The Treasure of Way Down Deep by Ruth White is a young-adult mystery about the town of Way Down Deep that begins experiencing some strange and evil things—things that young Ruby Jolene Hurley thinks are connected to a 200-year-old buried treasure that she is determined to find and save the day (Available March 22, 2016).
When Ruby Jolene Hurley sees the shadow of her dead pet goat Jethro dancing on his grave, that's the first hint that something strange is going on in Way Down Deep. Then on Halloween night, Miss Arbutus senses an evil wind blowing into town, and bad things start to happen. The coal mine shuts down, one hundred men lose their jobs, and all of Way Down feels the pinch. Ruby thinks the answer to their problems is the treasure that Archibald Ward, the town's founder, supposedly buried more than two hundred years ago. Most people say the treasure is just a myth, but Ruby is determined to prove the naysayers wrong and save the day.
It was Saturday, October 2, 1954, in Way Down Deep, West Virginia, and Ruby Jolene Hurley was celebrating her thirteenth birthday. It was a crisp autumn day, and the sky was a deep blue with a few puffy white clouds floating over the valley. Ruby was in her new room at The Roost, which was the boardinghouse where she had grown up. Only recently had she moved into this room, formerly occupied by Miss Worly, the town librarian. Miss Worly and Mr. Gentry, the high school band director, who had also lived at The Roost, had married and moved into a small house out on Highway 99.
“My spacious pastel boudoir” was how Miss Worly had described this room. She used that term, because, first of all, she liked peppering her sentences with fancy words, and, second, the room was decorated in pink and blue, with a dash of purple here and there, and it was larger than most of the other guest rooms at The Roost. Ruby loved the spacious pastel boudoir.
For a few minutes she lingered in front of the mirror before going downstairs to receive guests for her birthday party. Her new dress was the color of the golden maple leaves outside her window, and her shoes were black patent leather. Ruby’s hair, of course, had always been a mass of red ringlets around her face, and her eyes were the color of bluebells. The people of Way Down considered her a natural beauty, but when she looked at her own image in the mirror, she was far more critical. She thought her hair was way too thick and wild, and too curly. And she thought she could have done without some of those freckles.
Downstairs in the common room Ruby found that her guests were arriving and were being greeted by Lucy Elkins and Ruby’s Grandma Combs, both permanent residents of the boardinghouse. Miss Arbutus Ward, owner of The Roost, was also there. She was a direct descendant of Archibald Ward, who had first discovered Way Down Deep in the eighteenth century, and the last Ward still living in the town. Miss Arbutus had raised Ruby since she was a toddler and was like a mother to her.
The Reeders had come dressed in their finest, which wasn’t to say much, but they were clean, and good-looking, every blessed one of them, starting with Peter, who was the same age as Ruby, and the boy she liked more than any other; Cedar, barely twelve; the identical twins Jeeter and Skeeter, nine; and the only girl, Rita, just turned six. They had moved to Way Down this past June when their stumpy little daddy, Robber Bob, had made a feeble attempt at robbing the bank—thus the nickname. Naturally, the bank president, Mr. Dales, had been so moved with pity for the desperate man that he had offered him the use of his own rental house, free of charge, until Robber Bob could get back on his feet. Mayor Chambers, owner of the A&P, also gave him a job at the grocery store.
The eleven-year-old identical Fuller triplets came in next. They were Connie Lynn, Sunny Gaye, and Bonnie Clare, whose flaxen hair and blue eyes could light up a dark room. They were street evangelists who sang in three-part harmony as fine as the famous Andrews Sisters.
Next came Reese Mullins with some of his brothers and sisters. Reese used to fancy himself Ruby’s beau, but that was before Peter Reeder came to town and stole her heart away.
After the Mullins children, Ruby was in such a whirlwind of greetings and giggles that she couldn’t keep up with who had come in and who wasn’t there yet. Of course every kid who lived in town would come. That’s the way it was in Way Down. When you threw a party, you didn’t have to send out invitations. You just told a few people, or you mentioned it over your telephone party line, and everybody got the message. You saved a lot of time that way.
Just then Rita approached Ruby and hugged her around the waist.
“Happy birthday, Ruby.”
Rita was wearing a cute green and white pokey-dotted dress that Ruby had outgrown when she was six.
Ruby hugged her back.
Miss Arbutus and Ruby both had taken a shine to the little girl, and Rita had been spending every school night at The Roost in the tiny pansy-speckled room next door to Miss Arbutus, which used to be Ruby’s room.
“So we can give her a good breakfast every morning,” Miss Arbutus had explained to Rita’s daddy, when asking his permission to keep the child, “and dress her pretty for school.”
Robber Bob had agreed. He was tickled to see his only daughter get some feminine attention, since her own mother had died almost a year ago. Rita had started first grade in September, and Ruby and Miss Arbutus helped her with her schoolwork. They also introduced the little girl to their evening ritual of grooming and the sharing of confidences. When they were finished, and darkness had settled over their town nestled way down deep between the mountains, Ruby and Miss Arbutus would kiss Rita good night and hug each other. Then Ruby would go up to the second floor to visit with Grandma for a few minutes and give her a good-night hug as well before retiring to her spacious pastel boudoir, which was right beside Grandma’s room.
Each Friday when school let out, six-year-old Rita would walk to her own house, just a hop and a skip up the street from The Roost, to spend the weekend with her daddy, Robber Bob; her addled granddaddy, Bird; and her four brothers. At dusk on Sunday evening Ruby would fetch her back to The Roost. It was an arrangement quite satisfactory to everybody concerned.
“I got you a present,” Rita said to Ruby as she handed the older girl a small package wrapped in brown paper.
Not everybody was able to give Ruby a gift, but she didn’t mind a bit. Inside the paper was an odd pewter-colored metal button with a hole in it.
Ruby was delighted. “What an uncommon thing!” And it really was. It looked like it might have come from a soldier’s uniform.
“You can put a ribbon through the hole, and make a pretty necklace,” Rita said proudly.
“What a good idea!” Ruby cried. “Thank you, Rita.”
Carefully Ruby placed the metal button inside a small pocket in her new dress. Then she hugged the beaming little girl again.
“Let’s play blind man’s bluff!” somebody yelled.
Yes, they should start the games. What a grand party this was going to be!
After blind man’s bluff, they played guess what?, then treasure hunt. It was during this game that the party expanded outdoors, because Miss Arbutus and Grandma had hidden some of the treasures in the yard.
Ruby and Peter were seated side by side in the common room, watching Skeeter and Jeeter tussle over a piece of bubble gum they had found in a vase, when suddenly Slim Morgan charged through the front door.
“Catastrophe!” he yelled. “Where’s Ruby at?”
“I’m here, Slim. What’sa matter?”
“It’s Jethro, Ruby. I think he’s dead.”
Copyright © 2016 Ruth White.
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Ruth White grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, where many of her books are set. She went to college at Montreat and Pfeiffer, both in North Carolina. She worked as a teacher and librarian in four Southern states before moving to Hershey, PA, which she now calls home. Ruth has published seventeen novels for young people and adults, among them the Newbery honor book, Belle Prater's Boy.