Read an Excerpt
The Haunted Clock Tower Mystery
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Hodges Soileau
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2001 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
"I think I see it!" shouted Benny Alden, pointing out the car window.
"I do, too!" called his sister Violet, who was sitting beside him.
"Yes, that's it!" said their grandfather, James Alden. He steered the car up a hill. "That's the famous clock tower."
Benny was only six years old and Violet was ten, but they were on their way to college. Their grandfather was taking them to visit Goldwin University, where he had studied forty years before. He was back for his weeklong class reunion and had brought his four grandchildren with him. Twelve-year-old Jessie and fourteen-year-old Henry looked out the car window, too. A tall clock tower loomed over their car and over the whole campus of Goldwin University.
James Alden was the children's grandfather, but he had been more like a father to them ever since their parents had died. At first the children had been afraid to go live with him, because they thought he would be mean. So they ran away and lived in an old boxcar in the woods. But when they discovered what a kind man their grandfather was, they came to live with him in his big house in Greenfield. And he even brought the boxcar and put it in their backyard, so they could use it as a playhouse.
The family had been driving for nearly five hours. Everyone was happy when they finally arrived.
"It's even more beautiful here than in the pictures you showed us," said Jessie, looking at the beautiful stone buildings covered with ivy.
Grandfather pulled into a parking lot. Directly in front of them was the tall, narrow clock tower, ten stories high.
"Can we go up there?" asked Henry.
"Sure," said Grandfather as they all got out. "It will feel good to stretch our legs. From the top you can see the whole campus. I can point out the building where I had my classes, the dining hall where I ate my meals, and the dormitory where I lived. That's where we'll be staying this week."
"How do we get up there?" Benny wanted to know.
"We take the stairs," said Grandfather.
"Stairs?" repeated Benny, craning his neck to look at the top of the tower again. "There's no elevator?"
"No, just stairs," said Grandfather, grinning. "Lots of them."
"One hundred sixty-one, to be exact," said a voice behind them.
The Aldens turned to see a man standing there. He was about Grandfather's age, with thick white hair and a long white beard. He was neatly dressed in a dark suit with a red-and-white vest and matching bow tie. The school colors were red and white, and Jessie noticed his tie was decorated with tiny bears, the Goldwin mascot. The man wore shiny tasseled loafers.
"I'm Ezra Stewart," the man said, putting out his hand for Grandfather to shake. "You must be an old Goldwin student, back for the reunion."
"Yes, I am. And these are my grandchildren." Grandfather introduced each of them.
"Mr. Stewart, how did you know how many stairs there are inside the clock tower?" asked Jessie.
"Because I go up and down those stairs at least twice a day," Ezra said. "I'm the carillon player."
"The what?" Benny asked.
Ezra smiled. "I play the carillon—the bells in the tower. My assistant and I give three concerts a day: morning, noon, and evening. I take care of the bells and the clock as well."
"I used to love to wake up to the carillon music when I was a student here," Grandfather recalled.
"Come on up, I'll show you," Ezra said. "But you have to promise me one thing."
"All right," Henry agreed. "What is it?"
"You must call me Ezra," he said.
"Okay, Ezra," said Benny. "But do we really have to walk up one hundred and—how many stairs was it?"
"One hundred sixty-one," said Ezra. "And you don't have to walk. You can run. I'll race you!" he called over his shoulder as he set off toward a door in the bottom of the tower.
Benny grinned as he took off after Ezra.
The door was made of thick, solid wood. The tower looked as if it had been built long ago. Inside was a narrow, winding stairway. The stairs went around and around in a tight spiral. It was dark because there were only a few lights, and only a few narrow windows cut into the thick stone walls. The rest of the Aldens followed Benny and Ezra at a slower pace. Around and around, up and up they walked. Their footsteps echoed on the stone steps. It was difficult to move quickly in such a tight spiral on the small, uneven stairs.
"This is kind of creepy," Violet said.
"Don't worry," Jessie said. "I'm sure we'll get to the top soon."
A few minutes later, they were standing at the top of the tower in a small room with tiny windows on all four sides. They were a little bit dizzy and slightly out of breath from the climb. Violet was happy to be out of the stairway although this dusty little room wasn't much better.
Henry went to one of the windows and looked out. "Wow!" he said. "What a view!"
"It is quite spectacular, isn't it?" Grandfather agreed. "I think it's the most beautiful college campus in the country."
"Of course it is," Ezra agreed wholeheartedly.
"What's that big green lawn down there?" Benny asked, looking out another window.
The children all crowded around the window and looked where Benny was pointing. There was a green lawn crisscrossed by sidewalks.
"That's the Quad," said Grandfather. "Quad is short for 'quadrangle,' which means a four-sided shape."
Benny quickly counted. "Yes, it does have four sides."
"What's that big building down there with the dome?" Violet wanted to know.
"That's where the largest classes are held," said Ezra.
"And what are those smaller buildings on either side of it?" Henry asked.
"Those are Morrill and McGraw Halls, where I had several of my classes," Grandfather said. "The one on the northern side of the Quad is Morrill; the one on the southern side is McGraw. And it looks like they're building a new building on the other end." He pointed to a building that was still under construction.
"Where was your room, Grandfather?" Violet wanted to know.
"Do you see that big hill?" he replied. "We called that the Slope. The dormitories are down there, and so is the dining hall."
At last the children turned away from the window to look at the room they were standing in. The walls were filled with framed pictures of the university. Many of the photographs were quite old and had a brownish tint.
Just then the clock chimed loudly.
"It's almost time for the evening concert," said Ezra. "Would you kids like to watch me play the carillon?"
"You bet!" cried Benny. "Is that it?" He pointed to the large wooden console in the center of the room.
"Yes, that's the carillon," Ezra said. "The bells are upstairs. We'll go up in a minute so you can see them. They're the best part—you won't believe how big they are."
The children had never seen anything quite like the carillon before. It reminded them a little bit of their upright piano at home. Just like their piano, it had a music stand on the front. Underneath the stand, instead of a keyboard, there were two long horizontal rows of wooden knobs sticking out. Down near the floor was a row of wooden pedals, and up above the carillon was a row of wires leading up through the ceiling.
"How does it work?" Jessie asked.
"You sit on this bench to play it," Ezra said as he sat down. "When you press down a knob or a pedal, a bell rings. Like this," he said, pressing down on the far-left knob. The children heard a bell chime above them.
"That's really neat," said Henry.
"Can I try?" Benny asked.
"Sure," Ezra said.
Benny carefully pressed down one of the knobs in the middle. Again the Aldens heard a bell ringing over their heads.
"Now let's go see the bells," Ezra suggested.
The Aldens followed Ezra out of the tower room. A small dark stairway took them to the floor above, where the bells were housed. There were two rows of large heavy bells on the bottom and two rows of smaller bells hanging above.
"That one on the end is bigger than me!" Benny cried.
"And it weighs a lot more, too," said Ezra. "It weighs more than forty- five hundred pounds! Would you like to go inside it?"
Benny's eyes grew wide. "Can I really?"
"Sure," Ezra said.
Benny bent down and ducked underneath the edge of the heavy bell. When he stood up inside, all the others could see were his legs sticking out at the bottom. "Hello out there!" he called. His voice had a strange muffled sound from inside the bell. Finally he ducked down and came back out. "I've never stood inside a bell before," he said.
"We have forty-nine bells here, which makes this carillon one of the largest in the country," Ezra said.
"So how does the carillon play these bells?" Violet wanted to know.
"Good question," Ezra said. "Did you notice those wires that came out of the carillon and through the ceiling? They come out here." He pointed to the row of wires on the floor next to the bells. "Each wire is attached to a clapper inside a bell. When you press a knob on the carillon, the wire pulls the clapper on the bell." He pulled one of the wires with his fingers to show them. The clapper hit the side of the bell and made a ringing sound. "Each bell is specially made to play a different tone. When you play them together, you can make beautiful music."
"That's wonderful," Jessie said.
"In all the years I was here I heard a lot of concerts, but I never knew how it worked," Grandfather said. "Thank you for showing this to us."
"Would you like to go back downstairs now and watch me play the evening concert?" Ezra asked.
"We sure would," said Henry, speaking for the whole family.
Back downstairs, Violet asked Ezra, "How did you learn to play?"
"I learned a long time ago, when I was still a student here. I practiced on that console there." Ezra walked over to what looked like a smaller carillon in the corner. The children noticed that it had knobs just like the other one, but there were no wires attached. "This isn't attached to the bells, so you can practice without the whole school hearing you. It just rings on these metal plates above." Ezra pressed a knob, and they heard a clanging sound, like a xylophone. "This is where I've taught all my assistants.
"And now I'd better get out my music for the concert," Ezra said. He began sifting through some stacks of papers on a large desk next to the practice carillon. After a few minutes, he still had not found what he was looking for. He became angrier and angrier. "Where did Miss Barton put it?" he muttered to himself.
"Is something wrong?" Violet asked. Ezra had been so friendly and nice before, and now all of a sudden he seemed like a different person.
"It's this new assistant I have." He sighed. "She's a student named Andrea Barton. I like things to be a certain way up here. After all, I've been doing this for over fifty years—since I was a student myself. After a concert I always put the music back, in alphabetical order, on this desk. There isn't much space up here, so you have to be organized. But she always mixes everything up. Nothing has been the same up here since she started."
"Can I help you look?" Violet asked.
"No, no, no, I'll find it myself," said Ezra, sounding annoyed. "Oh, that girl makes me angry," he said under his breath.
"I'm sorry," said Violet in a quiet voice.
Ezra looked up, surprised. "Not you, dear," he said. "I was talking about Miss Barton." At last he pulled a stack of papers from the pile. "Ah, here it is."
He sat down on the carillon bench and the Aldens gathered around him. After placing the music on the stand, he opened to the first page. Then he began to play. The Aldens watched, fascinated. Ezra's hands, closed into fists, moved rapidly up and down the row of knobs. His hands crossed over and under each other as he pressed one knob after another with the sides of his fists. At the same time, his feet worked the pedals. From above, they could hear beautiful music.
After Ezra finished the first piece, Jessie said, "That looks like hard work."
"It is," Ezra said. "I've got calluses on the sides of my hands." He showed them how his hands had grown tough on the sides he used to press the knobs. "When I first started playing, I used to wrap my hands in bandages and wear gloves. But now I'm used to it."
Ezra went on to play several more pieces, each more beautiful and difficult than the one before. After half an hour, he played a piece the children recognized.
"That's the school anthem, isn't it?" Henry asked. "We've heard Grandfather singing it."
"Yes, it is," said Ezra.
As the hum from the last notes hung in the air above them, the Aldens applauded.
"Thank you," Ezra said, bowing his head slightly.
Just then there was a creaking noise from up above.
"What was that?" Benny asked, his eyes wide open. "I thought we were the only ones up here."
"This old tower creaks and groans all the time," said Ezra. "Some say it's haunted." His eyes twinkled, but his voice was serious.
"I remember those stories," Grandfather said. "The ghost in the clock tower."
"Aren't you scared to come up here by yourself?" Benny asked. "Like at night?"
Ezra looked sharply at Benny. "Well, I certainly don't come up here at night. No one does. Ever."CHAPTER 2
A Strange Light at Midnight
After the Aldens left the tower, they picked up the key to their suite and drove to the dormitory.
"That tower was really neat," Henry said as they were driving.
"But a little spooky," Benny said.
"You don't believe there's really a ghost, do you?" Henry asked.
"Um, no," Benny said, but he didn't sound too sure.
"Ezra was just teasing," Jessie said. "He was nice."
"Yes, he was," Violet agreed. "Except when he was talking about his assistant, Andrea Barton. Then he seemed so different."
"That's true—he said that nothing has been the same there since she started working," Jessie remembered. "He said she messes everything up."
"He did seem like he was very neat and orderly about everything," Henry said. "You could tell by the way he was dressed."
When they arrived at the dormitory parking lot, Grandfather looked up at the red-brick building in front of them. "Good old Sage Hall," he said softly.
"It's about time you showed up!" said a man striding across the parking lot, his arms held out wide.
"Joel Dixon!" said Grandfather as he and the man embraced, patting each other firmly on the back.
"And these must be your grandchildren," said Joel, stepping back to look at them. "Don't tell me. This is Henry, and Jessie, and Violet."
Each child nodded and smiled as Grandfather's friend said his or her name.
"And this young fellow must be Benny," Joel said.
"You've got that right!" Benny said with a smile.
"This is my old college buddy Joel," Grandfather said.
Joel was a large man with dark hair, a friendly smile, and a big belly.
"We've heard a lot about you," Henry said.
"On the car ride up here our grandfather told us about all the crazy things you two used to do," said Benny, grinning.
"Your grandfather and I had a good time, didn't we, Jimbo?" said Joel. The children smiled. They weren't used to hearing their grandfather called by a nickname. "You didn't tell them about the time I lost the key to our room and had to climb in the window—did you?"
"He sure did," said Benny with a laugh.
"Oh, he did, did he?" asked Joel. "Well, then, did he tell you about the time he took some frogs from the science lab and hid them in my bed?" Joel asked.
"You screamed so loud!" Grandfather said, laughing.
Everyone laughed, and Grandfather thumped Joel on the back affectionately.
"So, when did you get here?" Grandfather asked.
"Just a few minutes ago," Joel replied. "I was just coming back to check my car and make sure my son and I hadn't forgotten anything. Don's upstairs in our suite. He had some business in this area, so he's joining me for the reunion."
"That's great—I haven't seen Don in a long time," said Grandfather. "Let's go on up." He quickly got the suitcases out of the back of the car. "We're in Suite B-8," he said, leading the way.
"Great—Don and I are right next door, in B-10," Joel said.
The children followed their grandfather and Joel into Suite B-8.
"Oh, look—we can even cook here!"
Jessie said when she spotted the kitchen area at the end of the room. It had a small refrigerator and stove, and a small round table.
Excerpted from The Haunted Clock Tower Mystery by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Hodges Soileau. Copyright © 2001 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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