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By L. M. Montgomery Barbara Davoll
ZonderkidzCopyright © 2004 The Zondervan Corporation, David Macdonald, trustee and Ruth Macdonald
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Ghostly Bell
"There's-something-in the house, ringing a bell," said Peter, in a shaky voice. Even the Story Girl herself could not have said that word something with more creepy horror that Peter did.
It was a comfortable summer day in the King household. All of us cousins were enjoying the beauty of "being on our own" because the grown-ups, except for Uncle Roger, were away visiting Uncle Edward's family. Uncle Roger was in charge of us, but he was a Prince Edward Island farmer and busy in his fields. Peter, his handy boy, was helping Uncle Roger hoe potatoes. We always missed Peter when he had to work because he was so much fun. But Sara Stanley, one of our cousins (we called her the Story Girl), was at her very best on that Friday. She entertained us by telling one story after another.
The Story Girl sparkled her way through several tales that set our heads spinning. The one we liked best was about an Oriental princess who followed her bridegroom to war disguised as a boy-a page. What an adventure that was. The girls loved that one best, but we boys liked the one about a brave lady who danced with a robber on a moonlit road in Scotland. Sara really got into her stories. And each time she finished one, we would be sad and always beg for another.
Our cousin Cecily and her friend Sara Ray were off in a huddle, working on a "sweet" new knitted lace pattern they had found in an old magazine. We guys didn't see anything particularly sweet about it, but they did. What we thought was sweet were their secret whispers as they knitted. We learned "accidentally" that Sara Ray had named an apple for Johnny Price. This was a fad the girls had-each naming an apple for her beau or the boy she liked. If the apple had eight seeds in it, she would know that he loved her. Silly stuff! But you know how girls are. Cecily admitted in a secret whisper that Willie Fraser had written on his slate:
"If you love me as I love you,
No knife can cut our love in two."
"But, Sara Ray, never breathe this to a living soul," Cecily begged. "Willie even showed it to me." Cecily would have cut out her tongue if she had known we were listening behind the door. We could hardly contain ourselves and ran outside to laugh. "Just wait till we tell Peter," we howled.
Paddy, the Story Girl's cat, distinguished himself that day by catching a rat. He was terribly conceited about it-until Sara Ray cured his conceit by calling him a "dear, sweet cat." When she kissed him between the ears, he ran off. That was the last straw. He resented being called a sweet cat.
That cat had a sense of humor. Very few cats have. Most of them will slink around you, purring no matter what you say. But Paddy was a tasteful cat. The Story Girl would pretend to box his ears with her fist and say, "Bless your little gray heart, Paddy. You're a good old rascal," and Paddy would purr with satisfaction.
I used to take a handful of the skin on his back, shake him gently, and say, "Pat, you're a wise old cat. You've forgotten more than any human being ever knew." Paddy would lick his chops with delight. But to be called a sweet cat! Never!
It was the day before our grown-ups came home, and Felicity tried a new cake recipe that was very complicated. It was enough to make your mouth water. While we were finishing the last of our delicious cake at the tea table, Dan made an announcement. "Peter says the red raspberries are ripe. How about we go pick some after we finish our tea."
"I'd like to," sighed Felicity. "But we'd come home tired and then have all the milking to do. You boys had better go alone."
"Peter and I will do the milking for one evening," said Uncle Roger. "You can all go. Then Felicity can make a raspberry pie for supper tomorrow night to welcome your folk's home." That sounded good to all of us. It would be fun to pick the berries and a nice surprise for the aunts and uncles when they returned.
Right after supper, we all set off carrying buckets and jugs. Felicity brought along a small basket full of jelly cookies "just in case." We went to the maple tree grove on the back of Uncle Roger's farm. It was a pretty walk through a world of green, whispering tree branches and sweet-smelling ferns. Sunlight shone through the woods, making beautiful patterns on the ground as we walked. The raspberries were perfectly ripe, and in no time, we had our buckets and jugs full.
Stuffing ourselves with the delicious berries, we stopped by a spring in the woods where we ate the jelly cookies and refreshed ourselves with cool drinks of water. While we rested, the Story Girl told us a tale about a haunted spring up in the mountains where a lovely fairy lady lived.
"If you drank a cup of the water with her," said the Story Girl, her eyes glowing in the twilight, "you were never seen in the world again. You were whisked away to fairyland and lived there the rest of your life. You never wanted to come back because when you drank from the magic cup, you forgot all of your past life."
"I wish there was such a place as fairyland," said Cecily, "and a way to get to there."
"There is such a place, Cece," the Story Girl replied. "And I think there is a way of getting there too, if we could only find it."
Well, the Story Girl was right. There is such a place as fairyland-but only children can find the way to it. And they don't know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. Only a few who remain children at heart can find it because it lies in the imagination. The world calls those who find it poets, artists, and storytellers. But we know they are just people like us who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.
As we sat there, the Awkward Man passed by with his gun over his shoulder and his dog at his side. He did not look like an awkward man there in the heart of the maple woods. He strode along masterfully and lifted his head like a king.
The Story Girl threw him a kiss, and the Awkward Man took off his hat and bowed to her gracefully.
"I don't understand why they call him an awkward man," said Cecily when he was out of earshot.
"You'd understand why if you ever saw him at a party or a picnic," said Felicity in her snooty way. "He falls all over himself whenever a woman looks at him. He can't even pass the plates of food without dropping them. They say it's pitiful to see him."
"I must get acquainted with that man next summer," said the Story Girl. "If I put it off any longer, it will be too late. I'm growing so fast that Aunt Olivia says I'll have to wear ankle skirts next summer. If I begin to look grown-up, he'll be frightened of me, and then I'll never learn about the Golden Milestone mystery."
"Do you think he'll ever tell you who Alice is?" I asked.
"I think I know who Alice is already," the Story Girl said. But she would tell us no more. She loved to work out a mystery and save it in her brain until she could tell us a wonderful story about it. Sometimes she was too much!
When the jelly cookies were all eaten, it was time to head for home. There are places more comfortable than a forest-even if it has an enchanted spring-when it gets dark. We walked quickly through the forest in the shadowy darkness and entered the King orchard. In the middle of it, between the rows of trees, we met Peter. There was just enough light for us to see that his face was white with terror.
"Peter, what's the matter?" cried Cecily.
"There's-something-in the house, ringing a bell," said Peter, in a shaky voice. Even the Story Girl herself could not have said that word something with more creepy horror than Peter did.
We all drew close together. I felt a shivery feeling along my back, which I had never known before. If Peter had not been so frightened, we might have thought he was trying to play a joke on us. But he was truly terrified.
"Nonsense!" said Felicity, but her voice shook. "There isn't a bell in the house to ring. You must have imagined it, Peter. Or else Uncle Roger is trying to fool us."
"Your uncle Roger went to Markdale right after milking," said Peter. "He locked up the house and gave me the key. I'm sure there wasn't a soul inside when I heard the ringing. I drove the cows up to the pasture and got back about fifteen minutes ago. Then, I sat down on the front steps for a minute, and all at once, I heard a bell ring eight times in the house. I tell you-I was skeered. I made a bolt for the orchard, and you won't catch me going near that house 'til your uncle Roger comes home."
You wouldn't have caught any of us going near it either. We were almost as badly scared as Peter. We were all huddled together in a pitiful little group. Oh, what an eerie place that orchard was then. What shadows! What noises! Spooky bats swooped down close by. We had seen them before and paid no attention. They were just part of the business of living in the country. But tonight there were more of them. We couldn't look in every direction at once, and goodness only knew what might be behind us!
"There can't be anybody in the house," said Felicity.
"Well-go see for yourself," replied Peter, handing her the key.
Felicity had no intention of going and seeing.
"Boys are supposed to be braver than girls."
"But we ain't," said my brother, Felix. "I'm not much scared of anything real, but a haunted house is a different thing."
"Who says it's haunted," scoffed the Story Girl. "There's some explanation for it. Nothing like this has ever happened in our family. The Kings have always been respectable people."
"Wh-what about our family ghost, Emily King?" whispered Felix.
"She never appeared anywhere but the orchard," replied the Story Girl practically.
"Oh look!" said Cecily in a fearful whisper, pointing toward Uncle Alec's tree. "What is that white thing floating?"
"That's my old apron," answered Felicity. "I hung it there today when I was gathering eggs. Oh, what will we do? Uncle Roger had lots of things to pick up in town. He may not be back for hours. I can't believe there's anything in the house."
"Maybe it's only old Peg Bowen," suggested Dan.
There wasn't much comfort in that thought. We were almost as afraid of Peg Bowen as we would have been of a ghost.
Peter scoffed at the idea. "Peg Bowen wasn't in the house before your uncle Roger locked it up. How would she have gotten in afterward?" he said. "No, it isn't Peg Bowen. It's something that walks."
Not thinking how it would scare the girls, I said, "Well, Peg Bowen walks. We've seen ..."
I stopped short midsentence when I saw the girls' faces.
"I know a story about a ghost," said the Story Girl, trying to change the subject. "It's about ..."
"Don't!" cried Cecily hysterically, clapping her hand over the Story Girl's mouth. "Don't you dare say another word! I can't bear it!"
The Story Girl didn't. But she had said enough. There were never in all the world six more badly scared kids than the King cousins who huddled in the old orchard that August night.
All at once something leapt from a branch of the tree above us and lighted on the ground. We split the air with our screams and tried to run, only to knock each other down as we frantically ran into each other. Then we saw with shame that it was only Paddy cat.
"Here, old Pat," I said, picking him up. I felt a certain comfort in his soft solid body. "Stay with us, old fellow," I said, stroking him. But even Paddy was acting weird. He squirmed away from me with a loud meow of protest and disappeared with soundless leaps into the long grasses.
The moon rose slowly, but this only made matters worse. The shadows now moved and danced as the night wind tossed the branches of the trees. The old house, with its dreadful secret, was white and clear against the dark background of the pine trees. We were terribly tired but didn't dare sit down, as the grass was wet with dew.
"The family ghost has only been seen in the daylight," said the Story Girl.
"There's no such thing as a ghost," I said firmly. Oh, how I wished I could believe it!
"Then what rung that bell?" asked Peter. "Bells don't ring by themselves. 'Specially when there ain't anybody in the house to ring it."
"Oh-when will Uncle Roger come home!" sobbed Felicity. "I know he'll laugh at us, but it's better to be laughed at than scared like this."
Uncle Roger did not come 'til nearly ten. Never was there a more welcome sound than the rumble of his buggy wheels in the lane. We ran to the orchard gate and swarmed across the yard just as he got out.
"What now, Felicity?" he asked mockingly. "Have you tempted anyone to eat any more bad berries?" He chuckled, staring at us in the moonlight.
"Oh, Uncle Roger, don't go in," begged Felicity. "There's something dreadful in there-something that rings a bell. Peter heard it. Don't go in."
"Why not?" Uncle Roger asked, fitting the key into the lock. "What story have you been telling now, Story Girl?"
"I told it," confessed Peter. "I clearly heard a bell ringing."
As Uncle Roger unlocked the door, a clear, sweet bell rang out ten chimes.
"That's the bell I heard," yelled Peter stubbornly, falling backward off the step.
We had to wait until Uncle Roger stopped laughing before we heard the explanation. We thought he would never stop.
"That's Grandfather King's clock striking," he said as soon as he was able to speak. "Sammy Prott came along after tea, and I gave him permission to clean the old clock. He had it going in no time. And now it has almost frightened you poor little monkeys to death."
Uncle Roger had laughed at us before, but now we heard him chuckling all the way as he went out to the barn.
"I wouldn't mind if he'd laugh once and get over it," said Felicity bitterly. "But he'll laugh at us for a year and tell the story to every soul that comes to the place. That bell has never rung in my lifetime. Who would think it would be the clock? Now he'll tell it far and wide."
"You can't blame him for that," said the Story Girl. "I'll tell it too. I don't care if the joke is on me. A story is a story, no matter whom it's about. But it's hateful to be laughed at-and grown-ups always do it. I never will when I'm grown-up."
"I'm dreadful tired," sighed Cecily.
"Grown-ups may tease a lot, but it's comforting to have them around," said Felix.
"I'm ready for the aunts and uncles to come back," Felicity said. "I thought it would be lots of fun being in charge of the house and cooking, but I'm plumb tuckered out.
Excerpted from Summer Shenanigans by L. M. Montgomery Barbara Davoll Copyright © 2004 by The Zondervan Corporation, David Macdonald, trustee and Ruth Macdonald. Excerpted by permission.
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