Radar appeared to approve of the center box of the nine – although, perhaps out of consideration to Aunt Bea, he wasn’t talking. Beryl, armed with the gloves the cat had suggested and a scarf tied over her nose and mouth, moved everything with the care usually taken by museum archivists.
(She wondered, very briefly, what a historian or archaeologist would make of the family archives, such as they were. Had anyone in the family ever studied archeology?)
“Aunt Bea…” Her voice was muffled by the scarf, but Aunt Bea’s hearing was still sharp. “Do we have any historians in the family?”
“Oh, the family doesn’t tend to go that way.”
“Aah.” Beryl noted the tone, and wondered what Aunt or pushy Granny had inculcated that idea into the family. “I think it might be fun to do a study of all this, that’s all.”
“Well, but who could you show it to?”
“Aunt-” She hefted the box out of its spot and set it, carefully, on a clear patch of attic floor “-Evangeline. Or maybe one of the cadet branches – hey, how come they’re the cad… never mind. Thanks for letting me take this, Aunt Bea.” That was Dangerous Territory. People Beryl’s age weren’t supposed to worry about Dangerous Territory.
“Don’t worry too much about the politics, honey. It’ll sort itself out, it always does. And be careful with what’s in those boxes – I mean, tell Eva to be careful.” Was that a wink, or just a trick of the light?
Beryl had earned the privilege of a locked door with her fourteenth birthday, and was very grateful for it as she and Radar sat down with the box. Not that she thought her mother would exactly object, but her mother would talk to her sisters, and her cousins, and they’d talk to their mothers, and their aunts, and so on, and soon Beryl would find herself buried in Grannies again.
She turned up the music nobody else in the house liked – just loud enough to be audible if one stopped to listen, not loud enough to get her yelled at by anyone else – triple-checked the lock, and made sure The Necklace was wrapped in silk and locked in a stone box. “All right, Radar.” She popped the lid and stared inside. “What am I looking for?”
“It’s going to be a journal.” Radar jumped into the box, growing smaller as he did in a show of power he almost never exhibited. The kitten-size fit much better among the paperwork. “If I recall, it was bound in leather – brown and green – and wrapped in ribbon.”
“There’s so much stuff here.” She lifted out a folder labelled Family Photographs, 1910. The handwriting was a long, spidery script she’d seen more than a few times before. “And what’s dangerous about photos?”
“In your family? Everything.” The cat pushed aside a yellowed book of sheet music; Beryl had never heard of the composer, but she could smell the magic still coming off of it like dust. “Here it is. Careful, girl, it’s old.”
Old didn’t begin to cover it. Beryl stared at the cover of the book, with its flaking gold-embossed name. “Is that…”
It had to be. The family, for reasons of clarity, did not repeat names. But she had to ask again, anyway. “Is that…”
“The secrets have been lost for a long time indeed, child. Take it.” Radar pushed the book towards her. “You’re going to need it.”
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