“Er—not really,” Fanny said, trying to hide her broom behind her back. “The lady of the house is Sophie.”
“Or will be shortly,” Mrs. Fairfax said, beaming benevolently.
Howl said to Sophie, “I’ve been wondering all along if you would turn out to be that lovely girl I met on May Day. Why were you so scared then?”
If Sophie had been attending, she would have seen Wizard Suliman go up to Lettie. Now he was himself, it was clear that Wizard Suliman was at least as strong-minded as Lettie was. Lettie looked quite nervous as Suliman loomed craggily over her. “It seemed to be the Prince’s memory I had of you and not my own at all,” he said.
“That’s quite all right,” Lettie said bravely. “It was a mistake.”
“But it wasn’t!” protested Wizard Suliman. “Would you let me take you on as a pupil at least?” Lettie went fiery red at this and did not seem to know what to say.
That seemed to Sophie to be Lettie’s problem. She had her own. Howl said, “I think we ought to live happily ever after,” and she thought he meant it. Sophie knew that living happily ever after with Howl would be a good deal more eventful than any story made it sound, though she was determined to try. “It should be hair-raising,” added Howl.
“And you’ll exploit me,” Sophie said.
“And then you’ll cut up all my suits to teach me,” said Howl.
If Sophie or Howl had had any attention to spare, they might have noticed that Prince Justin, Wizard Suliman, and Mrs. Fairfax were all trying to speak to Howl, and that Fanny, Martha, and Lettie were plucking at Sophie’s sleeves, while Michael was dragging at Howl’s jacket.
“That was the neatest use of words of power I ever saw from anyone,” Mrs. Fairfax said. “I wouldn’t have known what to do with that creature. As I often say…”
“Sophie,” said Lettie, “I need your advice.”
“Wizard Howl,” said Wizard Suliman, “I must apologize for trying to bite you so often. In the normal way, I wouldn’t dream of setting teeth in a fellow countryman.”
“Sophie, I think this gentleman is a prince,” said Fanny.
“Sir,” said Prince Justin, “I believe I must thank you for rescuing me from the Witch.”
“Sophie,” said Martha, “the spell’s off you! Did you hear?”
But Sophie and Howl were holding one another’s hands and smiling and smiling, quite unable to stop. “Don’t bother me now,” said Howl. “I only did it for the money.”
“Liar!” said Sophie.
“I said,” Michael shouted, “that Calcifer’s come back!”
That did get Howl’s attention, and Sophie’s too. They looked at the grate, where, sure enough, the familiar blue face was flickering among the logs.
“You didn’t need to do that,” Howl said.
“I don’t mind, as long as I can come and go,” Calcifer said. “Besides, it’s raining out there in Market Chipping.”