The treasure

about a little puzzle box

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1. Part 1

My name is Edward I live in Bedfordshire which is a county of England. My family have lived in the same house for many generations. When father died I was rather surprised to hear that he had left me anything in his will, as he had already given over the family home ages ago, and thankfully, lived long enough for me to avoid paying inheritance tax. 

It seemed he had left me a sealed envelope, together with a box and what was left of his money. The family solicitors, Jenkins and Jenkins, after reading the will had passed both items over to me, together with their bill for settlement. There was no money left, which I already knew. It was long gone; all spent on paying for his needs, as he got older.

The box contained another box stored in a pure silk drawstring bag; this second box was beautifully made. Its teak surface was highly decorated and it felt so smooth that the joints merged into one another. I could see no way to open it. Maybe something in the envelope would explain.

The contents of the envelope, when revealed, were fascinating and a bit bizarre. It contained a map of a house and an estate with notations written on it. What they meant were beyond me.

On the reverse, my father had written an account of his search. Apparently the house was ours, without the modern extensions, and the grounds were larger. Another account was by his father, my grandfather and so on back through many generations. All wrote about the same thing. The family had lost an heirloom of great wealth. No mention was made as to what it might be. There was, however, a vague reference dating back to the early eighteenth century about a puzzle box that had been discovered.

When I showed my wife, Fiona, the things left by father, she laughingly pointed out that it would give me something to do. She was referring to my being made redundant from the city, albeit with a large pay out. I was at present resting and had been enjoying the time spent getting to know my young family. That was until Fiona got involved with some charity thing that temporally took up a lot of her time.

I had been left to cope with looking after our twin boys, Johnny and Sam. They were on holiday from Kindergarten for a week and were driving me crazy. Jack, my teenage son from my first marriage, was going through his rebellious stage and was also causing me grief.

Both map and box soon became a focal point of our coffee evenings. Friends studied the map, shook the box to see if it rattled, and even tried to open it with brute strength. To no avail, it would not budge.

On one such evening I had to go upstairs to sort out the twins who were still awake. On returning I found Fiona telling her brother off, instead of drinking his coffee, she had caught him in the act of taking whisky, which was bad for his health. ‘Damn his health’, I thought. I was horrified that he had splashed my little box with soda water. The surface looked ruined, He was most apologetic but I was still unhappy, the only consolation being that the map was nowhere near it.

Later, after everyone had left, I picked up my damaged little box. ‘Damn the man’, I thought. I was also angry at myself. The box had survived hundreds of year and I had not taken care of it. I sat there wondering what could be done. On closer inspection I saw that the water damage when dried had left some marks that had not been visible before. Could they possibly be letters?

I had a jeweller’s glass somewhere. The only trouble was finding it. Since the twins most things had been put away for safety. It was well after midnight before I found the eye glass and used it to look at the box. I confirmed that the marks were indeed letters cut into the wood. In fact, under the glass, I could make out other letters not visible to the naked eye. I decided to note them all down indicating where they were found on the box. To my disappointment they were just a jumble of letters, no words.

I soon forgot all about the box. The next day was the twin’s third birthday party. I had bribed Jack, who was home from boarding school, to be the entertainment; he would do magic tricks. To my surprise he did rather well. Even though it had cost me money, I was really proud of him and told him so. That was a big mistake. Instead of being pleased he felt insulted, as though I had thought he would be rubbish.

I had recently been informed by his Head Master that Jack’s getting into trouble was my fault. It was a cry for my attention. I had to admit I had become a workaholic after his mother’s death. The road accident was over six years ago. I had moved on. Apparently he had not. I was at a loss of what to do about it.

Several weeks later, at a coffee evening when a guest asked to see the map. It suddenly clicked that the box and map had to be used together.

The following morning I found it was very easy once I realised that the ‘v’ carved into the end of the box represented a valley. This corresponded to the notation written on the map which read, ‘at the end of journey, push onwards to the valley’ with an arrow pointing left beside it.

I pushed the middle of the end panel with the letter ‘v’ left and it moved.

Following that it read ‘When you reach the overhang go down’.

The piece I had moved left was now overhanging the side of the box, so I pushed down. It all worked.

The last notation read ‘Now all the way down to the sea once more and you will find the treasure’.

I slid the top off the box and to my amazement there was a diamond encrusted ring wedged inside. It had a red ruby set in its centre.

I could not contain my excitement so I awoke Fiona, who had fallen asleep after lunch. She was not well pleased until I showed her the ring. Later that same day, whilst out shopping, Fiona had the ring valued and was very disappointed when she found it was almost worthless. Especially as, according to the plaque attached to the painting of my Tudor ancestor hanging over the fireplace, it had been presented to her by the Queen for services rendered. Therefore, it should have been worth a small fortune.

I had decided before putting the paperwork away to follow tradition. As my father before me, I was writing the account of how I found the missing ring on the back of the map, when it hit me that I had only solved half of the puzzle. Why would the box have letters on both sides?

A thought crossed my mind. I picked up the paper I had copied the lettering on and, yes, I had been right. The letters were the same on both sides.

Taking up the box once again with some anticipation I tried the other end. It would not budge.

It worried me all day long until a vague memory came back to me about a camera my father once had. You looked down into the view finder and if you wanted to move the picture left, you moved the camera to the right, and vice-versa. Maybe it was the same with the box? Everything had to be done in reverse on the other side.

Using this method I successfully opened the other side of the box. It contained a single piece of paper. Written on it was ‘insert the key, blood to blood, and push’. Leaving everything on the desk, including the ring, I walked away in disgust. It was like doing a cross word puzzle. Anyway it was time I collected the twins.

Sam had rushed through as I opened the front door. He always had to be first in. Johnny followed, but tripped, and I had to give him a cuddle to stop him crying. ‘Oh hell’, I thought. Sam was jumping up and down calling “Daddy, daddy! Look what I’ve found.” He was wearing the ring on two of his little fingers. I refrained from shouting and asked nicely for it back. Laughing he said “No” and ran off with Johnny following. It was game time; they were to hide and I was to seek.

We played for a while, till they got bored and I caught up with them in the hall. Where I got the ring back I thought ‘thank goodness it was safe!’ Then it was Johnny this time jumping up and down. He was pointing at the painting. He was telling me he could see the ring, the same one I was holding.

He was right, it was the same. I took a closer look. The ruby was poorly painted. I had always thought it was poor restoration work, but on looking closer it resembled blood.

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