The door opened onto a narrow, dingy passageway. So narrow, in fact, that the old woman (who had been rather abundantly blessed in the region of her hips) had to perform a rather undignified diagonal shuffle as she walked ahead of them. Harriet found the proximity of the walls quite oppressing; they seemed to be leaning in on her from either side. Rupert found them oppressing for quite another reason: they reminded him of the dank corridors of the crypts at home. How he hated those crypts. Who, in their right mind, would install crypts as a home convenience? Well, vampires obviously. Unfortunately he just happened to be one of those wrong-minded variety.
Or did he, anymore?
The narrow passageway transformed itself quite unexpectedly into an equally narrow set of stairs, leading upwards to an even narrower doorway, within which was crammed an ill-fitting door, made up of ill-fitting wooden planks. Though this, in itself, did not seem particularly inviting, the warm lamplight that spilled between the planks most definitely did. Rupert and Harriet’s eyes were drawn towards it, like plants towards the sun.
The old woman was forced to turn completely sideways to squeeze her ample pelvic region through this tiny door, and for a moment she blocked the lamplight completely. Rupert and Harriet clambered through hastily after her, unwilling to let that warmth escape for more than a few seconds, now that they’d found it.
Thankfully, the room beyond the door was of a more generous size than the passageway had been. It appeared to serve not only as a kitchen, but a bedroom and general living area as well. One wall was occupied with a mattress sagging from a precarious-looking frame, and an armchair squished beside it, whilst the opposite wall was a conglomeration of cupboards and drawers, all overflowing, which presumably housed a sink somewhere in the muddle. Two chairs and a stool were arranged around a small table in the middle of the room, which supported three day’s worth of dirty dishes. Or at least, that was Rupert’s estimate.
Juggalug immediately made himself at home by nestling quite comfortably in the spout of a large teapot. How anyone or anything could be comfortable in the spout of a large teapot was a mystery to Rupert, but somehow, Juggalug seemed to manage. Rupert supposed that compared to the crypts at home, anything would seem comfortable.
“Excuse the mess,” the old woman told them cheerfully, whilst attempting to clear a space on the table. The attempt was unsuccessful, due to the fact that she was merely unstacking the piles of dirty crockery, and stacking them in different places in a different order. “I don’t have many visitors, as you might guess.”
Rupert didn’t respond. He was too busy trying to guess how much food this woman consumed in a single day. Seeing as she didn’t usually have visitors, and there was this much washing up, he guessed it must be rather a large amount.
“Don’t worry about that, please,” Harriet said hurriedly, “Mrs … er …”
“Bless your heart, dear!” the old woman cooed. “You’re a polite one, I can tell. Miss Caw is my name, dear, and that’s what you can call me. No, I was never married, not me.”
Struck by the wistful note that had entered the old lady’s voice, Rupert attempted gallantry. “That seems highly improbable, Miss Caw.”
The wrinkles multiplied on Miss Caw’s face as her mouth creased into a smile, and an unexpected flutter of giggles escaped her. For such an old woman, they sounded extremely girlish. Harriet doubted even she could giggle quite so girlishly as that.
“Oh, and you’re a handsome one, aren’t you?” Miss Caw said when her giggles had subsided. “I am beginning to understand the match a little more now.” This last was addressed to Harriet, accompanied by a wink.
Rupert and Harriet started to exchange a glance, but halfway there they realised that would make the situation even more awkward, and decided against it.
“But we’re not-” began Rupert.
“Tush, tush, no need to be shy around me, dear boy!” Miss Caw admonished him. “I’m open-minded, me. By the way, what might your names be, my dears?”
“Harriet Winkton,” said Harriet, then blinked in surprise. Her real name had come to her lips without hesitation, although she’d planned not to reveal it to anyone. She heard Rupert reel off his name. His full name. It emerged as a rather surprised-sounding string, as though it were being drawn out of his mouth. He clapped it shut.
“What lovely names,” Miss Caw said, seeming not to have noticed anything unusual. “I hope you won’t mind if I stick to your first ones?”
Rupert and Harriet nodded dumbly.
“As I said,” continued Miss Caw, “I’m generally very liberal-minded. Which is why I have allowed you into my house in the first place.” Despite her genial appearance and those pink fluffy slippers, an edge of steel had entered Miss Caw’s voice. “Now, my dears – I can understand why you’re here in Barthane, indeed I can. I imagine your… decision didn’t go down very well with the families. Yes, I can see that.”
Rupert rolled his eyes, and Harriet felt a blush heating her cheeks. She managed to cool them with a few deep breaths. She still didn’t dare look at Rupert.
“But what I need to know, my dears, is that your being here won’t bring any … trouble … into my humble establishment.”
“Trouble?” Rupert asked.
“Oh, I don’t mean of the vampiric sort, my boy – no, no, my blood’s far too old to be appetising any more. What I mean is of the general sort. A few furious relatives I could cope with (though I hope they don’t find you, my dears – I’ve always been open-minded, me!), but if these relatives happen to be of a particularly furious, violent or deranged strain, they may cause me anxiety. And by anxiety I include anxiety for the maintenance of my household (fire does not agree with wooden structures, my dears), for my life (which fire also does not agree with, along with sharp instruments or poisons of any kind), or for the lives of my mice.”
Miss Caw finished this recital with an apologetic shrug. Harriet and Rupert blinked.
Harriet was more to the point. “Oh, nothing of that kind, Miss Caw, I assure you. Our families may try to find us, but they are not, as you put it, of a particularly furious, violent, or deranged strain.”
“Er…” Rupert couldn’t stop this small indication of doubt escaping his lips, though he considered it really rather restrained of him, since Harriet had just told one of the hugest lies of their journey so far.
“What was that, dear?” Miss Caw asked sweetly.
“Just … clearing my throat.”
“I can most definitely assure you,” continued Harriet, “that there will be no fire, sharp implements or poisons employed in any way, shape or form, against your own person, or that of your, er, mice.”
“Yes, about that,” said Rupert. He paused, but couldn’t think of any other way to phrase it. “Mice?”
It wasn’t particularly eloquent, but it did the job.
“Ah yes, my mice! I daresay that rather confused you,” Miss Caw said, all smiles again.
“It did rather.” Now that the subject of elopement seemed to have passed, Harriet and Rupert found themselves able to exchange their usual glances with minimum discomfort.
“My mice,” confessed Miss Caw, “are my only friends in this town. Which you can probably understand, having experienced the general character of the citizens here. Most unpleasant.”
“Except you, Miss Caw,” Rupert said.
Another fluster of giggling commenced, seeming even more incongruous after the shrewd questioning a minute before.
“Oh, my, but you are a flatterer.” Miss Caw flapped a hand at Rupert. “But my mice, in any event, reside here with me, and keep me company.”Seeing the alarmed look on their faces, she was quick to clarify. “Oh, they’re very good mice, I assure you. Most considerate. None of that tiresome nibbling business. They even help me with the washing up, sometimes.”
“The washing up. How extraordinary.” Rupert surveyed the chaos of the room.
“I do believe you’re being sarcastic, my boy,” Miss Caw said. “Just because they haven’t helped me in a while, doesn’t mean they don’t do it.”
“I’m sure they do, Miss Caw,” Harriet said quickly, before the kindly old woman became offended. “It’s just seems rather…”
“Extraordinary,” finished Rupert.
Miss Caw relented. “Well, I suppose it is, at that. But when one’s a Witch, one can do all kinds of extraordinary things.”
Harriet froze. Rupert spluttered.
“You’re … a Witch?”
“Ah, I rather blurted that out, didn’t I?” Miss Caw seemed unconcerned. “Don’t worry, my dears – I left most of my Witching behind when I left Night. You might have realised just now that you had to tell me your true names – that’s something I can’t avoid, I’m afraid. I like to leave people free to do or say what they wish – within reason, of course. But on the subject of names I have no choice. You simply cannot lie about your name to a Witch. It’s some kind of Law – not that I bother about those things. No, I only use my Witching now for a few things. My mice, and so on.” She glanced at one of the kitchen cupboards, and for the first time Rupert and Harriet became aware of a muffled thumping coming from inside it.
“Is that … your mice?” Harriet asked nervously.
“My mice? Bless you, my dear, no. They’d have to be rather gargantuan mice to make that sort of noise, now wouldn’t they?”
That was exactly what Harriet had been thinking. But the relief of finding out that Miss Caw’s mice weren’t gargantuan was somewhat tainted by the unpleasant thought of what other gargantuan creatures might be thumping in the kitchen cupboard of a Witch’s home. She hoped to Day it wasn’t cockroaches.
“Then … what?”
“It’s just the broomstick,” Miss Caw said, aiming a narrow-eyed look of malice at the cupboard. “Gives me no end of trouble, that thing.”
“Bless me, use your imaginations, dears! A Witch’s broomstick is bound to be more energetic than your everyday scrubbing-brush, isn’t it?”
“I suppose so,” said Harriet, eyeing the cupboard nervously.
“That was my sister’s broom, in fact,” Miss Caw told them. “She moved out of Night before I did – got a nice position as a Fairy Godmother somewhere north of here. She wasn’t going to need the broom, so she gave it to me. It doesn’t seem to have liked swapping owners, though. A right handful, that broom. Needs a firm hand, or you find yourself going completely the opposite direction you wanted.”
“Really?” Harriet asked faintly.
Rupert said, “A Fairy Godmother? A Witch can become a Fairy Godmother?”
“Oh, it’s quite a rare occurrence,” Miss Caw said proudly. “But Agatha was always an unusual Witch. We both were, come to that. But her magic was always better than mine. More … refined, I would say. Generally more reliable. More competent. I used to be quite envious of her. She can do the most wonderful things! And then she was offered that position … It’s not just your usual Fairy Godmothering, mind – looking after some spoilt Princess in a tower. No, this is Fairy Godmothering for a whole town!”
“That sounds … rather impressive,” Harriet ventured.
“It is, my dear! You don’t know how many top-notch Fairy Godmothers were vying for that place! But then my Agatha came along, and swept them all away! A Witch, at that, not even a bona-fide Godmother! But she showed them, oh yes, she showed them that a Witch doesn’t have to be ugly and warty and grouchy! No, Witches can be beautiful and kind and loving and generous, believe me!”
Harriet and Rupert were rather taken aback by this heartfelt outburst.
“We certainly do believe you, Miss Caw.” Rupert’s third gallant statement of the night resulted in the third bout of giggling.
“Oh, you naughty thing!” Miss Caw giggled. “Flattering old ladies like that!”
“Not so old, Miss Caw,” Rupert said. “I’m probably twice your age.”
Harriet looked at him sharply. That thought had never crossed her mind before.
“Ah yes, you probably are, at that!” Miss Caw admitted. “But relatively, if we talk in terms of species, you must be as young as your little lady here.” A wink made Harriet blush again.
“You seem to know a lot about vampires,” Rupert said, a stray hope sidling into his heart.
“Well, I did live in Night, you know.”
“But … Do you meet many vampires here? In Barthane?”
Harriet’s blush faded as she realised what Rupert was driving at. Her expression hardened to her usual one of determination.
Miss Caw looked from one to the other. “Ah, I see. You are worried your family may already be here, aren’t you?”
Harriet and Rupert looked at each other. A silent, simultaneous decision was come to. To alleviate further awkwardness on the matter of elopement, the decision was this: to tell the truth.
“Well…” began Harriet, “that’s not exactly the reason we ask…”
As the story emerged – mostly from Harriet, but with frequent interjections from Rupert – Miss Caw’s face became more and more sympathetic. Rupert and Harriet were very thankful to see that they had judged her correctly.
“So when Rupert came back to the house-”
“To find a cure.”
“-to find a cure, which there isn’t one-”
“That you know of.”
“-that I know of, we decided-”
“Fine. I decided that I would go with him, to find a cure, if there is one.”
“Which there must be!”
Miss Caw smiled at Rupert reassuringly. Harriet didn’t look at him, in case he saw her doubt.
“Ah, I knew there was a case of young love in there somewhere!”
“Excuse me?” Rupert wondered if the Witch had been listening at all.
Miss Caw giggled. “Don’t look so affronted, my boy. I know very well that when two young people run off together, romance is the only explanation!”
Rupert tried to keep his frustration in check. He didn’t entirely succeed. “How about the fact that I’d been forcibly stripped of my vampiric powers, and wanted to find the cure?”
“But the little lady didn’t have to come along, now did she?” Another of those blush-inducing winks.
“She wanted to!”
Harriet came to his assistance. “I persuaded Rupert to let me go with him. I wasn’t … happy with my father. And I knew that the vampires he … dealt with … usually made their way to Day. So I came along. And, well, we haven’t gotten very far yet,” she finished, rather pathetically.
“But the Guard on the gate told us there was a vampire here, about a fortnight ago,” Rupert said, pleadingly. He wasn’t sure who he was pleading with, but he was feeling sorry for himself, and felt like pleading. “I thought that maybe if I find others who have … who have met Harriet’s father, then maybe they’ll know a cure, or… I don’t know, maybe we can help each other.”
Miss Caw looked thoughtful. “As a matter of fact, I think I met that vampire. A fortnight ago, did Ferring say?”
“Ferring? Is that the Guard?” asked Harriet.
“He was weird,” muttered Rupert.
Miss Caw looked a little uncomfortable. “I had … dealings with Ferring, a long time ago. Before I left Night.”
Rupert stared. “You mean … ? But you’re-”
“Goodness me, not anything of that kind, I can assure you!” Miss Caw looked quite affronted. “How could you even think such a thing? Did no one ever tell you not to jump to conclusions?”
“Sorry.” Rupert thought that Miss Caw ought perhaps to follow her own advice.
Harriet had also been jumping to conclusions. The difference was, hers were right. “You’re the one who turned him into a human!” she burst out.
Miss Caw started. “How did you know about that?”
“He told us. He said that he ate some of your familiars. Your mice.”
Miss Caw pursed her lips. “Too right he did! Poor Ernie. That was the last straw, it really was. I’d only just Turned him and all.”
“Wait…” said Rupert. “Turned him? You mean your mice … weren’t originally mice?”
“Bless you, of course not!” Miss Caw exclaimed. “How could they possibly help me with the washing up if they were just mice? Mice don’t know the first thing about washing up!”
“So … you turn humans into mice?” Rupert couldn’t quite get his head around this.
“Don’t look at me like that, dear. I don’t mean any harm. I’m just a lonely old Witch, me.”
“Hasn’t it occurred to you,” said Harriet, a little angrily, “that people don’t want to be mice?”
Miss Caw looked sheepish. “It isn’t a bad life. I don’t force them to wash up, you know. And they can still talk – a bit squeaky, but still.” He face fell a little. “They don’t talk to me very much, though, for some reason.”
Rupert snorted. “For some reason!”
Miss Caw looked at him enquiringly. “Well!” Rupert spread his hands. “You’ve changed them into something they most probably don’t want to be! I don’t speak from experience here, but I’d imagine that if you asked most humans whether they’d enjoy being turned into mice, they’d say no!”
“Do you really think so?” Miss Caw was wringing her hands in a rather pathetic manner.
“Don’t they ever ask you to change them back?” Harriet asked.
Miss Caw spoke to her still-wringing hands. They seemed to be wringing themselves of their own accord now. “To tell the truth, I think they’re a little frightened of me.”
Rupert threw up his hands. “Can we get back on track? We were talking about the vampire.”
“One moment,” said Harriet. “Look, Miss Caw. I know this isn’t really any of our business, but I honestly think that you ought to start Turning your mice back into humans. I’m sure they’d appreciate it. And Ferring too. Back into a hawk, I mean. He sounded rather regretful when he told us about it.”
“Well, he’s supposed to regret it!” said Miss Caw, holding up her chin in a small act of defiance. “That’s why it was a punishment.”
“I don’t understand your reasoning…” Rupert almost moaned. “Turning humans into animals for fun, turning animals into humans for punishment…”
“Whatever the reason,” Harriet persisted. “Truly, I think they would prefer to be … whatever they originally were.”
Miss Caw was silent. She went to the table and started rearranging her stacks of dishes in a vague, meaningless way. Then, reluctantly, she said, “If you really think so…”
“Trust me,” said Rupert, earnestly. “People – or animals, or whatever – are much happier left alone.”
Miss Caw sighed. “I’ll miss them, my little mice… I’ll Turn them back tomorrow.” She looked pleadingly at Harriet. “You won’t begrudge me one more night with the darling little things, would you?”
Harriet smiled. “Of course not.”
“Right,” breathed Rupert. “Now that’s settled. Can you please tell me about the vampire?”
“Oh yes, the vampire!” Miss Caw seemed glad to change the subject. “About a fortnight ago, as Ferring said,” –a guilty swallow - “a vampire turned up on my doorstep, much as you two did. He only stayed one night, and left before I’d woken up in the morning.” She paused. “Quite impolite, I thought.”
“Did he say where he was going?”
“It was a little hard to tell what he was saying, my dear. He was rather … shook up. But I reckon I heard a mention of Day in there, right enough. And Winkton, too.” Her eyes turned to Harriet, who shrugged uncomfortably.
“What was his name?”Rupert asked.
“His name… Ah, I have it! Dolphus. His name was Dolphus.”
Rupert yelped in surprise. “Dolphus? Dolphus Lexius Gurgletone Scarletsucker?”
Beside him, Harriet made a small choking noise that suspiciously resembled a laugh. Rupert chose to ignore it.
“Scarletsucker. Yes, that was it.”
“You know him?” Harriet asked.
“The Scarletsuckers lived in the next castle,” Rupert replied. His head felt near to bursting with this new surprise. His legs, which up until now had proved completely competent, suddenly began to complain about holding its weight. They quivered.
Stop it - that’s your job, Rupert tried to remind them, but they didn’t heed him (probably due to a lack of ears or other sensory organ), and promptly deposited him onto the kitchen stool.
“Are you all right?” Harriet asked anxiously.
Miss Caw bustled to the chaos of cupboards and somehow magicked two clean bowls from amongst the wreckage. “Perhaps a bit to eat would strengthen you? I make an excellent porridge, if I say so myself.”
“We never knew anyone had gone missing,” Rupert said dreamily. “The next castle … They never said.”
“Ah, vampiric pride,” Harriet announced knowingly. Rupert gave her a hurt look. She shrugged. “According to Father, that’s what made his scheme work so well. He said that vampires are renowned for their, uh, arrogance. So either they wouldn’t return home at all after he’d … er…”
“Ruined their afterlives?”
Harriet swallowed. “Um, anyway. Either they wouldn’t go home at all, or else if they did, their families would keep the whole thing hushed up, or even force them out.”
“Or both,” Rupert said darkly.
“Yes, because otherwise the family’s reputation would be horribly impugned.” Harriet’s voice had taken on a lecturing tone. “Any blemish to their family honour would be a show of weakness and an invitation for further attacks of their vampiric integrity. And if they-”
“Is that what I am? A blemish?”
Harriet’s hands flew to her mouth. “Oh, Rupert, I’m sorry! I got carried away. I didn’t mean that your family would-”
“Don’t worry about it.” Rupert’s head now seemed to have started to split open due to an overfill of confusion and emotion. Or perhaps the gnome with the pointed stick had decided to take up residence again. If that was the case, this time the gnome had brought a friend. With a wooden spoon. And whilst the first one prodded, the second stirred the contents of Rupert’s head into a dizzy, swirling gloop.
Either way, it wasn’t a pleasant sensation.
“I think my family is immune to blemishes. Our reputation’s already had so many knocks it’s probably completely numb by now. That’s why my Uncle Fang’s such a stickler for tradition, I suppose. Thinks he can raise us out of the cemetery, or something. He doesn’t seem to realise it’s a lost cause.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like a bite to eat, dear?” Miss Caw asked sympathetically, hovering beside him in her pink fluffy slippers. She seemed to Rupert to be a less theatrical version of his mother.
“Got any red wine or steak?” he asked bitterly.
“I’m afraid not, but I think I could rustle up some bloo-”
“No, thanks,” Rupert interrupted her.
“Hmmph.” Miss Caw looked a little put out, but Rupert was feeling very put out, so he didn’t much care. She looked as though she was about to say something more, when Harriet mercifully cut in.
“It’s very kind of you, Miss Caw, but we’re both very tired. It’s been a long day. I think we’d like to turn in.”
Miss Caw was suddenly all smiles. “Of course, my dear! How silly of me to keep you up nattering. Your room is just up those stairs in the corner. Top floor, with a lovely- well, a view of the town at any rate. I wouldn’t open the window if I were you. The dawn chorus may be rather more raucous than you’re used to. The calls of the migrating drunks are just not the same as the birds back home.” Her voice became momentarily wistful. “No matter how much trouble those birds put me through, I do miss them.”
For a moment, Harriet was rather confused as to how much trouble a bird could put you through, until she remembered Ferring. She didn’t like to mention it again, however, especially seeing that Rupert had sagged so low on the stool that his head was about to hit the floor.
“Thank you again, Miss Caw. Come along, Rupert. Come along, Juggalug.” Juggalug, who had been snoozing all the while in the spout of the large teapot, fluttered sleepily to Rupert’s shoulder, and proceeded to doze off again. “Goodnight, Miss Caw.”
“Night, dears.” She shook her head. “I still can’t get over how unusual it is to see a vampire and a human-”
“We’re not-” Rupert began as he staggered upstairs, holding his head.
“Goodnight, Miss Caw!” Harriet said firmly, and followed him up.
If possible, this stairway was even narrower than the one they’d climbed to reach Miss Caw’s apartments in the first place. Even Rupert found his shoulders brushing the walls as he half-climbed, half-fell upwards. It should technically be impossible to fall upwards, but somehow he was doing it. This made his head hurt even more.
Rupert did not like these headaches. He had hardly ever experienced headaches before Winkton’s ‘sterilisation’ – only the occasional effect of over-indulgence the night before – and he did not appreciate their sudden increase. For Night’s sake, he would have screamed, if he’d had the energy, is this what being ill feels like? How do humans cope? He regarded Harriet with a new respect.
“Come on, Rupert,” she was saying soothingly, lending a hand to push him up the stairs. “Rest soon…”
They came to the top; painfully, in Rupert’s case. The room was poky, as they’d expected. But what they hadn’t expected…
“There’s only one bed,” said Rupert stupidly.
He and Harriet stood side-by-side looking at it. It wasn’t much of a bed. It was even more dilapidated than the one downstairs. But the point was that it had a mattress, two pillows, and blankets heaped on top of it.
“Well,” said Harriet briskly. “One of us is just going to have to sleep on the floor.”
Rupert immediately stepped forward and collapsed onto the bed. The mattress emitted an agonising groan of protest, but proceeded to hold, grudgingly. Rupert sighed in relief as his head sank into the pillows, which, as if to counteract the behaviour of the mattress, were obligingly soft and squishy.
“Hey!” Rupert opened one eye to see Harriet standing at the foot of the bed, hands on hips.
“So you’re just taking the bed, are you?”
“Er … yes?”
“Well isn’t that gentlemanly behaviour!”
Rupert held up a finger. “I never claimed to be a gentleman,” he said groggily. “In fact, being a vampire, you may say I am anything but gentle. Or a man,” he added as an afterthought, "technically speaking."
“Your idea of gentlemen,” Rupert continued perversely, “was probably gleaned from those wonderful books of yours. You must lend them to me sometime. I could do with a good laugh.”
Rupert was surprised to see tears spring up in Harriet’s eyes. He shut his own hurriedly, pretending he hadn’t noticed. Harriet wasn’t supposed to cry. Although, he admitted, he had been rather harsh. But he was angry. It wasn’t as though she was blameless. After all, it was her father who’d done this to him, partly with her help.
Harriet was tired. She wanted to rest. And she wanted to rest in a bed, not on a hard, cold floor. And she had thought – stupidly, she now realised – that she and Rupert were getting on well. She didn’t mind him teasing her a bit – as a matter of fact, she secretly quite liked it – but his last comment had carried an edge that went beyond friendly mockery.
Harriet, however, was not the sort of girl to submit to bullying. A few tears had slipped from her eyes, it was true, but that was only because she was tired. Yes, that’s all it was – she was tired. Which brought her back to the subject of the bed.
Harriet changed tact.
“Look, be reasonable, Rupert. Don’t you usually sleep in a coffin?”
This rather threw off Harriet’s plan. “Really?”
“No!” Rupert sat up. Rather too quickly, it seemed, because his head commenced to spin alarmingly. He put a hand to it, and was somewhat surprised to find that it wasn’t spinning at all. “Have you any idea how uncomfortable a coffin is?”
“Why would I?”
Rupert had to concede to this. Humans were not generally in the habit of testing out their coffins. After all, by the time they needed them, they weren’t exactly in any state to judge levels of comfort.
“I’ll tell you how uncomfortable they are,” Rupert declared. He searched for the right word. “Very. So very uncomfortable, that if you were to lie in one, you’d wish you were dead, just to escape the uncomfortable…ness.”
“Whatever. You get the point.” And so do I! he mentally snapped at the gnome with the stick, inside his head, wishing that he had a stick too, to retaliate with.
“All right, so we’ve established that you don’t sleep in a coffin,” said Harriet. “But that’s no reason for you hogging the bed.”
“I’m the invalid here!”
Their (by now quite unproductive) argument was interrupted by a scratching sound. They both looked down. The tip of a mouse’s tail could just be seen disappearing under the bed.
“Oh, brilliant,” said Harriet. “So I have to sleep on the floor with the mice, do I?”
“Just don’t roll over in your sleep,” advised Rupert wryly. “You might squash Mr. Squeaky, previously known as Ernie.”
“Rupert, stop it! That’s not funny.”
“I just wonder what the poor fellows did to deserve it.”
“Perhaps they were too friendly.”
“What, she liked them so much she turned them into mice?”
“To keep her company, yes.”
They listened to the scratching for a moment, thinking.
“That’s rather sad, isn’t it?” Rupert said.
“Maybe you can strike up a conversation with one of them during the night.” Rupert rolled onto his side and tucked the blankets round him. “Sleep well.”
Harriet drew herself up.
This wasn’t the end of the matter.
|19 May 2008|| Wandering Reader|
You have an absolutely engrossing story here. Your characterization especially shines.
Everything’s been pretty spot on. I think the only thing that’s distracted me so far is how bold the kids are with the witch...it just seems a little off since wouldn’t they think about what a witch who turns humans into mice could do to them?
I hope this doesn’t come across as being nitpicky or anything. I really enjoy the story so far and look forward to its continuation. Just pointing out something you might consider if you were to revise. This is really good stuff. I think you could definitely spin it into a novel. Jess Hyslop
replies: "No, no, that’s exactly the type of thing I want to hear! Hmmm yes I see what you mean. To be honest I’m having a little difficulty with Miss Caw, deciding exactly how I want her character to be, which is perhaps why it may seem a little muddled. I can’t decide between fluffy-slippers-motherly-witch or shrewd-has-lived-in-barthane-for-ages witch. I’m trying for a combination of both, but I’m not sure if it’s working quite. And it’s also a little too similar with what I’m trying to do with Elizabeth... Hmmm... Any more thoughts?"
|2 Jun 2008|| Colleen S|
Hello, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story thus far. You have wonderfuly developed characters. It is very refreshing to read a story that flows so smoothly, and has relatively few type-o’s. Can’t wait for your next installment - maybe summer break? Jess Hyslop
replies: "Summer break is here, and two more chapters shortly will be too!
Thank you for reading!"
|18 Jul 2008|| Larkspur|
I found a single mistake! Earlier (I think it was three parts ago-it’s hard to keep track of chapters (parts) when you’re reading a good yarn!
) you said that it was a pixie with a pointed stick and now it’s a gnome. (As it turns out it was 6 parts ago!) Very enjoyable. Keep it up! Jess Hyslop
replies: "Aha! How pesky! Pixie... gnome... Maybe it morphs. Although it very probably should stay consistent, for courtesy’s sake if nothing else "
|18 Jul 2008|| Larkspur|
I also like the epic battle of the bed. Jess Hyslop
|7 Aug 2008|| Lindsay Verde|
Haha, judging from comments above, I’m sure you’re tired of typing that the next part is in the queue. I’ll save you the trouble with this one.
I thoroughly enjoyed this Jess! I can’t tell you how much I love this story. No matter how much you worry, the next part always manages to be even more exciting and fun than the last. The characters are all original, each one a unique mold that never brings a dull moment to the story.
I especially loved Miss Caw’s spiels. I could just picture this plump old lady rattling off at them in this dingy cramped house. So cute! Fire does not agree with wooden structures, my dears - ROFL! Thoroughly enjoyable. Can’t wait until I can find time to read the next part. I’m only sorry it’s taken me this long to read this installment! As always, looking forward to the next.
replies: "Never worry about taking time to read ... I take so long to post! Thanks so much for your lovely comment - part 13 is now in the ticket queue! "
|13 Aug 2008|| Firefilly|
lol thats great I think I would do exsactly what rupert did lol Jess Hyslop
|28 Aug 2008|| Kirsten Joryn Martinez|
And again! Your stories continue to impress all that reed them, can’t wait to read more!!!
|11 Nov 2008|| |
Gnome? I thought Rupert’s little head pest was a pixie... Anyway, great story!
|4 Dec 2011|| Anon.|
I loved this one especially. The call back to the gaurd’s being a hawk was great, especially considering that that bit felt like a throw-away piece.
’“Not so old, Miss Caw,” Rupert said. “I’m probably twice your age.”’ Aghh, that line was my favourite; it was so, so......Whovian! Jess Hyslop
replies: "Originally, the hawk-guard thing *was* a throwaway piece. Then I came to write this bit and suddenly it wasn’t any more!
Ah yes, Rupert’s got a few years on Miss Caw..."
|5 Dec 2011|| Anon.|
Exactly, I love it when a throwaway bit makes a comeback. It’s a nice surprise.
|Page:  2 |