Excerpt of The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
(Page 3 of 4)
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"Take that handle, twins," Tim said to his brothers.
He took hold of the opposite handle. "Jane, you carry
the note. We'll take the whole disgusting thing inside."
Jane took the folded note and followed behind her
brothers, who picked up the basket, carried it into
the front hall of the house, and set it there on an
Oriental rug. The noise coming from the baby was
Their mother, frowning, opened the door at the
end of the long hall. She emerged from the kitchen.
"Whatever is that noise?" she asked. "I am trying to
remember the ingredients for meat loaf and I cannot
hear myself think."
"Oh, someone has left a beastly baby on our front
steps," Tim told her.
"My goodness, we don't want a baby!" their mother
said, coming forward to take a look. "I don't like
the feel of this at all."
"I'd like to keep it," Jane said in a small voice. "I
think it's cute."
"No, it's not cute," Barnaby A said, looking down
"Not cute at all," Barnaby B agreed.
"It has curls," Jane pointed out.
Their mother peered at the baby and then reached
toward the basket of beige knitting that she kept on
a hall table. She removed a small pair of gold-plated
scissors and snipped them open and closed several
times, thoughtfully. Then she leaned over the basket
and used the scissors.
"Now it doesn't have curls," she pointed out, and
put the scissors away.
Jane stared at the baby. Suddenly it stopped crying
and stared back at her with wide eyes. "Oh, dear. It
isn't cute without curls," Jane said. "I guess I don't
want it anymore."
"Take it someplace else, children," their mother
said, turning back toward the kitchen." Dispose of it.
I'm busy with a meat loaf."
The four children lugged the basket back outside.
They thought. They discussed the problem. It was
Barnaby A, actually, who came up with a plan, which
he explained to Tim, since he made all the decisions
for the group.
"Fetch the wagon," Tim commanded.
The twins got their wagon from where it was kept,
along with bicycles, under the stoop of the house.
The boys set the basket inside the wagon while their
sister watched. Then, taking turns pulling the handle
of the wagon, they transported the baby in its basket
down the block, across the street (waiting carefully
for the light), and for two more blocks and around
the corner to the west, going some distance farther
until, reaching their destination, they finally stopped
in front of a very forbidding house that was known
as the Melanoff mansion. The gentleman who lived
there was a millionaire. Maybe even a billionaire. But
he never came out. He stayed indoors, with the
moldy curtains drawn, counting his money and feeling
hostile. As with Scrooge from another old-fashioned
story, tragic events in his past had caused him
to lose interest in life.
The mansion was much larger than the other houses
in the neighborhood, but it was unkempt. A
wrought-iron fence around its yard was tilted and
twisted in places, and the yard itself was cluttered
with pieces of discarded furniture. Some of the windows
were broken and boarded over, and a thin cat
scratched itself and meowed on the porch.
"Wait, A," said Tim, when his brother began to
push open the front gate." I need to add to the note."
He held his hand out to Jane, who had placed the
folded paper carefully in the pocket of her ruffled
frock, and she gave it to him.
"Pencil," Tim demanded, and one of the twins
for all the children were accustomed to carrying
whatever Tim might need and demandhanded
him a pencil.
Barnaby B turned so that Tim could use his back
for a table.
"Could you tell what I wrote, B?" Tim asked his
brother when he had finished.
"No. It felt like scribbles."
"You must train yourself better," Tim pointed out.
"If my back had been the table, I would be able to
recite each word and also the punctuation. Practice
when you have a chance." Barnaby B nodded.
From The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry. Copyright Lois Lowry 2008. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, Walter Lorraine Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin.