Catherine’s Castle - The Story
The continuing adventures of the Colorado Girls.

Chapter 1

Introduction: Catherine’s Castle will appear as a serialization on this web site. The Castle in the City (Gwynie’s Story) will be available in the future on this web site.

All copyrighted materials are published here in order to promote City Castles®, LLC products. They may not be used in any way to promote any other products. Federal law prohibits the unauthorized sale or distribution of copyrighted materials. It is your responsibility to determine that your use of City Castles®, LLC material does not constitute copyright infringement. The illustrations on the greeting cards/and Christmas cards in the City Castles online store, on this web site, are also the illustrations for this story. The cards correspond with the chapters of the story, and the story was the inspiration from which the card illustrations evolved.

This story is most appropriate for mature children, Tweens, and teens. I have never felt that I could, or should, edit a story to free it of every fearful occurrence. I would rather show that my characters learn to be brave. However, children may be afraid of imagined characters and in that case, should not read- or have the story read to them. The characters and events are imagined ones. There is no need to look for their counterparts in real life. If you find some resemblance- there are reasons for that- among those reasons are (1) your own good imagination; (2) Although this work is fiction I am describing people- people tend to share common behaviors, and characteristics. 

The “Colorado Girls” Catherine, Melinda, and Gwynie, in Catherine’s Castle, also appear in my book for ages 9-up, Arthur Collins and the Three Wishes which can be seen at

In the future, return, bring a friend, and join us in “the Queen’s Parlor.” Readers are welcome here!

And now let us put all cautions, and worries behind us because- once upon a time…

Linda Pilkington


Catherine’s Castle © Linda Pilkington

Chapter 1

“What a letter to write to a seven year old!” Catherine thought, and frowned-irritated at herself, and at her family.

“We are old fashioned! I am too! We are throw-backs from another age!”

“The whole rest of the world- everyone is rotten. All caught up in money, materialism- and sex! Everyone is gloriously insincere, all happily cheating each other. The most important politicians and VIPs are liars and corrupt-and not a soul is bothered by it.  Nobody condemns anything because that would be old-fashioned.” 

“No difficult or serious thoughts, please!”

 ”The country is full of shallow people and they are happy being shallow- and there is my family-thinking too much. And full of honor and trouble, and not so happy. And me, nineteen years old, and heaven help me, sounding just like my mother. I’m the worst of the bunch- writing such serious stuff to a seven year old.”

Thoughts tumbled and tossed themselves around Catherine’s busy mind. She paced, muttered, and shook the letter she was holding to accompany them.

Catherine turned and then flushed; Brittany Thomas was leaning against the front door of their apartment – smiling indulgently at Catherine’s soliloquy.

“So what conversation are you having with yourself – this time?” Brittany asked- but did not stop for an answer.

“I swear! I have never known a girl who had more of an inner life than you do. Most people talk to themselves-not Little Miss Introvert- she has large scale serious arguments with herself. I’m just thankful that I’m an extrovert; I don’t have to inquisition myself. Yes, I know! It is self-examination- pondering your own actions-trying for self-actualization-or something. It’s all to do with the Emerson-as in Ralph Waldo-tradition.” Brittany turned up her nose.

“Not for me! I don’t even have to think if I don’t want to! And I have had more fun in nineteen years than you will in your entire life. Catherine Emerson, this having to question your every action, every thought- even your every motive- where does it lead?”

Catherine smiled, because Brittany had summed it all up for her.

“Darned if I know. Death and Destruction- I suppose.” But she resumed her conversation- and now- directed it to Brittany.

“I was just getting a letter ready for Gwynie and I was thinking about my family- here we are Brittany- the world is in a new century- and my family- especially my mother- can’t seem to totally fight their way free of the 1800’s. They didn’t actually live during those times, but they read about it, and they identify with it.

 I don’t think Mother will ever be able to make peace with the 1900’s, so, how is she- how are they going to survive in this century? It is a new age; it has new rules and my family doesn’t know them. The only ones with a chance  to survive are my practical sister Melinda and possibly my father-I’m afraid Gwynie is just like Manna.”

“I don’t know about them- but I know someone else who is going to be struggling along the next years-still talking to herself- trying to fit her little square, stubborn self- into the world’s circles. It is a good thing that you are  pretty, Catherine Emerson. That is the only thing that is going to bring you through. People make great allowances for beauty.” Brittany tossed down her books. Then she tossed herself on the sofa- in her usual relaxed way, heels propped up - and grinned up at Catherine.

Catherine stamped Gwynie’s letter- using the last three stamps that she had – and then smiled at her roommate as she swung out the door and down the steps to mail the letter.

In her mind’s eye she could imagine her mother coming home and stopping at the mail box-glancing at the letters in the dimming light of early fall- her eyes lighting up when she saw a letter from Catherine to Gwynie.

Her mother’s eyes and her own were alike-joy and amusement always lighting and darkening them. Catherine felt a stab of pain near the heart as she thought of how impatient she had been with her mother. That was the problem, they were alike. To criticize her mother was much like self-criticism, and any pain that she inflicted she was doomed to feel.

Catherine frowned, “Now will you look at that! Mother is tired even in my daydreams- and it is so irritating.”

Catherine was in that frustrating state of separation- that looks much more like non-separation- from her parents. She loved them, but with youth’s assurance- and so, she spent a great deal of time arguing with them, and silently blaming them for their own, and her problems.

She worried about her parents, and wanted to shake them because of her worries. She could not understand what had caused her parents to have to struggle when everyone else seemed to move confidently along- good fortune, and inheritances spilling onto the road in front of them. And so without knowing that she had done it Catherine had come to the conclusion that it was all of their own fault. Something about her parents seemed to fling bad fortune before them.

Granted, her parents seemed not to actually want bad fortune. And she had to admit that they never gave up; they struggled for the things that they wanted- however, they seldom got them. To Catherine’s mind, that was their fault. They were not doing something right. She knew that it didn’t make sense, but why would the powers that be smile on the rest of humanity- and exclude her own mother and father- unless- there was some fault in them? She had a vague impression that her parents were incompetent. She did not consciously think of them as inferior to the rest of humankind, but her conclusions edged along in that direction.

She mailed her letter, and as usual, met three friends while she did it- and was glad that their conversation distracted her from thoughts of home and family. For now she must immerse herself into college life- and leave everything else behind-she sighed-and whether it was with resignation or relief she did not know.

Despite Catherine’s daydreaming about her mother delivering her letter to Gwynie- it was her father who picked up the letter, and came through the door calling out, “Gwynie Girl- there’s a letter from ‘your Catherine’!”

He was a cheerful man, full of vitality and warmth. He stood at the front door-took off his work cap and beamed at his middle daughter. He ruffled his own graying hair-until it stood up in tufts- made a face, and teased Melinda for a moment by holding the letter high over her head.

“Hi Pops, let me have it- Catherine said that I should read it to the Squirt.”

Melinda was shorter than Catherine, and at almost fifteen, was afraid that she was fated for a lifetime of dumpiness. She was quiet, direct when she spoke, and gave the impression of having her feet firmly planted on the ground. That impression held by herself and others who observed her was not totally accurate, but Melinda had never troubled to question it.

If there had been an objective and unobserved- observer in the little entryway, they might have taken a few minutes to examine the Emerson’s middle child and puzzle over what she was on the brink of becoming. She had moments of beauty-mostly when she was unobserved by herself or anyone else. It was true that Melinda did not have Catherine’s radiance, that charm that attracted so many. But Melinda did have humor and imagination that she seldom allowed anyone to glimpse. Presently, she was mostly potential- a rather short girl, with a humorous mouth, long, thick hair, and smooth light skin that would not tan. For all of her supposed practicality, she was seldom seen without a book in her hand.

She took the letter- planted a kiss somewhere on her father’s cheek- before he went off to shower and work in his office, and then went to find Gwynie. She always picked up her youngest sister after school each day, and then “sat” for her each afternoon. Now she marched out the back door and looked around the shadowy backyard for her little sister.

“Gwyn, a letter from Catherine- for you. It’s late! Come in and do your chores, and then I’ll read it to you; if you get done with your work quick enough, so we have time before Mother gets home. Well, where are you? Under that gnarly old tree, I suppose. One day the wind will come up and blow it right over- better make sure that you’re not under it!”

 Melinda called out this lengthy message because she was in a hurry, and because, she was too impatient to make conversation. When she was forced into it, she had a tendency to cram all of her feelings and thoughts into one paragraph.

Darkness was coming on, and shadows were filling up the corners of the yard near the fence. 

“Well, don’t yell. I’m right here.” Her sister said in her chirping little voice- almost directly at Melinda’s elbow.

Melinda jumped. “Don’t sneak up on a person when it’s dark- make some noise! You are the softest stepping child I have ever seen. What are you doing out here anyway? Why don’t you ever go up to your room and play anymore?” Melinda asked crossly, ignoring the fact that children should be encouraged to play outside.

“I’m not, and I’m not a child anyway. Besides, Catherine says that I’m quiet and graceful. And I don’t go up to my room cause I don’t want to.” Gwyn said, putting all of her answers and retorts together- her style reflected Melinda’s and showed the same tendency to throw questions, comments, and accusations all together.

For once, Melinda decided not to fall into their usual afternoon argument. Those episodes sprang up when both sisters were tired, and still not over the tensions of the school day.

Gwyn followed her sister into the house and began to set the table for supper. She was good at her chores-something Melinda had not mentioned. In fact, she was a very self-reliant child- at least when she was in her own home, and surrounded by familiar tasks.

The oldest sister, Catherine, had always doted on Gwyn, and she had taught her how to do many things well. Gwyn’s quick competence had pleased Catherine. She had seen what a poor job most children did when doing chores. They botched bed making, they botched table setting, and they made a mess of their surroundings. When Catherine had begun to teach Gwynie to help around the house, she had expected a poor performance. But from the beginning Gwynie had taken pride in doing her jobs right.

Gwynie finished setting the table. And then she went into the living room, known to the sisters as, “The Queen’s Parlor,” and began to pile up the daily paper and put the room in order. Although she was only seven, she knew how each room in the house looked when it was in “company order” and she liked to see them look that way.

While the youngest sister worked with model efficiency- Melinda’s chores were accomplished with a contrast in attitude and results. She placed the dishes on the table with more force than was necessary, and always dropped most of the silverware, at least once, before the table was set.  Melinda hated any chore that had to do with the house. She had often announced that when she had a place of her own- that there would be only the essentials.

To her mind, a bedroom was complete with a bed, a closet, a lamp, possibly a chair, and of course a bookcase- nothing else was needed and should be eliminated.

A kitchen should have cupboards for food, a sink, a countertop, a stove, a refrigerator and as few small appliances, and utensils as possible. A kitchen table and chairs were necessary- but all of the other things that crowded her family’s kitchen were an eyesore and a burden on her heart. She saw everything from the electric mixer to the canister sets as superfluous and clutter, and she would have eliminated them if she could.

Melinda cooked supper three nights a week. The suppers were simple to the extreme- partly because of Melinda’s dislike for cooking, but also because she lacked appreciation for what a good meal should be. Tonight’s supper was: cottage cheese and peaches as the salad, crackers for rolls, celery for the vegetable and warmed up chicken as the entrée. Everyone else in the family might long for better, or a more exciting meal, but no one had the time to cook it, or the energy to argue about it.

Melinda glanced around. She would have barely enough time to read the letter, eat supper and then make it to her baby sitting job. She came around the corner and found Gwynie standing at the bottom of the stairway, clutching several pairs of shoes that needed to be taken upstairs.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Melinda snapped. 

 “We won’t have time for the letter if you don’t hurry. I’m going go the Queen’s parlor- if Mother gets home before you get those shoes taken upstairs you’ll just have to wait to read the letter.”

Gwynie jumped, and then turning on the hall light, she walked quickly up the stairs. Once she was around the corner she raced into her parent’s room, and then into Melinda’s and dropped the shoes in each closet. She paused, stared around the hallway for just a second, and then without taking a breath, she hurried, as quickly as she could, down the stairs again to hear Catherine’s letter.

Sept, 19

Dear Gwynie,

It was sad to leave you and go back to college. Melinda wrote to me, and said that you cried, and that you are still waking up in the night and that you seem afraid. I am sorry about that. You are seven years old Gwynie and you know that in order to feel better you must do something to help yourself. You wouldn’t tell either Melinda or me what was bothering you, and so we couldn’t help you. You wouldn’t let us talk to Mother and Pops about it either.

I know that Manna and Pops are busy, and always seem worried about money and  other things. Now they are worried about her job- but they must be told when something is bothering you. They would try to help you. They love you very much.

I know that you try not to bother them; you are a good child and you think that by being better, you will make everything better. We are all trying to make things better. It is hard when parents always seem to have so much on their minds.

For a seven-year old, it is scary to know that there are problems that worry grown-ups. Parents have to handle their worries by themselves, and then they have to act like nothing is wrong so that their children don’t get worried too.

Let me tell you a secret about growing up-sometimes you have to pretend to be more grown-up then you really are. Little girls do that, teenagers do it and parents act as if they are able to handle any problem.

Maybe people think that if you pretend that you can handle everything long enough, that you will learn to do whatever needs to be done. 

Meanwhile, during the times that scare you, or worry you- hold on to the people who love you-until things get better. Manna says that that is what families are for; remember, things usually get better.

To help you, I will be sending you parts of a story. You liked the story that I made up about the dragon so much, that I will put a dragon in this story too; I’m not sure where he will be in the story, but he will blunder in by and by.

Remember what I told you about when our parents were young and used to walk in our backyard, and how they pretended that it was the garden of their castle? The story will be like that-Mother and Pops young and happy- but in another time- perhaps long ago.

There is an old saying, “a man’s house is his castle.” In this story-they live in their own “castle” (our house- but it looks like a castle), and they are the Queen and King. Remember that we have always called our house the “City Castle?” When I used to play with Melinda, we would pretend that the house was a castle, and that is why we still call our living room “The Queen’s Parlor.”

I have decided that we sisters will be more grown up in this story. This will make our characters more interesting. 

This is pretend kingdom- our very own kingdom and I can make the story and our lives be whatever I want them to be. If there are any scary parts (and to leave out the scary parts ruins a story)- just remember that everyone has to get through their own “scary parts”- every day of their lives.

It sounds confusing right now- it is hard to explain. You will have to listen to the story in order to understand. If you concentrate on the story- you will see what parts are like us and what parts are not- it will be imagination and truth all mixed together and my “Gwynie Girl”- must think about and understand the story for herself. Every time that I write you a letter- or even if I don’t have time to write a letter- I will send you a short part of the story.

Do you remember me telling you about Louisa May Alcott? She was the writer who wrote Little Women, she used to sell some of her stories this way- it was called serialization. Newspapers and magazines would put parts of the story in every week or every month-until the entire story had been published. Since I want to be a writer someday, I will write my first story to you- and then if “Your Catherine” should ever become a writer- you can tell everyone that my very first book was written just for you.

Manna said that many of the women’s magazines use to do this- carrying stories on and on for months and months. When she was a girl, Mother was reading a story about a Queen. The neighbors gave her their copies of the magazine every few months. Mother would walk home carrying an armload of the magazines feeling as if she were carrying a present; she was happy with the anticipation of catching up with the story. That is what reading is supposed to be - a present just for yourself.

Mother read grown-up stories- even when she was 10 or so. Her reading improved as she read those difficult stories. She improved her reading in order to read the stories that she loved. Melinda and I will try that with you- you will have to work harder on your reading so that you can keep up with your very own story. Melinda will read the first few parts of the story, but after that, you must read them yourself.

I am not being mean Gwynie- it’s just that I want you to be a better reader. Do you remember the teacher that Manna told us about? The one who embarrassed her- but made sure that Mother could read. That was after other teachers had just passed her on for two or three years. Mother said that Miss Osgood made her begin all over again- and even had one of her mother’s enemies become her tutor. If mother had trouble reading, but a determined teacher made her learn- then Gwynie, you can learn too.

Now I must stop writing- I won’t be able to write a long letter next time- I’ve got school and I work too- you know! Be good and don’t fight with Melinda- you two are too old to fight- besides it is time this family started being more loyal to each other. In order to survive bad times- we must stand together.

Love from, “your own Catherine”

“Why do we call our Mother ‘Manna’?” Gwynie asked, leaning against her sister’s shoulder-their hostilities  forgotten in the companionship of reading Catherine’s letter.

“You know the story.”

“Tell me again.”

“Well, you know, Catherine was learning Bible stories at Bible School. She was too little to even be in Bible School- she was just beginning to talk- She called Mother- Mamma – then when she heard about the Israelites and the manna in the wilderness- well, she got the words confused and started calling Mother- Manna.”

“But Daddy calls Mother- Manna too!”

“You know the reason for that- it’s because of a poem, by Keats- that Popsy quotes to Mother-I don’t know why, it’s romantic-and not one bit like Mother.”

“What does the poem say?” Gwynie asked.

“I’ll find it for you and we can read it together. Poetry is not practical-it doesn’t really apply to life- but it is beautiful, and you should hear more of it.” Melinda said, taking her cue from Catherine’s letter. Both of the older girls had read before they were five-and they considered their seven-year old sister sadly behind in school.

“Don’t be mean-I want to know now.” Gwynie said, trying to keep the little sister whine out of her voice.

“I don’t have…well, it’s something about a fairy, or a princess or something, it says something about, “honey wild and manna dew”…and I can’t remember what else- and besides Mother is home and it’s time to eat.”