"Hop along, skip along,
The sun is shining bright;
Hum a song, sing a song,
My heart is always light."
I T is true, Peter Rabbit always is light-hearted. For days and days Reddy Fox had been trying to catch Peter, and Peter had had to keep his wits very sharp indeed in order to keep out of Reddy's way. Still, it didn't seem to worry Peter much. Just now he was hopping and skipping down the Lone Little Path without a care in the world.
Presently Peter found a nice, shady spot close by a big rock. Underneath one edge of the rock was a place just big enough for Peter to crawl in—it was just the place for a nap. Peter was beginning to feel sleepy, so he crawled in there and soon was fast asleep.
By and by Peter began to dream. He dreamed that he had gone for a long walk, way, way off from the safe Old Briar-patch, and that out from behind a big bush had sprung Reddy Fox. Just as Reddy's teeth were about to close on Peter, Peter woke up. It was such a relief to find that he was really snug and safe under the big rock that he almost shouted aloud. But he didn't, and a minute later he was, oh, so glad he hadn't, for he heard a voice that seemed as if it was right in his ear. It was the voice of Reddy Fox. Yes, Sir, it was the voice of Reddy Fox.
Peter hardly dared to breathe, and you may be sure that he did not make even the smallest sound, for Reddy Fox was sitting on the very rock under which Peter was resting. Reddy Fox was talking to Blacky the Crow. Peter listened with all his might, for what do you think Reddy Fox was saying? Why, he was telling Blacky the Crow of a new plan to catch Peter Rabbit and was asking Blacky to help him.
Peter had never been so frightened in his life, for here was Reddy Fox so close to him that Peter could have reached out and touched one of Reddy's legs, as he kicked his heels over the edge of the big rock. By and by Blacky the Crow spoke.
"I saw Peter Rabbit coming down this way early this morning," said Blacky, "and I don't think he has gone home. Why don't you go over and hide near the Old Briar-patch and catch Peter when he comes back? I will watch out, and if I see Peter, I will tell him that you have gone hunting your breakfast way over beyond the big hill. Then he will not be on the watch."
"The very thing," exclaimed Reddy Fox, "and if I catch him, I will surely do something for you, Blacky. I believe that I will go right away."
Then the two rascals planned, and chuckled as they thought how they would outwit Peter Rabbit.
"I'm getting hungry," said Reddy Fox, as he arose and stretched. "I wonder if there is a field mouse hiding under this old rock. I believe I'll look and see."
Peter's heart almost stood still as he heard Reddy Fox slide down off the big rock. He wriggled himself still further under the rock and held his breath. Just then Blacky the Crow gave a sharp "Caw, caw, caw!" That meant that Blacky saw something, and almost at once Peter heard a sound that sometimes filled his heart with fear but which now filled it with great joy. It was the voice of Bowser the Hound. Reddy Fox heard it, too, and he didn't stop to look under the big rock.
A little later Peter very cautiously crawled out of his resting place and climbed up where he could look over the Green Meadows. Way over on the far side he could see Reddy Fox running at the top of his speed, and behind him was Bowser the Hound.
"My! But that was a tight place," said Peter Rabbit, as he stretched himself.