The Hunt for Old Mr. Toad
Now, though Old Mr. Toad was hurrying as fast as ever he could and was quite out of breath, he wasn’t getting along very fast compared with the way Peter Rabbit or Jimmy Skunk or Unc’ Billy Possum could cover the ground. You see he cannot make long jumps like his cousin, Grandfather Frog, but only little short hops.
So Peter and Jimmy and Unc’ Billy took their time about following him. They stopped to hunt for fat beetles for Jimmy Skunk, and at every little patch of sweet clover for Peter Rabbit to help himself. Once they wasted a lot of time while Unc’ Billy Possum hunted for a nest of Carol the Meadow Lark, on the chance that he would find some fresh eggs there. He didn’t find the nest for the very good reason that Carol hadn’t built one yet. Peter was secretly glad. You know he doesn’t eat eggs, and he is always sorry for his feathered friends when their eggs are stolen.
Half way across the Green Meadows they stopped to play with the Merry Little Breezes, and because it was very pleasant there, they played longer than they realized. When at last they started on again, Old Mr. Toad was out of sight. You see all the time he had kept right on going, hop, hop, hipperty-hop.
“Never mind,” said Peter, “we can catch up with him easy enough, he’s such a slow-poke.”
But even a slow-poke who keeps right on doing a thing without wasting any time always gets somewhere sooner or later, very often sooner than those who are naturally quicker, but who waste their time. So it was with Old Mr. Toad. He kept right on, hop, hop, hipperty-hop, while the others were playing, and so it happened that when at last Peter and Jimmy and Unc’ Billy reached the Smiling Pool, they hadn’t caught another glimpse of Old Mr. Toad.
“Do you suppose he hid somewhere, and we passed him?” asked Peter.
Unc’ Billy shook his head. “I don’ reckon so,” said he. “We-uns done been foolin’ away our time, an’ Brer Toad done stole a march on us. I reckons we-uns will find him sittin’ on the bank here somewhere.”
So right away the three separated to look for Old Mr. Toad. All along the bank of the Smiling Pool they looked. They peeped under old leaves and sticks. They looked in every place where Old Mr. Toad might have hidden, but not a trace of him did they find.
“Tra-la-la-lee! Oka-chee! Oka-chee!
Happy am I as I can be!”
sang Mr. Redwing, as he swayed to and fro among the bulrushes.
“Say, Mr. Redwing, have you seen Old Mr. Toad?” called Peter Rabbit.
“No,” replied Mr. Redwing. “Is that whom you fellows are looking for? I wondered if you had lost something. What do you want with Old Mr. Toad?”
Peter explained how they had followed Old Mr. Toad just to see what he really was up to. “Of course we know that he hasn’t any more voice than I have,” declared Peter, “but we are curious to know if he really thinks he has, and why he should be in such a hurry to reach the Smiling Pool. It looks to us as if the spring has made Old Mr. Toad crazy.”
“Oh, that’s it, is it?” replied Mr. Redwing, his bright eyes twinkling. “Some people don’t know as much as they might. I’ve been wondering where Old Mr. Toad was, and I’m ever so glad to learn that he hasn’t forgotten that he has a very important part in our beautiful spring chorus.” Then once more Mr. Redwing began to sing.