THE TALE OF MR. TOD
[For William Francis of Ulva--Someday!]
I have made many books about
well-behaved people. Now, for a
change, I am going to make a story
about two disagreeable people,
called Tommy Brock and Mr. Tod.
Nobody could call Mr. Tod
"nice." The rabbits could not bear
him; they could smell him half a
mile off. He was of a wandering
habit and he had foxy whiskers;
they never knew where he would be next.
One day he was living in a stick-
house in the coppice [grove], causing
terror to the family of old Mr.
Benjamin Bouncer. Next day he
moved into a pollard willow near
the lake, frightening the wild ducks
and the water rats.
In winter and early spring he
might generally be found in an
earth amongst the rocks at the top
of Bull Banks, under Oatmeal Crag.
He had half a dozen houses, but
he was seldom at home.
The houses were not always
empty when Mr. Tod moved OUT;
because sometimes Tommy Brock
moved IN; (without asking leave).
Tommy Brock was a short bristly
fat waddling person with a grin; he
grinned all over his face. He was
not nice in his habits. He ate wasp
nests and frogs and worms; and he
waddled about by moonlight, digging
His clothes were very dirty; and
as he slept in the daytime, he al-
ways went to bed in his boots. And
the bed which he went to bed in
was generally Mr. Tod's.
Now Tommy Brock did occasionally
eat rabbit pie; but it was only
very little young ones occasionally,
when other food was really scarce.
He was friendly with old Mr.
Bouncer; they agreed in disliking
the wicked otters and Mr. Tod; they
often talked over that painful subject.
Old Mr. Bouncer was stricken in
years. He sat in the spring sunshine
outside the burrow, in a muffler;
smoking a pipe of rabbit tobacco.
He lived with his son Benjamin
Bunny and his daughter-in-law
Flopsy, who had a young family.
Old Mr. Bouncer was in charge of
the family that afternoon, because
Benjamin and Flopsy had gone out.
The little rabbit babies were just
old enough to open their blue eyes
and kick. They lay in a fluffy bed of
rabbit wool and hay, in a shallow
burrow, separate from the main
rabbit hole. To tell the truth--old
Mr. Bouncer had forgotten them.
He sat in the sun, and conversed
cordially with Tommy Brock, who
was passing through the wood with
a sack and a little spud which he
used for digging, and some mole
traps. He complained bitterly
about the scarcity of pheasants'
eggs, and accused Mr. Tod of
poaching them. And the otters had
cleared off all the frogs while he
was asleep in winter--"I have not
had a good square meal for a fort-
night, I am living on pig-nuts. I
shall have to turn vegetarian and
eat my own tail!" said Tommy
It was not much of a joke, but it
tickled old Mr. Bouncer; because
Tommy Brock was so fat and
stumpy and grinning.
So old Mr. Bouncer laughed; and
pressed Tommy Brock to come inside,
to taste a slice of seed cake
and "a glass of my daughter Flopsy's
cowslip wine." Tommy Brock
squeezed himself into the rabbit
hole with alacrity.
Then old Mr. Bouncer smoked
another pipe, and gave Tommy
Brock a cabbage leaf cigar which
was so very strong that it made
Tommy Brock grin more than ever;
and the smoke filled the burrow.
Old Mr. Bouncer coughed and
laughed; and Tommy Brock puffed
And Mr. Bouncer laughed and
coughed, and shut his eyes because
of the cabbage smoke ..........
When Flopsy and Benjamin came
back old Mr. Bouncer woke up.
Tommy Brock and all the young
rabbit babies had disappeared!
Mr. Bouncer would not confess
that he had admitted anybody into
the rabbit hole. But the smell of
badger was undeniable; and there
were round heavy footmarks in the
sand. He was in disgrace; Flopsy
wrung her ears, and slapped him.
Benjamin Bunny set off at once
after Tommy Brock.
There was not much difficulty in
tracking him; he had left his footmark
and gone slowly up the winding
footpath through the wood.
Here he had rooted up the moss
and wood sorrel. There he had dug
quite a deep hole for dog darnel;
and had set a mole trap. A little
stream crossed the way. Benjamin
skipped lightly over dry-foot; the
badger's heavy steps showed
plainly in the mud.
The path led to a part of the
thicket where the trees had been
cleared; there were leafy oak
stumps, and a sea of blue hyacinths
--but the smell that made Benjamin
stop was NOT the smell of flowers!
Mr. Tod's stick house was before
him; and, for once, Mr. Tod was at
home. There was not only a foxy
flavor in proof of it--there was
smoke coming out of the broken
pail that served as a chimney.
Benjamin Bunny sat up, staring,
his whiskers twitched. Inside the
stick house somebody dropped a
plate, and said something. Benjamin
stamped his foot, and bolted.
He never stopped till he came to
the other side of the wood. Apparently
Tommy Brock had turned the
same way. Upon the top of the wall
there were again the marks of
badger; and some ravellings of a
sack had caught on a briar.
Benjamin climbed over the wall,
into a meadow. He found another
mole trap newly set; he was still
upon the track of Tommy Brock. It
was getting late in the afternoon.
Other rabbits were coming out to
enjoy the evening air. One of them
in a blue coat, by himself, was busily
hunting for dandelions.--
"Cousin Peter! Peter Rabbit, Peter
Rabbit!" shouted Benjamin Bunny.
The blue coated rabbit sat up
with pricked ears--"Whatever is
the matter, Cousin Benjamin? Is it
a cat? or John Stoat Ferret?"
"No, no, no! He's bagged my
family--Tommy Brock--in a sack
--have you seen him?"
"Tommy Brock? how many,
"Seven, Cousin Peter, and all of
them twins! Did he come this way?
Please tell me quick!"
"Yes, yes; not ten minutes since
.... he said they were CATERPILLARS;
I did think they were kicking rather
hard, for caterpillars."
"Which way? which way has he
gone, Cousin Peter?"
"He had a sack with something
'live in it; I watched him set a mole
trap. Let me use my mind, Cousin
Benjamin; tell me from the beginning,"
Benjamin did so.
"My Uncle Bouncer has displayed
a lamentable want of discretion for
his years;" said Peter reflectively,
"but there are two hopeful
circumstances. Your family is alive and
kicking; and Tommy Brock has had
refreshments. He will probably go
to sleep, and keep them for breakfast."
"Which way?" "Cousin Benjamin,
compose yourself. I know
very well which way. Because Mr.
Tod was at home in the stick house
he has gone to Mr. Tod's other
house, at the top of Bull Banks. I
partly know, because he offered to
leave any message at Sister Cottontail's;
he said he would be passing."
(Cottontail had married a black
rabbit, and gone to live on the hill.)
Peter hid his dandelions, and
accompanied the afflicted parent,
who was all of atwitter. They
crossed several fields and began to
climb the hill; the tracks of Tommy
Brock were plainly to be seen. He
seemed to have put down the sack
every dozen yards, to rest.
"He must be very puffed; we are
close behind him, by the scent.
What a nasty person!" said Peter.
The sunshine was still warm and
slanting on the hill pastures. Half
way up, Cottontail was sitting in
her doorway, with four or five half-
grown little rabbits playing about
her; one black and the others brown.
Cottontail had seen Tommy
Brock passing in the distance.
Asked whether her husband was at
home she replied that Tommy
Brock had rested twice while she
He had nodded, and pointed to
the sack, and seemed doubled up
with laughing.--"Come away,
Peter; he will be cooking them;
come quicker!" said Benjamin Bunny.
They climbed up and up;--"He
was at home; I saw his black ears
peeping out of the hole." "They live
too near the rocks to quarrel with
their neighbors. Come on, Cousin Benjamin!"
When they came near the wood
at the top of Bull Banks, they went
cautiously. The trees grew amongst
heaped up rocks; and there,
beneath a crag, Mr. Tod had made
one of his homes. It was at the top
of a steep bank; the rocks and
bushes overhung it. The rabbits
crept up carefully, listening and
This house was something between
a cave, a prison, and a tumbledown
pigsty. There was a strong
door, which was shut and locked.
The setting sun made the window
panes glow like red flame; but
the kitchen fire was not alight. It
was neatly laid with dry sticks, as
the rabbits could see, when they
peeped through the window.
Benjamin sighed with relief.
But there were preparations
upon the kitchen table which made
him shudder. There was an immense
empty pie dish of blue willow pattern,
and a large carving knife and fork,
and a chopper.
At the other end of the table was
a partly unfolded tablecloth, a
plate, a tumbler, a knife and fork,
salt cellar, mustard and a chair--
in short, preparations for one
No person was to be seen, and
no young rabbits. The kitchen was
empty and silent; the clock had run
down. Peter and Benjamin flattened
their noses against the window,
and stared into the dusk.
Then they scrambled round the
rocks to the other side of the house.
It was damp and smelly, and over-
grown with thorns and briars.
The rabbits shivered in their shoes.
"Oh my poor rabbit babies!
What a dreadful place; I shall never
see them again!" sighed Benjamin.
They crept up to the bedroom
window. It was closed and bolted
like the kitchen. But there were
signs that this window had been
recently open; the cobwebs were
disturbed, and there were fresh dirty
footmarks upon the windowsill.
The room inside was so dark that
at first they could make out nothing;
but they could hear a noise--a
slow deep regular snoring grunt.
And as their eyes became accustomed
to the darkness, they perceived
that somebody was asleep
on Mr. Tod's bed, curled up under
the blanket.--"He has gone to bed
in his boots," whispered Peter.
Benjamin, who was all of atwitter,
pulled Peter off the windowsill.
Tommy Brock's snores continued,
grunty and regular from Mr. Tod's bed.
Nothing could be seen of the young family.
The sun had set; an owl began to
hoot in the wood. There were many
unpleasant things lying about that
had much better have been buried;
rabbit bones and skulls, and chickens'
legs and other horrors. It was
a shocking place, and very dark.
They went back to the front of
the house, and tried in every way to
move the bolt of the kitchen window.
They tried to push up a rusty
nail between the window sashes;
but it was of no use, especially
without a light.
They sat side by side outside the
window, whispering and listening.
In half an hour the moon rose
over the wood. It shone full and
clear and cold, upon the house,
amongst the rocks, and in at the
kitchen window. But alas, no little
rabbit babies were to be seen! The
moonbeams twinkled on the carving
knife and the pie dish, and
made a path of brightness across
the dirty floor.
The light showed a little door in
a wall beside the kitchen fireplace
--a little iron door belonging to a
brick oven of that old-fashioned
sort that used to be heated with
faggots of wood.
And presently at the same moment
Peter and Benjamin noticed
that whenever they shook the window
the little door opposite shook
in answer. The young family were
alive; shut up in the oven!
Benjamin was so excited that it
was a mercy he did not awake
Tommy Brock, whose snores continued
solemnly in Mr. Tod's bed.
But there really was not very
much comfort in the discovery.
They could not open the window;
and although the young family was
alive the little rabbits were quite in-
capable of letting themselves out;
they were not old enough to crawl.
After much whispering, Peter
and Benjamin decided to dig a tunnel.
They began to burrow a yard
or two lower down the bank. They
hoped that they might be able to
work between the large stones
under the house; the kitchen floor
was so dirty that it was impossible
to say whether it was made of earth
They dug and dug for hours.
They could not tunnel straight on
account of stones; but by the end of
the night they were under the
kitchen floor. Benjamin was on his
back scratching upwards. Peter's
claws were worn down; he was
outside the tunnel, shuffling sand
away. He called out that it was
morning--sunrise; and that the
jays were making a noise down
below in the woods.
Benjamin Bunny came out of the
dark tunnel shaking the sand from
his ears; he cleaned his face with
his paws. Every minute the sun
shone warmer on the top of the
hill. In the valley there was a sea of
white mist, with golden tops of
trees showing through.
Again from the fields down
below in the mist there came the
angry cry of a jay, followed by the
sharp yelping bark of a fox!
Then those two rabbits lost their
heads completely. They did the
most foolish thing that they could
have done. They rushed into their
short new tunnel, and hid themselves
at the top end of it, under
Mr. Tod's kitchen floor.
Mr. Tod was coming up Bull
Banks, and he was in the very worst
of tempers. First he had been upset
by breaking the plate. It was his
own fault; but it was a china plate,
the last of the dinner service that
had belonged to his grandmother,
old Vixen Tod. Then the midges
had been very bad. And he had
failed to catch a hen pheasant on
her nest; and it had contained only
five eggs, two of them addled. Mr.
Tod had had an unsatisfactory night.
As usual, when out of humor, he
determined to move house. First he
tried the pollard willow, but it was
damp; and the otters had left a
dead fish near it. Mr. Tod likes
nobody's leavings but his own.
He made his way up the hill; his
temper was not improved by noticing
unmistakable marks of badger.
No one else grubs up the moss so
wantonly as Tommy Brock.
Mr. Tod slapped his stick upon
the earth and fumed; he guessed
where Tommy Brock had gone to.
He was further annoyed by the jay
bird which followed him persistently.
It flew from tree to tree and
scolded, warning every rabbit
within hearing that either a cat or
a fox was coming up the plantation.
Once when it flew screaming
over his head Mr. Tod snapped at
it, and barked.
He approached his house very
carefully, with a large rusty key. He
sniffed and his whiskers bristled.
The house was locked up, but Mr.
Tod had his doubts whether it was
empty. He turned the rusty key in
the lock; the rabbits below could
hear it. Mr. Tod opened the door
cautiously and went in.
The sight that met Mr. Tod's eyes
in Mr. Tod's kitchen made Mr. Tod
furious. There was Mr. Tod's chair,
and Mr. Tod's pie dish, and his
knife and fork and mustard and
salt cellar, and his tablecloth, that
he had left folded up in the dresser
--all set out for supper (or breakfast)
--without doubt for that odious Tommy Brock.
There was a smell of fresh earth
and dirty badger, which fortunately
overpowered all smell of rabbit.
But what absorbed Mr. Tod's
attention was a noise, a deep slow
regular snoring grunting noise,
coming from his own bed.
He peeped through the hinges of
the half-open bedroom door. Then
he turned and came out of the
house in a hurry. His whiskers bristled
and his coat collar stood on end with rage.
For the next twenty minutes Mr.
Tod kept creeping cautiously into
the house, and retreating hurriedly
out again. By degrees he ventured
further in--right into the bed-
room. When he was outside the
house, he scratched up the earth
with fury. But when he was inside
--he did not like the look of
Tommy Brock's teeth.
He was lying on his back with his
mouth open, grinning from ear to
ear. He snored peacefully and
regularly; but one eye was not
Mr. Tod came in and out of the
bedroom. Twice he brought in his
walking stick, and once he brought
in the coal scuttle. But he thought
better of it, and took them away.
When he came back after removing
the coal scuttle, Tommy Brock
was lying a little more sideways;
but he seemed even sounder asleep.
He was an incurably indolent person;
he was not in the least afraid
of Mr. Tod; he was simply too lazy
and comfortable to move.
Mr. Tod came back yet again
into the bedroom with a clothes
line. He stood a minute watching
Tommy Brock and listening attentively
to the snores. They were very
loud indeed, but seemed quite natural.
Mr. Tod turned his back towards
the bed, and undid the window. It
creaked; he turned round with a
jump. Tommy Brock, who had
opened one eye--shut it hastily.
The snores continued.
Mr. Tod's proceedings were
peculiar, and rather difficult (because
the bed was between the window
and the door of the bedroom). He
opened the window a little way,
and pushed out the greater part of
the clothes line on to the window-
sill. The rest of the line, with a hook
at the end, remained in his hand.
Tommy Brock snored conscientiously.
Mr. Tod stood and looked at him
for a minute; then he left the room again.
Tommy Brock opened both eyes,
and looked at the rope and grinned.
There was a noise outside the window.
Tommy Brock shut his eyes in a hurry.
Mr. Tod had gone out at the
front door, and round to the back
of the house. On the way, he stumbled
over the rabbit burrow. If he
had had any idea who was inside it
he would have pulled them out quickly.
His foot went through the tunnel
nearly upon the top of Peter Rabbit
and Benjamin; but, fortunately, he
thought that it was some more of
Tommy Brock's work.
He took up the coil of line from
the sill, listened for a moment, and
then tied the rope to a tree.
Tommy Brock watched him with
one eye, through the window. He
Mr. Tod fetched a large heavy
pailful of water from the spring,
and staggered with it through the
kitchen into his bedroom.
Tommy Brock snored industriously,
with rather a snort.
Mr. Tod put down the pail beside
the bed, took up the end of rope
with the hook--hesitated, and
looked at Tommy Brock. The
snores were almost apoplectic; but
the grin was not quite so big.
Mr. Tod gingerly mounted a
chair by the head of the bedstead.
His legs were dangerously near to
Tommy Brock's teeth.
He reached up and put the end
of rope, with the hook, over the
head of the tester bed, where the
curtains ought to hang.
(Mr. Tod's curtains were folded
up, and put away, owing to the
house being unoccupied. So was
the counterpane. Tommy Brock
was covered with a blanket only.)
Mr. Tod standing on the unsteady
chair looked down upon him attentively;
he really was a first prize sound sleeper!
It seemed as though nothing
would waken him--not even the
flapping rope across the bed.
Mr. Tod descended safely from
the chair, and endeavored to get up
again with the pail of water. He
intended to hang it from the hook,
dangling over the head of Tommy
Brock, in order to make a sort of
shower-bath, worked by a string,
through the window.
But, naturally, being a thin-
legged person (though vindictive
and sandy whiskered)--he was
quite unable to lift the heavy
weight to the level of the hook and
rope. He very nearly overbalanced
The snores became more and
more apoplectic. One of Tommy
Brock's hind legs twitched under
the blanket, but still he slept on
Mr. Tod and the pail descended
from the chair without accident.
After considerable thought, he
emptied the water into a wash
basin and jug. The empty pail was
not too heavy for him; he slung it
up wobbling over the head of
Surely there never was such a
sleeper! Mr. Tod got up and down,
down and up on the chair.
As he could not lift the whole
pailful of water at once he fetched
a milk jug and ladled quarts of
water into the pail by degrees. The
pail got fuller and fuller, and
swung like a pendulum. Occasionally
a drop splashed over; but still
Tommy Brock snored regularly and
never moved,--except in one eye.
At last Mr. Tod's preparations
were complete. The pail was full of
water; the rope was tightly strained
over the top of the bed, and across
the windowsill to the tree outside.
"It will make a great mess in my
bedroom; but I could never sleep in
that bed again without a spring
cleaning of some sort," said Mr. Tod.
Mr. Tod took a last look at the
badger and softly left the room. He
went out of the house, shutting the
front door. The rabbits heard his
footsteps over the tunnel.
He ran round behind the house,
intending to undo the rope in order
to let fall the pailful of water upon
"I will wake him up with an
unpleasant surprise," said Mr. Tod.
The moment he had gone,
Tommy Brock got up in a hurry; he
rolled Mr. Tod's dressing-gown into
a bundle, put it into the bed beneath
the pail of water instead of
himself, and left the room also--
He went into the kitchen, lighted
the fire and boiled the kettle; for
the moment he did not trouble
himself to cook the baby rabbits.
When Mr. Tod got to the tree, he
found that the weight and strain
had dragged the knot so tight that
it was past untying. He was obliged
to gnaw it with his teeth. He
chewed and gnawed for more than
twenty minutes. At last the rope
gave way with such a sudden jerk
that it nearly pulled his teeth out,
and quite knocked him over backwards.
Inside the house there was a
great crash and splash, and the
noise of a pail rolling over and over.
But no screams. Mr. Tod was
mystified; he sat quite still, and
listened attentively. Then he peeped
in at the window. The water was
dripping from the bed, the pail had
rolled into a corner.
In the middle of the bed, under
the blanket, was a wet SOMETHING
--much flattened in the middle,
where the pail had caught it (as it
were across the tummy). Its head
was covered by the wet blanket,
and it was NOT SNORING ANY LONGER.
There was nothing stirring, and
no sound except the drip, drop,
drop, drip, of water trickling from
Mr. Tod watched it for half an
hour; his eyes glistened.
Then he cut a caper, and became
so bold that he even tapped at the
window; but the bundle never moved.
Yes--there was no doubt about
it--it had turned out even better
than he had planned; the pail had
hit poor old Tommy Brock, and
killed him dead!
"I will bury that nasty person in
the hole which he has dug. I will
bring my bedding out, and dry it in
the sun," said Mr. Tod.
"I will wash the tablecloth and
spread it on the grass in the sun to
bleach. And the blanket must be
hung up in the wind; and the bed
must be thoroughly disinfected,
and aired with a warming-pan;
and warmed with a hot water bottle."
"I will get soft soap, and monkey
soap, and all sorts of soap; and
soda and scrubbing brushes; and
persian powder; and carbolic to
remove the smell. I must have a
disinfecting. Perhaps I may have to
He hurried round the house to
get a shovel from the kitchen--
"First I will arrange the hole--then
I will drag out that person in the
blanket. . . ."
He opened the door. . . .
Tommy Brock was sitting at Mr.
Tod's kitchen table, pouring out tea
from Mr. Tod's teapot into Mr.
Tod's teacup. He was quite dry
himself and grinning; and he threw
the cup of scalding tea all over Mr. Tod.
Then Mr. Tod rushed upon
Tommy Brock, and Tommy Brock
grappled with Mr. Tod amongst
the broken crockery, and there
was a terrific battle all over the
kitchen. To the rabbits underneath
it sounded as if the floor would give
way at each crash of falling furniture.
They crept out of their tunnel,
and hung about amongst the rocks
and bushes, listening anxiously.
Inside the house the racket was
fearful. The rabbit babies in the
oven woke up trembling; perhaps it
was fortunate they were shut up inside.
Everything was upset except the
And everything was broken,
except the mantelpiece and the
kitchen fender. The crockery was
smashed to atoms.
The chairs were broken, and the
window, and the clock fell with a
crash, and there were handfuls of
Mr. Tod's sandy whiskers.
The vases fell off the mantelpiece,
the cannisters fell off the
shelf; the kettle fell off the hob.
Tommy Brock put his foot in a jar
of raspberry jam.
And the boiling water out of the
kettle fell upon the tail of Mr. Tod.
When the kettle fell, Tommy
Brock, who was still grinning,
happened to be uppermost; and he
rolled Mr. Tod over and over like a
log, out at the door.
Then the snarling and worrying
went on outside; and they rolled
over the bank, and down hill,
bumping over the rocks. There will
never be any love lost between
Tommy Brock and Mr. Tod.
As soon as the coast was clear,
Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny
came out of the bushes.
"Now for it! Run in, Cousin
Benjamin! Run in and get them! while
I watch the door."
But Benjamin was frightened--
"Oh; oh! they are coming back!"
"No they are not."
"Yes they are!"
"What dreadful bad language! I
think they have fallen down the
Still Benjamin hesitated, and
Peter kept pushing him--
"Be quick, it's all right. Shut the
oven door, Cousin Benjamin, so
that he won't miss them."
Decidedly there were lively
doings in Mr. Tod's kitchen!
At home in the rabbit hole,
things had not been quite comfortable.
After quarreling at supper,
Flopsy and old Mr. Bouncer had
passed a sleepless night, and
quarrelled again at breakfast. Old Mr.
Bouncer could no longer deny that
he had invited company into the
rabbit hole; but he refused to reply
to the questions and reproaches of
Flopsy. The day passed heavily.
Old Mr. Bouncer, very sulky, was
huddled up in a corner, barricaded
with a chair. Flopsy had taken
away his pipe and hidden the tobacco.
She had been having a complete
turn out and spring cleaning,
to relieve her feelings. She had just
finished. Old Mr. Bouncer, behind
his chair, was wondering anxiously
what she would do next.
In Mr. Tod's kitchen, amidst the
wreckage, Benjamin Bunny picked
his way to the oven nervously,
through a thick cloud of dust. He
opened the oven door, felt inside,
and found something warm and
wriggling. He lifted it out carefully,
and rejoined Peter Rabbit.
"I've got them! Can we get away?
Shall we hide, Cousin Peter?"
Peter pricked his ears; distant
sounds of fighting still echoed in
Five minutes afterwards two
breathless rabbits came scuttering
away down Bull Banks, half carrying,
half dragging a sack between
them, bumpetty bump over the
grass. They reached home safely,
and burst into the rabbit hole.
Great was old Mr. Bouncer's relief
and Flopsy's joy when Peter and
Benjamin arrived in triumph with
the young family. The rabbit babies
were rather tumbled and very hungry;
they were fed and put to bed.
They soon recovered.
A new long pipe and a fresh supply
of rabbit tobacco was presented
to Mr. Bouncer. He was rather
upon his dignity; but he accepted.
Old Mr. Bouncer was forgiven,
and they all had dinner. Then Peter
and Benjamin told their story--but
they had not waited long enough to
be able to tell the end of the battle
between Tommy Brock and Mr. Tod.
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