Bedtime stories - The Old Farmhouse

Bedtime Stories
by Jan Luthman

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The Meadow

Jonathan, the Fastest Snail in the Meadow
Bedtime Stories by Jan Luthman
 
Jonathan was looking dismal.

Robbit had never seen his friend looking quite so forlorn, not even on that rainy wet day when Jonathan had fallen over on a slippery corner and got mud on his nice shiny shell.

"What's up?" Asked Robbit.

"Oh, nothing," Said Jonathan, and carried on sliding glumly along the little snailtrail that led to his house

Robbit stared after his friend anxiously: whatever it was, it must be really bothering him if he wouldn't even talk about it. Robbit hopped thoughtfully after the retreating shell, trying to think what to say.

"Bad day at school?" He ventured, "Get your sums wrong?"

Robbit almost always got his sums wrong; and his spelling. Getting things wrong at school was just the way things were for Robbit. Maybe, he thought, if you were extremely clever like Jonathan, then getting a sum wrong might make you unhappy.

But Jonathan just shook his head glumly; it wasn't anything to do with sums.

"So, why are you so gloomy, then?" Demanded Robbit.

"Bullies," Mumbled Jonathan at last.

"Bullies?" Asked Robbit, "What bullies?"

Jonathan hung his head

" At school," He muttered, "They tease me."

"Who tease you?" Demanded Robbit.

Jonathan hesitated.

"The beetle boys," He said at last.

"Oh, them," Robbit snorted, "Nobody likes them. They bully anybody who's smaller than they are."

Robbitt thought for a bit.

"How do they tease you?" He asked eventually.

"Oh," Jonathan sighed, "They call me names and...."

"And what?" Asked Robbit sympathetically.

"They write things on my shell."

"On your shell?"

"M'mmm,

Robbit was amazed. Everybody in the meadow knew that Jonathan always took such care of his shell; it was always beautifully polished, with never a speck of dust on it.

"What did they write on it?" He asked.

Jonathan turned sideways.

"Look," He said.

There, all across Jonathan's gleaming shell was scrawled the word "SWOT".

"They say I'm just a swot," Sighed Jonathan, close to tears, "A boring, boring swot."

Robbit hopped up and down in agitation,

"But you're not," He cried, "You know lots and lots of things. That's not boring at all."

Jonathan cheered up, just a little bit. It had helped him feel a little better already, just telling a friend.

"Thank you," He tried a watery smile, and fished around inside his shell for a handkerchief, "You're a good friend, Robbit."

Robbit was angry on his friend's behalf.

"Why didn't you just chase the beetles away?" He demanded, "I would have."

Jonathan blew his nose.

"Dad's bedos you're a rabbid," He said thickly through his hanky, "I'm only a snail. A swotty, slow snail. The only thing I can catch is a cold."

Jonathan blew his nose loudly and tucked his hanky away in his shell and began to slide off up the hill again. Robbit hopped after him.

"Let's go home together," He said, "Maybe we'll think of an idea."

So they did.

On the way, they overtook Old Mrs Spider, struggling along the path with her bags of shopping. She looked very tired.

"Good morning, Mrs Spider," Called Robbit and Jonathan together.

"And good morning to you both, young Robbit and Jonathan," Replied Old Mrs Spider, "How nice to see you on this lovely morning."

Jonathan and Robbit were both very polite, and asked Old Mrs Spider if they could help carry her shopping for her.

"Why, thank you," She said, "What a kind thing to do."

Robbit took one bag and Jonathan took the other, and the three of them went on along the path towards Mrs Spider's house. As they walked, Old Mrs Spider noticed how quiet Jonathan was.

"Is there anything the matter?" She asked, for she was really a kindly old lady.

Before Jonathan could say anything, Robbit blurted out.

"Yes," He said indignantly, "There jolly well is: Jonathan's being bullied at school."

"Bullied?" Said Old Mrs Spider, "But why?"

So they told old Mrs Spider the whole story, and at the end of it Jonathan added.

"There's nothing I can do about it," He explained, "I'm just a snail; I'm far too slow to chase anybody away."

"Just a snail, indeed!" Snorted Old Mrs Spider, "Too slow to chase anybody, eh? We'll soon see about that."

With a twinkle in her eye, old Mrs Spider's weaved off to a cupboard in the corner of her kitchen. She opened it and held up a small, dark green bottle.

"See this?" She asked.

"Yes," They chorused, "What is it?"

"A secret," She replied, "A special old spider secret. Mind, though," She eyed them sternly, "it only works when somebody's in trouble and needs help."

"What does it do?"

"Makes you stronger," She replied, "And faster."

"How?"

Old Mrs Spider smiled and headed for the door.

" Let's go outside," She suggested, "There's not enough space in here for you to go rushing around."

Jonathan had never rushed around anywhere in his life, but, with a shrug, he slid out to Old Mrs Spider's front gate, Robbit beside him, bouncing with curiosity.

"What do I do now?" Asked Jonathan uncertaintly, once they got there.

Old Mrs Spider uncorked the little green bottle

"Take a spoonful," She instructed.

Cautiously, Jonathan took a sip.

"Well?" He said. "Now what?"

Old Mrs Spider smiled, and pointed to a tree on the other side of the clearing. "See how fast you can run over there."

Jonathan was just about to say that he couldn't run anywhere when, all of a sudden, he felt like he really could. He gave a little hop of excitement then, with a puff of dust, shot off across the clearing in a blur of speed, straight towards the tree.

Robbit couldn't believe his eyes.

"Wow!" He breathed. Robbit had never, ever seen anybody move that fast.

"Wow!" He breathed again, " Jonathan the high speed snail!"

Away across on the other side of the clearing, Jonathan slithered to a halt beside the tree, breathing deeply. He felt wonderful.

"Now run back here again," Called old Mrs Spider.

Jonathan took a deep breath and, in a cloud of leaves and twigs and dust, zipped back across the clearing towards Robbit and old Mrs Spider.

"Watch out, Jonathan!" Yelled Robbit.

It was too late. With a tremendous crash, Jonathan piled headfirst into a huge bush. There was a moment of silence, then Jonathan slid slowly and unsteadily out from under the branches.

"Oooh, my goodness," He breathed, "Things do rather rush at you, don't they?"

" Ahem," Coughed Robbit, "That bush didn't rush at you: you rushed at it."

Jonathan looked rather proud of himself

"Yes, 1 did rather, didn't I?" He smiled happily. He took off his spectacles and began wiping blobs of mud off them.

Robbit gazed at his friend with new-found admiration.

Jonathan put his glasses back on again,

"That was exciting," He said, peering up at Robbit through mud-smeered lenses, "I think I'll do it again."

"Hang on a mo," Called Robbit, "You need some practice first."

But Jonathan wasn't listening. He gave a quick little hop and roared off round the clearing, his shell glinting in the sunlight as he sped across the grass.

"Oh, no," Robbit sighed, and put his paws over his eyes, "I can't watch."

There was a despairing wail and a skidding noise followed by a loud thump.

Robbit uncovered his eyes and looked. There, on the far side of the clearing, lay Jonathan, his shell on one side in the mud. Old Mrs Spider chortled with delight. Robbit ran over and began to hoist his friend back upright again.

"What happened?" Asked Robbit, wiping the worst of the mud and leaves off Jonathan's shell.

"I fell over," Said Jonathan indignantly, "When I tried to turn, I fell over."

Robbit tapped his feet impatiently.

"If you really want to run fast, and chase those bullies," He said, his paws on his hips, "You're going to have to learn how to steer properly."

Jonathan scratched his head

"That's easy for you to say," He answered, "You've always been a rabbit. But I've always been a snail. Besides, I wear glasses, so things sometimes arrive before I see them."

Robbit thought for a bit. Suddenly, he snapped his fingers.

"I've got it!" He exclaimed.

"Got what?" Jonathan was puzzled.

"The answer!" Robbit was hopping up and down with excitement, "We could use Andrew!"

"Andrew?" Queried Old Mrs Spider.

"Andy," Explained Robbit, "Andy the ant."

"How could he help?" Asked Jonathan.

"Easy," Said Robbit, "Andy's got the sharpest eyes of anybody in the meadow, and he's tiny: he could sit on your shell and tell you which direction to go."

It seemed like a brilliant idea.

"Come on," Robbit bounced off down the path, "Let's go find him."

Jonathan sped after him, Old Mrs Spider at his side, her dark green bottle clutched in one hand. She was so excited, she had quite forgotten her aches and pains. As she bowled along along between the two friends, Old Mrs Spider thought to herself that she hadn't run like this since she was a girl. This was fun.

Chapter 2

 
The MeadowThe Old Farmhouse
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