Sophie and Parker were desperate. They laboured on the riddle for over a week on the riddle; alas, without success.
Then Sophie offered, “Perhaps we should ask my dad to help. You know how he likes riddles.”
“Are you crazy?” said Parker. “What are we going to say, ‘Oh, we broke into the courthouse and found a secret room with a treasure riddle in it and we need your help.’ Is that what you would say? Oh, why don’t you just make an appointment now for the guillotine?”
“Parker, Parker, Parker. We have to tell them sometime. I’m not going to live with this secret forever. I can’t be happy like this. Besides, maybe people think this is a wonderful mystery.”
“Sophie, Sophie, Sophie, am I doomed to suffer for your conscience sake?”
“No Parker, you are doomed to suffer for your choices, as I will suffer for mine; like when I follow your lead.”
“Oh! So you’re going to tell me that I’m the one who looked for secret hiding places the first day we arrived,
and started tearing out the tunnel wall last year.”
“No, Parker, that’s not what I meant. I’m just saying that if this riddle leads us to treasure, the complete story will have to be told. And you know it’s true.”
“I suppose you’re right. I just hope we find something worth the punishment. Maybe then everyone will go easier on us.
Well, let’s set a date to face the executioner.” Parker said in his most macabre tone of voice.
“Oh, we’re not going to tell my folks about the courthouse at first. I hope to find the treasure before we ‘fess up about that. I’m going to make a photocopy of the treasure page to show dad and go from there, hoping he doesn’t ask where it came from.”
Sophie used the library copier to made photocopies of all six pages, though she only planned to show her dad the last page. That evening, with great trepidation, Sophie and Parker went into the living room with the photocopied riddle page. Sophie’s dad was in his chair reading the paper.
“Good Greetings, my Sire.
Sophie's dad looked up and gazed at her.
"Alas, we humbly beseech thine aid.
There exists, Sire, a mystery in this fair hamlet;
a riddle from times past, that defies all the worthy minds that endeavour to decipher it.
I prithee, canst thou grace us and cast a wise eye on our dilemma
and perchance tell us forthwith, of what the riddle on hither parchment doth speak, oh mine fath’r?"
Sophie’s dad just stared at her for another minute, and then gave her an amused smile.
“Valorous, beloved poppet. I knew not that thou didst listen when I read Shakespeare to thine moth’r.”
Parker looked confused.
Sophie’s dad scrutinized the page and read the teaser poem:
"Many’s the mile I traveled when young;
Ate hotcakes and corn mush; 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."
“That’s intriguing.” her Dad said said with a furrowed brow. “This letter is pretty old, but is not high literature.
The writer spoke about miles traveled, about sleeping on trains. He may have been a veteran, since he slept in the mud.
Only soldiers, fugitives and inept campers sleep in the mud.”
“He was a simple man in a rural setting, given what he ate and drank, and that he had mouth injuries.
He was a poor man, likely with a fifth grade to eight grade education. He can write, but not like Shakespeare.
This, Parker should tell you why school is important, even if it isn’t always exciting.”
“This man was a common laborer the most of his working life, probably without a family, at least in his later years. That’s why there is a treasure to locate. If he had a living wife, his ‘treasures’ would have been sold to help support her. Finally, his poem speaks of the riddle that follows it.”
“Wow, Uncle Jon, that’s a lot of information from one little poem.” said Parker, truly amazed.
“Thank you. Now then, this man, who was a poor man, has left behind a box of unknown size, filled with unknown items,
with an unknown but undoubtedly modest value. Do we really want to pursue such an enterprise?”
“YES!!!” cried out both Parker and Sophie with a loud voice.
“Well, then,” replied Sophie’s father, “Since we have a majority vote, let us move forward with this project.”
Then he continued to read:
“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.”
“Wow. You say this is a local riddle?” Sophie’s dad asked them.
“VERY local.” Sophie said, trying not to let her looks give anything away.
Parker stared at the curtains to avoid eye contact.
“OK, well I need to let this percolate for a few days and see what brews. I suppose you want to keep a low profile and not ask around town about it, eh. Say, just how did you find this?”
“Well, Dad, old towns often have old mysteries that become folklore that people think are unsolvable,
so yes, yes, we would like to keep this a secret, please.?..”
Sophie and Parker went to the basement to talk.
“OH! MY! GOSH!” Sophie said. “My knees shook that whole time.”
“What do we do now? Just wait?” Parker asked as they stood in the gathering area outside the old jail cells.
Either the secret is long gone or it is under our noses. And what was that gibberish you were talking with your dad?”
“That was Shakespeare’s English. He was a writer in olde Englande.”
“Shakespeare, eh? Did he shake a spear at people?”
Sophie and Parker had quite a day.
Now we need to look in on the Palmer sisters.
Eric J. Rose