Disheartened and tired, Samantha Warren returns to Vermont during the winter break. Her passion for history rekindles after finding an old smuggler's chest hidden in her grandparents' attic. Will she be able to return to New Jersey without her heart being smuggled like the chest once was? Or is it already too late?
“Hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught...” Psalm 55:2 (NIV)
Samantha gingerly reached for the newfound treasure. A rush of adrenaline coursed through her body, and her nerves jingled the instant her fingers caressed the soft, worn wood. Just as she knew her own name, she knew there was something special about the small chest.
“That you making a racket up there, Sammie?”
Samantha blew a puff of dust off the curved lid and sat down Indian-style on the painted but worn wide plank attic floor. “I’ll be down in a few minutes, Gram.”
Gram chuckled. “Sure, and pigs can fly too.”
Gram might be eighty-something, but she didn’t miss much. She knew Samantha’s passion for history and antiques and how long it had been since she had visited the attic of her grandparents’ beloved 1820s Victorian home. For that matter, how long since she’d been in Vermont, period.
Samantha fiddled with the latch on the chest. Her finger brushed against a small metal protrusion on the side of the lock. In a sudden, swift motion, the latch sprung open and the lid lifted a quarter of an inch, almost as if the chest wanted to share its secrets and stories with her. She lifted it further and peered inside. The musty smell of aged wood and paper greeted her like a familiar friend she hadn’t seen for a long, long time.
She clutched the box to her chest and rushed downstairs. Breathless, she held out her find for her gram to see. “Do you know what this is?”
“I do.” Gram’s eyes sparkled. “And, I must say, it’s good to see there’s some life in you. I’ve been worried about you since you’ve come home.”
Gram didn’t need to be concerned about her. She was a strong independent woman—at least she liked to think she was. Granted, she had felt a little bit blue as of late, but didn’t everyone experience those feelings every now and then in life?
Time to focus on something else. She held the box a bit higher. “The chest?”
Gram motioned for Samantha to join her on the couch. “That chest’s said to have held letters from one of the caves in the Notch.”
“You remember the history?” Gram asked with obvious delight.
“Sure.” Samantha nodded. “When I drive through Smuggler’s Notch, I try to picture it as during the War of 1812.”
“Yup,” her gram said. “That was when the good old U.S. Congress placed an embargo on the imports from England.”
Samantha looked out windows to the mountains. “I can imagine smugglers hiding in the thick forest and storing their supplies of food, clothing, cattle, and such from Canada in the caves and caverns along the Long Trail.” She turned back to her gram and matter-of-factly said, “And then of course, a hundred years later, when the U.S. Congress passed a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol, it happened again.”
Gram nodded. “Smugglers avoided the revenue agents by storing the alcohol in the caves where they freely smuggled it through the Notch Pass, down to central and southern New England. Thus it’s aptly named...”
Together, they chorused, “Smuggler’s Notch.”
Samantha smiled at her gram’s joy, which must have been mirrored in her own eyes.
History...her passion. But recently, without her even realizing it until this moment, the joy and excitement she usually felt had fallen flat. She still enjoyed her teaching position at a high school in New Jersey, but her enthusiasm over the last several years had waned. How had that impacted her students? She shook her head, trying to dispel that train of thought.
Perhaps coming back to Vermont for winter break was what she needed—at least she hoped so.
“Samantha, I know I don’t tell you this often enough, but I think you’re a gifted history teacher. I only wish you’d come back home where you belong.”
There were many subjects Samantha would be delighted to discuss, but her personal life, particularly where she did or didn’t belong, wasn’t one of them. Especially since she had been struggling with those very same thoughts moments ago. “Gram, let’s not go there. How about you tell me about this chest instead?”
Gram rolled her eyes. “You’re more stubborn than that old manual lawn mower. I guess I should expect as much with all that red hair.”
Samantha lifted her chin. “It’s not red. It’s auburn.”
Was it her imagination, or was Gram fighting a smile?
Gram coughed in her hand. “Where were we...oh, yes. This chest stayed in a cave where it held correspondence or information from one party to the next.”
“How’d you get it?”
“I’m saving that part of the story.”
Samantha’s heart sank with disappointment. “Why?”
“So I can be sure you’ll come back home, where you belong, from time to time.”
Samantha rolled her eyes and bit back the retort, Now who’s being stubborn?