The Hedgehogs and the Fascinating Book

A few evenings later, just as the light was fading, Margaret crept down to her summerhouse to see if the hedgehog was there. Once again, there was the hedgehog, avidly reading, but, to her astonishment, she noticed a second hedgehog hiding under the steps of the summerhouse, staring wistfully up at the door. For a moment, the three seemed frozen in time: the spellbound hedgehog; the fascinated girl; and the other hedgehog, an unhappy observer. Then Doris turned the final page of the book, looked up, and the two others shrank into the shadows. She glanced out at the darkening sky, studied the cover of the book for a final time, reluctantly put it down, and then climbed slowly down the steps of the shed, clearly still absorbed by what she had read.

Malcolm watched from his hiding place under the steps as Doris disappeared back towards the wood, his head full of questions. His prickles sharp with determination, he climbed the steps of the summerhouse and looked at Doris’s book. Why did she like it? Why would she come so far and risk so much to read it? He looked at the cover. A human girl, with hair the colour of fox fur or autumn leaves, sitting in some grass, and holding some flowers. Malcolm sighed. This gave him little information. He casually flipped through the book in a way that would have horrified Doris (and Margaret). It was the story of a young woman and her friends, her travels to college, dresses, cakes, and her love affairs. This was more promising. Towards the end of the book, with a start, he read, “She loved G-, she had always loved him!” Frantically, in the fading light, he read to the end. The girl had always loved her childhood friend, but she hadn’t realised until he nearly died of the fever. Even Malcolm, determined as he was, felt that this was an extreme way to make Doris notice him.

But he felt encouraged. He had found something that Doris liked, something important. The owl’s words came back to him, “I am always here to advise.” He would tell the owl. The owl would help. The owl would know what to do.

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