The following is an excerpt from the opening scene in the children’s literary classic, The Wind in the Willows. The Rat and the Mole are standing on opposite riverbanks, shouting across the river to one another in greeting. Rat is standing outside his snug riverside dwelling that includes a pier.)
“Hullo, Mole!” said the Water Rat.
“Hullo, Rat,” said the Mole.
“Would you like to come over?” enquired the Rat presently.
The Rat…stooped and unfastened a rope…then lightly stepped onto a little boat which the Mole had not observed. It was painted blue outside and white within, and was just the size for two animals; and the Mole’s whole heart went out to it at once, even though he did not yet fully understand its uses.
The Rat sculled smartly across and…the Mole stepped gingerly down…and …to his surprise and rapture found himself actually seated in the stern of a real boat.
[T]he Rat shoved off and took to the skulls again. “Do you know, I’ve never been in a boat before in my life.” [said the Mole]
“What?” cried the Rat, open-mouthed: “never been in a – you never – well I – what have you been doing, then?”
“Is it so nice as all that? asked the Mole shyly…[as he] felt the boat sway lightly under him.
“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,” he went on dreamily: “messing – about – in – boats; messing -“
“Look ahead, Rat!” cried the Mole suddenly.
It was too late.
Published in 1908, The Wind in the Willows, written by Kenneth Grahame, is a timeless tale of animal friends and their adventures along the Thames riverbank, in the Wild Wood, or on the Open Road. The main characters are the laid-back Ratty, the dim but positive Mole, stern yet kindly Badger, and the irrepressible Mr. Toad of Toad Hall. To see more of E.H. Shepard’s drawings for The Wind in the Willows, click here.