The Tale of Mr. Tod
by Beatrix Potter
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 foxey whiskers - they never
knew where he would be next.
One day he was living in a stick
house in the coppice, 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
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 day time, he always
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 fortnight, I am
living on pig nuts. I shall have to
turn vegetarian and eat my own
tail!" said Tommy Brock.
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 grinned.
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 foot
mark 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 foxey
flavour 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,
Benjamin? Is it a cat? or John
"No, no, no! He's bagged
family - Tommy Brock - in a sack
- have you seen him?"
"Tommy Brock? how many,
"Seven, Cousin Peter, and
them twins! Did he come this
way? Please tell me quick!"
"Yes, yes - not ten minutes
- he said they were caterpillars -
I did think they were kicking rather
hard, for caterpillars."
"Which way? which way has
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 refreshment. 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 a twitter. 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 -
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 watched him.
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 neighbours. Come on
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 peeping.
This house was something
between a cave, a prison, and a tumble
down pigstye. There was a strong door, which was shut
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 person's supper.
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 overgrown with thorns and briars.
The rabbits shivered in their shoes.
"Oh my poor rabbit babies!
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 a twitter,
pulled Peter off the windowsill.
Tommy Brock's snores continued,
grunty and regular from Mr. Tod's
bed. Nothing could be seen of the
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 incapable 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 or flags.
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 humour,
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
bedroom. 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
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 uneasy, (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
It seemed as though nothing
would waken him - not even the
flapping rope across the bed.
Mr. Tod descended safely from
the chair, and endeavoured 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
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 Tommy
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 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 window sill to the
"It will make a great mess
my bedroom; but I could never
sleep in that bed again without a
spring cleaning of some sort," said
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
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 - grinning
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
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 flattened
something - much dinged in, 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
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
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
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
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 burn sulphur."
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
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 canisters 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 at the door."
But Benjamin was frightened -
"Oh, oh! they are coming
"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.
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 quarrelling 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, amongst 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
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 long new 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