Raggylug, or Rag, was the name of a young cottontail rabbit. Ho got this name because he had a torn and ragged ear, the result of his first adventure. He lived with his mother in Mr. Olifant’s swamp, where I became acquainted with them and learned their life and ways. Perhaps, when you read this story, you will think that I have made the animals too much like human beings. But those who have lived near them and studied their ways and their minds will not think so. Of course, rabbits cannot speak as we do, but they have a system of sounds, signs, scents and movements, by means of which they understand each other. In this story I translate from the rabbit language into the English language, and I do not say anything that they did not say.
The swamp grass concealed the nest where Raggylug lay. When his mother had to go away, she covered him with some of this grass and, as always, she told him, in Rabbit language, to “lay low”, that is, not to move or make
a sound. For some time he lay still and, with his bright eyes, looked at that part of the little green world that was straight above him. Then a blue jay and a squirrel began to quarrel, and soon the bush under which Rag lay became the centre of their fight, A little yellow bird caught a blue butterfly over Raggylug’s nose, and a black and red ladybug walked across the nest and over Rag’s face, – yet he did not move.
After a while he heard a strange movement among the leaves of a bush near him. It was a strange sound, and although he heard something move this way and that way, and although the sound came nearer and nearer, there was no sound of feet. Rag was only three weeks old, and he was curious to see what it was that moved without feet. The strange noise continued, first to the right, then to the left, and then back. Raggylug raised his fat little body on his short legs, lifted his little round head above the nest and peeped out into the woods. The sound stopped as soon as he moved. He saw nothing, so he took one step forward and looked about him. At once a big black snake seized him by the ear. “Mammy,” he screamed in terror. He was helpless in the grasp of the cruel snake.
But Raggy’s mother heard the cry, and she came flying through the woods to save her baby. The mother’s love filled her with the courage of a hero. Hop, she jumped over that terrible snake. Then – whack, she struck him with her sharp hind claws as she passed. The snake hissed with pain and anger. Mammy leaped again and again and struck harder and harder, until the snake let go Raggy’s ear and tried to bite the old rabbit. He got only a mouthful of fur each time, but mammy’s blows tore his skin in many places. The snake prepared himself for another attack. Now little Raggylug quickly ran into the bush. He was terribly frightened, but not hurt, except that his left ear was torn by the teeth of the snake. That was his first adventure. Molly – that was the name of Rag’s mother – did not want to fight any more when she saw that her little one was safe. So she ran as fast as she could into the woods, with Rag close behind her. Soon they were safe in the swamp.
All round old Olifant’s swamp there were large fields. Crossing these fields, there were the tracks of a bad fox that lived too near the swamp where Molly and Rag lived. Rag and his mother had no neighbours, and their nearest relations were dead. The swamp was their home, – they had no other home. Molly was a good little mother and gave her son a careful upbringing.