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On a warm summer morning in the not-so-distant past, a twelve-year-old boy woke up in a large octagonal room at the top of a tower, and for a startled moment wondered where he was. Dazzled by the bright sunshine that slanted in through the surrounding circle of windows, he sat up quickly, blinking his eyes and shaking his head. But then, of course, he remembered. He remembered that he, Harleigh J. Weatherby the Fourth, was in his own bed, in a room that he had only recently claimed as his own private territory.
His choice of the once famous Weatherby Aerie was part of a larger decision to stop letting other people tell him exactly what he was going to do with his life, and how and where he was going to do it. Having come to that conclusion, he had inspected, and decided against, a number of large impressive bedrooms on the second floor of Weatherby House -- grand suites that included dressing rooms and large, hopelessly old-fashioned bathrooms. He'd even explored the mostly abandoned east wing, where some early Weatherbys had once conducted various family businesses. But he'd found the impersonal offices and dark and dismal conference rooms not particularly inviting.
In making his final choice, he'd rejected not only some interesting possibilities but, more importantly, the advice of certain members of the Weatherby family. His great-aunt Adelaide in particular, whohad insisted that the tower room, or the Aerie, as it had been called when she was a girl, was too isolated, and the climb would be far too much for Harleigh so soon after his surgery.
It was the mention of the surgery that did it, that set his decision in stone, so to speak. Moving to the tower had been only one of several possibilities until then, but when Aunt Adelaide brought up that stupid, useless operation it reminded Harleigh that he had finished letting other people influence his most important decisions. From now on he would decide where he wanted to live, as well as how, and this time nothing any of them could say would make any difference.
All right, he had more or less agreed to allow the doctors to do that "one last" experiment on his heart, but only because they (his father, Aunt Adelaide, and any number of doctors) had promised that this one last surgery really would make him start to grow. But, as usual, it was a lie. All those aches and pains and long, boring hours in bed and now, four months later, he -- the last direct descendant of the builder of the famous Weatherby mansion -- was still, at the age of twelve, about the size of your average six-year-old.
Still sitting up in bed, Harleigh shrugged, unclenched his teeth, and reminded himself that he didn't care. Not any longer. Not since he'd come to the conclusion that physical size didn't have anything to do with winning or losing, and that someday he, Harleigh the Fourth, was going to be just as strong and powerful as his famous ancestor. Just as powerful as that first Harleigh J. Weatherby, who, more than a hundred years ago, had made a huge amount of money and then decided to settle down in the small town of Riverbend and build a castle.
Which is exactly what he did. He built and built and went on building. And even now, when most of the Weatherbys were either dead or old and unimportant, that first Harleigh's enormous castle was still there. Perhaps a little dilapidated and old-fashioned in some places, but in many ways as grand and impressive as ever.
And someday he, Harleigh the Fourth, would hire crews of carpenters and squads of stonemasons to repair and modernize the house, and hundreds of gardeners to replant its famous gardens. And then, no matter how tall he was, everyone in Weatherby House, along with all the citizens of Riverbend, would have to look up to him.
That would show them! All of them -- including his father and the other Weatherbys who had forced him to go on being the heart surgeons' favorite guinea pig, simply because it embarrassed them that a direct-descendant Weatherby could be so small for his age. And as for certain smart-mouthed people who'd been in his class when he'd spent those two terrible years in the Riverbend public schools -- he'd show them, too.
Sliding out of bed, Harleigh Four stomped across the floor to the nearest window and, standing on tiptoe, looked down to where Weatherby House stretched out far and away to the east and to the west like an endless range of mountains, punctuated by turrets and towers and decorated here and there by clusters of fancy chimneys. A mansion so large that a newspaper reporter had once described it as being as grand as Buckingham Palace and as endless as the Great Wall of China. And all of it, all of Weatherby House, would someday belong to him, Harleigh J. Weatherby the Fourth.
Turning away from the window, Harleigh squared his shoulders and inspected his new living quarters critically, but with some satisfaction. The huge eight-sided room, with its ornate tile floor and thick stone walls, made an impressive, if rather barren, bedroom. Besides his narrow bed, the only furniture was a row of marble-topped cabinets, where servants had once set out food and drink for gatherings of long-gone Weatherbys and their guests, who had managed the steep climb in order to watch a famous Weatherby sunset.
His inspection completed, Harleigh selected a pair of khaki shorts, his usual summertime costume, from one of the cabinets, and picking up some other articles of clothing from where he'd dropped them the night before, he headed for the landing and the long winding stairs that led down to the third floor.
In spite of Aunt Adelaide's warnings, he'd never had any problem with the stairs. That last operation, the one that certainly hadn't made him start to grow, did seem to have made a difference in his energy level. And as for the isolation Aunt Adelaide worried about -- the privacy, that is -- he really enjoyed it. The tower was his now, and if no one else at Weatherby House had the strength and stamina to intrude on his private space, so much the better.
After tromping noisily down two circular flights of clattering iron stairs and stopping briefly at an old-fashioned but more or less functional third-floor bathroom, he ran the full length of the third-floor ballroom, yelling as he went to set off its surging echoes. Still at high speed, he galloped down a grand, and then a grander, flight of marble stairs, whistled as he made his way through the long, narrow dining hall where enormous portraits of long-gone Weatherbys stared down disapprovingly, slowed to a trot through the elaborate butler's pantry, and finally burst out through the swinging doors that led to the huge central kitchen where, nowadays, almost all family meals were not only cooked but also served and eaten.
The usual people were there to notice Harleigh's energetic entrance, and possibly realize how wrong they'd been when they'd suggested that sleeping in a tower could be dangerous to your health. Only three people, actually, because, not being a Weatherby, Matilda the cook didn't count.
Great-Aunt Adelaide was there, of course, accompanied and waited on as always by Cousin Josephine. And, at the other end of the table, Uncle Edgar. Uncle Edgar wasn't exactly Harleigh's uncle, and Josephine was something like a second cousin twice removed, but it was Aunt Adelaide who insisted on such family titles. Insisted, according to Uncle Edgar, because the titles emphasized the fact that everyone who lived in Weatherby House had to be a Weatherby in one way or another, or she wouldn't have allowed them to be there.
Cousin Josephine was there in the kitchen, because it was her job to get Adelaide the Great up, dressed, and into her wheelchair. And big, bulky Uncle Edgar was there to eat as much of Matilda's cooking as possible.
One of Aunt Adelaide's strict rules was that Matilda cooked only for direct descendants, and neither Cousin Josephine nor Uncle Edgar were all that direct. But since Cousin Josephine was Aunt Adelaide's nurse and companion, and Uncle Edgar was Harleigh Four's tutor, they managed to be exceptions to the rule. The only other really direct descendant, Harleigh Four's father, Harleigh the Third, wasn't there -- as usual.
Some of the other Weatherby odds and ends, such as Cousin Alden, who was Josephine's husband, and Cousin A. J., who was (or had once been) a law student, sometimes cooked and ate in the enormous kitchen; but they had to cook their own food and try to keep out of Matilda's way. There were, of course, other much smaller kitchens here and there in the more distant ells and wings of the house, where at least a dozen less directly descended Weatherbys had to make do.
But today Harleigh Four's dramatic entrance was witnessed only by Great-Aunt Adelaide and Josephine, and to some extent by Uncle Edgar, whose attention was mainly focused on a plateful of Matilda's Belgian waffles. They all looked up when Harleigh burst through the swinging door, but except for a grunt from Uncle Edgar, there wasn't much in the way of a greeting. And if anyone noticed that Harleigh Four was not at all out of breath, they didn't bother to mention it.
In fact, no one seemed to be in a talkative mood, and Uncle Edgar had finished his third waffle before Harleigh heard the good news: There would be no lessons that morning, because his tutor "wasn't feeling up to it."
As Uncle Edgar hoisted himself out of his chair and lumbered toward the door, Aunt Adelaide said, "Oh, I am sorry, Edgar. I do hope all those waffles weren't too much for your poor overworked digestive system." Aunt Adelaide was smiling, but as usual, her sharp-toothed smile was almost more threatening than her frown. But if Harleigh Four was hoping for an entertaining argument, it didn't happen. Not this time.
Instead, Uncle Edgar only grinned sarcastically and said, "I didn't say I was ill, Aunt Adelaide. What I don't feel up to is shutting myself and the boy up in that dark dungeon on such a beautiful morning."
Harleigh knew what he was referring to, and he agreed, more or less. While he had always admired the dark, impressive grandeur of the Weatherby House library, he had to admit it was rather dim and gloomy.
Uncle Edgar did a sideways nod in Harleigh's direction. "Scoot, boy," he said. "Get out into the sunshine before I lose this argument and we get sentenced to..."
Harleigh didn't wait to hear the rest. A split second later he was scooting across the main courtyard, circling the dry fishpond and the huge shabby gazebo, on his way to escape into the overgrown jungle that had once been the famous Weatherby House Gardens.
He headed first to his most recent discovery, the sad remains of what had been a formal Italian garden, where a circle of weather-stained gods and goddesses ringed a leaf-cluttered depression -- all that remained of a large tile-lined pool where a marble dolphin had once spouted a stream of water high into the air.
The Italian garden was a new find because, until a few weeks ago, Harleigh had rarely ventured much beyond the paved courtyard of Weatherby House. But since his strength and energy had begun to improve, he'd been going farther into the garden every day. He'd already made several interesting discoveries, but he'd not yet found the one thing he'd been especially looking for -- the Weatherby House Maze.
He'd heard about the maze over and over again from Great-Aunt Adelaide, who loved to talk about the famous -- or once famous -- Weatherby House Gardens. According to her, the yew tree maze had been patterned after an ancient one in England, and it had been the high point of any visit to Weatherby House. Important people, Aunt Adelaide said, used to come from all over the country just to see if they could find their way through the Weatherby maze -- which, according to her, very rarely happened. Not that they were lost, never to be seen again; but they weren't seen again until they were rounded up by Weatherby rescue parties, usually made up of gardeners who knew the way.
Harleigh felt sure that he, however, could easily solve the maze's mystery, and by doing so he would prove that he, as a directly descended Weatherby, could do just about anything he wanted to. But first he had to find out where it was.
Having made his way through the Italian garden, Harleigh maneuvered around a threatening blackberry hedge and had just pushed his way through a thick stand of bamboo, when he emerged into a clearing that held only one tall tree -- and suddenly discovered that he was not alone.
Text copyright 2007 by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Excerpted from The Treasures of Weatherby by Zilpha Keatley Snyder Copyright © 2006 by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted January 3, 2008
This was a catchy book that you WILL want to keep reading! It's deffinetly a good read not to challenging yet still not as easy as pie. Once you get to the end you'll be non stop guessing! What in the world could happen next!?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 10, 2007
Posted October 26, 2008
No text was provided for this review.