Finding Nipper

Karen Gunnell

‘Quick, put it back. Close the top!’ muttered Patrick, as a nose and a set of twitching whiskers appeared. ‘It’s going to get out!’
Passengers sitting near them on the bus began to look alarmed. 
Hamster box on the bus
 
Jess peered into the box and smiled.  She had spent ages in the pet shop choosing which hamster to get with her birthday money.
‘I want that brown one,’ she said, looking into the muddle of hamsters in the sawdust at the bottom of the glass tank.
‘They’re all brown,’ said Patrick, picking up a small, wriggling brown body.
‘Ouch!’ he yelled and put it down quickly.  ‘It bit me!’
‘That’s the one!’ Jess pointed. ‘I like that one best.’
So the hamster was paid for, popped into a small cardboard box with little holes in the side and carried proudly to the bus stop.      
Spread 2
‘Goodness gracious!’ Aunt May exclaimed as Jess and Patrick arrived home. ‘What have you there?’
‘A hamster,’ said Patrick. ‘Jess bought it with her birthday money. It’s a bit grumpy.’
A loud scuffling noise came from inside the box.
Aunt May jumped back.
‘Oh, preserve us all. Don’t let it out!   Have you got a cage?’ Aunt May was a bit afraid of mice and things like that. 'I don’t want it running round my kitchen.’
‘No,’ said Patrick, ‘we couldn’t get a cage. They cost too much.’
‘Well, what are you going to put it in? That little box is far and away too small.’
‘There’s a big cardboard box upstairs and we can put lots of toys in for it to play with.’
‘Are you sure that it will be strong enough?’ Aunt May looked nervous.
‘Oh, yes,’ said Jess, ‘it’s enormous.’ And they rushed upstairs to Jess’s room.
Spread 3
In the bedroom they pulled the big cardboard box from the cupboard.
‘Looks a bit old and scruffy.’ Patrick wasn’t so sure.
‘It’s ideal,’ said Jess putting the hamster’s little box carefully down inside it.  A pink nose and two beady black eyes peered over the top. A fluffy brown hamster climbed out cautiously and began to run around the big cardboard box on its little legs exploring.
‘Quick, let’s find some toys.’ 
Jess found a doll and some doll’s house furniture to put in the box and Patrick went to ask for an empty toilet roll tube to make a tunnel.
‘We’ve got to give it a name.’
‘I think Nipper’s the best name because it bit you,’ giggled Jess.  Patrick looked ruefully at his sore finger.
‘Look, Nipper’s nibbled a hole like a door in the side of his little box to make a house and he’s making a nice soft bed out of bits of toilet roll.’
‘Teatime!’ called Aunt May and both children raced downstairs.
Nipper exploring large cardboard box
 
Spread 4
After tea they came back up to the bedroom and looked into the box.  There was no sign of Nipper.
‘Where is he?’  Patrick moved all the things around. ’I can’t see him anywhere.’
Jess began to cry. ‘He’s lost!’
‘Look, he must be in his little house.’  Patrick picked it up and shook it.  It was empty, but lots of torn up cardboard came out of the hole.
‘There’s lots of cardboard all over the floor, but I can’t see Nipper.  Perhaps he climbed out of the big box.’
‘No!’ yelled Jess. ‘He couldn’t do that. It’s much too high.’
She stopped crying and stared at the big cardboard box. ‘Look! There’s a hole at the bottom. He’s made great big hole and got out.’
Both children ran around the bedroom looking for Nipper.  They looked in cupboards, under the bed and behind the bookshelf.
‘Don’t tell Aunt May,’ said Patrick. ’She’ll go crazy.’
Hole Nipper nibbled in big box
 
Spread 5
‘Who will go crazy?’ said Aunt May, coming into the room. ‘What’s all the noise?’
‘Nipper’s got out,’ cried Jess. 
‘Oh, for heaven’s sake!’
‘Just a minute,’ shouted Patrick. ‘I saw him.’  A small brown shape ran around Aunt May’s shoe and out of the door. Aunt May gave a little scream.
Jess and Patrick both rushed out of the door and onto the landing.
‘Where did he go? He’s gone again!’
‘Down the stairs. Quick!’
Jess ran down the stairs and grabbed the wriggling hamster.
She carried it back to the bedroom.
‘Where are you going to put him to keep him safe?’ asked Aunt May.
‘In the dolls’ house.  We’ll shut the door,’ Jess  exclaimed brightly. ‘He couldn’t get out of that.’
She slipped him in her dolls’ house, shutting the door very firmly.
‘I’m going to get you a proper cage,’ wailed Aunt May.
 
Spread 6
‘Nipper’s looking out of the dolls’ house window,’ giggled Jess pointing.
A beady black eye was peering out of one of the little windows.
She ran over and opened the front door of the dolls’ house and very quickly a pink nose and whiskers appeared. Nipper was too fat to get out of the little front door but he did look very annoyed and Jess laughed.
‘Quick.  Shut the door,’ said Patrick. ‘Then he won’t be able to escape. He can’t eat through wood.’
Both children flopped down on the bed in relief.
‘Well. At least we know where he is now.’
 
Spread 7
Before bedtime Aunt May came in with a large cage in her arms.
‘Mrs Peters has kindly let us have this old bird cage.   Put that hamster in it straight away and make sure it can’t get out.’ She put the cage down on the floor and went downstairs.
Patrick and Jess looked at the cage.
‘It’s a bit rusty.  He might not like it,’ whispered Jess. ‘I think he looks very sweet in the dolls’ house.  Can’t we leave him in there just for the night?’
‘OK, but don’t tell Aunt May.’
All evening Jess kept looking through the dolls’ house windows and she brought some carrot and cornflakes on a little plate which she put carefully through the front door.
Then she got an egg cup from the kitchen, filled it with water and slipped it inside as well.
‘Good night Nipper,’ she called as she got into bed. ‘And see that the bugs don’t bite.’
As she dropped off to sleep she could hear Nipper nibbling away.
 
Spread 8               
First thing in the morning Jess ran over to the dolls’ house and looked inside.
There was no sign of Nipper anywhere in the house.
‘Oh no! He’s gone again!’ cried Jess. She could see what he had been doing all night.  The dolls’ furniture was thrown all about.  The curtains had been torn down and nibbled and the egg cup had been knocked over and there was water all down the stairs.
‘Pat!’ she rushed into Patrick’s room. ‘Nipper’s gone again.’
There was a big hole in the front door of the dolls’ house. Half of it had been eaten away.
‘Oh no!’ shouted Patrick. ‘Aunt May will go crazy.’
‘Close the bedroom door or he’ll go down the stairs again!’
 
Spread 9
‘Let’s think very carefully.’ Patrick sat on the floor as Jess began to search.
She looked under the chest of drawers, under the bookshelf and under the bed. She opened the wardrobe.  Suddenly she saw a heap of fluff, bits of card and the dolls’ house curtain at the bottom. It began to shake and wobble.
‘I’ve found him, I think!’ whispered Jess. ’He’s made a nest in the cupboard.’
Patrick put in his hand and scooped out the warm ball of fur, paper and fluff.
‘Put him in the bird cage,’ said Jess. ‘And then Aunty May won’t guess.’
They opened the cage door and slipped the nest inside.  Jess filled the egg cup with more water from the bathroom and put it safely in the corner of the cage. Then she added some of the bird seed on a little tray.  The nest stopped moving and all was quiet. The cage door was closed firmly.
‘I think he’s gone to sleep,’ said Jess. ’I expect hamsters sleep in the day.’
‘And are very busy all night!’ Patrick thought.
 
Spread 10
That evening when Jess came home, Nipper was still in his cage busily chewing up more cardboard and carrots.  He scampered around the cage moving things around with his nose. The nest seemed to have got bigger and all the bird seed was gone.   He came over and poked his nose through the bars looking at Jess in a very friendly way.
Jess took Nipper out of the cage and held him in her hand to stroke his warm little body.  She put him back in the dolls’ house for a while and watched him carefully through the windows as he ran in and out of the rooms.
Finally, Jess placed Nipper carefully back in the cage and poked some more paper and bird seed through the rusty bars. She pushed the wobbly cage door closed and went to brush her teeth.
Nipper was getting bored.  He scuttled around and around the cage, looking for something else to nibble.  He tried nibbling at the cage bars and then he tried to nibble at the door of the cage. It moved a little. Nipper pushed with his nose and, because the door was quite old, it came loose a bit more. Nipper pushed and pushed until the door swung open and ……guess what!
When Jess came back, Nipper had disappeared completely.
 
Spread 11
Patrick and Jess worked out a plan.  If Aunt May asked where Nipper was, they would say that he was hiding inside his nest.
But they did worry where Nipper had got to. Jess was very miserable and couldn’t sleep properly.  She kept listening for the sound of scrabbling of feet or nibbling noises. But she heard nothing.
Where could Nipper be?
Nipper had run around and around the room and slipped out of the open bedroom door and into the bathroom.  Under the bath he found a hole in the wall and squeezed through into the dark space behind.
When Nipper squeezed through the hole he felt himself falling and falling over and over, down inside the wall right to the bottom of the house, where he landed safely just behind Aunt May’s kitchen. 
He ran up and down and found some interesting crumbs and made friends with a few spiders.  It was a great adventure but he could not find a way out.  He tried to nibble at the bricks of the wall but they were just too hard.
Spread 12
All the next day while she was doing the washing up and cooking, Aunt May thought she could hear little running noises behind the walls, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards.
‘Oh no! We’ve got a mouse, I knew it.’
When the children came home for tea she told them that she was worried about a mouse running about somewhere behind the sink.
Jess and Patrick looked at one another and then decided to tell the truth.
‘It might be Nipper we think. He got out again.’
‘You two are completely hopeless. How did it get out this time?’
‘He managed to push the cage door open. We’re very sorry Aunty,’ said Patrick.
A scuffling came from behind the sink and the patter of feet.  They listened again, hard.
‘He’s under the sink,’ said Jess.
‘No,’ said Aunt May frowning.  ‘It’s inside the wall. That’s why it keeps running backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards.’
‘What can we do?’ Jess burst into tears. ‘Poor Nipper. He’s stuck.’
Aunt May looked at Jess and felt sorry for her.  ‘Tomorrow, I’ll get Mr Mundy the builder to try to get your hamster out.’
Spread 13
The next day when the children were at school, Mr Mundy came and Aunt May explained about Nipper being stuck inside the wall.
‘Can you do anything?’ asked Aunt May.
‘Well,’ said Mr Mundy, ‘I could knock a brick out and see if it comes out. If it does though, you’ll have to stand there and catch it.  I hate those things.’ 
Mr Mundy was a big man but he was even more frightened of mice than Aunt May was. He chipped away around a brick near the bottom of the wall until it fell out, while Aunt May waited near the hole nervously.
Suddenly Nipper’s little face appeared, whiskers twitching and Mr Mundy yelped and ran down the path as fast as his feet would carry him.
Aunt May closed her eyes and bravely grabbed the wriggling hamster. She was surprised to find it so warm and fluffy. ‘It’s really sweet,’ said Aunt May, looking at Nipper in her cupped hands. ‘He’s not scary at all.’
She carried him upstairs, put him safely back in the cage and tied the door firmly closed. Then she brought him up some carrots and peanuts.
Mr Mundy ran as fast as his legs could carry him 
 
Spread 14
When the children came home from school Aunt May led them up to the bedroom.
‘Look!’ said Aunt May proudly.  She had bought a new special hamster cage with a wheel, an upside down water bottle that fixed to the bars, a little green house, lots of toys and proper sawdust for a bed.
Nipper was whizzing round inside his new wheel and looking very busy.
‘Oh,’ cried Jess happily. ‘How did Nipper get out of the wall?’
‘Mr Mundy took a brick out of the wall and Nipper ran to see where the light was coming in. Now,’ went on Aunt May, ‘Jess, you must make sure that the cage door is quite closed and that Nipper is inside and he’s got lots of food and water before you go to bed.’
‘I really will,’ Jess promised. ‘I won’t let him out of my sight ever again.’
That night Jess put Nipper’s new cage right next to her bed where she could hear his wheel rattling around and around until she