Autumn Time

The Williams House; Chapter 4: The Bentley Family; Pgs. 101-104

.     Johnathon continued eating. The pancakes were hot and warming down to the toes, and the syrup was extra sweet. There were sausages on the side, still steaming from the dish. Nearly everyone else was done in five more minutes, and Johnathon had to hurry. He was still done before Timothy or any of the youngers were up, and quickly he slunk into his room and changed his clothes, putting on a plaid checkered pattern shirt for the workday.
.     When he reached the outdoors, Will and Ann were raking away. Lilly was helping the youngers, who had just gotten up, with breakfast. Johnathon joined. Then soon Lilly joined. And before long the rest were out.
.     Back and forth and back and forth the Williams children raked, never seeming to stop or rest. The Bentleys soon arrived, and the children were dropped off to help. And again back and forth they now all raked, the sound of thousands upon thousands of leaves being crunched together. More and more leaves were piled together, and some were blowing in the wind.
.     Downhill they raked, and over several grasslands, scraping and shoving the leaves, now sweat drizzling down their cheeks. Piles and heaps of leaves seemed to be everywhere, with trails of leaves in between. Maria and Susan and Daisy and Gloria were all jumping up and down in several of the piles (Margaret was wanting to but was helping Will at the moment carry a pile on a tarp to their dump).
.     It approached noon, and the Bentley children were invited in to eat lunch, which consisted of what the Williamses called a ploughman’s lunch of cheese and apples and buns and milk. No one said a whole lot. They were all too tired and hungry to speak, and their thoughts generally remained on the remaining leaves that needed to be picked up.
.     “We plan to burn the leaves,” said Will, “outside of a couple piles we will leave behind to play in or use for other purposes. Father will have to help us with that, but there are still plenty of leaves to pick up. We’ll have to work hard.” He finished his milk and stood up. Everyone else followed, though Maria and Susan were allowed a longer rest.
.     “Put these on,” said Johnathon to Derek, handing him some gloves. “We’ll be going through a briar patch shortly.”
. Then everyone went back out to face the leaf wars again. It at least was a calm day in the sky, with hardly a cloud or a breeze. The sun warmed the air into the mid-fifties, and some rolled up their sleeves. Timothy’s suspenders were caught once or twice on stray limbs and branches, but he managed to pull them back out before they unbuckled or snapped.
.     “Come along, everyone,” Will called. “It’s nearing two o’clock, and we want to be starting the burning at about 2:30.”
.     A few of the younger children sighed, and some of the olders took a deep breath. Sarah and Kurk plunged forward and ahead to finish up the piles they were currently working on. Others saw their enthusiasm and likewise plunged ahead, working hard to finish their leaf piles and plunge into the last area that needed to be raked. Most were wishing they had eaten one more slice of bread and cheese for lunch, and Lilly seemed to have read their thoughts, for she gave each of them a bun from a bag she was carrying, saying “this should help with the last leg.”
.     Everyone perked up slightly, and before the time to 2:30 was completely up, Will and Timothy were shoving the last of the leaves to burn on the huge gigantic pile.
.     “I say,” said Timothy as he set down his rake. “That is big.”
.     Will lowered his rake, which had been propped on his shoulder, and let out a relieved sigh. “I should think so, Tim.” He stared at the pile for a moment, and the others all gathered around. Maria, who had been resting the last half-hour, came running up and started to climb the monstrous mound.
.     “Careful up there,” warned Ann as she started to climb up after her, and soon Margaret and then several of the Bentleys followed.
.     Before long, everyone had climbed the mound and was sitting down around its peak, looking out as though lords and ladies of a great castle. No one said much, but they were all proud of their achievement.

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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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A Cold Attic Discussion

The Williams House; Chapter 8: The Cold Days of February; Pgs. 153-157

.     Once the holiday season ended, snow continued to fly and the days continued to become colder and colder. School resumed, and the days of January tolled slowly by. Timothy found that his Latin much improved, and Will found he could now recite the entire Declaration of Independence. Lilly and Ann found the higher math and sciences to be challenging, but they studied it with new found rigor and interest. Johnathon could play the piano better than any of his siblings (and even Will eventually had to admit it), and Margaret was improving much on her spelling and grammar. Susan was learning a lot too, and would have qualified for a first grader—and Maria for kindergarten.
.     The days and nights passed into February, and still the temperature dropped. It was now so cold that the children were very seldom let out, and when they were, it was normally to shovel the driveway or the sidewalk leading to their barn. A snow plough would every once in a while come along the road and dig it out. And of course, when this would happen, the plough would fling a lot of snow back onto the Williamses’ driveway, and the children would have to shovel some of it again. And so, with all the hard work outdoors and in school, the month of February became one of those months that just slowly lumbered by.
.     One of these days, Will was sitting by the back door with textbook, paper and pencil in hand. It was mid-afternoon, and the house smelled mostly of stale food, schoolwork, and wood burning from their fireplace. (I can’t describe how a house can smell of schoolwork, and you will have to imagine it unless you do school often in your house too—then you will know what I mean.) Gray clouds had completely covered the sky, and everything was relatively quiet. The grandfather clock in the upstairs hall could be heard ticking as its pendulum swung. It was altogether a very dull day.
.     “Is there going to be another blizzard, Mother,” Will asked as he looked at the clouds.
.     “Whatever you say, dear,” Mrs. Williams answered haphazardly from the schoolroom. Will could hear her teaching someone, though he didn’t know who. He sighed and ploughed back into his schoolwork, though he was thinking all the time, How slow the time can go these days.
.     The evenings seemed to be the great relief during these times. All the children would go up to the attic, schoolwork being completely done for the day, and spend hours and hours holding meetings together, playing, reading, and telling stories. The warm stone chimney and furnace did wonders to keep the large room warm, and only if they put their hands on the window glass could they feel the cold of the outdoors.
.     This particular evening, chaos seemed to be erupting, everyone feeling tired and rowdy after the school day. Timothy was going back and forth from pounding on the piano to chasing the youngers and making them scream. Lilly and Ann were trying to manage the situation, but it was clear that they were quite put out themselves and not engaging fully. Johnathon was doing his best to ignore and was playing the same song on the flute over and over again.
.     “Attention, everyone,” said Will. He was the only one sitting on one of the sofas, and his head was bowed to his chest and his fingers laced on his lap as his fedora was pushed down to his eyebrows.
.     Everyone paused and looked at him, eager for any change.
.     “I propose we hold a discussion,” said Will. “We could have it right here, as usual, with me presiding as moderator.”
.     “Yes, let’s,” said Lilly in a relieved voice.
.     “Very well, then,” said Will. “Gather around.”
.     The youngers perked up now that something was really happening, and they crowded around the sofas and cushioned chairs, waiting for the meeting to begin. The windows were dark, but they knew that snow was falling and could see several white flakes come up to some of the windows in the wind. It was a soft wind, though, and they couldn’t hear it. Everything seemed to be quiet and still, their breathing being the only audible noises until Will spoke.
.     “We all know of the trials these days are,” said Will, “and I think, personally, that we have done a very good job at trudging through them. But I say let’s take stock and see where we are.” He paused to gain affirmations from the others.
.     “Very well,” said Lilly and Johnathon. And after a moment, everyone started nodding their heads and saying “yes,” “good idea,” and even a “hear, hear!” from Timothy. Ann added, “Proceed.”
.     “So ordered,” said Will. “It seems as though this bitter weather could continue for several more weeks, even though it has lasted for several already. We have come up with many ideas over these past weeks, reading stories and playing exploration and writing poems and songs. Many thanks to everyone for the brilliant work we have all done in selling several of the poems and short stories we have made. But now, where from here? I propose that we do something with the money we will hopefully gain from our work—I mean something that will actually help Father and Mother somehow.”
.     Everyone thought this a splendid idea, and there were many remarks about how good it would be to surprise their parents. “But how?” Johnathon finally asked.
.     “Well,” said Will, “Perhaps we should just give it to them, and then they can decide what to do with it.”
.     “Do we know when the money is coming?” asked Margaret.
.     “The check for the stories should have been sent out by now,” said Lilly. “It might even be in today’s mail, though poor Mother is too covered up with our school papers to have checked yet.”
.     “Well then,” said Will, “is it decided? We shall give the money to them, keeping none for ourselves. They’re sure to do something grand with it, whatever that might be, and it might even surprise us when we find out.”
.     “Let’s vote,” said Johnathon. “I’m in favor.”
.     “Aye,” said everyone simultaneously.
.     “Good,” said Will, “then that’s settled.”
.     “Perhaps we could read a story now,” said Margaret.
.     “Or perhaps Mother could,” said Susan.
.     “She can’t,” said Lilly. “And anyway, she already read to us late this afternoon.”
.     Will cleared his throat, looking sharply as though the discourse was out of order.
.     “Then how about Lilly and Ann read,” said Margaret. “They have great reading voices, and I’m in the mood to listen.”
.     “Attend, everyone,” said Will, clapping his hands. “The meeting has not come to a close yet. Is there any other business?”
.     No one had any, and so Will was forced to close the meeting, calling out “adjourned.”
.     “Now Lilly and Ann can read to us,” he added.

Audio Continuation of Story; Pgs. 157-160

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A Summer Afternoon in the Park

The Williams House; Chapter 11: The End of School; Pgs. 187-190

.     Flowers were languidly blowing in the gentle breeze. The grasses were rippling slowly in the wind, as if it was a great ocean’s wave. Fountains were spraying a soft mist, splashing into caldrons and basins with a tinkling sound. The sun was shining and casting short shadows of the trees.
.     Maria and Susan were playing in a sandbox, trying to make a row of sandcastles with their bare hands. Margaret was helping them every now and then, running around a little wooden fort and back again to them. The boys were playing some games with swords, and the older girls were pacing the paths as they read.
.     It was the middle of May, and snow and cold were now things long forgotten. The park was freshly scented, and several mulberry trees were producing their berries. It had not rained for a few days, and the dew of the morning had all dried up, leaving fresh pleasant grasses. Rivers and streams and little cascading waterfalls sparkled with the light of the sun’s rays.
.     A little girl was playing next to the two youngest Williams’ girls, singing and humming softly as she played in the sand. A little roof hung over the sand area and shaded the girls from the hot sun.
.     “What’s your name?” said Susan to the girl.
.     “Jenny,” said the girl. “What’s yours?”
.     “I’m Susan, and this is Maria.”
.     “How old are you?” asked Jenny.
.     “Six,” said Susan.
.     “I’m six too,” said Jenny.
.     “What are you building?” asked Susan.
.     “I’m trying to build a castle,” said Jenny.
.     “Let’s try building them together,” said Susan.
.     And in a few moments, all three girls were busily chatting and working away, with Margaret to soon come up and offer her assistance. Then, in another half-hour or so, it was lunch time, and the girls washed up their hands. Jenny was invited to join them, and though it was only lunch meat sandwiches, there was plenty to go around, and Mrs. Williams had brought a lot of sun tea to help wash everything down. Everyone else met Jenny, and they soon were talking with her as one of the family. Her mother was there too and thanked them for sharing the meal.
.     After lunch, the children had to do some schoolwork, but Susan and Maria were allowed to continue playing with Jenny, and the olders could hear them counting as they played hopscotch.
.     “How much longer do you think this will take,” said Timothy to Johnathon after about half an hour.
.     “I’m not sure, Cap,” said Johnathon. “But we only have a few more weeks of it. Just think! The summer holidays are just round the corner.”
.     “And what a holiday we’ll all have!” said Lilly. “Just think of England—for the whole month of June!”
.     “I know; isn’t it splendid,” said Ann. “I should like to see England again.”
.     Will looked out wistfully at the surrounding trees. “It’s been nearly four years since we have seen it last.”
.     “I barely remember it,” said Margaret. “I was only barely four at the time we moved.”
.     Then everyone silenced again as they continued their work. The discourse had given them new found rigor, for school would soon be out, and already, they had finished some of their subjects for the year. And once school was out, they would be going on a month vacation to England to visit relatives and friends and their old home city. It was to be in June, which was only three weeks away.
.     Within another couple hours, the children were finished with their schoolwork for the day and allowed to play for a few more hours at the park before leaving. They all decided to go over to Susan, Maria, and Jenny and see if they could all play something.
.     “We were running over these rocks and boulders and pretending to be in a race,” said Jenny.
.     “Maybe we could all play,” said Lilly.
.     “Or perhaps,” said Will, “we could play exploration. It’s a fine game to play out in the park on a day like this.”
.     “Yes,” said Johnathon, “and I don’t believe we have played it since the great discovery in our cellar downstairs.”
.     “Yes,” said Timothy, “we should do something with treasure and hidden caverns, now that we know what one really looks like.”
.     “But we need to teach Jenny,” said Margaret. “She still doesn’t know how to play.”
.     “It’s like this,” said Will, and he proceeded to explain the game. Then everyone gathered around in a sort of semicircle, with some on the concrete path laying or sitting cross-legged, and others on the grassy hillside.
.     “Who shall narrate,” asked Will.
.     “Why not you?” said Lilly.
.     “Well, all right,” agreed Will. “Then I shall narrate. It may take a moment to think though.”

Audio Continuation of Story; Pgs. 190-193

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Under the Apple Trees – Added Scene

.     Moonlight was gleaming about the Williams’ house, shining through the long windows and spilling about the surrounding trees. The apple orchard was fully ripe, and the children would be tasked with harvesting it the following day. It was just before bed, and several forms could be seen under the short apple trees.
.     “Will we be picking them all?” asked Maria as she lay flat on her back looking up at the limbs and apples dangling above her head.
.     “Most of them,” said Margaret, “though there will be a few that we’ll let ripen a little more.”
.     They could smell the juice from within the apples. Stars were barely visible through the limbs of the trees, yet the moonlight flooded down about them and made the skins of the apples glisten with light. From somewhere in the distance, they could hear a bird singing a soft tune.
.     “I wonder how many of bushels there will be,” said Johnathon as he sat next to Will.
.     “Enough for a few extra apple pies, no doubt,” said Timothy from around the next tree. “I heard Mum say so.”
.     Every blade of grass shined in the moonlight, its edge perfectly visible, and long dark shadows of the trees stretched away from the children. The night air was fresh but not chilly, not quite yet. It was indeed a warmer autumn, which is why Mother had let them come out and look over the work they would be doing the following day.
.     “Just think, warm mugs of apple cider and apple sauce,” said Will. “I think I’ve had enough watermelon to last a long while. It will be nice for the change.”
.     A slight breeze picked up, and the leaves of the trees could be seen and heard fluttering. Then, they could hear a side door open and their mother’s voice call out to them. “Time for bed, now,” she spoke. “We’ll all have a jolly time tasting them in the morning.”

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Winter Wonder – Book Scene

The Williams House; Chapter 6: Winter Wonder; Pgs. 134-137

.     The day was to be a break from school. Many families were to come over for a declared “snow day” to whet the appetite for the coming Christmas vacation in a few weeks. It was also a badly needed break from exercising the mind so much and using the cramped muscles that had been kept indoors so often over the last several weeks. The Williams children had to hustle through their morning chores before heading outdoors. Lilly and Ann helped dress the youngers, and their mother made sure they were all suited warm enough before they all headed outside.
.     “Now,” said Will, “everyone line up, and follow me around to the back of the yard.” He paused as he took on quite a different air. Then he began narrating. “The general is leading his unruly subordinates out to the battlefield.”
.     “Unruly subordinates?!” repeated Johnathon and Timothy in distain, but there was a gleam in their eyes.
.     Will pretended to take no notice of them. “He marches bravely forward,” he continued, “and the lazy soldiers behind him could hardly keep up.”
.     “Lazy?!” exclaimed Johnathon and Timothy, and at the same time, Lilly and Ann shouted “Soldiers?!”
.     “We’re the queens of this castle,” said Lilly.
.     “And anyway,” said Johnathon, “subordinates or no, the soldiers do not take kindly to the label of laziness.” He picked up a snowball and casually tossed it into the back of Will’s head before anyone could say “knife!”
.     Will laughed. “It’s just for fun,” he said, “and you both can be the generals tomorrow and call me whatever you like. So remember to play along for today. All right girls, you can be the ‘Molly Pitchers’ if you will. Come along, everyone!” And he flung himself forward.
.     Everyone started pushing a lot of snow with their hands and arms, making a sort of wall. “It’s hard, Will,” said Maria as she collapsed after about five minutes of hard pushing.
.     “You can rest,” said Will. “The Bentleys will probably be here in another ten minutes. Let’s try to build another barricade for the snow wars we will be having shortly.”
.     “Come along, Susan,” said Ann. “Don’t drag so— isn’t this fun? It’s the first big time we’ve had out in the snow this season, with the exception of the cousins. But that was only a few inches.”
.     Will led the group around to a slight slope. Sunlight was beaming down on all eight of them as they pushed several loads of snow with their coat-covered forms. Soon, several of them were taking off some of their snow gear, and just about that time, other voices were heard yelling at them, and they could see that the Bentleys had arrived.
.     The day went splendidly. There is nothing like several rounds of snow fights in the morning to stir ones blood and bring health and liveliness to one’s face. Several families soon arrived after the Bentleys, and the children greeted them all in turn with a snowball barrage. Boys were laughing heartily and girls were cheering merrily, the sound of dozens of voices in perfect harmony rising around the little hillside.
.     At about 11:00, some of the girls went in to rest, with some of the younger boys. (Timothy stayed out.) Hot cocoa was served to those who entered, and those who stayed outside called themselves the “hardy stock,” refusing to acquire their warm drinks until lunch time. It had been ages since the Williamses had used their muscles so hard, and it was badly needed, for Johnathon could not remember using his energy so much since they had cleared the leaves away, which had been close to a month ago.
.     When lunch was served, everyone else traipsed indoors, and the Williams’s house became filled with snow suits, waterproof coveralls, hats, mittens, and gloves, ski masks, large boots still dripping with slush, and many, many hot faces that were red from the hard play outdoors. The meal, in keeping with the winter season, was the best chili that you could possibly imagine, with steaming hot meat pies, and warm chocolate fudge and sugar bread cookies for dessert. The “hardy stock” now enjoyed their hot mugs of cocoa, and the conversation buzzed for an hour or so as everyone filled themselves after their morning excursions.

Audio Continuation of Story; Pgs. 137-138

Joshua Reynolds on Conservative Cornerstones – Author of Children’s Books / Family Stories – Finding Conservative Thought in Olde Books. Check out my Authoring Conservatism Post. Look up my two books, The Williams House and Treasure on the Southern Moor in my bookstore!

A Summer Afternoon – Added Scene

.     “Do you remember that time when we dug for treasure with the Bentleys?” Ann asked as she sat on a wicker chair that had been moved out of doors.
.     “Oh, quite well!” said Lilly. “That was the day we found out they were moving.” She stopped her work for a moment (which was darning a dress that had been torn the day before, but that is another story) and looked up at the sky. “It was, in fact, a very similar day to how it is now.”
.     “I know,” said Ann. “That’s what made me think of it.”
.     A soft summer breeze was blowing in the air, and many of their flowers were in full bloom, and the apple trees were growing. They could see the trees in the distance, though they were among the gardens. The sunlight had just been covered by a thick white cloud, though it would soon shine down among them again.
.     “I was just thinking,” said Ann after a while, “Will said that the treasure pieces he found after that seemed to belong to a collection, and though he could not find any more, he didn’t dig much deeper.”
.     “True,” said Lilly, “but the place he was digging has been all covered up again now, and anyway, we have a whole chest full in the chamber beneath the cellar.”
.     “Not full,” said Lilly, “for we still haven’t replaced the amount we used for our trip to England. And the whole could be re-uncovered.”
.     “I suppose we must have a look at it then,” said Lilly, “though we can only try if the boys will help.” Ann saw the smile behind her eyes because she had been darning for nearly two hours and her eyes and fingers needed a rest from the work.
.     “Hurray!” said Ann, “just as if the Bentleys were still here and we were treasure seeking.”
.     “What’s the excitement?” said Johnathon from around the corner.
.     “Can you get the spades, brother dear?” asked Lilly. “We’re all going treasure hunting, and we need your help.”

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