THE TALE OF BENJAMIN BUNNY
AUTHOR OF "THE TAIL OF PETER RABBIT," etc.
FOR THE CHILDREN OF SAWREY
OLD MR. BUNNY
One morning a little rabbit sat on a bank.
He pricked his ears and listened to the trit-trot, trit-trot of a pony.
A gig was coming along the road; it was driven by Mr. McGregor, and beside him sat Mrs. McGregor in her best bonnet.
Old Mrs. Rabbit was a widow; she earned her living by knitting rabbit-wool mittens and muffatees (I once bought a pair at a bazaar). She also sold herbs, and rosemary tea, and rabbit-tobacco (which is what we call lavender).
He came round the back of the fir-tree, and nearly tumbled upon the top of his Cousin Peter.
"Peter," said little Benjamin, in a whisper, "who has got your clothes?"
Peter replied, "The scarecrow in Mr. McGregor's garden," and described how he had been chased about the garden, and had dropped his shoes and coat.
Little Benjamin sat down beside his cousin and assured him that Mr. McGregor had gone out in a gig, and Mrs. McGregor also; and certainly for the day, because she was wearing her best bonnet.
At this point old Mrs. Rabbit's voice was heard inside the rabbit hole, calling: "Cotton-tail! Cotton-tail! fetch some more camomile!"
Peter said he thought he might feel better if he went for a walk.
Peter fell down head first; but it was of no consequence, as the bed below was newly raked and quite soft.
It had been sown with lettuces.
They took them off the scarecrow. There had been rain during the night; there was water in the shoes, and the coat was somewhat shrunk.
Benjamin tried on the tam-o'-shanter, but it was too big for him.
Peter did not seem to be enjoying himself; he kept hearing noises.
(The name of little Benjamin's papa was old Mr. Benjamin Bunny.)
The lettuces certainly were very fine.
The mice sat on their doorsteps cracking cherry-stones; they winked at Peter Rabbit and little Benjamin Bunny.
He was a step or two in front of his cousin when he suddenly stopped.
Little Benjamin took one look, and then, in half a minute less than no time, he hid himself and Peter and the onions underneath a large basket....
Perhaps she liked the smell of onions!
Anyway, she sat down upon the top of the basket.
I cannot draw you a picture of Peter and Benjamin underneath the basket, because it was quite dark, and because the smell of onions was fearful; it made Peter Rabbit and little Benjamin cry.
The sun got round behind the wood, and it was quite late in the afternoon; but still the cat sat upon the basket.
The cat looked up and saw old Mr. Benjamin Bunny prancing along the top of the wall of the upper terrace.
He was smoking a pipe of rabbit-tobacco, and had a little switch in his hand.
He was looking for his son.
He took a tremendous jump off the top of the wall on to the top of the cat, and cuffed it off the basket, and kicked it into the greenhouse, scratching off a handful of fur.
The cat was too much surprised to scratch back.
Then he came back to the basket and took out his son Benjamin by the ears, and whipped him with the little switch.
Then he took out his nephew Peter.
It looked as though some person had been walking all over the garden in a pair of clogs—only the footmarks were too ridiculously little!
Also he could not understand how the cat could have managed to shut herself up inside the greenhouse, locking the door upon the outside.
When Peter got home his mother forgave him, because she was so glad to see that he had found his shoes and coat. Cotton-tail and Peter folded up the pocket-handkerchief, and old Mrs. Rabbit strung up the onions and hung them from the kitchen ceiling, with the bunches of herbs and the rabbit-tobacco.
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