Adam, James, Emily, Grace, and Carol all sat around Christine with rapt attention, waiting for her to read the ancient letter aloud to them. Whatever their 9x great-grandmother Philippa Sewall Wainwright had to say to her husband, Francis, in that letter would supposedly give them the next clue as to where Francis’s legendary treasure was hidden. At least, that’s what their late grandmother’s written instructions told them, and they believed her. Grandma Martha and her siblings and cousins worked on this mystery most of their lives, just like all the many generations before them going back to Philippa and Francis, and the discovery of this letter was the culmination of their endeavors toward solving the mystery.
“The letter is dated March 3, 1660,” Christine began. “That’s about 16 years after Francis and Philippa got married, and nine years before she died. Their son, Francis Jr., was probably already at Harvard by that time, or about to go since boys got into the university at much younger ages than they do now. Their other sons, John and Simon, were still in school, and their daughters were being tutored by Philippa, with the oldest daughter already being married and out of the house.”
“Thanks for the history lesson, sis,” Adam said, drily. “Can you get on with reading the letter, please?”
“I think the background is interesting and adds to the fabric of the story,” Emily insisted. “Besides, there can be a clue in any detail, no matter how little. We need to pay attention to everything if we’re going to be the generation that solves the mystery and finds the treasure.”
“I am determined it will be us,” Grace agreed. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I, for one, intend to solve this mystery. Grandma would have wanted it to be us.”
“Right, guys,” James said, reasonably. “Let us be the generation that at least finds more than one clue. At one clue a generation, it may be another four hundred years before this thing is solved. We can do better. We have the Internet. Come on. We are light years ahead of the ones who came before us in terms of research capabilities. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do this. Read it, Christine.”
“Thank you,” Christine said, nodding at her brother and cousins. “Okay, here goes. Everyone pay close attention because you never know where a clue will be. When I’m done reading it to you, we’ll all discuss what we think it means. You, too, Mom.” Christine nodded toward Carol, who gave her daughter a nod back, smiling.
“Okay, here goes,” Christine said, looking down at the ancient letter. “It says:
My dearest Francis.
I hope this letter finds you well and happy. Though I know you are only a three-day’s ride away in Dover, New Hampshire, it seems like you are a world distant from me, who loves you so much. I do hope you can conclude your business with the Otis family there soon, and return to me with much haste. The money they are borrowing from you to finance their blacksmith shop will be of great benefit to the entire colony. These are strange times in which we live, with no king in England, and it is hard to get the things we need, as you know. With more than the two blacksmiths we already have here, things will become easier for us, as far as having necessary supplies. I have received the horseshoe Richard Otis forged for you that you sent as a gift to me, and appreciate the inscription. I will treasure it always, as the first item our colony’s newest blacksmith forged with his backing from my beloved husband. With your loan, he can expand his business to benefit people far beyond the borders of Dover. I know you must stay until you are certain his business is ready to produce on a larger scale, so he will be able to repay you in a timely manner. Please, my love, return to me with all due haste. Each day that goes by without you by my side is painful to me, because I love you so much. Your countenance upon me makes the sun shine brighter, and fills me with joy. Write to me again soon, darling. Until then, I must make do with imagining you being here beside me. It is a poor substitute. The children are all well and send their love to their precious father.
Your loving wife,
“So,” Christine said, looking up to address the room. “Any ideas?”
“She obviously loved Francis, like, a lot,” Emily observed.
“Clearly,” Grace said. “Though, those over-the-top declarations of love were pretty common in 17th through 19th century writing. Still, her love and devotion is obvious and seems genuine.”
“He sent her a horseshoe made by Richard Otis,” James pointed out. “She said it had an inscription. Maybe that is the clue?”
“She did say she would always treasure it,” Adam agreed.
“Is there an inventory of Philippa’s estate?” Carol asked. “Or Francis’s? If there is, you might find the horseshoe listed there, and use the inventories of the estates of his heirs to trace it to today. Find the horseshoe, read its inscription, find the next clue.”
“It’s the only thing that even remotely seems like it could be the clue we’re looking for here,” Grace concurred.
“I agree,” Christine said, putting the letter carefully down on her mother’s coffee table. “So, next stop, the archives of Ipswich? That’s where an estate inventory would be, right?”
“Yes,” Emily said, nodding. “And, if there are any wills, we will find them there, too. A will can be extraordinarily useful since there is more personal writing in it than an estate inventory.”
“Then, we’re decided,” Christine announced. “We go to the archives and try to trace the ownership of this horseshoe.”
“I’ll research it online while you’re there,” Carol said. “I’m getting into this mystery. I want to help you.”
“Okay, mom,” Adam said, smiling. “You’re in.”
To be continued in Chapter 7.