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

Shadow the Weasel Gets Lost

A LL the Green Meadows had heard how Peter Rabbit had frightened Reddy Fox with an old straw hat, and everywhere that Reddy went some one was sure to shout after him:

"Reddy Fox is fine to see;

He's as brave as brave can be

'Til he meets an old straw hat,

Then he don't know where he's at!"

Then Reddy would lose his temper and chase his tormentors. Most of all, he wanted to catch Peter Rabbit. He lay in wait for Peter in fence corners and behind bushes and trees, but somehow Peter seemed always to know that Reddy was there.

In the Old Briar-patch Peter was safe. Reddy had tried to follow him there, but he had found that it was of no use at all. Peter's paths were so narrow, and the brambles tore Reddy's clothes and scratched him so, that he had to give it up.

Reddy was thinking of this one day as he sat on his door-step, scowling over at the Old Briar-patch, and then all of a sudden he thought of Shadow the Weasel. Shadow is so slim that he can go almost anywhere that any one else can, and he is so fierce that nearly all of the Little Meadow people are terribly afraid of him. Reddy smiled. It was a mean, wicked, crafty smile. Then he hopped up and hurried to find Shadow the Weasel and tell him his plan.

Shadow listened, and then he too began to smile. "It's easy, Reddy Fox, the easiest thing in the world! We'll get Peter Rabbit just as sure as fat hens are good eating," said he, as they started for the Old Briar-patch.

Reddy's plan was very simple. Shadow the Weasel was to follow Peter Rabbit along Peter's narrow little paths and drive Peter out of the Old Briar-patch on to the Green Meadows, where Reddy Fox could surely catch him.

So Reddy Fox sat down to wait while Shadow started into the Old Briar-patch. Peter Rabbit heard him coming and, of course, Peter began to run. Now, when Peter first made his home in the Old Briar-patch, he had foreseen that some day Shadow the Weasel might come to hunt him there, so Peter had made dozens and dozens of little paths, twisting and turning and crossing and recrossing in the most puzzling way. Of course, Peter himself knew every twist and turn of every one of them, but Shadow had not gone very far before he was all mixed up. He kept his sharp little nose to the ground to smell Peter's footsteps, but Peter kept crossing his own tracks so often that pretty soon Shadow could not tell which path Peter had last taken.

Peter led him farther and farther into the middle of the Old Briar-patch. Right there Shadow came to a great big puddle of water. Peter had jumped clear across it, for you know Peter's legs are long and meant for jumping.

Now, Shadow hates to get his feet wet, and when he reached the puddle, he stopped. He glared with fierce little red eyes across at Peter Rabbit, sitting on the other side. Then he started around the edge.

Peter waited until Shadow was almost around, and then he jumped back across the puddle. There was nothing for Shadow to do but go back around, which he did. Of course, Peter just did the same thing over again, all the time laughing in his sleeve, for Shadow the Weasel was growing angrier and angrier. Finally he grew so angry that he tried to jump the puddle himself, and in he fell with a great splash!

When Shadow crawled out, wet and muddy, Peter had disappeared, and Shadow couldn't tell which path he had taken. Worse still, he didn't know which path to take to get out himself. He tried one after another, but after a little while he would find himself back at the puddle in the middle of the Old Briar-patch. Shadow the Weasel was lost! Yes, Sir, Shadow the Weasel was lost in the Old Briar-patch.

Outside, Reddy Fox waited and watched, but no frightened Peter Rabbit came jumping out as he expected. What could it mean? After a long, long time he saw some one very muddy and very wet and very tired crawl out of one of Peter Rabbit's little paths. It was Shadow the Weasel.

Reddy took one good look at him and then he hurried away. He didn't want to hear what Shadow the Weasel would say. And as he hurried across the Green Meadows, he heard Peter Rabbit's voice from the middle of the Old Briar-patch.

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!" shouted Peter Rabbit.

Reddy Fox ground his teeth.

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