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The Cat's Eye Shell

Kate Forsyth

  Kate Forsyth is a bestselling author across several genres. Her titles include the Witches of Eileanan series, The Gypsy Crown, The Silver Horse and The Herb of Grace, the first three books in the Chain of Charms series, The Starthorn Tree, Wishing for Trouble and Dragon Gold. Kate lives with her husband, three children and a black cat called Shadow in Sydney.


  The Chain of Charms series:

  The Gypsy Crown

  The Silver Horse

  The Herb of Grace

  The Starthorn Tree



  Ben and Tim’s Magical Misadventures:

  Wishing for Trouble

  Dragon Gold




  First published 2007 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited

  1 Market Street, Sydney

  Text copyright © Kate Forsyth 2007

  Illustrations copyright © Jeremy Reston 2007

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

  National Library of Australia cataloguing-in-publication data:

  Kate Forsyth, 1966–.

  The cat’s eye shell.

  For primary school aged children.

  ISBN 978 1 4050 3783 9

  1. Gypsies–Juvenile fiction. I. Title. (Series: Forsyth, Kate, 1966– Chain of charms; 4)


  Internal text design by Seymour Designs Typeset in 11/17 pt Janson Text by Post Pre-press Group Printed in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group

  The characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

  These electronic editions published in 2007 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd

  1 Market Street, Sydney 2000

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.

  The Cat’s Eye Shell

  Kate Forsyth

  Adobe eReader format 978-1-74197-827-8

  Microsoft Reader format 978-1-74197-868-1

  Mobipocket format 978-1-74197-909-1

  Online format 978-1-74197-950-3

  Epub format 978-1-74262-537-9

  Macmillan Digital Australia

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  Luka Finch (13)

  Emilia Finch (13) – his cousin

  Maggie Finch – their grandmother

  Mimi (9) – Luka’s sister

  Beatrice (15) – Emilia’s sister

  Noah (9) – Emilia’s brother

  Zizi – a monkey

  Rollo – a dog


  Tom Whitehorse – son of the Squire of Norwood

  Pastor Spurgeon – the Puritan minister of the Kingston-Upon-Thames parish church

  Coldham – a thief-taker for Cromwell

  Lord Harry Morrow – a highwayman

  James Butler, Duke of Ormonde – a Royalist spy

  Nat – his servant

  Father Plummer – a Catholic priest

  Lady Mary Gage, of Firle Place

  Master John Gage – her youngest son

  Nellie – their cook

  Simon – their gardener


  Milosh – a smuggler


  Emilia and Luka Finch are thirteen-year-old gypsy children on a perilous journey to save their families from the gallows. The Finch family were caught singing and dancing for pennies in the marketplace, which is against the law now the Puritan general, Oliver Cromwell, rules England. They have only two weeks left before the travelling magistrates come to town. Only two weeks left to live.

  Their grandmother Maggie, called Queen of the Gypsies because of her uncanny ability to tell the future, has told them to travel in search of their gypsy kin and beg them for their help – and for their lucky charms.

  So far, Emilia has found two of the missing charms – the silver horse and the sprig of rue – but in order to win them, she had to give up Alida, the mare she had raised from a foal, and Luka had to give away his beloved violin. Sweetheart the dancing bear has been left with another gypsy family, the Hearnes, for safekeeping. This will hopefully make it much easier for the two children to escape Coldham, the thieftaker on their trail.

  For the two children have found themselves caught up in a royalist plot to restore the young king Charles II to his throne. This is a dangerous business – Cromwell has spies everywhere, and he is not called ‘Old Ironsides’ because of his sweet and forgiving nature. Anyone caught plotting against Cromwell faces being hanged, drawn and quartered, the terrible death saved for traitors.

  In company with a duke in disguise and his servant, a Cavalier-turned-highwayman, a Catholic priest, and the son of the local squire, Luka and Emilia are only one step ahead of Coldham and the Roundhead soldiers. Somehow they must evade capture, help the royalist duke escape, and still find the mysterious charm of the cat’s eye shell, which is said to give power over the forces of the sea and water …


  The Story So Far

  A Mad and Cunning Plan

  Gift Horses

  Down the Well

  Along the South Downs

  Firle Place

  The Laboratory

  Flash, Flash, Flash

  The Mermaid Inn

  Down to the Strand

  Long Past Midnight

  Treachery is Afoot

  The Facts behind the Fiction

  A Mad and

  Cunning Plan


  20th August 1658

  A boat slid over the dark waters of the bay, its oars making the occasional soft splash that caused Luka and Emilia to wince and shrink down, pulling the sail cloth further over their heads.

  Towering above the little skiff were immense sea-faring ships, their hulks black against the great arc of starry sky. Their tall masts creaked as they rocked up and down on the waters of the harbour, and their rigging sang with a high, eerie sound. Occasionally a distant cry could be heard, or a shrill bosun’s whistle calling the passing hours of the night. Each sound carried a great distance over the water, and made the fugitives hidden on board the skiff acutely aware of the need for silence.

  Luka clasped his tiny monkey Zizi in his arms, petting her so that she stayed still and silent, her wrinkled face anxious and wide-eyed. She did not like the rocking of the boat, or the creaking and groaning of the great ships, or the sudden unexpected slap of a wave that sent a spray of water ove
r them. She clung to Luka tightly, and occasionally whimpered in fear.

  Rollo did not like the boat either. He lay beside Emilia, his tail tucked between his legs, his thin body trembling under its thick, shaggy pelt. Emilia soothed him silently, and he pressed closer to her.

  Also hidden under the tarpaulin were the Duke of Ormonde, the exiled king’s right-hand man; Lord Harry Morrow, Cavalier-turned-highwayman; and Father Plummer, a Catholic priest and co-conspirator. Rowing the boat was the duke’s servant, Nat, and Tom Whitehorse, the son of the Norwood squire, for the duke had thought they were the ones least likely to arouse suspicion.

  Although Luka had someone’s elbow in the small of his back and someone’s boot wedged up near his ear, and he could scarcely breathe due to the smell of bilge water and bad breath and wet dog, he dared not wriggle or complain. They all knew the dreadful consequences of being caught in the company of the Duke of Ormonde, the most wanted man in the country.

  Luka could not help wondering how he came to be here, in company with rebels and traitors. Personally he did not much care whether a king or a lord protector ruled the land, as long as he was free to play his fiddle and wander the roads, earning a penny here and a penny there, picking apples or harvesting hay, mending a broken gate or digging a ditch, feeling the sun hot on his back in summer and the snow tingling on his tongue in winter.

  Except that his fiddle was gone, and he and Emilia were on the run, with little more than two weeks left to try to find some way to save their families. Luka took a deep breath and then another, forcing himself to relax. These Royalist rebels were helping them on their way, he reminded himself. He and Emilia could never have stolen a boat and sailed it this far by themselves. Soon they would dock the boat and go their separate ways. The Duke of Ormonde would find a ship and sail back to the impoverished royal court, in exile on the Continent. Lord Harry would go back to robbing coaches and drinking toasts to the king on the side of the road; Tom Whitehorse would go back to his father’s comfortable manor at Norwood; and the portly little priest, Father Plummer, would go back to his flock, worshipping in secret. Luka and Emilia would go on to find the other Rom tribes and beg them for their help in saving their families.

  All they had to do was safely dock their skiff.

  It was a mad and cunning plan, Luka thought, perhaps mad and cunning enough to work. The idea was to sneak in under the cover of darkness and dock their boat near one of the great ships. The duke and his servant would then hurry ashore, while the skiff pushed off and escaped to the east. The town was always filled with people embarking and disembarking from the many war and trade ships that docked there, and hopefully the Duke of Ormonde would be swallowed up in the crowd of sailors and merchants and soldiers, and be able to seek passage back to the Continent, where the young king waited, fretting for news and impatient for the chance to win back his throne.

  The little skiff crept quietly in among the lines of the big galleons, its rowlocks muffled with lace torn from Tom’s shirt. Closer and closer to the great stone wharf it crept, and then Nat seized hold of a bow rope and hauled the boat closer.

  The air smelt brackish, of seaweed and bilge water and old hemp ropes and the slops emptied over the side of the ships. All was still and dark. The boat bumped its bow against stone. The duke crept out and put his foot on a step. He turned and raised a hand in farewell. No one dared do more than nod their heads in response, or lay their hands on their hearts and bow. Tom held the boat steady as Nat scrambled to join his master on the shore, dragging with him a heavy leather bag. As they crept up the steps, Tom pushed the boat away from the shore with his oar. It made a slight scraping noise. Everyone froze. For a moment they all crouched, then Tom sighed and put his oar into the water, moving the little skiff away. The oars splashed, the sound only slightly louder than the sound of the rising tide. The Duke of Ormonde crept higher up the steps, and Nat heaved the bag up onto his shoulder with a little grunt of breath.

  ‘Ahoy! Who goes there?’ a voice shouted.

  A light kindled above them.

  The Duke of Ormonde crouched down, and everyone in the boat lay still, hearts pounding painfully. Then Zizi whimpered and scrabbled to be free of Luka’s grip. Although he at once tucked her closer, shushing her urgently, the light shone out over the dark water and revealed them floating between two enormous, barnacle-encrusted hulls.

  A soldier shouted, ‘Beware! Invaders! Call the alarm!’

  Immediately more lights kindled all along the jetty. Voices cried out. A bell began to toll. The guards on the jetty came running, swords drawn. The light of their lanterns illuminated the two men crouched on the steps. The soldiers pounded down the steps towards them. The Duke of Ormonde turned and dived into the black, oily water. A moment later Nat splashed heavily behind him, weighed down by the bag.

  In moments the duke was alongside the boat and was being heaved aboard by Luka and Lord Harry. Shots rang out. Water sprayed up where the bullets hit the harbour’s surface. Emilia gasped and crouched lower, burying her face in Rollo’s hairy coat. Nat was splashing desperately behind the boat. Luka held out an oar to him and managed to drag him and the bag on board. More bullets whined about them. Crouching low, Lord Harry seized the other oar and quickly they propelled the boat away. Within seconds the skiff was hidden behind the ranks of floating ships.

  All the shore was alive now with lights, and pounding feet, and shouts.

  ‘Get us away,’ the duke commanded, his fine velvet cloak dripping all over the boards. There was no sign in his voice of the terror or desperation he must feel. His voice was soft, with a faint Irish lilt, and as light from the shore flickered over his face, Luka saw that the duke’s eyes were bright with determination, his shoulders square. Luka felt a reluctant admiration for him. He was a brave man, there was no doubt of that.

  ‘Father Plummer … where to now?’ the duke cried.

  ‘Arundel, if we can,’ the priest replied. ‘Let’s try and reach Middleton-on-Sea. From there, it’s not so far to Arundel.’

  ‘They’re on our heels,’ Luka cried, looking back at the harbour where a number of craft were being launched, heavy with soldiers, each casting a bright light with their lanterns held high.

  ‘Raise the sail,’ the duke ordered. ‘If we’re lucky, we’ll catch the tide …’

  Emilia rubbed the gold coin hanging from the bracelet about her wrist. The charm had brought them luck before, she was sure of it. Light, luck, and magic …

  A dawn breeze freshened off the coast. The sail, so awkwardly hoisted, billowed out. The boat sprang forward on the waves.

  To the east the sky was changing colour, turning grey, then silver, then the colour of light through a rose petal. Below stretched mile upon mile of shimmering emptiness. Although the sea was in constant motion, it gave the illusion of utter stillness, utter oneness. Emilia stared at it, scared, entranced, tongue-tied. She had never seen the sea before. She had not imagined how vast it was, and how lonely. White-winged birds soared high overhead, occasionally uttering a wild shrill call. Clouds floated above, suddenly soft and insubstantial, as the sea turned to mercury. Where the sun was rising, the light was so bright it hurt the eye. Emilia looked back. Behind them raced half-a-dozen boats. Some had far more sails than their poor little skiff. She could see the heavy dark shapes of the soldiers, and the glint of the rising sun on their helmets.

  Closer and closer came the soldiers’ boats. Luka and Lord Harry rowed as if possessed by demons, and Nat, wet through and shivering, hauled sails and tied knots and swung the rudder so that the boat leapt through the waves like a dolphin.

  ‘There!’ Father Plummer cried.

  Nat brought the boat about, and they came racing into a small bay with a beach of stones and shingles. A small cliff rose above, crowded with cottages and a small church hanging precariously above the beach. The boat dashed onto the shingles, and Luka scrambled ashore, up to his knees in cold, swirling green waves, and dragged the boat up onto the beach.<
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  Zizi gibbered and leapt up to Luka’s head, wrapping her tail about his throat, as the others jumped out of the boat. Emilia clung tightly to Rollo’s ruff as the big dog steadied her, helping her fight against the waves. As she stumbled on the shingles, Luka put his hand under her elbow, helping her up.

  ‘Run!’ the duke advised. ‘Head north. Follow the River Arun to the castle.’

  ‘What do we do when we get there?’ Tom cried, casting a despairing glance back at the soldiers’ boats swinging round the headland.

  The duke glanced at Father Plummer and shrugged. ‘Pray?’ he suggested.

  Gift Horses

  The shingle slithered away under Emilia’s feet, making it hard to run. She struggled up the beach, and scrambled over the rocks and onto a rough, stony track.

  Beyond the small village were fields and woods. All the men were running ahead of her, the long-legged duke in the lead. Emilia was falling behind, the weight of her wet skirts hampering her stride. Hitching her skirts up about her waist, she glanced back but there was no sign of the soldiers yet. She took a deep, ragged breath and looked about her. A mob of horses was grazing contentedly in a meadow nearby. Emilia veered towards them, her fingers seizing hold of the charm of the silver horse that hung from the bracelet about her wrist. Already today, the golden crown had brought them luck. She had not yet had occasion to test the power of the silver horse.