The Tale Of Peter Rabbit And The Pond
By Mike Rawlins
Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits and their names were –
Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton- tail,and Peter.
They lived with their Mother in a sandbank underneath the root of a very big fir tree.
One morning, old Mrs. Rabbit said to Peter, ‘I have to take Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail to buy new shoes. While we are out I want you to stay here in the garden. You are not to go into the fields and you are not to go into Mr. McGregor’s garden – not after all that fuss we had last time with the carrots and the cabbages and so on. Now you be a good boy and we’ll be back soon.
So off they went leaving Peter to sit in the garden with the bees in the flowers and the wind in the grass.
It was a sunny day and Peter soon began to feel hot and sticky. He tried sitting in the shade of an old apple tree but the Summer air was warm and thick and he felt no better.
As he closed his eyes he thought he could see and feel the cool waters of the pond at the edge of Mr. McGregor’s field. It was one of his favourite places – the shade from the willow trees that edged the bank made it cool and peaceful, even on the hottest of days. And today was one of the hottest days that Peter had known.
Peter thought that, if he was careful, and didn’t go near Mr. McGregor’s garden, it would be alright for him to go and cool off by the pond.
‘I’ll be very quiet,’ he said to himself, ‘and I’ll be back before Mother comes home.’
So he set off, through the hedge and into the quiet, dusty lane that ran past the garden, down by the field and led to the quiet, cool shade of the pond.
He reached the pond without any misadventure. There was no one to be seen – the day was too hot for anyone to be out in the sun, unless they had shoes to buy of course.
Peter sat on the bank for a while and threw small stones and sticks into the pond, watching how the ripples he made spread slowly but surely across the still, smooth surface of the water, all the way to the far bank.
After a short time, he grew tired of this and decided to sit with his back against a particularly large willow that dipped it’s branches, like fingers, into the cool water. And as he sat, the warm air wrapped around him and the soft buzzing of bees and the rustling of leaves whispered in his rabbit ears.
Some-time later he woke suddenly. He had heard something but he could not tell what.
Again, there came the snap of a twig and he realized that someone was coming to the pond. A big someone, a someone with a familiar walk and a familiar shadow and a familiar cough. Mr. McGregor was there, standing before him.
Peter froze. There was nowhere for him to run. Nowhere to hide. And as he sat, silently shivering, the shadow fell across him and the face of Mr. McGregor was before him.
And then Mr. McGregor was gone, walking away muttering to himself:
‘Strange, I thought I heard that Peter Rabbit snoring here but he is no-where to be seen.’
Peter could not believe his ears – and they were fine ears to be believed.
How had he not been caught?
He was still wondering this when he heard his Mother’s voice coming closer, together with the voices of Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail.
Soon they were there, by the side of the pond. Peter ran to them crying out:
‘Oh Mother, I’m sorry. I thought I would be safe but I fell asleep and Mr. McGregor came and found me only he didn’t see me and then he went away and …’
But his Mother walked past him as if he wasn’t there and so did Flopsy, and so did Mopsy and so did Cotton-tail.
And as they walked away he cried after them:
‘Where are you going? Why are you leaving? Why can’t you see me?’
Then they were gone and all was quiet, apart from the breeze and the bees and the trees.
Peter sat in the quiet shade and sobbed.
‘What has happened to me?’ he asked.
And then he had an idea.
He ran to the pond, slid down the bank to the edge of the water and, slowly, he leaned forward and looked into the smooth, still, glass like surface of the pond.
And there he saw …
… the sky …
… and the dark shape of trees blown in the wind …
… and bright flashes of sunlight …
… and the white clouds above him.
And that was all.
‘Where am I?’ he asked in a whisper as darkness gathered him in …
His Mother’s voice came as if from a long way away.
‘Peter, wake up. We’re back and it’s time for tea and we’ve brought you a carrot.’
Peter shook his head and slowly he saw that he was in his garden, lying beneath the old apple tree.
He sprang to his feet and ran to his Mother.
‘Oh, Mother. Mother, I’m sorry. I went to the pond and I thought it would be alright but Mr. McGregor came but he didn’t see me and he went away and then you came with Flopsy and Mopsy and Cotton-tail but you just walked past me and then I looked in the pond and I wasn’t there and … and …’
‘Now, now, Peter,’ said his Mother. ‘You’ve just been dreaming, and no wonder in this sunshine.’
And she took him gently into her arms.
‘Now you are safe. Now you are real. You are here – of course you are. And we see you. I see you. I see everything you are and everything you have been and everything you will become. And you are my Peter Rabbit and always will be.’
‘Now come with me and we will get you some delicious carrot juice to drink and maybe a leaf of lettuce to nibble and then, later when it is cooler as the sun sets, we shall both go to the pond and look into the deep waters and you will see yourself as you are … and as I see you … a fine young rabbit who makes me proud. Even if he does find it hard to stay in the garden… when he is told.