It scuttled past me out of the undergrowth near the Devil's Dyke and lay hid in the grass the far side of the golf-green.
Four lusty men, tending that green, forming square, then drove it into a cup in the ground, where one of them siezed it. half trampling it first with his heavy hoof.
When I got close, I saw a tiny rabbit scarce bigger than a guinea-pig, trembling in the large palm of the trampler: its little ears laid back and bright beady eves, wide-staring with fear, but otherwise unhurt.
"Well," I asked its captor, " and now what are you going to do with it?" I knew him well, for he often came for beer to my inn, where he drank and talked more than he ever listened; and I disliked, him intensely.
"Why, eat him of course," he rejoined, rudely, "what do you think? He'll make a juicy little pie."
I Iooked down at the future " juicy little pie." that exquisitely coloured and shaped ball of brown silk, took, it into my hand and, feeling its hammering heart, wondered however I was to save it.
I asked. " What do You want for it?"
"E ain't for sale. I tells ye," he snarled. 'E's for eating."
I trod warily. After all, rightly speaking, it was his rabbit; I had no business chipping in at all.
"Well," I said. good-humouredly. "I've half a mind to loose him in the furze. What would you do if I did? " By now the other three men were interested spectators, curious as to how this battle, of wits was to end. For such it
With an unexpected change of mood my enemy answered and with equal good-humour: " Well, sir, what couId I do? 'E'd escape and I should 'ave ter do without my pie. I suppose."
He drew closer. "Well. look 'ere, sir," he went on, "I sells it you for a shilling. That's fair do's."
Fair do's! I thought. Just the sort of shabby thing he would have proposed, taking mean advantage of my hummanity.
I said, shortly: "I haven't much opinion of a chap who strikes a bargain like that. Nevertheless, I shall give you the shilling." and was just about to free the rabbit when the blighter burst out: "Garn! I was only kiddin' yer.
Let 'im loose! I don't want no pie nor shilling."
"Then why did you take him?" I asked, determined not to let him off lightly and teach him a lesson.
"Oh, well--p'raps I might ha' eaten him." he admitted, shamefacedly, "if you 'adn't jus' come along."
Down in the furze I tenderly placed bunny. At first he cowered close to my feet too frightened to move and when I bent down to urge him along, he tried to escape up my coat sleeve! Then in a flash he was gone.
"He's safe." I shouted back, thankfully.
My foe caught me up further down the road. "I loike meetin' the loikes of ye." he said, "ye do me a deal o' good."
I stopped, astounded. Considering he had neither bunny nor coin, the remark was pretty creditable.
"Well, come along to the Shepherd and Dog to-night," I replied, "and we'll talk it over with a pint of bitter!"
Story by Owen P.Hamilton circa 1937