Said Otter to his friend the Badger, ‘Why, old fellow, I don’t often see you come this way- and so far out of the Woods! It’s most surprising to find you here by the River. Is everything alright?’
The Badger looked at Otter, then suddenly wrapped his arms around him in a whole-hearted embrace. ‘Oh Otter’, he cried, ‘I have been so lonely in the Woods. I cannot bear to listen to the silence any longer! I know I am- by my nature- a solitary creature, but I have been feeling so fearful lately. Living underground can be terribly lonesome.’
Otter gazed at Badger in astonishment. He had foolishly never considered that Badgers might shed tears like the other Riverbed animals. ‘My dearest friend! If only I’d known! Come with me and I’ll look after you. We shall sit by the fireplace and drink tea, and I will tell you stories that will make you laugh and laugh. Why, you should have seen the great pile-up the ducks made on the River the other day- the memory still has me chuckling!’
Badger lifted up a large black paw and wiped his eyes. ‘Will we really, Otter? I wouldn’t like to think I was imposing on you.’
This time it was the Otter who pulled his friend in for a hug. ‘You silly creature! Of course we will. It is always a great pleasure to be in your company. I could not bear to think of you so sad and alone. If there is ever anything I can do, you must not hesitate to let me know.’
‘Otter, you are most wonderful. Thank you.’
‘Not at all, not at all!’ the Otter cried, and he offered his friend a handkerchief. ‘I know I don’t say this often enough, but you must know that I do love you very much Badger.’
With these words the Badger flushed with happiness and his eyes even appeared to brighten a little. His sadness was already fading, for he was no longer just a wayward creature in the deep dark Woods. He was looking forward to drinking cups of tea by the warm fireplace and using his gruff Badger voice to ‘Oh!’ and ‘Ah!’ and talk out loud like a Badger should do.
The two friends then smiled at each other, before turning to walk arm-in-arm, in content and companionship, along the grassy Riverbed in the direction of Otter’s home.
Though the Otter would never know, he had saved Badger that day. Different creatures they may be, but the friendship they shared crossed all the fields, forests, meadows and streams in the world. From that day forth, Badger felt like a new animal- for he had found belonging. He would never be quite so lonely in the Woods again.