That night they found a place to stay and spoke at length about all the things that Grandma Tilly had told them. Both felt excited and apprehensive at the thought of making a long journey. What was the heart and all that talk about streams and bridges? Tomorrow night promised a full moon and it would be the last day before they began their journey. Huddled safely, Daisy took the opportunity to ask Milo about his past. He made himself comfortable and began.
“I used to live downstream and spent my childhood there. I always loved the river and played there with my friends. Like you, I often felt scared but I didn’t want my friends to know, so I made an extra effort to appear brave.
We used to take risks and dare each other to overcome challenges. One full moon night we set out to find some golden nuggets of cheese. I was full of adrenaline, scared and excited at the same time. We ventured into a building, where it was rumoured that cheese had been smelt, but it was a dangerous place to be. To try and prove how fearless I was, I crept forward. It was pitch-black and I was terrified. I found the cheese but as I reached forward, a door slammed shut. I was trapped. My friends, powerless to help, scattered in their fright.”
Milo paused, reflecting, “I was put into a glass tank with other mice. There was no way out. I could see out but there was no way out. The thought of being trapped in that place made me feel like my head was going to explode. The other mice and voles had a look of resignation, as if they had given up, but I resolved there and then that I would escape no matter what.
Up above was a light with a cord hanging down. This was the only possibility of escape. I tried to climb but fell back. The others mocked my efforts, but that just made me all the more determined.
I didn’t want to draw attention to myself during the day, so I climbed at night. Night after night I climbed, gradually getting a little higher, but I would always slip back. It seemed like an impossible task but I noticed as the nights passed, I was climbing higher. Then one night it happened – I had this extra surge of energy when I was near the top. I grabbed the ledge and squeezed through the slot. I was out! I slid down to the ground, scampered out into the garden, down to the fence and was free at last.”
He looked up at Daisy. “After this, I was different. Life carried on much like before, but my level of tension was increased. I was more cautious. Even though it was a long time ago...it must have something to do with how I feel now.”
Milo settled back, feeling a wonderful sense of release just from having told Daisy his story. The little field mouse felt very close to him and Daisy believed she understood him much better with this insight into his past.
When morning came Milo was ready and set to go, but Daisy felt doubtful at the prospect of setting off into the unknown. She felt on the verge of voicing her misgivings when she thought she glimpsed the silhouette of a cat in the distance. A wave of panic seared through her. She realised there was no good reason to turn back; the cat was one of the causes for her present fears and a reminder of why she was even contemplating taking the journey.
Milo knew the wall was on the other side of the path and they reached it by late morning, stopping to look at its colossal size. It looked impenetrable – how could they pass this wall? Then Tilly’s words came back to them.
'Your journey is on the other side of the wall. Look at the base of the tree, under the heart.'
They looked and there was the heart shape with a small opening in the bark beneath it. Examining further, they discovered that the hole descended deep into the ground. They stood there, passing glances between the wall and the opening. This was the start of their journey.
Milo took the first step and squeezed in. He began to make his way forward until the hole narrowed. It was all he could do to squeeze past the roots. He felt claustrophobic and overwhelmed by the same sensations he had suffered when trapped in the glass tank. Had he been alone he would have turned back, but Daisy was behind him, relying on him. Being smaller, the path was easier for her. After what seemed like an age of pulling himself forward, the passage sloped upwards, the tunnel became lighter and there were fewer roots. Milo entered into the light closely followed by Daisy. They were on the other side of the wall and before them were sprawling lawns and flowers. They stood there, marvelling at its beauty until Milo recalled Grandma Tilly’s directions. She had said to follow the streams and the bridges, so they made their way along a nearby stream.
The journey now was easier; new sights and sounds were all around. There was also the promise of adventure with the burning hope of finding answers to their questions. Fuelled by their excitement, they had boundless energy and carried on for the rest of the day until the sun began to set.
As they sought a place to rest, they heard the distant sound of dogs barking. It sounded as if they were running – hunting. Not far from where they paused to listen, a distressed flapping caught their attention. A little bird, snared in some netting on a flowerbed, fought vainly to untangle its wings. Despite the possible danger, Daisy felt drawn to help rather than hide. She knew that if she didn’t help the small creature, it would not survive. As she approached the little green bird, which looked flustered and in a panic, she offered to help. The bird began to calm down and stayed still whilst Daisy gnawed through part of the netting. She severed two cords and the bird was free. The delight of regaining her freedom shone through on the bird’s face as she ruffled her feathers and spread her wings.
“What’s your name and what type of bird are you?” Daisy asked.
“My name is Trudi, and I’m a chiffchaff.” The little green bird answered, “Thanks for the kindness and courage you have shown me. If you’re ever really scared, think of me and call my name. I will be there for you.”
With that, Trudi took off into the air and was gone. Daisy turned towards Milo who was urging her to find cover as the sound of the dogs grew nearer. Disappearing into the undergrowth, they found shelter and a place to rest for the night.