The best time to start a journey is when one is having the worst day of one’s life. That was what Perrie Rabbit thought. Some would say that running away doesn’t solve one’s problems, but Perrie Rabbit begged to differ. So, when he had a big fight with his sister about the number of carrots she owed him, he decided to leave his home in the forest and go on a long journey.
Perrie did not have any doubt as to where he should go. He had many friends in the neighboring woodland. He could visit the porcupines—Quinn was always welcoming, or he could stay in his cousin Wendy’s burrow. Anyway he was sure his sister would never visit the woods, and he will be safe from her constant bickering.
“Six is all you get from me, Perrie,” she had said when he clearly knew that he had lent her seven carrots last winter.
The afternoon was glorious, with the sun not too bright and the clouds not too dark. If he ran without stopping, he could reach Quinn’s rocks before the following noon, but Perrie did not plan to run non-stop. Of course he had gained some speed while trying to get away from his sister, but soon he began sauntering here and there, sniffing this and that. He stopped to munch some grass, which made his throat very dry indeed. What he needed was a nice juicy fruit, but where could he find one?
Beyond the trees, the river gurgled invitingly, reflecting the shining disc that was the sun. Perrie clambered between the roots and made his way down the rocky path to reach the welcoming cool water.
Gulp, gulp. He drank thirstily.
Gulp, gulp, came a sound from his right.
Perrie stopped mid-gulp and looked sideways without turning his head or moving his long floppy ear. He was not expecting to see a friend on his way, and sure enough, it was not a friend that stood to his side. It was a fox.
The fox stepped further into the water and examined the reflection of its sleeky, golden-brown fur. It seemed that the fox did not spot Perrie, and if he was careful enough, he could retreat unseen.
“Do you know how I keep my fur so shiny?” The fox asked aloud to no one in particular.
How would I know? Perrie thought. Maybe the fox was crazy, or it had a friend living under the water.
“I am asking you, silly rabbit,” the fox continued. “Can’t you see how beautiful I look?”
“Yes, yes, really… beautiful,” Perrie stammered.
“And I have noticed that whenever my stomach is full, my fur is elegant.”
“Er… then your stomach must be really full now because your fur looks fantabulous.”
Run, run. A frantic voice said inside Perrie’s head. Another voice, which sounded suspiciously like his sister’s, tagged along. You must have accepted the six carrots and stayed home.
“Don’t think of running. I can catch you in two bounds.” The fox finally turned its head toward Perrie.
“Or we can talk, and I can tell you how to get sleekier fur,” Perrie said, thinking quickly.
“Who? You? With your dirty brown coat?”
“Have you heard of Furrer?”
“The badger who rules over The Furrow?” The fox looked intrigued.
“Yes. The same. I live in The Furrow, and I know the secret of Furrer’s thick and fluffy fur.”
“What is it?” The fox approached Perrie, laid a paw on his back, and pressed him to the ground.
Perrie spluttered. What did that badger do to grow his fur? He had no idea.
“He… he soaks his fur in the river for hours at a time.”
“I can do that,” said the fox, “after I eat you.”
“Haven’t you heard you shouldn’t swim after a meal?” Perrie tried to ignore the fox’s stale breath that was warming his head.
“It wouldn’t make any difference if I ate you. I already had a full meal of the chicken I caught from the village.”
“Ah! Then you can save me for later,” Perrie said, squirming under the fox’s paw. “Swimming will make you hungry. I’ll wait here until you come back.”
“Ha! I have a better plan. I’ll store you in my den and close the door most firmly.”
The fox dangled Perrie by his ears and took him away from the river bank.
Stay calm. Stay calm. Perrie soothed himself.
He had it all figured out. When this vain fox puts him in the den, he can dig out at the other end. After all, he was an expert burrower.
“Here is my home sweet home,” the fox said when it reached a group of rocks. “You stay in there until I come back.” It threw Perrie in and rolled a rock to close the mouth of its home.
Perrie rubbed his ears and began to heave a sigh of relief, which quickly turned into a groan. The fox’s lair was made up of rocks, with not an inch of loose soil. There was nowhere to dig. Perrie ran to the door and frantically pushed the rock. It didn’t budge. He was truly trapped.
Six carrots were as good as seven. He should have just accepted them. After all, he wasn’t quite sure whether he had given his sister seven carrots last winter. It didn’t matter now. He would not see another winter or his sister. Peppy was such a loving sister. She always looked out for him.
The rock slid slowly away to let in the evening sun. The fox was back.
“You tricked me,” it sniveled. “My fur has gone limp. It was so much better before.”
Perrie lay on the floor, wretched. If the fox had to kill him, let it do so now.
“You have to make this right. Make my fur glossy again.”
“Why should I help you? I am going to die,” Perrie said in a muffled voice.
“Make this right, and I’ll let you go.”
Perrie jumped up, but the fox had a strange look in its eyes, as though it was trying hard to look earnest. It was lying.
Creeping out of the hole, Perrie made a show of examining the fox, his eyes dancing all around the rocky cliff. Not a hole was in sight, but the rocks around the den were not tightly packed together. There were crevices and gaps, just not large enough for a rabbit to escape. It may serve another purpose, though. If only the fox didn’t figure out what he was up to.
“I’ll first brush your fur with a stick.” Perrie looked around and saw a twig. He took this to the fox and began combing its fur.
“It is not working,” the fox whined.
“Give it time. Now I have to curl the fur on your tail to make it bouncy.”
“You can do that?”
“Yes, I will just loop it in here,” said Perrie as he took the fox’s tail and inserted it into a gap between the rocks, “and take it out of here.” He wound the tail through another gap. “And finally, twist it a bit at the end.” He scrunched up the tip of the tail under the heaviest rock.
“How long will it take to curl the tail? I can’t move.”
“Goodbye then.” Saying this, Perrie scampered up the rocky cliff and reached the shelter of the trees. He did not look behind to check if the fox had freed itself. Instead he ran back to his home in The Furrow. He had decided that he would accept the six carrots from his sister and tell her a wonderful little tale.
(Timeline: Before ‘The Hedgehog Trail’)
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