Guess who it was? No, not Aunt Tabby. No, it wasn't Uncle Drac, either. It was Sir Horace. "Good morning!" he said in a really strange, booming voice that came from somewhere inside his suit of armor. It sounded so spooky that I got covered in goose bumps all over and my knees felt funny. "Ger-good morning, Sir Horace, " I gulped.
I considered making a run for it back down the secret passage, but I didn't think my legs would work very well. Sir Horace loomed over me and looked very wobbly. I edged away, as I didn't give much for his chances of staying in one piece for very long--since it was me who had put him back together--and I could do without a rusty chunk of armor landing on me just then. I thought that perhaps I had better try and explain things. I know explaining things doesn't always help, especially if the person you are explaining to is Aunt Tabby, but I thought Sir Horace might be different. So I said in my best polite voice, "Er . . . I'm very sorry, Sir Horace. But I . . . Er . . . I thought you were just a . . . Um . . . "
"A moldy old rust bucket, " Sir Horace fin- ished my sentence for me, which Aunt Tabby says is very rude. "Ah . . . " I mumbled, trying to remember what else I had called Sir Horace when I was putting him back together. In fact, I still thought he was a moldy old rust bucket, but I hadn't expected him to be a talking rust bucket. I thought I had better check out the ghost situation with Sir Horace, so I asked him, "Are you a ghost as well?" "As well as what?" he boomed. "Ah--as well as being a knight of the realm, you mean. Why yes, Miss Spookie, indeed I am a ghost. The ghost of Sir Horace Harbinger of Hernia Hall, at your service. " He made a sweeping bow. Three bolts fell from his neck and rat- tled down the stairs. Wow. That meant he was my second ghost that morning--what were the chances of that? Of course, it was typical, I thought. I spend years looking for a ghost and then two come along at once, and just as Aunt Tabby is about to throw me and Uncle Drac out of the house, too.
But it all made sense to me now. Sir Horace never stayed in the same place for very long, and I had always thought that Aunt Tabby moved him around at night as a sort of joke. It would be just the sort of stupid joke that Aunt Tabby would like. But now I under- stood--Sir Horace moved himself around. "I'm really sorry about your helmet-- er . . . I mean, your head, " I said, trying not to remember how I had kicked it all the way down the stairs. I hoped he didn't remember either. "Got a terrible headache, " said Sir Horace. "Oh. Yes, well I suppose you would have, " I said sympathetically. "Walking's not too easy either, " he said. We both looked down at his left foot, which was still jammed on back to front.
"Er . . . No, I can see it might not be, " I said in my best helpful voice. "But"--he boomed and kind of rattled at the same time--"that is not what is bothering me. What is bothering me is this house-selling business. " "Oh, good, " I told him, "because that's bothering me, too. " Sir Horace swayed a bit, and I dodged an old spring as it flew off his neck and pinged onto the floor. "And this . . . Cycling thing, " he said. For a moment I was confused, as I was sure I had never seen Sir Horace out on a bike. And then I realized what he meant. "You mean recycling, " I told him. "Do I ?" he boomed. "Well, don't like the -79- sound of it whatever it's called. Never did care for tins myself. Impossible to open. Can't stand cat food. " And then, with a horrible teeth-on- edge creaking noise, Sir Horace stood up as straight as he could--which was not very straight at all--and took a deep breath. "Something, " he boomed so loud that I was afraid Aunt Tabby would hear, "something must be done. This house must not be sold!" "Exactly!" I agreed. "And I've got a really great idea. I'm going to do my Awful Ambush from the balcony and--" "From my balcony?" he interrupted. "In my room?" Oops--so it was Sir Horace's room. And it seemed like he didn't like anyone going in there. I could understand how he felt, as I don't like Aunt Tabby going into any of my bedrooms either.
She always manages to mess something up. I thought I ought to explain. "I'm sorry, Sir Horace, but I found the key in your foot, and--" but he interrupted again. "I know, " he said, wiggling his left foot about as though he had pins and needles in it--which I knew for sure he didn't, as I had already emptied it out and all I had found was the key. "I remember that very well. I had my head back on by then. " "I'm really sorry, " I said. "Would you like your key back?" Sir Horace shook his head very slowly, and it made a horrible grinding noise, like a pep-per mill.
"Please keep the key, Miss Spookie, " he said. "I would be very pleased for you to use my balcony for your Awful Ambush. I myself have done many Awful Ambushes from there in years gone by. They can be very effective. I will ask my faithful page, Edmund, to assist you. " Aha. So that was who Edmund was, I thought. "Thank you very much, Sir Horace, " I said. "You are most welcome, Miss Spookie, " he replied, and bowed low. "Careful!" I shouted, but it was too late. Sir Horace's head fell off and rolled along the corridor. I caught it just as it started bounc- ing down the stairs, but unfortunately Aunt Tabby saw me as she was attacking some spi- derwebs on the landing below.
"Haven't you put Sir Horace back together yet, Araminta?" she snapped at the same time as she made a hundred spiders homeless. Aunt Tabby likes making spiders and people homeless. "Nearly finished, Aunt Tabby, " I told her, and I rushed back to find Sir Horace. He was sitting on the bottom step looking surprised. Well, I think that was how he was looking, although it was hard to tell. I put his head back on. I was more careful this time, and I could tell it had gone on the right way as there was a little click when it settled onto his shoulders. "Ooh, that's better, " he said. "That crick in my neck has completely gone. " He moved his head about, and it didn't make the pepper mill noise any more. I felt pleased. Then he hung on to the banister and heaved himself up, so that he was standing almost straight, and he said, "Well, jolly good, then, Miss Spookie. You do your ambush and leave the rest to me. " "Great, " I said. "Right ho. And tell young Edmund I said to provide you with all necessary assistance. Until we meet again, Miss Spookie. " He started to bow, but then he changed his mind.
He walked away, kind of lurching from side to side until he reached a dark corner on the Q landing and propped himself up in it. This was turning out to be good day after all--a secret passage, two ghosts, and one Awful Ambush coming up. What could be better?
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