staring, and would have stared even longer if Amelia hadn’t jerked on his sleeve.
“Okay. Okay. You’ve seen it. Let’s go,” she whispered.
And Matt whispered back, “What is this room? What’s it for?”
“It’s the hall,” Amelia said.
“A hallway?” Matt was amazed. “Just a hallway?”
“Well, not an ordinary hall like for walking through to get someplace. More like the kind of great hall people have parties in. And dance. I guess they used to have really big parties here.” Amelia was sounding more impatient as she went on. Impatient and anxious, too. “Come on. Let’s go. Follow me.”
Matt followed her slowly down the great hall, swiveling his head from side to side as he stared up at beautiful stained-glass windows and down into huge stairwells where flights of marble stairs curved down to a lower level and up to a higher one. At last, near the end of the hall, Amelia pushed on what seemed to be another solid panel of shiny wood, and when another secret door opened, she pulled Matt toward it.
“Hey,” he said. “Show me how you did that.”
“Opened that secret door.”
She made a snorting noise. “They’re not secret doors,” she said. “They’re just doors to the servants’ hallways. All the Rathburns knew they were here. They just weren’t supposed to use them. Only the servants were supposed to use them.”
As they made their way down the dim and narrow stairs, Matt asked, “So this is a servants’ staircase?”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Amelia said. “So the servants could get all around the house to wait on people without bothering anyone or getting in their way. The big stairs and hallways were just for the Rathburns.”
Matt started to ask why she didn’t use the big staircases since she was a Rathburn, but before he could finish the question she shushed him, pushed past him and opened another door.
This time the door led into another large room full of big, bulgy furniture upholstered in velvet and gold braid. Lamps with painted and tasseled shades and tall, gilded vases sat on marble tables, and large gold-framed pictures hung on the walls. At one end of the room was the longest grand piano he’d ever seen and, beside it, a big golden harp. At the other end a huge fireplace was surrounded by marble pillars and mirrors framed in gold.
“Wow,” Matt said.
“Shhh!” Amelia thumped him with her elbow.
“Wow,” he said again more softly. “Where are we now?”
“The music room. This is the music room.”
Matt felt almost breathless. “This is…This one I really like.” It wasn’t, like the great hall, too huge to even imagine as a place where people actually lived. He was turning in slow circles, trying to print a long-lasting mental picture in his brain, when his shoulder just barely touched a music stand. As the stand teetered, he grabbed for it and, of course, knocked it over.
When the heavy iron music stand fell with a loud metallic clatter, Amelia gasped. Quickly putting it back upright, she grabbed Matt’s arm and dragged him back the way they’d come. They were almost to the music room’s secret door when he began to hear a faraway sound. Someone was calling. Echoes of the calling voice seemed to come from every direction and it gradually became louder and clearer.
“Dolly,” the voice was calling. A woman’s voice, harsh and angry-sounding. And then, louder and nearer, “Dolly. Is that you?”
Opening the hidden door, Amelia stepped through, jerked Matt after her, shut it carefully behind them and hurried down the passage. Looking over her shoulder, she whispered, “Come on.” Her voice quivered with anger. “Hurry up, you klutz. You have to get out of here.”
A S THEY MADE THEIR way back down the servants’ passages and then on into the basement’s bewildering labyrinth, Amelia kept them moving quickly. Once or twice Matt tried to ask one of the questions that kept bubbling up in his mind, but she
Jennifer Youngblood, Sandra Poole