Three boys, Bill (the driver), Danny and Bob and their sister (the narrator) are in a car on their way through an arid landscape to see their mother in hospital when the girl suggests stopping to pick some flowers for her.“White roses we follow, towards Teller’s Hollow” sings Bill, as they leave the car and start to pick. “Dead earth to a spring, the house of a King,” he continues the ominous rhyme as they gather a bouquet. Feeling hot and thirsty the boys move towards a spring beside which stands a large palace, silent, imposing and seemingly empty; they take a long, deep drink, then instead of returning to the car, climb the stairs and enter the edifice.
Once inside, hungry and thirsty the boys consume what they find, then plunge into a pool and are transformed into dolphins.
The girl meanwhile has an encounter with the creature calling itself the Teller and offering drink and food to her. ‘I only want to leave with my brothers” comes her response. She’s offered a deal: three days without drinking or eating and things will return to what they were before the family entered his domain. His terms are accepted by the girl and despite being tempted she neither eats nor drinks;
she does however use some water for another purpose. For this she must pay in the future.
When she returns to the car, her brothers are already there and they drive to the hospital to see their mother and give her the flowers …
This is a truly eerie tale with much left for the reader to ponder upon. Pinfold’s illustrations are mesmerising, unsettling and haunting, drawing us to them again and again in search of further meanings.