Authors: John Bellairs
He fell onto the sidewalk, which was sunk between two banks of grassy earth. He fell awkwardly, with his right arm pinned across his belly and his left hand thrust out to break his fall. He landed with a sickening thud and lay there in a daze. His body stung all over. The heel of his left hand was scraped, and it burned like fire. Warm blood was oozing out of it. In the distance, the dog was still barking. Anthony shook his head and groaned. He felt sick. Then he tried to raise himself on his right arm, but the arm wouldn’t move.
The dog went right on barking, but it didn’t follow him. It was a stray that had crept into Prince’s old doghouse to get out of the cold and was trying to defend its right to stay. Anthony didn’t know that, of course. He was bruised and shaken, and scared and cold and shivering. Using his left hand, he dragged himself to his knees. He shook his head groggily and looked around. Up above him, at the top of the low bank he had just fallen down, was a wire. It glimmered faintly in the light from the distant street lamp. A trip wire. Mrs. Speece had rigged it up because she had gotten tired of having kids cut across her backyard.
Anthony staggered to his feet. He put his left hand under his right forearm to hold it up. He had the very strange and terrifying feeling that if he took his hand away, his right arm would drop off. He looked at it as if he had never seen it before. It still seemed to be attached. But it was useless. It wouldn’t move, and a dull pain was spreading through it. He shook his head groggily. The dog barked some more, louder now, and then a light came on in an upstairs window of Mrs. Speece’s house. Anthony was so shaken and confused that all thoughts of burglary and treasure had been driven right out of his mind. All he wanted to do was get away from Mrs. Speece’s house before she discovered him.
He stumbled up the second bank, checked to make sure there wasn’t a second trip wire—there wasn’t—and walked quickly out to the sidewalk, across the little side street, and then across Front Street to the park. He started trotting along one of the long diagonal walks that crossed the park. Confused and jumbled thoughts were running through his head:
What am I doing out here anyway? 1 must ye been out of my mind.... This is all a weird dream.... I’ll wake up any minute now.... Wasn’t it funny about that dog? What the heck was he doing there? There wasn’t supposed to be any dog in that doghouse. Maybe they left him behind when they moved...
A sharp pain shot through his arm and shoulder. The pain cleared his head. It shook him out of the dreamy, numb state he had been falling into. He had better go get help. Now, as he began to get his bearings, he realized that he was closer to Miss Eells’s house than he was to home. He started walking faster. He walked from one pool of lamplight to another, and dead leaves scuttled past him as he went.
He crossed the park and started up Hannah Street. He was headed toward Miss Eells’s house now. His arm burned, and he felt feverish. Now the dreamy state was coming back. All sorts of weird fantasies flitted through his mind. He wondered,
Is gangrene setting in? Will they have to cut my arm off?
He had watched westerns on TV where men had their legs cut off. They always gave them whiskey to drink and made them bite hard on pieces of leather. A vague terror began to grow in his mind. Would his arm be all right?
He walked on through the silent streets, holding his arm carefully in front of him like a parcel. When he got to Miss Eells’s house, he went up on the porch and rang the bell. He rang it three, four, five, ten times, pushing the button hard and holding it in for a long time.
Oh, please answer, Miss Eells,
he sobbed to himself.
Please be there, please be there. Oh, somebody do something, please do something...
The porch light went on. He heard Miss Eells fumbling with the lock. Then the door opened, and Miss Eells was standing there in her bathrobe and slippers. Her glasses were stuck crookedly onto her nose. She looked crabby at first, as people often do when they have just been awakened. But then her mouth dropped open.
“Good Lord, Anthony! What are
doing here at this hour?”
“I—I—my arm,” stammered Anthony. His eyes were stinging. “I think I’ve broken my arm....”
Miss Eells made Anthony sit down on the couch in the living room. Then she went out to the hall and picked up the phone. She dialed the Mondays’ number. The phone rang a long time, but finally somebody answered. It was Mrs. Monday. She sounded sleepy and annoyed.
“Hello, Mrs. Monday. This is Myra Eells. I really don’t quite know how to tell you this, but about two minutes ago Anthony showed up at my door. No, I don’t know any more than you do what he was doing out at this hour. Just calm down and listen to me. I think he’s broken his arm. Yes, that’s right, his arm. I’m going to drive him down to the—well, how do I know how he broke it? Please be calm and listen. I’m going to drive him down to the hospital. I’ll see you down there. Okay?” Without waiting to hear what else Mrs. Monday had to say, Miss Eells hung up.
When Miss Eells got back to the living room, Anthony was still sitting there on the couch, holding his arm and looking frightened. She sat down on the couch next to him and laid her hand gently on his knee. “Anthony?”
“Yeah, Miss Eells?”
“Come on, I’m going to take you down to the hospital, to the emergency room. You’ll be okay. Don’t worry. They’ll know what to do down there.”
“All right,” Anthony said in a dull, lifeless voice.
Miss Eells drove straight to the hospital and took Anthony into the brightly lit emergency room. A nurse told him to sit down; she’d be with him in a few minutes. He nodded dumbly and did as he was told. He felt as if he had somehow become a very small child again, fit only to be ordered around from place to place by grown-ups. Soon a doctor came. He carefully felt the two bones of Anthony’s forearm. Neither of them was broken. Then his hand moved up, and Anthony winced. Hot pain shot up through his shoulder.
“So it’s there, eh?” said the doctor, nodding very professionally. “Humeral fracture. We don’t get many of those.”
Anthony had broken the big bone of his upper arm. And what’s more—as the doctor found out after he took an X-ray—the two pieces of the arm bone had separated and were now lying next to each other, like this:
The doctor thought he might have to operate to get the two pieces back where they ought to be. But first he wanted to try something else. He put Anthony’s arm in a very heavy cast. Then he told him that he wanted him to spend the night in the hospital with his arm hanging down over the side of the bed. If the heavy cast did its work, the bones would slide back into place.
A few minutes later, Anthony was lying in an iron bed at the end of a long, dark hallway. His whole right arm, from fingertips to shoulder, was encased in a heavy white plaster cast. He had been given a shot of morphine to kill the pain and help him to sleep. It made him feel very relaxed and happy and drowsy. Miss Eells was sitting on a chair next to the bed. She looked at him in a kind, motherly way. There were tears in her eyes.
“I called your mother before I left the house, Anthony,” Miss Eells whispered. She leaned forward and looked at his face. “But—by the way, can you still hear me?”
“Uh huh,” said Anthony dreamily.
“Good. Now, I wonder if you could tell me what happened before she gets here. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I would sort of like to know.”
“I was going after the treasure,” said Anthony in a dull, faraway voice. “I fixed the door of Mr. Winterborn’s house just like a real burglar, and then I was scared to go in, but then I thought I better try, on account of we need the money, only there was this dog and I got scared, and I tripped on a wire and fell down. I’m sorry... I’ll... do... better... next...” Anthony’s head dropped down on his shoulder. He was asleep.
I should have known he would try to burglarize that house, thought Miss Eells bitterly. I should have known.
But then what could she have done to stop him? Nothing, probably.
“Damn Alpheus Winterborn anyway!” said Miss Eells out loud.
A nurse at the far end of the hall heard her and turned, startled. Miss Eells’s face flushed with embarrassment.
“Nice old ladies shouldn’t swear,” she muttered to herself as she got up to leave.
In the hall she ran into Anthony’s mother. Mrs. Monday had just stepped out of the elevator, and she looked like the wrath of God. As soon as she saw Miss Eells, she lost her temper.
“What did you do to my son?” Mrs. Monday yelled. “You dragged him out in the middle of the night to go gallivanting around on some crazy scheme of yours, didn’t you?”
“Easy, easy, for heaven’s sake!” whispered Miss Eells. “Calm down! I didn’t do anything to Anthony! He came to my house after he’d...” Miss Eells paused. She was on the point of telling the whole tale to Mrs. Monday, but then she changed her mind.
“Yes? After he’d what?” Mrs. Monday glared at Miss Eells impatiently.
“After he’d been out running around. I don’t know why he was running around in the middle of the night. I really don’t. Please believe me.”
Mrs. Monday glanced around distractedly. “Well, where is he? What have they done with him?”
There was a nurse standing next to Mrs. Monday. As soon as she had heard the yelling, she had gotten up from her desk and walked over to see what was the matter. “Are you asking about Anthony Monday?” she said.
“Yes, I am. I’m his mother. Where is he?”
“He’s in a bed at the end of the hall. He’s asleep. His arm was set by Dr. Murphy, and he’s been given a morphine injection. As far as I know, there aren’t any further problems.”
The nurse went on talking to Mrs. Monday. While they were talking, Miss Eells very quietly slipped away and went down the back stairs. She left the hospital by a side exit, got into her car, and drove home. When she got to her house, she went straight to her bedroom, flopped down on her bed in her clothes, and was asleep in no time.
The next morning, Anthony’s mother took him home from the hospital. When he walked into his house, he found a large iron hospital bed set up for him in the parlor. There were fresh greenhouse flowers on a table in the corner, and everything had been set up to make the parlor into a bedroom for him. Doc Luescher was there, and he explained to Anthony that he would need to sleep in the hospital bed for a while, in a half-sitting-up position, because his arm still needed the pull of the heavy cast to straighten it out. The parlor had sliding doors, so the room could be made private. The doctor also explained to Anthony that he would have to exercise every day with a weight on his arm. That would help straighten it out, too.
So Anthony started on the road to recovery. It was strange sleeping in the parlor, but after a few rough nights, he got used to it. Days passed. The arm began to mend, and as it did, the bone made all sorts of funny pops and pings and twinges. Every day Anthony would spend half an hour pacing back and forth, back and forth, on the parlor rug with a pail of oranges hanging from his arm by a sling. Sometimes when he couldn’t sleep at night he watched TV. All the movies seemed to be treasure movies:
The Treasure of Monte Cristo, The Return of Monte Cristo, Treasure Island—
movies like that. Sometimes, as Anthony watched these movies, a tear would come trickling down his cheek.
Anthony’s mother was very nice to him and served him meals in bed. Every now and then, when they were alone together, Mrs. Monday would try to find out from Anthony just what it was that he had been doing when he broke his arm at two in the morning. Anthony didn’t tell her much. He had never told her one blessed thing about the treasure of Alpheus Winterborn, and he wasn’t going to start now. There was still a faint chance that someday, some way, he might get his hands on it, and then would be the time to spill the beans. He did tell his mother something, of course. He told her that on the night he broke his arm, he had been unable to sleep, so he had gotten up and wandered out into the night. He had cut across somebody’s yard, and there had been this trip wire, and bingo! He had fallen down and broken his arm. He had gone to Miss Eells’s house for help because it was nearby.
Mrs. Monday didn’t believe a word of this tale, but she planned to worm the truth out of him when he got better.
Weeks passed, and with them, Christmas. Anthony had received some nice presents, but he wondered if he would ever get the present he longed for—from Alpheus Winterborn.