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Authors: Kathryn Kenny

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BOOK: The Mystery of the Emeralds
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“What do you mean?” Mart asked incredulously.

Trixie had been sitting next to the window in the front seat and had spotted a small sign which the others had not noticed. Everyone craned their necks to see it after Trixie had pointed it out.

GREEN TREES
, it read.
OPEN TO PUBLIC THURSDAYS
1
TO
3.
ADMISSION
$1.

“And today’s Wednesday.” Jim broke the silence. “We can drive out again tomorrow afternoon. You know, we’re in luck!”

“Yes, I guess we are,” Trixie answered a little dubiously. She didn’t know then just
how
lucky their forthcoming tour of Green Trees would be.

They were awakened the next morning by the firing of the cannon salute on the Market Square Green. At breakfast, Mr. Lynch asked the Bob-Whites about their expedition into the country the day before. He and Mrs. Lynch had gone to an official dinner the previous night, so this was the first opportunity he had had to hear about their activities.

“Oh, we saw the most beautiful house,” Trixie began. “It’s only a few miles from here and it’s open to the public. They call it Green Trees.”

“It’s just what I always imagined a Southern mansion would look like,” Honey said, “all white and shining and gracious-looking.”

“I’ve heard of Green Trees,” Mr. Lynch said. “I believe the local historical society has had a lot to do with restoring it.”

“It certainly looks as though someone has taken wonderful care of the place,” Brian commented. “It was
in apple-pie order, the lawns, the hedges, and everything. Of course we didn’t see the inside.”

“No, but today is visiting day,” Di told her father, “so we’re going back this afternoon. I wish you could go with us, Daddy, you and Mummy would love it!”

“I wish I could, too, Diana, but they’ve set up a very tight schedule for us here. I’ll try to see it before we leave for home. I promise you.”

Since they couldn’t tour Green Trees until one o’clock, the Bob-Whites had plenty of time after breakfast to go through the many fascinating buildings in Williamsburg. As they stepped into the wigmaker’s shop it was as if they had suddenly been transported back to colonial days. The man at the workbench was dressed in authentic eighteenth-century clothes—a full-sleeved white shirt, knee pants, and heavy white stockings. On his shoes were buckles of silver. They watched as he worked repairing a black wig set on a wooden wig stand before him.

“Did the children wear wigs in those days, too?” Mart asked.

The wigmaker looked over the top of his glasses at Mart.

“No, not the little ones.” He smiled. “Here, take this and try it on.” He handed Mart a wig he had taken from
the display in the window of the shop. It was dark brown with waves on the side and a little red bow tied to the short pigtail in the back. It so altered Mart’s appearance that everyone burst out laughing.

“Whoever thought I’d be caught in a peruke!” Mart said as he stuck his fingers inside his shirt front and assumed an exaggerated pose.

“A
what?
” Di asked, wide-eyed.

“The young gentleman is quite right,” the wigmaker said. “Wigs were sometimes called perukes or periwigs, and did you know that wigmakers also used to serve as barbers and as surgeons?”

“Well, they must have cut quite a figure,” Mart quipped. “Who was the first one to dream up the idea of a wig, anyway?”

“That’s something no one will ever know,” the man replied. “Egyptian mummies have been found wearing them, and there is evidence that wigs were worn by both the Greeks and the Romans. So you see they go way back to antiquity.”

“Why do you suppose people started wearing them?” Di asked. “I’d rather dress my own hair up fancy than wear one of
those
things.” She tossed her lovely hair over her shoulder as she spoke.

“Not everyone is blessed with beautiful hair like
yours,” the wigmaker said with a smile. “So false hair sometimes helped correct nature’s defects. Wigs are still used in the English courts, and of course the theatre couldn’t get along without them.”

“I never realized there was so much to learn about wigs,” Honey said as they thanked the man and started to leave. “You know, come to think of it, I saw some in a shop in New York the last time I was there, so they’re back in style. How do you think I’d look as a redhead?”

“Perfectly ghastly!” Brian cried. “You stay just the way you are, Honey Wheeler, or you’ll be expelled from the Bob-Whites!”

From the wigmaker’s shop, they went to the ten other shops Williamsburg boasted, where they saw craftsmen using authentic tools and looms, weaving cloth, working in silver, or fashioning iron pieces at the old forge. By the time they had seen the Governor’s Palace and the Raleigh Tavern and a few other attractions it was time for lunch.

“Let’s eat at Chowning’s. It’s just down the street a ways,” Di suggested. “Daddy said they serve lunch out-of-doors under an arbor.”

“Do we have time?” Trixie asked, looking anxiously at her wrist watch. “I’m dying to get back to Green Trees in time for the tour. It’s the next best thing to Rosewood.”

“There’s plenty of time, Trix,” Mart answered. “It’s eleven thirty and you know it only takes a few minutes to drive out there. Besides I wouldn’t skip lunch for anything.”

“Not even for the emeralds?” Honey asked, her eyes twinkling.

“Well, now you really put me on the spot.” Mart laughed. “I guess I could skip one meal if I had to, but that doesn’t say I would enjoy it.”

“I don’t think you’re going to have to be put to the test,” Trixie said disconsolately. “It looks as though we’d better forget about the emeralds. There always has to be a first time for everything, you know, and this will go down as the Bob-White’s first failure.”

“I refuse to believe it,” Honey said with a toss of her head.

“What makes you so sure?” Brian asked. “Give me one good reason for optimism and I’ll treat you to a banana split—triple scoop—king-sized.”

“Oh, nothing tangible, really. It’s just a hunch,” Honey replied as they approached the restaurant. “But it’s a strong one, believe me.”

Chapter 8
“Welcome to Green Trees!”

There was only one other car in the driveway at Green Trees when the Bob-Whites arrived.

“I’m glad there isn’t a big crowd,” Trixie commented as they approached the house. “You can see a lot more when there aren’t too many people.”

Jim had no sooner rapped on the door with the big brass knocker than it was opened wide and the Bob-Whites had their first glimpse inside. It was a glimpse that gave them all something of a shock, for the man who admitted them was in a wheelchair. His legs were covered by a woolen afghan, so that only the tips of his slipper-shod feet were visible.

“Welcome to Green Trees. I am your host, Edgar Carver,” he said, lifting his hands in a wide gesture of hospitality. “How nice to see so many young people! Would you like to sign the register there on the table? Then we will join the couple in the next room for the tour.” Trixie thought she had never heard a more delightful voice.

While Jim and the others were signing, she
had a chance to observe their host more closely.

“We’re so glad to be here, Mr. Carver,” she said warmly. “It’s a real experience for us to see a house like this.”

It was difficult for her to guess his age, for his shoulders were broad and strong-looking. His thick hair was quite gray, but there were remarkably few signs of aging in his handsome face. His deep blue eyes were clear and shining.

“We drove by yesterday after stopping to look at Rosewood Hall,” Trixie said, “and I must say our reception here is a lot more cordial than the one we got from your neighbor!”

At the words “Rosewood Hall,” Mr. Carver leaned forward, his face sober.

“How did you know about Rosewood Hall?” he asked gently. “From your accent I’m sure you’re not from Virginia.”

“No, we live a few miles outside New York City,” Trixie answered, “but I found a letter and then I found Miss Sunderland and—well, it’s a long story.”

“But a story which I should like to hear more about,” Edgar Carver replied earnestly. “I must take these people on the tour now, but will you stay on afterward and tell me of your discovery? You see, my mother
was born in Rosewood Hall, and
her
mother was a Sunderland.”

“Of course I will,” Trixie replied as Mr. Carver started toward the door. “I’ll tell you everything that’s happened.”

Although his wheelchair was an old-fashioned one with a high wicker back and large wheels, the older man managed it skillfully.

He must have been using it for a long time
, Trixie thought to herself as she watched him deftly turn it around and guide it through the door into the next room.

The waiting couple proved to be a friendly middle-aged man and his wife, a Mr. and Mrs. Sellers, who were visiting various out-of-the-way places on their leisurely trip to Florida where they planned to spend the winter. Mr. Sellers had been an architect before retiring, and was interested in old and historic houses. He was likable, but Trixie wished he wouldn’t ask quite so many questions! She was dying to talk further with Edgar Carver. However, she didn’t let her impatience keep her from noting every detail of the beautiful house.

As they went into yet another room, Mr. Carver explained that not all of Green Trees had been restored. This music room, for instance, was to be the next project of the historical society, but even in its present state
of disrepair it was charming. The paneled walls had been painted a soft green. An old spinet stood against one wall and a harp with most of its strings broken was nearby. The rich gold-colored brocades at the windows and on the few pieces of furniture were faded and split, and the delicate crystal chandelier was dull with dust.

“Does Green Trees have a ghost?” Mrs. Sellers asked as they were leaving the music room. “So many of the old houses we’ve visited claim to have a family spook.”

Edgar Carver laughed. “I know that ghosts, real or imaginary, are very fashionable in many of our old houses,” he answered. “Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been a bit hesitant about mentioning
our
ghost.”

“Oh, then there is one here?” Honey cried. “Please tell us about it, Mr. Carver.”

“I’m afraid it isn’t a very romantic ghost,” he began. “Nothing like the lovelorn maidens whose spirits swish in and out of drawing-rooms, blowing out candles and striking chords on pianos and such. No, ours is a very ordinary ghost. He was said to have been one of the masons who worked on this house. Unfortunately the poor fellow was killed when a large stone fell on him. It’s believed that his spirit sometimes returns to Green Trees, and some say you can hear the tapping of his trowel on the stones.”

“Have you ever heard him?” Di asked, wide-eyed.

“No,” Mr. Carver said slowly. “I think I’m probably much too incredulous about such things to hear any but the most ordinary noises.”

The last room they were shown had originally been a solarium, but now it was obviously being used as a studio. There were still a few plants growing in large tubs—a lemon tree, some gardenias, ferns, and an avocado—which gave the room a tropical atmosphere. A large easel with an unfinished painting on it occupied one corner where the north light was brightest, and near it a table on casters was covered with tubes of paint, brushes, and bottles.

“This is where I spend a great deal of my time,” Mr. Carver said as the party was invited in. “Without my painting, time would hang very heavy on my hands, living out here in the country as I do.”

There was not now, nor had there been at any time during the tour, the slightest hint of self-pity in Edgar Carver’s voice. Trixie wondered if he lived here all alone. In fact, there were a great many things about him she wanted to know.

One wall of the solarium was filled with paintings, and they immediately caught the eye of Mr. Sellers, who went over and examined them with interest.

“Look here, Edith,” he said, drawing his wife’s attention to one particular picture. It was a small still life, a vase of white peonies against a reddish background, beautifully painted in an impressionistic style.

“How exquisite!” she exclaimed. “I would love to have that.”

Turning to Mr. Carver she explained, “You see, my husband and I are collectors in a modest way, and we enjoy buying paintings which we discover ourselves, but I don’t suppose you want to part with any of your own, do you?”

“Most artists, I believe, like to sell their work,” Mr. Carver replied with a smile, “if not for fame, then for fortune. As a matter of fact,” he continued, looking down at his hands folded in his lap, “I rather depend on the sale of my work. The historical society has been most generous in restoring Green Trees, but I cannot accept their help for my personal needs.”

Trixie, sensing how embarrassing this discussion must be for him, interrupted to say she wanted to have another look at the old harp, and with a sign to the other Bob-Whites to come with her, she left Mr. and Mrs. Sellers to consummate the sale of the picture.

“I don’t see how anyone ever learns to play one of these things,” Mart said as he went over to the harp and
twanged one or two of the strings that still remained.

“Oh, I’d love to have one,” Di sighed. “They’re
so
romantic!”

“Aren’t they, though!” Mart mimicked her, plunking away at the ancient instrument, tossing his head and rolling his eyes like an inspired musician. “Brian, why don’t you-all ask Miss Lynch for the next waltz? I’m sure she’d be ever so enchanted.”

Everyone was so amused at Mart’s antics that they failed to notice that Trixie had left the group and had gone over to the window on the far side of the room.

Then suddenly they saw her, half-hidden behind the drapery, wildly waving her hands for them to be silent. She sidled along the wall toward them, as though she wanted to be sure she wasn’t seen from outside, and then motioned them into the hall.

Once out of the music room, Honey whispered, “What in the world did you see, Trix?”

“It was
Neil!
” Trixie gasped. “This time I’m absolutely sure! He was hiding in the shrubbery outside that window, spying on Mr. Carver in the solarium!”

BOOK: The Mystery of the Emeralds
13.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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