“Here. Stand back.” Harold brought a kettle full of boiling water to the table and began pouring it in a slow dribble. It spattered off the recovering homunculus and went everywhere, including the book where the ink blossomed like lichen on old bones.
“Stop!” Ada pulled at Harold's arm to lift the kettle spout. “You're doing no good at all and you're ruining the book.” With Harold stopped she reached for kitchen towel to mop the pages. “You've splashed Mr Farthing, too.”
“He has?” Dill looked at his hand, where spots of flesh had been neatly poached and were now angry red blisters. He scratched one and popped it, sending a tiny stream of fat and liquid running down the inside of his sleeve. “It doesn't matter. I didn't feel it.”
Harold replaced the kettle on its stand and picked up a tea towel to mop up the water. “it didn't do anything to the spider either.”
“That's because plasticine is made of oil and pigment and thus resistant to water.” Dill shook his head. “Don't you know anything about chemistry?”
“Some barely remembered snatches from school in the eighties, but to be honest, I was more interested in Clare Watkins at the the time.”
“Was she pretty?”
“A bit, I suppose, but more to the point she had every issue of The Beano comic ever published, thanks to her dad collecting them when he was a kid.”