Excerpt of The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
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The people were coming down. Over the crest of the hill they came and
kept coming, dozens of them, more and more, like a mudslide.
The people of the village crowded into the streets. "Get Mary Waters!"
someone called. "Where's Ben and Wilmer? Find them, tell them to get out
Torren was less frightened now that he was surrounded by the
townspeople. "I saw them first," he said to Hattie Carranza, who
happened to be hurrying along next to him. I was the one who told the
"Is that right," said Hattie.
"We won't let them do anything bad to us," said Torren. "If they do,
we'll do something worse to them. Won't we?"
But she just glanced down at him with a vague frown and didn't answer.
The three village leadersMary Waters, Ben Barlow, and Wilmer Denthad
joined the crowd by now and were leading the way across the cabbage
field. Torren kept close behind them. The strangers were getting nearer,
and he wanted to hear what they would say. He could see that they were
terrible-looking people. Their clothes were all wrongcoats and
sweaters, though the weather was warm, and not nice coats and sweaters
but raggedy ones, patched, unraveling, faded, and grimy. They carried
bundles, all of them: sacks made of what looked like tablecloths or
blankets gathered up and tied with string around the neck. They moved
clumsily and slowly. Some of them tripped on the uneven ground and had
to be helped up by others.
In the center of the field, where the smell of new cabbages and fresh
dirt and chicken manure was strong, those at the front of the crowd of
strangers met the village leaders. Mary Waters stepped to the front, and
the villagers crowded up behind her. Torren, being
small, wriggled between people until he had a good view. He stared at
the ragged people. Where were their leaders? Facing Mary were a girl and
a boy who looked only a little older than he was himself. Next to them
was a bald man, and next to him a sharp-eyed woman holding a small
child. Maybe she was the leader.
But when Mary stepped forward and said, "Who are you?" it was the boy
who answered. He spoke in a clear, loud voice that surprised Torren, who
had expected a pitiful voice from someone so bedraggled. "We come from
the city of Ember," the boy said. "We left there because our city was
dying. We need help."
Mary, Ben, and Wilmer exchanged glances. Mary frowned. "The city of
Ember? Where's that? We've never heard of it. "
The boy gestured back the way they had come, to the east. "That way," he
said. "It's under the ground."
from The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau Copyright © 2004 by
Jeanne DuPrau. Excerpted by permission of Random House Books for Young
Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part
of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in
writing from the publisher.