Beanstalk wandered off on his own for a while. He found he was still praying. He was worried by the plan for this evening. The others could see his discomfort.
“Is Beanstalk good with youngsters?” asked Hosanna.
“Terrific,” replied Asparagus, remembering Rowan and Juniper’s recommendation of him.
“If he would agree to look after the young ones, it would free up four more adults. I’m sure there is safety in numbers,” she said.
Everyone thought this was a good idea, and Beanstalk happily trotted off reciting rhymes and tongue twisters, ready to entertain.
Preparations and rehearsals began. The whole flock formed a complete circle. They practised how to leave a gap for the apparition to descend to Small Water Tarn, then to close that gap behind it. Once encircled, they planned to sing out their smoothest, silkiest chants. This was not only to charm the apparition into being non aggressive but also to keep themselves calm. As darkness started to fall, they manoeuvred themselves behind boulders, so as not to be noticed.
Asparagus and Carrot Cake felt different again. Just to know there were all those others present made a huge difference. There was complete silence from further down the valley, where the youngsters slept soundly after a riproaring afternoon of tales and activities with Beanstalk, who was himself beginning to lapse into a happily exhausted sleep beside a bale of hay.
It did not seem five minutes before that pair of legs swung into view. Carrot Cake caught her breath as her eyes searched the darkness for signs of the body. Her eyes swept left then right, then right and left once more. Nothing.
Asparagus stared. Trust it to be different tonight, when they were all prepared.
The legs continued on to the ledge where there was usually food.
There was a pause. On finding nothing there, they continued on down. The flock were perplexed: should they close the circle behind the legs, or should they wait for the body?
Asparagus suppressed a groan. They had not practised any contingency plans. He reproached himself. He should have known better.
The legs continued down to the tarn. Hesitantly they moved into the centre of the circle.
Just as the circle was preparing to close behind it, the body appeared at the brow of Mardale Ill Bell.There was a momentary pause, then a shrieking echoed through the air. It was as if the body was berating the legs for being so far away. Everybody held their breath. Asparagus tried to keep his heart still as his mind leapt summersaults: he had heard that shriek somewhere before.