This is the next installment of the Lindy novel. Those who are new to the story may want to begin with Chapter One. Also, I am aware that there are some who like to follow the Lindy story but are not really interested in the rest of what I write, so I maintain an email list to alert these readers when I post a new chapter of the novel. Anyone who would like to be added to this list should free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Which Lindy Finds a Very Long Stairway
When Lindy woke, the house was calm once more, though it still felt watchful, like the rabbits in the park when they are keeping an eye out. Light was coming through a little window above her, but it was too high for her to see through, and it was hard to tell if it the light was from a late afternoon or an early morning sun. She wondered if she had slept straight through the night, though her stomach did not really feel empty enough for that.
Her room was quite small, with only a single bed and a dresser for furniture, both carved with leaves. There was also a mirror above the dresser and a painting of a tree above the bed, but once she had looked in the mirror to make sure that she was presentable and had looked at the painting for a while, there was nothing much for her to do, and she began to feel a little bored. Now, she was not one of those children who must be entertained all the time and who cannot live a moment that is not filled by amusements, but she was all alone in that little room, so she can hardly be blamed if she began to wonder whether it might be alright for her to look around the house a little. She could not remember anyone telling her otherwise, and the house seemed not to object when she tried to ask it, so she opened her door and peeked out into the hallway. Everything was deserted, and she was beginning to feel a little hungry again, so she decided to see if she could find the kitchen and ask Penates whether there was anything for her to eat.
She set off in what she thought was the right direction, but she had to turn one way or another at the end of the hallway, and then to turn again almost immediately afterward, and then again at the next room, and she was soon very lost indeed. There seemed to be more hallways and stairways than rooms, and the hallways were all a little narrow, and there were not really enough lights, so everything seemed a bit cramped and a bit dark and bit mysterious, and Lindy found herself wondering whether she would ever be able to find her way to the kitchen at all.
She was just considering calling for help, when she came into a very wide hallway that was lined with six doors on each side. The doors all had plaques above them with writing in strange black letters that Lindy could not read, but the nearest of the doors was half-open, so she could see that it held a little fieldstone fireplace, and a big oak desk, and a leather chair that was quite worn around its brass nailheads. The whole rest of the room was filled with books. It was not a large room, but its walls were entirely covered with shelves, and there were other shelves standing in the middle of it, and Lindy was quite sure that she had never seen so many books in one room before, not even at the public library. She walked into the room and went slowly along the shelves, running her fingers along the spines. Some of them were very old, with their leather bindings all cracked and broken, but others were almost new, with crisp cloth or paper bindings. Many of the titles were in other languages, and most of the English titles were complicated things like, On the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection, or Certain Considerations Touching the Better Pacification and Edification of the Church of England, or Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and Death’s Duel, but there were a few books that Lindy could understand. There was one about Charlemagne, who was a knight in some of the stories that she had read, and there was one about birds, which were her favourite animals, and there was one about Shakespeare, who was the writer of a play that she had read in school. The books did not seem to be in any order that she could see. They were not listed by their authors, or by their titles, or even by their subjects, but she still made sure to put them back exactly where she found them, just in case.
Lindy left the door partly open on her way out, just as it had been when she had gone in, and went to the next door along the hallway. It was closed, but she opened it a little and peeked inside. It was almost exactly like the one she had just left, filled with countless books, only it had no fireplace or chair, just a long table against one wall, like a counter. She did not go into this room, but closed it again, and went on to the next and the next. Each one was filled just the same with books, though the furniture was always a bit different from room to room.
Lindy had always loved books. They were easier than people. They were never too loud, and they never asked her for anything, and they always stayed where she put them. She was proud of her own little library of books that people had given her for birthdays and Christmases or that she had bought from garage sales with her allowance, but she had never imagined that someone could own so many books. They made the cozy little rooms feel very safe to Lindy, and she wondered what it would be like to curl up in that old leather chair in front of the fieldstone fireplace and just read forever. If only she could find the way from the library to the kitchen and back, she thought, she would even have someone to feed her, but the thought of food reminded her that she was hungry and that she still had no idea where the kitchen actually was, so she closed the last of the library doors and turned once more to finding her way through the house.
The door at end of the library corridor opened onto a landing with one stairway that led up into the floors above and another that led down below. She was fairly certain that the kitchen was downstairs, and besides, every fairytale that she had ever read had something strange and mysterious living in an attic or an old tower, so she thought it was probably best to follow the stairs downward, but the house seemed to be calling her upward instead. Before she had even decided which way to go, she realized that her foot was already on the lowest upward step, and when she had finished wondering how this had happened exactly, she found that she had gone a few steps higher, so she gave up trying to decide anything and let the house lead her up the stairs. After all, Lindy thought, it only made sense that the house would know best about where she was and about how to get her where she needed to go.
The stairs wound continuously upwards, but not in any regular way. Sometimes they went straight for a while, and sometimes they curved, and sometimes they turned sharply at landings that had windows overlooking the garden or doors that led onto hallways and rooms. Lindy stopped at each of the doors, and opened them, and looked into them, but she never went through them, though they sometimes looked very interesting. One opened into the balcony of a theatre with a stage and rows of chairs. Another led onto a long windowed hallway that ran along the peak of a roof toward a large dome. Another was mostly windows, and it had a long table shaped like a horseshoe that went all around its edges. Another had a glass ceiling like a green house and was filled with plants and birds and a pond with fish.
Lindy soon realized that none of these rooms were really possible. Mister Hat’s house was certainly very large, especially in comparison to her own, but it was not nearly tall enough for such a long staircase, and it was not nearly wide enough to hold such enormous rooms. She also knew that Mister Hat’s house did not have a hallway of windows along any of its roof peaks, or a tower in the middle of it, or a big dome, or any of the other things she saw. The house she was in now was clearly not the same house that she had seen so often from her attic window.
Just as she was thinking this, she turned another corner and saw that the stairway suddenly ended at a small door. She stopped for a moment, but then opened the door and peered through it, just as she had with all the others. Instead of a room or a hallway, this last door opened onto another set of stairs, much narrower and much steeper and much more regular than the ones that she had just climbed. Each flight took Lindy up the same number of stairs, and each turned her exactly to the right at the landings, until she could at last see that they ended above her, not at a regular door in the wall, but at a kind of hole in the floor, like the trapdoor to an attic, only there did not seem to be any door at all.
The stairs had been so dim and so plain and so narrow that Lindy was sure she would find an attic with a low ceiling, full of boxes and chests, something like her own. Instead, she found a room that was the biggest and most beautiful that she had seen in the whole house. It was wider and higher even than the theatre, stretching up like the peak of a church to the stained glass windows that ran around the top of the walls and covered the ceiling. The wood of the paneling and the floors was stained in beautiful patterns and perfectly polished. Huge chandeliers hung from the ceiling, already lit, though the sun was only just now beginning to set.
Despite its great size, however, the room was almost empty. There was a very long fireplace against one wall where a fire was burning low, as if it had been lit several hours before. In front of the fire, though not too close to it, there was also a long wooden table, with carvings on its legs and edges. It stood on a carpet woven of deep blues and bright golds, and it had twelve chairs on either side, with one more chair at the end closest to the fireplace. This chair was turned away from the table toward the fire, and its back was taller than the other chairs, so it took Lindy a moment before she noticed that there was a hand laid on the armrest and a person sitting in the chair.
“Hello Lindy,” said a voice from the chair, a stern and a quiet and a gentle voice. “I am glad that I could return in time to meet you here tonight. Things might have been quite different if you had found this room without me.”
As the voice was speaking, the person in the chair rose and turned toward Lindy. She knew at once that it was Mister Hat, but it was a different Mister Hat altogether from the one she had followed down the street so often. He was younger and stronger, and he was wearing a long robe of green worked with gold embroidery, and he had a crown of golden leaves in his hair. He was, Lindy recognized, the golden king that she had first seen coming through the arch, and she knew right away that he had always been this king, even when he had walked past her house each day. She suddenly felt a strange kind of wondering fear, and she tried to bow like she had seen people do on television, and she stumbled a little, and she fell on her knees right there on the hard floor.