The Lady of the Tower: Part II

 

The door of the tiny wooden shack screeched open. Its metal wind chimes, put to a rather inharmonious use, bashed against the glass sharply. A little man with quite large ears peered up at the three boys from behind the counter. They had a rather dodgy look about them as they progressed through the door of the small dim shack.

Long jagged cracks ran up the dreary grey and brown walls. The party sauntered over to the counter, where they leant over on their elbows broodingly. “Gooday, Wizard Dumbee,” the man grunted welcomingly.

The tallest and most important looking youth cleared his throat loudly. His self-importance was evident by the certain cockiness of one constantly ever-so-slightly raised eyebrow, and the tilt of his head—so high, that it was slightly leaning back with his nose in the air. He opened his mouth to speak, but a voice suddenly came from somewhere behind the counter. He looked in astonishment at a cloth on the wall behind Mr. Hatty. There were various clangings and bashings of things falling onto the floor: there was the sound of many shifting things and tiny sharp things falling onto the floor at once, bouncing, and going ‘po-iiiing!’ Finally the tattered rag reused as a curtain to cover a hole in the wall was pulled aside. It was pulled aside by a small girlish hand, and with that hand, a little face appeared with dark eyes and feathery brown hair. She stood and swept her blue dress with many shining tiny things dangling from it with her hands for a moment. “Mr. Hatty,” she said matter-of-factly with her melodious voice, “I thought that it was my turn to—” and then she looked up at the three boys. She stared. As a bird when it knows that it is spotted by a predator, she looked as if she wanted to get away quickly.

Dumbee stared at Wynne for a few moments before he spoke, with a grin on his face which was nearly a sneer. He breathed in, and out in a voice that he hoped sounded beautiful. He asked her many questions, while gazing into her dark eyes imploringly. Only a few of these such questions were, “Might I just say, you look…?” and “Might you join me at the dance tomorrow evening?”

For every question that he asked, her dark eyebrows drew together more closely. All that she answered to any of his questions was, “I don’t know,” in a tone of voice which suggested that it was rather him that she did not want to know. Finally she darted behind the curtain and did not reappear.

“Did you have a good conversation?” Mr. Hatty grunted a little anxiously. He had sensed that it was a mostly one-sided conversation.

Dumbee nodded with his grin-sneer lingering on his face. He seemed to be not quite there as he rapidly fluttered his eye-lashes. It was as if he had recently been staring at a bright light and he could not blink away the afterimage; he had become rather dazed by it. He received an irritable nudge on his arm, and glared at the brooding youth beside him with disdain.

“There is something else that I came for,” Dumbee admitted cunningly, and glanced about the shack. There seemed to be no one lurking amongst the various rows of nets for catching butterflies and other small creatures, and the fishing rods, and the long curved hooks for catching rather larger creatures.

“And what might this thing be?” Mr. Hatty enquired eagerly. Mr. Hatty’s curiosity made him stare up at Dumbee and lean towards him until his long round nose was pressed flatly against the counter, which happened to be perfectly level with it.

“I have heard that you harbour shadows,” Dumbee said in a near whisper.

Mr. Hatty’s eye-brows shot up in surprise. It was a very peculiar sight as Dumbee and the others could only see the top half of his face, peeking up over the counter. Eyebrows still raised at precarious angles, he looked warily to the door. Then he looked up at Dumbee, and beckoned him down with his finger. Dumbee leant over as far as he was able to without falling over the counter.

“What if I do, boy, eh?” he muttered distrustfully into Dumbee’s ear.

Dumbee leant back and stood up to his full height. He shrugged. “I have an offer to make, Mr. Hatty. I will give you nine silvers,” he said.

Mr. Hatty did not look pleased. “You must not be aware of what would happen to me if circumstances should…!” he said, in a thick, worried, agitated voice. “And—” Mr. Hatty scrunched his bushy eyebrows together in concentration, perhaps with his aim to look rather pitiful, but instead he looked as if he had smelled a bag of rotting potatoes “—to my dear Wynne if such a thing were to happen that this thing were traced back to me—because you careless—er, pardon—boys set it loose. No,” said Mr. Hatty, “thirteen silvers.”

Dumbee crossly flung the small but precious shiny silver coins onto the counter, where they rang for a moment before they stopped spinning and settled. Mr. Hatty’s eyes widened with a lustful satisfaction. “Good,” he said, and ran his tongue slowly along his lips, which stretched far across his wide face.

“She’ll never understand until it’s too late,” Dumbee muttered ecstatically. He grinned almost as widely as Mr. Hatty. He clutched his newly acquired book to himself, as he and his friends made their way from the shack, down the long steep hill.

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