R EDDY FOX, curled up behind the big pine stump, was dreaming of a coop full of chickens, where there was no Bowser the Hound to watch over them. Suddenly something landed on him with a thump that knocked all his breath out. For an instant it frightened Reddy so that he just shook and shook. Then he got his senses together and discovered that it was Jimmy Skunk who had jumped on him.
Jimmy was very polite. He begged Reddy's pardon. He protested that it was all a mistake. He explained how Peter Rabbit had played a trick on both of them, and how he himself was just looking for beetles for breakfast.
Now, Reddy Fox is very quick tempered, and as soon as he realized that he had been made the victim of a joke, he lost his temper completely. He glared at Jimmy Skunk. He was so angry that he stuttered.
"No such thing!" declared Jimmy Skunk. "I tell you it was a joke on the part of Peter Rabbit, and if you don't believe me, just look down there on the Green Meadows."
Reddy Fox looked. There sat Peter, his hands on his hips, his long ears pointed straight up to the blue sky, and his mouth wide open, as he laughed at the results of his joke.
Reddy shook his fist.
"Ha, ha, ha," shouted Peter Rabbit.
Reddy Fox looked hard at Jimmy Skunk, but like all the other little meadow and forest people, he has a very great respect for Jimmy Skunk, and though he would have liked to quarrel with Jimmy, he thought it wisest not to. Instead, he started after Peter Rabbit as fast as his legs could go.
Now, Reddy Fox can run very fast, and when Peter saw him coming, Peter knew that he would have to use his own long legs to the very best of his ability. Away they went across the green meadows. Jimmy Skunk, sitting on top of the hill, could see the white patch on the seat of Peter Rabbit's trousers bobbing this way and that way, and right behind him was Reddy Fox. Now, Peter Rabbit could run fast enough to keep away from Reddy for a while. You remember that Peter's eyes are so placed that he can see behind him without turning his head. So he knew when Reddy was getting too near.
In and out among the bushes along the edge of the Green Meadows they dodged, and the more he had to run, the angrier Reddy Fox grew. He paid no attention to where they were going; his whole thought was of catching Peter Rabbit.
Now, when Peter began to grow tired he began to work over towards Farmer Brown's corn field, where he knew that Farmer Brown's boy was hiding, with Bowser the Hound. Dodging this way and that way, Peter worked over to the fence corner, where Jimmy Skunk had watched Blacky the Crow get caught in a snare. He let Reddy almost catch him, then he dodged out into the open corn field, and Reddy, of course, followed him.
Reddy did not need to turn to know what had happened. Bowser the Hound had seen him and was after him. Peter just ducked behind a big bunch of grass and sat down to get his breath, while Reddy started off as hard as he could go, with Bowser the Hound behind him.