Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hannah's Treasure

The journal Max found hidden in the chest of drawers was page after page of the life of Hannah and Simon Lane. They were childhood sweethearts. Simon and his brother, Caleb were only a year apart in age and were the best of friends as well as brothers. The first several pages of the journal were filled with what seemed to be the perfect life of a young couple. Eventually the twins were born and the happiness continued until a woman named Sylvia came into their lives.
Caleb had been to town enjoying a few beers with some other fellows when the very beautiful Sylvia Reynolds entered the pub. Caleb took one look at this dazzling young woman and fell madly in love. Sylvia sat down next to Caleb and ordered a beer. Caleb had never known a woman who drank beer before. His sister-in-law, Hannah made cranberry wine and apple brandy every fall but he never saw her indulge in a man's drink like beer. Sylvia was like no other woman Caleb had ever known. She wore a very low cut dress and Caleb had a hard time keeping his eyes away from the obvious endowments the good Lord gave her.
Back at his cabin, Simon began to be concerned about his brother. He hadn't heard Caleb return home as yet and he knew his brother couldn't hold his drink. Simon was afraid he might run into trouble. He kissed Hannah goodbye and started off to town to check on Caleb. Sure enough, Caleb was slumped over the bar. Simon threw him over his shoulder and started off for home.
The next morning, Caleb woke up with a terrible headache but knew he had to find Sylvia, the love of his life. He paid a visit to Simon and Hannah and told them that if all went well, he would be bringing home a wife very soon. Simon wondered where Caleb had found his intended and then remembered seeing a very striking young woman looking at him the night before as he was carrying his brother out the door. Caleb arrived in town and was disappointed to see Sylvia walking arm in arm with a nattily dressed gentleman. She spotted Caleb and introduced the gentleman as her brother, Horace Reynolds. Horace had just accepted a position as a reporter for the Greensboro News. The brother and sister were planning to settle down in this area and were looking for a place to live in Camden Corners. Caleb was overjoyed that Sylvia would be staying in town. He invited both Sylvia and Horace to supper that night. He shared his meals with Simon and Hannah and hoped Hannah wouldn't mind two extra mouths to feed. Horace thanked Caleb for the invitation. He had a meeting to attend that evening but he would appreciate it if Caleb would keep an eye on his sister for him.
Hannah was happy to have company that evening and took special pains to prepare a company meal. She thought she might even take out a little of her elderberry wine for the occasion. Hannah liked Sylvia upon meeting her. She was like no one Hannah had ever known. She laughed and joked and fussed over the twins. Hannah was happy for Caleb and when he announced his intention of marrying Sylvia a week later, Hannah was thrilled. Simon wasn't so sure but he congratulated his brother and kept his doubts to himself. The wedding was a quiet affair with a friend of the Reynolds family officiating. It took place in the woods behind the Lane cabins. None of the townsfolk were invited. Only Simon, Hannah and Horace Reynolds attended the ceremony.
Caleb was ecstatic for the next few weeks and then everything began to change. Sylvia was spending more time with her brother in Greensboro than she was with Caleb. When she wasn't with her brother, she was having tea with Hannah. Even Hannah seemed to be changing. She was tired all the time and not the happy go lucky girl he had known all his life. Simon didn't seem to notice. Although Simon initially wondered if Sylvia was right for his brother, he had become quite fond of her.
Marriage wasn't anything like Caleb had anticipated and he began to find solace in visiting Joel Mason's still for his moonshine more and more often. Hannah wrote in her journal that she was feeling poorly. She didn't seem to have energy anymore. She was beginning to wonder if Sylvia was really her friend. Maybe she shouldn't have told her about the treasure.
Hannah's great uncle, Reginald, had given her a satchel filled with money. He told her the day may come when she would need some extra cash and she should save it for a rainy day. She had put it away and hadn't mentioned it to Simon because she had been so happy with their lives and the money didn't matter to her. The entries in the journal were changing. Hannah's beautiful penmanship had become shaky and the content was difficult to understand until all the pages were blank except the very last page which said, “I must keep this journal away from Sylvia. She wants the treasure.”
Max and Sarah were so engrossed in what they were reading they didn't hear the front door open or the man walk in with his gun pointed at Max's heart. He opened the bedroom door wider and didn't realize Sarah was behind it. For some reason she carried her book bag into the cabin with her. The bag contained 4 of her favorite J.K. Ellingsworth novels. She picked up the bag twirled it in the air around her head and with all her might let it fall onto the top of the intruder's head knocking him out cold. The bullet ended up in the foot of the bed.
Sarah was shaking like a leaf but managed to chuckle as she shouted “Delmartin Trent to the rescue.”
She found some rope in the bottom cabinet in the kitchen and Max tied the stranger's hands and feet and still unconscious deposited him in the buggy to deliver him to the sheriff.
By the time the stranger woke up, Sheriff Mendenhall who had checked his identification was just receiving a telegram from the Baltimore Police Department. Mr. Errol Reynolds was wanted on fraud charges up and down the east coast. Errol's head hurt and his vision was blurry. He was afraid he was about to die and decided that the only chance for salvation was to tell the truth.
Errol confessed to being the great great grandson of Horace and Sylvia Reynolds. His grandfather, Horace Jr. was the only child born to Sylvia and Horace. Junior was brought up by his grandmother while his parents were going from town to town conning unsuspecting innocents like Caleb Lane. Normally, they only stayed in town a few weeks, that was usually all it took for their victims to succumb to Sylvia's charms and part with their money. Caleb Lane was just another chump but when Sylvia charmed her way into the Simon Lane home, her new friend Hannah was the answer to her prayers. She knew it wouldn't be difficult to get her hands on the treasure Hannah spoke of. Once they were through with Camden Corners and the Lanes, Sylvia and Horace would be able to take a vacation. Maybe spend some time with little Horace, Jr.
Horace had arranged for one of his old prison buddies to officiate at the wedding of Caleb and Sylvia. He knew he didn't have any competition in Caleb because Sylvia was slipping potion into Caleb's food and drink. She was doctoring Simon and Hannah's food too but she never went so far as to taint the twins' food. She wasn't a totally despicable person.
Hannah and Caleb died within a few days of each other. Simon was so distraught and suffering from the effects of the drugs he had been given it took all his strength to bury his brother and wife in the woods. As he was walking back to the cabins, Horace picked up Caleb's rifle and shot Simon letting his body drift down the river. He gathered up the twins piled them and a stunned Sylvia into his buggy and drove off. The foursome traveled to the county children's home near Baltimore and left the baby boys on the doorstep just before dawn. Horace and Sylvia headed back to their home and Horace, Jr. without the money from the treasure that Hannah had talked about.
Sylvia never recovered from the ordeal of seeing her husband kill a man in cold blood. In her mind it was worse than slowly poisoning someone. Horace, who had a penchant for gambling was shot and killed when he was caught cheating at poker. Sylvia rambled on day and night about the treasure in Camden Corners. Horace, Jr. promised his mother on her deathbed that he would find the treasure. Several years later he walked into the Camden Corners Library, found the newspaper article and buried it in a reference book and put the book as far back in the corner as he could. Junior thought he would be back to look for the treasure but went home to Baltimore and married Daphne Hill who gave birth to Errol's father.
When Errol was a youngster, his grandfather talked about the treasure. He never did go back to Camden Corners, Daphne called him a dreamer and wouldn't let him go off on a wild goose chase.
Errol heard the story of the treasure so many times he knew he had to find it. When he came into town a week ago, that nosy writer was already there and Errol thought he was snooping for his great grandmother Sylvia's treasure. He tried to scare him away but only managed to scare his landlady. He was going to make sure Mr. J.K. Ellingsworth never wrote another book. He thought he had him cornered when suddenly he felt a blow to the back of his head and now he was dying. After his confession and arrest, he was turned over to the Baltimore police department for prosecution in several crimes. Mr. Errol Reynolds would be incarcerated for many years.
Near the end of October Max finished his novel. It wasn't the story of the Lane family, but of the folks of a town similar to Camden Corners. The hero this time wasn't his old pal Delmartin Trent but a young writer who was looking for the perfect town and found it along with the perfect young lady. With encouragement from Max, Sarah wrote her own novel. She didn't want to let Max see it until it was finished and didn't tell him that she was writing a tragedy. Sarah felt Hannah's story deserved to be told. She asked Max to read it and give his honest opinion.
Max couldn't believe that Sarah had told her great great grandmother's story so beautifully. He didn't let on that he had read it. He told Sarah he needed to finish his novel before beginning hers because he would lose his concentration. She thought he was probably afraid he wouldn't like it and didn't want to hurt her feelings.
Max and Sarah were married soon after and moved into the small cabin in the woods where Hannah and Simon had been so happy for such a short time. They were able to buy the land and cabin from the county. Neighbors all helped to make the cabin liveable for the honeymooners.
A few days before Christmas, Max and Sarah ventured into the woods behind their home looking for a pine tree to decorate for the holiday. Max found a tree that had been around for at least 100 years. It seemed to reach to the sky, as Max and Sarah stood back to admire the huge tree, Sarah happened to notice a bulge in the trunk. Max pulled away some of the bark and dollar bills began to flow. They knew they had found Hannah's treasure. They gathered up all the money and were astonished to find they were all $100 bills totaling over $100,000.
They took the money to Sheriff Mendenhall and called Oscar Crowley and Andrew to meet them at the sheriff's office. Since the money was found on Max and Sarah's land, the conclusion was that it rightfully belonged to them.
Without hesitation, the couple chose not to accept the money for themselves. The treasure had caused enough heartache for Hannah and her little family. They decided to donate it to the orphanage in Baltimore where the Lane twins had been left so long ago.
On Christmas Eve, in the quiet of their cabin home, Max presented Sarah with two beautifully wrapped gifts. Sarah was thrilled to receive the first edition of Max's new novel dedicated to her. The second was another book, she opened it up and there was her very first published work, Hannah's Treasure. Sarah was laughing and crying at the same time as Max took her in his arms.
Sarah suspected Hannah somehow knew that the real treasure was love. Just then Sarah glanced out the window and saw the stars twinkling brightly and reflecting on the old evergreen tree that had held Hannah's Treasure.

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