"You were just three years old, Meggie," Mo began. "I remember how
we celebrated your birthday. We gave you a picture book you
know, the one about the sea serpent with a toothache winding itself
around the lighthouse. . . "
Meggie nodded. It was still in her book box Mo had twice
given it a new dress. "We?" she asked.
"Your mother and I . . ." Mo picked some straw off his pants. "I
could never pass by a bookshop. The house where we lived was very
small we called it our shoebox, our mouse-hole, we had all
sorts of names for it and that very day I'd bought yet another
crate full of books from a second-hand bookseller. Elinor would
have liked some of them," he added, glancing at her and smiling.
"Capricorn's book was there too."
"You mean it belonged to him?" Meggie looked at Mo in surprise,
but he shook his head.
"No, but . . .well, let's take it all in order. Your mother sighed
when she saw all those new books and asked where we were going to
put them, but then of course she helped me to unpack the crate.
I always used to read aloud to her in the evenings -"
"You? You read aloud?"
"Yes, every evening. Your mother enjoyed it. That evening she
chose Inkheart. She always did like tales of adventure
stories full of brightness and darkness. She could tell you the
names of all King Arthur's knights, and she knew everything about
Beowulf and Grendel, the ancient gods and the not-quite-so-ancient
heroes. She liked pirate stories, too, but most of all she loved
books that had at least a knight or a dragon or a fairy in them.
She was always on the dragon's side, by the way. There didn't seem
to be any of them in Inkheart, but there was any amount of
brightness and darkness, fairies and goblins. Your mother liked
goblins as well: hobgoblins, bugaboos, the Fenoderee, the folletti with their butterfly wings, she knew them all. So we gave you a
pile of picture books, sat down on the rug beside you, and I began
Meggie leaned her head against Mo's shoulder and stared at the
empty wall. She saw herself against its dirty white background as
she had looked in old photos: small, with plump legs, very fair
hair (it had darkened a little since then), her little fingers turning
the pages of big picture books.
"We enjoyed the story," her father went on, "It was exciting, well
written, and full of all sorts of amazing creatures. Your mother
loved a book to lead her into an unknown land, and the world in
to which Inkheart led her was exactly what she liked. Sometimes
the story took a very dark turn, and whenever the suspense got too
much, your mother put a finger to her lips, and I read more quietly,
although we were sure you were too busy with your own books to listen
to a sinister story that you wouldn't have understood anyway. I
remember it as if it were yesterday. Night had fallen long ago;
it was autumn, with drafts coming in through the windows. We had
lit a fire there was no central heating in our shoebox of
a house, but it had a stove in every room and I began reading
the seventh chapter. That's when it happened "
Mo stopped. He stared ahead of him as if lost in his own thoughts.
"What?" whispered Meggie. "What happened, Mo?"
Her father looked at her. "They came out," he said.