, and I am home again.'

'I suppose you go great voyages,' said the Water Rat with growing
interest.  'Months and months out of sight of land, and provisions
running short, and allowanced as to water, and your mind communing
with the mighty ocean, and all that sort of thing?'

'By no means,' said the Sea Rat frankly.  'Such a life as you describe
would not suit me at all.  I'm in the coasting trade, and rarely out
of sight of land.  It's the jolly times on shore that appeal to me, as
much as any seafaring.  O, those southern seaports!  The smell of
them, the riding-lights at night, the glamour!'

'Well, perhaps you have chosen the better way,' said the Water Rat,
but rather doubtfully.  'Tell me something of your coasting, then, if
you have a mind to, and what sort of harvest an animal of spirit might
hope to bring home from it to warm his latter days with gallant
memories by the fireside; for my life, I confess to you, feels to me
to-day somewhat narrow and circumscribed.'

'My last voyage,' began the Sea Rat, 'that landed me eventually in
this country, bound with high hopes for my inland farm, will serve as
a good example of any of them, and, indeed, as an epitome of my
highly-coloured life.  Family troubles, as usual, began it.  The
domestic storm-cone was hoisted, and I shipped myself on board a small
trading vessel bound from Constantinople, by classic seas whose every
wave throbs with a deathless memory, to the Grecian Islands and the
Levant.  Those were golden days and balmy nights!  In and out of
harbour all the time--old friends everywhere--sleeping in some cool
temple or ruined cistern during the heat of the day--feasting and song
after sundown, under great stars set in a velvet sky!  Thence we
turned and coasted up the Adriatic, its shores swimming in an
atmosphere of amber, rose, and aquamarine; we lay in wide land-locked
harbours, we roamed through ancient and noble cities, until at last
one morning, as the sun rose royally behind us, we rode into Venice
down a path of gold.  O, Venice is a fine city, wherein a rat can
wander at his ease and take his pleasure!  Or, when weary of
wandering, can sit at the edge of the Grand Canal at night, feasting
with his friends, when the air is full of music and the sky full of
stars, and the lights flash and shimmer on the polished steel prows of
the swaying gondolas, packed so that you could walk across the canal
on them from side to side! And then the food--do you like shellfish?
Well, well, we won't linger over that now.'

He was silent for a time; and the Water Rat, silent too and
enthralled, floated on dream-canals and heard a phantom song pealing
high between vaporous grey wave-lapped walls.

'Southwards we sailed again at last,' continued the Sea Rat, 'coasting
down the Italian shore, till finally we made Palermo, and there I
quitted for a long, happy spell on shore.  I never stick too long to
one ship; one gets narrow-minded and prejudiced.  Besides, Sicily is
one of my happy hunting-grounds. I know everybody there, and their
ways just suit me.  I spent many jolly weeks in the island, staying
with friends up country.  When I grew restless again I took advantage
of a ship that was trading to Sardinia and Corsica; and very glad I
was to feel the fresh breeze and the sea-spray in my face once more.'

'But isn't it very hot and stuffy, down in the--hold, I think you call
it?' asked the Water Rat.

The seafarer looked at him with the suspicion go a wink.  'I'm an old
hand,' he remarked with much simplicity.  'The captain's cabin's good
enough for me.'

'It's a hard life, by all accounts,' murmured the Rat, sunk in deep
thought.

'For the crew it is,' replied the seafarer gravely, again with the
ghost of a wink.

'From Corsica,' he went on, 'I made use of a ship that was taking wine
to the mainland.  We made Alassio in the evening, lay to, hauled up
our wine-casks, and hove them overboard, tied one to the other by a
long line.  Then the crew took to the boats and rowed shorewards,
singing as they went, and drawing after them the long bobbing
procession of casks, like a mile of porpoises.  On the sands they had
horses waiting, which dragged the casks up the steep street of the
little town with a fine rush and clatter and scramble.  When the last
cask was in, we went and refreshed and rested, and sat late into the
night, drinking with our friends, and next morning I took to the great
olive-woods for a spell and a rest.  For now I had done with islands
for the time, and ports and shipping were plentiful; so I led a lazy
life among the peasants, lying and watching them work, or stretched
high on the hillside with the blue Mediterranean far below me. And so
at length, by easy stages, and partly on foot, partly by sea, to
Marseilles, and the meeting of old shipmates, and the visiting of
great ocean-bound vessels, and feasting once more. Talk of shell-fish!
Why, sometimes I dream of the shell-fish of Marseilles, and wake up
crying!'

'That reminds me,' said the polite Water Rat; 'you happened to mention
that you were hungry, and I ought to have spoken earlier. Of course,
you will stop and take your midday meal with me?  My hole is close by;
it is some time past noon, and you are very welcome to whatever there
is.'

'Now I call that kind and brotherly of you,' said the Sea Rat. 'I was
indeed hungry when I sat down, and ever since I inadvertently happened
to mention shell-fish, my pangs have been extreme.  But couldn't you
fetch it along out here?  I am none too fond of going under hatches,
unless I'm obliged to; and then, while we eat, I could tell you more
concerning my voyages and the pleasant life I lead--at least, it is
very pleasant to me, and by your attention I judge it commends itself
to you; whereas if we go indoors it is a hundred to one that I shall
presently fall asleep.'

'That is indeed an excellent suggestion,' said the Water Rat, and
hurried off home.  There he got out the luncheon-basket and packed a
simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger's origin and
preferences, he took care to include a yard of long French bread, a
sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and
cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein lay bottled
sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes. Thus laden, he
returned with all speed, and blushed for pleasure at the old seaman's
commendations of his taste and judgment, as together they unpacked the
basket and laid out the contents on the grass by the roadside.

The Sea Rat, as soon as his hunger was somewhat assuaged, continued
the history of his latest voyage, conducting his simple hearer from
port to port of Spain, landing him at Lisbon, Oporto, and Bordeaux,
introducing him to the pleasant harbours of Cornwall and Devon, and so
up the Channel to that final quayside, where, landing after winds long
contrary, storm-driven and weather-beaten, he had caught the first
magical hints and heraldings of another Spring, and, fired by these,
had sped on a long tramp inland, hungry for the experiment of life on
some quiet farmstead, very far from the weary beating of any sea.

Spell-bound and quivering with excitement, the Water Rat followed the
Adventurer league by league, over stormy bays, through crowded
roadsteads, across harbour bars on a racing tide, up winding rivers
that hid their busy little towns round a sudden turn; and left him
with a regretful sigh planted at his dull inland farm, about which he
desired to hear nothing.

By this time their meal was over, and the Seafarer, refreshed and
strengthened, his voice more vibrant, his eye lit with a brightness
that seemed caught from some far-away sea-beacon, filled his glass
with the red and glowing vintage of the South, and, leaning towards
the Water Rat, compelled his gaze and held him, body and soul, while
he talked.  Those eyes were of the changing foam-streaked grey-green
of leaping Northern seas; in the glass shone a hot ruby that seemed
the very heart of the South, beating for him who had courage to
respond to its pulsation.  The twin lights, the shifting grey and the
steadfast red, mastered the Water Rat and held him bound, fascinated,
powerless.  The quiet world outside their rays receded far away and
ceased to be.  And the talk, the wonderful talk flowed on--or was it
speech entirely, or did it pass at times into song--chanty of the
sailors weighing the dripping anchor, sonorous hum of the shrouds in a
tearing North-Easter, ballad of the fisherman hauling his nets at
sundown against an apricot sky, chords of guitar and mandoline from
gondola or caique?  Did it change into the cry of the wind, plaintive
at first, angrily shrill as it freshened, rising to a tearing whistle,
sinking to a musical trickle of air from the leech of the bellying
sail?  All these sounds the spell-bound listener seemed to hear, and
with them the hungry complaint of the gulls and the sea-mews, the soft
thunder of the breaking wave, the cry of the protesting shingle.  Back
into speech again it passed, and with beating heart he was following
the adventures of a dozen seaports, the fights, the escapes, the
rallies, the comradeships, the gallant undertakings; or he searched
islands for treasure, fished in still lagoons and dozed day-long on
warm white sand.  Of deep-sea fishings he heard tell, and mighty
silver gatherings of the mile-long net; of sudden perils, noise of
breakers on a moonless night, or the tall bows of the great liner
taking shape overhead through the fog; of the merry home-coming, the
headland rounded, the harbour lights opened out; the groups seen dimly
on the quay, the cheery hail, the splash of the hawser; the trudge up
the steep little street towards the comforting glow of red-curtained
windows.

Lastly, in his waking dream it seemed to him that the Adventurer had
risen to his feet, but was still speaking, still holding him fast with
his sea-grey eyes.

'And now,' he was softly saying, 'I take to the road again, holding on
southwestwards for many a long and dusty day; till at last I reach the
little grey sea town I know so well, that clings along one steep side
of the harbour.  There through dark doorways you look down flights of
stone steps, overhung by great pink tufts of valerian and ending in a
patch of sparkling blue water. The little boats that lie tethered to
the rings and stanchions of the old sea-wall are gaily painted as
those I clambered in and out of in my own childhood; the salmon leap
on the flood tide, schools of mackerel flash and play past quay-sides
and foreshores, and by the windows the great vessels glide, night and
day, up to their moorings or forth to the open sea.  There, sooner or
later, the ships of all seafaring nations arrive; and there, at its
destined hour, the ship of my choice will let go its anchor.  I shall
take my time, I shall tarry and bide, till at last the right one lies
waiting for me, warped out into midstream, loaded low, her bowsprit
pointing down harbour.  I shall slip on board, by boat or along
hawser; and then one morning I shall wake to the song and tramp of the
sailors, the clink of the capstan, and the rattle of the anchor-chain
coming merrily in.  We shall break out the jib and the foresail, the
white houses on the harbour side will glide slowly past us as she
gathers steering-way, and the voyage will have begun!  As she forges
towards the headland she will clothe herself with canvas; and then,
once outside, the sounding slap of great green seas as she heels to
the wind, pointing South!

'And you, you will come too, young brother; for the days pass, and
never return, and the South still waits for you.  Take the Adventure,
heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes!' 'Tis but a
banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are
out of the old life and into the new!  Then some day, some day long
hence, jog home here if you will, when the cup has been drained and
the play has been played, and sit down by your quiet river with a
store of goodly memories for company.  You can easily overtake me on
the road, for you are young, and I am ageing and go softly.  I will
linger, and look back; and at last I will surely see you coming, eager
and light-hearted, with all the South in your face!'

The voice died away and ceased as an insect's tiny trumpet dwindles
swiftly into silence; and the Water Rat, paralysed and staring, saw at
last but a distant speck on the white surface of the road.

Mechanically he rose and proceeded to repack the luncheon-basket,
carefully and without haste.  Mechanically he returned home, gathered
together a few small necessaries and special treasures he was fond of,
and put them in a satchel; acting with slow deliberation, moving about
the room like a sleep-walker; listening ever with parted lips.  He
swung the satchel over his shoulder, carefully selected a stout stick
for his wayfaring, and with no haste, but with no hesitation at all,
he stepped across the threshold just as the Mole appeared at the door.

'Why, where are you off to, Ratty?' asked the Mole in great surprise,
grasping him by the arm.

'Going South, with the rest of them,' murmured the Rat in a dreamy
monotone, never looking at him.  'Seawards first and then on
shipboard, and so to the shores that are calling me!'

He pressed resolutely forward, still without haste, but with dogged
fixity of purpose; but the Mole, now thoroughly alarmed, placed
himself in front of him, and looking into his eyes saw that they were
glazed and set and turned a streaked and shifting grey--not his
friend's eyes, but the eyes of some other animal!  Grappling with him
strongly he dragged him inside, threw him down, and held him.

The Rat struggled desperately for a few moments, and then his strength
seemed suddenly to leave him, and he lay still and exhausted, with
closed eyes, trembling.  Presently the Mole assisted him to rise and
placed him in a chair, where he sat collapsed and shrunken into
himself, his body shaken by a violent shivering, passing in time into
an hysterical fit of dry sobbing. Mole made the door fast, threw the
satchel into a drawer and locked it, and sat down quietly on the table
by his friend, waiting for the strange seizure to pass.  Gradually the
Rat sank into a troubled doze, broken by starts and confused
murmurings of things strange and wild and foreign to the unenlightened
Mole; and from that he passed into a deep slumber.

Very anxious in mind, the Mole left him for a time and busied himself
with household matters; and it was getting dark when he returned to
the parlour and found the Rat where he had left him, wide awake
indeed, but listless, silent, and dejected.  He took one hasty glance
at his eyes; found them, to his great gratification, clear and dark
and brown again as before; and then sat down and tried to cheer him up
and help him to relate what had happened to him.

Poor Ratty did his best, by degrees, to explain things; but how could
he put into cold words what had mostly been suggestion? How recall,
for another's benefit, the haunting sea voices that had sung to him,
how reproduce at second-hand the magic of the Seafarer's hundred
reminiscences?  Even to himself, now the spell was broken and the
glamour gone, he found it difficult to account for what had seemed,
some hours ago, the inevitable and only thing.  It is not surprising,
then, that he failed to convey to the Mole any clear idea of what he
had been through that day.

To the Mole this much was plain: the fit, or attack, had passed away,
and had left him sane again, though shaken and cast down by the
reaction.  But he seemed to have lost all interest for the time in the
things that went to make up his daily life, as well as in all pleasant
forecastings of the altered days and doings that the changing season
was surely bringing.

Casually, then, and with seeming indifference, the Mole turned his
talk to the harvest that was being gathered in, the towering wagons
and their straining teams, the growing ricks, and the large moon
rising over bare acres dotted with sheaves.  He talked of the
reddening apples around, of the browning nuts, of jams and preserves
and the distilling of cordials; till by easy stages such as these he
reached midwinter, its hearty joys and its snug home life, and then he
became simply lyrical.

By degrees the Rat began to sit up and to join in.  His dull eye
brightened, and he lost some of his listening air.

Presently the tactful Mole slipped away and returned with a pencil and
a few half-sheets of paper, which he placed on the table at his
friend's elbow.

'It's quite a long time since you did any poetry,' he remarked. 'You
might have a try at it this evening, instead of--well, brooding over
things so much.  I've an idea that you'll feel a lot better when
you've got something jotted down--if it's only just the rhymes.'

The Rat pushed the paper away from him wearily, but the discreet Mole
took occasion to leave the room, and when he peeped in again some time
later, the Rat was absorbed and deaf to the world; alternately
scribbling and sucking the top of his pencil.  It is true that he
sucked a good deal more than he scribbled; but it was joy to the Mole
to know that the cure had at least begun.



THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF TOAD

The front door of the hollow tree faced eastwards, so Toad was called
at an early hour; partly by the bright sunlight streaming in on him,
partly by the exceeding coldness of his toes, which made him dream
that he was at home in bed in his own handsome room with the Tudor
window, on a cold winter's night, and his bedclothes had got up,
grumbling and protesting they couldn't stand the cold any longer, and
had run downstairs to the kitchen fire to warm themselves; and he had
followed, on bare feet, along miles and miles of icy stone-paved
passages, arguing and beseeching them to be reasonable.  He would
probably have been aroused much earlier, had he not slept for some
weeks on straw over stone flags, and almost forgotten the friendly
feeling of thick blankets pulled well up round the chin.

Sitting up, he rubbed his eyes first and his complaining toes next,
wondered for a moment where he was, looking round for familiar stone
wall and little barred window; then, with a leap of the heart,
remembered everything--his escape, his flight, his pursuit;
remembered, first and best thing of all, that he was free!

Free!  The word and the thought alone were worth fifty blankets. He
was warm from end to end as he thought of the jolly world outside,
waiting eagerly for him to make his triumphal entrance, ready to serve
him and play up to him, anxious to help him and to keep him company,
as it always had been in days of old before misfortune fell upon him.
He shook himself and combed the dry leaves out of his hair with his
fingers; and, his toilet complete, marched forth into the comfortable
morning sun, cold but confident, hungry but hopeful, all nervous
terrors of yesterday dispelled by rest and sleep and frank and
heartening sunshine.

He had the world all to himself, that early summer morning.  The dewy
woodland, as he threaded it, was solitary and still: the green fields
that succeeded the trees were his own to do as he liked with; the road
itself, when he reached it, in that loneliness that was everywhere,
seemed, like a stray dog, to be looking anxiously for company.  Toad,
however, was looking for something that could talk, and tell him
clearly which way he ought to go.  It is all very well, when you have
a light heart, and a clear conscience, and money in your pocket, and
nobody scouring the country for you to drag you off to prison again,
to follow where the road beckons and points, not caring whither. The
practical Toad cared very much indeed, and he could have kicked the
road for its helpless silence when every minute was of importance to
him.

The reserved rustic road was presently joined by a shy little brother
in the shape of a canal, which took its hand and ambled along by its
side in perfect confidence, but with the same tongue-tied,
uncommunicative attitude towards strangers.  'Bother them!' said Toad
to himself.  'But, anyhow, one thing's clear. They must both be coming
FROM somewhere, and going TO somewhere.  You can't get over that.
Toad, my boy!'  So he marched on patiently by the water's edge.

Round a bend in the canal came plodding a solitary horse, stooping
forward as if in anxious thought.  From rope traces attached to his
collar stretched a long line, taut, but dipping with his stride, the
further part of it dripping pearly drops. Toad let the horse pass, and
stood waiting for what the fates were sending him.

With a pleasant swirl of quiet water at its blunt bow the barge slid
up alongside of him, its gaily painted gunwale level with the
towing-path, its sole occupant a big stout woman wearing a linen
sun-bonnet, one brawny arm laid along the tiller.

'A nice morning, ma'am!' she remarked to Toad, as she drew up level
with him.

'I dare say it is, ma'am!' responded Toad politely, as he walked along
the tow-path abreast of her.  'I dare it IS a nice morning to them
that's not in sore trouble, like what I am. Here's my married
daughter, she sends off to me post-haste to come to her at once; so
off I comes, not knowing what may be happening or going to happen, but
fearing the worst, as you will understand, ma'am, if you're a mother,
too.  And I've left my business to look after itself--I'm in the
washing and laundering line, you must know, ma'am--and I've left my
young children to look after themselves, and a more mischievous and
troublesome set of young imps doesn't exist, ma'am; and I've lost all
my money, and lost my way, and as for what may be happening to my
married daughter, why, I don't like to think of it, ma'am!'

'Where might your married daughter be living, ma'am?' asked the
barge-woman.

'She lives near to the river, ma'am,' replied Toad.  'Close to a fine
house called Toad Hall, that's somewheres hereabouts in these parts.
Perhaps you may have heard of it.'

'Toad Hall?  Why, I'm going that way myself,' replied the barge-woman.
'This canal joins the river some miles further on, a little above Toad
Hall; and then it's an easy walk.  You come along in the barge with
me, and I'll give you a lift.'

She steered the barge close to the bank, and Toad, with many humble
and grateful acknowledgments, stepped lightly on board and sat down
with great satisfaction.  'Toad's luck again!' thought he.  'I always
come out on top!'

'So you're in the washing business, ma'am?' said the barge-woman
politely, as they glided along.  'And a very good business you've got
too, I dare say, if I'm not making too free in saying so.'

'Finest business in the whole country,' said Toad airily.  'All the
gentry come to me--wouldn't go to any one else if they were paid, they
know me so well.  You see, I understand my work thoroughly, and attend
to it all myself.  Washing, ironing, clear-starching, making up gents'
fine shirts for evening wear--everything's done under my own eye!'

'But surely you don't DO all that work yourself, ma'am?' asked the
barge-woman respectfully.

'O, I have girls,' said Toad lightly: 'twenty girls or thereabouts,
always at work.  But you know what GIRLS are, ma'am!  Nasty little
hussies, that's what _I_ call 'em!'

'So do I, too,' said the barge-woman with great heartiness.  'But I
dare say you set yours to rights, the idle trollops!  And are you very
fond of washing?'

'I love it,' said Toad.  'I simply dote on it.  Never so happy as when
I've got both arms in the wash-tub.  But, then, it comes so easy to
me!  No trouble at all!  A real pleasure, I assure you, ma'am!'

'What a bit of luck, meeting you!' observed the barge-woman,
thoughtfully.  'A regular piece of good fortune for both of us!'

'Why, what do you mean?' asked Toad, nervously.

'Well, look at me, now,' replied the barge-woman.  '_I_ like washing,
too, just the same as you do; and for that matter, whether I like it
or not I have got to do all my own, naturally, moving about as I do.
Now my husband, he's such a fellow for shirking his work and leaving
the barge to me, that never a moment do I get for seeing to my own
affairs.  By rights he ought to be here now, either steering or
attending to the horse, though luckily the horse has sense enough to
attend to himself.  Instead of which, he's gone off with the dog, to
see if they can't pick up a rabbit for dinner somewhere.  Says he'll
catch me up at the next lock.  Well, that's as may be--I don't trust
him, once he gets off with that dog, who's worse than he is.  But
meantime, how am I to get on with my washing?'

'O, never mind about the washing,' said Toad, not liking the subject.
'Try and fix your mind on that rabbit.  A nice fat young rabbit, I'll
be bound.  Got any onions?'

'I can't fix my mind on anything but my washing,' said the
barge-woman, 'and I wonder you can be talking of rabbits, with such a
joyful prospect before you.  There's a heap of things of mine that
you'll find in a corner of the cabin.  If you'll just take one or two
of the most necessary sort--I won't venture to describe them to a lady
like you, but you'll recognise them at a glance--and put them through
the wash-tub as we go along, why, it'll be a pleasure to you, as you
rightly say, and a real help to me.  You'll find a tub handy, and
soap, and a kettle on the stove, and a bucket to haul up water from
the canal with.  Then I shall know you're enjoying yourself, instead
of sitting here idle, looking at the scenery and yawning your head
off.'

'Here, you let me steer!' said Toad, now thoroughly frightened, 'and
then you can get on with your washing your own way.  I might spoil
your things, or not do 'em as you like.  I'm more used to gentlemen's
things myself.  It's my special line.'

'Let you steer?' replied the barge-woman, laughing.  'It takes some
practice to steer a barge properly.  Besides, it's dull work, and I
want you to be happy.  No, you shall do the washing you are so fond
of, and I'll stick to the steering that I understand.  Don't try and
deprive me of the pleasure of giving you a treat!'

Toad was fairly cornered.  He looked for escape this way and that, saw
that he was too far from the bank for a flying leap, and sullenly
resigned himself to his fate.  'If it comes to that,' he thought in
desperation, 'I suppose any fool can WASH!'

He fetched tub, soap, and other necessaries from the cabin, selected a
few garments at random, tried to recollect what he had seen in casual
glances through laundry windows, and set to.

A long half-hour passed, and every minute of it saw Toad getting
crosser and crosser.  Nothing that he could do to the things seemed to
please them or do them good.  He tried coaxing, he tried slapping, he
tried punching; they smiled back at him out of the tub unconverted,
happy in their original sin.  Once or twice he looked nervously over
his shoulder at the barge-woman, but she appeared to be gazing out in
front of her, absorbed in her steering.  His back ached badly, and he
noticed with dismay that his paws were beginning to get all crinkly.
Now Toad was very proud of his paws.  He muttered under his breath
words that should never pass the lips of either washerwomen or Toads;
and lost the soap, for the fiftieth time.

A burst of laughter made him straighten himself and look round. The
barge-woman was leaning back and laughing unrestrainedly, till the
tears ran down her cheeks.

'I've been watching you all the time,' she gasped.  'I thought you
must be a humbug all along, from the conceited way you talked.  Pretty
washerwoman you are!  Never washed so much as a dish-clout in your
life, I'll lay!'

Toad's temper which had been simmering viciously for some time, now
fairly boiled over, and he lost all control of himself.

'You common, low, FAT barge-woman!' he shouted; 'don't you dare to
talk to your betters like that!  Washerwoman indeed!  I would have you
to know that I am a Toad, a very well-known, respected, distinguished
Toad!  I may be under a bit of a cloud at present, but I will NOT be
laughed at by a bargewoman!'

The woman moved nearer to him and peered under his bonnet keenly and
closely.  'Why, so you are!' she cried.  'Well, I never!  A horrid,
nasty, crawly Toad!  And in my nice clean barge, too! Now that is a
thing that I will NOT have.'

She relinquished the tiller for a moment.  One big mottled arm shot
out and caught Toad by a fore-leg, while the other-gripped him fast by
a hind-leg.  Then the world turned suddenly upside down, the barge
seemed to flit lightly across the sky, the wind whistled in his ears,
and Toad found himself flying through the air, revolving rapidly as he
went.

The water, when he eventually reached it with a loud splash, proved
quite cold enough for his taste, though its chill was not sufficient
to quell his proud spirit, or slake the heat of his furious temper.
He rose to the surface spluttering, and when he had wiped the
duck-weed out of his eyes the first thing he saw was the fat
barge-woman looking back at him over the stern of the retreating barge
and laughing; and he vowed, as he coughed and choked, to be even with
her.

He struck out for the shore, but the cotton gown greatly impeded his
efforts, and when at length he touched land he found it hard to climb
up the steep bank unassisted.  He had to take a minute or two's rest
to recover his breath; then, gathering his wet skirts well over his
arms, he started to run after the barge as fast as his legs would
carry him, wild with indignation, thirsting for revenge.

The barge-woman was still laughing when he drew up level with her.
'Put yourself through your mangle, washerwoman,' she called out, 'and
iron your face and crimp it, and you'll pass for quite a
decent-looking Toad!'

Toad never paused to reply.  Solid revenge was what he wanted, not
cheap, windy, verbal triumphs, though he had a thing or two in his
mind that he would have liked to say.  He saw what he wanted ahead of
him.  Running swiftly on he overtook the horse, unfastened the towrope
and cast off, jumped lightly on the horse's back, and urged it to a
gallop by kicking it vigorously in the sides.  He steered for the open
country, abandoning the tow-path, and swinging his steed down a rutty
lane.  Once he looked back, and saw that the barge had run aground on
the other side of the canal, and the barge-woman was gesticulating
wildly and shouting, 'Stop, stop, stop!'  'I've heard that song
before,' said Toad, laughing, as he continued to spur his steed onward
in its wild career.

The barge-horse was not capable of any very sustained effort, and its
gallop soon subsided into a trot, and its trot into an easy walk; but
Toad was quite contented with this, knowing that he, at any rate, was
moving, and the barge was not.  He had quite recovered his temper, now
that he had done something he thought really clever; and he was
satisfied to jog along quietly in the sun, steering his horse along
by-ways and bridle-paths, and trying to forget how very long it was
since he had had a square meal, till the canal had been left very far
behind him.

He had travelled some miles, his horse and he, and he was feeling
drowsy in the hot sunshine, when the horse stopped, lowered his head,
and began to nibble the grass; and Toad, waking up, just saved himself
from falling off by an effort.  He looked about him and found he was
on a wide common, dotted with patches of gorse and bramble as far as
he could see.  Near him stood a dingy gipsy caravan, and beside it a
man was sitting on a bucket turned upside down, very busy smoking and
staring into the wide world.  A fire of sticks was burning near by,
and over the fire hung an iron pot, and out of that pot came forth
bubblings and gurglings, and a vague suggestive steaminess.  Also
smells--warm, rich, and varied smells--that twined and twisted and
wreathed themselves at last into one complete, voluptuous, perfect
smell that seemed like the very soul of Nature taking form and
appearing to her children, a true Goddess, a mother of solace and
comfort.  Toad now knew well that he had not been really hungry
before.  What he had felt earlier in the day had been a mere trifling
qualm.  This was the real thing at last, and no mistake; and it would
have to be dealt with speedily, too, or there would be trouble for
somebody or something.  He looked the gipsy over carefully, wondering
vaguely whether it would be easier to fight him or cajole him.  So
there he sat, and sniffed and sniffed, and looked at the gipsy; and
the gipsy sat and smoked, and looked at him.

Presently the gipsy took his pipe out of his mouth and remarked in a
careless way, 'Want to sell that there horse of yours?'

Toad was completely taken aback.  He did not know that gipsies were
very fond of horse-dealing, and never missed an opportunity, and he
had not reflected that caravans were always on the move and took a
deal of drawing.  It had not occurred to him to turn the horse into
cash, but the gipsy's suggestion seemed to smooth the way towards the
two things he wanted so badly--ready money, and a solid breakfast.

'What?' he said, 'me sell this beautiful young horse of mine?  O, no;
it's out of the question.  Who's going to take the washing home to my
customers every week?  Besides, I'm too fond of him, and he simply
dotes on me.'

'Try and love a donkey,' suggested the gipsy.  'Some people do.'

'You don't seem to see,' continued Toad, 'that this fine horse of mine
is a cut above you altogether.  He's a blood horse, he is, partly; not
the part you see, of course--another part.  And he's been a Prize
Hackney, too, in his time--that was the time before you knew him, but
you can still tell it on him at a glance, if you understand anything
about horses.  No, it's not to be thought of for a moment.  All the
same, how much might you be disposed to offer me for this beautiful
young horse of mine?'

The gipsy looked the horse over, and then he looked Toad over with
equal care, and looked at the horse again.  'Shillin' a leg,' he said
briefly, and turned away, continuing to smoke and try to stare the
wide world out of countenance.

'A shilling a leg?' cried Toad.  'If you please, I must take a little
time to work that out, and see just what it comes to.'

He climbed down off his horse, and left it to graze, and sat down by
the gipsy, and did sums on his fingers, and at last he said, 'A
shilling a leg?  Why, that comes to exactly four shillings, and no
more.  O, no; I could not think of accepting four shillings for this
beautiful young horse of mine.'

'Well,' said the gipsy, 'I'll tell you what I will do.  I'll make it
five shillings, and that's three-and-sixpence more than the animal's
worth.  And that's my last word.'

Then Toad sat and pondered long and deeply.  For he was hungry and
quite penniless, and still some way--he knew not how far--from home,
and enemies might still be looking for him.  To one in such a
situation, five shillings may very well appear a large sum of money.
On the other hand, it did not seem very much to get for a horse.  But
then, again, the horse hadn't cost him anything; so whatever he got
was all clear profit.  At last he said firmly, 'Look here, gipsy!  I
tell you what we will do; and this is MY last word.  You shall hand me
over six shillings and sixpence, cash down; and further, in addition
thereto, you shall give me as much breakfast as I can possibly eat, at
one sitting of course, out of that iron pot of yours that keeps
sending forth such delicious and exciting smells.  In return, I will
make over to you my spirited young horse, with all the beautiful
harness and trappings that are on him, freely thrown in.  If that's
not good enough for you, say so, and I'll be getting on.  I know a man
near here who's wanted this horse of mine for years.'

The gipsy grumbled frightfully, and declared if he did a few more
deals of that sort he'd be ruined.  But in the end he lugged a dirty
canvas bag out of the depths of his trouser pocket, and counted out
six shillings and sixpence into Toad's paw.  Then he disappeared into
the caravan for an instant, and returned with a large iron plate and a
knife, fork, and spoon.  He tilted up the pot, and a glorious stream
of hot rich stew gurgled into the plate.  It was, indeed, the most
beautiful stew in the world, being made of partridges, and pheasants,
and chickens, and hares, and rabbits, and pea-hens, and guinea-fowls,
and one or two other things.  Toad took the plate on his lap, almost
crying, and stuffed, and stuffed, and stuffed, and kept asking for
more, and the gipsy never grudged it him.  He thought that he had
never eaten so good a breakfast in all his life.

When Toad had taken as much stew on board as he thought he could
possibly hold, he got up and said good-bye to the gipsy, and took an
affectionate farewell of the horse; and the gipsy, who knew the
riverside well, gave him directions which way to go, and he set forth
on his travels again in the best possible spirits.  He was, indeed, a
very different Toad from the animal of an hour ago.  The sun was
shining brightly, his wet clothes were quite dry again, he had money
in his pocket once more, he was nearing home and friends and safety,
and, most and best of all, he had had a substantial meal, hot and
nourishing, and felt big, and strong, and careless, and
self-confident.

As he tramped along gaily, he thought of his adventures and escapes,
and how when things seemed at their worst he had always managed to
find a way out; and his pride and conceit began to swell within him.
'Ho, ho!' he said to himself as he marched along with his chin in the
air, 'what a clever Toad I am!  There is surely no animal equal to me
for cleverness in the whole world!  My enemies shut me up in prison,
encircled by sentries, watched night and day by warders; I walk out
through them all, by sheer ability coupled with courage.  They pursue
me with engines, and policemen, and revolvers; I snap my fingers at
them, and vanish, laughing, into space.  I am, unfortunately, thrown
into a canal by a woman fat of body and very evil-minded.  What of it?
I swim ashore, I seize her horse, I ride off in triumph, and I sell
the horse for a whole pocketful of money and an excellent breakfast!
Ho, ho!  I am The Toad, the handsome, the popular, the successful
Toad!'  He got so puffed up with conceit that he made up a song as he
walked in praise of himself, and sang it at the top of his voice,
though there was no one to hear it but him.  It was perhaps the most
conceited song that any animal ever composed.

'The world has held great Heroes, As history-books have showed; But
never a name to go down to fame Compared with that of Toad!

'The clever men at Oxford Know all that there is to be knowed. But
they none of them know one half as much As intelligent Mr. Toad!

'The animals sat in the Ark and cried, Their tears in torrents flowed.
Who was it said, "There's land ahead?" Encouraging Mr. Toad!

'The army all saluted As they marched along the road. Was it the King?
Or Kitchener? No.  It was Mr. Toad.

'The Queen and her Ladies-in-waiting Sat at the window and sewed. She
cried, "Look! who's that HANDSOME man?" They answered, "Mr. Toad."'


There was a great deal more of the same sort, but too dreadfully
conceited to be written down.  These are some of the milder verses.

He sang as he walked, and he walked as he sang, and got more inflated
every minute.  But his pride was shortly to have a severe fall.

After some miles of country lanes he reached the high road, and as he
turned into it and glanced along its white length, he saw approaching
him a speck that turned into a dot and then into a blob, and then into
something very familiar; and a double note of warning, only too well
known, fell on his delighted ear.

'This is something like!' said the excited Toad.  'This is real life
again, this is once more the great world from which I have been missed
so long!  I will hail them, my brothers of the wheel, and pitch them a
yarn, of the sort that has been so successful hitherto; and they will
give me a lift, of course, and then I will talk to them some more;
and, perhaps, with luck, it may even end in my driving up to Toad Hall
in a motor-car!  That will be one in the eye for Badger!'

He stepped confidently out into the road to hail the motor-car, which
came along at an easy pace, slowing down as it neared the lane; when
suddenly he became very pale, his heart turned to water, his knees
shook and yielded under him, and he doubled up and collapsed with a
sickening pain in his interior.  And well he might, the unhappy
animal; for the approaching car was the very one he had stolen out of
the yard of the Red Lion Hotel on that fatal day when all his troubles
began!  And the people in it were the very same people he had sat and
watched at luncheon in the coffee-room!

He sank down in a shabby, miserable heap in the road, murmuring to
himself in his despair, 'It's all up!  It's all over now! Chains and
policemen again!  Prison again!  Dry bread and water again!  O, what a
fool I have been!  What did I want to go strutting about the country
for, singing conceited songs, and hailing people in broad day on the
high road, instead of hiding till nightfall and slipping home quietly
by back ways!  O hapless Toad!  O ill-fated animal!'

The terrible motor-car drew slowly nearer and nearer, till at last he
heard it stop just short of him.  Two gentlemen got out and walked
round the trembling heap of crumpled misery lying in the road, and one
of them said, 'O dear! this is very sad! Here is a poor old thing--a
washerwoman apparently--who has fainted in the road!  Perhaps she is
overcome by the heat, poor creature; or possibly she has not had any
food to-day.  Let us lift her into the car and take her to the nearest
village, where doubtless she has friends.'

They tenderly lifted Toad into the motor-car and propped him up with
soft cushions, and proceeded on their way.

When Toad heard them talk in so kind and sympathetic a way, and knew
that he was not recognised, his courage began to revive, and he
cautiously opened first one eye and then the other.

'Look!' said one of the gentlemen, 'she is better already.  The fresh
air is doing her good.  How do you feel now, ma'am?'

'Thank you kindly, Sir,' said Toad in a feeble voice, 'I'm feeling a
great deal better!'  'That's right,' said the gentleman.  'Now keep
quite still, and, above all, don't try to talk.'

'I won't,' said Toad.  'I was only thinking, if I might sit on the
front seat there, beside the driver, where I could get the fresh air
full in my face, I should soon be all right again.'

'What a very sensible woman!' said the gentleman.  'Of course you
shall.'  So they carefully helped Toad into the front seat beside the
driver, and on they went again.

Toad was almost himself again by now.  He sat up, looked about him,
and tried to beat down the tremors, the yearnings, the old cravings
that rose up and beset him and took possession of him entirely.

'It is fate!' he said to himself.  'Why strive? why struggle?' and he
turned to the driver at his side.

'Please, Sir,' he said, 'I wish you would kindly let me try and drive
the car for a little.  I've been watching you carefully, and it looks
so easy and so interesting, and I should like to be able to tell my
friends that once I had driven a motor-car!'

The driver laughed at the proposal, so heartily that the gentleman
inquired what the matter was.  When he heard, he said, to Toad's
delight, 'Bravo, ma'am!  I like your spirit. Let her have a try, and
look after her.  She won't do any harm.'

Toad eagerly scrambled into the seat vacated by the driver, took the
steering-wheel in his hands, listened with affected humility to the
instructions given him, and set the car in motion, but very slowly and
carefully at first, for he was determined to be prudent.

The gentlemen behind clapped their hands and applauded, and Toad heard
them saying, 'How well she does it!  Fancy a washerwoman driving a car
as well as that, the first time!'

Toad went a little faster; then faster still, and faster.

He heard the gentlemen call out warningly, 'Be careful, washerwoman!'
And this annoyed him, and he began to lose his head.

The driver tried to interfere, but he pinned him down in his seat with
one elbow, and put on full speed.  The rush of air in his face, the
hum of the engines, and the light jump of the car beneath him
intoxicated his weak brain.  'Washerwoman, indeed!' he shouted
recklessly.  'Ho! ho!  I am the Toad, the motor-car snatcher, the
prison-breaker, the Toad who always escapes!  Sit still, and you shall
know what driving really is, for you are in the hands of the famous,
the skilful, the entirely fearless Toad!'

With a cry of horror the whole party rose and flung themselves on him.
'Seize him!' they cried, 'seize the Toad, the wicked animal who stole
our motor-car!  Bind him, chain him, drag him to the nearest
police-station!  Down with the desperate and dangerous Toad!'

Alas! they should have thought, they ought to have been more prudent,
they should have remembered to stop the motor-car somehow before
playing any pranks of that sort.  With a half-turn of the wheel the
Toad sent the car crashing through the low hedge that ran along the
roadside.  One mighty bound, a violent shock, and the wheels of the
car were churning up the thick mud of a horse-pond.

Toad found himself flying through the air with the strong upward rush
and delicate curve of a swallow.  He liked the motion, and was just
beginning to wonder whether it would go on until he developed wings
and turned into a Toad-bird, when he landed on his back with a thump,
in the soft rich grass of a meadow. Sitting up, he could just see the
motor-car in the pond, nearly submerged; the gentlemen and the driver,
encumbered by their long coats, were floundering helplessly in the
water.

He picked himself up rapidly, and set off running across country as
hard as he could, scrambling through hedges, jumping ditches, pounding
across fields, till he was breathless and weary, and had to settle
down into an easy walk.  When he had recovered his breath somewhat,
and was able to think calmly, he began to giggle, and from giggling he
took to laughing, and he laughed till he had to sit down under a
hedge.  'Ho, ho!' he cried, in ecstasies of self-admiration, 'Toad
again!  Toad, as usual, comes out on the top!  Who was it got them to
give him a lift?  Who managed to get on the front seat for the sake of
fresh air?  Who persuaded them into letting him see if he could drive?
Who landed them all in a horse-pond?  Who escaped, flying gaily and
unscathed through the air, leaving the narrow-minded, grudging, timid
excursionists in the mud where they should rightly be? Why, Toad, of
course; clever Toad, great Toad, GOOD Toad!'

Then he burst into song again, and chanted with uplifted voice--

'The motor-car went Poop-poop-poop, As it raced along the road. Who
was it steered it into a pond? Ingenious Mr. Toad!

O, how clever I am! How clever, how clever, how very clev----'

A slight noise at a distance behind him made him turn his head and
look.  O horror!  O misery!  O despair!

About two fields off, a chauffeur in his leather gaiters and two large
rural policemen were visible, running towards him as hard as they
could go!

Poor Toad sprang to his feet and pelted away again, his heart in his
mouth.  O, my!' he gasped, as he panted along, 'what an ASS I am!
What a CONCEITED and heedless ass!  Swaggering again!  Shouting and
singing songs again!  Sitting still and gassing again!  O my!  O my!
O my!'

He glanced back, and saw to his dismay that they were gaining on him.
On he ran desperately, but kept looking back, and saw that they still
gained steadily.  He did his best, but he was a fat animal, and his
legs were short, and still they gained.  He could hear them close
behind him now.  Ceasing to heed where he was going, he struggled on
blindly and wildly, looking back over his shoulder at the now
triumphant enemy, when suddenly the earth failed under his feet, he
grasped at the air, and, splash! he found himself head over ears in
deep water, rapid water, water that bore him along with a force he
could not contend with; and he knew that in his blind panic he had run
straight into the river!

He rose to the surface and tried to grasp the reeds and the rushes
that grew along the water's edge close under the bank, but the stream
was so strong that it tore them out of his hands.  'O my!' gasped poor
Toad, 'if ever I steal a motor-car again!  If ever I sing another
conceited song'--then down he went, and came up breathless and
spluttering.  Presently he saw that he was approaching a big dark hole
in the bank, just above his head, and as the stream bore him past he
reached up with a paw and caught hold of the edge and held on.  Then
slowly and with difficulty he drew himself up out of the water, till
at last he was able to rest his elbows on the edge of the hole.  There
he remained for some minutes, puffing and panting, for he was quite
exhausted.

As he sighed and blew and stared before him into the dark hole, some
bright small thing shone and twinkled in its depths, moving towards
him.  As it approached, a face grew up gradually around it, and it was
a familiar face!

Brown and small, with whiskers.

Grave and round, with neat ears and silky hair.

It was the Water Rat!


XI

'LIKE SUMMER TEMPESTS CAME HIS TEARS'

The Rat put out a neat little brown paw, gripped Toad firmly by the
scruff of the neck, and gave a great hoist and a pull; and the
water-logged Toad came up slowly but surely over the edge of the hole,
till at last he stood safe and sound in the hall, streaked with mud
and weed to be sure, and with the water streaming off him, but happy
and high-spirited as of old, now that he found himself once more in
the house of a friend, and dodgings and evasions were over, and he
could lay aside a disguise that was unworthy of his position and
wanted such a lot of living up to.

'O, Ratty!' he cried.  'I've been through such times since I saw you
last, you can't think!  Such trials, such sufferings, and all so nobly
borne!  Then such escapes, such disguises such subterfuges, and all so
cleverly planned and carried out!  Been in prison--got out of it, of
course!  Been thrown into a canal--swam ashore!  Stole a horse--sold
him for a large sum of money! Humbugged everybody--made 'em all do
exactly what I wanted!  Oh, I AM a smart Toad, and no mistake!  What
do you think my last exploit was?  Just hold on till I tell you----'

'Toad,' said the Water Rat, gravely and firmly, 'you go off upstairs
at once, and take off that old cotton rag that looks as if it might
formerly have belonged to some washerwoman, and clean yourself
thoroughly, and put on some of my clothes, and try and come down
looking like a gentleman if you CAN; for a more shabby, bedraggled,
disreputable-looking object than you are I never set eyes on in my
whole life!  Now, stop swaggering and arguing, and be off!  I'll have
something to say to you later!'

Toad was at first inclined to stop and do some talking back at him.
He had had enough of being ordered about when he was in prison, and
here was the thing being begun all over again, apparently; and by a
Rat, too!  However, he caught sight of himself in the looking-glass
over the hat-stand, with the rusty black bonnet perched rakishly over
one eye, and he changed his mind and went very quickly and humbly
upstairs to the Rat's dressing-room.  There he had a thorough wash and
brush-up, changed his clothes, and stood for a long time before the
glass, contemplating himself with pride and pleasure, and thinking
what utter idiots all the people must have been to have ever mistaken
him for one moment for a washerwoman.

By the time he came down again luncheon was on the table, and very
glad Toad was to see it, for he had been through some trying
experiences and had taken much hard exercise since the excellent
breakfast provided for him by the gipsy.  While they ate Toad told the
Rat all his adventures, dwelling chiefly on his own cleverness, and
presence of mind in emergencies, and cunning in tight places; and
rather making out that he had been having a gay and highly-coloured
experience.  But the more he talked and boasted, the more grave and
silent the Rat became.

When at last Toad had talked himself to a standstill, there was
silence for a while; and then the Rat said, 'Now, Toady, I don't want
to give you pain, after all you've been through already; but,
seriously, don't you see what an awful ass you've been making of
yourself?  On your own admission you have been handcuffed, imprisoned,
starved, chased, terrified out of your life, insulted, jeered at, and
ignominiously flung into the water--by a woman, too!  Where's the
amusement in that?  Where does the fun come in?  And all because you
must needs go and steal a motor-car.  You know that you've never had
anything but trouble from motor-cars from the moment you first set
eyes on one.  But if you WILL be mixed up with them--as you generally
are, five minutes after you've started--why STEAL them?  Be a cripple,
if you think it's exciting; be a bankrupt, for a change, if you've set
your mind on it: but why choose to be a convict? When are you going to
be sensible, and think of your friends, and try and be a credit to
them?  Do you suppose it's any pleasure to me, for instance, to hear
animals saying, as I go about, that I'm the chap that keeps company
with gaol-birds?'

Now, it was a very comforting point in Toad's character that he was a
thoroughly good-hearted animal and never minded being jawed by those
who were his real friends.  And even when most set upon a thing, he
was always able to see the other side of the question.  So although,
while the Rat was talking so seriously, he kept saying to himself
mutinously, 'But it WAS fun, though!  Awful fun!' and making strange
suppressed noises inside him, k-i-ck-ck-ck, and poop-p-p, and other
sounds resembling stifled snorts, or the opening of soda-water
bottles, yet when the Rat had quite finished, he heaved a deep sigh
and said, very nicely and humbly, 'Quite right, Ratty!  How SOUND you
always are!  Yes, I've been a conceited old ass, I can quite see that;
but now I'm going to be a good Toad, and not do it any more.  As for
motor-cars, I've not been at all so keen about them since my last
ducking in that river of yours.  The fact is, while I was hanging on
to the edge of your hole and getting my breath, I had a sudden idea--a
really brilliant idea--connected with motor-boats--there, there! don't
take on so, old chap, and stamp, and upset things; it was only an
idea, and we won't talk any more about it now.  We'll have our coffee,
AND a smoke, and a quiet chat, and then I'm going to stroll quietly
down to Toad Hall, and get into clothes of my own, and set things
going again on the old lines.  I've had enough of adventures.  I shall
lead a quiet, steady, respectable life, pottering about my property,
and improving it, and doing a little landscape gardening at times.
There will always be a bit of dinner for my friends when they come to
see me; and I shall keep a pony-chaise to jog about the country in,
just as I used to in the good old days, before I got restless, and
wanted to DO things.'

'Stroll quietly down to Toad Hall?' cried the Rat, greatly excited.
'What are you talking about?  Do you mean to say you haven't HEARD?'

'Heard what?' said Toad, turning rather pale.  'Go on, Ratty! Quick!
Don't spare me!  What haven't I heard?'

'Do you mean to tell me,' shouted the Rat, thumping with his little
fist upon the table, 'that you've heard nothing about the Stoats and
Weasels?'

What, the Wild Wooders?' cried Toad, trembling in every limb. 'No, not
a word!  What have they been doing?'

'--And how they've been and taken Toad Hall?' continued the Rat.

Toad leaned his elbows on the table, and his chin on his paws; and a
large tear welled up in each of his eyes, overflowed and splashed on
the table, plop! plop!

'Go on, Ratty,' he murmured presently; 'tell me all.  The worst is
over.  I am an animal again.  I can bear it.'

'When you--got--into that--that--trouble of yours,' said the Rat,
slowly and impressively; 'I mean, when you--disappeared from society
for a time, over that misunderstanding about a--a machine, you know--'

Toad merely nodded.

'Well, it was a good deal talked about down here, naturally,'
continued the Rat, 'not only along the river-side, but even in the
Wild Wood.  Animals took sides, as always happens.  The River-bankers
stuck up for you, and said you had been infamously treated, and there
was no justice to be had in the land nowadays. But the Wild Wood
animals said hard things, and served you right, and it was time this
sort of thing was stopped.  And they got very cocky, and went about
saying you were done for this time!  You would never come back again,
never, never!'

Toad nodded once more, keeping silence.

'That's the sort of little beasts they are,' the Rat went on. 'But
Mole and Badger, they stuck out, through thick and thin, that you
would come back again soon, somehow.  They didn't know exactly how,
but somehow!'

Toad began to sit up in his chair again, and to smirk a little.

'They argued from history,' continued the Rat.  'They said that no
criminal laws had ever been known to prevail against cheek and
plausibility such as yours, combined with the power of a long purse.
So they arranged to move their things in to Toad Hall, and sleep
there, and keep it aired, and have it all ready for you when you
turned up.  They didn't guess what was going to happen, of course;
still, they had their suspicions of the Wild Wood animals.  Now I come
to the most painful and tragic part of my story.  One dark night--it
was a VERY dark night, and blowing hard, too, and raining simply cats
and dogs--a band of weasels, armed to the teeth, crept silently up the
carriage-drive to the front entrance.  Simultaneously, a body of
desperate ferrets, advancing through the kitchen-garden, possessed
themselves of the backyard and offices; while a company of skirmishing
stoats who stuck at nothing occupied the conservatory and the
billiard-room, and held the French windows opening on to the lawn.

'The Mole and the Badger were sitting by the fire in the smoking-room,
telling stories and suspecting nothing, for it wasn't a night for any
animals to be out in, when those bloodthirsty villains broke down the
doors and rushed in upon them from every side.  They made the best
fight they could, but what was the good?  They were unarmed, and taken
by surprise, and what can two animals do against hundreds?  They took
and beat them severely with sticks, those two poor faithful creatures,
and turned them out into the cold and the wet, with many insulting and
uncalled-for remarks!'

Here the unfeeling Toad broke into a snigger, and then pulled himself
together and tried to look particularly solemn.

'And the Wild Wooders have been living in Toad Hall ever since,'
continued the Rat; 'and going on simply anyhow!  Lying in bed half the
day, and breakfast at all hours, and the place in such a mess (I'm
told) it's not fit to be seen!  Eating your grub, and drinking your
drink, and making bad jokes about you, and singing vulgar songs,
about--well, about prisons and magistrates, and policemen; horrid
personal songs, with no humour in them.  And they're telling the
tradespeople and everybody that they've come to stay for good.'

'O, have they!' said Toad getting up and seizing a stick.  'I'll jolly
soon see about that!'

'It's no good, Toad!' called the Rat after him.  'You'd better come
back and sit down; you'll only get into trouble.'

But the Toad was off, and there was no holding him.  He marched
rapidly down the road, his stick over his shoulder, fuming and
muttering to himself in his anger, till he got near his front gate,
when suddenly there popped up from behind the palings a long yellow
ferret with a gun.

'Who comes there?' said the ferret sharply.

'Stuff and nonsense!' said Toad, very angrily.  'What do you mean by
talking like that to me?  Come out of that at once, or I'll----'

The ferret said never a word, but he brought his gun up to his
shoulder.  Toad prudently dropped flat in the road, and BANG! a bullet
whistled over his head.

The startled Toad scrambled to his feet and scampered off down the
road as hard as he could; and as he ran he heard the ferret laughing
and other horrid thin little laughs taking it up and carrying on the
sound.

He went back, very crestfallen, and told the Water Rat.

'What did I tell you?' said the Rat.  'It's no good.  They've got
sentries posted, and they are all armed.  You must just wait.'

Still, Toad was not inclined to give in all at once.  So he got out
the boat, and set off rowing up the river to where the garden front of
Toad Hall came down to the waterside.

Arriving within sight of his old home, he rested on his oars and
surveyed the land cautiously.  All seemed very peaceful and deserted
and quiet.  He could see the whole front of Toad Hall, glowing in the
evening sunshine, the pigeons settling by twos and threes along the
straight line of the roof; the garden, a blaze of flowers; the creek
that led up to the boat-house, the little wooden bridge that crossed
it; all tranquil, uninhabited, apparently waiting for his return.  He
would try the boat-house first, he thought.  Very warily he paddled up
to the mouth of the creek, and was just passing under the bridge, when
. . . CRASH!

A great stone, dropped from above, smashed through the bottom of the
boat.  It filled and sank, and Toad found himself struggling in deep
water.  Looking up, he saw two stoats leaning over the parapet of the
bridge and watching him with great glee.  'It will be your head next
time, Toady!' they called out to him.  The indignant Toad swam to
shore, while the stoats laughed and laughed, supporting each other,
and laughed again, till they nearly had two fits--that is, one fit
each, of course.

The Toad retraced his weary way on foot, and related his disappointing
experiences to the Water Rat once more.

'Well, WHAT did I tell you?' said the Rat very crossly.  'And, now,
look here!  See what you've been and done!  Lost me my boat that I was
so fond of, that's what you've done!  And simply ruined that nice suit
of clothes that I lent you!  Really, Toad, of all the trying animals--
I wonder you manage to keep any friends at all!'

The Toad saw at once how wrongly and foolishly he had acted.  He
admitted his errors and wrong-headedness and made a full apology to
Rat for losing his boat and spoiling his clothes.  And he wound up by
saying, with that frank self-surrender which always disarmed his
friend's criticism and won them back to his side, 'Ratty! I see that I
have been a headstrong and a wilful Toad! Henceforth, believe me, I
will be humble and submissive, and will take no action without your
kind advice and full approval!'

'If that is really so,' said the good-natured Rat, already appeased,
'then my advice to you is, considering the lateness of the hour, to
sit down and have your supper, which will be on the table in a minute,
and be very patient.  For I am convinced that we can do nothing until
we have seen the Mole and the Badger, and heard their latest news, and
held conference and taken their advice in this difficult matter.'

'Oh, ah, yes, of course, the Mole and the Badger,' said Toad, lightly.
'What's become of them, the dear fellows?  I had forgotten all about
them.'

'Well may you ask!' said the Rat reproachfully.  'While you were
riding about the country in expensive motor-cars, and galloping
proudly on blood-horses, and breakfasting on the fat of the land,
those two poor devoted animals have been camping out in the open, in
every sort of weather, living very rough by day and lying very hard by
night; watching over your house, patrolling your boundaries, keeping a
constant eye on the stoats and the weasels, scheming and planning and
contriving how to get your property back for you.  You don't deserve
to have such true and loyal friends, Toad, you don't, really.  Some
day, when it's too late, you'll be sorry you didn't value them more
while you had them!'

'I'm an ungrateful beast, I know,' sobbed Toad, shedding bitter tears.
'Let me go out and find them, out into the cold, dark night, and share
their hardships, and try and prove by----Hold on a bit!  Surely I
heard the chink of dishes on a tray!  Supper's here at last, hooray!
Come on, Ratty!'

The Rat remembered that poor Toad had been on prison fare for a
considerable time, and that large allowances had therefore to be made.
He followed him to the table accordingly, and hospitably encouraged
him in his gallant efforts to make up for past privations.

They had just finished their meal and resumed their arm-chairs, when
there came a heavy knock at the door.

Toad was nervous, but the Rat, nodding mysteriously at him, went
straight up to the door and opened it, and in walked Mr. Badger.

He had all the appearance of one who for some nights had been kept
away from home and all its little comforts and conveniences. His shoes
were covered with mud, and he was looking very rough and touzled; but
then he had never been a very smart man, the Badger, at the best of
times.  He came solemnly up to Toad, shook him by the paw, and said,
'Welcome home, Toad!  Alas! what am I saying?  Home, indeed!  This is
a poor home-coming.  Unhappy Toad!'  Then he turned his back on him,
sat down to the table, drew his chair up, and helped himself to a
large slice of cold pie.

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 animal.'

So they waited in silence, and presently there came another and a
lighter knock.  The Rat, with a nod to Toad, went to the door and
ushered in the Mole, very shabby and unwashed, with bits of hay and
straw sticking in his fur.

'Hooray!  Here's old Toad!' cried the Mole, his face beaming. 'Fancy
having you back again!'  And he began to dance round him. 'We never
dreamt you would turn up so soon!  Why, you must have managed to
escape, you clever, ingenious, intelligent Toad!'

The Rat, alarmed, pulled him by the elbow; but it was too late. Toad
was puffing and swelling already.

'Clever?  O, no!' he said.  'I'm not really clever, according to my
friends.  I've only broken out of the strongest prison in England,
that's all!  And captured a railway train and escaped on it, that's
all!  And disguised myself and gone about the country humbugging
everybody, that's all!  O, no!  I'm a stupid ass, I am!  I'll tell you
one or two of my little adventures, Mole, and you shall judge for
yourself!'

'Well, well,' said the Mole, moving towards the supper-table;
'supposing you talk while I eat.  Not a bite since breakfast!  O my!
O my!'  And he sat down and helped himself liberally to cold beef and
pickles.

Toad straddled on the hearth-rug, thrust his paw into his
trouser-pocket and pulled out a handful of silver.  'Look at that!' he
cried, displaying it.  'That's not so bad, is it, for a few minutes'
work? And how do you think I done it, Mole?  Horse-dealing!  That's
how I done it!'

'Go on, Toad,' said the Mole, immensely interested.

'Toad, do be quiet, please!' said the Rat.  'And don't you egg him on,
Mole, when you know what he is; but please tell us as soon as possible
what the position is, and what's best to be done, now that Toad is
back at last.'

'The position's about as bad as it can be,' replied the Mole grumpily;
'and as for what's to be done, why, blest if I know! The Badger and I
have been round and round the place, by night and by day; always the
same thing.  Sentries posted everywhere, guns poked out at us, stones
thrown at us; always an animal on the look-out, and when they see us,
my! how they do laugh!  That's what annoys me most!'

'It's a very difficult situation,' said the Rat, reflecting deeply.
'But I think I see now, in the depths of my mind, what Toad really
ought to do.  I will tell you.  He ought to----'

'No, he oughtn't!' shouted the Mole, with his mouth full. 'Nothing of
the sort!  You don't understand.  What he ought to do is, he ought
to----'

'Well, I shan't do it, anyway!' cried Toad, getting excited. 'I'm not
going to be ordered about by you fellows!  It's my house we're talking
about, and I know exactly what to do, and I'll tell you.  I'm going
to----'

By this time they were all three talking at once, at the top of their
voices, and the noise was simply deafening, when a thin, dry voice
made itself heard, saying, 'Be quiet at once, all of you!' and
instantly every one was silent.

It was the Badger, who, having finished his pie, had turned round in
his chair and was looking at them severely.  When he saw that he had
secured their attention, and that they were evidently waiting for him
to address them, he turned back to the table again and reached out for
the cheese.  And so great was the respect commanded by the solid
qualities of that admirable animal, that not another word was uttered
until he had quite finished his repast and brushed the crumbs from his
knees.  The Toad fidgeted a good deal, but the Rat held him firmly
down.

When the Badger had quite done, he got up from his seat and stood
before the fireplace, reflecting deeply.  At last he spoke.

'Toad!' he said severely.  'You bad, troublesome little animal! Aren't
you ashamed of yourself?  What do you think your father, my old friend,
would have said if he had been here to-night, and had known of all
your goings on?'

Toad, who was on the sofa by this time, with his legs up, rolled over
on his face, shaken by sobs of contrition.

'There, there!' went on the Badger, more kindly.  'Never mind. Stop
crying.  We're going to let bygones be bygones, and try and turn over
a new leaf.  But what the Mole says is quite true.  The stoats are on
guard, at every point, and they make the best sentinels in the world.
It's quite useless to think of attacking the place.  They're too
strong for us.'

'Then it's all over,' sobbed the Toad, crying into the sofa cushions.
'I shall go and enlist for a soldier, and never see my dear Toad Hall
any more!'

'Come, cheer up, Toady!' said the Badger.  'There are more ways of
getting back a place than taking it by storm.  I haven't said my last
word yet.  Now I'm going to tell you a great secret.'

Toad sat up slowly and dried his eyes.  Secrets had an immense
attraction for him, because he never could keep one, and he enjoyed
the sort of unhallowed thrill he experienced when he went and told
another animal, after having faithfully promised not to.

'There--is--an--underground--passage,' said the Badger, impressively,
'that leads from the river-bank, quite near here, right up into the
middle of Toad Hall.'

'O, nonsense!  Badger,' said Toad, rather airily.  'You've been
listening to some of the yarns they spin in the public-houses about
here.  I know every inch of Toad Hall, inside and out. Nothing of the
sort, I do assure you!'

'My young friend,' said the Badger, with great severity, 'your father,
who was a worthy animal--a lot worthier than some others I know--was a
particular friend of mine, and told me a great deal he wouldn't have
dreamt of telling you.  He discovered that passage--he didn't make it,
of course; that was done hundreds of years before he ever came to live
there--and he repaired it and cleaned it out, because he thought it
might come in useful some day, in case of trouble or danger; and he
showed it to me. "Don't let my son know about it," he said.  "He's a
good boy, but very light and volatile in character, and simply cannot
hold his tongue.  If he's ever in a real fix, and it would be of use
to him, you may tell him about the secret passage; but not before."'

The other animals looked hard at Toad to see how he would take it.
Toad was inclined to be sulky at first; but he brightened up
immediately, like the good fellow he was.

'Well, well,' he said; 'perhaps I am a bit of a talker.  A popular
fellow such as I am--my friends get round me--we chaff, we sparkle, we
tell witty stories--and somehow my tongue gets wagging.  I have the
gift of conversation.  I've been told I ought to have a salon,
whatever that may be.  Never mind.  Go on, Badger.  How's this passage
of yours going to help us?'

'I've found out a thing or two lately,' continued the Badger.  'I got
Otter to disguise himself as a sweep and call at the back-door with
brushes over his shoulder, asking for a job.  There's going to be a
big banquet to-morrow night.  It's somebody's birthday--the Chief
Weasel's, I believe--and all the weasels will be gathered together in
the dining-hall, eating and drinking and laughing and carrying on,
suspecting nothing.  No guns, no swords, no sticks, no arms of any
sort whatever!'

'But the sentinels will be posted as usual,' remarked the Rat.

'Exactly,' said the Badger; 'that is my point.  The weasels will trust
entirely to their excellent sentinels.  And that is where the passage
comes in.  That very useful tunnel leads right up under the butler's
pantry, next to the dining-hall!'

'Aha! that squeaky board in the butler's pantry!' said Toad. 'Now I
understand it!'

'We shall creep out quietly into the butler's pantry--' cried the
Mole.

'--with our pistols and swords and sticks--' shouted the Rat.

'--and rush in upon them,' said the Badger.

'--and whack 'em, and whack 'em, and whack 'em!' cried the Toad in
ecstasy, running round and round the room, and jumping over the chairs.

'Very well, then,' said the Badger, resuming his usual dry manner,
'our plan is settled, and there's nothing more for you to argue and
squabble about.  So, as it's getting very late, all of you go right
off to bed at once.  We will make all the necessary arrangements in
the course of the morning to-morrow.'

Toad, of course, went off to bed dutifully with the rest--he knew
better than to refuse--though he was feeling much too excited to
sleep.  But he had had a long day, with many events crowded into it;
and sheets and blankets were very friendly and comforting things,
after plain straw, and not too much of it, spread on the stone floor
of a draughty cell; and his head had not been many seconds on his
pillow before he was snoring happily.  Naturally, he dreamt a good
deal; about roads that ran away from him just when he wanted them, and
canals that chased him and caught him, and a barge that sailed into
the banqueting-hall with his week's washing, just as he was giving a
dinner-party; and he was alone in the secret passage, pushing onwards,
but it twisted and turned round and shook itself, and sat up on its
end; yet somehow, at the last, he found himself back in Toad Hall,
safe and triumphant, with all his friends gathered round about him,
earnestly assuring him that he really was a clever Toad.

He slept till a late hour next morning, and by the time he got down he
found that the other animals had finished their breakfast some time
before.  The Mole had slipped off somewhere by himself, without
telling any one where he was going to.  The Badger sat in the
arm-chair, reading the paper, and not concerning himself in the slightest
about what was going to happen that very evening. The Rat, on the
other hand, was running round the room busily, with his arms full of
weapons of every kind, distributing them in four little heaps on the
floor, and saying excitedly under his breath, as he ran,
'Here's-a-sword-for-the-Rat, here's-a-sword-for-the Mole,
here's-a-sword-for-the-Toad, here's-a-sword-for-the-Badger!
Here's-a-pistol-for-the-Rat, here's-a-pistol-for-the-Mole,
here's-a-pistol-for-the-Toad, here's-a-pistol-for-the-Badger!'
And so on, in a regular, rhythmical way, while the four little heaps
gradually grew and grew.

'That's all very well, Rat,' said the Badger presently, looking at the
busy little animal over the edge of his newspaper; 'I'm not blaming
you.  But just let us once get past the stoats, with those detestable
guns of theirs, and I assure you we shan't want any swords or pistols.
We four, with our sticks, once we're inside the dining-hall, why, we
shall clear the floor of all the lot of them in five minutes.  I'd
have done the whole thing by myself, only I didn't want to deprive you
fellows of the fun!'

'It's as well to be on the safe side,' said the Rat reflectively,
polishing a pistol-barrel on his sleeve and looking along it.

The Toad, having finished his breakfast, picked up a stout stick and
swung it vigorously, belabouring imaginary animals.  'I'll learn 'em
to steal my house!' he cried.  'I'll learn 'em, I'll learn 'em!'

'Don't say "learn 'em," Toad,' said the Rat, greatly shocked. 'It's
not good English.'

'What are you always nagging at Toad for?' inquired the Badger, rather
peevishly.  'What's the matter with his English?  It's the same what I
use myself, and if it's good enough for me, it ought to be good enough
for you!'

'I'm very sorry,' said the Rat humbly.  'Only I THINK it ought to be
"teach 'em," not "learn 'em."'

'But we don't WANT to teach 'em,' replied the Badger.  'We want to
LEARN 'em--learn 'em, learn 'em!  And what's more, we're going to DO
it, too!'

'Oh, very well, have it your own way,' said the Rat.  He was getting
rather muddled about it himself, and presently he retired into a
corner, where he could be heard muttering, 'Learn 'em, teach 'em,
teach 'em, learn 'em!' till the Badger told him rather sharply to
leave off.

Presently the Mole came tumbling into the room, evidently very pleased
with himself.  'I've been having such fun!' he began at once; 'I've
been getting a rise out of the stoats!'

'I hope you've been very careful, Mole?' said the Rat anxiously.

'I should hope so, too,' said the Mole confidently.  'I got the idea
when I went into the kitchen, to see about Toad's breakfast being kept
hot for him.  I found that old washerwoman-dress that he came home in
yesterday, hanging on a towel-horse before the fire.  So I put it on,
and the bonnet as well, and the shawl, and off I went to Toad Hall, as
bold as you please.  The sentries were on the look-out, of course,
with their guns and their "Who comes there?" and all the rest of their
nonsense. "Good morning, gentlemen!" says I, very respectful.  "Want
any washing done to-day?"

'They looked at me very proud and stiff and haughty, and said, "Go
away, washerwoman!  We don't do any washing on duty."  "Or any other
time?" says I.  Ho, ho, ho!  Wasn't I FUNNY, Toad?'

'Poor, frivolous animal!' said Toad, very loftily.  The fact is, he
felt exceedingly jealous of Mole for what he had just done. It was
exactly what he would have liked to have done himself, if only he had
thought of it first, and hadn't gone and overslept himself.

'Some of the stoats turned quite pink,' continued the Mole, 'and the
Sergeant in charge, he said to me, very short, he said, "Now run away,
my good woman, run away!  Don't keep my men idling and talking on
their posts."  "Run away?" says I; "it won't be me that'll be running
away, in a very short time from now!"'

'O MOLY, how could you?' said the Rat, dismayed.

The Badger laid down his paper.

'I could see them pricking up their ears and looking at each other,'
went on the Mole; 'and the Sergeant said to them, "Never mind HER; she
doesn't know what she's talking about."'

'"O! don't I?"' said I.  '"Well, let me tell you this.  My daughter,
she washes for Mr. Badger, and that'll show you whether I know what
I'm talking about; and YOU'LL know pretty soon, too!  A hundred
bloodthirsty badgers, armed with rifles, are going to attack Toad Hall
this very night, by way of the paddock. Six boatloads of Rats, with
pistols and cutlasses, will come up the river and effect a landing in
the garden; while a picked body of Toads, known at the Die-hards, or
the Death-or-Glory Toads, will storm the orchard and carry everything
before them, yelling for vengeance.  There won't be much left of you
to wash, by the time they've done with you, unless you clear out while
you have the chance!"  Then I ran away, and when I was out of sight I
hid; and presently I came creeping back along the ditch and took a
peep at them through the hedge.  They were all as nervous and
flustered as could be, running all ways at once, and falling over each
other, and every one giving orders to everybody else and not
listening; and the Sergeant kept sending off parties of stoats to
distant parts of the grounds, and then sending other fellows to fetch
'em back again; and I heard them saying to each other, "That's just
like the weasels; they're to stop comfortably in the banqueting-hall,
and have feasting and toasts and songs and all sorts of fun, while we
must stay on guard in the cold and the dark, and in the end be cut to
pieces by bloodthirsty Badgers!'"

'Oh, you silly ass, Mole!' cried Toad, 'You've been and spoilt
everything!'

'Mole,' said the Badger, in his dry, quiet way, 'I perceive you have
more sense in your little finger than some other animals have in the
whole of their fat bodies.  You have managed excellently, and I begin
to have great hopes of you.  Good Mole! Clever Mole!'

The Toad was simply wild with jealousy, more especially as he couldn't
make out for the life of him what the Mole had done that was so
particularly clever; but, fortunately for him, before he could show
temper or expose himself to the Badger's sarcasm, the bell rang for
luncheon.

It was a simple but sustaining meal--bacon and broad beans, and a
macaroni pudding; and when they had quite done, the Badger settled
himself into an arm-chair, and said, 'Well, we've got our work cut out
for us to-night, and it will probably be pretty late before we're
quite through with it; so I'm just going to take forty winks, while I
can.'  And he drew a handkerchief over his face and was soon snoring.

The anxious and laborious Rat at once resumed his preparations, and
started running between his four little heaps, muttering,
'Here's-a-belt-for-the-Rat, here's-a-belt-for-the Mole,
here's-a-belt-for-the-Toad, here's-a-belt-for-the-Badger!'
and so on, with every fresh accoutrement he produced, to which there
seemed really no end; so the Mole drew his arm through Toad's, led him
out into the open air, shoved him into a wicker chair, and made him
tell him all his adventures from beginning to end, which Toad was only
too willing to do.  The Mole was a good listener, and Toad, with no
one to check his statements or to criticise in an unfriendly spirit,
rather let himself go.  Indeed, much that he related belonged more
properly to the category of what-might-have-happened-had-I-only-
thought-of-it-in-time-instead-of-ten-minutes-afterwards.  Those are
always the best and the raciest adventures; and why should they not be
truly ours, as much as the somewhat inadequate things that really come
off?



XII

THE RETURN OF ULYSSES

When it began to grow dark, the Rat, with an air of excitement and
mystery, summoned them back into the parlour, stood each of them up
alongside of his little heap, and proceeded to dress them up for the
coming expedition.  He was very earnest and thoroughgoing about it,
and the affair took quite a long time. First, there was a belt to go
round each animal, and then a sword to be stuck into each belt, and
then a cutlass on the other side to balance it.  Then a pair of
pistols, a policeman's truncheon, several sets of handcuffs, some
bandages and sticking-plaster, and a flask and a sandwich-case.  The
Badger laughed good-humouredly and said, 'All right, Ratty!  It amuses
you and it doesn't hurt me.  I'm going to do all I've got to do with
this here stick.'  But the Rat only said, 'PLEASE, Badger. You know I
shouldn't like you to blame me afterwards and say I had forgotten
ANYTHING!'

When all was quite ready, the Badger took a dark lantern in one paw,
grasped his great stick with the other, and said, 'Now then, follow
me!  Mole first, 'cos I'm very pleased with him; Rat next; Toad last.
And look here, Toady!  Don't you chatter so much as usual, or you'll
be sent back, as sure as fate!'

The Toad was so anxious not to be left out that he took up the
inferior position assigned to him without a murmur, and the animals
set off.  The Badger led them along by the river for a little way, and
then suddenly swung himself over the edge into a hole in the
river-bank, a little above the water.  The Mole and the Rat followed
silently, swinging themselves successfully into the hole as they had
seen the Badger do; but when it came to Toad's turn, of course he
managed to slip and fall into the water with a loud splash and a
squeal of alarm.  He was hauled out by his friends, rubbed down and
wrung out hastily, comforted, and set on his legs; but the Badger was
seriously angry, and told him that the very next time he made a fool
of himself he would most certainly be left behind.

So at last they were in the secret passage, and the cutting-out
expedition had really begun!

It was cold, and dark, and damp, and low, and narrow, and poor Toad
began to shiver, partly from dread of what might be before him, partly
because he was wet through.  The lantern was far ahead, and he could
not help lagging behind a little in the darkness.  Then he heard the
Rat call out warningly, 'COME on, Toad!' and a terror seized him of
being left behind, alone in the darkness, and he 'came on' with such a
rush that he upset the Rat into the Mole and the Mole into the Badger,
and for a moment all was confusion.  The Badger thought they were
being attacked from behind, and, as there was no room to use a stick
or a cutlass, drew a pistol, and was on the point of putting a bullet
into Toad.  When he found out what had really happened he was very
angry indeed, and said, 'Now this time that tiresome Toad SHALL be
left behind!'

But Toad whimpered, and the other two promised that they would be
answerable for his good conduct, and at last the Badger was pacified,
and the procession moved on; only this time the Rat brought up the
rear, with a firm grip on the shoulder of Toad.

So they groped and shuffled along, with their ears pricked up and
their paws on their pistols, till at last the Badger said, 'We ought
by now to be pretty nearly under the Hall.'

Then suddenly they heard, far away as it might be, and yet apparently
nearly over their heads, a confused murmur of sound, as if people were
shouting and cheering and stamping on the floor and hammering on
tables.  The Toad's nervous terrors all returned, but the Badger only
remarked placidly, 'They ARE going it, the Weasels!'

The passage now began to slope upwards; they groped onward a little
further, and then the noise broke out again, quite distinct this time,
and very close above them.  'Ooo-ray-ooray-oo-ray-ooray!' they heard,
and the stamping of little feet on the floor, and the clinking of
glasses as little fists pounded on the table.  'WHAT a time they're
having!' said the Badger.  'Come on!'  They hurried along the passage
till it came to a full stop, and they found themselves standing under
the trap-door that led up into the butler's pantry.

Such a tremendous noise was going on in the banqueting-hall that there
was little danger of their being overheard.  The Badger said, 'Now,
boys, all together!' and the four of them put their shoulders to the
trap-door and heaved it back.  Hoisting each other up, they found
themselves standing in the pantry, with only a door between them and
the banqueting-hall, where their unconscious enemies were carousing.

The noise, as they emerged from the passage, was simply deafening.  At
last, as the cheering and hammering slowly subsided, a voice could be
made out saying, 'Well, I do not propose to detain you much longer'--
(great applause)--'but before I resume my seat'--(renewed cheering)--
'I should like to say one word about our kind host, Mr. Toad.  We all
know Toad!'--(great laughter)--'GOOD Toad, MODEST Toad, HONEST Toad!'
(shrieks of merriment).

'Only just let me get at him!' muttered Toad, grinding his teeth.

'Hold hard a minute!' said the Badger, restraining him with
difficulty.  'Get ready, all of you!'

'--Let me sing you a little song,' went on the voice, 'which I have
composed on the subject of Toad'--(prolonged applause).

Then the Chief Weasel--for it was he--began in a high, squeaky voice--

'Toad he went a-pleasuring Gaily down the street--'


The Badger drew himself up, took a firm grip of his stick with both
paws, glanced round at his comrades, and cried--

'The hour is come!  Follow me!'

And flung the door open wide.

My!

What a squealing and a squeaking and a screeching filled the air!

Well might the terrified weasels dive under the tables and spring
madly up at the windows!  Well might the ferrets rush wildly for the
fireplace and get hopelessly jammed in the chimney!  Well might tables
and chairs be upset, and glass and china be sent crashing on the
floor, in the panic of that terrible moment when the four Heroes
strode wrathfully into the room!  The mighty Badger, his whiskers
bristling, his great cudgel whistling through the air; Mole, black and
grim, brandishing his stick and shouting his awful war-cry, 'A Mole!
A Mole!'  Rat; desperate and determined, his belt bulging with weapons
of every age and every variety; Toad, frenzied with excitement and
injured pride, swollen to twice his ordinary size, leaping into the
air and emitting Toad-whoops that chilled them to the marrow!  'Toad
he went a-pleasuring!' he yelled.  'I'LL pleasure 'em!' and he went
straight for the Chief Weasel.  They were but four in all, but to the
panic-stricken weasels the hall seemed full of monstrous animals,
grey, black, brown and yellow, whooping and flourishing enormous
cudgels; and they broke and fled with squeals of terror and dismay,
this way and that, through the windows, up the chimney, anywhere to
get out of reach of those terrible sticks.

The affair was soon over.  Up and down, the whole length of the hall,
strode the four Friends, whacking with their sticks at every head that
showed itself; and in five minutes the room was cleared.  Through the
broken windows the shrieks of terrified weasels escaping across the
lawn were borne faintly to their ears; on the floor lay prostrate some
dozen or so of the enemy, on whom the Mole was busily engaged in
fitting handcuffs.  The Badger, resting from his labours, leant on his
stick and wiped his honest brow.

'Mole,' he said,' 'you're the best of fellows!  Just cut along outside
and look after those stoat-sentries of yours, and see what they're
doing.  I've an idea that, thanks to you, we shan't have much trouble
from them to-night!'

The Mole vanished promptly through a window; and the Badger bade the
other two set a table on its legs again, pick up knives and forks and
plates and glasses from the debris on the floor, and see if they could
find materials for a supper.  'I want some grub, I do,' he said, in
that rather common way he had of speaking.  'Stir your stumps, Toad,
and look lively!  We've got your house back for you, and you don't
offer us so much as a sandwich.'  Toad felt rather hurt that the
Badger didn't say pleasant things to him, as he had to the Mole, and
tell him what a fine fellow he was, and how splendidly he had fought;
for he was rather particularly pleased with himself and the way he had
gone for the Chief Weasel and sent him flying across the table with
one blow of his stick.  But he bustled about, and so did the Rat, and
soon they found some guava jelly in a glass dish, and a cold chicken,
a tongue that had hardly been touched, some trifle, and quite a lot of
lobster salad; and in the pantry they came upon a basketful of French
rolls and any quantity of cheese, butter, and celery.  They were just
about to sit down when the Mole clambered in through the window,
chuckling, with an armful of rifles.

'It's all over,' he reported.  'From what I can make out, as soon as
the stoats, who were very nervous and jumpy already, heard the shrieks
and the yells and the uproar inside the hall, some of them threw down
their rifles and fled.  The others stood fast for a bit, but when the
weasels came rushing out upon them they thought they were betrayed;
and the stoats grappled with the weasels, and the weasels fought to
get away, and they wrestled and wriggled and punched each other, and
rolled over and over, till most of 'em rolled into the river!  They've
all disappeared by now, one way or another; and I've got their rifles.
So that's all right!'

'Excellent and deserving animal!' said the Badger, his mouth full of
chicken and trifle.  'Now, there's just one more thing I want you to
do, Mole, before you sit down to your supper along of us; and I
wouldn't trouble you only I know I can trust you to see a thing done,
and I wish I could say the same of every one I know. I'd send Rat, if
he wasn't a poet.  I want you to take those fellows on the floor there
upstairs with you, and have some bedrooms cleaned out and tidied up
and made really comfortable. See that they sweep UNDER the beds, and
put clean sheets and pillow-cases on, and turn down one corner of the
bed-clothes, just as you know it ought to be done; and have a can of
hot water, and clean towels, and fresh cakes of soap, put in each
room.  And then you can give them a licking a-piece, if it's any
satisfaction to you, and put them out by the back-door, and we shan't
see any more of THEM, I fancy.  And then come along and have some of
this cold tongue.  It's first rate.  I'm very pleased with you, Mole!'

The goodnatured Mole picked up a stick, formed his prisoners up in a
line on the floor, gave them the order 'Quick march!' and led his
squad off to the upper floor.  After a time, he appeared again,
smiling, and said that every room was ready, and as clean as a new
pin.  'And I didn't have to lick them, either,' he added.  'I thought,
on the whole, they had had licking enough for one night, and the
weasels, when I put the point to them, quite agreed with me, and said
they wouldn't think of troubling me.  They were very penitent, and
said they were extremely sorry for what they had done, but it was all
the fault of the Chief Weasel and the stoats, and if ever they could
do anything for us at any time to make up, we had only got to mention
it.  So I gave them a roll a-piece, and let them out at the back, and
off they ran, as hard as they could!'

Then the Mole pulled his chair up to the table, and pitched into the
cold tongue; and Toad, like the gentleman he was, put all his jealousy
from him, and said heartily, 'Thank you kindly, dear Mole, for all
your pains and trouble tonight, and especially for your cleverness
this morning!'  The Badger was pleased at that, and said, 'There spoke
my brave Toad!'  So they finished their supper in great joy and
contentment, and presently retired to rest between clean sheets, safe
in Toad's ancestral home, won back by matchless valour, consummate
strategy, and a proper handling of sticks.

The following morning, Toad, who had overslept himself as usual, came
down to breakfast disgracefully late, and found on the table a certain
quantity of egg-shells, some fragments of cold and leathery toast, a
coffee-pot three-fourths empty, and really very little else; which did
not tend to improve his temper, considering that, after all, it was
his own house.  Through the French windows of the breakfast-room he
could see the Mole and the Water Rat sitting in wicker-chairs out on
the lawn, evidently telling each other stories; roaring with laughter
and kicking their short legs up in the air.  The Badger, who was in an
arm-chair and deep in the morning paper, merely looked up and nodded
when Toad entered the room.  But Toad knew his man, so he sat down and
made the best breakfast he could, merely observing to himself that he
would get square with the others sooner or later. When he had nearly
finished, the Badger looked up and remarked rather shortly:  'I'm
sorry, Toad, but I'm afraid there's a heavy morning's work in front of
you.  You see, we really ought to have a Banquet at once, to celebrate
this affair.  It's expected of you--in fact, it's the rule.'

'O, all right!' said the Toad, readily.  'Anything to oblige. Though
why on earth you should want to have a Banquet in the morning I cannot
understand.  But you know I do not live to please myself, but merely
to find out what my friends want, and then try and arrange it for 'em,
you dear old Badger!'

'Don't pretend to be stupider than you really are,' replied the
Badger, crossly; 'and don't chuckle and splutter in your coffee while
you're talking; it's not manners.  What I mean is, the Banquet will be
at night, of course, but the invitations will have to be written and
got off at once, and you've got to write 'em.  Now, sit down at that
table--there's stacks of letter-paper on it, with "Toad Hall" at the
top in blue and gold--and write invitations to all our friends, and if
you stick to it we shall get them out before luncheon.  And I'LL bear
a hand, too; and take my share of the burden.  I'LL order the
Banquet.'

'What!' cried Toad, dismayed.  'Me stop indoors and write a lot of
rotten letters on a jolly morning like this, when I want to go around
my property, and set everything and everybody to rights, and swagger
about and enjoy myself!  Certainly not!  I'll be--I'll see you----Stop
a minute, though!  Why, of course, dear Badger!  What is my pleasure
or convenience compared with that of others!  You wish it done, and it
shall be done.  Go, Badger, order the Banquet, order what you like;
then join our young friends outside in their innocent mirth, oblivious
of me and my cares and toils.  I sacrifice this fair morning on the
altar of duty and friendship!'

The Badger looked at him very suspiciously, but Toad's frank, open
countenance made it difficult to suggest any unworthy motive in this
change of attitude.  He quitted the room, accordingly, in the
direction of the kitchen, and as soon as the door had closed behind
him, Toad hurried to the writing-table.  A fine idea had occurred to
him while he was talking.  He WOULD write the invitations; and he
would take care to mention the leading part he had taken in the fight,
and how he had laid the Chief Weasel flat; and he would hint at his
adventures, and what a career of triumph he had to tell about; and on
the fly-leaf he would set out a sort of a programme of entertainment
for the evening--something like this, as he sketched it out in his
head:--

SPEECH .  .  .  . BY TOAD.

(There will be other speeches by TOAD during the evening.)

ADDRESS .  .  . BY TOAD

SYNOPSIS--Our Prison System--the Waterways of Old England--
Horse-dealing, and how to deal--Property, its rights and its duties--
Back to the Land--A Typical English Squire.

SONG .  .  .  .  BY TOAD. (Composed by himself.) OTHER COMPOSITIONS .
BY TOAD

will be sung in the course of the evening by the .  .  .  COMPOSER.


The idea pleased him mightily, and he worked very hard and got all the
letters finished by noon, at which hour it was reported to him that
there was a small and rather bedraggled weasel at the door, inquiring
timidly whether he could be of any service to the gentlemen.  Toad
swaggered out and found it was one of the prisoners of the previous
evening, very respectful and anxious to please.  He patted him on the
head, shoved the bundle of invitations into his paw, and told him to
cut along quick and deliver them as fast as he could, and if he liked
to come back again in the evening, perhaps there might be a shilling
for him, or, again, perhaps there mightn't; and the poor weasel seemed
really quite grateful, and hurried off eagerly to do his mission.

When the other animals came back to luncheon, very boisterous and
breezy after a morning on the river, the Mole, whose conscience had
been pricking him, looked doubtfully at Toad, expecting to find him
sulky or depressed.  Instead, he was so uppish and inflated that the
Mole began to suspect something; while the Rat and the Badger
exchanged significant glances.

As soon as the meal was over, Toad thrust his paws deep into his
trouser-pockets, remarked casually, 'Well, look after yourselves, you
fellows!  Ask for anything you want!' and was swaggering off in the
direction of the garden, where he wanted to think out an idea or two
for his coming speeches, when the Rat caught him by the arm.

Toad rather suspected what he was after, and did his best to get away;
but when the Badger took him firmly by the other arm he began to see
that the game was up.  The two animals conducted him between them into
the small smoking-room that opened out of the entrance-hall, shut the
door, and put him into a chair.  Then they both stood in front of him,
while Toad sat silent and regarded them with much suspicion and
ill-humour.

'Now, look here, Toad,' said the Rat.  'It's about this Banquet, and
very sorry I am to have to speak to you like this.  But we want you to
understand clearly, once and for all, that there are going to be no
speeches and no songs.  Try and grasp the fact that on this occasion
we're not arguing with you; we're just telling you.'

Toad saw that he was trapped.  They understood him, they saw through
him, they had got ahead of him.  His pleasant dream was shattered.

'Mayn't I sing them just one LITTLE song?' he pleaded piteously.

'No, not ONE little song,' replied the Rat firmly, though his heart
bled as he noticed the trembling lip of the poor disappointed Toad.
'It's no good, Toady; you know well that your songs are all conceit
and boasting and vanity; and your speeches are all self-praise and--
and--well, and gross exaggeration and--and----'

'And gas,' put in the Badger, in his common way.

'It's for your own good, Toady,' went on the Rat.  'You know you MUST
turn over a new leaf sooner or later, and now seems a splendid time to
begin; a sort of turning-point in your career. Please don't think that
saying all this doesn't hurt me more than it hurts you.'

Toad remained a long while plunged in thought.  At last he raised his
head, and the traces of strong emotion were visible on his features.
'You have conquered, my friends,' he said in broken accents.  'It was,
to be sure, but a small thing that I asked--merely leave to blossom
and expand for yet one more evening, to let myself go and hear the
tumultuous applause that always seems to me--somehow--to bring out my
best qualities.  However, you are right, I know, and I am wrong.
Hence forth I will be a very different Toad.  My friends, you shall
never have occasion to blush for me again.  But, O dear, O dear, this
is a hard world!'

And, pressing his handkerchief to his face, he left the room, with
faltering footsteps.

'Badger,' said the Rat, '_I_ feel like a brute; I wonder what YOU feel
like?'

'O, I know, I know,' said the Badger gloomily.  'But the thing had to
be done.  This good fellow has got to live here, and hold his own, and
be respected.  Would you have him a common laughing-stock, mocked and
jeered at by stoats and weasels?'

'Of course not,' said the Rat.  'And, talking of weasels, it's lucky
we came upon that little weasel, just as he was setting out with
Toad's invitations.  I suspected something from what you told me, and
had a look at one or two; they were simply disgraceful.  I confiscated
the lot, and the good Mole is now sitting in the blue boudoir, filling
up plain, simple invitation cards.'

*   *   *   *   *

At last the hour for the banquet began to draw near, and Toad, who on
leaving the others had retired to his bedroom, was still sitting
there, melancholy and thoughtful.  His brow resting on his paw, he
pondered long and deeply.  Gradually his countenance cleared, and he
began to smile long, slow smiles. Then he took to giggling in a shy,
self-conscious manner.  At last he got up, locked the door, drew the
curtains across the windows, collected all the chairs in the room and
arranged them in a semicircle, and took up his position in front of
them, swelling visibly.  Then he bowed, coughed twice, and, letting
himself go, with uplifted voice he sang, to the enraptured audience
that his imagination so clearly saw.


TOAD'S LAST LITTLE SONG!

The Toad--came--home! 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, As the--Hero--comes!

Shout--Hoo-ray! And let each one of the crowd try and shout it very
loud, In honour of an animal of whom you're justly proud, For it's
Toad's--great--day!


He sang this very loud, with great unction and expression; and when he
had done, he sang it all over again.

Then he heaved a deep sigh; a long, long, long sigh.

Then he dipped his hairbrush in the water-jug, parted his hair in the
middle, and plastered it down very straight and sleek on each side of
his face; and, unlocking the door, went quietly down the stairs to
greet his guests, who he knew must be assembling in the drawing-room.

All the animals cheered when he entered, and crowded round to
congratulate him and say nice things about his courage, and his
cleverness, and his fighting qualities; but Toad only smiled faintly,
and murmured, 'Not at all!'  Or, sometimes, for a change, 'On the
contrary!'  Otter, who was standing on the hearthrug, describing to an
admiring circle of friends exactly how he would have managed things
had he been there, came forward with a shout, threw his arm round
Toad's neck, and tried to take him round the room in triumphal
progress; but Toad, in a mild way, was rather snubby to him, remarking
gently, as he disengaged himself, 'Badger's was the mastermind; the
Mole and the Water Rat bore the brunt of the fighting; I merely served
in the ranks and did little or nothing.'  The animals were evidently
puzzled and taken aback by this unexpected attitude of his; and Toad
felt, as he moved from one guest to the other, making his modest
responses, that he was an object of absorbing interest to every one.

The Badger had ordered everything of the best, and the banquet was a
great success.  There was much talking and laughter and chaff among
the animals, but through it all Toad, who of course was in the chair,
looked down his nose and murmured pleasant nothings to the animals on
either side of him.  At intervals he stole a glance at the Badger and
the Rat, and always when he looked they were staring at each other
with their mouths open; and this gave him the greatest satisfaction.
Some of the younger and livelier animals, as the evening wore on, got
whispering to each other that things were not so amusing as they used
to be in the good old days; and there were some knockings on the table
and cries of 'Toad!  Speech!  Speech from Toad!  Song!  Mr. Toad's
song!'  But Toad only shook his head gently, raised one paw in mild
protest, and, by pressing delicacies on his guests, by topical
small-talk, and by earnest inquiries after members of their families
not yet old enough to appear at social functions, managed to convey to
them that this dinner was being run on strictly conventional lines.

He was indeed an altered Toad!

*   *   *   *   *

After this climax, the four animals continued to lead their lives, so
rudely broken in upon by civil war, in great joy and contentment,
undisturbed by further risings or invasions.  Toad, after due
consultation with his friends, selected a handsome gold chain and
locket set with pearls, which he dispatched to the gaoler's daughter
with a letter that even the Badger admitted to be modest, grateful,
and appreciative; and the engine-driver, in his turn, was properly
thanked and compensated for all his pains and trouble.  Under severe
compulsion from the Badger, even the barge-woman was, with some
trouble, sought out and the value of her horse discreetly made good to
her; though Toad kicked terribly at this, holding himself to be an
instrument of Fate, sent to punish fat women with mottled arms who
couldn't tell a real gentleman when they saw one.  The amount
involved, it was true, was not very burdensome, the gipsy's valuation
being admitted by local assessors to be approximately correct.

Sometimes, in the course of long summer evenings, the friends would
take a stroll together in the Wild Wood, now successfully tamed so far
as they were concerned; and it was pleasing to see how respectfully
they were greeted by the inhabitants, and how the mother-weasels would
bring their young ones to the mouths of their holes, and say,
pointing, 'Look, baby!  There goes the great Mr. Toad!  And that's the
gallant Water Rat, a terrible fighter, walking along o' him!  And
yonder comes the famous Mr. Mole, of whom you so often have heard your
father tell!'  But when their infants were fractious and quite beyond
control, they would quiet them by telling how, if they didn't hush
them and not fret them, the terrible grey Badger would up and get
them.  This was a base libel on Badger, who, though he cared little
about Society, was rather fond of children; but it never failed to
have its full effect.




End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Wind in the Willows



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