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The House of Dies Drear

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.

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