The Room with the Tassels - Carolyn Wells - ebook

The Room with the Tassels ebook

Carolyn Wells

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It had seemed an idyllic way for a group of wealthy New Yorkers to spend a summer month, researching the supernatural in a reputed haunted mansion in the depths of Vermont’s Green Mountains. That is until two of their number are mysteriously struck down at afternoon tea. Could the supernatural be at the heart of these deaths? Or did humans do the deed. This is the riddle that the famed detective Pennington Wise must unravel as they tries to discover what happened in... The Room with the Tassels. „The Room with the Tassels” marks the debut of occult detective Pennington „Penny” Wise and his female sidekick Zizi. Carolyn Wells created this younger crime fighting duo after the success of her Fleming Stone books. As her twelfth mystery novel, „The Room with the Tassels” marks a maturity of writing from the author of „The Clue”.

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Liczba stron: 302

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Contents

CHAPTER I. Wanted: A Haunted House

CHAPTER II. The Old Montgomery Place

CHAPTER III. Black Aspens

CHAPTER IV. The Story of the House

CHAPTER V. Eve’s Experience

CHAPTER VI. At Four o’Clock

CHAPTER VII. The Mystery

CHAPTER VIII. By What Means

CHAPTER IX. Conflicting Theories

CHAPTER X. Was It Supernatural?

CHAPTER XI. The Heir Speaks Out

CHAPTER XII. The Professor’s Experience

CHAPTER XIII. Pennington Wise

CHAPTER XIV. Zizi

CHAPTER XV. Tracy’s Story

CHAPTER XVI. What Happened to Zizi

CHAPTER XVII. Stebbins Owns Up

CHAPTER XVIII. Another Confession

CHAPTER I. Wanted: A Haunted House

“But I know it’s so,–for Mrs. Fairbanks saw it herself,–and heard it, too!”

The air of finality in the gaze levelled at Braye defied contradiction, so he merely smiled at the girl who was doing the talking. But, talking or silent, Eve Carnforth was well worth smiling at. Her red hair was of that thin, silky, flat-lying sort, that spells temper, but looks lovely, and her white, delicate skin,–perhaps the least bit hand-painted,–showed temperament while her eyes, of the colour called beryl,–whatever that is,–showed all sorts of things.

Then from her canna-hued lips fell more wisdom. “And Professor Hardwick believes it, too, and he’s–”

“A college professor,” broke in Landon, “don’t try to gild his refinement! But really, Eve, you mustn’t believe in spooks,–it isn’t done–”

“Oh, but it is! You’ve no idea how many people,–scientific and talented people,–are leaning toward spiritualism just now. Why, Sir Oliver Lodge says that after the war great and powerful assistance will be given by spirit helpers in matters of reconstruction and great problems of science.”

Milly Landon’s laugh rang out, and she politely clapped a little, fat hand over her mouth to stifle it.

Milly Landon was an inveterate giggler, but don’t let that prejudice you against her. She was the nicest, dearest dumpling of a little woman who ever giggled her way through life. And as hostess on this present Sunday afternoon occasion, she sat, one foot tucked under her, on the davenport in her long, narrow parlour, on one of New York’s East Seventieth streets.

It was a parlour like thousands of others in the city, and the quartette of people talking there were much like the people talking in those other parlours, that Sunday afternoon. Their only superiority lay in the fact that they constitute part of the personnel of this absorbing tale, and the other people do not.

Milly and her very satisfactory husband, Wynne Landon, were affably entertaining Rudolph Braye and the herein-before described Eve Carnforth, two pleasing callers, and the talk had turned on psychological matters and then, by inevitable stages, to the supernatural and spiritualism.

“It is all coming in again,” Eve declared, earnestly. “You know it was taken very seriously about thirty or forty years ago, and then because of fake mediums and fraudulent séances, it fell into disrepute. But now, it’s being taken up in earnest, and I, for one, am terribly interested.”

“But it’s so old-fashioned, Eve,” and Milly looked at her guest in disdain.

“It’s gammon and spinach, that’s what it is,” declared Landon, “very rubbishy gammon and a poor quality of spinach!”

“Queen Victoria didn’t think so,” Eve informed them. “She may have been old-fashioned, but she believed thoroughly in the spiritual reappearance of her friends who died, and especially took comfort in the communion and visitation of her dead husband.”

“It’s this way, I think,” offered Braye; “it seems to me it’s like that old “Lady or the Tiger’ story, you believe or not, according to your character or disposition. You know, it depended on your own nature, whether you think the Lady came out of the door, or the Tiger. And so with spooks, if you want to believe in them, you do.”

“Don’t say spooks, please,” begged Eve; “say phantasms, or even ghosts.”

“Is that the usage in the best mediumistic circles?” and Braye smiled. “Well, I think I could more easily believe in a spook than a phantasm. The latter sounds so unreal, but a good honest Injun spook seems sort of plausible.”

“They’re all unreal,” began Landon, but Eve interrupted. “They’re not unreal, Wynne; they’re immaterial, of course, but that isn’t being unreal. You have a real soul, haven’t you, although it is immaterial? and I suppose you don’t call your mind material, even if your brain is.”

“Now you’re quibbling, Eve,” and Landon grew a bit more serious. “When I say unreal, I mean imperceptible to the senses. I hold that a departed spirit cannot return to earth and be seen, heard, or felt by mortal human beings. All the stories of such things to the contrary notwithstanding. If you or any one else has power to show me a visible spook,–I beg pardon, phantasm,–I’ll be glad to see it, but I’m from Missouri. I wouldn’t be a bit afraid of it, but I’d have to be jolly well convinced of its integrity. No faked-up spectres would go down with me!”

“But how can you know?” asked Milly. “I’d be scared to death of one, I’m sure, but if Wynne wants to see one, I do. Let’s all go to a séance, or whatever they call the things. Shall us?”

“No, indeed!” cried Eve. “Professional séances are always fakes. And I don’t aspire to see one. If we could get some messages from the beyond, that would satisfy me.”

“Get messages how?” asked Braye.

“Oh, by a Ouija board, or some such way.”

“Ouija!” derided Landon; “that’s the biggest fraud of all!”

“Only in the hands of frauds. If we tried it here by ourselves and if we all trusted each other not to stoop to deception of any sort that would be a fair test.”

“I’d like that,” and Milly giggled in pleased anticipation. “That wouldn’t frighten me, and I’d promise to play fair.”

“There’d be no reason for not playing fair,” said Eve, seriously. “We’re not a pack of silly children who want to trick one another. If we could get together some evening and have an earnest, serious test, I’d agree. But not if there’s to be the least suspicion of anybody trying trickery.”

At this point two more callers arrived, and Milly jumped up to greet them.

“Mr. Bruce!” she exclaimed, “how nice to see you! And Vernie,–my goodness, how you’ve grown!”

“Indeed, yes,” and Vernie Reid, a most lively and energetic sub-deb of sixteen, darted from one to another, greeting all with interest.

“Hello, Cousin Rudolph, what are you doing here? Mooning after Miss Carnforth, I s’pose. Dear Mrs. Landon, let me sit here by you. I want to show you my graduating gifts.”

“Oh, yes, you’ve just had commencement, haven’t you?”

“Yes, and Uncle Gifford gave me this heavenly wrist-watch, and my respected Cousin Rudolph, over there, sent me this pendant. Isn’t it stunning? Oh, I had beautiful presents. I’d like to graduate every year!”

“Aren’t you going to school any more at all?”

“Dunno yet. Uncle Gifford says I am, I say I’m not. It remains to be seen. Though I don’t mind confiding to you that I usually get my own way. And, too, out in Chicago, you know, we’re not such terrible highbrows. Something tells me my schooldays are over. I think Uncle Gif needs the pleasure of my society at home. And, too, I want to get acquainted with Cousin Rudolph. Until this week I haven’t seen him for years.”

“He isn’t your cousin, Vernie.”

“Same as. He’s a son of Uncle Gif’s half-brother, and I’m a daughter of Uncle’s own sister, so it sort of evens up. Anyway, I like Cousin Rudolph, because he’s such a good-looking young man, and he’s promised to take me round New York some. That’s why I’m so jealous of Miss Carnforth or any other girl.”

Vernie was so pretty that her chatter amused the whole crowd. She was brown-haired and brown-eyed, and somewhat of a browned complexion, by reason of much tennis and outdoor life at the school from which she had just been graduated. And after a summer spent among the Eastern resorts, she and her Uncle were to return to their Chicago home, where they had lived all of Vernie’s orphaned life. Gifford Bruce idolized the girl and though often short and crabbed in his manner to others, he was never cross or stern to his dead sister’s child.

“What were you talking about when we came in?” Vernie asked, smiling at Milly. “You were all so in earnest, it must have been something important.”

“Of ghosts,” answered Braye, looking at the pretty child. “Do you enjoy them?”

“Oh, don’t I!” cried Vernie. “Why, at school we just ate ’em up! Table tippings and all such things, as soon as lights were out!”

“We don’t mean that sort,” said Eve. “We were talking seriously.”

“Count me out, then,” laughed Vernie. “Our ghosts weren’t a bit real. I did most of ’em myself, jogging the table, when the others didn’t know it!”

Eve’s scarlet lips came together in a narrow line, but the others laughed at Vernie as she babbled on.

“Yes, and we tried the Ouija board. I can make it say anything I want to.”

“Good for you, Kiddie,” cried Braye, “I believe I like your notion of these things better than the ideas of the psychologists. It sounds a lot more fun!”

“And comes nearer the truth,” declared Mr. Bruce. “I’ve looked up these matters and I’ve read all the best and most authoritative books on the subjects. There are many writers more diffuse and circumstantial, but Andrew Lang sums up the whole situation in his able way. He says there are no ghosts, but there are hallucinations. And that explains all.”

“It doesn’t to me,” and Eve’s beryl eyes took on a mystic, faraway look. “I, too, have read a lot of books–”

“Scientific or psychic?” interrupted Mr. Bruce, acidly.

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