I was talking to Australia's leading Marxist historian, Humphrey McQueen, the other day about cars. And inevitably Toad's fascination with cars came up.
Humphrey explained to me that Toad represented the old landed English aristocracy, and the car represented the industrial revolution, and naturally there was a collision between the car and the aristocracy leaving poor Mr Toad, Squire Toad, in a hideous English jail.
It came as a great shock to me to hear this Marxist interpretation of, Wind in the Willows, and worse to find my sympathies lay with the aristocratic Toad, rather than the revolutionary Weasels, Stoats, and Ferrets.
I felt my world was turned upside down, all by the motor car.
far behind them they heard a faint warning hum, like the drone of a distant bee. Glancing back, they saw a small cloud of dust, with a dark centre of energy, advancing on them at incredible speed, while from out the dust a faint ‘Pooppoop!’ wailed like an uneasy animal in pain. Hardly regarding it, they turned to resume their conversation, when in an instant (as it seemed) the peaceful scene was changed, and with a blast of wind and a whirl of sound that made them jump for the nearest ditch, It was on them! The ‘Poop-poop’ rang with a brazen shout in their ears, they had a moment’s glimpse of an interior of glittering plate-glass and rich morocco and the magnificent motor-car, immense, breath-snatching, passionate, with its pilot tense and hugging his wheel, possessed all earth and air for the fraction of a second, flung an enveloping cloud of dust that blinded and enwrapped them utterly, and then dwindled to a speck in the far distance, changed back into a droning bee once more. The old grey horse, dreaming, as he plodded along, of his quiet paddock, in a new raw situation such as this simply abandoned himself to his natural emotions.
Rearing, plunging, backing steadily, in spite of all the Mole’s efforts at his head, and all the Mole’s lively language directed at his better feelings, he drove the cart backwards towards the deep ditch at the side of the road. It wavered an instant then there was a heartrending crash- and the canary-coloured cart, their pride and their joy, lay on its side in the ditch, an irredeemable wreck.
The Rat danced up and down in the road, simply transported with passion. ‘You villains!’ he shouted, shaking both fists, ‘You scoundrels, you highwaymen, youyou- road-hogs!- I’ll have the law on you! I’ll report you! I’ll take you through all the Courts!’ His home-sickness had quite slipped away from him, and for the moment he was the skipper of the canary-coloured vessel driven on a shoal by the reckless jockeying of rival mariners, and he was trying to recollect all the fine and biting things he used to say to masters of steam-launches when their wash, as they drove too near the bank, used to flood his parlour-carpet at home.
Toad sat straight down in the middle of the dusty road, his legs stretched out before him, and stared fixedly in the direction of the disappearing motor-car. He breathed short, his face wore a placid satisfied expression, and at intervals he faintly murmured ‘Poop-poop!’