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Authors: Diana Wynne Jones

Unexpected Magic

BOOK: Unexpected Magic
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DEDICATION

To all at Greenwillow, for putting up with me all these years

—D.W. J.

CONTENTS

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

The Girl Jones

Nad and Dan adn Quaffy

The Plague of Peacocks

The Master

Enna Hittims

The Girl Who Loved the Sun

The Fluffy Pink Toadstool

Auntie Bea's Day Out

Carruthers

What the Cat Told Me

The Green Stone

The Fat Wizard

No One

Dragon Reserve, Home Eight

Little Dot

Everard's Ride

Part I Riders Through the Bay

   
Chapter 1 Outlaw

   
Chapter 2 Wild Rider

   
Chapter 3 Truants

   
Chapter 4 Prince

Part II Riders by Night

   
Chapter 1 Murder

   
Chapter 2 Camp

   
Chapter 3 Dungeon

   
Chapter 4 Armies

Part III Riders by Day

   
Chapter 1 Courcys

   
Chapter 2 Tracks

   
Chapter 3 Castles in the Air

   
Chapter 4 Pistol

Part IV Cecilia's Last Ride

   
Chapter 1 Hunt

   
Chapter 2 Kill

   
Chapter 3 Gone Away

Excerpt from
Howl's Moving Castle

   
Chapter 1: In which Sophie talks to hats

Excerpt from
The Merlin Conspiracy

   
Chapter 1

Excerpt from
Dark Lord of Derkholm

   
Chapter 1

Excerpt from
Archer's Goon

   
Chapter 1

About the Author

Back Ads

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

The Girl Jones

I
t was 1944. I was nine years old and fairly new to the village. They called me “The girl Jones.” They called anyone “The girl this” or “The boy that” if they wanted to talk about them a lot. Neither of my sisters was ever called “The girl Jones.” They were never notorious.

On this particular Saturday morning I was waiting in our yard with my sister Ursula because a girl called Jean had promised to come and play. My sister Isobel was also hanging around. She was not exactly with us, but I was the one she came to if anything went wrong and she liked to keep in touch. I had only met Jean at school before. I was thinking that she was going to be pretty fed up to find we were lumbered with two little ones.

When Jean turned up, rather late, she was accompanied by two little sisters, a five-year-old very like herself and a tiny three-year-old called Ellen. Ellen had white hair and a little brown stormy face with an expression on it that said she was going to bite anyone who gave her any trouble. She was alarming. All three girls were dressed in impeccable starched cotton frocks that made me feel rather shabby. I had dressed for the weekend. But then so had they, in a different way.

“Mum says I got to look after them,” Jean told me dismally. “Can you have them for me for a bit while I do her shopping? Then we can play.”

I looked at stormy Ellen with apprehension. “I'm not very good at looking after little ones,” I said.

“Oh, go on!” Jean begged me. “I'll be much quicker without them. I'll be your friend if you do.”

So far, Jean had shown a desire to play, but had never offered friendship. I gave in. Jean departed, merrily swinging her shopping bag.

Almost at once a girl called Eva turned up. She was an official friend. She wore special boots and one of her feet was just a sort of blob. Eva fascinated me, not because of the foot but because she was so proud of it. She used to recite the list of all her other relatives who had queer feet, ending with, “And my uncle has only one toe.” She too carried a shopping bag and had a small one in tow, a brother in her case, a wicked five-year-old called Terry. “Let me dump him on you while I do the shopping,” Eva bargained, “and then we can play. I won't be long.”

“I don't know about looking after boys,” I protested. But Eva was a friend and I agreed. Terry was left standing beside stormy Ellen, and Eva went away.

A girl I did not know so well, called Sybil, arrived next. She wore a fine blue cotton dress with a white pattern and was hauling along two small sisters, equally finely dressed. “Have these for me while I do the shopping and I'll be your friend.” She was followed by a rather older girl called Cathy, with a sister, and then a number of girls I only knew by sight. Each of them led a small sister or brother into our yard. News gets round in no time in a village. “What have you done with your sisters, Jean?” “Dumped them on the girl Jones.” Some of these later arrivals were quite frank about it.

“I heard you're having children. Have these for me while I go down the Rec.”

“I'm not good at looking after children,” I claimed each time before I gave in. I remember thinking this was rather odd of me. I had been in sole charge of Isobel for years. As soon as Ursula was four, she was in my charge too. I suppose I had by then realized I was being had for a sucker and this was my way of warning all these older sisters. But I believed what I said. I was not good at looking after little ones.

In less than twenty minutes I was standing in the yard surrounded by small children. I never counted, but there were certainly more than ten of them. None of them came above my waist. They were all beautifully dressed because they all came from what were called the “clean families.” The “dirty families” were the ones where the boys wore big black boots with metal in the soles and the girls had grubby frocks that were too long for them. These kids had starched creases in their clothes and clean socks and shiny shoes. But they were, all the same, skinny, knowing, village children. They knew their sisters had shamelessly dumped them and they were disposed to riot.

“Stop all that damned
noise
!” bellowed my father. “Get these children out of here!”

He was always angry. This sounded near to an explosion.

“We're going for a walk,” I told the milling children. “Come along.” And I said to Isobel, “Coming?”

She hovered away backward. “No.” Isobel had a perfect instinct for this kind of thing. Some of my earliest memories are of Isobel's sturdy brown legs flashing round and round as she rode her tricycle for dear life away from a situation I had got her into. These days, she usually arranged things so that she had no need to run for her life. I was annoyed. I could have done with her help with all these kids. But not that annoyed. Her reaction told me that something interesting was going to happen.

“We're going to have an adventure,” I told the children.

“There's no adventures nowadays,” they told me. They were, as I said, knowing children, and no one, not even me, regarded the War that was at that time going on around us as any kind of adventure. This was a problem to me. I craved adventures, of the sort people had in books, but nothing that had ever happened to me seemed to qualify. No spies made themselves available to be unmasked by me, no gangsters ever had nefarious dealings where I could catch them for the police.

But one did what one could. I led the crowd of them out into the street, feeling a little like the Pied Piper—or no: they were so little and I was so big that I felt really old, twenty at least, and rather like a nursery school teacher. And it seemed to me that since I was landed in this position I might as well do something I wanted to do.

“Where are we going?” they clamored at me.

“Down Water Lane,” I said. Water Lane, being almost the only unpaved road in the area, fascinated me. It was like lanes in books. If anywhere led to adventure, it would be Water Lane. It was a moist, mild, gray day, not adventurous weather, but I knew from books that the most unlikely conditions sometimes led to great things.

BOOK: Unexpected Magic
4.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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