Chapter 21: Reading the Papers


That night, after getting out of the courthouse, Sophie and Parker were too tired to look at the papers. 
They had too much excitement for one day. 

Sophie’s dad grilled hamburgers, and mom opened beans and potato chips. Both parents ate standing up, saying their backsides were sore from a day on their bikes. They participated in RAGBRAI three years ago, (look it up) when Sophie spent a month with Parker. Even so, they hadn’t cycled much lately. But they would do more more of it now, since they now live so close to a bike trail. 
Everyone was feeling grungy from their day of new adventures, and they all wanted to bathe or shower. 

They mapped out a schedule, leaving time for the water heater to recover. The guys took their showers first. 
The females wanted to take turns soaking. Parker was in his bedroom lying down with the book he found today. 
He had blown the dust off before he got into bed with the book. He thought about the thin mattress and the thinner blanket and wondered how someone could be comfortable like that. His mom told him that was how he lived in the orphanage, when they met him. He didn't remember it.

Parker opened the book cover and saw some old-fashioned writing that said,
“To Barton, Merry Christmas. Rev. Oglethorpe, 1887.” 

Parker read about Jacob Marley and of course, that night he dreamed that his face was the door-knocker on the Stricklund Building. It seems that anything Parker thinks about, winds up in his dreams. 

Sophie had her bath, got dressed for bed and wanted to talk about her day. But who could she talk to? Not her parents; and Parker was in bed with the door shut. No light came out from under his door, which meant that Parker wasn't the Ghost of Christmas Present. He was asleep. 
Aaargh! 
She thought about peeking at the papers, but decided against it. 
She was too tired to read, but not too tired to talk. 
Sophie’s dad said that her mom could talk even as she was falling asleep. 

Sophie’s mom once said, “Every marriage should have a certain number of words spoken each day, and if the man won’t speak enough words, then it’s the woman’s duty to carry the load.” And she managed that quite handily.

The next morning, Sophie lay awake in bed and thought about looking at the old papers. The bundle had six pages of old writing papers and she could tell they were fragile. She read a website from the US National Park Service about how to relax old, folded and rolled documents. Downstairs in the craft room, she slid the papers apart, and then dusted them with a soft,dry paintbrush so they wouldn’t get muddy when they were humidified. Parker made a crude humidification chamber with a cardboard box and Sophie's old allergy breathing machine she used when she was younger. Once in the machine, the pages became pliable, so she could unfold them. Then Sophie weighted them down with paper towels between them. Sophie sighed, knowing it would be another two nights and a day before they could look things over. 
Parker and she went outside so they could talk with a regular voice without being overheard. 
Secret Societies do that sort of thing.

“Wow!” said Parker. “We found no money or treasures but we had a pretty cool adventure.” 

“Yes, who knew there was a hidden room in the attic of the courthouse? I can’t wait to see what the papers say. 
Who wrote them and why were they hidden like that? When I lifted the top of the dresser, I was hoping there might be old, hidden money or something, but I guess that was too much to ask of someone who seemed to be so poor. I wonder how he got in and out without being noticed.” 

“Yeah, that was a pretty thin blanket. With furniture like that, we couldn’t expect much.” Parker replied.
“When are we going to read the papers, or have you snuck ahead of me and done that already?” 

“No!" said Sophie. "They should be dry enough to handle Tuesday morning, and Mom is working in the quilting store then, so we can use the kitchen table to spread the papers out.” 

Time went slow for Parker and Sophie. They were each tempted at different times to peek at the papers, 
but when one was weak, the other encouraged the other to wait so the papers wouldn’t be damaged. 
Finally, Tuesday arrived. 

Anyone can travel into the future; they just have to wait for it to come to them. 

Each page of the papers had different topics, so Parker and Sophie struggled to put them into sequence. 
Finally, they decided that the timeline should go like this: 

Page 1: This page named the author and about his childhood. 
Page 2: His young adult years, including his military service. 
Page 3: Secret friends he had in another state. 
Page 4: His later years. 
Page 5: His philosophy about women and marriage. 
Page 6: The directions to a box of things no one knew anything about. 

They decided to focus on the final page, which held directions to a box of his possessions. 

The man’s name was Barton Clements. The final page said: 

"Many’s the mile I traveled when young, 
Ate hotcakes and corn mush and sometimes beef tongue, 
Slept in trains, wagons, on dry ground and mud, 
I’ve tasted water, cider and even my blood. 
My pockets have been empty most all of my days, 
I worked for the least of what someone would pay. 
Now most of what I own is in a box made of wood, 
Hid in a place you’d find if you could.
I’ve made a riddle to solve, and to solve is to find, 
all of the treasures that I call mine." 

The page went on to say: 

"There is a place three high, with three on the top on three on the bottom. 
In the top of the three, life has been made. 
In the bottom of the three, life is hard. 
Even so, them in the top of the three have fed them in the bottom of the three. 
In the top of the bottom of the three, there is a place that holds my treasures, such as they be. 
Go down, go down and search for a seam. My treasures sit beside an old beam." 

“Oh no!” moaned Parker. “This might as well be written in German. How will we decipher this?” 
“I don’t know.” whispered Sophie, very discouraged. “We’re sunk.” 

Eric J.Rose
middlegrademysteries.com
photo: https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/7.-conservation-procedures/7.2-surface-cleaning-of-paper
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