Part 6

Mouse had never been to the bird hide before. It was somewhere where people came, and although they usually tried to be quiet, he found it a bit unsettling. So, as you creep up to it today, please try to keep your voice down! Just in case Mouse or some other creatures are about.

Out there in the wetlands there were lots of birds. Mouse tried to call to them, but not many of them seemed to understand him, or perhaps they were too busy about their business. He began to lose hope. Fox was right. He was far too small to make a difference. And none of the birds seemed interested in helping…maybe all the other creatures were just interested in helping themselves…

By now the sun was about to come up again. It was morning all over again. Mouse had completely lost track of time. He had no idea how long he’d been travelling for.

Mouse hunkered down in the long grass and put his paws over his eyes. He was so tired. All he wanted to do was sleep. It didn’t matter if he gave up. It didn’t matter because no one was really relying on him. The Green Man could just find someone else to do the work, another animal who was far better suited to the task than he was. Someone clever like Fox or strong like Badger or wise like Owl.

At that moment, Mouse felt something soft brushing against him. He opened his eyes with a start but there was nothing there. Only far, far above him wheeling in the sky was a small black speck.

Mouse closed his eyes again and this time he heard the faint rushing sound of wings and the same soft brushing and this time he opened his eyes to see a small dark bird wheeling just above him.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I’m Swift,” cried Swift in a high and musical voice. “And you’re Mouse, and you’re on a journey. News of your journey has spread far and wide, which is why I have heard of it.”

“I am,” said Mouse, and although he was very tired, he repeated what he had said to all the other creatures of the forest. “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.”

Swift came wheeling down and hung above Mouse.

“You are truly a brave Mouse,” said Swift.

“I am not,” said Mouse. “Because I have not been successful. I have tried and tried. I have walked and walked. For miles and miles and miles. My paws are tired, my whiskers are tired, but I have not found the forgotten name of the old tree. I have failed. And now the old tree will die. And then the forest will sicken and die too. And it will be all my fault. Because I did not accomplish the task that the Green Man set for me.”

“It is not your fault,” said Swift. She came flying down and landed on the branch of a tree. She looked unaccustomed to landing. In fact, she could sleep and fly at the same time. But for once she wanted to stop moving so that she could speak directly to Mouse. “I have flown a very long way,” she said. “Thousands of miles. Across the length and breadth of the world. And I have seen how the old tree connects to everything in the world, how everything is held in balance by it. But I have also seen how things can be renewed and remade, if we work together.”

“As you have travelled so very far, do you not know the name of the old tree?”

“I don’t,” said Swift. “That knowledge is gone forever. Nobody knows that now.”

Mouse’s heart sank. This was it then. The old tree would die. The forest would die. There was nothing he could do.

“But,” said Swift, “there is another way.”

“Another way?”

“Sometimes, when old things have been lost for good, we have to mourn them. And then, we have to move on, and make new things. I know you have been collecting gifts for the old tree. I know that you have been thinking of her, and telling her tale to all the other creatures. That was good work, Mouse. Now, you must think of a new name for the old tree, and share it with all the other animals, and that way, the tree will be renewed, and life will be restored, and balance will come back to the forest.”

Hope swelled in Mouse. So much hope that he imagined he grew to five times the size of himself, although in actual fact he stayed a very small mouse. “You’re sure this will work, Swift?”

“It is the only way,” said Swift.

So Mouse thanked Swift, and he began his long journey back to the old tree. And as he went, as you journey with him, he carried all his gifts for the old tree. And he planned what the new name for the tree would be. You can help him think too.

He thought and thought, and as Mouse walked, many other creatures of the forest joined his journey homewards. There came Owl, and Otter, and Kingfisher. Heron glided above. Moorhen waddled along behind, complaining that she had things to do. Even Fox deigned to come along.

As they walked, they spoke of Mouse. Brave Mouse. Mouse who had accomplished his task. Mouse who had worked so very hard and not been put down.

When Mouse reached the old tree, what do you think happened? It’s time to go back to the tree and find out.