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Lulu and the Hedgehog in the Rain
By Hilary McKay, Priscilla Lamont
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2012 Hilary McKay
All rights reserved.
The Wettest Day in Sixty-Four Years
Lulu and Mellie, who were cousins, were visiting their nan. It was an indoor visit because of the weather.
Lulu said, "This is the wettest day of my life!"
Nan thought about that. Lulu was seven years old. In those seven years, had there ever been a day as wet as this one? No.
"You're right!" she told Lulu. "It is the wettest day of your life!" Then Nan thought a bit longer and added, "I think it may even be the wettest day of my life too!"
"How old are you, Nan?" asked Lulu.
"Sixty-four," said Nan with pride. "Sixty-four, and I cannot remember a wetter day!"
"It's the driest day of my life," remarked Mellie, who was lying on the floor drawing, "because I'm not going out!"
"Wouldn't you like to, even for a minute?" asked Lulu.
"No, I wouldn't!" said Mellie, and she carried on drawing her picture of a desert with palm trees and camels and other dry things. She didn't like rain, and neither did Nan, but Lulu was fascinated. She couldn't stop looking out the window.
On that day, the wettest in sixty-four years, the rain fell from the sky in straight lines of water. In the garden the flowers were bent into puddles of brightness. The autumn leaves were washed down from the trees. The cars in the road left wakes of waves, like ships on the sea. The gutters beside the pavements bubbled like rivers.
Nan's three cats could not believe their eyes. They begged to go out and see for themselves.
"Don't be silly, cats!" said Mellie.
Lulu understood. She wanted to go out too. It seemed a waste to spend the wettest day in sixty-four years keeping dry indoors.
"I've got my wellies and my umbrella," said Lulu, who had arrived at Nan's house wearing these things earlier in the day, when the rain had just been plain rainy rain, before it had turned into a flood.
"Don't be silly, Lulu!" said Nan.
So Lulu had to watch from the window for a little longer, until Nan and Mellie went into the kitchen to do some nice, dry baking.
Then, very quietly, Lulu picked up her umbrella, pulled on her wellies, opened the front door, and stepped outside.
So did Nan's three cats.
One, two, three, they stepped outside.
They turned and fled back in again.
That was enough rain for them.
It wasn't enough for Lulu. Carefully she closed the door behind the cats, and then she stood in Nan's little front garden and enjoyed the tremendous sound of a skyful of rain pounding down on her umbrella. In the road the cars flung up lace curtains of water as they passed. In the gutter, brown leaves twirled and surfboarded down to the drains. Lulu thought, This is the most fantastic weather for sixty-four years!
Then something else came tumbling down the gutter. Not surfboarding like a leaf, but rolling and bumping like a prickly gray ball.
"Oh!" gasped Lulu when she saw what it was, and she rushed out of the garden (which she was not allowed to do) and onto the pavement. Then she splashed across to the edge of the road, bent down, and scooped the poor gray ball out of the gutter.
It was a hedgehog.
"Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!" gasped Lulu, because a hedgehog, even a small and wet one, is not a comfortable thing to hold in bare hands. Still, she held on tight, and, leaving her umbrella behind on the pavement, ran back to Nan's house. The hedgehog took two hands to hold it safe. Lulu knocked on the door with her head.
"LULU!" cried Nan.
"Look what I've got! It's a hedgehog!"
"LULU, YOU TERRIBLE CHILD!"
"Could you just hold it a minute while I fetch my umbrella?"
"LULU, GET INSIDE THIS HOUSE THIS MOMENT! GOODNESS GRACIOUS, WHAT WILL YOU DO NEXT?"
All the time Nan was saying these things, she was putting on her boots, her coat, her hat, her gloves, and her scarf. When they were on, she rushed upstairs and came back wearing the shower curtain like a shawl. Then she chose her largest umbrella, opened it, and stepped bravely outside. She was just in time to meet Lulu coming back with her own umbrella, rescued from the street.
"Lulu!" gasped Nan and zipped back in again, just like the cats had done a few minutes earlier.
"Is it still raining?" asked Mellie, appearing from the kitchen. Then she looked at Lulu and said, "Yes," and disappeared back into the warm again.
Water ran in streams from Lulu's hair and face. It trickled from her sleeves. It puddled around her boots.
"Lulu," said Nan. "Go upstairs and take everything off! Drop it in the bath! Put on my big pink robe from the back of the bathroom door and come straight down!"
Lulu had vanished to do these things before Nan remembered something else.
"Lulu!" she called up the stairs. "Did you say a hedgehog?"
"Yes, but it's all right," called back Lulu as she dropped her sweater in the bath with a splash.
"What do you mean, all right?"
"Not dead!" shouted Lulu, squelching out of her socks.
"Have you taken it upstairs?"
"No," said Lulu, reappearing at the top of the stairs in Nan's robe. "I put it on the sofa."
"ON THE SOFA!"
"Just for a few minutes, while I went back for my umbrella. It won't fall. I put cushions all around. See!"
She was downstairs again now in Nan's tidy living room, gently lifting a green velvet cushion from Nan's silky gray sofa. There underneath was a large patch of damp and in the middle of the damp was a small curled hedgehog.
"Hmm!" said Nan. "Next time, Lulu, you think it is a good idea to leave a half drowned hedgehog on my sofa, please wrap it in a towel first."
"Sorry, Nan," said Lulu, but she could tell that Nan was not really mad. She was looking at the hedgehog very kindly. The hedgehog was trembling so hard its whole spiky little ball of a body rocked on the sofa. Every now and then, tight in its ball, it sneezed.
"Aww!" said Mellie.
They wrapped it in warm towels and took it into the kitchen and Lulu tried to remember everything she knew about hedgehogs.
"There was a show on TV all about them," she said. "They live wild around here, like squirrels and mice, but not everywhere. They like to eat cat food, and they come out at night. Maybe they don't like brightness."
In case it didn't like brightness they found it a shoebox and put it inside, away from the light. That seemed to be a good idea. At last the trembling slowed down, and the hedgehog began to uncurl. It stuck its nose in the air and snuffled and sneezed while Lulu and Mellie and Nan watched and whispered.
"What is it sniffing?"
"Us, I suppose."
"Us!" said Mellie indignantly. "We don't smell!"
"To a hedgehog we do."
Mellie sniffed her hands. They smelled slightly of sharpened pencils. She sniffed Nan, who smelled of coconut, and Lulu, who smelled of rain. Then, very cautiously, she sniffed the hedgehog.
"Worse than wet dogs!" said Mellie.
"I like the smell!" said Lulu, who liked everything about animals, even things that other people did not like at all.
"What are you going to do with it?"
"Take it home," said Lulu, and she sounded so surprised to be asked the question that Nan and Mellie laughed. Then Nan went away to take off her shower curtain and Mellie went back to her drawing and Lulu was left alone with her hedgehog. She leaned over the box and sniffed.
"Lovely!" she said.
At the end of the day Lulu went home with the shoebox with the hedgehog inside. She also had some cat food borrowed from Nan's cats for the hedgehog's supper; some flea powder, also borrowed from Nan's cats, for just in case; her still-damp sweater; and her wellies in a shopping bag.
Lulu dropped everything except the shoebox just inside the door and carefully put the box on the table.
"You'll never guess!" she told her parents.
"There are air holes in the box lid," said Lulu's mother, "so we might!"
"It's something we've never had before!" said Lulu very proudly.
Lulu was always appearing with animals in need of help. Stray dogs, unwanted rabbits, spare guinea pigs, noisy hamsters and goldfish-grown-out-of-their-bowls had all found happy homes at Lulu's house. A tortoise lived in the garden and a parrot lived in the kitchen. It was hard to think of anything that they had never had before.
Lulu's father said he supposed it must be a smallish armadillo.
"That's almost right!" said Lulu, and then she took off the box lid and showed them the hedgehog she had found in the rain. They gazed and said, "Oh, how wonderful!" and "Just as good as an armadillo!" and Lulu smiled happily.
But the hedgehog did not seem happy. It sneezed and trembled and ate nearly nothing. A lick of cat food from the end of a teaspoon, that was all.
Perhaps it got seasick, sailing down the gutter like that! thought Lulu. Seasick and bumped and frightened and cold. No wonder it wasn't hungry.
When Lulu went to bed that night, the hedgehog went too, tucked up in the box beside Lulu's pillow. And every time Lulu heard a rustle or a sneeze she thought, Good! Still alive!
All the next morning the hedgehog slept, and the sleep made it better. The sneezing stopped, and in the afternoon it woke up and ate a large late lunch. Soon it was well enough to climb out of the shoebox and go exploring in Lulu's bedroom. That was what was happening when Mellie came up the stairs.
"It looks loads better!" said Mellie.
"It is!" said Lulu proudly. "It got so much better after it had something to eat that even its fleas got better! Jumping!"
"Oh," said Mellie, backing down the stairs very quickly.
"Don't worry, we flea-powdered them," said Lulu. "Poor fleas. But I don't think the hedgehog minded. What it needs now is somewhere to live. I thought we could make it a little house in the garden."
"And we have to think of a name too," said Mellie.
"We can do both together," said Lulu, scooping the hedgehog back into its shoebox again. "Let's start right now! Come on!"CHAPTER 2
The house that Lulu and Mellie built for the hedgehog was at the very end of Lulu's garden, against the garden shed. The shed made one wall. Old bricks made the others. A spare roof tile was propped so it would keep out the rain. Inside they put dry leaves and hay from the bag that Lulu kept for her rabbits and guinea pigs.
"It's a bit scruffy though," said Mellie worriedly. "Won't the hedgehog escape without a door? And what about things to play with like you give to the rabbits?"
Lulu looked at Mellie in surprise. She had not realized that Mellie thought the hedgehog was going to be a pet, with toys to play with to save it from boredom and an escape-proof door.
"This hedgehog is a wild animal," she explained. "All hedgehogs are wild where we live. It won't need toys or a door because it'll be able to go in and out whenever it likes. It'll have the whole garden."
"It doesn't seem safe," said Mellie, but when she looked around the garden she saw that it was safe. Lulu's garden had a fence all around. If the gate was closed, there was no way out.
"And it won't get lost," admitted Mellie, "because the garden's so little. We still need a name. What have you thought of ?"
"I wondered if we should call it after Nan."
"You can't call a hedgehog Nan!" protested Mellie.
"Not Nan! Cherry! That's Nan's real name."
"Cherry's not a very hedgehoggy name!"
"What is, then?"
Mellie lifted up the shoebox lid and looked at the hedgehog.
"Pineapple," she said.
"Almost every hedgehog in the world is called Prickles," objected Lulu.
There was a pause while Lulu and Mellie patted hay and leaves into a comfortable bed and tried to think of a name that no hedgehog in the world had yet been called.
"Bubbles!" said Lulu.
"John!" said Mellie.
"John? John! Are you crazy?"
"John Cherry Bubbles Pineapple Prickles," said Mellie. "Five names, like the queen of England!"
"The queen is called Elizabeth," said Lulu. "Come on, Hedgehog! Come out and see if you like your new house!"
She tipped the shoebox gently and the hedgehog came hurrying out at once, its black-currant nose twitching. In and out of the little house it went, and then off around the garden.
"Queenie," said Mellie. "John Cherry Bubbles Pineapple Prickles Elizabeth Queenie!"
Then Mellie got the giggles and had to lie on the ground.
"Crazy!" said Lulu, scattering her with autumn leaves. "Hey, Mellie, we're surrounded! Look!"
Faces had suddenly appeared: two on one side of the garden, one on the other, Lulu's neighbors peering over their fences to see what all the fuss was about. Arthur on one side, Charlie and his friend Henry, who lived a little farther down the street, on the other. Lulu and Mellie knew them well. They were all in the same class at school together.
"What have you got?" asked Arthur. "Another rabbit?"
"A hedgehog!" said Lulu proudly.
"A hedgehog?" repeated Henry, and Charlie asked, "A live hedgehog? I've only ever seen squashed ones! Where?"
Lulu pointed to where the hedgehog was busy snuffling under a rabbit hutch, and all three boys at once scrambled over their fences and into the garden.
"I've always wanted to meet an actual hedgehog!" said Henry excitedly. "I don't believe they're as prickly as they look!"
"They are," said Mellie, who had said the same thing only the day before, but all three boys insisted on crawling under the rabbit hutch and testing for themselves.
"Hey, Sonic!" called Arthur, while Henry reached out a fascinated, frightened finger.
"Careful!" warned Charlie.
Henry could not have been more careful if he had been about to poke a crocodile.
"It stings!" he said, wriggling backward as fast as he could.
"Come out now before you scare it!" said Lulu. "And it's not called Sonic either!"
"What's it called, then?" asked Arthur.
"We're still choosing," said Lulu quickly.
"Sonic's a great name," said Arthur. "Sonic the Hedgehog. I've got the game for my XBox!"
"Is it going to live here, then?" asked Charlie.
"Yes. Wild in the garden."
"Oh, it's not fair!" burst out Henry. "I've only got one fat boring hamster! I want a hedgehog! Where do you get them?"
"You can't just get them," said Lulu.
"I found it," explained Lulu. "Washed away in all that rain."
"What about a swap, then? You can have my hamster!"
"No!" protested Lulu.
"My hamster and my Tyrannosaurus rex!" said Henry. "It only needs new batteries!"
"What, then?" demanded Henry, who was used to getting his own way.
"Nothing," said Lulu. "Anyway, it's not mine to swap. It's a wild animal! It belongs to itself. It's just living here, that's all!"
"What if it wants to live somewhere else?"
"It likes it here," said Lulu.
At first this seemed true. The hedgehog seemed happy and it soon grew used to people. Every evening, at the clink of the food plate, it came out of its house to eat up its supper, before trundling off in search of slugs and snails and wood lice and other hedgehog treats. By the time Lulu went to bed it would have vanished into the shadows. But it always came back. Some time during the night, while the humans were asleep, the hedgehog would return to the little house and put itself to bed. In the mornings, if Lulu bent very close to the little house, she could hear the magical sound of a hedgehog snoring.
"Sleep tight, Hedgehog!" she whispered.
She and Mellie still hadn't agreed on a name.
Then things began to change. The hedgehog no longer seemed quite as happy in Lulu's garden. It seemed to want to visit Charlie's as well. It found a tiny gap under the fence in between, and it would not leave it alone.
Excerpted from Lulu and the Hedgehog in the Rain by Hilary McKay, Priscilla Lamont. Copyright © 2012 Hilary McKay. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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