Chapter 2: Windblown Petals—How a Were-Rabbit got his Name
Windblown Petals—How a Were-Rabbit got his Name
Archie and Ella also lived at Lavender Farm with their father and mother, Mr and Mrs Meurs.
Mrs Meurs was the manager of the local bank. Mr Meurs cared for all the fruit trees in his orchards as well as helping on the neighbouring farms when he was needed. In their spare time, Mr and Mrs Meurs grew vegetables in their large kitchen garden.
There was always something to do on the farm and when they weren’t going to school Archie and Ella helped with the house chores and the garden and the animals. Lavender Farm had lots of animals too: chickens and ducks who supplied the family with eggs, a very noisy family of pigs, some goats, cattle and sheep and finally Chloe and Craig the farm dogs who helped Mr Meurs each day with his work and who slept on the rug at his feet every evening after tea.
When Archie and Ella brought Agatha her breakfast later that spring morning, they were delighted to find the tiny baby bunny. Ella closed the hutch door carefully while Archie ran up to the farmhouse. When he reached the back door, he found Mr Meurs in the vestibule pulling on his work boots.
“Dad, come and see. Agatha has a baby bunny!”
“What was that?”
“Agatha’s got a new baby. We saw it. Come and see, Dad.”
Mr Meurs straightened up and took his battered and stained hat off one of the coat pegs. “That’s strange,” he said, and he followed Archie down to the bottom of the back garden.
When he peeked in to Agatha’s room and saw the tiny rabbit he pushed his hat back and scratched his head.
“Well,” he said, “this is a turn-up.”
“Isn’t it cute?” asked Ella.
“How can it be cute; it’s got no fur!” said Archie.
“We’ll call it Blossom,” said Ella, ignoring Archie’s remark.
“What sort of name is that for a rabbit?” asked Archie.
Ella rolled her eyes and pointed to the white petals covering the roof of the hutch and the grass below. “See how the wind has scattered the plum blossoms? It’s like a carpet, or snow! It’s Nature’s sign – a clue to what the bunny’s name should be.”
“No it isn’t,” she countered. “Dad always says Nature knows best.”
Mr Meurs laughed. “Well, there’s no denying that.”
It’s the perfect name,” said Ella.
And so the tiny rabbit became Blossom, and the name stuck even after Ella and Archie discovered he was a boy rabbit. By then, Blossom was a few weeks old and had opened his eyes; they were dark and large and he had the softest black fur, with a little white patch on one front paw, a white streak down his chest and white fur on his tail.
Ella and Archie visited the hutch each morning and afternoon to bring clean straw as well as food and water for Agatha.
One Saturday afternoon a few weeks later, Mr Meurs pulled his ute into the farmyard.
He’d finally completed the long and tiring task of pruning the trees in his orchard and he’d just finished checking the ewes with their lambs. It was early spring and the days were still short, with the cold setting in quickly as the sun dipped towards the west. Mr Meurs was thinking of his nice warm kitchen and an even warmer drink, when he walked from the yard into the garden just as Archie and Ella were changing Agatha’s straw bedding.
“Goodness,” he said, stopping and bending down to peer into the hutch. “Look how much Blossom has grown. He’ll soon be too big for Agatha’s little house. I’ll have to build a pen for him to play in during the day.”
“Oh, yes Dad! Please do it today,” pleaded Ella.
“Yes, please Dad,” added Archie, “we’ll help you, won’t we, Ella?”
Ella nodded enthusiastically. “Of course we’ll help you, Dad.”
Mr Meurs laughed. “Well, I guess there’s no point putting it off then,” he said. “Now, we will need some timber and wire netting, a saw, a hammer and nails.”
“I’ll search in the shed,” said Archie.
“Ah, now hang on! We can’t do it all today,” said Mr Meurs. “We’ll have to make a plan first, so we can work out just what we’ll need.”
He thought for a moment.
“Hmm, yes! That’s the best way to start.” He pulled out a notebook and small pencil from his shirt pocket and began to sketch out a rough plan. Then he showed it to Ella and Archie.
“Now we have enough time before the afternoon chores to peg out the new run ready for tomorrow.”
Archie and Ella ran to one of the sheds to fetch a mallet or large hammer and some short timber stakes. Mr Meurs stepped out the measurements he’d drawn up and directed the children to hammer the markers into the grass. When they had finished, they all stood back to admire their work.
“It’s going to look fantastic, Dad,” said Archie.
The gate swung open and Mrs Meurs walked into the garden wearing short gumboots and carrying a basket of eggs.
“You’ve all been busy. I could hear the hammering over in the apricot orchard. The whole farm is agog with curiosity.”
“We’re making a new yard for Agatha and Blossom,” said Archie.
“I can see that,” she said.
“Do you like your new yard, Agatha?” asked Ella.
Agatha liked their new yard very much. She enjoyed pottering about her small pen beneath the hutch. The sides were surrounded by pots of fragrant herbs and brightly coloured flowers. Until now, Blossom had been too small to be outside much, but he was quickly growing into a very bouncy little rabbit with nothing to do but annoy his mother, which made Agatha pull her ears in frustration.
She also feared the night predators that prowled through the garden and the orchards and the paddocks beyond. Hidden away in their little rooms inside the hutch they were safe, but Agatha knew of several curious and adventurous little rabbits amongst her wild relatives, who had disappeared or met with a very bad end.
There were many dangers for unwary rabbits: hunters with guns and bright lights, foxes, and roaming cats and dogs, and finally Malevant, who would quickly make a meal of any rabbit he caught unawares.
After Mr and Mrs Meurs and the children had gone up to the farmhouse, she let Blossom hop out of their little house and they peered through the wire. “You are a very lucky little rabbit, Blossom,” said Agatha. “Just look at the pen Mr Meurs is making for us. You will have lots of room to hop about in.”
Blossom was very excited about their new yard. He’d not been out of their house much and his days seemed dull and boring. All the sounds and smells coming into their house on the breeze were strange and enticing and he longed to explore the world beyond his hutch.
He twitched his little black ears and nose and looked around with big round eyes. He wasn’t sure what all the pegs and string were for, but everything was new and so it didn’t matter. His first look at the large garden and the world beyond the garden gate held enough interest for him.
Henry the farm’s rooster flew up onto the garden wall and considered the pegs and string.
“Very nice m’dear,” he remarked to Agatha.
“Oh, thank you, Colonel. I’m sure it will be wonderful.”
“Cluck, cluck!” Angelique and Claudine peered in through the gate from the farmyard.
“Goodness me! Your new yard will be at least three times the size of your old one, Agatha.”
“You won’t know yourself, you lu-lucky girl.”
“Yes, we are very lucky – as I’ve just been telling Blossom. The family takes great care of us.”
Malevant, the cat who lived in the back hayshed of the neighbouring farm kept hearing about Blossom from the other animals but on his visits to Agatha’s hutch he still hadn’t been able to catch any sight of the little bunny.
He was lazing on an old shed roof, basking in the late afternoon sunshine and cleaning his paws, when he overheard some sparrows twittering the news that Mr Meurs was enlarging Agatha Bunny’s pen.
Malevant pricked his ears and smiled to himself—a very nasty smile.