Thursday morning Annamari thought it might be nice to go visit Bear at his house so she could see how the repairs were going. Now, she wasn’t going to hurry him, she would never do that, she just thought he might feel better if she showed a little curiosity, confidence, or willingness to help in these big undertakings. She walked down the hill to the old mill, but when she got to the door she was surprised to see the handwritten sign just above the knocker.
‘Come another time? And rather to another place? What nonsense is this?’ Annamari scoffed.
‘Maybe Bear is mad at someone, or he may be so busy with everything he has to do that he can’t receive guests, or… he’s simply lost it!?’
Annamari was not going to leave it at that. She knocked on the door. Then she banged on the door. And when there was no answer, without saying a word, she simply turned the knob and went in. She found Bear hunched over his notebook, deep in thought. He was so surprised to see Annamari standing in the middle of the room smiling, that he was lost for words.
‘What on earth happened to you? What’s that sign on the door?’ Annamari asked.
Bear told Annamari about what had happened over the past few days and the unpleasant run-ins he’d had with Rabbit, Puppy and Cat. He also told her how hard he had worked, and how carefully, and even so, no one was happy with him. He was very, very worked up over this last point and could scarcely hold back his tears. Annamari thought for a moment and then said, ‘It’s time we all got together and talked this over as a group.’
The next morning Annamari dropped five envelopes into the old mailbox, each one personally addressed to each resident of Mummutown. Puppy, who usually carried out his head mail carrier duties in the morning, walked out to the mailbox shortly after he had woken up, his mail-wagon in tow. He removed the letters from the mailbox in a most professional manner. Luckily, it hadn’t rained the night before, so none of the letters were wet. He then flipped through the letters to see whom they were addressed to and where he had to go. He was surprised to see that except for Bear, everyone had received a letter, including himself. He got so excited that he tore the letter open at once.
That day everyone in Mummutown received the same message. It read:
Dear Friend, It is my pleasure to invite you to tea on Friday at 3pm. I will be expecting your company. Annamari
For the special occasion, Annamari used her most beautiful tea set. Everyone had gotten a little dressed up, especially Rabbit, Cat and Puppy, because each of them felt that the invitation might have something to do with the previous days’ events, but none of them was going to mention that. Mostly, they just sat there next to each other on the sofa, either looking intently at the pattern on the carpet or paying attention to Little Ermine, who was sitting next to Koala’s chair playing with the tassels hanging from the tablecloth. Koala had brought the honey-ginger biscuits she had baked for Bear. Now the cookies sat, waiting to be eaten, on an elegant platter next to the tea set. Bear was sitting in an armchair making bets with himself about how long it would take for Little Ermine to knock everything onto the floor. He thought it wouldn’t be such a shame about the tea, but the cookies… that’s an entirely different matter. Annamari sat down in the other armchair.
‘As you all know,’ Annamari began, ‘Bear came here to help us keep the manor in good condition. He is a genuine professional, careful, thorough, and knows everything about making the serious repairs needed around here.’
Bear began counting to himself, like he always did when he was a bit embarrassed. At this particular moment he was counting the number of planks in the hardwood floor.
‘First, he is going to do the repairs that affect all of us: like the little bridge, where anyone could easily get hurt, like the mail box, where everyone’s letters could get wet when it rains, like the clothesline, where all of us like to dry our clothes. These are all for the common good.
‘Yes, yes.’ interrupted Cat. ‘But I think it’s also for the common good if I can’t cook a proper pot of tea, because then I can’t have any of you over for it.’
‘Exactly!’ piped in Rabbit. ‘If the spiders bite me to pieces or I freeze to death because of the broken windows, then you won’t be able to enjoy my company, and that’s also part of the common good.’
‘And my doorbell? Isn’t that part of the common good? How will I know if you’ve come to visit me, if I can’t hear that you’ve arrived?’ added Puppy.
‘True, those are all valid matters, valid personal matters.’ replied Annamari. ‘If these things take a little bit longer to fix, well, no one is really the worse for it. And I promise that all of these things will be taken care of, but you have to be a little more patient.’
And they went on discussing it until nightfall. Annamari asked everybody to do their best to avoid needlessly pestering Bear, only in the case that it was really something affecting all of them.
When Rabbit self-importantly asked, ‘And how will we know when we can pester him?’, Annamari came up with a great idea. She asked Bear to write up a time when he could receive visitors for each day. And everyone in Mummutown would have to duly respect those times.
And that’s why, the very next day, Bear put up a new sign, much bigger than the last one, that said:
Office hours (
Duly Strictly kept)
Even weeks: M – W – F 7am–8am
Odd weeks: T – TH 6am–7am
Bring biscuits. The honey-ginger ones.