Emmy and the Rats in the Belfry

Emmy and the Rats in the Belfry by Lynne Jonell

Book: Emmy and the Rats in the Belfry by Lynne Jonell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lynne Jonell
into two glasses.
    It wasn’t just the floor that was filthy, thought Emmy as she looked around. The curtains were dingy and stained. The fruit bowl on the counter was filled with blackened bananas. And the sink was piled high with dirty dishes.
    And this was the aunt who was supposed to teach her discipline? Emmy regarded the sticky kitchen table with disgust. Maybe it was the other aunt who was the tidy one. But if so, she hadn’t been on the job lately.
    Aunt Emmaline set the glass of lemonade in front of Emmy with a faltering smile. “I’m sorry if I didn’t seem welcoming, Emmy. I’m afraid it was just so unexpected.”
    â€œThat’s all right, Aunt Emmaline.” Emmy lifted her glass of lemonade and took a sip.
    â€œCall me Melly, dear. I never did take to the name Emmaline—too long, I always thought—Why, whatever is the matter?”
    Emmy was doing her valiant best to look as if nothing was wrong, but her whole face puckered sharply with the effort. With a heroism she hadn’t known she possessed, she swallowed.
    Aunt Melly took an experimental sip from her own glass. “Oh!” She set it down abruptly, and her face crumpled. “I forgot the sugar! Oh, dear, I can’t remember anything anymore!” She buried her face in her veined, trembling hands.
    â€œIt’s okay!” Emmy said. “Seriously, Aunt Melly, it’s not a big deal—”
    The old lady started to cry.
    Emmy moved back a little in her chair. What was she supposed to do now? She hesitated, then patted the old lady on the shoulder. “Where is Aunt Augusta?” Emmy asked. Maybe the other aunt would be less emotional.
    But at the mention of her sister, Aunt Melly wailed aloud. “It’s all too much—just too much! Oh, Gussie, I don’t know if I can do it!” She put her head down on the sticky table and sobbed.
    Emmy cleared her throat. “Is something … wrong with Aunt Augusta? Is she—is she—”
    â€œDead?” Aunt Melly blew her nose with a honk. “No, but she will be soon! And all I can do is make her comfortable, and I’m even failing at that!”
    Emmy stared at her.
    â€œI’m an old lady,” Aunt Melly went on, mopping her eyes. “I may not look it—I’m only eighty-five—but I feel ninety!”
    Emmy thought Aunt Melly looked to be at least a hundred, but she kept that opinion to herself.
    â€œEmmy,” said Aunt Melly with sudden firmness, “you’re family, and I can hardly turn you out on the street. But can you keep a secret?”
    Emmy nodded, glancing at the pet carrier. “I keep secrets all the time.”
    â€œWell, then. Come upstairs and soon you’ll understand everything.”
    Aunt Melly shuffled toward the stairs. Emmy, about to follow, heard a sudden squeak. “Take us with you!”
    Lugging the blue pet carrier, Emmy followed the thin, bent form of her great-aunt past the bookshelves in the hall, around an antique dollhouse on a stand, and up the long, creaking stairs. She trailed one hand along the side of the curved wooden banister, shaving off a layer of dust with her palm. At the top of the staircase, all was dim. In the shadowed landing was an old cedar chest, three burned-out lightbulbs, and a dead potted palm.
    â€œIn here,” said Aunt Melly, opening a door.
    Emmy walked into the room and stopped in surprise. There was no dust in this room, no lightbulbs that had not been replaced, no accumulation of dirt. Starched white curtains swung at the window, open to let in a soft evening breeze. Light from the setting sun touched upon fresh flowers in a crystal vase. A needlepointed cushion sat plumply on a polished wooden rocker.
    In the middle of the room was a bed piled high with pillows. And lying back against the pillows was a tiny old woman with a face almost as white as her neatly arranged hair. Thin blue veins stood out on her neck

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