By the time that it was loaded I was quite thirty yards away and going like the wind. Tom lifted the gun.
“Don’t shoot!” roared the Red-faced Man.
“Mind that there boy!” bellowed Giles.
I was running down between two rows of turnips and presently butted into a lad who was bending over, I suppose to pick up a partridge. At any rate his tail—“do you call it his tail, Mahatma?”
“That will do,” I answered.
“Well, his tail was towards me; it looked very round and shiny. The shot from Tom’s gun hit it everywhere. I wish they had all gone into it, but as he was so far away the charge scattered and six of the bullets struck me. Oh! they did hurt. Put your hand on my back, Mahatma, and you will feel the six lumps they made beneath the grey tufts of hair that grew over them, for they are still there.”
Forgetting that we were on the Road, I stretched out my hand; but, of course, it went quite through the hare, although I could see the six little grey tufts clearly enough.
“You are foolish, Hare; you don’t remember that your body is not here but somewhere else.”
“Quite true, Mahatma. If it were here I could not be talking to you, could I? As a matter of fact, I have no body now. It is—oh, never mind where. Still, you can see the grey tufts, can’t you? Well, I only hope that those shot hurt that fat boy half as much as they did me. No, I don’t mean that I hope it now, I used to hope it.”
My goodness! didn’t he screech, much worse than my father when his legs were broken. And didn’t everybody else roar and shout, and didn’t I dance? Off I went right over the fat boy, who had tumbled down, up to the end of the field, then so bewildered was I with shock and the burning pain, back again quite close to them.
But now nobody shot at me because they all thought the boy was killed and were gathered round him looking very solemn. Only I saw that the Red-faced Man had Tom by the neck and was kicking him hard.
After that I saw no more, for I ran five miles before I stopped, and at last lay down in a little swamp near the seashore to which my mother had once taken me. My back was burning like fire, and I tried to cool it in the soft slush.
Quite a moon went by before I recovered from Tom’s shot. At first I thought that I was going to die, for, although luckily none of my bones were broken, the pain in my back was dreadful. When I tried to ease the agony by rubbing against roots it only became worse, for the fur fell off, leaving sores upon which flies settled. I could scarcely eat or sleep, and grew so thin that the bones nearly poked through my pelt. Indeed I wanted very much to die, but could not. On the contrary, by degrees I recovered, till at last I was quite strong again and like other hares, except for the six little grey tufts upon my back and one hole through my right ear.