You have been awarded points.
Thank you for !
- Story Listed as: Fiction For Kids
- Theme: Survival stories / Success stories
- Subject: Nature & Wildlife
- Published: 02/07/2020
THE RAILWAY FOXESBorn 1948, M, from Eastbourne, United Kingdom
THE RAILWAY FOXES
Wynter-Rose and Grandpa
A story for children and the young at heart
Note to reader: This story was made up in its entirety by my 12 year old autistic granddaughter, with me simply putting it on paper for her. I didn't change a thing!
This tale is set in a small town on the south east coast of England. In the summer-time, many people are attracted to visit this rather quaint, old-fashioned place to enjoy the sea air and, of course the many attractions that are mainly aimed at tourists.
One such attraction is a miniature steam railway, where children and adults of all ages can enjoy the ride through the lovely scenery, and the older ones can relive the joys of travelling on a real steam locomotive, even if these ones are merely one-eighth of the size of the originals.
What the visitors to this place may not appreciate, however are the hidden wonders of nature that are concealed within the bushes and trees that surround the track that the trains travel on, or within the lake that it circles around.
This is the story of two of the park’s natural residents; two young, orphaned foxes named Dopple and Dimple.
Dimple woke slowly, the coolness of the morning air making her shiver slightly. She glanced across at Dopple. Her brother was trembling in his sleep and making jerking movements. Dimple rubbed her eyes with the back of one of her paws as she realised that Dopple was dreaming again. She touched him lightly on the snout. His entire body jolted and shook for a moment then the young fox cub awakened slowly. He looked at her through weary eyes.
‘Was it the same dream again?’ she asked sympathetically, already knowing the answer to her question.
Dopple yawned, his wide jaws baring his already strong teeth. ‘Yes,’ he answered slowly, ‘the same dream. I can’t get it out of my head.’
‘But we were so tiny when it all happened. I can’t remember any of it, apart from the awful noise,’ his sister continued.
‘You are nearly a sunrise younger than me. That is a very long time in a cub’s life. I can still see those giant animals and the human things astride them in their red coats; and the dogs; oh the dogs!’
‘But we are safe now, aren’t we?’ asked Dimple with very little confidence in her tone, ‘they’ve all gone now.’
‘They took mother! I can still hear her cries when the dogs pounced on her!’ Dopple began to weep. ‘You are lucky that you can’t remember. It was horrible!’
‘Father will protect us; he will come and find us soon.’
‘Father is gone, Dimple,’ said the older, wiser fox, ‘those human creatures must have taken him too!’
Dimple began to sob. ‘No! No! I can’t believe it! He will come for us! I know that he will!’
Dopple rested his paw on hers. ‘Yes, dear sister,’ he said, ‘but for now we must take care of ourselves, and each other.’
‘But how can we do that, Dopple? How are we going to survive? We don’t know the first thing about hunting; about building a home, or about anything!’
‘Then we must learn. There are other creatures in these woods, many different kinds. We will ask them to teach us.’
Dimple looked down at her paws and then licked them slowly. ‘You know that there are humans in the woods too,’ she cautioned, ‘I’ve seen them. Not in their evil red coats but dark shapes in the gloom, working, digging, hacking away at the long grass with noisy machines. They will kill us if they see us.’
‘Then they must never see us,’ said Dopple. ‘We need only venture out at night, when it is really dark. Come closer, sister. Let us keep each other warm until the sunset and then we will explore further.’
Not too far away from where the sleeping fox cubs lay, Mike, the owner of the miniature railway park was unlocking the engine shed whilst Luke, his son, was busying himself brushing leaves and twigs from the line close to the station.
‘Luke, can you pull old Oily out?’ the older man called out, ‘Norman will be here soon and he can drive her round the site and do us a track inspection.’
Luke waved and went over to the other, smaller shed. Moments later the chug-chug of the little diesel’s engine could be heard as he emerged from the lock-up, sitting astride the replica engine, and just as Norman arrived on the scene.
‘Morning, Norman!’ called out Mike.
‘Morning, fellas,’ replied their friend. He was carrying a steaming cup of coffee as he approached them. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘you know that I am not one to complain, but it’s flipping cold today! I’m wearing two pairs of trousers!’
‘A bit of fresh air never did anybody any harm,’ replied Mike with a grin as he eased a heavy, miniature steam engine along another stretch of railway track from out of the shed, ‘can you do the track inspection Norm?’
Norman took Luke’s place astride the back of the old diesel locomotive and re-started the engine. It began to move off.
‘Don’t forget the gates!’ called out Luke. Norman grunted. He’d forgotten again. Well, it wasn’t as if there were any paying customers there yet but he knew that Mike and Luke were sticklers for the rules. The crossing gates had to be closed before a train could proceed or a ‘SPAS’ (Signal-Passed-Against-Stop) would be recorded. He dutifully pressed the button by the gates and waited until the signal turned green and then slowly eased the vehicle forward. Driving slowly around the bend he entered the shade of the trees that overhung the trail. He always felt that this was the most attractive part of the circuit, almost magical in its appearance. There was little wind but the branches rustled as he made progress, shaken by pigeons and other birds taking flight within the thickness of the coppice.
He sounded the horn and the diesel entered the short tunnel, which was always a favourite part of the trip with the children. He knew that soon, when the train was loaded, there would be squeals of false terror from the little ones as they entered the darkness. This was something that he always encouraged, much to Mike’s annoyance when it was his turn to drive and Norman was positioned as the guard at the rear of the long train of coaches.
He had to stop a few times to clear away a few twigs and other debris that had been blown across the track overnight but he made steady progress. He passed the second, smaller children’s playground, the swings hanging silently, waiting to be awakened by the laughter of young voices. A little further on and a magpie stood defiantly on the track, as if to say “This is my domain! Keep away!” but it launched itself into a swift flight as Norman neared it. He passed the small, unmanned crossing, checking that the sirens were sounding and then he was in the open. Suddenly it felt very cold and he wished he hadn’t left his gloves in his car. He shivered and blew into his cupped hands to warm them.
As he rounded another bend he saw what appeared to be a shrub, sitting squarely in the middle of the railway lines. He slowed the diesel to a stop and climbed off to remove it. It was actually a small but bushy branch that had somehow been snapped from one of the nearby trees. He picked it up and walked over to the edge of the mowed area to throw it into the long grass when he saw what looked like a fur coat or hat. He looked closer and it moved slightly. Four little eyes stared at him in terror. Norman knelt slowly.
‘Hello little ones,’ he said softly, realising that he had happened across two tiny fox cubs. Their response was to suddenly dash off into the undergrowth. He smiled to himself and returned to the engine. He re-started the motor and chugged off to complete his track inspection.
It was moments like this that made his job worthwhile.
Dimple and Dopple ran quickly into the deepest part of the woods, afraid to stop until they were certain that they weren’t being followed. At last they rested, panting heavily under a thick gorse bush.
‘Do you think he wanted to hurt us?’ asked Dimple when she’d managed to calm herself down.
‘I don’t know,’ replied her brother, ‘he seemed to be quite friendly, but I remember dad saying that you can never trust humans, and I think he was right.’
‘I wish daddy were here now’ said Dimple, a tear appearing in her eye. Dopple patted her snout lightly with his paw.
‘So do I,’ he said wistfully, ‘so do I.’
The two siblings managed to fall asleep, only to be awakened after a short time by the roar of a steam locomotive pulling a number of carriages on which were perched many young children, all laughing and shouting with sheer excitement as they were trundled along. Dimple and Dopple peered out of their grassy hideout, their eyes wide with terror. ‘Whatever is it?’ asked Dimple, not really expecting an answer.
‘I don’t know,’ her brother replied as he tried not to let his sister see that his paws were trembling, ‘but it makes an awful lot of noise. Not like the other one.’
They watched as the train disappeared around a bend in the track where it was hidden from their view by bushes.
‘Did you see all those little humans that were sitting on the thing, whatever it was?’ Dimple curled herself closer to him. Dopple nodded.
‘They looked like they had to go wherever the noisy thing might lead them, but they didn’t seem to be scared.’
‘They were laughing,’ said Dimple, ‘I’ve heard that sound before. It is a happy sound.’
Dopple’s heart had stopped thumping in his tiny chest by now as he relaxed. Cautiously he raised his head above the mound of grass in front of them and looked about. ‘Come, sister, we must search for food.’
The miniature train pulled into the station slowly and Mike drew the vehicle to a halt. Norman leapt from the back, where he had been acting as the guard and called out ‘This way out please!’ The children clambered from their perches on the backs of the carriages and dutifully followed his instructions. As the last one left the platform Norman closed and locked the gate and walked to the front of the train, where Mike was busy fiddling with the engine’s controls.
‘Did you see them?’ he asked.
‘See what?’ grunted Mike without looking up from his task.
‘The two fox cubs. I saw them on my track inspection. They were tiny little things, really sweet.’
‘They’ll be gone soon, now that the park’s open. Hopefully they will scare the rabbits away and we will have a decent display of flowers this spring.’ Mike tested the whistle. It worked, a blast of steam rising into the air in front of his face. Norman walked back to the entrance gate and unlocked it, then carefully clipped the tickets of the children and some of their parents as they stepped up to the platform. ‘Tickets please!’ he said brightly.
Dopple and Dimple crawled slowly through the long grass at the edge of the track, keeping their heads well down. ‘I’m hungry,’ said Dimple.
‘Ssh,’ said her brother, ‘I can hear something.’ They froze in their tracks, ears pricked up high. There was a definite movement in the thicker scrub ahead of them. Then they saw the creature. Two huge ears appeared at first, and then a small face with eyes that held a startled, anxious stare. Dimple looked questioningly at her brother, as if to say “what is it?”
‘Rabbit; I’m sure it is,’ he whispered. The creature looked around itself, over and over, its head almost turning on itself, then, with a single bound leapt from the grass and scurried across the mown area towards the woodland on the opposite side of the track.
‘Are we supposed to eat that?’ asked Dimple.
‘Yes, I think so. But I don’t know how we are ever going to catch it!’
‘But it’s bigger than both of us! I don’t think it will want us to eat it. It will probably fight us!’
‘Maybe when we are older, and bigger,’ answered Dopple,’ but for now, we have to find something. Anyway, I don’t want to eat something that is alive, like us. It doesn’t seem right at all.’
‘Maybe something smaller, like this,’ said Dimple as she pawed at an unfortunate earthworm that had dared to venture into the light. She bit into the soft flesh. It tasted bitter, but not unacceptable.
‘Ugh!’ mouthed Dopple, feigning disgust. He watched as his sister devoured the wriggling form and he knew that if he wasn’t to starve to death he would have to be as brave as her.
The noisy steam locomotive passed their hiding place a number of times more that morning. The two cubs watched, more out of fascination than fear. Whatever was it? Why did it make so much noise? And why were the small humans always giggling and laughing?
It was close on midday. It was springtime so still quite cool, but the sun was bright and the shadows served to hide Dopple and Dimple admirably. The train trundled past for the umpteenth time. Suddenly, as it passed one of the small humans, dropped something that rolled towards the cubs through the mown grass before coming to a halt a few feet away from them. The train vanished around the bend and the air was silent again.
Dimple sniffed. ‘It’s something to eat,’ she said.
‘I think you’re right,’ replied her brother, ‘but we can’t go out into the open. That would be dangerous!’
‘I know that you are right, but I can’t eat any more of those wriggly things! I have to try!’
Dopple rested his paw on his sister’s small head. ‘No! Stay! I will fetch it.’ He raised his head and looked fearfully about them. Suddenly he dashed from the undergrowth and pounced on the item, grasping it tightly in his mouth and just as quickly scurrying back to the relative safety of the long grass. He dropped the apple in front of Dimple and took a small bite. ‘It’s nice,’ he said, his heart beating fast, ‘try it.’
Dimple took a bite and, within moments the fruit had been devoured, core, pips and all.
‘That was a very silly thing to do my friend.’ The voice was gruff, coming from the dark undergrowth behind them, and it startled the two cubs so much that they scuttled round on themselves in terror. Dimple stopped and cowered against a small bush, her paws over her eyes. Dopple knew that he had to be brave again.
‘Who are you?’ he said in as commanding a tone of voice as he could muster, given that he was almost paralysed with fear. ‘Come out where we can see you! There are two of us you know!’ He heard what he thought sounded like a snigger. ‘I said come out! We are not afraid!’
The hairs on his back stiffened as he saw movement in the bush in front of him. He glanced back at Dimple. Her paws were still covering her eyes and she was trembling visibly. He looked back at the bush. Suddenly he saw the creature’s eyes, a deep, amber colour and strangely shaped. ‘Don’t be afraid, little one,’ said the creature with a deep, rasping voice, ‘I won’t hurt you.’ Dopple wasn’t convinced. He arched his back and bared his teeth, ready to defend his sister. The animal moved slowly forwards again, just a couple of steps and came into the light.
Dopple breathed a sigh of relief. A cat! He’d seen cats before, living in hides in the nearby golf course where they themselves had been born before the hunters ripped their den apart with their dogs. This one was larger than most he had seen before. It had dark brown and spiky fur and shining eyes that glinted in the cool sunlight. ‘My name is Hardy,’ the cat said in a gentle tone, bowing his head, ‘at least, that is what the humans called me before I escaped. I heard what happened to your home.’
Dimple looked up quickly. ‘Have you seen our father?’ she asked excitedly, ‘is he all right?’
Hardy shook his head sadly. ‘I am sorry. The humans took your mother. I fear that your father too may be lost.’ Dimple shrank back, a tear glistening in her eye. The news was no surprise of course but she had always held out a slim hope that their father had survived. ‘You must make your home here now. You should be safe. The hunters won’t trouble you.’ He sat in front of them and licked his paws. Dopple copied his action, finding it quite soothing.
‘We are so very hungry,’ said Dimple tearfully, ‘how will we survive?’
‘I am nearly five years old,’ replied Hardy proudly, ‘I know these woods well. I will try to help you. I cannot replace your mother and father but I can be your friend.’
Over the next few days Hardy taught the cubs much about life in the railway park. He showed them how to hunt for small creatures like mice, beetles and even slugs and also how to enjoy some of the fruits of the trees and grasses. Always very careful to avoid the noisy, trundling steam engines on the track he took them across and introduced them to the lake and to the abundance of fish therein. He did caution them, of course, to dodge the rather large ones that could cause them great injury should they dare to attempt to catch one! At night he would calm them down by telling them stories about the park and the woods, his soft voice invariably sending them into peaceful slumber.
Often, Hardy would go off to hunt for himself or return to the golf-course to visit his friends. At these times Dopple and Dimple would sit in the bushes close to the edge of the track, just hidden by the leaves and they would watch the trains go by. They were fascinated by the shouts and giggles of the small humans and couldn’t understand why they all seemed to be having so much fun.
One day curiosity became too much for little Dimple to bear any longer. She moved slowly out of the safety of the bush into the open, just a couple of feet or so and sat in the spring sunshine and waited. After a few minutes she heard the sound of the engine approaching. She looked up fearfully but determined to stand her ground. It wasn’t one of the steam locomotives that approached her but the quieter and not so scary diesel engine. She saw the driver, a large human with a peaked cap and dark clothes. He was smiling, chatting to a little girl who was seated behind him. Somehow, Dimple felt reassured that she herself would come to no harm. She took a step closer to the track.
Suddenly the little girl shouted out, ‘Look! A baby fox!’ The driver looked over, straight at Dimple. She froze, expecting the driver to stop the train. Instead it carried on down the track with the driver simply waving to her. The other little humans watched as they passed her, smiling and pointing excitedly.
‘Dimple! What have you done?’ It was Dopple who shouted at her from the safety of the bushes. She ran back to join him.
‘Did you see them? They seemed happy to see me!’ she said.
‘Happy?’ Dopple responded angrily, ‘They know where we are now! They will send the hunters!’
‘I can’t believe that,’ answered his sister, ‘they all seemed to be so friendly.’
‘You can’t trust them! Father always said that! You can never trust a human!’
Norman eased the diesel engine to a halt at the station, then climbed off and walked over to the gate. Opening it he called out ‘All change! This way out please!’ The children obeyed, still chattering excitedly about seeing the little fox cub.
‘Did you see it? Did you see the baby fox?’ one little girl called Isla asked him.
‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘don’t worry. We have a couple of them, living in the wood. They won’t hurt you.’
‘I wish that I had a baby fox of my own,’ said another little girl, whose name happened to be Scarlett. The children scurried off quickly to tell their parents what they had seen. Mike wandered over to Norman.
‘What’s this about a fox?’ he asked.
‘Oh, it’s nothing. We saw one of the cubs by the track again, that’s all. The kids were quite taken with it.’
‘No adult fox then? That’s unusual, cubs out there alone.’ Mike shook his head sadly. ‘The hunt must have taken them. Why people take pleasure in hunting down small creatures I will never understand. If there are any cubs left they will probably starve.’ He shrugged his shoulders in despair then walked away slowly. Norman opened the other gate to allow a new set of young passengers to board the train, feeling rather sad. For the remainder of the day he looked out for the cubs but saw nothing, wishing that there was something that he could do to help them.
‘Dimple let the humans see her,’ said Dopple to Hardy as he returned from his wanderings.
‘They were only little humans! They seemed so friendly!’ protested his sister.
Hardy sat down and thoughtfully licked his paw then wiped it across his face. ‘The little humans and the people who look after the trains are friendly and shouldn’t harm you, but you must never get too close. If one tries to touch you then you must move away. Listen, I will tell you the story of the human and the crow’.
The two cubs sat back, eagerly waiting for another of Hardy’s tales.
‘There was once a crow, a fine bird that was named Jack. He wasn’t any ordinary crow; no, far from it. He was the leader of all the crows in the woods that surrounded the lake. Now, Jack Crow ruled with a firm wing. None dared to question his authority, not even the occasional visiting magpies who challenge the crows for carrion and fresh fruits.
‘One day a human ventured into the woods. The creatures had never seen such a thing before and they became instantly afraid. They gathered together and chatted in a panicky way, everyone with little idea of what to do but all of them with far too much to say.
‘Jack Crow heard the hubbub, of course, and flew down from his nest perched on the highest tree in the wood and landed before the others, his wings flapping noisily. “What is the meaning of this? What’s going on?” he demanded. For a few moments the crowd fell into silence until at last one of their number, a small rabbit, stepped forward and spoke up.
‘“There is a creature in the woods! It’s a thing like you have never seen! It stretches tall, covered in strange, coloured furs and with pale, death-like flesh to its face! It means to kill us all!”
‘“Why do you say that? Did it harm any of you in any way?” asked Jack Crow. None of the assembled group replied. Jack Crow fluttered his feathers angrily. “I will see what this thing is!” he exclaimed and he flew high into the air as the others watched and together they breathed a sigh of relief.
‘He found the creature, which we now know was a human, cutting thin branches of wood from a small spruce tree and setting them in a pile. Jack Crow flew down and perched close to him, feeling both nervous and angry that this interloper had dared to enter his domain. “What are you doing here?” he demanded. The human looked up.
‘“I am making a fire to cook my meal,” he replied.
‘“What’s a fire?” asked Jack Crow.
‘“Watch, bird, and you will see. Don’t worry; I mean you no harm.”
‘Although offended that the human had referred to him simply as “bird” Jack Crow nevertheless settled on his perch and watched in silence. The human gathered the wood together tightly and then struck something and flames seemed to appear from nowhere, startling Jack Crow considerably as he had never seen such a phenomenon before. The heat of the fire reached up to him, the warmth on this cool, spring day calming his nerves. Maybe this human creature wasn’t harmful in any way after all.
‘Once the fire was fully alight the human reached into his bag and drew out a dead rabbit. To Jack Crow’s horror he took out a knife and ripped the skin from the unfortunate animal expertly then, taking a sharp length of wood, impaled the body and supported it on other sticks over the flames. “What are you doing?” squawked Jack Crow in terror.
‘“I told you, I am preparing my meal,” answered the human, showing little shock at the crow’s obvious concern.
‘“You said that you meant us no harm, and yet you are burning the rabbit on your fire thing!”
‘“Of course I mean you no harm! A man must eat though!” The human seemed to be getting annoyed as he turned the rough spit, roasting his dinner.
‘Speechless with rage, Jack Crow flew back into the woods and faced the throng of worried animals. “The creature is evil!” he announced, “He has shown to me that he and his kind can never be trusted!”
Hardy sat back and licked his paws thoughtfully. ‘And so, dear little friends, you must understand. Humans may mean us no injury but sometimes they do things that even they don’t know causes us great harm.
‘You know that I am not one to complain,’ said Norman as he sat on the diesel engine, ready for the off.
‘Of course not, Norman,’ said Luke with a wry smile. He was used to Norman making this statement, always in fun.
‘It’s flipping cold today, driving round and round’
‘We thought that we would get you a special heated seat,’ joked Mike, hearing the conversation.
‘Really?’ said Norman, looking pleasantly surprised.
‘No!’ both of the other men chorused.
Norman grinned and started the engine. Slowly he eased the vehicle forwards, the children on the carriages behind him chattering excitedly. Mike and Luke watched him go and then returned to their task of repairing one of the signals by the platform. Rachel, Mike’s wife, came from the café carrying a tray holding three steaming mugs of tea. The two men accepted their drinks gratefully; it was quite chilly that day and Rachel set the other mug down by the gate, ready for Norman’s return. ‘I see that the geese are back,’ she said.
‘Yes,’ replied Mike, ‘it won’t be long before the park is swamped with goslings. They are a damned nuisance!’
‘Oh, don’t be such an old misery;’ replied his wife, ‘I think they are cute.’
‘You don’t have to drive the train when the chicks are playing chicken on the tracks!’
‘Can geese play chicken?’ asked Luke. Mike grunted in response to his son’s joke. Rachel smiled and returned to the café.
Norman drove the train over the unmanned crossing, the lights flashing and the horns sounding and then the track veered to the right, heading toward the darker wooded area. Dopple and Dimple heard the sound of the diesel engine and backed off into the long grass. To their surprise the train was halted very close to where they were hiding. They watched as Norman climbed from the engine and walked in front of the vehicle to remove a stray branch that had been blown onto the track. He threw it into the thicket, inches from where the two cubs were hiding. Dimple yelped and ran out.
‘Look!’ a little girl called out gleefully, ‘a baby fox! Look everybody!’
Dimple froze, crouching perfectly still in the open, her eyes full of fear. Dopple swallowed hard, not knowing what to do for the best. ‘Don’t worry,’ said Norman as he clambered back onto the engine, ‘it won’t harm you.’
‘There’s another one; in the grass!’ cried out a boy. The other children all looked into the thicket, babbling happily. One of the children threw a piece of apple towards Dimple. She didn’t move towards it; instead, she shrank back and re-joined her brother in the long grass before the pair of them scurried off into the wood.
‘That was really scary,’ she said as the two cubs settled down in the relative safety of the den that they and Hardy had started to build deep in the wooded area.
‘The little humans seemed to like us,’ said Dopple. ‘Even the big one at the front didn’t seem to mind.’
‘Maybe he is a good human,’ said his sister.
‘Remember what Hardy said,’ answered Dopple in a grave tone of voice, ‘some humans may mean us no harm but they are still to be feared.’
Meanwhile the tempting piece of apple remained by the track. When the shadows of night cloaked the park in darkness the cubs ventured out to retrieve it, but it had gone. Something had taken it, but they didn’t know what.
Many days passed and the cubs grew stronger and braver, learning much about the ways of the other creatures in the park. Hardy cared for them as much as a parent would but he had his own life to live and often left them to fend for themselves alone. They even dared to show themselves when the trains passed by, knowing that occasionally one of the children would toss a piece of apple or biscuit their way. They also learned not to leave these offerings too long as the rabbits or the magpies would have them in an instant!
It was on a morning that was a little warmer than it had been for some time that something very strange happened. The cubs were awakened early by the most awful cacophony of noises; honks, squawks, and the sounds of huge wings flapping. Anxiously, they peered out of their hide to see four huge birds seemingly squabbling with each other. The two siblings watched nervously, wondering what on earth these monsters were.
‘They are geese!’ The sound of Hardy’s gruff voice startled them and they both swung round. ‘Don’t worry; the geese won’t bother with you. They arrive here at this time every year. The eggs will be laid and the chicks will be born. Then you will have trouble!’
‘Trouble? How so?’ asked Dopple.
‘The goslings are a pest. They will tease you, knowing that you might want to eat them, but don’t even think about it! If you as much as approach one of their babies the adult geese will be after you!’
Dimple swallowed hard. There was already enough food to be had in the park, what with the fruits and berries and the odd small animal, not to mention the seemingly endless supply of treats thrown by the little humans as they passed them by. She decided that she would not be trying to catch any baby geese at any time soon; no way!
Things became different when, a short while later the first of the eggs appeared. The geese had made nests close to the edge of the lake, small depressions lined with down, feathers and plant materials. Dopple was exploring, something that he had become keen to do now that the weather was warming a little. He saw a small pile of eggs in the nest and couldn’t see a sign of any of the adult geese anywhere.
Cautiously he edged towards the nest, his ears pricked up so that he could detect the slightest sound that suggested the birds were returning to their home. Naturally, he questioned what these strange shaped objects were but, feeling a little hungry as was usual he wondered if they were good enough to eat. He sniffed the air. The scent was strong and inviting. He moved closer. One of the eggs had broken and was lying open at the side of the nest as if it had been pushed out, its contents spilling out onto the grass. Dopple pushed out his tongue and licked the gluey liquid. It tasted good. He lapped hungrily, making a mental note to tell his sister of the new kind of treat that he had discovered.
It was then that it happened. There was an almighty screech from behind him and the sound of wings flapping wildly. Dopple turned quickly to be faced with not one, but two absolutely huge birds towering over him, their beaks open and their wings spread wide, which made them look even more fearsome than before. He cowered, lowering his head into the long grass with his fur bristling. The geese hissed and screeched again, moving ever closer. He could feel the breeze as their wings flapped, cold and terrifying. He looked rapidly about him. He knew that he had to make his escape quickly or who knows what was going to happen to him?
One of the geese leant forward and tapped him hard on the top of his head with its beak. Dopple’s fear turned immediately to panic. Almost blindly he made a sudden dash between the two gigantic beasts, feeling them stab their beaks into him as he scurried for the wood. He didn’t stop running until he reached the den. Dimple was half asleep in the hide. She looked up shocked as her brother nearly fell on top of her.
‘What on earth is wrong Dopple?’ she asked as she shook the sleep from her face.
‘The geese! The geese!’ panted he sibling. ‘They nearly got me!’
As always seemed to happen whenever there was an emergency in the hide, Hardy appeared as if from nowhere. ‘What’s happened?’ he demanded gruffly. Dopple told him about the eggs and the terrifying attack of the birds. The old cat licked his paws thoughtfully. ‘The geese will think that you broke the egg yourself. You have made enemies of them all and you must steer well clear of them from now on!’
‘But what happens when we go out to search for food?’ asked Dimple, almost tearfully, her whiskers trembling.
‘You must just quite simply take even more care than before,’ replied Hardy. ‘Geese have no teeth but don’t be fooled. Their sharp beaks can do a lot of harm to small cubs such as you. But don’t worry unduly. They will be busy caring for their goslings soon and will have no time to bother themselves with two unimportant little fox cubs!’
With that, Hardy skulked back into the undergrowth. Still shaking, Dopple looked at his sister. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he said quietly.
Dimple shook her head. ‘We are learning, always learning. This is indeed a strange place that we have found ourselves in!’
The hiss and rumble of the miniature steam train rattled by them on the nearby track and, for once they didn’t even notice it.
Now, if there is one thing that you need to know about fox cubs, it is that they are extremely curious little creatures. And it must be said that no animal in the park was as inquisitive as young Dimple. On many occasions she watched the train disappear into the dark forest, hidden from her sight by the trees, the sounds of the steam locomotives and the laughter of the children gradually fading away. But where did it go? What mysteries lay on the other side of the thick woodland?
One warm spring day it all became too much for her. She decided that she simply had to discover the secrets of the forest. Dopple had gone hunting and she decided to take the opportunity to satisfy her curiosity. She waited until the train passed by then swiftly followed it along the track. The driver and the passengers were all facing forwards, so they didn’t see her running behind them. The trees overhung the track, and the ridges on each side became very steep.
It was then that she saw the most beautiful sight that she had ever seen in all her young life. Ahead of her, the embankment was almost completely covered in tiny, bright blue flowers, the petals hanging low, like drops of rainwater. Dimple moved cautiously forward and allowed herself to be surrounded by the gorgeous plants, letting them cloak her in all their natural beauty. She immediately knew that she had to tell Dopple about her new discovery. Forgetting her original quest she turned and hurried back to the den.
She found her brother chatting to Hardy. Bursting with excitement she told them both of what she had seen. ‘At first, in the trees, it was quite dark,’ she said, ‘and then, suddenly they were there! Such beautiful flowers, the colour of the sky on a clear morning! They seemed to brighten up the whole wood!’
‘They are bluebells,’ said Hardy, ‘they appear every year at this time. They are as natural and wild as any of the creatures in the park. Don’t eat the bulbs though. They will make you sick.’
‘What were you doing in the dark wood?’ asked Dopple accusingly.
‘Oh, err, I was just exploring,’ replied his sister clumsily.
‘You know the rules! We explore together!’
‘Your brother is right, Dimple,’ interrupted Hardy as he paused from washing his whiskers with his paw, ‘you are both still very young and there are many dangers out there.’
‘But it is such a cheerful place,’ protested Dimple. ‘The small humans are always happy! What harm could there be?’
Hardy sighed and then turned his back on the cubs, walking back into the undergrowth with his tail held high. ‘They will learn,’ he muttered to himself, ‘they will learn.’
‘Come on Dopple,’ said Dimple, tugging at his paw playfully, ‘come see the bluebells!’ Dopple sighed quietly and then followed her as she scurried towards the dark wood. For the life of him he couldn’t understand why his sister was so excited by a bunch of flowers! They rounded a slight bend in the track and then he saw them. He stopped suddenly in his tracks.
‘Wow!’ was all the young fox cub could say.
Dimple chuckled. ‘See? I told you! Aren’t they beautiful?’ Dopple nodded and eased forwards, sniffing the bright blue petals.
‘They haven’t got much of a scent,’ he said. Nevertheless, he sat down and rubbed his snout against the soft leaves. Dimple went further, rolling her little body over the ground against the cushion of the greenery. The two cubs were so engrossed that they didn’t hear the gentle slithering sound of approaching danger.
‘This is the most wonderful place!’ exclaimed Dimple. ‘I wonder why Hardy never told us about it before.’
‘They’re only flowers,’ grunted Dopple, nevertheless still sniffing happily at the delicate petals.
‘Yes, but so many, and so beautiful!’
Dopple suddenly raised his head, looking startled. ‘Keep still Dimple!’ he barked. His sister looked round nervously.
‘What’s the matter? What have you seen?’ she asked, her voice trembling.
‘The grass moved behind you,’ he replied.
‘It was probably just the wind,’ said Dimple calmly, ‘don’t scare me like that!
‘There is no wind here today. Something is moving!’ The words had barely escaped his lips when the grass seemed to part and a large, ugly head appeared as if out of the very earth. The thing peered at the two cubs through dark, piercing eyes, its oddly-shaped tongue spitting in the air.
‘Well, what do we have here?’ hissed the creature. ‘How dare you enter my domain?’
Dimple was trembling so much that Dopple knew that he had to speak for them. ‘Who are you? What do you mean by your domain?’ He intended for his voice to sound strong and forceful but it came out as a terrified squeak. The creature raised itself even more, laughing in a hideous, hissing cackle.
‘I am Carn! I am an adder! I am a snake! And you are trespassing! One bite from me and you will never see daylight again!’
‘But we meant no harm,’ said Dimple, at last finding her voice,’ we saw the flowers, so lovely. Surely you can share such joy?’
‘Never!’ hissed the snake. ‘You have strayed into my kingdom and you must be punished!’ The creature lowered itself against the grass and began to slowly but determinedly slither towards the quaking fox cubs. What happened next surprised Dimple and Dopple. But most of all, however it clearly shocked the snake. There was a piercing howl, so loud that the birds flew in terror from the high tree branches above them and the snake seemed to fly into the air, way above their heads to land squarely on the railway track below the embankment. The cubs swung around to see Hardy standing there, his back arched and his fur bristling.
‘Be gone Carn!’ he shrieked as he withdrew his long claws back into his paw, ‘and never again bother my friends with your threats and lies!’ The snake curled itself and raised its head high, hissing angrily. Hardy moved swiftly forward. ‘I said be gone! And hurry or the machine will slice you in two!’
Sure enough, the cubs heard the unmistakeable sound of the steam engine heading towards the wood. The snake spat and hissed some more and then slithered into the thicket.
Dimple walked over to the cat and put her paw in front of her, bowing her head in thanks. ‘Oh Hardy, you are so brave! He could have killed you!’
Hardy chuckled in a way that only cats can. ‘Kill me?’ he gloated, ‘Carn couldn’t kill a butterfly! I expect that he told you that he was an adder? There are no adders in the park. Carn is nothing but a grass snake; quite harmless.’
‘Then why did he pretend to be something that he wasn’t?’ asked Dopple. Hardy didn’t answer. He just shrugged and walked away, leaving to watch Mike steering the noisy locomotive passed the two cubs, the children laughing and pointing as they noticed the two young foxes sitting close to the track.
As the train disappeared around the bend Dimple turned to Dopple. ‘D’you know, I’m not afraid of the little humans anymore.’ Her brother looked at her, thinking that maybe that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
‘You know that I am not one to complain,’ said Norman one bright late spring morning as he prepared the diesel engine for the first run of the day, ‘but those goslings are becoming a real headache! I swear that they run in front of the train on purpose, just to annoy me!’
‘That’ll be it,’ said Mike with a wry smile. He winked at Luke who was busy mending something as was usual. Norman started the engine and called out ‘All aboard!’ before slowly edging the vehicle laden with its first customers of the morning from the little station.
As the little train approached the tunnel, Norman shouted out, ‘Remember, no screaming in the tunnel! You’ll scare the spiders away!’ He always called out things like that, knowing full well that the children would take no notice. Sure enough, as the soon as he sounded the horn and the engine entered the short but dark underpass the children all screamed loudly in mock terror. Norman sounded the horn again, chuckling to himself.
The train negotiated a slight bend in the track, the area shielded by tall trees. Suddenly, Norman spotted them; eight, maybe ten tiny goslings, all walking on the track or close to it just yards ahead of them. He sounded the horn but the little birds seemed to be oblivious to him. Close to the track two of the adult geese made their own urgent calls but their offspring still misbehaved, behaving like children do everywhere. The diesel got closer and Norman slowed down a little, sounding the horn repeatedly and, at last the goslings took flight, running along the side of the track until they reached the safety of a low bank close to the small playground. Norman muttered to himself and sped the train up again as his passengers laughed and pointed excitedly at the scurrying chicks.
Meanwhile, Dimple and Dopple were sitting close to the edge of the track on the other side of the curved circuit, eyeing up a large piece of apple that had been thrown by one of the youngsters as they passed by on the train. The problem was that an absolutely huge adult goose was standing close to it, as though on guard. The piece of apple had lain there all night, tempting them both but the goose had also remained, seemingly determined to stop the fox cubs’ little foraging adventure.
It was early in the morning, and they were both very hungry. Dopple licked his lips and edged forwards. Dimple did the same, the two cubs getting tantalisingly close to their goal. The great bird arched its long neck and hissed loudly, its small, black eyes fixing them with a beady stare.
‘Don’t even think about it!’ The warning voice came loud and clear from behind them. The two siblings turned towards the sound, startled. Hardy stood behind them, partly hidden by the bushes. Dopple looked at their friend in genuine surprise. The cat seemed afraid, his back arched and his fur bristling. This was a side of Hardy that was new to them both.
‘What is it Hardy?’ he asked, genuinely concerned.
‘That is no ordinary goose. That is George, the angry gander!’ The cubs looked back at the animal guarding the apple slice. He certainly didn’t look friendly.
‘Why is he angry?’ asked Dimple in a very quiet voice.
‘Nobody knows for sure, he just is. He is the leader of the flock. He lost his female many seasons ago and now feels it is his role to guard the others.’
‘What happened to his female?’ asked Dimple, not sure what the cat had meant.
‘Humans,’ was all that Hardy said as he turned away and walked back into the bushes.
The cubs looked back at George. The apple looked so tempting, just feet away from their hungry mouths, but then so was the huge goose. Dopple inched forwards. Dimple held her breath; surely her brother wasn’t going to risk it? George noticed him moving, of course. With a sudden movement he arched his long neck and hissed as loudly as any animal could. Terrified, the two siblings slipped right back against the bushes, their bodies trembling. ‘I warned you!’ said Hardy from the shelter of the thicket, ‘and he will be even worse if you go anywhere near the goslings!’
Dimple and Dopple didn’t know what the word goslings meant as they had yet to see one but, right now they were more concerned about the bird attacking them. They hung back until, to their horror and disgust they watched as George the angry gander turned his back on them and then went to the toilet all over the apple slice. He then looked back at them and, with a triumphant toss of his head marched off to the lake.
Fortunately, a couple of slugs, a few berries and some more pieces of apple that had been thrown by children earlier satisfied the cubs’ hunger, but they were still angry that George the angry gander had been so unnecessarily unpleasant. They sat quietly amongst the bluebells, Hardy having warned them not to nibble the plants under any circumstances. That puzzled them both; how could anything so beautiful be so deadly? Nevertheless, they behaved themselves on that score.
‘What was that word that Hardy used,’ asked Dimple, ‘gooslings?’
‘Something like that,’ answered her brother, ‘maybe they are creatures new to the woods. I am sure that we will find out.’
‘As long as they are not as rude as George then I am sure we will get along just fine.’
Dimple stretched herself in the warm, afternoon sunshine and then went for a walk alongside the railway track. The trains had stopped some time before and the sounds of children’s laughter could no longer be heard in the distance. The track ran over a huge metal bridge that itself crossed over a small lake which seemed to be pretending to be a river. The cubs had never crossed this bridge before as there seemed to be always a lot of humans on the far side. Today there was nobody so Dimple decided to risk it.
She walked cautiously over the link and jumped onto the far bank, sniffing the air and looking around herself nervously. A breeze had sprung up and this area was quite open so she felt a little chilly. Suddenly, what appeared to be a multi-coloured creature flew past her nose, almost touching it and landed a few feet from her on the grass. It was unlike anything that she had seen before.
For some reason Dimple felt the need to chase the strange creature. It rose slightly in the air again, as if carried by the wind and she ran towards it. She pounced but the thing managed to jump out of her way. It stopped again, maddeningly close to her as though intent on teasing her. She pounced again and it sprang into the air at the last minute. Further and further along the embankment it fled until it came to rest by a small oak tree planted close to the station platform. Dimple circled it slowly, daring it to bolt again but it remained motionless. With a sudden determined pounce she landed on it, her front paws gripping the creature tightly. It was nothing, just an empty paper bag that had been dropped by one of the railway passengers. Dimple bit it angrily, feeling very silly. It tasted salty; not at all pleasant. She spat it out and then looked up.
There were building here, looking huge to her and rather mysterious in its appearance. She felt a little nervous but her curiosity was, as ever tugging at her to discover more. She moved slowly along until she came out into the open. She recognised one of the drivers, although he was no longer wearing his uniform hat, talking to a lovely lady who was busying herself by wiping the tables close to the platform.
‘Have you seen the goslings yet, Mike?’ asked the lady. Dimple made a mental note of the correct word so that she could put Dopple straight.
‘They are a damn nuisance, Rachel’ replied Mike, ‘they keep throwing themselves at the train. I’m sure I will run one over soon!’
‘The kids will hate you if that happens,’ answered Rachel. Mike grunted and wandered off towards one of the large buildings. Rachel resumed her duties, humming lightly to herself. She looked very friendly. Dimple moved ever so slowly towards her, wondering if she really was. Rachel noticed her suddenly. ‘Hello,’ she said in a gentle tone, ‘and who are you?’ Her words were just noise to the little cub, of course but sounded nice. He inched forwards, wondering if there was food to be had here.
Rachel picked up a piece of fruit that had been dropped on the ground and offered it to the little fox. Dimple moved closer, slowly, uncertainly. ‘Don’t feed the thing!’ It was Mike’s gruff voice that bellowed from the opposite side of the square. It startled Dimple and she turned and ran back the way that she had come.
‘Oh, you are such an old misery sometimes!’ exclaimed Rachel as she resumed her work.
‘The new creatures are called goslings!’ said Dimple as she re-joined her brother in the bluebells.
‘Yeah, that’s what I said, wasn’t it?’ he replied.
‘No, but..,’ she stopped herself. There was no point in arguing. She settled next to him and they both dozed off.
Dopple woke slowly as the morning sun warmed his back and the raucous sounds of the crows cawing endlessly filled his ears. He glanced sleepily over at his sister. Dimple was still fast asleep, lying in the long grass close to him. He envied her ability to sleep through the interminable noise; the birds seemingly unaware that it was still very early in the morning.
Dopple stretched his body and yawned. Then he heard another noise. It was softer, gentler than the harsh calls of the crows that were circling high above him or perched in the tall trees. He raised his head slowly and then he saw them. Two tiny goslings pecking at the short grass near the track side. As he watched, one of them ventured onto the track itself. He could hear the unmistakeable sound of the steam locomotive in the distance, making its first run of the day. He barked quietly, not so loud as to scare the chicks but loud enough for them to hear. The one nearest to him looked up then resumed its labour of pecking at the ground. The chicks were very young; they hadn’t yet learned fear.
‘Get your friend off the line!’ snapped Dopple. ‘The train’s coming! He will be killed!’ The bird ignored him. He barked again, louder this time. Fortunately this got the attention of the chick on the line, who ambled slowly towards him and out of danger.
Dimple arrived on the scene, her fur bristling as she shook off her sleep. ‘What’s happening?’ she asked drowsily.
‘That silly bird was standing on the track! I don’t think they know about the trains.’
‘They are very tiny,’ replied his sister, ‘maybe they have just been hatched.’ As the cubs watched them the chicks moved closer, regarding them more with curiosity than with fear. ‘Hello,’ said Dimple quietly, anxious not to scare them away.
At first the chicks merely nodded, and the one that had strayed onto the line raised his little head and spoke. ‘Hello,’ it said, simply.
‘’Didn’t you realise that you were in great danger, standing on the track like that?’ asked Dopple. The chick looked behind itself.
‘Oh, is that what it is called?’ he replied, unconcerned. ‘Why is it dangerous?’
As if to answer the bird’s question there came a loud roaring of the steam engine as it rounded the bend quickly, bearing down on them rapidly. The goslings squawked in terror and jumped away towards Dopple and Dimple. ‘What is it?’ demanded the other chick.
‘It’s ok, it won’t harm you if you keep away from the line,’ answered Dimple. The four of them watched as the coaches trundled by.
‘It’s a scary thing,’ said one of the goslings.
‘Don’t worry. Just keep away from it,’ cautioned Dopple.
‘My name’s Dimple and this is my brother Dopple. We live here, in the park.’ Dimple spoke in a gentle tone, wanting to calm the chicks, which were both shaking from their unexpected and rather nasty surprise.
‘Our mother has called us Poppy and Lily,’ replied one of the goslings, ‘she named us after flowers but we haven’t seen any yet. I am Poppy. Lily and I are sisters. We are only two sunrises old’
‘Where is your mother?’ asked Dopple anxiously, remembering how angry adult geese can be when their chicks seem to be threatened.
‘Oh, she’s by the lake with our brothers,’ replied Lily. ‘They came from the eggs to meet the sunshine only this morning. Mother is busy with them so we thought that we would explore.’
‘You must be very careful, especially whilst you are so young and small. The park is beautiful but there are many dangers here too.’
There was a sudden sound of the grass being moved behind the cubs. They both looked round as Hardy emerged from the shelter of the wood. ‘Hello? What’s this?’ he said.
The chicks looked at Hardy curiously, not yet having been told that cats can be very dangerous to birds. ‘This is our friend Hardy,’ said Dimple, ‘he is our teacher really.’
Poppy stepped towards Hardy. ‘Will he teach us?’ she asked.
Hardy smiled as only cats can. ‘Your mother will teach you all that you need to know,’ he said with a chuckle.
Lily opened her little beak as if she was about to speak but no sound came from her. Instead there was a deafening hiss from behind them and the sound of wildly flapping wings. Suddenly, Angry George was standing before them, his small eyes glaring at the cubs threateningly. The large bird lowered and raised its head on its long neck rhythmically, hissing loudly again. The cubs and Hardy knew better than to confront him when he was in this kind of mood. The three of them scurried into the long grass and safety. Once there, they looked back and watched as George hurriedly ushered the goslings away, no doubt to return to their mother and a good telling off.
‘Why is George always so angry?’ demanded Dopple, ‘we were just making friends.’
Hardy sat down and licked the back of his paw before wiping it over his face slowly. He looked at the two innocent little cubs and shook his head wearily.
‘When you are grown then you will know,’ he began. ‘Foxes and chicks can never be friends.’
‘But, why?’ protested Dimple. ‘Lily and Poppy seemed so sweet.’
Hardy thought for a moment, looking at the two, tiny little cubs as they say before him. He decided not to say anything more and turned his back on them and disappeared into the bushes.
It was early morning. The sun had barely had time to rise and the damp mist hung over the railway park like a thin, white sheet. Dopple was fast asleep and Dimple was just awakening when the silence was broken by deafening cries of terror that could only come from the geese and their precious little goslings. Dimple stood up on her haunches, her back arched, ready to face some unknown danger. Dopple woke and raised his head sleepily. ‘Whatever is going on?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know,’ his sister replied, ‘I am going to have a look.’
Dopple stood up and shook himself. ‘Hang on Dimple, I’m coming with you. It could be dangerous!’ The two cubs moved hurriedly through the undergrowth and out into the open. The noises of the cries of terror from the chicks and the honks of desperation from their parents grew ever louder. The cubs rounded some bushes and stopped short. In front of them was a large, dark-coloured fox, easily twice as big as both of them put together. The animal was chasing wildly after one gosling after another, the little birds fleeing in fear but unable yet to fly. The adult geese stood at the side, honking loudly but clearly too terrified to intervene.
It was Dimple who moved forward first. ‘Hey!’ she barked, ‘Stop it! You’re scaring the chicks!’
The old fox stood stock-still for a few moments then bared his teeth. ‘What do you mean? Stop it? How dare you! I am a fox! This is what we do!’
‘These babies are our friends!’ said Dopple loudly, trying to be as brave as his sister.
‘They are your friends? Don’t be ridiculous!’ replied the fox. He moved slowly towards one of the goslings, which scurried away into the bushes. Suddenly he looked up, past the two cubs. They turned their heads and saw, to their relief that Hardy was standing behind them.
‘Away, Gorg!’ growled the cat, ‘This is no place for you.’ Gorg bared his fangs again. Hardy moved towards him and, to the cubs surprise the fox backed away. ‘You know what happened last time,’ threatened Hardy. Gorg looked around angrily. The adult geese had fallen silent and were watching him closely. Suddenly, he turned and fled into the bushes.
Dimple felt that her heart would never stop pounding as she and her brother settled back in the long grass. Hardy sat beside them, licking his paws. Dopple couldn’t contain his curiosity. ‘What did you mean when you said, you know what happened last time?’ he asked.
Hardy wiped the back of his paw across his face. ‘Gorg and I go back a long time. He is a great hunter but he torments the little creatures for his own pleasure.’ He paused, as if reflecting on a distant memory. ‘It’s rather like what the humans that hunt his kind do to them.’
‘So, did you fight him?’ asked Dimple.
‘It is better that you do not know,’ replied Hardy mysteriously, ‘but the time has come for me to tell you something that is very important.’ The two cubs sat bolt upright in anticipation. ‘Foxes hunt creatures such as your friends, the goslings, so as to eat them.’
Dimple gasped. ‘Eat them? No! We could never do that!’
‘It is nature’s way,’ continued Hardy, wondering if he had been wise to tell the cubs such an unpleasant truth.
Dopple stood up proudly. ‘It may be nature’s way, but we have food in plenty here without having to harm any of the chicks. Dimple and I will never, never harm any of the chicks!’
‘They are our friends; all of them, and we will protect them!’ added Dimple.
‘Very well,’ said the old cat, ‘but beware of Gorg. He is strong and vicious and I will not always be there to help you.’
Once more they heard the sounds of the miniature steam engine heading their way. Mike, the driver sounded the whistle, urging the goslings to get off the track. Everything was back to normal.
But not for long.
Norman sat astride the rear carriage of the train, taking his place as the guard. Luke walked past him, it being his turn to drive. The English weather had been as unpredictable as always. One day there would be sunshine and the next it would rain heavily. Today it had been a very hot day so far and many people had decided that it was too warm to come to the park, preferring instead to sit indoors at home and keep cool.
‘You know that I am not one to complain,’ began Norman, ‘but those goslings are getting more and more of a nuisance! They seem to take great pleasure in running across the track just as the train speeds towards them. One of these days we are going to hit one, and you can imagine what the children would say if that happened!’
Luke sighed; he was well used to the antics of the young birds. ‘Don’t worry; they always leap out of the way.’
‘I hope you are right,’ said Norman before he slipped from the coach and walked to the gate, where a solitary small boy was waiting to ride the train, his ticket clutched in his hand.
It was now mid-afternoon. The sun was shining and the air felt comfortably warm in the partial shade as the fox cubs lay dozing in the grass, close to the train track. Every now and then the steam locomotive would pass them noisily, pulling nine coaches sometimes loaded with many happy children and their parents or grandparents and other times carrying only a few. Dimple and Dopple were used to the sounds of the machine roaring past them and hearing the excited chatter and giggling of the children as they enjoyed their ride and they quite looked forward to seeing them.
Suddenly, there was a sound that they hadn’t heard before. It was a loud, honking sound, very similar to the noises made by the adult geese but far more urgent in its tone. Something was wrong.
The noise appeared to be coming from just beyond the footbridge, where the track turned sharply to the right as it entered the station. The cubs leapt to their feet and hurried in the direction of the noises, curious to discover what the problem was. There they found two of the adult geese flapping and honking ferociously and George, the angry gander seemed to be pecking at the wire fencing that bordered the track.
As they got closer they realised what the problem was. Poppy, the youngest of the goslings had somehow trapped her foot in the wire and the more that she struggled the worse it got.
But that wasn’t the worst of it.
George had managed to tear the wire from one of the fence posts in order to free the little bird, and she had fallen right onto the track, the mesh still wrapped around her leg! George was frantically pulling and tugging at the wire but just seemed to be making it worse. Not having any teeth, he could only pull and tug.
Dopple knew immediately what he had to do. Ignoring the scarily flapping wings of the adult geese he dived onto the track and took the damaged fence-mesh into his mouth and bit hard. It gave, but only slightly. He bit again and again, and then heard a sound that horrified him.
The unmistakable whistling and chugging of the steam locomotive could be plainly heard from the distance. The train was coming and Poppy was trapped in its way! Dopple looked up and called out to Dimple. ‘We’ve got to stop the train!’
‘How on earth are we going to do that?’ she cried, her coat bristling in terror.
‘I don’t know! Where is Hardy?’
‘I haven’t seen him today! Oh gosh! Whatever can we do? Shall I help you there?’
‘There isn’t room,’ replied her brother as he resumed his frantic chewing at the wire, his gums beginning to bleed with the painful effort. The train whistle sounded again, meaning that it was at the level crossing, moments away from them. Dimple realised that there was no way that Dopple was going to cut through the mesh in time.
Suddenly, she had an idea. She took a deep breath and ran towards the train, along the track. She had never run so fast in all her life. She ran into the wooded area, just under the footbridge, and sat down, right in the middle of the track! The locomotive rounded the bend rapidly, Luke busily increasing the speed as it headed for a slight incline. Despite the fact that he was seated right at the back of the train it was Norman that saw the fox cub first. Shocked, he almost dropped his whistle but somehow managed to blow hard into it before he called out as loud as he could ‘The fox!’ Luke looked up and slammed on the brakes. The train screeched to a halt just inches away from the tiny animal. Dimple immediately scurried away into the undergrowth. A small boy, their only passenger almost fell off the coach but managed to cling on and it was he who saw what was happening ahead of them.
‘Look at the birds!’ he shouted. Norman leapt from the back of the train and rushed to see what on earth was going on. The adult geese hissed and honked at him, their necks stretched high but he ignored them and then he saw the gosling trapped in the wire with Dopple still desperately chewing at it. Norman brushed him out of the way, thinking at first that the cub was intending to make a meal out of the little bird, and then he carefully untangled the mesh and released Poppy, who managed to hobble back up the embankment to join her terrified parents.
It was evening. The park was closed and Dimple and Dopple lay in the grass, memories of the afternoon’s events still fresh in their minds. ‘I can’t believe that you sat in front of that huge train!’ said Dopple.
‘I didn’t know what else to do,’ replied his sister, her heart still beating fast as she remembered every detail of those few petrifying moments. Hardy appeared from the undergrowth.
‘There is someone who wishes to see you,’ he said, solemnly. The cubs looked up, wondering what else could happen. The large, dark shape of George, the gander appeared from behind the bushes. He walked over to the two cubs and bent his head, his beak touching first Dimple’s nose and then Dopple’s. Then he walked away and was gone. ‘That’s his way of saying thank you,’ said Hardy, ‘you are two very brave young cubs.’
‘We were only doing what any animal would do for a friend,’ said Dimple. Hardy nodded.
‘Then you and your brother are the sort of animals that any creature in the park would be proud to call a friend!’
Dimple and Dopple had many more adventures during that summer in the Miniature Railway Park. They met other creatures, some friendly, some not, and they even discovered what had happened to their father. Maybe one day you will get to read about it all. Until then, bye bye!