After some time Maddieroo has settled down at the Nice Lady’s home. Outside, the garden is full of flowers and herbs and in the summer the Nice Lady grows vegetables for the squirrels, insects and birds to eat. The house is very comfortable inside, but Maddieroo discovered something very special in the back yard one day, a very old tree that had a hollowed out part, just perfect for a squirfoxaroo house. There was an opening for a door, a ledge for the cat (squirfoxaroos always have a place for a cat) and a perfect spot to put a fireplace, space for a small kitchen and a nice soft chair for reading and a bookshelf to hold her books! Now all she had to do was fix it up and she would have a perfect spot for her own Roo Cottage. Of course Maddieroo would have to stay inside with the Nice Lady once in a while just so she wouldn’t be lonely, and Zuzu would probably only stay for nap time (you know how cats are). Maddieroo was very happy about the squirfoxaroo home she would make for herself.
First of all she needed to clean up inside of the tree. Some messy mice or squirrels looked like they nested in there at some point. There was a small opening in the wall near where she planned to put the kitchen, that seemed to lead off down into a tree root that would probably need to be sealed off to keep out the wind (and maybe a pesky squirrel). After sweeping out the leaves, twigs, feathers, bits of gravel and paper, several plastic bags, two aluminum soda cans, one plastic bottle, and 8 empty (she checked) snack bags, the house was ready for fixing. The ledge for Zuzu was already just the right size and near a small opening that she could use as a window. Maddieroo placed a small scrap of towel on the ledge to soften it for Zuzu, and decorated the window “sill” with little feathers and mouse bones (cats like that sort of thing). Next, Maddieroo made a fireplace and chimney and hung a piece of wood over it for the mantel. At some point she would need to find a flameling for the fireplace and stove, but she was pretty sure there weren’t any in the Nice Lady’s backyard. She would have to see what she could find later. In the next few days she brought in bits of old furniture, interestingly shaped branches of wood, a basin for washing, and parts of an old armchair she found sitting on a sidewalk. She made a small bookshelf and borrowed some candles from the Nice Lady for gloomy days, and finally, she placed a wooden door she had made over the large opening and put up her welcome sign. Maddieroo’s squirfoxaroo home was finished! Maddieroo was very tired and thought, this is a perfect time for a nap. So she curled up on her little stuffed chair and started to drift off to sleep…when she heard a scritch-scritch sound. She looked around to see just who or what could have made the sound but she couldn’t see anything, and Zuzu was fast asleep on her ledge. So Maddieroo just thought, I guess it is the wind, and went back to her nap. But the sound started up again and this time it was even louder and more frantic. Maddieroo even thought that she was hearing things because she thought she heard a little voice saying, “help, help”. This was too much for Maddieroo, she couldn’t sleep with all that racket and her curiosity was awake too! She searched along the walls and kept listening for the sound but every time she listened really hard there was nothing, but when she started to give up she would hear something. Finally, Zuzu woke up, stretched and came down from her ledge. “Maybe it’s the hedgehog,” Zuzu said. ‘What’s a hedgehog,” Maddieroo asked. “Why that is the little prickly fellow who used to live in a house down the street but he escaped and I see him sometimes in our yard, eating worms.” Zuzu replied. “What do you mean by prickly, is he cranky all of the time.” Maddieroo asks. “No, I mean he is covered with prickles, I tried to eat, I mean play with him, but they are very prickly and he rolls into a ball if you bother him.” “Well, I have never heard of such an animal, are you sure Zuzu.” “Yes of course I am sure, he told me all about it himself. He is from a place called Africa and someone got him as a pet, but they left him outside too long and now he is lost. And he can’t live in the cold, so maybe he came inside the tree to stay warm.” “Oh Zear duzu, I mean, dear Zuzu do you think I accidentally blocked him into the tree root.” “Let’s sniff him out, shall we Maddieroo.” Zuzu answered. So they sniffed and looked behind the kitchen cupboard where there was a little hole and sure enough the little voice was there. “Help me, I can’t get out, oh dear, oh dear, oh my word.” Maddieroo gently pulled out the rocks and twigs she had sealed the hole with and out rolled a small animal the likes of which Maddieroo had never seen. He was about the size of a small rat but had white and grey prickles all over his back and he rolled around like a ball, until he opened up and set out his tiny feet. He had very handsome black eyes and a cute little moist black nose. “Why thank you sir and or madam. I thought I would never be free to roam and find tasty worms again!” He said as he wrung his tiny paws together. “Happy to Ya! I am so sorry, er, Mr. Hedge Hog, I didn’t know someone was living there. Let me make you a cup of grass tea.” Maddieroo said, running over to get the kettle heated. ‘Well, thank goodness I have landed in a civilized home for a change. The last place I lived the squirrels drove me batty with all of their chattering. Although they did share their acorns and pine nuts, but a hedge needs his mealy bugs and worms, don’t you know! Well, where are my manners, my name is Hedge, Benson T. Hedge, Esquire at your service, Miss?” “Oh, I am sorry Mr. Hedge, my name is Maddieroo and this is Zuzu.” “Ah, yes we have met”, Benson gave Zuzu a slightly nervous look, “but I never got your name, Zuzu. Pardon me for asking Maddieroo, but what kind of animal are you? I think perhaps you are some kind of dog but your manners are so much better than most dogs and you have a special something about you.” “Why I am a squirfoxaroo, Benson, and you are my first hedge hog!” When Maddieroo said the word squirfoxaroo, Benson squealed with delight and clapped his paws together. “I am so delighted to meet you, I have heard of the very special squirfoxaroo but never dreamed I would ever meet one, I am so honored.” And then Benson tried to shake Maddieroo’s hand, but since his hand was so little and Maddieroo got a little bit too excitalated, Benson sort of rolled backwards a bit. “Oh dear, well, that’s fine, I will jut roll back, and up.” And with that Benson rolled up onto his little legs. “Oh no, Benson,” Maddieroo said, “I just realized I don’t know if there is a fireling around here to heat up the water for tes. I’m sorry.” “My dear Maddieroo, that is quite alright I shall just drink my grass tea at room temperature, for that is usually how I drink it anyway.” And so the new friends talked and laughed and sipped tea. Zuzu went back to the big house and Maddieroo stayed to talk with Benson about how to fix his room up, for they had decided that the small tunnel to the tree root room would make a nice little apartment for the hedge hog and once Maddieroo found a fireling, they could direct some of the fireplace heat down there in the winter time so he wouldn’t freeze. The insides of the tree roots would provide him with enough bugs and worms and Maddieroo could bring him other things to eat so he could huddle inside during the winter months, which were fast approaching. All they had to do was slide the kitchen cupboard over a few inches, make a nice doorway to Benson’s apartment and put a wooden door on the out side of the tree root instead replacing the mud and straw wall Maddieroo had used to block it up with.
That night Maddieroo slept very well. It is true she was tired from all of her hard work of the last few days, but mostly she slept well satisfied knowing that she had made a new friend and helped him find a nice, safe and warm home of his own.