The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 8 (November 2, 1936)
The People of Pudding Hill — No. 11
[All Rights Reserved.]
Peter Possum In Trouble.
One autumn day the North wind which had been asleep all the summer, suddenly woke up and began to rage through the trees and round the cottage on Pudding Hill. Leaves and twigs went flying from the trees, windows rattled, and all the animals retreated into their nests and burrows as the gusts grew fiercer and fiercer.
Mr. Tom and Jock ran round to the back door of the cottage, and as soon as it was opened scuttled inside and presently were dozing in front of the fire.
“Joe, as you know, was the Morepork, and a fine temper he was getting in with the silly tricks the wind was playing.
He liked to sleep during the day, but sleep was out of the question, for the tree groaned and swayed, and every now and then his front door blew open with a bang. Every time it opened, Joe had to get up and shut it, and at last he put his table in front of it, and on the table he stood his chair and his alarm clock, and the bowl that he had his breakfast out of.
“Now,” he said to the North Wind, “see if you can blow that in?” and he went back to bed chuckling to think how clever he was.
And the North Wind went “Wheeeooo,” and the door flew open and knocked the table over. The chair fell down with a clatter, and the alarm clock ran all round the room saying “buzz-buzz-buzz—it's time to get up!” and the breakfast bowl went straight up in the air and came down on Joe's head like a helmet.
Joe scrambled out of bed and shook his fist out of the door, and very comical he looked with the bowl still stuck on his head and his feathers all blown endways. “You think that's funny,” he shouted, “well I won't shut my door any more, you see, then you won't be able to—.” Here he stopped shouting because a dreadful sight had caught his eye. Peter Possum, who lived lower down the old gum tree had been out on the end of his branch when the wind started to blow, and now he couldn't get back, and as Joe looked it seemed as though the North Wind was trying to tear him loose and send him flying away over the hill tops.
But Peter was hanging on with all his claws, and although he could hardly open his eyes the North Wind could not move him, which made it very angry, so that presently it stopped trying to blow him straight off and shifted round first to one side and then the other. Peter Possum still hung on tight, but the branch lashed up and down and from side to side until, suddenly, it went “crick”—and then “Crack”—and to Joe's horror broke off altogether and went whirling away over the hill with Peter still clinging to it.
When Joe saw that happen, he dived straight out of his doorway without stopping to think about anything except that he must tell the other Animals to go to the rescue of Peter Possum. Perhaps the North Wind was surprised at his boldness—or perhaps it thought it had done enough damage for the moment—at any rate it did not blow quite so hard for a few minutes; although Joe who had been flying for years, said afterwards that he had never been out in such a gale. He flew round the corner of the cottage and bumped his head against a window-pane, and because he was still wearing his breakfast bowl he went straight through into the room where Mr. Tom and Jock were sleeping in front of the fire.
Mr. Tom jumped up with his back arched and his fur all on end, and Jock who had been draming about a tennis ball, barked and ran under the sofa to kill it. Presently, however when they found it was only Joe they quietened down and listened to what he had to say.
“This is serious,” said Mr. Tom, “which way did he go?”
While the people of the cottage were clearing up the mess where Joe had come through the window, the three of them ran outside and Joe flew up into the air, and was whirled away by the wind in a south easterly direction. As he went, he said to himself, “My goodness, I shall never be able to fly back against this.” But he kept a very sharp look-out, and presently, after he had crossed the top of Pudding Hill, he spied the branch of the old gum tree caught in the fence that bound the edge of a stone quarry on the other side. He swooped down towards it and found Peter Possum still on the branch, but no better off, for the end of the branch over-hung the edge of the quarry, and poor Peter was too tired and frightened to do anything but cling to the end of it.
The North Wind could not blow so hard down here, because it was sheltered by the top of Pudding Hill, and Joe flew round the end of the branch and said, “Hold on tight Peter, the others will be here soon,” then he settled on the bank by the fence and tried to cheer Peter up. But Peter wasn't very cheerful. “I'm afraid the North Wind will shake the branch loose,” he said, “and then where shall I be?”
Joe peered over the edge of the quarry; it certainly was a very long way down—for one who couldn't fly.
“Well,” he said, “we must try and look on the bright side,” and he went on talking about other things.
Every now and again the North Wind would rush down the hillside and give the branch a shake, and once Peter Possum tried to crawl up the branch to safety, but it wobbled and shook so much that he gave up the idea.
At last, after what seemed to Peter a lifetime, they saw the other Animals coming over the hill top. Mr. Tom and Jock came first. Jock held the end of a piece of rope in his mouth, and then Horace, the Hedgehog, and Sam, his son, and a lot of other little Animals that kept on being blown over, which they knew must be the Field Mice, and a long way behind everybody else, Miss Amelia, going very slowly.
When they arrived, Joe flew out with the rope and Peter took the end of it in his mouth, then the others pulled as though it were a tug-of-war, while Peter, very cautiously crawled along the branch. He had nearly reached the bank and was just about to let go of the rope when the North Wind suddenly howled down the hill and the branch gave a sort of groan and dropped down into the quarry.
So there was Peter hanging over the edge of the quarry like a spider on its string, and there was nothing to keep him from following the branch down below except the Animals pulling at the other end of the rope.
Luckily for him they kept on pulling. They pulled with their eyes shut and their teeth set. They pulled until Peter reached the firm ground, and they went on pulling after he had let go of the rope. Then they all sat down hard, and somehow or other the Field Mice were underneath everybody else, which was bad for them and the other Animals because they pinched and nipped and scratched until they were able to breathe again.
Then, when they were all sorted out, they started home again, and on the way they met Miss Amelia who was still coming down the hill, so they turned her round and Joe walked with her because the North Wind was much too strong for him to fly against.
When they at last got back to Pudding Hill, the people of the cottage put Peter to bed in the wash-house, because his own home was blown away, and Joe and Miss Amelia went to sleep there too. And the North Wind, when it found that it could not do any more damage, soon blew itself out, for which everyone was very thankful.