Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle 1) - Page 41

“I hope he stays,” Michael said. “I’ve always wanted a dog.”

Howl heard Michael’s voice. He arrived downstairs wrapped in the brown patchwork cover off his bed. Sophie stopped sewing and took a careful grip on the dog. But the dog was courteous to Howl too. He did not object when Howl fetched a hand out of the coverlet and patted him.

“Well?” Howl croaked, dispersing clouds of dust as he conjured some more tissues.

“I got everything,” said Michael. “And there’s a real piece of luck, Howl. There’s an empty shop for sale down in Market Chipping. It used to be a hat shop. Do you think we could move the castle there?”

Howl sat on a tall stool like a robed Roman senator and considered. “It depends how much it costs,” he said. “I’m quite tempted to move the Porthaven entrance there. That won’t be easy, because it will mean moving Calcifer. Porthaven is where Calcifer actually is. What do you say, Calcifer?”

“It will take a very careful operation to move me,” Calcifer said. He had become several shades paler at the thought. “I think you should leave me where I am.”

So Fanny is selling the shop, Sophie thought as the other three went on discussing the move. And so much for the conscience Howl said he had! But the main thing on her mind was the puzzling behavior of the dog. In spite of Sophie telling him many times that she could not take the spell off him, he did not seem to want to leave. He did not want to bite Howl. He let Michael take him for a run on Porthaven Marshes that night and the following morning. His aim seemed to be to become part of the household.

“Though if I were you, I’d be in Upper Folding making sure to catch Lettie on the rebound,” Sophie told him.

Howl was in and out of bed all the next day. When he was in bed, Michael had to tear up and down the stairs. When he was up, Michael had to race about, measuring the castle with him and fixing metal brackets to every single corner. In between. Howl kept appearing, robed in his quilt and clouds of dust, to ask questions and make announcements, mostly for Sophie’s benefit.

“Sophie, since you whitewashed over all the marks we made when we invented the castle, perhaps you can tell me where the marks in Michael’s room were?”

“No,” said Sophie, sewing in her seventieth blue triangle. “I can’t.”

Howl sneezed sadly and retired. Shortly he emerged again. “Sophie, if we were to take that hat shop, what would we sell?”

Sophie found she had had enough of hats to last a lifetime. “Not hats,” she said. “You can buy the shop, but not the business, you know.”

“Apply your fiendish mind to the matter,” said Howl. “Or even think, if you know how.” And he marched away upstairs again.

Five minutes later, down he came again. “Sophie, have you any preferences about the other entrances? Where would you like us to live?”

Sophie instantly found her mind going to Mrs. Fairfax’s house. “I’d like a nice house with lots of flowers,” she said.

“I see,” croaked Howl and marched away again.

Next time he appeared, he was dressed. That made three times that day, and Sophie thought nothing of it until Howl put on the velvet cloak Michael had used and became a pale, coughing, red-bearded man with a large red handkerchief held to his nose. She realized Howl was going out then. “You’ll make your cold worse,” she said.

“I shall die and then you’ll all be sorry,” the red-bearded man said, and went out through the door with the knob green-down.

For an hour after that, Michael had time to work on his spell. Sophie got as far as her eighty-fourth blue triangle. Then the red-bearded man was back again. He shed the velvet cloak and became Howl, coughing harder than before and, if that was possible, more sorry for himself than ever.

“I took the shop,” he told Michael. “It’s got a useful shed at the back and a house at the side, and I took the lot. I’m not sure what I shall pay for it all with, though.”

“What about the money you get if you find Prince Justin?” Michael asked.

“You forget,” croaked Howl, “the whole object of this operation is not to look for Prince Justin. We are going to vanish.” And he went coughing upstairs to bed, where he shortly began shaking the beams sneezing for attention again.

Michael had to leave the spell and rush upstairs. Sophie might have gone, except the dog-man got in the way when she tried. This was another part of his odd behavior. He did not like Sophie to do anything for Howl. Sophie felt this was fairly reasonable. She began on her eighty-fifth triangle.

Michael came cheerfully down and worked on his spell again. He was so happy that he was joining in Calcifer’s saucepan song and chatting to the skull just as Sophie did, while he worked. “We’re going to live in Market Chipping,” he told the skull. “I can go and see my Lettie every day.”

“Is that why you told Howl about the shop?” Sophie asked, threading her needle. By this time she was on her eighty-ninth triangle.

“Yes,” Michael said happily. “Lettie told me about it when we were wondering how we’d ever see one another again. I told her—”

He was interrupted by Howl, trailing downstairs in his quilt again. “This is positively my last appearance,” Howl croaked. “I forgot to say that Mrs. Pentstemmon is being buried tomorrow on her estate near Porthaven and I shall need this suit cleaned.” He brought the gray-and-scarlet suit out from inside his coverlet and dropped it on Sophie’s lap. “You’re attending to the wrong suit,” he told Sophie. “This is the one I like, but I haven’t the energy to clean it myself.”

“You don’t need to go to the funeral, do you?” Michael said anxiously.

“I wouldn’t dream of staying away,” said Howl. “Mrs. Pentstemmon made me the wizard I am. I have to pay my respects.”

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