The Gift

Part I

The Final Puzzle

It was 15 February, and Bartholomew was standing in front of Grenby Goundhog’s hut. Today was the day Grenby normally awoke from his long winter nap. The owl knocked on the door and waited. No answer. Knock. Knock. Knock. No answer.

Then, some grumbling and shuffling could be heard from within. Bartholomew smiled and waited patiently. Eventually, Grenby opened the door. As usual, he was wearing his red and white striped pyjamas and matching nightcap. His eyes were barely open.

Looking out into the bright daylight he asked, “Who is it?”

“It’s Bartholomew, and it’s 15 February. Rise and shine.”

“I know what day it is,” Grenby yawned. “Give me a minute to wake up. Come on in. How about making some tea for us. I can’t see the stove yet.”

“Of course,” said Bartholomew. “You just sit at the table, and take your time.”

Bartholomew made the tea and sat down with Grenby.

“I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you.”

He enjoyed teasing Grenby a little.

Grenby sipped his tea and looked up. He still wasn’t very much awake.

“The good news is that everybody has missed your forecasts and is glad you’re awake for the new year. The bad news is that we need to tear your hut apart a little.”

Grenby heard that. “NOBODY is touching my hut!”

Bartholomew said, “Calm down. It will be all right.”

Then, he explained about the latest note from Cyrus Owl, which they received from the mice. Of course, Grenby was aware of the puzzle hunt and became interested.

“You mean there are pieces of the puzzle right here in my hut?”

“Yes, apparently so.”

“Well, let’s find them, but we must be careful,” said Grenby.

“Yes, of course, very careful.”

That was enough teasing. Bartholomew took the note from his shoulder bag and opened it.

“Here’s the note. It says the box is buried at the southwest corner of the lower level.”

The two animals walked down to Grenby’s lower level and then to the southwest corner.

Grenby said, “Here we are, but where are we?”

“What do you mean?”

“This southwest corner was not the southwest corner ninety years ago,” Grenby said. “I know I’ve expanded, and perhaps it has moved a few times.”

“Where do you think the corner was ninety years ago?” asked Bartholomew.

“I have no idea.”

“Hmmm,” said the owl, thinking. “Well, if this level is larger than before, then it is still under the floor somewhere. We might be standing on it. We might have to dig up the whole floor to find it.”

Grenby didn’t like the sound of that idea and frowned.

“I will ask the beavers to come here and make recommendations,” said Bartholomew.

Grenby grumbled but didn’t object.

Later that day, they met with Burton at the hut and explained the situation. He went to the lower level with them and looked at the floor. After asking a few more questions, he drew a ten-foot circle on the stone floor.

“Based upon what you’ve said, this is the most likely area for the box to be hidden. We’ll dig up small sections at a time. We’ll remove and replace the stones as we go. When we’re finished, the floor will probably be more level than it is now.”

Grenby liked the plan and asked if the beavers could relevel the whole floor. Burton laughed and said yes when they had some spare time.

The next morning, Burton returned with Birch and Belva. Bartholomew was already there.

First, they carefully dug up some of the stones and placed them in a corner of the room. Then, they removed the exposed dirt down about twelve inches. They found nothing unusual and replaced the dirt and stones. They made sure the stones were very level.

They were working on the fourth area of the floor when Birch’s shovel hit something hard.

“I found it,” he yelled even before anyone could see anything, but he was right. The now familiar mahogany colored box appeared as they removed the dirt from around it. However, they saw this one was a little different as they lifted it from the diggings. The exterior was covered with an intricate but faded gold-leaf design. It was even more beautiful than the others.

Bartholomew looked at the box and then opened the lid. The animals leaned closer and peered inside. They saw seven polished wood puzzle pieces and TWO envelopes.

Bartholomew removed the envelopes and opened them.

He read the first note to everyone:

Dear Ballymore Residents,


With the finding of this box, you now have all of the puzzle pieces. Congratulations on a job well done. We hope you enjoyed working together on this hunt. Please continue to care for each other.

The other note in the box contains the Code Key you will need to unlock the puzzle.

Yours faithfully,

Cyrus Owl

Midsummer’s Eve, 1801


The animals congratulated each other.

Bartholomew said, “I’ll go home and put the puzzle together and decode it. Please tell everybody that there will be a meeting at 11 bongs tomorrow morning at the pavilion.”

He left immediately, rushed home, and gathered all of the puzzle pieces on his table. After he assembled them, the coded message read:


MLSE QUV ZAILSD QUFQ

MVVEZ QUV AJSE

MJKKJP QUV DKJP

QJ QUV ZVNIVQ NFYV


Now he had to decode it. The second note had the following:

Decoded, the puzzle read:


FIND THE SPRING THAT

FEEDS THE POND

FOLLOW THE GLOW

TO THE SECRET CAVE


“Wow!” he exclaimed and shook his head.

The special gift was in an underwater cave. There was only one animal best capable of going there: Sam Snapping Turtle.

He studied the decoded note. What kind of glow would be down in the cave? Probably phosphorescent rocks! The same as those in the underground lake they found in The Hills. Amazing!

He gathered the pieces and note and put them in his shoulder bag. Tomorrow would be an exciting day.