Ho-Ho learns to sing


"Now listen carefully, Henry," said his mother looking very serious, "I have to be away for the whole day to visit my sister, and I really don't like to leave you on your own."

"Please don't worry about me, mummy, I'll be just fine!" said Henry, who really didn’t want to ‘go visiting’ people and miss all the fun of being with Ho-Ho. The journeys tended to be very tedious and he always had to be on his 'best behaviour', which could be very tiring indeed! His mother was quite aware of Henry’s preferences and rather than drag a tired and rather grumpy little boy around, accepted that he had best stay at home on his own. However, she had prepared a huge picnic basket to last him through the day.

"Now if there are any problems whatsoever, you can always telephone Uncle Elgar, who is not far away and will come straight round."

Of course, Henry's mother did not know about Ho-Ho, and if she had known, she would have felt very happy about him being in such safe company.




Later, under the damson tree, Henry was explaining to Ho-Ho why they had such a huge picnic basket and how his mother had left him at home alone.

"Do you get frightened when your mummy leaves you?" asked Ho-Ho.

"Not when you are here!" said Henry.

"What do you do when you do get frightened?" asked Ho-Ho.

"Hmmm," thought Henry for a moment, "I think I usually sing," he finally added.

"What is singing?" asked Ho-Ho looking puzzled.

Henry was at a loss to explain what singing is to an elephant, so instead he began to sing to show him. He started with 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' and then went through all the songs he knew, even the ones about Christmas. All the time, Ho-Ho looked fascinated and full of admiration.

"That is wonderful!" exclaimed Ho-Ho. "Do you think I will be able to sing?" Henry thought for a moment, as he had never heard of an elephant singing.

"I'm sure you will be able to if you practise," he said finally.

So Ho-Ho began to practise singing. The noise was deafening, but the expression on Ho-Ho's face of complete concentration and determination to master the art of singing made Henry laugh. He laughed so much that there were tears rolling down his cheeks.

In the future, when they looked back on that day, Henry and Ho-Ho would always remember it as their ‘musical festival’. They spent the whole afternoon singing, drinking orange juice and eating from the picnic basket. It was a wonderful and very funny day they spent together.


The next day, Mr Crabbitt came round. Mr Crabbitt didn’t particularly like Henry; in fact Mr Crabbitt didn't particularly like anybody. When Henry heard the important knock on the door and realised that it was Mr Crabbitt, he knew there must be trouble of some sort. He went downstairs to find out.

"The noise was just deafening, and definitely coming from your property," Mr Crabbitt was complaining to Henry's mother who listened very patiently indeed.

"Henry, do you have any ideas about this noise that Mr Crabbitt is talking about?” she asked him.

Henry felt very flustered and was most anxious that the grown-ups should not realise the truth - that it had been an elephant learning to sing making all the noise yesterday afternoon!

“I was singing in a very loud voice," said Henry.

"Humph," said Mr Crabbitt. "It was more like a, a, a..." he searched for the right description, "an elephant!" he finally announced.

Henry's mother promised to look into this mystery and Henry secretly decided that he must warn Ho-Ho that his singing practises must stop!




Under the damson tree later that morning Henry and Ho-Ho were discussing Mr Crabbitt.

"He really is a very unhappy man," said Henry, "it would be very nice to make friends with him. Do you have any ideas Ho-Ho?"

Ho-Ho scratched his chin with his trunk, and looked very wise indeed.

"Some people only make friends when they really need someone," he finally said.

Henry thought for a minute. "That's it!" he finally said, "we just have to find out what Mr Crabbitt needs, solve his problem and then we will be his friends!"

Henry and Ho-Ho decided to call round to Mr Crabbitt’s house and find out any problems he might have. They pressed on Ho-Ho's magic button so that he became very small, and with Ho-Ho in his pocket, Henry walked round to his neighbour’s property.

There was a public footpath that went through the land belonging to Mr Crabbitt. It was the law that anyone was allowed to use this footpath, but Mr Crabbitt was always very suspicious of people and was continually watching to make sure that they did no damage and didn’t stray from the path. Not surprisingly, he was there waiting when the two friends arrived.

"Stick to the path and make sure that you close all the farm gates; I don't want my animals escaping!" he said in a very grumpy voice. Then he noticed that it was Henry.

"Oh, it's you is it? Young Master Henry."

"Hello again Mr Crabbitt, what beautiful cows you have," said Henry brightly, "and what a beautiful field. What are those lovely yellow flowers?"

"Those are called cowslips," replied Mr Crabbitt reluctantly, "and as for a beautiful field, can you not see, young man, all those molehills?"

“What are molehills?” asked Henry. Mr Crabbitt explained about these small creatures called moles, which live under the ground and dig tunnels, depositing the earth in mounds called molehills. Henry could see lots and lots of molehills and quickly realised he had found something that Mr Crabbitt needed. Mr Crabbitt was very unhappy about this ‘invasion’ of his land by these creatures and though he had called in many experts, nobody had been able to shift the moles from his land. Henry listened in total fascination and the old farmer even began to melt a little at someone who seemed sympathetic to his plight.

Henry was fascinated by the small creatures who spent all their days tunnelling under the earth and scooping it out, living on worms and tiny creatures under the soil, but then he remembered his mission.

"Shall I try to get rid of the moles?" Henry asked innocently.

The old farmer melted a little more but began to laugh. "I've called in all the experts and they just took my money and did no good whatsoever. If you could get rid of those moles I would be very grateful and I would give you..." as the farmer tried to think of a suitable gift, Henry remembered that Ho-Ho was in his pocket and came to his assistance.

"A bucket of ice cream?"

"It's a deal!" said the old farmer shaking Henry's hand and smiling for the first time that year.




Henry finally found a quiet spot where he could not be seen and Ho-Ho became his full size. The two friends discussed the problem.

"How can we get those moles to leave Mr Crabbitt's fields?" asked Henry. Ho-Ho thought for a long time.

"We ought to go down into the tunnels they make and see for ourselves what they do," said Ho-Ho. The two friends agreed that Ho-Ho would shrink down to his smallest size and crawl down into one of the tunnels. They were all apparently connected together so he would be able to get a good idea of what the moles did and how to persuade them to leave the area. Henry got his little spade and began digging into a molehill until he found the tunnel. Ho-Ho shrunk down to his smallest size and Henry dropped him into the tunnel. Then he waited and waited and waited...




It seemed like hours that Ho-Ho had been gone and Henry was beginning to worry about his friend, when suddenly, a little distance away from Henry, there seemed to be an earthquake starting. The land shook, and a little hill appeared, which got bigger and bigger and then began to shake. Henry was quite scared, wondering what it could be, when Ho-Ho’s trunk appeared from the middle of the shaking earth. Then slowly - a little bit at a time - the earth shook some more and then dropped away to reveal his friend Ho-Ho, smiling and looking very pleased with himself indeed.

"I've just had an adventure all by myself!" said Ho-Ho. The two friends sat down and Ho-Ho told the story of his adventures down the mole tunnels.

Apparently he had walked quite a distance before he came across the first mole, and the creature had looked so fierce with big sharp teeth and big claws that Ho-Ho had run away at first. Eventually he had turned and faced the fierce little creature, which looked as though it wanted to eat Ho-Ho. Worse was to come as more and more moles had come to help and find out who this stranger was that had invaded their tunnels. For a moment it had looked as though all the moles of the field were together in a gang ready to attack Ho-Ho.

Henry was fascinated by the story. "Whatever did you do Ho-Ho?" he asked.

"Well," said Ho-Ho, looking very wise and thoughtful, "I was very frightened and I remembered that you had told me that when you were frightened you like to sing, so I just started singing!" Even though he was very tiny, the sound of Ho-Ho singing was pretty scary and in the small space of the tunnels it must have been terrifying! The poor creatures had run away in a total panic as quickly as their little legs would take them! The way Ho-Ho had described the incident, Henry was sure that the problem had been resolved, and he felt so proud that it was his friend who had fixed the problem for good.




Later that day, Henry knocked on Mr Crabbitt's door. "I think I’ve got your moles to leave," said Henry as soon as Mr Crabbitt answered it. Mr Crabbitt looked very doubtful indeed; He knew that the only way that you can tell that the moles have gone is if new molehills stop appearing and that would take a few days to find out.

"So Master Henry, how did you manage to get the moles to leave?" he said, not believing Henry one bit, but fascinated by the little boy's efforts to help his plight. Henry thought for moment as he dare not reveal the truth, but did not want to tell a complete lie. "I sort of had to do some digging and then sort of organised some special singing," he added.

Mr Crabbitt smiled for the second time that year. "Oh yes, your singing...the noise that disturbed all my cows the other day! Well if you have got those moles to move away I will bring you that bucket of ice cream I promised."

They shook hands and bade farewell. Mr Crabbitt saw the fields where Henry and Ho-Ho had been and was very impressed by Henry’s so-called ‘digging’, which was in fact the place where Ho-Ho had emerged from the tunnels.




A week passed by. Henry was just about to go outside to meet Ho-Ho under the damson tree with a drink of orange juice when there was a knock at the door.

"Ah, Mr Crabbitt," said Henry's mother a little apprehensively, "and what have you got there?"

"It is a bucket of ice cream for young Master Henry. He is a very clever little boy who has got rid of the moles from my fields."

Mr Crabbitt seemed very friendly and sat down and had a cup of tea with Henry's mother, discussing life on the farm and how the countryside was blooming at this time of the year. Henry excused himself, as he was very anxious to get out to Ho-Ho and tell him the good news.

"Henry is a wonderful little boy," said Mr Crabbitt, "he is very clever - especially at getting rid of moles! And don't worry about the noise the other day, Henry’s singing is something to be very proud of, and if he needs to practise I will certainly put up with the noise!"

Henry's mother looked absolutely astonished and could not really understand what the farmer was trying to say. Not that it mattered; it was just so nice to see her neighbour so much more happy and friendly. They remained friends for a long time afterwards.

And it certainly didn't matter to a certain elephant and a little boy who were enjoying a bucket of ice cream together and making such a mess that normally would have led to Henry being scolded. But some days turn out so well that small things like ice cream messes don't really matter at all!


©bernard shevlin

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