About 65 years ago…

Thirteen-year-old Hanneke Sickel tucked the small, wooden box under her arm and crept down the stairs. She could hear her mother singing in the kitchen as she worked, and smell the sweet fragrance of the cookies as they baked. She should, by rights, be helping with the day’s baking, but her mother had turned her out of the kitchen in frustration about a quarter-hour earlier.

You will never make a good wife, if you don’t learn how to cook! And you will never learn to cook, if you don’t listen when I try to teach you!

The words echoed around in Hanneke’s head. Did she even want to be a wife? Wouldn’t it be better to live a life of adventure and never have to slave over a hot stove? She left the house by the front door, to avoid her mother’s attention, and made her way out to the shed.

She hesitated at the door, taking one last look over her shoulder at the yellow brick house behind her. But even though the kitchen window looked this way, her mother did not seem to notice what she was doing. Taking a breath, she pushed open the door and stepped inside.

A soft sigh escaped Hanneke’s lips. This was her father’s special place. Here, he worked with his hands to make or repair things. And now, he lay upstairs in the big bed, terribly ill and, though the doctor didn’t say it, possibly dying. It wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair, either, that she was the only surviving child of the family. Or that she had to put up with that terrible boy, Felix Sollenberger, who kept telling all the other boys that he was going to grow up to marry her, just so that he could own her house. Her house.

She peeked out through the shed’s window at her home, which had been in the family for generations. But there would be no more generations of Sickels. She had no brothers, no cousins. And one day she would be expected to marry one of those boys from the other Dutch families: Roeland Lietz or Nicolaas Geurink or Gustav Vanderpoel.

“No one can make me!” Hanneke declared aloud. “I don’t have to be anyone’s wife.”

She set down her box on the neat work table, hitched up her skirt and climbed up next to it. Up there in the rafters, she knew, would be a perfect hiding place. Her head nearly brushed the shed’s low, raked roof as she stood there, choosing just the right spot.

“There! In the corner!” she decided, in an excited whisper.

She stooped to pick up the box from next to her feet and made to slide it into the space behind the last bearer. Her father never stored anything there, as he had learned from experience that things easily fell into the space behind it, but were very difficult to get back out.

At the last moment, she stopped and bit her lip. She might never see these things again, so perhaps she should take one last look. Her thin fingers eased off the lid and she stared at her treasure.

Well, she called it her treasure, but it wasn’t really. If she had a real treasure – diamonds and gold and silver and jewels – she wouldn’t want to hide it in an old shed. But she wanted there to be adventure in the world and hidden treasure must be the most exciting adventure of all. So, out of her scant belongings she had assembled a treasure of her own, for someone else to find one day.

Hanneke examined each item, then tucked them back in the box. She fitted the lid on top and then pushed it into the gap between the rafters until it dropped over the back of the bearer into that mysterious space where the roof met the wall.

“There. That’s done.” She clambered back down to the floor and checked to see that nothing looked out of place. “It may not be my adventure, but it’s one more adventure to be had and surely that means there’s one somewhere that might be mine.”

She closed the shed door carefully behind herself and returned to the house, which nestled at the edge of the woods. As she opened the door, she took a long breath of the scented air and admitted to herself that it might be a good idea to learn how to make cookies. Because, even if she wasn’t going to be someone’s wife, she still would like to eat them herself.

“Mama!” she called, as she ran lightly back into the kitchen. “I think I might be able to listen better, now.”

“Wash your hands, first,” her mother directed, smiling. “I’m sure, if you try again, you might just get them right, this time.”

Approximately 65 years later …

Trixie bounded down the stairs with an enthusiasm she hadn’t exhibited in almost three months. It was good to be home and at Crabapple Farm and to add to the joy of her first visit home since starting college, all of the Bobwhites would be there this Thanksgiving. She practically danced her way into the kitchen, enthusiastically greeted her parents, and plopped herself at the kitchen table with such aplomb her father smiled fondly.

“Good morning, Princess,” he said putting down his coffee mug. “You seem particularly happy this morning.”

“I am,” she admitted. Looking slightly abashed she looked over her shoulder at her mother who was standing at the stove. “Sorry Moms, I should’ve asked if you needed any help.”

“Not a bit,” Helen replied smoothly. She was as happy as Trixie to know that for the first time in quite some time all her chicks were home and sleeping under her roof. “It’s simple this morning, oatmeal for everyone.”

Trixie had already surmised as much, not that oatmeal gave off the kind of aroma that would clue her in, but the fact that the table was scattered with blueberries, dried fruits, brown sugar, and a pitcher of cream. Not to mention the platter of bacon and bowl of yogurt. It was how her mother had always served oatmeal.

“Yummy, yum, yum!” she replied, wiggling, and shifting in her seat to settle in for the morning meal. “It sounds delicious.” There was quiet for a few moments as Trixie worked to doctor the bowl of oatmeal her mother set in front of her to her liking. After the first bite, she closed her eyes and savoured the home-cooked goodness she had long taken for granted at Crabapple Farm. There was simply nothing at college that could compare. Not even late-night pizza from her favourite take-out joint.

“It’s great, Moms!” she said a few bites into it. “What do you need from me today?”

“Oh, I think as long as you take care of the mountain of laundry you brought home with you in that duffle bag, I won’t need anything from you today. You go find out what Honey and Di are up to, and the rest of the Bob-Whites.”

While she would never admit it to Trixie, she wanted the kids out of her way today. She did indeed want them all home, but today she sorely needed to think about her shopping list for the Thanksgiving Open House, double-check what she had on hand, and what was still needed to prepare. She had done it for so many years, she was comfortable with the work, but she didn’t want distractions today. It would be the day to bring the birds out of the freezer and start defrosting them. The list for preparation for the Saturday before the open house was long.

“If the Bob-Whites decide to do something today, you might want to consider including your younger brother,” she said mildly to Trixie, sitting at the table herself to enjoy a cup of coffee while her daughter ate.

“Like what do you mean?” Trixie asked, a little bit surprised.

“If you go to the movies or something like that,” Helen replied. “He’s missed you as much, if not more, than your father and I have.”

“Oh,” Trixie put down her spoon and considered this news. As exciting as it had been for her to leave for her freshman college experience, she hadn’t thought about how Bobby might feel.

“And if you decide to get out and about, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to call on Mrs. Vanderpoel,” Peter Belden interjected. “Last I heard from Dr. Ferris he was getting a bit concerned about her.”

“Concerned? What do you mean?” Trixie was now concerned as well. Hanneke Vanderpoel was as dear of a neighbour and friend of the Bob-Whites as any of the other citizens of Sleepyside.

“Well Trixie she is getting up there in age,” Helen reminded her. “She seems more frail than usual.”

Frail? Frail was not a word that Trixie would have ever associated with the feisty old lady who hadn’t hesitated to pull out a shotgun and point it at an intruder. “You bet, Dad. That would be a lot of fun to go see her,” glancing at her mother she added, “and we can take Bobby with us.”

Helen and Peter exchanged a look and shared a smile. Trixie’s enthusiasm for life was unchanged and she finished her oatmeal before excusing herself to look for her brothers. All of them. It was shaping up to be a good day.

“And since you mentioned it, exactly where are my brothers?” Trixie asked as she pulled a slice of bacon from the platter on the table. It was entirely too full for Mart to have eaten breakfast already.

Helen laughed and waved a hand towards the upstairs. “Every single one of them is still in bed! Why do you think this table is still full of food?”

Less than an hour had transpired since Trixie left the breakfast table at Crabapple Farm. There had been some vigorous knocking on bedroom doors, a few phone calls, and text messages and she and all her brothers were making their way to the Manor House. A dusting of snow earlier in the week had left a white presence on almost everything. It gave an appearance of sifted powdered sugar on top of grass, trees, and shrubbery. It was just enough to look like winter was on its way to Westchester County.

“We need to make sure Regan doesn’t want us to exercise the horses,” Brian reminded her. “That should be more important. He hasn’t had any help.”

“Yes, he has,” Bobby protested. “We’ve been helping. Me, Larry, and Terry. We’re not that young!”

“Of course, you’re not,” Brian replied. “I’m sure Regan appreciates it. But we should ask him, don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” Bobby admitted, kicking a rock out of the way. “Regan is the best.”

Trixie and her older brothers felt a sense of satisfaction that at least in their absence Bobby had Larry and Terry to count on as well as the Wheeler’s groom, Regan.

“Do you think Mrs. Vanderpoel will have cookies?” Bobby asked. “Moms and Dad have been saying that she wasn’t her old self.”

“Well for goodness sake, don’t ask for cookies!” Trixie said. “It will make her feel bad if she doesn’t have any for us.”

“I guess we’ll find out when we get there,” Mart said, never willing to admit he’d been wondering the same thing. Mrs. Vanderpoel’s windmill cookies, not to mention the many others that she’d made over the years, were something that still haunted his dreams while he was at college. Not even the cookies that some of the talented co-eds made and sold for two dollars apiece came close to the rich golden goodness of Mrs. Vanderpoel’s sweet treats.

The front door of the Manor House swung open, and Honey Wheeler sprinted out, racing toward her best friend. “Trixie!” she squealed as the two friends met in a hug. “I’ve missed you so much!”

Trixie hung on for dear life. Their respective decisions about college had meant the two close friends were separate for the first time in five years. Honey electing to attend a different university. While they continued to talk daily, cell phones and other technology made it easy for all the Bob-Whites to remain in touch, they still missed the physical presence of seeing each other almost every day.

Jim had made it as far as the porch and looked fondly at the two girls, remembering fleetingly that summer over five years ago where he had met them both. He couldn’t help but compare the last Thanksgiving he had spent with Jonesy with today. It was hard at times to appreciate his good fortune.

The group made their way inside, laughing, joking, and, yes, even the guys hugging as they greeted each other. It had been early summer since all seven of them had been together and it was less than three minutes before Dan and Di arrived for the hugs, laughter, and hellos to start all over again.

Because they needed to plan the morning, they made their way into the spacious kitchen, where Cook made a fuss over making sure they all had either a mug full of rich hot chocolate or steaming coffee, depending on their preference. As she fussed, both Margery Trask and Bill Regan came in, where they learned that exercising the horses should wait until afternoon, and then he wouldn’t need them all. He confirmed what Bobby had told his siblings.

“I’ve had some help with all of you gone,” he spoke, giving Bobby a smile. “The BLT has been helping me out quite a bit.”

“The BLT?” Dan asked. “What’s the BLT?”

He grinned. “My name for Bobby, Larry, and Terry, it’s easier than calling out all the names. The girls are taking riding lessons now too, but they only come once a week. Actually,” he paused and looked at the kitchen clock. “I need to go and get ready for them. Saturday is their lesson, that’s why afternoon is better.” He excused himself and made his way toward the stable.

“I didn’t know your sisters were taking riding lessons?” Mart said to Di. “Are they going to get horses too?”

Di shook her head. “Daddy says not yet. He wants to make sure they really like it first. Besides, we still have Sunny and all four of them take care of her. Mummy says that Regan checks in on her as well.”

Miss Trask joined the conversation; placing her hand on Bobby’s shoulder, she remarked. “Regan does seem quite happy with the help he gets from Bobby, Larry, and Terry. We all appreciate their help because I’m sure you all remember well that if Regan isn’t happy—”

A chorus of voices finished for her. “Nobody’s happy!”

The group laughed and looked around at each other. There was complete consensus among all the friends. It was good to be together again.

“So, do we all agree it would be a good day to visit Mrs. Vanderpoel?” Trixie asked after the issue of whether to exercise the horses had been settled.

A chorus of “yes, yes!” gave her the answer she’d hoped for.

“Do you all want to walk through the woods?” Jim suggested. “It’s a beautiful sunny day, in spite of the dusting of snow.”

“We’re all prepared to be outdoors for a couple of hours,” Honey added. “Or at least, if anyone thinks they need another coat, hat, gloves, or whatever, I’m sure we have something here for anyone. Or if we don’t, we could take a detour to the person’s house.”

Everyone laughed; it was true that the Manor House mudroom boasted a variety of outerwear in all sizes from the elementary school-aged Lynch twin girls to big and tall men’s sized gear that Jim wore for day-long hunting expeditions or driveway-clearing chores.

Since everyone was already dressed for the weather, in only a few minutes the group was on their way. Bobby Belden frequently ran ahead on the trail that led through the woods, finding, and carrying back various treasures he found.

“Look at this!” he cried after one such expedition. “It’s a buckeye. They’re supposed to bring good luck. Maybe it’ll help me get a good grade on my math test next week.” He held the irregularly rounded nut with its circular, light tan basal scar out so that all of them could see it.

“It’s unusual to find a buckeye tree or nut this far east,” Brian said thoughtfully. “We should keep our eyes peeled for a tree.”

Bobby dropped the nut into his pocket. “Maybe that’s part of the luck,” he offered, galloping ahead again.

However, they didn’t see another buckeye nut or tree before reaching Mrs. Vanderpoel’s neat little yellow house twenty minutes later.

“Good morning!” Little Mrs. Vanderpoel opened the front door to Brian’s knock, her face wreathed in smiles for the Bob-Whites and Bobby. “How nice that you’re here, just when I’ve taken a fresh batch of windmill cookies from the oven. Please, please come inside, all of you.”

“Yummy-yum!” Trixie exclaimed, slipping off her own jacket and holding out her hands for Bobby’s. Mart leaned over the hot baking sheets sitting out to cool on the elderly lady’s sturdy kitchen table. He inhaled the fragrance of the spicy cookies, eyes closed in bliss.

“My dear little sister is undeniably accurate,” he intoned.

“There are plenty for all of you,” Mrs. Vanderpoel said. “And I made them especially because I knew you were coming—Mrs. Belden called earlier. I’m hoping you will be able to do a job for me while you’re here.”

“Of course, Mrs. V.” Dan had also removed his jacket, and taken it, along with the girls’ outerwear, to place in a pile on the sofa in the cozy living room. “What can we do for you today?”

Jim, Brian, and Mart all nodded.

“Do you need us to chop some wood?” Jim offered.

“Or bring in a load?” Brian asked.

“Or carry your trash cans out to the road?” Mart added.

“Land sakes, no!” Mrs. Vanderpoel threw up her hands. “Spider and Tad Webster take good care of me when it comes to anything like that. One or the other, or both of them, are here at least once a week to check on me and take care of regular chores. No, I’ve been thinking about something else. Please sit down in the dining room, and I’ll tell you about it.”

They all trooped into the dining room, but it was still rather crowded, without a seat for each of the eight visitors. Dan carried in two chairs from the kitchen for himself and Bobby, and Mrs. Vanderpoel began to talk.

“Most of you know, I think, that I’ve lived in this house all my life,” she began. “I’ve been by myself for the last thirty years, and I don’t have any children to pass this place on to. Lately, it’s been getting harder to keep up with everything that goes to maintaining this house and property. I’ve been giving thought to moving into one of the new patio home units just outside of town.”

She pulled a tissue from her apron pocket and dabbed at her eyes. “I won’t pretend, it’s hard to think of leaving my lifelong home.”

“You don’t have to leave!” Trixie sprang up and threw her arms around her beloved neighbour. “The Bob-Whites will be glad to help with chores and such things.”

But Brian was shaking his head. “Trix, let Mrs. V speak. You know we’re all committed to our schooling for the next few years. This is the first time we’ve all been home in several months.”

“Yes, I don’t know if it’s realistic to say we could take on more.” Jim smiled at Trixie to take the sting out of his words. “Let’s hear her out.”

“Trixie, I appreciate what you’re saying and how you feel,” Mrs. Vanderpoel said, patting Trixie’s arm as the young girl sat back down. “I haven’t decided on anything for certain. It’s hard to imagine leaving my home, and maybe I won’t end up doing it. But I do want to pare down some of the ‘things’ that are taking up space here, and that I wouldn’t have space for if I did end up moving.”

“You aren’t thinking of giving away your beautiful furniture, are you?” Diana gazed around at the shining, polished wood table and chairs in the neat dining room. A delicate hand-crocheted lace tablecloth covered the table. “Some of these pieces are valuable antiques.”

“No, I’m not planning to part with any of my furniture yet.” Mrs. Vanderpoel sighed. “That’s a decision that may come farther down the line. But I have four trunks out in the shed, where my father had his workshop. They’re filled with clothing and keepsakes from my parents, myself, and my husband. I need to go through those trunks and try to choose what I’d like to hold onto, and what can go. Some things may have monetary value, and selling them would make it easier for me to keep up with unexpected costs. Other things may be useful to someone else and could be donated to a good cause. And of course, some things may have deteriorated and need to be thrown away. Unfortunately, the trunks are too heavy for me to move, and working out in the shed isn’t practical in this weather. I wouldn’t be able to carry any of the trunks inside, even if they were empty.”

“I’m sure we can bring all of the trunks inside,” Mart said firmly. “Would you want us to put them into the second bedroom? They’ll be out of your way, and you can take your time in going through them.”

“We’ll probably need to knock some dust and cobwebs off before the trunks can be brought into the house,” Honey said.

“That would be marvellous,” the old lady sighed. “I know Spider and Tad would do it, but they’re rarely here at the same time, and of course, Tad is busy with college just as you all are. But would you like to have some cookies before starting on that chore?”

Bobby nearly jumped up, but Trixie fixed him with a look. “No, we’ll get right on that job. We can snack afterward. Right, Bob-Whites?”

“Of course.” Honey was already up. “Will you show us where we need to go?” She looked at Mrs. Vanderpoel.

Their roly-poly, white-haired neighbour stood. “Let me get some brooms and cloths to clean up the trunks. Boys, come onto the back porch with me and we’ll get a kerosene lantern and some flashlights. Just in case!”

Trixie could hardly believe she’d known Mrs. Vanderpoel all these years and had never noticed the sturdy shed behind the compact cottage, with its second story tucked under the humped roof. They all trooped out to the shed. Trixie had expected a space that was dusty and unused, but although it did look unused, it was just as neat as the inside of the neat cottage. Its single window, which looked back at the house, was clean and bright. Mrs. Vanderpoel pointed out the four trunks she wanted. As she was about to turn around and go back into the house, she glanced up at the eaves of the old building.

“I just remembered!” she exclaimed. “I put a box of treasures up there, in the space between the support beam and the rafters, when I was thirteen. I could just reach to drop it in when I stood on my father’s work table there. That was so long ago! I wonder if the box is still there.” She continued to stare speculatively at the spot. “Well, Papa always said it was a good place to hide something, but only if you never wanted it back. It was easy to drop something into the space, but almost impossible to get it out. Land sakes, I haven’t thought about that box in sixty years or more.”

“Wow!” Bobby said. “That would be kind of like a time capsule.”

“I suppose it would,” the old lady agreed. “It was a dream of mine to take flying lessons and become an aviator, like Amelia Earhart. But my mother thought that was a foolish dream, and especially after my father got sick, she wouldn’t even listen to the idea of my flying. Much too dangerous, she said. So I put my precious model airplane into my treasure box. It was a Lockheed Model 10-E Electra, like Amelia’s. I’d love to see that little airplane again. But I’m sure it’s rusted out and disintegrated years ago.”

Mrs. Vanderpoel dismissed the treasure box with a slight shrug of her shoulders before returning to her house. She was barely halfway there when Trixie jumped into action.

“A mystery box!” Trixie rubbed her hands together as she stepped over to the old work area in the shed. Without so much as a second thought, she clambered onto the workbench and started looking around in the rafters by the wall.

“I can’t see anything,” she moaned. “Does anyone have a flashlight?”

Jim quickly produced a small light, and Trixie shone it into the small gap she found where the rafters and joists met. She was just about to complain that nothing was there when she caught a glimpse of a dark shape. It almost looked like a shadow at first, but when she focused the light directly on the spot, the clear form of a small box materialized.

“Found it!” she exalted. But her joy quickly faded when she tried to retrieve the object. “It’s stuck.”

Jim set up a large step ladder that had been in the back of the shed and climbed up next to Trixie to take a look. He watched her struggle for a moment before trying to free the box himself.

“That really is stuck. I don’t see any way to get it out without breaking part of the shed.”

“Let me try.” All eyes turned to Dan, who had been observing quietly in the doorway. He flushed slightly before admitting, “I might have some experience getting hidden items out of impossible places.”

The rest of the Bob-Whites realized without asking when Dan had gained this experience, and everyone simply made room for him. He swung up onto the desk, assessed the situation, then leaned down to grab a couple of screw drivers. Using each one like a type of lever, Dan carefully shimmied the box up to the opening and back onto the ledge of the frame before grabbing it with one hand. He then handed the box to Trixie.

“All yours.” Without another word, he jumped down and stepped over to the first trunk. Trixie took the box with a massive grin, then stepped outside into the sunlight.

The box appeared to be a vintage storage box with a sliding lid. The outside looked like a dark oak of some kind. Trixie carefully slid off the lid and looked inside. What she saw made her gasp. Instead of the rusty and degraded object they had expected, each object seemed almost perfectly preserved.

“They’re perfect,” she exclaimed. “I don’t see any rust on the model plane, and this bead necklace and doll toy look great, too.”

“Wow, those are in great shape,” Honey declared once she had seen the items. “How did they stay so well preserved all these years?”

Brian and Mart had been looking over the lid from the box, and upon hearing her question, Brian answered, “I think this was an old candle box. It feels like there is some sort of wax coating on the inside, and Moms uses wax on some things to keep them from aging.”

“That would do it,” Jim agreed. “We should take them inside to Mrs. Vanderpoel.”

“What type of necklace is that?” asked Diana. Bobby peeked over her shoulder before jumping back and doing a sort of jig.

“They’re buckeyes!” He continued to bounce around as they took the box inside the house.

“Oh, my. That’s not a trunk!” Mrs. Vanderpoel exclaimed, as they trooped through the cottage door.

“Don’t worry; we’re still going to bring them in,” Trixie promised. “But we found your treasure box, and Dan got it out, and we wanted to show it to you right away.”

Their friend’s mouth formed an O-shape and her eyes widened.

Bobby bounced to the front of the group. “It’s got your model plane in it, just like you said, and a buckeye necklace and some other stuff.”

“Bring it in; bring it in,” the old lady urged. “Please, let me see.”

They all crowded back into the dining room, where Mrs. Vanderpoel sat down at the head of the table and unpacked her lost treasures. Her face creased into a smile, but her eyes misted with tears.

“I found a buckeye on the way here,” Bobby shared, heedless of the old lady’s emotions. He pulled it out of his pocket. “See?”

Mrs. Vanderpoel took a moment to examine it. “There’s only one place near here where buckeyes grow.” She ran her fingers over its glossy, brown surface, pausing on the pale patch on one side. “I don’t know if it would be from the exact same tree, after all this time, but it might be from a descendant of the tree my great-grandfather planted.”

“I guess that explains why it was there,” Dan commented. “I don’t think I’ve even seen one in the Preserve before.”

“We looked for the tree, but couldn’t catch sight of it,” Jim added.

“No, it wasn’t near enough to the trail for you to see it.” She frowned. “I don’t rightly know if the little path to the tree is still there. It’s so long since I went there. It was one of my secret places, you see, where no one could find me.”

“Oh, I’d love a place like that.” Trixie’s eyes shone as she thought of it. “It would have come in handy lots of times, when my brothers wouldn’t leave me alone.”

We could have done with somewhere like that for when you wouldn’t leave us alone,” Mart countered.

“I didn’t have any brothers or sisters to bother me,” Mrs. Vanderpoel explained, with a sad smile. “But I loved spending time under that tree. It had been brought here from far away and carefully tended. It seemed so unusual and exotic, I suppose.” Her face tinted pink. “Oh, it probably seems so silly to all of you. You’ve travelled to many far-off places. But I had lived my whole life here in this house and had never really been anywhere.”

“That’s not silly at all,” Honey assured her. “And I can see why this necklace was a treasure to you. I’m sure any time you see a buckeye, you think of that tree and all of the wonderful times you had there.”

The old lady looked away, with a faint smile. “I had a whole make-believe world there, when I was a girl. It was lovely and shady there in the summer. Then, when the weather turned cool, I would gather the nuts to make necklaces.”

Bobby’s eyes widened. “Did you make this one? Can you show us how, if we bring you the nuts? How do we get there? Can you show us the way?”

Mrs. Vanderpoel laughed. “No, child. These old legs won’t carry me that far. But let me think a little and I might be able to make some directions to it.”

“We’d appreciate it.” Brian smiled at her. “We’d like to go and take a look at least, when we’re finished here.”

She turned back to Bobby. “To answer your other questions, yes, I made this necklace and of course I’ll show you how to drill the holes. There’s everything we need out in the shed, but the nuts will need a few days to dry, so you’ll have to come back another day for that.”

“Great!” He bounced on the balls of his feet once or twice. “I want to make one for Moms. She sure needs luck for keeping up with all of us. If one buckeye is lucky, just think how good a whole necklace of them must be. I bet she’ll wear it every day!”

The other three Belden siblings shared a smile. Their mother, they knew, would express delight at such a gift, but she would not really want to wear something so knobbly. Her taste in jewellery tended to be much more understated.

Mrs. Vanderpoel put the necklace aside and instead examined the small doll. She had been carved from wood, with a simple painted face and hair, and roughly-made clothes. Her joints still moved when the old lady manipulated them.

“Amelia Earhart, of course,” she told the gathered young people. “I will admit that she’s too big to fit in the plane, and her hair is all wrong, but this is the doll I had. I made her outfit myself from scraps, as you can probably guess by looking at it.”

“I think she looks lovely,” Di told her. “And I couldn’t do half as good a job now, let alone when I was thirteen.”

Honey examined the small face. “She looks very old.”

Mrs. Vanderpoel shrugged. “I’m not sure where she came from; she was already old when I was a child, but then, so were most of my toys.”

“She might even be an antique,” Honey mused.

“Easily,” their friend agreed. She put the doll aside and picked up the plane. “This is smaller than I remember it being, but it looks just the same.”

“That might be valuable, too,” Mart suggested. “It’s in great condition.”

“Oh, I’ll keep these things,” Mrs. Vanderpoel told him, with a smile. “These are certainly treasures to me, whether they’re worth money or not. Thank you all for bringing them back to me.” She pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes. “This has been a day!”

“We’re just happy to have helped,” Trixie replied.

Mrs. Vanderpoel picked up doll, necklace and model, then arranged them on the massive sideboard. “They’ll look nice here, for the moment, I think.”

“Let’s get back to work, gang,” Jim suggested. “If we can get those trunks moved, maybe we can search for the tree and find those nuts for Bobby.”

“But wait,” Diana interrupted. “The box isn’t quite empty, yet.”

“What do you mean?” Trixie asked. She would’ve sworn the box was empty and she turned to look where Di was reaching inside the box. She shifted to step closer, as Di used a manicured fingernail to pry the object from the bottom of the box. It was almost the same color as the inside of the box, which was why no one had noticed it before.

“This!” Di smiled triumphantly and after a quick glance handed it to Trixie. “I need to wash my hands, it’s a little sticky.”

“Probably the candle wax,” Brian said.

“It’s a coin,” Trixie said slowly examining the item. “It must be someone important, Willem II Koning the Der Ned and then lots of letters.”

Mrs. Vanderpoel smiled as Trixie stumbled over the pronunciation. “That’s King William the second, Trixie, and that’s a Dutch Guilder, similar to … let me think… perhaps a dollar coin here although really worth more like a fifty cent piece. My grandfather gave me that when I was quite young, and I guess I forgot that I’d put that in there as well.” She laughed as she remembered. “I don’t think that I meant to leave it in the box. Most likely I was saving it to buy something, but that couldn’t be right either because I wouldn’t have been able to spend it at the shops here.”

“It looks really old,” Trixie remarked as she handed it to Honey, who also inspected the front and back before passing it along to Jim.

“What do the letters mean, Mrs. Vanderpoel?” Jim asked politely. “Those aren’t Roman numerals.”

“It’s Groot Hertog Van Luxemburg,” she said with a smile. “Or the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.”

“I get it,” Brian replied flipping the coin over. “King William the second, one Guilder, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. That’s really cool.”

“Are the Kings of the Netherlands named Willem?” Diana asked. “The current king is King Willem too.”

Mrs. Vanderpoel laughed. “Yes, as it comes to the Kingdom of the Netherlands there were three Willems or Williams. That was the tradition of the royal family, all of the sons were named Willem and the daughters Wilhelmina. You may remember Queen Wilhelmina. But the current King is known as William-Alexander. His mother, Queen Beatrix, abdicated a few years ago.”

“It looks really old,” Dan remarked. “When was this dude the king?”

“Let me think,” Mrs. Vanderpoel said. “The 1840’s if I remember my history correctly.”

Mart who now had the coin was studying it closely and for once not saying anything as he carefully studied the coin.

“Coins are a source of history, going far back in time,” Jim said. “But we’re not making any history here today unless we get those trunks moved.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Mart finally spoke. He cast a glance around the circle of friends. “You remember Mr. Quinn, right?”

“The coin collector,” Brian answered. “He loaned his collection to the school and there were several history lessons around it.”

“The one that was stolen,” Trixie answered excitedly. “Do you think this was stolen from him?”

Mart couldn’t stop the roll of his eyes. “Slow down, with the misapprehensions dear sibling. I do not think this coin was stolen from him. First, he doesn’t collect European coins. Second, why would someone steal a coin and place it in Mrs. Vanderpoel’s shed?” He shook his head. “The point is, if this is the coin I think it is, it’s extremely valuable. Like to the tune of six or more figures.”

“Gleeps,” Trixie uttered. The thought of that much money sending thoughts elsewhere. “That would mean …” her voice trailed off.

“It’s only a guilder, Martin,” Mrs. Vanderpoel reminded him. “That’s the equivalent of a fifty cent coin in America.”

“I think what Mart is trying to say is the coin is rare,” Di added. “Rare enough to be valuable.”

“Do you remember where it came from?” Dan asked.

“Why, yes,” she replied. “I do. My papa’s papa gave it to me when I was only a baby. My mama gave it to me when I turned ten and she told me stories about him.” She paused and gave a curious look at Mart. “It really can’t be worth that much, dear. It’s just a guilder.”

“Oh, but it can,” Honey assured her. “It really can.”

“And if it is,” Trixie interrupted. “That means …”

“It means you could be financially secure, if you did decide to leave your home.” Mart’s blue eyes blazed with excitement.

“You wouldn’t have to worry about making ends meet,” Honey added with a sympathetic smile. She laid a comforting hand on the old lady’s arm.

“Let’s not put the cart before the horse,” Jim cautioned. “If Mrs. Vanderpoel wants to consider selling her guilder, someone will need to have it appraised by an expert first. And it would be important to find the right selling venue, which I don’t think any of us can help with.”

“Mr. Quinn should be able to help with those things, though,” Diana offered. “He’s a real numismatist.”

Everyone stared at their black-haired friend, whose most famous attribute was mixing up words.

“What did you say?” demanded Mart.

“What’s a numis… numistatest?” Bobby asked.

“A numismatist is a fancy word for a coin collector. I’ve been in rehearsals for a play with the Dramatic Society at school,” Diana told them, blushing. “The prime suspect is a numismatist.”

“Di’s right.” Brian nodded. “Even if Mr. Quinn isn’t an expert on European coins, he probably knows another collector who is, and can put Mrs. Vanderpoel in touch with them.”

Mrs. Vanderpoel had been silent as the Bob-Whites discussed the potential value of her legacy coin. Now she cleared her throat and spoke up. “If the coin has monetary value, it probably won’t really change in the next few years. It came to me from my grandfather, and that gives it another kind of value for me. It’s small and doesn’t take up much space. For now, I’d rather just keep it, as long as it’s in a safe place. There are plenty of things in those trunks that take up space, and I’d like to get them sorted before I start thinking about selling my Opa’s coin.”

“You’re so right, Mrs. V.” Mart handed the golden coin to their hostess and pulled his cap back over his head. “Let’s get those trunks into the house, guys.”

He and Dan led the way and all seven of the Bob-Whites trooped back out to the shed, while Bobby settled down at Mrs. Vanderpoel’s table with a glass of milk and a windmill cookie.

By the time they had carried all four trunks inside, Mrs. Vanderpoel’s second bedroom was so full that there was little chance she would be able to find a place to set a chair as she sorted through their contents. The boys did some rearranging while Honey and Diana went back out to the shed, in order to leave it as neat and shipshape as they had found it. Trixie, who despised dusting, ran the dust mop over the shining wooden floors to remove any traces of dust or dirt carried in during the move.

“Now, you young people have been so kind!” Mrs. Vanderpoel’s eyes glistened behind her glasses. “Please, please, sit down and have some of these cookies.” She waved a hand at the table where the cookies were piled high on a platter, and seven glasses of milk had joined Bobby’s.

“Can you make a map for me?” Bobby asked her. He had finished his cookies, and only a few crumbs remained on his plate.

“Yes, I’ll draw it up while the Bob-Whites are eating,” she agreed.

By the time all of the Bob-Whites were finished with their cookies, Mrs. Vanderpoel had drawn a neat map, with her house in the center, and a neat pathway marked with arrows that went back to a specific tree. Most of the shrubs and trees on the way were also sketched in and labelled with their names.

“Thank you!” Bobby’s eyes were wide with excitement. Trixie felt like she could see the wheels turning in his mind as he planned a treasure hunt for the elusive buckeyes.

“Well, we’d better get going,” Brian said when everyone had finished their cookies and milk. The pile of cookies was down to almost nothing. “Unless there’s another job we can do for you, Mrs. V?”

“Land sakes, no!” the old lady exclaimed. “You’ve done so much already, and given me such good company. I look forward to seeing all of you again at the Open House on Thursday. Meanwhile, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy, thanks to your help.”

The eight young people donned jackets, gloves, and hats, and with a chorus of good-byes, they left the cozy cottage, taking their laughter and conversation with them.

Within two days, Hanneke Vanderpoel discovered that she had indeed forgotten most of the contents of her trunks. One was filled with dainty handmade garments intended for the infants who had never blessed her marriage to Gustav. Her Oma had made most of them; although she only lived a few years after Hanneke’s wedding, she was determined that if a child ever appeared, he or she would be well-clothed. Holding a tiny sleep saque in front of her, Hanneke sighed. She was certain no modern mother would use the nightgowns and sleep saques, every one of which would need ironing and lacked any stretch. As her grandmother sewed, Hanneke’s mother had crocheted small afghans and booties in soft pastel yarns, and sewed receiving blankets from outing flannel. The dainty hand-stitches were so small and even; she wondered how long each one had taken.

Maybe the local center for teen mothers would be able to take the blankets and afghans. She wasn’t sure if anyone would want the tiny garments. They might be good for doll clothes, though. She folded each item and placed them in neat stacks on the bed, separating the blankets from the baby clothes.

A photograph album was underneath the baby things. Hanneke gave a gasp of surprise when she opened the elaborately tooled dark green leather cover to see a photograph of her parents, dressed in the wedding style of nearly eighty-five years earlier. “I always wondered what happened to this album,” she murmured aloud. “How did it get into this trunk?”

She turned the rather brittle black pages one by one. Each page held four small prints; the vast majority were pictures of Hanneke herself. Hanneke as an infant, reclining in her mother’s lap while wearing a long, lace-trimmed gown and a matching bonnet. Her father stood behind her mother’s chair, looking down at his wife and child with a smile that blended love and pride. Knowing the long exposures necessary for flash photography during the period, she guessed he must have dropped his gaze from the camera at an inopportune time. “I’m glad he did, though!” she thought. “I wouldn’t trade anything for that look on his face.”

Hanneke, aged three, her hair a mass of ringlets, holding a kitten on each arm. Hanneke, aged seven, her blonde hair in two neat braids, ready to head off to the old one-room schoolhouse in the woods. The little girl’s face wore a broad smile, and it was clear she had recently lost her two front teeth. “I remember that Mama made my dress, and Papa my book-strap.”

Reluctantly, she closed the album. I’ll definitely keep that, so I can look at it any time, she decided. I need to spend time now deciding what I don’t want to keep.

By the day before Thanksgiving, Hanneke had investigated the contents of all four trunks. She was surprised to find a hand-carved Noah’s Ark set—and even more surprised to find that her Amelia Earhart doll must have been part of Noah’s family. She’d always known it was very old, but on the bottom of the ark she found a carved inscription: W. Leeuwens 1813. I wonder what Mama thought when she boxed up Oma and Opa’s household goods, she thought. Did she look for Amelia and couldn’t find her?

Mulling over the best decision about what to do with the gold guilder, she decided to contact Michael Quinn, the numismatist. Hoping he still kept a landline, she pulled out the Sleepyside telephone book. Slightly to her surprise, he answered.

“It’s hard to estimate the value of a single coin, especially without seeing it,” Mr. Quinn told her after she described it to him. “If it’s gold, it definitely has a worth, based on the weight of gold it contains. But some coins have a value over and above their weight in gold. Willem II only reigned for nine years, so fewer coins were struck during his reign, compared to Willem III’s, for example. Would you be comfortable meeting me at the Sleepyside Public Library on Monday, so that I can see it?”

“I can do that,” she answered. “Now, this may not be your area of expertise. But I have another question for you. I’ve discovered a number of antique handmade quilts, table linens, including handmade lace tablecloths, and samplers made by my grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and so forth. I would like to downsize some of my belongings and I don’t have the space to display everything. But I don’t know the best way to have them evaluated.”

“I know of an auction house in the city that specializes in many different kinds of antiques. I’ll bring you some phone numbers for them,” Mr. Quinn agreed. They agreed on a time to meet and she hung up the phone with a sigh of relief. Rubbing the king’s profile on the golden coin that had rested in her apron pocket since Diana had retrieved it from her treasure-box, she mulled over her next steps.

At the Belden Thanksgiving Open House the following day, Hanneke looked for Trixie and her friends. Brian and Jim were busy supervising the parking area and helping neighbors who needed to extricate themselves from their parking spots. She’d seen Diana tending to her two little sisters as the Lynch family passed through the buffet line. None of them looked as if they had a moment to chat just then. But she found Trixie, Honey, Mart and Dan in the cheery red-and-white kitchen, snatching a few minutes to eat.

“I want to thank you young people,” she started. “I’ve contacted Michael Quinn and am going to meet him at the library on Monday so that he can try to give me an estimate of its value.”

Trixie jumped up, clapping her hands. “I knew it! That coin is bound to be worth a fortune!”

Mart swallowed the bit of turkey sandwich he’d just taken, and joined in. “That’s awesome, Mrs. V!”

“Those trunks also contained a real treasure trove of antique handmade quilts and other textile items,” she continued. “Even though they were made by my ancestors, I don’t have the need or the space to use or display them. Whether the coin has tremendous value or not, it seems likely I can sell some of those things. I’m choosing to look at this as proof that my ancestors are looking out for me.”

“That’s beautiful, Mrs. V,” Honey exclaimed. “And I think you’re exactly right.”

“What do you think ended up being one of the most interesting finds?” Hanneke asked with a smile for all four Bob-Whites.

“What?” Dan asked.

“Well… remember my Amelia Earhart doll? It turns out she was most likely one of Noah’s family.” She chuckled. “I found a Noah’s ark set in one of the trunks, with my great-grandfather’s name inscribed into the bottom of the ark. The human figures were made exactly like my Amelia—so most likely she was actually one of Noah’s sons. I had always wondered just where she came from, so it was fun to discover that.”

The teens all laughed, and Hanneke joined in.

“Another mystery solved—if not directly by the Belden-Wheeler Agency, at least our intrepid sleuths played a role in deciphering a persistently cryptic enigma.” Mart winked at Hanneke as he made this verbose pronouncement.

“All’s well that ends well.” Trixie crossed her eyes at Mart, but her face glowed with real happiness. “I’m just glad that you’ll be able to have more options, if you decide you want to downsize.” She gave Hanneke a hug. “Something else to be thankful for!”

Accepting the hugs of all four Bob-Whites, Hanneke felt almost teary with joy. “Good neighbors are the best treasures of all.”


Author’s Notes

8556 words

Mary’s Notes:

This was such a fun story to work on, and the other members of our team had such creative ideas! It had been more than ten years since I’d participated in a true group story, so it was great to be able to stretch those writing muscles. Many thanks to Janice for getting the group together and keeping us all on task! A big Thank You as well to our teammates Annette (tbjffan) and Trish! Both of you are awesome and it’s a treat to be able to work with you.

Thank you to Fannie (jedi1ant) for a fantastic and speedy edit! You are so very much appreciated!

Another big Thank You to everyone who is reading—you don’t know how much your comments help and motivate us!

Janice's notes:

This story has been so much fun to work on! It's been a while since I did something like this. A big thank you to my team-mates, Mary, Trish and Annette. You made this such a fun and interesting process. I learned lots of things along the way. Another big thank you to our editor, Fannie. Your help is very much appreciated.

Thank you, also, to the CWE team (Vivian, Deanna and Mary C.) for issuing CWE#25: Every CWE Deserves a Second Chance... Bingo. We have met the requirements for three challenges. For #7 Shacks in the Preserve, we needed to write about a structure from the list supplied and for this we chose Mrs. Vanderpoel's house. For #8 There's No "I"!, our team needed to consist of two, three, or four people (there were four of us), we had to write in round-robin style, and not plan out our story beforehand. For #23 Time Flies Like an Arrow, Fruit Flies Like a Banana, we needed to have a team of at least two, feature at least one canon character and incorporate either time travel, a significant passage of time and/or time flying by fast (we chose the second option). The word count needed to be in the range of 2021-212021. A special thanks, too, to Vivian for giving us the idea of combining the two group challenges.

Disclaimer: Characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. All images from Pixabay and used in accordance with usage rights; manipulated by Mary N in Photoshop. Graphics copyright by Mary N 2022.

Copyright by Janice, Trish, Mary N, and Annette 2022.

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