Twenty-Eight

"Yes," said Mr. Bannister to three people of the strangest appearance to ever knock on his door. "How can I help you?"

"We are cold and have no bed for the night," said Little Eva.

"What do you have in the basket, old mother," said Mr. Bannister.

"Food," said Mimbleshaw. "Plenty of cakes and pastries and custard pies."

"My wife and I have not eaten in days and would be glad to trade you a night's lodging for food," said Mr. Bannister. "However, we are dedicated to eat only the food of the coupon fairies. We cannot take your food. We would rather rip out our own tongues first."

"Some wine then?" said Little Eva.

"All right," he said. Mr. and Mrs. Bannister drank the witch's cask dry and soon fell asleep.

"Mr. Bannister?" said Sticky David Pennyfarthing. "Father? We got intruders in the nursery, Father."

"Monsieur le Sticky David into the bag," said Spot, of whom Brian replaced with Baby Bannister.

"Without the baby cuckoo telling these people what to do," said Little Eva, "their lives should return to normal."

"Are we done?" said Brian. "Shouldn't we sweep the nursery for spy equipment? Check the Bannisters' credit? Count the silverware?"

"Sticky David Pennyfarthing," said Mimbleshaw. "Did you buy anything while you were here?"

"Bought some extra newspaper subscriptions," said Sticky David Pennyfarthing. "I figured the Bannisters could use some more coupons. Got a phone in the shape of a mermaid for each subscription."

"How many of the mermaid phones?" said Spot.

"Sixteen thousand, seven hundred forty-three," said Sticky David Pennyfarthing. To their misfortune, the Bannisters were allowed to keep the mermaid phones of their canceled subscriptions.