- The garden Gate of the Baggaraggs enclosed a Kitchen garden in summer, that any cook would have relished. Now in the time between Autumn and Winter, there were the remains of some hardy Vegetables and herbs. The hands of the Tansy leaves curled under as if crippled with arthritus while their blooms rose straight and true, ochre in the brown landscape. The dill was gone to seed, as was the last of the lettuces, but the cabbages were as yet uncut and remained upon their stems like giant green bowling balls. There was also the Kohlrabi, yet to be harvested, sphere-like , their leaves shot up from what looked like alien space ships that had spouted from the fertile soil. Ahead was a gate, made by Grace herself, fashioned from oak branches, and bound together with heavy twine.
Above the gate rose a homemade arbor of oak branches covered with the with the dried remains of the morning glories, wrapped as tightly as the twine that Grace had used on the gate. It was a somber scene, and would with any likelihood, be covered in snow in the coming weeks.
Grace bent and plucked a leaf from a cabbage and placed it epaulet style on her shoulder for Maybell. She paused at the Garden gate and spoke to Tisdale the Snail who was on duty, as guard.
"Tisdale, you and your kind folk may need to flee. I don't know what is coming. There may be an attack here of some sort, some Pie-rats headed up from the Loch. Let the others know that they need to seek shelter. I will not have anyone at risk. Go now and warn the others. Get your Family to safety. Without waiting for his reply and as it is known that snails are somewhat slow to do anything, she stepped out onto the lawn, with Maybell seated on her collar, nibbling furiously at her cabbage leaf, and Her Faithful Murray at her side.
Grace headed through the yard towards the cedars, and looking back she saw the smoke rising in a curl from the chimney, its smell a comfort to her, as she entered the woods. It was late in the afternoon, and the darkness would come early. She would have to hurry.
Her mind was full of questions about what do to, and how to protect her Home from a bunch of Rats. Wondering about the possibility of any real threat.
Murray spoke, his voice a rumble, "These Pie-rats, how many of them are there...how many rats can there be to have sailed up this Loch to our Home, Maybell?" His giant paws crunched through the leafy debris that had been the fall. He turned his massive head to look at her with eyes that were deeply brown, and intelligent. He thought about what was to come, and was on his guard. Sniffing the ground periodically for rodent smells. There were none.
He was ready for a fight, and dared anything, any creature to harm a graying hair on the head of Grace Tenderstitch.
Maybell stopped chewing, and with her mouth full of cabbage said, "I don't know exactly, I think maybe a hundred? Windslow counted many rafts."
Grace considered this as she walked through the woods. The trees were naked mostly. Here and there a scarlet leaf hung on defiantly to the tip of a branch. All was quiet except the sounds of their footsteps crunching along. Grace remembered again what her Mother had told her growing up,"Watch your feet, watch where you put your feet, mind you don't step on a snake." So it was with this old habit that Grace always walked through the woods, being mindful of where she placed her feet, watching for the Puff Adder, watching for the Copperhead. Even though at this time of the year, they were away, sleeping in their dens. And it was this way that they made their way through the woods, looking down at their feet, to the crest that overlooked the Loch. There are times when a person should pause to look up, to see the sky, to see the fingers of the trees above as they scratched the belly of the lazy wind, and to see the Pie-rats as they traversed the canopy of naked branches far above their heads, back to the the Baggaraggs.