By the time Mouse had journeyed this far, his small mouse paws were very tired indeed. He had never scurried so far in his short life, and he was absolutely exhausted. He was very thankful, however, to have left the roar of the river far behind. This part of the canal felt far more peaceful.
That was when he heard a splash-splash, splash-splash, and skating towards him over the surface of the canal came a black and white bird. This was Moorhen. Moorhen was very busy. She did not look like she had time to speak, but Mouse called to her anyway.
“Can’t you see I’m in the middle of something?”
“I’m terribly sorry to bother you,” said Mouse, “but I am on a journey. 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.”
The Moorhen swam around in a little circle. “Busy. Busy. Busy. Trying to remember something. Oh yes. The name. The name of the tree.”
“You know the name of the tree?” said Mouse, his small mouse heart rising.
“The name,” Moorhen muttered. “The name. The name. The name.”
She stopped swimming one way and started to go back the other way.
“Well, what is it?” Mouse asked.
“Name…name…name. No, sorry. It’s clean gone out of my head. I used to have it, but it’s been taken up by all the things I need to do. I am far too busy to remember things like the name of the old tree.”
Mouse’s heart sank.
“Do you know anybody who does know the name of the old tree?” he asked her. “Or where I should go to find out? I’ve been travelling for a very long time. I’m extremely tired.”
Moorhen stopped her circle and turned around and went back the other way. Mouse was amazed that she wasn’t dizzy.
“Who might know?” she was muttering. “Know…know…know…name…name… name… busy, busy, busy…”
Mouse gave up. He knew Moorhen was far too busy to be properly useful and had clearly decided she couldn’t really be bothered to help.
“All right,” he said. “I’ll leave you now. Sorry to bother you.”
“Wait!” said Moorhen. She stopped spinning. “I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful. I just have a very long to-do list. But will you take the old tree something from me? A present. To remind her that we are thinking of her.”
“Of course I will,” said Mouse. Thank goodness you are here to help Mouse carry all of these presents. “What do you think she would like?”
“Well, when people come to visit my canal, and bring me and the other ducks seeds to eat, they often try to take a rubbing from one of the trees nearby. A copy of the texture of the
bark. I think the old tree would like that, as it would remind her of all the other trees growing in the forest, and how she is at the heart of them all.”
So, if you have a piece of paper and a pencil, you could take a bark rubbing now, and add it to your collection of presents for the old tree. If you don’t, why don’t you find the most interesting tree and take a picture of its bark to show the old tree?
And then, you and brave Mouse must keep journeying on, to find the name of the old tree…
“Off I go…off I go…off I go…”