One starlit night, a plump* of ducks was snoozing peacefully in their snuggly des. res. duck house, when a strange low noise, throbbed through the still, summer air. One of the bravest ducks, called ....Muckleflugga, poked his beak out of the house and sniffed. An odd smell wafted into his nostrils and made him sit up, startled. A peculiar noise, a peculiar smell …. What did it all mean?
Now, I said Muckleflugga was brave, but he wasn’t so brave that he would toddle into the dark alone in search of a mysterious noise. Oh.... no... no... no... no.
So, he waddled softly over to.... Ootka*, his pal from Russia, and said,
‘Psst, quackle, quackle,’ which is duckish for ‘get up quietly’, and then, ‘Come with me. There’s a funny smell and a frightening noise coming from further down the field.’
The two, little ducks knew a secret way out of their fox-proof enclosure. All the ducks knew about it, but I can’t tell you how they get out, or the fox will learn about it.
Anyway ...it’s a secret isn’t it?
They waded through the River Dribble, which was at low tide because Stan the caretaker only turned the hose on during the day.
They stopped to eat a few bits of weed at the bottom of the river and then proceeded fearlessly (well, they weren’t shaking with fright yet) towards the sound.
They trekked over the bridge, through the nettles, behind the herb garden;
it was hard, following their noses.....
A cloud had drifted over the moon and it was so dark that Ootka nearly stumbled, but just as they were about to lose all hope of discovering the source of the sounds and the smells, and return home, a gathering of fireflies hovered nearby.
They whispered to the ducks,
‘Shhh.......we can help.....’
‘Don’t worry, we’ll come with you and you’ll be able to see better. We heard the rumbling noises, too.’
The beautiful, green-gold lights cast by the fireflies winked in the inky air and Muckleflugga and Ootka plodded on, now much better able to see the way.
Suddenly, a loud snort made them leap with alarm.
‘Shnnnoork...grrrum...grrrrum…shnorkgrrrumumm’, came the terrifying noise.
Muckleflugga gave a muffled quack,
‘I think we’re v...v...very c...c...close.’ Muckleflugga mumbled
‘Are you sure we shouldn’t wait till morning when Vanessa comes with Wuffa and the Wuffingas ? Dogs are so much bigger and stronger than us,’ squeaked Ootka, who was thinking that dogs were also much braver than he was.
‘No, forward! Where’s your courageous spirit?’ hissed Muckleflugga.
‘Back in Russia, where I left it,’ thought Ootka, but he didn’t say it out aloud.
The ducks had come to a halt beside a huge tree. At its base was a large hole. It looked very black and a most powerful whiff floated out towards them. Out of the corner of their eyes they glimpsed a low, round shape scuttling away from them through the grass.
Then that rumbling snort started to come from the hole again.
‘Who’s...Who’s there?’ Muckleflugga’s quack was a bit shaky.
‘I am!’ said a cross voice. ‘Fancy calling on a chap unannounced. I was about to go shopping, so stand out of my way. This is my house, your great flat foot is entering, do you realise?’
A second later a very cross-looking creature shambled out of the hollow in the tree. He was very round, and very rotund, * and had a pointed snout with a black tip. His two button eyes flashed at them, his short ears twitched and he was … well...covered in prickles. He also smelled as if he hadn’t had a wash for years.
‘I’m Honka’, he announced.
‘Very suitable’, thought Muckleflugga and Ootka, turning their beaks slightly sideways as their new acquaintance came closer.
‘Oh, how do you do?’ said the well-raised ducks.
Most ducks are very polite, even with a very smelly creature right in front of them.
‘I’m Muckleflugga,’ said the brown and white duck, extending a wing in greeting, though he wasn’t sure which part of Honka he should shake.
‘And I’m Ootka. I’m from Russia,’ said the black and white duck. ‘What are you?’ enquired the puzzled duck.
‘I’m a hedgehog, of course. I wake up at night, and sleep all day. I must go and hunt for worms, slugs and snails now.
They’re all on my shopping list, you know.’
‘We like them, too so please leave some for us,’ pleaded the ducks.
‘Don’t panic, there’s plenty to go round, but now I must catch up with my cousin, Hootkins, who was just visiting me. I have to warn him that Blair, the ferocious badger, is stomping around. I smelt him.’
‘Do you know the fox?’ asked Ootka.
‘Yes’, replied Honka, ‘and I keep away from him, too. If I were you, I’d start running, because I can also smell him coming. Now that we’ve introduced ourselves you may call on me tomorrow night.’
With that, Honka the hedgehog poddled off in the direction of his round relative, Hootkins, who was weaving his way through the grass, indulging in some retail therapy as he went.
Having been warned about the fox, the two ducks tore off home at a fast waddle.
After they had arrived, they pulled on their nightcaps, sank gratefully into their clean straw beds and dreamed about their brave adventure!