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How to catch a bogle, p.1
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       How to Catch a Bogle, p.1

           Catherine Jinks
 
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How to Catch a Bogle


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Table of Contents

  Illustration

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Map

  LONDON, ENGLAND. C. 1870

  Two Missing Boys

  Six Shillings’ Worth

  An Unexpected Visitor

  Meeting Miss Eames

  Lessons Learned

  The Collar

  Low Tide

  The Sewer Bogle

  The Scientific Approach

  Bogle Spit

  The Spike

  An Eyewitness Account

  A Taste of the Pie

  Whatever Happened to Billy Crisp?

  A Very Kind Offer

  A Meeting on the Green

  The Necromancer

  Bogling

  The Trip Home

  Three Friends

  The Gravedigger

  A Trip to the Cemetery

  The Most Peculiar Proposition

  Restraint

  The Singing Prisoner

  A Visit from the Doctor

  An Invitation to Breakfast

  To the Rescue

  Mr. Fotherington’s House

  A Terrible Shock

  Four Months Later. . .

  Glossary

  Sneak Peek at A PLAGUE OF BOGLES

  About the Author

  Text © 2013 by Catherine Jinks

  Illustrations © 2013 by Sarah Watts

  All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.

  www.hmhbooks.com

  The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:

  Jinks, Catherine.

  How to catch a bogle / Catherine Jinks.

  pages cm

  Summary: In 1870s London, a young orphan girl becomes the apprentice to a man who traps monsters for a living.

  ISBN 978-0-544-08708-8

  [1. Monsters—Fiction. 2. Supernatural—Fiction. 3. Apprentices—Fiction. 4. Orphans—Fiction. 5. London (England)—History—19th century—Fiction. 6. Great Britain—History—Victoria, 1837–1901—Fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.J5754Ho 2013

  2012045936

  eISBN 978-0-544-08730-9

  v1.0913

  TO JILL GRINBERG

  1

  Two Missing Boys

  The front door was painted black, with a shiny brass knocker that made a satisfying noise when Alfred used it. Rat-tat-tat.

  Birdie spied a lace curtain twitching in the drawing room window.

  “Someone’s at home,” she remarked. Alfred said nothing. He looked tired after their long walk—but then again he always looked tired. His gray mustache drooped. His shoulders were bent. His brown eyes sagged at the corners under his wide, floppy hat brim.

  Suddenly the door was flung open. A housemaid in a white cap peered at them suspiciously, her gaze lingering on Alfred’s frayed canvas trousers and baggy green coat. “Yes?” she asked. “What’s yer business?”

  Alfred removed his hat. “The name is Bunce,” he replied in his gravelly voice. “I came here on account of I were sent for.”

  “Sent for?” the housemaid echoed.

  “A Miss Ellen Meggs sent for me, by passing word through Tom Cobbings.”

  “Oh!” The housemaid put a hand to her mouth. “Are you the Go-Devil Man?”

  “The bogler. Aye.”

  “And I’m Birdie. I’m the ’prentice.” Because Birdie was very small and thin and pale, she was often ignored. So she liked to wear the most colorful clothes she could find. This summer her dress was a dull cotton drab, but she had added a little cape made of yellow satin, very soiled and creased, and there were red feathers on her battered straw hat.

  Stepping out of her master’s shadow, she beamed up at the housemaid, eager to make friends. The housemaid, however, was too flustered to notice Birdie.

  “Oh, why did you knock on this door?” she lamented. “The hawker’s door is down by the coal hole! Come in quick, afore the neighbors see you both.” Hustling Alfred and Birdie across the threshold, she slammed the door and said, “I’m Ellen Meggs. I’m the one as sent for you. My mistress knows nothing o’ this, nor won’t neither, if I have my way.”

  “Ain’t she in?” Birdie asked shrewdly, glancing through the door to her left. It opened off a handsome entrance hall that Birdie thought finer than anything she had ever seen in her life—a lofty space with carpet on the stairs and paper on the walls and a bronze statue in one corner. The cedar joinery gleamed, and the air smelled of lemon.

  But there was a broom propped against the hat stand. And through the door that she’d spotted, Birdie could make out furniture swathed in dust sheets.

  “Mrs. Plumeridge is at the seaside for her health,” Ellen replied. “Oh, but there’s other old cats across the way that never leave their parlor windows, and they’ll have seen you come in, sure as eggs!” She stamped her foot in frustration, her round, pink face growing even pinker under its frizz of sandy hair.

  Alfred sighed. His shoulders were slumped beneath the weight of his sack, which he never let his apprentice carry, no matter how desperately she pleaded. “What’s yer particulars, Miss Meggs?” he inquired. “Tom Cobbings had none to give, save for yer name and where I’d find you. Is there a bogle in this house?”

  Ellen opened her mouth, then hesitated. Her gaze had fallen on Birdie, whose blue eyes, freckled nose, and flyaway curls looked as delicate as fine china. Birdie knew exactly what the housemaid was thinking, because everyone always thought the same thing.

  Only Alfred understood that Birdie was a heroine, brave and quick and valiant.

  “I ain’t afeared o’ bogles, Miss Meggs,” Birdie announced. “Though I’m only ten years old, I’ve helped bring down many a one. Ain’t that so, Mr. Bunce?”

  “Aye, but we’ve heard enough from you, lass.” Alfred was growing impatient. Birdie could tell by the way he shifted from one ill-shod foot to the other. “What’s yer particulars, Miss Meggs?” he repeated. “Who gave you me name?”

  “A friend,” Ellen answered. “She’s Scotch but lives here in London. She said you got rid of a worricow, or some such thing, as lived in a coal hole in Hackney and took a little shoe binder’s child.” She threw him a questioning glance. When Alfred nodded, she continued hastily. “Hearing that made me wonder about the chimney sweep’s boys. For we’ve lost two in the past month, and I cannot believe they both ran away.” By now she was anxiously fiddling with her apron, crushing it between her restless hands, then smoothing it out again. “In the Dane Hills, where my ma were raised, a creature they called Black Annis used to eat children. And would tan their skins for its adornment, or so I’ve heard—”

  “Tell me about the sweep’s boys,” Alfred interrupted. “They went missing, you say?”

  “From this house,” Ellen assured him solemnly. “They disappeared up the dining room chimney, and no one’s seen ’em since.”

  “Perhaps they’re stuck,” Birdie proposed. She knew that sweeps’ boys often became wedged in chimneys, where they sometimes died.

  “No.” Ellen shook her head. “That chimney draws as well as it ever did, and there’s been no stink.” Lowering her voice, she added, “The sweep told me them boys must have climbed to the rooftops and run away. They do that sometimes, he said. But he won’t come back, which is strange. And I’ll not send for another sweep, no matter what the mistress wants. Not if there’s a bad’un up there.”

  “We’ll find out soon enough,” Alfred assured her. Then he raised the subject of his fee. “It’ll be fivepence for the visi
t and six shillings a bogle, with the cost o’ the salt on top. Did Tom mention that?”

  The housemaid gave a grunt. She seemed resigned to the expense, which wasn’t unreasonable. “Ma’s paying,” she admitted. “She won’t have me in any house that’s bedeviled, but this is a good situation. If I’m to stay, I must stump up, for Mrs. Plumeridge never will. Mrs. Plumeridge don’t believe in bogles or the like. No, not even white ladies.”

  She stopped for a moment to draw breath, giving Birdie a chance to inform her that the first fivepence had to be paid in advance. It was Birdie’s job to ask, because Alfred often forgot. Once Ellen had agreed to these terms, they all trooped into the dining room, which opened off the hall. It was a very dark room, with maroon walls and a thick Axminster carpet. But the white dust sheets on the tables, chairs, and sideboard lightened the atmosphere a little—as did the muslin roses in the fireplace.

  Ellen pointed at these roses, saying, “Mrs. Plumeridge dines in here only at Christmas, or when her nephew comes, for she likes to eat off trays. So we rarely light a fire in this room.”

  “Then why clean the chimney?” It seemed like a foolish extravagance to Birdie, who was finding it hard enough to understand why one person would want so many rooms, let alone so many fireplaces.

  Ellen explained that her mistress, who was “very particular,” had a morbid fear of rats’ nests in her unused chimneys. Meanwhile, Alfred was examining the marble mantelpiece and shiny steel grate. “Have you lit a fire in here since the boys vanished?” he asked Ellen gruffly.

  “Only once, to see if it would draw.”

  “Did it smoke?”

  “No.”

  “You’ve smelled nothing? Seen no strange marks, nor heard any peculiar noises?”

  Ellen thought hard for a moment. Finally she said, “No.”

  It was Alfred’s turn to grunt. Then he surveyed the room, frowning, and told her in an undertone, “We must move that table. And the chairs.”

  “Oh, but—”

  “Else I’ll catch nothing, and you’ll have wasted yer fivepence.”

  So Ellen helped Alfred to shift the table, while Birdie moved the chairs. All the furniture was extremely heavy. After a generous space had been cleared in front of the fireplace, Ellen went downstairs to fetch Alfred’s fee, leaving him to make his preparations.

  First he rolled up the carpet until a wide expanse of parquet floor was showing. Then he took a bag of salt from his sack and traced a large circle on the ground. But the circle wasn’t perfect; he left a small break in its smooth line just opposite the hearthstone.

  When Ellen returned, he was carefully unwrapping a short staff, which had a sharp end like a spearhead. On catching sight of it, the housemaid blanched.

  “Oh, you’ll not be making a mess in here?” she exclaimed. “I’ll lose my place if you do!”

  Alfred put a finger to his lips. Birdie, who was by the door, took Ellen’s arm and nudged her into the hall, saying, “There’s a puddle or two on occasion, but nothing to fret about.”

  “Oh dear. . .”

  “And you must air the room after. And if you stay to watch, you must keep to the hall, quiet as a mouse.” Though Birdie spoke with confidence, in a calm and steady voice, her stomach was starting to knot and her heart to pound. These familiar symptoms overtook her before every job. But she had learned to ignore them. “And the door must stand open,” she finished. “Open and clear. Whatever you do, don’t shut the door—else how shall I escape when the time comes?”

  By this time Ellen was wringing her hands. “Must I stay?” she whimpered.

  “No. Some like to, on account of they don’t trust us and think we’re running a caper.” Birdie grinned suddenly, recalling one man who’d paid for his suspicions with a bump on the head. He’d fallen over in a dead faint and had afterward sicked up all his tea. “Once they see the bogle, they soon change their tune,” she remarked, “though they’re in no great danger.”

  “I’ll stand clear,” said Ellen. “Beside the front door.”

  Birdie inclined her head.

  “With a poker,” Ellen added.

  Birdie didn’t tell her that a poker would have little effect on a monster, because she knew that Ellen wouldn’t need to defend herself. No customer ever had, and none ever would. Not while Alfred was in charge.

  Not while Birdie was his apprentice.

  “There’s nothing to fear,” she insisted, patting the older girl’s apron bow. “Why, it’s no more’n catching a rat. For there’s rats as big as bogles where I come from, and they ain’t never eaten us yet!”

  Then Birdie laughed gaily, and took Ellen’s fivepence, and went to help Alfred bait his trap.

  2

  Six Shillings’ Worth

  Alfred stood to the left of the fireplace, his salt in one hand, his staff in the other. He didn’t speak to Birdie, who took up her usual position inside his magic circle. Though she’d turned her back on him, the little mirror she was holding gave her a clear view of everything that lay behind her: Alfred, the fireplace, the gap in the ring of salt.

  She had to take only one step—a single step across the white line on the floor—and she would be safe. But she couldn’t do it yet. Not until they’d lured their quarry out of its hiding place. Not until they’d baited their trap.

  Suddenly Alfred gave a nod. It was her cue, and it made her heart leap. The blood was thundering in her ears. When she began to sing, however, her voice was clear and calm.

  “O come list awhile, and you shall hear

  By the rolling sea lived a maiden fair.

  Her father had followed the smuggling trade,

  Like a warlike hero,

  Like a warlike hero as never were afraid.”

  Birdie didn’t take her eyes off the mirror for a second. She could see that Alfred’s own eyes were fixed on the fireplace as he waited, poised like a cat, for the bogle to emerge. The waiting was always the worst part. Sometimes they waited for hours, and Birdie would sing herself hoarse. Sometimes they waited for no more than five minutes. Whether short or long, though, the wait always seemed endless to Birdie.

  She had trained herself to stay alert. She had learned to ignore her growling stomach, bulging bladder, and stiff joints. Nothing could distract her, not cooking smells, nor stray dogs, nor the thought of what might happen if she faltered for even an instant. And since she couldn’t afford to let her mind wander, time would slow to a crawl.

  Singing made no difference, because she knew her songs too well. She didn’t have to think about the words or the tunes any more than she had to think about breathing. Since the songs emerged from her mouth without conscious effort, they didn’t help her in the least.

  “With her pistols loaded she went abroad.

  And by her side hung a glittering sword,

  In her belt two daggers; well armed for war

  Was this female smuggler,

  Was this female smuggler, who never feared a scar.”

  By now Birdie could actually feel the bogle’s presence. Often she could sense when bogles were about, despite their stealthy behavior. It was the air, she decided. The air seemed dull and lifeless. And the shadows were thicker than normal, no matter how bright the day.

  If ever a chill entered her soul, or the hope suddenly drained from her heart, she knew that a bogle was to blame. If ever a room was as glum as a crypt, casting a black pall over the future, then it was harboring a bogle.

  So even though nothing stirred in the fireplace, Birdie kept singing. Because she was sure that in a nest of darkness somewhere close by, she had a very attentive listener.

  “Now they had not sailed far from land

  When a strange sail brought them to a stand.

  ‘These are sea robbers,’ this maid did cry,

  ‘But the female smuggler,

  But the female smuggler will conquer or die.’”

  There was a puff of soot. Birdie spied it, though it was gone in a flash. She knew what it
meant. The bogle was coming. It was heading down the chimney like a sweep’s boy. For an instant she thought of those poor missing children, caught in the darkness, confused and frightened. Then she banished the picture from her mind, before it had a chance to lodge there.

  She had more important things to worry about.

  When Alfred adjusted his grip on the staff, her own hand tensed in sympathy. The mirror began to shake. Her palms began to sweat. But still her voice remained rock steady.

  “Alongside, then, this strange vessel came.

  ‘Cheer up,’ cried Jane, ‘we will board the same;

  We’ll run our chances to rise or fall,’

  Cried this female smuggler,

  Cried this female smuggler, who never feared a pistol ball.”

  Slowly, silently, something dim and dense surged out of the chimney and onto the hearth. It came in a cloud of soot that blurred its hulking silhouette. It had eyes as red as rubies, and curling horns, and flaring nostrils. Its black scales were like chips of slate. Birdie even caught a glimpse of arms unfolding, but her hand was shaking so violently that the image in the mirror wasn’t crystal clear.

  Luckily, her voice wasn’t shaky. It soared like an arrow, straight and true.

  “Now they killed those pirates and took their store

  And soon returned to old England’s shore.

  With a keg of brandy she walked along,

  Did this female smuggler,

 
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