"Thomas, darling, we have to get going!"
Thomas Howard was a middle-aged man who lived in a run-down, shabby hut with his exasperating (but loving) wife and seven children. He was the son of a street beggar and had had no proper schooling. He worked at an office, keeping fires, cleaning messes, and delivering messages. He was paid enough to provide his enormous family with the smallest, puniest chicken in the market for dinner. One meal a day. So it was not very common when Thomas Howard and his wife were invited to a party, however small it was.
Right now, his wife, Rachel, was panicking: primping and fussing over her already splendid appearance. She had been the daughter of wealthy man until she married him. She was, in fact, quite lovely.
"Thomas! Are you almost ready?"
"Yes, dear. I've been ready for hours."
Rachel approached him and shook her head, muttering under her breath. "Oh, dear. Thomas, you look simply horrific! Is this your nicest jacket? It has dirt and grime on the sleeves and at least fifteen holes on the front. You can't possibly wear this." She whimpered.
"Well, what do you want me to do?"
She thought for a moment. Then, her face lit up with a childish smirk. "Thomas, do you recollect that little bit of money you gave me for safe keeping? I've been saving it for a very important time, such as this, and on the way to the party, we're going to buy you a new jacket!"
Thomas hated the idea, but he knew better than to object. Rachel always won their arguments. So they headed on their way. On Market Lane, they stopped at a small shop and went immediately to the most inexpensive part of the store. Thomas looked around.
"Here, Tom. Isn't this nice?" Rachel held up a dark blue jacket, clean, but old looking. It had a sort of mysterious look about it. Thomas didn't like it very much, but nevertheless, Rachel bought it. He threw his arms into the sleeves as his wife dragged him down the street.
In the dead of night, Thomas and Rachel Howard returned home, utterly exhausted and delightfully happy.
"Oh, Thomas," Rachel said, "I just love parties and dancing. Wasn't it such a splendid time? I wish we could go to parties all the time!"
Thomas sighed. "Rachel, darling, I wish I could bring you to parties all the time. I wish I could provide better for you and the children. I wish I could give you more." Thomas kissed her on the head. Rachel flopped on the creaky, flattened bed and immediately fell asleep. Thomas smiled and started taking his jacket off. As he reached in the pocket for his pipe, he felt a slip of paper. Tom walked over to the fire and in the dim light, peered at the paper. He slowly fumbled over the words, for he had just learned to read.
To James Beckett, it read. The will of Sir Henry Beckett. 1794
James, my son, I know I shall leave this world very soon. I am giving you everything I own. Included in this will is $800,000. I give this to you along with my estate and everything in it. I know you will be able to find where I have hidden the money. You were always a smart lad. If you found this jacket, you are one step closer to finding the money. I love you, my son.
You will find the money on the corner of Bradford and Dickenson.
Thomas reread the note. $800,000! Wait... James Beckett? How do I know that name?
Thomas fell asleep with the name James Beckett on his lips.
Rachel was kneading dough when Thomas awoke. He sat on a stool and pulled on his boots.
"Rachel, how do I know the name James Beckett?"
Rachel laughed. "Oh, dear. You must be getting very old! James Beckett was my father!"
Thomas's jaw dropped. Of course! He pulled his new jacket off the peg and looked inside. The name Sir Henry Beckett was embroidered on the inside. Thomas put on the jacket and headed out, saying a quick goodbye to his family.
Thomas flew down Main Street until he reached market Lane. He turned the corner and sped down Bradford Road until he reached the corner of Bradford and Dickenson. Thomas stopped and thought. James Beckett died a broke man. As far as I know, he never found this jacket, otherwise he wouldn't have gone bankrupt. Rachel was an only child so after James died, everything he owned went to her, which means that this estate and all the money are ours!
Thomas looked up. He was not standing in front of a great estate, but a hut much like his own. He frowned, feeling utterly confused. Thomas walked back down Main Street, puzzling over the mystery.
A man walking in front of him threw his newspaper in the trash. Thomas plucked it from the can and turned it over. What he saw shocked him.
"Sir Charles Bradford and Sir William Dickenson to Hold a Gala at Their Estates This Weekend," the headline said. Underneath was a picture of the estates. Thomas gasped.
"Not the corner of Bradford Road and Dickenson Lane, but the corner of Sir Charles Bradford's and Sir William Dickenson's properties!" Thomas whispered to himself.
He ran through the streets, dodging crowds and carts, until he arrived at the Dickenson Manor. Thomas circled the mansion and spotted the Bradford House. Standing back, he saw it.
The Beckett Manor towered above the other two mansions. It stood tall and regal, despite sitting abandoned for fifty years. Thomas sighed. He walked up to the door and turned the handle. The door wouldn't budge. Thomas tried the back door. It wouldn't open, either. He sat on the back porch, feeling defeated.
As he looked up, he spotted a grave lying in the underbrush. He approached it and read the headstone.
"Here lies Sir Henry Beckett, beloved father and friend, and devoted husband."
Underneath the title was a short message from Sir Henry himself.
"I will miss you, my love Anna. And to James, I love you, my son."
I love you, my son. That's what the will had said, too. Thomas paused. He squatted next to the headstone and reverently pulled it out of the ground. He picked it up and looked at the bottom. It was hollow! Thomas hesitantly stuck his hand inside. He grasped a hard object and yanked it out. It was a small, metal box.
Thomas opened the box. Inside, wrapped in paper, was $800,000. Thomas pulled out the money. Something fell out of the paper and landed in the box with a metallic thunk. Thomas looked in the box and picked up a key.
He sprang up and ran to the front door. He slipped the key in the lock and turned it. The door creaked open. Thomas stepped inside the manor and gaped at his surroundings. Then he leaped down the front porch stairs and ran home.
"Thomas, where on earth are we going that I have to be blindfolded?" Rachel complained for the tenth time.
"Just wait one more minute, and you'll see." He led her through the streets and stopped in front of the manor. "Alright, you may look."
Rachel slipped the blindfold off her head and opened her eyes.
"Welcome home." Thomas whispered. Rachel gasped and a huge smile spread across her face.
"How?" she was speechless. "How is this ours? We are poor as dirt and..." words spewed from her mouth. A torrent of exclamations flowed off her tongue. Her final question, however, was, "How?"
Thomas let out a bark of laughter. He grinned. "It's a long story."