Sunday, April 8, 2012
Christopher and Priscilla Pringle were the proud owners of the Snowflake Christmas Shop in Camden Corners . Snowflakes was a favorite of all the folks in town and their many visitors from other villages in the area and even as far away as Chicago and New York City.
Chris was a jolly old guy with his white beard and round belly. Priscilla was a bit round herself. She always wore a bright red apron with red and white striped candy filling the pockets.
Whenever anyone opened the door of the Snowflake Christmas Shop, they would hear the sound of jingle bells and smell the aroma of fresh baked gingerbread and sugar cookies. The Pringles knew how to keep the Christmas spirit going all year long.
They were never blessed with children of their own but they loved all the children in town and the children all loved them. They had a dog who answered to the name of Rudy. Rudy was a big old loveable dog who seemed happiest when he was laying in front of the cozy fireplace in the vestibule of the shop. Children would stop by on their way home from school just to pet Rudy and accept one of his sloppy kisses. Mrs. Pringle made sure each child in town had a special Christmas ornament to display on their Christmas tree each year. She molded and painted each and every ornament and made sure to personalize it with the child's name.
It was one warm summer day when she was relaxing on the shore of Lake Camden that she happened to see a small silk pouch wash ashore. Curiosity overcame her and she finally opened the pouch. There were a number of the most beautiful stones she had ever seen. Some looked like diamonds they were so sparkly and bright. Others were a deep red, some dark green and a few a golden yellow and even some very pale blue. Priscilla looked around and didn't see a soul. She took the sack back to the apartment above the store where she and Chris lived.
Chris suggested she put an ad in the local paper looking for the rightful owner. When no one answered the ad, they stopped in to see Sheriff Mendenhall. The sheriff thought the stones were very pretty but couldn't imagine they would be of any value and assured them they would not be committing any crime if they just kept them.
Priscilla had not begun her annual ornament making chore and thought the stones would be a fine addition to the children's ornaments this year. She made reindeer with lovely aqua blue eyes, Snowmen with emerald green eyes, Santas with ruby red noses, train engines with topaz yellow smoke billowing from their stacks and angels with sparkling diamonds in their hair. She wrote a child's name on every ornament holding out several for the many babies who were expected to arrive in Camden Corners before Christmas that year. Priscilla would never want to leave even the tiniest of them without an ornament.
Chris was walking Rudy down by the dock near Flanagan's fish market on a quiet Sunday afternoon. He spotted a stranger looking into the water near the shore.
“Hello my good fellow. Isn't this the finest looking lake you have ever seen. We townsfolk are very proud of our pristine waters here in Camden Corners . Are you looking to do some fishing here?”
The gentlemen barely looked up and mumbled something about just looking for something he may have dropped in the water. Chris offered to help him look for the object but the man declined and walked quickly away.
Ebeneezer Finch climbed on his horse. He was in big trouble. All he did was stop off at that pub called O'Sullivan's to wet his whistle a few weeks ago. He was really thirsty and it was such a hot day it wasn't his fault that he may have had one too many and dropped part of his loot from that jewelry store heist in Greensboro. Why had it taken his boss, Ronald Crump so long to discover part of the haul was missing? He remembered taking those jewels out of his satchel and admiring them as he was walking toward the lake. After all it was a very hot day and who could blame Eb for taking a little dip in the lake. Maybe he did fall asleep on the shore but he was very tired from the long ride. Just thinking about that nice cold draft he had at the pub made him thirsty. He should be looking for the gems but he was awfully thirsty and Eb needed a break from his search. That first cold beer went down so easily he found himself ordering a second, then third and after that he lost track.
Chris walked Rudy until they were both tired and thirsty. Maybe a little lager would taste good right now. Priscilla was filling in for the church organist and she and the choir members were practicing for the Wednesday Evening Summer concert. Chris didn't like going home to an empty apartment so he and Rudy stopped at O'Sullivan's Pub. Rudy was such a well behaved dog he was welcome in the pub. Chris didn't remember Rudy ever growling, especially at humans but he was certainly growling at the man sitting at the corner of the bar. Well, if it wasn't the stranger who had been walking by the water earlier. Chris nodded hello and tried to calm Rudy with a doggie treat he had in his pocket. Eb, obviously well into his cups, was keeping a close eye on Rudy. He didn't like dogs and this one was none too friendly.
It was time he was getting back to his search. Just as he walked in front of Rudy, he slipped on Rudy's doggie treat and fell forward catching his shirtsleeve on the edge of the bar stool. Chris felt terrible about the mishap and insisted the stranger come home with him. Priscilla would be home by now and she was a whiz with a needle and thread. Eb was none too steady on his feet and gave in letting Chris escort him from the bar. Rudy was still unsure of this stranger but stopped his growling.
Priscilla was indeed home and was happy to stitch the strangers shirt. Chris thought a cup of coffee might be in order for their guest. By the time the coffee was ready, Eb was sound to sleep in Chris' favorite chair. Afternoon turned into evening and Eb was still asleep. Priscilla covered him with a blanket and the Pringles called it a night.
In the morning Eb woke up not remembering where he was or how he got there. He slowly remembered that he was looking for the pouch with the jewels inside when he decided he needed a little liquid refreshment. He really needed to concentrate on finding those jewels. Seems like the jolly old goat had a jolly wife too. How Eb hated jolly people. Here they were offering him a breakfast of eggs, pancakes and sausages. He should just leave but the food smelled so good he couldn't get himself to walk out the door.
Eb was silent as he wolfed down three helpings of pancakes and a half dozen eggs. He happened to glance over towards the breakfront. He caught sight of what looked like Christmas ornaments. “What is this crazy woman doing with Christmas ornaments at this time of year?” Priscilla noticed Eb looking at the ornaments. He hadn't said more than two words since he had arrived yesterday. Priscilla told him what the ornaments were for, he glanced at them again and noticed sparkling red noses on the Santas.
He arose from his chair to get a better look and thought “Holy Smoke those are my jewels. What has Mrs. Jolly done with my jewels?”
Eb knew he had to calm down and figure out how he was going to get his jewels back even if it meant he would have to take those stupid ornaments with him. Suddenly, his whole demeanor changed. He admired the ornaments and enthused when Priscilla told him how she had found those pretty stones by the lake.
He was fit to be tied. Why didn't that old biddy just leave the pouch for him to find. He just had to get them back, clean them up and get them to his boss, Ronald Crump before Mr. Crump arranged for Eb to be buried in clay himself.
Eb listened patiently as Priscilla recited the names on each and every ornament and described each and every child in the town of Camden Corners. Priscilla knew Eb was a little hard around the edges but she suspected he was softening up hearing about the children and Christmas in Camden Corners .
Chris came up the stairs after taking Rudy out for a short walk and opening the shop. Eb watched as Priscilla packed up the ornaments for storage in the basement until it was time to present them to the children. Priscilla carried the container down the two flights of stairs. Eb started following but was stopped at the basement door by Rudy who was looking suspiciously at him. Eb wanted to kick the dumb mutt out of the way but his fear stopped him. He would find a way to get into that basement even if it meant he would have to hide in the bushes next to the shop.
Eb was out the door without so much as a fare thee well to the Pringles. What a strange man Priscilla thought but nothing, not even a grouchy old man could put a damper on such a glorious day.
Harry Plumb from Greensboro was the first customer of the day. Priscilla was finishing up the last of the delightful ornaments at her workbench in the shop. Harry was a good customer. He owned the Jewelry store in Greensboro and often stopped in to purchase a holiday memento for his best customers. Today he was ordering a wreath for his front door. He knew it was early, but he wanted to make sure he got his order in early and besides, it had been a while since he had paid the Pringles a visit. Harry noticed Priscilla's handiwork with the ornaments. Priscilla was truly an artist.
He noticed the jewels and thought they looked familiar. He mentioned that his store had been robbed a few months ago and the thief had made off with some jewels that he was storing for Mrs. Penelope Crane while she was traveling to Europe. Mrs. Crane had taken her authentic jewelry with her along with her body guard. Normally, the jewelry was kept in the safe at the jewelry store but they were exchanged for the paste ones the day before the heist. He had also stored a pouch with some beautiful, but imitation stones that looked a lot like the ones in the ornaments in front of him.
Priscilla felt terrible. These stones belonged to her friend Harry. “Why didn't she think to ask him about them? Who would have thought a pouch from Greensboro would end up on the shores of Lake Camden?” She explained about running the ad in the paper and visiting with sheriff Mendenhall. Priscilla wanted to pay Harry for the stones but he insisted they were his contribution to these beautiful keepsakes for the children.
Eb, who was hiding in the bushes heard every word of the conversation inside the store. His heart sank. He had stolen fake jewelry and had turned it over to his boss. Ronald Crump was not the type of man who would understand that Eb had made an honest mistake. He even had one of his henchmen pick up a Greensboro newspaper and that was where he read about the silk pouch that was stolen along with the jewelry. He was giving Eb fair warning that the pouch must be found and brought to him before the end of the week. The article in the paper didn't say anything about the jewels being paste. They probably didn't want to alert any other thieves that Mrs. Crane had the real stuff with her.
Eb decided he'd better take off on his horse riding west and just keep riding. When Mr. Crump caught up with him he would be toast anyway. That's exactly what he would do but not before he stopped into the Pub for one last beer.
Harry said goodbye to the Pringles. He had some other friends he wanted to visit while he was in Camden Corners . He stopped in O'Sullivan's Pub. Gus Reilly was working that Monday morning. While he and Gus were talking, Harry noticed a nervous looking man sitting at the end of the bar. He matched the description of the thief who had broken into his store a month ago.
Gus stepped out of the bar and flagged down Sheriff Mendenhall. He explained the situation and the sheriff approached Eb. Panic set in and Eb took off out the front door of O'Sullivan's leaving a full mug of beer on the bar.
He raced down the street to find his horse when Rudy who had been laying by the front door of the Snowflake Christmas Shop suddenly took off after Eb catching him by the seat of the pants.
Eb confessed his crime and many others that sunny Monday morning. A little nip on the backside and a few years in the state prison were nothing compared to the punishment Ronald Crump would have subjected him to. Rudy was the town hero and was allowed to ride next to his friend Spot on the front seat of the fire truck in the Christmas parade that year. The same year the children of Camden Corners all received their special Christmas ornaments lovingly made by Priscilla Pringle with the help of Mr. Ebeneezer Finch.