If the sound of the canal had been a great big crashing waterfall for Mouse, what do you think the sound of this river was like? It was deafening! Mouse could barely hear himself think. The power of the water rushing down the weir thundered so much that Mouse’s paws shook. He quivered with fear. He had never been so far from home and never in such a terrible place as this.
He comforted himself with the same words. “Just a few steps at a time. I am a brave Mouse. Off I go. Off I go. Off I go.”
But he didn’t feel very brave. And, to be honest, the whispers and doubts of the other animals were beginning to crowd into his mind. They had all known he was too small and too stupid to accomplish such a great task as this. What had the Green Man been thinking, entrusting him with such an important journey?
But Mouse shook off these thoughts firmly. He refused to be put off. He went on shaking paws down to the riverbank. There the water sprayed and churned and danced in great waves. Mouse eyed it nervously. He knew if he fell in, he’d be swept away, and who knew to where the great river flowed?
Just as this thought occurred to him, he saw something coming towards him across the river. Something that strode on two long legs through the churning water. Something very tall, with a very long beak and two beady eyes.
Mouse swallowed hard, for this was Heron, and Mouse knew that Heron was always hungry.
Heron eyed Mouse.
“You have the mark of one on a journey about you,” she said, eventually.
“I am on a journey on behalf of all the other creatures of the forest. The green man has tasked me to discover the name of the old tree, because it has been forgotten, and without it, the old tree will die. And without the old tree, eventually, the forest will also die, because we are connected.” Mouse said all of this very quickly in the hope it would persuade Heron not to eat him.
Heron dipped her beak towards the water.
“I knew the balance was wrong,” she said, slowly. “I have been patrolling these waters for a very long time. Look how many grey feathers I have. I have a grey feather for every year I’ve been the watcher of the river, and things have changed in that time. The water is cleaner than it used to be, and there are more fish now, but there are still not enough. It isn’t the way it should be, the way it was a very long time ago. People have forgotten the name of the tree. And without the name of the tree, all shall be lost. I am thankful to you, Brave Mouse, for attempting this journey.”
“I don’t know where to go next,” said Mouse. “Is there anyone you can think of who might know the name of the old tree? Kingfisher sent me here. But I’m not sure that this is right place, either.”
“I should turn back towards the forest, if I were you,” said Heron. “Journey deeper into its heart and see what secrets it reveals to you. Try to stay hopeful, Small Mouse, for hope will carry you on.”
Mouse thanked Heron and turned back towards the forest. But his small heart was sinking a bit, because he’d journeyed so very far already, and he still had no answers, and no clue where to look for them.
But Mouse was still determined to keep collecting gifts for the old tree on his journey.
So, as you journey with Mouse to his next destination, keep your eyes peeled, and take a picture of the most beautiful thing you see on your way. We’ll show them to the old tree and try to remind her of how beautiful the forest can be, and the important part she has to play in keeping it safe.