Chapter 5: Spring Sneeze
At the top of the highest hill overlooking Cherry Hill Farm is a huge, old, gnarled fir tree. Live branches mix with old broken ones so that from a distance it looks like an old man tipping his hat. It is surrounded on this day by pretty pink cherry trees all in bloom.
At the top of this tall, old fir tree was a most unlikely sight. For here, on her balcony, stood Belle. It was such a beautiful day. It reminded her of her home in Fairlawn. Even after all these years she still missed it.
"Oh stuff," she said firmly. She fluffed her wings and returned to her spring-cleaning.
Belle's home was quite grand by mouse standards. The entrance was a knothole, which now held a bright green door with a little brass knocker made from an old button.
Inside on the first floor was a lovely sitting room. There was a table and chairs for meals and three comfortable sitting chairs near the fireplace arranged to look out the window at Cherry Hill Farm. There were curtains on the windows and carpets on the floor. Little lamps sat on the side tables and there was a hutch full of doll china, which really came from China. Everything in Belle's home had a place and everything was usually in its place (for that is how it should be).
Up a spiral staircase was Belle's bedroom. Her bed was of fine angora fur and her blanket was of rabbit down. She had a painting over her bed that reminded her of Fairlawn in summer and there was a little pocket mirror on one wall just the right size for a mouse to see her whole self in at once.
The bedroom walls were covered with brightly colored pressed flowers so it felt like she was sleeping in springtime all year round.
Below her sitting room were libraries and a kitchen, storerooms and guest rooms. There was even a bath. Far below, at the base of the old fir tree, was a lower group of rooms deep under the roots. Here were chambers for meeting with the many small earth-bound creatures whom she now called friends. In fact there was quite a community on that hill. Squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and possum mingle with cats, dogs, goats and any number of other animals and birds both wild and domestic. These visitors brought in dirt and made messes no matter how careful they were. So, when Belle did her spring-cleaning she had lots of cleaning to do.
As you know, everything in Belle's home had a place and everything was usually in its place (for that is how it should be). But today, Belle was cleaning so the carpets were rolled and the chairs were upended while she cleaned. Belle started by wiping everything down with a damp cloth and then she got a bucket of hot soapy water and scrubbed everything till it glowed brightly. Last of all she took the carpets outside, threw them over a branch, and began beating them with a long stick.
A little puff of breeze blew dust into Belle's face and she began to sneeze.
"A-Choo, Oh MY!" she cried. "A-Choo, Oh Dear!" she cried louder.
Soon she was sneezing and crying until tears of real concern came to her eyes.
*There really is a reason for Belle to be concerned. Remember I told you that Belle has special abilities that we might think of as magical. Well, Belle's sneezes are never ordinary and when they happen other things happen too.
One such time all the rose bushes along the fences, in the yard and vining on the porch burst into bloom all at once and a whole month early.
Another time all the freshly-shorn sheep grew three inches of wool in five minutes. If it had happened anywhere else but Cherry Hill Farm they may have called the evening news.
In order to know what happened this sneezy spring morning we need to get to Cherry Hill Farm right now.
Lil Mike and Grandpa James had just put the green house tomatoes into the wheelbarrow and were heading for their garden with Pal, Buddy and Snow following behind.
Lil Mike and Grandpa James had spent the day before planting seeds in neat rows. They had eight rows of corn, five rows of green beans, three hills of cucumbers and three hills of squash. There were rows of carrots and beets, lettuce and cabbage.
They were just going to plant the tomatoes and put in some onion starts when Belle started sneezing.
Suddenly the garden began to change. Corn plants poked up green fingers, bean plants popped up green heads, and cucumbers and squash started small vines while the rest of the garden joined in.
"Look Grandpa! Look Grandpa!" Lil Mike squealed and pointed from one row to the other.
"Look Grandpa!" Lil Mike pointed to the onion starts in the bag. Even they were growing.
Pal screeched his catty yowl, "Belle needs help!"
Buddy began barking orders to small animals everywhere.
A group of doves from the barn headed out to help Belle.
Grandpa Travis and the twins came running from the barn.
Wink was there as quick as a wink.
Snow however was whinnying in laughter (she found the whole thing quite funny).
Grandmas, Lissa and Becca, came hurrying out from the house where they had been working.
Grandpa James was still standing there with his mouth wide open. The boys were laughing and pointing right along with Lil Mike first at the garden then at the tomatoes growing in the wheelbarrow.
Grandma Lissa put her hands on her hips. "For evermore James," she said, "You really do need to control that green thumb of yours or some mad scientist will be digging up the whole place." She turned and marched back into the house while Grandpa James just stammered.
This sent everyone into fits of laughter all over again.
Lil Mike sat down to watch it all in wonder.
Poor Belle was soon recovering with a cup of tea surrounded by animal friends. She apologized profusely to everyone in sight. The garden slowed and returned to a natural pace.
So Cherry Hill Farm had the best garden ever that year and Belle decided to send her carpets out for cleaning from that day on.
Airabella Quick of Cherry Hill Farm is © copyright 2008 by Kimberlyn Kammerer. All rights reserved.
May not be reprinted elsewhere without permission from the author/illustrator.