Mo put down his book. "So what were you reading before you
went to sleep? Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?"
Meggie frowned. "Please, Mo! Come and look."
He didn't believe her, but he went anyway. Meggie tugged
him along the corridor so impatiently that he stubbed his toe on a
pile of books, which was hardly surprising. Stacks of books were
piled high all over the house not just arranged in neat rows on
bookshelves, the way other people kept them, oh no! The books
in Mo and Meggie's house were stacked under tables, on chairs,
in the corners of the rooms. There were books in the kitchen and
books in the lavatory. Books on the TV set and in the closet, small
piles of books, tall piles of books, books thick and thin, books old
and new. They welcomed Meggie down to breakfast with invitingly
opened pages; they kept boredom at bay when the weather
was bad. And sometimes you fell over them.
"He's just standing there!" whispered Meggie, leading Mo
into her room.
"Has he got a hairy face? If so he could be a werewolf."
"Oh, stop it!" Meggie looked at him sternly, although his
jokes made her feel less scared. Already, she hardly believed anymore
in the figure standing in the rain until she knelt down
again at the window. "There! Do you see him?" she whispered.
Mo looked out through the raindrops running down the pane
and said nothing.
"Didn't you promise burglars would never break into our
house because there's nothing here to steal?" whispered Meggie.
"He's not a burglar," replied Mo, but as he stepped back from
the window his face was so grave that Meggie's heart thudded
faster than ever. "Go back to bed, Meggie," he said. "This visitor
has come to see me."
He left the room before Meggie could ask what kind of visitor,
for goodness sake, turned up in the middle of the night? She followed
him anxiously. As she crept down the corridor she heard
her father taking the chain off the front door, and when she
reached the hall she saw him standing in the open doorway. The
night came in, dark and damp, and the rushing of the rain
sounded loud and threatening.
"Dustfinger!" called Mo into the darkness. "Is that you?"
Dustfinger? What kind of a name was that? Meggie couldn't
remember ever hearing it before, yet it sounded familiar, like a
distant memory that wouldn't take shape properly.
At first, all seemed still outside except for the rain falling, murmuring
as if the night had found its voice. But then footsteps
approached the house, and the man emerged from the darkness of
the yard, his long coat so wet with rain that it clung to his legs. For
a split second, as the stranger stepped into the light spilling out of
the house, Meggie thought she saw a small furry head over his
shoulder, snuffling as it looked out of his backpack and then
quickly disappearing back into it.
Dustfinger wiped his wet face with his sleeve and offered Mo
"How are you, Silvertongue?" he asked. "It's been a long
Hesitantly, Mo took the outstretched hand. "A very long
time," he said, looking past his visitor as if he expected to see
another figure emerge from the night. "Come in, you'll catch
your death. Meggie says you've been standing out there for some
"Meggie? Ah yes, of course." Dustfinger let Mo lead him into
the house. He scrutinized Meggie so thoroughly she felt quite
embarrassed and didn't know where to look. In the end she just
"You remember her?"
Meggie noticed that Mo double-locked the door.
"How old is she now?" Dustfinger smiled at her. It was a
strange smile. Meggie couldn't decide whether it was mocking,
supercilious, or just awkward. She didn't smile back.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...