The Merqueen’s Rose
The Hidden Forest – Chapter Four
Adelaide and Louis had only been on Nantucket a few days when Louis started sniffling. Nana thought it would be best for him to stay in his room for the afternoon and rest so he could nip a possible summer cold in the bud. She was on her way out to play golf with the Holy Rollers, a foursome of her friends that she had nicknamed because they liked to get together and play poker at the church on Saturday nights. Adelaide wanted to go with her, but Nana said it would be more fun for her another time, when it wasn’t such a serious golf game. “And remember,” she said, “stay on our side of the stone wall. There are some loose stones on it, and I don’t want you getting hurt.” Poppa was to stay home and keep an eye on things, but as soon as Nana left, he promptly fell asleep under the green umbrella on the porch, his golf hat covering his eyes.
Adelaide felt restless. She wanted to go on an adventure, but she knew she wasn’t to go past the stone wall. All of these rules, she thought. Hadn’t she heard somewhere that rules were made to be broken? She was sure she had. She went to her room, grabbed her binoculars, and flew out the back door into the summer breeze. She climbed up into the old oak tree by the house, sat in the crook of some branches, and looked through her binoculars to get the lay of the land. Wildflowers were in bloom all around Nana’s vegetable garden. It was all so inviting! She decided to gather a bunch of wildflowers and start documenting the flora and fauna on the island. She hopped out of the tree, grabbed an old basket and some garden shears that were hanging on the fence surrounding the vegetable garden, and began looking around.
She reached the stone wall where so many of the flowers were growing when something over the wall grabbed her attention—a beautiful white rose. It was larger than the rest of the roses on the bush and looked almost too perfect. Ooh, she had to get that one. She looked back to see if Poppa was still asleep. He was. She didn’t even have to see him—she could hear his snoring all the way from the porch. She looked back at the stone wall. It looked harmless. Who was to know if she quickly climbed over it?
Adelaide looked this way and that, then scrambled over the wall. There, that wasn’t so hard. She went over to the rose and smelled it. As she clipped it she decided it would go right in the center of her notebook, when something else caught her eye—a flash of movement and light by the grove of birch trees. Something was over there. She stepped closer. Nothing. Then, a flash—there it was again! Now over in the middle of the grove. Flash, flash! Then she saw something, under a fern leaf, sparkling in the sunlight.
“Hello,” she whispered. “Hello? Is anyone there?” She looked through her binoculars.
“Psst!” a voice whispered back. She inched closer. “Psssssst! Hey you!” it whispered again.
To her astonishment, a tiny brown and tan field mouse stepped out from underneath the fern. He wore a gold helmet with a red ruby sparkling in the center. He looked nervously about as his paw gripped a tiny gold sword in a hammered, bejeweled belt.
“Listen,” he said, “I’m not supposed to be talking to you humans. But … she’d be really mad if she knew you took her rose. You better put it back and go on your merry way, got it?”
Adelaide stared at the creature in shock. She had never seen a mouse talk before, although she’d always believed that animals could talk—they just didn’t bother to do it around people.
“Look. C’mere. A little closer,” the mouse said. Adelaide knelt down. “Okay. Now, you know about the merqueen, don’tcha?” the mouse asked.
“The mer-queen?” Adelaide repeated. “No, I don’t think so. I’m familiar with mermaids though. My Poppa has told me stories—”
“Well, this ain’t no fairy tale, lady,” the mouse said, cutting her off. “There’s a queen, see, and she’s a mermaid, like, but she’s the mermaid—the queen of all underwater creatures. Even the merking gets the lead out when she’s around.”
“But why? Is she really evil, or—”
“Shh! I can’t go into it! You just have no idea,” said the mouse as he wiped a tear from his eye and tried not to shake.
“Well, I’m really sorry, Mr. … uh, Mr. …”
“Oh yes, of course, of course, of course. We should introduce ourselves, you’re right, of course.” With one sweeping gesture, he removed his helmet and bowed very low. “My name is Captain Henry the Twenty-Sixth. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Well, thank you, Captain Henry. My name is Adelaide, and I didn’t know the rose belonged to anyone, so I’m sorry. And I’m not a grown-up yet, although I tell you, I can’t wait until I am.”
“You’re not?” he asked as he stepped forward and sniffed at her. “Ah, jeez. Well, it’s impossible to tell with you humans, you all look alike. Anyway, you’d better beat it, and I mean, like, yesterday. She’s got watchers all over the place keeping an eye out.” He put on his helmet and glanced around one more time.
“And if I was you, I’d put the rose back, like, yesterday, got it?” he said. Adelaide nodded, eyes wide.
“Good,” the mouse said, adjusting his helmet just so. “All right, little lady, ciao for now.” And with a flash, Captain Henry the Twenty-Sixth was gone.
Adelaide spun around looking for his gold helmet, but she couldn’t see him anywhere.
She sighed and wished he had stayed longer so she could ask him questions. Who was the merqueen? What did she look like? Was there any way to go spy on her? Where did she live, and was she really as mean as Captain Henry had made her sound?
She looked down at the rose in her basket. What should she do? There was no way to put it back really, because she’d already clipped it. Maybe she could keep it and just leave a note for the merqueen explaining what had happened. Adelaide decided that’s what she would do, so she picked up her basket of flowers and went to Nana’s gardening shack, where she found an old brown pencil and a piece of paper. She thought for a moment before writing.
Dear Your Highness, the Merqueen,
I am so sorry for having clipped your rose, but, you see, I didn’t know it belonged to anyone. Usually wildflowers are really, well, independent and don’t belong to anyone. Hence the term “wild.” But I digress! After I clipped it, I couldn’t see any way to put it back! So I’ve decided to take it into my Nana’s house and put it in water, so it doesn’t die such an early death. So if you need it, that’s where it’ll be. Thank you very much. Have an OUTSTANDING day.
There, that should do it. So it wasn’t like she was stealing the rose, she was really saving the rose, and letting the merqueen know where it was. She put the note where the rose had been and scrambled back over the wall. She made one last scan across the horizon through her binoculars, then ran back to the house to tell Louis all about Captain Henry and the merqueen.