Pirate Queen Hagatha and the lost treasure

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It was a beautiful spring afternoon.The sky was a brilliant marble blue and the sun shone young and timid amidst white cottony clouds. All along the river bank the little mice were busy with their annual spring cleaning. Little Milly and Miss Daisy had just hung the rugs out to air, and Mrs. Periwinkle and Harry Button were busy scrubbing and polishing their windows. The whole river bank seemed to be welcoming the spring. Even the river rats had launched their sailing boats and were cruising happily along the current, lounging lazily on the spotlessly clean deck.

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“Oh, aren’t days like this just the most pleasant days of all,” said Bonnie Bluebell dreamily. She had just finished the chores her mother had given her to do and was now rocking back and forth in a rose petal hammock strapped between two willow branches. “Spring cleaning day is not exactly my favorite day of the year,” said her brother Pet. Bonnie Bluebell looked at him and sighed. Her twin brother really didn’t have a romantic bone in his body. She continued rocking back and forth looking dreamily at the white clouds in the sky, using her imagination to shape the clouds into castles and dragons. “Let’s go and play pirates, ” suggested Pet a little pleadingly. He was bored out of his mind and all his friends were busy helping their parents with the spring cleaning. “Well, all right,” replied Bonnie Bluebell sympathetically. She felt a little sorry for her brother, he really did look quite bored, besides she rather liked playing pirates, especially on beautiful sunny days like this. Pet and Bonnie Bluebell decided to start their game by finding a pirate ship. All pirates needed to have their own ship. “Let’s look for one down by the harbor where the river rats keep their boats,” said Pet enthusiastically. They were both getting excited now and eager to start their game. “I want to be Pirate Queen Hagatha,” said Bonnie Bluebell and chuckled. Pirate Queen Hagatha was a famous river rat from long, long ago who had sailed even to the mighty sea beyond the river, there she was rumored to have plundered and terrorized every sea mice fisher who dared to set their sails a ‘sea. “Yes, fine,” said Pet, “but I am the captain, and you must address me as Captain Pet.” “Fine,” said Bonnie Bluebell and sighed. Her brother always had to be in charge.

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The river was a beautiful glossy blue with little friendly wavelets chuckling happily around the prow of the dinghy.
“Oh, isn’t it just lovely!” sighed Bonnie Bluebell, she was sitting snuggly with her little feet in the water while Pet steered the boat. Pet looked at his sister and shrugged, “we need some real adventure, we are pirates you know, not Sunday picnickers.” But Bonnie Bluebell was perfectly happy just sitting there in the gentle spring sun feeling the cool blue water playing around her bare feet. The breeze was blowing them along the river at a peaceful and pleasant pace, and Bonnie Bluebell had almost forgotten that she was supposed to be Hagatha the terrifying Pirate Queen. “Look, there is something shiny in the river,” said Pet suddenly, “Fast sis, catch it!.” “Ay, ay Captain,” said Bonnie Bluebell briskly, and bent down towards the water surface to catch the shiny object. Pet steered the boat closer to it so that Bonnie Bluebell could pick it up as it floated by. “What is it?” asked Pet eagerly. “Oh Pet!” said Bonnie Bluebell in an excited voice, “it is a glass bottle and it has a message inside!”

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The bottle was green and transparent and had a faded label on it that said: “Strawberry cordial”. Bonnie Bluebell handed the bottle over to Pet and after a lot of trying and failing he managed to fish the little rolled up piece of paper out of the narrow bottle neck. He unrolled the paper, and his eyes widened in amazement. “What is it? What is it?” Bonnie Bluebell was so excited that she started jumping up and down rocking the boat violently. “Stop that you silly girl!” said Pet, but he was too excited to be angry. He turned the paper around and showed it to Bonnie Bluebell. A smile spread across her face as she saw what it was. “It is a treasure map!” she shrieked thrillingly, and almost started jumping up and down again, but only almost. Pet nodded his head beamingly. It really was a treasure map!

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The treasure map was old with sepia-tinted edges, and the writing was difficult to read with long snaky letters and ink-stained curves. “It must be very old,” said Bonnie Bluebell admiringly. Pet nodded. He was too busy deciphering the writing to pay any attention to his sister. “See!” he exclaimed suddenly, “there is the X! X marks the spot you know.” Bonnie Bluebell examined the map. Pet was right, in the bottom left corner there was a faded X. “I know where that is,” said Pet excitedly. “It is the old Fishermen’s cove!” “Then let’s go Captain,” smiled Bonnie Bluebell. And they set sail for Fishermen’s Cove.

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Fishermen’s Cove was a beautiful idyllic little island with a lovely harbor full of fishing boats, river steamers and brightly painted house boats. The harbor was dotted with colorful cottages in emerald, blue and strawberry red. River rats, field mice, fishing frogs and others alike occupied the cove, selling fish and fishing flies and shrimps from their boats or little stalls on the nearby fish market. “Come on, let’s moor our boat by the jetty there,” said Pet and pointed. Bonnie Bluebell nodded her head in agreement. She was both excited and nervous to be at Fishermen’s Cove without any grown-ups to look after them. They fastened the dinghy securely by a rope to one of the many poles on the jetty and climbed on land. “So where are we supposed to go?” asked Bonnie Bluebell. Pet looked at the map, he turned it sideways, then upside-down and then scratched his head. “I’m not sure,” he said. “It is difficult to tell, but I think I can make out the word “Dragonfly Meadow” next to where the X is.” “Let’s ask someone,” suggested Bonnie Bluebell.

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Pet and Bonnie Bluebell decided to try in one of the many taverns close to the Fish Market. They chose to start with a little white blue-doored tavern called “The Pirating Pony”. It seemed quite promising with a proper Pirate name and all.

“And what would this young gentleman and little lady prefer?” asked the bartender charmingly. He was an old river rat with a patch over one of his eyes and a long worn-out red coat. Bonnie Bluebell thought he really looked like an old pirate. “Two glasses of carrot juice, please.” said Pet. “Oh, and a little drop of orange juice in mine please,” added Bonnie Bluebell sweetly. The bartender smiled and fetched them their drinks. “Let’s ask him about Dragonfly Meadow,” whispered Bonnie Bluebell to Pet, “he seems nice.” The bartender was busy taking someone else’s order, but after he finished with the drinks Pet called him over. “Yes young master,” smiled the bartender, “may I get you something else?” Pet shook his head a little nervously, then he mustered his courage and asked the bartender in a little shaky voice: “Have you ever heard of Dragonfly Meadow?” “Why yes sir, I certainly have! It is that closed in marsh up by the old harbor. A creepy place, if I may add.” The bartender looked at Pet and Bonnie Bluebell with a strange look in his eyes, then he lowered his voice and whispered eerily: “You know, Dragonfly Meadow is rumored to be the hide-out of the legendary Pirate Queen Hagatha.” Bonnie Bluebell and Pet gasped, and their fur stood straight up on their backs. “But sir,” said Pet in a small voice, “surely Hagatha must be dead by now. She lived centuries ago!” The bartender looked at Pet mysteriously and whispered in his ear” Perhaps that is so, my young explorer, but they say that Pirate Queen Hagatha still haunts the place, making sure not a living soul will ever come near her old hide-out. What it is she is guarding over no one knows.” Pet and Bonnie Bluebell looked at each other and they could see that they were thinking the exact same thing: The treasure! Pirate Queen Hagatha was protecting her treasure!

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The road to Dragonfly Meadow was narrow and winding with thickly grown shrubs and bushes leaning in from both sides of the road. Bonnie Bluebell kept hurting herself on the long sharp thorns hidden in between the leafy branches reaching for her like tentacles from the wayside. “Are you sure this is the road the bartender meant?” she asked Pet, while trying her best to fight off the branches. “Yes, I am sure. There were no other roads. This must be the one taking us to Dragonfly Meadow.” The road kept narrowing in on them and the grass and shrubs just kept thickening the further along they went. Soon they couldn’t even see the road underneath them, it was like walking through untouched wilderness. Even the trees bent over sideways to block the sun from peeking inside.

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Pet did his best to protect himself and his sister from the thorny branches, but they were just too many and soon they were both covered in cuts and bruises bleeding unto their clothes. “Wait! Pet! I think I hear something,” said Bonnie Bluebell suddenly. Pet stopped and listened. There was a very faint swooshing sound coming from somewhere behind the trees, as though something of a very light weight was flying around in there. Pet looked at Bonnie Bluebell and she beamed exhausted: “Dragonflies!”

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Dragonfly Meadow was not a marsh like the bartender had said, it was a beautiful overgrown field of blossoming wildflowers and warm soft sunlight. Blue and green dragonflies were hovering gently over the unarranged flowers and small fat bumblebees zoomed from petal to petal drinking the warm sweet nectar. “Oh, it is so beautiful!” sighed Bonnie Bluebell passionately. Even Pet had to admit that the meadow was worth admiring, if not for the beauty of the flowers then at least for the fairy-like dragonflies swarming about like tiny be-winged rainbows. Bonnie Bluebell could not contain her excitement, she burst out into a wild and dreamy dance, twirling and pirouetting amongst the tall joyful-looking blossoms. Pet stood and watched his sister. She looked like a flower fairy gone mad. But he had to smile at her audacious excitement. “Pet! Pet! Come here! Come look!!” Bonnie Bluebell waved eagerly at him from across the meadow. Pet started running towards her. “What is it?” he asked impatiently. “It’s a house!” exclaimed Bonnie Bluebell in a shrill voice. “Oh Pet! It must be Pirate Queen Hagatha’s house!”

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Pirate Queen Hagatha’s house was a small tree-stemmed house underneath a majestic leafy maple. The door was carved in oak and all the little windows were adorned with silver thimbles filled with purple and pink wildflowers. It did not look like a haunted house, thought Bonnie Bluebell to herself. In fact, it looked rather cozy. “Let’s knock on the door,” she suggested a little nervously. “And who do you expect will open?” asked Pet teasingly, “The ghost of Pirate Queen Hagatha?” His sister could be quite foolish sometimes. “Well, if there is a ghost in there, she’ll just walk through the door, right? I have read that ghosts can do that.” Pet ignored his sister’s suggestion and opened the door brusquely. It wasn’t locked and Pet paraded bravely into the empty house. Bonnie Bluebell followed him a little more carefully.

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The house was bright and cheerful-looking. There was a small mushroom-shaped coffee table in the center of the room and little stools made of birch logs to sit on, the floor was carpeted with dry white moss dyed pink by raspberry juice, and every wall was covered in tall fully occupied bookshelves. “Oh, what a sweet little house!” exclaimed Bonnie Bluebell excitedly. “Oh, isn’t it just lovely, Pet!” Pet looked gloomily at his sister, this was not what he had expected at all from a haunted house. Where were the cobwebs, the dusty old furniture, the squeaky doors and the winding staircase? Pet sat sulkily down in one of the armchairs by the heath. “This is probably not even the right house,” he said disappointed. “Yes it is!” replied Bonnie Bluebell, “just look what I found! Letters addresses to none other than Hagatha herself!” She held up a pile of old letters that had been left on a beautifully polished chestnut writing desk. Pet grabbed the letters and inspected them thoroughly. “But this can’t be right,” he frowned his brow in surprise, “these letters are dated 27th February this year!” Pet handed the letters back to Bonnie Bluebell and she could see that he was absolutely right! Then all of a sudden they heard the sound of a door opening and closing, and from behind them came a shrill icy voice: “What are the two of you doing in my house!?”

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Bonnie Bluebell caught her brother’s hand and held it tightly shaking with fear. Both the little mice were frozen to the ground in fear. They didn’t dare turning around to face the menacing ghost. “Speak up!” said the ghost in a threatening tone. “What are you doing in my house?” Bonnie Bluebell heard the ghost’s footsteps approaching, and finally it seemed that she had regained the use of her voice, she screamed with all her might: “iiiiiiiiiiiik!!!” That high-pitched scream woke Pet up from his trance-like fright. He turned around fiercely, with his fists up, ready to protect his screaming sister. “But…….,” he stuttered and lowered his fists, “You’re not a ghost!” Hearing those words, Bonnie Bluebell stopped screaming and turned around slowly to face the ghost. “I am certainly not!” said the little middle-aged lady mouse standing in front of them. She was small of height, wore a white lace apron and a cream kerchief over her head. Her face was sweet and round with pink rosy cheeks and her eyes shone in a lively brown. “W-w-w-who are you?” asked the still frightened Bonnie Bluebell timidly. “I am Hagatha. And who might you be?” “But you can’t be Hagatha!,” exclaimed Pet, “She is long dead!”

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Hagatha had busied herself in the kitchen while Bonnie Bluebell were toasting bread over the blazing fireplace. Pet sat in the armchair next to his sister trying hard to solver the mystery of Hagatha’s true identity.
“There now, tea is ready,” said Hagatha in a soft sing-song voice while entering the sitting room with a tray full of cups, plates, a jar of strawberry preserve, a saucer of cream and a huge flowery steaming teapot. It seemed like all her anger had vanished when she had understood that Pet and Bonnie Bluebell were just little children out exploring. “How are you doing with the bread, sweetheart?” Bonnie Bluebell smiled to Hagatha and replied sweetly: “nearly done, Miss.” Bonnie Bluebell had really taken to the lovely and kind lady.

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“Come on, little master, let’s start our tea then,” Hagtha beckoned Pet to follow her to the little coffee table. Shortly after, Bonnie Bluebell joined them with the freshly toasted bread. Hagatha poured their tea and distributed sugar and cream and buttered toast with strawberry preserve. The two little mice had not eaten in a long while and almost forgot their table manners in their hunger. “So,” said Pet after his third toast, “are you going to tell us whether or not you are the famous Pirate Queen Hagatha?” Hagatha looked at him endearingly and laughed. “I am sorry to disappoint you little friend, but I am not. My name is surely Hagatha, but I am no Pirate Queen.” “So why are you living in her house?” asked Pet, trying hard to be as polite as he could, but his curiousity gave him away. “Well, this house was given to me by my mother who had inherited it from her mother again. I guess it has been in the family for generations.” “So that means,” continued Pet, “that you could be Pirate Queen Hagatha’s great-great-great granddaughter?!”. Hagtha nodded her head smilingly. “Pet!”, whispered Bonnie Bluebell, “we should show her the map, she is the heir after all.” Pet hesitated, but he knew his sister was right, so he reluctantly hauled the old treasure map out his pocket and passed it over to Hagatha. “We found this in the river inside an old bottle, that is why we have come here, to find the lost treasure.” Hagatha looked at the map and smiled without any sign of surprise. “You knew about the map?” exclaimed Bonnie Bluebell in astonishment. “Why, yes,” said Hagatha with a twinkle in her eye, “I am the one who drew it up.”

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“Yes! Yes, I did!” chuckled Hagatha and poured herself some more tea. Pet and Bonnie Bluebell stared at her with wide eyes, waiting impatiently for the rest of the explanation. “As you can see,” continued Hagatha, “I live alone here, I am the last of Pirate Queen Hagatha’s family, and I didn’t want her secret to die with me. I wanted the world, or at least someone besides myself, to know the truth about who she really was.” “But what about the treasure?” asked Pet eagerly, “where is the treasure?” “The treasure,” smiled Hagatha and got up from her chair, “is here.” She walked over to one of the bookshelves and pulled out a fat leather-bound volume. The pages were old and torn, but still gilded with sparkling gold. She carried the book back to the coffee table and put it in Pet’s lap. “This is the treasure?” asked Pet in a small disappointed voice. “But Pet!” exclaimed Bonnie Bluebell, “see what is written on the outside of the book!” Pet looked down at the cover of the book. In snaky golden letters it spelled out: The Life Book of Hagatha. Traveler. Explorer. Sailor. “Is this…?” asked Pet, shaking with curiosity, “Pirate queen Hagatha’s diary?” “It certainly is!” replied Hagatha beamingly.

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“Yes! Yes, I did!” chuckled Hagatha and poured herself some more tea. Pet and Bonnie Bluebell stared at her with wide eyes, waiting impatiently for the rest of the explanation. “As you can see,” continued Hagatha, “I live alone here, I am the last of Pirate Queen Hagatha’s family, and I didn’t want her secret to die with me. I wanted the world, or at least someone besides myself, to know the truth about who she really was.” “But what about the treasure?” asked Pet eagerly, “where is the treasure?” “The treasure,” smiled Hagatha and got up from her chair, “is here.” She walked over to one of the bookshelves and pulled out a fat leather-bound volume. The pages were old and torn, but still gilded with sparkling gold. She carried the book back to the coffee table and put it in Pet’s lap. “This is the treasure?” asked Pet in a small disappointed voice. “But Pet!” exclaimed Bonnie Bluebell, “see what is written on the outside of the book!” Pet looked down at the cover of the book. In snaky golden letters it spelled out: The Life Book of Hagatha. Traveler. Explorer. Sailor. “Is this…?” asked Pet, shaking with curiosity, “Pirate queen Hagatha’s diary?” “It certainly is!” replied Hagatha beamingly.

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That evening they ate a lovely a dinner together. Hagatha was an excellent cook. she served fried cheese sticks, bean salad, fresh rolls, cold rhubarb soup and a heavenly vanilla custard cream pie. Bonnie Bluebell and Pet both said it was the best dinner they had ever had. After they had finished eating Hagtha showed them another way back to Fishermen’s cove by the ocean. Here there were no thorns to poke them or overgrown shrubs to fight through. When they arrived at the jetty where their little dingy was still moored securely, they both hugged Hagatha and promised to come back and visit.

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The journey home was calm and slow, and as the orange orb of the sun was setting in a magenta sea, they arrived safely home, pulled the dingy back up on land and walked the little rose path up to their house. When their mother asked them where they had been, Bonnie Bluebell shrugged and said lazily “just out for a walk.” she looked at Pet and they smiled secretively to each other. That night Pet read out loud from Pirate Queen Hagtha’s diary and they both drifted to sleep with the sound of the sea and the laughter of the wind playing lullabies in their dreams.

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THE END

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All the gorgeous art work is by the very talented Jill Barklem

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