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Authors: Diana Wynne Jones

Vile Visitors

BOOK: Vile Visitors
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Cover

Title Page

 

Who Got Rid of Angus Flint?

    
Chapter One

    
Chapter Two

    
Chapter Three

    
Chapter Four

    
Chapter Five

    
Chapter Six

Chair Person

    
Chapter One

    
Chapter Two

    
Chapter Three

    
Chapter Four

    
Chapter Five

    
Chapter Six

 

About the Author

Copyright

About the Publisher

he day my sister Cora went away for a fortnight, a friend of Dad's called Angus Flint rang up out of the blue. He said his wife had just left him, so could he come and see us to cheer himself up? I don't know how my father came to have a friend like Angus Flint. They met at college. One of them must have been different.

 

Anyway, Dad was pleased Angus Flint had not forgotten him, so he said “Yes,” and then told Mum. Mum said “Oh,” in the blank sort of way I do when I find my brothers have pinched all my chocolate. Then she said, “I suppose he can have Cora's room.” Imagine the way an Ancient Roman might say, “I suppose the lions can have my best friend,” and you'll know how she said it.

That ought to have been a warning because Mum can like people no sane person can stand, but I was doing my piano practice, so I didn't pay attention. Miss Hawksmoore had given me an old children's song to work on called
Elfin Dance
, and I wasn't very good at playing it. It sounds like two very glum medium-sized elephants trying to waltz. And the next number in my book is another old song called
The Fairies Party
. I only carry on because I like our piano so much. It's a great, black, grand piano that Mum bought for £100, cheap at £1,000 to our minds.

Pip can't decide what he's a genius
at
, but, a little while ago, he thought he might be a genius at playing the piano. He was doing his practice when Angus Flint arrived. But before that, Pip and Tony – Tony's the brother between me and Pip – had been so glad that Cora was not around to henpeck them that they had celebrated by eating – well, they wouldn't say what they had eaten, but Tony had come out in spots and been sick. Tony has the art of looking bland and vague when any misdeed happens. Mum thought he really was ill. When Angus Flint breezed in, Tony was in a chair in the sitting-room with a bowl on his knees, and Mum was fussing.

Now this shows you what Angus Flint was like. Mum went to shake hands, saying she was sorry we were at sixes and sevens. And she explained that Tony had been taken ill.

Angus Flint said, “Then open the window.
I
don't want to get it.” Those were his first words. He was square and stumpy, and he had a blank sort of face with pouty lips. His voice was loud and jolly.

Mum looked rather taken aback, but she slid the big window open a little and told Tony to go to bed. Dad asked Angus Flint to sit down. Angus Flint looked critically at the chairs and then sat in the best one. Dad had just begun to ask him where he was living these days, when he bounced up again.

“This is a horribly uncomfortable chair. It's not fit to sit in,” he said.

We hadn't done anything to it – though I wish we had now – it was just that the chair is one of Mum's bargains. All our furniture are bargains that Mum has found in second-hand shops. But Pip looked at me meaningfully and grinned, because I was shuddering. I can't bear anyone to insult a piece of furniture to its face. No matter how ugly or uncomfortable a chair or a table is, I don't think it should be told. It can't help it, poor thing. I know most of our furniture is hideous, and most of the chairs hurt you sooner or later, but there's no need to say so. But I don't think furniture can read, so I don't mind writing it.

Meanwhile, Dad had got out of the chair Tony had been sitting in and suggested Angus Flint sat there. “Not that one,” Angus Flint said. “That's infested with germs.” He ignored all the other chairs and marched over to mine. “I want to sit down,” he told me.

“Let Angus have your chair, Candida,” Mum said.

I was furious, but I got up. People seem to think children have no rights. Pip made his sad face at me out of sympathy. Then he spun round on the piano-stool, put his foot down on the loud pedal and slammed into the old song he was learning to play,
How Shall I My True-love Know?
He's only got as far as that one. Tony says he'd know Pip's True-love anywhere: she's tone deaf, with a stutter. She sounds worse with the loud pedal down.

Angus Flint was explaining in his loud jolly voice that he'd taken up Yoga since his wife left him. “You should all do Yoga,” he said. “It's very profound. It—” He stopped. Pip's True-love did a booming stutter and made a wrong note. Angus Flint roared, “Stop fooling with that piano, can't you! I'm talking.”

“I've got to practise,” Pip said.

“Not while I'm here,” said Angus Flint. Then, before I could do anything, he sprang up and lifted Pip off the piano-stool by his hair. It hurt Pip a lot – as I found out later for myself – but Pip managed to walk out of the room and not even look as if he were crying. My parents were stunned. They are just far too polite to guests. But I'm not.

“Do that again,” I said, “and I shall personally see that you suffer.”

All I got from Angus Flint was a blank angry stare, and he went back to my chair. “This is a stupid chair,” he said. “It's far too low.” The Stare turned out to be his great weapon. He used it on anything he disliked. I kept getting it. Mostly, it was over shutting the window. It's such a big window that, when it's open, it's like having half the sitting-room wall missing. I got colder and colder. I thought Tony's imaginary germs must have gone by now, so I got up and shut it.

Angus Flint did not stop his loud jolly talk to Dad. He just got up and opened it again, talking all the time. I wasn't having that, so I got up and shut it. Angus Flint got up and opened it. I forget how many times we did this. In between, Angus Flint patted Menace. At least – I think he thought he was patting Menace, but Menace had every excuse to think he was being beaten.

“Good little dog, this,” Angus Flint kept saying. Clout, thump!

“Don't hit him so hard,” I said. I got the Stare again, so I got up and shut the window. While Angus Flint was opening it, Menace saved his ribs from being broken by squeezing under one of the cupboards and staying there. The space was small even for a dachshund.

BOOK: Vile Visitors
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