Read Carbonel and Calidor Online

Authors: Barbara Sleigh

Carbonel and Calidor

BARBARA SLEIGH

Carbonel and Calidor

Being the Further Adventures of a Royal Cat

Illustrated by

Charles Front

THE NEW YORK REVIEW CHILDREN'S COLLECTION
New York

Contents

Title Page

Dedication

CARBONEL AND CALIDOR

1 The Puzzle

2 Crumpet

3 The Purple Cracker

4 Carbonel

5 Highdown

6 Miss Dibdin Makes Do

7 The Scrabbles

8 Un-Wishing

9 Dumpsie

10 Where is Carbonel?

11 ‘May The Best Witch Win!'

12 Light as Air

13 ‘Clumping as Ever'

14 Gone!

15 Tucket Towers

16 Middle Magic

17 Up and Away!

18 The Duel

19 The Dump

20 The Motto

21 The Sale

22 Councils of War

23 The Full Moon

24 The Battle of Tucket Towers

25 The Last Wish

Biographical Notes

Copyright and More Information

For

CATRIONA,

NICOLA,

AND

MHAIRI

Carbonel and Calidor
1. The Puzzle

R
OSEMARY
guessed it was kippers for breakfast by the smell that tickled her nose when she poked her head through the neck of her sweater. It told her too that she was late, so she ran downstairs, picking up the letters from the door-mat on her way into the kitchen.

‘Two for you,' she said to her step-father. ‘They've both got little windows in them, so I expect they're only bills. And one for you, Mum.'

‘I hope your letters are nicer than mine,' said Mr Featherstone to his wife after a pause.

‘I'm pretty sure Rosemary will think so,' she replied. ‘There's something inside which I think must be meant for you, dear.'

As she spoke she handed Rosemary a small wad of paper that had been folded over and over so many times that it was not much bigger than a pat of butter. On the outside was a figure 4, and under that was a drawing of a flower, done by someone who was clearly not very good at drawing.

‘Whatever ...?' began Rosemary, and then she stopped. ‘Of course,' she said to herself. ‘The flower is meant to be a rose. “For Rose.” That's me!'

Only one person was likely to address a letter to her in such a secret, roundabout way, and, her kipper forgotten, she undid the screw of paper. Beneath the first fold was printed in large letters:
IMPORTANT
. Under the next fold was:
VERY IMPORTANT
, and the next:
EXTREMELY IMPORTANT
. In fact, when she finally smoothed out the sheet of paper, there were so many ‘importants' that there was not much room left for a message; but squeezed into a corner in very small writing, she read: ‘Do if you can. Uncle Zack is good fun, but it will be dull on my own.' It was signed: ‘John'.

‘Oh, please may I?' asked Rosemary eagerly.

‘May you what?' asked her step-father, as he helped himself to marmalade.

‘Well, whatever it is John wants me to do, of course!' said Rosemary.

Her mother laughed.

‘It's a good thing John's mother is better at explaining things than he is! Apparently he is going to spend the Easter holidays with his uncle at Highdown. Isn't that the village the other side of Fallowhithe? Well, it seems his uncle is afraid that without someone his own age it won't be much fun for John, so he wants him to bring a friend.'

‘You mean he wants
me
to go?' said Rosemary.

‘Wait a minute, I haven't finished the letter yet,' said her mother. ‘Now where was I? Oh yes ... “Our house has to be re-wired for electricity”,' she read, “‘and you know what that means! Floor boards up, and endless upheaval, so Zachary wants John to come and stay with him till it's finished. He is my husband's eldest brother, and John's godfather. He will be rather busy with the antique shop he runs on the edge of the village, which is why he wants John to have a companion. He is not married, but he has an old housekeeper who has been with him for years, and I know she will keep an eye on the two of them. John says he would rather have Rosemary than anyone else, so I hope you will let her go.”'

‘You will, won't you?' asked Rosemary.

‘What do you think?' said Mrs Featherstone to her husband.

‘I don't see why not,' he replied. ‘Though the ancient housekeeper is going to have her work cut out, from what I seem to remember of you and John when you get together. She doesn't know what she's in for! Wasn't there some game you used to play — now what was it? I know a witch's hat came into it somewhere!'

Mr Featherstone laughed heartily. Rosemary did not laugh.

‘It wasn't ...' she began quickly, and then she stopped. The mention of a witch's hat had stirred something at the back of her mind that she had quite forgotten. It had not been a game; of that she was certain. But how was it possible to explain, when all she could remember was such a jumble in her own mind, like a broken reflection in a pool of water? Rosemary sat puzzling over this with a piece of buttered toast halfway to her mouth. Perhaps John would be able to clear up the mystery. She was suddenly aware of her mother saying:

‘Rosie! Rosie
dear
! Do come to! I've asked you three times.'

‘Sorry,' said Rosemary. ‘I was thinking. Asked me what?'

‘Whether you'd like John to come and stay for the weekend, as soon as you break up next week?'

‘And then we can take you both over to Highdown on Monday,' said her step-father, ‘and meet Uncle Zachary and the unsuspecting housekeeper.'

‘That would be gorgeous!' said Rosemary, in an enthusiastic but muffled voice, round the piece of toast which had at last found its way to her mouth. ‘It's a funny thing,' she went on to herself, ‘I'm not an adventure kind of person as a rule, but whenever John and I are together things seem to happen.'

 

‘I say,' she said, several days later. ‘What is your uncle like, John? I wish you'd tell me.'

It was the morning after the evening he had arrived: a taller, thinner John than before, with unnaturally tidy hair. They were sitting on the garden seat under the apple tree.

‘He's rather hard to describe. He's very tall and straight and thin, with big spectacles. Dad says he can't think how he manages to keep his antique shop going, because he hates selling so many things. He gets quite cross when people buy his favourite bits of furniture. But he's super really. The sort of person who lets you get on with your own thing without interfering, but he's there when you want him.'

Rosemary nodded. ‘I think I'm going to like him.'

‘One day last summer he was just going to ...'

‘Last summer,' interrupted Rosemary. ‘Why do you think we can't either of us remember what we did when you came to stay?'

‘How you do go on about last summer! It is a bit funny we don't either of us remember,' he said. ‘P'raps we got hit on the head and lost our memories, and we shan't get them back till we are clonked again, like people in books!' He laughed. ‘Either that or we're plain bewitched ... What's the matter?'

‘Bewitched! That's it! It was magic that happened!'

‘Magic?' said John. ‘Oh, grow up, Rosie! I was just fooling. Only soppy kids believe in magic. Anyway, what does it matter what we did last summer? All I know is that we had a gorgeous time.'

John didn't notice Rosemary's crimson face. Torn between anxiety that he should not think her a ‘soppy kid', and the certainty that it
was
something magic that had happened, she held her tongue, but she said to herself: ‘This is awful. Whatever's happened to John? And this stuff about magic. I'm sure ...' But was she sure?

They sat in silence: John with his hands in his pockets, legs outstretched, bouncing his heels up and down on the grass, and Rosemary uncomfortably popping blisters of paint on the wooden slats. Her thoughts went on miserably: Suppose he's feeling it's awful because I don't feel the way he does any more? That's two awfuls. And I've got to go and stay with him in a strange house with a strange uncle, and that's the most awful, awful of all. And yet there was the ‘4 Rose' letter, which belonged to the old familiar John.

The uncomfortable silence was broken by her mother, who came down the garden path with three mugs of hot chocolate and a tin of ginger biscuits on a tray.

‘Hallo, dears!' she said, as she sat down beside them. ‘I thought you might be feeling hungry. Help yourselves.' She picked up a mug and began to sip her chocolate. ‘By the way, would you be kind children and do an errand for me? Mrs Cantrip rang up this morning ... Good gracious, poor John! He's choking. Pat him on the back, Rosie!'

Rosemary thumped him heartily between the shoulder blades. When he had recovered his breath, a red-faced John said:

‘Sorry ... drink and biscuit ... got mixed up and went the wrong way. Mrs Cantrip, did you say?'

Mrs Featherstone nodded. ‘You remember her, don't you?'

‘Oh yes!' said John. ‘Does she still live in that funny little house in Fairfax Market with her friend? What was her name? Dibdin, wasn't it?'

‘Yes, they're still there,' said Mrs Featherstone. ‘But with so much building going on all round them I shouldn't think they'll want to stay much longer.'

‘It used to be a queer, old-fashioned sort of place,' said John. He frowned in a puzzled way, and ran his fingers through his hair. Suddenly he looked at Rosemary and grinned. The grin, and the ruffled hair, both belonged to the John of last summer. Perhaps, thought Rosemary, the differentness was only a sort of outside skin, and it was going to be all right after all. She beamed happily back at him.

‘I want you to take a recipe I promised her,' said Mrs Featherstone. ‘When Mrs Cantrip heard you were here, John, she said she would love to see you, and if you both went this afternoon perhaps you could stay for a cup of tea. But if you'd rather not go, of course I could post the recipe.'

‘Oh no, I should love to!' said John, with such enthusiasm that Mrs Featherstone looked at him in mild surprise.

‘Splendid!' she said, and got up from the seat. ‘Bring the tray in with you when you've finished, dears. I must go and make a steak and kidney pie for dinner, so don't eat too many biscuits.'

John watched her go.

‘Do you really want to go to Fairfax Market?' asked Rosemary. ‘Or were you just being polite?'

‘Heavens no!' said John. ‘Of course I want to go.' He frowned thoughtfully. ‘You know, I think Mrs Cantrip and Miss Dibdin have something to do with that business we can't remember. It suddenly came into my head when your mother mentioned Mrs Cantrip's name. That's what made me choke over my biscuit. And I say ...' he wriggled uncomfortably. ‘I'm sorry I was so squashing, about magic, I mean. It might happen ... to some people.'

‘Us?' said Rosemary.

‘Perhaps,' replied John cautiously.

‘That's six,' said Rosemary.

‘Six what?'

‘Biscuits.'

‘Crikey, is it really? Funny how you can go on eating them without noticing. Let's go and play space-ships in the greenhouse.'

So they did.

2. Crumpet

‘I
T
's all different,' said John that afternoon when they reached Fairfax Market. ‘All those new, tall buildings and grand shops! Where is Mrs Cantrip's house?'

‘Over there, squeezed in between two blocks of offices. Let's cross the road while there's a hold-up.'

Mrs Cantrip's house was so small, and the buildings on either side so very large, that it looked as though it might be cracked like a walnut in between the two of them. But the paint gleamed white and fresh on the woodwork, and the brass knocker shone in the afternoon sunlight. In response to their tap the door was opened by a short, roundabout person. John recognized her as Mrs Cantrip's friend, Miss Dibdin. She peered at them short-sightedly.

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