There's a deep secret place, dark in the hold of this ship
A fine, private place, if one could get down there and hide
A whole crossword puzzle of ladder and corridor lies
Between that world and the white decks, the smooth wide
Expanse of holystone and elbowgrace and pride.
Could one get down there; but that's quite out of the question
I'll tell you why: clambering down to the door
Through these hot, narrow regions, you notice more and more strongly
A green growing odour seeping up through the floor
And the damp solid breath of mould, savagely pure.
That door can't be opened; it's blocked tight shut inside
Crammed against earth and greenery, all intertwined--
Roses, perhaps? The ship is listing, but skipper,
Though the hold should be cleared, is afraid of what we'd find,
He believes there's stowaways down there -- but, good lord, what kind?
Copyright © 1977 by Joan Aiken Enterprises, Ltd.;
first appeared in The Skin Spinners, published by Viking Press;
reprinted by permission of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc.
Joan Aiken is the author of over sixty books for adults and children, perhaps the best known of which are The Wolves of Willoughby Chase series. She still types all her novels on a typewriter, never having moved onto a computer. Aiken lives in Sussex, England, with her husband.