It was clear that Howl was far more upset about Mrs. Pentstemmon than anything else.
Michael was the one who worried about the Witch. He confessed next morning that he had had nightmares all night. He had dreamed she came through all the castle entrances at once. “Where’s Howl?” he asked anxiously.
Howl had gone out very early, leaving the bathroom full of the usual scented steam. He had not taken his guitar, and the doorknob was turned to green-down. Even Calcifer knew no more than that. “Don’t open the door to anyone,” Calcifer said. “The Witch knows about all the entrances except the Porthaven one.”
This so alarmed Michael that he fetched some planks from the yard and wedged them crosswise over the door. Then he got to work at last on the spell they had got back from Miss Angorian.
Half an hour later the doorknob turned sharply to black-down. The door began to bounce about. Michael clutched at Sophie. “Don’t be afraid,” he said shakily. “I’ll keep you safe.”
The door bounced powerfully for a while. Then it stopped. Michael had just let go of Sophie in great relief when there came a violent explosion. The planks clattered to the floor. Calcifer plunged to the bottom of the grate and Michael plunged into the broom cupboard, leaving Sophie standing there as the door burst open and Howl stormed in.
“This is a bit much, Sophie!” he said. “I do live here.” He was soaking wet. The gray-and-scarlet suit was black-and-brown. His sleeves and the ends of his hair were dripping.
Sophie looked at the doorknob, still turned to black-down. Miss Angorian, she thought. And he went to see her in that charmed suit. “Where have you been?” she said.
Howl sneezed. “Standing in the rain. None of your business,” he . said hoarsely. “What were those planks in aid of?”
“I did them,” Michael said, edging out of the broom cupboard. “The Witch—”
“You must think I don’t know my business,” Howl said irritably. “I have so many misdirection spells out that most people wouldn’t find us at all. I give even the Witch three days. Calcifer, I need a hot drink.”
nbsp; Calcifer had been climbing up among his logs, but as Howl went over to the fireplace, he plunged down again. “Don’t come near me like that! You’re wet!” he hissed.
“Sophie,” Howl said pleadingly.
Sophie folded her arms pitilessly. “What about Lettie?” she said.
“I’m soaked through,” said Howl. “I should have a hot drink.”
“And I said, What about Lettie Hatter?” Sophie said.
“Bother you, then!” said Howl. He shook himself. The water fell off him in a neat ring on the floor. Howl stepped out of it with his hair gleaming dry and his suit gray-and-scarlet and not even damp, and went to fetch the saucepan. “The world is full of hard-hearted women, Michael,” he said. “I can name three without stopping to think.”
“One of them being Miss Angorian?” asked Sophie.
Howl did not answer. He ignored Sophie grandly for the rest of the morning while he discussed moving the castle with Michael and Calcifer. Howl really was going to run away, just as she had warned the King he would, Sophie thought as she sat and sewed more triangles of blue-and-silver suit together. She knew she must get Howl out of that gray-and-scarlet suit as soon as possible.
“I don’t think we need move the Porthaven entrance,” Howl said. He conjured himself a handkerchief out of the air and blew his nose with a hoot which made Calcifer flicker uneasily. “But I want the moving castle well away from anywhere it’s been before and the Kingsbury entrance shut down.”
Someone knocked on the door then. Sophie noticed that Howl jumped and looked round as nervously as Michael. Neither of them answered the door. Coward! Sophie thought scornfully. She wondered why she had gone to all that trouble for Howl yesterday. “I must have been mad!” she muttered to the blue-and-silver suit.
“What about the black-down entrance?” Michael asked when the person knocking seemed to have gone away.
“That stays,” Howl said, and conjured himself another handkerchief with a final sort of flick.
It would! Sophie thought. Miss Angorian is outside it. Poor Lettie!
By the middle of the morning Howl was conjuring handkerchiefs in twos and threes. They were floppy squares of paper really, Sophie saw. He kept sneezing. His voice grew hoarser. He was conjuring handkerchiefs by the half-dozen soon. Ashes from the used ones were piled all round Calcifer.
“Oh, why is it that whenever I go to Wales I always come back with a cold!” Howl croaked, and conjured himself a whole wad of tissues.
“Did you say something?” Howl croaked.
“No, but I was thinking that people who run away from everything deserve every cold they get,” Sophie said. “People who are appointed to do something by the King and go courting in the rain instead have only themselves to blame.”