A Story in the Attic

The Williams House; Chapter 5: Uncles, Aunts, Nephews, and Nieces; Pgs. 114-118

.     A great rumble came through the attic window and echoed throughout the room, and then a raindrop came. Water started coming down, slowly at first, going pitter-patter, pitter-patter, pitter-patter. Then it picked up, starting to come down in sheets.
.     “We better close the window,” said Lilly as she stood up. “We don’t want rain to come in and mess up some of the work we have done today.” She pushed down on its top, and the whole thing closed with a firm snap and a creak. “There,” she said once that was done, “things should warm up a bit now.”
.     “I want to play something,” said Maria suddenly.
.     “Do you,” asked Lilly. “What would you like to play?”
.     “I want to hear a story,” said Maria.
.     “What kind of story?”
.     “About a storm,” said Maria.
.     “About a storm,” repeated Lilly. “About a storm. Shall we?” She looked out the windows and listened to the rumbling and the wind. Distant thunder and a couple streaks of lightning could be heard and seen, coming from far away. “Well,” she continued, “all right. But we’ll all have to gather around and be very quiet. No interrupting,” she warned.
.     Everyone pulled their cushions together, forming a circle of eight small people. Lilly cleared her throat.
.     “Do you hear that noise?” she asked as she pointed out the window. “Well, that is the noise of a storm, but it is a storm in another land, echoing back to us across a great distance. It is still summer over there, with all the trees still in full bloom and all the birds sitting in their boughs. The earth is rich and soft there, with moss and downy turf covering its surface and flower beds springing out in several places. Springs of water jet up on the hillside, and flowing water snakes down among the grasses.
.     “When the sun shines on that land, it makes the water shine like crystal glass. Yet the sun is currently not shining there. The land is dark and covered with clouds, thick and dark clouds, not too unlike the ones over our attic right now.”
.     Several of the children looked up as though they expected to see the clouds through the wooden beams of the roof.
.     “It is raining hard,” continued Lilly, “and the people who work there are all locked up tight in their low roof huts. The huts are made with a sort of thatch that prevents the rain from leaking in, and some of the people are right now looking out their windows at the water drizzling off the edges of the roofs.
.     “The streets are empty, save for one lone man, dressed in a tailored coat, trudging down a dark alley in the pouring rain.”
.     Lilly paused. “Take over from here, Ann,” she said suddenly.
.     Ann looked surprised for a moment and then excited. “This man,” she said, “is walking right now under the shadows of the night. He had a very important paper concealed deep within the folds of his tailored clothes. It is rolled up like a scroll, with a seal on it and flattened from being pressed against his chest. The rain is pouring into his clothes, but is unable to reach through all the lairs to the parchment, mostly.
.     “An old man is waiting for this traveler, expecting his entrance in a low hut any minute. This old man’s name is Errol, and he is seated by his fireplace and warming his hands.
.     “You can take over from here, Will,” Ann finished as she sat back.
.     “The traveler’s name is a well-kept secret,” said Will without a moment’s pause, “though he is known by any that have dealings with him as ‘the messenger.’ He had just flung open the door to the old man’s hut— what was his name?—Errol. Errol stands and motions him to the low table, sitting down in one of the wooden table chairs himself. The messenger closes the door and sits opposite him.”
.     “‘I hope the document is safe,’ Errol says.
.     “‘Quite,’ the messenger replies as he pulls it out of its place in his clothes and throws it upon the table.
.     “The paper is dripping with the rain water, and Errol flings his fingers upon the seal, ripping it off and unrolling the parchment all in one motion. Then he looks at the servant with surprised eyes.”
.     William paused, and everyone waited a moment before bursting out, “What happened? What happened?”
.     And Johnathon added, “What did the paper say?”
.     Will sat back slightly and began folding his arms. “No one knows,” he said mysteriously.
.     “What do you mean ‘No one knows?’” asked Johnathon indignantly.
.     “The parchment was all watered out,” said Will. “It happened right as the servant stepped under the overhang of the old man’s hut. A large splash of water came pouring down and in one moment got in the fold of the messenger’s clothes, soaking the paper wet through.”
.     “But how will we know what the paper said?” asked Susan.
.     “We won’t,” said Will. “That’s the whole point. It was a story about a storm, and the storm washed away the note.”

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An Evening Watching the Rain – Bonus Scene!

The Williams House; Chapter 4: The Bentley Family; Pgs. 89-91

.     On this evening, wind was whistling through the trees. Thick and dark clouds were massing, and rain was already pelting the earth. Thunder was echoing in the distance and sounding slowly louder with every boom; lightning split the stormy sky. The Williamses’ house was caught in a tempest, water flooding off the sides of the roof and splashes drizzling on the windows. Smoke was trailing up from the chimney, but quickly fading in the falling rain. Dogs could be heard howling in the far distance. The evening was dark, and as good as nighttime.
.     Margaret sat by a large bay window on the second floor, watching the rain flood the ground and run down the slope where the house sat. It would all trickle and race into their gully down at the bottom, where a small pond would form. Currently, it was dashing against the stone walls of the house in the wind and spraying into the very glass where Margaret sat and watched.
.     “I wonder if it could ever come through,” she thought, as she looked at the droplets running down the windowpane, snaking their way to the bottom and disappearing below.
.     The room around her lit up with lightning, and, for a moment, she could see many of the objects in the great room etched out—countertops, chairs, wide expanses of carpet—before everything darkened again. Her face reflected the ghostly, pale blue light of the flash for a hundredth of a second, before it disappeared again with everything else into the dark. Her eyes continued to look out at the falling rain, trying to stare past it towards their driveway where she expected to see a flash of a vehicle soon to appear.
.     Some of the children were in the attic, and some were in their bedrooms. Still others were on the ground floor, waiting for the company to soon arrive. They had just spoken with the Bentleys four days ago, on Sunday at church, and were currently awaiting their arrival to come and visit. The children on the ground floor could smell the cooking in progress for the coming feast, and they wandered over several rooms as they waited. The schoolroom was dark and would not be needed for this evening. All the bins with schoolbooks had been closed earlier in the day, and papers graded and handed back early.
.     Timothy was wandering through a small back hallway that led to one of their pantries, looking at a long wall coatrack with several coats hanging on every peg. He took one of the coats and put it on, slipping his feet into one of the many pairs of boots tucked away on the floor. Then he began walking up and down the tiled flooring, hearing the thunder and seeing lightning flashes from a window at the far end of the hall.
.     Just at that moment, Margaret saw headlights flash against their house and heard distant voices calling out that the Bentleys had just pulled in. She looked for one more moment at the falling rain dashing against the window before quickly running out and down the halls that led to their main staircase. Susan and Maria met her down one of the passages, and the three of them continued to the top of the landing. The Bentleys had just come in the front door, and Lilly, Ann, and Timothy were welcoming them in and helping them off with their raingear. The youngers descended most of the stairs towards the landing at the front door, but it was too crowded at the moment to actually reach the landing.

. . .

Added scene

.     “Do you remember that evening?” asked Will as he sat back on the long, cushioned couch. “I thought they would never arrive.”
.     The attic lights were dimmed, and two lit candles stood atop the piano. The hat stand could be seen in the flickering light; Will’s top hat hung from it. Moonlight streamed in through the windows and revealed a clear summer night. Ann sat by the window.
.     “Yes,” said Timothy, “but I’ve wanted to ask you a question ever since. Who is Washington Irving?” [You must read more from the above chapter to understand this question.]
.     “Who?” asked Will aghast. “Why, have you never read his writings? I suppose Mother hasn’t come to them yet. She will shortly. Then you’ll know.”
.     “‘Tis been a while since we’ve seen the Bentleys,” said Lilly. She sat on the piano seat, and though she had never been particularly good at it, played a few simple half-tunes as they sat and thought.
.     “I have an idea,” said Margaret suddenly. “Let’s play tag – like we did that evening! Remember when Kurt was it? It took him forever at tagging someone.”
.     “Alright,” said Will, “and I say Johnathan is it.”
.     “Why me?” asked Johnathon.
.     “Because I’m older than you,” said Will, “and I say so. And besides, I was it first last time.”
.     “Very well,” said Johnathan with a laugh, and the game began.