THE RIVER BANK
It is spring and the Mole is cleaning his little home. He is working very hard and he is very tired. Suddenly he decides to stop. He wants to go outside. He goes up a small tunnel and arrives outside in a meadow.
«This is nice!» he thinks when he arrives in the sunlight, «This is better than cleaning!» He is very happy.
He crosses meadows and woods. He sees rabbits, birds and a lot of other animals. They are all working hard. Finally he arrives at the river. He sits down on the grass.
The Water Rat comes out of his hole in the river bank. He sees Mole.
«Hello, Mole,» he says, «Would you like to come over?»
«Hello, Rat. Yes, I would. But how?» replies Mole.
«I can come and get you in my boat.» Rat gets into a little boat and crosses the river. Mole gets into the boat.
«This is wonderful!» says Mole, «This is my first time in a boat.»
«Your first time!» says Rat, «There's nothing better than boats! Let's go for a picnic.»
«Oh, yes please!» says Mole.
Rat goes into his house and returns with a big basket full of food. They go down the river in the boat. Rat tells Mole about life on the river and about his neighbours — the otters, kingfishers and moorhens.
Mole sees a wood in the distance.
«What's over there?» he asks.
«That's the Wild Wood,» says Rat, «We don't go there often.»
«Are they nice people there?» asks Mole.
«Well,» replies Rat, «the squirrels and rabbits are alright. And there's Badger. He's nice. But the weasels, stoats and foxes… you must be careful with them.»
They stop for their picnic and Mole unpacks the basket. Soon the Otter arrives.
«Hello, Otter,» says Rat, «This is my friend Mr Mole.»
«Pleased to meet you,» says Otter to Mole.
Suddenly the Badger appears and Rat invites him to the picnic. But Badger turns around and goes away.
«Badger hates company!» says Rat, «We don't see him often. But look! There's Toad on the river in his new boat.»
«It's Toad's new hobby,» says Otter.
«Yes,» says Rat, «First it was sailing. Then it was houseboating. He changes hobby all the time.»
Rat waves to Toad but Toad doesn't stop.
Rat and Mole return to Rat's house in the boat. Rat invites Mole to stay with him and Mole is very happy.
THE OPEN ROAD
One summer morning Mole and Rat decide to visit Mr Toad, They get in the boat and go up the river.
«Toad's rich, you know,» says Rat.
«Is Toad very nice?» asks Mole.
«Oh yes!» replies Rat, «He's very nice. He isn't very intelligent — but we can't all be clever. And sometimes he's boastful and arrogant. But he's got some good qualities.»
Soon they arrive at Toad Hall. They pass by a boating house. It is full of boats. They are all out of the water.
«It seems that Toad isn't interested in boating anymore. I wonder what his new hobby is,» says Rat.
Rat and Mole get out of the boat and walk across the gardens of Toad Hall. They see Toad in the garden. He is looking at a big map. He is very pleased to see Rat and Mole.
«Hello, Toad,» says Rat, «This is my friend Mole.»
«Oh, splendid!» cries Toad, «Pleased to meet you. Come and see my new hobby.»
He shows them a gypsy caravan. It is yellow and green with red wheels.
«There's real life!» cries Toad, «The open road: travel, change, interest, excitement! Look inside — everything's there. We've got everything for our journey this afternoon.»
«Excuse me — you say 'we', 'our', 'this afternoon'?» asks Rat.
«Yes, Ratty. I can't go without you,» says Toad.
«Oh, Rat — it's so exciting!» says Mole.
«Very well,» says Rat, «Let's go!»
After lunch, they go to the paddock and catch the old grey horse. Then they set off on the road. It is a lovely afternoon and the birds whistle at them and passers-by say, «good afternoon». In the evening they stop and eat a simple meal. Then they go to bed. The next morning Toad sleeps until very late, so Mole walks to the nearest village. He buys milk and eggs for breakfast, and Rat lights a fire and washes the dinner plates from the night before. They are very tired after this hard work. Finally Toad gets up.
«Life on the road is very easy,» he says.
After breakfast they set off. They are walking along the road when suddenly a magnificent motorcar drives past. The horse is frightened and pulls the caravan off the road into a ditch. The caravan is ruined!
Rat is furious. «You villains! Police! Help!» he shouts.
But Toad is sitting in the middle of the road. He is staring in the direction of the motorcar. «Poop poop!» he says, «Poop poop!»
Rat and Mole try to pull the caravan out of the ditch but they can't.
Rat asks, «Can you help us, Toad?»
«Poop poop!» replies Toad, «Now that's the real way to travel — the only way.»
The caravan is ruined and they must return home by train. The next day Toad buys a big and very expensive motorcar.
THE WILD WOOD
Mole wants to meet Badger.
«Could you ask him here for dinner?» he asks Rat.
«He wouldn't come,» replies Rat, «He hates company.»
«Well, can we go and call on him?» suggests Mole.
«Oh no,» says Rat, «He's very shy. And also he lives in the middle of the Wild Wood.»
It is clear that Rat doesn't want to visit Badger.
It is winter time and Rat sleeps a lot. One afternoon he is sleeping in his armchair in front of the fire, so Mole decides to go and explore the Wild Wood and meet Badger. He goes outside. It is very cold and the sky is grey. He is happy, and when he arrives at the Wild Wood he is not frightened.
Then he starts to see faces — hundreds of faces; little faces with hard eyes. Mole is frightened and leaves the path. In a panic Mole starts to run — he doesn't know where. Finally he hides inside the hollow of an old tree.
Rat wakes up and looks for Mole, but Mole is not there. Mole's hat and boots are gone. Rat goes outside and sees footprints. They are going in the direction of the Wild Wood. Rat is worried. He goes back into the house, takes two pistols and a big stick and sets off for the Wild Wood.
He also sees little faces with hard eyes, but they disappear immediately when they see his pistols and stick. Rat hunts for an hour, «Moly, Moly! Where are you? It's me — Rat!»
Finally he hears a cry, «Ratty! Is that really you? I'm so frightened!»
Rat sees Mole under the tree. «Mole, you mustn't come into the Wild Wood alone. We animals from the river bank always come in couples.»
«But brave Mr Toad isn't frightened of the wood,» says Mole.
Rat laughs, «Toad!? He wouldn't come here for a hat full of gold. But now we must leave for home before night comes.»
Rat looks around. «It's snowing! And everything looks so different in the snow.»
They set off bravely but after two hours they stop for a rest. The snow is very deep and they are very tired and wet.
«We're very tired,» says Rat, «Let's find a dry cave or hole. Then we can rest before trying again.»
They look for shelter. Suddenly Mole falls down. «Oh, my leg!» he cries.
«Poor Mole!» says Rat. He looks at the cut on Mole's leg. «This is a cut from metal not a branch,» he says. He starts to dig in the snow.
«Hooray! Hooray!» he shouts.
«What is it?!» asks Mole.
They see a little green door. A bell is hanging next to it. Under the bell is written «Mr Badger». Rat hits the door with his stick and Mole rings the bell.
Mole and Rat wait for a long time and finally they hear footsteps. The door opens a little and they see a nose and two sleepy eyes. «Who is it?» asks Badger. He is angry.
«Oh, Badger!» cries Rat, «It's me, Rat and my friend Mole. Were lost in the snow.»
«My dear Ratty!» says Badger, «Come in. Lost in the snow! In the Wild Wood! This isn't the kind of night for small animals to be out.» He takes them to the kitchen. There is a fire burning in the fireplace. Badger gives them dressing gowns and slippers. They sit in front of the fire while Badger prepares dinner for them. They are very hungry and they eat and eat.
«How's old Toad?» asks Badger.
«From bad to worse,» says Rat, "-another accident in his car. This is the seventh. He's always in hospital or paying fines. He needs to pay for a driver but he's convinced that he's a good driver!"
Badger thinks. «I can't do anything now. But when the nights are short we must talk to Toad. He must become sensible! Now it's time for bed.»
He takes them to a room. It is full of food for the winter — apples, turnips, potatoes, nuts and honey. But there are also two little beds. Mole and Rat get undressed and go to sleep.
The next morning they get up very late. They are eating breakfast in the kitchen when the front door bell rings. It's Otter. He is very happy to see Rat and Mole.
«Everybody on the river is very worried about you,» he says.
At that moment Badger arrives. «I think it's time for lunch,» he says.
During lunch Otter and Rat talk about the river. Mole tells Badger, «I like your house. It's good to live underground.»
Badger is pleased that Mole likes his house. «Yes, here it's safe, peaceful and quiet.»
After lunch Badger shows Mole his home. There are a lot of rooms and tunnels. They return to the kitchen. Ratty is wearing his coat. «Come on, Mole. It's time to go,» he says, «We must go before night.» He is worried.
«It's alright,» says Otter, «I'm coming with you.»
«Don't worry, Ratty,» says Badger, «My tunnels go to the edge of the wood.» He picks up a lantern and takes them down a long tunnel. After a long time they see daylight. They are on the edge of the Wild Wood. Badger says goodbye and goes away quickly. Otter takes them to the river. Mole is very happy to be home.
It is a sunny morning in summer. Mole and Rat are having breakfast. Suddenly there is a knock at the door.
Mole goes to the door and comes back with Badger. Badger looks very serious.
«It's time!» he says.
«Time for what?» asks Rat. He looks at the clock.
«Time for who!» says Badger, «Time for Toad. We must talk to him. I know that another big new motorcar is arriving at Toad Hall today. We must go and talk to Toad before it's too late!»
«Good!» says Rat, «We must save poor Toad!»
When they arrive at Toad Hall a big red car is in front of the house. Toad is coming out of the house. He is wearing goggles, a cap, an enormous coat and gloves.
«Hello!» he says when he sees them.
«Take him inside,» says Badger to Rat and Mole. They take him inside.
«Now, Toad,» says Badger, «take these stupid clothes off.»
«No!» says Toad, «Why are you doing this?»
«Take his clothes off,» Badger orders. Rat sits on Toad, and Mole takes off Toad's motor clothes.
«Now, Toad,» says Badger, «you don't listen to our advice. You are spending all your money. And people are talking about the animals because of your fast driving and problems with the police.»
But Toad is not sorry. So they lock him in a bedroom.
«You can come out when you're sorry,» says Rat. They go downstairs. Toad shouts at them through the keyhole.
«Toad's very determined,» says Badger, «It's a difficult situation. We must never leave Toad alone.»
The days pass but Toad is still interested in cars. He becomes depressed.
One morning Rat is with Toad. «How are you today, Toad?» he asks.
«Not very well,» replies Toad, «Could you go to the village and call the doctor?»
Rat is worried. «A doctor! He must be very ill.» He goes out of the room and locks the door. Then he runs to the village.
Toad jumps out of bed and laughs. He gets dressed quickly. He puts some money in his pockets. He climbs out of the window and jumps to the ground. He then walks away in the opposite direction to Rat. The sun is shining and he is very happy with himself. «Poor Ratty,» he thinks, «he's a very good animal but not very intelligent. I must educate him one day.»
He arrives in a small town and sees a sign: «The Red Lion». Toad is very hungry. He goes into the inn and orders a big lunch. Suddenly he hears «poop poop» and sees a car outside the inn. The people get out and go into the inn. Toad walks outside. He looks at the car.
«I wonder,» he thinks, «if this type of car starts easily.»
In a dream, he starts the car, then sits in the driver's seat and drives away. He doesn't think about right or wrong. He drives faster and faster.
«We must punish this villain severely,» says the magistrate. «He's guilty, first of all, of stealing a motorcar, secondly of driving dangerously, and thirdly of being rude to the police. I give you twenty years in prison!»
Poor Toad is locked up in prison!
Toad is very unhappy. «This is the end of everything,» he thinks, «the end of the career of Toad, the popular and handsome Toad, the rich and kind Toad.»
He starts crying. «Now I must stay in this dark prison. Oh clever Rat and sensible Mole. Oh intelligent Badger!»
Poor Toad! The days and weeks pass and he refuses to eat.
The gaoler has got a daughter and she helps her father in the prison. She is very fond of animals and is sorry for Toad. One day she asks, «Father, please let me look after Toad. He's so unhappy and so thin.»
She knocks on the door of Toad's cell.
«Now, Toad,» she says, «sit up and stop crying. Be sensible and eat some dinner.»
The dinner smells very good and Toad starts to think that life is not so bad. He sits up and starts to eat. The gaolers daughter asks him about Toad Hall. He talks about his home. Then she asks him about his animal friends. When the girl leaves Toad is himself again — the same arrogant animal.
The days pass and they have a lot of interesting talks together. The gaolers daughter is very sorry for Toad and thinks it is wrong that Toad is in prison. Vain Toad believes that she is in love with him and is a little sorry that the social gap between them is so big.
One morning she says, «Listen Toad, I've got an aunt. She's a washerwoman and does the washing for all the prisoners here. Now, you're very rich and she's very poor. I think that if you pay her she can give you her dress and bonnet and you can escape. You are very similar.»
«We are not!» says Toad, «I'm very elegant, considering I'm a toad.»
«My aunt's also elegant, considering she's a washerwoman,» says the girl, «I'm trying to help you and you are proud and ungrateful!»
«Please introduce me to your aunt,» says Toad.
The next evening the girl's aunt comes into the cell. She is carrying Toad's washing. On the table is a pile of gold coins. The washerwoman gives Toad a cotton dress, an apron and a bonnet. Then Toad takes off his coat and waistcoat and puts on the dress, apron and bonnet.
«Goodbye, Toad,» says the girl.
Toad is nervous, but he goes out. No one stops him. When he is outside he walks towards the town. Soon he sees some red and green lights and the noise of a train. «Aha!» he thinks, «A railway station. I can catch a train home!»
He goes to the ticket office and asks for a ticket to the village near Toad Hall. But he has no money! It is all in his waistcoat pocket in the prison. He cannot get home!
Toad is very sad. He walks down the platform. He starts to cry. «Hello, what's the matter?» asks the train driver.
«Oh, sir!» cries Toad, «I'm a poor washerwoman. I have no money. I can't pay for a ticket and I must get home tonight.»
«Very well,» says the kind train driver, «You're a washerwoman. I can give you a ride if you wash some shirts for me.»
Toad climbs up. The guard waves his flag and the train moves out of the station. Now Toad is very happy. He thinks about Toad Hall, his friends and good things to eat.
After some time the train driver says, «It's very strange. We're the last train tonight but I'm sure there's another train behind us.»
Toad immediately becomes serious and depressed.
«And the train is full of policemen with truncheons. They're shouting 'Stop! Stop! Stop!'» continues the train driver.
Toad falls to his knees. «Save me, Mr train driver. I'm not a washerwoman. I'm Toad — the well-known and popular Mr Toad. They want me. I'm a car thief and I'm running away from prison.»
The train driver looks very serious. «I must stop and give you to the police. But you're obviously very sorry. Soon there's a tunnel. At the other end there's a wood. You must jump out and hide in the wood.» After the tunnel Toad jumps. He runs into the wood and hides.
The police train comes out of the tunnel and continues following the other train.
Toad laughs. But soon he stops laughing. It is very late and dark and cold. He is in a strange wood with no money and far away from friends and home. Cold, hungry and tired, he makes a bed with dead leaves and branches under a tree and goes to sleep.
THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OP TOAD
Toad wakes up early. The sun is shining. He stands up and starts walking. Soon he sees a canal. On it there is a barge pulled by a horse. There is a woman on the barge.
«Good morning,» she says to Toad.
«Maybe it's good for you,» says Toad, «but I'm a poor washerwoman and I am going to see my married daughter. She's in trouble. All my other children are alone. I'm lost with no money.»
«Where does your daughter live?» asks the barge woman.
«Near the river,» replies Toad, «near a fine house called Toad Hall.»
«Toad Hall? I'm going in that direction,» says the woman, «Come with me in the barge. I can take you near Toad Hall.»
Lucky Toad gets onto the barge. «So, you're a washerwoman?» asks the woman.
«Oh yes,» says Toad, «the best in the country. I'm very good. I love washing!»
«Then I'm very lucky meeting you,» says the woman, «I like washing too but I never have the time. There's a big pile of washing inside. You can do my washing.»
Toad is frightened. «NO NO! I don't want to ruin your clothes. I usually wash gentlemen's clothes.»
«Oh no,» says the woman, «I want you to be happy!»
Toad is worried but he thinks, «It can't be so difficult to wash.» Half an hour later Toad is angry. The clothes are still dirty. Suddenly he hears the barge woman. She is laughing. «You can't wash! You aren't a washerwoman!»
Toad is furious! «You common barge woman! I'm Toad. The distinguished Toad! You mustn't laugh at me!»
The woman looks at Toad under his bonnet. «Yes, you are,» she cries, «a horrible toad in my nice clean barge!»
She takes him by the legs and throws him into the water. It is very cold. Toad gets out of the water. He looks at the woman. She is laughing at him. Toad wants revenge! He runs after the barge. He takes the horse and gallops away.
«Stop! Stop! Stop!» shouts the woman. Toad laughs.
After some miles Toad and the horse are sleepy and the horse stops to eat some grass. Toad looks around. He sees an old, dirty gypsy caravan. There is a man sitting next to it. There is also a fire.
Over the fire is a pot full of stew. Toad is very hungry and the stew smells delicious!
The gypsy asks, «Do you want to sell your horse?»
«Oh no,» replies Toad, «I love my horse. But how much can you pay me?»
«A shilling a leg,» replies the gypsy.
«A shilling a leg?» says Toad, «I must work out how much that is in total.» He thinks for a minute. «But that's only four shillings! I cannot accept that. Give me six shillings and some breakfast and you can have my horse.»
The gypsy agrees and gives Toad six shillings. Then he gives him an enormous plate of stew. Toad eats and eats and eats. After, the gypsy gives him directions for the river bank and Toad says goodbye.
He is happy again. The sun is shining. He has money in his pockets and a full stomach. And he is near home.
After some time he sees a car in the distance. «Wonderful!» thinks Toad, «I can stop the car and ask for a lift. Then I can return to Toad Hall in a car.»
He steps into the road and the car slows down. But suddenly Toad becomes pale and falls to the ground. It is the car from outside the Red Lion. And the people in the car are the same people!
«Oh no! Prison again! Dry bread and water again! What a fool I am!» cries Toad.
The car stops and two men get out. «Oh dear! A washerwoman in the road. Let's take her to the village.» They put Toad in the car and continue along the road.
Toad feels brave again because the men do not recognise him.
«How do you feel now?» asks one of the men.
«Better, thank you, sir,» says Toad, «But maybe if I can sit in the front seat next to the driver, I can have some fresh air on my face.»
«Very sensible,» says the man. So Toad gets into the front seat.
«Please, sir,» says Toad, «can I drive the car for a little?»
The driver laughs. «You can try, madam.»
Toad gets into the driver's seat and pretends to listen to the driver's instructions. At first he drives very carefully. The two men laugh and applaud, «Just imagine! A washerwoman driving so well!»
Toad goes a little faster, then faster and faster.
The men say, «Be careful, washerwoman!»
This annoys Toad and he loses his head.
«Washerwoman!» he shouts, «I'm Toad, the motor-car thief, the famous, the clever, the fearless Toad!»
The two men jump on Toad and the car goes off the road and finishes up in a pond.
Toad flies through the air and lands on the soft grass of a meadow.
He gets up and starts to run. «Ho! Ho!» he cries, «Toad wins again! Clever Toad!» He looks behind him. He sees the driver and two policemen running after him.
«What an idiot I am,» he cries while he runs, «How stupid I am!»
He runs and runs but they get nearer. Poor Toad! He is a fat animal and his legs are short.
Suddenly he falls into water. He is in the river! The water carries him along and soon he sees a big hole in the river bank. He takes hold and pulls himself out of the water. He looks into the hole and sees a familiar face — brown and small. It is the Water Rat!
Toad tries to tell Rat about his adventures and about how clever he is but Rat is very serious. «Toad, you are very silly. You must try to be sensible and mustn't embarrass your friends.»
Toad is very sorry. «You're right, Ratty,» he says, «I want to be a good Toad in the future. Let's have coffee and then I can go to Toad Hall and get some clean clothes.»
«Go to Toad Hall?» cries Rat, «Don't you know?»
Toad becomes pale. «Know what, Ratty?»
«You don't know about the ferrets and the weasels? They're living in Toad Hall. They think you aren't coming back from prison. They lie in bed half the day and eat your food and drink your drink. The place is in a mess.»
Toad gets up and takes a stick.
«It's no good,» says Rat, «They've got sentries and are armed. You must wait.»
But Toad doesn't want to wait. He marches down the road to Toad Hall. At the front gate there is a ferret. He shoots at Toad and so Toad runs back to Rat.
Badger and Mole arrive. «We can't attack the house,» says Badger, «They're too strong. But there's a tunnel; it goes from the river bank to the middle of Toad Hall. Tomorrow night it's the chief weasel's birthday and there's a big party in the dining room. We can enter secretly and then run into the dining room with our pistols and swords.»
«Yes! Yes!» cries Toad happily.
«Now, it's time to go to bed,» says Badger, «We must rest because we have got a lot of work to do tomorrow night.»
THE RETURN OF MR TOAD
The following evening Rat calls everyone into the sitting room and prepares them for the expedition. He gives them a belt, a sword, a pair of pistols, a policeman's truncheon, handcuffs, a flask and a sandwich box. When they are ready, Badger takes a lantern and says, «Now follow me! Mole first, then Rat and Toad last. And Toady, don't talk!» Toad wants to be part of the expedition so he is quiet.
Badger takes them along the river for a little way and then goes into a hole in the river bank. Mole and Rat follow silently but Toad slips and falls into the water with a loud splash. His friends pull him out but Badger is very angry. They continue along the secret tunnel. It is cold and dark and poor Toad starts to shiver because he is frightened and also because he is completely wet.
At last Badger says, «We must be under the Hall now.» They are at the end of the tunnel. There is a door and they all push against it. It opens and they are in the pantry next to the dining room.
The weasels are making a lot of noise. They hear the chief weasel say, «Thank you, thank you, but before I finish I would like to say one word about our kind host, Mr Toad; good, modest, honest Toad!» Everybody laughs and Toad is furious!
Badger stands up, takes his stick and says, «The time is come! Follow me!»
They open the door and the four friends run into the dining room. The weasels and ferrets are terrified and run everywhere in a panic. The four friends go up and down the room hitting the animals with their sticks, and the weasels and ferrets try to escape through the windows and up the chimney. After five minutes the room is empty.
«Now, Toad,» says Badger, «we've got your house back for you. Now you can get us some food. I'm hungry.»
Toad is a little offended because Badger doesn't tell him «well done» and «you are a great fighter», but he says nothing and finds some food for them to eat.
The next morning Toad wakes up late as usual. He comes down for breakfast. Rat and Mole are sitting in the garden and Badger is in the armchair reading the newspaper.
«Toad,» says Badger, «you must have a banquet to celebrate your return and you must write the invitations now.»
«What?!» cries Toad, «I must stay inside and write letters on a lovely morning like this!»
But then Toad has an idea. «But wait! Of course, dear Badger, I can start immediately.» Toad wants to write about his important part in the fight and also about his many adventures. He also thinks he can give a speech and sing some songs at the banquet.
He works hard all morning and when a weasel knocks at the door at midday and asks if he can be of service, Toad tells him to deliver the invitations.
But after lunch Rat and Badger sit Toad in a chair. «Look, Toad,» says Rat, «you must understand — you can't give a speech or sing songs.»
«Can't I sing just one little song?» asks Toad.
«No!» says Rat. «You know that your songs are all boasting and vanity, and your speeches are gross exaggeration. You know you must change.»
«You're right. I promise to be a different Toad. But this is a hard world!»
That evening when the banquet begins, Toad enters the dining room to meet his guests. All the animals cheer and congratulate him but Toad is very humble. «Oh no,» he says, «Badger, Rat and Mole are the real heroes.»
The animals are very puzzled by his behaviour and Toad is happy because he feels that everyone is very interested in him.
At the end of the evening some animals ask for a speech and a song hut Toad shakes his head.
He is a changed Toad!
After this great adventure the four animals continue their lives in joy and contentment. Toad sends a gold chain and locket with pearls to the gaoler's daughter with a modest and grateful letter.
The train driver also receives thanks and compensation. And Badger also makes Toad send money to the barge woman for her horse.
Sometimes during the long summer evenings the friends go for a walk in the Wild Wood. The weasels greet them with respect. Mother weasels call their children, point and say, «Look! There goes great Mr Toad, the brave Rat and famous Mr Mole.» But when their children are naughty they say that the terrible grey Badger is coming to get them. This is, of course, not true because Badger is very fond of children; but it always has an effect.
— THE END -