Mother Goose in Prose by L. Frank Baum
by the author of The Wizard of Oz - Oh, Little Bun Rabbit, so soft and so shy

"Oh, Little Bun Rabbit, so soft and so shy,
Say, what do you see with your big, round eye?"
"On Christmas we rabbits," says Bunny so shy,
"Keep watch to see Santa go galloping by."

Little Dorothy had passed all the few years of her life in the
country, and being the only child upon the farm she was allowed to
roam about the meadows and woods as she pleased. On the bright summer
mornings Dorothy's mother would tie a sun-bonnet under the girl's
chin, and then she romped away to the fields to amuse herself in her
own way.

She came to know every flower that grew, and to call them by name, and
she always stepped very carefully to avoid treading on them, for
Dorothy was a kind-hearted child and did not like to crush the pretty
flowers that bloomed in her path. And she was also very fond of all
the animals, and learned to know them well, and even to understand
their language, which very few people can do. And the animals loved
Dorothy in turn, for the word passed around amongst them that she
could be trusted to do them no harm. For the horse, whose soft nose
Dorothy often gently stroked, told the cow of her kindness, and the
cow told the dog, and the dog told the cat, and the cat told her black
kitten, and the black kitten told the rabbit when one day they met in
the turnip patch.

Therefore when the rabbit, which is the most timid of all animals and
the most difficult to get acquainted with, looked out of a small bush
at the edge of the wood one day and saw Dorothy standing a little way
off, he did not scamper away, as is his custom, but sat very still and
met the gaze of her sweet eyes boldly, although perhaps his heart beat
a little faster than usual.

Dorothy herself was afraid she might frighten him away, so she kept
very quiet for a time, leaning silently against a tree and smiling
encouragement at her timorous companion until the rabbit became
reassured and blinked his big eyes at her thoughtfully. For he was as
much interested in the little girl as she in him, since it was the
first time he had dared to meet a person face to face.

Finally Dorothy ventured to speak, so she asked, very softly and
slowly,

"Oh, Little Bun Rabbit, so soft and so shy,
Say, what do you see with your big, round eye?"

"Many things," answered the rabbit, who was pleased to hear the girl
speak in his own language; "in summer-time I see the clover-leaves
that I love to feed upon and the cabbages at the end of the farmer's
garden. I see the cool bushes where I can hide from my enemies, and I
see the dogs and the men long before they can see me, or know that I
am near, and therefore I am able to keep out of their way."

"Is that the reason your eyes are so big?" asked Dorothy.

"I suppose so," returned the rabbit; "you see we have only our eyes
and our ears and our legs to defend ourselves with. We cannot fight,
but we can always run away, and that is a much better way to save our
lives than by fighting."

"Where is your home, bunny?" enquired the girl.

"I live in the ground, far down in a cool, pleasant hole I have dug in
the midst of the forest. At the bottom of the hole is the nicest
little room you can imagine, and there I have made a soft bed to rest
in at night. When I meet an enemy I run to my hole and jump in, and
there I stay until all danger is over."

"You have told me what you see in summer," continued Dorothy, who was
greatly interested in the rabbit's account of himself, "but what do
you see in the winter?"

"In winter we rabbits," said Bunny so shy,
"Keep watch to see Santa go galloping by."

"And do you ever see him?" asked the girl, eagerly.

"Oh, yes; every winter. I am not afraid of him, nor of his reindeer.
And it is such fun to see him come dashing along, cracking his whip
and calling out cheerily to his reindeer, who are able to run even
swifter than we rabbits. And Santa Claus, when he sees me, always
gives me a nod and a smile, and then I look after him and his big load
of toys which he is carrying to the children, until he has galloped
away out of sight. I like to see the toys, for they are so bright and
pretty, and every year there is something new amongst them. Once I
visited Santa, and saw him make the toys."

"Oh, tell me about it!" pleaded Dorothy.

"It was one morning after Christmas," said the rabbit, who seemed to
enjoy talking, now that he had overcome his fear of Dorothy, "and I
was sitting by the road-side when Santa Claus came riding back in his
empty sleigh. He does not come home quite so fast as he goes, and when
he saw me he stopped for a word.

"'You look very pretty this morning, Bun Rabbit,' he said, in his
jolly way; 'I think the babies would love to have you to play with.'

"'I do n't doubt it, your honor,' I answered; 'but they 'd soon kill
me with handling, even if they did not scare me to death; for babies
are very rough with their playthings.'

"'That is true,' replied Santa Claus; 'and yet you are so soft and
pretty it is a pity the babies can't have you. Still, as they would
abuse a live rabbit I think I shall make them some toy rabbits, which
they cannot hurt; so if you will jump into my sleigh with me and ride
home to my castle for a few days, I 'll see if I can't make some toy
rabbits just like you."

"Of course I consented, for we all like to please old Santa, and a
minute later I had jumped into the sleigh beside him and we were
dashing away at full speed toward his castle. I enjoyed the ride very
much, but I enjoyed the castle far more; for it was one of the
loveliest places you could imagine. It stood on the top of a high
mountain and is built of gold and silver bricks, and the windows are
pure diamond crystals. The rooms are big and high, and there is a soft
carpet upon every floor and many strange things scattered around to
amuse one. Santa Claus lives there all alone, except for old Mother
Hubbard, who cooks the meals for him; and her cupboard is never bare
now, I can promise you! At the top of the castle there is one big
room, and that is Santa's work-shop, where he makes the toys. On one
side is his work-bench, with plenty of saws and hammers and
jack-knives; and on another side is the paint-bench, with paints of
every color and brushes of every size and shape. And in other places
are great shelves, where the toys are put to dry and keep new and
bright until Christmas comes and it is time to load them all into his
sleigh.

"After Mother Hubbard had given me a good dinner, and I had eaten some
of the most delicious clover I have ever tasted, Santa took me up into
his work-room and sat me upon the table.

"'If I can only make rabbits half as nice as you are,' he said, 'the
little ones will be delighted.' Then he lit a big pipe and began to
smoke, and soon he took a roll of soft fur from a shelf in a corner
and commenced to cut it out in the shape of a rabbit. He smoked and
whistled all the time he was working, and he talked to me in such a
jolly way that I sat perfectly still and allowed him to measure my
ears and my legs so that he could cut the fur into the proper form.

"'Why, I 've got your nose too long, Bunny,' he said once; and so he
snipped a little off the fur he was cutting, so that the toy rabbit's
nose should be like mine. And again he said, 'Good gracious! the ears
are too short entirely!' So he had to get a needle and thread and sew
on more fur to the ears, so that they might be the right size. But
after a time it was all finished, and then he stuffed the fur full of
sawdust and sewed it up neatly; after which he put in some glass eyes
that made the toy rabbit look wonderfully life-like. When it was all
done he put it on the table beside me, and at first I did n't know
whether I was the live rabbit or the toy rabbit, we were so much
alike.

"'It 's a very good job,' said Santa, nodding his head at us
pleasantly; 'and I shall have to make a lot of these rabbits, for the
little children are sure to be greatly pleased with them.'

"So he immediately began to make another, and this time he cut the fur
just the right size, so that it was even better than the first rabbit.

"'I must put a squeak in it,' said Santa.

"So he took a box of squeaks from a shelf and put one into the rabbit
before he sewed it up. When it was all finished he pressed the toy
rabbit with his thumb, and it squeaked so naturally that I jumped off
the table, fearing at first the new rabbit was alive. Old Santa
laughed merrily at this, and I soon recovered from my fright and was
pleased to think the babies were to have such pretty playthings.

"'After this,' said Santa Claus, 'I can make rabbits without having
you for a pattern; but if you like you may stay a few days longer in
my castle and amuse yourself."

"I thanked him and decided to stay. So for several days I watched him
making all kinds of toys, and I wondered to see how quickly he made
them, and how many new things he invented.

"'I almost wish I was a child,' I said to him one day, 'for then I too
could have playthings.'

"'Ah, you can run about all day, in summer and in winter, and enjoy
yourself in your own way,' said Santa; 'but the poor little children
are obliged to stay in the house in the winter and on rainy days in
the summer, and then they must have toys to amuse them and keep them
contented."

"I knew this was true, so I only said, admiringly, 'You must be the
quickest and the best workman in all the world, Santa.'

"'I suppose I am,' he answered; 'but then, you see, I have been making
toys for hundreds of years, and I make so many it is no wonder I am
skillful. And now, if you are ready to go home, I 'll hitch up the
reindeer and take you back again.'

"'Oh, no,' said I, 'I prefer to run by myself, for I can easily find
the way and I want to see the country.'

"'If that is the case,' replied Santa, 'I must give you a magic collar
to wear, so that you will come to no harm.'

"So, after Mother Hubbard had given me a good meal of turnips and
sliced cabbage, Santa Claus put the magic collar around my neck and I
started for home. I took my time on the journey, for I knew nothing
could harm me, and I saw a good many strange sights before I got back
to this place again."

"But what became of the magic collar?" asked Dorothy, who had listened
with breathless interest to the rabbit's story.

"After I got home," replied the rabbit, "the collar disappeared from
around my neck, and I knew Santa had called it back to himself again.
He did not give it to me, you see; he merely let me take it on my
journey to protect me. The next Christmas, when I watched by the
road-side to see Santa, I was pleased to notice a great many of the
toy rabbits sticking out of the loaded sleigh. The babies must have
liked them, too, for every year since I have seen them amongst the
toys.

"Santa never forgets me, and every time he passes he calls out, in his
jolly voice,

"'A merry Christmas to you, Bun Rabbit! The babies still love you
dearly.'"

The Rabbit paused, and Dorothy was just about to ask another question
when Bunny raised his head and seemed to hear something coming.

"What is it?" enquired the girl.

"It 's the farmer's big shepherd dog," answered the Rabbit, "and I
must be going before he sees me, or I shall shall [both shalls in
original] have to run for my life. So good bye, Dorothy; I hope we
shall meet again, and then I will gladly tell you more of my
adventures."

The next instant he had sprung into the wood, and all that Dorothy
could see of him was a gray streak darting in and out amongst the
trees.


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