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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Larrabeiti Michael

«The Borribles», Michael Larrabeiti

For Whitebonce, Spikey and Fang

"If you're my friend, follow me round the bend."



The swirling rain-clouds rushed on revealing the bright moon and the two Borribles dodged behind the bushes and kept as quiet as they could. There was danger in the air and they could feel it. It would pay to be cautious.

"Strewth," said Knocker, the chief skirmisher and lookout of the Battersea tribe, "what a bloody cheek, coming down here without so much as a by-your-leave."

Lightfinger, Knocker's companion, agreed. "Diabolical liberty I call it . . . nasty bits of work, covered in fur like nylon hearth rugs . . . snouts like traffic cones. Just like rats, aren't they?"

"There's a big one, just getting into the motor, he's shouting at the others, he's the boss all right. Tough-looking, do you see?"

"Yeah," answered Lightfinger, "they do what they're told, don't they? Look at them move."

Presently the two Borribles saw the large car drive away in the moonlight, passing along the shining tarmac which led between the trees to the limits of Battersea Park. The car stopped for an instant at the gates and then turned left into Albert Bridge Road and disappeared on its way southwards into the quiet streets of the outer London suburbs.

The two Borribles stood up and looked around. They weren't too happy in parks, being much more at ease in crowded streets and broken-down houses. It was only occasionally that the Borrible lookouts checked on the green spaces, just to see they were still there and that everything was as it should be.

When Knocker was sure they were alone he said: "We'd better see what they were up to over there. There's something going on and I don't like it."

All at once the patch of ground at his feet began to tremble and clumps of grass began to pop up and away from their roots. There was a noise too, a scraping and a scrabbling, and a muffled voice swore and mumbled to itself. The carpet of grass rose and fell violently until a squat protruberance established itself between turf and top soil. The bump hesitated, as if it didn't know whether to continue upwards or retreat downwards. It grunted, swore again and, as if undecided, took off on a horizontal course, forcing the turf up as it wriggled along.

At the first sign of trouble Knocker and Lightfinger had taken refuge behind a bush but as the bump moved away they came from cover and followed it.

"It's got to be . . ." said Knocker, "it can't be anything else, and down here in Battersea, it's bad, double bad."

The mound now stopped and shook and struggled and became bigger, and as it grew more clods of grass fell from it.

"Watch yourself," whispered Knocker, "it's coming out. Get ready to jump it."

Lightfinger and Knocker crouched, waiting with patience, their minds racing with schemes. The turf rose higher and higher till it was as tall as the Borribles themselves, then it burst and the grass fell away like a discarded overcoat and revealed a dark and sinister shape of about their own size.

It looked like a giant rat, a huge mole or a deformed rabbit, but it was none of these for it stood on its hind legs and had a long snout and beady red eyes, like the things that had gone away in the car.

Knocker gave a shrill whistle and at the signal both he and Lightfinger leapt forward. Knocker got an armlock round the thing's head and pulled it to the ground while Lightfinger fell onto the hairy legs and bent one over the other in a special lock that could dislocate a knee with no trouble. The thing shouted so loudly that it would have woken the neighbourhood if there'd been one in Battersea Park. Knocker squeezed it round the neck and whispered: "Shuddup, you great fool, else I'll smother yer." The creature shuddupped.

Knocker sat the prisoner up and got behind it so he could tie its arms back with a length of rope he took from his waist. He and Lightfinger were very careful with the animal because there was no telling how strong it was. Lightfinger moved so that he was sitting on the thing's legs, looking into the eyes, which were like marbles rolling around at the wide end of the snout.

"All right," said Knocker when he was ready, "give it a duffing."

Lightfinger grabbed it by the scruff of the fur and pulled its snout forward. "Name," he asked gruffly.

The snout moved a little and they heard a voice say in a distinguished tone: "Timbucktoo."

"Tim who?" asked Lightfinger again, shaking the snout good and hard.


"And where are you from, you moth-eaten carpet?" asked Knocker, though he knew the answer.

Timbucktoo shook himself free of the two Borribles and, though his hands were bound, he got to his feet and glared haughtily down his snout, his red eyes blazing.

"Why, I'm fwom Wumbledom of course, you dirty little tykes. You'd better welease me before you get into sewious twouble."

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