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DAISY STORIES by Crystal Jones ©
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The Mystery of Green Lodge


Mr. Winter popped his head round Daisy’s office door.


“Are you busy, Daisy? Can I use your computer ‘cos I’ve got a CD-ROM I’d like to consult?”


“Certainly, come in. Would you like a cup of coffee first?”


“Yes please, Daisy.”


Mr. Winter was an antiques dealer and wasn’t used to using a computer at all.


Daisy put her electric kettle on and scooped the instant coffee into the mugs. “One teaspoon of sugar, isn’t it?” said Daisy placing the mugs of boiling coffee onto her office table.


Now she put the CD in the slot of her computer and swivelled it round to show Mr. Winter.


“Here you are. Oh, it’s all about stolen paintings. How interesting!” 


“You know, they are sending all of us antique dealers a free copy of the CD-ROM. It’s for a campaign against international art theft gangs.”


“And how many stolen paintings have you got?” joked Daisy.


Mr. Winter cleared his throat and looked a little embarassed. “Funny you should mention that! Er... Daisy, there’s something I want to tell you about!”


“Please go ahead, Mr. Winter,” replied Daisy.


“The fact is that I went down to Sir Edwin Rushdown’s property last week. You know - Green Lodge,” Mr. Winter began.


“Yes, when my cousins were children they used to creep into the grounds to go fishing there,” answered Daisy.


Mr. Winter continued, “Sir Edwin died recently leaving his daughter Elodira, a very nice lady, the crumbling mansion and its lands.


It seems Sir Edwin left practically no money but Elodira will have to pay some heavy death duties as she inherits Green Lodge.”


Daisy interrupted: “Does she live there?”


”No, she works and lives in London but is here now to try to sell off some old furniture and things so as to raise some cash and maybe she’ll even sell the mansion itself.”


Daisy couldn’t help observing: "Ah, that's the way lots of these ramshackled aristocratic mansions are going.


They have to sell them off to the first buyer they can find and that's the end of a long tradition. By the way, did you see any suitable furniture for my new house?" Daisy asked.


"Absolutely nothing Daisy. Sorry." Mr. Winter was always on the look-out for furniture for Daisy - something he could pick up cheap, mend and varnish in return for a great favour Daisy had done him three years ago.


Mr. Winter continued: "I paid a lump sum for some stuff - some old furniture of very little value, a load of paperbacks and a few old paintings.


The only really interesting furniture I liked was the enormous antique table and chairs and a beautiful mahogany escritoire but they are going to be put up for auction.


Daisy asked, “What about the paintings? Are they any good?”
“No, the usual amateur stuff - English landscapes and sea tempests - but when I had finished unloading into the back of my shop I had an enormous surprise.


A piece of a picture frame came away in my hands and I discovered that there was a second picture underneath!”


Daisy sat up.


"As you know Daisy, I’m very interested in Italian art, and I’ve made quite a study of it. The picture was a scene of boats and gondolieri in Venice and beautifully painted. I immediately thought of Canaletto.


When I got back to my shop I consulted my books and in one of them there was a photo of the very same picture!”


“That’s very exciting,” – said Daisy – “but you know it could be just a copy.”


“Yes, that was my first thought, but I studied it all night under powerful lights and according to me it really was painted in that period and is an authentic Canaletto.


You know Daisy, every antique dealer dreams of finding a precious painting for a few pounds."


Daisy had been listening intently. "But… you're afraid it's stolen property, aren’t you?" As she spoke, she began clicking away again at her computer looking through the CD-ROM.


“Mm... Italian paintings. Here we are! Canaletto."


Mr. Winter got up and came over to look over Daisy’s shoulder.


"Let me see, Daisy. Mm." Suddenly he banged his hand down on Daisy's table. "Oh no.That's it – it’s the same painting! It is stolen property then!"


He fell down into a chair completely disheartened.


“Oh dear, I’m sorry. You’ll have to take it to the police.” Daisy continued reading her computer screen, “It seems it was stolen fifteen years ago from a private collection in Italy.”


“It’s the first time in my life I’ve really found a work of art that’s worth a fortune and I’ll have to give it up to the authorities and in doing so I’m going to ruin a lady’s reputation!


Oh Daisy, I feel terrible about it!”


Daisy reflected for a moment, “But just a minute, you say you bought it openly from Sir Edwin Rushdown’s daughter! How much did you pay for it?"


"I paid four hundred pounds for everything – the furniture, the pictures and the  books!!!”


"So Elodira probably isn't implicated in the stealing of it. She'd hardly sell it to you for such a pittance!"


Mr. Winter looked a little bit relieved, “Yes, that’s true. Look, Daisy, I could take it to someone else to confirm its authenticity but then the whole world would know about it.


They could even steal it from me! Anyway, I’m pretty sure it is a Canaletto, but I don’t want Sir Edwin’s daughter to get into trouble - she’s such a nice lady.”


Daisy was thinking. "But if her father,Sir Edwin, were the receiver of stolen property there’s not much you can do to save his reputation!


Although if he were a fence, why didn’t he sell the picture? It would have brought in a pile of money!”


“Yes, that’s true. It's a real mystery. Oh Daisy what am I going to do?"


"Look, you told me Sir Edwin left nothing and his daughter Elodira is struggling with death duties.


Before you take the picture round to the police why don't we both go and visit her and try and find out something more."


"That's a good idea, Daisy."


Mr. Winter telephoned Elodira telling her that a friend of his was interested in buying old furniture and made an appointment to take Daisy Hamilton there that very afternoon.


As Daisy and Mr. Winter drove along the path leading to the mansion, red squirrels dashed up trees, not used to being disturbed in their afternoon games.


The grounds surrounding Green Lodge had clearly not been looked after for some years.


Uncultivated plants and bushes grew just about everywhere – along the paths leading up to the mansion and all around it, almost hiding it from the outside world.


The mansion looked uninhabited and dirty, perhaps due to its shutters blackened by years of dust and the ivy creeping up its walls here and there.


However, the solid oak door at the entrance was still intact. 


Mr. Winter rang the ancient doorbell and they heard a woman shout, "Coming!" from an upper window.


A rather beautiful lady answered the door. She was slender with long auburn hair pulled back from her face with two hair-slides.


She had high cheek bones and certainly looked very aristocratic. She was about thirty and wore very old trousers and a green blouse which matched the colour of her emerald eyes perfectly. 


"Oh hello, Mr. Winter." The expression on her face was rather sad until she started speaking. Then her eyes twinkled and she smiled generously.


“I'm so glad you've brought a friend along.” Then, looking at Daisy, “Very happy to meet you - please call me Elodira, everybody does.”


She seemed very friendly and pleasant.


"This is Miss Daisy Hamilton," said Mr. Winter a little uncertainly.


"Please come in," replied Elodira showing her guests in.


"I know you're selling some furniture and I'm looking for a few things for my new home." Daisy explained. 


“I’m afraid I’m coming and going all the time, answering the telephone and sorting out old papers, but if there’s anything you fancy just let me know and...”


Suddenly the phone rang through the ancient house interrupting Elodira.


“Oh dear, I left my mobile phone upstairs! Please feel free to have a look around. Excuse me.”


While Elodira was answering the phone, Daisy and Mr. Winter surveyed the lower rooms looking for possible clues.


They noticed that practically everywhere was full of spiders and dust and very broken-down furniture, but in the dining room Daisy saw the beautiful old table and chairs Mr. Winter had mentioned and also a huge black sideboard with beautifully decorated green glass cabinets.


Then Daisy and Mr. Winter went into the study where they could admire a very dusty but wonderful mahogany escritoire. Daisy thought that it would look very nice in her own study!


Then Elodira appeared again. “Our solicitors want me to take all the family papers and documents along to them - but everything’s in such a mess.


Father wasn’t any good at business so after my mother’s death he just let everything go. That was when I was eighteen.”


Elodira looked around the room obviously remembering the past. “It’s incredible how a moment can change just everything in your life.”


“A moment?” Daisy asked, hating to bring back more sad memories.


“Yes, a car knocked my mother down and she never recovered from the accident.” Elodira’s eyes became misty, “Dad loved her very much and always said that she was the one who kept all the threads together.


It was true: she kept all the accounts and paid all the bills – she managed everything.”


“And did you move away to London after this?” Daisy wanted to know.


“Yes I did. Fortunately I won a scholarship to study languages and as soon as I was able to afford a little flat I had Father come to live with me. Now I work for a company which organises international conferences and supplies translators in London.”


“It must be a very interesting job,” Daisy observed.


“It is – but I’ve had to come back here - principally to sell Green Lodge. You see, I have to pay off some old debts.


As I told you before, everything fell apart after Mother had her accident – the manor went to rack and ruin and there was no money coming in at all. That’s why everything has been abandoned here for years.”


Elodira’s mobile rang again. “Hello, Stephen, how lovely to hear from you! Look, can I phone you back later this evening and we can have a little chat? Ok, till later.” She smiled again.


“May we have a look at the furniture upstairs too, Elodira?” asked Daisy.


“Yes, do. Please make yourselves at home. Oh excuse me.” The phone rang again. “It’s probably the family solicitors!” Elodira made a grimace and sat down in an ancient armchair.


The staircase was old and rickety and as Daisy and Mr. Winter went up it, a row of ornately framed pictures stared at you in the semi-dark.


Daisy could just about make out the name of the first one, Sir Edwin Rushdown, a tall good-looking man with a handsome moustache in military uniform with the bluest eyes imaginable.


Daisy whispered to Mr. Winter, "Don't think Sir Edwin looked in the least like a fence!"


Then a few steps up there was another man in military uniform called Sir Edwin too, a rather formidable gentleman who had obviously served in India, judging by the exotic landscape and a mongoose killing a cobra in the background.


At the top of the stairs they were greeted by a rather rakish-looking man, Sir James Rushdown, dressed in clothes of the period of Charles II.


 “You know, Mr. Winter, there's something about Elodira - I can't quite put my finger on it. Something rather particular!" Daisy whispered.


"And I want to know why her father died so poor if they were apparently decently off before.”


Daisy and Mr. Winter strolled in and out of rooms where the aristocracy had once slept. Elodira came up the stairs and joined them once again. “Would you like something to drink? I’m afraid there’s nothing much I can offer you other than a glass of claret or a cup of tea.”


“I’d love a cup of tea,” replied Daisy and looked at Mr. Winter in such a way as to say ‘do as I suggest.’


“Same for me please.” obeyed Mr. Winter.


Elodira led her guests down another flight of stairs. “I hope you don’t mind if we all go down to the kitchen. It’s relatively clean there!”


Once Daisy and Mr. Winter were seated at a typically enormous, heavy kitchen table supping tea with Elodira, Daisy’s eye fell on a beautiful object on the dresser.


“Do you know what that is?” Mr. Winter asked Daisy.
“No, I don’t. It’s shaped like an apple but I can’t make out what it would be used for,” Daisy replied.


“It’s an Apple Tea Caddy!”


“Yes, it dates back to the time when tea was very expensive,” explained Elodira handing it to Daisy to have a look at.


“Can you see Daisy, there’s a lock on it and the mistress of the house used to be the only one with the key to it to prevent the servants from stealing the tea!”


“It’s very beautiful indeed!”


Daisy felt she could delay things no longer.


"Elodira, may I ask you a question? Was your mother Italian, by any chance?"


Mr. Winter was rather surprised at Daisy's question. Elodira’s emerald eyes misted over nostalgically."Yes, she was."


"She was Venetian, wasn't she?"


"Yes, she was born in what she called the most beautiful city in the world. How did you know?"


Mr. Winter just stared at Daisy without saying a word.


"You look like a Venetian woman I saw in a portrait.” revealed Daisy.


“Oh really! Everybody said my mother and I were very similar.


She had a rather sad Venetian expression which I seem to have inherited,” Elodira explained, “but she certainly wasn’t a sad person – my parents were in love and they made each other very happy!”


“And your father was a military man – I noticed the portraits on the stairs.


I imagine that your mother managed things here in the manor while your father was away in the army?” Daisy remarked.


“No, actually they met when Father had already left the army, but Dad relied on Mother completely. He was born when the son of a lord didn't have to work.


He could serve in the army -  but couldn’t soil his hands with administrative work or anything like that.”


Elodira smiled affectionately. “Mother worshipped him and took over the family business.”


“What was the family business, Elodira?” Daisy continued.


“Well, you know, I believe we received rents and that sort of thing.”


“I see. There must have been people living on your land – looking after the manor...”


Elodira remembered, “There was the game-keeper, Mr. Clayton, but he died years ago.


Then there was the Simmonds family who used to cut the grass and do gardening – they lived in a cottage, too, near Green Lodge. But of course they’re no longer here.”


“And did your father meet your mother in Italy?”


“No, they met in London. Mother went to art school in Florence and wanted to become a curator of a museum.


She came to London when she was just twenty to visit our picture galleries.”


“So your father was interested in art too?”


“No, not really. They met in a pub by accident. My father had ordered a toad-in-the-hole and my mother was standing right by him.


She asked the publican what toad-in-the-hole was, as her knowledge of English wasn’t so good in those days, but she couldn’t understand his explanation.


My father broke in saying it was one of the tastiest dishes on the menu – and they both ended up eating toad-in-the-hole for lunch together. They fell in love and got married that very spring.”


Elodira smiled at the romantic story she knew by heart. 


“Lucky girl – I imagine you had wonderful holidays in Italy?” Daisy asked.


“Well no, I went to Rome on sort of learning trips but my mother never wanted to go back to Italy as she had lost both her parents and had no living relations there.” Elodira sighed, “But I don’t want to bore you with these things. Did you see anything you liked?”


Daisy paused a moment and there was a strange silence. She looked at Mr. Winter asking an unspoken question. He nodded in agreement.


Noticing this, Elodira looked puzzled, “Is anything the matter?”


Daisy decided the moment had arrived when she must be blunt.


“Elodira, I’m a private detective!”


“Oh really! Well, I suppose that private eyes buy second-hand furniture like anybody else!” Elodira joked.


“No, sorry, Elodira, I didn’t really come here to see furniture – the fact is that you sold Mr. Winter a number of things yesterday."


“Yes, or course I did – but I don’t understand...”


Daisy told Elodira about the painting within a painting without mentioning it was a Canaletto.


Elodira listened attentively. “Well, I don’t think it could be of any great value – I believe Mother used to buy a few pictures from local artists occasionally, none of them famous.”


Mr. Winter intervened, “Miss Elodira, it’s a Canaletto!”


“A Canaletto! The famous Venetian painter? No, it must be a copy of course – we never had enough money to buy anything like that!” Elodira laughed at the idea.


“Well,” continued Daisy, “Mr. Winter says it isn’t a copy, and it seems to be on the police’s list of stolen property!"


“Stolen property?” Elodira became pale. “What does this all mean? I just sold him some old landscapes and... I don’t understand.”


Daisy tried to be as gentle as possible, “We don’t want to harm you or your family.


The problem is that Mr. Winter must take the picture to the police otherwise he could get into very serious trouble!”


“I don’t know what to say...” Elodira stammered. “My father was the most honest person you could imagine! He couldn’t possibly have had stolen property in his home.”


"Look,” said Daisy, “you mentioned you are going through the family papers. If you let me help you, we may find an answer to all this.”


After hesitating for a moment and studying Daisy’s face to see if she could really trust her, Elodira nodded, “Yes, all right. They’re in my mother’s escritoire in the old study – if you’d like to come with me...”


Elodira, looking very worried, accompanied Mr. Winter and Daisy into the study and opened the escritoire’s drop-front, “Please sit down – Daisy - so you can see the documents for yourself.”


Daisy pulled out dozens of papers from the pigeon holes where they had been thrust years ago. There were old electric and gas bills and suchlike.


Then Daisy pulled the drawers open underneath, one by one, which revealed folders full of catalogued payments.


One old red file was labelled ‘Clayton.’ “He was the gamekeeper, wasn’t he?” asked Daisy looking through papers headed ‘Tools and Equipment,’ and ‘Weekly Wages.’


“Yes,” replied Elodira, “and this,” pulling out a huge grey file, “was the Simmonds file – the family who kept the grounds in order and helped in the house.”


Daisy persisted for half an hour trying to find something which would explain the Canaletto. “Nothing much here,” Daisy sighed and turned to Mr. Winter, who was sitting in a huge leather armchair looking rather thoughtful.


“I don’t think we’re on the right track at all!”


Mr. Winter suddenly jumped up, “Just a minute, ladies!” He began running his fingers along the bottom row of pigeon holes in the escritoire, “Maybe you don’t know that this wonderful piece of furniture has a surprising feature… at least there should be in an escritoire like this.”


Daisy and Elodira looked mystified as Mr. Winter put his hand in one of the pigeon holes.


“One has to find a small velvet button and… yes, here it is!” Mr. Winter proclaimed triumphantly. A secret panel came sliding out.


On top of it was a small leather book and a very faded black and white family photograph. Daisy handed the photograph to Elodira, who studied it attentively.


“I think that’s my mother when she was a girl!” Elodira’s voice trembled. “I suppose that the other people are members of her family – I don’t really know. I never met any of her relatives.”


Mr. Winter and Daisy gazed at the photo. “The girl looks very like you. She seems to have your hair and eyes!” declared Daisy.


She picked up the leather book and began flicking over its pages. “Look, Elodira, it’s written in Italian – do you understand the language?”


“Yes, of course. Dad never picked it up but Mother always spoke to me in Italian so I can read it as well as speak it.”


Elodira began looking at the small book. “It’s in my mother’s handwriting for sure!” As Elodira turned the pages, she remarked, “It’s my mother’s diary – the year she died.


She has even written her name on the inside cover.”


Then she added, “Mm... it seems to be a sort of account of things she bought and bills she paid and ...”


Elodira stopped reading and suddenly looked puzzled. “She has written L for £100 in January, L and R for £200 in April, R for £100 in May and C for £1,000 in July. Then… nothing more. My mother died in July! Daisy, what does all this mean?”


Mr. Winter, Elodira and Daisy remained silent for a moment.


Daisy was the one to speak first, “It’s a code, isn’t it? The C, of course, could stand for Canaletto – but let’s not jump to conclusions.”


Daisy picked the diary up and began flicking over the pages, then went back to the inside cover and frowned.


“Elodira, you said the diary was in your mother’s handwriting, didn’t you? But on the inside cover she doesn’t seem to have written Rushdown.”


“No, of course not.” replied Elodira, “She’s written her maiden name, Barbarelli.”


“Good heavens!” exclaimed Daisy. “Now I understand everything!”


Mr. Winter stared at Daisy. “Tell us what’s going on, Daisy, what have you discovered?”


Daisy looked reluctant to explain. “Before coming here I documented myself. It appears there was a Barbarelli family in Venice – two brothers who were internationally known as fences.”


Elodira frowned and looked very worried.


Daisy continued, “They dealt in stolen pictures. Interpol got on to them when a Japanese art collector was arrested on the German border with two stolen Caravaggios.


Apparently he’d bought them through the Barbarelli brothers.”


“Yes! I remember. It was all over the newspapers,” broke in Mr. Winter. “Then there was the famous St. Mark’s theft! But they caught them, didn’t they?”


“No,” replied Daisy, “The brothers disappeared overnight some thirty years’ ago and were never seen again!”


Elodira was looking pale by now and whispered, “Just a minute – I’ve remembered something – there were two Italian-looking men at Mother’s funeral. I thought at the time they might be related to each other.”


”And how old were they approximately?” asked Daisy.


“They were both about fifty years old… They said they had come from the Italian consulate... But they seemed really very upset and we never learned their names.”


Elodira picked up the photograph again and gasped, “Look! The two young men,” she showed Daisy the photo, “they look a bit like the two men at the funeral!”


Elodira was overwhelmed. “Now I understand! They were Mother’s brothers! Now I understand why my mother never wanted to go back to Venice.”


Her emerald eyes shone with pain,“Everything is falling into place like a jigsaw puzzle,” she whispered, “what will happen to me now?”


By now Elodira was in tears and Mr. Winter tried to comfort her. “There, there my dear, we’ll work this out, I promise you!”


Daisy searched her mind for a solution, “Look, Elodira, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve never even seen the painting!


Mr. Winter could have already had the Canaletto in the back of his shop which he had bought in a jumble sale or something.” Daisy looked at Mr. Winter to see his reaction.


Mr. Winter stood up. “Miss Elodira, don’t worry. I’m going to take the painting to the police now but, as Daisy said, the Canaletto could have been in the back of my shop already and when I bought the paintings from you they got mixed up.


I buy a lot of stuff in car boot sales and church fetes. So let’s leave it at that!”


“Yes, let’s say no more,” agreed Daisy. Then, changing the subject deliberately, “Elodira, I’d be glad if you stayed at my place for a couple of nights.


You know, I’ve just moved into a new house and I feel a bit strange staying there alone.”


Elodira wiped her tears away, “Thanks very much, but I’d sooner stay by myself a bit and sort a few things out in my mind.”


Three weeks later Mr. Winter called in at Daisy’s office.


“Oh Mr. Winter! Nice to see you. Let’s have some coffee and buns.”


Daisy put some Hot Cross Buns onto a plate on her desk and prepared some instant coffee.


“So, what happened to the Canaletto after all?”


“I had to take it round to the police station and they were pretty surprised when they looked it up on their CD-ROM!”


“But what did you tell them?”


Mr. Winter finished eating his piece of bun, “That I had bought the picture-in-a-picture on a white elephant stall, of course!”.


Then after reaching for his wallet in his inside jacket pocket Mr. Winter handed Daisy an envelope.


“This is for you, Daisy!”


“Oh, what is it?”Daisy was puzzled until she opened it. There was a cheque made out to her and a newspaper cutting. Famous stolen painting found by local antique dealer in a church fete. The police say he will receive a substantial reward.”


“Ah… well, thank you Mr. Winter! Thanks very much.”
”Daisy, what do you think really happened about the Canaletto?”


“Well it probably was Elodira’s mother who had hidden the painting!”


Mr. Winter nodded, “Yes, I agree.”


Daisy continued, “It couldn’t have been Sir Edwin – he clearly wasn’t the type! Perhaps the two brothers had forced their sister to keep the Canaletto and other pictures on their behalf and, well, act as a fence!”


Mr. Winter finished off his coffee and leaned back in his chair.


Daisy concluded, “On the other hand, she was probably glad of the money as her husband didn’t seem to have many funds.


Every time she received a picture she kept track of the transaction involved in her secret diary.


And it  doesn’t take much to figure out that the letter C stood for Canaletto and that the thousand pounds was the sum she received for keeping the stolen painting at Green Lodge.”


Mr. Winter sighed, “We’ll probably never know. Anyway it was a long time ago and Elodira mustn’t suffer for things she knew nothing about!”  


“No, of course not. By the way, Mr. Winter, I’d like to show you something.” Daisy went into the inner room and brought something out with her.


“It was delivered here the other day, let’s say… anonymously!”


“That wonderful apple tea caddy!” exclaimed Mr. Winter. “You’ve got friends in high places, Daisy!”