In the moments after Fiver’s scream, the Efrafan rabbits pause their digging, frightened. They tell Woundwort that there is an animal down in the burrow that is not a rabbit. The Efrafans recall the way the Watership Down rabbits have used foxes, birds, and a strange animal which “took them away down the river” in fights before, and begin asking to go home. Woundwort, incensed by the dissention, orders his troops to continue digging.
Woundwort refuses to allow his troops any leeway or opinions of their own. Even in the face of danger and unknown threats, he forces them to keep going in pursuit of power, domination, and a decisive show of force.
At the edge of the field leading to the farm, Hazel, Blackberry and Dandelion review the plan. Blackberry is going to wait at the edge of the farm and, at the signal, run as fast as he can back to the warren—the plan all depends on Blackberry, Hazel says. Meanwhile, Hazel and Dandelion head down to the farm and approach the dog kennel. The dog is asleep. Hazel orders Dandelion to wait in the grass opposite the kennel. When the rope tying the dog is gnawed and Dandelion sees it fall, he is to make the dog chase him all the way down the road to where Blackberry is waiting. Dandelion says that if they make it out of this alive, they will have the makings of “the best story ever.”
Inspired by the tale of Rowsby Woof—and the rabbits’ successful use of birds, foxes, and other animals’ help throughout their journey—Hazel decides to employ the help of their scariest adversary yet: the Nuthanger farm dog.
Hazel hops up onto the roof of the kennel. As the smell of the dog hits him, he denies his instincts, which urge him to run, and begins gnawing at the rope. It is easier than the rope which tied the boat to the riverbank, and he is nearly through it in no time. When he pauses to take a breath for a moment, he looks up and sees something that terrifies him—behind Dandelion there is a tabby cat which has spotted them both, and it is creeping nearer.
A snag in the plan threatens to derail Hazel’s entire operation, and he realizes that he needs to act quickly or risk losing both a trusted friend and his warren’s last chance at freedom.
Hazel thumps on the roof to warn Dandelion, who shoots out of the grass and into the lane, narrowly avoiding the cat’s pounce. The dog springs out of its kennel and the rope tears, but the kennel is knocked off balance, and Hazel falls to the ground on his bad leg. He slowly gets himself up, but as soon as he is standing he is knocked sideways by the cat, who crouches over him and speaks tauntingly: “Can you run?” it hisses; “I think not.”
As Hazel’s plans so often have throughout the novel, his latest attempt at emulate El-ahrairah’s trickery goes south due to unexpected events.