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In Which Sophie Finds Further Difficulties In Leaving the Castle
At dawn on Midsummer's Day, Howl stumbles home drunk as a skunk after a reunion with his rugby buddies.
Sophie is so annoyed with Howl's behavior that she gets ready to leave the castle right away, but wouldn't you know it—all of Howl's noise wakes up Percival and Michael, so she has no choice but to go out to the garden at the edge of the Waste to gather flowers for the day's sales.
Percival says that Howl has really improved the garden, which means Percival has been to the garden before. Identity clue perhaps?
Howl is snoring so loudly that everyone can hear him, even in the shop.
When Sophie takes a break from the shop for lunch, there is a knock at the mansion entrance.
A very grand woman is standing outside…. but under all of her beautiful clothes, it's Sophie's stepmother Fanny.
And she recognizes Sophie right away.
Fanny throws herself at Sophie, weeping and worrying that she has been sick.
Fanny blames herself for Sophie's sudden appearance as a ninety-year-old—she thinks it's because of overwork.
Fanny is also furious when she hears that the Wizard Howl has taken Sophie in—she thinks he eats women alive, so this is a pretty fair reaction on Fanny's part.
As Sophie defends Howl to Fanny, she suddenly realizes how kind he has been to her. Aw…
Sophie realizes that Fanny isn't the wicked stepmother she has imagined her to be, and they bond.
Michael comes in from the shop at closing time—with Martha.
Lettie and Mrs. Fairfax are also there with Percival. (This is the best kind of family reunion—everyone actually wants to see each other.)
Weirdly, Miss Angorian also turns up; she wants to stay and wait for Howl, even though she is clearly out of place and also confused by that "funny green fire burning" (20.59).
Sophie opens the door to the garden at the edge of the Waste and lets Miss Angorian hang out there.
Suddenly Calcifer flares and yells for Howl: the Witch has found his sister's family in Wales.
Howl runs downstairs, throws open the door to Wales and throws himself physically between the Witch and his sister, nephew, and niece—then he and the Witch disappear through a hedge.
Percival opens the door to the garden in the Waste and finds the scarecrow waiting right outside.
The scarecrow is trying to say something: "Noumm Harrummm!" (20.82).
Calcifer translates that it means no harm, and it is asking for permission to come in; when the scarecrow enters it sees the skull on the mantlepiece and somehow pushes the skull into its head.
With its new skull, the scarecrow can talk more clearly.
Percival suddenly collapses as though he is sleeping.
The scarecrow is glad to have found a part of himself (the skull), but "there are still parts missing" (20.94). Bummer.
Suddenly a voice speaks: it's the Witch.
She tells Michael to tell Howl that she has Miss Angorian as a hostage, and she will only let her go if Howl comes in person to get her.