The Wind in the Willows

After they had chatted for a time about things in general, the Badger said, “Now then! Tell us the news from your part of the world. How’s old Toad going on?”

“O, from bad to worse,” said the Rat gravely, while the Mole, basking in the firelight, his heels higher than his head, tried to look properly mournful. “Another smashup only last week, and a bad one. You see, he will insist on driving himself, and he’s hopelessly incapable. If he’d only employ a steady, well-trained animal, pay him good wages, and leave things to him, he’d get on all right. But no, he’s convinced he’s a heaven-born driver, and nobody can teach him anything. All the rest follows.”

“How many has he had?” asked the Badger.

“Smashes, or machines?” asked the Rat. “O, well, after all, it’s the same thing—with Toad. This is the seventh. As for the others—you know that coach house of his? Well, it’s piled up—piled up to the roof—with fragments of cars none of them bigger than your hat! That accounts for the other six—as far as they can be accounted for.”

“He’s been in the hospital three times,” put in the Mole. “And as for the fines he’s had to pay, it’s simply awful to think of.”

“Yes, and that’s part of the trouble,” said the Rat. “Toad’s rich, we all know, but he’s not a millionaire. And he’s such a bad driver, and quite regardless of law and order. Killed or ruined—it’s got to be one of the two things, sooner or later. Badger! We’re his friends—oughtn’t we do something?”

The Badger went through a bit of hard thinking. “Now look here!” he said at last. “Of course you know I can’t do anything now?”

His two friends assented, quite understanding his point. No animal is ever expected to do anything heroic, or even moderately active during the off season of winter. All are sleepy—some actually sleep. All are weather bound, more or less; and all are resting from arduous days and nights, during which every muscle in them had been sorely tested.

“Very well then!” said the Badger. “But, once the year has really turned, and the nights are shorter—you know!”

Both animals nodded gravely. They knew!

“Well, then,” went on the Badger, “we’ll take Toad in hand. We’ll stand no nonsense at all.”