Mirabel and her whole family walked together up the hill toward the stable. Father and Rowan carried the sack full of bread between them and, from time to time, Adelaide and Merek grabbed hold of the middle of the sack and helped by setting it on their shoulders. The family talked as they walked, making no effort to hurry, for there was much to tell about what had happened during their time apart.
When they crossed the little bridge Adelaide and Merek found sticks to throw in to Disappearing Brook and everyone waited while they watched their sticks flow down the stream. Mirabel ran to find her own stick and threw it too.”It’s been a long time since I’ve joined in play with a little child,” she thought. “I’ve been so busy with work that I started to feel like an adult.”
Sir Andrew, his face lit up with a great smile, met them at the door of the big, empty stable.
“It does my heart good to see your whole family together,” he said. “And soon the royal family will join us and everyone from the village will travel to these foothills and we will celebrate because the entire kingdom is together again. Our festival will combine the spring festival and the sheep shearing festival. Everyone from the Mountain Kingdom will be invited as well. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.”
“Rowan and Adelaide and Merek, you can help me take the bread to the workers in the upper fields,” said their father.
“And, Mirabel, I told the rescue team that I’d bring you to them,” said Sir Andrew. They’ve already started practicing along the edge of the muddy field.” Mirabel followed him, noticing that the hill fields were now dressed in a cloak of small green plants.
“I’ll walk with you,” said Mirabel’s mother, catching up with Sir Andrew and Mirabel as they trekked down the hill through the fields.
Sir Andrew, and Mirabel and her mother stood in a clump of trees where the hill met the plain.
“Hmph”, said Sir Andrew, “I thought we would find the rescuers here where I left them, walking in small circles as they practiced with the skies.”
“Look,” said Mirabel, pointing,” They are way down there, halfway to the causeway!”
“Look at that!” exclaimed Sir Andrew. “And look at how fast they are moving.”
“Now they are turning and heading back toward us,” said Mirabel, stepping out from under the trees onto a path that ran along the edge of the foothills just above the field. She waved wildly and Sir Andrew and her mother joined her.
Ellyn and her four cousins waved back.
“I’ll run along the path and meet them,” said Mirabel.
“Off you go, said Sir Andrew, smiling.
Running along the path toward the rescue team, Mirabel remembered the first day when she and Rowan had run from the green boat to barn hill. On that day, running in the foot hills, along the causeway, and up the path at barn hill she felt like she was exploring a foreign land. But, today, the foothills and all she could see had become familiar territory.
Now the five people on skis called out to her,”Mirabel, Mirabel, Mirabel!” Now she was reminded of the day when she traveled to the flooded village on the green boat and her classmates called to her out their windows.
Eager to meet Ellyn’s cousins, Mirabel ran faster, and, soon, smiling and panting, she reached them, five people with two of them pulling an empty sled.
“Mirabel, Mirabel ! ” We are so happy to see you,” said Ellyn as the skiers stopped, and looked up the hill toward Mirabel. I have such good news to report. But first, meet my cousins. Here are the twins, Peter and Peyton.”
“Good morning, and thank you for joining the rescue team,” said Mirabel, smiling at the two boys who looked exactly like each other. Mirabel had heard of identical twins, but she had never before met two people who looked exactly alike and now she wondered how she would tell them apart.
“This is how you can tell us apart,” said Peter. “I have a scar on my left arm.” He held up is arm, explaining, “I wasn’t careful enough when I was learning how to use an axe.”
“And this is Viola, the eldest child in the family,” said Ellyn. “And this is the second oldest, Rosamund. The parent kept their youngest child, Elia, at home to help on the farm.”
“Good morning, Viola and Rosamond,” said Mirabel. “Is it difficult to pull that sled?”
“Good morning, Mirabel,” said Viola. “It’s very easy now because it’s empty. Maybe you could be our passenger!”
“I’ll be happy to do that job!” said Mirabel, laughing.
As Viola and Rosamund positioned the sled next to the base of the hill, Ellyn said, “We’ve made an exciting discovery! The fields are drying out and, here and there, we find little islands that are dry enough to walk on without skis. Sometimes the islands are long and narrow.”
“Does that mean that the passenger in the sled could get out and walk when we come to those sections?” asked Mirabel.
“Let’s find out, said Ellyn. There’s an island ahead. I’m sure you can safely walk on it. Meanwhile, I think we better add a third, person and maybe a fourth person to the pulling team.”
As Mirabel stepped into the sled, Ellyn, took hold of a rope already attached to it.
Now Ellyn, Viola and Rosamund, held their ropes over their shoulders, took a few steps until the ropes were taut. Then they tugged hard. At first the sled appeared to be stuck, but, then, inch by inch it moved until suddenly it began to slide along the mud.
“This is fun!” said Mirabel. “I hope the sickly prince enjoys this ride as much as I do.”
Soon Mirabel spotted a dry area of the field that rose just a bit higher than flat, muddy area. “I’ll try to walk across that dry area.” said Mirabel.”
The pulling team positioned the sled close to the dry island, and Mirabel stepped out onto dry land. She moved slowly just in case the land was not as dry as it looked and she had to hop back into the sled.”
“The ground is firm,” she said, walking along parallel to the path of the sled. “But I don’t know whether the sickly prince will be strong enough to do this.”
“I know the sickly prince because I worked in the castle with Cook Agnes,” reminded Ellyn. “I’m guessing he will be capable of short walks like this.”
Back in the sled, Mirabel realized that Ellyn’s cousins were close to her age. “it has been so long since I spent time with people of my age,” she thought. “Tonight at barn hill they will tell me about how the flood was for them and Rowan and I will tell of our adventures.” Suddenly a great sense of joy and gratitude, like rays of sunshine, warmed Mirabel and sparked her smile.
Ronduin, Cook Agnes, the King and the Queen gathered around the table for their mid-day meal. But Ronduin’s attention was not on the strong smell of onions in the soup, or the loaf of bread on the dark wooden board. The kitchen was changing and that made Ronduin feel even more excited about making the journey to barn hill after two more sleeps.
In one corner of the room, everything from Cook Agnes’ room had been arranged. And, in another corner, the skis and the travel baskets sat waiting for their expedition across the muddy fields.
“I put the last of the turnips, onions and carrots in this soup” said Cook Agnes as she placed bowl on the table. “When I dug them out of the storage box, where they were kept under layers of sand, I was surprised they were still edible.”
“I don’t like leaving you here with no vegetables,” said the Queen. “Dried peas are vegetables,” said Cook Agnes, “and we still have many sacks of them. And the chickens are each laying one egg a day. I’ve never before eaten two eggs a day. I will surely have more than I need to eat.”
“After we go to barn hill and then the foothills, I will send some of the castle workers back here on skis to check on you,” said the King. “And, we will send milk and wild greens from the hills.”
“I will be much appreciative of milk and greens, but, more than that, I will enjoy a visit from old friends. I have missed the castle workers and friends from the village who would come to visit. But do not worry about me. I see you have carried down everything from my bed chamber. This kitchen will be a cozy spot for me. Even Ronduin’s chickens, just outside the door in the courtyard, are close at hand.”
“We will miss your cooking,” said the Queen. “No doubt the fare in the foothills is quite simple. But, I too I have missed the castle workers and the people of the village. I only wish that you could come with us.”