The Williams House; Chapter 10: The Williams House; Pgs. 171-179
. It was raining hard over the Williamses’ house. But it was a warm rain, showering the plants and vegetation with life and health. Thick clouds had darkened the sky, and all the birds had tucked themselves deep within their nests. The sun would be still shining at this time, but the thick clouds had blocked it and darkened the sky prematurely. The Williams children were alone in their house, their mother and father gone somewhere for the evening. They would not be back until late that night.
. “It would be raining, wouldn’t it?” said Timothy as he stared out a large set of windows on the ground floor.
. “Yes, but I love April rains,” said Ann as she sat in a corner, watching the rain come down on one of their freshly planted gardens.
. “Tis been nearly a month since we’ve gone to the park,” said Timothy. “And it was mostly covered with snow then.”
. “Over a month,” said Johnathon. “But we’ve played out here a lot, and there are always things to do indoors on exciting evenings like this!”
. “Like what?” said Timothy. He already knew several of the answers, but his mind was slightly gloomy after the long day at school.
. “We could go up to the attic by candlelight,” said Johnathon. “Or we could have swordfights and pretend this entire house is one grand ship, armed and loaded with cannon and guns! Or we could all play a grand game of hide-and-seek. I say, we can just about do anything, and we could use the entire house now that there isn’t Mother or Father who needs quiet.”
. “Johnathon’s right,” said Will. “We all know it’s easier to play when there are no grown-ups watching. For some reason, the games always seem sillier when they are.”
. “I don’t ever think they’re silly,” said Timothy.
. “You will when you get older,” said Will.
. “I am older,” said Timothy obstinately.
. “Come,” said Lilly. “Johnathon is right, anyway. We can do all sorts of things. Just listen to the spring thunder. That should put us all in an adventurous mode.”
. The thunder was rumbling every few moments, a soft quiet rumble. Trees were swaying gently in the wind, their boughs rustling and sounding of creaking wood. Rain was pounding the soft earth and moss, and the outdoors smelled very earthy, with many growing things adding to its richness. After a few moments of the children all observing this, they were put in quite a new mood. They wanted to do something, rather than just stay and let everything live and move around them.
. “I say,” said Will, “let’s all explore this house from top to bottom! It should look different in the storm lightning, and we could pretend it is a very queer and mysterious house that we have never seen before—like in all the stories. Come on, everyone. Let’s start with the attic. We can get some candles there, and Johnathon, you can get your maps of this place to see if we have left anything out.”
. Lightning was flashing eerily from the windows as the children ascended the stairs to the second floor. They kept all the lights off as they continued to journey down the hall, everyone with their hands linked up much like when they were exploring the library basement. Trees could be heard creaking outdoors, swaying in a living and breathing tempest. The land was alive around them and made the house settle and nearly turn into a living thing itself.
. Then the children approached the back hall on the second floor where the attic stairs twisted up and away from them. The steps were noisy, as usual, but as they ascended, they could hear the wind more, as though they were in a small tunnel with it all around them (which was nearly the truth). In the attic, Lilly pulled out four candles, one for each of the four olders, with brass holders as well.
. “Take these,” she whispered. “And Johnathon, what about the maps?”
. “Yes,” said Will, “we may pretend that it is the chart given to us by some former owner who knows all of the house secrets.”
. Johnathon quietly removed the blueprints they had written from his safe, being careful to take them all. He handed some of the papers to Timothy so they all could look at them. Then the great expedition began.
. “We needn’t explore the attic much,” said Will. “There are no doors to open or passages to walk through. Let’s go down the other set of attic stairs though, leading to the other end of the house to explore first.”
. Everyone followed Will’s lead. Halfway down this spiral set of attic stairs was a short inlet cut into the wood, as though a short window was there but was made of wood paneling instead of glass. The children had seen this many a time, but they stared at everything as though it was brand new and something they had never before seen in all their lives. In this little inlet were a few brass goblets, rather plain looking but kept clean and shiny. A painting also hung on the wood of a Cavalier in strange looking attire. His eyes glowed out ghostly in the candlelight.
. Will’s feet reached the thick carpet again on the second floor, and they started slinking down the back hall. Several artifacts were there, some on bookshelves and some on stands—cases of shining metal things, old bookends made of marble, chess sets made of wood or pewter, crystal trinkets that flashed in the lightening, etc. Several old and dusty books lay on several of the shelves.
. “Come on,” said Will. “Let’s look in every room and open every drawer and cupboard.”
. They could all hear the rain pattering on the windows as they looked into all the rooms, starting with the one nearest them. It was filled mostly with books, with a couple cabinets near a corner. Johnathon and Margaret opened these up and felt around their bare wooden walls. Only a reel of tape and a bit of ribbon lay in a corner of one of them. Nothing else was in the room except the windows, with thick curtains at either side. Susan and Maria together worked at closing and reopening the curtains (something that is always a marvel if you do not do it often).
. Several rooms were similar, with all sorts of items that would seem quite random if they were listed but were actually quite organized to those who knew the place. In the second to last room were three greatly sized beds, and it was one of the guestrooms of the house. And the last room had one large chest of drawers filled with things Mr. Williams had collected slowly over the years. The children were always fascinated by the last room because of the many mirrors that hung along the walls. There were mirrors with brass frames and silver frames, mirrors with wooden designs around them and plain long mirrors that one could see their whole self in, and much of the room besides. However, everything looked spooky in the candlelight with lightning flashing every once in a while, and so the children moved on.
. “Let’s look through the great rooms now,” said Will. “There must be fifty cabinets to open there, especially close to the guest dining room.”
. “Fifty-four, to be exact,” said Johnathon as he looked over the map he was holding. “Well, fifty-four doors that is,” he continued, “though some of them lead to the same cupboard.”
. They all rounded a corner and came to Lilly and Ann’s room, only briefly going in before coming back out. Then they went down a short hall with several paintings hung on either side. This hall led into the great rooms, sprawling out with wide expanses of carpet. Several crystal bowls and cups and other sparkling things gleamed the wavering yellow light of the candles back in a thousand beams of light. Several of them started opening the cupboards while others just stared out the windows or at the several gleaming things in the room. Will looked at all the contents in the cupboards, viewing the dishes and utensils and also several things one would not expect to see near a dining room, like craft materials or light bulbs.
. When all the great rooms were gone through, the children went through the more seen guest rooms, as well as the boys’ room and the younger girls’ room. Then they headed down the flight of stairs to the first floor. And the first floor was much more like an ordinary house, only much bigger, with the kitchen and pantries, great rooms (where the main dining room was), back halls with coat racks, their mother and father’s bedroom, the schoolroom, and other smaller rooms off to the side. The children had gone through it all and were congregating in one of the back halls, where many coats were hung.
. “That covers the main two floors,” said Johnathon as he looked over the maps. “This short flight of stairs leads up to the utility outside door, and of course, this door leads to the many stairs of the basement—cellar, I mean.”
. Everyone looked at the short flight of stairs with cheap and rough red carpeting that led to the outside (you will remember that the house stood on a slope and the doors at the front of the house were higher in elevation than the door leading to the back). Then everyone looked at the door that would lead them to the cellar. No one needed to suggest opening the door. It had been so long since any one of them had ventured down there that they were all eager to see it again, though they were only allowed to reach the short landing at the bottom. They all slunk down the stairs with the older ones tightly holding their candles in their hands. The wall to their right opened up, and a dim dark light came to them from the one high window to the basement. They could not see very far in its light, but they could hear all sorts of noises, like that of water rushing through pipes or air blowing through vents. At the landing, the left wall opened up (with a door that was open) into a large utility room where Mrs. Williams did all the laundry. It was completely dark in there, though their mother must have started a batch in the washer or dryer just before leaving, for they could hear machinery running.
. “Let’s sit down and recap,” said Will as he plopped down on a stair. “Thus ends the expedition. Johnathon, can I have the map?”
. Lilly and Ann sat down on stairs too, and Susan and Maria plopped down on the landing with their backs against the opposite wall, facing the stairs.
. Now, I must tell you plainly that not even the Williamses knew of all the secrets to that large country house. For around three and a half years they had occupied it, and the children had thought that they had mapped out every inch of it. Yet they hadn’t, and they would discover this to be true this very night as they all sat on the basement stairs and landing.
. Maria was playing with the carpet where she sat, and she found a corner of it pulled up and away. Lilly started to tell her not to mess with the carpet, but then she saw a small something underneath. “Let me look at that, dear,” said Lilly as she walked over.
. The small wooden thing turned out to be a wooden latch that had been hidden underneath the carpet. Everyone started speaking all at once, and they huddled around the carpet with their candles in their hands. Just then, one of the clothes machines went off with a loud buzz and nearly made some of them drop their candles.
. “I say,” said Will, “that was a fright. But where does this lead to?” His voice quivered with excitement and his hands visibly shook.
. “Be quick about it, Will,” said Johnathon, “or let me have a look.” His voice shook too, and the others were all glad to remain silent to hide their eager surprise.
. Then the latch seemed to come undone all in one moment, and with a snap and a creak and a cringing screech, a rectangular portion of the cement wall facing opposite them seemed to vanish, rolling away to the side. The children were staring into a doorway of blackness, and all their mouths were gaping open.
Story Audio Continuation: Pgs. 179-180
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