‘So,’ began Joe, once they’d arrived back on the roof, ‘You’re saying this is all to do with the leather pouch. Whoever’s holding it can understand the local language and the local people can understand them too, which explains everything. We’ll just have to take it in turns.’
‘I think I’ve got a better idea,’ said Jemima. ‘What if the important thing isn’t the pouch itself, but the owl charms inside it? We could all keep one and, hey presto, the problem’s solved.’
Joe untied the drawstring, tipping the contents on to a blanket and they each took one of the four golden birds.
‘We must be careful not to lose them,’ said Charlie.
Jemima undid the clasp on her necklace. ‘No problem,’ she declared. ‘I’ll put mine on here with the key.’ She threaded the chain through the loop on the top of the bird’s head, before putting it back round her neck. ‘You two can think of something else to do with yours. Hang on, how about this for an idea? If you take the shoelace off one of your trainers, you might be able to make a cord by pulling apart the threads. Then you can put it through the loop in the charm and tie the cord round your neck.’
‘I’m not wearing girly jewellery,’ protested Joe. ‘And besides my trainer will fall off.’
‘You can hide the necklace under your tee shirt and, if you cut the other shoelace in half, there’ll be enough left over to lace up both trainers.’
The boys each unlaced one of their shoes and did as Jemima suggested.
‘Now go downstairs and find a knife that you can use to cut your other shoelaces with,’ she said. ‘There’s one charm to spare though. What shall we do with it?’
A soft yowl from the direction of one of the beds attracted their attention and they looked across at Max who was regarding them hopefully, sitting as upright as possible and stretching his chin upwards.
Jemima glanced at the cat and then back at the charm in her hand. She instinctively knew what he wanted her to do and went over to him. ‘Okay, Max, but you mustn’t lose this, whatever you do,’ she said as she attached the golden owl to his collar.
At once, in a soft voice, they heard him say, ‘Well, that took you long enough to work out.’
The children all gasped, staring at the large cat in disbelief.
‘Max, you can talk,’ said Jemima, awestruck.
‘I’ve always been able to talk, Jemima, but you just didn’t understand me,’ he answered with a small sniff.
Jemima immediately enfolded him in a rib-crushing hug, planting a big kiss on the top of his head as she did so. ‘I love you, Max.’
‘I know, I know. You’ve told me often enough,’ he replied in a slightly gruff voice. ‘I love you too,’ he added in a whisper.
Jemima’s eyes glistened with tears. She’d always suspected he was trying to speak to her and he clearly understood everything they said to him. She’d been right all along.
Charlie stared at Max in admiration. ‘Awesome! A talking cat – you guys are so lucky.’ Max rolled his eyes.
‘Come on,’ said Joe. ‘Let’s go back downstairs and deal with our shoelaces. Oh, and Max, best not to speak in front of anybody else. I’m not sure how they might react to a cat who can talk.’
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