The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 12 (March 2, 1936)
The People of Pudding Hill — No. 3
[All Rights Reserved.]
Horace's Watery Adventure.
One evening Horace the Hedgehog came ambling down from the Gorse Hedge on Pudding Hill, accompanied by his son Sam. This was Sam's first outing, and his father was explaining to him how to find his way to and from the Rubbish Hole.
“Sam is too young to go so far from home yet,” he said to himself.
Accordingly he left Sam at the Rubbish Hole, which was really only a few yards from the Gorse Hedge, and shuffled off as fast as he could go to the cottage, with no thought in his head but of the feast he was going to have. His nose was twitching excitedly to catch the first scent of the milk and his little feet made a pattering on the path in his haste. Suddenly, Splash! The ground seemed to give way beneath him and he fell down—down—down into icy cold water.
He had fallen into a deep drain which ran beside the path and had that morning been uncovered.
“Oh my goodness,” cried poor Horace struggling to get a foothold on the slippery side of the piping, gasping with cold and dismay, each time he slipped back into the water, “Here's a fix to be in.”
Now, Hedgehogs, when they are attacked or in danger, curl into a tight prickly ball, and this, Horace, not fully understanding what had happened, attempted to do. But, of course, this was no good in a hole full of water; indeed, it made matters worse, for his nose went under the water, and he could not breathe.
For more than an hour, to Horace it seemed a lifetime, he struggled and snorted and grunted. He thought of all the nice things he had meant to do, and wished he had done them. He thought of all the mean things he had done, like leaving little Sam at the Rubbish Hole, and wished he had not done them. He felt that if help did not come soon he would be drowned, for the water seemed to be getting colder and colder, and he was growing very weak.
All at once he heard footsteps coming down the path, big crunchy footsteps that human beings make, and a voice said—
“What a dark night! How lucky you remembered to get a new battery for the torch.” Then— “Why, what's that noise?” for Horace had made one last tremendous effort and puffed and snorted with what he felt must be his very last breath.
“Sounds like our friend the Hedgehog,” a deeper voice answered. “But I can't see him.”
“What a fuss the little fellow is making! I think he must be in trouble somewhere,” the other voice said.
The kitchen door was opened and the outside light switched on. Footsteps crunched about the path for a moment or two, then the deep voice said,
“Good heavens! he's fallen down the drain. I forgot to put the lid back,” and a shadow fell over Horace, who, by now completely exhausted, had sunk down into the water.
“Practically done for, I'm afraid,” said the deep voice again, “but we'll bring him inside by the heater and see if he comes to life.”
A large hand picked him up by the prickles, and Horace, who by this time really didn't care much what happened to him, hung quite limp, making no effort to struggle, while the man carried him into the cottage.
Presently, however, he poked his nose over the edge of the Rubbish Hole and was overjoyed to hear the grunting noise which hedgehogs make when they want to call each other. It was his Mother who had come to look for him!
They scuttled back home together, little Sam gasping out as he ran, that he thought something awful must have happened to Father, which indeed it nearly had.
Mother Hedgehog bundled him off to bed as soon as they got inside, and although she was very worried about Horace, pretended that everything was alright.
“Your father knows, how to look after himself,” she said, “more than likely he has gone to see Mr. Possum.”
Down in the cottage Horace was beginning to feel more like himself again, although he was still somewhat dazed. He was lying on something soft and just above his head was a large red moon which gave out a pleasant heat. He stretched his legs and blew his nose and then with a flash remembered all about his adventures, and little Sam, and how everybody at home would be wondering what had happened to him.
Without more ado, he pattered out of the room, even passing by the saucer of milk which had been put down for him. Away out of the door he sped in the direction of his home.
You can imagine the joy with which Mother Hedgehog and little Sam and his sister greeted him; the babies joining hands and dancing round and round him, while Mother Hedgehog quietly wiped away a tear of joy in her delight at having him back safe and sound. But when the rejoicings were over and he had told them the story of his adventures he gathered Sam and his little sister to him and said—
“I want you to take a lesson from this because it was my haste and greediness that was nearly my undoing. Always remember no matter how hungry you may be and how appetising a dish of milk may look, never run blindly.
“The kind people who rescued me have a very wise saying, ‘Look before you leap,’ which is a very good rule for hedgehogs to follow as well.”