Mrs. Peter Rabbit by Thornton W. Burgess
Chapter IV. The Shadow With Sharp Claws
Now what's the use, pray tell me this, When all is said and done; A thousand things and one to learn And then forget the one? For when that one alone you need, And nothing else will do, What good are all the thousand then? I do not see; do you? Peter Rabbit.
Forgetting leads to more trouble than almost anything under the sun. Peter Rabbit knew this. Of course he knew it. Peter had had many a narrow escape just from forgetting something. He knew just as well as you know that he might just as well not learn a thing as to learn it and then forget it. But Peter is such a happy-go-lucky little fellow that he is very apt to forget, and forgetting leads him into all kinds of difficulties, just as it does most folks.
Now Peter had learned when he was a very little fellow that when he went out at night, he must watch out quite as sharply for Hooty the Owl as for either Granny or Reddy Fox, and usually he did. But the night he started to make a journey to the Old Pasture, his mind was so full of Old Man Coyote and Granny and Reddy Fox that he wholly forgot Hooty the Owl. So, as he scampered across the Green Meadows, lipperty--lipperty-- lip, as fast as he could go, with his long ears and his big eyes and his wobbly nose all watching out for danger on the ground, not once did he think that there might be danger from the sky above him.
It was a moonlight night, and Peter was sharp enough to keep in the shadows whenever he could. He would scamper as fast as he knew how from one shadow to another and then sit down in the blackest part of each shadow to get his breath, and to look and listen and so make sure that no one was following him. The nearer he got to the Old Pasture, the safer he felt from Old Man Coyote and Granny and Reddy Fox. When he scampered across the patches of moonshine his heart didn't come up in his mouth the way it had at first. He grew bolder and bolder. Once or twice he stopped for a mouthful of sweet clover. He was tired, for he had come a long way, but he was almost to the Old Pasture now, and it looked very dark and safe, for it was covered with bushes and brambles.
"Plenty of hiding places there," thought Peter. "It really looks as safe as the dear Old Briar-patch. No one will ever think to look for me way off here."
Just then he spied a patch of sweet clover out in the moonlight. His mouth began to water. "I'll just fill my stomach before I go into the Old Pasture, for there may not be any clover there," said Peter.
"You'd better be careful, Peter Rabbit," said a wee warning voice inside him.
"Pooh!" said Peter. "There's nothing to be afraid of way up here!"
A shadow drifted across the sweet clover patch. Peter saw it. "That must be made by a cloud crossing the moon," said Peter, and he was so sure of it that he didn't even look up to see, but boldly hopped out to fill his stomach. Just as he reached the patch of clover, the shadow drifted over it again. Then all in a flash a terrible thought entered Peter's head. He didn't stop to look up. He suddenly sprang sideways, and even as he did so, sharp claws tore his coat and hurt him dreadfully. He twisted and dodged and jumped and turned this way and that way, and all the time the shadow followed him. Once again sharp claws tore his coat and made him squeal with pain.
At last, when his breath was almost gone, he reached the edge of the Old Pasture and dived under a friendly old bramble-bush.
"Oh," sobbed Peter, "I forgot all about Hooty the Owl! Besides, I didn't suppose he ever came way up here."