Patrick watched in astonishment as Abigail padded happily over to the Queen. The Queen smiled at her fondly, then looked down at the polar. The room suddenly felt very big and the polar felt very small.
‘Well I suppose you can speak too,’ the Queen said, ‘if Abigail can talk, then I’m sure there must be more of you.’
‘There’s me!’ said the tiger, bouncing up onto the table. ‘I can talk too!’
The Queen jumped slightly. ‘I see, and… oh you’re standing in Abigails cake, I’d better get you a napkin for your paws.’
Patrick cleared his throat. ‘Your majesty..’ his voice came out in a high pitched squeak and he tried again, ‘I mean your majesty…’
‘Please do call me Elizabeth,’ said the Queen kindly, ‘this is my home and I’m just Elizabeth here.’
Grigs had jumped down from the table and was leaving chocolatey paw prints all over the carpet. Patrick winced.
‘No matter,’ said the Queen with only a tiny bit of hesitation, ‘I’m sure they’ll wash out.’
Abigail had climbed back onto one of the soft chairs and sighed happily. Even if she didn’t want to admit it out loud, it was really quite nice to see the polar and even Grigs again. Even if he had trod in her cake. She was sure the Queen had another one, she seemed like the kind of person who was very generous with her cakes. Perhaps she could take one with her, even though it was very nice here it wasn’t home. She missed her marbles and her own blanket and looking out into the garden. Swinging her paws too and fro she hummed a little tune to herself. She wondered how they would get home.
‘Patrick, do you know the way back to the train? Is that how we’ll get home?’
The Queen held up a hand. ‘Oh my dear I wouldn’t hear of it. You can’t get on a train, absolutely not. You can go back in one of my cars, much safer and much more comfy.’
‘Thank you,’ squeaked Polar again, something had happened to his voice and he was feeling rather faint. He’d never spoken to a real person before and now here he was talking to the Queen. He wondered if he should bow.
‘It would be best, umm.. your majesty.. I mean.. Elizabeth, if perhaps you didn’t mention we can speak. I mean…’ he stammered, ‘you know of course, but …’. This wasn’t coming out right. Taking a deep breath he glanced up. ‘Grigs get down from that shelf right now! You’ll break something!’ There was a loud crash..
‘That was my tail! I didn’t break anything!’ Jumping back down onto the floor with a thump, the tiger ran quickly behind one of the chairs.
Walking over, the Queen bent down and picked up the two halves of the plate. Patrick noticed that she had on some very furry slippers. ‘Well I’m sure your tail didn’t mean to do it and I’m sure it will mend, perhaps it would be better though if you stayed on the floor or sat on a chair.’ The Queen put the broken china carefully on the table. ‘Now why don’t you all stay here and I’ll get something bought in for you to eat before you go home.’
‘I do like it here’ said Abigail happily, ‘but I would like to go home. Perhaps you can come and see us one day.’ She paused. ‘Elizabeth, can I ask you something?’
‘Of course dear, I’m just going to ring for some more cake, why don’t you come with me. We’ll go into the dining room.’
Abigail followed her from the room.
Full of tea, cake and sandwiches, Abigail and Grigs sat in the back of a huge black car. The seats were smooth but the Queen had put a pile of cushions in the back. Abigail had sat on top of them waving to the Queen as they drove away and down the road from the castle. The car had a small flag flying on the bonnet that flicked back and forth as they went along. Grigs was too excited to sit still and kept falling off the cushions as he was bouncing up and down. To be honest all that bouncing was making Abigail feel a bit sick. Sliding onto the seat she tightened her grip on the small bag in her paws. After going out of the room with the Queen she’d come back with the bag, but she wouldn’t say what was in it. She patted it fondly. Patrick sat on the front seat next to the driver, he still felt rather strange. Had they really met the Queen in Windsor castle? Would she tell anyone about them? Nobody had ever found out they were real before. He didn’t think she would say anything, she seemed like a person who could keep secrets. The car was warm inside and it purred smoothly along the streets, he wished he was bigger and could see out of the windows.
‘We’re nearly there sir,’ said the driver, ‘just a few streets away.’
Sitting on the kitchen table, Preston tapped the headphones again. Nothing. Perhaps they weren’t working, he should run a test. He hadn’t heard anything for hours and it was very late. There was a sound of an engine outside. Scampering down the hall he climbed up onto the radiator and looked out. There was a huge black car by the gate. Someone in a dark suit got out and opened the door. Climbing down from the seat was..
‘Patrick?’ Another door opened. And.. ’Abigail and Grigs?’ What were they doing in a car! Pulling down hard on the handle he opened the door. A rush of cold air blew in. ‘Where on earth have you been! What on earth do you think you doing? You let someone see you!’ He ran back and forth waving his paws in the air.
Patrick padded straight past him and Grigs bounced over his head, scampering into the kitchen.
‘What have you got on your paws, is that chocolate?’
‘Cake,’ said Abigail, ‘the Queen gave it to me. He trod in it. It’s all over the seat in the car too.’
‘The Queen?’ said Preston, his eyes wide, ‘don’t be ridiculous you can’t really have met the Queen. I thought you were joking.’
‘Did meet her!’ said Abigail, twirling round on her toes, ‘and she was very nice.’
Patrick sat down on a chair, his paws didn’t feel as if they belonged to him. ‘We found her curled up asleep, she climbed in a window you know what she’s like. She did meet the Queen.’
‘Right,’ said Preston nervously, ‘and was the Queen, well ..surprised?’
‘No,’ said Abigail happily, ‘she said nothing surprised her and I was welcome to come back anytime I wanted. I invited her here too.’ She put the bag she was carrying on the table.
‘Here?’ said Preston glancing quickly back down the hall, he straightened up and patted his scarf, smoothing it out. ‘Well I suppose she might like to meet me, I can see that.’ With a small smile, he smoothed down his scarf some more. Glancing back at Abigail he noticed the bag. What’s in there?’
Abigail snatched it up again. ‘Nothing.’
‘Come on Abigail,’ said Patrick, ‘you’ve been holding that bag really tightly all the way back home. What’s in there?’
Abigail twirled around happily again, on the tips of her paws.. ‘The Queen gave it to me, I asked her if she had a spare one and she said she had lots and didn’t want them all, so I could choose, so I picked this one. It was quite hard to find one that fitted. It’s my ears you see, they get in the way a bit.’ Pushing her paw down into the bag she pulled out something shiny. It was very very shiny. It also sparkled in the light. A lot. ‘Look,’ said Abigail happily, ‘you wear it on your head, it’s not a crown though, it’s something called a tiara.’
‘The Queen gave you a diamond tiara?’ said Patrick faintly? ‘A real diamond tiara?
Abigail nodded, putting in on her head, ‘see my ears go above it, but Elizabeth said that’s exactly the way a bear should wear it. And now…’ she yawned, “Its very late, I think I’ll go to bed.’ Patrick and Preston stared at her in silence. With the diamonds sparkling against her fur, Abigail padded out of the kitchen and up the stairs. ‘Goodnight.’