Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chapter the Sixth

The amazing old woman proceeded to flatten and smooth the wrapping paper, ignoring a few small juice stains. When she was satisfied, she appeared lost in concentration as though trying to remember something. Then, before Jonathan’s wide and uncomprehending eyes, Auntie Woezzl dipped the goose quill in thin air and commenced writing on the rescued paper with the most beautiful purple ink the boy had ever seen. She rapidly sketched Wolmsley Wood, carefully indicating the spot where she and Jonathan had met and the location of her home. She chuckled as she labeled it ‘Old Lady Dyrnmantle’s Castle.’ She also drew in hills and streams Jonathan had not yet seen. The Wood seemed to be growing in all directions and once or twice the map appeared to correct itself , but Jonathan attributed this to lack of attention on his part.

Not once did Auntie Woezzl mark a spot as the Grubbley’s home, which disconcerted Jonathan not a little. Finally she made a large purple X, paused, and looked at Jonathan meaningfully. He, on the other hand, had no idea what all this meaningfulness meant.

“That, my good Grubbley, is where you must now go,….”


“…and this is what you must now do.” Auntie Woezzl’s voice was still kindly but much more serious. She sounded more like a Lady Dyrnmantle than like an Auntie. Jonathan concluded that it was useless to interrupt. His questions would either be answered or not, more likely not, whether he asked them or remained silent. The old woman continued.

“Where I have marked the X you will find the Gardens of Isapher. Be careful; the plants which grow there are enchanted. I do not know any longer whether the enchantments be good or evil, although I suspect that both powers are at work in the Gardens. In the midst of the Gardens there rises a lovely and gracious castle.” At this point Jonathan noted an almost wistful quality in Auntie Woezzl’s speech. “It is named the Timnel, for the stately Timnel Tower which crowns it. Locked in the top of this tower is a shocking orange parasol. Don’t snigger, Grubbley, it ill becomes you. This parasol is endued with great powers. So you see, this is no ordinary matter. Furthermore, the parasol belongs to me, as it did to my mother before me, and to her mother, and her mother’s mother, and so on, for ages you could neither count nor remember. You must bring it back to me, Grubbley.”

At this moment Auntie Woezzl’s eyes blazed, not with anger but with a great passion. Jonathan was truly frightened for the first time in this adventure, and all the more so as he suspected that Auntie Woezzl had more to tell him.

“Of course you don’t know why you have been chosen, Grubbley. It’s really very simple. You are a stranger in Wolmsley Wood. This means you are not under any enchantments. You are also innocent, or as nearly so as any human I have met in decades. There is one other very important matter you should know about.”

Jonathan had been waiting for this.

“The Timnel is guarded by a fearsome gnord, the first to enter this land in three centuries. you will have to overcome it in order to rescue my parasol.”

Jonathan finally ventured a question.

“And what, pray, is a gnord?”

“You will know him when you meet him. They smell and taste something awful. But they are really great cowards inside and their bite is only rarely fatal.”

“But what if I don’t want to go?” Jonathan had finally dared to utter the crucial question. Auntie Woezzl merely stared at him in disbelief.


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