Donald looked around, nervous.
â€œWhy are they sleeping?â€ Alice said. â€œThe story was just getting good.â€
â€œThatâ€™s rude,â€ Gerdie said. â€œGrandpa hadnâ€™t finished with his story!â€
â€œGrandpaâ€™s sleeping too!â€ George said to Gerdie. â€œHowâ€™s he going to finish?â€
Gerdie turned and shook his shoulders but the old man didnâ€™t awaken. Gordon went over to his parents and shook them but they wouldnâ€™t wake up. The other children likewise tried to rouse their parents without any effect. Donald slapped his father firmly across the face. It didnâ€™t wake him.
â€œWhy are we still awake?â€ Gerdie said.
Donald hid under a pillow.
â€œWell, if theyâ€™re breathing, at least,â€ Alice said. â€œThey must be dog gone tired.â€
â€œWhat?â€ George said.
â€œWe did do a lot today,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œYeah,â€ Alice said.
â€œWhat?â€ George said again.
â€œDo all adults fall asleep at midnight?â€ Gerdie asked.
â€œI guess so,â€ Alice said. â€œI mean, we should be asleep right now.â€
â€œNo!â€ George said. â€œThatâ€™s â€¦ no! They didnâ€™t! Somethingâ€™s wrong!â€
â€œUh-huh!â€ Donald said from under his pillow.
â€œHow do you know?â€ Gerdie said. â€œItâ€™s past our bedtime.â€
â€œIâ€™ve stayed up late lots!â€ George said. â€œIâ€™m a city boy, remember? We do what we want.â€
â€œI-I stay up - I stay up - I stay up late too,â€ Edward said. â€œBut â€¦ itâ€™s usually to read.â€
â€œYour parents are up late sometimes, right?â€ George said.
â€œI guess,â€ Edward said.
â€œRight?â€ George said.
â€œYeah-yeah-yeah-yeah,â€ Edward stammered. â€œHe-he-he reads too.â€
â€œSee?â€ George said. â€œItâ€™s not just midnight, they go to sleep. Somethingâ€™s wrong.â€
He shook his dad very hard. A little too hard.
â€œHey, Iâ€™ve got an idea,â€ Alice said.
â€œOh no,â€ Donald muttered from under the pillows.
â€œGet out of there!â€ George said to him.
â€œYou know how all the adults are asleep, so thereâ€™s no one stopping us from going into the attic!â€ Alice said.
â€œGrandpa did say it was upstairs,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œYeah!â€ Alice said.
â€œI know something thatâ€™ll wake my dad up,â€ Gordon said. â€œHey, pa. Iâ€™m gonna go get some of that moonshine.â€
Donald perked up. Gordonâ€™s father didnâ€™t even stir in his deep sleep.
â€œOh â€¦ wow,â€ Gordon said. â€œHe really is out.â€
Gordon nudged Donald and they headed for the kitchen. Edward followed them.
Gerdie, meanwhile, went over to the grandfather clock. It was an ancient machine but had been kept in tip-top condition, the exterior polished and very clean and the beveled glass on the lower door spotless. She opened it up and saw it was working normally, the weights and chains hanging pristinely and the pendulum swinging back and forth. It ticked contentedly and was empty aside for a few clock keys on the floor in the back.
In the kitchen, Gordon and Donald opened up one of the bottles of applejack.
â€œCâ€™mere Boomer!â€ Gordon said to Great Grandpa Silasâ€™s bloodhound.
Donald sniffed at the applejack and was appalled at the stench of something that had been dead for days. He felt his stomach turn at the horrible smell.
â€œThis doesnâ€™t smell like mommyâ€™s wine,â€ he said, shoving the jug at Gordon.
He gagged. Gordon smelled the bottle and it almost made him sick as well. It wasnâ€™t moonshine. It was like the stink of a dead rat heâ€™d found under an abandoned shed two years ago, late in the summer. The stink was terrible.
â€œWho brought the moonshine?â€ Donald asked.
â€œCousin Maureen,â€ Gordon said.
â€œSheâ€™s a witch!â€ Donald said.
Gordon called Boomer over and put the jug near the sniffing dog. The animal turned his nose up to the terrible smell, stumbling away.
â€œBoomer eats everything,â€ Gordon said, concerned. â€œBoomerâ€™ll eat anything.â€
The girls entered the kitchen. Theyâ€™d heard what sounded like the boys getting sick and decided to investigate. Donald looked a little green and Boomer was in the corner and didnâ€™t look well.
Gordon took the jug back out to the living room and held it under his fatherâ€™s nose. The man didnâ€™t react at all.
â€œJ-J-J-J-Jiminy,â€ Edward, who had followed him, said. â€œSmells like something died in that.â€
â€œHow ya figure, Ed?â€ Gordon said. â€œHow ya figure that Ed? Was it the smell?â€
â€œIt-it-it â€¦ was the smell, yeah,â€ Edward said.
â€œIt was the smell,â€ Gordon said. â€œAh.â€
They returned to the kitchen.
â€œMaybe it poisoned them,â€ Gerdie said. â€œBut Cousin Maureen wouldnâ€™t do that.â€
â€œSheâ€™s really nice,â€ Donald said.
â€œWhat?â€ George said. â€œNo!â€
â€œTheyâ€™re still breathing!â€ Alice said.
â€œLet me see that stuff!â€ George said to Gordon.
â€œYeah, here, have some,â€ Donald said.
George took the jug from Gordon and sniffed it carefully. He made a face.
â€œThat smells like Cousin Maureen smell!â€ he said.
â€œWhat?â€ Donald said.
â€œOh, you smelled it too?â€ Gordon said.
â€œWhat?â€ George said. â€œDidnâ€™t everybody?â€
â€œI did,â€ Gordon said.
â€œWhat are you talking about?â€ Alice asked.
â€œShe looked all messed up and stank!â€ George said.
â€œWhy didnâ€™t you say anything, dummy?â€ Gordon said.
â€œWhy didnâ€™t you? Dummy!â€
â€œBecause they didnâ€™t act like it!â€
â€œYou didnâ€™t either!â€
Donald looked at Simon, standing nearby.
â€œDid you know about this?â€ he asked the ghost.
Simon shrugged and shook his head. He went over and sniffed at the jug George held, making a face.
â€œYou can smell?â€ Donald said.
Simon nodded and smiled at him.
â€œYeah, Cousin Maureen, thereâ€™s something wrong with her!â€ George said. â€œRight?â€
â€œYeah,â€ Gordon said.
â€œOkay, it wasnâ€™t just me,â€ George said.
â€œLooked all bloody and weird,â€ Gordon said.
â€œDid she smell likeâ”€?â€ George said.
â€œI-I-I-I thought she was really - she listened - she-she really liked when I talked - when I talked aboutâ”€,â€ Edward said.
â€œNobody likes when you talk, Edward!â€ George said. â€œThat should be a clue right there!â€
â€œShut up!â€ Alice said. â€œWhat are you talking about?â€
â€œCousin Maureen. Thereâ€™s something wrong with her. And she broughtâ”€â€
â€œSheâ€™s a wonderful lady! How dare you say that about her!â€
â€œWhere is she now? Why isnâ€™t she here, helping us?â€
â€œSheâ€™s probably gone home. It was getting late!â€
â€œYou know Cousin Maureen?â€ George said to Gerdie.
â€œWell, she says she was around here,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œDo you?â€ George said to Gordon. â€œYou ever seen her before?â€
â€œI never seen her,â€ Gordon said.
They all looked at each other.
â€œCâ€™mon Edward!â€ George said. â€œWake up! Youâ€™re the smart one here!â€
â€œWhat?â€ Edward said. â€œWhat? What? What? Well-well-well looks like - looks like we found a common element in this mystery puzzle.â€
Donald gave him a look.
â€œDidnâ€™t the adults seem to know her?â€ Gerdie said.
â€œPa didnâ€™t even know her,â€ Gordon said.
When the children all talked about it, they realized none of the adults had acted like they had ever seen Maureen before in their lives.
â€œWell, she was invited, right?â€ Alice said. â€œSomeone had to have known her!â€
â€œYeah, Grandpa wouldnâ€™t let her in if she was a stranger,â€ Donald said. â€œWould he?â€
â€œGrandpaâ€™s mind ainâ€™t what it used to be,â€ George said. â€œMaybe he didnâ€™t remember and so he just â€¦ why would â€¦ how we she even know about the party?â€
â€œWhatâ”€?â€ Edward said.
â€œIunno,â€ Alice said.
â€œIf she wasnâ€™t invited?â€
Edward raised his hand.
â€œJust talk, Edward!â€ George said.
â€œWhatâ”€?â€ Edward said.
â€œWeâ€™re not in school,â€ George said.
â€œWhat-what-what-what- what did - what-what did - what did she - what did she look like to you?â€ Edward stuttered.
â€œLooked like she was all rotten,â€ George said. â€œLike her skin was all tight up, close to her skull. She was all messed up in the face. There was blood! There was blood!â€
â€œYeah,â€ Gordon said.
â€œIt only lasted a second,â€ George said.
â€œDonâ€™t it make her seem like the ghost in the forest?â€ Alice asked.
â€œI didnâ€™t know about the ghost in the forest when I saw her earlier!â€
â€œBut youâ€™re just saying it now! After we heard the story!â€
â€œYouâ€™re trying to spook us, arenâ€™t you?â€ Donald said.
â€œCâ€™mon,â€ Alice said.
â€œBoth of you,â€ Donald said.
â€œCross my heart, hope to die,â€ George said, going through the motions of crossing his heart. â€œStick a needle in my eye, if Iâ€™m lying. May my parents never, ever wake up if Iâ€™m lying.â€
â€œBut what are weâ”€â€ Alice said.
â€œCut me!â€ George said. â€œIâ€™ll give you a blood swear.â€
â€œEw,â€ Donald said.
â€œAs much as Iâ€™d like to, Iâ€™d rather not,â€ Alice said.
â€œGor-Gordie-Gordie Iâ€™d like to hear your end - your end of the story,â€ Edward said.
â€œI agree with him,â€ Gordon said. â€œAnd I never do that.â€
â€œYeah, we donâ€™t get along,â€ George said.
â€œI never agree with this dummy,â€ Gordon said.
â€œThatâ€™s true,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œYeah, heâ€™s so mean,â€ George said.
â€œYouâ€™re trying to scare us,â€ Donald said again.
â€œYou make a little mistake and heâ€™s all over you,â€ George said.
â€œUh-huh,â€ Gordon said sarcastically.
â€œNow now,â€ Donald said.
â€œW-W-Wâ”€â€ Edward said.
â€œI ainâ€™t lying,â€ George said. â€œDonâ€™t say Iâ€™m lying! Iâ€™m not lying.â€
â€œWell-well we need - we-we-we need to find an explanation for - for why - for why the rest of us didnâ€™t see an-an-an old - an old skin bag, and instead saw the - the beautiful lovely woman who likes talking about a-a-astronomy with me,â€ Edward said.
â€œI thought it was alligators!â€ Gerdie said.
â€œHow we gonna do that?â€ George said.
Donald looked at his sketchbook sadly.
â€œI-I read - I read - I read a - I read - I read a lot - lots of things,â€ Edward said.
â€œWait!â€ Gordon said to Donald. â€œIf we describe it, can you sketch it?â€
â€œProbably,â€ Donald said.
They did so, Gordon and George describing what they saw over several minutes and Donald sketching it as best he could. In the end, the boys agreed Donald had made a passable image of what they both had seen. It was unpleasant and none of them liked what heâ€™d drawn. Cousin Maureenâ€™s face was drawn and bloody and disgusting-looking.
â€œThis is what they said she looks like,â€ Donald said, handing around the sketch but still unsure.
â€œThatâ€™s pretty good,â€ George said. â€œYouâ€™re pretty good, Donald.â€
Donald just stared at it in disbelief.
â€œMaybe we should go upstairs and find Grandpaâ€™s â€˜proof,â€™â€ Gerdie said.
â€œThatâ€™s what Iâ€™ve been saying!â€ Alice said.
â€œLetâ€™s go!â€ George said.
â€œAll right I-I-I-I-I like proof,â€ Edward said.
â€œThe proof is in the pudding,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œYeah!â€ Alice said. â€œLetâ€™s go.â€
George rolled his eyes but followed the girls, as did the rest.
The second floor had three small bedrooms, all with the doors open. They quickly found Great Grandpa Silasâ€™s room and searched it. Gordon, Alice, and Gerdie all found a box under a floorboard in the closet. The box was wooden and locked. Donald and Edward found, in a womanâ€™s dressing table in the room from when Great Grandpa Silas was married, a drawer with a false bottom. When they removed the bottom, they found a rotten, ancient book.
â€œI-I-I-I-I-I heard - I-I - I read onceâ”€â€ Edward said.
â€œJust read it,â€ Donald said. â€œJust take it.â€
â€œI-I â€¦ okay,â€ Edward said.
â€œAlice, give me your knife,â€ George said. â€œI want to cut open the mattress.â€
The book fell apart when Edward carefully lifted it out of the drawer. The binding was rotten and the pages loose and moldy. He held the pages together as best he could.
â€œIf thereâ€™s any pictures, show me,â€ Donald said.
Edward found that it was a handwritten journal in English. It was obviously the journal of Maureen Whateley-Morgan.
â€œI-guys!â€ Edward said. â€œI-I-I - I found her - I found her journal.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Donald said.
â€œWho is she?â€ George said.
â€œWe found something too!â€ Alice said.
Donald looked over Edwardâ€™s shoulder.
â€œWhat is this?â€ he said.
â€œItâ€™s-itâ€™s-itâ€™s Cousin - itâ€™s Cousin - itâ€™s Cousin Maureenâ€™s journal,â€ Edward said with a smile. â€œWell â€¦â€
â€œWhat?â€ George said.
â€œSee, she-she was invited,â€ Alice said.
â€œSheâ€™s sixteen,â€ George said. â€œThat book is 50 years old.â€
â€œWe shouldnâ€™t be going through her diary!â€ Alice said.
Gordon went to get his axe to smash the box open.
â€œMaybe Grandpa has a key,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œIâ€™ll go check,â€ Gordon said.
â€œHey! Gordon!â€ George called. â€œGet my baseball bat!â€
â€œYeah, Iâ€™ll look for it,â€ Gordon called back.
â€œHe donâ€™t even know where it is,â€ George said.
Alice made sure everyone knew about the book and the box. Gordon came back with his axe and a small ring of keys from Great Grandpa Silasâ€™s pocket. One was small, just the right size to fit in the box. Gerdie took the key and opened the box. Inside was a wicked-looking dagger that seemed to have a black blade. It took them a few moments to realize it was a silver blade that was badly tarnished. It had a wavy blade and a handle wrapped in black leather. There was also three short, fat, black candles.
George went to get his baseball bat.
â€œThis must have been the knife the witch had,â€ Gerdie said.
Alice noticed something on the bottom of the candles. It looked like some kind of dried vegetable matter. She picked up the candles and smelled the bottom but they didnâ€™t smell like anything and the vegetable matter was old and dried up. She thought it was old pumpkin residue. Then she looked at the dagger in awe.
â€œCan I have that?â€ she asked.
â€œYou already have a knife!â€ Gerdie said.
â€œI want that one!â€ Alice said. â€œItâ€™s so wavy.â€
â€œDo you wanna trade?â€
â€œNo! This is mine!â€
â€œOkay. This must be the knife the witch had that Grandpa was talking about.â€
Alice pouted. George returned with his baseball bat.
Alice asked to see the knife and Gerdie handed it to her. She thought it was a bad knife, guessing it might have been magical and might have even been used to murder or sacrifice people.
â€œOh, this is bad,â€ Alice said.
â€œHey-hey-hey-hey-hey-hey everyone,â€ Edward stuttered. â€œI-I found - I-I found - I found some neat stuff about Cousin Maureen. You want - you-you want me to read - you want me to read it to you?â€
â€œPlease,â€ Donald said.
â€œI told you not to read her diary!â€ Alice said.
She want to Edward and looked over his shoulder.
â€œâ€˜â€¦ fears of death are no longer within my mind,â€™â€ Edward read dramatically in a deep voice, his stutter suddenly gone. â€œâ€˜The pain and suffering that brought me to deathâ€™s door will be only a memory. My master has consented to teach me yet another ritual, one greater than all the others. There is a price I must pay, a deep one, but one I willingly pay. I will mourn, cry perhaps but I will pay it just the same. I would fear for my eternal soul in paying this price, but the thing I will obtain will make such concerns a thing of the past. One cannot be sentenced to eternal damnation after death if one lives a life everlasting. I shall be as deathless as the turning of the seasons, able to further serve my lord and master for all times. I must not fail, I cannot, the price of failing in this will be great.â€™â€
Donald moved away from the boy while he read.
â€œThatâ€™s-thatâ€™s all I - thatâ€™s-thatâ€™s-thatâ€™s-thatâ€™s all Iâ€™ve read so far,â€ Edward said.
â€œEd, youâ€™re some sort of freak, arenâ€™t you?â€ Gordon said.
â€œI-I-I-I-â€ Edward said.
â€œHow come you canâ€™t always talk like that?â€ Gordon said.
â€œI-I-I-I-I-I speak - I speak better - if the words are in front of me,â€ Edward said. â€œNot in my head.â€
â€œThat was Cousin Maureen?â€ Alice said.
â€œI â€¦ this is her diary,â€ Edward said.
â€œVery good, Ed,â€ Gordon said.
Gerdie was glad she hadnâ€™t shown Cousin Maureen her coins.
â€œOh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh guys,â€ Edward said. â€œH-h-h-hereâ€™s another one. You want - you-you-you-you want - you want to hear it.â€
â€œYes,â€ Gordon said.
â€œâ€˜Edith spoke out against me in the market place,â€™â€ Edward read. â€œâ€˜She claimed to have seen me meeting with a strange man in the woods while she looked for a lost lamb. Luckily, my husband knows of her spiteful nature and I was able to convince him that her words were nothing but lies.â€™
â€œâ€˜Other whispers she does against me, drawing eyes to me. Her jealousy of me has been a thing I have put up with for far too long. Her husband has great wealth; her family good standing. She thinks she can slander me, say anything she likes and get away with it. She is wrong. Tomorrow when she awakens her voice will be gone, ripped from her and devoured by a spirit I have summoned.â€™
â€œâ€˜I am certain her husband will speak out on the pulpit, voicing his suspicion of vile magicks and witchcraft. I cannot have him stirring up trouble. I will give him a chance, one chance. If he takes his wifeâ€™s punishment as a warning and heeds it I will spare him. If he is filled with words of warning and damnation I will poison him with the Venom of Midnightâ€™s Sleep. His sleep will deepen through the hours between midnight and dawn, death claiming him with the first cockâ€™s crow.â€™â€
â€œWhat?â€ Donald said.
â€œHey!â€ Edward said.
â€œThatâ€™s what our parents have!â€ Gerdie said.
â€œThat-that-that-that-that-â€ Edward stuttered.
â€œWhat?â€ George said.
â€œThat-that-that-that-thatâ€™s-that-thatâ€™s exactly - thatâ€™s exactly what I was going to say,â€ Edward stuttered.
Donald ran out of the room, going down to the living room and grabbing his father, screaming â€œDad!â€ in his face, slapping and hitting him, and trying desperately to wake him up. The man didnâ€™t stir at all.
â€œNooo!â€ Donald cried out.
Gordon came into the living room, the others following behind. He tucked Great Grandpa Silasâ€™s keys back into his pocket.
â€œBut what if we need â€˜em?â€ Gerdie asked.
He took the key to the box off the little keychain and handed it to her.
â€œBut what if we need the other ones?â€ she asked. â€œWho knows what they go to?â€
â€œFine,â€ Gordon said. â€œIâ€™ll hold onto the keys.â€
â€œHow do we fix this!?!â€ Donald yelled.
â€œYeah, Edward!â€ George said.
â€œWhat?â€ Edward said. â€œWhat-what? Well-well-well-well what I - what I always say is â€˜for every concoction, thereâ€™s a cure.â€™â€
â€œBut what is that!?!â€ Donald said.
â€œI-I-I-I-I-â€ Edward stammered.
â€œHave you read any more about this?â€ Alice asked.
â€œYouâ€™re the smart one!â€ Donald said.
â€œThatâ€™s magic!â€ George said. â€œHow do you cure magic?â€
â€œWell-well-well-well-well Iâ€™ve never - well-well Iâ€™ve never - Iâ€™ve never heard of a thing called a curse of midnightâ€™s sleep,â€ Edward said. â€œBut I am â€¦ I-I-I-Iâ€™m sure - Iâ€™m sure - Iâ€™m sure thereâ€™s a way we-we-we just have - we just have to put together the pieces of the puzzle.â€
â€œI bet Cousin Maureen would know,â€ Gerdie said. â€œMaybe she has some sort of magic book.â€
â€œBut if this is her stuff â€¦â€ Donald said.
â€œWait, but Grandpa said â€¦ wait â€¦â€ George said.
â€œBut she looks like this?â€ Donald said.
He pulled up the terrible drawing he had made of the other boysâ€™ description.
â€œYes,â€ George said. â€œSomethingâ€™s wrong with her.
â€œThen why are we going to her?â€ Donald said.
â€œBut if thatâ€™s her, that books hundreds and hundreds of years old,â€ George said.
Edward didnâ€™t think it was that old.
â€œWell, this looks hundreds and hundreds of years old!â€ Donald said, gesturing towards the horrible sketch.
â€œW-w-w-w-w-well she did - she did talk about a-a-a-a-a life everlasting,â€ Edward said. â€œSo-so maybe she - maybe - maybe she - maybe she found the fountain of youth.â€
â€œHuh,â€ Gordon said.
â€œOr maybe sheâ€™s a ghost,â€ Alice said.
Donald looked at Simon.
â€œI-I-I-I-I-I donâ€™t - I donâ€™t - I donâ€™t think ghosts are scientific,â€ Edward said.
Donald looked at Edward.
â€œWell, Grandpa said the ghosts will be at Altar Rock, right?â€ Gerdie said.
â€œYeah!â€ George said. â€œYeah! He did!â€
â€œSheâ€™s being controlled by someone else!â€ Alice said, looking at the scattered journal pages. â€œShe has to be. This isnâ€™t her!â€
â€œW-w-w-w-well, she did say she had a master,â€ Edward said.
â€œExactly!â€ Alice said.
â€œWhat do we do?â€ George said.
â€œGo to Altar Rock,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œWasnâ€™t the master the devil or something?â€ Donald said. â€œLike Grandpa said?â€
Alice grabbed the knife back from Gerdie.
â€œAnd weâ€™ll end this!â€ Alice said.
â€œYouâ€™re gonna kill her?â€ Donald said.
Gerdie gave Alice a dirty look. Edward grabbed Aliceâ€™s hand and looked more closely at the knife. He thought it was some kind of sacrificial knife.
â€œHey-hey-hey-hey-hey look,â€ he said. â€œI read - I read - I read - Iâ€™ve read books about - uh - about South-South American in-in-indigenous people-tribes. They used to sacrifice people on altars. With knives like that.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s indigenous?â€ Donald said.
â€œIt-it means - it means a group of people who live - who live natively to the land,â€ Edward said.
â€œSo, are we indigenous?â€ Donald said.
â€œOh, I thought that meant when you were mad at people,â€ George said.
â€œI know itâ€™s not good,â€ Alice said. â€œBut this might be the only way we can solve this.â€
â€œW-w-w-w-what I want to know is-is w-why-why-why-why did - why did - why did â€¦â€ Edward said.
â€œGet it out!â€ Alice said.
â€œW-w-why did Grandpa - why did Grandpa keep the knife?â€ Edward said. â€œThat-that they tried to use on him?â€
â€œYeah,â€ Donald said.
â€œHe wouldnâ€™t have,â€ George said. â€œHe was just a baby. He said he couldnâ€™t even walk. Which means Great Great Grandpa kept it.â€
â€œOh,â€ Donald said.
â€œAlso, if he kept it that means the witch canâ€™t use it,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œAh,â€ George said.
â€œSo, should we put it back?â€ Donald said.
â€œNo!â€ Alice said.
Gerdie took the knife theyâ€™d found back from Alice. The other girl pouted.
â€œYou already gots one!â€ Gerdie said.
â€œI donâ€™t have one,â€ Donald said.
â€œYou know how to use that thing?â€ George asked Gerdie.
â€œSure!â€ Gerdie said. â€œYou stick the pointy end at the bad guys.â€
â€œOh câ€™mon!â€ Alice said.
George gave Gerdie a look.
â€œUh-huh,â€ he said.
â€œSays the guy who uses a baseball bat,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œI know how to use it!â€ George said.
â€œAnyone can use a baseball bat!â€ Gerdie said.
â€œAnd poindexter here knows how to use a - use a axe,â€ George said, pointing at Gordon.
â€œAt least my kind of has a sharp end though,â€ Gordon said. â€œYours is just blunt.â€
â€œIâ€™m not comparing â€˜em, moron,â€ George said.
â€œUh-huh,â€ Gordon said.
â€œH-h-h-h-hey - hey guys,â€ Edward said.
â€œAny dummy can use a baseball bat!â€ Gerdie said.
â€œGet back in the hayloft!â€ George said to Gordon.
â€œHey guys, the pen is mightier than the sword,â€ Edward said with a grin.
They all looked at him. Then Gordon smacked him in the back of the head.
â€œAw jeez!â€ Edward said. â€œAw!â€
â€œShut up Ed!â€ Gordon said.
â€œYou really - you really got me that time,â€ Edward said.
â€œWait, do you know where a sword is?â€ Gerdie asked.
â€œW-w-w-w-what will - swords-swords are - swords are usually kept-kept-kept near the - near the armory in castles,â€ Edward said. â€œI read a lot about â€˜em.â€
â€œBut this isnâ€™t a castle!â€ Gerdie said.
â€œWell â€¦â€ Edward said.
â€œA manâ€™s home is his castle!â€ George said.
â€œThat makes no sense!â€ Donald said.
â€œWe only have until dawn!â€ Gordon reminded them. â€œIf that journal this is â€¦ â€˜cause they fell asleep at midnight if that was what that moonshine stuff is.â€
â€œIt seems timeâ€™s of the essence!â€ Edward said.
â€œBut why our parents?â€ Donald asked.
â€œI-I-I-I-I like - I like the idea - the idea of r-r-r-running an experiment where we - where we go out to Altar - to Altar Rock and-and see if - see if - see if there really is something - something there,â€ Edward said.
â€œYou use big words,â€ Donald said.
â€œWe need lights first,â€ Gerdie, ever practical, said. â€œWe need to find some lanterns.â€
As there was no electricity in the house, it was easy to get together a half dozen full lanterns.
â€œWhat about them candles?â€ George asked.
â€œIâ€™m not using candles!â€ Gerdie said. â€œYou canâ€™t see far with candles!â€
â€œOkay,â€ George said.
â€œYou canâ€™t,â€ Donald said.
â€œOkay!â€ George said.
â€œI mean you can take â€˜em!â€ Gerdie said.
â€œOi-oi-oil-oil burns longer than - than wicks too,â€ Edward said.
â€œOkay!â€ George said.
â€œWhat he said,â€ Alice said.
Edward examined the black candles but wasnâ€™t sure what occult significance they might have had. When he looked at the vegetable matter on the bottom, Alice piped up.
â€œItâ€™s pumpkin!â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m sure of it.â€
â€œIf she uses these candles for spells, maybe she needs â€˜em to reverse the spell,â€ Gerdie said.
She got a pillowcase, using it as a sack, and put the candles into it. Everyone but Gerdie and George remembered Great Grandpa, in his story, mentioned using jack-o-lanterns to protect him from evil spirits.
â€œHey-hey-hey-hey guys,â€ Edward said. â€œI gotta small - I gotta small pumpkin! And Grandpa did say they used pumpkin to scare off the spirits so, if the spirits are there, we should - maybe - maybe some of us should carry - carry pumpkins. I-I donâ€™t - Iâ€™m notâ”€â€
â€œMaybe we could put the candles in the pumpkins,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œThatâ€™s what I was going to say!â€ Donald said. â€œIt already has pumpkin stuff on it.â€
â€œI ainâ€™t putting â€˜em in mine,â€ George said. â€œMine looks like crap.â€
â€œMy didnâ€™t come out the way I wanted,â€ Donald said.
Edward got his own pumpkin, which was small, and Gordon got his, which was huge. Aliceâ€™s was normal sized, still needing two hands to carry. Those were the three that looked the best.
â€œIâ€™ll bring Leopold,â€ Alice said. â€œHeâ€™ll ward off any bad spirits.â€
â€œLeopold?â€ Donald said.
â€œYou named your pumpkin?â€ George sneered.
â€œYes!â€ Alice said. â€œYou can do that! Itâ€™s not in the rules!â€
â€œHey, donâ€™t knock it,â€ Gordon said. â€œI named mine Terry.â€
â€œMineâ€™s-mineâ€™s nameâ€™s Lâ€™il Ed,â€ Edward said.
â€œLead?â€ Donald said.
â€œL-Lâ€™il Ed,â€ Edward said.
Gerdie wanted to take her strange-looking, twisted pumpkin.
â€œIt has runes on it!â€ she said.
They gathered some of their jack-o-lanterns and made sure they had plenty of wooden matches.
â€œThe kitchen probably has more knives,â€ Gerdie said.
Gordon hefted one of the big jugs of the poison moonshine. It was very heavy.
â€œShould we pour that out?â€ Donald said.
â€œEither pour it out or pour it in something smaller so we can take some with us,â€ Gordon said.
Donald found a mason jar and they poured some of the moonshine into it. Gordon tucked it into his overalls. Donald went to look for a Bible but only found the really big family bible. He couldnâ€™t find another one.
Gerdie went looking for guns, remembering several on a gun rack in the living room. There was a Remington Model 14A slide action rifle, a Springfield M1903 rifle, and a Remington M1894 double barrel shotgun. She couldnâ€™t find any ammunition for any of the guns except for the Remington rifle, which had five bullets in it. She took the rifle to Gordon, who she knew was a good shot. He checked to see how many bullets there were and shouldered it.
Gerdie also grabbed a kitchen knife.
â€œHey, Ed, you wanna hold this book?â€ Donald said, coming into the kitchen with the huge family bible.
â€œOh Iâ€™m good at holding books,â€ Edward said. â€œI do it all day.â€
Donald handed him the large family Bible.
â€œOh,â€ Edward said, disappointed.
â€œThanks Ed!â€ Donald said. â€œKeep that book. Remember, he said he had to bring the good book. I think thatâ€™s what he meant.â€
â€œI-I-I-I-Iâ€™ve read a lot - Iâ€™ve read a lot of good books that didnâ€™t - that told me more about the world than this,â€ Edward said.
â€œWow!â€ Donald said.
â€œWow,â€ Gordon said. â€œHey, George, you can have your own wood axe now.â€
He had seen another one behind the house.
â€œI donâ€™t want no damned wood axe,â€ George said. â€œI got my baseball bat. Iâ€™m gonna beat some witches.â€
Gordon got some other candles in the kitchen so they didnâ€™t have to use the black ones. He cut them in half as they were very tall.
â€œDidnâ€™t they say something about dogs?â€ Alice said. â€œHunting dogs?â€
â€œBoomer!â€ Gordon called out.
They found Boomer in the corner of the kitchen, still distressed from sniffing the horrible poisoned applejack. Gordon tried to get the dog to come with them but he was terrified of everything and snapped at the boy. Donald tried to pet him but he shied away from the boy, showing his teeth.
â€œWell, no dogs for us,â€ Donald said. â€œBut weâ€™ve got a Bible. Ainâ€™t that right, Ed?â€
â€œYeah,â€ Edward said. â€œI-I-I-I still - I still have it.â€
â€œGood!â€ Donald said. â€œWeâ€™re gonna need it, probably. I donâ€™t know.â€
He looked at the loaded down Edward with the Bible, jack-o-lantern, and matches.
â€œMaybe we should bring a backpack,â€ he said.
â€œWhy?â€ Alice asked.
â€œSo he donâ€™t have to carry all that,â€ Donald said.
â€œI-I didnâ€™t bring a backpack,â€ Edward said.
â€œYou got one?â€ George said. â€œNo!â€
â€œI was gonna look!â€ Donald said.
â€œ None of us have backpacks!â€ George said.
â€œIâ€™m going to look and see if Grandpa does,â€ Donald said.
He looked in Great Grandpa Silasâ€™s closet but didnâ€™t find anything they could use.
â€œH-H-H-Had we been on - had we been on a school trip, I would - I would always have my backpack,â€ Edward said.
â€œThatâ€™s great!â€ Donald said.
â€œAnd his pencil box,â€ George said.
â€œYeah!â€ Edward said. â€œAnd-and my pencil box.â€
â€œYou can put it in this pillow case,â€ Gerdie said.
George grabbed Edwardâ€™s jack-o-lantern and tucked it under his arm.
â€œYou canâ€™t walk around like that, you idiot,â€ he said.
â€œWhat?â€ Edward said. â€œI-I-I-I-I was doing just fine.â€
â€œYouâ€™re â€¦ shut up,â€ George said. â€œPut the matches in your pocket, dummy.â€
Edward did so.
Donald grabbed a big butcher knife. His mother wouldnâ€™t let him hold the one at home. Simon gave him a big smile.