A Cold Attic Discussion

For those who love The Williams House. . .

The Williams House; Chapter 8: The Cold Days of February; Pgs. 153-157

.     Once the holiday season ended, snow continued to fly and the days continued to become colder and colder. School resumed, and the days of January tolled slowly by. Timothy found that his Latin much improved, and Will found he could now recite the entire Declaration of Independence. Lilly and Ann found the higher math and sciences to be challenging, but they studied it with new found rigor and interest. Johnathon could play the piano better than any of his siblings (and even Will eventually had to admit it), and Margaret was improving much on her spelling and grammar. Susan was learning a lot too, and would have qualified for a first grader—and Maria for kindergarten.
.     The days and nights passed into February, and still the temperature dropped. It was now so cold that the children were very seldom let out, and when they were, it was normally to shovel the driveway or the sidewalk leading to their barn. A snow plough would every once in a while come along the road and dig it out. And of course, when this would happen, the plough would fling a lot of snow back onto the Williamses’ driveway, and the children would have to shovel some of it again. And so, with all the hard work outdoors and in school, the month of February became one of those months that just slowly lumbered by.
.     One of these days, Will was sitting by the back door with textbook, paper and pencil in hand. It was mid-afternoon, and the house smelled mostly of stale food, schoolwork, and wood burning from their fireplace. (I can’t describe how a house can smell of schoolwork, and you will have to imagine it unless you do school often in your house too—then you will know what I mean.) Gray clouds had completely covered the sky, and everything was relatively quiet. The grandfather clock in the upstairs hall could be heard ticking as its pendulum swung. It was altogether a very dull day.
.     “Is there going to be another blizzard, Mother,” Will asked as he looked at the clouds.
.     “Whatever you say, dear,” Mrs. Williams answered haphazardly from the schoolroom. Will could hear her teaching someone, though he didn’t know who. He sighed and ploughed back into his schoolwork, though he was thinking all the time, How slow the time can go these days.
.     The evenings seemed to be the great relief during these times. All the children would go up to the attic, schoolwork being completely done for the day, and spend hours and hours holding meetings together, playing, reading, and telling stories. The warm stone chimney and furnace did wonders to keep the large room warm, and only if they put their hands on the window glass could they feel the cold of the outdoors.
.     This particular evening, chaos seemed to be erupting, everyone feeling tired and rowdy after the school day. Timothy was going back and forth from pounding on the piano to chasing the youngers and making them scream. Lilly and Ann were trying to manage the situation, but it was clear that they were quite put out themselves and not engaging fully. Johnathon was doing his best to ignore and was playing the same song on the flute over and over again.
.     “Attention, everyone,” said Will. He was the only one sitting on one of the sofas, and his head was bowed to his chest and his fingers laced on his lap as his fedora was pushed down to his eyebrows.
.     Everyone paused and looked at him, eager for any change.
.     “I propose we hold a discussion,” said Will. “We could have it right here, as usual, with me presiding as moderator.”
.     “Yes, let’s,” said Lilly in a relieved voice.
.     “Very well, then,” said Will. “Gather around.”
.     The youngers perked up now that something was really happening, and they crowded around the sofas and cushioned chairs, waiting for the meeting to begin. The windows were dark, but they knew that snow was falling and could see several white flakes come up to some of the windows in the wind. It was a soft wind, though, and they couldn’t hear it. Everything seemed to be quiet and still, their breathing being the only audible noises until Will spoke.
.     “We all know of the trials these days are,” said Will, “and I think, personally, that we have done a very good job at trudging through them. But I say let’s take stock and see where we are.” He paused to gain affirmations from the others.
.     “Very well,” said Lilly and Johnathon. And after a moment, everyone started nodding their heads and saying “yes,” “good idea,” and even a “hear, hear!” from Timothy. Ann added, “Proceed.”
.     “So ordered,” said Will. “It seems as though this bitter weather could continue for several more weeks, even though it has lasted for several already. We have come up with many ideas over these past weeks, reading stories and playing exploration and writing poems and songs. Many thanks to everyone for the brilliant work we have all done in selling several of the poems and short stories we have made. But now, where from here? I propose that we do something with the money we will hopefully gain from our work—I mean something that will actually help Father and Mother somehow.”
.     Everyone thought this a splendid idea, and there were many remarks about how good it would be to surprise their parents. “But how?” Johnathon finally asked.
.     “Well,” said Will, “Perhaps we should just give it to them, and then they can decide what to do with it.”
.     “Do we know when the money is coming?” asked Margaret.
.     “The check for the stories should have been sent out by now,” said Lilly. “It might even be in today’s mail, though poor Mother is too covered up with our school papers to have checked yet.”
.     “Well then,” said Will, “is it decided? We shall give the money to them, keeping none for ourselves. They’re sure to do something grand with it, whatever that might be, and it might even surprise us when we find out.”
.     “Let’s vote,” said Johnathon. “I’m in favor.”
.     “Aye,” said everyone simultaneously.
.     “Good,” said Will, “then that’s settled.”
.     “Perhaps we could read a story now,” said Margaret.
.     “Or perhaps Mother could,” said Susan.
.     “She can’t,” said Lilly. “And anyway, she already read to us late this afternoon.”
.     Will cleared his throat, looking sharply as though the discourse was out of order.
.     “Then how about Lilly and Ann read,” said Margaret. “They have great reading voices, and I’m in the mood to listen.”
.     “Attend, everyone,” said Will, clapping his hands. “The meeting has not come to a close yet. Is there any other business?”
.     No one had any, and so Will was forced to close the meeting, calling out “adjourned.”
.     “Now Lilly and Ann can read to us,” he added.

Audio Continuation of Story; Pgs. 157-160

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