Children of 1880s

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1800s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. The books are available from Lintern for $25 a set, tax and shipping included. Each book is about 120 pages written for intermediate readers (4th grade) with local illustrations. Volume I is Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II is Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III is Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV is Mr. Gamble Starts a School. Volume V is Jacob Blows his Horn. Volume VI is Cassie Fights the WarVolume VII is Emilene Adopts Her Family. Volume VIII is David Dances the Bases.

“It’s as though we’ve been infested with two-legged mice,” Mr. Scattergood said, as Lucas and Natalie looked out the front window of his store on Saturday.

That’s not a very nice way to put it.

“They are everywhere. Whose cockamamie idea was this to have all the children of Mansfield running through our aisles?”

Don’t say it, Uncle Lucas.

“Well, interestingly, it was ours,” he said.

We’ll be leaving now, for good!

“Yours?”

“We were looking for a good way to draw attention to the improvements in Central Park, you know that. You agreed to it.”

“I said I would put something in my window that would be part of the hunt, yes,” Mr. Scattergood said. “I had no idea it would block my customers from shopping.”

It won’t stop the hardy ones; everyone needs material.

“I am sure it is only temporary, and it will draw a lot of attention downtown,” Lucas said.

“The attention of little people who don’t have money to spend.”

Uncle Lucas smiled.

“But their parents do. It will all work for good,” he said. “I promise.”

Oh, I had better put my answer on the back: Scattergood, red gingham.

Natalie had followed the procedure. Enter a store that hangs a scarf in the front window, then go in and look for an item that has the same color scarf tied to it. A bolt of red gingham material, with the same scarf tied to it, was hidden in plain sight among a row of other bolts of cloth.

The two excused themselves and stepped out onto Main Street, right there at the Square.

“He is right, there are children everywhere,” Uncle Lucas said, as young students ran from one store to the next, marking their entry forms and trying not to show their neighbors the answers.

“But the mice comment, that was rude,” Natalie said, as two boys bumped her trying to get by, and trying to beat the other to the Scattergood door.

But accurate, I guess.

“I am going to see Mr. Brinkerhoff, Dear One. Why don’t you keep looking for answers in other stores, and then meet me there at the bank, in about 30 minutes.”

“I will, Uncle Lucas. And don’t give away any answers,” she smiled.

Most of the merchants were much more good-natured about the commotion than had been Mr. Scattergood, but commotion it was, and Natalie was both excited and nervous.

I did this! I’m glad nobody knows that now, but I hope they do afterwards, if everything goes well.

If it doesn’t, I am sure they will know it was me!

Mr. Reed recognized Natalie as she walked in and greeted her with his usual pat on the head.

“What a good idea you’ve had here, Young Lady. This is as good a promotion as we could have had, save a half off everything sale,” he said.

“Excuse me, did you say everything is half off?” a woman shopper suddenly asked.

“No, Ma’am. I was talking to Miss Burns here about a hypothetical situation,” he said, a little flustered.

“Well, if you do, I want to know.”

“You will be the first, Mrs. Heffelfinger,” he said, then he turned back to Natalie.

“I hope every success for you in this contest. I love watching the children look for my handkerchief and then to try not to give away the location to the others.

“By the way, have you found my blue handkerchief.”

It’s over there, no wait, that one is red.

“I guess I haven’t.”

He laughed.

“I put a dozen wrong-colored cloths throughout the store. You will have to look hard for the one blue one, and it is right in front of you!”

In front of me? Is that a blue handkerchief in his suit coat?

“I think I see it in your pocket, Mr. Reed.”

“O dear, I made it too obvious with my clue. Don’t let the judges know,” he chuckled.

“And don’t tell the others.”

Natalie smiled.

Not a chance.

After she asked Mr. Reed to sign the back of her entry, Natalie continued down the hill to find Uncle Lucas and Mr. Brinkerhoff, while listing on her entry all the lawyers’ offices along the way.

15, 16, 17 … I’ll never get to 25 lawyers. Besides, I’m running out of room. And, here I am at the bank.

She walked in, wondering who to ask about seeing Mr. Brinkerhoff, when Uncle Lucas stood up in the second floor and motioned her up the stairs.

As she walked in and greeted both distinguished gentlemen, Mr. Brinkerhoff invited her in and said, “Here is the girl that found the combination to the safe!”

Excuse me?