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Chapter 20


There are heroes who are heroes

First in thought and then in fact.

Others are made into heroes;

Quite by accident, in fact.

REAL heroes are those who do brave deeds, knowing all the time just what they are about, what risks they are taking, what will happen if they fail, and yet do the brave deeds just the same. The other kind of heroes are not real, true heroes at all, but are treated as if they were and are made just as much of as if they were. They are the ones who do what seem to be brave deeds, but which in truth haven't been planned at all and have been done unintentionally. People, who in trying to save their own lives happen to save the lives of others, always are called heroes and are much looked up to and made of when in truth they are not heroes at all.

Peter Rabbit is this kind of a hero. He saved Bobby Coon's life. At least, Bobby Coon is kind enough to say he did. Anyway, he made it possible for Bobby to escape from angry Buster Bear. So Peter is called a hero and has been made much of. Everybody says that he was very, very brave. But right down in his own heart, Peter knows that he doesn't deserve any of the nice things said about him. True, he did save Bobby Coon, but he didn't do it purposely. No, Sir. Perhaps he might have, if he had thought of it, but he didn't think of it. What he did wasn't the result of thinking and planning at all, but of not thinking; of carelessness and heedlessness, if you please. But it made a hero of Peter in the eyes of his friends and neighbors just the same. You see, it was this way:

When Buster Bear began to shake that slender young tree, trying to shake Bobby Coon out of it, Peter forgot everything but his desire to see what would happen. From where he crouched, behind that big tree, he couldn't clearly see Bobby Coon in the top of the slender young tree. So, quite forgetting that he might be in danger himself, Peter hopped out from behind that big tree to try to find a place where he could see better. In his curiosity and excitement, he heedlessly forgot to watch his steps and trod on a dry stick. It broke with a little snap.

Now, no one in all the Green Forest has keener ears than Buster Bear. In spite of the fact that his attention was all on Bobby Coon, he heard that little snap and whirled like a flash to see what had made it. There sat round-eyed Peter Rabbit, staring with all his might. Without pausing an instant, Buster sprang for Peter. He would make very good eating, as Buster well knew, and a Rabbit on the ground was better than a Coon he couldn't shake out of a tree.

Peter dodged just in time and with a squeal of fear away he went, lipperty-lipperty-lip, twisting, dodging, running with all his might, and after him crashed Buster Bear. How Peter did wish that he hadn't been so curious, but had gone home to the dear Old Briar-patch when he should have! He was too frightened to know when Buster Bear gave up the chase, but kept right on running. As a matter of fact, Buster didn't chase him far. He knew that Peter was too nimble for him to catch in a tail-end race. So presently he gave it up and hurried back. Bobby Coon was nowhere in sight. He had taken the chance to climb down from that tree and run away. By leading Buster off for just those few minutes, Peter had saved Bobby Coon, and though he hadn't done it purposely, he got the credit just the same. He became a hero. This is a funny old world, isn't it?

Thornton W. Burgess

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