At precisely 11:55 p.m. Nigel
Cuttlefish closed the door to his house and headed for Angelsbury
Cathedral. Raindrops clung to his worn leather shoes as he trudge through
the ankle high grass growing wild and unkempt between his house and the
nearby cathedral. Out of habit, he dug into his pocket for the circular
wire band that held a multitude of keys. He plodded on, tugging them with
his hand. An owl's hoot echoed through the darkness of the night, luring
his eyes to look at the ancient oak. The full moon bathed the grounds in
its pale glow, enough to see the outline of the tree, but not the owl.
With bundle in hand, Nigel moved
onto a dirt path, lined with the perfectly manicured lawns of the
cathedral. Small stones crunched beneath both feet, his step in rhythm to
the swaying branches dancing in the autumn wind. The Gothic building
loomed ahead, its twisting spires and windowed turrets reached for the
twinkling stars. Nigel stopped in front of a high wooden door, sturdy, yet
weathered and timeworn; built centuries before by labored hands, the
scratches and indentations a reminder of years gone by.
The bundle he carried so carefully
in his arms, dropped near his feet. He twisted the elongated key in the
lock, turning the creaking door open. With a bored sigh, he picked up his
newspaper-wrapped parcel and slipped the ring of keys back into his
pocket. Stepping inside, he turned and closed the door.
“Where should I go tonight? Into the
nave, or back to my cubby for a snooze?”
Nigel sauntered across the polished
stone floor, hearing himself breathe in the silence of the empty
sanctuary. “I think I'll head for my cubby.” He turned and walked down a
long hallway, passing under the vaulted ceilings, the sacellum and the
oldest and only original part of the cathedral, the abbey. “Here we are.”
A dark, dingy room welcomed Nigel.
“You're small, but you're mine and
mine alone.” The caretaker lit the candle stub, nearly burning his
fingertips with the match. “It's about time I replaced you,” he said,
talking to the waxen luminosity.
The loaf of hot bread, wrapped in
his wife Ella's dishtowel, tempted his hunger. He sat on the edge of his
cot, careful to not slip into the sagging middle, and removed the contents
of the parcel. Butter, fragrant with the aroma of fresh cream, caught the
flickering of the candle. The jar of marmalade, his wife's secret recipe,
was placed on a rickety pine nightstand. “Ah, Ella. Nobody makes marmalade
like you do.” He unscrewed the lid and sniffed the lemons, oranges and
grapefruits mingled with a sugary gel. From his other pocket he pulled out
a small butter knife, as his wife called it.
Scraping the dull knife across the top of the cube of butter, he noticed
how smoothly it glided and spread on the slices of bread. When each piece
was buttered, he scooped out the thick marmalade and plopped it on top.
“I've been waiting for this all night.” Lifting the bread to his mouth, he
chomped down. Drops of sticky marmalade clung to his chin and globs of
butter stuck to the tip of his nose, unnoticed by the hungry middle-aged
As he greedily devoured his supper,
he looked around the room. “If the priests or Bishop found out all I did
was sleep, they'd have me drawn and quartered for wasting church money. If
my dear Ella was to learn that every night I come to work and sleep, she'd
give me such a row. I suppose I should feel guilty.”
Creamy milk washed down a few more
bites. It was the same thing night after night. He'd come to work to clean
the cathedral, only to find the place spotless. Not once had he lifted a
broom, polished a pew, or wiped the keys to the organ. The windows always
shone with a radiant cleanliness. No rubbish littered the floors.
Occasionally he'd have to rub dirty smudges off the doorknobs, but never
had he genuinely had to work.
Aside from doing a nightly check of
the grounds and the building, to make sure it was locked up securely,
Nigel made little effort. “Nobody's got it as good as you do, Nigel
Cuttlefish! Cushy job, your own cubby, a wife that can cook, a house,
meager as it is, next door to the cathedral, and still I can claim eight
hours of work each night.”
The empty milk bottle, marmalade jar
and the knife went back into his pocket. He hung the coat on the doorknob
and lay down in the cot, pulling the blanket over him. Within moments he
heard the squeaks of hungry long-tailed rats, appearing each night on
queue, eager to nibble the bread crumbs he left for them in a corner of
No sooner had he dozed off when a
noise woke him. He sat up and stared at the wall, straining to hear
better. “Who be that out there? Is someone in the cathedral?” His feet
slipped from the cot to the floor. Aches and pains of age slowed his walk
to the door, where he pressed his ear against. “How odd!” With a
hesitancy, he turned the knob and peeked into the hall. “It sounded like
it came from near the nave.”
Tired and slumping, he dragged his
feet, inching his way down the hall. “I might have been dreaming again,
but it sounded like someone opening a stone tomb. I'm going daft! There
was probably something wrong with the marmalade. Ach! I'm back to my cot.”
Into the wee hours of the morning he lay awake, listening for other noises
and thinking frightening thoughts of hundreds of ghosts of the ancient
kings crawling out of their tombs and wandering the cathedral halls.
When the sun rose over the horizon,
it cast colors across the tiny room, reflected from the stained glass
window high on the wall above him. Nigel's eyes opened and all thoughts of
the night before vanished. “I'd better get up and look like I've been
He grabbed his coat and picked the
broom out of the closet near the caretaker's entrance. No sooner had he
swept the broom across the cold stone floor when the door opened and
several priests entered. They marched past without so much as a nod, all
except one. “Good morning, Mr. Cuttlefish. Still at work! I commend you
for your diligence.” He stopped and put his arm around Nigel's shoulder.
“This cathedral has always been a source of pride to the community and
most of that is due to your hard work and efforts, Nigel.” With a nod, the
priest disappeared down the hall, catching up with the others.
Nigel grinned, stifling a yawn,
slipped on his coat and opened the door. A misty morning greeted him.
Sunlight filtered through the gray clouds as he inhaled the fresh scent of
rain, decaying autumn leaves and sizzling bacon and sausages coming from
“Nigel Cuttlefish! Look at you! I'm
sure you're exhausted after a night's work. Why don't you go and wash up
and I'll fix you a plate of kippers, sausages, bacon, eggs and baked
beans.” Ella Cuttlefish kissed her grubby-faced husband on the cheek. “Go
and have yourself a shave, Nigel. You're face is covered with hoary
stubble. You look ancient this morning. Rough night, Luv?”
Nigel knew the routine well. Each
morning he feigned exhaustion, ate a hearty breakfast and then, with
pretense, went to his bed to sleep, only to get up as soon as his wife
left for the town. She visited a few of her friends, stopped by the market
and did volunteer work at the local primary school, arriving home the same
time every day. He didn't mind the few minutes of comfort in his the firm
bed, which he always slipped into in case Ella came upstairs for a peek.
The fluffy down pillows, scented pillowcases and sheets and a warm duvet
snuggled him like a cocoon.
“I'll shave after I eat.” The old
man shuffled to his chair near the fire in the kitchen and collapsed into
it. “And how are you this morning Mr. Banbury,” he said to the long-haired
gray cat perched on the window sill. “Been out catching mice?” He stroked
the cat behind the ears and then, as always, he spoke to the summer sky
blue budgies in the cage hanging close to the same window. “How's my
little budgies doing this morning? Give us a kiss, Brambles. Give us a
kiss, Lily.” The two birds scooted along the wooden swing to the bars,
stuck their beaks through and nibbled on Nigel's cheek. “That's my girls.”
A few tweets filled the room with their melodic resonance.
Ella's oven-mitted hand put the hot
plate of food down in front of her husband. “Tell me about your night,
Nigel. Did you manage to polish all of the pews?”
He nodded, avoiding a lie.
“You work so hard. Today, while
you're sleeping, I'm off to the market with a bundle of my crocheted
doilies and embroidered pillowcases. Nancy Hollingsworth said she'd sell
them for me in her shop. I made a few extra jars of jam. You've got your
choice of blackberry currant, apricot peach, or strawberry gooseberry.
There's a few more jars of my marmalade if you prefer. We'll do fine.”
With a full belly, Nigel climbed the
stairs to the bedroom. As he undressed and climbed into bed, he heard Ella
rattling dishes and tidying up. When the door shut behind her, Nigel
sprang out of bed. “I'll go in early tonight. That's what I'll do. If
there's someone sneaking around my cathedral at night without talking to
me about it, well, I'll put a stop to it immediately.” With a harrumph, he
showered, shaved and dressed. After slipping on his heather-blue cardigan,
he went down the stairs and out to the tin-roofed shed in his back garden.
While his wife chin-wagged with the ladies in town, Nigel kept himself
busy with his woodworking. Ella had never stepped a foot inside the
dilapidated hut. Their wedding anniversary was just around the corner and
he hoped to surprise his wife; his project -- a set of chairs for their
After tea that night, Ella sat in
her stuffed chair in front of the fire, crocheting and nibbling on a bar
of Belgian chocolate. “I think my doilies will sell. Even though tourist
season has died down, there's always someone driving through town to visit
the cathedral. We're very lucky, Luv, to have a working 13th century
cathedral in our village.” She looked at her husband, who lay sprawled
across the couch snoring. “Nigel! Nigel! Wake up. You've not heard a word
I've said. It's nearly ten o'clock at night.”
The time registered in his
subconscious, waking him. “Ten? I've got to go to work.” He jumped up and
reached for his coat.
“Nigel? What's going on? You don't
leave for work until 11:55. Not once, in the thirty years since you've
been caretaker, have you ever left this house one minute before then.”
“I've got some extra work to do
tonight, Ella. I must go. They've started taking tours through the
cathedral and I'm always finding rubbish tossed between the pews.”
Before Ella could say another word,
he went into the kitchen, grabbed a jar of apricot and peach jam, a butter
knife, butter, and half a loaf of bread. Quietly opening the refrigerator,
he slipped a bottle of milk into his pocket, careful not to peel back the
foil lid. “I'm off.”
Ella heard the back door shut. “What
was that all about? How unusual! I'll never understand that man.” She
shrugged her shoulders and went back to her crocheting.
Nigel rushed down the path to the
cathedral, his keys in hand. He opened the door and dashed down the long
hall to his cubby and then directly to the nave. “I'll find out who the
culprit is tonight. I don't believe in ghosts. Someone's trying to trick
me.” With lit candle blazing in the candleholder, he made his way from the
back of the nave, past the pews until he came to the choir, with its
intricately carved, Norwegian oak stalls.
Chantry chapels and altars lined one
side of the nave. The long central arcaded and colonnaded room, a marvel
of Gothic architecture, stood silent. It's ribbed vaults and pointed
arches, were set in such a manner as to bring your eye directly to the
rose windows. In midday the stained glass caused a light, lacy spider web
effect on the high altar, as the rainbow colors illuminated with the sun's
rays. At night, when darkness hung thick under cloud-covered skies, they
reminded Nigel of glassy eyes, peering into his soul.
“If these walls could talk, what
stories they'd tell,” he whispered, slouching behind the slabs of a tomb.
His eyes went straight to the golden image lying on top. The remains of a
former nobleman of the area, Sir Ranulf Biggington of Marshdale, lay
inside. “If it's you r ghost wandering my halls, Sir Ranulf, don't do it
tonight. I don't think my old heart could take it.”
From where Nigel sat, he could see
the pedal organ, decorated with Carrera marble angels, with over 4,000
polished tin pipes and three rows of keys and pedals. The organ, when
properly played, filled the cathedral with heavenly music. He smiled,
thinking of the hundreds of times he'd sat in the back of the cross-shaped
cathedral listening to one of the organists playing.
Bored, with nothing to pass the
time, Nigel devoured his bread, butter, jam, and milk. One eyelid fell
shut as he struggled to stay awake. When the other eyelid closed, he
dropped the near-empty bottle of milk, the leftover spilling its whiteness
onto the ground.
A snore burst from his mouth just as the organ music began, frightening
and confusing him. His eyes swung to his wrist for a look at an old
leather-strapped watch. “11 p.m.?
What's going on?” Music erupted from
the organ, filling the cathedral with an echoing resonance. “The culprit
is playing the organ!” Sliding onto his stomach, he slithered around the
tomb for a better view. “My goodness,” he gulped in disbelief, “what have
Perched on the organ bench, with
hands expertly playing the ivory keys, was a small man. Wispy gray hair
stuck out from his head in disarray, pointed ears poking through the long
strands. A worn grayish-brown suit hung from the scrawny man's body, over
a tight fitting gray and black striped vest. A matching stained and faded
tie dangled down the front of what was once a white shirt. Nigel gasped,
but continued to gawk.
A candle stub, flickering in a
puddle of melted wax, gave off a subdued light, its glow surrounding the
man in a halo of soft luminescence. His pudgy bare feet, with wiry hairs
poking from the top of each toe, pushed the organ peddles up and down.
“That's no ghost and he's not using
any music. Why, of course, it's a hobgoblin. I remember as a boy hearing
stories of a hobgoblin inhabiting the cathedral. So, it's true.
Angelsbury Cathedral has its very own hobgoblin.” Entranced by the
powerful music, Nigel had no choice but to lie flat on his belly and
When the recital for one stopped,
the tiny man slid off the organ bench, his padded feet plodding across the
cold stone floor. He pulled a cloth out of his pocket and polished each
and every organ key. After he finished with those, he proceeded to wipe
the wooden instrument from top to bottom.
Nigel slid further back into the
dark recess to watch.
A gold pocket watch chain stretched
from the button on the hobgoblin's vest to a pocket on the suit coat. It
sparkled and glittered in the candlelight's flickering flames, catching
"How very strange,” he whispered.
“He's moving so quickly, less than an hour; it's no wonder the cathedral
is always clean and there's never any work left for me to do.”
The hobgoblin hobbled through the
aisle between the pews, stopping at each row, and one by one, polished
them until they shone with a glowing luster.
“So this is how it happens.” Nigel
marveled at the little man holding a broom.
“The hobgoblin sweeps up the
rubbish. Little man, I owe you a great debt of gratitude.”
The hobgoblin dusted the tables and
swept the floor, dragged a ladder from a back room into the nave and
cleaned every colored glass window, section by section, until Nigel could
see the moon and stars shining through them.
At precisely 11:54 p.m., the
hobgoblin put the cloth back in his pocket and waddled down the hall.
Nigel tiptoed after him, anxious to
see where he went.
When the hobgoblin stopped, he
clapped his hands three times. One of the limestone slabs opened, grating
against the floor, exposing a dark tunnel. With candle in hand, he
disappeared and the stone closed.
Nigel glided down the hall, stopping
in front of the slab. A grin spread from ear to ear and his heart gave a
flutter of admiration for this creature. Unable to budge the stone, he
gave up and went to his cubby, pulled the blanket up to his neck and fell
He awakened to a pair of larks
singing outside the cathedral window. After stretching his body as though
he were a cat, he put on his coat and headed for home.
Ella stood at the stove cooking
sausages once again. “You look horrible, Nigel. The cathedral must have
been filthy to keep you up all night. Well now, don't you worry about a
thing. I've got a nice breakfast ready for you and I did the washing late
last night after you left for work, so the sheets on the bed are April
Nigel sat at the table, stroked Mr.
Banbury and got his morning kisses from Brambles and Lily.
Ella puttered around the kitchen,
fixing a pot of tea and scrambling eggs.
“Ella, what do you know about
She wiped her chubby fingers on her
apron and carried over a plate of food.
“Hobgoblins? Why do you ask such a
thing? Did you hear strange noises in the nave?”
A chuckle escaped her mouth as she patted his hand. “You're not afraid of
ghosts now, are you, Luv?”
"No, don't be silly, Ella. It was
just a question.” He decided to change the subject and picked up his cup
of tea. “Ella, what will you be doing today while I sleep? Are you heading
“I thought I'd take a jar of
blackberry currant jam over to Mrs. Dottingham. She's been a bit under the
weather. I'm glad I made extra. I'll be stopping by the primary school, of
course. If you wake up and I'm not home, help yourself to a biscuit.
There's some chocolate-covered caramel wafers and a few raisin scones. Now
eat your breakfast and off to bed with you.”
As instructed, Nigel went upstairs
to bed and once again, after hearing Ella leave for town, he got up and
made the bed. After a shower and shave he sat in front of the television,
though his mind was elsewhere. “I've got to find out more about this
Ella came home in the early
afternoon. “You're up. I trust you slept well, Luv. I'll fix supper
shortly. I picked up some sliced ham. We'll have eggs, beans, and chips
with it. Does that sound good to you? I picked up a fruit tart at the
bakers. It's full of kiwi, blueberries, strawberries and bits of pear.”
Nigel grunted and turned off the
television. “Sounds delightful. I'll help you peel the potatoes.” At the
table, he announced, “Ella, I've got to leave early again tonight. There's
been a few problems and I might have to go in early to work from now on. I
hope you don't mind.”
“Not at all, Luv. You are working
harder though. Maybe you should take some extra bread. I'll start making
two loaves for you.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Her rosy
cheeks flushed from cooking over a hot stove warmed his face.
The rain pelted down through the
night sky, drumming against the roof of the house. Ella handed him the
bread, butter, butter knife, a jar of jam and a bottle of milk.
“You'll need this to get through the
long night. Walk quickly or you'll catch the death of cold.”
He nodded, pulled his coat over his
head and after grabbing the bundle from his wife, darted to the cathedral.
Nigel heard water splattering on the ground, falling from the gargoyle's
mouths high above. Droplets ran along the flying buttresses and arches
that supported the vaulted ceilings before trickling into the drain and
out through the gargoyle's mouth. Ignoring the noise, he slipped the key
into the lock and turned it quickly, opening and closing the door.
His coat slipped off his shoulders
while he hurried down the empty hall towards his cubby. The bread, milk,
butter and jam jiggled against each other as he placed them on the table.
Grabbing a match, he lit the candle and glanced at his watch. “I've just
enough time.” He closed the door behind him and scrambled to the nave.
“That's where the hobgoblin disappeared last night.” He made haste towards
the spot and passed by, hiding behind a marble pillar. And then he waited.
Too excited to sleep, he stood with
his back leaning against the column. The creaking of rock against rock
alerted him to the hobgoblin's exit. He glanced at his watch.
“Precisely 11 p.m. I must wait. I
must wait. Patience Nigel.” Not until he heard the organ playing did he
dare to venture from his place of concealment. “Slowly, Nigel. Take your
He stopped in front of the slab of
stone and clapped his hands three times. Much to his surprise, as he
didn't think it would truly work, the stone opened.
A damp, musty smell wafted from
within. Crouching to fit, as he was a tall, slim man, he made his way down
a narrow tunnel, which seemed to get smaller and smaller with each step.
He lit a candle and though it added some relief, a deliverance from fear
washed over him when he stepped into a room. “My, oh my, look at this
A rusted metal bed frame stood
against one of the walls. On top of it lay a straw mattress, old and stale
and smelling of years of use. A pillow, filthy and flea-ridden, sat on
top, feathers sticking out through tears in the moth-eaten fabric. The
blanket, which Nigel hesitated to go to close to, was stiff with foulness.
Fighting back an overpowering urge to be sick to his stomach, he covered
his mouth and stepped to the other side of the room. From there he could
see rats running around under the bed, nibbling on crumbs that had fallen
from a rickety wooden table. Bread crust, stale and moldy looked as though
it could sprout legs and walk away on its own. A bronze candleholder, the
sort with a loop for carrying, sat next to the crust. Only a stub of taper
was left, perhaps enough to light the room one more night, but only to a
An open book lay next to the
candleholder. Nigel picked it up. Holding his candle closer, he read the
title, Dragon Lore and Fantasmic Facts. Below the title it read, This Book
Belongs to Periwinkle Longtoes.
“So that's your name. Periwinkle
Longtoes. Well, Mr. Longtoes, you've broken my heart. You're so kind and
work so hard and here I am taking credit for your efforts. You live in
squalor and total poverty while I reap the rewards. Well, not for long,
Periwinkle.” Nigel sighed. “You spend so much time cleaning the cathedral,
doing my job, that you're too exhausted to clean your own room. I'm about
to change that.”
As he turned to leave, Nigel bumped
into a wooden shelf. On it sat many other books. He ran the candle in
front of them, struggling to read the titles. The Canterbury Tales;
Knights, Knaves and Nobles; The Third Crusade; Greenwich England – When
Time Stood Still; The Magna Carta – Fact or Fiction. “A fine collection of
medieval books.” Nigel rummaged through them, fascinated by the detailed
illustrations and unique styles of printing.
The organ music stopped. Nigel's
chin dropped. “What if he comes back and catches me? I've no idea what
sort of magic a hobgoblin does and I've no desire to find out.” On his way
out, he noticed a stained glass window, covered with muck and grime.
He made a mental note and left. When
the slab of stone slid shut, Nigel doused his candle and hurried back to
his hiding place before Periwinkle returned.
After the hobgoblin went into his
room, Nigel made his way back to his cubby. Devouring his bread and jam, a
wave of guilt ran through him, thinking of the hungry hobgoblin in his
miserable, wretched abode. The last of the cream dripped from his chin as
he packed the leftovers into the parcel Ella had sent with him. With plans
for the following night going through his mind, he lay awake, giggling
with delight thinking of the changes he was about to bring about in the
The next morning, he headed home as
usual, but today he thought about putting the plan into action. A feast of
plump sizzling sausages smothered in fried onions sat on his plate next to
two scrambled eggs and buttered wheat toast. Mr. Banbury jumped on Nigel's
lap, eager for a morning pet and a nibble of eggs. Nigel kissed his
budgies and his wife and then went up to bed. He lay down, climbing in
between the sheets, sniffing them. “They do smell April fresh.” Patiently
waiting for his wife to head into town, his mind wandered to the hobgoblin
When he heard the door shut, he
arose and went down to the kitchen. He rummaged through the pantry,
picking up a box of plastic rubbish bags. Pulling one out, he carried it
with him to the linen closet. Sheets stacked high on the top shelf, neatly
folded and pressed, nearly fell when he pushed things aside, searching for
a spare blanket. Under the towels hid three blankets. The softest one
slipped into the bag. “Now, where does she keep the pillow cases. Ah,
there they are.” A blue one with tiny pink and yellow flowers caught his
attention. Pushing the blanket aside, he stuffed the pillowcase into the
bag. He headed back up the stairs, took one of the extra pillows off his
bed and added it to the bag, along with a small throw rug from his
bathroom floor and a handful of candles. “There now! Tonight before I
leave, I shall get one jar of jam and one jar of marmalade, two butter
knives, two loaves or bread and two bottles of fresh milk.”
“I nearly forgot!” Nigel went into
the spare bedroom and picked a book of the shelf. “An Alchemist's Guide to
13th Century Herbs. This is a good one. I've not a clue as to where it
came from, but looking at the dust on it, it's been sitting here for many
years. Ella won't miss it.” He dropped it in the bag with the other items
and sat on his bed.
“Socks! I nearly forgot the socks!”
The top drawer, where Ella usually put his socks, slid open; nicely folded
and together in pairs brought a smile of appreciation to Nigel's face.
After searching for the thickest, warmest pair, he pulled them out of the
drawer and held them up. “The little fellow's got awfully large feet. I
hope these fit.” He dropped them in the with book. “That should do it.”
Satisfied that everything was in place and that Ella would never find out,
he headed for his workshop.
As the afternoon sun lowered in the
sky, the school children headed home after a busy day of learning
mathematics, geography, history and spelling. The fact that they walked
past Nigel's house every weekday never seemed a problem, but today they
were extremely boisterous. Nigel put a tin of wood stain down next to the
pile of rags he used for polishing and opened the shed window. “Foolish
children!” Shaking his head back and forth with disgust at their childish
behavior and remembering that he never acted like a scallywag, he locked
the door and went into the house to shower. Before opening the bedroom
door, he spotted the bag. “I shall have to be sneaky with this. Ella would
take the micky out of me if she knew I was taking pillows and blankets to
a hobgoblin.” With no other choice, he waited until the rowdy children
passed and opened the bedroom window. Peering over the hedges and seeing
nobody around, he dropped the bag behind Ella's still flowering rose
bushes. “There, that should do it. Just in time too. Ella's back.”
With a guilty grin on his face,
Nigel went down the stairs to see what delicious concoction his wife would
prepare for tea.
“There you are, Nigel. I trust you
had a good sleep. The school children didn't wake you, did they? They're a
noisy lot, they are.” Ella stood at the kitchen sink washing the dirt off
a few Ayrshire potatoes.
“Hooligans, Ella. Today's children
have no idea what discipline is. Why, when I was a boy in school...”
“Yes, Nigel. I've heard it a hundred
times. If you've got nothing better to do than complain, you can mash the
plaice. I'm fixing Welsh rarebit, toad in the hole, and fishcakes. I made
a trifle earlier. It's chilling in the refrigerator. Did you eat the
“No Ella. Are you trying to make me
fat? That's enough food to feed the entire British RAF!” He nibbled on his
“Stop that, Nigel. I can't
concentrate on my potatoes. Never mind the fish. Why don't you set the
table instead.” Ella's blushing cheeks, rosy and warm, matched the joy she
felt in her heart for her husband.
An hour later, supper finished and
both retired to the living room, Nigel watched his wife crocheting. “Ella,
do you know how to crochet a pair of socks?”
She pooh-poohed him, waving her arm
downward. “Nigel, don't be daft. You don't crochet socks, you knit them.”
“How silly of me, Ella. Do you know
how to knit woolen socks, the good, warm kind?”
“I suppose I could, if I wanted to,
but I much prefer my doilies. Are you needing a new pair of socks, Nigel?”
“No, dear. It's fine. I was just
curious.” With no more questions to ask, Nigel lay down on the settee to
After a cup of tea and the customary
two bits of a chocolate bar, Nigel checked his watch. “Time to go to
work.” He stood and stretched, yawning with emphasis. “I'll be off now,
Ella. You've made me some bread?” His eyebrows arched with questioning.
“Oh course, Luv. Two loaves. Would
you like some pickle and cheese with them tonight instead of the jam? I
picked up some Stilton Blue and Red Leicester cheeses this afternoon at
“Cheese? That would be lovely. Why
not some of both cheeses and a jar of marmalade. I've got a long night
ahead of me. Don't forget the butter too.”
“I don't know how you can think of
eating after that huge tea you had. Very well, I'll pack you a parcel. I
suppose you want two bottles of milk this time?” Ella put her crocheting
down on the end table and went into the kitchen, not waiting for his
A kiss on the cheek, followed by a
squeezed hand, sent Nigel on his way. “It's ten o'clock...right on time.
Once the front door closed behind him, he darted around to the back garden
and picked the bag up from behind the rose bushes. “Ouch!” He snagged his
arm on a thorn, ripping a hole in his jumper. “Ella will notice this hole.
I know she will.”
With bag slung over his shoulder and
the parcel of food in his arm, Nigel sauntered to the cathedral. The
clouds, lower than usual, draped the highest spires with a blanket of fog.
Silvery rays from a mostly-full moon were masked, allowing only the palest
light through. Putting the bag down to retrieve the keys from his pocket,
he opened the antiquated door. Somehow the heavy clouds made the squeaks
and creaks seem louder than usual.
He headed down the hallway to his
cubby as usual. “Which do I give him, the cheese and pickle, or the
marmalade? I think he'll like the marmalade better. Ella's surpasses any
other marmalade I've ever tasted. I'm sure Periwinkle will enjoy it.” The
items were separated into piles. Nigel wrapped the hobgoblin's in the
paper parcel, grabbed the bag and scampered to the pillar down the hall
from Periwinkle's door.
Time passed quickly and soon the
familiar sound of scraping stone erupted from the hallway. Nigel watched
as the hobgoblin pushed the slab shut and slumped away. When the organ
music began, he lit a candle, clapped his hands three times and dragged
the bag down the entryway into the room. “I'll have to do this quickly.”
He dumped the bag out on the ground.
“The pillow.” Holding it by the corner, he lifted the dirty pillow off
Periwinkle's bed and dropped it in the empty bag. After putting the clean
pillowcase on the new pillow, he lay it down on the mattress. The blanket,
reeking of odd odors, joined the old pillow. “He'll like this blanket.
It's one of my favorites. I hope Ella doesn't notice it missing. Ah well,
if she does, I'll deal with it then.”
With great effort, he removed the
stub of candle from the candleholder and put a new, longer taper in its
place. He moved the book from the wobbly table on the shelf with the
others and a put a new book down in its place. “Where's my pen?” His hands
felt inside his pockets. “Ah, here's one,” he said, pulling it from his
shirt. He scribbled, This book belongs to Periwinkle Longtoes. Nigel
smiled as he fanned through the crisp clean pages. “I think he'll like
The bundle of food fell on the clean
blanket. The stale crumbs, swept from the table into his hands, were
tossed under the bed for the rats. Nigel put the loaf of hot bread down,
along with the jar of marmalade, a butter knife, a block of butter, and a
bottle of fresh milk. He lay the pair of heavy woolen socks on the edge of
the bed, so the hobgoblin would be sure to find them. A damp cloth wiped
the grime from the stained glass window. “Lovely! It's an oak tree,
acorns, and a red deer. Good choice for a hobgoblin.” Stuffing the rag in
the bag, he picked it up and turned to leave. “Enjoy your new things,
The organ music stopped just as he
closed the stone behind him. Loping through the maze of hallways, Nigel
flung himself into his room and shut the door. “I did it. Now to watch.”
He dropped the bag in the corner and sat on the edge of the bed to eat his
cheese and bread. Glancing at his watch Nigel knew Periwinkle was busy
sweeping and polishing the windows. “I'll give him a few more minutes and
then I'll go outside.”
A dozen or so rats made their way
along the floor, searching for their nightly feast of breadcrumbs. Nigel
scraped the leftovers into his hand and tossed them to the rats.
“Far too many rats in this castle. I
must do something about that. It's time to go.”
The door leading outside was nowhere
near the nave, so Nigel felt confident he'd not be discovered. Not wanting
to forget his keys so he could get back in, he slipped them into his coat
pocket and shut the door behind him.
An icy chill hung in the air and the
pea soup fog clung to his skin, coating it with dampness. Wishing he'd
worn his gloves, he hugged the cathedral walls and made his way around to
the back. “Now, which room is his? Ah, there it is, the oak tree and
acorns.” The wet grass clung to his pants and shoes and soaked through to
his bare skin when he knelt down outside the window to wait for
At last he saw the dim glow of the
hobgoblin's candle, making his way into the room. He drew closer to the
window so he could peer inside. The urge to giggle surged through his body
as he anticipated Periwinkle's surprised look.
Periwinkle didn't seem to notice
anything at first. He plodded into his room and put the candleholder down
on the table next to the other. When he saw the new candle, his chin
dropped and couldn't take his eyes off it.
“He's seen it! Look at his scrunched
up face.” Nigel clapped his hands together and rubbed them back and forth.
The hobgoblin noticed the book and
picked it up. Confused, yet delighted, Periwinkle turned the pages,
scratching his head with wonder. He picked up the candle and held it
closer to the title page to read his name. A grin spread from one pointed
ear to the other as he ran his gaunt fingers across the words.
Nigel wiped a tear from his cheek.
“He likes it. Good. I knew he would.”
When his nose started twitching from
hunger, the hobgoblin spotted the bread and butter. He reached for it,
picking it up and sniffing it. When he saw the knife, he looked at his
reflection in it, showing his brown, stain-crusted teeth. Carefully he
spread some on the first slice, making sure the creamy yellow butter went
to the edge of the crust.
“Open the marmalade, Periwinkle.
Open the marmalade.” Nigel squirmed around, waiting for the hobgoblin to
notice it. When he picked the jar up, Nigel jiggled his legs up and down,
scraping them on the grass with excitement. “He's seen it. That's a good
hobgoblin. Open the lid and smell the delicious aroma. Good.”
Periwinkle held the open jar to his
nose. Fruity waves of joy flowed into his wide nostrils. He stuck a bony
finger in and scooped some out, shoving it in his mouth.
“Use the butter knife, Periwinkle.
That's bad manners to use your fingers.” Relief washed through Nigel when
the hobgoblin finally used the knife and spread the marmalade as he had
When Periwinkle took the first bite,
his marble-sized eyes closed and the hobgoblin patted and stroked his
tummy as he swallowed. His long maroon tongue licked the extra from his
lips and chin before taking the next bite.
“He likes it. Ella will be so
pleased.” For the next few minutes, Nigel rocked back and forth, watching
the hungry creature relish every morsel, every crumb.
Periwinkle lit the candle and sat on
his bed, but jumped up as though he'd sat on a pin.
Nigel fell backwards with a fright,
thinking the hobgoblin had seen him through the stained glass. Inching his
way back to the window, he saw Periwinkle cradling the pillow, rubbing his
cheek against it. “Is that a tear I see puddling in his eye?” Nigel
strained to see. “Why yes, I think it is. He likes the pillow and
blanket.” Nigel pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his own
The rug on the floor poked up
through Periwinkle's gangly, lean toes. He slid off the bed, standing on
it and walked around from one end to the other, enjoying the feel of the
A memory flashed through Nigel's
mind of the first time he'd gone to the beach as a child and had done the
same thing and had the same look on his face after feeling the warm sand.
“Now all you have to do is find the socks. You're sitting on them. Stand
up, Periwinkle. Stand up!”
The hobgoblin ran to the window.
“Oh no! He's seen me. I'm done for.”
Nigel rolled to the side. He'll probably turn me into a toad or something
horrible like that.” Daring to creep on his hands and knees to the window
he had a quick peek.
Periwinkle stood gazing, running his
fingers across it and then examining them for dirt.
Nigel saw the hobgoblin's decaying
toothy grin as he caressed the colored glass.
Tears streamed down both of their
As Periwinkle turned away from the
window, he saw the woolen socks on the bed. Stepping with a hesitancy and
disbelief, he reached the bed and picked up the socks.
Nigel moved in for a closer view.
The hobgoblin collapsed on the rug.
His body heaved with tears as he wept with gratitude.
“Try the socks on,” he whispered,
his lower lip quivering.
Rolling onto his bottom, Periwinkle
slipped the socks on his wide feet, his long toes reaching to the end. He
rubbed them, enjoying the softness of the lambs wool and a warmth his
sorry feet had never known before.
Periwinkle lit the candle, climbed
under the blanket and lay his head down on the pillow. With new book in
hand, the hobgoblin read, turning the pages and ogling the illustrations.
Nigel slipped away, returning to his
own cubby to do the same.
From that day forth, life was never
the same for Periwinkle, Nigel, nor for Angelsbury Cathedral. Each night,
when the organ music began, Nigel slipped into the hobgoblin's room,
fluffed up his pillow and blanket, took clean socks when needed and
replaced the drippy candles when they'd burned down to a stubble.
Eventually he found a new straw mattress and disposed of the filthy old
one. New books turned up just as the hobgoblin finished the last page of
the one before. Never again did Periwinkle eat stale bread. Each night
Nigel left him a hot loaf, a crock of rich creamy butter, and a jar of
Ella's homemade jam. Some nights he left a block of cheddar cheese; other
nights a slice of roast beef, a bowl of bubble and squeak, or a dish of
toad-in-the-hole, Yorkshire pudding and sausages.
One morning, as Nigel was leaving
for home, the Bishop stopped him. “Mr. Cuttlefish, I don't know what
you've been doing different lately, but I must commend you on the
excellent job you're doing keeping the cathedral clean. The windows shine
and the pews sparkle with polish; I could eat off the floor, it's so well
swept. There's a new joyfulness and reverence in our cathedral and I owe
it all to you.”
Nigel nodded with gratitude for the
kind words and left the Bishop standing at the door. Deep inside of him,
his heart fluttered like dancing butterflies. “Thank you, Mr. Periwinkle
Longtoes. I'll be back tonight with a new book for you.” He opened the
door to his house and bounded inside. “Ella, I'm home!”