The Smalls are still in the car. They drive past Pisgah National Forest, out of North Carolina, and into Virginia.
Thomas is thinking about the new house and about how it used to be a "station" on the Underground Railroad.
It was a place where slaves fleeing to Canada could hide and rest.
For a long time it had been Mr. Small's dream to live in such a house. He had gotten a report on the house from the foundation who owned it, and who had put it up for rent.
In the report it said that the people who ran the house in Ohio would encourage runaway slaves to go back into slavery after they had escaped.
Thomas couldn't understand this. Why would a slave go back?
(We were wondering the same thing! Bear with us a moment for the answer.)
Mr. Small had explains that slaves who were fleeing had to be very strong, brave, and smart to keep from getting caught.
The man who first owned the house that the Smalls are moving to was named Dies Drear.
(For more on this funny sounding name, check out "Names" in "Character Clues.")
Drear was an abolitionist (person who believed that slavery should be abolished).
Of slaves who had escaped, Drear organized the bravest and strongest men and women to go back into slavery to try to free others.
Drear was from a family of wealthy shipbuilders and was an unusual person. Most of the other abolitionists in Ohio thought his plan to send slaves back into slavery was crazy.
One odd thing he did was hoard antiques. The house was full of them, but he never sold them or displayed them.
All those treasures were stolen when the house was "plundered" (robbed), and Dies Drear was murdered.
In any case, the dangerous plan to send escaped slaves back into slavery to help others began to work. As a result, both freeman (ex-slaves) and slaves began to really admire him; some were even in "awe" of him. ("Awe" is overwhelming wonder and admiration, and the base of the word "awesome.")
Slaves and freeman began to call Drear "Selah" (2.18). This name helped keep Drear's identity secret, which was important because all his abolitionist activities were highly illegal.
Selah, Mr. Small explains, "is a musical direction to raise the voice" (2.18).
For the people who found hope in Dies Drear and his plans, "Selah" meant "freedom."
Thomas is thinking about the report that the foundation in Ohio had sent Mr. Small.
The report talked about three slaves who had been hidden by Dies Drear.
Everybody thought they were fleeing North to Canada, but they were actually coming from Canada, headed South to help free slaves.
They were caught. Two of them were killed by the bounty hunters that captured them.
That same week, Dies Drear was murdered in his home.
Thomas remembers his dad got very excited while staying up late reading the thick report.
When his father went to Ohio for ten days to check out the house, Thomas read the report.
In the report, he found out what his father hadn't told him:
There's a legend that the house of Dies Drear is haunted by the ghosts of two slaves, and by Dies Drear himself.
(Cue the scary, dramatic music.)
Thomas thinks that the two slave ghosts must be the ghosts of the two murdered slaves. He thinks that they (as ghosts) killed Dies Drear.
In his mind, they wanted revenge on Dies Drear for talking them into trying to go back into slavery, and getting killed as a result.
But, Thomas wonders, why, if they killed Dies Drear, would they would stick around to haunt the house with him?
Thomas doesn't really believe in ghosts, but at night, in the dark, he's afraid of seeing one.
After his first trip to Ohio, Thomas remembers, Mr. Small doesn't tell Thomas anything about the house.
But, Thomas can't help asking. When Thomas hints about ghosts, Mr. Small gets mad at him for reading the report, and says he doesn't believe in ghosts.
Then they talk about the fact that nobody has stayed long in the house since Dies Drear was murdered.
Mr. Small gets really mad when Thomas suggests that the ghosts of the murdered slaves have been scaring people away.
He says that the truth is obvious, but that nobody sees it. All old houses like that have a ghost stories attached to them, and none of the stories are true!
Soon, Mr. Small goes back to Ohio a second time, and actually rents the house.
When he comes back, he tells his family all about the house, except the part about the ghosts.
Now, on the way to the new house, Thomas wonders if his mother knows about the ghost legend.
Thomas is sure his father is keeping something a secret, something Thomas hasn't been able to put together from what he read in the plans.
Hmmm. Thomas thinks that whatever the secret is, it isn't exactly in the plans, but between the lines!
All the sudden Thomas asks his father to tell him about Mr. Pluto.
(If you don't know who Mr. Pluto is, don't worry. This is the first time he's mentioned.)
Mrs. Small says that Thomas doesn't need to know anything more about Mr. Pluto.
Thomas understands that talk of Mr. Pluto and the new house makes his mother nervous.
He's pretty sure she isn't going to like the house at all.
Still, he persists in his questioning. He says he wants to be sure he has a good picture of Mr. Pluto in his mind, so he recognizes him when he sees him.
Mr. Small finally gives in and talks about Mr. Pluto.
Pluto, Mr. Small tells Thomas, is the caretaker of the house. "Pluto," he explains, is only a nickname. "Pluto […] is another name for Hades, the Lord of the Underworld. […] Hades had cloven hooves" (2.52).
(If you've read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, you've probably met Hades before. He's the God of the Underworld. Hades is his Greek name; Pluto is his Roman name.)
Anyhow, the caretaker has one "lame" (2.54) leg.
(The people who gave Pluto his nickname have mixed up their Roman gods, with ideas about the devil. The devil has a lame leg or foot, but the Roman god Pluto does not; nor does his Greek counterpart, Hades.)
Apparently, nobody knows how old Mr. Pluto is. He's tall, has green eyes, and lots of white hair on his head and in his beard.
Thomas gets excited at this point. He tells his family that it was Pluto in the dream he just had! (See the beginning of Chapter 1 for the dream.)
Mr. Small tells Thomas that he likes having Pluto as a caretaker, in part because he showed Mr. Small where the secret passages are in the house.
He warns Thomas: "I want you to be nice to him, no funny business" (2.59).
Pluto, Mr. Small says, has three horses, a bay (a reddish brown horse with a black mane and tale), a roan (a black or brown horse sprinkled with white hairs), and an all black one.
These horses, two at a time, pull Mr. Pluto's old fashioned, two-wheel buggy. He doesn't live in the same house the Smalls will be living in, but on the other side of the hill.
Thomas asks if Mr. Pluto "really looks like the devil" (2.64). His father says that Mr. Pluto is "no devil" (2.64), just a man.
Pluto, Mr. Small says, probably believes in the ghost legend.
Thomas wants to know if there are "old people" (2.65) people like his Great-grandmother, people who know lots of things and like to talk.
Mr. Small says he wishes Great-grandmother had decided to join them.
He says that Thomas has lots of experience with older people; now he needs to get to know some people closer to his own age.
Suddenly, Thomas has all kinds of thoughts going through his head. To try to sort them out, he asks his father questions.
Soon, what he's looking for him comes to him.
Excitedly, he asks his father what happened to the third of the three escaped slaves that were captured by bounty hunters.
(Remember, two of them were murdered. You might have noticed that there was no mention of what happened to the third one.)
Mr. Small tenses up, holding the steering wheel tight.
He orders Thomas not to talk to anybody about the report, or the three slaves!
Sitting back in the car, watching the rain, Thomas can tell from his father's strong reaction that the third slave is the key to the puzzle.
Even as he's falling asleep in the car, Thomas wonders what the answer could be.