The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey 37
“Ta-da!” shouted a deep voice just then, and Moocho Brazos, his massive arms bearing a gigantic platter of steaming hot pies, swooped into the room. There was a burst of applause at his appearance, and all discussion of more serious matters fell away as the group set eagerly upon the marvelous desserts. Captain Noland and Cannonball were compelled to eat their slices in a hurry — they were due at the harbor — and with wistful glances at the several remaining pies, they pushed back their chairs and bid everyone a fond adieu.
After the two men had gone and everyone had eaten at least one slice of pie, the conversation returned to Mr. Pressius’s diamond deception. Reynie wanted Mr. Benedict to explain how he knew about it. “You mentioned a source,” he said. “Is this person’s identity a secret?”
“Actually, you know her well,” Mr. Benedict said. “Her name is Martina Crowe.”
The children’s jaws dropped. How, they asked, could Martina possibly have known about Mr. Pressius?
“You’ll recall,” said Mr. Benedict, “that Martina fell into our custody after my brother abandoned her to save himself. Well, I’ve had a few talks with her since then. Martina’s been most eager to repay my brother’s disloyalty — she’s an impressively vindictive person, I must say — and has told me everything she knew about his plans. Unfortunately, though she may have been his most trusted Executive, he actually trusted her very little and told her even less. She was vaguely aware, however, of an arrangement with a jewel merchant that would result in my brother’s being substantially enriched.”
“Don’t tell me,” said Kate. “Those diamonds were stolen by a couple of well-dressed jerks with briefcases.”
Mr. Benedict tapped his nose. “Indeed they were, Kate. And so it appears my brother maintains considerable funding for his operations. Still, we have reasons to be encouraged.”
“Encouraged?” said Constance, screwing up her face, and the other children made similar expressions of doubt. “What could possibly be encouraging about all this?”
Mr. Benedict’s eyes twinkled; he seemed pleased to be asked. “Take these developments with Martina, for instance. Aren’t they a fine example of how even scurrilous behavior may lead to some good, if only we’re clever enough to take advantage?”
After some hesitation, the children said they supposed this was true.
“And I realize there’s no shortage of wickedness in the world,” said Mr. Benedict, with a significant look at Reynie, “but is it not heartening to know that so many are willing to fight for the good? Think of that young librarian, Sophie, who made certain you escaped. Think of S.Q., who risked my brother’s wrath to make me more comfortable. Think of Captain Noland, and Joe Shooter, and all the others — even strangers — who were prepared to sacrifice their safety, perhaps even their lives, on our behalf. That’s something, is it not?”
None of the children could argue with this, not even Constance, who could argue with anything. It was something, after all.
Mr. Benedict swept his arm out to indicate the grownups around the table. “And though we’d never have wanted you to attempt such a thing, you did save my life, did you not, in the face of incredible odds? Have you not proven yourselves once again to be the bravest, most resourceful children in the world?”
The children had to admit they found this notion the most agreeable of all.
I would like to thank the many friends and family members who have supported my work (I’m blessed with excellent unofficial publicists and agents) as well as the booksellers, librarians, teachers, and especially readers who have given the Society such a warm welcome. I also wish to call attention to a few whose contributions to the present book have been particularly invaluable: My thanks to Paul Galvin for The I-berian Adventure, Tracie Stewart for Secrets of the Dutch, Ken and Marianne Estes for Love and a Box Turtle, and everyone on the 15th floor — for everything else, and more.
Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey
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