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The Four-Story Mistake

The Four-Story Mistake

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The Four-Story Mistake

4.5/5 (12 avaliações)
187 página
2 horas
Lançado em:
Nov 10, 2015


Into the Four-Story Mistake, an odd-looking house with a confused architectural history, move the Melendy family -- Mona, Rush, Randy, Oliver, Father, and Cuffy, the housekeeper. Though disappointed about leaving their old brownstone in New York City, and apprehensive about living the country life, the four Melendy kids soon settle into this unusual new home. Here, they become absorbed in the adventures of the country, adjusting themselves with all their accustomed resourcefulness and discovering the many hidden attractions that the Four-Story Mistake has to offer.

The Four-Story Mistake is the second installment of Enright's Melendy Quartet, an engaging and warm series about the close-knit Melendy family and their surprising adventures.

Lançado em:
Nov 10, 2015

Sobre o autor

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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The Four-Story Mistake - Elizabeth Enright

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To my mother


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 Last Time and the First

Well, thank goodness there aren’t going to be any more children here anyway! said Randy crossly. She spoke crossly because she was sad and she preferred sounding cross to sounding sorrowful, even though there was no one in the room except herself. Nobody and nothing, for that matter: her words had the particular ringing echo that is heard only in entirely empty rooms.

Almost all her life Randy had shared this room with her older sister, Mona, and today they were going to go away and leave it. Forever. She looked carefully around because it is important to see clearly when one looks at something for the last time. How strange it seemed with all the furniture gone: smaller, somehow. In the long window the scarred shade hung crookedly as it always had; for hundreds and hundreds of nights its gentle flapping had been the last sound she heard before she slept. Good-bye, shade, thought Randy sentimentally. Above the place where her bed had been some of her own drawings remained because she had impulsively stuck them to the wallpaper with glue when she couldn’t find the thumbtacks. Cuffy had given her a good scolding for that, all right! Good-bye, pictures, thought Randy. She didn’t mind leaving the pictures so much; she could make thousands of better ones any time she felt like it. She looked at the darker rectangles on the paper where other pictures had hung, and the stain on the baseboard where Mona had spilled the iodine that time.

Randy sighed a loud, echoing sigh. Downstairs in Rush’s room she could hear the voices of Rush and Mona, and a lot of scraping and thumping and banging as they tried to get a suitcase closed. Doggone thing acts like it hates me! she heard Rush complain bitterly.

Be reasonable, said Mona in her most maddening voice. You can’t expect anything to absorb seven times its own capacity. Why don’t you take something out?

"I suppose I could carry the Ninth Symphony, and the B Minor Concerto, and the roller skates myself. They don’t seem to give much."

Randy sighed again and went out of the room for the last time. The last time: she’d been saying that to herself all day. She had paid a farewell visit to every single room in the house from the Office, which had been the Melendy children’s playroom, to the furnace room in the basement. All of them looked bare and cold and friendless.

That morning the moving men had swarmed through the place, rolling up carpets, packing barrels, lumbering up and down the stairs with couches and chests of drawers on their backs like mammoth snails. Everything about the moving men was huge: their big striped aprons, their swelling necks and biceps, and their voices. Especially their voices; they had bawled at each other like giants shouting from mountaintops: GIVE US A HAND WITH THE PIANNA, AL, or CAREFUL OF THAT CORNER, JOE, DON’T KNOCK THEM CASTERS OFF. But now they had gone, and all the furniture with them; swallowed up in two vans the size of two Noah’s arks; and the house was an echoing shell, bereft and desolate.

Soon the painters and plasterers and carpenters would come into the house. They would patch up the ceiling, bolster up the sagging staircase, paint, and polish and mend till every sign of the Melendys was gone: the iodine stain on the baseboard, Randy’s pictures, plasticene marks on the Office ceiling, the height-measuring marks of each Melendy child on the upstairs bathroom door, and all the dozens of other souvenirs left by four busy children in a home. The new people who had bought the house were old: a doctor and his wife. They were rich, too. How quiet the place would be under its new pelt of thick carpet. Old feet would go slowly up and down the stairs, doors would never slam, meals would be served on time by noiseless servants.

Poor house, said Randy. For a minute she almost hated Father for selling their nice home without a word and buying a new one in the country that nobody but he and Cuffy had even seen.

Randy! bellowed Rush from downstairs. Come sit on my suitcase with Mona and me. The darn thing won’t close!

Randy went down the stairs slowly, her hand trailing on the banister. Good-bye, stairs, she was thinking. Good-bye, banister: Fat Oliver won’t be here anymore to go sliding down you with his breeches whistling and his shoes rattling against the spokes. I bet that old doctor and his old wife never slid down a banister in their lives.

Take your time, Madam Queen. We’re young. We’ve got all our lives to wait, said Rush as Randy drifted mournfully into the room. His battle with the suitcase had made him cross. Or was it something else? None of them wanted to leave their house. None of them, that is, except seven-year-old Oliver who always greeted the future as a friend and never gave a hang about anything in the past. Oliver had said, Oh, boy! A house in the country? Can I have a horse and a pig and a swing and a two-wheel bicycle?

Rush’s suitcase stood in the middle of his dismantled room along with another suitcase, two books of music scores, and the dog Isaac’s carrier. Its jaws were wide open, disclosing an undigested meal of socks, underwear, field glasses, baseball mitts, sweaters, model airplanes, and books. Mona was kneeling beside it, her fair hair tousled and her cheeks crimson with exertion.

That suitcase looks as if it were laughing out loud, Randy said.

Oh, stop being whimsical, snapped Rush. Come on and sit on it!

So they all sat down and made their sitting as heavy as they could, and Rush struggled with the clasps which still wouldn’t quite close.

You’ll just have to take out something else, sighed Mona.

No, I won’t! Rush stood up angrily. I’m not going to be conquered by a third-rate piece of luggage. I’ll get Cuffy! Why didn’t I think of it before? and he leaned over the banister and shouted for Cuffy, who was the Melendy housekeeper, nurse, cook, adviser, and dear friend. She was the sort of person who could have been set down in the middle of the Gobi Desert and still contrived to make a homelike atmosphere about her.

"All right. All right, answered her voice from downstairs in the kitchen. I’m just getting Oliver’s face washed. I’ll be up in a minute."

Rush came back into the room and stood silent at the window looking down into the street below. Randy and Mona sat side by side on the suitcase and looked at the bare floor. Nobody said anything.

Randy could feel the house around her, and how tall and deep and still it was. She could feel the emptiness of every room like an ache in her bones. Tonight when they were gone there would be nothing left in the house: the old boards would stretch and creak a little, the Office mouse would come out of his hiding place fearlessly, and lights from cars passing in the street would move across the ceilings of deserted rooms.

"I don’t want to go away! Randy burst out rebelliously. I’ll never like any house as much as this one. I don’t care if it has

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  • (4/5)
    The Melendy family has moved to the country. In the previous story, The Saturdays their brownstone in New York was damaged by fire. Father Melendy has moved his four kids (Rush, Miranda, Oliver and Mona), dog (Isaac), handyman (Willy), and housekeeper (Cuffy) to "the Four-Story mistake", a house that was supposed to have four stories, but was somehow left off during construction. It's an odd looking house since the fourth story was added after the fact. Father is often away (hence the live-in housekeeper) so the four children are left to explore their new surroundings, the countryside and the house.
  • (4/5)
    The four Melendy siblings move out to the countryside, explore hidden corners of their new house, raise money for war bonds, and meet odd neighbors with reptiles in bathtubs.
  • (4/5)
    My kids put this audiobook on during lunchtimes and car trips around town, and while I listened carefully to some parts, others got lost in the background of other things that caught my attention, like hemming my son's pants (which takes all of my brain power). Usually I don't bother hemming my son's pants. I just cuff them or let him walk on them until his legs grow into them, but these are the pants for the little suit he's wearing to my brother's wedding. If I had been willing to cut them off, it would have been easier, but I wanted to retain the length so he could wear them again if either of the two remaining unmarried siblings decided to enter into matrimony before he outgrows his size 7 trousers.So you see, I was a bit distracted from the adventures of the Melendy children, especially during the last chapter of the book. But what I heard and actually listened to, I quite liked. I loved the ice skating excursion and the menagerie in the police officer's house and Rush's unexpected breakfast in the woods. The descriptions of the landscape and the seasons drew me in, especially the description of the unfolding spring, although that might just be because Enright mentions spring peepers; I love spring peepers.Even though we're heading to the library this afternoon and could take it back, this audiobook isn't due for a couple of weeks, so we're going to hold onto it and listen through it again, I think. Maybe I can pay attention better this time, or at least pay attention at different parts than I did this time so that I get the whole story.
  • (5/5)
    One of my favorite books that I read as a child, by one of my favorite children's authors. This is an "I wish I was part of this family" kind of book, with an "I wish I lived in this house" kind of house.
  • (5/5)
    The Melendy family moves from the city to a rambling old house in the country, where they have many more adventures.This series continues in the same charming vein. I may have enjoyed this book even more than the first. Recommended!
  • (3/5)
    What a delightful, easy, breezy book. There is nothing spectacular about it, no complicated plot, no difficult story line, and there is no page turning, cannot wait to get to the end feeling.But, there is a calm sense of wonderment regarding the way in which the author painted an idyllic childhood of four lovely children who were uprooted from a house in the city to a large mansion-like structure in the country.There is a loving widowed father, a nanny who is kind and gentle, a dog, and warm food and cool drink.There are streams, tree houses, wintry ponds for ice skating, bikes for riding, fields with gentle breezes that rustle the flowers, summer storms that necessitate the lighting of candles, crisp leaves of merry color and a hidden, mysterious room to be explored.Reading this book is like a slow walk down a lovely fall lane, like a gentle summer rain, like a lovely, gentle winter snow fall and like a field of spring daffodils.Recommended for anyone who needs a break from stress that requires balm for a weary soul.
  • (5/5)
    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)
    I read this series when young and lately reread this second book and still enjoyed it. In this volume the family moves from New York City to a large house in the country. I find the suggestion that a girl who used to live there ran away to be a famous ballerina incredible, but otherwise it gives a good feel for life on the home front during WW2.
  • (5/5)
    The Four-Story Mistake is probably my favorite book in the Melendy Family quartet. I've loved and reread the books for decades, but this is my first listening to an audio version. Ms. Dillman is great at getting in all the nuances of Ms. Enright's humor, as I noticed when I anticipated favorite lines. I didn't miss the author's own illustrations because my memory supplied them.The Melendy family is a nice one. I don't mean they're angelic -- the children have their faults and get into trouble, but they're a loving family. Their mother may be dead, but their father genuinely cares about them. Cuffy the housekeeper is a grandmotherly sort who knows when to scold and when to spoil. The house is the sort I'd have loved to have lived in when I was a child and wouldn't mind living in now (with a stair lift). Join Rush, Randy, Oliver, and even Mona as they explore the wonderful old place! You'll be glad you did.My thanks to this audio version for correcting my error. I thought the family's last name was pronounced the same as 'melody' with an 'n' stuck in. Now I know it's pronounced 'Mell-lend-dee'. Good to know.
  • (5/5)
    This time through, I was struck anew by the brilliance of Enright's writing. She's subtle, she's hilarious, she's... well, brilliant. I suspect she's a large part of the reason I'm such a harsh Goodreads rater.

    This book is one of my favorites. Each of the characters is so distinct, so singular, so real (even the dogs, for heaven's sake) that the inclusion of "Mona said" and "Rush said" is practically superfluous.

    The storyline is lovely. There's just enough, never too much. It's not the least bit dated, though it is quite firmly rooted in WWII. I'm still trying to decide what I feel dates a book, as I've had some disagreements regarding this with other Goodreads people (Wendy, I'm looking at you).

    I do so love the Melendys.

    I love this one more than The Saturdays. I love the wartime flavor, the feeling of what it was like to be a kid during WWII, how it permeated everything in ways I'd never thought of. I love the move to the country, and the barefoot joy that comes along with that. I love the wild night with the fever and the storm. I love the way Enright allows her lyrical style to run rampant. I love Clarinda and the caddis houses and the dam. And the illustrations, of course, oh how I love the illustrations.