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The Wind in The Willows
by Kenneth Grahame
The original, squashed down to read in about 35 minutes



(London, 1908)



Written by an official at the Bank of England, this is one of the most popular books of all time, having produced at least ninety different illustrated editions, more than a dozen plays and movies and inspired creators as far apart as AA Milne, Pink Floyd, Disney, Van Morrison and the heavy metal band Iron Maiden.
It is often thought of as a whimsical hymn to nature, yet its presentation of Pan the God is still seen as sufficiently anti-Christian to require censorship in some quarters, while others find in the story a set of undemocratic and highly paternalistic Edwardian values which need keeping well away from children.
Abridged: GH.



The Wind in The Willows


THE RIVER BANK



Illustration by Arthur Rackham


The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home, till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur. 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 that he suddenly flung down his brush, said 'Hang spring-cleaning!' and 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 till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

He thought his happiness was complete when suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before, and 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 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. As he gazed, something bright and small seemed to twinkle down in the heart of it, like a tiny star.

A brown little face, with whiskers. Small neat ears and thick silky hair.

It was the Water Rat!

'Hullo, Mole!' said the Water Rat. 'Would you like to come over?'

The Rat then lightly stepped into a little boat, sculled smartly across and made fast. Then he held up his forepaw as the Mole stepped gingerly down and found himself actually seated in the stern of a real boat.

'Do you know,' said Mole, as the Rat shoved off, 'I've never been in a boat before in all my life.'

'What?' cried the Rat, open-mouthed: 'Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING - absolute nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing - .' 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? I have coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater - -'

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstasies: This is so new to me. So-this-is-a-River!'

'THE River,' corrected the Rat. 'I live on it and in it. It's brother and sister to me, and food and drink, and (naturally) washing. It's my world, and I don't want any other.'

'What lies over THERE' asked the Mole, waving a paw towards a background of woodland.

'That? O, that's just the Wild Wood,' said the Rat shortly. 'We don't go there very much, we river-bankers. Weasels-and-stoats-and foxes-and so on. They're all right in a way - but - well, you can't really trust them, and that's the fact.'

'And beyond the Wild Wood again?' Mole 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.'

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 learned 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 night-fishings with Otter, excursions far a-field with the Badger. He heard about the grand and jovial Toad, he learnt to swim and to row, and entered into the joy of running water; and with his ear to the reed-stems he caught, at intervals, something of what the wind went whispering so constantly among them.

THE OPEN ROAD


The Rat was sitting on the river bank, singing a little song he had just composed;
'DUCKS' DITTY.'
All along the backwater,
Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling,
Up tails all!


'Won't you take me to call on Mr. Toad?' asked the Mole cautiously, 'I've heard so much about him.'

'Why, certainly,' said the good-natured Rat, abandoning poetry and jumping to his feet. 'Get the boat out, and we'll paddle up there at once. It's never the wrong time to call on Toad.'

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; 'Toad is rather rich, you know. No rowing-boats in the water any more, so I just wonder what new fad he has taken up?'

They disembarked, and found Toad in a wicker garden-chair, with a large map spread out on his knees.

'Hooray!' he cried, jumping up, 'You don't know how lucky it is, your turning up just now!'

'It's about your rowing, I suppose,' said the Rat, with an innocent air. 'With a great deal of coaching, you may - '

'O, pooh! boating!' interrupted the Toad, in great disgust. 'Silly boyish amusement. No, I've discovered the real thing. I can only regret the wasted years that lie behind me, squandered in trivialities. Come with me, dear Ratty, and your amiable friend, just as far as the stable-yard!'

He led the way, and there 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. The open road, the dusty highway, the heath! Here to-day, up and off to somewhere else to-morrow! You see- little sleeping bunks-a little table that folded up against the wall, lockers, bookshelves; 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?"'

But to the loyal Mole, the Life Adventurous was so new a thing, and the Rat hated disappointing people. So, the old grey horse was caught and harnessed, and they set off.

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 and good-natured wayfarers gave them 'Good-day'.

They were strolling along the high-road easily, the Mole by the horse's head, when they saw a small cloud of dust advancing on them at incredible speed. In an instant 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 glittering plate-glass and rich morocco, and the magnificent motor-car then dwindled to a droning speck in the far distance.

The old grey horse simply abandoned himself to his natural emotions, he reared, plunged, 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! - I'll have the law on you!'

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. His face wore a placid satisfied expression, and at intervals he faintly murmured 'Poop-poop! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! All those wasted years that lie behind me! '

They left the horse at an inn stable, gave what directions they could about the cart, took a slow train back to a station near Toad Hall, put the still-dazed Toad in the care of his housekeeper, 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, came strolling along to find him. 'Heard the news?' he said. 'There's nothing else being talked about, all along the river bank. Toad went up to Town by an early train this morning. And he has ordered a large and very expensive motor-car.'

THE WILD WOOD


The Mole had long wanted to make the acquaintance of the Badger, who seemed, by all accounts, to be an important personage, though rarely visible. 'Couldn't you ask him here to dinner or something?' he asked.

'He wouldn't come,' replied the Rat, 'and calling on him is out of the question, because he lives in the very middle of the Wild Wood.'

But the Badger never came along, and, so, when winter arrived and the Rat took to spending much of his time asleep, the Mole formed the resolution to go by himself.

It was a cold still afternoon with a hard steely sky overhead, when he slipped out of the warm parlour into the open air, and with great cheerfulness of spirit he pushed towards the Wild Wood. There was nothing to alarm him at first entry. Twigs crackled under his feet, logs tripped him, funguses on stumps resembled caricatures; but that was all fun, and exciting.

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

Then the pattering began. He thought it was only falling leaves at first, so slight and delicate was the sound of it. Then it increased till it sounded like sudden hail on the dry leaf-carpet spread around him.

Meantime the Rat, warm and comfortable by his fireside, woke with a start, and looked round for the Mole to ask him if he knew a good rhyme for something or other. Receiving no answer, he got up and went out into the hall. The Mole's cap was missing from its accustomed peg. His galoshes, which always lay by the umbrella-stand, were also gone.

The Rat looked very grave, he re-entered the house, strapped a belt round his waist, shoved a brace of pistols into it, and set off for the Wild Wood.

It was already getting towards dusk when he heard, from a hole in an old beech tree, a feeble voice, saying 'Ratty! Is that you?'

Mole was greatly cheered by the sound of the Rat's careless laughter, as well as the sight of his pistols. The Rat climbed in, and the two friends pulled the dry leaves over themselves to rest.

When they awoke, the moon was high and it was snowing hard.

'Snow's UP. Well, well, it can't be helped,' said the Rat. 'We must make a start, I suppose. The worst of it is, I don't exactly know where we are. This snow makes everything look so very different.'

They set off to investigate, when suddenly the Mole tripped up and fell forward with a squeal.

'O my shin!' he cried.

'It's a very clean cut,' said the Rat, examining it attentively. 'Looks as if it was made by a sharp edge of something metal. Funny!'

The Rat started scratching and shovelling busily, till he suddenly cried 'Hooray-oo-ray-oo-ray-oo-ray! A door-scraper!'

'What!' cried The Mole, 'Well, when I get home I shall go and complain about it to - to somebody or other, see if I don't!'

'O, dear!' cried the Rat, in despair. 'You-you thick-headed beast. Not another word!'

The Rat attacked a snow-bank beside them with ardour, probing and digging with fury. Ten minutes hard work revealed the companions of a door-scraper - a door-mat, and a door.

Mole sprang up at the bell-pull, and from quite a long way off they could faintly hear a deep-toned bell respond.

MR. BADGER


The Badger, who wore a long dressing-gown, opened the door and patted both their heads. 'This is not the sort of night for small animals to be out,' he said paternally. 'But come along; come into the kitchen. There's a first-rate fire there, and supper and everything.'

The floor was well-worn red brick, and on the wide hearth burnt a fire of logs. In the middle of the room stood a long table, rows of spotless plates winked from the shelves of the dresser, and from the rafters hung hams, bundles of dried herbs, nets of onions, and baskets of eggs.

When their meal was finished, the Badger said heartily, 'Now then! tell us the news. How's old Toad going on?'

'Oh, from bad to worse,' said the Rat gravely. 'Another smash-up only last week, and a bad one.'

'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. 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. 'Of course you know I can't do anything NOW?'

His two friends assented. No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything even moderately active during the off-season of winter. All are sleepy-some actually asleep.

'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 bring him back to reason, by force if need be. We'll - you're asleep, Rat!'

And as the Rat slumbered, the Badger led his fellow underground-dweller around the many tunnels of his home. The Mole was staggered at its size, the length, the solid vaultings of the crammed store-chambers. 'How on earth, Badger,' he said at last, 'did you ever find time and strength to do all this?'

As a matter of fact,' said the Badger simply, 'I did none of it. Very long ago, on the spot where the Wild Wood waves now, before ever it had planted itself, there was a city - a city of people, you know. 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. And so it will ever be.'

MR. TOAD


It was a bright morning in the early part of summer when the hour came for Badger to appear to Rat and Mole, and for the confrontation with Toad to begin.

At Toad Hall, the chauffeur was dismissed and Toad denuded of his driving-clothes. At first, kind words were tried. Then stern ones, and, all sorts of words failing, the Toad, no longer the Terror of the Highway, was locked into his room and his three friends took turns to sit sentry at his door pending some believable promise that Toad would henceforth avoid motor-cars.

But, with the aid of some knotted sheets, the rather resourceful Toad made good his escape and soon found himself marching into 'The Red Lion,' and ordering the best luncheon that could be provided at so short a notice.

'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.'

He was about half-way through his meal when an only too familiar sound 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, and Toad slipped out quietly, paid his bill at the bar, and sauntered round quietly to the inn-yard. 'There cannot be any harm,' he said to himself, 'in my only just LOOKING at it!'

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

* * * * * *

The Clerk of the Bench of Magistrates 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. You had better make it a round twenty years and be on the safe side.'

'An excellent suggestion!' said the Chairman approvingly.

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.

The rusty key creaked in the lock, the great door clanged behind them; and Toad was a helpless prisoner in the remotest dungeon of the best-guarded keep of the stoutest castle in all the length and breadth of Merry England.

THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN


The Water Rat had returned from an evening with his friends, bringing grave news. 'Young Portly has been missing for some days now', he explained, 'Otter dotes on that son of his, and now he IS nervous. There are - well, traps and things - YOU know. '

So, they got the boat out, and followed the clear, narrow track that faintly reflected the sky; the night full of small noises, song and chatter and rustling. A bird piped suddenly, and was still; and a light breeze sprang up and set the reeds and bulrushes rustling. Rat sat up suddenly and listened with a passionate intentness. Mole 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. No! There it is again! O Mole! the beauty of it! Such music I never dreamed of! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be for us.'

Slowly the two animals moored their boat at the flowery margin of an island.

'This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance.

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. He knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near.



Trembling he 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, saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes, the bearded mouth and the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; 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.

'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, took the animals full in the eyes and dazzled them, and with its soft touch came the end of the vision, instant oblivion and the kindly demi-god's gift of forgetfulness, lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow, and overshadow mirth and pleasure.

Mole rubbed his eyes and stared at Rat, who was looking about him in a puzzled sort of way. 'Why, there he is, the little fellow!' And with a cry of delight he ran towards the slumbering Portly.

TOAD'S ADVENTURES


When Toad found himself immured in a dank and noisome dungeon, he 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!

Now, it so happened that the gaoler's daughter was extraordinarily fond of animals. Over the weeks, somewhat under the influence of the Toad's natural charm, she came to see that his crimes were trivial and his incarceration clearly unjust. A certain financial arrangement was made, with the result that Toad simply walked out of the prison gates, in the dress and the guise of a washerwoman.

Dizzy with the easy success of his daring exploit, he made his way to the nearby railway station, and found to his horror, that he had left both his 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.

Fortune, however, smiled again on the Toad, as the engine-driver took pity on, what appeared to him, to be a sobbing washerwoman, and provided a free ride to the point where Toad could jump from the train into an unknown wood.

Free! The road, when he reached it, 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. Help arrived first in the shape of a bargewoman and then of a gypsy, so that the afternoon found Toad tramping along gaily, thinking of his adventures and escapes, and how when things seemed at their worst he had always managed to find a way out. 'Ho, ho!' he said to himself as he marched along with his chin in the air...'
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!

After some miles of country lanes he reached the high road, and saw approaching him a speck that turned into a dot and then a double note of warning, only too well known, fell on his delighted ear. He stepped confidently out into the road to hail the motor-car, when suddenly he became very pale; for the approaching car was the very one he had stolen out of the yard of the Red Lion Hotel.

He sank down in a shabby, miserable heap in the road, as the terrible motor-car stopped 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! A washerwoman who has fainted in the road! They tenderly lifted Toad into the motor-car and propped him up with soft cushions, and proceeded on their way.

When Toad knew that he was not recognised, his courage began to revive.

'Thank you kindly, Sirs,' said Toad in a feeble voice. '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 gentleman said, to Toad's delight, 'Bravo, ma'am! I like your spirit. Let her have a try.'

But, once in the driver's seat, Toad, the motor-car snatcher, the prison-breaker soon revealed himself, shortly followed by the car crashing through the low hedge that ran along the roadside. One mighty bound, a violent shock, and the wheels 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.

He picked himself up, and was about to burst into song again when he observed, about two fields off, a chauffeur in his leather gaiters and two large rural policemen running towards him as hard as they could go!

Poor Toad struggled on blindly and wildly, when suddenly the earth failed under his feet, he grasped at the air, and, splash! He found himself head over ears straight into the river!

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.

It was the Water Rat!

'LIKE SUMMER TEMPESTS CAME HIS TEARS'


The Rat gripped Toad firmly by the scruff of the neck, and pulled him onto the bank.

'Toad,' he said, 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, put on some of my clothes, and try and come down looking like a gentleman if you CAN!'

By the time he came down, luncheon was on the table, and very glad Toad was to see it. 'Oh Ratty', Toad said, 'I've been a conceited old ass; but now I'm going to be a good Toad. I'm done with motor-cars. I had a sudden brilliant idea - connected with motor-boats. We'll have our coffee, AND a smoke, and then I'm going to stroll quietly down to Toad Hall.'

'What are you talking about?' cried the Rat, greatly excited. 'Do you mean to say you haven't HEARD? About the Stoats and Weasels?'

Toad leaned his elbows on the table, and a large tear welled up in each of his eyes.

'While you were in that trouble of yours,' said the Rat, slowly and impressively, 'one dark night, a band of weasels crept up to the front entrance, a body of desperate ferrets possessed themselves of the backyard and offices, and the Wild Wooders have been living in Toad Hall ever since, eating your grub, and drinking your drink, making bad jokes about you, and telling everyone they're there to stay.'

There came a heavy knock at the door, the Rat opened it, and in walked Mr. Badger and the Mole.

'Hooray! Here's old Toad!' cried the Mole, his face beaming. 'You clever, ingenious, intelligent Toad!'

Toad puffed and swelled. 'Clever? O, no!' he said. '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!'

'Toad!' said the Badger, severely. 'You bad, troublesome little animal!' Then; 'Now I'm going to tell you a great secret. There-is-an-underground-passage that leads from the river-bank, right up into the middle of Toad Hall.'

'Aha! that squeaky board in the butler's pantry!' said Toad.

'We shall creep out quietly-' 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. We will make all the necessary arrangements in the course of the to-morrow.'

THE RETURN OF ULYSSES


When it began to grow dark, the Rat summoned them back into the parlour, provided each with a cutlass, a pair of pistols, some bandages, and a sandwich-case. 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!'

At last they were in the secret passage, and the cutting-out expedition had really begun!

Such a tremendous noise was going on in the banqueting-hall that there was little danger of their being overheard. 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.

'Hold hard a minute!' said the Badger. 'Get ready, all of you!'

'-Let me sing you a little song,' came the voice of the chief weasel, 'which I have composed' - (applause).

'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, and cried-

'The hour is come! Follow me!'

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!

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.

The following morning, Toad, who had overslept himself as usual, came down to breakfast disgracefully late, to be told by Badger that he was to arrange a banquet as some little thanks to the good animals all around who had helped him. A modest banquet, with no songs by and about Mr Toad and no speeches by Mr Toad either.

When the evening arrived, Toad was melancholy and thoughtful. Alone in his room, to a circle of chairs, he did allow one last little song...
The Toad-came-home!
There was panic in the parlours and howling in the halls,
There was crying in the cow-sheds and shrieking in the stalls,
When the Toad-came-home!

Then he heaved a deep sigh; a long, long, long sigh. He dipped his hairbrush in the water-jug, parted his hair in the middle, and went quietly down the stairs to greet his guests.

The Badger had ordered everything of the best, and the banquet was a great success. There were some knockings on the table and cries of 'Toad! Speech! Mr. Toad's song!' But Toad only shook his head gently, raised one paw in mild protest, and managed to convey to them that this dinner was being run on strictly conventional lines.

He was indeed an altered Toad!






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● Copyright © 2014 Glyn Hughes.
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● Contact: glyn@hughesandhughes.co
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