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Feather's Miscellany: Quill Meets Horatio

...The more he sniffed, the more his mouth watered and his tummy rumbled louder and louder. Someone in the copse over the hedge was cooking his evening meal, for Quill could smell the homely wood smoke mingling with the cooking of food. A kettle’s whistle added its harmony to the music of camp-cooking; a symphony of sizzles, crackles and soft seductive hisses...

Prolific author John Waddington-Feather brings us an extract from one of his popular children's novels.

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As it was, he whistled gaily as he tramped along the road that led to the distant horizon. Gradually, as the day wore on, the hills of the Great Beyond became larger and clearer. They were higher than they seemed at first and looked much more rugged. In fact, in his heart of hearts, though he wouldn’t admit it, they seemed just a little frightening.

All afternoon he marched on till, like the day, his first flush of enthusiasm began to wane. The nearer the sun inched its way towards the west, the more weary Quill felt. As the sunlight drained from the heavens, so Quill’s energy ebbed away. Dusk found him rather cold, very hungry and a long way from home.

“Time I started searching for somewhere to sleep,” he said, looking for a likely spot. He sniffed the air to see if it heralded rain, but instead of the heavy mustiness of rain, there came a delightful smell of cooking, reminding him of the emptiness which rumbled noisily in his stomach. Old Widow Dor had advised him to follow his heart, but it was his nose he followed unerringly just then.

“Sausages!” the first tingling wave whispered. “Fried sausages!” said the next, following closely on the first. “And chips!” said yet a third, drawing Quill magnetically along the line at the end of which those exquisite smells were being sent up into the still evening air.

The more he sniffed, the more his mouth watered and his tummy rumbled louder and louder. Someone in the copse over the hedge was cooking his evening meal, for Quill could smell the homely wood smoke mingling with the cooking of food. A kettle’s whistle added its harmony to the music of camp-cooking; a symphony of sizzles, crackles and soft seductive hisses.

Rounding a clump of trees, he peered through a screen of gorse bushes into a small clearing. There in the middle was the most welcome sight he had seen that day - a camp-fire, liberally capped with pans and a kettle all on the point of producing the most tasty meal that a weary traveller could wish for. Lounging nonchalantly along-side the fire, presiding over the meal in solitary splendour was a tramp cat. He was tousled down-at-heel and dusty, but he looked a very friendly cat and was not without an aristocratic bearing despite his appearance.

Unable to contain the callings of his nose and stomach any longer, Quill stepped forward. The cat was carefully stirring tea in a pot. Quill cleared his throat. “Er . . . good evening,” he began.

Now, if you or I had been alone, busy making a camp-fire meal miles from anywhere on a warm quiet night, and, what is more, if we had had our backs to a silent intruder who suddenly emerged from the brushwood behind us into our solitary world of daydreams, I know, and you know, exactly what our reactions would have been. To say the least we would have been startled. But the cat? He simply looked calmly over his shoulder, continued stirring the tea, smiled amiably at Quill and said in a soft cultured voice, “Hello. This is a surprise. Do sit down, old fellow, and have a cuppa.”

He extended one languid paw towards Quill, who needed no second invitation to enter the comfortable glow of the fire. The cat went on, “My name’s Horatio . . . Horatio Julian Augustus Fitzworthy to be precise - but just Horatio to my friends.”

The hedgehog took his paw and shook it, saying
enthusiastically, “Pleased to meet you. I’m Quill Hedgehog.”
Horatio smiled and replaced the teapot lid. Then he turned to the fire and went on making the meal. Quill just could not take his eyes off the great frying pan in which sat twelve huge sausages, nestling snugly in their hot bed of fat. They oozed globules of delight, and the more they sizzled, the more freely Quill’s mouth watered.

Without looking up, Horatio turned them over slowly with a long toasting fork so that they sizzled more. Unconsciously, Quill rubbed his agonised stretch of tummy and longed and longed.

Horatio sensed his hunger. “Care for a banger, old fellow?” he asked. “I’ve plenty more in my tuck-bag.”

The cat jerked his head in the direction of his belongings which lay scattered about. A great bag, gaping at the mouth to reveal all manner of good things, was slung on a branch nearby. Other gear showed the tramping life which the cat had led for some time, for he was quite independent and self-contained. Quill needed no second bidding and thanked Horatio, telling him how hungry he was and how he had quite forgotten to pack up any food in his haste to get away that morning.

“Don’t mention it, old chappie,” the cat replied. “Always willing to lend a helping paw to the right types, you know. Don’t get many of them about these days, though. Now if you’d make a long arm into the right pocket of my haversack, I daresay you’ll find another plate and a knife and fork. By the time you’ve warmed your plate, these bangers will be ready.”

The way in which Horatio turned those sausages again sent Quill off at the double. He was at the haversack and back before the sausages could get in a second sizzle. He stood beside the cat, quite unabashedly licking his lips in glorious anticipation.

Horatio served him six beautiful deep brown sausages. Then he dealt him a mountain of golden chips crisped to perfection. Two doorsteps of crusty bread with lashings of fresh butter were next to move in the hedgehog’s direction, followed by a pot of steaming tea in a blue-ringed mug.

“Do begin, Quill,” Horatio said as he dealt himself some food. “It soon gets cold in the open. Don’t wait for me.”

A starter’s pistol could not have got Quill off to a quicker start. He stabbed hungrily at the nearest sausage, quartered it neatly, gave it a hunk of bread to keep it company, then sent it on its way, rejoicing to the depths of his inner being. Huge draughts of tea were taken as the only break and not a word was spoken till the last mouthful had disappeared; till Quill had carefully wiped his plate clean with the last morsel of bread and popped it into his mouth. Having done this, he put his plate to one side, smiled broadly and sat back full to the ears!

“Can’t beat bangers on a night like this,” Horatio said, looking into the red depths of the fire.

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