As the days continued, everyone in the garden kept up their running. Ermintrude and Brian pottered in circles, distressing the garden flowers and drinking more cups of tea than is probably healthy for a snail. Mr McHenry tricycled every day, finding new tracks he'd never tricycled before and looking for new places to dig flower beds. Even Mr Rusty managed a few short laps of the roundabout, mainly chasing runaway horses or pinging sprockets, or occasionally the odd flyaway child. Dylan kept count, chalking up everyone's scores on a blackboard in between naps: Florence was the clear leader, but then, Dougal still hadn't been seen in days.
Dougal, it seemed, hadn't really understood Florence's idea. Dougal was now a very, very long way from the garden. And he was lost. Very lost.
Somewhere near Crewe he stopped for the night, bedding down in an old barn. As he curled up in the hay, a small Welsh voice sounded out from the shadows. " 'scuse me, boyo. Would you mind not stealing all my duvet?"
Dougal looked around wildly, trying to spot the source of the voice "Erm. Sorry. I was trying to find somewhere to sleep. I'm a bit lost"
"Oh dear. That's no good, is it? Where have you come from then?"
"Well, I set off from the garden about two weeks ago."
"Which garden would that be, then?"
"The garden. The one with the roundabout. The magic one"
"Well now, the only magic roundabout I know's near Swindon. Is it that one?"
"Hmmm. I don't think that's the one I'm after. It's a long way, though. I must be beating all the others easily."
"Beating them at what, boyo?"
"Beating them at the Juneathon."
"What's a Juneathon when it's at home then?"
"You run every day in June and see how far you get. I haven't seen any of the others in a good while. I must be winning, although I'm a bit tired. You wouldn't, by any chance, have a sugar lump going spare? Or a cup of tea? Or both?"
"Certainly, boyo. Just give me a moment and I'll put the kettle on. Welsh Cake while we're at it?"
Dougal watched as a small, elderly hedgehog in a miner's helmet crawled out from under the hay pile, dragging stalks and dust with it. "Now then, to that cup of tea. My name's Bernard by the way, boyo. What do they call you?"
"Charmed, I'm sure."
Dougal and Bernard chatted into the night, over tea and Welsh Cakes. Back in the garden, the others held a council to see what they could do about finding Dougal.
"I've lost my old shaggy pal" moaned Brian. Then he brightened. "More tea and sugarlumps for everyone else, though"
"He's a resourceful pup" said Ermintrude "I'm sure he'll be having a jolly time"
"He's, like, playing hide and seek with us" said Dylan, awake briefly.
"We need to find him" said Florence. "He might be in trouble"
"He might be in Scotland" laughed Brian "You know what his sense of direction is like"
They resolved, first, to send out a search party, and each formed a search pattern. Dylan, of course, stayed where he was "To, like act as a base in case he comes back, man". Mr McHenry rode his tricycle round the edges of the garden in a slow patrol pattern. Ermintrude chatted to the flowers to ask if they'd seen him, and Brian asked a couple of mole friends of his. Florence looked round the walled garden, in the bushes, and searched Dougal's house, to see whether there was any sign of life. There wasn't, and his pile of sugarlumps looked very forlorn.
**To be continued**