Finally, the dull story came to an end, Mrs Screech primly adjusted her knitted shawl and the next part of the assembly began. The best behaved animal of the week would be given an award. The animal’s name would be written on the roll of honour, which was pinned up at the front of the classroom, and Mrs Screech would present a medal made out of foil and hung on a red ribbon.
A hedgehog had won the prize for diligent work and quiet behaviour. Pride sparkling from every prickle, she came up to the front of the class and Mrs Screech graciously hung the medal around her neck. Overcome with pride and delight, she stumbled back to her seat, to the rousing applause of the school.
Hazel watched the scene with frustration and rage. Harriet, sensing her fury, nudged her.
“Calm down,” she whispered.
“I hate those medals,” fumed Hazel.
The headmaster of the school, an owl, always known as “Sir, Owl, Sir”, then addressed them.
“Young animals,” he intoned, “Harvest festival is approaching; and to celebrate, we will be making a Harvest Table. We hope that every animal will contribute something so that we will have a table for everyone to admire that will be a credit to us all.”
“Mrs Screech,” he added, turning courteously towards her, “Do you have anything to add?”
“Only this,” said Mrs Screech sweetly, “I hope it will show every animal the importance of Making a Contribution.”
Images of rebellion flooded into Hazel’s mind. Contributing a rotten apple; sabotaging the gift table; contributing a large cow pat.
“Thank you, Mrs Screech,” said the owl. “Well, if no-one has any questions, we will go to our next lessons.”