The Bell Tower

Part I

Into The Woods Again

Bartholomew was perched on a branch of his favourite oak tree. The early September night was cool. He was thinking about the next trip that Cyrus Owl had planned for them. He was still impressed by Cyrus’s foresight. Of course, this was not just about solving a puzzle or finding a gift. It was about the critical importance of Ballymore residents appreciating and maintaining the values expressed in the letter. Also, the future residents of Ballymore were just as important as they had been to Cyrus. Bartholomew decided that he, in some way, would leave something for them, also.

For now though, he needed to plan the trip to the bell tower. This trip would require more sensitivity than the first. They would be going to a peopled area, and it was best to avoid contact. For that reason he wouldn’t ask for volunteers but would draft a team with the necessary skills.

The distance was the same to the hamlet as to The Hills but in the opposite direction. It would, again, be a six day trip. He decided that a smaller team would be more efficient. After careful consideration he selected:

Wilde & Wilder Weasel

Branna Bluebird

Stoddard Swan

Sedgewick & Sofie Squirrel

Burton Beaver

Including himself, there were eight.

His plan was to follow the creek to the hamlet and church. There would be five nights of camping but, this time, without tents. He didn’t want to attract attention. They had to stay out of sight as much as possible. If they were spotted, they would have to blend into the woods. That would mean, among other things, abandoning their clothes and belongings. The campsites would not be preselected but would be chosen based upon what happened on the trip.

They would go to the bell tower in the middle of the third night and dig out the box. Stoddard would immediately fly it, or perhaps only its contents, back to Ballymore. The rest of the group would hike back over the next three days.

The following morning, he sent messages to the chosen team members and asked them to come to a meeting at his treehouse on Monday evening, in two days. The purpose was not mentioned. He requested that the weasels come a half-hour early.

When the messages were received, they caused quite a stir and a lot of speculation. Branna was involved in delivering the messages and suspected that another expedition would be announced. She was pleased to have been chosen again. She spent the next two days doing wing exercises just in case she had to make long flights.

Sedgewick and Sofie Squirrel also suspected another trip. Although, their children were more excited than they. They told their friends that their parents were going to be heroes.

The situation was similar at the beaver home. Additionally, Burton knew that a puzzle trip would affect the building of Sam’s cottage. That would have to wait until he returned. If the trip only lasted a week, the cottage could still be built by the middle of October.

Stoddard thought his invitation was curious but was so busy, he didn’t have time to ponder its meaning. He would wait and find out on Monday.

The weasels were the most excited. The trip to The Hills had been a great adventure for them, and they could hardly wait for Monday night. They washed their fatigues. They had just gotten new berets and would wear them for the first time. They even took baths.

Monday evening, the weasels arrived early.

Bartholomew detailed the trip plans to them. Then, he surprised them by asking them to be the team leaders. He said he felt they had the necessary training and experience. Also, they had earned it. The weasels were overjoyed.

Wilde said, “We appreciate the confidence you're showing in us. This is an important mission for us. It’s an important mission for Ballymore, and it will succeed.”

Bartholomew said, “You both have earned this, and I know you will do your best.”

“Thank you, sir,” they replied together.

The others arrived on time, and the meeting began. Bartholomew explained the trip and why each of them was chosen. He then introduced the weasels as the leaders and expressed his confidence in them. Their choice as leaders received a lukewarm reception. Let’s say their reputation and history were still colourful.

Wilde spoke, “As Bartholomew said, this will be a six day mission. We would like to leave as soon as possible if the weather forecast is good. I would suggest traveling light with, perhaps, a blanket and enough food. The nights are cool now, and there is less food in the woods this time of year. Wilder and I will bring the needed tools.”

Everyone agreed with those plans.

“This is an important mission, and there is some danger in it. If we take our time and use common sense, we will succeed,” he continued.

The weasels were already taking command, and the animals’ level of comfort in them began to increase.

Everyone was ready by Wednesday, and the forecast was for pleasant but cool weather. It was agreed to leave the next morning at seven bongs.