Read Stopping for a Spell Online

Authors: Diana Wynne Jones

Stopping for a Spell

Diana Wynne Jones

Stopping for a Spell

Three Fantasies

Illustrations by

Mark Zug



Title Page

Chair Person

1. Auntie Christa's Box

2. Something in the Garden Shed

3. A Busy Night

4. Coffee Morning

5. Junk Shop

6. Party Games

The Four Grannies

1. Erg Gets an Idea

2. More Grannies Arrive

3. Emily Gets Converted

4. A Large Yellow Teddy Bear

5. How to Keep Four Grannies Busy

6. Erg's Invention Works

7. Supergranny

Who Got Rid of Angus Flint?

1. Angus Flint Arrives

2. The Smell in the Night

3. Roller Skates and Stew

4. Cream Teas

5. Angus Flint's Revenge

6. The Tables Turn

About the Author

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Chair Person


Auntie Christa's Box

What happened to the old striped armchair was Auntie Christa's fault.

The old chair had stood in front of the television for as long as Simon and Marcia could remember. As far as they knew, the cushion at the top had always been tipped sideways and it had never been comfortable to sit in. The seat was too short for Dad and too low for Mum and too high for Simon or Marcia. Its arms were the wrong shape for putting things on. Perhaps that was why there was a coffee stain on one arm and a blot of ink on the other. There was a sticky brown patch on the seat where Simon and Marcia had once had a fight for the ketchup bottle. Then, one evening, the sideways cushion at the top wore out. Whatever the chair was stuffed with began to ooze out in a spiky brown bush.

“The armchair's grown a beard,” said Simon.

“It looks as if someone's smashed a hedgehog on it,” Marcia said.

Dad stood and looked at it. “Let's get rid of it,” he said. “I've never liked it, anyway. I tell you what—we can sit the guy in it on Guy Fawkes night. That will make a really good bonfire.”

Marcia thought this was a very good idea. Now she thought about it, she had never liked that chair either. The purple and orange and pale blue stripes on it never seemed to go with anything else in the room. Simon was not so sure. He always liked things that he
, and he had known that chair all his life. It seemed a shame to burn it on the bonfire. He was glad when Mum objected.

“Oh, you can't throw it out!” Mum said. “It's got such a personality!”

“But it's worn out,” said Dad. “It wasn't new when we bought it. We can afford to buy a much nicer one now.”

They argued about it, until Simon began to feel sorry for the old chair and even Marcia felt a little guilty about burning a chair that was old enough to have a personality.

“Couldn't we just sell it?” she asked.

start!” said Dad. “Even the junk shop wouldn't want a mucky old thing like—”

At that moment Auntie Christa came in. Auntie Christa was not really an auntie, but she liked everyone to call her that. As usual, she came rushing in through the kitchen, carrying three carrier bags and a cardboard box and calling, “Coo-ee! It's me!” When she arrived in the living room, she sank down into the striped armchair and panted, “I just had to come in. I'm on my way to the Community Hall, but my feet are killing me. I've been all afternoon collecting prizes for the children's party for the Caring Society on Saturday—I must have walked
! But you wouldn't
prizes people have given me. Just look.” She dumped her cardboard box on the arm of the chair—it was the arm with the ink blot—in order to fetch a bright green teddy bear out of one of the carrier bags. She wagged the teddy in their faces. “Isn't he

“So-so,” said Dad, and Marcia added, “Perhaps he'd look better without the pink ribbon.” Simon and Mum were too polite to say anything.

“And here's such a lovely clockwork train!” Auntie Christa said, plunging the teddy back in the bag and pulling out a broken engine. “Isn't it exciting? I can't stay long enough to show you everything—I have to go and see to the music for the Senior Citizens' Dance in a minute—but I think I've just got time to drink a cup of tea.”

“Of course,” Mum said guiltily. “Coming up.” She dashed into the kitchen.

Auntie Christa was good at getting people to do things. She was a very busy lady. Whatever went on at the Community Hall—whether it was Youth Club Disco, Children's Fancy Dress, Mothers' Choir, Dog Training, Soup for the Homeless, or a Bring-and-Buy Sale—Auntie Christa was sure to be in the midst of it, telling people what to do. She was usually too busy to listen to what other people said. Mum said Auntie Christa was a wonder, but Dad quite often muttered “Quack-quack-quack” under his breath when Auntie Christa was talking.

“Quack-quack,” Dad murmured as Auntie Christa went on fetching things out of her bags and telling them what good prizes they were. Auntie Christa had just got through all the things in the bags and was turning to the cardboard box on the arm of the chair when Mum came dashing back with tea and cookies.

“Tea!” Auntie Christa said. “I can always rely on a cup of tea in this house!”

She turned gladly to take the tea. Behind her the box slid into the chair.

“Never mind,” said Auntie Christa. “I'll show you what's in there in a minute. It will thrill Simon and Marcia—oh, that reminds me! The African Aid Coffee Morning has to be moved this Saturday because the Stamp Collectors need the hall. I think we'll have the coffee morning here instead. You can easily manage coffee and cakes for twenty on Saturday, can't you?” she asked Mum. “Marcia and Simon can help you.”

“Well—” Mum began, while Dad looked truly dismayed.

“That's settled, then,” said Auntie Christa, and quickly went on to talk about other things. Dad and Simon and Marcia looked at one another glumly. They knew they were booked to spend Saturday morning handing around cakes and soothing Mum while she fussed. But it was worse than that.

“Now, you'll never guess what's in the box,” Auntie Christa said, cheerily passing her cup for more tea. “Suppose we make it a competition. Let's say that whoever guesses wrong has to come and help me with the Caring Society party on Saturday afternoon.”

“I think we'll all be busy—” Dad tried to say.

“No refusing!” Auntie Christa cried. “People are so wicked, the way they always try to get out of doing good deeds! You can have one guess each. And I'll give you a clue. Old Mr. Pennyfeather gave me the box.”

As old Mr. Pennyfeather kept the junk shop, there could have been almost anything in the box. They all thought rather hard.

Simon thought the box had rattled as it tipped. “A tea set,” he guessed.

Marcia thought she had heard the box slosh. “A goldfish in a bowl,” she said.

Mum thought of something that might make a nice prize and guessed, “Dolls' house furniture.”

Dad thought of the sort of things that were usually in Mr. Pennyfeather's shop and said, “Mixed-up jigsaws.”

“You're all wrong, of course!” Auntie Christa said while Dad was still speaking. She sprang up and pulled the box back to the arm of the chair. “It's an old-fashioned conjurer's kit. Look. Isn't it thrilling?” She held up a large black top hat with a big shiny blue ball in it. Water—or something—was dripping out of the hat underneath. “Oh, dear,” Auntie Christa said. “I think the crystal ball must be leaking. It's made quite a puddle in your chair.”

Dark liquid was spreading over the seat of the chair, mixing with the old ketchup stain.

“Are you sure you didn't spill your tea?” Dad asked.

Mum gave him a stern look. “Don't worry,” she said. “We were going to throw the chair away anyway. We were just talking about it when you came.”

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