Desmond The Dormouse Meets The Hawk

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Dormice eating blackberries and hawk circling above

Desmond the dormouse and his friend Freddy Vole were sitting under the blackberry bush.

“Has he gone?” asked Freddy anxiously – cramming another blackberry into his mouth. “I always eat a lot when I get nervous!”

Red juice spurted out all over his white t-shirt.

Desmond peered up through the prickly branches. The Hawk was still there – slowly circling around.

“He’s still there!” he said.

“Think he saw us come in here?” said Freddy – eyes wide in alarm.

“He can’t get in here!” said Desmond “Look at those thorns!”

Freddy didn’t look convinced and stuffed two more blackberries into his mouth at the same time.

“That horrible wretched bird!” cried Desmond. “Just look out there – not one animal in sight!”

“Course not”, replied Freddy. “They’re hiding!”

“They’re all frightened silly! Look there”, said Desmond.

He pointed to the dark opening in the middle of the blackberry bush – the burrow of the Rabbit family. Five sets of anxious eyes and five sets of twitchy noses could just be seen in the darkness. Mr and Mrs Rabbit and their three youngest.

“Then there’s your mum and dad and your brothers hiding in your house on the river bank – mine hiding in our house up on the hill. It’s our Hollow and not one of the animals dare go out!”

Desmond stamped his foot on the ground and cried out, “It isn’t right.”

“Maybe not”, said Freddy,  “but just imagine what would happen if you went out.”

That was a really terrible thought! Desmond and Freddy both thought of the Hawk’s eyes – very sharp eyes – and his claws; very, very sharp claws. They both knew that if they put one paw outside the shelter of the bush, the Hawk would drop out of the sky like a stone – so fast you’d hardly see him.  Then the Hawk would swoop back into the sky. Carry you off! Nobody knew where too and nobody would ever see you again.

Now Desmond was getting cross. “It’s just waiting up there for a chance to pounce on one of us!”

“It’s no good getting upset”, said Freddy. “That’s what Hawks do. It’s just the way they are! Nobody can do anything about it!” Freddy’s tummy was now warning him that he had eaten enough blackberries.

“Oh! No!” said Desmond. “I’ll do something!”

“You?” said Freddy. “What can you do? You’re only a Dormouse, he’s a Hawk!”

Now Desmond was quite small, but nothing annoyed him more than being told that he couldn’t do something or other because he was – ‘only a Dormouse’.

“Well, Freddy Vole,” said Desmond. “I may be – only a Dormouse – but I’m the Dormouse who’s going to get rid of that Hawk!”

Freddy didn’t laugh then, he was feeling just a bit sick. But he did laugh a lot later after the Hawk had gone when he told his friends what Desmond had said.

“He didn’t say that did he?” asked Jimmy Hedgehog, rolling around laughing and making leaves stick to his spikes like an overcoat. Billy Rabbit, Mr and Mrs Rabbit’s eldest, almost choked with laughter and had to be slapped hard on the back.

Young Bobby water Rat didn’t laugh. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” he said dreamily, “if Desmond really could do it.”

All four animals were silent as they thought of that wonderful time before the Hawk came. Everyone could go outside, anytime, anywhere, do anything, and without a care in the world.

Now, outdoors, the thought in every mind was ‘I must not go too far from a shelter, just in case the hawk comes!’

“Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!” Mr Owl’s shrill cry that echoes all around the Hollow, driving every animal to run for shelter!

“No”, said Freddy at last. “It’s just a dream. One of Desmond’s bright ideas!”

“Like when he wanted to fly,” said Jimmy bursting out laughing again. “And tied those dandelion stalks together and was blown into the beehives.”

“Well this time,” said Freddy very seriously, “it won’t be just honey in his fur, he’ll be carried away and we’ll never see him again.”

Desmond was at home sitting at the kitchen table staring unhappily at his tea-time boiled egg. He had told Freddy he would do something about the Hawk. Not just do something, but drive it off for good. Out of the Hollow, out of the lives of the animals. The trouble was he knew very well that he sometimes said the first thing that came into his head, without any idea of how he was going to do it! This time was worse. Freddy would tell his friends, they would tell their friends and soon it would be all around the Hollow.

Desmond could just imagine the gossip.

“Did you hear about Desmond Dormouse?”

“No!”

“He’s going to drive the Hawk right out of the Hollow.”

“He’s not?”

“Yes, for good!”

“Oh, well, how’s he going to do that?”

Desmond’s imagination could go no further. He gave a heavy sigh and jabbed his spoon into his boiled egg. Yellow yolk spilled all over the tablecloth.

“What do you think you’re doing Desmond?” said Mr Dormouse. “That was a clean cloth.”

Mr Dormouse had been watching his eldest son closely for some time. His eyes were full of suspicion.

“What’s going on in that head of yours Desmond? Not another hare-brained idea?” he said.

“He wouldn’t do anything like that again,” said Mrs Dormouse thinking of the beehives adventure and how long it had taken to get the honey out of Desmond’s fur.

Desmond’s problem was that he didn’t have any idea at all. Not even a hare-brained one. Without thinking he blurted out.

“Why is every animal frightened of that Hawk? There’s only one of him and he’s not very big!”

Mr Dormouse shook his head sadly and said, “Desmond, you talk some utter nonsense at times.”

“Well, Mr Owl isn’t afraid of him,” said Desmond.

“Mr Owl is a great owl! He’s got a sharp beak, very sharp claws and he’s a lot bigger than the Hawk. The Hawk wouldn’t dare go anywhere near Mr Owl!”

Desmond didn’t like it when his father talked to him as if he was still a baby. With a frown he stared at what was left of his boiled egg – just the white bits which he didn’t like, the yellow yolk which he did like was spread  over the tablecloth.

“Mrs Dormouse! Mrs Dormouse!”

Desmond glanced out of the kitchen window. Rushing up the hillside and shouting excitedly as she came was Mrs Water-Vole.

“Mrs Dormouse.”

Mrs Water-Vole was dragging Freddy along by the arm.

“What does she want?” growled Mr Dormouse who didn’t like visitors at mealtimes.

Desmond could have told him what Mrs Water-Vole wanted. Freddy must have told her and she couldn’t wait to tell Mr and Mrs Dormouse. That meant trouble and that meant it was time to get out.

“I’ll be right back,” said Desmond and made a bolt for the door, raced into his bedroom, climbed out of the window, then, crouching behind the hawthorn hedge, ran and ran and stopped only when he had an idea. Not the big idea, Desmond still hadn’t a clue how to do that, but an idea that might help. He’d go and see Mr Owl! The cleverest animal in the Hollow. Always ready to give advice and help animals with their problems.

Desmond ran till he reached the foot of the great pine; the tallest tree in the Hollow. Mr Owl lived at the very top from where he could see all the Hollow and could see the Hawk whenever it appeared. Then he gave his great shrieking cry of warning that could be heard everywhere.

“Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!”

On hearing that awful cry, every animal out in the open, especially the small ones, would run for the nearest shelter.

Gazing up through the leafy branches Desmond couldn’t see Mr Owl, but he would be there sitting at the top. If anyone could help him with an idea it was Mr Owl.

“Is that you, Desmond Dormouse?” The voice seemed to float down out of nowhere.

“Yes Mr Owl!” said Desmond.

There was a great flutter of wings in the loose leaves and Mr Owl, the great owl, was standing there, towering over him. Curved claws digging deeply into the earth, that frightening beak bending low towards him, great unblinking eyes staring at him. Desmond thought no wonder the Hawk keeps away from you! He decided to ask Mr Owl honestly what he wanted.

“Mr Owl, can you tell me how I can get rid of the Hawk so that he never comes back to the Hollow ever again?”

Mr Owl began to shake, around his middle first, then his wings trembled, then his neck, finally his head went back and his whole body was shaking violently. Desmond was alarmed. Mr Owl must be ill he thought, I’ll go and get help. Then he saw that Mr Owl was laughing, so much he could hardly speak.

“Desmond, you’re only a Dormouse! Dormice don’t catch Hawks!”

Desmond was disgusted. If there was one thing he could not stand it was anybody laughing at him. He was so annoyed that he marched off without even a ‘goodbye’!

“If he’s so wise,” thought Desmond, “why can’t he think of a way to get rid of the Hawk?”

Desmond trudged slowly along; his feet heavy as if stones were tied to them. He was thinking a very glum thought – what if all the animals of the Hollow were talking about him, pointing fingers at him and worse of all, laughing at him?

“There goes the dreamer.”

“There goes the little Dormouse with very big ideas!”

“He’s going to get rid of the Hawk – all by himself! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

In his mind Desmond could hear the laughter around every part of the Hollow, in every house, on the hill, on the riverbank, in the trees, in the bushes, animals everywhere, old and young, all laughing. He decided there was only one thing to do! Go back home! Sneak in so that nobody saw him, pack a bag, make a sardine sandwich; his favourite, take an apple and leave. Leave the family, leave the Hollow that he had known all his life. Every tree, path and bush that he knew so well. See nobody, no goodbyes, no pats on the back, no paw-shaking, no best wishes! Go to the outside world and never, ever come back.

Desmond’s mind was full of all these thoughts as he wandered along not really noticing where he was going.

“You’ve got a long face Desmond! What’s the matter?”

Desmond saw that he had nearly walked straight into Mr Beaver sitting on the grass outside his house, surrounded by pieces of wood. Wood splinters and chippings, and patched of sawdust. He was carving some shape from a piece of wood.

“Hello Mr Beaver,” said Desmond sadly.

Mr Beaver could see that Desmond was down in the dumps and needed cheering up.

“Come and sit down Desmond. I’ve got some lemonade here and a strawberry tart.”

Desmond glumly sat down on the grass near to Mr Beaver’s front door. Mr Beaver handed him a large strawberry cream cake. Desmond didn’t feel very much like eating but he didn’t want to hurt Mr Beaver’s feelings so he said thank you. Mr Beaver came very close; he had a very bristly face and two enormous sharp front teeth. They looked really frightening, but Mr Beaver was probably the friendliest animal in the Hollow.

“What are you making?” said Desmond, cream dripping down his chin and strawberry tart crumbs sprayed all over Mr Beaver. Mr Beaver held up a curved piece of wood for Demons to see.

“It’s Mr Owl!” cried Desmond in astonishment.

“His big eyes, his tufted ears, the huge claws. It’s him!”

Mr Beaver was pleased. He could do wonderful things with wood. Those powerful front teeth could tear, rip and shape any trees, branches, and blocks of wood. He had built his marvellous wooden dam in the nearby small stream that ran into the river flowing through the Hollow. It was almost finished and soon he would live there with his family.

“I think Mr Owl would look better with a fine hat,” said Mr Beaver. He had carved a very smart hat out of wood. It even had a wooden feather.

Mr Beaver picked up a brush from a pot of something that looked very sticky, dabbed some on the wooden hat and put it on Mr Owl’s head.

“There! How’s that?” he said.

Desmond thought it looked very smart and life-like. He reached out towards the pot, which he now saw was very, very sticky glue.

“Do be careful Desmond”, warned Mr Beaver, “Get stuck in that, you’ll stay stuck for a long time.”

Desmond suddenly leapt up in delight.

He shook Mr Beavers paw vigorously saying, “Thank you! Thank you! Oh, thank you, Mr Beaver!”

Shortly afterwards a startled and puzzled Mr Beaver watched Desmond leave. He left with a spring in his step, with a smiling face, with a cheerful whistle, holding one of Mr Beaver’s wooden figures with a small pot of Mr Beavers glue and with a very big idea!

The next afternoon, the Hawk came again. This time, thought Desmond, I’m ready.

Mr Owl’s warning cry had rung all around the Hollow and the animals were either at home or taking shelter.

Desmond was under the blackberry bush with Freddy Vole, Jimmy Hedgehog and Bobby Water Rat.

“What’s in the bag?” asked Freddy, pointing to a small cotton bag carried by Desmond. Desmond wasn’t listening to Freddy or anyone else. He was looking up through the branches of the blackberry bush waiting for the right moment to put his plan into operation. His big idea!

The right moment came when the Hawk, which had been circling overhead, moved off to another part of the Hollow.

“Now,” said Desmond out loud in a determined voice, as if telling himself to get a move on.

He dashed out, bag in hand, into the middle of the green space.

His three friends went wild with alarm.

“Come back you fool!” shouted Freddy.

“He’ll be caught! He’ll be caught!” shrieked Jimmy.

“He’ll be caught!” said Bobby – in a very quiet and frightened voice.

Out in the open, Desmond took the wooden figure and the pot of glue from his bag. All the time keeping a wary eye on the sky for the Hawk.

He stuck the wooden figure in the ground, then, poured the whole pot of glue over it. A glance at the sky, he could see the hawk returning.

Freddy grabbed Desmond by the shoulders and shook him “What do you think you’re doing? You want to be caught?”

“No,” replied Desmond quite calmly. “I want to trap the Hawk!”

The three animals looked at their friend in amazement.

“You expect the Hawk to fly down and get stuck on that thing?” said Freddy.

“Yes I do,” said Desmond.

“It’s stupid!” said Jimmy.

“It won’t work, said Bobby thoughtfully. “The Hawk’s much too clever!”

“That Hawk,” said Freddy, “with the best eyesight in the world will not be fooled into thinking a piece of wood stuck in the ground is a real animal!”

“I know that,” said Desmond, “I’m not finished yet!”

And before any animal could move to stop him, Desmond dashed out into the open, stood beside the wooden figure, shouting and dancing around. Doing everything he could to attract the Hawk’s attention.

“I can’t look!” said Freddy. He turned away. Jimmy and Bobby closed their eyes, shaking from head to foot. All with the same terrible thought, that they had seen the last of Desmond.

Suddenly there were loud cheers from the animals sheltering all around the green space. Freddy, Jimmy and Bobby opened their eyes but hardly dared to look.

It was an amazing sight. The Hawk’s wings were flapping away, his claws firmly stuck in the glue on the wooden figure. He was struggling but was firmly stuck in the glue. So gave up and disappeared for good.

Desmond was standing a short distance away with a happy look on his face. “It worked!” he said to himself. “My idea worked!”

Later that day, Mr Owl was standing with Mr and Mrs Dormouse in the Dormouse kitchen all staring at Desmond.

“Your son has done a remarkable thing, Mr Dormouse. He made himself the target. When the Hawk dived for him he jumped to one side. The Hawk couldn’t stop himself and became stuck in the glue.” said Mr Owl. “A brave young man,” he added.

“Very risky!” said Mr Dormouse with a glance at Mrs Dormouse who seemed simply grateful to see Desmond home in one piece.

“Very, very risky!” added Mr Dormouse.

“That’s true Mr Dormouse, but I came here to say this. Let’s not forget that your son has driven off the Hawk; the greatest menace to all the animals in the Hollow. Something that nobody else had been able to do. I think it’s not too much to say he’s a hero. Yes, Desmond the Hero!”

THE END

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