“Well, what does it say?” Grace asked, with impatience. If the portrait of Philippa wasn’t the treasure, then what was? A colonial-era portrait of an actual colonist, particularly a woman, was one of the rarest of finds in American history. Of course, Francis couldn’t have known that, being a colonist himself. That was the knowledge that would only come with the passage of a century, maybe more.
James handed the miniature portrait to Christine, who held it in her hands with reverence and lifted the ancient cloth to the light, trying to make it easier to read the faded ink scrawled upon it.
“My dearest Philippa,” James read aloud, squinting, turning the cloth this way and that to make the ink more readable; while the cloth was in good condition, the ink was almost entirely erased by the centuries since it was originally inscribed there. “You were my first love and my true love. From the moment I first saw you at the party at your father’s house, when you were formally introduced to society, I knew you were the one. You became my wife, the mother of my children, my friend, and confidante, my everything. Losing you was the most painful thing I ever went through in my life and were it not for our beautiful children, who each remind me so much of you in their own ways, I do not know how I would have gotten through it. Though I have remarried in the years you have been gone, I want you to know that I have never forgotten you, and my new wife has never come close to replacing you in my heart. You, of all people, would understand how I needed a companion to comfort and help me in my old age, and I love her in my own way, but no one could ever compare to you. What concerns me most now is that you will be forgotten, once our children and grandchildren have gone on to Heaven to join us. I do not mind if no one remembers the name of Francis Wainwright, but the world must always remember you, my love. I will see to it. I have become an even wealthier man now than I was when you were taken from me. My treasure is well-known. I will use it, all of it beyond the bequests I must make to our children and grandchildren, to ensure the world not only always remembers you, but knows just what a treasure you were, to your family, and most of all, to me. Your loving husband now and for eternity, Francis Wainwright.”
“Wow,” Emily sighed, wide-eyed, “he really loved her.”
Christine nodded. “He sure did. What a beautiful love story, and it’s in our family. He obviously wrote this after she died, and hid the miniature away with it.”
“Why would he do that?” Adam wanted to know. “With portraits being so rare and expensive back then, this was probably the only image he had of her. If he loved her that much, why would he want to hide it away after she was gone?”
“Probably because it was too painful for him to look at,” Emily considered. “But, it seems like he would want to leave it to his children, so they could have an image of their mother.”
Grace put a finger to her lips and thought for a moment. It was common for married couples in the 18th and 19th centuries to burn correspondence between them after one of them died, to protect their privacy from future generations, but portraits and photographs were usually saved and handed down in families as valuable artifacts. Why would Francis hide the portrait and not hand it down?
“I think I know,” Grace announced. “He probably intended to leave it to one of his children, probably the oldest son, oldest daughter, or whatever child cared for him in his old age. Those were the children who received the most valuable possessions of their parents in those times. It may be that he forgot to mention it in his will after he had hidden it for so long. Or, he verbally told the child who was to receive it where to find it, or even wrote down instructions that are long lost, and that child was never able to locate it if they even tried.”
“That makes the most sense,” Emily agreed. “He had to have meant for the portrait to be handed down.”
“It still doesn’t mean this is the treasure,” James reminds them. “The cloth says he was going to make sure the world remembered her, and what a treasure she was, and he was going to use almost all of his money on this project. Whatever Francis did to honor Philippa and make sure the world remembered her, that’s the treasure. It has to be.”
“Well, what could it be?” Adam asked. “What did he do for her, and how to we find out?”
“It sounds like it must be something pretty big,” Emily said. “Something we may have seen before and not known it was meant for Philippa. Can I see the cloth?”
James handed it over to her without a word.
Emily studied it carefully for a few moments, walking out a few steps into more direct sunlight, turning the cloth around to check it out from all angles. Finally, learning nothing new, she flipped the cloth over to look at the other side.
“Oh my gosh,” she whispered. “Here it is, right here at the bottom right corner of the cloth. A record of payment.”
“Is it in Francis’s handwriting?” Grace asked.
Emily nodded, confirming. “The same writing as on the other side of the cloth. Yes.”
“What does it say?” James asked.
“Not so much what it says as what it reveals,” Emily corrected him. “Francis recorded paying ten thousand gold crowns to a man named Samuel Pope. It does not say for what.”
Grace stared at her, incredulous. “Do you know how much money ten thousand gold crowns would be in today’s currency? Enough to build a palace.”
“We need to find out what Samuel Pope did for Francis that cost so much money,” Christine says. “That is what will lead us to the treasure.”
To be continued in Chapter 13.