Ignatius felt himself smile as he realized that never would the wolf be able to attack any of the surviving members of the squirrel’s family, or any other creature ever again. The squirrel’s wife could have her children and raise them without fear. His mother would be around to see her son bring up a family. It’s because of me, Ignatius thought for a moment, and remembered the “hero’s medal” the creek had given him, which was still tied to his breast. You are nothing less than a hero, Ignatius…
But he shook his head, pushing the thought out of his mind. He distracted himself by digging a grave for the wolf’s last victim, the poor rabbit. After he had buried it and placed a wreath of pine boughs on its grave, he picked up the miserable corpse of the wolf and slung it over his shoulder. Then he headed back down to the stream. He was forced to go the entire way barefoot, as he had forgotten where he left his shoes. He walked through dirt and mud, over prickly pine needles and sharp rocks, and on rough gravelly terrain, and he knew that his feet would never be the same again. But he didn’t much mind it.
When he reached the stream, it had occurred to him that he never told the squirrel exactly how long he was to stay at the castle before returning to the forest, and when he realized his mistake he was furious with himself for being so careless and absent-minded. He threw the wolf’s corpse to the ground and flung himself down on the bank of the stream, crying and shouting at himself, “You fool! You idiot! You careless, mindless sack of horse manure! Now he will never know when to come back! His wife and children will think him dead; and what about Avaline? Exactly how long do you expect Avaline to accommodate a squirrel in her kitchen, you moron!” He shouted and moaned and punched himself in the arms and kicked himself in the legs, as he was apt to do whenever he felt he had done something troublesome. He was so unkempt and ragged and making such a spectacle of himself that anyone who happened to pass by could’ve easily mistaken him for a bratty young peasant boy. Ignatius was aware of this, and it only made him cry harder and shout louder. “You’re no knight! You’re no hero! You’ll never be a hero!” he hollered, and he reached for the white, starry flower he had been given as a hero’s medal, intending to rip it off.
But he couldn’t remove it. The flower’s stem was tied fast to the threads of his sack, and he couldn’t get it off. He tugged as hard as he could, not caring if he tore more of the already-downtrodden sack in his efforts, but the flower simply wouldn’t budge.Ignatius groaned loudly and, after several more failed attempts, gave up. Then, worn out by his breakdown, he curled up on the edge of the creek and dozed off.