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The Lawrence Children: Chapter 11

Good Job, Julie!

Julie lay in a frightened heap, crying. She was scared – it was dark and she was all alone.
She heard Fred-O calling for her but she couldn't stop crying to call for help.
His voice disappeared.
Now she was even more alone and her crying increased. Thoughts of her mother entered her little mind. She wanted her – but her mother had been gone a long time. And Julie couldn't understand why.
“Lucy!” Julie managed to shout between her sobbing. Lucy would take care of her if her mother couldn't.
Her arm hurt. She had fallen on it when she had leaned too far into the dark hole.
Julie heard footsteps.
“Julie!” It was Vern and Lucy and Ann and Noah and Fred-O. She could hear their footsteps on the shack floor, making a loud noise like wind.
“Julie,” Lucy called out.
Julie couldn't answer, only cry.
“Look!” Noah shouted. “The trap door is open.”
All the voices moved and crowded around the opening. Julie saw all of her siblings eyes staring down at her.
“Lucy! I want out!” Julie managed to say when she saw her older sister.
“She's down there!” Noah said. Relieved sounds spread throughout the older siblings.
“Can you stand up?” Vern called down.
Julie shook her head, not realizing they couldn't see her movements in the dark hole.
“Run back for a lantern,” Vern told Noah. “I need to be able to see her to get down.”
Noah jumped up immediately, dashing out of the shack.
“Julie, are you hurt?” Lucy said.
Julie held her arm with her other hand.
“That girl needs to learn to communicate,” Vern said frustrated. “How can we help her?”
“She can talk,” Lucy said. “Her communications are just different.”
That didn't seem to make Vern less upset. Julie was sorry Vern was mad. She wanted to talk and call out to him. But her arm hurt so bad. And her mind was always so troubled – life had been hard to the little girl, and her mind was having to heal as she tried to understand everything.
Vern felt around the opening, “There's a ladder here. I'll go ahead and crawl down. Noah is taking so long.”
“What if there are snakes down there?” Ann asked.
“I think Julie would have found them already if there were,” Vern said as he lowered himself through the opening.
Julie saw Vern's big feet coming into the hole. Suddenly everything was all dark as his body shut out the light. Once he began stepping down the ladder rungs the light started returning. Julie was glad there was light, and she was glad Vern was so close.
He finally reached the last bit of ladder, “Well, the ladder is still good.” he called up. “No rotten boards.”
Once Vern's eyes adjusted to the darkness he reached over to Julie.
She let him take her, but cried out with pain as he touched her arm.
He quickly put her back down.
“I think she's hurt!” Vern said.
“Where?” Lucy asked, her voice betraying fear.
“I don't know,” Vern answered.
Lucy came down the ladder and ran to her little sister, “I shouldn't have let her wander off. That was irresponsible of me.” Lucy picked up Julie, looking over her arm.
Vern was quick to say, “Don't be like that, Lucy. You can't keep your eyes on her always.”
Lucy wasn't convinced, “Where are you hurt?”
Julie pointed to her arm.
Lucy felt it carefully until Julie winced as Lucy pressed on Julie's wrist.
“I think she sprained her wrist. She'll be fine.”
Vern's eyes had completely adjusted to the darkness. “It's kinda interesting down here – not just a cellar. There's an opening that looks to be a tunnel -”
“Like a path?” Ann excitedly called down.
“Yeah,” Vern shouted up.
“Of course!” Ann began jumping around up top. She grabbed Noah's hands. “That must be the path Grandpa wrote on the map.” Ann lowered herself back to the floor. “I know this is a bad time to be excited – but I think we just uncovered the mystery of the map!”
Julie didn't understand what they were talking about, but she saw Vern smile. So did Lucy. Whatever they had been looking for they had found. Or maybe she was the one that found it? Because now Vern and Lucy were hugging her and saying, “Good job, Julie! You found Grandpa's path.”
But she wasn't quite sure what she had done that was so good. Falling into a dark hole and hurting her hand wasn't really good. That wasn't something to congratulate one over.
“Let's go!” Ann said excitedly, already climbing down the ladder and walking toward the darkness of the tunnel. She climbed a little slower as she neared the bottom. “Are you sure there aren't snakes?”
“Positive.” Vern replied.
Ann jumped to the ground, cautiously moving on the dirt floor toward the tunnel. Fred-O climbed down after her. “Ready?”
“No, let's wait,” Vern said. “Wait until Noah gets here with the lantern. And we can all be together.”
Ann didn't look too happy, but she didn't argue. It was only fair they wait and walk down that tunnel assembled – and together discover what there was to find. “I guess we really can't see in here without light anyway.”
Julie was happy either way. Lucy was holding her, carefully so as not to make her sprained arm hurt any more.
It wasn't very long until Noah joined them with a lamp. His head stuck down into the hole. “What is everyone doing down here?” Noah asked.
“Come down!” Fred-O yelled up. “We found the treasure!”
Lucy and Vern laughed.
“Not quite,” Lucy said.
“But almost just as if! We found a tunnel that must be the path of the map.” Ann said.
Noah's smile lit up above them. He moved around, stepping down the ladder, and holding the lamp in his left hand carefully. “Of course – that makes a lot of sense. I bet this was an old gold mine and Grandpa built his shack over one of the entrances. That explains why the lines are so straight and not marked with distances, landmarks, or such.”
“This does seem to clear a lot of questions,” Vern said.
Julie put her head against Lucy's shoulder. She didn't much care for treasure or dark gold mining tunnels. She was only happy that all the siblings were with her.
Noah reached the floor. Holding the lamp up high he lead his siblings into the tunnel.
Everyone followed, first Ann and Fred-O, then Vern, and finally Lucy with Julie.
“This is exciting,” Lucy said.
“I know,” Vern whispered back to Lucy. “I think we may have actually stumbled on the right thing – or rather Julie did. A mystery not even Father could solve.”
Julie felt Lucy shiver, “That is most certainly a thought.”
“The tunnel takes a sharp turn to the left!” Noah called out.
Just like the map, the tunnel went left, then right, and then left again. There were many side tunnels that went off in other directions, but it was easier to tell them apart as they were both smaller and their paths not as worn.
Ann talked excitedly, “What do you think the treasure is?”
“It could be gold.” Vern said. “As this is an old mine.”
“Or jewels! Maybe Grandpa was a pirate!” Fred-O said.
All the rest of the children laughed. “Grandpa was a good man,” Lucy said.
“Are you sure?” Fred-O asked.
“Well, one can't always be sure. But I'm as sure as I can surely be.”
Fred-O sighed, causing everyone else to laugh once more.
Ann shouted out, breaking the laughter, “There! The tunnel ends.”
Sure enough. The tunnel ended, a door ending the path.
Noah, Ann, and Fred-O stopped, waiting for the others to catch up. It was as if they were nervous about opening the door and putting an end to their wild imaginations of what lay behind it.
“Well, we better open it.” Vern said.
“Want to open the door?” Noah asked Ann.
She nodded and stepped past her brother. It was a simple wooden door with a latch that lifted up so that the door could be pushed inward. Ann lifted the latch – slowly. The door squeaked open on its own. The light of Noah's lamp spilled into the room revealing a space full of crates, trunks, and old furniture.
“It's… it's a storage room.” Ann's disappointment was obvious.
Noah walked in with the lantern. Everyone else followed, passing Ann. She finally joined them, too, looking around.
It wasn't what they were expecting, true. Ann seemed to be a little disappointed.
There was still a lot there. None of it looked to be treasure.
Lucy spoke, “It's a storage room full of treasure – can't you see?”
Ann shook her head, “How?”
“This was Grandpa's treasure. It is treasure – things that were worth more to him than gold or pirates' jewels.” Lucy dusted off a small chair and set Julie on it. “Just look!”
She opened a crate. They all looked in with the light of the lantern lighting up the contents.
“Dresses,” Noah didn't sound enthused. “They look like costumes.”
“Nice dresses,” Lucy corrected. “These must have been Grandma's. Back when she was a lady of society. My, but don't they look fancy?”
Ann looked like she was starting to be interested once more. She laughed, “I could imagine having a masquerade ball with these.” Ann held up a dress made of crimson satin and lace.
She opened another trunk and saw a small flute, “This must have been Grandma's, too!”
Noah looked at the flute, “I wonder if Mr Farrows can teach me to play that instead of his violin?”
Soon they were all opening crates and trunks. Most of them were filled with household goods or clothes that used to belong to their grandparents before they had moved out west. Back from another time when they had lived another sort of life.
There were exciting things – things that the children had only read about. Fancy dishes, musical instruments, clothes, shoes, plaques. Some of the things were old and not even in a condition to be used. But all of them were extraordinary.
There was even a small box of toys. Lucy handed a rag doll to Julie to keep her entertained as the rest of them sorted through the boxes.
“Here's a box of papers!” Fred-O said. “A folio, newspapers, a journal -”
Ann ran to join Fred-O. She grabbed the journal and opened it. But as she did she looked to Lucy, “Should I read it?”
Lucy nodded, “I don't think he much cares about privacy anymore.”
Noah looked over the folio and laughed, “Guess what Grandpa used to do!”
“I know he worked in some sort of office,” Vern said.
“He sold insurance – a salesman for a large company. Looks like it made plenty of money from this book of figures and premiums and – wow, this just looks super boring! He had to do interviews, had correspondence with elite individuals, and keep up with the economy on a large scale.”
“Doesn't sound boring from all your exclamations,” Vern winked.
Lucy laughed, “Maybe mining was more interesting, and overrode the money he made?”
“It would appear so,” Noah answered.
Vern was going through the newspapers, “Here's something interesting – and article about Alex Norris being committed to Warm Springs.”
“Warm Springs? I thought springs made either cold or hot water – how is it warm?” Fred-O asked, sounding confused.
All the older children laughed. Julie looked up from where she was playing with her doll. She didn't know what was so funny that kept making her siblings laugh, but she smiled anyways. Laughter was worth smiling over.
“What?” Fred-O asked.
“It's not a springs, but a place where they send mental people,” Vern said.
“Oh,” he said as if that made more sense. And then his tone changed with surprised wonder, “Alex Norris was mental?”
The rest of the children understood what Vern meant just as Fred-O asked his question. They gathered around the paper to read the article.
“Wow. Bet that upset some people,” Noah said.
“No kidding,” Vern replied. “It looks like a lot of people were in favor for having him sent there. Some thanks for all he did...”
Ann held up the journal, “It would appear Norris wasn't killed in Bozeman after all. Where do you think Father got that story?”
“What do you mean?” Lucy, Vern, and Noah all asked at once.
“Grandpa wrote, 'My good friend Alex Norris was released today and sent home to Iowa. He will be greatly missed, but I know with all the trouble he's been receiving it will be best for him, and I myself had recommended to him to return to family. I just pray all the greedy men that falsely accused him will realize their error before it's too late. It's sad that none have made inquiry after his health since his move.' He also wrote a ways later that he thinks Alex Norris won't live long at his home because of his frailty caused by being at Warm Springs.”
“No wonder he isn't talked about much in our history of the town. Not a pleasant subject,” Noah said.
“Also, it looks like I wrongly accused the Richter brothers.” Ann said quietly.
“'I also received other sad news today. Dear young friends, Robert and Miles Richter, two youth that stood up for Alex's character are moving away. They told me that they can no longer stand the hypocrisy and greed of the men that have mistreated Alex. I agree with them and would be tempted to move myself if it weren't for my wife and kids. They would not be happy to move again – and once this all dies down, this will be a good place to raise a family. Or at least I hope.'”
Ann set the journal on her lap.
Lucy picked it up, looking it over. “This is a treasure,” Lucy whispered.
“I feel so bad,” Ann said. “I wanted a mystery with excitement. I was ready to accuse innocent men of murder – there was never a murder. And these men actually were the good guys.”
“No need to feel bad,” Vern said. “At least the Richter brothers don't know what you thought.”
“That is one comforting thought,” Ann replied. “But, still, I feel bad.”
“Just let that feeling guide you to be more wise and kind in the future,” Vern said.
Ann smiled.
Lucy suddenly laughed.
Everyone turned to her.
“This is why Father thought what he did! My, Grandpa sounded like he was more than a little mischievous. 'Frederic keeps asking me where Uncle Alex is. It has been quite awhile since he saw him, and I just heard recently that Alex has passed away in Iowa surrounded by old family and friends. Elise did not want him knowing that he was sent to Warm Springs. I am afraid he'll find out from a nasty boy at school anyways – but as far as I've heard, he hasn't. Maybe all the fathers feel embarrassed at what they did and will not allow their children to talk about it? Anyways, I told Frederic today, when he continued his excessive questioning, an exciting story about how Alex was murdered in Bozeman. It is one last exciting thing that I can let Alex do for the children. Of course, someday I'll have to tell Frederic the truth. I hope he won't be terribly disappointed. Elise doesn't think I should have lied – I guess I can't escape her complaints. But you should have seen Frederic's face! It was hilarious.'”
“That's not funny,” Fred-O said.
Vern laughed, “But you are.”
“So, there was never a mystery. Or a murder. Just a grandfather that loved to play pranks,” Noah said.
“I wish we could have known him,” Ann said.
Lucy held up the journal using it to point around at the things in the room. “I think all these things will help us know him very well.”

Make sure to return the second Monday of next month for the LAST installment of the Lawrence Children! 

Father Tells a Story posted 10/9/17
No More Good-nights posted 11/13/17
Lucy Learns to Live posted 12/11/17
Never Know, Noah posted 1/8/18
Grandpa's Mystery  posted 2/12/18
Ann Finds Answers posted 3/12/18
Vern Lead's An Adventure posted 4/9/18
A Friendly Visit posted 5/14/18
A Real Clue? posted 6/11/18
Fred-O is Frightened  posted 7/9/18
Good Job, Julie! posted 8/13/18
Hello, Life posted 9/10/18


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