Excerpted from The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall Copyright © 2015 by Jeanne Birdsall. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Only one low mound of snow still lurked in Batty Penderwick's yard, under the big oak tree out back, and soon that would be gone if Batty continued to stomp on it with such determination.
"Spring can't get here until the snow's all melted," she explained to her brother, Ben, who was celebrating the end of winter in his own way, by digging in the dirt for rocks. Rocks were his passion.
"Ms. Lambert said that spring came in March." Ben was in second grade and still believed everything his teacher told him. "It's April now."
"Officially spring came in March, but it can't really be here unless the snow is gone and the daffodils are in bloom. Dad said so." Having made it all the way to fifth grade, Batty had learned to be wary of teachers, but her father was much more trustworthy. "And since one of Mrs. Geiger's daffodils bloomed yesterday, if I can just get rid of--"
She was interrupted by a clunk--Ben's shovel had struck metal.
"Gold!" he cried.
Batty looked up from her stomping, but before she could explain the unlikelihood of finding gold in their yard, she caught a flash of red in an upper window of the house.
"Duck and cover!" she cried to Ben.
He didn't need to be told twice. He threw himself against the house and crouched, out of sight of that window. And just in time, too. The flash of red had resolved itself into a wild mop of curls atop a little girl, her nose pressed against the screen. This was two-year-old Lydia, the youngest of the Penderwick family, who was supposed to be napping. Recently she'd discovered that by standing on a pile of the toys in her crib, she could get a better view of the world. The family verdict was that it wouldn't be long before she figured out how to climb out of the crib altogether.
Lydia, so cherubic up there in her window, now roared like a furious foghorn. "BEN!"
Batty called up to her. "Go back to sleep, Lydia."
"Lydia is done," came the reply.
"No, you're not done, because nap time isn't over for another fifteen minutes."
Wobbling atop her precarious pile, Lydia pondered this, then went back to her original thought. "BEN!"
In his hiding place, Ben was whispering no, no, no at Batty. She sympathized. Lydia loved everyone she'd encountered in her short life--never had a Penderwick been so pleased with the human race--but she loved Ben most of all. This was a burden no boy should have to bear.
And, too, it was important that Lydia not get her own way all the time. Batty shook her head at the window and said, "Ben is busy, and you have to rest some more."
"But--" Mid-protest, Lydia fell off her pile of toys and disappeared from sight.
"Is she gone?" asked Ben.
"I think so. Stay where you are for a minute, just in case she pops up again."
Lydia was the most recent addition to the Penderwick family, bringing the total to eight. For the first half of Batty's life, there had been only five: Batty, her father, and her three older sisters, Rosalind, Skye, and Jane. Five had been a good number. Then Mr. Penderwick had married Ben's mother, Iantha, making seven, and seven had been an even better number, because everyone was so fond of Ben and Iantha. And now, eight--eight was a lot, especially when the eighth one was Lydia.
Batty glanced back up at the window. It was still empty, which meant that either Lydia had gone back to sleep or she was rebuilding her pile of toys from scratch. Batty had watched her do it once or twice, and it was no easy project.
"All clear for now," she told Ben.
"Then come see what I've found." He went back to where he'd been digging, scrabbled around with his shovel, and brought to light a flat piece of metal encrusted with rust and dirt. Although his previous non-rock finds had been worthless--a tiny and ancient glass bottle, various chunks of broken plastic, and a ring full of keys that opened nothing--Ben never gave up hope of discovering riches untold.
"It's only an old door hinge," said Batty. "Definitely not gold."
"Well, it's not like there were ever pirates burying treasure in western Massachusetts."
"I know that." He plunged his shovel back into the dirt. "Somebody else could have, though, like a banker, and maybe not just gold. Diamonds are possible, or mortgage bond fidelity securities."
Batty had a feeling he'd made up mortgage bond fidelity securities. It didn't matter. There wouldn't be any of them in their yard, either. Good thing Ben was so fond of the rocks he did find. And also mud, because he was covered with it now.
"How did you get mud on your head?" She went at him with the sleeve of her sweatshirt, rubbing off the muck obscuring his hair, the same bright red as Lydia's.
"Stop that," said Ben.
She gave him one last scrub, made sure Lydia hadn't reappeared at the window, and went back to stomping on her pile of snow.