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Authors: Mary O'Donnell

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The Tapestry in the Attic

BOOK: The Tapestry in the Attic
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The Tapestry in the Attic

Copyright © 2012 Annie’s.

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. For information address Annie’s, 306 East Parr Road, Berne, Indiana 46711-1138.

The characters and events in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental.

_______________________________________

Library of Congress-in-Publication Data

The Tapestry in the Attic / by Mary O’Donnell

p. cm.

I. Title

2012909072

________________________________________

AnniesMysteries.com

800-282-6643

Annie’s Attic Mysteries

Series Creator: Stenhouse & Associates, Ridgefield, Connecticut

Series Editors: Ken and Janice Tate

Dedication

To the cancer survivors in my family: my sister Becky and my father, Wm. David Martin, and to my Aunt Mary Anne.

Prologue

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
—Proverbs 31:13

Longfellow College

May 7, 1946

Dear Betsy,

I was very pleased and honored to have received in the mail this week the invitation to your wedding. I would love to come and be part of your special day, but unfortunately, I will not be in Maine on that date. I will be teaching a course this summer at Berea College in Kentucky, and will not be back here until the new term starts at Longfellow this fall.

It has been a pleasure to have you in my classes, and though I understand why you will not be able to return, I hope you will continue to pursue your needlework, in whatever form that may be, and that the instruction you’ve received in the fiber arts will inspire you to continued excellence in the field. Appreciation for the artistic qualities of handmade articles is growing, even in this age of machines, and you have a great deal to offer in both the design aspect and the execution of those designs. As a married woman, and I’m sure at some point in the future, a busy mother, always remember to take time to nurture yourself and your own talents. Your family will be all the better for it.

Perhaps when I return to Maine this fall, we will have a chance to get together in Stony Point. I appreciated the note you enclosed to tell me about your future plans. I would love to meet your new husband and see the house the two of you are planning to buy. With a name like “Grey Gables,” it sounds very grand!

I hope the small gift I have sent with this letter will provide a reminder of our friendship, and that as Mr. and Mrs. Charles Holden, you and your husband will have many happy years ahead. Please continue to write and let me know how you are doing.

Warm regards,

Lily Cornette

1

The landscape that met her eyes through the windows of Grey Gables was a combination of gleaming white and shades of gray. She knew the temperatures were frigid outside, but from where she stood, with her back to a crackling fire in the fireplace and a steaming mug of coffee cradled in her hands, Annie Dawson felt snug and safe, and most definitely warm. There was something about the Maine winter, with its short days and the need to savor warmth with softer, thicker clothing and hearty meals that made her feel … cozy. Yes, cozy was the word that most definitely described the ambience of the winter season for Annie.

That morning, as on most winter mornings, she had lit a fire in the living room fireplace to take off the chill. She wore a long flannel nightgown and bathrobe, and a pair of woolly slippers she had crocheted herself. Her breakfast had been a bowl of hot oatmeal mixed with a little brown sugar and topped with a few sprinkles of cinnamon and a dollop of creamy yogurt. Now, from the shelter of the large Victorian-era house she had inherited from her grandmother, Elizabeth Holden, Annie surveyed the newest layer of snow that had settled and remained on everything except the dark expanse of the ocean and mused about what she would do that day.

She heard the antique wall clock in the kitchen strike ten. She told herself she’d really been particularly lazy that morning. With the sun rising well after seven o’clock in early January, it was sometimes hard to motivate herself to get out of bed at her normal hour of six a.m., and the urge to savor the comforting atmosphere of Grey Gables on a winter morning was strong. In the winter, she told herself, there was no rush. The teenage boy whom she had employed to regularly clear her driveway of any new snowfall had already brushed the snow from her car, so when it came nearer time to leave for the weekly Tuesday morning meeting of the Hook and Needle Club, she would only have to start the car and let it warm up for a few minutes before heading out. The Main Street shop, A Stitch in Time, where the meeting was held, was a short drive away in the best of weather, and though Annie liked to take her time in snowy conditions, it was still only a matter of minutes away. Stony Point, Maine, was not a large town.

Annie sighed deeply, thinking how good it was to be at home. It seemed so natural to call Grey Gables home now. When did she really begin to feel that the old house was really her own? She couldn’t remember an exact moment. Texas had been the place she had called home for most of her life. It was the place where she had gone to school, where she had met her late husband, Wayne, and where, together, they had built a business, bought a house, and had a child. And Texas was the place where their daughter, LeeAnn, son-in-law, Herb, and twin 7-year-old grandchildren, John and Joanna, remained.

As a young girl, Annie had only spent a few weeks of each summer vacation in Maine with her grandparents, Charlie and Betsy Holden, or as she called them, “Gramps” and “Gram.” She had always felt welcome at Grey Gables back then, but she always knew that her stay was temporary. Now it was different. She hadn’t come to Stony Point with any intention of staying, but it had happened, somehow, that she had “put down roots,” and now she felt like she was really part of the vibrant—and for the most part, friendly—coastal community.

She turned and looked around the living room, taking in the few changes she had made to update its decor—a new coat of paint on the walls, some new pillows, and a few of her own knickknacks placed here and there. But she had kept most of her grandparents’ furniture, and there were many familiar items she had retained, remembering them from the summers she had spent there as a girl. Near the window, in a little niche where it was protected from direct sunlight, hung a small tapestry that had been in the same spot as long as she could remember, so she had left it there; it seemed the right thing to do.

The tapestry was woven primarily in shades of green and blue with highlights of golden and silvery threads. The top half was filled with a scene of a small rustic cabin in the woods. The cabin windows seemed to glow with warmth, and the front door was slightly ajar, as if the occupants were waiting expectantly for visitors to arrive. The ground between the closely grouped evergreen trees that surrounded the cabin was populated with wisps of ferns and hints of low-lying wildflowers.

Below this idyllic setting was a poem called
A Home Song
by Henry Van Dyke. The letters were made with silky black thread and highlighted with the same silvery thread that illuminated the scene above. Annie recalled reading the poem many times as a girl, and she knew it by heart. She read the final words to herself once again: “ … marble floors and gilded walls, Can never make a home. But every house where Love abides, and Friendship is a guest, Is surely home and home-sweet-home: For there the heart can rest.” She smiled as she remembered that she had often recalled those words when she and Wayne were first married and living in a tiny apartment. They had had so little back then, but they were so happy.

She focused on the tapestry again, looking at what she always had thought was the intriguing part when she was a little girl. Across the bottom edge was a narrow rectangular panel with small, roman-font letters across the center of it—L.C.~MCMXLVI~L.C. Surrounding the letters were green vines interspersed with white lilies. She had wondered what the letters meant back then, but eventually, she did figure out that MCMXLVI weren’t just random letters, but that they were Roman numerals that signified a year—1946 to be precise. Though the letters L and C could also be used as Roman numerals, because of the periods she had thought that “L.C.” might be the weaver’s initials, though she wasn’t sure why they were given twice. She had never asked Gram about it—she’d preferred the mystery of it—and now it was too late to find out if Gram knew who or what “L.C.” meant.

She was startled out of her thoughts by a sudden movement just below her field of vision. She laughed. It was only Boots, her ever-present companion around the house—a gray cat with white feet—hence the name “Boots”—who had just leapt up to stand on the wide ledge of the windowsill. Annie stretched out her hand to softly stroke the appreciative cat’s head and back. Boots responded with an output of loud purring, arching her back to meet the light pressure of Annie’s hand and walking back and forth in front of the window.

Looking up again, through the window she saw her best friend and neighbor, Alice MacFarlane, blazing a trail through the more-than-knee-deep snow in a direct path from her home—the old carriage house—to Grey Gables. The carriage house had been a part of the original parcel of property of Grey Gables, built in the days before there were automobiles. It had been sold separately many years ago, and eventually was converted into a quaint little house that Alice now rented.

Annie was grateful to have her dearest friend just a short walk away. Now she chuckled softly. It was just like Alice to make her own path instead of taking the easy route through the plowed street and the shoveled driveway. She was covered from head to toe in stocking hat, scarf, coat, mittens, and boots, with only the small oval of her face around her eyes visible. She was looking down at the snow, taking high, exaggerated steps with great effort. Over her shoulder she had slung the strap of a large cloth tote bag, which Annie recognized as Alice’s project bag—it held her in-progress embroidery work. In her hands she held aloft a colorful round tin.

Annie watched until Alice was nearer and then went to open the front door to welcome her friend into the warmth of the main hall that ran through the center length of Grey Gables. The outside of the wooden front door was covered with ice crystals that sparkled in the sunlight that streamed over the landscape with increasing intensity.

“Hellooo, Nanook of the North!” Annie shouted, her breath billowing out in clouds of white mist in the cold air.

Alice was still maneuvering through the deep snow, and her head snapped up midstep at the sound of Annie’s voice. She nearly fell over. As she struggled to maintain her balance, Annie tried hard to hide her amusement, but her friend was not deceived. At last, Alice made it to the cleared walkway and up the front steps and onto the porch.

Without ceremony, she handed the tin and her project bag to Annie. “Here—hold these,” she said, her voice muffled from the scarf that was still wrapped around her mouth. She tried to brush the snow from the lower part of her coat and pant legs, and was able to get most of it off, but a fine layer clung to her clothing. She stomped her feet to shake the snow off her boots, and then she reached up to push her scarf below her chin, revealing a rosy nose and cheeks. “That was deeper than I thought it was going to be,” she said, still trying to catch her breath. “You were absolutely no help. Don’t you know better than to distract a girl when she’s on a mission?” Her tone was scolding, but her blue eyes were twinkling.

“Come on inside before we both freeze, you silly girl. Why didn’t you come around by the street?” asked Annie.

“I told you—I’m on a mission,” replied Alice as she stepped inside and proceeded to slip out of her snow boots. She pulled off her hat and shook her head to release her long, voluminous auburn tresses from their confinement as she continued to speak. “I prefer to take the most direct route when I have a mission.”

“And what is your mission this morning?” asked Annie. She shivered a bit from the cold air and firmly closed the front door.

“I had a phone call from Peggy this morning, and there’s doin’s afoot,” said Alice.

Peggy Carson was a fellow member of the Hook and Needle Club whose specialty was quilting. She was often the source of news for anything that was happening in Stony Point. She worked as a waitress at the downtown diner, The Cup & Saucer, and really had a way with people. Her husband, Wally, was self-employed, being knowledgeable in all forms of plumbing, electrical, and general construction work; he was also a talented woodworker. He often worked for Annie, helping her to give Grey Gables a much-needed facelift inside and out. Along with their seven-year-old daughter, Emily, the Carson family had become good friends of Annie’s.

“Doin’s? Is that some sort of Maine slang that I don’t know about?” asked Annie.

“You’ve heard of doin’s before, surely,” said Alice. “You know—doin’s—things—stuff. There’s stuff afoot.”

“You mean like ‘the game’s afoot,’ as Sherlock Holmes would say?” asked Annie.

“Well, I don’t know if it has anything to do with a mystery, though we both know
that
would be right up your alley. Peggy just called to make sure we were both going to be at A Stitch in Time today. She said Stella’s up to something and is going to make some sort of announcement at the meeting.”

Stella Brickson was the elder member of the Hook and Needle Club. She was feisty for a woman in her early eighties—Annie wasn’t entirely sure of her exact age. It seemed to be a touchy subject for Stella, and Annie wasn’t about to ask! Stella was a wealthy widow who had grown up in Stony Point, but had moved to New York City as a young woman. After her husband died, seven years earlier, she had returned and had taken up the task of creating what had been dubbed the “Cultural Center” for the area that included a museum and a small theater. Stella was sure of her opinions and had no problem speaking her mind; that confidence, along with her strength of character, was an asset when it came to getting things done. However, sometimes she could be a bit stubborn when it came to anything, or anyone, that was somehow “new” to the area. When Annie had first arrived in Stony Point and was invited by Mary Beth Brock, the owner of A Stitch in Time, to join the Hook and Needle Club, Stella had been against it, but that little mystery had been worked out, and now, it seemed as if she and Stella had always been friends.

“An announcement by Stella … that should be interesting,” said Annie. “I plan to be at the meeting. I’m just a little slow getting myself together this morning.”

Alice looked over Annie’s attire and nodded in agreement. “I guess you are. Kind of unusual for you to be still in your nightgown at this time of the morning, isn’t it? Are you feeling OK?”

Annie laughed. “Yes, I’m fine; just being a little lazy. I got up a little later than usual, and after breakfast, I was enjoying the view through the window in the living room. It feels so cozy in here this morning. Part of me just wants to curl up with a good book and stay like this all day.”

“Well, you’ll have to do that another day. When we get a real snow, and you can’t get out, that’s the kind of day you can laze around in your jammies all day,” said Alice.

“So this isn’t a ‘real’ snow?” asked Annie.

“This? Are you kidding? I thought you knew that by now. Wait ’til you wake up one morning with the snow blowing and the wind howling, piling several feet of snow against your doors and windows. Now,
that’s
a real snow.” Alice paused and changed the subject. “Aren’t you curious about what’s in the tin?”

“I’m assuming it’s one of your fabulous baked creations.”

“It is that, indeed,” said Alice. “And if you’ll let me have a cup of your coffee, I’ll share some with you, and I’ll tell you the rest of Peggy’s message.”

“That’s a good plan, but this was my last cup of coffee,” said Annie, indicating the empty mug she was holding. “If you make another pot, maybe decaf this time, I’ll go upstairs and get changed, and then you can fill me in.”

“Deal,” said Alice.

Twenty minutes later, Annie was back downstairs after a quick shower and change into a warm, taupe-color turtleneck sweater and a pair of dark brown wool-blend slacks. She ran her fingers through her damp, shoulder-length blond hair to help dry it out and fluff it up. She had kept her makeup to a minimum as usual, so it only took her a couple of minutes to “put on her face.”

While Annie was in the shower, Alice had started a pot of coffee and had set the kitchen table with Annie’s grandmother’s best Aster Blue china dessert plates, and matching cups and saucers, along with white linen napkins and antique silverware from the sideboard in the dining room. Sitting on a paper doily on one of Annie’s fancy serving plates was a round, tube-shaped chestnut-brown cake topped with pecans laid out like flower petals; each “flower” had half a red cherry in the center.

BOOK: The Tapestry in the Attic
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