Warning: Contains spoilers!
‘Dear lady, have you not thought that our two problems are linked? They have a common root, a dark, poisonous canker that must be cut out before it does any more harm.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: In this chapter, we spend some time at home with Gwen and Arthur, and observe through them the rather specific torture of those who are left behind while their loved ones embark on life-threatening adventures. In the opening scene you really feel Gwen’s restlessness and worry – she fumbles absently around the house, she tidies needlessly. Eventually, she runs out of distractions and sits, anxiously awake, waiting for news.
This perfectly sets up Thomas’s entrance. The midshipmouse’s no-nonsense attitude seems to bring out the best and bravest in everyone, and he swiftly galvanises Audrey’s friends and family into action. That Thomas is still willing to take on Jupiter after having witnessed the ritual on Blackheath says much for his character; without Mr Jarvis ever spelling it out, we can infer Thomas’s courage, and Twit’s loyalty for staying at his side throughout.
For myself, I have two favourite things in this chapter. The first is the way Mr Jarvis waxes artistic in his descriptions of Thomas. With his white hair that ‘waves about like a frothy sea’ and his eyes that ‘twinkle beneath his frosty brow’, the midshipmouse is the sort of character that one feels the need to draw, or indeed, see brought to life in a stop-frame television series. Like Madame Akkikuyu, he seems born for the screen.
The other is Mrs Chitter. Set up as an interfering busybody in Chapter 2, this shrill little mousewife finally gets her moment in the limelight, and the scene where our heroes try to come up with some sort of workable plan while she wails in the background is fairly hilarious. Someone give the poor lady a strong cup of tea and a quiet sit-down!
Matt’s Thoughts: A simple chapter, but it provides a nice relief from all the darkness that has gone before it – and, better yet, it gives us a glimmer of hope. There’s something awesome about how Thomas Triton walks in, takes charge of the situation and everyone joins in.
However, it did cause me a couple of random chuckles:
First off, how many comments about poor old Arthur’s weight does he have to put up with? First time someone meets him, they have a go at his stomach! I didn’t notice this so much the first time around, but it happens a lot.
However, there’s something rather special about all of this. In the Hagwood books (which we’ll get to next year), there is a bio about Robin Jarvis up the back which contains this interesting little fact: ‘Robin usually includes one small, portly character in most of his books. This character is not the hero, but instead a friend or brother of the protagonist – someone a bit clumsy and a bit too fond of supper. The character is, in fact, Robin.’
So it would seem that Arthur is in fact Mr Jarvis himself enjoying a cameo. Very cool!
But the most cool fact of all, the one I hadn’t even notice, is that when Gwen Brown does her awesome re-entrance to announce that she’s coming along and no one’s stopping her – she has a rapier. A rapier? What are mice doing with rapiers? I know there have been some famous sword-fighting mice in history. (Reepicheep probably being the first.) But the idea that mice just have weapons stashed away in case of emergency is rather awesome.
Presumably it was Albert’s weapon. But how long had he had it? Was it a fairly heirloom? Was it given to him by his father when he got married? Or am I just assuming that it would pass down the male line? It is from Gwen’s side of the family? Or do all mice just go out and arm themselves? After all, the opening line of the book does say: ‘When a mouse is born he has to fight to survive.’
Over to you, readers: do you think mice with swords are a common thing?
Or does this come back up in another book and I’ve just forgotten? (In which case, don’t spoil it for me!)