Into the Mansion
As the trio munched on tea and toast, Elora shared all the strange happenings at the Drindle mansion. “Hmmmm . . . we seem to have quite the little mystery on our hands,” said Mrs. Coddiwomple. “Not unsolvable, mind you, but peculiar nonetheless. However, I can solve the mystery of the music right now — I was playing while you were under the porch. There’s an enormous organ in the back of the house, so I pulled out all the stops and let her rip!”
“The melody, though,” replied Elora quizzically, “sounded oddly familiar to me.”
“Ah, yes, Erik Satie.” said Mrs. Coddiwomple, pushing back her chair. “Beautiful isn’t it? It’s one of his most famous pieces. I added a little bit of flare at the end to bring up the volume. It’s really not intended for organ, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. I assume it sounded familiar to you because you got my package?”
Elora and Mrs. Quibble stared at Mrs. Coddiwomple, surprised. “Why on earth did you send it like that without any explanation?” exclaimed Mrs. Quibble. “Mailing a random music box with no explanation makes no sense!”
“Of course it doesn’t!” responded Mrs. Coddiwomple. “That’s exactly how it was sent to me, so I continued the trend. I’ve seen Elora and her little friend (what’s her name again? Stormy? Cloudy?) up here crawling under the porch, so there would be plenty of time to explain it once I alerted you to my presence, which is precisely what I’m doing now,” said Mrs. Coddiwomple, clearly growing perturbed. “We ARE dealing with a mystery, you know. Now,” she continued, “I MUST show you around inside.”
Just then, a familiar face peered around the corner of the house. “Sky!” Elora yelled, “Come over here and meet Mrs. Coddiwomple!”
Sky trotted over. “Well, hello there, Sky,” Said Mrs. Coddiwomple, “so nice to meet you. I am Mrs. Coddiwomple.”
Sky took Mrs. Coddiwomple’s odd appearance in stride, without batting an eye — not even to comment on her soup can earrings or her upside-down pumpkinny appearance. “It’s very nice to meet you, Mrs. Coddiwomple,” she said, solemnly.
“Mrs. Coddiwomple is a witchamacallit,” explained Elora, “she’s here to try to figure out what’s going on with all this spooky stuff at the Drindle mansion.”
“Yes, but we can’t figure it out out here,” said Mrs. Coddiwomple motioning toward the back door. “Follow me. Oh, and mind for spiders, and webs and the like,” she added nonchalantly.
The first thing Elora noticed as they walked in was the dust. It was thick and grimy and everywhere. But whenever they disturbed a layer of it, the light coming through the windows made it sparkle, as if transporting them to a different realm. The mansion was still fully furnished and it looked as if nothing had been touched for years. The entire house was a maze of sitting rooms, bedrooms, libraries, and the like: each room was different and decorated from all different areas of the world and all different time periods. Some were garish and some were simple, but all were in pristine condition. Only one room was different — the greenhouse room. It was full of windows and dead plants that had dried up long ago. It was a mess.
“Well, they were certainly very eclectic,” said Mrs. Quibble, lifting a dried vine that crumbled in her hand. “But why on earth would two people need so much room? “There’s so much to clean!”
“From what I understand, they did have a maid. She moved with them here and, as far as I know, went with them when they left,” said Mrs. Coddiwimple. “Doesn’t look like it’s been disturbed since. A distant relative contacted me about strange things going on in the house when the Drindles were here, so I told them I’d check it out. They knew nothing about the music box and evaded all my questions about the Drindle’s current whereabouts. Anyway, for all the gardener and his wife know, I rented this house from the Drindles for some peace and quiet over the summer. They mainly care for the grounds and rarely, if ever, come inside. They’re mailed cash every month for their efforts, but there’s never a return address.”
“Well,” said Sky, excitedly, “let’s start searching for clues! Almost all the kids around here have seen weird stuff going on in here — lights turning on, weird sounds, cars driving away with no headlights on. And whoever was on that porch the other day was REALLY freaky.”
“Oh, absolutely, but the search will start tomorrow,” said Mrs. Coddiwomple. “Only I call it by a different name — summer cleaning. We’ll clean this house from top to bottom. That way, no one will suspect our search for clues and who knows what we might find?”
Elora and Sky looked at her, dismayed, “C-c-c-cleaning?” Elora finally responded.
“Absolutely!” responded Mrs. Coddiwomple, “haven’t you ever searched for a lost pen and given up only to find it underneath a couch cushion when you’re cleaning? Or a button? Or a hammer? Couches are notorious hoarders, you know. Anyway, I can’t bear another moment in all this dust. If I’m to stay here for the summer, it WILL be in a clean house.”
Mrs. Quibble nodded her approval.
Meanwhile, in the forest behind the house, a shadowy figure with a pair of binoculars hid behind a tree, watching them through the windows. And at the figure’s feet was a puddle of slime.