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Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze

Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze

Автором Elizabeth Enright

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Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze

Автором Elizabeth Enright

4.5/5 (10 оценки)
200 pages
2 hours
Nov 10, 2015


Randy and Oliver Melendy awake one fall morning full of gloom. Their brother and sister are away, the house seems forlorn and empty, and even Cuffy, their adored housekeeper, can't pick up their spirits. Will they have to face a long and lonely winter? But a surprise message in the mailbox starts a trail of excitement and adventure that takes them through the cold season. When summer finally comes around again, the children have found fourteen messages in all, and the end of the search brings them a rich reward.

Full of unforgettable moments (like finding a secret note tucked under the dog's collar) and delightful twists of language (the more challenging clues, the better), this fourth book in Elizabeth Enright's Melendy Quartet makes for a grand finale to an equally grand collection of stories. Spiderweb for Two is the fourth and final installment of Enright's Melendy Quartet, an engaging and warm series about the close-knit Melendy family and their surprising adventures.

Nov 10, 2015

Об авторе

Elizabeth Enright (1907-1968) was born in Oak Park, Illinois, but spent most of her life in or near New York City. Her mother was a magazine illustrator, while her father was a political cartoonist. Illustration was Enright's original career choice and she studied art in Greenwich, Connecticut; Paris, France; and New York City. After creating her first book in 1935, she developed a taste, and quickly demonstrated a talent, for writing.  Throughout her life, she won many awards, including the 1939 John Newbery Medal for Thimble Summer and a 1958 Newbery Honor for Gone-Away Lake. Among her other beloved titles are her books about the Melendy family, including The Saturdays, published in 1941. Enright also wrote short stories for adults, and her work was published in The New Yorker, The Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, The Yale Review, Harper’s, and The Saturday Evening Post. She taught creative writing at Barnard College. Translated into many languages throughout the world, Elizabeth Enright's stories are for both the young and the young at heart.

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Spiderweb for Two - Elizabeth Enright

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For Robin Gillham


Quite often I receive letters from children asking to know if the Melendys are real. Are Mona, Rush, Randy, and Oliver really alive? they ask. Or were they ever? Was there once a real Cuffy, or a real Isaac? Or a house called the Four-Story Mistake?

The answers to these questions are mixed. It must be admitted that such a family, made of flesh and blood, whom one could touch, talk to, argue with, and invite to parties, does not actually exist. Yet in other ways, as I shall try to show, each of these people is at least partly real.

Once, when I was a child, I heard of a family named Melendy. I do not know how many children were in this family, or what kind of people they were; but for some reason I liked their name and stored it away in my mind to borrow for the Four-Story children at a much later date. So they began, at least, with a real name.

As I went along I borrowed other things: qualities, habits, remarks, events. I borrowed them from my children, from my own childhood, even from the dogs we have had; and from the conversations and recollections of many of our friends and relatives.

Mona and Randy, for instance, are partly made of things I remember about myself as a child (only the better things, of course), and things that I wish I had been, and that I would like to have had in daughters of my own. In Mona I also recognize my dearest cousin, as well as my roommate in boarding school who was going to be an actress, and who was frequently discovered acting the part of Joan of Arc in front of the bathroom mirror.

In Randy I recognize two of my long-ago best friends, as well as two of my long-ago best wishes: to be a dancer and to be an artist.

In Oliver I have borrowed liberally from the things I know and remember about my sons, and from many other little boys besides. Large patches of him are invented, of course, which is also true of the others. I never knew of a boy of six, for instance, who got away with an adventure like Oliver’s Saturday excursion, but on the other hand I have been intimately concerned with a boy who collected moths just as ardently as Oliver did. The whole family was involved in this hobby of his: all of us went through the grief of caterpillars lost, strayed or perished; through the inconvenience of cocoons hung up in the wrong places, and the foragings by flashlight for special leaves to feed ravenous larvae while the forgetful collector slept in deepest calm.

Reminders of my sons’ characters also occur in that of Rush, though not so often as in the case of Oliver. In Rush I trace memories of other boys I knew: one who played the piano marvelously well, and one who was a curly-haired rascal with a large vocabulary and a propensity for getting into, and neatly out of, trouble.

Cuffy is someone I knew when I was five years old, and someone else I knew when I was twelve. One of them was rather cross, the other very gentle. Both of them were fat people, elderly, and, in their different ways, knew how to love children so that they felt comfortable and cozy.

Father is composed of several fathers of my acquaintance, all of them kind and hard-working and deeply interested in their children.

As for Isaac, except for the fact that he is a male and not pure-blooded, he is exactly like our own fat freckled cocker spaniel who was gloriously won in a raffle by the father in our family.

The house which is called the Four-Story Mistake is made out of several queer old interesting houses that I have seen and is set in the kind of country which I have enjoyed the most: country with plenty of woods, hills, streams, and valleys.

Wishing has played a large part in these stories too, as you can see. The Melendys have and do all the things I would have liked to have and do as a child. There are plenty of them, for one thing, and I was an only child. They live in the country all year round, for another, and I lived in the city for most of it. They discovered a secret room, built a tree house, found a diamond, escaped from dangers, effected rescues, gave elaborate theatrical performances at the drop of a hat, got lost, and did many other striking things, all of which I would have liked to do.

So the Melendys, you see, are a mixture. They are made out of wishes and memory and fancy. This I am sure is what all the characters in books are made of; yet while I was writing about these children they often seemed to me like people that I knew; and when you are reading the stories of their trials and adventures I hope that you, too, will sometimes feel that they are real.

Elizabeth Enright, 1947


The Shadow’s Peak

Randy was certain that this was going to be the worst winter of her life. She said so to Cuffy.

Cuffy, this is going to be the worst winter of my life, she said.

Well, if that’s the way you’ve planned it, I guess that’s the way it’ll be, said Cuffy, who was ironing (the whole kitchen smelled warm and scorchy); then she looked at Randy and relented a little. "I know it’s pretty hard on you when you’re used to having ’em all here. The house seems awful lonesome I’ll admit; but there’s school and a lot of things to do, and it’s not as if you was all alone. There’s still Oliver."

Oh, Oliver! said Randy in a tone of withering scorn, glaring at her youngest brother. "All he’s interested in is his old planes and his old bugs and his old guns; he’s no fun."

Oliver was stung. "Who says you’re such a bargain?" he inquired.

Now that will be enough of that, said Cuffy firmly, setting the iron down with a warm thud. If you’re going to commence bickering and insulting each other the winter will be a bad one for certain sure.

She’s been a pain in the neck ever since Sunday when they left, complained Oliver. Since this was only Monday afternoon Randy did not feel that she had been a pain in the neck for an unreasonable length of time, but she disdained to argue. Giving her brother a look which signified disgust not only with him but with the entire world, she left the room.

The house was sadly quiet; she was not used to it like that. She was used to plenty of racket and commotion, for the Melendys were a large family whose favorite activities included music, drama, dancing, and arguing, none of which is silently accomplished. Today there were no sounds at all; not even the typewriter peckings from Father’s study. Father was away. As usual, thought Randy bitterly. Why can’t he ever stay home and just write, the way he used to? Why doesn’t he care anything about his family? But this thought was so manifestly unjust, so outrageous, in fact, that she felt slightly better for the moment and started to sing as she went upstairs. She knew as well as anybody else that part of the way her father managed to support his family was by lecturing at various universities. But today she was not interested in justice; she was more interested in sorrow. Why can’t he run a little store in Carthage, or print a newspaper, or work in a bank, like other people’s fathers, thought Randy, and stopped singing.

In the upstairs hall she hesitated for a moment and then went into her brother Rush’s room. It was as empty and as silent as the rest of the house; only a sleepy fly buzzed at the pane; and it was tidy, Randy had never seen it so tidy before. The only untidy thing about it was Isaac, Rush’s dog, who was lying in the armchair where he was never supposed to be because he always had fleas and was always shedding. He rolled a guilty eye like a wet licorice drop at Randy, but she only patted his head.

Stay where you are, she told him. Poor thing, you’ll have a long wait; it’s weeks and weeks just till Thanksgiving, and after that it’s weeks till Christmas. You just stay there and enjoy yourself. I won’t tell Cuffy.

Though Isaac was really Rush’s dog, he was loved devotedly by all. John Doe, the other dog, was loved too, though it was generally conceded that he had less character and personal charm than Isaac. He also had less heart; instead of mourning for the absent he was at this minute in the kitchen, Randy knew, uttering low growls of pleading, and watching for Cuffy to open the icebox door.

Randy drifted about the room touching the books, the boxing gloves, the music scores. She took a look into the closet, even, but it depressed her. It was so unnaturally neat: the shirts hung upon hangers, the shoes in pairs against the wall instead of upside down and on their sides all over the floor, leading their own independent lives the way they usually did.

And it will probably always look like this, now, even when he’s home, mourned Randy. They teach them to be neat at boarding school.

She sighed deeply, patted Isaac again, and departed from the room, leaving the door open so Isaac could come and go.

Next she went into her elder sister Mona’s room. This was not quite such a shock, for Mona was a fairly tidy girl, and the room did not look so very different from the way it did when she was at home. Still it was different; it couldn’t fool Randy. Mona was the actress of the family, and a real actress at that; for several winters, now, she had played the young girl’s part in a radio program that was broadcast from a city station, and this year it had been decided that she should go to school in the city as well, since it would save travel to and fro. She was staying with the Melendys’ beloved friend, Mrs. Oliphant, an independent old lady with an extra bedroom and a great fondness for children: particularly the Melendy children.

Randy went to the ruffled dressing table which Mona had decorated herself, using an old organdy party dress to make the ruffle; if you knew where to look, you could still find the large turnip-shaped inkstain which had caused the end of its career as a party dress. On top of the table was a collection of little perfume bottles; Mona was proud of these and did not like anyone to meddle with them, but after all she was away. Randy unstoppered first one bottle and then the next, pressing each against her nose in turn; from every one she dabbed a little perfume on her wishbone. Afterward she wished she hadn’t; she couldn’t smell the plain air anymore, a great rosette of fancy scents seemed fastened to the end of her nose, and did not in any way make her feel better.

She leaned down and looked into the little triple mirror on the dressing table; three gloomy selves looked back.

Ugly thing, she said, scowling. Hideous old mule-face.

Actually she was not ugly at all, and when she thought about it, did not usually consider herself so; it was the feeling behind the face that she addressed. She was not often in such a bad mood, and had rarely in her life had a chance to be lonesome. Now she was both. And goodness knows when I’ll stop feeling this way, she lamented to herself; first they’ll all be away at school for years, and then they’ll be away at college for years, and then, gosh, I suppose they’ll all get married!

She went out of Mona’s room still wrapped in a cloud of mixed perfumes and, deciding to do the thing thoroughly, went up the stairs through the Office (which was what the Melendys called their playroom) and up yet another short, steep flight to the cupola at the very top of the house. This was the personal domain of the Melendys’ adopted brother, Mark, who had gone away to school with Rush. The cupola was a small, light room, really a sort of little cabin on the roof, with a window in each wall for each direction: one apiece for East, West, North, and South. Randy chose the North window to press her nose against, as that presented the gloomiest view. It seemed suitable to her that the weather was unfriendly: not raining, but about to rain; grey, sullen, with all the color gone from everything; even the grass looked grey, and the old, tall Norway spruces that guarded the house seemed black and shabby, like monstrous molting crows.

This is the way it will always be, every day when I come home from school from now on, said Randy unreasonably, and as she looked north toward the town of Carthage, the view suddenly buckled and divided before her eyes as first one, and then another, large tear swelled and wobbled and rolled down

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  • (4/5)
    With their older siblings away at boarding school, Randy and Oliver Melendy anticipate a dull and dreary school year. But then, a mysterious letter arrives, leading them on a quest from clue to clue. Who created this mystery hunt, and what prize awaits them at the end?This is nearly as delightful as the other Melendy books, though I chuckled at another review that said it was like when a TV show starts a new season, but half the cast haven’t renewed their contracts! I also marveled at the freedom these kids have, though that’s been true for the entire series. And I think that this book stands pretty well on its own — for readers who enjoy old-fashioned stories, I’d say start at the beginning of the series, but young readers who love a good puzzle mystery could start here.
  • (4/5)
    Randy and Oliver, left at home while Mona and Rush go off to school, solve a series of riddles left for them in odd places.
  • (4/5)
    I ran into a comment about this book and remembered reading the Melendy Family Quartet many, many years ago. I was addicted to Nancy Drew mysteries and my Mother took me to the bookstore and told me I could pick out any book as long as it wasn't Nancy Drew. I remembered loving this book and, over the years, have remembered many scenes from the books. So I bought them again to see if they were as good as I remembered. They were -- admittedly they're very much of their time (1940's) but the warmth and fun is there and ageless. I'd recommend these books to any child (and, frankly, any adult looking for a little innocent fun. All of the first three books are about the same in quality -- the only one that can be skipped is Spiderweb for Two -- which suffered a little from the lack of two of the four children.
  • (4/5)
    The fourth and last of the Melendy books; the older children are now grown up and away from home but are sending messages to the two youngest (Randy and Oliver) for a rather artificial sort of treasure hunt. I might not like it as much if it were not part of a series I like. Again, this is the actual copy I read as a child which I got when the library discarded it.
  • (5/5)
    Here were are, back with the Melendy family. Only in Spiderweb for Two they are less than half the family they are used to being. Father is still traveling the university circuit as a guest lecturer and Mark, Mona and Rush are away at various schools. Left behind are Randy and her brother, Oliver, with the help, Cuffy and Willy. The rest of the family hasn't been gone a day before Randy is beside herself with boredom. She doesn't want to play with Oliver. He's always been the baby of the family and therefore not worth her time...until she discovers a mystery. It starts with a message in the mailbox that takes them on a winter adventure. Each message is a clue to finding another message until they have received fourteen messages and all and it is summer once again.It's a cute story. Oliver getting stuck in the chimney was one of my favorite parts.
  • (5/5)
    07/11 I am growing to love this one as much as I love the rest of the Melendy series. Why, I wonder, did I snub it so firmly in my youth? Here's a quote that I adore from this one:

    "The truth was that the young Melendys were acquiring a taste for old cemeteries. There was something very peaceful, they thought, about the quiet places; the tilted stones patched with lichens, standing in a bee-humming tangle of myrtle and wild asters. It was pleasant to walk between the stones, tracing the half-eroded names, the epitaphs, some beautiful, some sadly funny, some grotesque."

    I love that we get to spend more time with Father in this book. His goofy humor really shines. And I love the story from Cuffy's youth! Enright's characters are so very real.

    01/10 I remember only bits and pieces of this, I must have read it only once or twice. It's certainly not part of what I think of as the canon.

    First off, boarding school? Boarding school? The sheer dissonance is overwhelming from the first. But once one gets past that, it's a delight. Any Melendy book is better than no Melendy book, even if Rush and Mark and Mona are reduced to walk-on characters.
  • (5/5)
    This was the paciest and the best of the Melendy quartet. Thoroughly enjoyed it.