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Authors: Kathryn Kenny

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BOOK: The Mystery of the Emeralds
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When Miss Sunderland introduced Trixie and Honey, Neil gave them an appraising look and said, “Pleased to meetcha. Don’t think I’ve seen you around these parts before.” He had set the milk and eggs on the edge of the well, and as he spoke, he hitched his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans.

“No, we’re from Sleepyside,” Trixie answered a bit coolly and then added, “and where do
you
come from?”

There was a hint of sarcasm in her voice, for she had taken an immediate dislike—no, “dislike” wasn’t the word for it. She just had a feeling that Neil was a little fresh. He reminded her vaguely of Dan Mangan when she first met him, although Neil was not as sullen as Dan had been.

“Oh, up north of here,” Neil answered vaguely. “I’m figuring on moseying down Texas-way before winter and getting me a job on a ranch, but I took a fancy to Miss Julie here, so I’m stopping off for a while,” he continued, giving the old lady an ingratiating smile.

The way he talks makes me feel he’s read too many Western comic books
, Trixie thought to herself.
I’d like to see him on a bucking horse. I bet he wouldn’t last long!
Then, aloud, she said, “Well, that sounds like fun. No school, no worries.”

“I’ll say no more school!” Neil answered emphatically. “I hate school! Do you think they teach you anything about horses? No, just a lot of junk that don’t do a guy no good.”

A little
grammar
might have done
you
some good
, Trixie felt like saying, but she controlled the impulse.

“Oh, do you like horses?” Honey asked brightly. “Trixie and I love to ride. We have several horses at home.”

“I’ll just bet you do, Miss,” Neil replied out of the corner of his mouth. “You see, I ain’t that lucky, but I’ll have me some horses one of these days, you can bet.” With that, he picked up the milk and eggs and took them into the house.

“Isn’t he a nice boy?” Miss Sunderland asked warmly. “See how he took those things to the kitchen without even being asked? I don’t know how I’ll ever get along without him.”

“Well, he
does
seem to take good care of you,” Trixie replied. “But isn’t it too bad he left school so soon?”

“Oh, he’ll turn out all right,” Miss Sunderland said. “He’s a bright boy, really, but he doesn’t seem to have any roots, and all he can think about is horses.”

“Well, I
hope
you’re right,” Trixie said dubiously, and then realizing that it was getting late, she asked Miss Sunderland if it would be convenient for her to get the diaries before they left.

“What diaries?” the old lady asked, her misty blue eyes wide.

Trixie’s heart sank as she gently reminded Miss Sunderland of her father’s diaries and of Rosewood Hall.

“Oh, of course, of course. I got to thinking about something else there for a minute. I’ll get them. They’re right in his desk where he always kept them.” She pushed herself out of the chair and walked slowly toward the house.

While she was gone, Trixie and Honey compared notes on their impressions of Neil, and both agreed that they had some mental reservations about him. Trixie had the feeling he was putting on an act, and she wondered why.

“Let’s suggest to Miss Sunderland that this business of the letter be a secret among the three of us,” Trixie said. “Do you think she’ll agree?”

“Yes, but after all, she’s
ninety!
All we can do is hope. Her mind is really very fuzzy, isn’t it?” Honey replied slowly.

“I guess you’d be fuzzy, too, if you’d lived that long,” Trixie said. “Shh! Here she comes, and thank goodness, she has the diaries!”

“Now, my dears, you just take these along with you. I’ve heard of your family, Trixie. I guess there have been Beldens in Sleepyside about as long as our family has been here in Croton. When you’ve finished with them, you can bring them back, and we’ll have another nice visit.” She handed the little leather journals to Trixie. They were tied together with faded red tape, the kind Trixie had seen on old legal documents her father had occasionally brought home from the bank. He had told her this was why people said any involved business was “all tied up in red tape.”

“We’ll take good care of them,” Trixie assured her
as she and Honey made their farewells. “We’re going to keep the diaries and the letter a secret, Miss Sunderland, so you don’t have to worry about a thing, and you won’t tell anyone, either, will you?” Trixie urged.

“Oh, no, it will be our little secret, won’t it?” the old lady said, clasping her thin hands together gleefully. “I always loved having a secret!”

Trixie and Honey waved good-by as they pedaled out of the gate and down the road, the diaries carefully packed in Trixie’s bicycle basket. As soon as they had crossed the dam, they found that what the garage man had told them was certainly true. They flew down the hill, through the upper village, and on to the main road toward Sleepyside in no time at all. It was only when their speed slackened that they had time to talk about the happenings of the afternoon.

“What do you make of it all? Do you think she will be able to keep the letter a secret?” Honey asked.

“Jeepers! I don’t know. She’s so forgetful, she may not even think about it once we are out of sight,” Trixie answered. “On the other hand, who knows how her mind will work?”

“I can’t wait to get at the diaries,” Honey said. “When do you think we can start reading them?”

“We were going to the library tonight. Remember?”
Trixie asked. “But now I think these are more important. Why don’t you spend the night with me and we can work on them after dinner?”

“Wonderful! I’m starved and your mother always has such yummy food,” Honey laughed. “And I’m sure Miss Trask will let me stay.”

Miss Trask, who had been one of Honey’s teachers when she was in private school, had come to stay at the Manor House, first as governess, and then, when Honey had entered public school, she had stayed on to manage the household during Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler’s frequent absences. All the Bob-Whites adored her and she was always ready to help them with any of their plans when they needed her.

The girls stopped off at Crabapple Farm to ask Mrs. Belden if it was all right for Honey to eat dinner there and to spend the night.

“I’d be delighted to have you, Honey,” Trixie’s mother said to her. “You know you’re always welcome, and,” she added with a smile, “especially tonight. Mart and Brian just told me Chuck Altemus wants them to come to his house. They are planning an overnight camping trip, so that leaves me with several extra pieces of fried chicken.”


That’s
what smells so good!” Honey exclaimed.
“I’ll hurry up to the house and get into something fresh and be right back, Trixie.”

By the time Trixie had set the table, showered, and changed her clothes, Mr. Belden was home from the bank, and Bobby, who had had to amuse himself all day, was teasing for someone to read him a story.

“You pick out the story you want and I’ll read it to you,” Honey, who had just come in, told him. “That is, if we have time before dinner,” she added, looking toward Mrs. Belden.

“You’ll have about ten minutes while the rice cooks,” she answered.

“I wanna read about Jack ’n’ the beanstalk,” Bobby cried, climbing into Honey’s lap with his book.

At dinner Trixie tried to hide her impatience. She could scarcely wait to get at the diaries, but she exerted all her self-control, and chatted amiably through the meal about the trip to the dam and their picnic lunch. Honey started to help with the dishes after dinner, but Mrs. Belden said, “Thank you, dear, for offering, but I’ll give you and Trixie a vacation tonight. I have a feeling you two have something important to discuss, so run along.”

Trixie gave her mother a warm hug, and then she and Honey went upstairs to Trixie’s bedroom.

“Hurry, Trixie, untie the tape, and pray we’ll find something that will give us some leads,” Honey cried as the two curled up on the window seat.

There were twelve of the little books, all bound alike in soft brown leather. The pages were edged in gold and each was divided into spaces for three days’ entries.

“Here, Honey, you take the first one. Let’s see—it’s for the year 1859,” Trixie said as she glanced inside.

The girls read in silence for a long time, then suddenly Honey burst out, “Trix, listen! I’m up to June and here he begins to talk about his wedding, and how he’s packing his fiancée’s things up to move to The Homestead.
Only five more days before Margaret becomes Mrs. John Sunderland. Worked all day getting things in order for the move. The farm will need a lot of work on it after lying idle for two years.

“Oh, Honey, the pieces are beginning to fall into place. Now if only we can find out something about Ruth. I haven’t read anything important in 1860 yet. It’s all about what crops he put in, and how many chickens were hatched, and all about the farm. I’m not going to skip any, though, because maybe something will turn up. We’ll just have to keep on reading and hoping.” Trixie again buried her nose in the book.

It was she who next broke the silence. “Gleeps, Honey! Here it is!
Helen, Margaret, and I leaving tomorrow for Cliveden to visit Ruth and her husband at Rosewood. Hay all cut and a slack time ahead for a few weeks
, and it’s dated July fifteenth.”

“Cliveden! Do you suppose that’s in Virginia?” Honey asked. “Miss Julie said Ruth had married and gone to Virginia. Where’s your old geography book? We’ll look it up.”

Trixie rummaged around in her closet until she found the book. Then, with Honey looking over her shoulder, she searched until she found Cliveden on the map.

“There it is, that little bitty dot right there where the James River begins to get wider. Whoopee!” Trixie cried. “We’ve found it!”

“Wait a minute, Trix,” Honey said soberly. “I don’t want to pour cold water on your discovery. It’s great, but have you happened to think of where we go from here? Virginia is a long, long way from Sleepyside, you know.”

“Oh, I haven’t thought of that,” Trixie answered, her spirits quickly deflating. “Virginia! Rosewood Hall might just as well be in Outer Mongolia. Oh, Honey, what are we going to do?”

Chapter 5
Di’s Great Idea

Neither of the girls had much to say as they undressed for bed. They were such close friends that they sensed each other’s moods, and Honey knew that Trixie felt terribly frustrated right now. She also knew that, given a little time, she would probably come up with some solution. She always had in the past. Things had a way of working out for her. Honey slipped into her dainty blue nightgown and matching robe and went off to brush her teeth. When she returned, Trixie, still with one shoe on, was sitting on the edge of the bed, her chin cupped in her hands.

“Honey,” she said slowly, “I’ll simply die if I can’t explore this thing further. I just
know
that necklace is still hidden somewhere around Rosewood, and I’ve got to find it. Now listen. Do you think the Bob-Whites would let us use the money in the treasury to go down to Virginia and see what we could find out?”

“Not so fast, Trixie,” Honey answered as she sat down on the bed and put her arm around Trixie’s shoulder. “In the first place, you know our parents wouldn’t
let us go off by ourselves. We’d have to have someone to drive us around, too, and do you realize how much it would cost, and how little we have left in the treasury?”

“Wham! I just came in for a perfect landing! I’m right back on
terra firma
again.” Trixie laughed. “I
knew
it was a wild idea. Maybe when Mart and Brian get home tomorrow, the Bob-Whites can have another meeting and talk it over. I’m too dead to think about it any more tonight. I’m not making any sense.” She finished undressing, brushed her teeth, then threw herself into bed and blew a good-night kiss to Honey.

She
thought
she wouldn’t think about it any more, but she found that, tired though she was, her mind was spinning like a top.
I wish I could be like her
, she thought as she listened to Honey’s even breathing and knew she was already fast asleep. She heard the old grandfather’s clock in the hall strike ten, but she was still wide awake. Something told her that she and Honey should have read further in John Sunderland’s diary. They had been so excited about finding the location of Rosewood that they hadn’t thought to go on.

Very quietly, so she would not disturb Honey, Trixie slid out of bed and, lifting up the top of the window seat, got the diaries from the chest underneath where they had hidden them. Although the moon was
high, it wasn’t bright enough to read by, so Trixie got out the little flashlight that had been in her Christmas stocking the year before. She found the entry about the trip to Virginia and continued reading. The next few entries told of the long train ride to the village of Cliveden, the arrival at Rosewood Hall, and of their cordial welcome by Ruth and her husband. Then came several entries about the plantation, with comments about the differences between farming in the South and in the North.

Jeepers!
Trixie thought to herself.
This may have been interesting to John, but it sure doesn’t help me. What were Ruth, Helen, and Margaret doing while the men were riding around the plantation?

BOOK: The Mystery of the Emeralds
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