The Goddess and the Pig

 

[I've never claimed to be a fiction writer but while we were living in France in 2005 I was inspired
by the birth of my granddaughter to write this story. It came to me whole while on my morning walk,
and I've posted it here because it makes me smile. Maybe you will smile too!]

Chapter 1

Boris was a boar. Oh, not a boring bore—not one who talks and talks without saying anything, or who makes you want to hurry away in the opposite direction. No, Boris was a wild boar, with big tusks and tiny feet and thick, wiry hair covering his body. He lived in a pen in back of monsieur and madame’s house, in a quiet little village beside a stream.

Boris hadn’t always lived there, but he didn’t know that. He didn’t remember being found in the woods as a tiny piglet, and he didn’t remember being carried home in monsieur’s haversack, or given to madame to raise and butcher (for monsieur thought boar meat tasted very, very good.)

Madame had, of course, agreed to this plan, but over time she grew fond of Boris, and whenever monsieur mentioned butchering, madame found an excuse not to do so. Every Monday she would pull out the big black iron kettle that had belonged to her grandmother, and she would shove Boris into it and bathe him with lavender soap. She would talk to him as she scrubbed his rough hide, and tell him about life in the village and beyond. In this way Boris heard all the village gossip—as well as all madame’s troubles—and sometimes his baths were very long indeed! Madame grew to love Boris, and Boris grew to think of himself as human. He was even allowed into the kitchen until he accidentally ripped a hole in monsieur’s favorite chair with his sharp tusk. After that he stayed outside.

Boris lived happily like this for several years. He knew nothing of life in the wild, and if he thought of freedom it was with relief that he didn’t have to fend for himself. Quite naturally, he grew to believe he was special. Every week madame bathed him and every night she fed him and petted him, and all the time monsieur would look at him and say, “hmmmm.”

Late one summer afternoon, when the leaves were still green and the grass was thick and tall, monsieur and a friend stood looking at Boris stretched out happily in his shady pen.

“You know,” said monsieur, “when madame is away visiting her sister, I am going to slaughter that boar and make myself some fine sausages!”

Boris turned his head and listened—was monsieur talking about him?

“But won’t madame be very angry?” asked the friend.

“Oh yes,” said monsieur, “but she will be happy when she tastes my sausages! And after all, if I don’t do it soon, this boar will be too old and tough to eat!” 

Too old and tough—what an insult! Boris rose on his small feet and angrily shook his heavy tusks at monsieur, but he and his friend were already walking away, thinking about the good sausages they would soon be eating.

As the days grew shorter and the sun set further in the south, Boris forgot about monsieur’s threat. Instead, he daydreamed about the end-of-season garden scraps that would soon be coming his way. Fall meant lots of extra greens, and sometimes left over pumpkins and squishy squashes that no humans would eat. It was Boris’s favorite time of year.

One Monday, as Boris was getting his weekly bath, madame broke the news. She had been especially talkative that day, envying a neighbor’s new hat, complaining about the broken cellar door, and describing a village fete that was being planned. And then she said, “Next week Boris, monsieur will give you your bath, for I will be visiting my sister in Narbonne. We will shop in fine stores and visit my old school friends. I can hardly wait!”

Boris wasn’t really listening—he was trying to get the lavender soap out of his ears—but as madame continued talking and talking about all the things she was going to do in Narbonne, Boris remembered. He remembered what monsieur had told his friend. “Butchered,” he had said. “Sausages.”

Boris cringed—his heart pounded! And despite the warm bathwater he felt cold all over. But as madame continued talking he began to think. And after she had given him his dinner and put him back in his freshly cleaned pen, he thought even harder.

By the next morning he had decided that no matter how sad it felt to leave madame, he would be even sadder if he ended up as sausages on monsieur’s dinner plate. He had to escape. Boris knew little about the landscape outside his pen except the path to and from the house. But he was sure he could make his way into the hills he could see nearby. And there, perhaps, he would find other boars like himself. How nice that would be!

Boris decided to wait until madame left for Narbonne before putting his plan in motion. He knew he was safe until then, and he was in no hurry to leave madame’s good care. On the night of her departure he waited until the moon had set and it was very dark indeed. Then he started digging under the fence with his sharp hoofs and his sharper tusks. He dug and he dug, but the dry summer had left the ground hard and he was soon tired. Still, he kept digging until he had made a good-sized hole under the fence. He squeezed his big head and tusks through first, and then he pushed with his little back feet, twisting and squirming and pushing some more, until finally he was through.

For the first time Boris was on his own, out in the broad world. But this was no time to think about freedom; he could see a faint light in the east and knew the sun would soon be peaking over the hills. Boris ran.

 

Chapter 2

The next morning, when monsieur took Boris his morning meal, he was stunned to find the boar missing. He carefully examined the fence around Boris’s pen and quickly found the hole that had been dug.

“Oh la la,” said monsieur to himself. “There go my sausages! And what will madame say?” And thinking this, he walked back to the house, loaded up his haversack with sandwiches and a thermos of coffee, picked up his gun, and set out toward the mountains.

Boris had run as fast as his four short legs would carry him. He had planned to head for the shelter of the wooded hills, but he quickly realized that he was too fat and out of shape to make much headway in that direction. So, hoping for the best, he followed the path along the creek until it crossed a single-track road. Climbing the bank, he stood on the road listening to the quiet of the dawn. His short-sighted eyes could not see far, but ahead of him he discerned a circle of tall cypress trees on a low hill. That, he thought, might be a good place to hide. He trotted off down the road, putting one sore foot in front of the other until at last he reached the safety of the trees. Then, burrowing deep into the underbrush, he curled up and fell fast asleep.

 

Chapter 3

“Wake up, you,” said a determined voice, as a sharp pain pierced Boris’s shoulder. “Pig! Wake I say!”

Boris blinked his eyes, rolled awkwardly onto his stubby legs and stood, still half asleep but ready to defend himself.

“Ha!” she said. “I knew that would get you. State your name.”

Boris blinked up at the young girl standing over him. She was holding a bow—which she must have used to prod him—and smiling. She looked nothing like madame.

“Why did you do that?” said Boris. “It hurt—and it was rude.”

“Was it?” she asked. “Then I suppose I must apologize. I’m sorry pig.”

“My name is Boris,” said Boris, drawing himself up as tall as he could on his four short legs. “I am a wild boar—a sanglier—not a simpering, domesticated pig.  Please use my proper name.”

“Please use my proper name . . .” mimicked the girl. Then, standing very tall and straight she said with great formality, “Pig I call you, and Pig you shall be. No one disputes me here.”

“Where is here?” asked Boris, suddenly remembering that he wasn’t safe at home in his cozy pen. The trees he had seen at night now cast morning shadows across the clearing. A spring poured fresh water into a rocky basin, and the sound reminded him that he was thirsty and hungry. He was tired and out of sorts as well, and a little bit scared. He missed madame, with her kind voice and her morning bucket of leftovers. He trotted over to the spring—oh, how his feet hurt—and took a big drink.

“This is my home,” said the girl, answering the question he had already forgotten. She sat down on the ground beside him, putting her bow across her knees.

“How did you come here, and why?” she asked.

Boris sighed unhappily. “It’s a long story,” he said, “and I’m very hungry. I don’t suppose you have any leftovers you can share?”

The girl looked at him curiously and shook her head.

“Well, I see something over there that might do.”

“Indeed, yes,” said the girl. “Have your morning repast; then we will converse.”

“How strangely she speaks,” thought Boris, as he gobbled hungrily at some shrubs. All his digging and running had left him weak. He gobbled leaves and twigs and grass until he felt quite stuffed. It wasn’t as good as one of madame’s breakfasts, but it would do. Then he sat down beside the spring to think. Maybe heading to the mountains wasn’t such a good idea. For one thing, there were mountains in every direction, and they looked far away in the morning light. Which way should he go? Maybe that girl could help.

She had moved away while Boris ate, and was sitting with her back against a tree, her legs stretched out in front of her. Boris thought she looked friendly enough, and after all, he knew a lot about humans—hadn’t he lived with them for years? In fact, that’s about all he did know. He walked over to her and sat down.

“I’m sorry if I was rude,” he said politely, “but I was very hungry. I’ve run away, you see, and I’m not sure what to do next.”

“Run away? How very exciting!” She sat up. “From where? From who? Why? When?”

“What a lot of questions,” thought Boris. Nevertheless, he took a deep breath and began his tale. He told her about his nice clean pen, the only home he had ever known. He told her about madame and monsieur and how he was so frightened of being turned into sausages that he had run away. “And then you woke me,” he said, “and I don’t know what to do next. I’m sure monsieur will be looking for me, and I don’t even know where I am.” He sighed deeply.

“You are in my home,” repeated the girl. “I am Diana, goddess of the hunt and the hunted; so named by the Romans who long ago built a temple to me on this hill. Others have called me other names—Artemis, for instance. Do you know of me?”

“I know nothing of goddesses,” said Boris, who wondered whether he should be terrified or happy. Indeed, she looked much like any other young girl to him.

“But if you are a goddess,” he said, “does that mean you have magical powers? Can you wave a great wand and send me safely home to my family in the mountains?

Diana threw back her head and laughed, a joyful, bubbling sound that made Boris want to laugh too.

“Alas, poor Pig,” she said. “I am in a sadly reduced state of affairs. You see me as a child because my power is so diminished. I once had authority and influence here, when the valley was full of wildlife. But, no more. Now grapes are grown where bison roamed. I am not much better than a human now,” she added sadly, “but I will try to help you if I can.”

“But you said, ‘goddess of the hunt,’ recalled Boris with alarm. “Doesn’t that mean you help hunters like monsieur?”

“Oh, yes,” said Diana. “For hunters must eat. But the hunted must live as well. To keep everything in balance was my job. Now, there is only disarray.”

The two of them sat silently for a moment, thinking about what Diana had said. Then she asked, “What is it you want from me, Pig? What do you wish to do?”

Boris sighed again. “I’m not sure,” he said finally. “I want to go back to madame and to my own comfortable pen, but that’s impossible. I don’t know where my real family is, or if they remember me. If they live in the mountains I’ll never find them; I’m too weak and fat to climb mountains,” he added unhappily, “so, I guess any place and any family would do.”

 “If any family will do,” Diana said, “then we can surely find you one. Come, the day is still young. Let us see what kind of family we can make for you.”

 

Chapter 4

Diana stood up, slung the bow over her shoulder and started off, her long stride carrying her quickly over the path down the hill and into the vineyards. Boris trotted behind, wondering if this was a good idea, and struggling to keep up.

“Slow down!” he said finally, puffing and huffing along behind. “I can’t go so fast. My legs are short!”

“You need the exercise!” shouted Diana back at him. “If you want to be a true wild boar, you need to toughen up!” She kept to her pace, forcing poor Boris into a trot while he gasped for air and his lungs began to ache and burn. Suddenly she stopped—so quickly that Boris almost ran into her.

“How about snakes?” asked Diana.

“Snakes?” asked Boris, still shaken from the sudden stop. “Snakes for what?”

“For your family, you silly thing!”

Boris gasped. “I cannot live with snakes,” he said, shocked.

“Why not?” said Diana. “They are perfectly fine valley residents. They mind their own business and they never keep one awake with rowdy fetes.”

“But,” replied Boris, thinking rapidly of some excuse, “they are morose and silent.” Diana stood over him, tapping her foot. “Uh,” he continued, “they, uh, never want to play games, and they don’t like strangers—they’re too suspicious.”

“Well,” said Diana, “they have a lot to live down. One can’t blame them for being aloof. Come, there’s a family nearby I can introduce you to. You could be in your new home this afternoon!” she added cheerily.

“No!” cried Boris. “I mean, uh, their dens are much too small for me. Besides,” he said, rushing to find something that would satisfy her—“once I was bitten by a snake. It was horrible. So you see, I just don’t like them; I won’t like them.”

“Tut, tut, tut,” said Diana. “What a prevaricator you are.”

“A what?” said Boris.

“A prevaricator,” said Diana patiently. “Someone who stretches the truth. Maybe,” she said, grinning, “you would understand me better if I spoke Pig Latin.”

“I don’t speak Latin,” said Boris haughtily. “And I understand you perfectly well. I just don’t like what you’re saying.”

At this Diana giggled. “Oh, Pig,” she said, “I’m so glad you showed up this morning. Come; if it can’t be snakes we have work to do.”

 

Chapter 5

 Monsieur was certain that Boris had run for the mountains. That was, after all, his natural habitat. Other boars lived in the woods too; he would certainly go in that direction. Monsieur followed a steep path into the hills, lugging his gun and his haversack and worrying about Madame’s reaction to her missing boar. In truth, he was more concerned about that than he was about any lost sausages. He searched the underbrush as he climbed, occasionally calling Boris’s name. Eventually he reached a stand of low pines where he rested in the shade and ate his lunch.

“What will I tell Madame if I can’t find him?” he worried while he munched. He couldn’t bear the thought of her sad face when she discovered Boris missing—and she would certainly blame monsieur! As he was drinking his coffee he decided to spend every day that she was gone searching for Boris. He would bring Boris home even if he had to shoot him. He didn’t know what else to do, and then, well—he would tell madame he was sorry, and they could both enjoy good sausages! Well, he hoped so anyway. Oh dear, what a dilemma! And with this thought he shouldered his haversack and gun and headed again up the mountain.

 

Diana and Boris had eaten their lunch too—his was leaves and twigs and some grubs, hers some bread and cheese that she pulled from the case that held her arrows. Boris hoped she would share her lunch with him, but that was a vain hope.

After they’d eaten and rested a bit, Diana stood up and looked around. They were on a path running between a vineyard and a field of cut hay. In the distance a little creek cut the fields; its banks were lined with trees and late-blooming wildflowers. She knew Boris was getting tired—he was out of shape!—but she had an idea, and this time she wouldn’t ask him first—she would show him.

“Come on, Pig,” she said, as she walked off, leaving Boris to struggle behind. “I’ve an idea I think you’ll approve.”

“I hope so!” grumbled a weary Boris, adding under his breath, “My name is Boris!”

They walked as far as the stream before Diana turned off the path and led Boris into a stand of leafy trees. The bank was not steep and they walked easily.

“It’s a pretty site, isn’t it?” said Diana. “I remember when this creek was so full of fish.”

“Yes,” huffed Boris, “a pleasant site. Can we rest now?”

At that moment a large, long-legged rabbit appeared in the grass ahead of them.

“Ho there, Diana,” said the rabbit, straightening up. “You startled me! I haven’t seen you in ages! Where have you been keeping yourself? What’s the news? Do you have time for a cup of tea? Come and meet my little ones, they’re almost two now, and having a gay old time romping here and . . . who is that big hairy fellow with you? . . . well come on, come on, I’m anxious to hear everything you can .  . .”

“Hello, Mother Rabbit,” said Diana, interrupting this great flow of words. “It’s good to see you too, and yes, we would love some of your fine tea. But first let me introduce Pig, who has run away and is looking for a home.”

“Boris,” interjected Boris.

“A home, you say? What’s wrong with his home? Doesn’t get along with his parents, I’ll bet. Well, you can certainly see by that look in his eye that he’s got his own opinions about things and …”

“No, no, it’s not that,” said Diana hurriedly. “Let us sit down and we’ll . . .” They were suddenly surrounded by eight furry young bunnies, hopping and chattering and skipping circles around them.

“Hello, hello!” they shouted. “Mama who’s this? Why does he look so sad? Why does she carry a bow? What are you going to do? Can we have tea too? How about carrot cake? Can we have some of that? Can we? Can we? Can we?”

“Oh, here are my little munchkins,” laughed their mother. “Aren’t they sweet? Tom, stop pulling your sister’s ear! Sit down right now and be quiet. Georgia, help me get the tea things. Rosie! Get out of the way before I fall over you and spill everything. Neal, for heaven’s sake be quiet, you’re so loud I can’t hear myself think. Now, then, Diana, what were you saying about this poor chubby friend of yours?”

It didn’t help Boris’s mood to hear himself called a “poor chubby friend” and he was a little hurt by the remark about his eyes—what “look” for heaven’s sake?

He was so overcome by all the chatter that he lay on the grass and covered his ears with his hooves. Diana, however, seemed to enjoy the chaos, and she calmly related Boris’s tale while the children bounded around her, spilling their tea on her legs and getting crumbs in her hair.

“Pig,” she said, when Mother Rabbit had gone off to get more cake, “don’t you think you would like living with this family? She’s an awfully good cook you know.”

Diana was pretty sure that Boris wouldn’t like living with the rabbits any more than he liked the idea of living with snakes. Still, there were few animals left in the valley for him to choose from, and he had said, “any family would do.”

Boris rolled his eyes and moaned in reply. But he eagerly accepted a second piece of carrot cake when Mother Rabbit passed it round. It was quite good, he thought, but he had trouble finishing it because several little rabbits were climbing all over him, examining his hooves and his ears, and rubbing his bristly hair the wrong way, which made him shiver.

“Come and live with us,” the children shouted, hopping up and down and running circles around the three of them. “Oh mama, mama, can he come and live with us? Please! please! please!” they chorused.

“Well,” said their mama, “I think that’s up to him. He’s certainly welcome if he wants to stay, though he’ll have to help us dig a bigger den.” At that point the children all started jumping and chanting “yes!” and “hooray!” in unison.

“Come, come, children,” said their mama. “We mustn’t rush him. Help me clear the table now, and be quick about it!”

“Diana!” whispered Boris when they had all left. “I can’t stay here!”

 “What’s the matter with you?” she said severely. “This is a very nice family!”

“I’m sure they are,” said Boris, “but I can’t stand the noise! And all the jumping and chatter—it’s too much. I’m used to living alone, in peace. I would be crazy in three days! You’ll have to think of some nice way to tell her no.”

“I?” asked Diana. “Why should I tell her no? It’s your decision.”

Boris was surprised and dismayed, but when Diana pointed a finger at him and said, “Yes, you,” he knew she was right. He would have to face Mother Rabbit himself. Oh dear. How he missed his old home, where everything was done for him.

“And no prevaricating,” added Diana sternly.

Boris nodded sadly, and when Mother Rabbit returned to the clearing he cleared his throat loudly to get her attention.

“Thank you so much for offering to be my family,” he said hesitantly. “But, um, I am a quiet fellow, with little to say, and I like my peace. To be honest, I think your, um, boisterous children would probably be the death of me.”

The rabbit bounded toward him, nodding her head in agreement. “Yes, I think so too,” she said quickly. “I could see it the minute you walked in, sad fellow that you are, that you like to have your own way and your own kind of life, and that peace is a principal piece of it. Well, it’s all right with us of course—always happy to oblige Diana—but another mouth to feed is another mouth, so it’s worked out for the best, I’m sure, and you can come to call anytime you feel the need for company, Mr. Pig—or Boris, rather—and we’ll be happy to see you and give you some tea. Maybe sometime you could help me enlarge our burrow anyway, even though you aren’t going to live with us. I’m sure you’re a good digger and it could use some expansion—I’d like a window added over here——.” With that she turned and hopped away, ready to describe the proposed remodel.

“Thank you so much for the excellent tea,” called Diana after her, “and for your kind offer to Pig, but we must continue our search. I hope you understand?”

“What’s that, my dear?” the rabbit called back. “Oh, certainly, goodbye then. I’ll see you soon. Don’t trip over that root! Thanks for coming! Come and see us anytime! Neal, help me move this table out of the way . . .”

Boris continued to nod goodbye, backing away up the hill from the fast talking Mother Rabbit, until, out of sight, he took off in a trot, with Diana striding close behind.

“Well!” said Diana, “that wasn’t so bad—you were able to tell her no without hurting her feelings. Honesty is always best,” she added smugly. “And I have to agree, it was a bit of a cacophony. But we are still left with finding a family for you.”

Boris didn’t know what cacophony meant, but he refused to ask for he was in a thoroughly bad humor.

“What good is being a goddess if you can’t fix things?” he said moodily.

“Not much,” agreed Diana cheerily, “but with the wildlife pushed out of the valley, there’s not much asked of me anyway. You are the first in a long while who has required my assistance.”

They walked on in silence. The sun had moved across the sky and would be setting behind the mountains in another hour.  After a half hour of aimless walking—or so it seemed to Boris—Diana sat down on an old stone wall and looked at him.

“I’ve just thought of another family that might suit you,” she said, smiling broadly.

Her cheerfulness was starting to irritate Boris, who was feeling thoroughly sorry for himself.

“Great,” he mumbled sarcastically.

“However,” she said, unheeding, “they’re far away, at the opposite end of the valley. Let us return to my home to pass the night—you’ll be safe there—and tomorrow we can look them up. Do you agree to this plan?”

“I suppose,” said Boris sullenly. He was remembering his good meals and his cozy bed. He longed for madame and her stories, and for the village with its bubbling stream and colorful flowers.

Diana, however, had no patience with bad moods and useless daydreaming, and her long stride was already carrying her easily across the fields toward home.

“Maybe,” thought Boris, hurrying to catch up, “she’ll share some of her dinner with me.”

 

Chapter 6

The following day Diana did as promised and led Boris through the valley to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Badger. The idea was not a bad one, for boars and badgers are reasonably compatible, and theirs was a quiet household. Along the way Boris complained much about his sore feet and the distance they were traveling, but Diana ignored his complaints, choosing instead to chatter about the landscape they were passing through and the animals who lived nearby.

 “The Badgers have lived in the same burrow 300 years—can you imagine?” she said. “They have rooms they haven’t seen in generations. Their eldest daughter just moved into a distant room and Mrs. Badger is lonely. You will be a good addition to their family, Pig.”

“It’s Boris,” he mumbled.

When at last they arrived Boris found the Badgers sympathetic to his search—which Diana had readily explained—and Mr. Badger immediately liked the quiet boar. He wondered if Boris smoked or played loud music. When assured this was not the case he harrumphed loudly and declared, “Well, then, you are welcome as can be.”

But Mrs. Badger worried that because of his size Boris might damage their ancient home’s delicate construction. When Boris politely asked to see his new quarters, she fidgeted and wrung her paws. When he put his snout into the foyer she nervously began to sway and moan: “oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.” This naturally upset Mr. Badger, who tried to calm his wife by patting her back and humming a favorite tune. Boris, hearing the commotion, hurriedly pulled his head back through the door. Unfortunately, his right tusk caught the edge of a velvet curtain, sweeping it across the hall table and knocking over a prized vase. As he worked to extricate himself from the tangle, he twisted his large head and knocked over a porch column.

Diana, watching from the sidelines, could only sigh and assure the Badgers that she would have their home repaired.

 

Chapter 7

 “I don’t suppose you could live with a family of eagles,” said Diana.

“Are you serious?” asked Boris. “Do I look like I can fly?”

“No,” she answered, looking him over carefully, “it’s clear pigs will never fly. Too much ballast. There is no other choice; we must make our way into the mountains and find your true family. Are you up to it?”

 

Chapter 8

The following morning Boris woke feeling better than he had in days. After leaving the Badger’s, he and Diana had trekked far into the mountains before making camp, and he had made a fine dinner of herbs and fresh greens among the scrub pines. Diana’s evening meal had not appealed to him, and the idea of bread and cheese for breakfast nearly turned his stomach. Looking at his reflection in a nearby pond he realized he was losing weight, and if he was not yet a strong and quick wild boar, he soon would be.

Diana was also content, for she had managed to bring Boris safely to a spot near his old home. If her estimate was right they would find his family today, but she did not tell him that—not yet. Instead, she insisted they hurry, for monsieur was still a threat and the most dangerous stretch was ahead. They climbed steadily upward through the thick brush, following narrow trails where they could, and skirting the forest roads. By early afternoon they had reached a grassy saddle in the mountain—a place Diana knew well.

“We must go in that direction,” she said, pointing. “It’s the best place to search for them, and it isn’t far now.” Boris was anxious to keep going too, and was about to say so when a strange noise drifted up from below.

“Booorrris,” called a sing-songy voice. “Booorrrris, where aaarrrre you? Come with meee and I will take you hoooommmmme.”

Diana and Boris instantly darted across the grass, she crouching low and Boris diving ahead of her into the thick brush. There they paused and looked down the mountain to see monsieur, who was rapidly approaching. Diana signaled to Boris to move further back into the woods, but it was too late. Monsieur had spotted their movement and he immediately recognized his lost boar.

For an instant Boris wanted to believe monsieur. But then he did what any right-thinking boar would do under the circumstance. He ran. He dodged around rocks and wove his way through thick, crowded bushes, making his way into the trees. His only escape route led across a flat stone ledge at the base of the pine forest. He knew the lack of cover would make him vulnerable, but there was no way around. The ledge fell away to the river at one end; at the other, an old stone wall blocked his way. He headed for the ledge, took a deep breath, and dove across.

Monsieur had been waiting for this chance, for he was an experienced hunter and knew the territory. When he saw movement in the bushes near the ledge he lifted his rifle. When Boris scampered across the open rock, he was in monsieur’s sights. Slowly, he pulled back on the trigger.

Diana had been following Boris at a distance, determined to let him take the lead and regain his confidence. She saw the ledge, Boris, and the raised gun at the same instant. In a flash she drew her bow and aimed a shot at monsieur.

Oooooow!” cried monsieur, dropping his rifle. “What the devil is this?” he said angrily to himself, looking down at his foot. He stared across at the now empty ledge, then sat down to examine his boot. It was pierced by what looked like a child’s arrow, but it had struck hard enough to go through the leather and puncture the top of his foot.

The wound was not serious, but it was unexplainably painful. And his pride was certainly injured. Stopped by a child’s arrow! He was glad none of his friends were with him—oh, he would be teased mercilessly if they found out. And Boris—mon Dieu, he had escaped!

“All is lost,” thought monsieur. “Tonight madame will return home to a village empty of her beloved Boris—that stupid boar! And oh, how upset she will be.” Monsieur put his boot back on, gave a last long look over his shoulder toward the ledge, and limped slowly home, in no hurry to face his wife.

 

Chapter 9

After loosing her arrow, Diana hurried after Boris. She caught up with him in a little copse, where he was hiding deep under some rosemary shrubs, on which he was happily munching.

“Did you see me, Diana?” he said, jumping to his feet. “I got away from him! I ran and he didn’t catch me!” Boris was so proud he could barely contain himself.

“Is he following you?” he asked, remembering the danger.

“No, I shot him. He is only injured, but he will not return.”

Shot! Boris was amazed. And happy. And content. He suddenly felt so alive and at home here in the mountains, he didn’t care what had happened to monsieur.

“Diana,” he said, “I don’t think we need to go further. I don’t need a family, I can live on my own, I’m sure of it.”

“I’m sure of it too, Pig. You have come a long way in a few days. But everyone needs a family, even if they choose not to live with them. So come, I think we are very close now.”

The day was drawing to a close when the two finally ended their journey in the happiest of ways, for along the trail they met another boar, who was heading home from an ancient orchard with a load of apples for his mother. Boris had never seen another wild boar, and he suddenly felt shy and uncertain. They both stood quite still, looking at one another. Finally, Diana nudged Boris with her knee, so he cleared his throat and said, “Pardon, can you help me please? My name is Boris, and I’m looking for my family. Do you know where—“

“Boris?” The wild boar edged slowly forward, studying Boris. Suddenly, he laughed out loud and dropped his load of apples, nearly knocking Diana over. “Oh my gosh, it is you; I can’t believe it! I’m Henri—your brother!”

“My brother?” said Boris. He looked hesitantly at Diana, who smiled back at him.

“Guess so,” she said.

So Boris and Henri laughed and talked and whooped and danced with happiness. And when at last they’d exhausted themselves, Henri led the two travelers straight home, where Boris’s mother stood on the doorstep, holding a large wooden spoon.

“Where have you been, Henri, I’ve been waiting all afternoon for those app . . .” She paused and looked carefully through the wire-framed glasses that balanced on the end of her nose. Turning her head slightly, for she was blind in one eye, she said very slowly, “Boris, is that you?” And when he confirmed that it was, their shared tears of joy and squeals of delight were enough to bring the entire family running.

Boris was delighted to learn that he had four brothers and three sisters, and that he was an uncle to 15 nieces and nephews. As his mother showed him around the family home, which was even better than he had imagined, she pointed out pictures of relatives, and one of himself as a baby. This brought tears to his eyes, but only briefly, for he was the happiest of boars. And since his return was clearly a cause for celebration it wasn’t long before Boris and his brothers and sisters and mother and father and aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents—and, of course, Diana—all settled in for a long and happy feast.

They ate red clover loaf and sunflower-seed casserole and chestnut dumplings and pumpkins baked with pine nuts and rosemary, and dandelion salad, and they washed it all down with lavender tea. It was the best meal Boris had ever eaten—even at Madame’s. And when Boris’s father carried out the honeysuckle wine and several big apple pies they all cheered, and settled down around the fire to trade stories.

Diana sat in the shadows, listening to the boars’ tales of derring-do and Boris’s stories of living with humans—at which they were all quite amazed. Boris’s brothers agreed to teach him all he needed to know about getting along in the wild, and Boris promised to tell them all they needed to know about humans. They ate all the pies and had many happy toasts until the fire turned to embers. Then, exhausted at last, they each lay down and went happily to sleep.

Boris was just dozing off when he had an idea. “Diana!” he whispered into the darkness, “You knew all along where my family was didn’t you?”

But no answer came from the darkness.

“Oh well,” he thought, smiling to himself. “I can ask her tomorrow.” And thinking so, he laid his head on boughs of soft lavender and fell fast asleep.

 

 

 

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