He was so busy with these pleasant thoughts and of the good dinner that he expected to have that he took no notice of what was going on about him. He didn’t see his old friends and neighbors peeping out at him and laughing because he looked so foolish and silly. He was dressed in his very best, which was nothing at all to be proud of, for you know Old Mr. Toad has no fine clothes. And being puffed up so, he was homelier than ever, which is saying a great deal, for at best Mr. Toad is anything but handsome.
He was beginning to get pretty tired by the time he reached the Green Forest and came in sight of the rotted old chestnut stump where he was to meet Buster Bear.
Buster was waiting for him. “How do you do this fine day? You look a little tired and rather warm, Mr. Toad,” said he.
“I am a little warm,” replied Mr. Toad in his most polite manner, although he couldn’t help panting for breath as he said it. “I hope you are feeling as well as you are looking, Mr. Bear.”
[Illustration: “I am a little warm,” replied Mr. Toad in his most polite manner.]
Buster Bear laughed a great, grumbly-rumbly laugh. “I always feel fine when there is a dinner of fat ants ready for me,” said he. “It is fine of you to honor me by coming to dine.”
Here Mr. Toad put one hand on his stomach and tried to make a very grand bow. Peter Rabbit, hiding behind a near-by tree, almost giggled aloud, he looked so funny.
“I have ventured to invite another to enjoy the dinner with us,” continued Buster Bear. Mr. Toad’s face fell. You see he was selfish. He wanted to be the only one to have the honor of dining with Buster Bear. “He’s a little late,” went on Buster, “but I think he will be here soon, and I hope you will be glad to meet him. Ah, there he comes now!”
Old Mr. Toad looked in the direction in which Buster Bear was looking. He gave a little gasp and turned quite pale. All his puffiness disappeared. He didn’t look like the same Toad at all. The newcomer was Mr. Blacksnake. “Oh!” cried Old Mr. Toad, and then, without even asking to be excused, he turned his back on Buster Bear and started back the way he had come, with long, frightened hops.
“Ha, ha, ha!” shouted Peter Rabbit, jumping out from behind a tree.
“Ho, ho, ho!” shouted Jimmy Skunk from behind another.
“Hee, hee, hee!” shouted Johnny Chuck from behind a third.
Then Old Mr. Toad knew that his old friends and neighbors had planned this to teach him a lesson.
OLD MR. TOAD IS VERY HUMBLE