The white rabbit lived in town, but he was very unhappy there. The dogs chased him and the children pulled his ears.
“I’m tired of this city life,” said he. “I will run away into the country. There I shall be much safer among the animals of the woods.”
So he ran away to the country. Soon he met a wild rabbit. Now wild rabbits are always gray.
“No one in town wears gray,” said the white rabbit, scornfully. “The best people always wear white and look very fine. That is why my coat is so soft and white. Ours was the best family in town.”
The gray rabbit put his ears very far back. He said never a word, but ran away into the woods.
One day the white rabbit met a marten. The marten is small and brown. His fur is worn by the best people and he knows they think much of him. He could not understand why the white rabbit should think himself any better than a marten. So he asked the white rabbit many questions.
“I cannot talk with you now,” was the answer, “for I must hurry home to my family. Come and take dinner with me tomorrow and then I will gladly answer all your questions. People who come from the city know a great deal and like to tell what they know.”
“Thank you,” replied the marten. “I shall be glad to come and hear all about the city.”
The next day he brushed his fur and washed his face and paws very carefully. The gray rabbits watched him go to the rabbit’s home in the brush heap. They put their ears very far back and exclaimed, “The marten is wise, but he will be wiser when he comes home!”
The marten and his host had a fine dinner, you may be sure. The marten thought the rabbit ate very fast, but it was not polite to say so. He watched the rabbit’s mouth and tried to eat like him. Then he began to ask questions.
“What makes the slit in your lip?” asked he.
“My family in town all ate with knives and forks. My knife slipped and cut my lip,” was the answer.
“Why do you keep moving your mouth and whiskers?”
“Because I am always planning and worrying. My family always worried. Out here in the country we do not think enough of the terrible things that may happen. Perhaps a great fire might come and burn up all these trees; or a flood might swell the river and drown us. The birds make us forget these awful things. We are too happy.”
The marten did not agree with this and shook his head. He did not mean to do this, however, because he did not want the white rabbit to think him different from town people. So he pretended some grass had tickled his nose.
After dinner they went out for a walk.
“What makes you hop?” asked the marten.
“My family always hop. People in town never step along like country people. See how well I look and how clumsy that moose cow is over there.”
Just then they heard a soft step on the brown pine needles. The marten flattened himself on the ground, and his brown fur could not be seen. The white rabbit quickly hopped away and hid in the bushes.
When the two met again that day, the marten asked, “Why did you run so fast?”
“I used to run races when I was in town,” was the reply. “The boys and the dogs all played with me. Every one goes fast when in town. I forgot how slow the country people are.”
The marten ran along with the rabbit. “Why is your tail so short and why are your ears so long?” he asked.
“Every one in town wears something on his head. I wanted to be like the others, so I wore long ears to cover my head. When my ears were finished there was only a little ball of fur left for my tail.”
The marten ran to the tallest pine tree and climbed up where he could see the white rabbit. Then he screamed back, “I don’t believe a word of it! I DON’T BELIEVE A WORD OF IT!”