But there wasn’t any light, and there wasn’t any turn. There was just a dead end of earthy wall.
“Pull the root, pull the root,” sang Harnswiggle, clinging to Roger’s thumb.
Mavis pulled the largest and most impressive looking root that was sticking out of the wall, and the whole thing pulled inward, like a door on a hinge. It was, in fact, a cleverly disguised door, made by none other than Harnswiggle’s greatest great grandpa.
“Oh,” breathed Mavis and Roger, as soon as their eyes were able to handle the sudden light.
They were looking at a house exactly like their grandma and grandpa’s, except there were no neighbors in sight, just forest. And the house had a fresh coat of yellow paint, and there were soft rose curtains in the upstairs windows, like the ones that had been in Grandma’s room when Mavis was a little girl. And sitting on the porch was the most prodigious tabby cat, all orange and gold and prideful indolence.
“Who lives here?” asked Roger.
“You do!” cried Harnswiggle.
“No, we live on a different world,” said Mavis. “Outside of...well, wherever we are now.”
“Silly youngsterperson,” laughed Harnswiggle, but she didn’t explain anything else. She just told Roger to walk around behind the house.
The cat came down the stairs and followed them, twitching his tail and looking like he didn’t want to be touched. But he did sniff the side of Mavis’ shoe, as if he were attempting to be polite.
In the backyard there was the most enormous, beautiful live oak that Mavis had ever seen. The whole thing was draped in Spanish moss that was drifting gently in the wind, and just the sight of it made Mavis feel suddenly at home, as if she had at last found the place that she had been looking for her whole life without knowing it.
Hanging from one of the low, sturdy branches, was a tire swing. Of course Mavis and Roger went straight to it. How could they not?
“Get on, get on!” sang Harnswiggle.
“You go first,” said Roger to Mavis.
“No, no! Both on!”
“But Harnswiggle,” said Mavis, “we can’t both swing at the same time.”
“Both,” Harnswiggle insisted.
Mavis put her legs through the tire’s mouth and sat down, and Roger put his feet on either side of her and clung precariously to the rope. Harnswiggle clung even more precariously to his thumb. “Up, up, up, UP!” she chanted.
And sure enough, the tire swing began to go up, just as if someone was standing on the branch above and was pulling them hand over hand. Which was, in fact, the case.
Mavis looked down at the receding lawn and felt a dizzy sort of confusion come over her. Somehow it seemed like the yard was much, much too far away. She reached over and wrapped her hand around Roger’s ankle, just to be sure that he was the same size. And he was. She couldn’t possibly be shrinking, she told herself.
Suddenly there was a foot standing on the top of the tire, right at her eye level. It was wearing a soft brown leather shoe. A very dirty leather shoe.
“Welcome!” said whoever it was up on the branch, that Mavis still couldn’t see. A pair of strong hands grasped her shoulders and pulled her the rest of the way, up and out of the tire swing so that she could stand on the branch and see what there was to see.
Harnswiggle was standing next to her, only now the happily smiling imp was taller than Mavis.
Mavis and Roger both gasped.
“Welcome to my homeplace,” said Harnswiggle.
“Thank you,” said Mavis.
“We’re tiny!” cried Roger.
There was another imp standing next to Harnswiggle, wearing an acorn hat and a very shaggy coat. He raised his eyebrows at Roger. “Is this a problem to you?”
“No, this is awesome! This is so The Borrowers! I’m totally going to drink water out of a thimble, and sword fight a mouse with a pin, and then I’m gonn--”
“Focus,” said Mavis.
“We’re here to see Esperanza about a problem,” explained Harnswiggle.
The man frowned. “Esperanza is very busy today.”
“It is of most importance,” said Harnswiggle.
“It is, oh!” cried Mavis, struck by how awful it would be if the only person that Harnswiggle knew of to help them wouldn’t even see them. “Please, please let us talk to her!”
He seemed surprised by her passion, but he did not seem offended. “Very well, we will let her make the decision. Right this way.”
“Check it out,” called Roger. He had walked farther up the branch and was looking out at the rest of the tree.
Up there in the canopy it was a friendly sort of twilight, neither too dark nor too light. And all throughout the branches there were lights, hundreds and hundreds of lights, each one a perfect circle of glowing warm yellow. There were also great strands of twine hung with triangle papers in butter yellow and spring green and robin’s egg blue and sea shell pink. Mavis thought that they were decorations, like great bunting, but then she saw little figures walking on them in the distance and realized that they were rope bridges.
“Come, coming!” sang Harnswiggle, and skipped off. Mavis and Roger tried to keep up, but they were not so comfortable running and skipping and scrambling that high above the ground, and so Harnswiggle would have to stop and wait for them. At last she led them over one final bridge and, pushing her broad brimmed hat back, pointed up a set of shelf mushrooms leading like a staircase higher up into the Fairy Tree.
“Esperanza is up there.”
“Aren’t you coming?” asked Roger.
“No, not coming. You have to go to her all by yourselves.”
Roger and Mavis looked at each other. Mavis only saw the slight look of worry in Roger’s eyes, but Roger saw that the black mark on Mavis’ face was creeping farther down her neck. He turned and led the way up.