Chapter Thirty Six
“I have another theory, Ms Flapp,” Arthur said, not opening his eyes and stretching his legs towards the warmth of the fire.
Ms Flapp had been sure the ancient astronomer was asleep. He had been sitting back in the armchair in his living room all morning. Ms Flapp turned away from her laptop almost as glad of the distraction as she was keen to hear what Arthur had to say. “Go on then. Is it about the Moon?” she said eagerly.
“Yes. So you’d better get ready to put the kettle on because this time it’s, as you might say… a doozy!” Arthur exclaimed, sounding pleased with himself for using a young person’s word.
Ms Flapp was pretty sure she would never say that but she smiled and waited for him to carry on.
“The Moon moved on Millennium Eve, even though it was forbidden from moving ever since the near-miss,” Arthur recapped.
“Yes,” Ms Flapp interjected helpfully.
“And then I reported it and it’s been in a sulk ever since. I suppose whoever was supposed to be watching it was out revelling.“ Arthur said the last word as though it was a mysterious activity that only a very modern person indeed would think of indulging in on a New Year’s Eve. “The first time I saw it move out of its pattern like that was to save May Bloom’s life.” He did not open his eyes and Ms Flapp knew when he did, it would add considerable drama to whatever point it coincided with.
“That’s right,” Ms Flapp confirmed. “But I thought you’d decided that the only connection between the two events was you?”
“Almost the only connection! I’ve been working on a theory that there is someone else too.”
This was a surprise to Ms Flapp but she did not say so. It did not look like Arthur had been working on anything recently. Mostly he had looked like he had been recovering from a stab wound in hospital followed by a long stretch in the armchair by the fire.
“Okay…” she said hesitantly.
“The other connection is Jinger Barley!” he declared, suddenly flinging open his eyes and grinning as though he had just thought of the best name for a planet ever.
“Jinger? You are going to have to explain that to me, Arthur. I know a lot has been said about Jinger recently. That Woodcutter and the woman who attacked us over Christmas both wanted to kill her so she couldn’t destroy Murkle, but what has she got to do with the Moon?” she asked. Clearly her emails were going to remain unread for some time.
“Ah! It is more what the Moon had to do with Jinger! I had been thinking in all the wrong places about this. We know now that Jinger was born on Millennium Eve and that being born on an eve is what ‘The Murkle Truth’ says is important.”
Ms Flapp nodded her head.
“Goliath Swat‘s book is in the library at the school. Anyone can read it. Malcolm Culpin read it over one Christmas when he was a boy,” Arthur said.
“Do you think that‘s why he became a Woodcutter?” Ms Flapp asked.
“Yes. He believed that Jinger would destroy Murkle because of what he learnt in the book. He wanted to make everyone a wolf, and once Jinger was dead, he thought everyone would be able to change. He wanted to make up for his father rejecting him because he couldn’t change himself.”
“Doesn’t the legend say that the child who is born on the eve will be evil?”
“The book says that the child will have great power but I don‘t think in Jinger‘s case that means evil. My abilities were evident even when I was a boy and Jinger is far too sweet a girl to be evil. As you know I was born on New Year’s Eve 1899. I can remember everything and talk to the Moon.”
“Don‘t forget about the longevity too, Arthur!” Ms Flapp exclaimed.
Arthur smiled. “I haven’t destroyed Murkle, and I’m not really planning to. The power isn’t necessarily evil. It‘s reasonable to conclude that her powers will be greater than mine because she was born on a more important Eve. Therefore, if she was evil, I would expect her to be fairly bad already. The book only says she will decide Murkle’s fate and no one really knows what that might mean.”
Ms Flapp took this in. It made some sense. If Arthur’s birthday had made him special, Jinger’s must have made her incredible. Then Ms Flapp realised Arthur could not have finished his explanation. “So what does this have to do with the Moon, then?”
“Ah! That is the other interesting question. I took the very unscientific leap of assuming that there are no coincidences. The Moon moved and shone on Brink Stenton. Its beam highlighted just one house and I think I know what was happening in there that night. I believe Jinger Barley, my granddaughter, was being born. For some reason, I think the Moon moved to show someone where that was. I haven’t talked to her father about this yet, but I believe someone needed to know where that house was to make sure Jinger came into the world safely.”
Ms Flapp could feel the urge to get up and get the best biscuits from the kitchen. Arthur’s theory was good but he had forgotten something.
“What about May Bloom? Why did the Moon move to save her?” she asked gently.
“You cannot possibly think I had forgotten about that!” Arthur said laughing. “I might be a very old man, Ms Flapp, but I do not forget. That night was… well, this is embarrassing. That night was the night we um… created Julia. So May Bloom had to be saved so she could have our daughter.”
Ms Flapp was not shocked by this part of the revelation. She had known Arthur was not married to Jinger’s grandmother. Ms Flapp thought about Arthur’s theory for a while. The Moon had left its pattern to save first Jinger’s grandmother from the circling wolves on the school field, and then Jinger when she was being born on Millennium Eve. That did seem to make sense. Because of her birth date, Jinger’s life was important enough to Murkle for the Moon to risk upsetting a whole town of people by breaking its routine.
“And then there was what happened in the observatory,” Arthur said carefully, not wanting to upset his friend by reminding her of that event.
“With the Moon again?” she asked, beginning to see where Arthur was going with this.
“Yes. There wasn’t much it could do but it showed up, filling the sky. I don’t know if the boy would have got such a good hold if the Woodcutter had not been dazzled by the sudden light. We’ll never know, I suppose, but it might just have helped save our Jinger Barley again.” This was Arthur’s triumphant piece of proof.
So there was only one question left. Arthur looked expectant and Ms Flapp did not know whether this was because he was anticipating her saying his theory was wonderful or just wrong. Maybe he was just wondering about the left over mince pies in the kitchen.
“Arthur, you do know you have two granddaughters, don’t you? Jinger is a twin. Her sister Jessica, goes to Brink Stenton Sports and Community College,” Ms Flapp said eying the kettle through the hatch.
“Yes, of course I know that. But Jessica was born on the other side of midnight. She might have been a true Millennium baby but I‘m afraid that doesn‘t get you any extra powers in Murkle!”