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The White Rabbits and the Tar Baby by Agnes Carr

 

Ten little white rabbits once lived on the edge of a wood, in a snug little hole at the foot of a tall tree; and they were as happy as ten rabbits could be, for every day a good little girl, who lived just back of the wood, brought them their breakfast of white rolls and brown gingerbread; and near by there was a beautiful stream of clear, sweet water, where they went to drink, and which sang a merry tune to them as it went rippling along.

But one morning when the little rabbits went for their water, they found the brook full of sticks and stones, and the water so muddy they could not drink it at all.

"Who has done this?" asked Frisky, the oldest and wisest of the rabbits.

"It was old Reynard the fox," said the brook; "and I am so choked up I can not sing."

So the little rabbits set to work to clear away the dirt and rubbish, and did it so well that before long the brook began its gay song again, and the water was clear enough for them to drink.

Next day, however, the stream was filled up again, and they had all the work to do over, until their little paws ached. So when, on the third morning, they found the water as muddy as ever, they all sat down on the bank and cried.

At last Frisky jumped up and said, "It is no use to cry over muddy water; but we must do something to punish this old rascal of a fox, and make him leave our brook alone."

"But what can we do?" asked his brothers and sisters.

"Come with me, and I will show you."

So the little rabbits followed Frisky to a pile of tar and pitch that some men had left; and out of it they made a black tar baby, which they set up on a rock close by the edge of the brook, with a piece of gingerbread in its mouth; and when night came, and the moon shone bright, they all hid behind a tree to see what would happen.

Pretty soon the old fox smelled the gingerbread, and spied the baby on the rock.

Then he came up close and said, "Little girl, little girl, give me a piece of your gingerbread, or I'll box your ears."

The baby did not answer, so the old fox climbed up on the rock, and boxed her on the ear; and his paw stuck so fast he could not pull it away again.

Then he said, "Little girl, little girl, give me a piece of your gingerbread, or I'll box you on the other ear."

The baby did not say a word, so he boxed her on the other ear, and his other paw stuck fast.

Then he said, "Little girl, little girl, give me a piece of your gingerbread, or I'll bite off your nose." Still the baby would not answer, so the fox bit at her nose; and his teeth stuck tight in the pitch, and he was almost choked with the tar.

The little rabbits then all came out and danced around the wicked old fox, saying, "Now you can't choke the pretty brook, for your own mouth is choked with tar!"

At last Frisky asked, "Now what shall we do with him?"

"Leave him to starve," said one. "Set fire to his tail," said another. And they all proposed something, except Snowflake, the youngest and prettiest of the family, who said nothing until Frisky turned to her and asked, "And what would you do?"

"I should let him go," replied Snowflake, "if he would promise not to trouble the water again."

"Snowflake is right," said Frisky; "he has been punished enough. We will let him go."

So they first loosened his mouth, and rubbed his teeth with butter to take off the tar, and when he had said three times, "Hope my tail may drop off if I ever hurt you or the brook again," they set his paws free, and he scampered off, and hid himself in his den in the wood.

And the little rabbits lived happy forever after.