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Chapter 2 My Uncle
After a time, somebody turned a key in the door. Then the door opened a little. I moved inside — and it shut quickly after me.
' Go into the kitchen,' said the man.
And he turned the key in the door again.
I found the kitchen. There was light from a small fire, but no other light. There was a table, with a plate of food and a drink on it. It was a big room, and there were large boxes near one wall.
A small, grey man came into the kitchen. He was about sixty years old. He watched me but never looked at my face.
' Who is he ?' I thought.' What is his work here ?'
'Are you hungry?' he asked. 'You can have that food.'
' But it's your dinner,' I said.
'That's all right,' he said. 'I'll have the drink.' He drank, then put out his hand.' Give me the letter.'
' The letter isn't for you,' I said.' It's for Mr Balfour.'
' And who do you think I am ?' he said.' Give me Alexander's letter.'
' You know my father's name ?' I said.
'Of course,' he said. 'He was my brother. I'm your uncle, Davie. So give me the letter. Then sit down and eat.'
I gave him the letter, then ate some food.
'So your father is dead,' he said suddenly. 'Did he tell you anything about me ?'
' No,' I said.' He never said anything about a brother.'
' Ah!' he said.' And did he say anything about Shaws ?'
' I never heard the name,' I said.
' That's strange,' he said. But he smiled.' Now it's time for bed. I'll show you the way.'
He took me up some stairs without a light. Then he opened a door. The room inside was dark too.
' I want a light,' I told him.,
'No lights in this house,' he said. 'I'm afraid of fire. Good night. 'And he pushed me into the room.
Then he turned the key in the door.
The room was cold. And the bed — when I found it - was not dry. That night, I slept on the floor.
The next morning, breakfast was small. In the room next to the kitchen I found a lot of books. Inside one of them were some words in my father's writing: To my younger brother Ebenezer on his birthday.
I couldn't understand it. The writing was my father's, but it was not the writing of a child. So Ebenezer was the younger brother. Then why did he have the family house ? Before my father died, he had very little money.What did it mean?
I looked at the books, then cleaned the room. It was a hot day, and I thought,' There'll be rain and lightning later.'
That evening at dinner, my uncle spoke very kindly to me.
' You can help me with the house and garden, Davie,' he said. 'And I'll help you. But I'll want some papers before I can do that. They're in a box at the top of the stairs at the other end of the house. You can only get to the stairs from the outside. Here's the key' And he pulled a big old key out of his coat.' Go in, and up the stairs, and bring down the box.'
I asked,' Can I have a light, sir?'
' No,' he said.' No lights in this house.'
He opened the big door, and I went out into the night. I put my hands on the walls and found my way to the door at the end. The key turned in the door, but not easily. Then I found the stairs inside. I started to climb — higher and higher.
I climbed about 120 feet, then the rain began. Suddenly, lightning moved quickly across the sky. And I saw something! I stopped and cried out! There were no more stairs! And it was a long way down! Then everything was dark again.
'My uncle sent me up here ...' I thought. 'He ... wants to kill me!'
I came down the stairs very carefully. Sometimes lightning lit the stairs, but most of the time it was dark. And dangerous.
I came out of the door. Suddenly, lightning showed me my uncle at the other door. He didn't see me. He was afraid of the lightning, and he ran into the house.
When I walked into the kitchen, his face went white.
' You — you're all right ?' he said.
' Yes, thank you!' I said angrily.
I wanted to ask questions but he said,'I'll tell you about it in the morning. I want to go to bed now. I'm ill — very ill.'
I shut him in his room and turned the key in his door. Then I went back to the kitchen and made a big fire. That night I slept on the boxes.