Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle 1) - Page 42

“But your cold’s worse,” said Michael.

“He’s made it worse,” said Sophie, “by getting up and chasing around.”

Howl at once put on his noblest expression. “I’ll be all right,” he croaked, “as long as I keep out of the sea wind. It’s a bitter place, the Pentstemmon estate. The trees are all bent sideways and there’s no shelter for miles.”

Sophie knew he was just playing for sympathy. She snorted.

“And what about the Witch?” Michael asked.

Howl coughed piteously. “I shall go in disguise, probably as another corpse,” he said, trailing back toward the stairs.

“Then you need a winding sheet and not this suit,” Sophie called after him. Howl trailed away upstairs without answering and Sophie did not protest. She now had the charmed suit in her hands and it was too good a chance to miss. She took up her scissors and hacked the gray-and-scarlet suit into seven jagged pieces. That ought to discourage Howl from wearing it. Then she got to work on the last triangles of the blue-and-silver suit, mostly little fragments from round the neck. It was now very small indeed. It looked as if it might be a size too small even for Mrs. Pentstemmon’s page boy.

“Michael,” she said. “Hurry up with that spell. It’s urgent.”

“I won’t be long now,” Michael said.

Half an hour later he checked things off on his list and said he thought he was ready. He came over to Sophie carrying a tiny bowl with a very small amount of green powder in the bottom. “Where do you want it?”

“Here,” said Sophie, snipping off the last threads. She pushed the sleeping dog-man aside and laid the child-sized suit carefully on the floor. Michael, quite as carefully, tipped the bowl and sprinkled powder on every inch of it.

Then they both waited, rather anxiously.

A moment passed. Michael sighed with relief. The suit was gently spreading out larger. They watched it spread, and spread, until one side of it piled up against the dog-man and Sophie had to pull it further away to give it room.

After about five minutes they both agreed that the suit looked Howl’s size again. Michael gathered it up and carefully shook the excess powder off into the grate. Calcifer flared and snarled. The dog-man jumped in his sl

eep.

“Watch it!” said Calcifer. “That was strong.”

Sophie took the suit and hobbled upstairs on tiptoe with it. Howl was asleep on his gray pillows, with his spiders busily making new webs around him. He looked noble and sad in his sleep. Sophie hobbled to put the blue-and-silver suit on the old chest by the window, trying to tell herself that the suit had got no larger since she picked it up. “Still, if it stops you going to the funeral, that’s no loss,” she murmured as she took a look out of the window.

The sun was low across the neat garden. A large, dark man was out there, enthusiastically throwing a red ball toward Howl’s nephew, Neil, who was standing with a look of patient suffering, holding a bat. Sophie could see the man was Neil’s father.

“Snooping again,” Howl said suddenly behind her. Sophie swung round guiltily, to find that Howl was only half awake really. He may even have thought it was the day before, because he said, “ ‘Teach me to keep off envy’s stinging’—that’s all part of past years now. I love Wales, but it doesn’t love me. Megan’s full of envy because she’s respectable and I’m not.” Then he woke up a little more and asked, “What are you doing?”

“Just putting out your suit for you,” Sophie said, and hobbled hastily away.

Howl must have gone back to sleep. He did not emerge again that night. There was no sign of him stirring when Sophie and Michael got up next morning. They were careful not to disturb him. Neither of them felt that going to Mrs. Pentstemmon’s funeral was a good idea. Michael crept out on the hills to take the dog-man for a run. Sophie tiptoed about, getting breakfast, hoping Howl would oversleep. There was still no sign of Howl when Michael came back. The dog-man was starving hungry. Sophie and Michael were hunting in the closet for things a dog could eat when they heard Howl coming slowly downstairs.

“Sophie,” Howl’s voice said accusingly.

He was standing holding the door to the stairs open with an arm that was entirely hidden inside an immense blue-and-silver sleeve. His feet, on the bottom stair, were standing inside the top half of a gigantic blue-and-silver jacket. Howl’s other arm did not come anywhere near the other huge sleeve. Sophie could see that arm in outline, making bulging gestures under a vast frill of collar. Behind Howl, the stairs were full of blue-and-silver suit trailing back all the way to his bedroom.

“Oh, dear!” said Michael. “Howl, it was my fault I—”

“Your fault? Garbage!” said Howl. “I can detect Sophie’s hand a mile off. And there are several miles of this suit. Sophie dear, where is my other suit?”

Sophie hurriedly fetched the pieces of the gray-and-scarlet suit out of the broom cupboard, where she had hidden them.

Howl surveyed them. “Well, that’s something,” he said. “I’d been expecting it to be too small to see. Give it here, all seven of it.” Sophie held the bundle of gray-and-scarlet cloth out toward him. Howl, with a bit of searching, succeeded in finding his hand inside the multiple folds of blue-and-silver sleeve and working it through a gap between two tremendous stitches. He grabbed the bundle off her. “I am now,” he said, “going to get ready for the funeral. Please, both of you, refrain from doing anything whatsoever while I do. I can tell Sophie is in top form at the moment, and I want this room the usual size when I come back into it.”

He set off with dignity to the bathroom, wading in blue-and-silver suit. The rest of the blue-and-silver suit followed him, dragging step by step down the stairs and rustling across the floor. By the time Howl was in the bathroom, most of the jacket was on the ground floor and the trousers were appearing on the stairs. Howl half shut the bathroom door and seemed to go on hauling the suit in hand over hand. Sophie and Michael and the dog-man stood and watched yard after yard of blue or silver fabric proceed across the floor, decorated with an occasional silver button the size of a millstone and enormous, regular, ropelike stitches. There may have been nearly a mile of it.

“I don’t think I got that spell quite right,” Michael said when the last huge scalloped edge had disappeared round the bathroom door.

“And didn’t he let you know it!” said Calcifer. “Another log, please.”

Tags: Diana Wynne Jones Howl's Moving Castle Fantasy
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