26. Touch Him If You Dare
A TALE OF THE HEDGE.
We advise you to take care.
He lodges with us, so we know him well,
And can tell
You all about him,
And we strongly advise you not to flout him."
"At my time of life," said the Dandelion,
"I keep an eye on
The slightest sign of disturbance and riot,
For my one object is to keep quiet
The reason I take such very great care,"
The old Dandy went on, "is because of my hair.
It was very thick once, and as yellow as gold;
But now I am old,
It is snowy-white,
And comes off with the slightest fright.
As to using a brush--
My good dog! I beseech you, don't rush,
Go quietly by me, if you please
You're as bad as a breeze.
I hope you'll attend to what we've said;
And--whatever you do--don't touch my head,
In this equinoctial, blustering weather
You might knock it off with a feather."
Said the Thistle, "I can tickle,
But not as a Hedgehog can prickle;
Even my tough old friend the Moke
Would find our lodger no joke."
"I have thorns," sighed the Rose,
"But they don't protect me like those;
He can pull his thorns right over his nose."
"My sting," said the Nettle,
"Is nothing to his when he's put on his mettle.
No nose can endure it,
No dock-leaves will cure it."
"Bow-wow!" said the Dog:
"All this fuss about a Hedgehog?
Though I never saw one before--
There's my paw!
Good-morning, Sir! Do you never stir?
You look like an overgrown burr.
Will you have a game of play?
With your humped-up back and your spines on end,
You remind me so of an intimate friend,
The Persian Puss
Who lives with us.
How well I know her tricks!
The dear creature!
Just when you're sure you can reach her,
In the twinkling of a couple of sticks
She saves herself by her heels,
And looks down at you out of the apple-tree, with eyes like catherine wheels.
The odd part of it is,
I could swear that I could not possibly miss
Her silky, cumbersome, traily tail,
And that's just where I always fail.
But you seem to have nothing, Sir, of the sort;
And I should be mortified if you thought
That I'm stupid at sport;
I assure you I don't often meet my match,
Where I chase I commonly catch.
I've caught cats,
And (between ourselves) I once caught a sheep,
And I think I could catch a weasel asleep."
From the whole of the hedge there rose a shout,
"Oh! you'll catch it, no doubt!
But remember we gave you warning fair,
Touch him if you dare!"
"If I dare?" said the Dog--"Take that!"
As he gave the Hedgehog a pat.
But oh, how he pitied his own poor paw;
And shook it and licked it, it was so sore.
"It's much too funny by half,"
Said the Dandelion; "it makes me ill,
For I cannot keep still,
And my hair comes out if I laugh."
The Hedgehog he spoke never a word,
And he never stirred;
His peeping eyes, his inquisitive nose,
And his tender toes,
Were all wrapped up in his prickly clothes.
A provoking enemy you may suppose!
And a dangerous one to flout--
Like a well-stocked pin-cushion inside out.
The Dog was valiant, the Dog was vain,
He flew at the prickly ball again,
Snapping with all his might and main,
But, oh! the pain!
He sat down on his stumpy tail and howled,
Then he laid his jaws on his paws and growled.
With laughter the Dandelion shook--
"It passes a printed book;
It's as good as a play, I declare,
But it's cost me half my back hair!"
The Dog he made another essay,
It really and truly was very plucky--
But "third times," you know, are not always lucky--
And this time he ran away!
Then the Hedge-plants every one
Rustled together, "What fun! what fun!
The battle is done,
The victory won.
Dear Hedge-pig, pray come out of the Sun."
The Hedge-pig put forth his snout,
He sniffed hither and thither and peeped about;
Then he tucked up his prickly clothes,
And trotted away on his tender toes
To where the hedge-bottom is cool and deep,
Had a slug for supper, and went to sleep.
His leafy bed-clothes cuddled his chin,
And all the Hedge-plants tucked him in.
But the hairs and the tears that we shed
Never can be recalled;
And when he
too went off, in hysterics, to bed,
DANDELION was bald.