Chapter Four: Tracking and Trailing
Prunella spoke not a word. Head down, she ploughed on way on into the night. It became obvious that she was headed toward the Lakes. They stopped to sleep at two in the morning, rising again with the first glimpse of daylight. Asparagus had to marvel. He wondered how she managed to keep going. But then, once Prunella had a goal in mind, nothing could stop her. He was just sincerely pleased that this time she was acting in a good cause, unlike some of the cases in her past.
Pleased that he was very fit and strong himself, even Asparagus gasped as they approached Bleaberry Fell. Rather than go round it, she decided to go over it, to save time. Scrabbling down the other side, the height gave them a panoramic view of Derwent Water. Their eyes scoured the area. There at Low Brandelhow, Cinnamon and his gang could be seen marching through a field, with Hickory in their midst.
Asparagus sighed; perhaps they would never be able to catch them up because they were so far ahead. Prunella had other ideas. She continued down toward the Lodore landing stage, marched straight up the jetty and clambered onto a waiting boat. Asparagus climbed after her but was very uneasy. He did not know how people would react to two sheep hitching a ride in their boat. They might get thrown off. However, the people on board looked at them with quizzical amusement but did not touch them. Off they set, low on the water, sprayed by cooling droplets. The bump of the boat as it slammed into the jetty at High Brandelhow nearly knocked them off their feet. Recovering quickly, Prunella sprang up and jumped off, Asparagus following swiftly behind. He had to admit that Prunella had, in this particular instance, proved admirable. They had now outflanked the gang and turned to face them head on.
Cinnamon had the shock of his life when he saw them. He certainly had not expected to come face to face with his big sister, right out here, right now. She also had with her a formidable ram with muscles the size of boulders. He signalled the gang to a halt.
Prunella gave Cinnamon the scolding of his life. He turned pink. How embarrassing. Instead of being the brave leader, he was now a snivelling, naughty little brother, right in front of his gang. They handed Hickory over straight away.
“And why on earth did you take him in the first place?” roared Asparagus.
The six dropped their eyes and would not speak.
“Come on! I demand to know,” he insisted, snorting and pointing his horns.
Cinnamon gulped and decided he had better answer.
“It was the sandwich,” he said.
Immediately, the gang realised the triviality of this and looked dismayed with themselves. They had tried to bully groups of young sheep into saving them a share of any picnic food given them by visitors. Hickory had eaten a whole sandwich, so they had kidnapped him. The severity of what they had done began to sink in. With heads drooped, the six of them began to mooch and drift away.
Hickory was pleased to have been rescued but he felt rather scared. He could not immediately tell if he was with friends or just different foes.
This ram was a thousand times bigger than him and, with that, Prunella let out a shrill cackle which made his wool stand on end.
“I’m free, you silly billies,” she shrieked. “I’m off and you can’t stop me!”
Taken off guard, Asparagus could only blink as her skinny legs disappeared into the woodland. For a second, he was going to chase after her. Then he realised that that would mean leaving little Hickory on his own. Bending his head, he gave Hickory a gentle smile:
“Well then, young soldier, it looks as if it’s just you and me,” he said. “Let’s get you home.”
Hickory heaved a great sigh of relief.