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

Peter Has Another Great Laugh

I T was just sun-up as Reddy Fox started down the Lone Little Path to the Green Meadows. Reddy was late. He should be over at the Old Briar-patch by this time. He was afraid now that Peter Rabbit would not be there. When he came in sight of the Old Briar-patch, there sat Peter on the edge of it.

"Good morning, Peter Rabbit," said Reddy Fox, in his politest manner. "I am sorry to have kept you waiting; it is all because I had a terrible fright last night."

"Is that so? What was it?" asked Peter, ducking down behind a big bramble bush to hide his smile.

"Why, I went over to Farmer Brown's garden to see if that new planting of young cabbage was all right, and there I met a terrible monster. It frightened me so that I did not dare to come out this morning until jolly, round Mr. Sun had begun to climb up in the sky, and so I am a little late. Are you ready, Peter Rabbit, to go up to the new planting of young cabbage with me?" asked Reddy, in his pleasantest manner.

Now, what do you think Peter Rabbit did? Why, Peter just began to laugh. He laughed and laughed and shouted! He lay down on his back and kicked his heels for very joy! But all the time he took care to keep behind a big, friendly bramble bush.

Reddy Fox stared at Peter Rabbit. He just didn't know what to make of it. He began to think that Peter had gone crazy. He couldn't see a thing to laugh at, yet here was Peter laughing fit to kill himself. Finally Peter stopped and sat up.

"Did—did—the monster catch you, Reddy Fox?" he asked, wiping his eyes.

"No," replied Reddy, "it didn't catch me, because I could run faster than it could, but it chased me all the way home."

"In that case, I think I'll not go up to the cabbage bed this morning, for you know I cannot run as fast as you can, Reddy, and the monster might catch me," replied Peter, very gravely. "Besides," he added, "I have had my fill of tender young cabbage, and it was very nice indeed."

"What!" shouted Reddy Fox.

"Yes," continued Peter Rabbit, "I just couldn't wait till morning, so I went up there early last night. I'm much obliged to you for telling me of it, Reddy Fox; I am indeed."

For just a little minute an ugly look crept into Reddy's face, for now he knew that once more Peter Rabbit had fooled him. But he kept his temper and managed to smile, as he said:

"Oh, don't mention it, Peter Rabbit, don't mention it. But tell me, didn't you meet the monster?"

"No," replied Peter Rabbit. And then, do what he would, he couldn't keep sober another minute, but began to laugh just as he had before.

"What's the joke, Peter Rabbit? Tell me so that I can laugh too," begged Reddy Fox.

"Why," said Peter Rabbit when he could get his breath, "the joke is that the monster that frightened you so was the old straw hat of Farmer Brown's boy, and I was underneath it. Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho!"

Then Reddy Fox knew just how badly Peter Rabbit had fooled him. With a snarl he sprang right over the bramble bush at Peter Rabbit, but Peter was watching and darted away along one of his own special little paths through the Old Briar-patch. Reddy tried to follow, but the brambles tore his clothes and scratched his face and stuck in his feet. Finally he had to give up. Torn and bleeding and angry, he turned back home, and as he left the Old Briar-patch, he could still hear Peter Rabbit laughing.

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