The Mysterious Box Clock

by Sherrie Johnson

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    Julie and Karen looked at the old clock and compared it with the other clocks on the wall. It looked about the same with its glass windows and ornately painted face, but it seemed to Julie that there was something special about this clock.

    “Where did you get this one?” Karen asked.

    “The Thompsons found it in the attic of the old house they just bought, and gave the clock to Mother. Isn’t it pretty?”

    Karen looked at the old, old clock and reluctantly nodded her head. “I guess so,” she said.

    “Someday I’m going to collect clocks too,” Julie explained.

    Karen stepped a little closer. “I’d rather have something newer,” she said, still puzzled over Julie’s excitement.

    “But just imagine the life this old clock must have had. It must be one hundred years old!”

    Karen still couldn’t see why Julie was so excited. “It’s just an old clock,” she said.

    “Oh, but listen to the music of the constant ticktock!”

    “It’s just an old clock,” Karen repeated.

    “Here,” Julie said, determined to make Karen see her point, “now listen to its beautiful chime.”

    Carefully she opened the door and pulled the lever to sound the chimes. “Bong, bong, bong, thud!”

    “Oh, no!” Julie cried. “What’s wrong?”

    “Look!” Karen pointed to a paper caught in the bars.

    Julie pulled the paper out and quickly unfolded it. The paper was old and greasy from the clock works. Mehn sind im kutschen haus was written there.

    “It doesn’t make any sense,” Karen said after trying to read it.

    “Mother,” Julie called. “Look what we found in this clock.”

    Mother took the paper. “This is written in German.”

    “German? Do you think Dad could read it?” Julie asked.

    “Well, he used to speak German.”

    Julie waited impatiently for her father to come home.

    “Dad,” she called, running out the door when his car pulled into the driveway, “can you translate this for me?”

    “What is it?” her father asked as he took the paper.

    “I found it in the clock Mother got from the Thompsons.”

    “German, hmmmmm …” Father looked surprised. “It’s been a long time since I’ve used my German. Come in the house and I’ll see what I can do.”

    Julie followed him into the house. “I just know it’s something exciting,” she said.

    “Maybe it’s just a shopping list,” Father teased with a twinkle in his eye.

    “Oh, Dad,” Julie sighed. “It’s more than that. Someone had to put that paper in the clock for a special reason.”

    “Well, let’s see.” Father sat down at the kitchen table and smoothed out the paper. “Hmmmm, this is interesting.”

    “What does it say?” Julie could hardly stand still.

    “It says, ‘More are in the carriage house.’”

    “More what?” Julie asked.

    “Maybe more clocks. That’s all it says.”

    “It doesn’t say what carriage house either?” Julie asked hopefully.

    “No,” he answered. “Not even a clue.”

    “More are in the carriage house!” Julie repeated. “It really is a mystery!”

    All night Julie wondered about the strange message, and by morning she had an idea. Hurriedly she dressed, ate her breakfast, and did her chores; then she went to Karen’s house.

    “Come on!” she shouted when Karen answered the door. “We have a mystery to solve today!” Quickly she tumbled out the words to explain.

    Karen was soon ready and they both were off to the Thompsons. They knocked on the huge wooden door and impatiently waited for someone to answer. Finally Mrs. Thompson opened the door.

    Julie pulled the paper from her pocket and explained, “Yesterday we found this note in the old clock you gave Mother, and we want to ask you about it.”

    Mrs. Thompson took the paper. “What does it say?”

    “It’s German, and it means, ‘More are in the carriage house.’”

    Mrs. Thompson explained, “We bought this house from a man named Schiller. His mother immigrated to the United States from Germany when she was only twenty. She learned to speak English, but she never could read or write it.”

    Julie listened intently to what Mrs. Thompson said. “Do you think she wrote this?”

    “Could be,” Mrs. Thompson agreed.

    “What about a carriage house?” Julie asked.

    “I don’t know,” Mrs. Thompson began; then she stopped. “Wait, I’ll bet it’s that old building out back. Mr. Schiller said it had been damaged in a windstorm ten years ago, and no one has bothered to restore it.”

    Julie and Karen jumped with excitement. “Come on!” they shouted.

    Mrs. Thompson led them down a hall and out the back door to a building with only two walls standing. A little piece of roof was stretched between them.

    If there were anything stored in there, it’s probably ruined now! Karen thought.

    Cautiously the girls climbed through the rubble looking for a clue. They removed some of the fallen roof and pulled away the huge weeds that had grown up through the wood.

    “Look!” Karen shouted.

    Julie and Mrs. Thompson ran to where Karen had picked up a piece of fallen roof that revealed a trap door in the floor of the old carriage house.

    “If you’ll hold that a little higher,” Julie said, “I’ll see if I can open the door.”

    Mrs. Thompson helped Karen hold the piece of roof as Julie climbed under and lifted the trap door.

    “Wow!” she exclaimed. “Here’s a huge old trunk!”

    “This must be it!” Karen whispered in amazement.

    Cautiously Julie lowered herself into the hole and tried to open the trunk, but it was stuck.

    “Dad’s home today. I’ll go get him to help us!” she said.

    In a few minutes Julie was back with her father. Mrs. Thompson and Karen had moved the piece of roofing off the door. Julie’s father jumped into the hole and began to pry open the trunk with some tools he had brought with him.

    Slowly the lid began to give, and then suddenly it flipped up. Julie’s eyes opened wide as she looked at four beautiful box clocks!

    “Here’s another note in German,” her father said, pulling a yellowed paper from between the clocks.

    “What does it say?” Julie asked excitedly.

    Slowly Father translated. “When I came to this country, I brought many things that were strange to people here. My sons wanted me to throw them out, but I loved these old clocks far too much to throw away. They were my grandmother’s and my mother’s.

    “I reasoned that whoever restored my brown box clock would find my message. It would undoubtedly be someone who loves clocks and will take care of them. So to whoever learns my secret, please give these clocks loving and tender care. Frau Schiller.”

    “Well,” Mrs. Thompson said, “I guess this means you, Julie.”

    “But it’s your …” Julie began.

    “Oh,” Mrs. Thompson interrupted, “I never liked old clocks, and Karen has told me she doesn’t either. You are the one Frau Schiller meant.”

    “Oh, thank you,” Julie almost shouted. “What a wonderful mystery this has turned out to be!”

    Illustrated by Sherry Thompson