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Authors: Elizabeth Winthrop

The Castle in the Attic

THE CASTLE
IN THE ATTIC

THE CASTLE
IN THE ATTIC

Elizabeth Winthrop

Frontispiece and chapter title decorations by
T
RINA
S
CHART
H
YMAN

The author would like to thank the following two publishers for granting permission for the two quotes reprinted in the acknowledgments:

E. P. D
UTTON
, I
NC
., for
Gates of Excellence
by Katherine Paterson, copyright © 1981 by Katherine Paterson. Reprinted by permission of E. P. Dutton, Inc.

V
IKING
P
ENGUIN
, I
NC
., for the Preface to
Gone: A Thread of Stories
by Rumer Godden. Copyright © 1968 by Rumer Godden. Reprinted by permission of Viking Penguin, Inc.

Copyright © 1985 by Elizabeth Winthrop Mahony

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Winthrop, Elizabeth.

The castle in the attic.

S
UMMARY
: A gift of a toy castle, complete with silver knight, introduces William to an adventure involving magic and a personal quest.

1. Children's stories, American.    [1. Castles—Fiction.    2. Knights and knighthood—Fiction.    3. Fantasy]    I. Hyman, Trina Schart, ill.    II. Title.

PZ7.W768Cas    1985    [Fic]    85-5607

ISBN 0-8234-0579-6

ISBN-13: 978-0-8234-0579-4

For
A
NDREW,

who has dared to cross the drawbridge

THE CASTLE
IN THE ATTIC

CHAPTER 1

On Monday afternoon, Mrs. Phillips was waiting for William at the kitchen door. He came in shaking like a dog and blowing the raindrops off the tip of his nose.

“I still can't do it,” he said.

She looked disappointed. “What do you mean?”

“He's added an Arabian dive roll at the end of my floor routine. Before I even get through the handsprings, my legs feel like jelly.”

“I'll just have to help you practice some more.” She turned back to the sink. “Lots of work to do. We don't have that much more time.”

“The meet is still six weeks away,” he said as he hung his dripping poncho on the hook by the door.

“Sit down, William,” she said. “There's something I have to tell you.”

Her voice was formal, distant. He sat on the stool and wiped off his face with the towel she handed him.

“I'm going to be leaving the end of this month.”

“For vacation?”

“No,” she said. “For good. I'm moving back to England to live with my brother.”

“Why?” he asked.

“It might seem silly to you, but I'm homesick. Even after all these years. And you're getting old enough to take care of yourself.”

Mrs. Phillips had been with William's family since he was born. Ten years. “I thought you were going to stay until I grew up,” he said, still turning the idea around in his mind. He couldn't seem to absorb it.

She sat down at the table across from him. “Look at me.”

He shook his head. If he looked at her, he might start crying.

“William, you're ten years old. You can take care of yourself now.”

“How do you know?” he shouted. He shoved his chair away from the table. “You're not going to leave me. I won't let you.” He ran out of the room before she could say anything else.

Mrs. Phillips owned two things that she really cared about. One was the picture of her husband, who'd
been killed in World War II, and the other was her mother's pearl circle pin. When she went home to her little apartment in town on weekends, she left these two objects at William's house, where she thought they'd be safer.

“When I die, William,” she often said, “be sure they bury me with my picture and my pin.”

On Saturday morning, William took them and hid them in the shoebox that held his rock collection. He knew Mrs. Phillips would never leave without them.

She must have noticed they were gone right away because the first thing she always did on Monday morning was open her top bureau drawer and take them out. When she picked him up from gymnastics practice in the afternoon, she looked at him for a long time without saying anything. He got all ready to lie, but she didn't bring up the subject. On Tuesday, his father and Mrs. Phillips stopped talking the moment he walked into the kitchen.

“Hello,” William said brightly.

Mrs. Phillips turned away without a word.

“Hello, William. Finished your homework?” his father asked as he drifted out of the room.

His mother was the first one to come out and ask him directly. She was tucking him into bed Wednesday night when she brought it up. “Have you seen Mrs. Phillips's picture? You know, the one of her
husband that's always on her bureau? It's missing.”

“No,” said William. He pulled his bear up over his face.

“Well, will you please keep an eye out for it? She's also missing a pearl pin that was left to her in her mother's will. Maybe the man who came to fix the furnace last week took it.” His mother rambled on, but William wasn't listening. Why didn't Mrs. Phillips come and ask him herself?

“I wish she weren't leaving,” William said in the middle of one of his mother's sentences. “How come she has to go?”

“She misses England, William. That's where her brother lives. When you get older, I guess you want to go back to your family.”

“But we're her family, aren't we?” William asked.

“As close as we can be, William, without sharing the blood,” his mother said. “She's been with us for ten years. That's a long time.” She leaned over and hugged him. “Goodnight. I'll see you in the morning.”

“Mom?” he called as she started out of the room. “She won't leave without her picture, will she? She told me she wanted to be buried with it.”

His mother stopped and thought for a minute. “She's made up her mind to go, William. I think she'd even leave her picture behind if she had to.”

On Friday afternoon, when William got home from school, he tiptoed into Mrs. Phillips's room and put the picture and the pin back on her bureau. When he turned around, she was standing in the doorway. Neither one of them spoke for a long time.

“I thought it would make you stay,” he said at last.

“That's what I thought you thought,” she said, putting out her arms. William went and buried his nose in her newly washed dress. He cried a little. She pushed the dark hair off his forehead, swaying back and forth as she hugged him.

William held back his tears with his parents, with the boys at school, even with Jason, his best friend, but never with her. “You have a gentle heart,” she once told him, as if that were a good enough reason for a ten-year-old boy to cry.

He pulled away and blew his nose with the linen handkerchief she handed him from her pocket. “I'm not giving up. I'll think of something else to keep you here,” he said.

“Good,” she answered, laughing. “I like my men to fight over me. But I've got a few weapons of my own. When you come home from school on Monday, I'll have a surprise for you.”

“What kind of a surprise?” he asked.

“A big one,” she said. “And I'm not going to say one more word about it.”

CHAPTER 2

William burst through the back door on Monday afternoon. “Did you bring the surprise?” he asked. He dropped his book bag on the table and began to pace back and forth.

“You look like a horse at the starting gate,” she said with a laugh. “Of course I did. It's in the attic.” William turned to run up the back stairs, but she stopped him. “Wait. I want to be with you when you first see it.”

“All right,” he said. “But hurry up. I've been thinking about it all day.”

Mrs. Phillips went ahead of him. When they reached the second floor, she stopped in front of the door to the attic. “Now close your eyes and I'll lead you up. It was too big a thing to wrap.”

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