To risk your life unless there's need
Is downright foolishness indeed.
N EVER forget that. Never do such a crazy thing as Peter Rabbit was doing. What was he doing? Why, he was running the risk of being caught by Reddy Fox all for the sake of a joke. Did you ever hear of anything more foolish? Yet Peter was no different from a lot of people who every day risk their lives in the most careless and heedless ways just to save a few minutes of time or for some other equally foolish reason. The fact is, Peter didn't stop to think what dreadful thing might happen if his plans didn't work out as he intended. He didn't once think of little Mrs. Peter over in the dear Old Briar-patch and how she would feel if he never came home again. That's the trouble with thoughtlessness; it never remembers other people.
All the time that Reddy Fox was creeping along behind the old stone wall on the edge of the Old Orchard, Peter knew just where he was, though Reddy didn't know that. If he had known it, he would have suspected one of Peter's tricks.
"He'll peep over that wall, and just as soon as he sees me, he will feel sure that this time he will catch me," thought Peter. "He will steal along to that place where the wall is lowest and will jump over it right there. I must be ready to jump the very second he does."
It all happened just as Peter had expected. While seeming to be paying no attention to anything but to Sammy Jay, he kept his eyes on that low place in the old wall, and presently he saw Reddy's sharp nose, as Reddy peeped over to make sure that he was still there. The instant that sharp nose dropped out of sight, Peter made ready to run for his life. A second later, Reddy leaped over the wall, and Peter was off as hard as he could go, with Reddy almost at his heels. Sammy Jay, who had been so busy calling Peter names that he hadn't seen Reddy at all, forgot all about his quarrel with Peter.
"Go it, Peter! Go it!" he screamed excitedly. That was just like Sammy.
Peter did go it. He had to. He ran with all his might. Reddy grinned as he saw Peter start towards the Green Meadows. It was a long way to the dear Old Briar-patch, and Reddy didn't have any doubt at all that he would catch Peter before he got there. He watched sharply for Peter to dodge and try to get back to the old stone wall. He didn't mean to let Peter do that. But Peter didn't even try. He ran straight for the edge of the hill above the Green Meadows. Then, for the first time, Reddy noticed an old barrel there lying on its side.
"I wonder if he thinks he can hide in that," thought Reddy, and grinned again, for he remembered that he had passed that old barrel a few days before, and that one end was open while the other end was closed. "If he tries that, I will get him without the trouble of much of a chase," thought Reddy, and chuckled.
Lipperty-lipperty-lip ran Peter, lipperty-lipperty-lip, Reddy right at his heels! To Sammy Jay it looked as if in a few more jumps Reddy certainly would catch Peter. "Go it, Peter! Oh, go it! Go it!" screamed Sammy, for in spite of his quarrels with Peter, he didn't want to see him come to any real harm.
Just as he reached the old barrel, Reddy was so close to him that Peter was almost sure that he could feel Reddy's breath. Then Peter made a splendid flying jump right over the old barrel and kept on down the hill, lipperty-lipperty-lip, as fast as ever he could, straight for an old house of Johnny Chuck's of which he knew. When he reached it, he turned to see what was happening behind him, for he knew by the screaming of Sammy Jay and by other sounds that a great deal was happening. In fact, he suspected that the joke which he had planned was working out just as he had hoped it would.