Authors: Ann Hood
NEW YORK TIMES
For Cousin Gina
GROSSET & DUNLAP
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Text © 2013 by Ann Hood. Illustrations © 2013 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Published by Grosset & Dunlap, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014. GROSSET & DUNLAP is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.
Illustrations by Denis Zilbur. Map illustration by Giuseppe Castellano.
Design by Giuseppe Castellano.
ust when Maisie and Felix Robbins thought nothing exciting would ever happen to them again, something exciting happened.
The week of school vacation promised to be muddy (thanks to a steady spring rain) and dull (thanks to Great-Uncle Thorne, who had sealed The Treasure Chest with something impenetrable, or so Maisie believed, since she had tried everything she could think of to get inside).
“Remember when life was thrilling?” Maisie asked Felix with a long, dramatic sigh.
They were sitting in the Library considering their fate: a week with no school, no Treasure Chest, and no mother. Technically, of course, they did have
a mother. But with all her time split between work and her boyfriend, Bruce Fishbaum, it didn’t feel like they had a mother.
“We’re practically orphans,” Maisie continued.
“Worse than orphans,” Felix said with his own sigh. “In books, orphans have fascinating lives. Our lives are dull as dirt.”
Recently, Felix had fallen in love with similes, comparisons using
Busy as a bee. Dumb as a post. Happy as a clam.
Usually they drove Maisie crazy, but today the two of them were exactly on the same side: bored.
Maisie rolled a marble around on the special hammered-brass table that their great-great-grandfather had brought back from Morocco a million years ago. She’d found the marble under Felix’s bed that morning when she was looking for her lost sneaker. It was blue and milky white and covered in dust.
Maybe it will change our luck,
Maisie had thought.
Like a talisman or good luck charm
“Why do you suppose this marble was under your bed?” she asked Felix now.
“Maybe it belonged to Samuel,” she said
hopefully, pronouncing the duke’s name
, the way Great-Uncle Thorne said it.
Felix’s room was called Samuel Dormitorio, named after a Spanish duke who had stayed there for almost three years back when Great-Uncle Thorne and Great-Aunt Maisie were kids. In those days, all sorts of royalty and rich people came to Elm Medona for visits that seemed to never end. Maisie’s room was named after a princess who’d done just that. Princess Annabelle had left her country of Nanuh when her father, the king, was kicked out, and hid at Elm Medona until it was safe for her to go home. No one came to Elm Medona anymore. Unless you counted Great-Uncle Thorne’s ancient girlfriend, Penelope Merriweather.
“Maybe it’s magical,” Maisie said, holding the marble up to the light.
That was when the phone rang. The phones in Elm Medona were all old-fashioned. Some of them looked like boxes and were attached to the wall. They had a big dial in the middle and a funny earpiece that hung from a cord. Whenever Maisie talked on one of those phones, she shouted. She didn’t need to shout; the phones worked just fine.
But something about them made her feel that she had to shout to be heard.
Which was why, when she answered this particular call, she shouted, “Hello!”
Her father’s laugh came through the phone. “Hello!” he shouted back.
The sound of her father’s voice always made Maisie feel happy and sad at the same time. He lived practically across the world in Qatar, where he worked for a museum, and she and Felix hadn’t seen him since Christmas.
“Oh, Dad! Life here is so dull!” Maisie shouted.
“Sweetie?” her father said. “Why are we shouting?”
“Oh, it’s this silly old-timey telephone, that’s all.”
“Ah,” he said. “Well, I can hear you just fine.”
Felix had come to stand beside Maisie as soon as he heard their father was on the phone. He kept motioning for Maisie to give him the earpiece so he could hear, too. But Maisie didn’t.
“Guess what?” their father asked.
“You’re here in Newport?” Maisie guessed, even though she knew how ridiculous that was. Still, it always startled her how her father could be so far
away and yet sound like he was nearby.
“Close,” he said, surprising her.
“Close?” she repeated, just to be sure she’d heard him correctly.
“He’s here?” Felix said, hopping around in excitement at the idea that their father was in Newport at that very minute.
But Maisie shook her head at Felix.
“I’m in New York,” her father said into Maisie’s ear.
His voice, those most wonderful words—
I’m in New York
—sounded more wonderful than anything Maisie had ever heard.
“New York?” she said, again just to be sure.
“I am standing on West Eighty-Sixth Street even as we speak,” he said.
Maisie looked at Felix. “He’s on West Eighty-Sixth Street,” she said.
Felix broke into a huge grin.
“And Monday you and Felix are getting on the train and coming here,” her father said.
going to New York on Monday!” Maisie said to Felix, shouting again.
“Wahoo!” Felix said.
was something his friend Jim Duncan always said, and ordinarily Maisie did not like it. But somehow it seemed perfect right now.
“What did Felix say?” her father was asking her.
“Wahoo!” Maisie said.
That fast, their boring vacation had turned into something marvelous.
Great-Uncle Thorne caught Maisie staring wistfully at the hidden door that led to The Treasure Chest, its seams sealed tight.
“Really,” he said, “staring isn’t going to make it open.”
Maisie turned a steely gaze on Great-Uncle Thorne. “You’re mean,” she said.
“No, I’m not,” he said indignantly. “Selfish, maybe. But not mean.”
They stared at each other for what seemed like a very long time.
“Soon,” Great-Uncle Thorne said softly, “I will be as frail as Penelope. We will sit side by side, staring out at the sea in a fog of old-age bliss.”
“Fine,” Maisie told him. “Waste away. I don’t care.”
She knew that was exactly what would happen if
she and Felix couldn’t time travel. Every time they did, Great-Uncle Thorne got healthier and stronger. Who would choose to shrivel up and die, just for love? Love was way too complicated, Maisie decided.
She began to walk back down the hall, but when Great-Uncle Thorne started talking, she paused.
“Besides,” he said—and now he was gazing at the sealed-up door—“you two knuckleheads don’t even use the power right.”
“What do you mean?”