Queen Lizzie leaned back on her lily pad and surveyed her new home. Yes, it was all rather excellent, plenty of room for the jelly babies to grow, no pesky newts. (That was only a matter of time she thought though, Nippy’s, tiddlers got everywhere…..) A good selection of water lilies too (it would be interesting to find out what the colour scheme would be – just leaves and buds so far). She must send a message back to Big Magda next time Derek and Daffodil swung through.
Derek and Daffodil were the ducks from Trasnagh, the Kerr’s place round the back of Ruthven. They flew a regular circuit, bringing all the news from pond to pond. Come to think of it, thought Lizzie, the afternoon quack was due shortly. She was aching to hear about Hyacinth’s new romance…
“Three little maids from school are we, bright as a dum dum dum dum dee”. Lizzie’s musings were cut short by the light soprano tones of Lady Judy. “ Diddle diddle dum, diddle diddle dum, three little maid, from school”. Lady Judy made up for absent mindedness on the words with extra enthusiasm on the ones she remembered.
“Hello little froggie” she trilled, giving Queen Lizzie a beaming smile “and how are you today and how are the little tadpoles? Any hatched?” Lizzie smiled amiably and waggled her foot in the water to draw attention to the clutch of tadpoles clustered on the edge of the warm rocks at the edge of the pond.
“Oh my dear, how very exciting!” Lady Judy scampered over the tuffets of ferns and mounds of primroses planted at the edge of the pond to get a better look. Peering over the edge she positively squealed with joy at the row of wriggling squiggles. And the waterlilies were sending up buds too, she thought, how splendid. Now if she just climbed up the stream a little it might all fit into a photograph….
But oh dear, the lovely mossy stones so carefully placed and replaced and then replaced again by Tractor Tom were slippy with the morning dew. With a resounding splosh, Lady Judy tumbled head over heels into the pond, creating a tidal wave that knocked Lizzie off her lily pad and set the tadpoles into a frenzy of squiggling.
Wearing a dripping crown of weeds and water forget-me-not, with fetching tadpole earrings, Lady Judy surfaced. “Goodness Gracious” she declared, then laughed “this was a closer inspection than I intended – just wait till I tell William and Annabel – I must be quite a picture”. (William and Annabel were Lady Judy and Sir George’s grandchildren, who lived round the way at Hawkslaw).
Splishing and splashing she reached for the bank.
Try as she might Lady Judy could not pull herself out. She had sprained her wrist and could put no weight on it. “Oh what a pickle” she wailed. “I’d better call George”. She felt in her pockets, and then noticed the glint of her phone down amongst the weeds in the deepest part of the pond “…or perhaps not..”
Lizzie drew herself up onto the bank and surveyed the scene. This would not do at all….She didn’t want her Big Yin catching cold. She was a cheery soul and Lizzie enjoyed their chats. But what to do? What to do?
Just as Lizzie was scratching her head, Derek and Daffodil appeared overhead. Applying the air breaks, they splashed down into the pond, almost knocking Lady Judy over again.
“What’s all this” they quacked in unison, scenting a cracking good bit of gossip in the making. This could be huge – headline stuff.
“No time to quack” said Lizzie, “get yourselves over to Hawkslaw and get a rescue party. Speak to Sir Chocolate Chip – he’s pretty sensible.” The Ducks spun around and with much flapping and splashing took to the air, banked to the left and disappeared from sight.
Lizzie sculled over to Lady Judy and perched on her shoulder companionably.“Chin up” she croaked.
At Hawkslaw Sir C.C. scanned the sky in surprise. Derek and Daffodil are a bit early he thought – must be something afoot.
“Quick smart, quick smart, patrol muster” he quacked. “Fall in. Get a move on Princess Poppy, Pinkie don’t lag behind, Blue Will do keep in step.” Forming a tight arrowhead the running ducks of Hawkslaw trotted down to the pond.
“What’s up Derek? Daffodil?”
“Emergency at Georgefield – Lady Judy’s stuck in the drink, possibly a broken wing – need a rescue party”
“About face Duck Patrol! To the kitchen at the double, quick MARCH…”
The duck arrowhead spun sharply and raced up the hill, along the path and through the kitchen door.
William and Annabel were at the kitchen table. William was idly turning the pages of a book, showing Annabel the pictures. Look – “S for snake” William made his arm into a snake rearing to strike at Annabel – who put out her tongue and shook her red curls defiantly. They both started at the sound of the ducks’ flippers flap flapping on the wooden floor.
Freddie the golden lab, who was asleep on the floor next to the cooker opened one eye and peered around.
“Right, tight formation, S” quacked Sir C.C. The Ducks shuffled into position, making the shape of a letter “S”. “Formation O” . The ducks formed a neat circle. “Formation S” – back to an S shape.
They did it all again.
William and Annabel looked at on another in astonishment – this was very strange. Freddie padded over curiously. He had a nose for trouble.
Taking a colouring pen William shakily wrote out SOS and went to the back door. William’s mum was kneeling at the flower beds grubbing at the dandelions with a trowel.
“Mum what’s a sos?”
“A sos” – William flapped the paper under his Mum’s nose.
“Oh S.O.S – well that’s very interesting…..” William looked at Annabel and rolled his eyes “but what is it?” he insisted cutting her short.
“Well it’s a sort of call for help. It means ‘save our souls’ it’s a signal shipwrecked sailors would write in the sand”
Annabel and William galloped to the door and looked out – there were definitely no boats in the pond. They turned to the ducks who had now formed up in an arrowhead and were trotting smartly down the path.
William grabbed his sword, just in case, and Annabel grappled on her fairy wings and they ran off after the ducks. Freddy, scenting an adventure, padded off behind them. By the time their mum turned around they were almost out of sight and turning into the field gate.
Along the field margin the motley brigade trotted, with William and Annabel’s mum scooting along behind waving and shouting weakly “stop children, Freddie, ducks……”
Left and right the duck arrow turned until it was pointing to a rather familiar hedge. Down into the ditch jumped the ducks and one by one they wriggled through a gap at the bottom. Freddie scrambled behind them helpfully digging with his paws to make the hole a bit bigger. By the time their mum caught up, all she could see was Annabel’s pink tights and a tattered pair of fairy wings disappearing through the brambles.
On the other side of the hedge Lady Judy shrieked, as one by one the ducks splashed into the pond and sailed curiously round her. When Freddy appeared followed by William the conqueror, sword at the ready, and fairy Annabel her eyes nearly popped out.
“Granny are you shipwrecked?” asked William with concern.
“Judy” William’s mum’s voice wafted over the hedge “Is that you? Have you got the children over there – what on earth is going on??”
“I’m stuck in the pond” shouted back Lady Judy “the children are rescuing me, but if you’d like to help …..”
Some days later Lady Judy, was leaning back on the conservatory sofa with her arm bandaged up chatting to Hamish and Iona’s mum.
“And the thing is” she said “All the time I was in the pond, I could swear I was having the loveliest chat with the frog – Queen Lizzie you know – about pond flowers and tadpole development and so on. But when I mentioned it to George he said I had been too long in the sun and made me drink sweet tea. Do you think I am going batty?”
Hamish’s mum sat back in her chair and pondered.
“It sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Frogs are very intelligent creatures – or at any rate that’s what Big Magda in our pond says. And I swear by Greenhouse Geordie’s advice on aphids…”
She hesitated for a moment and then leaned forward confidingly, lowering her voice
“But I wouldn’t mention it to Sir George again, men really don’t understand these things…”