Miles Meets a Stranger (Miles and the Glowpus Part II)
Miles coughed gruffly, and tried to look with keen severity
at the golden creature nuzzling his palm. But it wasn't long before his face softened,
and then began to glow with anticipation.
‘Want to see what it is?’ he asked his friends.
‘Boy, do we,’ said Jill, who bound inside Miles’ house toward the library. Miles grinned at Jack, who hadn’t stopped grinning, and just like that, Miles’ day changed—it would have been hard pressed not to with the little ball of fur snuggled so closely against him, soft as down.
The library in Miles' house was found at the back, and it was more than just books (if there could be any such thing as ‘just books’); it was his work space. The place where he identified all the creatures that found their way to him—and there had been quite a few. It was his calling, finding new creatures and caring for them. And the tiny thing in his hands needed his help.
Jill made herself at home, after pulling several books off the shelves, surrounding herself with their leather-bound hides all round her as she sat on the floor leaning against a well-cushioned sofa.
Jack and Miles followed suit. It was the usual routine, for their forest was covered in magical creatures, and new ones seemed to make their way to them rather often.
Plunging into the literature, their heads bogged down between pages looking for a description that fit their glowing little friend, they worked until their stomachs grumbled. Sandwiches and cider and crisp fried potatoes tied them over as they settled down to work again—this time with a greater urgency, for the little guy had begun to make soft calls, and Miles was sure he was hungry.
When they found nothing in the books, Miles fed the glowing creature some drops of milk, which its small tongue lapped up readily. Relieved, Miles put out a whole dish, and it wasn’t long before the dish was empty.
It was just as they were getting hungry again that Jill poked her head up from among the pages. ‘Got it,’ she said triumphantly.
‘And?’ said Miles, as he and Jack looked at her expectantly.
‘“The glowpus,”’ read Jill, ‘“hatched from the egg of a tortoise under the belly of a cat on the night of a full moon, lives readily on milk and chicken eggs while young, and raw meats of all kinds in its adult stage. Known for its mood-boosting properties, being in close proximity to the creature can lift the spirits. Young glowpuses are often hunted for their fur, which is as rare as it is expensive as it grants a youthful shine to all who put its pelt under their heads during sleep.”’ Jill fell into reading the words silently, and the jerked he head up. ‘Ha! It says that this little guy is indeed a he,’ she smiled smugly up at her friends.
Jack and Miles shared a knowing look and prepared themselves for what came next, while Jill chewed on her lip for a second. ‘I know, let’s name him,’ she said as Jack and Miles rolled their eyes at each other. ‘We’ll call him Herbert,’ she said resolutely.
Jack and Miles knew there was nothing they could about it when the little guy lifted his head and stared at Jill. It was like that with all the creatures; it didn’t matter what Jill named them, when she did it, it stuck.
Cuddling Herbert, Miles felt a deep sense of relief at having found out about the glowpus. He was about to suggest they all celebrate with some dinner when a knock came at the door.
Handing the little glowpus to Jack, Miles made his way to the door.
‘Can I help you?’ he said, opening the door to a strange man in a black coat.
‘Yes, I was rather hoping you could,’ said the man, taking off a black hat and smoothing oily black hair. ‘You see, I seem to have lost something of mine, and I was rather hoping you might have come across it.’
Miles began to feel a strong sense of foreboding about this man. ‘I’ll see if I can help you sir, but I haven’t come across much today,' he said carefully.
‘Ah, I see,’ was how the man replied. ‘Well, I recently hatched a young creature. You would know it if you saw it, as its glow is rather unmistakable.’
‘Glow, sir?’ Miles said with a swallow.
‘Hm, yes,’ the man said.
‘Can’t think of anything I’ve come across today that glows,’
said Miles. He was thinking of the last line that Jill had read to them; it was
ten to one that this man was after Herbert — or, rather, Herbert's pelt.
‘Is that so?’ said the man. ‘It's just, I did think I might have seen something glowing through your window.’
‘Probably just a light, sir,’ said Miles with a cough he tried to turn into a laugh. ‘I spend a lot of time in my library, and the candles do flicker.’
The man gave Miles a scathing glance that caused Miles' skin to itch.
‘Very likely,’ said the man. ‘Well, if you do see my glowing creature, don’t hesitate to come find me. Here’s my card,’ and the man slid slinky fingers into his coat and pulled out a small piece of parchment with a forest address on it.
‘Very good, sir,’ said Miles, and went shut the door as quickly as he was able.
Before he could, however, the man stuck his foot in it.
‘I should say that this creature is very much my property. Bought and paid for. If you come to know anything, you will have to let me know. The consequences of choosing not to do so, well…’ the man hesitated just enough to send chills through Miles’ body, ‘they can be quite, shall we say, unpleasant.’
‘Very good, sir,’ Miles said again with a little gasp as the man slid his foot out the door and gave a small, stiff salute farewell. Miles practically slammed the door shut and leaned against it breathing an enormous sigh of relief.
But all the same, a very cold thought was swirling around his brain.
The man wanted to skin Herbert.
Well, he could try all he liked; Miles wouldn’t let that happen.
(To Be Continued next Sunday...
Part I available here: https://www.fairystoriesandothertales.com/2022/04/miles-and-glowpus-part-i-miles-turns.html)