At that moment Corby heard the sound of low muttering and shuffling footsteps coming up the stairs from the cabins below her.
Uh-oh, she thought, snapping shut Hoffendinck’s Guide. It’s the Hattenswillers!
Mr and Mrs Hattenswiller appeared at the top of the stairs. They were both wearing tall, conical hats with ear flaps, and matching ankle-length coats with lots of pockets. Whenever she met them, Mr Hattenswiller would click his heels together and nod at Corby politely, while Mrs Hattenswiller would smile, and the pair of them never failed to exchange greetings. And that was where the problem lay — for no matter how hard she listened, Corby could never, ever, make out what they were saying.
Sometimes Mr Hattenswiller would speak, and his wife would smile knowingly as though he had just said the cleverest thing. But Corby had heard only a mumbled murmur. And sometimes Mrs Hattenswiller would say something, and her husband would nod vigorously in agreement. But again, Corby had heard nothing but a quiet whisper.
Once, taking a chance, she’d replied that she was ‘very well, thank you’ — but both Hattenswillers had looked at her as if she were mad. His eyebrows had shot upwards, her smile had frozen, and the pair of them had continued on their way, exchanging puzzled comments that, of course, Corby couldn’t hear properly. No, far better all round if she avoided them, she thought, as she scooted through the side door and onto the starboard deck.
Excerpted from Far-Flung Adventures: Corby Flood by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell Copyright © 2006 by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. Excerpted by permission of David Fickling Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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