Somehow, no matter how much magic was involved, Deidre didn’t think she’d be able to fly all the way to Paris. She couldn’t picture herself floating over the high, dark gables and turrets of the museum, let alone going any further. Just the thought of her stumpy, fluffy wings flapping away made her feel bilious and tired.
She imagined the way Maude would fly. She’d be magnificent and lithe, bounding through the clouds. I’d only hold her back, Deidre thought unhappily. No wonder the Tigon looked as if she was having second thoughts about these Christmas plans.
That night Deidre wandered about the museum, visiting a few old friends and seeking out their opinions.
The British woodland creatures thought she was being a fool. Badger threw up his clumpy paws in horror at the thought of venturing as far as the continent. Rabbit threw up a number of sensible objections. Fox threw up a stuffed Robin he’d eaten.
Deidre went to ask the painted faces from Ancient Egypt what they thought. ‘This Maude person is dragging you into something rather dangerous,’ one of them said. Deidre looked up at the calm, beautiful faces and sighed. This room was one of her favourites in the whole museum. She was standing before a cabinet of delicately painted faces recovered from sarcophagi. They were so unfathomably old and wise they made Deidre’s papier-mache head spin.
‘Do you really think it’ll be dangerous?’ the Dodo frowned. Of course, failing to recognize danger was the downfall of her whole silly species. A wave of sadness crashed over the Dodo.
The Egyptian faces gazed down on her with great compassion. But what could they say? How could they help her? They couldn’t imagine wanting to leave the museum and travel elsewhere. They loved being on display here and seeing the variety of faces that came to inspect their own. And it was a thousand times better than being in a nasty old tomb, any day.
Next Deidre shuffled down the hall to visit Brute, the dead dog from Pompeii. He was curled up like he was perpetually trying to scratch an itch. From within his overcoat of once-molten lava she could hear his voice quite clearly: ‘Are you crazy, woman? You must go! You must get out! You must have fun! Enjoy yourself, lady! Dance and jump and skip about!’
This outburst stiffened her resolve.
The rest were too timid.
What was the point of being able to come to life anyway, if you weren’t prepared to do anything with it?
‘I really want to go to Paris on Christmas Eve,’ Deidre told Maude. ‘But I might as well tell you right away – I can’t fly. Look. These wings are rubbish. And I’m a bit heavy. No matter how much magic is involved.’
Maude grinned. ‘I’d already guessed that. Don’t fret. We’ll ask Eric the spider crab to do something a bit special…’
And so the following day they waited impatiently for the visitors to file out of the building and for closing time to come. Outside the early evening traffic plied headlights through the snow that had started to fall on Manchester. As the indoor lights went out and the museum staff bid each other festive farewells and locked up all the doors, Maude, Deidre and the others perked up.
It was Christmas Eve.
‘Who will come with us to Paris?’ Maude bellowed at the assembled stuffed creatures.
They quailed at her ferocious teeth and her outrageous plan.
‘What, none of you..?’ she roared.
It was a tradition which very few remembered. It had been a long time since anyone had left the museum on Christmas Eve.
‘You disappoint me, the lot of you,’ scoffed the Tigon. ‘Look at Deidre, here! She’s not scared! She’s never been anywhere and she’s brave enough to come with me to France tonight! She’s not even real! She’s a facsimile Dodo! And she’s not ashamed..!’
Deidre looked abashed, but very pleased with the idea of her own courage.