Ch. 20.5 — The Axeman Cometh
Freddie growled. All the fur on his back stood up. Heart pounding, Janine hurried to catch up with Bee, who had been singing as she strolled along the path.
“What’s wrong?” Bee asked.
“There’s something or someone behind us.”
“It’s that bad man,” said Freddie. He growled again.
“Paul?” Janine said. “Oh, no.”
Bee stopped and listened. She frowned. “You’re right. I thought he was still in Wonderland.” Bee gestured and then stood listening again. “Hmm. He’s not falling for the usual misdirection spell.”
They were on their way to Granny Connie’s house to make candies and have tea. Janine looked forward to these monthly visits, but traveling through the woods between their houses was always dangerous.
Bee set down her pack sack, opened it, and began to rummage around inside. “Let’s see, misdirection? Transformation? Instant illness? Ah, ha!” She pulled out a small packet. “Temporary blindness. That’ll work.”
Bee looked at Janine. “Stand behind me, dear, and hold your breath. You don’t want to get any of this stuff in your system.”
Janine hastily obeyed, and told Freddie to stay quietly beside her. “What is it?”
“Just a little something I whipped up from Tumtum roots.”
In the two years she had lived with Col and Bee, Janine had learned to cook, do the dishes, clean the cottage, make bread, collect and dry herbs, grow and preserve food, fish, chop wood, and a hundred other things necessary when living alone in the middle of a dangerous forest with the nearest store twenty miles away.
Most important, Col and Bee had taught her about the many products that came from the Tumtum tree. When dried and ground, the nut meats made a delicious bread. A tea made from its leaves cured all kinds of illnesses, and its ground bark caused a startling change in size, depending upon the side of the tree from which it was harvested. By eating cupcakes made from ground bark found on the south side of the tree, Janine had grown a whole foot taller. Unfortunately, none of the medicines they tried cured her warts, not even Miracle Mix.
Bee opened the packet and carefully blew across the top of it. A puff of dust glittered in the air. She gestured, and the sparkling dust moved back along the path a few feet, and then stopped at the edge of a small, sunlit meadow crowded with carnivorous daisies.
Bee closed and put away the packet. Then she picked up her pack sack, stepped back and gestured for Janine to imitate her. They hid behind a tree and waited. Janine fingered the mask in her pocket. Should she put it on?
Ch. 20.6 The Jubjub Siblings —
A flock of Jubjub birds flew down and alighted on the large branch above them. “Look,” said one of them. “It’s our featherless sister. What are you doing, Janie? Why are you hiding?”
Janine put a finger to her lips. “Shhh.”
The Jubjub ruffled his glossy purple feathers and flapped his wings. “Oooh, a game. What are we playing?”
Janine thought fast. “A bad man named Paul is coming along the path,” she whispered. “In a few minutes, can you call to him and make him think you’re me? Can you lead him away from here? But don’t go near the sparkly cloud. You’ll go blind.”
“Will you give us lollipops?”
The other birds clacked their bills. “Candy. Candy. Candy.”
“Shh! Yes, I will. When it’s safe, go to Granny Connie’s house. I’ll feed you there.”
“Oh, goodie.” The birds settled down to wait.