How Mr Twig Met Mr Leaf • Mr Twig Has A New Home • Mr Leaf And Mr Twig In The River Adventure • Mr Leaf, Mr Twig And The Fire • The Autumn Adventure • Mr Leaf, Mr Twig And The Baby • The Friends Leave Mossy Bank Wood • Our Friends Are Still With Us • The Friends Reach The City • The Fiends In The City • The Orchard Adventure • The Friends Meet A Sailor • The Friends Return To Mossy Bank Wood
Mr. Twig walked briskly through Mossy Bank Wood. He walked in the exact centre of the path. Not too fast. Not too slow. That was his way. He gave a polite nod to Mrs. Bee: a smile to Henry Grasshopper and the Ant family. He did not stop and talk. That was not his way,
Suddenly! Mr. Twig heard a faint cry: “Help, oh somebody, do help me!” Mr. Twig looked to his left and to his right. He looked forward and behind. He could not see who had called for help. In fact he could not see any one at all. Again the voice called: “Up here. Do help me, I’m stuck.” Mr. Twig looked up. There, clinging to a branch as tightly as he could, was Mr. Leaf. His usual smile was gone. Instead, one large, shiny tear trickled down his round cheek.
“Bless my ticking time piece,” said Mr. Twig, “What are you doing up there?”
“Mr. Wind put me up here, and then blew on and left me.” Mr. Leaf DID sound unhappy.
Now my friends, I must tell you: although Mr. Leaf is very round, he weighs no more than a feather. Often, when Mr. Wind was in a kind mood, he would carry Mr. Leaf on his way. He would put him gently down again, before going about his business. On the day of our story, Mr. Wind was in a bad mood. He had been to the cold, cold North, and had a sore throat. As every one knows, it is not much fun having to blow with a sore throat. This is why Mr. Wind is sometimes moody: why he so unkindly left poor Mr. Leaf stuck in a tree.
Mr. Twig, who always knows the right thing to do, said, “I cannot climb up to help you. You cannot climb down. So it must be that we need help.” By that time a large crowd had gathered. They all cried out together – for every one loved Mr. Leaf – “Can I help? Let me help.” Mr. Leaf saw Billy Bluebottle, Mrs. Bee, Henry Grasshopper, Lilly Ladybird, the whole Ant family and many others. Sadly he shook his head. “You are all too small. Even if you all worked together, it would take a very long hard time.” Then he saw Mr. Kingfisher busily trying to catch his dinner. Mr. Twig brightened up at once. He told all the insect folk to go and ask Mr. Kingfishers help, while he stayed to keep Mr Leaf company.
Mr. Leaf, seeing that he was about to be rescued, was quite his cheery self again. Bumbling in his usual way he told Mr. Twig, “I was on my way to give Mr. Cricket some honey for his stiff bones, or was it some liniment for Freddy Horsefly’s chest? Oh deary me, I do get so muddled, but it works out in the end.”
Mr. Twig, just had to laugh at Mr. Leaf, but he sounded quite stern when he said, “There is a time and place for everything. You should keep everything to its time and put everything in its place. Then you cannot get muddled.”
Mr. Kingfisher had been fishing hard for some time. He had not caught a thing, not even a tiny tiddler. When the insect folk asked for help, he said crossly, “Can’t help any body until I’ve had my dinner.” With a flash of blue, red and green, he was off in a beautiful dive. Mr. Kingfisher liked Mr. Leaf, and was seldom really grumpy, so he said, “If you will dance over the water, the fish will try and catch you. I will catch them. Then I will help Mr. Leaf.”
All the insects that could fly danced over the water in the sunlight. All the others sang and clapped. It made a grand sight. Soon the fish leapt. Mr. Kingfisher dived. In a trice he had a very good dinner
Mr. Kingfisher, followed by all the insects, flew to the tree where Mr. Leaf was stuck so fast. He took him gently in his beak, flew down and carefully set him on the ground. Mr. Twig and all the insects gave a great cheer, though some of them were quite out of breath with trying to catch up with Mr. Kingfisher. Mr. Leaf beamed from ear to ear. He hugged everybody he could, until he fell over himself. Then he sat on the ground laughing. Everybody joined in, until Mossy Bank Wood rang with the sound of laughter.
“Bless my ticking time piece,” said Mr. Twig, “I really must be going. I have spent five minutes too many on my afternoon walk.” He shook hands with Mr. Leaf, then turned to be on his way. Mr. Leaf would not hear of it. “After all your kind help you must come and take tea with me.”
They made their way to Mr. Leaf’s house, with Mr. Twig walking exactly in the middle of the path. Not too fast. Not too slow. With Mr. Leaf darting forward, then suddenly stopping. He simply had to tell Mr. Twig about Sammy Snail’s cracked shell and all the interesting things that happened.
When Mr. Leaf showed Mr. Twig into his house, Mr. Twig stood very still, then exclaimed, “Bless my tidy toes! You need some help.” For although everything was clean and bright, it was such a muddle. The clock was upside down, the cloth for the table was on the chair, and the cushions on the table.
With a muttered, “Time and place,” Mr. Twig started to put things straight. Mr. Leaf happily set about fetching honey cakes and fresh dew tea.
After tea they sat and talked. Mr. Leaf did most of the talking. Mr. Twig listened with his head on one side, then on the other. Now and then he would give a little nod. Suddenly, Mr. Leaf said, “It would be nice if I had someone like you to live with me. I’m such a muddled fellow, and you are so tidy.” Mr. Twig leant his head on one side, thinking carefully.
Mr. Leaf took a deep breath and said, “Mr. Twig, would you do me the honour of coming to live in my home?”
Mr. Twig looked at Mr. Leaf; looked at the floor; at the ceiling, then again at Mr. Leaf: cleared his throat and said, “Mr. Leaf, I think it would be very nice to live with you. To tell the truth, it is rather lonely, and just a little damp in my house by the river. Yes Mr. Leaf, I should very much like to live with you.”
Mr. Leaf jumped out of his chair with joy. “You shall move this very day. I will get all my friends to help.” Before Mr. Twig could even say, “Bless my ticking time piece.” he found himself in the middle of a great crowd of insect folk, all walking towards his house.
All the long summer evening, they worked with a will, and a great deal of laughter and chatter. What an odd procession they made! First the Ant family (who are very good at moving things) with all the heavy furniture: twelve to the table and twenty to the bed. Then every one else flew, hopped, skipped and crawled carrying what ever they could. Henry Grasshopper had a picture on each feeler. Billy Bluebottle had saucepans hanging from his legs. Even weary Willy Worm had a cushion on his back.
In the end Mr. Twigs house was empty, and Mr. Leaf’s house was full. Mr. Twig arranged things so carefully, no one could tell that all the extra things hadn’t always been side by side with Mr. Leaf’s.
As the sun went down, all the insect folk settled down on the grass outside Mr. Leaf’s house. They sang their evening song. My friends, if you pass Mossy Bank Woods and hear the insect folk singing, if one
voice sounds just a bit gruff, that one voice belongs to Mr. Twig. He has a lump in his throat, because he is so happy with his new friends.
The insect folk were very glad that Mr. Twig had come to live with them. He was very good at solving problems. When a dog dug up the nest of the Ant family, Mr. Twig knew just the place for a new one. He knows that if you tried to help a butterfly to leave its cocoon you might harm it. He knows lots of very important things. Mr. Twig keeps a notebook for Mr. Leaf. Mr. Leaf is very good at finding the right cure for aches and pains. With Mr. Twig’s notebook to remind him he no longer gets in a muddle remembering who needs what.
One sunny day, Mr. Twig and Mr. Leaf were sitting by the river. They were sunning themselves and feeling very peaceful and happy: thinking how nice it was that the insect folk were so free of trouble that day. Suddenly there was a terrible commotion at the edge of the water. “Bless my tidy toes,” said Mr. Twig, “Somebody splashed me.”
A very tiny voice said, “Please Mr. Twig will you and Mr. Leaf come quickly, Mummy Frog is ill.” There in the water was a very worried Teddy Tadpole. Mr. Leaf gently asked Teddy questions. Soon he learned that Mummy Frog was sitting on the little island down the stream and that she had eaten something bad and had a terrible tummy ache.
“Mustard seed, that will drive the poison away,” said Mr. Leaf, “Now where did I see that mustard plant?” Mr. Twig took out his notebook. He told Mr. Leaf where the mustard plant could be found.
Mr Leaf knows all about good and bad plants for his friends, but boys and girls have to learn as they grow up. They must NEVER eat seeds or berries unless given them by a grown up.
Mr. Leaf dashed away to get the seeds. Mr. Twig took three steps back; three steps forward; three steps upstream; three steps downstream; thinking hard all the time. When Mr. Leaf returned with the seeds Mr. Twig was able to tell him how to get to the island. Mr. Twig knew that Mr. Leaf could float very well. Mr. Twig told Mr. Leaf where to lie in the water so that the stream would carry him to the island.
Carefully holding the seeds on his tummy, to keep them dry, Mr.
Leaf floated to the island. Almost before Mr. Twig could say, “Bless my ticking time piece,” Mummy Frog had eaten the mustard seeds and soon was feeling quite well again
Mummy Frog told Mr. Leaf to climb on her back, and she would give him a ride to the bank of the stream. Now my friends,Mummy Frog has a slippery back and Mr. Leaf is a very round little fellow. I am sure you can guess what happened? Yes, that is right. Every time Mummy Frog tried to jump, down came Mr. Leaf with a bump.
“Oh dear,” said Mr. Leaf, “I shall have to float home.”
“But you can’t do that,” said Mummy Frog, “The water runs very fast and over the weir once you are past this island. You will drown.”
Mr. Leaf looked very worried for a while. He soon cheered up and said to Mummy Frog, “You must go and tell Mr. Twig. He will know what to do.”
Mr. Twig had already guessed that Mr. Leaf would be stuck on the island. By the time Mummy Frog had reached the bank, the insect folk were all away looking for Mr. Kingfisher. Which was just as well as Mummy Frog does like to snack on insects. When the insect folk found Mr. Kingfisher, he was having an after dinner nap. He shook his head and muttered, “That Mr. Leaf, always getting stuck somewhere.” But he had not really minded being woken up. With a flash of blue, red and green, Mr. Kingfisher was off. In a trice Mr. Kingfisher took Mr. Leaf back to the bank where his friends were waiting.
The insect folk love to dance and sing, and every one loves a party. Soon Mossy Bank Wood rang with the sound of music and laughter. Every one joined in the party to celebrate Mr. Leaf’s safe return and Mummy Frogs recovery.
Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig were sitting eating their supper. Suddenly they heard a big noise. It sounded as if everyone in Mossy Bank Wood was rushing by.
“Bless my tidy toes, what is all that fuss?” said Mr. Twig.
Mr. Leaf rushed to open the door. Of course he went too fast and fell over. Mr. Twig helped Mr. Leaf up and together they looked outside. All the folks of Mossy Bank Wood WERE rushing by. Soon Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig found out why.
“Fire, run, fire,” buzzed Billy Bluebottle.
“Come fly with us quickly,” fluttered Maria Butterfly.
Henry Grasshopper stopped by the house. He said, “Indeed, dear friends, you must run. Mossy Bank Wood is on fire.”
Mr. Twig walked up the path. “I cannot see a fire,” he said. He walked down the path and then he said, “I cannot smell a fire.”
“Oh but there is. You can see the sparks back there,” said Lilly Ladybird.
Mr. Twig looked where Lilly Ladybird had pointed. “Those lights are green. Sparks are red and yellow and orange.”
Every one stopped hurrying. They waited for Mr. Twig to speak. Mr. Twig walked three steps up the path. He walked three steps down the path. “Bless my ticking time piece, I have it,” he said, “This is not a fire. You may all go home.”
“What is it, what is it? Asked all the insect folk.
“I know it is not a fire. I think I know what it is. I will not tell you now but tomorrow I will show you,” replied Mr. Twig.
“The little ones are tired and frightened,” said Mr. Leaf, “We must take them home.
Every one knows how wise Mr. Twig is. They knew it would be safe to go home. Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig helped them. They carried the little ones who were too tired to hop or crawl. Soon they were all asleep; everyone in their own tree, bush or nest.
Early next morning Mr. Leaf said, “come Mr. Twig, show me the fire.”
Mr. Twig put his head on one side. He said, “Mr Leaf, I will need your
help to show the fire. Will you do me the kindness of looking for new
friends in Mossy Bank Wood?”
Mr. Leaf was puzzled. “Will that help to find the fire?”
Mr. Twig replied, “Oh yes, those new friends are the fire. I am sure of that. I am not sure yet how to show it to you.” Mr. Leaf did not understand, but he went to do as his friend had asked.
Mr. Leaf soon came back, he had a family of brown beetles with him. “Hello. You must be the Glow Worm family,” said Mr. Twig.
“Yes, we came to Mossy Bank Wood last night,” said Walter Glow Worm.
“We are very unhappy,” Wendy Glow Worm wiped away a tear.
“Everyone ran away from us,” explained George Glow Worm.
“Come with me. I shall soon put things right,” said Mr. Twig. Mr. Leaf was even more puzzled.
As they walked through the wood, news travelled. Everyone heard of the new family. Everyone came to see them. Mr. Twig stopped by a large tree. He pointed to the dark hole between the roots of the tree.
“Would you kindly go into the hole and stand so that we can see your tails?” he asked the Glow Worms. “Yes of course, I understand!” exclaimed Walter Glow Worm and ushered his family into the hole.
“Why, there is the fire!” exclaimed all the insect folk.
Mr. Twig told them that Glow Worms carry a light in their tails. It only shows in the dark. All was explained. The insect folk welcomed the Glow Worms; they did not run away that night. Now in Mossy Bank Wood the insect folk sing their evening song to the light of the Glow Worms.
One day Mr. Leaf looked out of the window of his little house. He saw that all the leaves were turning red, brown and gold. He called to Mr. Twig, “Why autumn has come. Just look how beautiful Mossy Bank Wood is. Just look how many berries there are: hips and haws, elderberries and juicy blackberries. We must pick some for our winter store.
Mr. Twig came to the window. “Indeed Mr. Leaf, Mossy Bank Wood is wearing a very fine dress. You are right, we must collect the berries for our winter store. It is said that when there are so many berries in the autumn, there will be a long hard winter.
“Then we must hurry Mr. Twig. The insect folk are already preparing for the winter; burying themselves in the earth; wrapping themselves in cocoons. We must prepare too. Come help me find the basket to put the berries in.” Mr. Leaf rushed around. He opened all the cupboards. He pulled things out and put them back. I’m sorry to say he put things back in such a hurry that they all fell out again.
“Bless my tidy toes. Here are the baskets Mr. Leaf.” Mr. Twig helped Mr. Leaf put all the things back in to the cupboards properly.
“The ground looks very wet; we must put on our strong boots,” said Mr. Twig. They put on their hats and coats. They put on their strong boots. They picked up their baskets. They were ready to go.
Mr. Twig opened the door. Whoosh – Mr. Wind blew it shut again. “Bless my ticking time piece,” said Mr. Twig, “Mr. Wind is blowing hard and cold. I think I will put my scarf on.” Mr. Twig took out his scarf. It was a very long scarf. He wound it twice round his neck; crossed the ends over his chest; crossed them behind his back; finally he brought the ends round in front of himself, then tied them in a bow. Mr. Leaf didn’t feel cold. He didn’t want a scarf. He wanted to go and pick berries. At last Mr. Twig was ready and off they went.
They walked beside the river, near Mr. Twigs old home. The bushes near Mr. Twigs old home had berry-bearing branches near the ground. Soon their baskets were almost full and very heavy. They stopped to rest on the river bank.
Wheeee. Mr. Wind blew Mr. Twig’s hat off. Splash, right into the river went Mr. Twigs hat. Mr. Twig reached for his hat, and splash, right into the river went Mr. Twig. Poor Mr. Twig was in terrible trouble. He couldn’t kick his legs because his big strong boots were too heavy. He couldn’t swim with his arms very well because his long scarf had come undone and was tangled around him.
Mr. Leaf ran up and down the bank of the river. He couldn’t help Mr. Twig. Mr. Leaf can float but he can’t swim. “Oh dear, oh dear. Don’t worry Mr. Twig I will think of something. “This is all your fault Mr. Wind. Do something. Save Mr. Twig.”
“I’m sorry. I was only plaaaa-ying. What can I do-ooo?”
Mr. Leaf looked all around. He couldn’t see anything or any one to help. Then he saw the sycamore tree with its branches stretching out over the water. “Why look there are still seeds on the tree ,blow down the seeds, blow down the seeds from the sycamore tree.”
Mr. Wind at once did as Mr. Leaf had asked. The winged seeds whirled through the air and landed in the water all around Mr. Twig. He managed to get his arms free of the scarf and to hang on to two of the seeds. The seeds made fine water wings for Mr. Twig. Mr. Wind blew on the water to help Mr. Twig float to the bank.
They rushed home. Mr. Twig got out of his wet clothes and hung them up to dry. Mr. Leaf made some hot mint tea.
“Come and sit by the fire and drink some of this mint tea,” said Mr. Leaf, “You will soon feel better.”
“Atishoo,” said Mr. Twig.
Mr. Leaf came rushing into the house. “Huff, Puff, Puff, Puff, oh dear me. I have run all the way home to tell you.”
“Tell me what?” asked Mr. Twig looking up from his book.
“The insect folk have found a thing,” gasped Mr. Leaf, “and it is making a noise.”
“Bless my tidy toes. Do sit down and get your breath. Then, tell me all about it.”
Mr. Leaf sat down. When he had got his breath back, he told Mr. Twig all about the strange thing.
“Humm,” said Mr. Twig, “Very, very big. Pink and warm in side. Wool all around it. Noise like an animal crying. All in a large nest of willow sticks.” He walked round the table one way. Then he walked round the table the other way. “Ah-ha, I have it!”
Mr. Leaf jumped. He was so tired with hurrying home so fast he had nearly fallen asleep. “What, what, you know what it is?”
Mr. Twig said, “That nest of sticks is a basket. The thing is most likely a human baby. You must take me to where the baby is.”
The two friends hurried out. After a while they saw a crowd of insect folk. There in the middle of the path was a basket. In the basket wrapped in woolly clothes was a little baby.
The insect folk were pleased to see Mr. Twig. They fussed around him asking questions. “What is it?” “Why is it making that noise?” “What shall we do?”
“Bless my ticking time piece,” said Mr. Twig, “One at a time please. This is a human baby. It is crying. I expect it is hungry.”
“What shall we do? How can we feed it? How can we stop it crying?” asked Maria Butterfly.
Mr. Twig thought a bit then he said, “A human baby cannot stay in the woods. We must fetch a human.” Then he asked the Bees, “ Didn’t you say that Mr. Apple understands you?” “Yes,” buzzed the Bees. “Then you must go and fetch him,” said Mr. Twig.
Not far away was Mr and Mrs Apple’s a little cottage. Mr. Apple looked after Mossy Bank Wood. He saw that the animals came to no harm. He cleared away dead trees. He watched to see that the river did not flood. He made sure that no one started a fire. Mrs. Apple looked after Mr. Apple and the cottage.
Mrs. Apple was baking a pie when she heard a tapping at the window. “Mr. Apple, Mr. Apple,” she called, “The bees are swarming on the kitchen window.”
“What’s that wife?” Mr. Apple came in to the kitchen. “That’s odd, I had best go and see what all this is about.” Mr. Apple went out and listened to the bees buzzing. “I think they want me to go with them.” “Why then husband you must go, and I will come too.”
The bees led Mr. And Mrs. Apple to where the baby lay. Mr. Twig, Mr. Leaf and the insect folk hid in the nearby trees and bushes. They watched and listened.
“Oh my, it’s a baby!” exclaimed Mrs. Apple. “Poor little mite. How ever did it come to be left in the woods?”
“There’s no telling, wife. Perhaps Mr. Crown the policeman can find
out. In any case we had best take the child to him.”
A few weeks after they had found the baby, the Bees called on Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig. “We must have a party,” they buzzed, “We must celebrate for the good Mr. And Mrs. Apple. They have had some especially fine news.”
“Oh what is that?” asked Mr. Leaf.
Mr. Twig said, “It must be because Mr. Crown the policeman could not find the baby’s real Mother and Father, so Mr. And Mrs. Apple are going to keep him. The one thing they wanted to make them the happiest people in all the world was a child of their own.”
“How did you know?” asked the Bees.
“Ah,” said Mr. Twig, and he smiled. Mr. Twig likes to have a little secret now and then.
One day Mr. Leaf said, “I should like to see the world.”
Mr. Twig was surprised. “Bless my tidy toes. Do you want to leave Mossy Bank Wood”?
“Just long enough to see the world.”
“That would be a very long time indeed.”
“Some of the birds fly away to see the world every year. I shall ask the birds to carry me with them.”
Mr. Twig put his head on one side and thought. Then he shook his head. “No I do not think that would be a very good way to see the world. The birds fly high in the air. They fly for many days, over land and sea, without stopping.”
“Oh dear me, you are right. That is no way to see the world.” Mr. Leaf sighed. For a little while he looked sad. Then he smiled. “My friend you must make a plan.
Mr. Twig walked round the table one way. Then he walked round the table the other way. He walked and thought. Then he said, “Mr. Leaf, we will both go and see the world. Come with me and I will show you my plan.” They walked a very long way. Down to the river. Right past the weir where the water tumbles so fast. When Mr. Leaf asked him what the plan was, Mr. Twig only said, “I must be sure.”
At last they came to a quiet pool. “I thought so. Bless my ticking time piece. I thought so,” said Mr. Twig. Mr. Leaf could not think how the pool could help them. He waited for his friend to explain.
“One of those lily pads will make an excellent boat. We can cut two bull rushes to guide it by. We can float down the river to the sea.”
Mr. Leaf was so excited that he tumbled over his own feet. “We are going to see the world. We must tell our friends. We must have a party.”
On the way back to their house they met Freddy Horsefly. “We are going to make a boat. We are sailing away to see the world. Will you tell all our friends? Tonight they must all come to our party and tomorrow we are sailing away. Mr. Leaf was much too happy to notice that Freddy Horsefly looked sad.
“Oh, I hope you have a good journey. Of course I will tell every one about the party,” said Freddy.
They worked hard all day long. They packed clothes and food for the journey and put them ready in a hollow tree by the pool. Then they went back to the house to get every thing ready for the party.
Party time came but where were the insect folk? It grew later and later and no one came. A big tear trickled down Mr. Leaf’s cheek. “What can have happened? I have tried hard to get all the things that our friends like best. I thought every one would want to come to our farewell party.”
“Listen they are coming, I can hear them.” Mr. Twig opened the door. The insect folk were gathered outside the house. They did not look as if they had come to a party.
The Ant family spoke together, “Do not leave us. Please stay.”
“Who will look after us?” asked Maria Butterfly.
“Who will write in Mr. Twigs book? Who will read it so that we shall know where to find things and what to do?” asked Mr. Cricket.
“Well bless my ticking time piece,” said Mr. Twig. “You should not have been so worried. While Mr. Leaf got ready for the party, I made up some songs. The songs will remind you of all the things I wrote in my book. While we have our party you can learn the songs.
Clever Mr. Twig. The insect folk were still sad that their friends were going away but they were happy about the songs. Then Mr. Leaf had an idea. “You could all make up songs about the things that happen while we are away, and when we come home you can sing them to us.”
The party that nearly did not happen became one of the very best ever in Mossy Bank Wood.
When Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig set off to see the world on their lily pad boat the insect folk all gathered on the bank to wave goodbye. Maria Butterfly and Freddy Horsefly flew along beside the friends’ boat. After a while Maria and Freddy said they must return to Mossy Bank Wood.
Mr. Leaf felt very sad as he waved goodbye to the last of their friends. Then, oh dear, Mr. Leaf began to feel very ill. He grew so pale his green skin looked white. Mr. Twig was very busy guiding the lily pad with his bull rush oar, he did not notice how ill his friend was.
“Oo, oh, oo, oh, I feel so sick,” groaned Mr. Leaf. Mr. Twig looked at his friend. “Bless my tidy toes. You do look unwell. I am sorry. I was so busy I did not see. What can I do to help?”
“It must be the water rocking the lily pad. If I can just lie on the bank and take some deep breaths, I shall soon feel better,” gasped Mr. Leaf.
“Of course. I can see a good place to land. I will have you to the bank in no time at all.” Mr. Twig who is usually so calm was so upset he rocked their lily pad boat. He nearly tipped them into the water.
When they reached the bank Mr. Twig made sure the lily pad boat was tied safely to a stick in the bank. Mr. Leaf lay down and took some deep breaths. Soon he felt better and sat up to look around. Just
then, a large dragonfly landed beside them. The dragonfly had a blue body that glinted in the sunlight. Its clear wings reflected every colour of the rainbow.
“How do you do. My name is David Dragonfly. You must be Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig.”
“Yes how did you know?” Mr. Leaf was surprised.
“My cousins in Mossy Bank Wood told me you were on your way to see the world. I promised to look out for you.”
“Bless my ticking timepiece,” said Mr. Twig. “How kind of you and your cousins. But I’m afraid we will not be going to see the world after all. Travelling on the water makes poor Mr. Leaf quite ill.”
“Oh but I feel much better now. I am sure if we stay here a little while
longer, and have some lunch, we can be on our way.”
Mr. Twig was worried about going on. Mr. Leaf felt sure he would be fine. They had their lunch and started off again. For a while Mr. Leaf did feel fine. Then he started to feel ill. Then he felt very sick in deed. Mr. Twig saw that his friend was ill. Without saying a word he took the lily pad boat to the bank.
When they landed Mr. Twig found a nice dry hollow under a weeping willow tree. “This will make a nice place to stay for the night,” he said as he carefully arranged his coat on a log and sat down. “Bless my tidy toes, some one has bitten me.” Mr. Twig jumped up, and then bent down to rub his leg.
“I am very sorry,” said a small voice, “Your leg was over our doorway. I thought it was a nice juicy branch.” The voice belonged to
Terry Termite. He told Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig that the termites knew all about the journey. The Ants of Mossy Bank Wood were distant cousins of the termites. The Ants had passed along a message.
As it grew dark, Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig saw the lights of a Glow Worm family. The Glow Worms and other insect folk that lived nearby came to visit. They all knew about Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig and how they helped the insect folk of Mossy Bank Wood. They came to welcome the travellers and to help them on their way.
In the morning Mr. Leaf felt really well. So Mr. Twig agreed that they could set off again. Their new friends came to wave goodbye. Mr. Leaf gave a happy sigh. “Do you know Mr. Twig where ever we go our friends are still with us.”
Mr. Twig smiled and nodded. Some how he knew that Mr. Leaf would not feel river sick any more. Sure enough Mr. Twig was right.
Wherever Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig stopped their lily pad boat, they found friends: insect folk who had been told about the great journey: friends to show them where to rest for the night or shelter from the summer showers.
One morning Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig were just setting off. They heard someone calling. Two of their new friends were rushing towards them. That is, Sydney Stag Beetle rushed, for he is quite a big fearless fellow. Poor Walter Woodlouse cannot move very fast, even though he has fourteen legs. He tried to keep up with Sydney, but being such a timid fellow he found it very difficult. Even sunlight frightens Walter and when he is scared he curls up into a ball.
“We nearly forgot,” puffed Sydney, “Soon the river will carry you through the city.”
“That is no place for woodland folk,” squeaked Walter, uncurling just long enough to speak.
“You must not stop there,” warned Sydney, “Our cousins from the parks and gardens tell us it is a terrible place.”
“Why thank you for the warning,” said Mr. Leaf. They set off, Mr. Leaf was very quiet and thoughtful. He sighed, and then he said in a puzzled way, “It was kind of our friends to warn us. But how can we see the world, if we don’t stop to see it?”
Mr. Twig smiled. “I have heard of the city. Bless my tidy toes, it would be wise to do as our friends say. We should not stop there.”
Gradually the green grassy banks of the river were left behind. Instead there were stone banks. The banks became very high and dripped with slime. There was rubbish floating on the water. There were no more little streams tinkling into the river. From huge pipes came great rushing spouts of dirty water.
“Oh dear, oh dear,” cried poor Mr. Leaf, who was feeling quite sick for the first time in weeks. “If this is the city I do not like it. Our friends were right.”
Mr. Twig said not a word. He worked very hard with his bulrush oar.
He dodged the dirty waterspouts and the floating rubbish. Poor Mr.
Leaf thought it would never end. Mr. Twig suddenly sat down. “Bless my tidy toes,” he sighed, not at all his usual brisk self. “I am so tired, we must find somewhere to rest.”
Mr. Leaf looked at his friends. He was very worried indeed. He knew Mr. Twig had to do most of the work steering their lily pad boat. He did try to help, but he is as light as a feather. His very hardest push was hardly any help at all. “Look, look there. Isn’t that steps coming down to the water and, yes, railings. We can tie up there and rest.”
“Why yes indeed.” Mr. Twig began to feel better. He gave a big push with his bulrush to take them to the steps.
Then, splash, crash, rock and tumble. A great big dog jumped into the water. Almost on top of them. They hung on to the lily pad as tight as they could, eyes fast closed. At last the lily pad stopped rocking. They opened their eyes. There beside them on the lily pad was an insect they had never seen before.
“Bless my ticking time piece,” said Mr. Twig, “Who are you and where did you come from?”
“I’m Ferdinand Flea,” said the stranger, “I came off that dog. I lived on him until he jumped in the water. I don’t like water.”
“I don’t like this water,” wailed Mr. Leaf, “Look at our stores, all
ruined and our clothes so dirty and wet.”
“You look as if you need help,” said Ferdinand Flea, “If you come with me, I think I know where we can get it.”
How Ferdinand helped Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig is another story. I will tell it to you if you wish, another day.
Ferdinand Flea told Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig that his dog used to walk in the park, he was sure the friends could get help there. Some of their stores had not been spoilt. They put the good stores and their clothes in two bags. Tied the lily pad boat tightly to the railings and set off after Ferdinand. The steps were shallow. Ferdinand could hop from step to step with ease. But it was very hard work for the friends. Climbing up where broken slabs made a path, dragging their bags after them.
They were wet and dirty and very tired. Poor Mr. Leaf had fallen down and bumped himself quite hard but he felt quite happy. “It looks like we will see the city after all. Things could have been worse. The dog could have jumped right on top of us. We could have been drowned. Instead we are having an adventure.”
At last they reached the top of the steps. They sat down for a rest in the sun. They looked at the great big boots on the great big feet that passed them by. Mr. Leaf was frightened. “Oh dear I don’t think this will be a good adventure after all. If we walk here we are sure to be trodden on.”
“No my friend. We shall be safe if we stay near the wall,” soothed Mr. Twig. They walked and walked on the hard pavement. Their bags felt heavier and heavier. Mr. Leaf thought, ‘I cannot walk another
step’. Even Mr. Twig began to fear they would never reach the park.
A large dog walked past them. “I see a nice new home for me. The park is over there,” said Ferdinand and, hop, he was gone.
“Where, where? I cannot see anything,” said Mr. Leaf. But the dog and Ferdinand were no longer there. Mr. Leaf sadly shook his head and sighed. “I do not think that insect folk in the City are our friends.”
“Fleas are different,” said Mr. Twig, “Bless my ticking time piece. That must be the place he meant.” He pointed across the road.
Mr. Leaf looked past the huge noisy rushing things Ferdinand had called cars. Mr. Leaf saw the park. “Grass,” he did a little hop. “Flowers and trees.” He did a bigger hop. “And that, and that, is water jumping into the sky.” He hopped so high that he fell down with a bump. He sat there smiling, in a happy heap. All muddled up with the
things he carried.
“That is a fountain,” said Mr. Twig. “Now how ever can we get across this road?”
Mr. Leaf stopped smiling. Then he smiled again. He felt sure that his friends would find a way. Before Mr. Twig had time to make a plan a dustcart stopped nearby. They heard a voice that seemed to come from the dustcart. “You must be Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig. What are you doing in the City?”
The friends jumped. “Where are you? Who are you? Can you tell us how to get to the park?” shouted Mr. Leaf.
“I’m Harry Housefly.” Harry flew down from the dustcart so that they could see him. “If you can creep up there on to the cart, it goes to the park. I often ride on it when I want to visit my friends.
They soon reached the park. What a welcome they had! They met an Ant family, a grasshopper, a cousin of Maria Butterfly and many other new friends. Everyone was glad they had come to the City after all. With the help of their new friends, Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig were soon clean and dry again. They found a place to stay and put their stores in order.
A happy Mr. Leaf said that they should have a party. Everyone thought that was a splendid idea. The flying insects from the park went to fetch more friends from the gardens. When the evening came there was a huge crowd. They listened as Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig told the story of their adventures. They sang and danced till the moon was high.
When the friends settled down to sleep, Mr. Leaf smiled and said, “It’s almost like being in Mossy Bank Wood.”
The insect folk in the City park wanted Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig to stay with them. “I’m sorry,” said Mr. Leaf, “We really must go. We have so much of the world left to see.”
“Indeed,” said Mr. Twig, “Summer and the time for travel will soon be over.”
When the dustcart came to the park they climbed aboard. They waved goodbye to their new friends. Harry Housefly went with them to make sure they got off the cart at the right place.
The lily pad boat was still safely tied to the railing where they had left it. They quickly loaded their stores. Once again they floated down the river. It was not long before they had left the City far behind them.
“Oh, it’s good to see the grassy banks again,” said Mr. Leaf and laughed because he was so happy. “Look, there is an orchard of wheat, and a field of apples. I mean an apples of…. Oh dear never mind. Let us stop here Mr. Twig.” He jumped up and down pointing to the bank.
“I think that would be wise,” said Mr. Twig. He was much to kind to tell his friend that he had nearly tipped their lily pad boat over.
They sat on the bank and ate their lunch. Then they walked in the orchard. Mr. Leaf chatted happily. He ran backwards and forwards.
Mr. Twig listened. He walked not too fast and not too slow. That was his way. Suddenly Mr. Leaf stopped talking. He stood quite still. “Where are they? Where are the insect folk? I haven’t seen anyone.”
“I have noticed,” said Mr. Twig, “I have also noticed that the ground between the trees is very bare. I think we had better leave this place.”
Just then they heard a noise. It was the noise of an engine. Then they saw a tractor. It was spraying a powder all over the trees and ground.
“Bless my tidy toes,” said Mr. Twig, “Quickly we must find shelter from that powder. He grabbed Mr. Leafs arm and pulled him down as far as he could amongst the tree roots.
When the tractor had gone, Mr. Leaf lay still on the ground. His eyes were closed. His skin had dreadful brown blotches on it.
“Oh my poor friend. I was too slow. Some of the powder has fallen
on him.” Mr. Twig half carried, half dragged Mr. Leaf back to the river. “Bless my ticking time piece, I must hurry.” He carefully washed the powder away. Mr. Leaf stirred but did not open his eyes.
A Ladybird landed on a reed nearby. “Oh dear, we did not see you coming. We would have warned you. Please you must come to the other side of the river. You will be safe there.
“The river is wide here. It flows very swiftly. I do not think I can get our lily pad boat across it,” said Mr. Twig. He was so upset he could not think what to do.
Mr. Water Rat was passing by. “Can I be of help?” he asked.
“Yes please,” said Mr. Twig, “If you would tow our boat across the river it would be a big help.”
Mr. Twig managed to get Mr. Leaf on to the lily pad boat. Mr Water Rat took the lily pad stalk in his mouth. Mr. Twig sat down with a bump. Before he had time to say a word Mr. Water Rat had towed them across the river, and then he disappeared. Mr Water Rat is rather shy.
Mr. Twig pulled Mr. Leaf on to the bank. A crowd of insect folk gathered round. “Will Mr. Leaf be all right? asked one. “We are sorry we did not warn you about the orchard,” said another. “The farmer does not like weeds,” said a Beetle. “Or insects,” squeaked a Woodlouse. “And even I don’t like the powders he sprays,” said a Worm poking his head up from a hole.
Mr. Leaf opened his eyes. “Ooooo, what happened ,” he groaned.
Mr. Twig, looking very worried, told him. “I guessed the tractor was spraying weed killer. I knew it would harm you but I was just too slow.”
“Please don’t be upset,” pleaded Mr. Leaf. “I feel much better all ready. If our friends will gather some nettle juice for me, I shall be quite recovered.”
The insect folk gathered the nettle juice. Almost before Mr. Twig could say, “Bless my ticking time piece.” Mr. Leaf was better.
For the rest of their journey they were very careful to stay away from orchards with bare ground between the trees.
Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig had travelled a very long way on their lily pad boat. They were careful and stayed near the bank. The river was getting very wide. So wide that they could hardly see the opposite bank.
“I think we should tie up our boat and walk now,” said Mr. Twig.
“Yes please,” said Mr. Leaf. “The water is getting a little rough.” To tell the truth he was just a little bit frightened. He thought they might sail out to sea before they knew it. They walked up a slope between tough clumps of grass. “That odd smell must be the sea. I wonder what it looks like.” Mr. Leaf was so excited he ran up the slope, even though it was quite steep. At the top of the slope he stopped suddenly. He stood very still, his mouth open in surprise. “Oh, oh, oh,” he gasped, “What a lot of water. I never thought there could be so much. And look there is a ship laying on the sand.”
Mr. Twig caught up with his friend. “That is a fishing boat. A ship is much, much bigger.”
“Goodness who would have thought it,” exclaimed Mr. Leaf. “Shall we go and take a closer look?”
Walking on the sand and round pebbles and rock pools was very hard work. When the friends reached the fishing boat they flopped down beside it, quite puffed out.
Sitting by the boat was an old, old sailor. He was mending some nets. “Good morning,” said the sailor.
Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig looked around. They could not see any one but themselves and the sailor. “I think he must be talking to us!” said Mr. Leaf.
“Of course I am. There is no one else here.”
“Bless my tidy toes! He IS talking to us,” said Mr. Twig. Then he said to the sailor, “I do beg your pardon. People can’t usually see or hear us you know.”
The sailor had the bluest eyes and the crinkliest brown face you ever saw. When he smiled, the blue eyes twinkled and the brown face crinkled, even more. He gave a great big booming laugh. Mr. Leaf
was startled. He jumped up, then fell down again, head over heels.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you jump.” The sailor put out a finger to steady Mr. Leaf and to brush the sand from him. “A sailor sees many strange things, in so many lands. You are not the first woodland folk I have met.”
. They told him about Mossy Bank Wood.
The friends had a fine talk with the sailor. He told them about the lands he had visited. They told him about Mossy Bank Wood.
“Apart from a little fishing I no longer go to sea,” said the sailor. “If you like I could take you to see my friend. I’m sure he would be happy for you to go with him when he sails away to other lands.”
“That is very kind of you,” said Mr, Twig. “But summer is nearly over. It is easy to float down the river but it will take a long time to go back up the river to Mossy Bank Wood.
“It has been a great adventure,” said Mr. Leaf. “ Perhaps one day I would like to see more of the world but I do miss Mossy Bank Wood.”
“I have an idea,” said the sailor. “If you would like to stay with me
for a few days I think I know of an easy way to get you home. You need not paddle up river.
The friends agreed they would like to stay with the sailor for a while. He helped them into his fishing basket, and carried them to his house. That evening insect folk came to visit. The sailor explained that though he could not talk to the insect folk, he was very pleased to meet them and happy that so many lived in his garden. Though he did say that the Sand Fleas were rather spiteful. He wondered if Mr. Leaf and Mr. Twig could ask the Sand Fleas not to bite him. The friends agreed they would talk to the Sand Fleas when the sailor took them back to the beach.
How the friends travelled home is a story for another day.
Mr Leaf and Twig enjoyed their stay with the old sailor. After all their adventures it was nice to rest by the sea.
But Mr. Twig was worried. “We really must go back to Mossy Bank Wood,” he said. “The sun is getting up later and going to bed earlier each day. Autumn is nearly here, then winter will come before we get home.”
“I promised to help you,” said the sailor, “I have made a plan and now it is ready. I will have you back in Mossy Bank Wood in just two days.”
“Bless my ticking time piece,” said Mr. Twig, “It took us many weeks to get here.”
“What is the plan? What is ready?” Mr. Leaf was so excited, he squeaked.
“This,” said the sailor. He took a large basket out of his cupboard. The basket had labels stuck all over it. One read THIS WAY UP. Another read ANIMAL HANDLE WITH CARE. On top of the basket, too high for the friends to see was another label. The label on top read TO BE COLLECTED AT MOSSY BANK CROSSROADS.
Mr. Twig walked carefully round the basket. Mr. Leaf tried to walk round the basket and read the labels at the same time. “This one says DO NOT OPEN. How will that help us to get home?” He tripped over his own feet.
The sailor gently helped Mr. Leaf to his feet and explained. “It is for you to travel in. Parcels like this basket are sent all the way to Mossy Bank Wood by coach and bus. I will put it on the coach. The coach driver will put it on the bus. In just two days you will be at Mossy Bank Crossroads.”
“Wonderful, wonderful,” cried Mr. Leaf. “The Crossroads are only a small field away from home.”
“What an excellent idea,” said Mr. Twig.
The sailor lifted the lid. He put his hand inside the basket. Then he opened a little door. The little door was exactly the right size for the two friends. “This door can only be opened from the inside,” said the sailor. “As you can see, from the outside no one can tell it is there.” Inside the basket there were more surprises. It was lined with the softest moss. All their stores and seedpod pots were there. Each made safe with a little hook to hold it against the side of the basket.
“Why it is beautiful,” cried Mr. Leaf.
“Bless my tidy toes,” said Mr. Twig.
As he said goodbye, the sailor gave the friends a parting gift, a little ship in a tiny bottle, just the right size for their mantelpiece. Even Mr. Twig did not know how the sailor got the ship with all its little sails into the bottle.
The journey was very quiet, until the driver changed places with a new one. The friends heard the drivers talking about the basket. They held their breath in fright.
“Well I don’t know,” said the first driver, “An animal should not be that quiet. I think we should look in the basket.”
Mr. Twig quickly unhooked a seedpod pot and banged it against the side of the basket. A puzzled Mr. Leaf copied his friend.
“It does say do not open,” said the second driver, “Wait a minute, I can hear it stirring. So that’s all right.”
Mr. Leaf patted his friend on the back. “That was a clever idea.” They both heaved a big sigh of relief.
The basket was put down at the Crossroads. When they stepped out of the little door, they saw Maria Butterfly. “You are back!” she cried, “Everyone will be so pleased. I must tell them.” She flew off as fast as she could.
“The world is full of adventures and travelling is fun. But, oh, it’s so good to be home,” said Mr. Leaf. A happy tear trickled down his cheek.
“Indeed,” said Mr. Twig, But I have a feeling that we shall have many adventures even if we stay at home. I’m sure the next one will be a party in Mossy Bank Wood tonight.”
Of course Mr. Twig was quite right.
For several years I have enjoyed meeting with fellow poets and poetry lovers every other Monday at the Bear in Wantage. There we discuss both our own work and that of other poets both well known and obscure. Many of the poems in the category Wantage Poetry Club were first presented at the Club. That category dedicated to friends in the Club contains the poems which I have not as yet published in a collection.
Copyright © 2013 by Pamela Boal. The moral right of the author has been asserted. All right reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval systems, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Please feel free to utilise my poems in your projects but do give accreditation in an appropriate manner and make a charitable donation in recognition of the fact.