Once upon a time there were four little rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter. They lived with their mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir tree.
"Now, my dears," said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, "You may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden. Your father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor. Now run along and don't get into mischief. I am going out."
Then old Mrs. Rabbit took a basket and her umbrella and went through the wood to the baker's. She bought a loaf of brown bread and five currant buns.
Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail who were good little bunnies went down the lane together to gather blackberries.
But Peter who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden and squeezed under the gate!
First he ate some lettuces and some French beans and then he ate some radishes.
And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley.
But round the end of a cucumber frame, whom should he meet but Mr. McGregor!
Mr. McGregor was on his hands and knees, pawing at the grave of Mrs. McGregor. His face was pale and his skin was falling off, and around his eyes were circles as black as night. He jumped up and ran after Peter, dragging his feet and calling out "Braaauuggghhh!"
Peter was most dreadfully frightened; he rushed all over the garden, for he had forgotten the way back to the gate. No matter how he hurried, Mr. McGregor shambled after him.
Peter lost one shoe among the cabbages, and the other amongst the potatoes. After losing them, he ran on four legs and went faster so that I think he might have got away altogether if he had not unfortunately run into a gooseberry net and got caught by the large buttons on his jacket. It was a blue jacket with brass buttons, quite new, but Peter thought about other things. He thought about his mother and how angry she would be. Mostly, he thought about Mr. McGregor, who showed fangs longer and sharper than dangerous Willie Warewolf. He also thought about Mrs. McGregor, who crept behind her husband looking as hungry as if she had not had a pie or one of the farmer's cabbages in a dreadfully long time.
Peter gave himself up for lost and shed big tears; but his sobs were overheard by some friendly ravens who flew to him in great excitement and implored him to exert himself nevermore.
Mr. McGregor's hand fell off, but he picked it up and reattached it and reached for Peter, but Peter wriggled out just in time.
Leaving his jacket behind him.
He rushed into the tool-shed and--
Jumped into a coffin.
It would have been a beautiful thing to hide in, if it had not had so much blood in it and the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hedgehog. Mr. McGregor was quite sure that Peter was somewhere in the tool-shed, perhaps hidden underneath a flower-pot.
He began to turn them over carefully, looking under each. Wherever he turned a flower-pot, he left behind a puddle of bloody drool.
Presently Peter sneezed "Kertyschoo!"
Mr. McGregor was after him in no time, and tried to put his foot upon Peter, but his foot fell off. Peter jumped out of a window, upsetting three plants.
Peter sat down to rest; he was out of breath and trembling with fright, and he had not the least idea which way to go.
Also he was very bloody with sitting in that coffin and had bits of brain hanging from his wiggly nose.
After a time he began to wander about, going
not very fast and looking all around.
Soon he saw Mr. and Mrs. McGregor, shambling
sniffing the air and coming straight for him.
He found a door in a wall; but it was locked and there was no room for a fat little rabbit to squeeze underneath, even one who was slippery with the blood and bits of brain of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hedgehog.
An old mouse was running in and out over the stone doorstep, carrying peas and beans to her family in the wood. Peter asked her the way to the gate but she had such a large pea in her mouth she could not answer. She only shook her head at him and pointed toward Mr. ad Mrs McGregor as they shuffled ever so near.
Peter began to cry.
Then he tried to find his way straight across the garden, but he became more and more puzzled. Presently he came to a pond where Mr. McGregor filled his water-cans. A black cat was staring at some gold-fish; she sat very, very still, but now and then the tip of her tail twitched as if it were alive. Peter thought it best to go away without speaking to her.
He had heard about cats from his cousin, little Benjamin Bunny, who should have paid more attention to what he had told Peter so perhaps he would not have been eaten by a fat orange tabby with stitches on its leg.
He went back towards the tool-shed, but suddenly, quite close to him, he heard the noise of a hoe--scr-r-ritch, scratch, scratch, scritch.
Peter scuttered underneath the bushes, but presently as nothing happened, he came out and climbed upon a wheelbarrow, and peeped over.
The first thing he saw was Mr. McGregor gnawing on the black cat. His back was turned towards Peter and beyond him was the gate!
Peter got down very quietly off the wheelbarrow and started running as fast as he could go, along a straight walk behind some black currant bushes. Mr. McGregor caught sight of him at the corner, but Peter did not care. He slipped underneath the gate and was safe at last in the cemetery outside the garden.
Mr. McGregor hung up the little jacket and the shoes for a scare-crow to frighten the ravens.
Peter never stopped running or looked behind him till he got home to the big fir-tree.
He was so tired that he flopped down upon the nice soft sand on the floor of the rabbit hole, and shut his eyes. His mother was busy cooking; she wondered what he had done with his clothes and why he was so covered in blood and bits of brain. At first she thought he was dead and was about to place him in the pot, but then he moved and she thought better of it. That would have to wait for another time.
I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother made him take a bath and then put him to bed and made some garlic tea; and she gave a dose of it to Peter! "One teaspoonful to be taken at bedtime." But--
Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper.