The Riddle of Penncroft Farm:
Pictures & Docs
Original hardback cover by Gary Lippincott. My editor decided that Geordie should be semi-transparent. I didn't agree.
The gold seal is for the Jeannette Fair Award, given by a teachers' organization for the best book for children by a Minnesota woman.
This is the cover for the first paperback edition of The Riddle of Penncroft Farm. Note that you can still see through Geordie.
"But Lars, you bamboozled Aunt Cass thoroughly the last time we came, even though you were only two. Whenever she'd go out to hang up the wash, you'd pull in all the latchstrings and strand her outside."
"I did not! I don't even know what latchstrings are!"
Dad explained that a latchstring was a cord that could be pulled through a hole in a door to open it from the outside."—The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 1.
Even by moonlight I could tell that it was different from any house I'd ever seen. It looked as if someone hadn't been able to decide what sort of house he wanted, so he'd hooked several kinds together. There were dark, bumpy stones on the middle part, but the left section was shingled like our old Minnesota house; the right was covered with white stuff.—The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 1
I glanced up. Someone was silhouetted in the window of what was to be my room. Whoever it was slowly raised one hand. It reminded me of the picture sent on the Pioneer 10 space probe to greet the rest of the universe. "Is that Aunt Cass waving at us?" I asked.
"I don't see her," Mom said. "Where is she?"
"There—in my room," I said impatiently."
—The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 1
I was so intent on what I was doing that I didn't pay attention to anything else. I suppose that's why, when I came to the old covered bridge, I didn't notice anybody standing inside, until my rock disappeared under the roof of the bridge, and I looked up. Someone about my age or a little older stood facing the other direction. Even in the shadows, I could tell it was a girl—the ponytail and puffy sleeves made that obvious. —The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 3
We tossed the hat back and forth like a Frisbee until we reached the old split-rail fence bordering Penncroft Farm.
My new friend climbed up the zigzag rails and straddled the top. "It always seemed a waste of time to build fences around apple trees. They weren't about to run off. But the law said all farms had to be fenced. These stake-and-rider fences were the very devil to build, but they've weathered well," he remarked.
"Stake-and . . . ?" I began, but just then I spotted my mom waiting at the end of the driveway by the Penncroft Farm sign.—The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 3
He crossed the room and opened the cupboard hidden in the woodwork over the fireplace. Inside we kept our spices, money, and valuable papers safe from mildew and robbers.
Father brought out some farthings and closed the cupboard door. "Here's a bit of money for your journey, lad, but try to barter for your board and keep as you go. Gold coins are scarce." —The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 7
"A wide door ran across the lower level. I gave it a shove, and the door creaked open on ancient iron hinges. I entered the dark inside, groping for a light switch as I went. I couldn't find one.
"Swell. How can I clean this place if I can't see what I'm doing?" I asked, wasting good sarcasm on an empty barn. Moving gingerly along the wall, I touched a large, round, metallic object that felt nothing like a light switch. It clattered to the floor. I slid my foot around until I found it, then carried it across to the door for a closer look. It was a flat metal sieve, covered with cobwebs, red with rust, and bigger than any sieve I'd ever seen.
Perplexed, I murmured, "I'd hate to have to eat any macaroni that was strained in this . . . this . . . whatever it is!"
"'Tis a riddle," said a voice in my ear."—Chapter 4
This evening we went to the Kimball Farm here in Hopkinton for ice cream. I noticed a small barn that was a kind of museum for farm tools, went inside, and saw a real riddle hanging on the wall! Here is some history of the farm from https://www.beechhillfarm.com. "Some of the earliest English settlers in Hopkinton were Aaron and Susanna Kimball, who came from Massachusetts in 1740. Their son, Abraham, was the first English child actually born in Hopkinton. In 1771, the King of England granted Aaron Kimball some land on Beech Hill. In 1893 Herbert M. Kimball purchased the land and buildings that later became known as Beech Hill Farm." This farm has been in the same family since the King of England's grant just before the American Revolution!
After all his sprinting and bellowing, Cheyney had little breath for speech. He panted like a landed fish for several long moments. Then, finally, he gasped out, "'Tis the British, ten thousand strong, crossing upstream to attack from behind."
Washington narrowed his eyes, looked us over as if we stank of barn muck, and motioned us into the house.
"I heard some such nonsense from Colonel Bland, but later reports proved this false," he said, frowning. "Local sources have assured me there is no ford above the fork that's close enough to offer a serious threat."
—The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 8
With growing misgivings, I helped unhitch the team and conceal the wagon in the woods, and soon we were up on Daisy's and Buttercup's bare backs, trotting over the rough ground. I clutched Buttercup's reins and mane for dear life as I followed Squire Cheyney up and down the steep wooded hills, more than once nearly sliding backward off Buttercup's rump or forward over his head. Cheyney, all unheeding, allowed branches to whip behind him into my face; they stung like the very devil. —The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 8
My suspense lasted but a trice. A dignified figure in a buff-and-blue uniform appeared before us—General Washington.
Broad-shouldered, taller than anyone I'd ever seen, he regarded us through icy blue eyes. "There had better be an excellent reason for this interruption, sir," he exclaimed.—The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 8
At the very moment I climbed to the seat and took up the reins, the valley behind me exploded with artillery fire. Terrified, Daisy and Buttercup reared in their traces. Up and up they went, pawing the smoke-filled air. Then they plunged back to the ground, landing at a dead run.
Still silent, the grenadier set down his musket and swung the pack off his back to the ground with a loud thud that showed how very heavy it was. Then he gathered Will up in his arms and carefully laid him down upon the wagon bed.
—The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 8
It was midnight by the time we came up our lane. By great good fortune my father, exhausted by his harvest work, was sleeping too soundly to hear us arrive, but my mother's ear was sharpened with worry. She soon rushed out of the house, lantern in hand. As she stood there, the wind swirled her long white shift about her ankles and sent her long brown hair, loosened for bed, flying about her head.
But gone Will was, and worry over his whereabouts made November lag by, despite the work that filled our days. Father and I toiled from dawn to dusk, driving the team to pull the cider mill wheel round and round its trough to crush the fruit into pomace. Then we'd rake the pomace onto straw mats and carefully press out the juice into the waiting kegs.
—The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 10
Her words gave me an idea. When the waitress came to take our order, I told her I wanted the Tavern pasty.—The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 11
"Okay, Lars, here's the turnoff for the park. I just love this part—going through the covered bridge over Valley Creek."
Must be new; I thought, remembering that Geordie and Sandy had forded the creek. Then, as we clattered over the bridge, I couldn't help comparing it with the other one, where I'd first seen Geordie. The thought gave me the nerve to blurt out, "Pat, do you believe in ghosts?"
—The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Chapter 14