Friday, March 25, 2005

25 March 2005

The Lay of the Land
`But isn't it a bit dull at times?' the Mole ventured to ask. `Just you and the river, and no one else to pass a word with?'

`No one else to -- well, I mustn't be hard on you,' said the Rat with forbearance. `You're new to it, and of course you don't know. The bank is so crowded nowadays that many people are moving away altogether: O no, it isn't what it used to be, at all. Otters, kingfishers, dabchicks, moorhens, all of them about all day long and always wanting you to do something -- as if a fellow had no business of his own to attend to!'

`What lies over there?' asked the Mole, waving a paw towards a background of woodland that darkly framed the water-meadows on one side of the river.

`That? O, that's just the Wild Wood,' said the Rat shortly. `We don't go there very much, we river-bankers.'

`Aren't they -- aren't they very nice people in there?' said the Mole, a trifle nervously.

`W-e-ll,' replied the Rat, `let me see. The squirrels are all right. And the rabbits -- some of 'em, but rabbits are a mixed lot. And then there's Badger, of course. He lives right in the heart of it; wouldn't live anywhere else, either, if you paid him to do it. Dear old Badger! Nobody interferes with him. They'd better not,' he added significantly.

`Why, who should interfere with him?' asked the Mole.

`Well, of course -- there -- are others,' explained the Rat in a hesitating sort of way.

`Weasels -- and stoats -- and foxes -- and so on. They're all right in a way -- I'm very good friends with them -- pass the time of day when we meet, and all that -- but they break out sometimes, there's no denying it, and then -- well, you can't really trust them, and that's the fact.'

The Mole knew well that it is quite against animal-etiquette to dwell on possible trouble ahead, or even to allude to it; so he dropped the subject.

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