Authors: Lois Gladys Leppard
Tags: #Children’s stories, #North Carolina—History—20th century—Fiction, #Orphans—Fiction, #Christian life—Fiction, #Family life—North Carolina—Fiction, #American, #JUV033010, #JUV033000, #Mystery and detective stories
The Mandie Collection: Volume Eleven
Copyright © 1995, 1998, 2004
Lois Gladys Leppard
Previously published in four separate volumes:
Mandie and the Missing Schoolmarm
Mandie and the Graduation Mystery
Mandie and Joe’s Christmas Surprise
Mandie and Mollie & the Angel’s Visit
Ebook edition created 2011
MANDIE® and SNOWBALL® are registered trademarks of Lois Gladys Leppard
Cover design by Dan Pitts
Cover illustration by Chris Wold Dyrud
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American copyright conventions.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Performance rights to the plays
Mandie and Joe’s Christmas Secret
The Angel’s Visit
are reserved and must be requested from Leppard Enterprises, PO Box 5945, Greenville, SC 29606.
Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
and the Missing Schoolmarm
My sister! my sweet sister!
if a name dearer and purer were,
it should be thine.
—BYRON, Epistle to Augusta
Mandie and the Missing Schoolmarm
This book is dedicated to
all those special mail carriers who
have delivered Mandie’s books over the years, including—
and dozens of others whose names are unknown.
When the train pulled into the station in Asheville, North Carolina, late Thursday afternoon, Mandie was surprised to see her grandmother’s driver, Ben, waiting with her rig.
“Grandmother, Ben is out there,” Mandie told Mrs. Taft as she followed her grandmother and Senator Morton down the aisle toward the door of the train. Her friends, Joe Woodard, Jonathan Guyer, and Celia Hamilton came behind her.
Mrs. Taft paused to look back and say, “Yes, dear. Remember, Uncle Ned left your house yesterday because he had his horse and could not get the train with us. I asked him to alert Ben to our arrival.” She walked on and then turned back again to say, “Amanda, please don’t let that white cat get away from you.”
“Yes, ma’am, I won’t,” Mandie answered as she held on to the red leash attached to Snowball’s collar. The cat was trying to run ahead.
“And I don’t want to have to chase after him,” Joe teased with a big grin.
“Neither do I,” Jonathan added, laughing.
“Now, Snowball hardly ever runs away,” Celia told the boys as they all continued toward the door.
Mandie stopped to look back at her friend. “I thank you for taking up for Snowball. I won’t let him get away.” She stooped to pick up the cat and carry him in her arms.
When they got outside on the platform of the depot, Mrs. Taft instructed Ben about getting their baggage, and he hurried to find it as the stationmaster unloaded it from the train.
“Come on, we’ll just wait in the rig,” Mrs. Taft told Senator Morton as he helped her down to the street.
Mandie hesitated, hoping to ask Ben questions about Miss Hope’s disappearance, but her grandmother glanced back and said, “Come on now, Amanda. We don’t want to get Ben involved in a conversation here or we’ll never get home.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Mandie replied with a big sigh. “I do hope she has been found by now,” she added to her friends.
Everyone had been at Mandie’s house in Franklin, North Carolina, when Mrs. Taft had received the message from Miss Prudence that Miss Hope was missing. Since Mrs. Taft now owned the school, she had hurried home to see what she could do. Mandie and her friends had come along to help solve the mystery.
The Misses Heathwood’s School for Girls was located in Asheville, but since it was summertime in 1903 and school was out, Mandie and her friends would be staying at Mrs. Taft’s house not far from the school. In the fall, Mandie and Celia would enter their last year at the school.
As soon as they were all seated in the rig, Ben came hurrying to join them. “I’ll come back for de luggage, Miz Taft. Won’t all fit in here with dis many people,” he explained as he jumped up on his seat and shook the reins to get the horse going.
“That’s fine, Ben,” Mrs. Taft replied as the rig moved along. “Do you know if they’ve found Miss Hope Heathwood yet or have any clue as to where she went?”
“Lawsy mercy, Miz Taft, no, they ain’t found dat lady yet,” Ben replied. “Been hearing all kinds of tales all over town.”
Mandie and her friends leaned forward behind Mrs. Taft and Senator Morton to listen to the conversation.
“What kind of tales, Ben?” Mrs. Taft asked.
“Some say de lady done lost her senses and jes’ wandered away somewhere all by herself,” Ben explained. “Some say she hidin’ in de attic, like dat girl, Hilda, did. Jes’ all kinda tales.”
Hilda was the girl Mandie and Celia had found hiding in the attic of the schoolhouse. Mrs. Taft had given her a home, but she stayed with the Mannings, friends of Mrs. Taft, because they had a daughter that she seemed to like. Hilda never spoke, but it had not been decided whether it was because she couldn’t or because she wouldn’t talk.
“I suppose they have searched the attic and every other imaginable place where Miss Hope could have gone,” Mrs. Taft replied.
“Yessum, dat whut dey did,” Ben agreed, shaking the reins as they traveled down the main street of Asheville. “And lotsa places elsewise, too. Dey even searched de school farm, but Aunt Pansy out dere ain’t seen her.”
Mandie spoke up. “I certainly hope they find her before school starts. It would be terrible if we had to go through our last year of school here without Miss Hope. She always understands our problems.” Mandie glanced at Celia and smiled.
“Yes, she does,” Celia agreed.
“You wouldn’t have problems if you would just settle down and make an effort to behave,” Mrs. Taft said, frowning at Mandie. “And unless you do that, you will not be prepared for college next year. And speaking of college, you must decide soon where you would like to go. Your mother and I need time to investigate whatever school you choose.”
Mandie quickly glanced at Celia and blew out her breath as Mrs. Taft turned to face forward. She didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to start a conversation with her grandmother about her future plans. The lady had a habit of taking over and making decisions for Mandie, and sometimes Mandie lost the battle.
“Ben, after we get unpacked and have our supper, I’ll ask you to drive us over to the school to speak with Miss Prudence,” Mrs. Taft told her driver.
“Yessum, dat we’ll do,” Ben replied, turning the vehicle onto the road where Mrs. Taft lived. “After I goes back to collect de luggage.”
As Mrs. Taft’s huge mansion came into view, Mandie whispered to her friends, “I hope we can go with her.” The rattle of the rig covered her remark.
Jonathan nodded in agreement. Joe shrugged his shoulders. Celia smiled and whispered back, “If we don’t get to go tonight maybe we will tomorrow.”
“Yes,” Mandie replied. “But I want to go tonight and hear just what Miss Prudence has to say.”
Ben drove the rig down the long driveway and stopped at the front door. Senator Morton helped Mrs. Taft down from the vehicle, and the young people quickly followed.
“Now you go right back and get our trunks and things, Ben, and please don’t take too long doing it,” Mrs. Taft told her driver.
“Yessum, be back in two shakes of a sheep’s tail,” Ben replied with a big grin as he shook the reins and the horse moved the rig back down the driveway.
Turning back to the young people as she and Senator Morton stepped up onto the front porch, Mrs. Taft said, “Y’all get freshened up as soon as your trunks get here, and then come on down to the parlor. We’ll have coffee and just maybe some of that cake y’all seem to like.” She smiled.
“Chocolate cake!” Jonathan said, rolling his eyes in delight.
“Yes, chocolate cake,” Joe echoed.
“Yes, I’m sure when Uncle Ned came to tell Cook that we would be home today, she rushed a nice big chocolate cake into the oven,” Mrs. Taft explained.
At that moment, Ella, the parlor maid, opened the front door.
“Good to see y’all,” she said as she held the door open for Mrs. Taft and Senator Morton to enter.
“And it’s good to be home, Ella,” Mrs. Taft replied and led the way into the huge front hall.
As the young people followed, Ella quickly bent to whisper in Mandie’s ear, “Got a big chocolate cake waitin’.”
“Thank you, Ella,” Mandie replied with a big grin. “We’ll be right back down as soon as we wash up.” She stooped and unfastened the red leash to Snowball’s collar, and he ran down the hallway ahead of them.
“You young men, first door on de left upstairs, ’cross from de girls’ room,” the maid told them. “And do hurry, ’cause de coffee done perked up to just about de right strength.” She grinned at the young people.
“We’re going and will be right back,” Mandie promised, rushing toward the huge staircase.
After a quick trip to their rooms, the four young people hurried back downstairs.
“We beat Grandmother and the senator,” Mandie remarked, glancing around the huge parlor as the four took seats at one side.
“Not by much,” Joe said as the two older people entered the room.
By the time Mrs. Taft and Senator Morton had sat down across the room, Ella came hurrying in with the tea cart.
“Now, how did all this happen to fall into place?” Jonathan asked, grinning. “Everything right on the dot.”
“My grandmother’s house is run strictly on schedule,” Mandie whispered as she leaned toward him in the chair next to hers.
After serving the adults, Ella brought the cake and coffee over to the young people.
“Don’t forget, Amanda, it isn’t long till suppertime,” Mrs. Taft reminded the young people with a smile.
“Yes, ma’am,” the four chorused as they began eating the cake and silently listened to Mrs. Taft’s conversation with the senator.
“I do hope Miss Prudence has been able to get some information about Miss Hope, exactly when she was last seen and where, and such,” Mrs. Taft said.
“Yes, that would be helpful,” Senator Morton said.
“I understood from the message I received that Miss Hope went to her room to go to bed that night as usual, but when Miss Prudence missed her the next morning, she found her bed had not been slept in, and the servants, Aunt Phoebe and Uncle Cal, had not seen her since supper the night before. And they do get up very early in the morning to get the other servants started on their chores.”
“I suppose Miss Prudence has had a search made of the whole school building,” Senator Morton said, sipping his coffee.
“Oh yes, she has done that, all the way up through the attic,” Mrs. Taft replied, setting her coffee cup down. “I am under the impression that Miss Hope deliberately disappeared without letting anyone know, for some reason, but I can’t imagine why.”
“Yes, why would she just walk off like that?” Jonathan whispered to Mandie.
Mandie shrugged her shoulders and replied, “Maybe she was mad at Miss Prudence about something or other.” She grinned.
“I can’t imagine Miss Hope doing such a thing,” Celia said. “She is so easygoing and lets her sister be the boss on everything.”
“Perhaps she got tired of being bossed around all the time,” Joe suggested.
Mandie quickly waved her hand at her friends as she turned back to listen to further conversation between her grandmother and the senator.
“Do you plan on asking for help from the law enforcement authorities? That is, if Miss Prudence hasn’t already done so,” the senator asked.
“Miss Prudence does not like to deal with law enforcement people. She is strictly private about her business and such,” Mrs. Taft said, picking up her cup and taking another sip of coffee. “However, it may be necessary to ask for their assistance. Miss Prudence will just have to realize that this is a very serious matter, Miss Hope just disappearing suddenly. I do hope there has not been foul play and she is found safe and sound.”
“Yes, we must all pray for her,” Senator Morton said, sipping his coffee.
Mandie immediately and quietly reached out her hands to her friends, and they joined together in a circle.
“What time I am afraid I will put my trust in Thee,” the four together quoted their verse and then looked at each other as Mandie added, “I believe Miss Hope is safe, wherever she is.”
Her friends nodded in agreement.
At that moment Ben appeared in the doorway to the hall. “All de trunks done put in de rooms, Miz Taft,” he said.
“Thank you, Ben,” Mrs. Taft replied as she set down her coffee cup and rose. “I’ll let you know what time after supper I’ll want you to drive me to the school to see Miss Prudence.”
“Yessum,” Ben replied and disappeared down the hall.
“You young people should go get cleaned up and change clothes now for supper,” Mrs. Taft told Mandie and her friends.
Senator Morton rose from his chair to accompany Mrs. Taft out of the room.
“Yes, ma’am,” the four replied, following the adults into the hallway.
As the four climbed the stairs, Mandie said to her friends, “Let’s meet over there on the sofa when we get dressed.” She pointed to the sofa sitting at the top of the stairs, flanked by two mahogany tables holding lamps.
“Fifteen minutes?” Jonathan asked with a big grin.
“No, it will take the girls at least thirty minutes to change and get prettied up,” Joe added, smiling at Mandie.
“We will be back out by the time you all are,” Mandie told the boys.
“We’ll see,” Jonathan teased.
In the room that Mandie and Celia occupied when they stayed with Mandie’s grandmother, the girls found their dresses hung up and their trunks emptied.
“I think I’ll just put on this blue dress,” Mandie said, taking the frilly garment down from the wardrobe. “Grandmother hasn’t said yet whether we will be allowed to go with her to the school.” She began undressing.
“I know, and I’ll put on this lavender dress,” Celia said, pulling it from the hanger. “I hope we do get to go.” She quickly changed clothes.
Mandie stepped over to the full-length mirror on a stand in the corner and adjusted her sash around her waist. “If Grandmother doesn’t ask us to go, I’m going to ask her if we may,” she said, twirling around to shake out the folds in her full skirt. “If we don’t hear all the information from Miss Prudence, I’m sure Grandmother will never bother to repeat it all to us. So how can we search for Miss Hope if we don’t know all the details?”
“You are right, Mandie, but I know your grandmother well enough to know that she only does whatever she wants to do,” Celia said with a big grin.
Mandie grinned back and said, “You are absolutely right. Therefore, we need to go with her tonight and hear it all firsthand from Miss Prudence herself.”
“I would imagine Miss Prudence has already searched the whole town and that everyone in town is on the lookout for Miss Hope,” Celia said, joining Mandie in front of the mirror and adjusting her frilly dress.
“Oh no, Celia, you know how secretive Miss Prudence is about personal matters,” Mandie said. “I would think she has tried to search the whole town without the townspeople knowing about it.”
“But remember Ben said there were all kinds of rumors going on all over town,” Celia reminded her.
“Yes, but that’s why it’s all rumors going on, because no one really knows the story, only that Miss Hope is missing,” Mandie replied, going over to the bureau to brush back her long blond hair.
Celia joined her in front of the bureau mirror and combed her auburn hair. “Yes, I suppose you’re right,” she agreed. “Miss Prudence has everyone guessing and wondering.”