It was Georgia’s turn to be busy. She had a uniform to buy, pencils to sharpen, and a new bag to organise. This was because she would be starting school in September. Although she was sad to be leaving playschool, she was excited to be going to school. Many of her friends would also be going with her, so it should be fun.
Time went by so quickly, it was half term in October before there was a chance to visit Grassholme again. Mummy and Daddy were concerned that if they did not go now, the weather might turn too bad to travel. They knew that the roads around Selset and Grassholme were often impassable in winter, so visitors could not get through. Sometimes it was because of high winds or flooding, but mostly due to snow.
They spent that evening in the kitchen making flapjack. Georgia stirred in the porridge oats with a big wooden spoon. When it was set, they packed some into a rather nice container for Great Aunty Grace. A large quantity was placed in a bag for Pavlova and her friends, and the remainder went in their own cupboard so that they could enjoy some themselves.
Next morning it was chilly as they wound their way to Great Aunty Grace’s house. She was looking out for them to arrive, and gave Georgia a hug. It was a busy morning. Grace had ordered a supply of logs for her winter fire, so they helped to stack them near the house. Then, in fascination, Georgia assisted Grace in organising her larder, which was full of tins and pickle jars. Grace said that it was all about getting ready for winter. They put the flapjack on the best shelf.
Like Georgia, Pavlova and Christopher were becoming aware of the approach of winter. It was getting dark earlier. This year, the weather was already turning cold. The next step would be frosts which bit into the landscape.
Uncle Broccoli had called an emergency meeting that very morning. It was decided that a search party should be sent to look for Prunella and urge her to return to the flock, in order to keep warm. Cornelius, Beanstalk, Christopher and David bravely trudged off toward Cronkley Scar, where they thought she was hiding out.
Pavlova was a little worried. She hoped they would return before the weather got worse. She also hoped that Prunella would co-operate. For all that Prunella had behaved somewhat badly, they all wanted her to be warm and comfortable during the winter months.
Amidst all her brooding, Pavlova did not see Georgia until she appeared beside her. What a lovely surprise. It took Pavlova’s mind off her worries. What a lovely girl this was and what a delicious treat she had brought with her. Pavlova added flapjack to her list of favourites. She put four pieces aside for the search party when they returned. Then she added one more. She just hoped that Prunella would behave herself well enough to deserve it.
Georgia could not stay long. Her parents wanted to start the journey back. Pavlova knew they were right. It would be better to be home by night time. She also knew they would be safer not to come again until the springtime, but that upset her because it seemed such a long time away, so she decided not to think about it. She concentrated instead on that lovely face smiling back at her from the rear window of the car and her hand waving farewell. The delicious smell of flapjack filled her nostrils, and she hoped the search party would not be long because she couldn’t promise not to nibble the pieces she had put away for them.
The search party, meanwhile, had decided to split up because they were having no success. This is why there had been four of them in the first place: if they had to split up, they would not be alone. Cornelius went with Beanstalk; Christopher with David. They were all uneasy. They sensed that Prunella was there somewhere but probably too ashamed of herself to make contact.
Christopher and David tackled Cronkley Scar itself. It was rough terrain but they were sure-footed enough to travel fairly swiftly. David formed the plan of using Christopher as bait. He told Christopher to shout that his name was Christopher, not Chris.
Christopher very happily obliged with this, and would have continued happily for ever, but a look from David made him hush. Faintly, from over the very next ridge, came a half whisper like an echo:
“Chris! Your name is Chris!”
It was Prunella. She couldn’t help herself. Of course, Christopher did not cry. He smiled. At last they had found her and could go home.
“Come on, Prunella. Back to the flock with us and keep warm,”
Christopher ordered. Prunella blinked. He sounded quite assertive. Well, she would like to keep warm. She really would like to return to the flock if they would allow it. She would try to behave herself.
There they were: Christopher, David and Prunella, climbing the hill towards her. Pavlova was ecstatic and ran down to meet them. Pattie and Buttie volunteered to go to the Cupmarked Rock and call to Cornelius and Beanstalk. No one touched the flapjack until they could see them in the distance, heading home.A soft white sprinkling of snow flurried across the hill top. Pavlova knew for sure that this was definitely the start of winter. Last year, by December, the hills had looked like little cakes with icing on top. If winter this year was going to be early and extreme, Pavlova wondered if her world would look like a huge, iced Christmas cake.