Click here to Download The Circular Staircase PDF Book by Mary Roberts Rinehart English having PDF Size 2.4 MB and No of Pages 131.
This is the story of how a middle-aged spinster lost her mind, deserted her domestic gods in the city, took a furnished house for the summer out of town, and found herself involved in one of those mysterious crimes that keep our newspapers and detective agencies happy and prosperous.
The Circular Staircase PDF Book by Mary Roberts Rinehart
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For twenty years I had been perfectly comfortable; for twenty years I had had the window-boxes filled in the spring, the carpets lifted, the awnings put up and the furniture covered with brown linen; for as many summers I had said good-by to my friends, and, after watching their perspiring hegira, had settled down to a delicious quiet in town.
Where the mail comes three times a day, and the water supply does not depend on a tank on the roof. And then—the madness seized me. When I look back over the months I spent at Sunnyside, I wonder that I survived at all. As it is, I show the wear and tear of my harrowing experiences.
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I have turned very gray—Liddy reminded me of it, only yesterday, by saying that a little bluing in the rinse-water would make my hair silvery, instead of a yellowish white. I hate to be reminded of unpleasant things and I snapped her off. “No,” I said sharply, “I’m not going to use bluing at my time of life, or starch, either.”
Liddy’s nerves are gone, she says, since that awful summer, but she has enough left, goodness knows! And when she begins to go around with a lump in her throat, all I have to do is to threaten to return to Sunnyside, and she is frightened into a semblance of cheerfulness,—from which you may judge that the summer there was anything but a success.
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The newspaper accounts have been so garbled and incomplete—one of them mentioned me but once, and then only as the tenant at the time the thing happened—that I feel it my due to tell what I know. Mr. Jamieson, the detective, said himself he could never have done without me, although he gave me little enough credit, in print.
I shall have to go back several years—thirteen, to be exact—to start my story. At that time my brother died, leaving me his two children. Halsey was eleven then, and Gertrude was seven. All the responsibilities of maternity were thrust upon me suddenly; to perfect the profession of motherhood requires precisely as many years as the child has lived.
Like the man who started to carry the calf and ended by walking along with the bull on his shoulders. However, I did the best I could. When Gertrude got past the hair-ribbon age, and Halsey asked for a scarf-pin and put on long trousers—and a wonderful help that was to the darning.—I sent them away to good schools. The Circular Staircase PDF Book
After that, my responsibility was chiefly postal, with three months every summer in which to replenish their wardrobes, look over their lists of acquaintances, and generally to take my foster-motherhood out of its nine months’ retirement in camphor. I missed the summers with them when, somewhat later, at boarding-school and college, the children spent much of their vacations with friends.
Gradually I found that my name signed to a check was even more welcome than when signed to a letter, though I wrote them at stated intervals. But when Halsey had finished his electrical course and Gertrude her boarding-school, and both came home to stay, things were suddenly changed.
The winter Gertrude came out was nothing but a succession of sitting up late at night to bring her home from things, taking her to the dressmakers between naps the next day, and discouraging ineligible youths with either more money than brains, or more brains than money. Also, I acquired a great many things: to say lingerie for under-garments, “frocks” and “gowns” instead of dresses. The Circular Staircase PDF Book
And that beardless sophomores are not college boys, but college men. Halsey required less personal supervision, and as they both got their mother’s fortune that winter, my responsibility became purely moral. Halsey bought a car, of course, and I learned how to tie over my bonnet a gray baize veil, and, after a time, never to stop to look at the dogs one has run down.
People are apt to be so unpleasant about their dogs. The additions to my education made me a properly equipped maiden aunt, and by spring I was quite tractable. So when Halsey suggested camping in the Adirondacks and Gertrude wanted Bar Harbor, we compromised on a good country house with links near, within motor distance of town and telephone distance of the doctor.
That was how we went to Sunnyside. We went out to inspect the property, and it seemed to deserve its name. Its cheerful appearance gave no indication whatever of anything out of the ordinary. Only one thing seemed unusual to me: the housekeeper, who had been left in charge, had moved from the house to the gardener’s lodge, a few days before. The Circular Staircase PDF Book
As the lodge was far enough away from the house, it seemed to me that either fire or thieves could complete their work of destruction undisturbed. The property was an extensive one: the house on the top of a hill, which sloped away in great stretches of green lawn and clipped hedges, to the road; and across the valley, perhaps a couple of miles away, was the Greenwood Club House.
Gertrude and Halsey were infatuated. “Why, it’s everything you want,” Halsey said “View, air, good water and good roads. As for the house, it’s big enough for a hospital, if it has a Queen Anne front and a Mary Anne back,” which was ridiculous: it was pure Elizabethan. I had dinner served in the breakfast-room.
Somehow the huge dining-room depressed me, and Thomas, cheerful enough all day, allowed his spirits to go down with the sun. He had a habit of watching the corners of the room, left shadowy by the candles on the table, and altogether it was not a festive meal. Dinner over I went into the living-room. The Circular Staircase PDF Book
I had three hours before the children could possibly arrive, and I got out my knitting. I had brought along two dozen pairs of slipper soles in assorted sizes—I always send knitted slippers to the Old Ladies’ Home at Christmas—and now I sorted over the wools with a grim determination not to think about the night before.
But my mind was not on my work: at the end of a half-hour I found I had put a row of blue scallops on Eliza Klinefelter’s lavender slippers, and I put them away. I got out the cuff-link and went with it to the pantry. Thomas was wiping silver and the air was heavy with tobacco smoke. I sniffed and looked around, but there was no pipe to be seen.
“Thomas,” I said, “you have been smoking.” “No, ma’m.” He was injured innocence itself. “It’s on my coat, ma’m. Over at the club the gentlemen—” But Thomas did not finish. The pantry was suddenly filled with the odor of singeing cloth. Thomas gave a clutch at his coat, whirled to the sink, filled a tumbler with water and poured it into his right pocket with the celerity of practice. The Circular Staircase PDF Book Download
“Thomas,” I said, when he was sheepishly mopping the floor, “smoking is a filthy and injurious habit. If you must smoke, you must; but don’t stick a lighted pipe in your pocket again. Your skin’s your own: you can blister it if you like. But this house is not mine, and I don’t want a conflagration. Did you ever see this cuff-link before?”
No, he never had, he said, but he looked at it oddly. “I picked it up in the hall,” I added indifferently. The old man’s eyes were shrewd under his bushy eyebrows. “There’s strange goin’s-on here, Mis’ Innes,” he said, shaking his head. “Somethin’s goin’ to happen, sure. You ain’t took notice that the big clock in the hall is stopped, I reckon?”
“Nonsense,” I said. “Clocks have to stop, don’t they, if they’re not wound?” “It’s wound up, all right, and it stopped at three o’clock last night,” he answered solemnly. “More’n that, that there clock ain’t stopped for fifteen years, not since Mr. Armstrong’s first wife died. And that ain’t all,—no ma’m. Last three nights I slep’ in this place, after the electrics went out I had a token. The Circular Staircase PDF Book Download
My oil lamp was full of oil, but it kep’ goin’ out, do what I would. Minute I shet my eyes, out that lamp’d go. There ain’t no surer token of death. The Bible sez, Let yer light shine! When a hand you can’t see puts yer light out, it means death, sure.” The old man’s voice was full of conviction. In spite of myself I had a chilly sensation in the small of my back, and I left him mumbling over his dishes.
Later on I heard a crash from the pantry, and Liddy reported that Beulah, who is coal black, had darted in front of Thomas just as he picked up a tray of dishes; that the bad omen had been too much for him, and he had dropped the tray. The chug of the automobile as it climbed the hill was the most welcome sound I had heard for a long time, and with Gertrude and Halsey actually before me.
My troubles seemed over for good. Gertrude stood smiling in the hall, with her hat quite over one ear, and her hair in every direction under her pink veil. Gertrude is a very pretty girl, no matter how her hat is, and I was not surprised when Halsey presented a good-looking young man, who bowed at me and looked at Trude—that is the ridiculous nickname Gertrude brought from school. The Circular Staircase PDF Book Download
I stood gazing down at her in a stupor of amazement. Louise here, hiding at the lodge, ill and alone! Rosie came up to the bed and smoothed the white counterpane. “I am afraid she is worse to-night,” she ventured at last. I put my hand on the sick girl’s forehead. It was burning with fever, and I turned to where Thomas lingered in the hallway.
“Will you tell me what you mean, Thomas Johnson, by not telling me this before?” I demanded indignantly. Thomas quailed. “Mis’ Louise wouldn’ let me,” he said earnestly. “I wanted to. She ought to ’a’ had a doctor the night she came, but she wouldn’ hear to it. Is she—is she very bad, Mis’ Innes?” “Bad enough,” I said coldly.
“Send Mr. Innes up.” Halsey came up the stairs slowly, looking rather interested and inclined to be amused. For a moment he could not see anything distinctly in the darkened room; he stopped, glanced at Rosie and at me, and then his eyes fell on the restless head on the pillow. I think he felt who it was before he really saw her. The Circular Staircase PDF Book Download
He crossed the room in a couple of strides and bent over the bed. “Louise!” he said softly; but she did not reply, and her eyes showed no recognition. Halsey was young, and illness was new to him. He straightened himself slowly, still watching her, and caught my arm. “She’s dying, Aunt Ray!” he said huskily.
“Dying! Why, she doesn’t know me!” “Fudge!” I snapped, being apt to grow irritable when my sympathies are aroused. “She’s doing nothing of the sort,—and don’t pinch my arm. If you want something to do, go and choke Thomas.” But at that moment Louise roused from her stupor to cough, and at the end of the paroxysm, as Rosie laid her back, exhausted, she knew us.
That was all Halsey wanted; to him consciousness was recovery. He dropped on his knees beside the bed, and tried to tell her she was all right, and we would bring her around in a hurry, and how beautiful she looked—only to break down utterly and have to stop. And at that I came to my senses, and put him out. The Circular Staircase PDF Book Free
“This instant!” I ordered, as he hesitated. “And send Rosie here.” He did not go far. He sat on the top step of the stairs, only leaving to telephone for a doctor, and getting in everybody’s way in his eagerness to fetch and carry. I got him away finally, by sending him to fix up the car as a sort of ambulance, in case the doctor would allow the sick girl to be moved.
He sent Gertrude down to the lodge loaded with all manner of impossible things, including an armful of Turkish towels and a box of mustard plasters, and as the two girls had known each other somewhat before, Louise brightened perceptibly when she saw her. When the doctor from Englewood—the Casanova doctor.
Doctor Walker, being away—had started for Sunnyside, and I had got Thomas to stop trying to explain what he did not understand himself, I had a long talk with the old man, and this is what I learned. “You are not to think of anything but of getting well,” I said, patting her hand. “When you are better, I am going to scold you for not coming here at once. The Circular Staircase PDF Book Free
This is your home, my dear, and of all people in the world, Halsey’s old aunt ought to make you welcome.” She smiled a little, sadly, I thought. “I ought not to see Halsey,” she said. “Miss Innes, there are a great many things you will never understand, I am afraid. I am an impostor on your sympathy, because I—I stay here and let you lavish care on me, and all the time I know you are going to despise me.”
“Nonsense!” I said briskly. “Why, what would Halsey do to me if I even ventured such a thing? He is so big and masterful that if I dared to be anything but rapturous over you, he would throw me out of a window. Indeed, he would be quite capable of it.” She seemed scarcely to hear my facetious tone.
She had eloquent brown eyes—the Inneses are fair, and are prone to a grayish-green optic that is better for use than appearance—and they seemed now to be clouded with trouble. “Poor Halsey!” she said softly. The Circular Staircase PDF Book Free