Dare to read: Нэнси Дрю и Братья Харди
Nancy Drew Mystery Stories: Volume Nine
The Sign of the Twisted Candles
Copyright, 1933, by GROSSET & DUNLAP, Inc.
This is original text, 1933
Nancy, as mediator in a generation-old feud, divulges an unknown birthright.
Trapped by the Tempest
“Oh, Nancy! I’m afraid to go any farther, and I’m afraid not to. Won’t you speed the car up?”
Nancy Drew smiled grimly to herself, despite the awe-inspiring situation with which she had to battle.
“Which shall it he, Bess? Shall we stop or shall we try to go faster?” Nancy asked the girl beside her in the sporty little roadster.
Bess’s answer was drowned out by a peal of thunder which followed a blinding flash of lightning. Nancy cast an apprehensive glance at the sky, where black and lead-colored clouds writhed and twisted, although not a sign of a breeze fluttered the tree leaves along the country road up which the automobile was running.
“Look how yellow the sky is getting in the southwest,” exclaimed the third occupant of the car, George Fayne, who, despite the name, was an attractive girl of about the same age as Nancy and Bess Marvin, her cousin.
The three chums had gone for a ride this sultry August afternoon to seek relief from the heat. Some thirty miles from their home town of River Heights, while traversing an unfamiliar cross-road, they had noticed the suddenly darkened sky.
“I guess we are in for it,” Nancy cried, as the trees and shrubs bent before a blast of hot wind. A peculiar yellowish tinge spread over the sky, tinting the landscape with a ghostly pallor. Then, without further warning, as if a gigantic bucket had been inverted overhead, the rain poured down in torrents. In a second the road was obscured, and a few minutes later it became a stream in which the wheels, sending sheets of water fender-high, skidded sickeningly.
Nancy had slackened the pace of her car to a crawl.
The thunder was almost continuous now, making conversation impossible. Bess cowered between her companions, her eyes screwed tightly shut, her fingers to her ears. George, too, was pale and tense when the lightning’s glare revealed her face.
“Can’t we stop under a tree?” she shouted.
“Worst place in the world to pick in a thunderstorm,” Nancy cried.
As if in confirmation of her opinion, a bolt of lightning found its mark in a great, arching elm a few rods ahead. In the almost blinding glare the girls saw the huge trunk ripped by a splintering furrow from top to bottom, while twigs and branches went hurtling before the wind.
“My, but that was close,” Nancy exclaimed, blinking her blue eyes. “Too close for comfort. Say, George, isn’t that a light ahead?”
George peered through the murk.
“It’s a house, I’m sure,” she cried. “Stop a minute. Here’s a signboard. It says: ‘Luncheons and dinners served at The Sign of the Twisted Candles fifty feet ahead.’ ”
“Good. We’ll find shelter until the storm blows over,” Nancy called out, turning into a driveway which came into view.
As she shifted into second gear the motor sputtered warningly. The car lurched, and a sheet of muddy water deluged the windshield as the front wheels sank more than hub-deep into the rain-gouged gutter of the dirt road. With a last cough the engine stopped.
“Oh, pshaw!” Nancy exclaimed in vexation. “I guess the distributor got wet. We’re stuck.”
Bess opened her eyes warily and took her fingers from her ears.
“Why did you stop here?” she demanded.
“I didn’t stop; I was stopped,” Nancy answered ruefully. “I guess we’ll have to run for it. The car is blocking the driveway, but probably no one will be using this road for a while.”
Gathering their skirts tightly about them, the girls stepped out onto the running-board and jumped over the swirling, foam-flecked current that raced down the side of the road. Bending their heads before the storm, the trio dashed for the tea room, revealed now as a rambling building of the Civil War period, its central structure a flat-roofed, three-story tower flanked by long story-and-a-half wings. There was a dim glow of light from the ground floor windows, and in the arched window at the top of the tower a sturdy candle-light gleamed welcomingly.
Laughing, gasping and almost breathless, Nancy and her chums scampered up the broad front steps of the place and onto the wide porch. An array of tables and chairs had evidently been hastily pushed against the walls.
“I’m sure I look a fright,” Bess panted.
“None of us looks especially like a page from a fashion magazine,” Nancy laughed, running her slim fingers through her wavy, blond hair. “Who would expect us to, when we’ve just barely escaped from drowning?”
Nancy led the way to the door and opened it without ceremony. The three girls found themselves in a long hall, lighted by curiously twisted candles in sconces on the walls. To the left and to the right arched doorways opened into high-ceilinged rooms where tables, each with a candle fluttering in the draft, were set in rows. Half a dozen couples looked up curiously as the girls entered, and then resumed their contemplation of food or storm.
From a doorway in the rear of the hall a woman, clad in black and wearing a small, frilled white apron, approached Nancy and her friends.
“Good afternoon,” Nancy said. “Our car is stalled in your driveway. We should like to have some tea and cinnamon toast, and stay here until the storm is over.”
The woman, revealed now as a gaunt, thin-lipped person past middle-age, nodded her head.
“Just take any table,” she replied.
“Is there a dressing-room where we could freshen up a bit?” Nancy next asked.
“This is also a hotel, but at present no rooms are taken,” the housekeeper said. “Just go into any chamber. There is running water and a dresser with mirror in each.”
Nancy thanked the woman and led the way up the old staircase to the upper hall. She opened the door of the first room she came to. The girls found themselves in a plainly furnished bedroom, and proceeded to rearrange their damp and wrinkled clothing and to straighten their hair.
They worked wordlessly and at top speed, eager to be downstairs where there were other persons, for the storm still raged furiously, while the appalling thunder and the blinding blue flare of the lightning made even Nancy feel ill-at-ease. Just as they were completing their toilettes the girls heard an angry masculine voice outside the door.
“Where do you think you are going with that?”
Nancy, always alert to anything savoring of a mystery, turned to her chums with her fingers on her lips.
A girl’s voice replied, but Nancy had difficulty in hearing what was said as the storm was so ear-filling.
“—he is one hundred today, so I thought you wouldn’t mind—’’ was all that could be heard.
“That’s what he says. Let him eat his mush and milk,” shouted the man. “Take that tray back! There are three young ladies just in to be fed. Get downstairs and help!”
“But on his hundredth birthday—” the girl’s voice came to their ears.
“No back-talk! That’s two dollars’ worth of food there. Keep out of the tower–”
The sentence was cut short by an ear-splitting crash, followed by the tinkle of falling glass. The girls were blinded for a moment by the glare of the lightning bolt which had shivered an ancient pine tree just outside the house, toppling the hoary evergreen against the building to the destruction of several windows.
The shock of the bolt sent Nancy and her chums reeling against the foot of the bed. After the thunder had died away there followed a death-like stillness. The rain halted abruptly, and from the floor below could be heard the scraping of chairs hurriedly pushed back, together with exclamations of surprise and fright from the guests. Feet thundered on the stairs, as the man who had berated the girl outside the door dashed down to ascertain what damage had been done, and to calm the people.
Then the door of the room in which the three girls were waiting creaked on its hinges and slowly opened inward. Nancy watched it with fascination. Hesitatingly, the slender figure of a girl of about sixteen came into view. She seemed to be dazed and frightened, but whether from fear of the man or of the stroke of lightning Nancy could not guess. Like the woman who had greeted them, the girl was clad in a black dress and a white apron. Clenched in her hands was a tray held stiffly before her. A bouquet of flowers and several dishes of tempting-looking food were in imminent danger of sliding from it to the floor.
“Here, let me take that,” Nancy cried, leaping forward.
The girl gave a faint scream and swayed on her feet. Nancy seized the tray, and with one motion thrust it into the hands of the amazed Bess.
“We were just in here straightening ourselves out after being caught in the rain,” Nancy explained as she put a capable arm about the girl’s quivering form.
Regarding the frightened young woman with pity, Nancy led her to the bed and gently pushed her into a sitting position.
“Just rest a minute,” she urged. “I think a tree was struck right outside. The danger is past.”
The girl sank down obediently; then suddenly leaped to her feet.
“Oh, what am I thinking of?” she cried. “I–I must go. The Twisted Candles–”
The Tower Room
“Well, what about The Twisted Candles?” Nancy laughed. “I’m sure you won’t lose your position if you lie down a minute to recover from your fright. Let me deliver the tray for you.”
The trembling girl relaxed again.
“Who—but I don’t know who you are,” she cried, “except that you are very kind and considerate.”
“We were just overtaken by the storm and our car stalled in your driveway,” Nancy said. “You don’t have to worry about us at all. We really are not very hungry.”
Outside the rain began again in a steady downpour, but the thunder had retreated over the hills, so it was evident that the worst of the storm had passed. Nancy, however, had forgotten about the storm. Her unfailing instinct had told her that she was on the threshold of a mystery.
“My name is Nancy Drew,” she told the girl.
“I am Sadie Wipple,” the girl replied. “I —I won’t lose my position here, because my foster-parents run the tea room, but I can’t sit here talking, either. I must get to work, or else–”
“Or else what?” Nancy demanded. “In the excitement no one will miss you for a few minutes. Go upstairs with your tray.”
“I’d like to, but I don’t dare,” Sadie said, her eyes widening with fear. “I was forbidden.”
“Oh, let’s have our tea,” George interrupted. “Is there a mechanic on your staff who can fix our car, Sadie?”
“I can repair it myself,” Nancy said hastily. “We shall have to wait until the rain stops, though, no matter who does it. What about this tray-load of food? It’s not improving by standing here.”
“Let us eat it,” Bess suggested hopefully. Good food was Bess’s greatest delight, just as her increasing plumpness was her greatest worry.
“No, we shan’t, Bess,” Nancy laughed reprovingly. “There isn’t enough to go around, anyhow. For whom was this tray intended, Sadie?”
“For Mr. Sidney. He really owns this property, but he lives all alone up in the Tower Room. He is one hundred years old today, so I fixed a little spread for him,” the girl replied.
Sadie was so pitifully thin, Nancy could not help but think that the food would do her more good than it would the man who inhabited the Tower Boom.
“I should like to see a man one hundred years old,” she said aloud. “And I certainly think he deserves a little party on his birthday.”
“Mr. Semitt thinks it is too expensive a trayful,” Sadie said. “You see, Mr. Sidney lets my foster-parents have this property in exchange for boarding him and doing his laundry work and so on. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, Miss Drew.”
“Listen to me,” Nancy said firmly. “I’ll pay for the food on the tray, and I’ll carry it up and serve it myself. That ought to suit Mr. What’s-his-name, I mean your foster-father.”
“Oh, would you do that?” Sadie cried, her eyes dancing.
“And what is more, I shall tell Mr. Sidney the spread is your idea,” Nancy smiled.
From somewhere below-stairs a voice thundered out: “Sadie! Where are you?”
“Oh, I must go!” the girl cried, and darted from the room in great haste.
“Nancy, you dear old thing,” George protested affectionately, putting an arm over her chum’s shoulder. “You are always putting yourself out to do a kindness for somebody or other who simply doesn’t count in your life at all.”
“It’s more fun than watching the rain and waiting for toast,” Nancy replied. “And I believe this timid girl is much too refined to belong to such a common person. I should like to help her. You girls go on downstairs and I’ll meet you there. I must see this centenarian.”
“Maybe he is a wizard in an enchanted tower and will cast a spell over you,” Bess laughed.
Bess and George went down the stairs in high spirits, while Nancy climbed in the opposite direction, eager for whatever adventure might lie in the Tower Room.
The stairway was unlighted, and the now-distant lightning made queer shadow-play on the walls as Nancy slowly mounted the treads, taking care that nothing on the tray should spill. Except for the growl of far-off thunder and the drumming of the rain there was no sound audible to her from the vast old house.
“A perfect setting for a delightful mystery,” Nancy thought. “The biggest problem right now, though, is how I’m going to knock on the door, with both hands balancing a tray!”
She had reached the top of the stairway and stood in front of a heavy, paneled door. A dim light showed beneath it, but no sound came from the other side.
A blank door—but no blanker than the mystery which Nancy, all unknowing, was about to confront. As she stood there some recollection of the seemingly meaningless incidents which had marked the beginning of other adventures flashed through Nancy’s mind.
A letter from England, for instance, addressed to Miss Nancy S. Drew, had proved to be for another young lady, informing her that she was an heiress. “Nancy’s Mysterious Letter” not only led her into a long chase for another Nancy but, as the volume by that title relates, before the other Miss Drew was found Nancy exposed a crook for whom the United States Secret Service had searched in vain.
Just before that a trip to the country and a halt at a wayside service station had involved Nancy in “The Secret of Red Gate Farm,” which she solved at the peril of her life.
No doubt all of us have scores of times rubbed elbows with some refugee from justice, or have figured in some unimportant incident which actually was one link in a long chain of mystery and adventure. Few of us, though, have trained our powers of observation and deduction as Nancy had, although by studying her methods it should not be at all impossible for any intelligent reader to learn them.
Of course, Nancy had an advantage in being so conversant with the professional secrets of Carson Drew, the celebrated criminal lawyer, whose cleverness had just as often saved an innocent person from suffering the penalty of another’s crime as it had brought wily lawbreakers to justice. Nancy’s mother had died years before; thus, the natural intimacy between father and daughter had deepened wonderfully. Carson Drew’s profession had made him well-to-do, although by no means wealthy, so Nancy had her own car, and in this and in other conveyances she had travelled a great deal. In fact, it was in the West that she had uncovered “The Secret at Shadow Ranch.” Ever since Nancy, unaided, solved “The Secret of the Old Clock,” which we all recall as the first of her long and growing list of successes, she had worked to educate her faculties. Her reputation was almost as great in River Heights as was her father’s, although some of her friends accredited her ability to sheer “luck”.
Perhaps it was “luck” that had brought Nancy and her chums to The Twisted Candles; perhaps it was “luck” that had brought her up to the door of the Tower Room, where she stood in the flickering glow of distant lightning.
“I’ll just tap at the door with my foot.”
Balancing herself against the heavy frame, Nancy tapped at the stout panels with the toe of one dainty, although muddy, slipper. To her surprise, the door swung silently open. Evidently the latch had not been caught fast.
Nancy gazed into one of the strangest looking chambers she—or anyone else, for that matter—had ever seen. The room was a large one, fully twenty feet square, and from all of its walls candles gleamed—candles by the dozen, all winking in the draft of the open door. It was warm in the room, and the heavy air was pungently scented by burning tallow.
Nancy blinked her eyes at the spectacle of the myriad of dancing lights. She entered the room hesitatingly, not certain but that she might trip over a foot-stool or a black cat, or even a trained owl. For it most certainly seemed to be a wizard’s den or an alchemist’s laboratory which she had entered. In the great arched window directly in front of Nancy burned the massive, curiously twisted candle whose light had beckoned her to the house.
Suddenly, from a low, broad chair before this window, there arose the gaunt figure of a very old man. The candle-light showed to Nancy a picture of Father Time come to life, with his long, silvery-white hair sweeping over stooped shoulders, and merging with the snowy beard that spread over his chest to his waist. Shaggy white eyebrows half concealed glowing eyes—strangely youthful eyes—that peered at Nancy from either side of a jutting, hawk-like nose.
“Good evening, Mr. Sidney,” Nancy said. “I have brought your dinner. Sadie fixed it up especially for your birthday.”
To Nancy’s surprise, and to her dismay as well, the aged man stretched forth his bony, trembling arms. In a deep, husky voice that faltered as he spoke, he cried out:
“Jenny—my Jenny, you have come back to me!”
“You Are in for Trouble”
Nancy looked at the ancient Asa Sidney with deep perplexity, wondering who Jenny could be.
“I think you are mistaken,” she said smiling. “I am Nancy Drew, and this is the first time I have ever been here. Oh—how very queer!”
She set her tray down upon a bench and pointed to a portrait, an oil painting of a golden-haired young woman in the high-waisted, puffed-sleeved style of the eighteen-fifties. The dress was similar in general appearance to the frock Nancy wore, and the girl was quick to realize that in the flickering candle-light she must have appeared to the suddenly awakened old man very much like the portrait come to life.
A tall and artistically tapered candle of opalescent green burned before the painting, its gently-wavering light making the subject of the picture appear to breathe.
“I—I must have been dreaming,” old Asa Sidney murmured, dropping his arms and shaking his hoary head. “Well, well,” he continued, “that is all we old folks have left. If it were not for our dreams, we should be poor indeed.”
Nancy was silent, not certain just what reply, if any, was expected from her.
“However,” Asa Sidney said, looking at her with a smile in his eyes, “I think I shall have to get myself some glasses. You were a very pretty vision as you entered the room, and while drowsing here I seemed to see my dear wife step down from the picture up there.
“If I can’t tell a very pretty and very much alive young woman from a very old piece of canvas and paint, then I shall have to visit an oculist. Well, one can’t expect one’s eyes to last much over one hundred years!”
“May I congratulate you on your birthday?”
Asa Sidney laughed a little bitterly.
“Pardon me, my dear,” he said, as he resumed his seat. “I am a lonely and soured old hermit. It is of no consequence that this is my birthday. Sadie is a good girl, a very thoughtful young person, to remember a date that means nothing to me and less to anybody else.”
“Surely it is worth while to celebrate one’s hundredth birthday,” Nancy cried. “Why, your name should be in the papers, and your picture, too.”
“No, no,” protested the old man. “That is all vanity and display. Why should I be honored for an accident? I have not tried to live longer than anyone else. I have read interviews in the newspapers. The reporters always ask the centenarians how they have lived so long, and one old codger will say he lived to be a hundred because he never ate meat, and in the next county another will say he attributes his old age to the fact that he never ate anything but meat!
“Ha ha! The only reason one lives to be a hundred is because one has not died before.”
Nancy shuddered a little. Plainly Mr. Sidney was far from happy.
“No, no,” the centenarian continued, “very, very few persons know Asa Sidney is alive at all, and none of those love the old man except Sadie, perhaps. She is the only one who ever visits me for the sake of friendship alone.”
“I have two jolly friends downstairs,” Nancy said somewhat shyly, because she did not know how a plan she had suddenly evolved would be received. “May we have our tea up here with you, as a sort of little birthday party? And perhaps Sadie will join us?”
“Eh? What’s that—what did you say your name was?” Asa asked sharply.
“Nancy Drew,” the girl answered, a little hurt at the strange reception her request had received. “My father is Carson Drew, the attorney.”
“An attorney, eh? And why did you come to see me this afternoon?”
“I didn’t come to see you at all,” Nancy replied, somewhat nettled. “My friends and I were caught in the storm and stopped here. Quite by chance I had the opportunity of doing Sadie a small service in bringing this tray up to you.”
“The tray? Oh, yes indeed! I had quite forgotten about it,” Asa said. “Well, well, Nancy, I do not think I have had a caller for ten years—although it may have been all my fault. Bring up your young friends, please do. Tell Semitt to send up a real spread. Tell him it’s my order. I own the house, so that is quite all right, you see. He can deduct it from the rent—ha ha ha!”
All of the old man’s conversation only strengthened Nancy’s conviction that she was in the presence of mystery and drama. She sped down the stairs to rejoin George and Bess, and found her chums seated at a table on which a teapot steamed.
“There you are at last,” Bess cried. “I’ve almost died sitting here being polite, while all the time this was teasing me with its perfume.”
“This” proved to be a plateful of golden cinnamon toast from which Bess lifted the cover.
“Wait a minute,” Nancy cried. “Put the cover back!”
“Wait still another minute? Oh, Nancy, what did I ever do to you to deserve such cruelty!” Bess wailed.
“We’re going to have supper here,” Nancy announced. “I’ll call Hannah, and she can telephone to your folks. That will save us telephone tolls. And we will eat upstairs with the oldest man any of you ever saw—he is one hundred years old today!”
George knit her brows.
“Did he invite us?” she asked. “We don’t know him, do we? This is sort of mysterious.”
“That’s just the reason why Nancy is so enthusiastic,” Bess laughed. “I think it is a splendid idea, if we can have a better spread than cinnamon toast.”
She rang the bell industriously, and Sadie came to answer the summons.
“Sadie,” Nancy said, “we are all going to have our supper with Mr. Sidney. He asked us. Please tell Mr. Semitt to come here.”
Semitt, whose voice the girls had heard in argument with Sadie, proved to be a tall, rather heavy-set man, slightly bald as to brow but wearing long sideburns in the style of English butlers.
“Yes, Miss?” the manager asked, his voice purring, his hands clasped, as he bowed to Nancy.
“We have decided to have a more substantial meal,” Nancy said. “Of course, we will pay for the tea and toast.”
Semitt bowed more deeply.
“We shall have some jellied consommé, sliced breast of chicken, hearts of lettuce with Roquefort dressing, nut-bread with sweet butter and mocha layer cake,” Nancy recited, mentioning the items that had appeared on Sadie’s tray for Mr. Sidney.
“That sounds very good to me!” murmured Bess. “Especially the cake. Is it a three-layered variety?”
Semitt looked at the famished Bess. His pale blue eyes roved over the plump figure, making the girl a bit uneasy.
“I would rather have French dressing on my salad,” announced George as she watched the man before her, “and cheese crackers on the side.”
“Well, I’ll see the Missus,” he said slowly. “We like straight orders here. We’re not used to having girls come here, telling us how to fix things, but if you–”
He hesitated, and Nancy realized at once it was a question of money which bothered the inn-keeper.
“You shall receive extra pay,” declared Nancy firmly, “for your trouble.”
This satisfied the man, who bowed and said, “I shall hurry your orders, Miss.”
“One thing more,” Nancy said. “We want this meal served in the Tower Room with Mr. Sidney, and I should like very much to have you give permission that Sadie join us.”
The suave, sleek Semitt bristled. His eyes bulged in his crimson face.
“What is the meaning of this! What do you know of the Tower Room? I—why—who are you?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Nancy smiled. “We wish to celebrate Mr. Sidney’s birthday with him, and he wishes us to dine with him. However, I shall pay well for the supper, as I have promised to pay for the tray Sadie took up to him.”
“It will be ten dollars,” Semitt announced, his eyes narrowing.
“That’s quite all right,” Nancy replied, “if the price includes Mr. Sidney’s and Sadie’s suppers.”
Nancy’s air of authority cowed the man. He bowed again and left the room, shaking his head and rubbing his hands together.
“I guess he thought I wouldn’t pay so much,” Nancy laughed as she rummaged through her purse. “Five—and two is seven—eight—can somebody lend me a dollar?”
“Surely,” George replied, tossing folded bills across the table. “There’re two dollars for my share of the celebration.”
“No, you are my guests,” Nancy said. “I’ll pay this back, George. Now I must telephone to Hannah and tell her that we are going to miss dinner at home.
“Maybe I had better take you up and introduce you to Mr. Sidney first. There is lots of time to call up Hannah later.”
As Nancy led her chums toward the stairs Sadie entered the room to clear the table, and Nancy turned back and spoke to her.
“Let Semitt do that,” she said. “I’ll need your help upstairs—and you are to have supper with us, do you hear?”
“Yes, he told me,” Sadie replied timorously. “He wasn’t particularly pleased, but he does not wish to offend a patron or lose a big order. Business is not very good.”
“I’m glad he thinks I’m a worth while customer,” answered Nancy. “I’m sure he didn’t at first!”
Bess was counting the tables.
“I guess you do quite a business here,” she observed, “when the place is crowded.”
“Yes, we do on Sunday nights and holidays, especially,” agreed the frail girl.
“It isn’t easy work, is it, Sadie?” asked Nancy. “Those heavy trays weigh a good bit, don’t they?”
“Oh, yes. Sometimes my arms ache, and always my legs hurt me from standing so much. I really should be taller, I suppose. I have to be on my feet all the time,” she added with a tired smile, “and my shoes aren’t comfortable to stand in.”
There was an air of daintiness and refinement about the young waitress, which was apparent despite Sadie’s cheap clothing and menial position.
“Are yon allowed to keep the tips that you receive from the generous patrons you wait on?” inquired George somewhat bluntly but nevertheless effectively.
Nancy had been hoping she might learn something of the arrangement that the man Semitt had with this girl but she had not thought it wise to broach the subject on such short acquaintanceship. George felt differently.
Sadie became confused and red. She looked at the floor, and the girls thought they detected a tear on her pale cheek, but she answered bravely:
“I haven’t anything, I can’t keep anything. They don’t think I’m old enough yet to receive pay for my work. But now I better go, or else——”
“I thought you would eat upstairs,” pleaded Bess.
“Why, what can be the harm if you have supper with us?” Nancy asked. “I am taking George and Bess up to meet Mr. Sidney, and then I am going to telephone home that I shall be late. I’ll help you carry the things upstairs.”
“Oh, no! Please don’t,” Sadie cried.
Nancy led her two chums up the tower stairs, her brow wrinkled in thought. Sadie was evidently unhappy. She was not the Semitts’ own daughter. Was it a case of a mistreated adopted child, she puzzled. Then, too, there seemed to be a queer bond between the thin, timid girl and the bearded hermit.
She had arrived at no conclusion when she reached the door of the Tower Room and knocked. Bess and George gave a little start when they saw the hoary and ancient figure whom Nancy greeted.
“I am afraid you will find this strange tower of mine scarcely prepared for your delightful visit,” Mr. Sidney said with quaint courtesy. “I rarely have lady callers—about one every ten years is above the average. However, such as they are, my quarters are at your disposal.”
Now, for the first time, Nancy had a chance to look about her and survey the room. It was very large, as has been said before, and candles were gleaming everywhere. There was a fireplace on one side of the room, and a broad couch which evidently served the recluse as a bed at night.
Mr. Sidney dragged out a commodious, low rocking chair and arranged black-oak arm chairs of Civil War vintage on either side of it.
“You, my dear,” he said with a bow to Nancy, “must take the seat of honor and act as hostess.”
“Thank you, but before I sit down I must telephone home,” Nancy said. “Sadie is coming to have supper with us. Fortunately it is a cold spread, so your meal will not suffer from your kindness in waiting until ours arrives.”
The aged man produced a table elaborately carved in the fashion of a bygone age. With a pocketknife he scratched off driblets of tallow from its surface.
Nancy surmised, that except for the painting of his wife in her youth, Mr. Sidney had no enthusiasm for decoration. The only other objects on the wall were framed texts which seemed to be patent grants from the government. One entire side of the room was taken up with a long work table, a charcoal furnace something like a blacksmith’s, together with pots, pans, dye-vats, bars of tallow, beeswax and other similar materials, and row upon row of polished candle molds.
George and Bess were silent, obviously a little frightened at their strange surroundings and the remarkable spectacle the old man made as he moved about the room, scoffing at himself for being slow and clumsy. The candle light made an aura of glowing silver out of his mass of hair.
“Oh, I am forgetting about my telephone call!” Nancy exclaimed. “Please excuse me.”
As she felt her way down the dark stairway Nancy heard someone ascending. It was Semitt, grumbling under his breath, and carrying a large, covered tray. A few steps behind came Sadie, similarly burdened.
“Ah, Miss, I’ll be ready for you in a moment,” Semitt said pleasantly enough.
“I am going to telephone,” Nancy explained.
“The booth is at the end of the first hall,” Semitt directed.
Nancy had some trouble in establishing the connection with River Heights. Evidently the storm had worked havoc with the lines. At last, however, she heard the voice of Hannah Gruen, the kindly and efficient housekeeper of the Drew household.
“Hello. This is Nancy,” the girl explained.
“Praise be! I was sure you had been in a smash-up,” Hannah exclaimed. “Where are you now?”
“I don’t know exactly where,” Nancy replied. “Some place in the country, about twenty miles from home. We took shelter from the storm in the most interesting old tea room. Please do not wait supper for me, Hannah. I will eat here. And Bess and George are staying with me. "Will—hello?”
There was a sharp clicking on the wire, and then a long buzzing. Nancy rattled the receiver.
“Hello! Hello! Oh, the line is dead. I have been cut off,” she cried. “Hello! Hello!”
“Number, please?” a voice asked languidly.
“I was cut off from River Heights,” Nancy explained. “Will you please make the connection?”
“Hold the wire, please.”
Nancy’s foot tapped the floor impatiently as the voice was succeeded by a buzz, and the buzz by a series of clicks.
At last she heard Hannah expostulating at the other end.
“—sort of service?” the woman’s voice sounded indignantly. “You’d think I was talking to China or the South Pole.”
“Hello. Here I am,” Nancy interrupted. “Will you call up George’s home and Bess’s, and explain that I am keeping them out for supper?”
“Yes, but I’ll have to tell them where you are,” Hannah warned.
“We are eating with an old, old man, a wonderful old man,” Nancy explained. “His name is Sidney—Asa Sidney. He is a hun–”
“Asa Sidney? Now you are in for trouble,” Hannah almost shouted over the telephone. “Espec–”
The connection was broken again, and although she tried for five minutes Nancy could not get Hannah on the wire again.
She climbed the stairs, more puzzled than ever. How could Asa Sidney get her into trouble? How did Hannah know about him?
Asa Sidney's Story
“Come and sit down, my dear! The celebration has already begun,” was old Mr. Sidney’s greeting as Nancy re-entered the Tower Room.
“I’m sorry to have been so long,” Nancy cried, as she took her seat in the big old rocking choir. “The storm must have damaged the telephone lines. I had a hard time keeping a connection.”
“My, my!” Mr. Sidney said with a shake of his head. “When I was your age such a thing as talking over wires was unheard of—undreamed of. And now you seem vexed because the miracle does not always perform perfectly.”
“Fancy being without a telephone,” Nancy cried. “Or without the radio, or automobiles, or airplanes, or electric lights.”
“Electric lights? Pooh! I prefer candles,” Asa snorted. “Lights out of glass bottles! Bah! But come, this is a party, not a debate. Semitt has made some excellent fruit punch.”
“Then I propose a toast to Mr. Sidney, and many happy returns of the day,” Nancy cried, lifting her glass high.
With shouts of congratulation the four girls rose to their feet, lifting their glasses to Mr. Sidney, whose beard could not conceal his happy smiles. Then the meal was attacked with gusto, and delicious food it proved to be.
The candlelight sparkled on the silver and china, and in the gayety of the occasion Bess and George lost their awe of the old man, and even Sadie’s timidity seemed to vanish. Nancy related how she and her chums had been caught out in the tempest, and how their car had stalled almost at the door of the inn.
“It was the gleam of your candle in the big window there that led us to this delightful place,” she said. “I am ready to agree with you, Mr. Sidney, that no electric light bulb could have been as friendly.”
“An electric light would probably have gone out in an electrical storm,” Mr. Sidney laughed. “No, the old ways are often the best, although I admit in my turn that automobiles are in many ways superior to horses, and certainly the steamboat is far better than sailing ships. Why, I recall–”
The old man’s chin drooped as he mused for a moment, a distant look in his dark eyes.
“Yes, it took me seven weeks to make the trip to America,’’ he went on. “Now it is made in less than five days. To think of it!”
“Then you are not an American?” George ventured. “You speak without an accent.”
“After eighty-four years in the United States I was bound to change my way of speaking,” Mr. Sidney laughed. “I always spoke English. I was born in England, in Liverpool-on-Tyne. When I was nine years old I was apprenticed to a chandler—a man who made candies. There were no free schools then, my dears.”
“Was the work hard?” Nancy asked sympathetically.
“For the first year I carried wood and stoked the fires which melted the tallow,” Mr. Sidney said. “It was hot work and the hours were long. Then I was promoted to stirring and skimming the hot grease. I was bound out to work until I was twenty-one, at the end of which time I was to receive a suit of clothes, five shillings in silver, and a certificate to prove I was a journeyman chandler.
“It is not boasting to say that I learned very quickly, and when I was fifteen I made my first invention. I invented a candle that was pierced lengthwise by four holes, down which the melted tallow ran instead of spilling over the candlestick. Thus it was saved to be burned when the candle grew shorter. My master made a good profit on that. I received—nothing.”
“How unjust!” the girls cried.
“It was, and so I decided to run away. I had only the clothes on my back and no money, but I was determined to go to America,” Mr. Sidney explained. “I offered to work my way across, and after many failures the captain of a sailing vessel agreed to give me passage in exchange for labor as a helper in the galley. I washed dishes, served the table, and peeled potatoes,” the old man continued.
“For days we would lie becalmed. Our drinking water ran low. It was at the end of the seventh week that we sighted the highlands of New Jersey, and two days later we dropped anchor at Perth Amboy, which in those days was a city as thriving as New York, and was its rival as a port.”
“I never even heard of it,” Sadie whispered.
“Well, I found work soon enough,” Asa went on. “I made candles in Perth Amboy, for although the wealthy used whale oil lamps most of the people still lighted their homes with candles, back in the ’forties. When I had a little money laid aside I moved to Philadelphia, and from there to Pittsburgh. By the time the Civil War broke out I had my own shop at Marietta, on the Ohio River, and was married and a father.
“I did not go to war. I had two children, and I was not called. Evenings I experimented with improvements on candles. Coal oil was coming into use, and I was beginning to turn my mind toward improving the whale oil lamps to burn the new petroleum. I wish I had never, never thought of it.”
Again the white head bowed, and a tremor ran through the old man's body. The girls remained respectfully silent.
“I had invented the twisted candle which brought me fame and fortune. I compounded new waxes and made this candle which burns for eight hours. The secret is in the twist, which makes the candle the equal of one twice as long, if you remember your mathematical axiom that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. Very well, then a twisted line is the longer. Besides that, the first few inches of the candle are made from very hard wax which does not give so bright a light. The idea was that at dusk, when the candles are lighted, a strong light is not needed. As it grows darker the candle burns down to a softer wax which gives more light.
“It was bought in vast quantities for shops, offices, public halls and such. The Sidney Candle was exported. I leased the patents. Fortune and fame were both mine, and then–”
Again sorrow overcame Asa Sidney, and Nancy leaned forward in her chair, praying that he would continue. Hannah’s strange warning still rang in her ears. Would she hear something to explain the meaning of that?
“Ah, men should be content, they should never let success make them greedy,” Asa mused.
“Surely a man who is successful owes it to the world to go on further, to use his talents for the general good,” Nancy suggested, hoping to get Mr. Sidney to explain himself.
“It was pride, pride that urged me on, not a desire to better the world,” Asa said gloomily. “My two sons were manly little fellows, already in school. Then little Lily came to bless our home. She was the brightest of all the children. She always called herself ‘Daddy’s partner,’ and I let her have the run of the workshop.
“Fool that I was—vain, arrogant fool! If it were not for my conceit Lily would have grown into beautiful womanhood, and my family might be around my chair tonight, proudly celebrating the birthday of Asa Sidney. Instead—tragedy, and years of loneliness–”
The old man’s grief was so apparent that Nancy rose from her chair and put her hand on Asa’s quivering shoulder.
“I am sorry if we have revived sorrowful memories,” she murmured. “Please do not be so sad.”
“Sad? I am doomed to be the saddest mortal on earth. Instead of a pleasant home, with grandchildren at my knee, I have lived to see my house divided, feud where there should be affection, envy where there should be love!”
Asa sat up straight and looked about him.
“You must pardon me, my dears, for inflicting a half-century of sorrow upon you. This is no way to repay your kindness. Is there any punch left? Let us drink to the new world of electricity. Salute!”
All drained their glasses of icy fruit punch, Bess looking wistfully at the maraschino cherry which obstinately remained at the bottom of her glass.
“See, the storm has passed and the moon is at my window defying my candle,” Asa laughed.
“Oh, and it is late. We must get started!” Nancy cried. “Thank you for entertaining us so royally, Mr. Sidney. May I call again some time?”
“Please come often,” Asa answered heartily. “You have taken years off my shoulders. I promise you to let no more ancient sorrows cloud your visits.’’
And so, with cordial goodbyes and promises to come again, Nancy and her chums bade farewell to Asa and Sadie.
Nancy, obeying an impulse, took Sadie aside and told her again that her father was a lawyer.
“If ever he or I can be of service to you, please let me know,” she said.
“I hope to see you again and often,” Sadie answered shyly, “even though I cannot imagine myself ever needing legal advice.”
“And now for the stalled motor,” Nancy called to her chums as they all started down the stairs. “Let me settle the bill with Mr. Semitt, and then I’ll see if I can get the engine started.”
A Strange Complication
“Nancy, if it is mystery you thrive on, you will have your fill discovering the secret sorrow in Mr. Sidney’s life,” Bess said as Nancy lifted the hood of her car.
“That isn’t half of it,” Nancy replied, as she jerked the cap off the distributor and began to mop the connections dry. “Look at the spark plugs! They are in perfect wells of water. Throw the flashlight over this way, George.”
“Speaking of mysteries,” George said, “the insides of an automobile have me baffled. I think you put water in one end and gasoline in the other, but that’s as far as my knowledge goes.”
“Suppose electricity had never been invented, or gasoline either,” Bess suggested. “Maybe Mr. Sidney could have made an automobile to be run by candles!”
“Listen, girls,” Nancy interrupted. “When I told Hannah where we were she became very excited.”
“Why, is this some sort of notorious den or bandit headquarters?” gasped Bess. “How thrilling! And you sat there so cool all the time–!”
“I told Hannah we were supping with Asa Sidney,” Nancy continued. “She gasped and said something about getting into trouble. Just then the connection was broken and I couldn't get her on the wire again.”
“Are you sure you heard correctly?” George demanded. “How in the world could you get into trouble talking with that kindly old man?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll find out before the night is ended,” Nancy replied. “Bess dear, get me a piece of cheese-cloth out of the pocket in the side of the car, won’t you?”
“Here you are. I guessed you would need it,” Bess answered, giving Nancy the desired material. “It was a thrilling evening, and now it gets to be real exciting. Wasn’t the food delicious, too?”
“I don’t remember tasting it at all, I was so entranced with Mr. Sidney’s story,” George confessed. “And now we are in for trouble as a result. I can’t understand it.”
“At any rate, we won’t have any more trouble with the car,” Nancy said, as she wiped her hands and lowered the hood. “All aboard, ladies. River Heights the next stop.”
“Wait a moment. There is a car turning in and it may block our path,” George warned, as an automobile swerved from the road into the driveway. The machine almost scraped the fenders of Nancy’s car, and the driver leaned out and asked rather curtly why she was blocking the road.
“Why, it’s Great-Uncle Peter!” George exclaimed. ‘‘Hello, Uncle Pete!’’
“Who—what—George! And Bess, too? Yes, it is. What are you girls doing here?”
The man leaped from his car and strode toward the girls, his face plainly showing anger in the light of the lamps of Nancy’s motor.
“We haven’t seen you in a long, long time,” Bess cried, trying to force a cheery note into her voice. She took hold of the arm of her cousin, as a sort of protective alliance in the advance of the angered man.
Nancy watched the little drama with wonder. She had never heard of Great-Uncle Peter, knowing only that her chums’ mothers were sisters who to her knowledge had no brothers or other kinfolk.
“For the second time I ask, will you explain why you two are here?” the man demanded.
“We were just caught out in the storm and. stopped here for supper while the rain was—er—raining,” George quavered. “This is our chum, Nancy Drew. Our Great-Uncle, Nancy, Mr. Peter Boonton.”
Peter Boonton, a man of advanced middle-age, nodded a curt acknowledgment of the introduction.
“Well, run along now,” he admonished his nieces. “It is late for you young girls to be so far from home. And let me warn you that this is scarcely the kind of place your families would care to have you frequent. Goodnight.”
He turned on his heel and entered The Twisted Candles Inn.
‘‘Whew,’’ exclaimed George. ‘‘What a greeting. Nancy, the plot thickens. And yet if this place is so notorious that we should not be seen here, why does Uncle Peter visit it?”
“Anyhow, I think his advice that we start for home is good,’’ Nancy said. “It would have been better if he hadn’t parked his car right in front of mine. I’ll have to back out. Oho! Here is another customer!”
To Nancy’s chagrin another machine looped into the driveway and drew up close behind her own car.
“This place has become very popular all of a sudden,” she frowned, tapping the button of her horn to signal for room in which to back up.
The newcomer did not budge for a moment; then grudgingly he backed his machine and drove it up abreast of Nancy’s car. The headlights of his automobile illuminated the car in which “Uncle Peter” had just arrived.
“Say, Miss, do you know who that car belongs to?” the driver asked Nancy.
“Some man,” Nancy answered.
“It looks like Pete’s,” the man said, stepping to the ground and revealing himself to be a person of about the same ago as Bess’s and George’s Great-Uncle.
“Yes, that’s Pete’s car all right,” the man declared emphatically. “See here, you aren’t waiting for him by any chance, are you?”
“Certainly not,” Nancy answered, gripping Bess’s knee as a signal for silence. “We are just leaving, as a matter of fact.'’
“Don’t let me keep you, then,” the stranger remarked, absent-mindedly propping one foot on the running-board of Nancy’s car and leaning an elbow on the handle of the door. “Now that the old man is past the century mark every relative he has is getting real affectionate. Worrying more about his money than his health, you can bet.”
Here was added light on Asa Sidney’s strange affairs. Nancy held her breath, hoping that the man would continue his musings aloud.
“Yes, sir! Two generations of tight, and now—hm! Well, Peter Boonton can’t put anything over on me,” the man muttered. “There’ll be a hot scene in the Tower Room tonight or I’m not Jacob Sidney!”
“Oh, are you related to Asa Sidney?” Nancy asked, as the man drew himself erect with a belligerent air.
“Hey? What’s that? Do you know Asa?” he cried, thrusting his face into Nancy’s car. “Say, who are you?”
“Oh, I just made Mr. Sidney’s acquaintance this afternoon,” Nancy replied. “We were caught here in the storm, so we arranged a little party for his hundredth birthday. Sadie helped get it ready and ate with us.”
‘‘Sadie! Humph! Asa thinks more of that foundling than of his own flesh and blood,” Jacob Sidney snorted.
“He seems to be very lonely,” Nancy said suggestively. “He said so himself.”
“Oh, he did, did he? And whom has he to blame for that?” the man shouted. “Cutting himself off from everybody and living in an attic making twisted candles all the time. He’s crazy, that’s what he is.
“You can bet that Jacob Sidney isn’t crazy enough, though, to let Pete Boonton fill the old man up with gossip,” he added, shaking his fist at the house. “The Sidneys don’t inherit any weakness in the head, and a Boonton never got the best of ’em yet!”
With that the stranger dashed into the inn, leaving the girls speechless.
Still silent, Nancy backed the car out of the driveway and headed it for River Heights. Her chums sat silently beside her as the wheels clicked off mile after mile.
Nancy’s mind was whirling. Mentally she reviewed the happenings of the afternoon, trying to fit the events together in some sort of pattern.
First, the scolding Semitt had been overheard giving Sadie. Then the meeting with the old man, and the strange but sorrowful story he had hinted at after the supper shared in the Tower Room. Nancy could not see any connections there.
Hannah’s interrupted warning had been meaningless, until the arrival of the two men just as Nancy was ready to leave. Her chums’ great-uncle was in some way the rival of Asa’s kinsman, Jacob Sidney. Did that innocently involve Bess and George? Was that the “trouble” about which Hannah had tried to warn her, and if so, what trouble could come to Nancy herself?
These problems so occupied Nancy’s mind that River Heights was reached before she realized it, and Bess broke the long silence by asking Nancy to leave her at her door.
“It was an exciting afternoon and evening, wasn’t it?” she said in farewell. George, who elected to get out with her cousin, added, “Let’s plan another visit to Mr. Sidney, no matter what Uncle Peter said.”
That plan, however, was destined never to be completed.
Hannah Has Something to Say
“Hello,Dad!” Nancy Drew cried ingreeting as she entered her home and saw her parent seated before the fireplace perusing a heavy, leather-bound law book.
“Hello, Nancy! How’s the junior partner of Drew and Drew, Inc.?” the famous criminal lawyer laughed.
“A little damp, but otherwise all right,” the girl replied, kissing her father warmly.
“I made a little fire to chase out the dampness,” Carson Drew said. “Pull up a chair.”
“I didn’t expect you at home,” Nancy said as she settled herself opposite her parent. “Otherwise I would have come straight home for dinner. And yet, if I had, I should have missed what may be the beginning of a real adventure.”
“What! Another mystery has you in its meshes?” Carson Drew exclaimed in mock seriousness.
“That reminds me!” Nancy cried. “Hannah! Oh, here she comes!”
“Are you back safeand sound?” the motherly housekeeper demanded. “You run up and take off those damp clothes at once, and take a hot bath before you catch cold!”
“I’m not wet, but thank you for the advice!” Nancy laughed. “I’m just as cozy here as can be. Besides, I must hear the rest of the warning you tried to give me when the telephone connection was broken.”
“Warning? What’s this?” Mr. Drew cried.
“That’s what I want to find out. I was driving with Bess and George and we came to an inn called ‘The Twisted Candies,’ ” Nancy explained hurriedly. “A very, very old man named Asa Sidney lives there and we stayed to help him celebrate his one hundredth birthday. I telephoned to Hannah, and she said, ‘Asa Sidney! Now you are in for trouble!’ Then the ’phone went dead. What did you mean, Hannah?”
“Well, it’s a long story,” Hannah Gruen said.
“Then sit down and tell us about it in detail,” Mr. Drew urged. “I don’t want Nancy to fall into any trouble.”
“Oh, it isn’t serious trouble, but it may mean a heartache for your daughter, she and those cousins being such good friends and all,” Hannah said, seating herself on the extreme edge of the most uncomfortable chair in the room.
“Do go on, Hannah, please,” Nancy begged.
“I begin at the beginning,” Hannah replied. “And I’ll tell you how I know all about it. I got it first hand from Katrina Henkel, who worked for old Mrs. Sidney until the day of her death—Mrs. Sidney’s, not Katrinka’s. Katrinka went back to the old country a few years ago, but she and I knew each other real well because we used to shop at the same stores.”
“Oh, please go on with the story, Hannah. I’ll believe it without all the preface,” Nancy cried.
“Old Asa Sidney,” Hannah said primly, “was responsible for his baby girl’s death. He was a crazy inventor, but that little girl was the apple of his eye.
“The Sidney family was pretty well off, but Asa Sidney never stopped fooling with lights. He was inventing a new sort of lamp, was the way Katrinka told me. It was a kerosene lamp that you pumped up.”
“That’s a new one on me,” Carson Drew murmured. “Are you sure it wasn’t a tire, or a balloon he was inventing?”
“No, it was a lamp,” Hannah insisted. “Katrinka told me the idea was to do away with lamp wicks by forcing the oil up a tube or something like that. It doesn’t matter, because it was never really invented.”
“If it wasn’t invented—” Nancy began. “The lamp was only being invented, I said. One night Asa Sidney was working in his laboratory with this poor little child playing around. He had the lamp burning all right, and went to the other side of his workshop for something, leaving the child, when it exploded.”
“The child? Or the workshop?” Carson Drew asked, hiding a smile.
“The lamp, Mr. Drew, the lamp,” Hannah said a trifle tartly. “It showered the whole place with burning oil and the little girl burned up.”
“Oh, how awful!” Nancy cried, clasping her hands. “That explains what made Mr. Sidney so sorrowful. No wonder he can't bear to talk about his early days.”
“To go on,” Hannah continued, “Mrs. Sidney was away with the two boys for a drive, I think it was. When she came back there was the laboratory in ashes and her baby—dead.
“She didn’t say six words to Asa. She left the house that night with her sons. And ever since that day the Boontons and the Sidneys have been at swords’ points, the Boontons mad at the Sidneys ’cause Asa let his child be burned up, and the Sidneys mad at the Boontons because Mrs. Sidney left her husband.”
“It’s still sort of mixed up,” Nancy commented. “Who were the Boontons that they should be angry with the Sidneys?”
“Mrs. Sidney was a Boonton before she married Asa,” Hannah explained.
“I guessed that, but I wanted to make sure,” Nancy said. “Now tell me if this is right. Bess Marvin and George Fayne are related to the Boontons, aren’t they?”
“Exactly!” Hannah beamed.
“Whatis the relationship, then?” Nancy asked. “George and Bess didn’t seem to know they were related to Asa Sidney at all. Just before we left, though, a man drove up to the place and it proved to be a great-uncle of the girls who scolded them for being there.”
“Let me see if I have it right,” Hannah said, checking off on her lingers. “Mrs. Sidney went to live with her widower brother, Jeremiah Boonton, with the two boys. One of her sons never married, the other didn’t have any children. So Asa has no grandchildren.
“Peter Boonton—-he must be Jeremiah’s son and Asa’s nephew. He had a sister, who is dead now—and her daughters are the mothers of your friends!”
“Let me get this straight,” Nancy cried, leaning forward in her earnestness. “Peter Boonton, the man we met tonight, is Asa’s nephew. And he is the brother of George’s and Bess’s grandmother. Then Bess and George are great-grandnieces of old Asa Sidney!”
“That’s it!” Hannah cried triumphantly.
“And, of course, being on the Boonton side they are—without knowing it, of course—in the feud against the Sidneys,” Nancy exclaimed, sinking back in her chair.
“That’s what I meant when I said you were in for trouble taking those girls to have supper with the old man,” Hannah said.
“Oh, I hope not. Surely people aren’t so silly as to carry a grudge so far. All this tragedy must have happened half a century ago,” Nancy protested.
“Well, that isn’t all of the story, but I’m not clear about the rest,” Hannah said, rising. “There was some sort of reconciliation once between some of the Boontons and some of the Sidneys, and a marriage, I believe, but the feelings were so bitter that both families disowned the couple, or something like that, but it has no bearing on the case.”
“Thank you, Hannah, for making everything so clear to me,” Nancy said, and as Hannah left the room Nancy told her father the rest of the adventure, including the meeting with Jacob Sidney.
“Well, don’t worry. Now you have the missing elements of your story, and the mystery is solved,” Carson Drew commented. “It looks as if the old man’s money was going to make the feud between the families more bitter, but I am sure it will not affect your friendship with Bess and George, whose mothers seem to have wisely kept them in ignorance of the quarrel. Surely your meeting with the estranged great-granduncle was accidental.”
“We had planned to visit him again together,” Nancy said. “Do you think I should tell the girls of the relationship that their mothers kept secret or—there’s the telephone.”
Nancy leaped to her feet to answer the summons of the insistent bell. She was conscious of the hope that the call would be from Ned Nickerson, a young man who had chanced to be of service to her in a previous adventure. That meeting had developed into a warm friendship, and the preceding Autumn Nancy had been Ned’s guest at the university, where as star quarterback of the varsity eleven the young man had made football history.
Oddly enough, the most exciting event was not the winning touchdown Ned had engineered, so far as Nancy’s interest was concerned, but the discovery in the stadium of two persons whom she had long been seeking in the course of unraveling a mystery and righting a great injustice, but all that is familiar to those who shared in reading “Nancy’s Mysterious Letter.”
Instead of Ned’s cheery baritone, though, the voice at the other end of the wire proved to be an unfamiliar feminine one.
“Is this Miss Nancy Drew?” it inquired.
“Yes, this is she,” Nancy replied.
“Is this the Miss Drew who was at The Twisted Candles this afternoon during the storm?”
Nancy’s heart skipped a beat.
“Yes, I was there with two friends,” Nancy said. “Who is this, please?”
“This is Sadie Wipple.”
“Why, Sadie! I’m so glad to hear from you so soon. I was just telling my father of our meeting, and telling him, too, that I hoped to visit you again soon.”
“That is good of you, Miss Drew. I—you—you said your father was a lawyer, didn’t you?”
“Yes, but please call me Nancy,” was the girl’s earnest reply. “I promised that my father would help you if you ever needed advice.”
“Thank you, Nancy. I don’t need help. Mr. Sidney, though, needs a lawyer, a really good lawyer, Nancy. He asked me please to find one who will come in the morning and make a new will for him,” Sadie said.
“I promise you my father will be there,” Nancy cried.