Recap: Yehudis and Chevi discover the treasure that was written about in the journal. It’s in the attic of the house. They find out later that that was why the man kept coming and snooping around. There was a fight between the owner and the man and his wife who were relatives. The owner didn’t believe there was a treasure in the house. Now that it was found, she claims it is hers. Yehudis’ father calls in a rav who listens to the situation and declares it goes to the finder. A letter inside from Mr. Blennerhassett states how he learned his lesson not to run after riches, and whoever finds this treasure should donate the money to charity. Yehudis and Chevi sit down to read the end of the journal.
“You think they’ll come?” I asked.
Robbie leaned close to me and the boat shifted slightly to the left. He whispered. “Mr. Burr will come with his men and try to take these boats. That’s why we have to sit here in ’em and stop him.”
My voice shook. “Did he really kill someone?”
Robbie nodded slowly. “He killed Mr. Hamilton in cold blood.”
How would three young boys stop a criminal? I was 14 and tall for my age; still, Robbie and his brother Johnny were only 11 and 12. Mr. Burr was a grown man.
I shivered and pulled my woolen coat tighter around me. Stars splattered the night sky, and a December chill cut through my threadbare jacket.
“He’s accused of treason. Pa said he plans to get the Western states to separate and form a country and join with Mexico.”
“Shh, “ Johnny stepped close to us. “I think I heard something.”
We sat perfectly still. The boat rocked slightly over the waves by the dock. My stomach flipflopped, even though we were anchored.
There was a stillness broken only by the steady lapping of river waves against the dock.
All three of us perched tensely on the seat of the boat.
Just then, I heard it. A steady sound of a boat plowing down the river.
“Look!” Johnny pointed directly ahead.
My heart began thumping. There were two large boats heading right towards us.
How would we keep them from taking the boats?
Mr. Greene had told us earlier. “Don’t let that man get the boats. He’s dangerous. He’s trying to escape, and we can’t let him. You boys secure these boats. I’m staying close on shore with a group of militia. When he comes, you give the signal and we’ll move in and capture him.”
I always wanted an adventure, but now that I was in one, I felt my stomach knot and I wished I was back home in Pittsburgh with my family – not here in the middle of this frigid river, waiting to stop a criminal.
The boats drew closer and closer. Their lights reflected off the water and then suddenly they were upon us. “We want these boats. Get off,” a gruff voice yelled at us.
“No, sir,” I said. My voice shook, but I tried to sound tough.
The man with the gruff voice pointed a revolver at me.
My heart pounded. I closed my eyes and asked Hashem to save me.
“Halt!” Colonel Greene was on the dock with a large group of men, all holding rifles. “Drop that weapon.”
The man dropped the gun into the water. It fell with a plunk.
“Get off real slow. “You are all under arrest for assisting Mr. Burr. Where is he?”
Mr. Burr stepped off the boat first. His eyes were glittering and there was no trace of fear as he walked with his head held high towards the officers. They handcuffed him and the other men, and they led them away in carriages parked near the dock.
I watched them leaving, and I thought how sad that someone with so much talent and charisma used it in such a wrong way.
A few weeks later, I was setting the table with cakes and wine and fruit and champagne for a l’chayim. Miss Gross came early, wearing a silver A-line dress with a satin silver ribbon at the waist. She approached Grandma Henny, who was seated in her wheelchair by the table, directing me how to set up the platters.
“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Miss Gross said.
Grandma Henny studied her. “If Yehudis approves of you, then I do, too. Please move that tea pot over there and the flowers should be in the center of the table.”
In the kitchen, I whispered in her ear. “If Grandma Henny is correcting you or telling you where to put things, that’s her way of saying you’re part of the family.”
Chevi, Sari, and Ada, Rebbetzin Unger, and Rabbi Unger all came to say mazal tov. Aba smiled as he raised a cup of champagne. “L’chayim!” He said the brachah and then everyone said Amein. He even let me have a sip.
Aba and Miss Gross looked so happy together. Sari hugged me and wished me mazal tov. Then Chevi came over and hugged me, too.
After everyone left, Miss Gross and I were cleaning up and she said, “I know you will always have one Ima, but would you consider calling me Ma? I mean “Miss Gross” is too formal for family.”
I didn’t hesitate. “Okay!”
“I’m glad to be part of your family,” she said.
“I’m glad, too,” I said, and I meant it.
I thought about the treasure chest we’d found in this house and how many lives had been affected by a desire for riches – how, long ago, thankfully Ezra and Miriam Chapman had turned their lives around and realized that they were on the wrong path, sacrificing their real treasure for transitory riches, and how, living here in this house, I had discovered the real treasure I possessed – a gift from Hashem.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT HISTORICAL FICTION SERIAL, NEXT WEEK, iy”H!
By Susie Garber