I decided to do an illustration for each installment of my new story. I hope you enjoy them and the next part of Chip’s adventures!
A late-night snack brought Chip to the clearing the next evening, though perhaps, in his heart, he was wishing that an answer might come to him if he listened very closely as the wind went whistling though the trees.
As it happens, listening closely led to something that Chip did not expect.
He was just hopping closer to a patch of grass, softly illuminated by starlight, when a loud grunt sounded from above, nearly sending our young rabbit scampering for home.
But some mumbled words soon followed, and when Chip moved back a ways, he saw that it was only Nesbit, asleep on his nightly watch (though the owl, of course, would never admit it).
Chip shook his head with a small smile, wondering to himself how often the owl called for perseverance in his dreams.
“Hmm… Chip, my lad,” Nesbit mumbled, and the rabbit turned.
“Yes, Nesbit?” he asked, but found that the owl hadn’t actually stirred.
Still, he was speaking, and Chip hopped forward quickly, the better to hear him.
“Waiting… waiting, Chip.. must persevere…” – this punctuated by a loud snore – “… Abaline.”
Abaline! Chip was instantly intrigued. What was the owl saying? What was Abaline?
“Nesbit?” he called.
No answer, but surely, you know as well as I that a young rabbit never gives up so quickly.
He bounded to the tree and began thumping his strong hind feet against its trunk, hoping to jar the owl from sleep.
Back he ran to gaze up at Nesbit’s perch and measure his success.
“Nesbit,” Chip cried out more loudly, earning himself several agitated chirps from a nearby swallow’s nest. He ignored them, determined that he would have an answer. “Nesbit, what is Abaline?”
“You’ll never wake him, my lad,” came a familiar, quavering voice.
Out of a burrow, which Chip knew to be the largest in Everleaf Forest, emerged Romulus Took, the badger. He was very close to ancient, though no one knew his exact age or dared to offend the distinguished old badger by asking.
“Could you try, Mr. Took?” Chip asked hopefully.
“I can do you one better,” the badger answered, raising his bushy eyebrows. “I can tell you who Abaline is myself.”
Chip barely remembered to breathe he was so astounded by this turn of events.
Romulus let out a deep, rumbling chuckle. “Follow me, my lad. Stories like this one are best told by candlelight.” He turned and lumbered back toward his burrow entrance, Chip following eagerly behind.
It was widely accepted that Romulus Took was an odd sort of badger, though a well-loved one. He was notorious for collecting all sorts of trinkets from the human world; the badger was fascinated by them all, but it was candles that he loved best.
Chip’s father often related the day, quite some time ago, when Romulus Took had brought the first candles to Everleaf.
The skeptical and the enchanted alike had accepted Romulus’ gift with curiosity, which quickly turned to delight as, candle by candle, a small corner of Everleaf Forest was illuminated by dozens of flickering lights.
He never would say where he found the candles or the countless other oddments that filled his cozy home. No matter how many times Chip asked – and the badger had long ago lost track – all Romulus Took ever offered was a smile and wink, and perhaps, a self-satisfied, “Oh, Elsewhere.”
Chip did not know why Mr. Took was choosing to so freely share what he knew about Abaline, but he certainly wasn’t going to question the decision and risk the old badger changing his mind.
They were far into the tunnels now and Chip could see the wavering shadows of several candles’ flames dancing on the earthen walls. Soon enough, they emerged into a cozy, hollowed-out space where all of Romulus Took’s favorite trinkets were kept.
Immediately, Chip hopped onto one of the cushiest things he had ever had the pleasure of sitting on; Romulus told him they were called “chairs.” Whatever they were, Chip loved nestling in them while Mr. Took told one of his many well-known stories.
Tonight, the young rabbit was filled with more anticipation than usual, for he guessed (rightly) that tonight’s tale would be unlike any he had heard before.
You’re not quite sharing Chip’s anticipation? That is a problem.
…Well, perhaps you’re right. Until next time then.
P.S. If you’re enjoying the story, please share with family and friends! Thank you!