Gateway to the Classics: The Adventures of Peter Cottontail by Thornton W. Burgess
The Adventures of Peter Cottontail by  Thornton W. Burgess

Reddy Almost Gets Peter Rabbit

R EDDY FOX really was almost ill from the effects of the stings which old Mrs. Hornet and her family had given him when he knocked in the side of their house. For several days he limped around, his head badly swollen. Yes, Sir, Reddy Fox was in a dreadful bad way. The worst of it was that none of the other little meadow and forest people seemed to be the least bit sorry for him. Some of them actually laughed at him. Peter Rabbit did. Reddy Fox had made life very uncomfortable for Peter for a long time, and now Peter was actually enjoying Reddy's discomfort.

Now, while he was laid up this way, Reddy had plenty of time to think. He noticed that when he went out to walk, all those who kept at a safe distance when he was well now hardly got out of his way. They knew that he felt too sore and mean to try to catch them. Peter Rabbit hardly turned out of his path. A bright idea came to Reddy. He would continue to appear to feel badly, even after he was well. He would keep his head bound up and would limp down to the Smiling Pool for some mud every day. Then, when Peter Rabbit came near enough, Reddy would catch him.

So day after day Reddy limped down to the Smiling Pool. He kept his head tied up as if it was as bad as ever, and as he walked, he groaned as if in great pain. Even some of those who hated him most began to feel a little bit sorry for Reddy Fox. Peter has a very soft heart, and although he knew that Reddy Fox would like nothing better than to gobble him up, he began to feel sorry for Reddy.

One morning Peter sat just outside the Old Briar-patch, when Reddy came limping along. He looked more miserable than usual. Just as it had been for several days, one of Reddy's eyes was closed.

"It must be hard work to see with only one eye," said Peter Rabbit.

"It is," replied Reddy, with a great sigh. "It is very hard work, indeed."

"I don't see how you manage to get enough to eat," continued Peter, in his most sympathetic voice.

Reddy sighed again. "I don't, Peter Rabbit. I don't get enough to eat, and I'm nearly starved this very minute."

When he said this such a note of longing crept into his voice that Peter instantly grew suspicious. While he was sorry for Reddy, he had no desire to make Reddy feel better by furnishing himself for a meal. Peter hopped around to the blind side of Reddy and turned his back to him, as he inquired for the health of old Granny Fox.

Now, you know that Peter's eyes are so placed in his head that he can see behind him without turning his head. Reddy Fox did not know this, or if he did he had forgotten it. Very slowly and craftily the closed eye opened a wee bit, and in that line of yellow was a hungry look. Peter Rabbit saw it and with a great jump landed behind a friendly bramble bush in the Old Briar-patch.

"Ha! ha!" shouted Peter, "I'd rather talk with you, Reddy Fox, when you haven't got a closed eye with such a hungry look in it. Ta, ta!"

Reddy Fox just shook his fist at Peter Rabbit, and started off home, pulling the bandage from his head as he went.

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