Read an Excerpt
The Mystery of the Stolen Music
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 1995 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
"Are we ready or not?!" six-year-old Benny asked eagerly as he danced around the kitchen.
The Aldens' dog, Watch, awoke from his nap and barked excitedly.
Benny's older sister, Jessie, was making small round sandwiches. "Be patient, Benny," she said. She was twelve years old.
"I don't want to be late," Benny explained. "It isn't every day a famous orchestra comes to town."
"That's for sure," Jessie said. "Greenfield is a small town. Usually, orchestras tour big cities."
Benny hadn't thought about that before. "Why are they coming here?" he asked.
"The Civic Center is a good place for them to play," their fourteen-year-old brother, Henry, answered. "People will come from all over the area to hear them."
"But they're not only going to perform," Jessie reminded him. "They've set up all those workshops to teach people about music, too."
"The conductor lived here when he was a boy," Violet added. She was ten years old and loved music. She played the violin and had been reading everything she could about the orchestra. "It was in Greenfield that the conductor first became interested in music. He wants to share his love for music with the people here."
All this talk about the orchestra made Benny even more excited. "Could we please hurry?" he urged.
Henry poured punch into a gallon jug. "We won't be late, Benny," he said. "Besides, the reception can't start without us — we're bringing the food."
"And the decorations," Violet added. She stepped back from the kitchen table to look at the centerpiece she had made. Cardboard musical instruments circled colorful spring flowers. "There," she said. "It's finished."
"It's beautiful!" Jessie said. "You did a great job, Violet."
"I cut out some of the instruments," Benny reminded them.
"You were very helpful," Violet told him.
"Not helpful enough," Benny said, "or we'd be ready to go."
Henry laughed. "You can help me," he said.
Benny pulled a stool over to the counter and climbed on top. "What do you want me to do?"
"Put the tops on the jugs when I've filled them," Henry told him.
Benny nodded and set to work. When he had screwed on the last top, he jumped down from the stool. "Now what can I do?"
"I'd ask you to put the sandwiches in the boxes," Jessie teased, "but I'm afraid you'd eat them all."
Benny turned up his nose. "Cucumber sandwiches?" Even though they weren't his favorite, he took one and popped it into his mouth.
"Stop that," Jessie said, "or I'll have to make more and we'll be late."
"Is that the only kind you made?" Benny asked.
"No. There are other kinds," Jessie told him, "but they're all packed."
Benny looked in the boxes. Sandwiches of all kinds and shapes were stacked inside. They were all small. "I like big sandwiches," he said.
Jessie began putting the lids on the boxes. "These are tea sandwiches," she said, "to serve at afternoon parties."
"They look pretty on the plates," Violet added.
"I don't care how they look," Benny said. "Just so they taste good."
Everyone laughed. They knew how much Benny liked to eat.
"That does it," Jessie said as she covered the last box.
"So what are we waiting for?" Benny asked.
"Grandfather," Henry answered.
Mr. Alden had gone to pick up Soo Lee. The Aldens' cousins, Joe and Alice, had adopted her from an orphanage in Korea. The Aldens were orphans, too. They had lived alone in a boxcar until their grandfather had found them and taken them in. They were very happy living with him.
Just then, Grandfather Alden came in from outside. Seven-year-old Soo Lee was with him.
"You look pretty, Soo Lee," Violet said to the girl. She was wearing a pale lavender dress with a purple sash. "Those are my favorite colors."
Soo Lee smiled. "I like these colors, too," she said.
"Are we ready?" Mr. Alden asked. "We don't want to be late."
"Wait a minute," Benny said. "The cookies! Soo Lee, where are the cookies?!"
They had spent the previous afternoon baking at Soo Lee's house. Benny did not want to forget the cookies.
"They are in the car," Soo Lee told him.
"Great!" Benny ran to hold the door open. "Let's go," he said.
The others gathered up the boxes and jugs and ran out. Watch stood looking after them.
"We'll be home soon," Jessie told him.
He wagged his tail and went back to lie down on his rug.
Once the boxes were stacked in the back of the station wagon, the Aldens climbed inside.
"Off to the Civic Center," Mr. Alden said as he headed out the driveway.
Violet sighed. She had been looking forward to meeting the musicians—especially the violinists. Secretly, she hoped one of them would ask to hear her play. She had been practicing extra hours just in case. "I am so nervous," she said.
"Think of it as being excited, not nervous," Mr. Alden told her.
Violet laughed. "Well then, I am very excited," she said.
"Me, too," each of the other Aldens agreed.CHAPTER 2
The Civic Center was buzzing with activity. People ran this way and that checking on last-minute details. A long table was set up in the reception hall. Arms full, the Aldens headed toward it.
"The orchestra has arrived at the hotel!" someone said.
"Hurry!" Benny urged. "They'll be here soon!"
Henry and Jessie spread a long white cloth over the table. Then, Violet placed her centerpiece. Henry poured the punch he had made into two large bowls. Soo Lee and Benny arranged the cookies on plates. Jessie put out the sandwiches.
They had just finished when Mr. Alden walked up. "Here's someone I'd like you to meet," he said. He turned to the young woman at his side. "This is orchestra member Melody Carmody."
Benny repeated her name silently. It had a musical sound.
She had curly red hair and a warm smile, and was wearing a pretty blue dress. "I'm happy to meet you," she said and put out her hand.
"Melody?" Benny asked as he shook her hand.
"Yes," she answered.
"That's a good name for a musician," he said.
She laughed. Even her laugh was musical. "I come from a musical family," she explained.
"What instrument do you play?" Violet asked.
"First violin," Mr. Alden added.
Violet's eyes grew big. She was talking to the most important violinist in the orchestra.
"Violet plays violin, too," Benny said. "Our cousin Joe taught her. Soo Lee here is his daughter. He's teaching her to play now."
Melody looked at Violet and Soo Lee. "Perhaps you'd play for me while I'm here," she said.
Soo Lee shook her head. "I'm just learning," she said.
"Next time, then," Melody said. "How about you, Violet?"
Violet sputtered. "Oh, I—"
"She's good," Benny said.
Melody nodded and smiled. "Then it's settled." She looked around. "I wonder what's keeping Victor," she said.
"Who's Victor?" Soo Lee asked.
"Victor Perrelli, the conductor," Violet told her.
"Was he at the hotel?" Mr. Alden asked.
"He took a later plane," Melody said. "But he should be here by now."
Just then, a large man entered. His gray hair stood up at odd angles. He wore a rumpled sweater and slacks, and a pair of old sneakers. He stood just inside the door looking uncertain. And he was humming!
"Oh, there he is," Melody said, and headed toward hm.
Mr. Alden, who was on the welcoming committee, followed her.
"That's the great Victor Perrelli?" Henry said aloud.
They were all surprised. This man was not what they had expected.
"I wonder why he's dressed like that," Violet said.
Everyone else was dressed up.
"Maybe he didn't know about the party," Jessie suggested.
"Let's find out," Benny said.
They went over to join the others.
"Oh, Victor, I was wondering where you were," Melody was saying. "Did you forget about the party?"
"Oh," he answered mumbling. "I started thinking about the Mozart symphony. We need to work on the tempo before the concert."
"We have plenty of time for that," Melody assured him. "The concert is Friday evening—that's five days away."
"I'm afraid I got so involved that I lost track of time," Victor explained. "Then, I couldn't find my luggage anywhere."
"Did you remember to pick it up at the airport?" Melody asked.
Mr. Perrelli ran his hands through his hair. "Did I? Now, let me think."
"No, you didn't remember," a voice said, "but I did." A man carrying a suitcase and a garment bag came up beside them.
Victor said, "Thank you," and wandered off toward the food table, humming.
Melody sighed. "What would he do without you, Bob?" she said.
Looking at them over his half glasses, the man shrugged.
"This is Bob Weldon," Melody said to the Aldens.
Bob Weldon said, "Hello." Then he hurried off, saying, "I have to check the auditorium."
"Is he a musician?" Violet asked.
"No," Melody answered. "He's our manager."
"What does a manager do?" Soo Lee asked.
"Everything!" Melody answered. "He schedules our tours. Makes sure we get where we're going and that everything is right when we get there. Sometimes, he settles arguments. The orchestra couldn't do without him."
"It sounds like an interesting job," Henry said.
"It sounds like a hard job," Benny put in.
Melody laughed. "It's both those things."
"Mr. Weldon doesn't seem to like it very much," Soo Lee said.
"He is a little grumpy at times," Melody said. "I don't think he knows how much we appreciate him."
"We certainly couldn't have scheduled this week without him," Mr. Alden said. "He helped us plan everything."
"I'll show you something else he helped plan," Melody said as she started across the room. "It's what makes this tour extra special."
The Aldens were puzzled. It seemed to them that everything about this tour was extra special.CHAPTER 3
Melody led them to the lobby. She stopped before a glass case on the wall.
Pointing to several sheets of music displayed inside, she said, "Look at those!"
"Aren't they amazing?" a woman who had been staring at them said.
Benny didn't see anything special about the papers. He opened his mouth to say so but decided not to.
Violet moved closer for a better look. "They are wonderful," she said.
The woman turned to face them. When she saw Melody, her face reddened. "Oh, dear," she said. "I — uh — You're Ms. Carmody!"
Melody smiled. "Yes," she said. "How did you know?"
"I've — uh — seen your picture," she explained. She sounded very nervous. "I'm Janet Muller," she went on. "I own an antique store in town."
Melody smiled. "Well, this Mozart score is certainly an antique," she said.
Benny knew about keeping score in baseball, but he didn't think that had anything to do with music. "What does she mean, 'this Mozart score'?" he asked Violet.
"It's a written piece of music, which musicians play from," his sister explained.
"And this one even has Mozart's signature on it," Janet Muller said. "See, right here. Isn't it beautiful?"
"Yes," Jessie marveled. "It really is."
What was so exciting about a man's name on a piece of paper, Benny wondered. He stood on tiptoe for a better look. "I can't even read his name," he said.
Violet pointed out the letters of the composer's last name. "It says Mozart," she told him.
"Mozart, Mozart," Benny sang. "Doesn't he have more than one name?"
"Indeed, he does," Victor Perrelli's voice boomed. "His whole name is Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart."
Benny's eyes grew wide. "That's some name!" he said.
Victor laughed. "It's a good thing I don't have a name like that. I'd never remember it," he said. Then he wandered off again, humming.
"No one ever called him by his full name," Janet Muller put in. "He was known as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart."
"Where'd they get the Amadeus part?" Benny asked.
"Amadeus is the Latin form of Gottlieb," Melody explained. "I guess his family decided they liked it better."
"How did you get hold of the score?" Janet asked.
"We have Bob Weldon to thank for that," Melody answered. "We play a lot of Mozart's music. Bob talked a museum into loaning us this original score to take on tour."
"This whole thing is so exciting," Janet Muller said. She leaned close as though she were about to share a secret. "I collect autographs." She opened the book she was holding. On each page was a signature. "Here's the famous Victor Perrelli's," she said proudly. She thrust the book toward Melody. "May I have your autograph?"
Melody stepped back. "You don't want my signature," she said. "I'm nobody famous."
"Someday maybe," Janet said. "You just never know. I'll bet Mozart never realized something he wrote would be so valuable."
Melody took the book and the pen Janet held out to her. "Well, if you put it that way," she said, and signed her name.
Janet Muller looked at the signature. She traced Melody's name with a forefinger. "Thank you," she said.
"Thank you," Melody responded. "You are the very first person who has ever asked for my autograph."
Once again, Janet studied the Mozart score. "Aren't you afraid someone will steal it?" she asked. "I mean ... is there security or anything? Someone watching it?"
Melody said only, "It's safe."
"Oh, look!" Janet said. "There's Abner Medina!" She raced off, her autograph book open to a blank page.
"Who's Abner Medina?" Benny asked.
"The best percussionist in the country," Melody answered.
"Percussion? Like drums and things?" Jessie asked.
Benny moved his hands as though he were beating a drum. "I'd like to do that," he said.
Henry laughed. "You make enough noise as it is," he teased.
"It's only noise when you're not good," Melody said. "I think Benny would be good."
Benny made a so-there face at Henry.
Melody looked at her watch. "Oh, dear," she said. "I'm as bad as Victor. I get involved and forget what I'm supposed to do. I have to go. If I don't practice, I'll never be able to play my solo." She told them all good-bye, and, promising to see them soon, she hurried away.
The Aldens turned their attention back to the Mozart score.
"What did that lady mean when she said this was valuable?" Soo Lee asked.
"The score is worth a lot of money," Henry said.
"What makes it worth so much?" Benny asked. "It's just a bunch of papers with musical notes on them."
"It's very old," Henry said. "Mozart was born in 1756, over two hundred years ago."
"Wow!" Benny exclaimed.
"Mozart is one of the greatest composers ever," Jessie added. "And this music isn't a copy; it's in his own handwriting."
"You won't believe how young he was when he started writing music," Violet said.
"How old?" Benny asked.
"Five years old," Violet told him. "He was probably composing music in his head before that."
Amazed, Soo Lee and Benny looked at one another. Mozart was younger than either of them when he began writing music!
Benny leaned in for a better look at the score. "He didn't write this one when he was five," he said. "It's too neat. There's nothing crossed out or erased."
"Mozart didn't make mistakes," Violet said. "The music just flowed out of his mind onto the paper."
Benny shook his head. "I could never do that," he said. "Even in my mind, I make mistakes!"CHAPTER 4
The Missing Score
Later, at home, the Alden children sat around the kitchen table drinking hot chocolate. Soo Lee, who was staying overnight, was with them.
"That was a great party," Jessie said.
"The food was super," Benny said. "Too bad there's none left. The jelly sandwiches were the best."
"I liked meeting the musicians," Violet put in. "Especially Melody."
"She's nice," Soo Lee said. "I can't wait to hear her play her violin."
"You won't have a long wait, Soo Lee," Henry said. "Tomorrow morning, we'll go to the orchestra's rehearsal."
"You know what I don't get," Benny said. "Melody said she had to go practice."
"All musicians practice, Benny," Jessie said. "You know that."
"But what's rehearsal?" Benny asked.
"Practice," Henry answered.
"So musicians practice for the practice," Benny said.
Henry laughed. "It looks that way," he said.
Violet disagreed. "Musicians practice for themselves," she said. "To get better."
"It works, too," Jessie said. "Violet's a perfect example."
"I wish I could play as well as Violet," Soo Lee said.
"You will," Jessie assured her. "It takes time."
"And practice," Benny added. He poured himself more hot chocolate. "I have another question," he said. "How does Victor Perrelli practice?"
They were all silent, thinking.
Finally, Violet said, "A conductor listens to music and thinks about it. That's a way of practicing."
What about Mozart?" Soo Lee asked. "How did he practice?"
"His father was a music teacher," Violet told her. "He learned to play early."
"But writing music isn't the same as playing it," Benny said.
"It's like a language," Henry explained. "You hear it first. Then you learn to speak it. Finally, you learn to write it. And the more you write it, the better you get."
Excerpted from The Mystery of the Stolen Music by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang. Copyright © 1995 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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