He could hear the Piggers breaking through the undergrowth, their dogs howling after the chase. The thorn bush dug into his arms and legs. If he twisted his head to one side he could see them coming through the woods. They kept their dogs on short leads, straining to keep control of the beasts. He counted five or six men, two women and a couple of children. They were dressed old fashioned, like Essie, but she at least was clean. As they came closer he could smell them. The stench made his eyes water. He could see their faces, sallow with age. Their eyes looked sunken, their skin shrivelled. The children looked pale and flabby and covered with dirt from head to toe.
‘What we got here, then?’ said the lead Pigger. ‘Caught a rabbit in a thicket, have we?’
‘No,’ Gideon said. He didn’t like being thought of as a rabbit. He did his best to untangle himself from the thorns. What if Essie hadn’t been joking?
‘Do you plan to eat me?’ he asked, because he couldn’t be doing with not knowing. This place was giving him a headache.
The lead Pigger snorted. ‘Maybes,’ he said, passing his dog’s lead to another man. He walked up to Gideon and snapped away the branches to get him free of the Hawthorne.
‘’Pends if you took fodder from our grounds.’Gideon could taste the man’s breath. It reminded him of the day the sewage pipes backed up down the street.
‘I haven’t taken anything of yours,’ he said.
‘Then why was you running from us?. Them as run usually got something to hide.’