Peter had gone to his grandfather’s house on holiday. It was a beautiful farmhouse on the very edge of the forest. He had lots of toys to play with, and the garden and the courtyard were full of friendly animals to keep him company. He was free to go wherever he wished, his grandfather had forbidden him to do one thing only — to go out of the gate which opened onto the forest, because in the forest there lived a wolf.
Needless to say, it was to the forest that Peter most wanted to go. One day his grandfather forgot to lock the gate, and when the boy realized this, he was quick to slip out. A duck followed him out of the gate, and took advantage of the opportunity to have a swim in the stream beneath the birch tree. A robin redbreast studied the duck and said:
“What sort of bird are you that doesn’t even know how to fly?”
“And what sort of bird are you, that doesn’t even know how to swim?” replied the duck crossly.
A quarrel broke out, and this attracted the attention of a cat, who was out looking for his lunch. Peter saw the cat creeping up and called out a warning. The robin redbreast flew to the top of the birch tree, and the duck sent the cat scurrying away by pecking it with its beak. All this fuss disturbed the grandfather, however, and he took his grandson and carried him back inside the farmyard.
“What would you have done,” he scolded Peter, “if the wolf had come by?”
“I’m not scared of a wolf” boasted Peter.
And, in fact, the wolf did come on the scene, and while the robin redbreast was able to fly to safety at the top of the birch tree, the poor duck was gulped down in a single mouthful and ended up in the stomach of the wolf. As for the cat, it had had just enough time to jump to safety in another tree, but it was still in danger from the wolf.
Peter watched all this through the farmyard gate and bravely decided to go to the rescue. He ran to fetch a long rope, tied a loop in it and then throw it over the wall, catching the loop firmly onto a branch of the birch tree. Then by swinging across on this rope, he was able to reach the robin redbreast.
“Try and distract the wolf,” Peter told the robin.
The little bird began to fly round and round he fierce wolf, which spun round like a top in an effort to pluck the little bird out of the air. Peter, up in the tree, waited for just the right moment to throw his lasso.
He caught the wolf perfectly by the tail and lifted it up off the ground and hung it from a branch of the birch tree.
Just then four hunters emerged from the wood, with their rifles on their shoulders. As soon as they saw the wolf, they reached for their guns and began to fire like men possessed. But Peter was worried for his little friends, and shouted to the hunters at the top his voice: “Don’t shoot! My friend, the little bird, and l have already captured the wolf. 1 wish you’d just come and help me to tie him up and take him to the zoo!”
While Peter and the four hunters were tying the wolf upside down to a long pole, so that they could carry it safely, his grandfather arrived. He could hardly believe that his little grandson, Peter, could have done such a deed, worthy of a brave and experienced hunter. Even he, however, had to accept the evidence that was there for all to see, and it was grandfather himself, full of pride, who led off the little procession in triumph towards the nearby village.
Right behind his grandfather walked Peter, and round the boy’s head flew the little robin redbreast, his feathery chest puffed out. The bird seemed truly for the important part he had played in the capture of the wolf. The four hunters followed, carrying the pole to which they had tied the wolf. And last of all, but with her tall stuck proudly into the air, came the cat, who had reappeared the moment that the danger was past, for she too wanted her share in the glory.
The only absentee, unfortunately, was the poor duck who, because of an innocent urge to swim in the stream, had been both the unwilling cause and the victim of the little tragedy.
And yet, if you strained your ears, you might have thought that she was there somewhere after all. Every so often you would have sworn youheard her distinct ‘quack-quack’, but it was so weak and distant that nobody could decide where the noise came from. Once again, it was Peter who saved the day. He took out his pocket knife and opened up the stomach of the wolf. At once the duck leapt out. for since the wolf had swallowed her in a single mouthful, she was still safe and sound.
Peter quickly sewed up the belly of the wolf so that it too remained alive and well. Any visitor to the Zoological Gardens can recognize the wolf immediately by the long scar on its belly, and by its careful habit of keeping a great distance between itself and all robin redbreasts.