An Exciting Appointment
THE HOOVER girls walked out to the barn with Nancy. "Do come to see us again," Grace called, as the young detective climbed into her car.
"Yes, please do," Allison added.
Nancy promised that she would. "As soon as I have some news," she said.
Although the weather had cleared, the River Road remained muddy and slippery. Nancy found it necessary to drive with extreme care for the next two miles until she reached the main highway.
"No wonder this River Road isn't used much," she thought. "And how do Grace and Allison get to town?" Nancy wondered. She had not seen a car at the Hoover home and knew that no bus passed their door.
"I certainly wish," she thought, "that I or somebody else could locate a later will of Josiah Crowley's by which the Hoovers and the Turners would receive some much-needed money. I must tell Dad about this latest development."
She decided to see if her father was in his office and drove directly there. Nancy parked the car in a nearby lot. She surveyed the convertible ruefully as she climbed out.
"Poor thing! It certainly needs a bath!"
Nancy found Mr. Drew in. As she entered his private office, he arose from the desk chair to kiss her. "I'm glad you're here—and safe," the lawyer said. "I was worried about you when that violent storm came up. When Hannah phoned me that you weren't back, I began to regret I'd sent you on the errand."
His daughter grinned. "I'm back, all in one piece. I delivered the papers to Judge Hart and learned that he and his wife saw Mr. Crowley in Masonville a couple of times. Also, I talked to the Hoover girls."
She described her meeting with Allison and Grace Hoover and ended by asking her father if he could help them.
"From what you say, it does look as though Josiah Crowley might have made another will which included them as beneficiaries," Mr. Drew commented thoughtfully. "I'll be glad to do anything I can to help the Hoover girls."
He asked whether the sisters had given Nancy any specific information about Mr. Crowley's habits or other helpful clues. When Nancy shook her head, Mr. Drew suggested that she invite the girls to his office for a little conference. "Perhaps if I ask them some questions, it will recall helpful incidents." The lawyer studied his desk calendar for a moment, then looked up at his daughter. "How about tomorrow afternoon at two-forty-five? I can give them about half an hour."
For answer, Nancy gave her father a hug and then asked if she might use his telephone to call the Hoovers at once.
Grace and Allison eagerly accepted the Drews' invitation, and Nancy said she would drive out to bring them to the conference and take them home afterward.
"You're a doll!" cried Allison, who had answered the telephone. "Nancy, I just know you're going to solve this mystery!"
Suddenly an idea came to Nancy. She asked Allison how long the girls would be able to stay in River Heights.
"Oh, as long as you need us," Allison replied.
"Good. Then I'd like you both to stay and have supper with us," Nancy said.
"Sorry I can't join you," Mr. Drew told his daughter as she hung up. "I have a dinner engagement and conference in the evening."
Just then, the mayor of River Heights was shown into the lawyer's office, and Nancy arose to leave. She spoke to the mayor for a moment, then said, "See you later, Dad."
Before Nancy returned home, she stopped at an old-fashioned house on a side street. It was the home of Signer Mascagni, a famous voice teacher who had retired to the small city the year before, but took a few outstanding pupils. Nancy introduced herself to the white bushy-haired, florid-faced man, then said:
"Signor Mascagni, would you be willing to listen to the voice of a friend of mine and give your honest opinion as to whether or not she might become a great singer? If she might, and she can obtain the money for lessons, would you be able to take her as a pupil?"
Signor Mascagni studied Nancy for several minutes before replying. Finally he said, "You do not look like the kind of girl who would come here on a foolish errand. Ordinarily I do not accept beginners. But in this case I would be willing to hear your friend sing." He laughed. "Mind you, I will give you nothing but the truth, and if your friend does not measure up, I hope her feelings will not be hurt too deeply."
Nancy laughed too. "I like honesty," she said. "As a matter of fact, this girl knows nothing about what I am asking you. Coming here will be a complete surprise to her. I'm probably no judge of voices, but I think she's a natural. However, we will both appreciate having your opinion, and will certainly abide by it."
She arranged for a meeting the following afternoon at four o'clock and left Signer Mascagni's house in an excited mood. "Maybe I'm going way out on a limb," Nancy mused, "but this is another one of those hunches of mine that Dad talks about, and I must carry through."
When she picked up the Hoovers the following day, Nancy did not mention the appointment with the voice teacher. The three girls went directly to Mr. Drew's office and at once he began to quiz Grace and Allison about Mr. Crowley.
"I understand that he was a rather eccentric man," the lawyer began. "Suppose you tell me everything you can remember about what Josiah Crowley did and what he said which would help us figure out where he might have secreted a later will."
"Uncle Josiah was rather absent-minded," Grace spoke up. "I often saw him hunting for his spectacles, which he had pushed up on his head."
"Did he ever hide things?" Mr. Drew asked.
"Oh, yes." Allison laughed. "Uncle Josiah was always putting articles away in what he called a safe place. But the places were so safe he never could find the things again!"
"Then," Nancy spoke up excitedly, "Mr. Crowley could have hidden a will and then forgotten where?"
"I suppose so," Grace replied. "While living with the Tophams, I'm sure that's just what he would have done. One day when he was calling at our house he talked about the Tophams and the way they were trying to get all his money. 'I guess they think—just because I stay on—that they're going to get everything. But they'll be fooled when they find I've made another will,' he said with that odd little chuckle of his. 'This time I'm not going to trust it to any lawyer. I'll put it away in a place that I know will be safe.' "
Allison asked Mr. Drew, "Do you think Uncle Josiah hid another will somewhere in the Tophams' house?"