Edmund glowed really brightly, so I switched off my flashlight to conserve the batteries. Conserving your batteries is something you should always think about in a secret passage, as you never know how long you might be there, and it is the worst disas- ter ever to be in a secret passage with no light.
I followed Edmund floating along the passage, and I thought about Aunt Tabby on the other side of the wall and how she would have a fit if she knew what I was doing right then--but not as much of a fit as she was going to have when I sprang my Awful Ambush from the balcony. Soon I was climbing back up the rickety old ladder while Edmund just floated up in front of me. I thought how much easier it was for a ghost to go up ladders than a regular person. It didn't seem fair somehow, espe- cially as I had to carry my flashlight and wind up my ball of string as I went. When we got to the top, Edmund stopped outside the door. "Go on, " I told him. I couldn't see why he had stopped, as everyone knows that ghosts can go right through doors.
"This door is difficult, " he said. "I should not come here. It is not my room. " "It's all right, " I said. "I've got the key. " Edmund sounded surprised. "You have the Q key?" he kind of murmured, and he began to shimmer and flicker. Then suddenly he was gone--straight through the door. And I was left stuck at the top of a horrible old ladder in the dark. Great. After fiddling around with the key for ages, I unlocked the door and kind of fell into the room. Edmund was floating there, just looking at me in a really unhelpful way. "So where exactly is the balcony then?" I asked as I picked myself up. Edmund pointed to the fireplace. "It is through there. " "Well, that's just stupid, " I told him.
"How do I get through a fireplace? It's all very well for you. You're a ghost, but I can't just walk through a sooty old fireplace just like that--" "You talk just like the Tabitha, " said Edmund. "You make my ears hurt. Where is the key?" "What key?" I asked crossly. "The key to the balcony, " he said as though I was really stupid or something. "The one you carry upon your person. " "Upon my what?" I said, and then I realized what he meant and fished the key out of my pocket. "Here you are, " I said, and gave it to him. Of course, it just dropped straight through his hand and fell onto the floor. Duh. I had forgotten for a moment that Edmund was a ghost, since he was being just -69- as irritating as a real boy. "Place the key in the keyhole, " said Edmund, and he waved his hand at a small keyhole in the middle of the fireplace that I hadn't noticed before. "For it opens the way to the balcony. Farewell. " Then he shot off through the door and disappeared. I put the key in the keyhole and turned it. It worked! The fireplace slid sideways, and a bril- liant beam of sunlight pierced the room. I squeezed through the opening and there I was at last--on the balcony. It was weird standing miles above the hall. Everything looked so small and far away. I suppose that is what birds feel like all the time when they hang around in the big old trees out in the garden. I was so pleased that I was on the balcony at last that I very nearly yelled out to Aunt Tabby to come and see where I was--luckily, I stopped myself just in time. But the best thing of all was that when I looked down, I could see the balcony was right above the floor in front of the doormat where people who have never been to the house always stop and stare. They often have their mouths open too, although they never seem to say much--and I have known them to stay like that for quite a long time. It was perfect. Araminta's Awful Ambush was going to be the best.
I zoomed back up in the dumbwaiter and along the secret passage, but when I pushed open the little door under the stairs, some- one was waiting for me.
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