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The Mystery of the Tiger's Eye
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Hodges Soileau
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 1996 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
A Very Unusual House
Ten-year-old violet Alden gazed out the window of Grandfather's new minivan. The gray-green water of the Chesapeake Bay sparkled in the autumn sun.
"Everything looks golden here," Violet remarked. She was an artist and always noticed the scenery.
"The sun is low in the fall," said her fourteen-year-old brother, Henry. "Also, Maryland is a lot farther south than Connecticut."
Next to him, Jessie Alden nodded. "It was cold when we left Greenfield. I hope we packed the right clothes."
Even though she was only twelve, Jessie liked to take care of her brothers and sister.
"Grandfather, tell us about your friend again," Benny said. At six, he was the youngest of the four children.
"Edward Singleton and I were college roommates," James Alden replied. "Edward used to take me to fairs and carnivals. He loved to ride the rides and play games."
"So do I," said Benny. He was going to like Grandfather's friend.
"We've been in touch over the years," said Grandfather. "When we finished school, he moved to Maryland and started collecting things from carnivals and state fairs. It became his life's work."
"What kinds of things?" Jessie inquired. Collecting sounded like a strange job to her.
"He'll show us when we get to Cliffwalk Manor," said Grandfather. "I hear he has a most unusual house. Maybe a little too unusual."
Violet turned away from the window. "What do you mean?"
"When Edward called me, he was very upset," said Grandfather. "He asked me to come to Heron's Bay because of some strange happenings in his house."
"Sounds like a mystery," Violet said eagerly.
Benny bounced in his seat. "Oh, boy! A new mystery!"
Grandfather smiled. "People must know that you kids are pretty good detectives."
"We have cracked lots of cases," Henry agreed.
"I think we solve cases because there are four of us," Jessie added. "Four heads are better than one."
"I only have one head," Benny chimed in.
Jessie ruffled Benny's hair. "That's an expression. It means we figure out things together."
The Alden children had always stuck together. When their parents died, the children had moved into an abandoned boxcar. Eventually their grandfather found them and they went to live in his big house in Greenfield. Now they traveled all over the country and had adventures.
The minivan began climbing a steep road.
"Cliffwalk Manor is up here," said Grandfather.
When they drove into a clearing at the top of the bluff, they all gasped.
Cliffwalk Manor was an enormous mansion of brown stone, granite, and wood. Two round towers flanked a huge stained-glass window over the front door. The house seemed gloomy, even in the sun.
The kids tumbled out onto the gravel driveway.
A white-haired gentleman came down the steps to greet them. He had blue eyes and a short white beard.
"James!" he exclaimed. "Thank you for coming."
Grandfather clasped his friend's hand. "Edward, it's been too long. These are my grandchildren, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny."
"Welcome to Cliffwalk Manor," said Mr. Singleton. "Your grandfather has told me a great deal about you. Please come inside."
They walked into an echoing entryway. Light from the stained-glass window made colorful patterns on the marble floor. A large carved cabinet covered the opposite wall.
"What a big house," Violet commented.
"Cliffwalk Manor has been in my family for generations," Edward said proudly. "My grandfather, Captain Singleton, had a small fleet of oyster boats. He built this place around the turn of the century."
They went into the dining room.
Benny's eyes lit up. "Wow! A real merry-go-round horse sticking up in the middle of the table!"
Edward laughed. "The chariot seats around the table are from the same merry-go-round."
Benny couldn't wait to sit in a red-and-green-painted dragon chariot. "I hope we eat soon!"
Jessie discovered a mechanical fortune-teller behind a glass-beaded curtain. Edward gave her a brass token to put in the slot. The figure whirred to life, cackling and waving over her crystal ball. Then a brown-edged, yellowed card dropped in the brass tray.
"What's your fortune?" asked Grandfather.
"It says, 'You will take many trips,'" Jessie read. "Well, that's certainly true!"
"Madame ZaZa is about eighty years old," Edward said. "Her fortunes are still accurate today."
"Boy, you have a lot of stuff!" Benny remarked as their host led them through rooms filled with glass display cases.
"As your grandfather probably told you, I collect things from carnivals and fairs," said Edward. "I'll give you a better tour later. I'm sure you're tired after that drive."
"We're fine," said Grandfather. "We'd really like to know what is bothering you."
"Let's go in the parlor, where we can be comfortable," said Edward. "It's a rather long story."
They went into a huge room with high ceilings decorated in gold leaf. The old-fashioned furniture had curvy legs and burgundy velvet cushions.
When everyone was seated, Edward continued. "One night, many, many years ago, my grandfather hosted a party," he said. "A lot of rich society people came. Two brothers who performed a magic act were hired for entertainment. I suppose the crowd was more interested in eating and talking than watching a couple of men do card tricks. The youngest magician became angry because they weren't paying attention."
"What did he do?" asked Jessie.
"He announced to the party-goers they would be sorry they'd ignored him," Edward replied. "He said he would be a great performer one day and astound audiences the world over." Edward's voice dropped to a hush. "Then the young man predicted odd things would happen in this very building. He would leave something of himself behind."
Violet's eyes were wide. "Did anyone find anything?"
Edward shook his head. "No one found anything unusual. At least, not that I know of. But some very strange things began happening about a month ago."
"What kind of things?" Henry asked.
"Pictures shifting from one room to another on different floors," Edward replied. "Books falling out of bookcases when no one was around. The clock stops and starts at odd times. One morning I found a playing card in the kitchen sink! Nobody in this house plays cards."
Henry leaned forward, interested. "Who were the magicians at that party?"
"They were called the Houdini Brothers. One of the brothers was Harry Houdini," said Edward.
Henry was impressed. "Harry Houdini was the most famous magician in the world! He was an escape artist. He'd be locked in a trunk with chains around his hands and feet and he'd still get out."
"Cool!" Benny said. "And he was here?"
"Yes, but I think Harry Houdini was simply showing off that night," Edward stated. "He was very young, just starting out as a performer."
Grandfather looked seriously at his friend. "Are these strange events still going on?"
Edward nodded with dismay. "James, it's very important to stop these pranks. I want Cliffwalk Manor to be a nice place for my great-nephew."
Grandfather lifted his eyebrows. "Your great-nephew is here? I thought he lived in Europe."
At that moment, footsteps clomped down the grand staircase. The sullen face of a dark-haired boy around Jessie's age appeared in the doorway.
"Oh," he said. "I see these people are here."
"Come in, Dorsey," said Edward. "Meet James Alden, my college roommate. And these are his grandchildren — Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. Everyone, this is my great-nephew, Dorsey Pindar."
The Aldens said hello, but Dorsey merely scowled.
"When is dinner?" he demanded. "I'm starving."
"In a little while," replied his great-uncle. "The Aldens need to get settled first."
"Hurry up," Dorsey said. "I'm used to eating at exactly six o'clock." He stomped back up the marble stairs.
Edward turned an apologetic face toward his guests. "Please excuse my great-nephew. I'm afraid he's had a different lifestyle. His parents — my niece and her husband — are archaeologists. They are on a dig in North Africa for the next two years."
"Dorsey doesn't live with them?" asked Grandfather.
"No, he's always gone to boarding schools in either England or Europe," replied Edward. "But now my niece and her husband have decided that he should be in the States. So they found a boarding school in Virginia. He's only staying with me until the school starts next week."
"It must be hard for a young boy to live with strangers," Grandfather said sympathetically.
"We wouldn't want to live with anyone but you, Grandfather," Violet said loyally.
Edward sighed. "I've been trying to convince Suzanne, my niece, that Dorsey should stay with me. He doesn't know me very well, but at least I'm a relative. He can go to school in Heron's Bay. But it doesn't seem as if he wants to live here. With everything that's been happening, I can see why."
"Would you like us to help find out what is going on?" Grandfather offered. "My grandchildren are very good at solving mysteries."
"Will you help me?" Edward asked the Alden children. "Dorsey leaves for boarding school on Sunday."
Henry spoke for them all. "We'll do our best."
"Good! I'll show you to your rooms now."
Edward Singleton led them to spacious rooms on the third floor.
The children stood in the corridor after Grandfather had gone into his room at the end of the hall.
"I still can't believe Harry Houdini was here," Henry said.
"I think he's still here," said Benny.
Jessie looked at him. "What do you mean?"
"Who else do you think is doing all this stuff?" Benny whispered. "It has to be the ghost of Harry Houdini!"CHAPTER 2
The Figure on the Stairs
That evening Edward cooked a special dinner. Before the meal, everyone enjoyed crab puffs and tiny pizzas on the back deck.
"What a great view," Henry commented, leaning on the rail.
Pleasure boats and Coast Guard cutters dotted the dark blue waters of the bay. A flock of geese flew over in a long V, heading south for the winter.
"Feel free to use the telescope." Edward indicated the telescope mounted on one side of the deck railing. He went back inside the house to check on dinner.
Benny hopped up on the stool and peered through the eyepiece. "I see land!"
"That's the eastern shore," spoke a new voice. "Heron's Bay is located on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay."
The children turned to see a tall woman around the same age as Grandfather and Edward Singleton. She wore a flowing purple silk caftan and a matching fringed scarf tied around her silvery curls. Blue and purple beads swung around her neck. She smiled at the children.
"Hello," she said. "I'm Iona Levitt, Edward's friend."
"Pleased to meet you," said Grandfather, walking over to shake her hand. "I'm James Alden. And these are my grandchildren."
The Aldens greeted Iona each in turn.
"How lucky you are to have such fine grandchildren," Iona said to Grandfather. "I never married, so I don't have any."
Edward came through the French doors with a tray of drinks and more crab puffs, hot from the oven.
"Iona owns the gift shop in Heron's Bay," he commented. "We'll visit when we go into town. I hope you brought your wonderful pecan pie," he said to her.
She grinned at him. "I knew you'd need dessert. So I brought two pecan pies, your favorite." When Edward left once more, she said, "He's so busy with those collections, sometimes he forgets to eat. I close my shop at four and often come here to fix dinner for him."
"Are you a good cook?" Benny asked. "As good as Mr. Singleton?" He had eaten six crab puffs already.
Iona laughed heartily. "I bet you like to eat!"
"It's my favorite thing in the world," Benny told her.
Just then another guest stepped onto the deck.
"Hi," she said shyly. "You must be the Aldens. I'm Melanie Preston."
Melanie was young, around twenty. She wore her light brown hair in a long braid. Pale green eyes peered owlishly from behind large-framed glasses.
Edward came out behind her. "I see you've met Melanie. She goes to college here. She's taking a break this semester to catalog my collections. Melanie knows more about what I have than I do!"
"It's been a wonderful opportunity," Melanie said in her whispery voice. "I'm very lucky."
"She works until evening, so she usually eats with us, too," said Edward. He glanced around. "Dorsey isn't here. Would you call him down, Melanie? It's nearly time to eat."
Melanie went back into the house. When she returned, a surly-looking Dorsey was on her heels.
"How come you didn't tell me it was a party?" he said accusingly to Edward. "All the good stuff is gone."
"I told you this morning we were having appetizers on the deck before dinner," Edward answered. "Then I called you again, but your door was shut. I guess you didn't hear me."
"Nobody pays attention to me," Dorsey complained. "I'll be glad to go to that school next week."
Edward exchanged a glance with Iona and shook his head slightly.
They all went into the dining room and took their seats in the chariots around the big table with the merry-go-round horse in the center.
Each place was set with colorful china. Beside every dinner fork was a small favor, a souvenir from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
Benny got a set of dominoes. Henry received a silver pen shaped like a feather. Violet's gift was a glass shoe with a pincushion. Jessie got a small fan, and Grandfather received a miniature cast-iron Ferris wheel.
"These are wonderful," Grandfather exclaimed, setting the wheel spinning. "But aren't they valuable?"
"Duplicates," Edward said. "I don't need more than one of each, so I'm delighted to give these away."
Iona, Melanie, and Dorsey had similar presents.
When Edward went into the kitchen, Iona said, "Edward has too much stuff. His collections rule his life."
"I heard that," Edward said, returning with a fragrant-smelling platter of Maryland fried chicken. "Iona thinks I should sell Cliffwalk Manor."
"Well, you should!" she said emphatically. "This place is too big for one person. And you spend too much time fooling with that junk."
Edward put bowls of mashed potatoes and gravy on the table. "That 'junk,' as you call it, is worth a great deal of money," he said.
Dorsey, who had been greedily reaching for the chicken, stopped. "It is?"
"Yes," said his great-uncle. "Think about how long ago the Chicago World's Fair was. Over a hundred years! Many of my things are fragile and hard to find, like souvenir books and tickets."
Dorsey sniffed. "Those things look like grubby pieces of paper to me."
"They may not look like much, but they represent pieces of history," Edward said. "Scholars have asked to study my collections. That's why I'm having this young student get them in order."
"What is your major in college?" James Alden asked Melanie.
She tugged nervously on her long braid. "Uh — I'm just taking some drama classes."
"Do you want to be an actress?" asked Henry.
Melanie's fork clattered to the floor. "Sorry. I guess I'll be an entertainer of some sort."
Iona went into the kitchen to get Melanie a clean fork.
"Excuse me," Melanie said, rising from the swan chariot. "I think I'll skip dinner and go home. I'll see you all early tomorrow."
"She'll miss dessert — that's the best part!" Benny said, amazed anyone would leave a meal before the end.
"I want some more iced tea," Dorsey said. He got up, too, and took his glass into the kitchen.
Jessie was surprised. Dorsey didn't seem like the type to fetch for himself.
Iona came back in with a new fork for Melanie and another plate of chicken. "Melanie's gone? That's funny. She usually loves fried chicken."
"More for the rest of us," said Edward, patting his round stomach.
Half spilling his too-full glass of tea, Dorsey slid into the swan chariot he had been sharing with Melanie.
"Me first," he demanded, watching Iona serve the chicken.
"Guests first," Edward gently admonished.
The corners of Dorsey's mouth turned down and he rapped the table impatiently with his fork.
Before Edward could correct his great-nephew's behavior, a wheezing sound started up behind the beaded curtain.
The mechanical fortune-teller was moving! Cackling, she nodded and waved her gnarled fingers over the crystal ball.
Edward frowned. "Who dropped a token in Madame ZaZa?"
"Not me," Dorsey said quickly.
"Well, it wasn't any of us," said Edward. "We've been sitting here the whole time. Only you, Iona, and Melanie got up from the table. And Melanie has gone for the day."
Excerpted from The Mystery of the Tiger's Eye by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Hodges Soileau. Copyright © 1996 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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