Toad wakes up early. The sun is shining. He stands up and starts walking. Soon he sees a canal. On it there is a barge pulled by a horse. There is a woman on the barge.

«Good morning,» she says to Toad.

«Maybe it’s good for you,» says Toad, «but I’m a poor washerwoman and I am going to see my married daughter. She’s in trouble. All my other children are alone. I’m lost with no money.»

«Where does your daughter live?» asks the barge woman.

«Near the river,» replies Toad, «near a fine house called Toad Hall.»

«Toad Hall? I’m going in that direction,» says the woman, «Come with me in the barge. I can take you near Toad Hall.»

Lucky Toad gets onto the barge. «So, you’re a washerwoman?» asks the woman.

«Oh yes,» says Toad, «the best in the country. I’m very good. I love washing!»

«Then I’m very lucky meeting you,» says the woman, «I like washing too but I never have the time. There’s a big pile of washing inside. You can do my washing.»

Toad is frightened. «NO NO! I don’t want to ruin your clothes. I usually wash gentlemen’s clothes.»

«Oh no,» says the woman, «I want you to be happy!»

Toad is worried but he thinks, «It can’t be so difficult to wash.» Half an hour later Toad is angry. The clothes are still dirty. Suddenly he hears the barge woman. She is laughing. «You can’t wash! You aren’t a washerwoman!»

Toad is furious! «You common barge woman! I’m Toad. The distinguished Toad! You mustn’t laugh at me!»

The woman looks at Toad under his bonnet. «Yes, you are,» she cries, «a horrible toad in my nice clean barge!»

She takes him by the legs and throws him into the water. It is very cold. Toad gets out of the water. He looks at the woman. She is laughing at him. Toad wants revenge! He runs after the barge. He takes the horse and gallops away.

«Stop! Stop! Stop!» shouts the woman. Toad laughs.

After some miles Toad and the horse are sleepy and the horse stops to eat some grass. Toad looks around. He sees an old, dirty gypsy caravan. There is a man sitting next to it. There is also a fire.

Over the fire is a pot full of stew. Toad is very hungry and the stew smells delicious!

The gypsy asks, «Do you want to sell your horse?»

«Oh no,» replies Toad, «I love my horse. But how much can you pay me?»

«A shilling a leg,» replies the gypsy.

«A shilling a leg?» says Toad, «I must work out how much that is in total.» He thinks for a minute. «But that’s only four shillings! I cannot accept that. Give me six shillings and some breakfast and you can have my horse.»

The gypsy agrees and gives Toad six shillings. Then he gives him an enormous plate of stew. Toad eats and eats and eats. After, the gypsy gives him directions for the river bank and Toad says goodbye.

He is happy again. The sun is shining. He has money in his pockets and a full stomach. And he is near home.

After some time he sees a car in the distance. «Wonderful!» thinks Toad, «I can stop the car and ask for a lift. Then I can return to Toad Hall in a car.»

He steps into the road and the car slows down. But suddenly Toad becomes pale and falls to the ground. It is the car from outside the Red Lion. And the people in the car are the same people!

«Oh no! Prison again! Dry bread and water again! What a fool I am!» cries Toad.

The car stops and two men get out. «Oh dear! A washerwoman in the road. Let’s take her to the village.» They put Toad in the car and continue along the road.

Toad feels brave again because the men do not recognise him.

«How do you feel now?» asks one of the men.

«Better, thank you, sir,» says Toad, «But maybe if I can sit in the front seat next to the driver, I can have some fresh air on my face.»

«Very sensible,» says the man. So Toad gets into the front seat.

«Please, sir,» says Toad, «can I drive the car for a little?»

The driver laughs. «You can try, madam.»

Toad gets into the driver’s seat and pretends to listen to the driver’s instructions. At first he drives very carefully. The two men laugh and applaud, «Just imagine! A washerwoman driving so well!»

Toad goes a little faster, then faster and faster.

The men say, «Be careful, washerwoman!»

This annoys Toad and he loses his head.

«Washerwoman!» he shouts, «I’m Toad, the motor-car thief, the famous, the clever, the fearless Toad!»

The two men jump on Toad and the car goes off the road and finishes up in a pond.

Toad flies through the air and lands on the soft grass of a meadow.

He gets up and starts to run. «Ho! Ho!» he cries, «Toad wins again! Clever Toad!» He looks behind him. He sees the driver and two policemen running after him.

«What an idiot I am,» he cries while he runs, «How stupid I am!»

He runs and runs but they get nearer. Poor Toad! He is a fat animal and his legs are short.

Suddenly he falls into water. He is in the river! The water carries him along and soon he sees a big hole in the river bank. He takes hold and pulls himself out of the water. He looks into the hole and sees a familiar face — brown and small. It is the Water Rat!

Toad tries to tell Rat about his adventures and about how clever he is but Rat is very serious. «Toad, you are very silly. You must try to be sensible and mustn’t embarrass your friends.»

Toad is very sorry. «You’re right, Ratty,» he says, «I want to be a good Toad in the future. Let’s have coffee and then I can go to Toad Hall and get some clean clothes.»

«Go to Toad Hall?» cries Rat, «Don’t you know?»

Toad becomes pale. «Know what, Ratty?»

«You don’t know about the ferrets and the weasels? They’re living in Toad Hall. They think you aren’t coming back from prison. They lie in bed half the day and eat your food and drink your drink. The place is in a mess.»

Toad gets up and takes a stick.

«It’s no good,» says Rat, «They’ve got sentries and are armed. You must wait.»

But Toad doesn’t want to wait. He marches down the road to Toad Hall. At the front gate there is a ferret. He shoots at Toad and so Toad runs back to Rat.

Badger and Mole arrive. «We can’t attack the house,» says Badger, «They’re too strong. But there’s a tunnel; it goes from the river bank to the middle of Toad Hall. Tomorrow night it’s the chief weasel’s birthday and there’s a big party in the dining room. We can enter secretly and then run into the dining room with our pistols and swords.»

«Yes! Yes!» cries Toad happily.

«Now, it’s time to go to bed,» says Badger, «We must rest because we have got a lot of work to do tomorrow night.»


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