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The next day, Fiver finds out about Hazel's adventure to the farm, and Fiver is angry because he believes that Holly will bring back plenty of does and that Hazel is simply acting like a show-off. Hazel disagrees with his brother, and later on he and Pipkin tell the others about the visit. Bigwig is excited to go, and he and Hazel convince Blackberry to come with them to figure out how to open the rabbit hutch. Dandelion, Speedwell, and Hawkbit are also to go along. Fiver warns Hazel that he foresees danger for him, so Hazel promises he will not go into the farmyard himself.
They leave the next evening. At the end of the barn, the rabbits stumble upon a cat (different from the one Hazel and Pipkin met earlier). Dandelion scratches the cat only a moment before Bigwig hits it, rolls over it, and kicks it several times, sending the cat running. Blackberry figures out a way to rip the leather hinge, and they free the other rabbits. But the rabbits in the hutch are not certain whether to follow the others or not. Two of them, Boxwood and Clover, try to move quickly, but the other two, Haystack and Laurel, hang back. Soon the other cat arrives and the dog begins barking. The rabbits run off, leaving Haystack and Laurel behind.
They get to Hazel, who tells them to continue on. Hazel goes back with Dandelion to get the other two. Suddenly a car pulls up, blinding the rabbits with light. The men grab Laurel, and the other rabbits run off. While the men search, the rabbits get stuck in a ditch. Hazel runs out to distract the men so the others can get away, and he is shot. He crawls up the drain and hides.
The other rabbits gather together and wait for Hazel, and then Dandelion and Bigwig go down to look for him. They see the blood and the men's footsteps, and they go back to tell the others. The rabbits make the march back to the downs to meet Fiver, who already knows about Hazel's ordeal from a vision. Later that night, Holly comes back with Buckthorn, Strawberry, and Silver. Only Silver is unhurt. The rabbits have no does with them.
Fiver has a dream in which he learns that Hazel is still alive. Fiver asks Blackberry if he knows where Hazel was shot, and he tells Blackberry to take him to that spot. Even though Blackberry is sure that Hazel must be dead, Fiver convinces him to go. They return to the farm, Fiver rushing as fast as he can and telling Blackberry to hurry up. Fiver moves through the ditch and follows the trail of blood to the drain. He looks in the drain and sees that Hazel is inside, and that he is still alive.
Just when everything seem to be running smoothly for the rabbits, the situation quickly takes a turn for the worse. Hazel is alright until he forgets Fiver's warning and rushes in to save the other two rabbits. It is an act of courage on Hazel's part, but also foolish, and he is punished for it quite severely. The rabbits might have made it out with two of the hutch rabbits and no one else hurt, but Hazel wants to get everyone out—a desire that leads him to take an unnecessary risk. Hazel always thinks for the benefit of the group, and, although foolhardy, he does indeed go back with Dandelion in an attempt to save the lives of the other two hutch rabbits. He earlier told them that he would get them out, and in this section he does indeed intend to do so. Hazel remains calm during the entire encounter, and probably the only thing that prevents him from getting all the hutch rabbits back is the men's gun—something he had not counted on. Hazel does succeed in allowing Dandelion and Haystack to get away safely, but it is doubtful that he would have taken the same risk had he known that the men had a gun.
Bigwig and Dandelion attack and rout one of the cats—an impressive victory considering that cats are major enemies of rabbits and considered extremely dangerous. Bigwig's ferocity is boundless, and he attacks without hesitation. The rabbits are learning to fight off some of the creatures that normally attack them, and they know how to fight together well. However, there are some adversaries that they simply cannot fight. There is nothing they can do against a gun, which implies that fighting cannot always be their solution. Sometimes they simply must run, and sometimes they must simply not allow themselves to get in certain situations. The rabbits appear able to capably handle other animals, even predators, but humans with guns are too much.
Fiver's powers of intuition continue to be accurate. He knows that Hazel is in danger and then, when everyone thinks that Hazel is dead, Fiver learns in his dream that Hazel is still alive. Although through much of the book Hazel seems passive and suggests his ideas through his brother, in this case he acts instantly and quickly, rushing to save his brother's life. Although the two are very different, Fiver sometimes has the same ability to make split-second decisions and act upon them that makes Hazel such a good leader. Hazel does not think of himself as any more valuable than the other members of the warren, but he is probably wrong. He is their leader, and when they think him lost they lose heart. Part of the difficulty of being a leader is that Hazel must not only take continual risks, but he must also survive them. Because he runs more risks than the other rabbits, he inspires tremendous faith in the rest of the warren. This time, however, the risk finally catches up with him, and it is up to the warren to save him.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Watership Down!