Henry goes missing
“Tickety-tock, tickety-tick, a-ricky-ticky too” sang Henry as he scurried his way through the thick undergrowth of Pepperly Wood. Henry liked singing. Mother was afraid he’d wake the others from their day-time sleep so she’d sent him out for the afternoon. Henry didn’t mind one bit, it was the first time he’d been allowed out on his own and he was excited to explore.
He snuffled through the meadow and he sniffled at the leaves, he ran and jumped and slid on his bottom all the way down a grassy bank. He clambered over rocks to peer into the river gurgling past, counting tadpoles as he sang to himself. Having stopped to say hello to a big, fat caterpillar Henry trundled back into the meadow and made his way up the steep hill. It was a hot summer’s day and it was much harder to go uphill, but sliding all the way back down would be such a lot of fun. Reaching the top, Henry was pleased to feel a slight breeze and he shuffled to the cliff edge and sat down beside a rock to rest a while. Perched up here he could see the whole valley below. His gaze followed the river as it crept out from the trees and disappeared under an old, stone bridge. Henry had never been to that bridge before, and he made a note to visit it on his next outing. Just then, an almighty noise exploded from the nearby bushes, piercing Henry’s daydream.“CRAAAW! CRAAAW!” went a crow. Henry leapt in fright at the sudden sound and toppled forwards.
Tucking himself into a tight ball as mother had taught him to do, he began to fall. He bounced and rolled, tumbled and turned, over and over as he bumped down the steep cliff, until he came to an abrupt stop. Trembling all over, Henry sat very still. He didn’t want to fall any further. It was very quiet and after a while, Henry opened his eyes and sniffed at the air, uncurling just enough to have a peep at his surroundings. He was wedged against a tree stump, half way down the steepest side of the big hill that he’d just climbed up. Relaxing his prickles, Henry stretched and looked around. Peering over the edge, he saw that it was too steep and dangerous to jump and slide to the bottom. The only way was up, but the ground was too steep and even on his tippy toes he couldn’t reach the ledge above him. Henry was stuck. He sat down heavily and started to hum a tune. What was he going to do?
As time went by and little Henry didn’t return home, word began to spread. The mice whispered to the rabbits and the sparrows chirped with the bees – where could he be?
The animals set about to find him. They searched high and low, looking in holes and trees, under logs and bushes.
They trampled through the forest and scurried through the meadow, when suddenly they heard a faint noise drifting on the breeze. “What was that!?” cried Pipsi, looking around at her mousey brothers.
“There it is again!” whispered Felix the fox; “Shhh!”.
“Oh no!” muttered Felix. Down the cliff, far out of reach, sat a very glum little Henry singing his little song. Stepping away from the edge, the animals gathered in a huddle to talk over what they could possibly do to help the stranded hedgehog. After a long and fruitless discussion, Sorrel the Stoat suddenly had an idea; “We need Mister Meles!”
“Of course!” said Muddle the Hare. “He’s the wisest Badger that ever lived, he’ll know what to do.” And with that, Muddle turned tail and ran down the meadow as fast as he could – which was very fast indeed.
“Hello?” came a gruff voice as the big, old Badger appeared in the entrance to his sett.
“Mister Meles, little Henry has gotten himself stuck and we need your help to get him back” explained Muddle. “Well” said Mister Meles, rocking back to sit on his bottom as he pondered. Muddle twitched his nose restlessly as he waited for the badger to think. “I know what to do” said Mister Meles after a while “but we’ll need some help”. And with that, the old badger picked up his trusty stick and followed Muddle back up the hill to where the other animals were waiting.
“Hooray!” skipped Pipsi, as the pair appeared over the hill.
“Right. Gather round” said Mister Meles, slightly out of breath from the steep walk. “We’ll need to be quick, there’s a lot to do and the sun will be setting before too long”. The animals huddled together once again as the wise old Badger explained what they each had to do.
“Come on!” cried Pipsi, trying to hurry her troublesome brothers along. “That’s it!” she said, pointing to the old, stone farm buildings. The three little mice scurried down the hill towards the barn where Mister Meles said they might find some rope. Sure enough, there hanging on a nail was a fine length of rope, perfect for the job at hand. In her sweetest voice, Pipsi told the story of little Henry stuck on the cliff to the grumpy looking cockerel who seemed to be in charge. “Well of course you can borrow the rope” said the clucking cockerel, who wasn’t a bit grumpy at all. Stretching tall, the cockerel reached up to peck at the rope and with a few sharp tugs, down it came. “Thank you! Thank you!” squeaked Pipsi.
“No time for that young lady” replied the cockerel, looking slightly embarrassed. He quickly gathered up the rope, wrapping it carefully around his tail feathers. “Hop on” he said, “I’ll take you back”. The mice promptly obeyed and scrambled aboard as the cockerel took off back up the hill to the rescue site.
Meanwhile, two nervous little rabbits crept through the farm towards the cottage garden. A basket was what they were looking for and the vegetable patch seemed a good a place as any to look. Somebody was in the garden. They scampered past the cabbages and sneaked past the radishes, being very careful to remain unseen. Spying what they were after, they crouched quietly, waiting for just the right moment.
With a small nod to one another, they made their move, quickly tipping over the basket and scattering the carefully collected vegetables.
The biggest rabbit squirmed under the basket, stepping through the handle and settling it firmly on his back.
Without a backwards glance at the juicy carrots, the pair hopped away, feeling very pleased with themselves.
Now, Mister Meles still needed one more thing to set the rescue plan in motion and he had left the trickiest of tasks until last. Leaning heavily on his stick, for his paws were starting to ache, he set off to find the tall tree that the magpies had made their home in. Clearing his throat, he called up a greeting as the magpie couple peered down at him suspiciously. “I’d be ever so grateful if you could help me” said Mister Meles.
“Certainly” said one magpie.
“What can we do for you? Said the other.
“Certainly not!” squawked one magpie, fluttering down to sit beside Mister Meles on the ground. “It’s our precious treasure and we need it. All of it! Isn’t there another way we can help you?” Then Mister Meles told them of the terrible situation that little Henry the hedgehog was in and the rescue plan that was being organised to get him back. “So you see, the nails are the only thing we still need..” The magpies sighed, they knew they couldn’t refuse the wise badger. They fetched from their nest two shiny, silver nails and Mister Meles promised to keep them safe until they were returned.
Back on the hill top there was a flurry of activity. Sticks, stones and pieces of twine had been collected and once Mister Meles arrived back with the nails, the building could begin.
Arnold took charge, and with Pipsi’s help, began knocking the nails into the sticks, creating a frame to brace Mister Meles’ trusty walking stick against. When the rope had been securely tied on to the basket and everything was ready, Mister Meles thought it would be very wise to test it out. So into the basket jumped one of the little rabbits and the animals lined up along the length of rope, each making sure they had a steady grip. “Three, two one… PULL!” shouted Mister Meles. Muddle, Arnold, Sorrel, Pipsi and Felix the Fox at the rear, braced themselves and pulled with all their might as the others gathered round to watch. Slowly but surely as they leant backwards the basket rose and the little rabbit giggled as she swung backwards and forwards. “That’ll do!” said Mister Meles, finally satisfied that all was ready. The excited animals promptly took down their contraption and moved everything to the edge of the cliff to begin the rescue.
With Mister Meles in command at the front, and Pipsi taking up the very important role of second-in-command, they carefully dropped the basket over the edge of the cliff, in the very spot where Henry had sat earlier that day.
Little Henry was so pleased to see the basket hovering above as it very slowly lowered towards him. Standing on the tips of his tippy toes, he reached up to guide it down until it settled gently beside him on the grassy ledge, and then he climbed inside. “Well done sonny!” shouted Mister Meles from high above, “Now hold on tight and we’ll have you back up here in a jiffy.
Are you ready chaps?! Three.. Two.. One.. PULL!”. Once again the animals strained and heaved, slowly creeping backwards whilst they raised the basket and its’ precious cargo.
As the basket juddered and jiggled over the ground before lifting into the air suddenly Henry was very frightened. He gripped the basket so tightly his paws began to throb. “Ohhuhh!” he whimpered as he began to rise skywards. His knees were very wobbly so he sat down on his bottom and covered his eyes. “Tickety-tick, tickety-tock, a-ricky-ticky-too!” sang Henry, trying to distract himself.
When the basket neared the top, Mister Meles reached out a strong paw to guide it into a safe resting place. Little Henry stood up quickly, not wanting to appear frightened in the slightest, as Mister Meles and then Pipsi called out to the animals to stop pulling.
Henry carefully clambered out of the basket on his still quite wobbly legs as the animals crowded around. “We did it!” shouted a very out of breath Muddle. Pipsi climbed up Felix the Fox as three cheers of celebration rang out, and scattered flowers over the bewildered little hedgehog and his tired but very happy rescuers. “Now don’t you go too close to the edge in future, sonny” said Mister Meles sternly “We’d better get you back to your mother before dark, she’ll be terribly worried” he added.
And with that, as the sun set over Pepperly Wood, the animals finally went about returning the things that they had borrowed and Mister Meles walked the very sleepy little hedgehog home.