Yaadein - Billy Blue Bell by May Thomas (retold by Sophie Thomas)
One day at the bottom of the garden, it started to rain. The rain poured: tiny droplets that hung in the air like mist; great water bombs that hit the leaves of the apple tree, loud as steel drums. So loud, in fact, that the rain woke Billy Bluebell.
Billy Bluebell rolled over in his matchstick bed, stretched his legs and pushed back the hanky he used as a blanket. But he quickly noticed a problem. There definitely hadn’t been a river flowing through his bedroom the night before. Billy waded across his house. He picked up a piece of string from the hook on the wall and watched as his pots and pans floated past. The water was rapidly rising, so he swung his string like a lasso around a bough of the apple tree and began to climb. Halfway up, a hand gently lifted him onto the branch.
“Billy!” Cried three familiar voices.
“Hello Children.” Said Billy as he tipped the water from his bluebell cap. “How do you do?”
“Oh, we were so worried!” Said Sophie. The children had paddled to the apple tree in their wellies to rescue him.
Dan was grinning. “You’ll have to come to school with us! The whole garden is flooded!” He held open his trouser pocket for Billy to jump in. But Billy shook his head. He looked around at the water.
“I can’t come to school.” He said. “I need to mind the garden whilst you’re gone.”
Dan laughed. “But you can’t swim!”
“No.” Said Billy sadly, “I can’t.”
“I have an idea!” Shouted Louise. She splashed away and reappeared moments later with her mother’s mixing bowl and a wooden spoon.
“A boat!” Exclaimed Billy. “Thank you!” He jumped into the mixing bowl and paddled off into the raging water without looking back.
The currents took Billy behind the shed. His mixing bowl boat came to rest against the muddy sides of the fairy glen. He used his string to moor the boat, hopped out and hurried inside.
“Fairy Queen?” He called into the darkness. “Fairy Queen!” The glen was cool and silent. One by one, glittering lights began to flicker amongst the mud. Thousands of colours shone and Billy watched in wonder.
The fairies lead Billy Bluebell to the Queen. She sat on a stone at the bottom of the glen, her flower crown askew and her wings crumpled and wet.
“Billy Bluebell!” She cried in her sing-song voice. “Billy Bluebell, I cannot fly. I cannot fly and my fairies alone cannot lift me. The water is rising, Billy Bluebell. You must hurry!”
Billy Bluebell swept his cap off, bowed low to the Fairy Queen and raced back outside. He knew exactly who could help.
“Sammy!” He called, standing in the mixing bowl, which bridged the gap between the glen and the shed. “Sammy!”
Movement. The leaf litter crinkled, and a fly hummed, and raindrops slid down spun silk. From the depths of the undergrowth, just above the water level, a spider appeared. Two beady eyes and eight furry legs. “Hello.” Said Sammy, blinking in the daylight. “Can I help?”
The water was high by the time Billy and Sammy reached the Fairy Queen. Billy rushed to her side. “Weave us a web, Sammy. Your finest silk, if you please.” Sammy saluted, scurried up to the ceiling and began to spin. Within moments, a hammock hung from the rafters. The fairies flitted to and fro in excitement. The Queen nodded her head, and they carried the hammock down to the rock where she sat. Using the spider silk, Billy and Sammy helped lift the Fairy Queen to safety.
With everyone in the boat, Billy used the wooden spoon to paddle up the garden.
“We can shelter in a plant pot until the rain stops.” Said the Fairy Queen. “There’s one by the back door.”
As they neared the top of the garden, though, Billy heard a sharp cry. Above him, hidden by the leaves of the rowan tree, was Mr. Squirrel. “Billy!” He called. “Billy!”
Mr. Squirrel’s babies were clinging to their nest as the tree shook in the wind. “Board our boat!” Cried Billy. “We’re sailing up the garden to safety!”
The baby squirrels bounded down the tree trunk, their bushy tails dripping in the rain. With the squirrel family on board, there wasn’t much space in the mixing bowl. One of the squirrels stood on Billy’s foot.
“Wow!” Said the baby in awe. “I’ve never seen a blue squirrel before!”
“He’s not a squirrel, dear.” Said Mrs. Squirrel.
“Oh,” said the baby. “Who are you?”
Billy Bluebell jumped onto the rim of the mixing bowl, swept off his cap and bowed low to the squirrels. He began to sing.
My name is Billy Bluebell,
how do you do you do?
My name is Billy Bluebell
and I’m very pleased to meet you.
I live at the bottom of the garden
underneath the apple tree
I’m very pleased to see you
and I hope you’re pleased to meet me.
“My name’s Nellie and my fur’s getting wet.” Said the baby.
“To the plant pot!” Cried Sammy from his perch on the end of the spoon. They sailed past the garden furniture, which was floating in the water, and came to rest against the back steps.
The Fairy Queen ushered everyone inside her plant pot. “Now,” she said, with a wave of her magic wand, “who would like some fairy cakes whilst we wait for the rain to stop?”
The squirrels nodded eagerly. Fairy cakes clutched in paws, they turned to Billy. “Tell us a story!” Said Mr. Squirrel. The babies chattered with excitement.
“Well,” said Billy, sitting down on a stray stone and leaning forwards to rest his chin on his hand, “once upon a time at the bottom of the garden, there was a great flood...”