The Vanishing of Betty Varian - Carolyn Wells - ebook

The Vanishing of Betty Varian ebook

Carolyn Wells

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Carolyn Wells inspires and entertains with her classical mystery masterpiece, „The Vanishing of Betty Varian”, guaranteed to feed the mystery monster that craves suspense! The book was first published in 1922. In this classic locked room mystery, the Varian family have rented a house for the summer – a house built on the edge of a cliff, three sides faced by water and the entrance the only way in. They are about to go on a picnic with family and friends when the daughter returns to the house to pick up a camera. When she doesn’t return, father goes after her and neither returns... Carolyn Wells’ mysteries give you just enough information to get you drawn into the story and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.

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Liczba stron: 314

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Contents

CHAPTER I. Headland Harbor

CHAPTER II. Betty Varian

CHAPTER III. The Tragedy

CHAPTER IV. The Search

CHAPTER V. The Yellow Pillow

CHAPTER VI. The Varian Pearls

CHAPTER VII. Minna Varian

CHAPTER VIII. Ransom

CHAPTER IX. Poor Martha

CHAPTER X. Pennington Wise

CHAPTER XI. Clues

CHAPTER XII. A Letter from Nowhere

CHAPTER XIII. Where is North?

CHAPTER XIV. A Green Stain

CHAPTER XV. Criminal or Victim?

CHAPTER XVI. In Greenvale

CHAPTER XVII. The Last Letter

CHAPTER XVIII. The Trap

CHAPTER I. Headland Harbor

It is, of course, possible, perhaps even probable, that somewhere on this green earth there may be finer golf links or a more attractive clubhouse than those at Headland Harbor, but never hope to wring such an admission from any one of the summer colony who spend their mid-year at that particular portion of the Maine coast.

Far up above the York cliffs are more great crags and among the steepest and wildest of these localities, a few venturesome spirits saw fit to pitch their tents.

Others joined them from time to time until now, the summer population occupied nearly a hundred cottages and bungalows and there was, moreover, a fair sized and fairly appointed inn.

Many of the regulars were artists, of one sort or another, but also came the less talented in search of good fishing or merely good idling. And they found it, for the majority of the householders were people of brains as well as talent and by some mysterious management the tone of the social side of things was kept pretty much as it should be.

Wealth counted for what it was worth, and no more. Genius counted in the same way, and was never overrated. Good nature and an amusing personality were perhaps the best assets one could bring to the conservative little community, and most of the shining lights possessed those in abundance.

To many, the word harbor connotes a peaceful, serene bit of blue water, sheltered from rough winds and basking in the sunlight.

This is far from a description of Headland Harbor, whose rocky shores and deep black waters were usually wind-swept and often storm-swept to a wild picturesqueness beloved of the picture painters.

But there were some midsummer days, as now, one in late July, when the harbor waters lay serene and the sunlight dipped and danced on the tiny wavelets that broke into spray over the nearby rocks.

Because it was about the hour of noon, the clubhouse verandah was crowded with members and guests waiting for the mail, which, as always, was late.

The clubhouse, a big, low building, with lots of shiny paint and weathering shingles, was at the nearest spot consistent with safety to the shore. From it could be had a magnificent view of the great headland that named the place.

This gigantic cliff jutted out into the sea, and rising to a height of three hundred feet, the mighty crag showed a slight overhang which rendered it unscalable. The wet black rock glistened in the sunlight, as spray from the dashing breakers broke half way up its sides.

The top was a long and narrow tableland, not much more than large enough to accommodate the house that crowned the summit. There was a strip of sparse lawn on either side the old mansion, and a futile attempt at a garden, but vegetation was mostly confined to the weird, one-sided pine trees that waved the branches of their lee sides in mournful, eerie motions.

“Can’t see how any one wants to live up there in that God-forsaken shack,” said John Clark, settling more comfortably in his porch rocker and lighting a fresh cigarette.

“Oh, I think it’s great!” Mrs Blackwood disagreed with him. “So picturesque–”

“You know, if you say “picturesque’ up here, you’ll be excommunicated. The thing is all right, but the word is taboo.”

“All right, then, chromoesque.”

“But it isn’t that,” Clark objected; “it’s more like an old steel engraving–”

“Oh, not with all that color,” said Lawrence North. “It is like an engraving on a gray, cloudy day,–but today, with the bright water and vivid sunshine, it’s like a–”

“Speak it right out!” cried Ted Landon, irrepressibly, “like a picture postcard!”

“It can’t help being like that,” Mrs Blackwood agreed, “for the postcards for sale in the office of the club are more like the reality than any picture an artist has ever made of the Headland House.”

“Of course, photographs are truer than drawings,” North said, “and that card that shows the cliff in a storm comes pretty near being a work of art.”

“The difficulty would be,” Clark observed, “to get any kind of a picture of that place that wouldn’t be a work of art. Why, the architect’s blueprints of that house would come a good deal nearer art than lots of watercolors I’ve seen in exhibitions. I’m keen on the place.”

“Who isn’t?” growled Landon, for most of the Headlanders resented the faintest disparagement of their cherished masterpiece, a joint work of nature and man.

The promontory was joined to the mainland by a mere narrow neck of rocky land, and from that point a rough road descended, over and between steep hills, reaching at last the tiny village and scattered settlement of Headland Harbor.

Headland House itself was a modified type of old world architecture. Built of rough gray stone, equipped with a few towers and turrets, pierced by deep and narrow windows, it had some effects of a French chateau and others that suggested an old English castle.

It was true to no school, it followed no definite type, yet perched on its lonely height, sharply outlined against the sky, its majestic rock foundations sweeping away from beneath it, it showed the grandeur and sublimity of a well-planned monument.

And, partly because of their real admiration, partly because of a spirit of ownership, the artist colony loved and cherished their Headland House with a jealous sensitiveness to criticism.

“Stunning thing,–from here,” John Clark said, after a few moments of further smoking and gazing; “all the same, as I stated, I shouldn’t care to live up there.”

“Too difficult of access,” Claire Blackwood said, “but, otherwise all right.”

Mrs Blackwood was a widow, young, attractive, and of a psychic turn of mind. Not enough of an occultist to make her a bore, but possessing quick and sure intuitions and claiming some slight clairvoyant powers. She dabbled in water colors, and did an occasional oil. She was long-limbed, with long fingers and long feet, and usually had a long scarf of some gauzy texture trailing about her. Of an evening or even on a dressy afternoon, she had a long panel or sash-end hanging below her short skirt, and which was frequently trodden on by blundering, inattentive feet.

Good-looking, of course, Claire Blackwood was,–she took care to be that,–but her utmost care could not make her beautiful,–much to her own chagrin. Her scarlet lips were too thin, and the angle of her jaw too hard. Yet she was handsome, and by virtue of her personality and her implicit belief in her own importance, she was the leader socially, notwithstanding the fact that the colony disclaimed any society element in its life.

“Tell us about the Headland House people, Claire. You’ve called, haven’t you?”

This from Ted Landon, who by reason of his sheer impudence was forgiven any unconventionality. No other man at the Harbor would have dreamed of addressing Mrs Blackwood by her first name.

“Yes; I’ve called. They’re delightful people.” The words said more than the tone.

“With reservations?” asked North.

“Oh, in a way. They’re quite all right,–it’s only that they’re not picture mad,–as we all are.”

“Ignorant?”

“Oh, no,–not that. Well, I’ll sketch them for you. Mr Varian is a Wall Street man,–”

“Magnate?”

“Yes, I daresay. Wealthy, anyway. He’s big and Vandyke-bearded. Well mannered,–but a bit preoccupied,–if–”

“Yes, we get what you mean,” said the irrepressible Ted. “Go on,–what about the daughter?”

“I haven’t come to her yet. The mother is due first. Mrs Varian is the clingingest vine I ever saw. I only saw her on parade, of course, but I’m positive that in curl-papers, she can whine and fret and fly into nervous spasms! Her husband spoils her,–he’s far too good to her,–”

“What a lot you gathered at one interview,” murmured Lawrence North.

“That’s what I went for,” Mrs Blackwood returned, coolly. “Well. Mother Varian is wrapped up in her blossom-child. Betty is a peach,–as I know you boys will agree,–but I never saw greater idolatry in any mother than Mrs Varian shows.”

“Betty worth it?” asked John Clark, idly.

“Rather!” Mrs Blackwood assured him. “She’s a dear thing. I don’t often enthuse over young girls, but Betty Varian is unusual.”

“As how?”

“Prettier than most girls, more charm, better manners, and,–a suspicion of brains. Not enough to hurt her, but enough to make it a pleasure to talk to her. Moreover, she’s a wilful, spoiled, petted darling of two worshipping parents, and it’s greatly to her credit that she isn’t an arrogant, impossible chit.”

“Sounds good to me,” commented Ted; “when can I meet her?”

“I’ll introduce you soon. They want to meet some of our best people–”

“Of course. That lets me in at once. When will you take me?”

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