Old Mr. Toad Gives Peter a Scare
If you play pranks on other folks
You may be sure that they
Will take the first chance that they get
A joke on you to play.
Old Mr. Toad was getting even with Peter for laughing at him. While Peter’s back had been turned, Old Mr. Toad had disappeared.
It was too much for Peter. Look as he would, he couldn’t see so much as a chip under which Old Mr. Toad might have hidden, excepting the old board, and Old Mr. Toad had given his word of honor that he wouldn’t hide under that. Nevertheless, Peter hopped over to it and turned it over again, because he couldn’t think of any other place to look. Of course, Old Mr. Toad wasn’t there. Of course not. He had given his word that he wouldn’t hide there, and he always lives up to his word. Peter should have known better than to have looked there.
Old Mr. Toad had also said that he would not go three feet from the spot where he was sitting at the time, so Peter should have known better than to have raced up the Crooked Little Path as he did. But if Old Mr. Toad had nothing to hide under, of course he must have hopped away, reasoned Peter. He couldn’t hop far in five minutes, that was sure, and so Peter ran this way and that way a great deal farther than it would have been possible for Old Mr. Toad to have gone. But it was a wholly useless search, and presently Peter returned and sat down on the very spot where he had last seen Old Mr. Toad. Peter never had felt more foolish in all his life. He began to think that Old Mr. Toad must be bewitched and had some strange power of making himself invisible.
For a long time Peter sat perfectly still, trying to puzzle out how Old Mr. Toad had disappeared, but the more he puzzled over it, the more impossible it seemed. And yet Old Mr. Toad had disappeared. Suddenly Peter gave a frightened scream and jumped higher than he ever had jumped before in all his life. A voice, the voice of Old Mr. Toad himself, had said, “Well, now are you satisfied?” And that voice had come from right under Peter! Do you wonder that he was frightened? When he turned to look, there sat Old Mr. Toad right where he himself had been sitting a moment before. Peter rubbed his eyes and stared very foolishly.
“Wh-wh-where did you come from?” he stammered at last.
Old Mr. Toad grinned. “I’ll show you,” said he. And right while Peter was looking at him, he began to sink down into the ground until only the top of his head could be seen. Then that disappeared. Old Mr. Toad had gone down, and the sand had fallen right back over him. Peter just had to rub his eyes again. He had to! Then, to make sure, he began to dig away the sand where Old Mr. Toad had been sitting. In a minute he felt Old Mr. Toad, who at once came out again.
Old Mr. Toad’s beautiful eyes twinkled more than ever. “I guess we are even now, Peter,” said he.
Peter nodded. “More than that, Mr. Toad. I think you have a little the best of it,” he replied. “Now won’t you tell me how you did it?”
Old Mr. Toad held up one of his stout hind feet, and on it was a kind of spur. “There’s another just like that on the other foot,” said he, “and I use them to dig with. You go into a hole headfirst, but I go in the other way. I make my hole in soft earth and back into it at the same time, this way.” He began to work his stout hind feet, and as he kicked the earth out, he backed in at the same time. When he was deep enough, the earth just fell back over him, for you see it was very loose and not packed down at all. When he once more reappeared, Peter thanked him. Then he asked one more question.
“Is that the way you go into winter quarters?”
Old Mr. Toad nodded. “And it’s the way I escape from my enemies.”