It was very hot in the bag. And very bouncy. Clambering up onto her paws Abigail carefully peeked out. There were so many people! Tall people and small people, all walking towards a big building with tall towers. Was that the castle? Abigail blinked and rubbed her eyes. It looked huge! Holding onto the edge of the bag she glanced down at the ground swaying below her and wondered how she was going to get out. And how she was going to get home? She wondered what Patrick and Grigs and Preston were doing. Were they missing her or perhaps they were just sitting in the kitchen having tea. Would they try and find her? Her stomach made a loud rumbling noise and she sat back down hard in the bag. The first thing she’d do when she got out was to find some cake. A castle must have a lot of cake, she was sure of it.
‘Grigs if you keep running about I’m going to leave you behind, I told you we can’t be seen!’
‘I’m not running, I’m being very quiet and very good!’ With a sniff the tiger swept his tail to the side and hit the top of the Polars head. The small headset Patrick was wearing fell to the floor. ‘What’s that?’
‘It’s a radio, so I can speak to Preston.’ The polar picked it up carefully and put it back on. ‘We’re nearly at the station, I’ll go and get us some tickets from the machine. You can wait by the platform for me and hide. DON’T bounce!’
Grumbling, Grigs padded off under the hedge.
The ticket machine was very high and it took Patrick a while to clamber up onto it. Pressing the buttons he put in some money and with a loud whirring noise two tickets dropped out. Picking them up he clambered carefully back down and padded towards the platform. Tapping the headset he cleared his throat. ‘Patrick calling… Patrick calling…’
‘Ten four..’ said Preston through the headset in a crackly voice.
‘It’s 11.20’, said Patrick, ‘not 10.04.’
‘Yes I know,’ said Preston, ‘ten four is code for understood, I hear you.’
‘Well why don’t you just say that then,’ said Patrick grumpily, ‘you’re sitting at home in the kitchen and I’m out here in the cold and now I’ve lost Grigs.’ Clambering up onto a seat he took the headset off and looked up and down the platform. No sign. There was a noise in the distance, the train was coming. ‘Grigs!’ he hissed.
‘I’m over here! On the platform!’
Patrick put his head in his paws. ‘That’s the wrong platform!’ He glanced down the track. ‘The train’s coming, quick, run up over the steps and come down here. The tiger bounced off. There was a flash of brown stripes through the railings. Panting hard he appeared at Polars side. The train pulled in and the doors hissed open. Patrick pushed the tiger towards them. ‘Quickly, get in and stay close, I don’t know why I agreed you could come with me…’
Gradually Abigail felt the bag slow down. It was swinging too and fro and she swallowed hard. She felt a bit sick. It was far too hot in here. Standing up on her paws again she looked out and took a big breath of fresh air. They were in front of a huge arched doorway, but some very tall people were standing in the way. ‘Tickets please,’ they called. Abigail didn’t have a ticket. She took another deep breath, it was now or never. Reaching up she put her paws around the handles of the bag. With a giant heave, she pulled herself up and over the top. It was very hard with paws, half of her seemed to be still in the bag and half was out. ‘Almost there..’ she told herself encouragingly, leaning forward harder. Suddenly she was falling upside down through the air. She hit the ground with a loud bang. ‘Ow, that hurt!’
Beside her someone screamed. ‘It’s a bear! Look! It climbed out of my bag!’
Scrambling to her paws Abigail ran towards the entrance. Weaving her way through legs and bags she ignored the shouts around her. ‘It’s a bear! It said ow! Stop it!’
No one was going to stop Abigail. Fur flying she ran as fast as her paws would take her, in through the big door and up the path. There was a green hedge ahead and launching herself at it hard she curled into a ball as leaves and twigs snapped against her ears. Panting hard, she brushed them aside and jumping to her paws ran on over the grass and into the trees. The voices faded away.
It was cold outside the castle, breathing hard, Abigail looked up at the big grey walls. She’d run a long way and she sat down on the grass. She was sure it was warmer inside. Her stomach rumbled again. And she was sure that there was cake and perhaps some sandwiches inside too. Sitting back on her paws she looked up carefully. One of the windows was open. Perhaps she could climb up and find a way in. All of the people had disappeared, it was much quieter on this side of the castle, she’d run almost all the way around it and she was very tired. Standing up she clambered onto a branch and reached up a paw. She was a brave bear, she was sure she could get in. The stone felt slippery and breathing hard Abigail pulled herself up onto the window ledge. She peered around the glass. Inside was a huge red room, full of comfy looking sofas and red and gold rugs. There was a fire too, it looked very grand but warm and cosy. She paused, someone was sitting in one of the seats, she could just see the top of their head. But.. in front of them was a big tray of… ‘cakes…’ breathed Abigail, ‘and popcorn… and tea…’ Taking a deep breath she climbed through the window and jumped down softly onto the carpet.
‘Woof! Woof, grrrr woof!’ A small white and brown dog stared at Abigail.
‘Monty! Stop that! What’s the matter with you?’ The top of the head looked around the chair.
Abigail’s eyes went wide. ‘You’re wearing a crown, it’s so pretty.’
There was a pause. ‘Thank you,’ said the lady finally, looking down at her. ‘And you seem to be a small blonde bear.’
‘I am,’ said Abigail rather nervously, she’d never spoken to a person before and wasn’t quite sure what to say. ‘My name is Abigail, I climbed in the window.’
‘I see,’ said the lady, ‘and I live here and my name is Elizabeth. May I ask why you climbed in my window?’
‘Your window?’ said Abigail glancing around, ‘is this your castle? So.. are you…’ her eyes widened, ‘are you the Queen?’ She stared at her, ‘I had a jigsaw with your picture on in the toy shop, it looked just like you.’ She licked her lips and glanced at the cakes. ‘I came on a train, it was all a bit of an accident you see. Then I was lost, and then I got in a bag and well…’ There was a rumbling sound from her tummy, ‘I am rather hungry.’
‘Of course, where are my manners,’ the Queen smiled at her, ‘do please join me and take some tea.’ Lifting up a shiny golden bell she rang it. The door opened and a tall man in a dark suit came in with a tray. His eyes widened at the sight of a small furry bear standing by the side of the Queen.
‘Your majesty? There umm.. appears to be a small bear in the room. Shall I call the guards?’
‘Don’t be silly this is Abigail, a guest of mine, please do bring some more cake and tea.’
‘And some sandwiches if you have any’ added Abigail quickly, ‘or some cheese, or maybe a pancake..’
The Queen really was a lovely lady, she didn’t seem to mind the crumbs all over the carpet as sitting on the chair Abigail ate as much cake as she could manage. Monty the dog, who was called a corgi, seemed to like the crumbs so the Queen said it was quite all right to drop them on the floor. Monty climbed up onto the red seat next to her and stared at the sandwiches so Abigail pulled them towards her. He hadn’t said a word since he’d barked, so she assumed he was a dog that couldn’t talk. ‘You don’t seem to be surprised that I’m a talking bear,’ she said, picking up a paw full of delicious orange flavored chocolate. ‘I’m not really meant to let anyone know I’m real.’
‘I’ve seen a lot of strange things in my time my dear,’ sighed the Queen, ‘a talking bear is just another one of them.’
As Abigail ate she told the Queen all about her adventures and the Queen told her all about the castle, it was a lovely afternoon. With all that had happened and all of the tea and sandwiches she suddenly felt very sleepy and yawned loudly. Putting her paw over her mouth she blinked, ‘I’m sorry, I seem to be very tired.’
‘Of course I quite understand, why don’t you have a little nap before you go home, there’s a blanket right there behind you on the chair, it’s one of my favourites.’
Abigail swallowed hard, twisting the soft blue blanket around her paws. ‘It’s just.. um.. to be really honest I’m not sure how to get home, or really where it is. The others might be looking for me,’ she said hopefully. ‘But they won’t know where I am.’ Thinking of Patrick, Grigs and Preston her eyes suddenly filled with big warm tears.
Leaning forward quickly the Queen took her paw in her hand. ‘Now don’t you worry, I’m sure we can sort all that out later. You’ve had a long day.’ Getting up from the chair she smiled down at her, she had such a kind face thought Abigail sleepily as she started to close her eyes. Watching the Queen and Monty the corgi leave the room, an interesting thought drifted over her. Perhaps, just perhaps, the Queen might have a crown she didn’t want. The one she had on was very pretty, but she must have a lot of spare ones, she was sure of it. She would ask her tomorrow. With a big contented sigh, Abigail curled up and fell asleep…