Danshari likes reading stories. They are full of truths that come flying out like released butterflies, landing all over the place. Sometimes they just flutter off forgotten, but here and there one lands long enough to creep close and really take a look at it.
Danshari wouldn’t dream of capturing real butterflies, but sometimes he bags a truth butterfly and imprisons it in a little book to read later.
At bedtime, that night, he sat down with Ebenezer. She said a prayer and lit a candle, and he read out one of the truth butterflies from his book.
“Elizabeth Goudge said it,” he explains first. “She writes stories so full of truth you can wander in them and some of it sticks to you forever. Listen to this:
“The days slip by, one after another, uncounted beads, but now and then comes one, rounded like other days with dawn and sunset, yet bright with the significance of a lamp set at a crossroads.”
“Yes, that’s entirely true,” Ebenezer agrees. They sit quietly together, enjoying the light of the candle for a while, and then it’s time for bed.
Danshari wakes up the next morning to absolute pandemonium.
Something has upset Irusu so much that she is standing in the middle of the garden barking hysterically, and then — well, have you ever heard a rat scream? It would make you jump out of your skin.
Nimby comes running right into the house from the garden, not squeaking, not even shrieking, but actually full-on screaming.
Danshari immediately realises it must be time to get up.
“What’s happening?”, he quite reasonably asks.
Nimby calms down enough to speak, but he is shaking like a leaf and cannot stop wringing his little pink hands in utter despair.
“Oh,” he says, “oh Danshari . . . oh my goodness . . . oh come and look . . . oh help . . . oh stop them . . . oh heavens . . . oh dear oh dear oh dear . . .”
This is not very informative.
Danshari goes out into the garden, trying to hear what Irusu is shouting about. “ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK!!!!”
He is surprised the crows aren’t joining in. Whatever it is that’s upset Irusu, clearly is isn’t bothering them.
And then he sees them.
Oh, my goodness.
A straggle of people making their way up the garden. People not just from another garden, but from a totally different island.
George Fox, also woken up by all the clamour, has come outside too.
“Who are they, George?”, asks Danshari nervously.
“Well,” says George, “I’m not a hundred per cent sure, but to me they look like Anawim.”
Irusu turns round and — still shouting,— yells at them, “WHAT ARE THEY DOING HERE?”
“I don’t know,” says Danshari.
“Shall we ask them?”, suggests George Fox.
“They’ve got . . . what is that animal . . . I think . . . it looks like — is that a cow?” Danshari peers at the little procession of interlopers.
Ursa the Great Bear has tumbled out of bed to see what all the fuss is about. Because she looks True North and has a better vantage point than most people, she has a grasp of what the others don’t always see.
“Oh, yes, those are Anawim, all right,” she says. “And, yes — they never go anywhere without one of their cows. It’s a special breed, only the Anawim have them. It’s a Haffenhaff. Makes nice creamy milk. If you ever offer one of the Anawim a cup of tea, they always ask hopefully for Haffenhaff milk in it.”
By the time she’s finished explaining this interesting piece of data, the strangers are right there in front of them. One of them steps forward.
“Namaste,” he says.
And Irusu does something they have never heard her do before — ever. She actually growls.
Danshari looks at her in consternation.
“Oh . . .” whimpers Nimby, who has crept outside and hidden behind them. “Oh, they're trolls . . .” his woeful squeak arises in dismay: “listen . . . just listen to them! They don’t even speak our language!”
“They might,” Danshari points out. He stands beside George Fox, who is saying “Namaste” to all the invaders. They are clustering round him and smiling.
“Hello,” says Danshari very clearly and distinctly. “Good morning.”
“I am Danshari,” he adds, slowly and plainly.
A small Anawim child beams at him in a friendly manner. “Hello,” it says. “I am Hineni.”
Nimby, horrified by this turn of events, seeing that the invaders are going to overrun his life now and ruin everything, lets out a wail of despair and takes refuge in his compost heap.
Still growling, Irusu backs behind a shrub.
“Have you got anything to eat?”, asks Hineni politely.
“NO!” — this muffled squeak is emitted from the compost bin.
“Nimby, listen,” says Danshari; “this child does speak our language.”
And then Ursa says what everyone knows you should always say in the event of a foreign invasion. It helps, every time.
“Namaste,” she greets the Anawim: “would you like a cup of tea?”
But before there is a chance for them to answer her friendly invitation, the smallest of the Anawim pipes up unexpectedly.
“Mummy,” she says, “where’s Granny?”
I think you can tell, that was only the beginning.