… Bugs… The small rabbit came closer to his companion, lolloping on long hind legs.
“Let’s go a bit further, Hazel,’ he said. “You know, there’s something strange about the warren this evening, although I can’t tell exactly what it is. Shall we go down to the brook?”
Cara… “All right, Fiver,” answered Hazel, “and you can find me a cowslip when we’re there. If you can’t find one, no-one can.”
Bugs… Hazel led the way down the slope, his shadow stretching behind him on the grass.
They reached the brook and began nibbling and searching beside the wheel-ruts of the track.
It was not long before Fiver found what they were looking for.
Cowslips are a delicacy among rabbits, and as a rule there are very few left by late May in the neighbourhood of even a small warren.
This one had not bloomed, and its flat spread of leaves was almost hidden under the long grass.
They were just starting on it when two large rabbits came running across from the other side of the near-by cattle-wade.
Fiver had already turned away.
Cara… Hazel caught up with him by the culvert, “I tell you what, let’s go across the brook. There’ll be fewer rabbits and we can have a bit of peace, so long as you think it’s safe?”
Bugs… “No, it’s safe enough,” answered Fiver. “If I start feeling there’s any danger I’ll tell you. It’s not danger I feel tonight, it’s, oh, I don’t know, something oppressive, like thunder. I’m not sure what, but it worries me. All the same, I’ll come across the brook with you.”
Cara… The two rabbits ran over the culvert.
The grass was wet and thick near the stream and they made their way up the opposite slope, looking for drier ground.
Part of the slope was in shadow, for the sun was sinking ahead of them, and Hazel, who wanted a warm, sunny spot, went on until they were quite near the lane.
As they approached the gate he stopped, staring…
“Fiver, what’s that? Look!”
Bugs… A little way in front of them, the ground had been freshly disturbed.
Two piles of earth lay on the grass.
Heavy posts reeking of creosote and paint, towered up as high as the holly trees in the hedge, and the board they carried threw a long shadow across the top of the field.
Near one of the posts, a hammer and a few nails had been left behind.
The two rabbits went up to the board at a hopping run and crouched in a patch of nettles on the far side, wrinkling their noses at the smell of a dead cigarette-end somewhere in the grass.
Cara… Suddenly Fiver shivered and cowered down. “Oh, Hazel! This it where it comes from! I know now – something very bad! Some terrible thing – coming closer and closer.”
He began to whimper…
Bugs… “What sort of thing – what do you mean? I thought you said there was no danger? “
Cara… “I don’t know what it is,” answered Fiver wretchedly. “There isn’t any danger here, at this moment. But it’s coming – it’s coming. Oh, Hazel, look! The field! It’s covered in blood!”
Bugs… “Don’t be silly, it’s only the light of the sunset. Fiver, come on, don’t talk like this, you’re frightening me!”
Cara…The sun set behind the opposite slope.
The wind turned colder, with a scatter of rain, and in less than an hour it was dark.
All colour had faded from the sky and although the big board by the gate creaked slightly in the night wind, there was no passer-by to read the sharp, hard letters that cut straight as black knives across its white surface.
to be continued…