June 28, 2012 by petrujviljoen
Third and final episode …
This would’ve carried on for some time if Owl did not remember that he was, in fact, a very dignified bird and to behave in this manner was disgraceful. He gave Snake a withering look and flew off to perch on one of the branches of the silent fir tree to Review the Situation.
Peggy-Sue, a really agile and brainy mouse, had found refuge in a Still Life. A bunch of grapes, left behind by a Person selling fruit during the day was still lying there when she dashed through a gap in the fence, as if it was Time. Things had gone a little bit funny for Mouse. Fright can do this to one. At least she could eat, if she thought of it. She lied there, quivering, a little bit hysterical at the close shave she has had. Imagine! An owl in the City! If her cousins didn’t describe one to her when they came visiting, she would never even have known. And a snake! Two close shaves in fact. ”No wonder I’m a bit hysterical,” she thought. She had to stifle her frantic giggles.
Time, or No Time, this was serious and she had to be as quiet, well, as quiet as a mouse she supposed. Day-Time was still ages away – she could creep away when it was safe to do so. She made sure nothing of her showed through the fruit and settled down to wait. She started to cry, ever so softly, at her misfortunes.
Owl, for once, didn’t know how to sum up a situation. He was sure he saw Snake somewhere before, but how was this possible? Owl looked at Snake first this way, then that, then turning his head right round in the way only an owl can do.
Better to ask directly, Owl decided, discarding his usual sense for diplomacy. ”Whoooo arrre yooou?” Owl hoped there was a note of authority in his voice, to hide the fact that he was feeling exceedingly confused.
Snake didn’t want to answer Christopher, but something told her to be nice. She had heard that owls were quite wise, and although she wasn’t too sure about this one in particular, the bird might be able to give her advice on how to get home.
”My name is Sylvia, daughter of Silvern,” she answered, ”and I’m from up North,” and looked at Owl hopefully.
”Lorrrd Deliver Us!” exclaimed Owl. ”Of course! Your father saved the life of my second cousin, once removed, some time back, by biting a fox in the heel when he was stalking my relative.” Owl was astounded. ”But how did you get here?” he wanted to know.
Sylvia let out a long, relieved hiss, not quite believing her luck. ”You knew my father! But then you know where my house is! Pleassse, oh pleassse tell me how to get home again!”, rapidly telling the story of how she got to the City, a great Old Tear dropping from her eye.
”Hrumph”. Owl cleared his throat, profoundly moved. ”Never saw a snake cry before,” he thought to himself. ”Always thought the creatures were cold-blooded.” The idea occurred to him Snake Tears must be a very precious thing, but this was not the Time for Contemplation.That he had to help Sylvia was clear. Picking her up in his claws and flying back North would be an enormous task. For one thing, he didn’t have the time. Being late for his appointment with Earl the Elder just wouldn’t do and besides, he might actually harm her and delivering Silvern’s daughter all scratched and in tatters was unthinkable.
”What to dooo-o? Whaa-at to dooo-ooo?” He snapped his beak in agitation.
”Put her on the truck that goes to where she is from!” shrieked Mouse, who heard the whole conversation in silent astonishment. Christopher’s stomach gave a faint rumble at hearing Peggy-Sue’s voice.
Peggy-Sue cringed when she realised she spoke out loud. ”Oh dear, oh dearie me!” she whimpered, and quivered so badly she feared the grapes under wich she was hiding would topple over.
Christopher flew down from the branch to get a bit closer to where he heard her voice from, but slowly and gently so as not to scare her away. She had valuable information and one should set one’s stomach aside for important things like that. At least for a while.
”Uhm, excuse me,” he said, slightly put out, not used to being apologetic. ”Couldn’t help but hearing you! Do you have any idea how one could go about this?”
Peggy-Sue didn’t know what do do. ”This dreadful bird is going to eat me if I say another word, so I won’t,” she decided.
Owl, realising that the bird was afraid, tried a different approach. ”Uh-uhm. Excuse me,” he said again. ”I know you are scared, but I promise we won’t eat you. Owl’s Honour. Sylvia Snake here wants to get home very badly, and if that means us giving up a meal to do so, then that is how it will be. For myself, I’ve already pledged my word, and there aren’t very many things bigger than that! You may stay where you are and speak from there and Snake and I will stay where we are, but please tell us what to do. It is in your interest too you know.”
This decided Peggy-Sue. She was almost proud that an owl and a snake needed her advice, of which she had plenty if anyone bothered to stop and ask. Being a mouse meant having to know all sorts of things if one was going to survive. Like noticing who came and went when and where and how often.
Now that she had them in her control she as going to scold them for the ill-mannered nature in which they hounded her, and then wanted her advice …
”Less said the better,” she thought, rather wisely, so all this could be over. After a moment’s hesitation, for appropriate effect, she decided to tell: ”The truck that brought that frightful snake comes to this street every Thursday at Five in the morning. And if you didn’t know, it will be that time soon, so you’d better be ready,” she said. She gave further directions at which spot the Snake should be and so forth, to be rid of them once and for all.
Sylvia didn’t care that she found herself in the strange situation of having to thank a mouse, and did so promptly, almost crying again, she was that glad. Owl blushed a little, I’ll have you know, but thanked Peggy-Sue in his most dignified manner, even wishing her a Long Life and Happiness besides.
”Well!” was all Peggy-Sue could think, and dared not say another word in case she finally revealed her hiding place. They might change their minds now that they knew – they were hunters of mice after all.
Owl said his goodbyes to Snake and sent greetings to her family, after seeing to it that she was in a safe position to hide while she was waiting, and flew off in a Westerly direction to complete his mission. It would be day soon and he’d better be in a safe place himself before he became the hunted instead.
Sylvia, as she said good-bye to Owl, remembered the story about the owl that was saved by her family, but the way it was told her was rather different. The fox wasn’t interested in the owl, didn’t even know it was there, being after a rabbit instead! She giggled softly at this, suddenly looking forward to the task of getting on the truck unnoticed.
Peggy-Sue munched on a few grapes, in the quiet, timid manner of a mouse, also waiting until the coast was clear of snakes and owls, before she slipped off to Her home and have a good, long rest from her adventures. She was now sure that life in the City was very contrary to recognised behaviour after all. In spite of everything, she was glad she lived where she did. Wait until Fred and Dan heard of this – they will probably not even believe her!