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The Castle Mystery
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 1993 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
A Bumpy Ride
A big black car drove through the dark green woods. James Alden turned on the headlights.
"Hmm, I can't see much better," Mr. Alden told Jessie and Henry, his two older grandchildren, who were sitting up front with him. "Guess I'll have to go slower."
"That's okay, Grandfather," said twelve-year-old Jessie.
Wet black branches scraped against the side of the car.
In the backseat, ten-year-old Violet shivered. "I hope it's not too much longer, is it, Grandfather?" she asked.
"No, we're almost there," Grandfather said.
Whenever the road dipped down, a thick fog settled around them. Finally, the car reached a clear stretch of road.
"Look across the lake," Mr. Alden said. "It's awfully misty, but I bet you can spot Drummond Castle."
Six-year-old Benny pressed his nose against the window. "I see something big and gray. I can't tell if it's a rock or a castle."
Fourteen-year-old Henry turned to Benny. "It's a rock and a castle. I read in Grandfather's magazine on antiques that Drummond Castle is a smaller copy of a real castle in Germany. Only this one is built on a cliff with a cave underneath!"
"Sounds like a good place for a mystery!" Benny said.
The last Drummond, William Drummond III, had died, and Grandfather's friend, Carrie Bell, had been hired by the Drummond Foundation to turn his magnificent home into a museum. Knowing how much the Aldens would enjoy visiting a castle, Carrie had invited them to help out.
For some time now, the children had been living with Mr. Alden. He had found his grandchildren staying in a boxcar out in the woods. Now the boxcar was just a cheery playhouse in Mr. Alden's backyard. Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny lived in a real house with a proper kitchen and real bedrooms.
The children tried to make out the castle in the distance. They liked staying in new places, especially if they were old places!
For a second, Mr. Alden took his eyes off the road to look at the castle. Just as he was turning back, Henry yelled: "Watch out, Grandfather. There's a car coming! Pull over! Pull over!"
Two bright headlights cut through the fog and raced straight toward the Aldens' car.
"There's no room for it to get by!" Jessie cried out.
Mr. Alden leaned on his horn. He flashed his headlights on and off. The car kept on coming. Finally Grandfather pulled the car into a clearing. The red Jeep raced by as if it were on a two-lane highway, not a narrow, twisty road. The woman at the wheel didn't seem to have any idea that she had almost caused an accident.
Benny and Violet sank back into their seats. They were a little scared, a little tired, and very hungry. It had been a long day.
Their dog, Watch, who was sitting in the backseat, too, let out a sad, hungry cry. Poor Watch had been so good on the long drive. Still, this delay was too much even for a well-behaved dog.
"There, there," Violet crooned. She reached into a bag and gave Watch a dog biscuit.
The treat helped, but the children could see that Watch needed more than a biscuit. He needed a short walk to stretch his legs.
Mr. Alden turned off the engine. "That was a close call. Let's all get a breath of air."
The children opened the car doors. They were glad to sniff the fresh piney breezes. So was Watch, who pulled Violet to this tree and that.
Grandfather handed Jessie his binoculars. "See if you can get these focused for Benny." He pointed across the lake. "Drummond Castle is just past that island. I'm sure Benny would like a better look at the place we'll be staying in, wouldn't you now, Ben?"
"You know I would," Benny answered with a big smile.
Mr. Alden always knew what his youngest grandson liked — castles and caves, mysteries and adventures. When Jessie showed her little brother where to point the binoculars, Benny had a feeling a big adventure was coming up. Through the glasses he could see a tall, gray stone castle with two towers that faced each other.
"Look, look, Henry," Benny handed his older brother the binoculars. "There's even a light shining in one of the towers! Maybe it's a ghost."
"You mean the Drummond family ghost?" Henry joked. "Woooo. Wooo."
Mr. Alden patted Benny's head. "I hate to disappoint you, Benny," he said, "but it's more likely to be Caroline getting your sleeping quarters ready. She said that one of the towers was just the place for four lively children."
"Well, let's get going!" Benny cried. He opened the car door, then whistled for Watch to hop in.
The Aldens didn't mind the rest of the ride around the lake now that the castle was in sight.
Mr. Alden's car climbed and climbed.
"It's like a castle in the air," Jessie said when she looked down at the steep drop off the road.
"Don't look down, whatever you do!" Henry told Benny with a laugh.
Benny, of course, did just that. "Oooo. We're so high up!" he said happily. "Come on, Violet. Open your eyes. It's steep, but it's really pretty. Take a look."
"I ... I don't think so." Violet kept her eyes shut tight. "Tell me when we're there."
"We're there!" Henry yelled a few minutes later. "You can look now, Violet!"
When Violet's blue eyes fluttered open, she gasped.
Drummond Castle was not at all what she'd expected. Black branches of overgrown vines twisted through the arches of a stone porch. In some places the branches climbed so high, they seemed to strangle the castle. Many of the famous stained glass windows the children had seen in old pictures were boarded up to protect them from damage. The two castle towers disappeared into the fog. The whole place was covered in gloom.
Jessie saw Violet's disappointment. She took her younger sister's hand. "Come on. Let's find Carrie Bell. Grandfather told me she couldn't wait for us to help her fix up this place. It will look much prettier when the fog lifts."
"I guess so," Violet said in a quiet voice. "I do so want to see what a castle looks like, even though it's not a real one. I just wish it looked more like it belonged in a fairy tale instead of a...."
"Scary story!" Benny finished.CHAPTER 2
A Shadow at the Door
The Aldens unpacked the trunk of the car. Violet kept her eyes on her belongings, not the castle. If only the fog would go away.
But now that they were closer, the castle seemed a little less scary.
Grandfather put his arm around Violet. "You know this castle was built as a home when the first Drummonds came back from their honeymoon in Germany. The first William Drummond built it for his bride — not to keep out armies or dragons."
This made Violet feel a little better. "The stained glass windows make pretty patterns," she noticed.
Jessie and Violet stared at a particularly beautiful round window right over the entrance. "That one is the prettiest," Jessie said. "There's a face painted in the center. See."
"Oh no!" Violet screamed suddenly. "It's a real face. Look! Look!"
The Aldens looked up to where Violet was pointing. All they saw was the face of a young knight painted on the central piece of the stained glass.
Violet looked again. "Maybe I'm just a little tired. The fog and mist make everything look so strange."
A beautiful carved stone porch encircled the ground level of the castle. The Aldens went up the steps to ring the bell.
"Try that funny-looking door knocker, Benny," Henry said, giving his brother a boost.
Benny rapped the lion's head door knocker three times.
After the third bang, a huge oak door creaked opened. A long shadow stood there.
"Who're you?" the shadow barked.
The Aldens took a closer look. The shadow was actually a man about Mr. Alden's age but tall, thin, and gruff. The light behind him in the huge hallway had made him seem like a shadow.
Before the Aldens could answer, Carrie Bell came to greet her friends. "Why James, you made it at last!" the smiling older woman said. "I'm sorry you had such a poor day to travel. Our old lake road can be a real challenge in the fog."
"Well, it seems to be clearing now." Mr. Alden turned back to the man. "How do you do, sir? I am James Alden, and these are my grandchildren, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny."
These words seemed to frighten the man. Without saying a thing, he disappeared down a dark hall.
"Oh, Mr. Tooner, come back and meet the Aldens," Carrie called out.
But the man didn't even slow down.
Carrie lowered her voice. "Don't mind poor Mr. Tooner. He's been the caretaker here for many years, just like his father before him. He's very worried about Drummond Castle becoming a museum after it's restored. He does a wonderful job caring for the castle, but he needs help. That's what we're all here for." Carrie turned to Benny. "I heard you make the lion on the door knocker growl, Benny! Now watch this."
Carried gathered the Aldens' umbrellas and stuck them inside the mouth of a ferocious-looking lion statue. "How do you like that?" Carrie asked.
Benny laughed at how silly the lion looked with a mouthful of umbrellas. "He doesn't look nearly so mean now!"
Even Violet had to laugh. She just wished that the big humps of furniture covered with white dust sheets looked as silly as that lion. She half expected some of them to start moving around the room!
Carrie took Violet by the hand. "All the furniture downstairs has been covered up since William Drummond III died last year. With all of you here to help out, we can make this big old place look homier very soon. Now come upstairs to your rooms."
The Aldens followed Carrie up a winding staircase at the back of the castle. "I know this musty old place looks a bit gloomy today, but you children have a wonderful experience ahead of you. There are so many imaginative objects here like that silly door knocker and the umbrella stand. This castle is full of surprises."
Carrie led the Aldens down a hall off the first landing. She pushed open a heavy wooden door. "This will be your room, James."
Inside the huge room was a canopy bed and a fireplace, tall enough to stand in. Over in the corner stood a suit of armor.
Carrie lifted up Benny. "Raise the front of this armor headpiece." she said.
Benny moved the metal flap, and gasped. Then he laughed. "Somebody put a picture of a boy's face under the helmet!" he told everyone.
Sure enough, a faded drawing of a smiling boy about Benny's age peeked out from under the armor headpiece.
"I knew you'd like that!" Carrie said. "I think the first Mr. Drummond put it in there as a joke for his boys. He tried to liven up Drummond Castle with some of the furnishings. There are quite a few playful touches all around the castle. You'll see."
"I hope there are some funny things in our rooms. Can we go see them now?" Benny asked.
The children and Watch climbed some more narrow stairs. At the top of the tower were two bright little rooms with windows all around.
"Oh," Violet breathed. The first rays of sunlight they'd seen all day poured into the rooms. "It is so pretty up here." She sounded relieved. "Why there's even a fancy dog bed for Watch. Here Watch!"
Watch liked the dog bed very much. He curled himself up on the red velvet cushion and promptly fell asleep.
"All he needs is a gold crown on his head!" Jessie laughed.
Carrie laughed, too. "The first Drummond family designed this tower and all the furniture in it for their children. As you can see, they didn't forget the family dog either. Here's your bed, Benny. You might have to wear a crown, too!"
Benny bounced himself on a bed with a wonderful headboard of carved animals. The matching bed next to it was for Henry.
"I like these fancy wardrobes," Jessie called out from the room the girls would be using. "There are drawers and shelves for every little thing."
"These are the nicest rooms in the castle," Carrie told the children. "I'm very glad you like them. Sometimes I bring some of my paperwork up here because of the view. The sunlight is always changing."
"It sure is," Benny said. "When we were driving to the castle a light was shining in that other tower across the way. Now it's in this one. Are there bedrooms in that tower, too?"
Carrie shook her head. "Why, no. The people at the Drummond Foundation said that the other tower is always closed off. I gather it suffered damage many years ago."
"But I saw a light up there through Grandfather's binoculars," Benny insisted. "Grandfather says I have sharp eyes."
"I'm sure you do, Benny," Carrie said with a smile. "But the sunlight plays funny tricks up this high, especially with the fog. Maybe you were looking at these rooms while I was getting them ready."
Benny scratched his head. "I don't think so."
Carrie gave Benny a little pat on the shoulder. "Well, this castle even fools me sometimes, and I've been here two weeks. I'm forever finding things that seem to be one thing, then they're another."
After Carrie left, the children unpacked their bags. They put their clothes away in the tidy wardrobe compartments. But the whole time Benny Alden was thinking about the light across the way. He had seen it there, he just knew he had.CHAPTER 3
A Light Goes on Again
Benny Alden wasn't much for watching sunsets. And he wasn't one for taking naps, either, like Watch. No, Benny Alden was busy waiting for dinner. He stood at the top of the spiral staircase. He stared down as long as he could without getting dizzy.
"I wish we didn't have to wait until tomorrow to go exploring," he said.
Jessie laughed. "Poor Benny. It's too bad it's so late now. Carrie said they only keep a few lights on at night to save on electricity. Maybe we can take a walk outside after dinner now that the weather has cleared up."
"And see the cave?" Benny asked hopefully.
"Maybe," Jessie answered.
Finally the children heard a bell clang way downstairs.
Henry caught up with Benny, who had hurried ahead. "Living in a castle makes me hungry."
"So does living in a house or a boxcar or a boat," Henry teased.
They were halfway downstairs when Violet remembered something. "I need my sweater — castles are chilly places," she said.
Violet headed back to her room. Castles were scary places, too, she thought. The top of the stairs looked awfully dark. Violet scolded herself. "If I'm going to be staying in a castle, I had better get used to it. I will just watch my feet. Then I won't notice the dark so much."
The sunset was almost over when Violet got to her room. She couldn't help looking at the beautiful evening sky. That's when she noticed the light in the tower across the way.
Violet got her grandfather's binoculars and tried to focus them. She caught a blurry glimpse of a man — or a woman? — with short, dark hair. Just when she got the lenses focused, the tower light went off.
Violet put down the binoculars. She grabbed her sweater and raced downstairs to the castle kitchen.
"There you both are!" Carrie said to Violet and a young woman who had just come into the kitchen, too. Like Violet, the woman was out of breath.
Carrie stood over a pot of steaming soup. "Take a seat anywhere." Turning to the woman, Carrie said, "Sandy, these new visitors are the Aldens." To the Aldens she added, "Please meet Sandy Munson, my new assistant."
Grandfather, Henry, Jessie, and Benny stood up to say hello. The other two people at the table did not. A young man kept right on sipping his soup, and Mr. Tooner just stared for a long time at the young woman. His stare gave Violet the shivers.
"Here you go, Sandy," Carrie said, handing her some soup. "Why are you out of breath? I thought I heard the Jeep pull in quite a while ago."
Henry and Jessie looked at each other. Henry knew that Jessie was thinking the same thing he was. Sandy was the woman who'd almost run them off the road earlier that day.
The woman brushed back her short brown bangs nervously. "Uh, no. No, I just drove in from town."
"Well, there are always so many strange sounds around Drummond Castle," Carrie said. "Who knows what they are? Now you and Violet sit next to each other."
Violet tried to talk to Sandy. "By any chance is your room across from ours in the other tower?"
The young woman's hand shook, and she nearly spilled her soup. "Of course not! My room is down on this floor. No one uses the other tower. It's been closed up since Mr. Drummond died. It's off limits!"
"Now, now," Carrie said. "I told Violet and the other children what funny tricks the sunlight plays on the castle. The sunset sometimes reflects off the towers."
"I don't think so, Carrie. You see, the sun had already gone down," Violet explained. "I'm sure there was a real light on in the tower. Then it disappeared."
"Impossible," said Sandy.
"Well, let's make this food disappear." Carrie said, trying to smooth things over at the table. "Oh, and you haven't met Tom Brady, yet, Violet. Tom knows everything there is to know about antiques, rare books, paintings, and musical instruments."
Violet nodded to the young man seated next to Mr. Tooner.
"Violet plays a musical instrument," Jessie said proudly. "The violin."
Mr. Tooner's hand shook so much he dropped his knife. After picking it up, he left the table without a word.
"I'm sorry," Jessie said. "Did I say something wrong?"
Excerpted from The Castle Mystery by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang. Copyright © 1993 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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