The Animals of Aysgarth Falls: Adventure into Aysgarth, Part 4
Henry squinted into the light from his shaded hiding place, desperately trying to catch a glimpse of his friend in the madness. He searched and searched, seeing nothing but a blur of movement in the square. A shrill shriek suddenly rang out in the air, breaking Henry’s concentration. A tall, well dressed lady, with spindly legs, was standing not far from the very spot Henry and Walter had were set upon by the giant and his newspaper. Her body was twisting manically as her arms flapped and hands patted from her head to her toes like she was in a one man band. Her feet danced along, erratically stomping on the floor.
‘What on earth...?!’ Henry tilted his head, utterly perplexed.
He watched as she twisted and twirled in a panic, until finally, he saw the distinctive tawny brown silhouette of his friend. Walter had spiralled up the lady’s leg in the blink of an eye; seeking refuge in her clothing. Realising this wasn’t a feasible long term hiding place following the woman’s (in Walter’s opinion, frankly rather dramatic) response, he fled up the lady’s back and popped out of her collar, momentarily pausing once more, as if planning his next move. The well dressed lady let out yet another melodramatic whale. With that, Walter leapt with all his might onto the canopy of a neighbouring stall and began to scamper, at speed, back towards the entrance of the village the pair had arrived through, not long ago.
Panicking, Henry yelled out ‘Walter, wait for me, I’m over here!’ to no avail.
Henry’s big, round eyes shifted left, right and left again. The crowd’s attention was firmly fixed in the direction of Walter at this point, as though Henry’s lack of visibility rendered him no longer a problem. Henry continued to panic, Walter always came up with the solutions, Walter always had a plan, whatever was he going to do without Walter to help him!?
As Henry’s thoughts began to snowball, he became overwhelmed by a stench tingling through his
whiskers and filling his nostrils. His tiny nose twitched. It was a familiar smell, one he’d encountered along the roaring road on their journey here. Unlike his first experience of this peculiar smell, a paralysing roar was nowhere to be heard. Instead, Henry noticed, twitching his ears, there was a low rumbling chug, not getting any louder, remaining quite still a short distance away in the corner of the square.
A strange looking contraption, similar to the one Henry and Walter had encountered on the roaring road was responsible for the low grumble. It was a funny looking thing. A man, dressed in white, was heaving tray after tray of glass bottles, filled with a strange opaque white liquid, quite unlike anything Henry had ever seen, onto the back. That’s not like any river water I’ve ever seen before, he pondered.
‘I’ve got two more drops - one at the church and the other just beyond the falls at Mrs Tinkly’s, then I’ll be back for dinner dear’ the jovial man shouted back into the building the bottles were coming from. The man then loaded the last tray of white bottles onto the strange grumbling contraption – humming all the while - before settling himself in a seat at the front.
‘The falls!’ cried Henry, with a pang of longing for his safe little home. He knew he just had to make it to the cart unnoticed, and then he would be on his way. Walter was last seen darting back in the only direction anyone could leave in these strange grumbling machines – towards the roaring road – he was sure to find him along the way!
‘Right, here goes’ Henry assured himself with a determined frown and a puffed chest. He bolted from the safety of his little hiding place. The first stretch of his escape route was along the crumbling wall of the building, to reach a small blackboard with more strange shapes scrawled across it, this time in what looked like white, dusty mud slicks. He took a second to catch his breath, before darting off again. He panted for a second, under a large wooden structure on which a group of people were sat, drinking murky brown drinks with a white foamy top, laughing and joking too noisily to notice Henry. The drinks reminded Henry of the bottom of the falls, where the tumbling water crashed into the river, creating a froth that floats on the surface of the current. He felt a desperate surge of homesickness. ‘Don’t get distracted’ he scolded himself, shaking his head. He didn’t stop here, he had no time, the strange grumbler was slowly beginning to roll away towards the edge of the village.
‘Quick!’ Henry urged himself. In that moment, a young boy with a funny looking bag filled with the same rolled up papers that the giant had earlier brandished, passed on one of those wheeled creations. Henry readied himself.
‘3, 2, 1!’ With that, he leapt onto one of the shiny, none moving, parts, being careful not to get kicked each time the boy’s foot wound back around, the breeze from which wafted Henry repeatedly. The boy was getting closer to the grumbler; Henry would only have one chance to time the leap from his current ride to the next. He could see the back of the grumbler drawing nearer, the bottles of white liquid appearing bigger and bigger until!
The man at the front of the grumbler raised an eyebrow, briefly checking his glancing back towards his precious cargo. He saw nothing and assumed a pothole in the road was causing his bottles to clatter together. Henry kept his head down, as he quietly shuffled between the trays to the edge of the grumbler, so he could keep an eye out for his friend.
Out of the village they continued, Henry looking on intently. No sign of Walter anywhere!
‘Oh no’ worried Henry. ‘Whatever will I do?! What if Walter is still in trouble?’.
Henry slumped down on his bottom. His head resting on his hands in defeat, tears began to fill his eyes as the van began to slow to a halt, just outside the church tower which rings on the hour. The man heaved one of the crates off the back of the van; too busy chatting to the vicar to notice Henry a short distance away. The man and the vicar walked down the path towards the big, arching doorway of the building, the noise of their conversation faded slightly, while Henry remained in his spot, sniffling sadly.
He felt so sad, so alone. What was he going to tell everyone at the riverbank? His thoughts began to spiral once again, when suddenly a short, sharp ‘psssst’ came from behind a large stone structure, poking out of the ground. It had a cross on it, similar to the one Henry noticed on Walter’s map, and was half covered in moss. It had more of those strange shapes on it, this time carved into the stone, half hidden by moss.
‘psssst’ the noise hissed again. Henry wiped his eyes to clear his vision. He couldn’t believe what he saw.
‘WALTER!’ he cried! He was so relieved to see his friend peeking out from behind the giant stone, looking somewhat dishevelled, but otherwise no worse for wear.
‘Quick Walter, climb on here, it’s heading to the falls!’
Without hesitation, Walter darted for the grumbler, and with a small leap (and big heave from Henry), the pair were reunited. They hugged tightly, elated to have found each other.
‘What an adventure that was!’ exclaimed Walter. Henry rolled his eyes ‘we were almost cat food!’.
Walter laughed shrugging his shoulders ‘it wasn’t all for nothing though old chap!’ As he spoke, Walter pulled out the ripest, juiciest looking blackberry Henry had ever seen.
‘How did you fit that in there with all your other widgets and gadgets?!’
‘I may have ditched the map’ Walter responded ‘we know the way for next time now anyway’ he said with a wry smile, winking at his friend. Henry didn’t think he had the energy for another adventure just yet.
‘Let’s just get home to the riverbank and tell the others of this adventure first, shall we?’ Henry suggested, taking a handful out of the blackberry, and cheersing it with the remainder Walter held in his hand.
‘Yes’ replied Walter.
‘You’re always the one with the best plans’.