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The Box
by Ian Curtress

He sat there in his home. The Manse
There it is, on his desk in front of him. An old but still beautiful ivory decorated travelling writing box.
Last locked 1814 according to the details on the underneath.
The lock is described as made by a specialist and cannot be opened except but the one key which is hidden in the The Manse.
From documents handed down over the years it would appear many attempts have been made to unlock it, without success. The same lack of success in finding the key. The Manse has had no church associations for over a hundred years but is still owned and occupied by descendants.
It is surprising but pleasing that no successful attempt has ever been made to break the Box open.
There were many documents in the cupboard where the Box was stored.
A few generations have written something about an experience following any attempt to find a way inside
The earliest was, whilst on a drive in a pony and trap to the blacksmith, a wheel came off and the servant carrying the Box was thrown into a hedge. It is believed they were going to get the Box broken open.
A second was a very strange occurrence. A cousin visiting the house had bragged that he could open any lock.
He had some odd looking little hooked keys and poked around in the lock for about five minutes when suddenly he fell to the ground.
The hospital said he had suffered a stroke.. Just coincidence of course.
Another report in 1911 is of the Box being carried in a Motor car, no details as to where it was being taken, when the engine caught fire. All were ok but rather shaken and returned home by train.
He had read these reports so many times and had decided all his efforts would be employed looking for the key.
Tried to think where he would hide something, but all too obvious.
He was clutching at straws now. Had read read the words on the Box over and over again.”Key hidden in the the Manse…….Manse.?
Anagram? Could it be referring to an anagram. Manse rearranged ……“Names” What were the names of his ancestors at that date.
Checked back, it was Bannister!!

He hurried to the main staircase and studied it closely. There were two acorn finials at the top.
With shaking hands he tried to turn each one. After several tries was on the point of giving up when one moved and with much squeaking, unscrewed.
Out fell a key.

That was a week ago and he had been trying to sum up the courage to turn the lock. Now, he could no longer delay and with some disquiet turned the key.
It was surprisingly easy and after few gentle pulls the lid opened and he could see its contents.

There was an old newspaper cutting concerning.
“The continuing investigation in the High Command on behalf of the Nepalese States for any information regarding the missing Kathmandu Ruby”
The removal of this Famous relic was discovered shortly after a minor uprising which was resolved by the military.

There, wrapped in a piece of purple silk was a small gold plinth with an oval velvet indentation.
His mind went into overdrive
A cold shiver went down his back as he replaced the contents and closed the lid. Locking it and placing the key safely in his desk draw.
In the evening he began his search for ancestors, burning the midnight oil, unaware of the time.
Thank goodness for the digital age otherwise an almost impossible task. More coffee.
It was just after 3am when the name jumped out from the screen. Capt.D.Bannister.Retired. Died en route to Kathmandu, where he is buried 1842