The Tale of Benjamin 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.

As soon as they had passed, little
Benjamin Bunny slid down into the
road, and set off--with a hop, skip,
and a jump--to call upon his
relations, who lived in the wood at the
back of Mr. McGregor's garden.

That wood was full of rabbit holes;
and in the neatest, sandiest hole of all
lived Benjamin's aunt and his
cousins--Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail,
and Peter.

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).

Little Benjamin did not very much
want to see his Aunt.

He came round the back of the fir-
tree, and nearly tumbled upon the top
of his Cousin Peter.

Peter was sitting by himself. He
looked poorly, and was dressed in a
red cotton pocket-handkerchief.

"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.

Peter said he hoped that it would
rain.

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.

They went away hand in hand, and
got upon the flat top of the wall at the
bottom of the wood. From here they
looked down into Mr. McGregor's
garden. Peter's coat and shoes were
plainly to be seen upon the scarecrow,
topped with an old tam-o'-shanter of
Mr. McGregor's.

Little Benjamin said: "It spoils
people's clothes to squeeze under a
gate; the proper way to get in is to
climb down a pear-tree."

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 left a great many odd little
footmarks all over the bed, especially
little Benjamin, who was wearing
clogs.

Little Benjamin said that the first
thing to be done was to get back
Peter's clothes, in order that they
might be able to use the pocket-
handkerchief.

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.

Then he suggested that they should
fill the pocket-handkerchief with
onions, as a little present for his Aunt.

Peter did not seem to be enjoying
himself; he kept hearing noises.

Benjamin, on the contrary, was
perfectly at home, and ate a lettuce
leaf. He said that he was in the habit
of coming to the garden with his
father to get lettuces for their Sunday
dinner.

(The name of little Benjamin's papa
was old Mr. Benjamin Bunny.)

The lettuces certainly were very
fine.

Peter did not eat anything; he said
he should like to go home. Presently
he dropped half the onions.

Little Benjamin said that it was not
possible to get back up the pear-tree
with a load of vegetables. He led the
way boldly towards the other end of
the garden. They went along a little
walk on planks, under a sunny, red
brick wall.

The mice sat on their doorsteps
cracking cherry-stones; they winked
at Peter Rabbit and little Benjamin
Bunny.

Presently Peter let the pocket-
handkerchief go again.

They got amongst flower-pots, and
frames, and tubs. Peter heard noises
worse than ever; his eyes were as big
as lolly-pops!

He was a step or two in front of his
cousin when he suddenly stopped.

This is what those little rabbits saw
round that corner!

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. . . .

The cat got up and stretched
herself, and came and sniffed at the
basket.

Perhaps she liked the smell of onions!

Anyway, she sat down upon the top
of the basket.

She sat there for five hours.

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.

At length there was a pitter-patter,
pitter-patter, and some bits of mortar
fell from the wall above.

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.

Old Mr. Bunny had no opinion
whatever of cats. 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.

When old Mr. Bunny had driven the
cat into the greenhouse, he locked the
door.

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.

Then he took out the handkerchief
of onions, and marched out of the
garden.

When Mr. McGregor returned
about half an hour later he observed
several things which perplexed him.

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 benches of herbs and the rabbit-
tobacco.