Read Mandie Collection, The: 4 Online

Authors: Lois Gladys Leppard

Mandie Collection, The: 4 (5 page)

BOOK: Mandie Collection, The: 4
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Mandie gasped. “Do y’all think someone is trying to trap us, or follow us?” She shivered at the thought.

“I certainly hope not,” Jonathan said as the three huddled closer together in the dark cavern.

The thought of someone near them in the darkness made Mandie want to get out of there fast. “Maybe we’d better keep moving,” she suggested. “Eventually, we’ve got to get somewhere.”

“Okay, hold on to me and stay together,” Jonathan replied. “I’m going to start walking again. Ready?”

“Yes,” the girls replied together as Jonathan moved forward.

At that instant the ground seemed to open up beneath Jonathan’s feet. He began falling into space. The girls fell with him, and Snowball clung to Mandie.

“Wow!” Jonathan hollered as he fell through the air. He landed below.

“Dear God, please help us!” Mandie cried. The girls clung to one another as they fell down beside Jonathan.

Mandie rubbed her painful bottom and looked around in the dim light. A monk in a hooded robe was crouching in the corner of the room they had fallen into. Mandie and Jonathan got up right away, but Celia remained on the floor, still shaken from the sudden fall.

Mandie walked cautiously toward the monk. “Please, mister, can you help us get out of this place?” she asked.

Snowball jumped up and raced about the room.

The man bowed his hood-covered head and backed quickly away from Mandie, apparently fearful of the sudden visitors from the floor above. He began chattering in frightened tones in another language.

“I’m sorry if we scared you,” Mandie told the man. She tried get closer to him and see his face, but he kept his distance and his face concealed within the full hood of his robe.

Jonathan tried speaking to the tall, mysterious monk. “Could you please just tell us how to get out of here?” he asked him.

The monk continued backing away.

Mandie turned to her friend, who still sat on the floor. “Celia, are you all right?” She bent to look at her.

Celia reached up and Mandie helped her to stand. But Celia was still shaking. “I’m all right,” she said in a hoarse whisper. She shook out her rumpled dress.

Mandie looked back at the monk. “Jonathan, try French,” she begged. “Maybe he understands that language.”

Jonathan did as she suggested. “We are sorry for disturbing you, but we are lost and are trying to get back outside. Can you help us?”

The monk continued to back away until he bumped into what looked like a concrete casket standing upright behind him. He turned, quickly pushed the lid aside and jumped in, closing the cover behind him.

Mandie gasped. “What on earth is he doing?”

They all stared after the monk, who had vanished into the standing vault.

Jonathan rushed forward and tried to move the lid. “Let’s see if we can get this open,” he said to the girls.

Mandie immediately went to help him.

Celia lagged behind. “Isn’t that a c-c-casket?” she asked.

Jonathan smiled at her. “Whatever it is, there was enough room inside for the man to get in. There can’t be a body inside.”

Celia shivered and then hesitantly touched the cold stone in an effort to help lift the lid.

“It’s so heavy we can’t even budge it, Jonathan,” Mandie complained. They all grunted and groaned as they worked on the lid. “How did he ever open it so easily?” she asked.

“There must be a latch or something to release it,” Jonathan replied. He bent to walk around the casket and examine the edges.

Mandie and Celia followed him. Snowball continued to race around the room.

“No luck.” Mandie sighed. “If I hadn’t seen the man open it and get inside, I’d say it was impossible.”

Celia stayed close to Mandie. “Where are we, anyway?” she asked, shivering in the damp, musty-smelling room.

“There isn’t a door or opening anywhere to get out of here that I can see,” Mandie remarked as she quickly walked around the small room. She stopped suddenly. “You know, there must be an exit in that casket! There’s no other way out of here.”

She looked up at the small, barred openings high in the wall on one side. “It would be impossible to get through one of those windows up there. They aren’t large enough. So how did the man get in here? Not only that, how did we get in here?” She looked overhead. “Look, there’s not even a hole in the ceiling where we fell through.”

“A trap door!” Jonathan exclaimed, scanning the ceiling. “We accidentally stepped on a trap door, and when we fell through, it closed up again.” He pointed above. “Look! See the cracks in the stone up there in the corner? That’s got to be where we fell through.”

“You’re right,” Mandie agreed, following his gaze. “There’s no way to get up there. Even if we could, we probably couldn’t open the trap door.” She looked around the room. There didn’t seem to be a single thing in the place except for the casket.

“What can we do?” Celia moaned.

“Let’s reenact what that monk did,” Mandie suggested. “Jonathan, make like you’re that man. He was standing right here when I first saw him.” She pointed to a place near where she stood, and Jonathan came to stand there.

“Then he began backing away from us,” Jonathan said as he started walking backwards.

“Toward the casket, Jonathan,” Mandie reminded him.

Jonathan glanced behind him and moved back toward the coffin. Mandie followed slowly, with Celia hovering nearby. Since they were all looking at the floor in search of a release for the lid or something hidden that the monk might have used, Jonathan abruptly bumped into the casket behind him. Nothing happened.

Mandie sighed in exasperation. “The monk was able to get the lid open. Let’s try again.”

The three of them once again used every ounce of their strength to try to budge the concrete lid. They couldn’t get it to even shake, much less move. They just stood there, looking at it.

“If we could only figure out the secret of opening that stubborn lid...” Mandie said.

“Maybe the man locked the lid from inside after he went through,” Celia suggested.

Mandie and Jonathan immediately turned to her.

“You’re probably right, Celia,” Mandie agreed. “He locked the lid so we couldn’t follow him.”

Jonathan shook his head and looked around the small room. “But I don’t understand why he would want to lock us up in here,” he said. “Surely he knows we have to get out some way or other.”

Celia shivered again. “Mandie, I’m awfully afraid.”

Mandie turned to her friend and said, “Celia, we need to say our verse.” She reached for Celia’s and Jonathan’s hands. “Ready?”

Her friends nodded and Mandie led the recitation of their favorite verse. “What time I am afraid I will put my trust in Thee.”

The girls blew out a deep breath and Mandie said, “Now we have to trust in the Lord to help us.”

“But don’t you think we need to
help
the Lord help us?” Jonathan asked.

“Well, I don’t think He expects us to just sit down and wait for Him to perform a miracle,” Mandie agreed.

“Maybe if we yelled real loud, somebody would hear us,” Celia suggested, staying close to Mandie.

“These walls are probably soundproof,” Jonathan told her. “They look thick, and remember how the other rooms seemed to be so silent?”

“Well, I agree with Celia,” Mandie said, stomping her foot. “Let’s try it. When we count to three, let’s all holler as loud as we can.”

“All right,” Celia agreed.

“All right,” Jonathan relented. “But it isn’t going to do any good.”

“Ready? One... two... three,” Mandie counted.

The three yelled at the top of their lungs. “Help! Help!” they cried. The sound reverberated off the stones and almost deafened them. They all clamped their hands over their ears.

Snowball was frightened by the noise and ran, meowing loudly, to his mistress. Mandie picked him up and tried to calm him as she whispered to him and rubbed his soft white fur.

“Snowball, I’m sorry,” she told the kitten as she rubbed her cheek on his head. Snowball straightened up and ran his rough red tongue across her face.

When Mandie put Snowball down, he immediately ran across the room to one corner and stood there meowing. Mandie looked at him, puzzled.

“Snowball, you must want outside. I’m sorry but there’s no door over there,” she told the kitten.

“Maybe he thinks you can make one,” Jonathan joked.

“I wish we could,” Celia said.

Snowball suddenly yowled loudly and looked back at Mandie.

“My goodness, Snowball. That’s enough to wake the dead!” Mandie exclaimed. Then she gasped, realizing what she had said. “Not the dead here in the catacombs, though,” she said, laughing nervously. “Come here.”

She walked toward him, and he continued wailing. As she stooped to pick him up, a piece of the stone wall suddenly swung open, knocking her to a sitting position on the rough floor. “Look!” she yelled to the others, pointing to the opening.

Jonathan and Celia quickly came across the room. Mandie grabbed her kitten and stood up.

Jonathan looked through the opening. “There are steps going up in there. Let’s go!” he said excitedly.

As they moved toward the opening, a hooded, robed figure coming down the stone steps blocked their way. All three young people froze. This couldn’t be the same monk who disappeared from the room. He had been tall, and this man was short and fat.

When the monk saw them, he stopped and motioned for them to follow him. He babbled in a language they couldn’t understand and turned to go back up the narrow, stone stairway.

Mandie and her friends looked at each other.

Mandie shrugged. “Well, it should be easy to find out where he wants us to go,” Mandie said, quickly following the man up the steps.

“And anywhere would be better than here in this room,” Celia added, joining her friend.

Jonathan brought up the rear. “I just wish I could understand what he’s trying to tell us,” he said in exasperation.

The steps seemed endless as the three hurried after the robed man. It was dark and musty smelling in the stairwell, and there were no openings along the way. A faint light from somewhere way above lighted the stairs enough to see the steps.

“Where do you suppose he is taking us?” Celia whispered to Mandie, staying close behind her friend.

Mandie held Snowball tightly. “I guess we’ll find out soon,” she replied.

“I hope it’s soon,” Jonathan added.

The man didn’t stop babbling all the way up the steps. Finally the light grew brighter, and they suddenly found themselves outside in a garden full of brightly colored flowers and shrubbery. They shielded
their eyes at the brightness and gazed around at the statues and fountains among the greenery.

“It’s beautiful!” Mandie exclaimed. The monk spoke loudly to catch their attention. Then he pointed to their right and motioned for them to go that way.

Mandie got a better look at the man then and was surprised to see that he seemed to be awfully old and wrinkled in spite of his agility in climbing the dozens of steps. He caught her glance and gave her a big smile.

“Thank you,” Mandie said, with her most winsome smile. The man didn’t answer, but continued to point to their right and motioned for them to go ahead. Jonathan and Celia thanked him too, and the three started off in the direction that he indicated. Mandie glanced back in time to see the monk disappear down the steps.

They followed a stone pathway, and as they came around a bend they were amazed to find they were at the entrance to the catacombs.

“Well, how do you like that?” Mandie exclaimed, “Somehow we came through another exit.”

Celia pushed back her tumbled auburn hair. “It must be awfully huge under there when you think how far we walked and everything,” she commented.

“It is,” Jonathan confirmed. “Remember, the guide said they were still excavating, so there’s no telling how big the place actually is.”

Visitors milled around the entrance as they approached. The three scanned the crowd for Mrs. Taft and Senator Morton.

“I don’t see them anywhere, do y’all?” she asked.

“No,” Celia replied.

“They’re probably still inside,” Jonathan remarked. “Come on.” He led the way back inside the caverns, and they all kept watching for the adults.

Mandie finally spotted her grandmother and Senator Morton in practically the same spot she had last seen them. They were standing before a huge inscription on the stone wall. She turned to the others. “There they are,” she said, motioning toward the adults. “What are we going to tell them?”

“The truth, Mandie,” Celia said firmly.

Snowball was squirming to get down, and Mandie held him firmly.

“But they’ll never believe us,” she protested. “And I’m not sure how long we’ve been gone, either.”

“It doesn’t really matter how long we’ve been gone,” Jonathan said. “We’ll have to tell them what happened, Mandie.”

“I’ll wait till Grandmother asks me, then I’ll just answer her questions truthfully,” Mandie decided. “Come on.”

Mandie and her friends walked up to Mrs. Taft and the senator.

“Amanda, we were just going to look for y’all,” Mrs. Taft said. “Are y’all ready to go?”

The young people looked at one another and smiled. Evidently they had not even been missed. In spite of the fact that the three looked dirty and rumpled, the adults didn’t seem to notice.

Mandie quickly pulled her bonnet back into place and motioned for Celia to do the same. “We’re ready, Grandmother,” she replied.

Mrs. Taft finally turned and gave them her full attention. “This is such an interesting place; I thought perhaps we could come back tomorrow or another day,” she said. “The senator and I were delayed, trying to decipher the inscriptions, and I’m afraid we didn’t get to see everything.”

Senator Morton smiled. “And we decided it was time to get something to eat,” he added.

“Sure, anything you say,” Mandie quickly agreed, trying to hide her relief at not being missed. She put Snowball down to walk on his leash.

They worked their way through the crowd to the entrance, and once outside Senator Morton told them to wait on a bench in the front garden while he went to hire a carriage.

BOOK: Mandie Collection, The: 4
13.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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