Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle 1) - Page 28

“Right, Michael. Your turn now. What is it?”

Michael waved the shiny gray paper and explained in an unhappy rush how impossible the spell seemed to do.

Howl seemed faintly astonished to hear this, but he took the paper, saying, “Now, where was your problem?” and spread it out. He stared at it. One of his eyebrows shot up.

“I tried it as a puzzle and I tried doing it just as it says,” Michael explained. “But Sophie and I couldn’t catch the falling star—”

“Great gods above!” Howl exclaimed. He started to laugh, and bit his lip to stop himself “But, Michael, this isn’t the spell I left you. Where did you find it?”

“On the bench, in that heap of things Sophie piled round the skull,” said Michael. “It was the only new spell there, so I thought—”

Howl leaped up and sorted among the things on the bench. “Sophie strikes again,” he said. Things skidded right and left as he searched. “I might have known! No, the proper spell’s not here.” He tapped the skull thoughtfully on its brown, shiny dome. “Your doing, friend? I have a notion you come from there. I’m sure the guitar does. Er—Sophie dear—”

“What?” said Sophie.

“Busy old fool, unruly Sophie,” said Howl. “Am I right in thinking that you turned my doorknob black-side-down and stuck your long nose out through it?”

“Just my finger,” Sophie said with dignity.

“But you opened the door,” said Howl, “and the thing Michael thinks is a spell must have got through. Didn’t it occur to either of you that it doesn’t look like spells usually do?”

“Spells often look peculiar,” Michael said. “What is it really?”

Howl gave a snort of laughter. “ ‘Decide what this is about. Write a second verse’! Oh, lord!” he said and ran for the stairs. “I’ll show you,” he called as his feet pounded up them.

“I think we wasted our time rushing around the marshes last night,” Sophie said. Michael nodded gloomily. Sophie could see he was feeling a fool. “It was my fault,” she said. “I opened the door.”

“What was outside?” Michael asked with great interest.

But Howl came charging downstairs just then. “I haven’t got that book after all,” he said. He seemed upset now. “Michael, did I hear you say you went out and tried to catch a shooting star?”

“Yes, but it was scared stiff and fell in a pool and drowned,” Michael said.

“Thank goodness for that!” said Howl.

“It was very sad,” Sophie said.

“Sad, was it?” said Howl, more upset than ever. “It was your idea, was it? It would be! I can just see you hopping about the marshes, encouraging him! Let me tell you, that was the most stupid thing he’s ever done in his life. He’d have been more than sad if he’d chanced to catch the thing! And you—”

Calcifer flickered sleepily up the chimney. “What’s all this fuss about?” he demanded. “You caught one yourself, didn’t you?”

“Yes, and I—!” Howl began, turning his glass-marble glare on Calcifer. But he pulled himself together and turned to Michael instead. “Michael, promise me you’ll never try to catch one again.”

“I promise,” Michael said willingly. “What is that writing, if it’s not a spell?”

Howl looked at the gray paper in his hand. “It’s called ‘Song’— and that’s what it is, I suppose. But it’s not all here and I can’t remember the rest of it.” He stood and thought, as if a new idea had struck him, one which obviously worried him. “I think the next verse was important,” he said. “I’d better take it back and see—” He went to the door and turned the knob black-down. Then he paused. He looked round at Michael and Sophie, who were naturally enough both staring at the knob. “All right,” he said. “I know Sophie will squirm through somehow if I leave her behind, and that’s not fair to Michael. Come along, both of you, so I’ve got you where I can keep my eye on you.”

He opened the door on the nothingness and walked into it. Michael fell over the stool in his rush to follow. Sophie shed parcels right and left into the hearth as she sprang up too. “Don’t let any sparks get on those!” she said hurriedly to Calcifer.

“If you promise to tell me what’s out there,” Calcifer said. “You had your hint, by the way.”

“Did I?” said Sophie. She was in too much of a hurry to attend.

Chapter 11

In which Howl goes to a strange country in search of a spell.

The nothingness was only inch-thick after all. Beyond it, in a gray, drizzling evening, was a cement path down to a garden gate. Howl and Michael were waiting at the gate. Beyond that was a flat, hard-looking road lined with houses on both sides. Sophie looked back at where she had come from, shivering rather in the drizzle, and found the castle had become a house of yellow brick with large windows. Like all the other houses, it was square and new, with a front door of wobbly glass. Nobody seemed to be about among the houses. That may have been due to the drizzle, but Sophie had a feeling that it was really because, in spite of there being so many houses, this was somewhere at the edge of a town.

Tags: Diana Wynne Jones Howl's Moving Castle Fantasy
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