Sheridan rode his horse along the path that bordered the creek. He hadn’t been thinking too clearly, and before he knew it he had come upon Juliana. ‘He there!’ a familiar voice called out to him.
He looked up and felt a familiar warmth. ‘Juliana, how is it I didn’t see you sooner?’
Juliana rode her dapple gray mare across the creek where it was only a few feet high. ‘You’ve been lost in thought for a few miles now. I thought at first you just wanted to be alone but now I see you just didn’t see me.’
The black stallion ‘Mercy’ nickered as he rode to Juliana. The two rode side by side for a while. ‘My father is in a bit of trouble and I was just wondering how it’s going to go.’
Juliana was quick to reply. ‘Do you want to talk about it? You know, I hear it’s good to share a burden. I might not be able to help but I am a good listener Sheridan.’
The morning sun was giving way to a high noon. Sheridan knew he couldn’t tell anyone what was going on. ‘Thanks Juliana, I appreciate that. No, this is something best left unsaid.’
Juliana smiled and nodded. ‘Well, I have to go back. It was nice to see you Sheridan.’ She waved without waiting for a reply as she splashed across the creek back to her own borders.
That night Giles and his friends had the plan all worked out. They would accompany Sheridan to a party held by one who’s jewel was stolen. As they played look out, Sheridan would return the jewel. Sheridan had a pink flower as well. It was just to add to the mystique.
Samuel was down in the garden watching Sheridan fling a rope over the chimney of the two story brick home. As he felt the rope secured, he began to climb. Just as he was half way up, someone came out of the side door. Samuel walked over to distract the servant which worked well.
Giles was inside the mansion watching to see if anyone was going up the stairs. John was upstairs feigning a head ache when actually he was making sure no one entered the room that Sheridan was to enter from the window.
All of a sudden a brick from the chimney gave way and the rope was halfway cut from the jagged rock. This left Sheridan swinging off the side of the house. He tried to get a foot hold but it was no use. He’d tied the rope securely around his waist and was swaying upside down back and forth in front of the side window he was to climb in.
Suddenly, he heard a loud whisper. ‘Sheridan! What on earth are you doing?’
‘Never mind that, go get my father and Uncle John out here! I can’t hang on much longer!’
Juliana quietly left the window of her friend and silently went in search of the men. John was at the window first and reached out to grab young Sheridan. ‘There now, just stable yourself on the side of the house for now. All set?’
‘Yes, I think so.’
Giles burst into the room and went to help his friend retrieve his son from outside the window. Within minutes Sheridan was safely inside. He suffered a horrible rope burn to his upper chest and armpits but other than that he only had a few scratches.
‘Oh, I’ve lost the brooch though!’
‘Never mind that, let’s get you out of here so no one sees anything and gives us any questions.’ Giles said. ‘I hate to do this son, but you have to leave the same way you came in. John and I will hold the rope so you can walk down the wall and I see Samuel down there waiting to grab you as you hit the ground. Better get this done quickly.’
Sheridan sighed and allowed himself to be lowered back down to the ground. Samuel was down on the ground but he was not alone. Juliana hadn’t told anyone in the house what was going on, but she had slipped outside to see for herself what was up.
Nigel was out front as she exited. ‘Juliana dear, what are you doing outside?’
Juliana knew her father well and knew he was hiding something. ‘Oh, I all ready know that Sheridan is up to something and I can see by your face that you and your friends know all about it. Just let me make sure he’s ok. ‘
Nigel looked apologetically to Giles as the two of them rounded the house in search for them. ‘I had to bring her, she found Sheridan swinging out the window.’
As the men turned to look at her, Juliana put her hands on her hips. ‘Ok, out with it! There is a coal house near here, we are all going there so you can clue me in or I’m going back inside and tell everyone what I saw!’
Giles took a deep breath. ‘Nothing happened!’
Juliana was incredulous. ‘Nothing? Sheridan was almost ready to fall two stories down to his death, or at least a broken leg!’
As she spoke her voice went louder. Sheridan took her arm and began leading her to the coal bin.
“I think it’s best we do as she says.’ He said.
Nigel agreed. ‘Once she gets a thought in her head there is no stopping her. She’s just like her mother.’
‘Hah! I’m just like you and you know it Father!’
The young girl stood in the circle of Sheridan, Giles, Nigel, Samuel and John. The entire story was presented to her.
‘Rev. John! You are supposed to leading these men in the right direction. What on earth possessed you to go along with this? Father, I can’t believe it! Uncle Samuel and Uncle Giles! What a horrible plan! First of all, I happen to know all the women who received those jewels. I can talk to them all, along with mother and Aunt Louise! Once I explain it, I’m sure you’ll get your jewels back Uncle Giles. As for stealing back inside to return them…I’ve a better idea. Why not let me return them? These are my friends and go to the same church as me. You guys are nothing but bunglers! I can do this without mentioning any of you in it. First, I can give this little trinket back tonight.’
Juliana held up the ruby and gold brooch. ‘It slipped out of your pocket as you were swaying and fell just inside the window. I’ll tell Virginia I found it on the floor in her room. Which is true! Let’s meet tomorrow and I’ll figure out how to proceed without killing Sheridan!’
The men stood there in shock. Giles cleared his throat and said, ‘Well, that’s it for tonight then. How about we meet at my home at say, six?’
The men agreed and went to depart. ‘Oh, no!’ said Juliana. ‘Father, you, and your friends are expected at this party. You go back in. Sheridan are you all right to go back on horseback?’
Sheridan nodded and got on his horse. ‘Come Mercy, I guess we go home now.’
Juliana waited until he had gone before doubling over in hysterics over what she had seen and heard. She returned to the house and upstairs unnoticed. When she went downstairs she called Virginia aside. ‘I found something.’ She showed her friend the brooch along with another pink flower. ‘It seems our thief has a conscience!’ Virginia went to her party and told everyone of her great discovery. All evening everyone looked outside to see if anyone was outside. Perhaps he would return? Not likely, for at that moment he was applying ointment to his chest and armpits.
The following night Juliana, her mother Julia and Louise met in the study with all of the men. Nigel sat in shock as Juliana spoke sternly to them.
‘First of all, I think most of the jewels lost had been bought for my own friends with the exception of three. Aunt Louise and Aunt Julia have agreed to have tea with those ladies where the jewels will mysteriously show up on their plates with a pink carnation tucked nearby. The ladies will love it! No one gets hurt either. I think I’m going to ask my friend Toby to help us as he works in the little pastry shop that Aunt Louise likes to go.’
‘I really didn’t want my son involved.’ John said as he suddenly stood up. Juliana gave him a scathing look and he paled and sat down. Toby entered the room quietly and looked at his father.
‘Father, Juliana and Sheridan are my friends. I think she has found a good way to return the jewels without any embarrassment or undue harm. I manage the shop every Tuesday. I can prepare the table near the back before the women enter.’ He was watching his father as he spoke. ‘This is an act of mercy that follows some very poor judgment from many well meaning prominent people in our community. Please Father, don’t worry about me.’
John’s face grew red but he said nothing. Nigel gave him a knowing look. He had been given the third degree by his own daughter as had his wife the night before.
Samuel’s daughter came in just then. The judge’s eyes grew wide at Sarah’s appearance. The saucy redhead smiled and took a chair next to her father. ‘I’m in this too Papa! These are my friends. Unlike you and your friends…my friends do not have a history of bungling things. I am simply going to assist Julia in replacing the jewels that had been stolen from our friends.’
Sheridan sat back and began to breathe easier. Toby was his best friend and the girls also were best friends. He believed this could indeed work.
Julia and Louise looked at each other and smiled. ‘Well I guess we have some planning to do.’
Juliana looked over at her father and nodded. Nigel cleared his throat. ‘When this is all over, I am going to begin trying to buy the jewels back from the women. I will turn then turn them over to you Giles.’
‘Nonsense, I will buy them back from you. You all ready bought them once, I think.’ He looked over at Julia who blushed.
Nigel continued. ‘Well, in any case I will go with you and the women to each of the women and tell them the truth about how they came to be sold in the first place. We can then offer to buy them back. I just think that the two of us couples should do this together.’
Louise squirmed in her chair. ‘This is going to be so humiliating.’
Juliana then spoke gently. ‘I know Aunt Louise but it will be better than having Sheridan go to jail in some dangerous scheme. This could have gone quite badly you know.’ Louise agreed.
The evening drew to a close with everyone but Juliana and Sheridan having coffee. Juliana and Sheridan went to the solar room to speak privately.
‘Don’t think for a moment that I am thinking you are innocent in this mess my friend. Why did you let your father get you into this?’
Sheridan slumped into a chair and looked out the window. ‘We thought we’d been robbed. I know it’s no excuse but I thought I had no other choice.’
‘Bah, you just liked the idea of playing the part of the ‘Pink Flower Thief’.’ She stood with her hands on her hips.
Sheridan looked around at the flowers that bordered the windows and smiled. ‘I am hanging up that title, I promise.’
‘Not yet you aren’t! Those flowers will grace each jewel as they are returned. They will have no idea who you are but those flowers are going to make them very happy!’
‘Juliana, you’re gorgeous! Of course the flowers will accompany the jewels. When it’s all over, I’ll give you a whole bouquet!’
to be continued....