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Authors: Kathryn Kenny

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BOOK: The Mystery of the Emeralds
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“Do you see anything helpful?” Di asked, bending over Trixie’s shoulder. “Blueprints are a complete puzzle to me.”

“Well,
this
one puzzles
me,
” Trixie conceded. “See here between the music room and the solarium? There are two lines instead of one. I don’t remember anything between those two rooms.”

“Could it be closet space?” Jim asked, taking a closer look at the drawing.

“Possibly,” Trixie said, chewing the end of her finger, “but there’s no door showing here, and I don’t remember seeing one either, do you?”

“Maybe it’s in the hall,” Brian suggested. “I’ll go take a look.”

He returned almost immediately to say there was no door, only a space of about two feet between the music-room partition and the solarium.

“That’s just what it shows here,” Trixie whispered. “Wait, I’ll go ask Miss Bates.”

“Didn’t I tell you, Edgar, this one’s the one with the brains?” Miss Bates challenged him after Trixie had pointed out the discrepancy on the blueprint.

“But, Carolyn, my dear, I never
said
Trixie was anything but brilliant, did I?” Mr. Carver said with a wink at the Bob-Whites.

“No, no, no,” Miss Bates said impatiently. “I didn’t mean that at all. I only meant Trixie put her finger right on something that’s been puzzling all of us who had anything to do with this house. The outside measurements just don’t jibe with the inside, and I’ve checked them three times with my own tape measure!”

“You mean there’s this little triangular space left over like a gusset in a sleeve?” Honey said, pointing to the area in question.

“Exactly,” Miss Bates replied, flipping shut the Japanese fan with which she had been cooling herself since her arrival, and tapping it briskly on the arm of the chair. “Probably the mistake of the original builder. A man, I’m sure. But I mean to find out as soon as we start on the music room.”

“And when will that be?” Trixie asked anxiously.

“In the fall, probably,” Miss Bates answered. “As soon as the tourist season is over. I doubt if we’ll find anything of interest, but I’ll write you if we do.”

“Then you don’t think it has anything to do with the secret passage?” Trixie asked, her face clouded.

“One chance in a million,” Miss Bates replied, settling her hat more firmly on her head and jabbing an enormous hatpin through it. “In all my experience I’ve never seen a three-cornered room with no door and no window and only two feet at its widest point. Have you? It was a plain mistake, I’ll wager, and if not, I’ll eat this hat complete with all the cabbage roses on it!”

She got up and gave Edgar Carver’s hand a squeeze, pronouncing him to be the only man in Christendom who had any sense, and there were times when she despaired even of him. Then, waving in the general direction of the Bob-Whites, she was off.

Everyone seemed a little breathless after her
departure, and although there were seven people in the room, it appeared strangely empty.

“I guess I should have warned you that Carolyn is something of a character,” Mr. Carver said. “I’ve known her for years and she never seems to run out of steam.”

“She
does
have a lot of energy,” Trixie commented, “and she also seems to have very positive ideas.”

“Well, when you get to know her as well as I do, you’ll find out that when she is most vehement about something, she may be covering up a secret reservation,” Mr. Carver replied.

“You mean she thinks there’s more to the secret passage than she cares to admit?” Trixie asked.

“Just that,” he answered. “She hates to think she didn’t discover it for herself, but you’ll find that if
you
locate it, she’ll be the first to give you credit. You wait and see. She’ll be back tomorrow with her custard and poultices to see what you’ve found.”

“Jeepers, Mr. Carver,” Trixie said, “I hate to think of Miss Bates eating that enormous hat and all those roses, but I have a feeling she’s going to have to!”

“Well, dressed up with a little mayonnaise it might not be so bad,” Mart quipped. “I might even help her.”

Trixie was only half-listening. She walked over to the corner of the study nearest the controversial partition
and began carefully looking over the bookshelves which lined that side of the room. Then, leaving the other Bob-Whites to talk with Mr. Carver, she slipped out into the hall and into the music room. She took a long time going over the beautiful paneling on the walls, frequently tapping her fingers on the wood or gently pushing against the wall with her shoulder. Having circled the room, she returned to that part of the wall that backed against the solarium and reexamined it with special care, even getting down on her knees to have a good look at the baseboard. As she felt along it, she noticed a depression under one of the moldings.

“It’s just what I suspected,” she said to herself. “It’s almost as though I
knew
what I’d find. Now if my hunch only continues to work!”

She felt a shiver of excitement run up her spine. Placing her fingers in the little hollowed-out space, she pushed up, as though opening a window, and after several jerks, she felt the panel begin to slide. She lifted it as far as it would go, revealing a space about half the height of the room. She took a fleeting glance into the dark opening, then dashed back to the study.

“I’ve found it!” she cried. “Come here! Quick!”

She grabbed Honey by the hand and, followed by the other Bob-Whites, ran back to the music room to
show them her discovery. They took turns looking into the murky space, while Trixie hurried back to tell Mr. Carver more about it. She found him swinging himself into his wheelchair, his face bright with expectation.

“Oh, Mr. Carver, you shouldn’t be moving around like this!” Trixie cried. “I’ll tell you everything!”

“No, my dear,” he replied. “This I must see for myself.”

As they started toward the door they met Jim coming to ask if there was a flashlight in the house.

“It’s so dark in that little cubbyhole we can’t make out a thing,” he said, “except that it doesn’t seem to have a floor.”

“No floor!” Trixie exclaimed. “What do you mean?”

“There’s a flashlight here in the drawer,” Mr. Carver said, steering his chair near enough to reach it. “This may be the beginning of the end of the mystery.”

The Bob-Whites stood back to let Trixie have the first real look inside the opening. She felt the familiar pounding in her heart as she bent down and shot a beam of light into the blackness.

“What do you see, Trix?”

“Don’t keep us in the dark!”

“Let us look!”

The Bob-Whites were all talking at once now
that the first excitement of discovery was over.

Trixie stood up, her face glowing. “Jim’s right,” she said. “There isn’t a floor, but there
is
a narrow circular stairway leading down to the cellar!”

“To the cellar!” Mart exclaimed. “Then how come we didn’t see it when we were down there?”

“Jeepers! I don’t know!” Trixie said in bewilderment. “Maybe the staircase doesn’t lead to the cellar at all! Wait a minute and I’ll go down and see where it goes.”

She stepped gingerly into the narrow opening and, holding the flashlight in front of her, she disappeared into the darkness below.

Chapter 14
A Narrow Escape

“Are you all right, Trixie?” Jim called to her. “Do you want me to come down there, too?” His voice sounded strangely hollow in the confined space.

Almost like an echo Trixie answered, “I’m all right, Jim. No, don’t come down. There’s barely enough room for me.”

“Are you at the bottom yet?” Mart called, leaning over Jim’s shoulder. They could not see Trixie because of the curve in the staircase, but the ghostly glow of her light was reflected up to them.

“No, not yet.” Her voice now sounded even farther away. “It’s funny but I should be near the cellar by now, but the stairs seem to keep right on going. Don’t worry. I’m all right. I’m just getting a little out of breath.”

“What did she say?” Mr. Carver inquired, leaning expectantly forward in his chair.

“She said she was getting short of breath,” Jim answered.

At this Brian jumped up, a worried look coming over his face and, pushing the others away from the
entrance to the stairwell, yelled down to Trixie.

“Don’t go a step farther, Trixie. Turn around and come right back! The air in there is probably dead. You hear me?”

“Yes, Brian,” Trixie replied, her voice somewhat weaker than before. “I’m coming. It is—pretty stuffy—down here.” Her words came slowly, too slowly to satisfy Jim, who turned to Brian.

“I’m going in there! I think she needs help!”

As Jim descended, there was complete silence in the room. Then after what seemed like an eternity, he reappeared and right behind him came Trixie, looking paler than any of the Bob-Whites ever remembered seeing her. She dropped into a chair, stretched out her legs, and threw back her head. Brian was at her side immediately.

“Put your head down between your knees, Trix,” he ordered. “Mart, open the window. She’s faint. Grab hold of the chair, Jim, and we’ll carry her over where she can get some fresh air.”

It wasn’t long before the color began to come back to Trixie’s cheeks, and a slow smile spread over her face.

“Gleeps!” she said, lifting her head. “Another minute of that foul air and I would have been a goner. If I hadn’t had Jim’s foot to grab on to, I don’t think I could have made it back.”

“Well, I don’t think we’d better let you try any more descents today,” Mr. Carver said, a look of relief flooding over his face as he saw Trixie revive. “I’ll tell you what I suggest. I’ll hook up an electric fan tonight and leave this window open, so that by tomorrow there should be some air circulating down there.”

“Could you see any opening at the bottom?” Mart asked Trixie.

“I didn’t
get
to the bottom,” she answered impatiently. “That’s what puzzles me. I’m sure I went down to the cellar level because I counted the steps and I was on the twentieth one when Brian called to me to come back.”

“Let’s not worry about that right now,” Mr. Carver said, giving her arm a pat. “I think, my dear, a good night’s sleep is what we all need. We’ve had more than our share of excitement today.” Then turning to Jim, he said, “Get her back to Williamsburg, Jim, and see that she takes it easy this evening.”

“That’s a difficult order.” Jim laughed. “Trixie isn’t one to take it easy very often, but I’ll try.”

“That’s a splendid idea, Mr. Carver,” Honey said. “I guess we could all stand a quiet evening for a change, and we still have one more day before we leave for home to see what’s at the bottom of the stairs.”

“That’s not much time,” Trixie sighed, “but with luck we may solve the mystery tomorrow, so keep your fingers crossed!”

It wasn’t until the Bob-Whites were settled in the station wagon and turning out of the drive that Trixie, suddenly snapping her fingers, remembered Neil.

“We’ve got to talk with him if he’s still waiting for us,” she said emphatically.

“Oh, Trixie, can’t you put him off until tomorrow?” Honey pleaded. “You must be dead tired. I know
I
am, and I haven’t been through what you have today.”

“No,” Trixie answered in the same positive tone. “If we don’t talk to him now, when he’s ready for help, he may get discouraged and fall into worse trouble than before.”

“Trixie’s right,” Jim said. “We don’t have to take much time—just reassure him we’re ready to help, and maybe offer some suggestions.”

They had gone past Rosewood Hall, and were beginning to wonder if perhaps Neil had lost patience and decided not to wait for them, when Trixie spotted him. He was sitting under a tree by the side of the road.

“Hi, Neil,” she called out as Jim brought the car to a stop.

Neil got to his feet, but seemed hesitant to come closer until Trixie said reassuringly, “Come on over and meet the rest of my friends.”

He then walked slowly toward them, twisting his cap in his hands and looking almost shyly from one to the other. Honey remarked later that she wouldn’t have known he was the same brash boy she had met at Miss Julie’s.

“Jim, here, I think you’ve met before,” Trixie said with the hint of a laugh.

“Yes, we met under rather unusual circumstances the other day,” Jim said, smiling warmly, “but let’s forget about that.”

At this sign of friendship from Jim, Neil began to be more at ease and acknowledged each introduction with a “Pleased to meet you,” and a bob of his head.

“Hop in, if you can find room, and we’ll give you a lift,” Trixie said. “We’re awfully late so we’ll have to talk on the way.”

“That’s all right with me,” Neil answered. “I’m not going anywhere special.”

“Not to Texas?” Trixie asked this with the trace of a smile as Neil got into the front seat with Jim and herself.

“Unh-unh!” Neil said emphatically. “That was just a
wild dream. I’m always having wild dreams, like that necklace business.”

“Trixie tells us you quit Jenkins,” Brian said. “Got any plans now, wild or not?” His tone was so genial that they could almost see Neil’s confidence returning.

“Well,” he began slowly, “I want to get a job. I still like to work with horses, and I want to finish up high school, too, but I guess I can’t do both.”

“How much longer do you have to go?” Mart asked.

“Only a year,” Neil replied. “I’d have graduated last June if I hadn’t quit.”

Di hadn’t said anything during this conversation, but as Neil finished she leaned forward from the back seat.

“You know,” she said, “I think Daddy might be able to suggest something. He’s wonderful about helping people if he thinks they really want to help themselves.”

“Oh, I do!” Neil said. “Honestly I do. All I want is a chance!”

“Well, you come back with us to Williamsburg and I’ll see when he can talk with you,” Di said. “You’ll like Daddy. He had a hard time when he was your age, too, so he’ll understand,” she added softly.

“What’s Jenkins up to these days?” Trixie asked, trying to make her voice sound casual.

“Oh, he keeps digging around in the ruins of Rosewood Hall,” Neil said. “He’s sure the emeralds are there somewhere. He even talks about a secret passage. What a crazy idea!”

BOOK: The Mystery of the Emeralds
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