Farewell to the Willows

Life was very pleasant, especially on those long summer days, when time
seemed to stand still. A breeze gently blew through the green canopy of
leaves, rustling them as it parted the covering in the wooded area, which
was known as the Willows. Sunbeams playfully danced upon the nearby
stream as it drifted slowly by, in no great hurry to go anywhere.

The soft grassy banks curved around it, gently directing the water as it passed
through this quiet and restful place. The only sound to be heard was the
humming of bees flying collecting honey for their hives. Flitting from one
flower to another, as the ground beneath was carpeted in finest green
interspersed with a wide variety of colourful wild flowers.
The Willows was indeed a tranquil place, a timeless haven for countless generations of
woodland creatures, an idyllic place for them to make their homes.

As for our friends, they always enjoyed spending their idle moments, and
many others beside on the banks of the stream. Today, they were almost
completely hidden by the long blades of grass. Lost in contentment, Mole
and Ratty, were lazily enjoying the last of the sunshine of this fine day.
Ratty stretched and sighed, “It seems a pity really,” he paused “summer is
almost over and you know who will be back soon making lots of noise, with
some new fad or other.”

Mole looked up and smiled as he knew full well whom Ratty had meant “Yes he certainly has a knack for finding new interests!” He had always admired Toad and his flamboyant nature. “I suppose it has been a little too quite around here lately,” Ratty said with another sigh. Mole just nodded in agreement, secretly longing for the day of Toad’s return so the friends could all be together again.
He looked up at the clear blue sky. ”Where do you suppose he has gone off to this time?”
“I really have no idea,” said the rat, “but you have to feel sorry for anyone
whoever Toad descends upon”
“Oh my, yes indeed!” Mole answered chuckling to himself

“He hasn’t been away for long enough for my liking” came an unexpected
voice. Badger had arrived unannounced. “Him and all those infernal
contraptions he always manages to find, the most annoying things!” he
said gruffly. “Oh! He can be a little bothersome at times, but he does liven
things up” Mole interceded on his absent friend’s behalf.
“Much too lively, if you ask me” Badger replied. “It gets so a person can’t
even do a spot of serious thinking without him coming along and shattering
the peace! “
Mole thought of replying to Badger’s criticism but decided to keep quiet instead, as the sun had nearly left the sky, the friends made their way home.
The weeks flew quickly by, and before they knew it winter was upon them
in the Willows. None of them ventured outside very much on the short cold
days. Indeed, Badger had decided to stay indoors until spring came back
once again.

On one particularly cold day, Mole scraped his window to be able to see
out. It had begun to snow and the icy finger of frost had busily decorated
everywhere in the Willows.
“My, my, it looks cold out there,” Mole said,
talking to himself, which was something he did quite often. “I miss the
company you see”, he explained to his reflection in the mirror. “Think it’s
about time I went to see Ratty. I’ll have to wrap up warmly though” he
advised himself, and he began pulling out jumpers, coats, gloves and
scarves wondering which would be the warmest to wear.

So with all his complete collection of winter clothes on as he had found it
impossible to decide which items would be best, he set off towards the
rat’s house, which was a little way off from his own. His breath, billowing
out from his mouth like steam from a kettle, he scrambled through the
settling snow and, arriving at Rat’s house, knocked the door and waited,
The door creaked open and there stood Ratty with a look of surprise on his
face.
“My dear fellow, what brings you out on such a frosty morning?” the rat
asked. Then realising how cold his friend must be said “You best come in
and get yourself warm by the fire. I’ll make us a nice hot cup of cocoa!”
“Th-Th-Thank you that would b-be most welcome,” Mole shivered his reply.
Glad to be invited in, he took his coat and many layers of jumpers and
scarves off and made his way over to his favourite chair by the fire. He
warmed his paws first at the fire, and then around the cup of cocoa his
friend had just handed him.

“I was feeling in need of company you see,” he explained to Ratty as if explanation was needed. “Dearest Mole, you are such a quaint fellow to be sure, but a good hearted friend never the less” Ratty declared. So the two friends made themselves
comfortable and chatted on for several hours. Finally, Mole looked up and
said “Oh my, it’s getting quite dark, I really must be getting back… been a
very pleasant visit… must do it again soon…. Delightful!” His words were
punctuated by his pulling on of jumpers, scarves and gloves.
“Yes we must,” Ratty replied. “In fact, I will come over to you next week if
you like?” which was actually more of a statement than a question
“Yes, yes, my word yes!” answered the Mole more than happy at the idea.
Waving farewell he set off for home through the deepening snow, still
warm from his drink, the fire and the fellowship of a good friend.

Ratty was true to his word, as always, and duly arrived at Mole’s house the
following week. Mole expressed a concern, “It been quite some months
now since Toad was at home, I do hope he is alright. You don’t suppose
anything serious has happened to him, do you?” he said despairingly.
“Now don’t worry so much, my dear friend. He has probably found
something new that has quite made him forget all about us and the
Willows” Ratty said in efforts to lighten Mole’s mood

“Oh no! I won’t believe that Toad could ever forget us, or his home and
never the Willows. He loves it too far too much for that to happen. But I
suppose you are most likely right about him finding something new.

He does get so consumed by new things.” Mole sighed and silence fell upon
the friends each deep in their own thoughts.
Suddenly the ground beneath them shook violently.
Soddenly there was a deafening noise as windows rattled, crockery fell from shelves and Mole was shaken from his chair. “What’s that? What’s going on!” exclaimed Ratty.
“What on earth can it be?” cried Mole.
“Outside! Quickly!!” ordered Ratty.
Outside the noise was much worse, and even the trees were trembling
under the effects of whatever it was. The ground was now shaking so
violently it took all their effort even to walk.

Then they saw it. A huge monster of a machine thundering towards Toad Hall which now laid directly in its path. ”This must be Toad’s doing. Who else would want something that huge and so loud?” shouted the Rat. “Oh! Look its heading straight for Toad Hall! What does he think he‘s doing?
He must have gone mad and lost control of the beast “Screamed Ratty, hardly audible over the colossal noise of engine, gears and metal tracks.
Mole had no time to reply, for at that moment a billowing cloud of dust
arose from the great hall as it shuddered from the first blow of the mighty
machine. The two friends scurried fearlessly towards the beast, quite
convinced the Toad had lost his mind.
They attempting to get close enough to try to stop him destroying his home
As they got closer to the great machine, they found to their great surprise
that it wasn’t Toad in the driving seat, but a human being, a creature of well-known for its love of destruction. As they quickly turned their gaze towards Toad Hall they saw through the dust the dishevelled figure of Toad waving frantically at the monster as it moved relentlessly towards his home.
But the driver and the beast failed to take any notice of toad’s pleading, and again the giant claw bit deeply into the walls of Toad Hall. Walls that had stood for as long as anyone could remember collapsed under the remorseless attack.
The air was now full of choking dust, flying splinters of wood and the dreadful noise of destruction.
“We must help Toad” Mole spluttered. Mole and Ratty ran up to toad as
fast as their legs would carry them. But obstructing their path was another
thundering beast, which seemed to appear from nowhere.

Mole and Ratty quickly turned to avoid it, narrowly missing the flashing cold metal teeth of another. By the time they reached Toad, the words that came out of his mouth, made no sense, the shock of this terrible day had rendered Toad
incomprehensible. “We must get to safety! Come along Toad” Ratty
ordered grabbing hold of the dazed toad. It took both the two friends to
move Toad who seemed rooted to the pathway. “We must get Badger too.
He won’t want to leave, but we haven’t any choice!” said Ratty who had
taken complete control over the situation.
With the area of devastation spreading as more machines joined in the
attack, the friends sped their way towards Badger’s home. They rushed in
without knocking. “No time…for explanations… now…!” panted Ratty, “It’s
the Willows … not safe … anymore” he finished hurriedly. For once Badger
didn’t argue, but left as instructed, with the others.
The group of four shocked, dazed and dusty animals struggled up the nearest hillside to safety. The friends huddled together in shocked silence, helplessly gazing down as the monsters chewed up all the ground before them. Tree after tree was
uprooted and fell crashing to the ground. Even mighty oaks solidly rooted for years, were no match for the mass destruction that was now flattening all that had been the Willows.
Their Willows, it was Badger who first broke the long silence. “Who do they think they are,
coming here with those monstrous things, destroying our homes and the
beautiful Willows! Totally outrageous, I call it!” he said choked with great
feeling.
“Yes indeed.” said Ratty, “there will be nothing left soon. Poor Mole, you
had such a comfortable home there.” Mole, ever modest, said in a gentle tone “It was not that special. I can easily find another place to build a new
home. It’s Toad we should be feeling sorriest for.
Toad hall has been in his family for generations and all those priceless antiques too!
Just look at the poor fellow.” It was true the toad stood motionless, with a glazed look to his eyes, his mouth open mumbling to himself.

They all looked at Toad not knowing quite what to say, indeed what could one say in this situation.
Badger again broke the silence by saying “Well It’s no use staying here, there is nothing left for us now. We had best go and stay with my cousins in the
next county.” But even as he spoke, still more machines with giant metal fingers,
scooped the ground at the bottom of the hill on which they stood.
“Hurry let’s get out of this place!” Ratty urgently insisted.
They scurried away, desperate to be far away from danger. Short of breath, they gasped unable to speak, until with great effort they climbed higher up into the hills and out of harm’s way.
Finally, in temporary safety, the friends turned their backs on the pitiful site, and with heavy hearts they walked away from their beloved willows.
The hours dragged by slowly and nobody in the group of friends said very
much, apart from odd comments about being hungry and weary.
Eventually, after several hard days of walking they arrived. Badger’s cousin was pleased to see them all, but sorry to hear of the reason for their departure
from their homes.
Sometime later, refreshed and duly fed, and having recovered a little from
their dreadful ordeal, Badger cleared his throat and stood up in front of the
assembly. “Dear cousin, it falls upon me to express our gratitude for your
kind hospitality given in our hour of desperate need.
My companions and myself who having been so abruptly forced out of our homes, now find ourselves homeless and utterly downtrodden by the events of that terrible day, We shall never see the like of the Willows ever again, I fear, and so I would ask you raise your glasses in tribute. To our beloved willows!” With that all there repeated the solemn toast. As for Badger’s speech, had they been under different circumstances they would have applauded.

Several weeks past peacefully, in this safe haven, before Ratty ventured to
say to Badger, “It’s not that I’m ungrateful to your cousins for putting us up
like this, but don’t you think it’s about time we looked for somewhere of our
own?” He paused, “Nice though this place is, it’s not home” he continued.
Badger looked at Ratty briefly over the top of his glasses, which he was in
the habit of doing when he was about to disagree with someone
“Yes of course, you are right dear fellow and perfectly correct to have mentioned it
to me” Badger replied. “We shall start today,” he continued. “You go and
tell Mole and Toad, while I go and inform my family that we shall be
leaving, and then we must all say our farewell’s and be off on our travels.
Ratty soon found Mole who was talking to Toad as he did every day, trying
to see if he could break through his ongoing silence, but to no avail. Toad
was still lost within his own mind.

Mole greeted Ratty, “Oh hello Ratty, I’m afraid it’s no use, there isn’t even a glimmer of interest,” he reported sadly.
“Well don’t worry about that now. Badger has agreed that we should move
on from here and seek out new home for ourselves” he told the Mole, with
certain amount of pleasure at the thought of doing something positive
once again.

“Very well I shall look after Toad”, he said turning to face his silent friend.
“Come along Toad we are soon to be off on an adventure, wont that be
fun, mmm?” said Mole not expecting any answer.
By the time Ratty and Mole with Toad lagging slowly behind caught up with
Badger, all the arrangements had been made for them to set off on their
travels. Once all the farewell’s had been said, they moved away from the
safety and comfort of that pleasant place, towards an uncertain future.
Travelling by day and resting by night, the friends made good progress,
although it was not without difficulty. Finding food and fresh water were the
most important aims of the day, whilst it befell Ratty to locate safe places
to settle down in for the night.

There were hidden problems just lying in waiting, the first of these being an
unwelcome attack of hornets which seem to take an instant dislike to the
friends coming through their patch of ground.
“Oh these silly creatures are bothersome!” Mole exclaimed. ”Go on shoo! Go away!” waving his arms about, not that their stings could possibly penetrate his thick coat. “I don’t think shouting at them is helping us to be rid of them” said Ratty, but he also found them very irritating.
Badger as ever was the one who knew what to do. “We must put ourselves
under water,’ he said assuredly. “There is a stream just down that way I
saw it earlier” he added. So holding on to Toad they set off towards the
stream and after a very wet few minutes and sighs of relief, they were
finally rid of the unpleasant insects.

Several more days passed uneventfully. Mole and Toad were walking on
what seemed to be solid ground, when suddenly they were caught up a
mixture of leaves and thick mud which was sticky as treacle.
It sucked them further in and the more they tried to get out the deeper they sank into it’s relentless grasp
“Stand still Mole and try and keep toad still too!” shouted Ratty. “I’ll try and
find something for you to hold on to.” He rushed around looking for
something he could use. With a shout of joy he picked up a large branch
that had been blown off a nearby tree.
“Here we are, grab hold of this Mole. Make sure you have hold of toad too. We don’t want to lose him in this horrible slime” Ratty instructed.
Mole clung onto Toad with on paw and the branch with the other.

Ratty dug in his feet and tail and heaved. Badger did all he could to help by tugging on Rat’s waist. Suddenly there was a slurping sound as the slimy mass gave in to their combined efforts and all the four friends collapsed in a heap on the grass. “Oh thank goodness! I thought we were done for! Thank you… thank you” Mole said shaking both Ratty and Badger’s paws together.
Mole who had always been particular about his appearance, brushed
himself down, removing every trace of the sticky mud, almost forgetting
Toad who still resembled a rather muddy statue, “Oh my dear Toad! I do
apologise, I shall get to work cleaning you up immediately.” So saying he
did just that. Soon the pair of them were clean enough for Mole’s fussy
nature, and so the group of friends moved onwards.

Some while later, as they entered a particularly pleasant wooded glade
Mole suddenly announced to his companions, “I do believe that will do me
very nicely as a new place for me to build a new home” and he turned
away from the rest and scurried off towards a tree with a high banking of
grass all around it.
“Well if this part of the woods is good enough for Mole, it ought to be good
enough for us all” said Ratty. With that he turned to Badger, who said “I
dare say you are right, Ratty dear fellow. For all of us… apart that is for
poor Toad.”

“Yes poor Toad indeed, I will keep Toad with me until we can find somewhere grand enough for his liking, that is of course if he ever regains any of his old self back” Ratty said with a weary sigh.
So Badger parted company with the others, and went off to search for his
new dwelling place. “Come along toad” Ratty said gently holding the
Toad’s arm, steering him in the direction which he had decided to go.
After much searching, Ratty finally found a suitable place, “It appears to have belonged to rabbits before. I’m not sure why they left but with some effort and work I think it will turn out alright,” Ratty said to Toad. There was no reply and with a sigh Ratty spoke again,
“Dear toad, will you ever be the same old rogue we all knew and had grown to love?
Even Badger worries about the way you are, though he would never admit it to you” After Ratty had made Toad as comfortable as possible, he set to work
digging out all unwanted roots “I shall have to make myself a broom” he
told Toad. “This place needs a good sweeping out.” So he went outside to
find loose twigs to fasten together.

It was just then Mole came across “I don’t suppose you have room in there for a small Mole, do you?” Mole asked.
“Why hello Mole, Ratty said. I didn’t see you I was too busy I suppose. Then thinkingabout what Mole had just said replied, “What on earth do you mean? I
thought you had found the perfect spot for a home for yourself?” Ratty enquired.

“So did I, so did I,” Mole repeated, but another Mole is living
there already …” Mole trailed off the sentence as if there was more to say
but he didn’t want to finish.
“Well that’s a bit rough, but why don’t ask the fellow if he would mind
sharing the place with you?” Ratty suggested. “Ah yes. That’s the problem
you see, it’s a bit awkward. The fellow happens to be a female Mole, and
she does not like the idea of a strange new Mole being anywhere near her
burrow.” Mole told Ratty squirming slightly as he did so. For Mole was a
confirmed bachelor, far too set in his ways to change. Or so he thought.

Life for the friends in the new woods was going rather well and living in their
new homes even better. Days once again were very pleasant and peaceful.
Until one bright sunny morning the friends heard a rumbling sound which became louder. Had the monster machines followed them from the Willows? Were they in imminent danger?

But as they listened intently they realized that it was an altogether different sound. It as coming from a clearing some way off. The friends scampered off to find the source of the sound, Mole dragging Toad along with them.
A shrill ‘toot toot!’ pierced the air, followed by friendly billows of steam and
smoke. It was a strange machine. Its large wheels thundering along metal tracks which they had not noticed before.

Suddenly Toad came to life. His eyes sparkled which was something they
had not done for a considerable time. “Whoa…whoa… Wahoo!
What a perfectly wonderful noise!” Toad exclaimed. His two friends looked at him in amazement. “Why Toad, dear fellow, you have come back to us!” Mole said joyfully. This was echoed by Ratty.
“Back?” Back? I didn’t know I had been anywhere. I really don’t know what
you mean Mole. I really don’t” Toad said with frustration in his voice.
It seemed as though his trip to Scotland and the terrible events at Toad Hall
had been wiped clean from his memory. “Well I can’t stop talking to you, I have to catch up with …. Where is that wonderful object? The one with the whistling sound. I must go and find it. I must have it. I must buy it. I really must!” insisted Toad.

With that, he rushed off in the general direction of the sound. Soon he was
well out of sight, but the others could still hear his delighted whoops and
‘WAHOO’S!’ “Oh what a wonderful day! Toad is back to his old self at last!”
Mole said cheerfully. “Huh! That is a matter of opinion, if you ask me, life
was quite pleasant enough before!” came the grumpy voice of Badger.

“Now we have toad running off after that smelly noisy machine, and when he finds it, what then? We shall have both, that thing blasting out its dreadful din as well as Toad huffing and puffing about its various virtues!” said Badger, who had been rudely awaken by the commotion. Ratty and Mole chuckled quietly to themselves so as not to upset their elder friend.
They were so relieved at the transformation of Toad. After ensuring that he was safe they returned to their homes.
Mole had moved in with Ratty, so as not to upset the female Mole any
further, who he had not seen for several weeks. He and Ratty were
enjoying crumpets and a well-brewed cup of tea, when a faint tapping at
the door was heard. Ratty opened it and there stood the female mole,
“Oh! I thought this was…“ She trailed off slightly. “I mean is this where the m-m-mole lives?” she asked. “Do you know him by any chance? He seems
quite, but rather … cute” she added.
Ratty smiled to himself and tried not to laugh at the thought of Mole being
considered cute. “Yes indeed I do. He’s living with me, for the time being at
least. Wont you come in?” he asked. She accepted this invitation, and
followed him in. “Mole dear fellow you have a visitor.” Mole? Mole? Where
is the fellow? He was here a minute ago. We were having tea” Ratty said rather puzzled by his friend’s disappearing act.

Then out of the corner of his eye he saw a small crouched figure, tucked
behind the settee, “A-ha! There you are Mole. What on earth are you doing
down there? Now mole who always felt quite embarrassed around all
females, had decided to hide himself in the hopes of avoiding meeting her
and worst still having to speak to her! “I um, I was just um looking for my
glasses. They fell off, don’t you know.”
It was a poor excuse but the best he could do on the spur of the moment.
“Well I see you have them on now, and as I was saying, you have a
visitor,” repeated Ratty. “Oh yes!! Well I see. Well I can now I have these
on.” Mole fiddled nervously with his glasses, as if he was wearing them for
the first time. “How do you do?” he said politely to the female mole. “I’m
pleased to make your acquaintance… again.”
It all sounded much too false even to the Mole’s ears, but he just was not used to talking to female moles.
She just giggled. “Oh my! Cute and funny too!” At this Mole, could feel
himself blush and tried to hide the fact by pretending to wipe his face, “It’s
a trifle warm in here don’t you think Ratty old fellow?” he said still with the
handkerchief held to his face.
“Cant’ say I had noticed” said Ratty unhelpfully unaware of his friend’s
embarrassment. Turning to his guest he asked “Would you like a cup of
freshly brewed tea? “No thank you” was her reply. “I really didn’t come
here seeking refreshments. It’s just since our first meeting, I simply haven’t
been able to stop thinking about him.” she said gesturing towards Mole.
Ratty smiled and thought to himself, poor Mole, it seems you have
acquired a lady friend and one that finds you cute, funny and irresistible.
“I’m very sorry for being so abrupt the other day” she said. “It was just, well
so unexpected. I wonder if you would like to come back with me and we
can have a chat and get to know each other better” she asked.

But looking at Mole and the way he was squirming, she continued,
“of course if you prefer, I could do all the talking. I’m quite good at that” finishing her sentence with a warm smile. Mole stopped fiddling with his glasses and
face, and for the first time looked at the female mole. He nodded and said,
“Yes I think I would like that. I do get t-t-tongue tied sometimes you know.”
And with that he meekly followed her outside.
“Well blow me down” exclaimed Ratty
It would be several weeks before he saw Mole again, every time he thought about them together, he would chuckle and say “Well blow me.”
Then one day, while out rummaging for food, he spotted Mole.
“Good morning Mole, how are you my dear fellow, it’s seems ages.”
He did think of saying more, but decided not to. “Oh! Hello there Ratty,”
Mole answered looking over the rim of his glasses.
“Yes I suppose it has been sometime since we chatted. Time has a habit of moving faster than one thinks” he remarked

“You must come and visit my wife and me, very soon” Mole said casually.
Ratty stood for some time unable to speak, then with a flurry he said,
“You mean to say… I can’t believe it! You… a confirmed bachelor, has gotten
himself married?” Ratty bewildered by this news, looked at Mole as if he
just dropped from the sky. Recovering himself he added, “Sorry Mole, it’s
just well, a bit of a shock. When did this happen? I mean…

Congratulations! Oh I don’t know what I mean! Dearest fellow… well
done!” Ratty finished as he couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“Yes It was a bit of a surprise to me too” said Mole.
It happened quite quickly. Once I got to know her, I found simply couldn’t do without her, so we got married and that’s about it really” he said in a matter of fact way.
“Well blow me down!” was all Ratty could add.

The weeks had turned to months, when a shrill whistle announced the
return of Toad. Billows of black and white smoke were coming from the
chimney of the train of which Toad was now the proud owner. “HELLO!”
He shouted so as to be heard over the sound of the engine. “HELLO
THERE” he repeated. Stopping the train he climbed down and went to
greet his old friends, Even Badger had come out of hiding, pleased to see
Toad in fine spirits, though he would not of course tell anyone of this.

“Mmm I see you have gone and bought one then.” Badger said in a
disdainful manner. “Noisy, smelly contraption! Cost you a pretty penny I’ll
be bound?” Not really expecting Toad to tell him of the cost. “Badger you
old fuss pot, money is for spending. The cost is as nothing, if it satisfies the
restless spirit within!” Toad seemed almost surprised at his own words.
Badger kept quiet after that, which was something of a new experience for
the elderly creature.
“Listen you fellows, you really must come over to my place and visit, and
stay awhile. Then we can all go and explore further down the tracks. I’ve found some really interesting places to look at. I know you like that sort of
thing” Toad said almost out of breath, turning towards Mole.
“That would be rather pleasant. Thank you Toad. But we don’t know where you actually live do we? He said with a look of puzzlement on his face.
“Why my dear fellow, you standing right by my home” Toad said patting the
gleaming side of the engine. “You mean to say, that this, train engine is
your home?” Ratty asked. “Not just this quite splendid engine, but the
whole train, the carriages, and even the tracks are mine. I bought the
whole lot you see” Toad announced with great pride.

“Well you certainly do things in style.” Mole said with admiration. “Well I for
one don’t know what to say, words seem totally inadequate to express my
feelings in the matter” Badger said in his normal pompous manner. But
despite his natural dislike of new-fangled contraptions, he and all the other
friends accepted Toad’s invitation and climbed aboard, with Toad leading
the way, stopping only to indicate points of interest to the group of friends.
“First of all we have the kitchen, though I don’t intend to spend much time
in here, of course, I shall employ numerous servants” He announced, next
we have the living room, next to that is the front parlour, where we shall
have tea, presently.” He paused, and here is the master bedroom” puffing
up with pride, as it was a splendidly decorated room. “There are several
other bedrooms, for invited guests or unexpected visitors, plenty of room
for everyone” Toad was enjoying himself immensely.

After the friends had finished their tea, Toad stood up and declared, “We
shall go exploring this very afternoon, it a fine day for such a adventure. I
shall drive the locomotive of course. It’s extremely thrilling you know, but I
shall need someone to shovel in the coal. I don’t suppose you would like to
have a go would you Mole?” he asked. “What me!” Mole said surprised.
“You want me, up front, with you, in the engine? Why… that would be
wonderful!” Mole replied.

So leaving the others at a loss to know what they were meant to do, Mole
and Toad marched off arm in arm towards the engine. “Well it seems that
Toad’s enthusiasm has rubbed off on our friend Mole.” Ratty declared.
“Trust Toad to have that effect on the poor fellow, too much eagerness for
his own good that Toad” Badger said in a warning tone of voice.
Meanwhile Toad and Mole, had taken their places in the in the engine.
Toad swelled with great pride ready at the controls of his train, while Mole
meekly accepted the position of stoker rolling his sleeves up ready for the hard task, even insisting on wearing the cap for that went with it,.
“Must look the part, don’t you agree Toad?” he asked. “What? Oh! Yes, quite right” Toad replied, as he had been lost in his own thoughts when Mole
had spoken.
Mole set to shovelling straight away, and before long there was plenty of
steam in the boiler and Toad tapped several dials and fiddled with various
valves before declaring; “Right you are dear fellow, excellent work!

Here we go then!” And with that pulled a large lever downwards. Steam hissed
and gurgled through the pipes making its way towards the pistons. Then slowly
at first the great train moved forward gathering speed as it went. Trees
bushes and fields went by at increasing speed when all of a sudden, Toad
had to slam on the brakes. A tree had fallen on the line. “Oh blow and
bother! Just when we had picked up a good speed too” said Toad
exasperated.

Reluctantly he climbed down from his position, “You wouldn’t care to lend a
hand, would you dear friends” Toad pleaded with Mole who had lost his
footing with the abrupt halt. So he climbed down and together with Ratty
and a reluctant Badger they managed to move the tree off the line so they
could resume their journey. Eventually they arrived at Toad’s own station.

Which was fine sturdy building, with wooden beams, and plenty of hanging baskets, all over the place, full to overflowing with flowers.
After they had all been shown round the building by Toad, and had been
royally entertained by their rejuvenated friend, they made their way back
on foot. They were all lost in their own thoughts. For once it was Mole who
broke the silence. “We really should have a name for our new home

“Capital idea, have to put our thinking caps on” Ratty chipped in.
They thought for some considerable time, before deciding on “Our Willows”
It was then decided this should be put on a nameplate, up at his station and so it was the sign was craved and duly put it place of honour at the railway station, with proper ceremony, it was unveiled and as the friends stood proudly around.
Badger stood up, and made a fine speech.
“Dear friends, it is with great pride and joy I stand before you, and declare the official unveiling of this grand name plague, which clearly shows the chosen name for our new home, and it is also to be in memory of sadly missed willows, a place that will always live in our hearts” Badger ended wiping a tear from his eye, all the other friends applauded and cheered with joyful hearts.

Who knows what the future may hold, but for now our friends could relax and enjoy their new home in the peaceful surrounding of their new willows

The End
Story written by G.S.Commander © 2008

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