Cousin Magnolia still hasn’t shown up and I feel very bad. Partying and whooping it up and still NO Magnolia. So Zanz and I climbed on the broomstick and set off for places we know she likes. “Let’s go to England” I shouted against the wind as we turned upside down and the broomstick settled in for the flight. Zanzibar clung on with his claws and I know he was wishing I hadn’t magicked the broomstick years ago to go faster – which it did – but upside down. It seemed like hours but it was only minutes later and we landed in England in the grounds of a very fancy house. Cousin Gemma lives there, a somewhat busy body of a witch who claims she lives in a palace. Judging from the size of her house – she does.
I looked up to see Gemma bustling towards me. “Do you like trains?,” she asked not saying hello, how are you? Or how was the flight over? I was just about to tell her how we were anyway, when she carried on: “Everyone likes trains don’t they? Here at Blenheim Palace, we’ve got a super train. Come on.” And she strode off as though our dropping in was a daily occurrence rather than not having seen me for 137 years. Zanz and I followed her.
We wound our way around the lake – past one of the prettiest views I’ve ever seen. But just as I stopped at a large red rose bush thinking it might look better if the flowers had purple and yellow stripes, and raised my wand – Cousin Gemma whipped round. “No one knows we’re here,” she hissed. “So don’t do anything stupid to draw attention to us.” We followed a now irritated Cousin Gemma up to the big house, and headed over to where a little train stood, waiting for its passengers to climb on board.
Zanzibar was looking around curiously. He’d only wanted to come because he’d heard there were a lot of birds there too lazy to fly, and they were called pheasants. Gemma swept by the people waiting to get on the train but they didn’t seem to notice her, I thought, and then realized: “Of course, they can’t see us! What fun!”
“Toot Toot” came the little engine, pulling along all the carriages.
We climbed on. It was so exciting puffing past all the mysterious old trees, and even more exciting when Zanzibar leapt off the train while it was still moving! He had seen a lazy pheasant and couldn’t resist chasing it. He didn’t bargain for what he got though. Instead of flying off, the pheasant shouted very loudly and then ran really, really fast through a hedge, leaving some pretty feathers behind in Zanzibar’s mouth.
I couldn’t help laughing, but Gemma scolded him a lot. “They aren’t your birds,” she said, “they belong to the Duke who lives here, and if he finds you he will really tell you off.”
“The Duke?” – I wondered out loud.
“Yes”, snapped Gemma – “The Duke. I told you I lived in a palace didn’t I? Well I do, it’s the home of the Dukes of Marlborough and has been for over 300 years.” I turned to Zanzibar who looked crestfallen. “DRATTED TADPOLES,” I thought. “Whatever next?” “I’m sorry,” purred Zanzibar, trying to look very sweet and innocent. And as quickly as she flared up Cousin Gemma calmed down. Soon everyone was friends again, and Cousin Gemma waved her wand and we were sitting at a table with white linen and everything. Gemma waved her wand again and a proper English tea with tiny sandwiches and scones and jam and cream appeared, served by the butler. “He’s one of us”, whispered Gemma. “William Izzard or W. Izzard for short” – and she collapsed into helpless giggles. W.Izzard poured the tea and we ate the scones. We did feel special!!
“Have you seen Cousin Magnolia?” I asked my mouth full of scones and jam and crumbs flying out as I spoke. Gemma frowned at me. I didn’t know if it was because I was talking with my mouth full or if she was thinking about Cousin Magnolia.
“No,” she said thoughtfully. “I haven’t seen her for at least 70 years. But I’ll help you look,” she offered.
We smiled at her gratefully and began to plot what to do next.