Mrs. Peter Rabbit by Thornton W. Burgess
Chapter XXI. Peter and Little Miss Fuzzytail Leave the Old Pasture
A danger past is a danger past, So why not just forget it? Watch out instead for the one ahead Until you've safely met it, Peter Rabbit.
As soon as little Miss Fuzzytail had agreed to go with him to make her home in the dear Old Briar-patch down on the Green Meadows, Peter Rabbit fairly boiled over with impatience to start, He had had so much trouble in the Old Pasture that he was afraid if they waited too long little Miss Fuzzytail might change her mind, and if she should do that--well, Peter didn't know what he would do.
But Peter, who always had been so happy-go-lucky, with no one to think about but himself, now felt for the first time re-sponsi-bil-ity. That's a big word, but it is a word that everybody has to learn the meaning of sometime. Johnny Chuck learned it when he made a home for Polly Chuck in Farmer Brown's orchard, and tried to keep it a secret, so that no harm would come to Polly. It means taking care of other people or other people's things, and feeling that you must take even greater care than you would of yourself or your own things, So, while Peter himself would have been willing to take chances, and might even have made the journey down to the dear Old Briar-patch in broad daylight, he felt that that wouldn't do at all for little Miss Fuzzytail; that he must avoid every possible chance of danger for her.
So Peter waited for a dark night, not too dark, you know, but a night when there was no moon to make great patches of light, but only the kindly little Stars looking down and twinkling in the friendly way they have. At last there was just such a night. All the afternoon little Miss Fuzzytail went about in the Old Pasture saying good-by to her friends and visiting each one of her favorite little paths and hiding-places, and I suspect that in each one she dropped a tear or two, for you see she felt sure that she never would see them again, although Peter had promised that he would bring her back to the Old Pasture for a visit whenever she wanted to come.
At last it was time to start. Peter led the way. Very big and brave and strong and important he felt, and very timid and frightened felt little Miss Fuzzytail, hopping after him close at his heels. You see, she felt that she was going out into the Great World, of which she knew nothing at all.
"Oh, Peter," she whispered, "supposing we should meet Reddy Fox! I wouldn't know where to run or hide."
"We are not going to meet Reddy Fox," replied Peter, "but if we should, all you have to do is to just keep your eyes on the white patch on the seat of my trousers and follow me. I have fooled Reddy so many times that I'm not afraid of him."
Never in all his life had Peter been so watchful and careful. That was because he felt his re-sponsi-bil-ity. Every few jumps he would stop to sit up and look and listen. Then little Miss Fuzzytail would nestle up close to him, and Peter's heart would swell with happiness, and he would feel, oh, so proud and important. Once they heard the sharp bark of Reddy Fox, but it was a long way off, and Peter smiled, for he knew that Reddy was hunting on the edge of the Green Forest.
Once a dim shadow swept across the meadow grass ahead of them. Peter dropped flat in the grass and kept perfectly still, and little Miss Fuzzytail did just as he did, as she had promised she would.
"Wha--what was it?" she whispered.
"I think it was Hooty the Owl," Peter whispered back, "but he didn't see us." After what seemed like a long, long time they heard Hooty's fierce hunting call, but it came from way back of them on the edge of the Old Pasture. Peter hopped to his feet.
"Come on," said he. "There's nothing to fear from him now."
So slowly and watchfully Peter led the way down across the Green Meadows while the little Stars looked down and twinkled in the most friendly way, and just as jolly, round, red Mr. Sun started to kick off his bedclothes behind the Purple Hills they reached the dear Old Briar- patch.
"Here we are!" cried Peter.
"Oh, I'm so glad!" cried little Miss Fuzzytail, hopping along one of Peter's private little paths.