Neil Gaiman

Under the streets of London there's a world most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet, this is the London of the people who have fallen between the cracks.
Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, has been unwillingly caught up in a girl named Door's quest to avenge her murdered family. With his companions, Door, the enigmatic Marquis de Carabas and the notorious Hunter, he has been led to Earl's Court- where he finds the Earl holding court on the carriage of an Underground train.

'We were all quite devastated to hear of your father's unfortunate-' said the Earl, and then he interrupted himself, and said, 'Well, all your family, it was a-' and he trailed off, and said, 'You know I had warmest regards for him, did a bit of business together... Good old Portico... full of ideas...' He stopped. Then he tapped the jester on the shoulder, and whispered, in a querulous boom, loud enough that it could be heard easily over the noise of the train, 'Go and make jokes, Tooley. Earn your keep.'

The Fool staggered up the aisle with an arthritic mop and a rheumatic mow. He stopped in front of Richard.

'And who might you be?' he asked.

'Me?' said Richard. 'Um. Me? My name? It's Richard. Richard Mayhew.'

'*Me*?' squeaked the Fool, in an elderly, rather theatrical imitation of Richard's Scottish accent. 'Me? Um. Me? La, nuncle! 'Tis not a man, but a kilted mooncalf!'

The courtiers sniggered, dustily.

'And I,' de Carabas told the jester, with a blinding smile, 'am the Marquis de Carabas.'

The Fool blinked.

'De Carabas the thief?' asked the jester. 'De Carabas the bodysnatcher? De Carabas the traitor?' He turned to the courtiers around them. 'But this cannot be de Carabas! For why? Because de Carabas has long since been banished from the Earl's presence. Perhaps it is instead a weasel, who grew particularly big.'

The courtiers sniggered, uneasily this time, and a low buzz of troubled conversation began. The Earl said nothing, but his lips were pressed together tightly, and he had begun to tremble.

'I am called Hunter,' said Hunter to the jester.

The courtiers were silent then. The jester opened his mouth, as if he were going to say something, and then he looked at her and he closed his mouth again.

A hint of a smile played at the corner of Hunter's perfect lips. 'Go on,' she said. 'Say something funny.'

The jester stared at the trailing toes of his shoes. Then he muttered, 'My hound hath no nose.'

(c) Neil Gaiman 1996

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