“Gifflet. Gifflet! I can’t sleep.”
“Arrietty, go back home. Your mama will be worried.”
“But she’s asleep, Gifflet, and I can’t settle.” The little girl trotted into his room and over to the narrow bed. “Can I come in with you? The wind is too nasty.” Waves slapped against the wall outside. She shivered in her night shirt and before Gifflet could answer, slithered under the covers. “Sing me a song.”
“Then you must promise to go home.”
“OK, quietly, then,” and Gifflet said—for it was speaking more than singing, it was so tuneless—
Go to sleep,
Dive down deep
Into the inky hole—
Arrietty beamed up into his face with her broad, gargoyle smile. When she was born, she was the ugliest baby anyone had ever seen, and she was full of bounce. From the beginning, she had loved Gifflet for unknowable reasons; and he loved her back. She was a princess to him. Now her wide-set black eyes fluttered, closed, and she drifted to sleep.
Gifflet crawled out of bed with some difficulty so as not to disturb her and ever so gently hoisted her up. She flopped like an unstrung puppet on his shoulder, her legs swinging past his knees now—she had grown so—and she was as cumbersome as a poorly packed sack of rice. Just as he reached the door, Brasilia appeared.
“Off in the night again,” she said. “I’m sorry she disturbed you, Gifflet.”
“No, no,” he whispered, and he transferred Arrietty into her mother’s arms. If Arrietty was a gargoyle, Brasilia was an angel: round and golden and pretty as pixies, and bright and dulcet as spring sweet peas. In The Old Boathouse, there had been much speculation about Arrietty’s father, but Brasilia never gave any clue. When Charming Tom had arrived, he smirked behind her back that Brasilia must have taken up with a troll to produce such an unsightly child, and Gifflet had flown at him with his fists until the others pulled him off.
The Old Boathouse wasn’t an ideal lodging for a little one, surrounded by ocean as it was and with the open slips in the middle; but Arrietty had been a water baby from the start, frisking through the waves as slick as a porpoise. When the grand new port had been built and the boathouse was abandoned, the buskers took up there, first one, then another, then another. The building was moldy and let in far too much of the cruel winds in winter; but it was still intact enough, and it was right at the Water Market where the best business was—and there was no rent. So, they stayed.