by Crystal Jones
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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
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
"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
"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
"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
“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
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.”
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
must be a very interesting job,” Daisy observed.
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
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?”
“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
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
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
“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
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
“What was the family business, Elodira?” Daisy continued.
“Well, you know, I believe we received rents and that sort of thing.”
see. There must have been people living on your land – looking after the
Elodira remembered, “There was the game-keeper, Mr. Clayton, but he died years
ago. Then there was the Simmonds
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.”
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
Elodira smiled at the romantic story she knew by heart.
“Lucky girl – I imagine you had wonderful holidays in Italy?”
“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
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
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
“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
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
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
“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
“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,
“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
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
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
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
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!”