The trees have ears….
Andrew sneezed loudly It did look like he was coming down with a bad cold Shhh said William next to him Keep it down he hissed Do you want us to be found out I cant help it, Andrew said, his voice hoarse And Im sure the English arent around here anywhere We can safely discuss our plans of ambush on their cavalry at New Park
Andrew sneezed loudly. It did look like he was coming down with a bad cold. “Shhh!!!” said William next to him. “Keep it down!” he hissed. “Do you want us to be found out?” “I can’t help it”, Andrew said, his voice hoarse. “And I’m sure the English aren’t around here anywhere. We can safely discuss our plans of ambush on their cavalry at New Park.”
Andrew and William were two Scottish knights who served in the army of King Bruce of Scotland. They were preparing themselves to fend off the English Army led by Edward the II, who was trying to regain his hold over Scotland. But the proud and patriotic Scots were determined to achieve freedom for their beloved country, and moreover, they loved their ruler, King Bruce. “You never know where they plan to attack from”, William said gloomily.
“They have a much stronger army than ours!” “And that’s exactly why I don’t think we should be wasting our precious army guarding this silly forest route!” burst out Andrew. “Why would someone who has an obviously stronger army want to take a longer route to Stirling Castle? He would confidently attack us head-on by the regular path!” He finished this statement of his with another violent sneeze.
The two of them had been sent to explore the woods to the north and west of the Stirling Castle, to make sure that no Englishmen would try to make their way in from there. King Bruce had taken up his position at New Park along with most of their army. They had laid siege to Stirling Castle, which was the only place that had left any followers who were faithful to England’s King Edward. Now Edward was trying to send in his army to regain control over Stirling Castle and lift the siege, so that his followers could be freed, and the Scots could be defeated.
William looked up at the huge, tall trees that made up the woods. They were dark and deep, and light penetrated only till a few metres ahead. The rest merged into dark silhouettes in the undergrowth. Vines and creepers grew abundantly, threatening to ensnare gullible travellers. Large, fleshy, brownish fungal structures grew on the trees in abundance. A crossbill cried somewhere, and another bird answered its call. On the whole, it was a very eerie place. “Even I’m not really convinced that the English might attack from here”, said William slowly, looking around. “Unless, of course—“
“Unless what?” demanded Andrew.
“Unless they intend to climb up the cliff and get into the castle from behind”, said William. Stirling Castle was surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, and the only way in, or out, was through the fourth side. “Pah!” snorted Andrew. “As if that’s possible!” A frightened Red fox darted out of the undergrowth as if it were being chased, and gave a quick look of fear at Andrew and William. It then bounded away immediately, as if afraid of being caught. But Andrew and William hardly noticed. They were used to the sights and sounds of the forest. They walked on, Andrew rubbing his nose, and sniffling from time to time. Only William seemed slightly wary and hesitant. Suddenly, a twig snapped behind them.
William almost jumped out of his skin. Andrew cleared his throat now and began to speak. “It’s noth—” “THE TREES HAVE EARS”, boomed a voice behind him. “Ooh! Wha—? Oh, it’s only you, Friar Donnan”, William heaved a sigh of relief. Andrew, who had been stunned for a few moments, regained his composure. It was an old friar— a monk, a priest. He held in his hands the Holy Bible. Andrew sneezed again and gave a low, clearing cough. “I’m sure, Father Donnan, if you’ll excuse me, that it’s utter nonsense—” “THE TREES HAVE EARS…” said Friar Donnan in his booming voice once again, turned on his heels and vanished.
“What does he mean?” asked William, puzzled. “Oh, he’s a little crazy”, said Andrews, “He’s one of these crazy monks who went all the way to China to learn something of medicine and wizardry. Ever since he came back, we’ve all felt he’s a little off his rocker.” William and Andrew walked on, once again discussing their strategy quietly. They hadn’t gone very far when Andrew got a coughing fit. And again, the booming voice rang behind them : “THE TREES HAVE EARS!” It was Friar Donnan again! But before Andrew and William could ask him anymore, he vanished as mysteriously as he appeared.
“What’s wrong with him?” growled an angry Andrew, whose sore throat was already making him irritable. “Maybe he’s trying to warn us of something in this forest… maybe… the English are hidden right here, listening to every word that we’re saying… waiting for the right moment to strike!” William whispered. “Or maybe he’s just talking about these mushrooms— or plants— I don’t know which”, Andrew said, pointing to the large, brown, fleshy fungi that grew abundantly on the tree trunks. “They look just like ears, don’t they?” And to tell the truth, they remarkably did look like ears— gigantic human ears.
“Oh, that’s the old tree-ear or wood-ear plant”, said William. “What’s there to talk about it? I think it’s something else. I’m sure it’s a warning!” Andrew rubbished the notion and pushed William to move on. But every time he coughed a little loudly, or cleared his throat, Friar Donnan appeared out of nowhere to announce that “the trees had ears”. William was worried now. He stopped discussing strategies with Andrew and looked around more carefully. He couldn’t see anyone hiding in the bushes or behind the trees. But, perchance, his glance fell on the tree tops! To his horror, he found English soldiers dressed in camouflage, lying in wait for the Scottish army!
Both the knights rushed back to King Bruce with the news. Their timely information gave the Scots an edge over the English, and they won the battle! After all the excitement was over, Friar Donnan was summoned to the King’s court for a reward. After all, it had been his revelation that the English soldiers were lurking in the tree tops, listening in to the Knights’ conversation! “So tell us, Friar Donnan”, began King Bruce, while the heroes of the battle, Andrew and William, looked on. “How did you find this ingenious way of warning our troops? I am indeed pleased with your wit.”
Friar Donnan looked puzzled. “I didn’t warn anyone”, he said. “But, but… you told William and Andrew—” it was the King’s turn to look surprised. “Then what were you saying about the trees having ears?” “Oh, I wasn’t talking about the war or soldiers at all”, said Friar Donnan cheerfully. “I noticed that Lord Andrew was having quite a nasty bit of sore throat. The fungal mushrooms— what we call the tree- ear or wood-ear, is edible, and can be used as a cure for the ailment.” It was now William’s turn to look sheepish while Andrew looked smug. He had been right after all! But the battle had got them their freedom, and Scotland had become an independent country.