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The Borrowers Avenged

Mary Norton

  The Borrowers Avenged

  Mary Norton

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Table of Contents







  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Chapter Twenty-six






  Text copyright © 1982 by Mary Norton

  Illustrations copyright © 1982 by Beth and Joe Krush

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced

  or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,

  including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval

  system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be

  mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,

  6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32881-6777.

  First Harcourt Young Classics edition 1998

  First Odyssey Classics edition 1990

  First published 1982

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Norton, Mary.

  The Borrowers avenged/Mary Norton; illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush.

  "An Odyssey/Harcourt Young Classic."

  Sequel to: The Borrowers aloft.

  Summary: Escaping from an attic where they had been held captive over the long,

  dark winter, a family of tiny people sets up house in an old rectory.

  [1. Fantasy.] 1. Krush, Beth, ill. II. Krush, Joe, ill. III. Title.

  PZ7.N8248Bm 1982 [Fic] 82-41931

  ISBN 0-15-210530-1 ISBN 0-15-204131-X (pb)

  Printed in the United States of America

  9 11 13 15 14 12 10

  MP 5 7 8 6 4 (pb)

  To Sophie Phipps, my goddaughter

  Chapter One

  Mr. Pomfret, the village constable at Little Fordham, was a thin young man with very soft, brown eyes (Miss Menzies often said he looked "wistful").

  "Sometimes, I think," she would say to Mr. Pott, "that Mr. Pomfret does not really much like being a policeman."

  He was married to a small, bustling woman—as fair as he was dark—and they had one very large, quiet baby.

  The window sills of the flat above the police station were always strewn with furry toys. Miss Menzies usually found this disarming, but as she walked down the path on this particular drizzly autumn afternoon (October 3, 1911, to be exact), the glassy-eyed teddy bears and lop-eared rabbits staring down through the panes above somehow failed to comfort her. For some reason, her errand—which two days before had appeared the only right and sensible course—suddenly seemed less so. She felt a little shaky as she put out her hand towards the bell: dear Mr. Pomfret had always been so kind, she dreaded now to forfeit his respect. Yet what she had to tell him was perfectly honest and straightforward. She pulled back her shoulders, regaining some of her courage, and pushed the bell.

  It was Mrs. Pomfret who opened the door, a little flushed, her hair awry. "Oh, Miss Menzies, come in, do. You want to see my husband?"

  A clotheshorse stood by the stove in the public side of the office; it was hung with diapers, steaming in the glow. Mrs. Pomfret whisked this shut. "Not much of a drying day," she explained apologetically as she made for an inner door.

  "Do leave it," said Miss Menzies, but Mrs. Pomfret had gone.

  Miss Menzies carefully closed her umbrella and stood it beside the hearth. As she stretched out her hands to the fire, she noticed they trembled slightly. "Oh, dear, oh, dear..." she muttered; and thrusting them deep in her pockets, she squared her shoulders again.

  Mr. Pomfret entered, quite cheerfully for him. Disturbed in the middle of his tea, he was wiping his mouth on his handkerchief. "Good afternoon, Miss Menzies. Dreadful weather!"

  "Yes, indeed," said Miss Menzies faintly.

  "Do sit down. Here, by the fire."

  Wordlessly, Miss Menzies sat down. Mr. Pomfret drew a chair from the far side of the desk and joined her by the stove. There was a short silence, then Mr. Pomfret went on. "Thought it might clear up around dinner time . .. quite a bit of blue sky—" The silence continued, and Mr. Pomfret repeated, "around dinner time," then hurriedly blew his nose. "The farmers like it, though," he went on, stuffing his handkerchief into his pocket. Very cheerful and casual, he seemed.

  "Oh, yes," agreed Miss Menzies nervously, "the farmers like it." She moistened her lips with her tongue, staring across the hearth at his kind, brown eyes as though beseeching them to be even kinder.

  In the ensuing silence, Mrs. Pomfret bustled in again with a cup of milky tea, which she set on a stool by Miss Menzies. "Oh, how very kind," gasped Miss Menzies as Mrs. Pomfret bustled out again.

  Miss Menzies stared thoughtfully at the tea, then taking up the spoon, began very slowly to stir it. At last she raised her eyes. "Mr. Pomfret," she said, in a clear and steady voice, "I want to report a loss. Or it may be a theft," she added as Mr. Pomfret drew out his notebook. She laid down the spoon and clasped her hands together in her lap; the long, thin, curiously girlish face looked grave. "Or missing persons—that might be more accurate." Mr. Pomfret unscrewed the top of his fountain pen and waited politely for her to make up her mind. "In fact," she went on suddenly in a rush, "you might even call it a case of kidnapping!"

  Mr. Pomfret became thoughtful, gently tapping his lower lip with his fountain-pen top. "Suppose," he suggested gently, after a moment, "you just tell me simply what happened?"

  "I couldn't tell you simply," said Miss Menzies. She thought awhile. "You know Mr. Pott and his model village?"

  "Yes, indeed," said Mr. Pomfret. "Quite a tourist attraction." After a short pause, he went on: "They say that Mr. Platter of Went-le-Cray is setting up some kind of model village, too."

  "Yes, I heard that."

  "A bit more modern-like they say it's going to be, seeing as he's a builder."

  "Yes, I heard that, too." Again Miss Menzies ran a nervous tongue across her lips. "Well"—she hesitated and then went on boldly—"to get back to our village, Mr. Pott's and mine: you know we're sort of partners? That he makes all the houses

  and I make the model figures—the people, as you might say?"

  "Yes, indeed, and very lifelike they are, too!"

  Miss Menzies's hands tightened slightly as she clasped them together in her lap. "Well, it's like this—I didn't make all the figures. I didn't make the ones that are missing."

  Mr. Pomfret managed to look both concerned and relieved at the same time. "Ah, now I see it—" He gave a small laugh. "It's some of them that's missing, is it? I thought for a moment—I mean, when you said kidnapp

  "That I meant live ones?" She looked at him steadily. "I do."

  Mr. Pomfret looked alarmed. "Now, that's different." Very serious suddenly, he poised his pen above his book. "Person or persons?"


  "How many?"

  "Three. A father, mother, and child."

  "Name?" said Mr. Pomfret, writing busily.



  "Yes, Clock."

  "How do you spell it?"


  "Oh, Clock," said Mr. Pomfret, writing it down. He stared at the word: he seemed puzzled. "Father's occupation?"

  "Shoemaker, originally."

  "And now?"

  "Well, I suppose he's still a shoemaker. Only he doesn't do that for a living—"

  "What does he do for a living?"

  "Well, I—er—I mean, 1 don't suppose you've heard of it: he's a borrower."

  Mr. Pomfret looked back at her without any recognizable expression. "Yes, I've heard of it," he said.

  "No, no, it's not in the sense you mean. It is an occupation. A rare one. But I think you could call it an occupation—"

  "Yes," said Mr. Pomfret, "I agree with you. That's what I do mean. I think you could call it an occupation."

  Miss Menzies drew in a long breath. "Mr. Pomfret," she said in a rush, "I must explain to you—I thought you'd realized it—that these people are very small."

  Mr. Pomfret laid down his pen; he studied her face with his kind brown eyes. He seemed more than a little bewildered: what could their height have to do with it? "Do I know them?" he asked. "Do they live in the village?"

  "Yes. I've just told you. They live in our village, the model village, Mr. Pott's and mine."

  "The model village?"

  "Yes. In one of the model houses. They're as small as that."

  Mr. Pomfret's gaze became curiously fixed. "How small?" he asked.

  "Five or six inches, something like that. They're very unusual, Mr. Pomfret. Very rare. That is why I think they've been stolen. People could get a lot of money for a little family like that."

  "Five or six inches?"

  "Yes." Miss Menzies's eyes suddenly filled with tears; she opened her bag and felt around for her handkerchief.

  Mr. Pomfret was silent. After a moment, he said, "Are you sure you didn't make them?"

  "Of course I'm sure." Miss Menzies blew her nose. "How could I make them?" she went on in a strangled voice. "These creatures are alive."

  Once again Mr. Pomfret began to bang his pen against his lower lip: his gaze had become more distant.

  Miss Menzies wiped her eyes and leaned towards him. "Mr. Pomfret," she said in a steadier voice, "I think perhaps we are talking at cross-purposes. Now, how can I put things more clearly...?" She hesitated, and Mr. Pomfret waited patiently. "With your experience of houses, have you ever had the feeling—the impression—that there are other people living in a house besides the human beings?"

  Mr. Pomfret looked even more thoughtful. Other people—besides human beings? The terms were synonymous, surely?

  "I can't say I have," he admitted at last, almost apologetically.

  "But you must have wondered about the mysterious way small objects seem to disappear. Nothing of great value—small things, like pencil stumps, safety pins, stamps, corks, pillboxes, needles, cotton spools—all those sorts of things?"

  Mr. Pomfret smiled. "We usually put it down to our Alfred. Not that we'd ever let him get at a pillbox—" he added hastily.

  "But you see, Mr. Pomfret, factories go on making needles and penpoints and blotting paper, and people go on buying them, and yet there never is a safety pin just when you want one, or the remains of a stick of sealing wax. Where do they all go to? I'm sure your wife is often buying needles, and yet, all the needles she ever bought in her life can't be just lying about this house."

  "Not about this house, no," he said: he was rather proud of his neat, new residence.

  "No, perhaps not this house," agreed Miss Menzies. "They usually like somewhere older and shabbier—with loose floorboards, and age-old paneling, and all those sorts of things; they make their homes in the oddest nooks and crannies. Most of them live behind wainscots, or even under the floor..."

  "Who do?" asked Mr. Pomfret.

  "These little people. The ones I'm trying to tell you about."

  "Oh? I thought you said—"

  "Yes, I said I had three of them. We made a little house for them. They call themselves borrowers. And now they've gone."

  "Oh, I see," said Mr. Pomfret, tapping his lip with his pen.But, Miss Menzies realized, he did not see at all.

  After a moment, in spite of himself, Mr. Pomfret asked in a puzzled voice, "But why would they want these kinds of things?"

  "They furnish their houses with them: they can adapt anything. They're very clever. I mean, for little people like that, a good piece of thick blotting paper makes an excellent carpet and can always be renewed."

  Blotting paper was quite obviously not Mr. Pomfret's idea of an excellent carpet. He became silent again, and Miss Menzies realized unhappily that she was getting herself into even deeper water.

  "It's not so extraordinary, Mr. Pomfret, although it must sound so. Our ancestors spoke openly about 'the little people.' In fact, there are many places in these islands where they are spoken of even today..."

  "And seen? "asked Mr. Pomfret.

  "No, Mr. Pomfret, they must never be seen. Never to be seen by any human being is their first and most serious rule of life."

  "Why?" asked Mr. Pomfret (he wondered afterwards what had induced him to go even this far).

  "Because," explained Miss Menzies, "to be seen by a human being might be the death of their race!"

  "Oh, dear," said Mr. Pomfret. He hardly knew what else to say. After a moment a thought occurred to him. "But you say you've seen them?" he ventured.

  "I have been very privileged," said Miss Menzies.

  Again there was silence. Mr. Pomfret had begun to look worried, and Miss Menzies, for her part, felt she had said too much: this conversation was becoming more than a little embarrassing. She had always liked and respected Mr. Pomfret, as he had always liked and respected her. How could she get things back on a more even keel? She decided to adopt a more normal and decisive tone and somehow lighten the atmosphere. "But please don't worry, Mr. Pomfret, or go out of your way, or anything like that. All I'm asking you to do, if you would be so kind, is just to record the loss. That's all. In case," she went on, "they might turn up somewhere else..."

  Still, Mr. Pomfret did not write. "I'll make a mental note of it," he said. He closed his book and slid a black elastic band round the covers. He stood up suddenly, as though more easily to put it in his pocket.

  Miss Menzies stood up too. "Perhaps," she said, "you might like a word with Mr. Pott?"

  "I might," said Mr. Pomfret guardedly.

  "He'd bear me out about the size and everything."

  "You mean," said Mr. Pomfret, eying her almost sternly, "that Mr. Pott has seen them, too?"

  "Of course he's seen them. We talk of little else. At least—" Suddenly, she faltered. Was it she, perhaps, who talked of little else? And had Mr. Pott ever really seen them? Looking back, in a sudden kind of panic, she could think of no occasion when he had actually admitted to having done so: she had been so strict about not having them disturbed, about leaving them alone to live their lives. Even on that one day when she had persuaded him to keep a vigil near the little house, none of the family had appeared, she remembered, and Mr. Pott, nodding drowsily in the sunshine, had fallen off to sleep. Perhaps, through all these months, Mr. Pott—never really listening—had simply tried to humor her: he was a kind, good man with manias of his own.

  Mr. Pomfret, she realized, was still gazing at her, half-expectantly, with his warm, brown eyes. She gave a little laugh. "I think I'd better go now," she said rather hurriedly, looking at her watch, "I'm due at the church at six to help Mrs.
Whitlace with the flowers." As he opened the door for her, she lightly touched his arm. "Just report the loss, Mr. Pomfret, that's all. Or make a mental note, as you said ... Thank you so much. Look, it's stopped raining."

  Mr. Pomfret stood in the doorway for a moment, staring after her as she loped away along the shining asphalt with those long-legged, girlish strides. How old would she be now? he wondered. Forty-eight? Fifty? Then he went inside.

  "Dolly," he called tentatively. Then seeming to change his mind, he went to stand beside the stove and gazed unseeingly into the fire. He appeared to be thinking deeply. After a while, he took out his notebook again, unloosed the elastic band, and stared down at the almost blank page. He thought again for a while, before licking his pencil. "October 3, 1911." After writing these words, he licked his pencil again and underlined them heavily. "Miss Menzies," he wrote next, and hesitated. What to write now? He decided at last to put a question mark.

  Miss Menzies walked down the path to the church, holding her umbrella close to her head as if to cover her embarrassment. She was thinking hard about her little people (people...? Of course they were people. Pod, Homily, and her young Arrietty) for whom she had made a home (a safe home, she had thought) in Mr. Pott's model village. Pod and Homily she had observed only from a distance, as it were, as she crouched down to watch them from behind a waving clump of thistles, but Arrietty—fearless, bright-eyed Arrietty—had almost become a friend. And then there was Spiller. But Miss Menzies had never seen Spiller. No one ever saw Spiller unless he willed it: he was a master of concealment; could melt into any background; lurk near, when thought to be far; arrive when least expected and disappear as fast. She knew he was a loner who lived wild in the hedgerows. She knew he could navigate streams; had built a boat out of an old wooden knife box, caulked at the seams with beeswax and dried flax; and that for shorter trips he used the battered lid of an old tin soapbox ... Yes, Arrietty had talked a lot about Spiller, now that Miss Menzies came to think about it. Arrietty's mother thought him dirty, but to Arrietty he had smelled of the whole wide out-of-doors.

  Miss Menzies sighed. Perhaps Spiller would find them and help them if they were in trouble ... wherever they were.