Arthur held his breath as the picnic basket blew back and forth in the wind. When the wind finally died, he still didn’t move. He longed to reach out and grab the basket, but he was afraid that if he did, it would fall. He didn’t think he could force his way through the tree branches in time to save it.
Just then the squeaky little voice spoke again.
“Perhaps I could help,” it said.
Arthur looked all around. Where was that strange voice coming from?
“I’m down here.”
Arthur looked at the ground. A tiny vole was sitting at the bottom of the tree.
Arthur gave a start of surprise. “Hello,” he said. “Do I know you?”
“Yes, you do,” the vole replied. “We met on your last visit to this tree. You were just a little hatchling at the time. Your mother was teaching you to fly. You fell off a branch and landed on the ground beside me. You were very friendly. We had a nice chat. But I wasn’t sure about your mother, so when I saw her coming to get you, I ducked back into my burrow.”
“She wouldn’t have hurt you,” Arthur told him. “She was a vegetarian. Anyway, how do you think you could help me?”
“Well, first you need to very carefully back yourself out of this tree. Then I will climb up and gnaw through the branch the basket is caught on. When the branch breaks, and the basket falls, you swoop down and catch it. How does that sound?”
“It sounds grand, that is, if I can get out of here.”
“You can do it. Just be careful.”
Arthur began to slowly inch his was backward. It seemed like it took forever to the waiting vole, but at last the dragon was free.
The vole raced up the tree trunk and ran all the way out to the end of the branch. That was when he discovered the branch extended far beyond the edge of the cliff. There was nothing under him but air and a rocky beach far below. The little vole gulped. Then he began to gnaw. He gnawed and gnawed until at last the branch gave way and the basket fell. It headed straight for the jagged rocks.
But Arthur was ready. There was nothing slow or clumsy about him now. In the blink of an eye he swooped after the basket and caught it in his talons. He zoomed upward, made a slow turn, and returned to land below the tree.
“Thank you, my friend,” he said to the vole, who waited on the ground. “You certainly saved the day. I don’t even want to think about how unhappy Hyacinth would have been if her grandmother’s teapot had been smashed on the rocks.”
Just then they heard fairy voices and looked up to see Hyacinth and her friends landing in the branches above them.
“Good afternoon, my dear fairies,” Arthur said as he stood up and greeted them with a sweeping bow. “As you see, your scrumptious party awaits. I’ll just breathe a little fire and heat up the tea.”