From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The House of Dies Drear
by Virginia Hamilton
The House of Dies Drear Chapter 9 Summary
When the birds start chirping Thomas, who has been talking in his sleep, wakes up. But, he falls back asleep, and has anxious dreams about trees and the threat of Mr. Pluto. He wakes up when it's very light, feeling like he's forgetting something, but not sure if what he is forgetting is real or a dream. Excited about church, Thomas pushes those thoughts away and heads to the kitchen. Mrs. Small has hoe-cakes (cornmeal cakes) cooking in the oven and Thomas is happy. Thomas wonders what his mom and dad are doing, why it's so quiet, and why the table is set even though nobody is in the kitchen. Looking at himself in the mirror he admires his new suit. He thinks that maybe after church some people will come home with them, like people did in North Carolina. In North Carolina even the minister would come to their house, and this always made Thomas proud. He tries to stop himself from being homesick, and tells himself things will go well here. Thomas looks up the stairs and gets a shock. His dad is sitting on the floor, in his Sunday suit, and his mother is next to him, in her Sunday suit! Mr. Small has something in his hand and they are looking at it. When Thomas goes up and asks what they have, his Dad shows him three triangles made of wood and metal. All three look exactly the same. As Mr. Small points out, the triangles are "right triangles" – (a triangle which has a "right" or ninety degree angle.) At his father's request, Thomas goes and gets a pen and paper. Mr. Small thinks they can understand what the triangles mean if he draws them in diagram form. (If you have your copy of the book handy, you should open it now to check out the drawings Thomas's dad makes of the triangle.) As Mr. Small explains, the triangle is made of wood, silver-painted tin. The legs are wood, and he thinks the angle might be made of real gold. Mr. Small and Thomas start moving the triangles around to see what they might make. Thomas arranges two of the triangle so the wooden legs are touching. His dad adds the third one. Together, the three triangles would make a square, except one of the triangles is missing! Thomas asks where his dad found the triangles, and learns from his mother that they were found in the door frames of the three bedrooms. He can tell his mom is really scared and he realizes why: somebody must have come into the house, while they were sleeping and stuck the triangles in their doors. His dad confirms his theory. Thomas blurts out that the triangles are a second warning from Mr. Pluto. When questioned, Thomas reveals that he thought that the way Mr. Pluto had arranged their furniture in the living room was also a warning. (See "Symbols, Imagery, and Allegory" for more on this!) His father says Thomas is jumping to conclusions about Mr. Pluto. The man might not be the one who left the triangles in the house. Suddenly, Mr. Small looks down at the triangles and realizes that the wood angles make a Greek cross, or they would make a Greek cross when the fourth triangle was found. ( A Greek cross is a cross with four sides of equal length.) Mr. Small thinks that the triangle is probably a warning, or at least some kind of message. Mrs. Small remembers that it's time to get Billy and Buster up and ready for church. Meanwhile, Mr. Small and Thomas clean up the car a little bit. When Thomas asks his dad how a person could have come into the house, Mr. Small says he doesn't know. Then he has a question – why was Thomas sleeping on the couch? Not wanting to tell his dad he was afraid of a chair, he says he wanted to keep watch in case of intruders. Mr. Small reminds him that a nighttime intruder wouldn't use a normal entrance, and so Thomas probably wouldn't have seen him anyway. Very seriously, Mr. Small asks Thomas if he can "trust him with something" – something he doesn't want Mrs. Small to have to worry about. Excited, Thomas says of course he can trust him. Mr. Small is afraid he'll have to call the police, but hopes not. Until he knows for sure, he wants to "set up a watch" (9.77). When he suggests that Thomas watch for two hours a night, and himself three, Thomas protests – he wants the longer shift. Mr. Small kind of ignores this, saying that Thomas can only watch from the top of the stairs. If he sees anybody, he's supposed to yell, but not go downstairs. Father and son walk toward the stream and the spring. They admire the beauty in the sunshine. Mr. Small shows Thomas the college where he will be teaching. The two of them plan to have lunch together a few times a week; Thomas wants to bring the new friends he hopes to make. Excitedly, Thomas notices that Mr. Pluto and Pesty are headed past them, sitting in the cart. Mr. Pluto and Pesty are both dressed as if from another time. Mr. Small notices that Mr. Pluto doesn't have gloves on like he did last night, and wonders why. When Mr. Pluto sees Thomas and Mr. Small, he stops and greets them in a friendly and polite way. Pluto asks if they slept well. Mr. Small says they did. Pluto says he's glad, then says he'll see them at church. Pesty wants to know if Thomas likes her shoes, and he says he does. When he's gone, Mr. Small asks Thomas why he got scared last night, and ran into the house, breaking the dishes and everything. Thomas tells him he was scared because he saw flames and heard the sighing sound, the same sound he heard when he was under the house. Then Thomas tells his Dad about Pluto coming from underneath the platform and yelling at him. Mr. Small laughs in understanding. Apparently, Mr. Pluto lives underground, in a cave! The platform is above it, at the ground level. So, Thomas was walking on his house. The reason there was fire is because Mr. Pluto is a blacksmith (a person who uses fire to soften steel so it can be molded into shapes. A blacksmith often makes horseshoes.) As Mr. Small explains, there are lots of people in the area who have horses. So, Mr. Pluto can make a living at his craft. That explains the fire, but what about the sound Thomas was hearing??? Well, it so happens that blacksmith's use a tool called " a bellows." Bellows are used to blow air at a fire, to make it burn more strongly. They make a sighing sound when in use. After a few more questions, Mr. Small is sure Thomas heard Mr. Pluto's bellows. The bellows, he explains, is a really big machine that makes a loud noise. The sounds travel on currents of air and reached Thomas that way. He figures out that Mr. Pluto must have thought Thomas was a mean kid, trying to scare him, and that Mr. Pluto had simply tried to scare him back. Thomas is a little let down to hear that the things that scared him are completely explainable. They see Mrs. Small coming, and Mr. Small says they will be late if they don't eat. Thomas wants his hoe-cakes though, and he and his father both run happily into the kitchen to go get some.
People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...