Lightfoot the Deer by Thornton W. Burgess
Chapter III: Lightfoot Tells How His Antlers Grew
It is hard to believe what seems impossible. And yet what seems impossible to you may be a very commonplace matter to some one else. So it does not do to say that a thing cannot be possible just because you cannot understand how it can be. Peter Rabbit wanted to believe what Lightfoot the Deer had just told him, but somehow he couldn't. If he had seen those antlers growing, it would have been another matter. But he hadn't seen Lightfoot since the very last of winter, and then Lightfoot had worn just such handsome antlers as he now had. So Peter really couldn't be blamed for not being able to believe that those old ones had been lost and in their place new ones had grown in just the few months of spring and summer.
But Peter didn't blame Lightfoot in the least, because he had told Peter that he didn't like to tell things to people who wouldn't believe what he told them when Peter had asked him about the rags hanging to his antlers. "I'm trying to believe it," he said, quite humbly.
"It's all true," broke in another voice.
Peter jumped and turned to find his big cousin, Jumper the Hare. Unseen and unheard, he had stolen up and had overheard what Peter and Lightfoot had said.
"How do you know it is true?" snapped Peter a little crossly, for Jumper had startled him.
"Because I saw Lightfoot's old antlers after they had fallen off, and I often saw Lightfoot while his new ones were growing," retorted Jumper.
"All right! I'll believe anything that Lightfoot tells me if you say it is true," declared Peter, who greatly admires his cousin, Jumper. "Now tell me about those rags, Lightfoot. Please do."
Lightfoot couldn't resist that "please." "Those rags are what is left of a kind of covering which protected the antlers while they were growing, as I told you before," said he. "Very soon after my old ones dropped off the new ones began to grow. They were not hard, not at all like they are now. They were soft and very tender, and the blood ran through them just as it does through our bodies. They were covered with a sort of skin with hairs on it like thin fur. The ends were not sharply pointed they now are, but were big and rounded, like knobs. They were not like antlers at all, and they made my head hot and were very uncomfortable. That is why I hid away. They grew very fast, so fast that every day I could see by looking at my reflection in water that they were a little longer. It seemed to me sometimes as if all my strength went into those new antlers. And I had to be very careful not to hit them against anything. In the first place it would have hurt, and in the second place it might have spoiled the shape of them.
"When they had grown to the length you now see, they began to shrink and grow hard. The knobs on the ends shrank until they became pointed. As soon as they stopped growing the blood stopped flowing up in them, and as they became hard they were no longer tender. The skin which had covered them grew dry and split, and I rubbed it off on trees and bushes. The little rags you see are what is left, but I will soon be rid of those. Then I shall be ready to fight if need be and will fear no one save man, and will fear him only when he has a terrible gun with him."
Lightfoot tossed his head proudly and rattled his wonderful antlers against the nearest tree. "Isn't he handsome," whispered Peter to Jumper the Hare; "and did you ever hear of anything so wonderful as the growing of those new antlers in such a short time? It is hard to believe, but I suppose it must be true."
"It is," replied Jumper, "and I tell you, Peter, I would hate to have Lightfoot try those antlers on me, even though I were big as a man. You've always thought of Lightfoot as timid and afraid, but you should see him when he is angry. Few people care to face him then."