The Times of Their Lives
Chapter 3 -- No Present Like the Time...
It was a full five minutes before Chip suddenly came to a realization. He could have gone with Gadget and Basil after all! Basil was returning to his own time, and wouldn't have needed his bracelet there. He could have used the one Basil was wearing! Chip's frustration was too large for the small space of headquarters to hold, so he marched out of headquarters and started pacing up and down by the guardrail at the edge of the main treelimb.
Dale had seen and heard enough to know that Chip was upset. He also knew that Chip wanted to talk, but needed to sort out his feelings first. Thus, it was a full ten minutes before Dale and Foxglove appeared at the doorway.
Chip came over to him, a mix of emotions. "Dale, I don't like this all," Chip started, a little louder than normal. "Why did they need to go back into the past? Just to test the bracelets?"
Dale was feeling uncomfortable with the situation and pressed a little bit against Foxglove, and more importantly the door. Foxglove knew he was looking for an out, but she could also see the hurt in Chip's face. She squeezed Dale's arm a bit harder in reassurance and nudged him forward. Foxglove hung back, just inside the doorway.
"Chip," Dale asked gently, "don't you trust Basil? You were the one who said he was real! Do you think he's an imposter after all?"
"No," Chip said. "Everything about him rings true! My concern isn't with him anyway."
Dale was confused now. "Then why are you concerned about Gadget? She's..."
"It's not her either, its...it's...I don't know! It's just that there's something about these robberies I don't like! I grant that Nimnul's a genius, but this doesn't seem like something he'd do! Plus, we should be able to figure out why he wants the diamonds! I don't have the foggiest clue, and now we're about to time travel! I WANT TO KNOW WHY!" Chip shouted, flailing his arms.
Foxglove came to her husband's rescue. "Chip, settle down! I know you're angry, but that's no reason to take it out on Dale!"
Chip started in surprise. "But I was just...oh, I'm sorry Dale! I feel like we're walking blind on a tightrope. It's like Sureluck..uh, Basil says..."
"It's a capital mistake to theorize without facts!" Basil said. He came striding up to the others, Gadget in tow.
"Basil! Gadget! You're back!" Dale said.
"Yeah, it took us a little longer than we thought. I'd better check on the return instrumentation," Gadget said.
Chip was about to follow Gadget, when Basil stopped him. "I think you'd better hear what happened to us first before you see her. Plus, we have our first clue!"
Basil handed a piece of paper to Chip. "The paper is a torn half-piece of hotel stationery. The weight of the paper makes that conclusion obvious. The note has been folded several times for concealment. The watermark was on the other half, suggesting deception. The writing was done with a narrow quill pen, by a left-handed male. Read it Chip, if you please."
Chip looked at the strange words on the page--
You've stopped me this time...
But time's your foe
If you can get the numbers
My secret they'll show
Half a league
Half a league
No leagues on
Go the Rangers
By second, by year
The sand runs clear
If you will fail to stop me before
The Rangers are no more!
2 4 5 6 0
Chip looked up, a picture of bewilderment. "What does it mean?"
Basil snatched the paper and started to pace. "It means what I thought in the first place! We're dealing with more than common robberies! But come, let's go in and I'll tell you how we happened upon this."
Monty pulled up a chair for Basil as Monty and Zipper joined Chip, Dale and Foxglove on the couch.
Basil sat and leaned slightly forward, allowing memory to take over. "Once we returned and I acquired the tools of my trade, I suggested to Gadget that we inspect the crime scene. The Star of Indonesia had been on display at the Royal Museum for over a week when it was stolen. We found the area well-trafficked by the Scotland Yard investigators, as usual. Still, I hoped that a minute survey of the area would bring some sign of our robber.
Basil gestured toward the workshop. "It was Gadget who found the note--we were inspecting the display. The glass had been cut open, allowing for our easy access. The holder for the diamond was a simple glass tube with the top shaped to hold the cone-like bottom of the gem."
"That's when I checked the base of the holder," Gadget said, coming into the living room from her workshop. She stood next to Basil. "The black backdrop of the case left a two-inch hole around the tube. I reached in and found the note folded and tied to the tube."
"What do the words of the poem suggest to you, Chip?" Basil asked.
"Well, the first line would seem to say that someone expects us to do exactly what we're about to...travel back and stop the robberies. The rest of it is just a gibberish!" Chip said.
Basil shook his head. "Possibly, but we may simply lack the Rosetta Stone to translate it. This rhyme takes the level of this case a step higher. The context of the words is all about time. But one thing is clear--this enemy wants you out of the way!"
"Chip," Gadget said, "I think we should go ahead and visit the other time periods. I'll finish making bracelets for all of us. It shouldn't take too long." With that, Gadget returned to her workshop.
Everyone watched her go, then all attention was on the pondering form of Basil, who was pacing once again. "Chip, I suggest we split up into groups. It seems as though we're expected to stay together during all this, recover the diamonds, and find the clues. We'll overlook the diamonds altogether! After all, with the time machine we can recover those anytime. What we need now is information! Toujours l'audauce! Always attack!"
"Now that's my kind of plan!" Monty said. "Go on the offensive! Right, Chip?"
Everyone now turned to Chip, who had remained silent on the couch. Basil walked over, his gentlemanly graces taking over.
"We didn't mean to usurp your authority, Chip. Of course, everything we're saying is meant as a possible course of action. Well Chip, what do you think?" Basil asked.
Chip didn't answer for a full ten seconds, letting the matter weigh on him. Finally, he stood. "Let's do it! I don't have a better suggestion, and you're right in that we need more information. Gadget will stay here to man the time machine. Basil, you go to 1399. Monty, you and Zipper go to 1499. I'll go to 1599 with Dale and Foxglove. We'll set the return portal to appear in three hours and bring us back just after we left. If any of us fails, we can team up then. If everyone's successful, we'll go on to 1699 and 1799."
"Uh, Chip?" Dale asked. "Wouldn't it be better if Foxy stayed here too, now that she's...uh, well, you know..."
"Dale Oakmont!" Foxglove shouted. "I'm not sitting down on the job for you or anyone!"
Chip thought fast. "Actually, Foxglove, there is something else we need you to do. Since we're not recovering the diamonds now, and we still don't know what Nimnul's got planned for them, would you mind staking out his lab?"
Foxy looked at him sidewise, studying the chipmunk for a moment. Finally, she nodded. "All right, all right! I'll stay and be good! If you don't mind, I'll go ahead and leave then. It's the height of my feeding time, you know."
"Just don't get used to life without me while I'm gone!" Dale said.
"What? Are you afraid some manly bat will try to steal your wife away?" Foxy teased.
"If he does, I'll use a Louisville Slugger on him!" Dale countered.
Chip waited for the laughs to end, then spoke. "All right, now that we've got all the bases covered, let's make our preparations. We've got a job to do!"
Chip looked all around. He saw nothing but agreement in the faces around him. Basil sat down to think and everyone else went off to make what preparations they thought would be necessary. Chip walked outside into the cool of the early night.
Basil could guess why Chip had left just then. The position of leader is a great burden, and who can say what the consequences of your decisions will be? So it has been through the centuries, whether it was Lord Nelson before the battle of Trafalgar, Davy Crockett before the battle of the Alamo, or this fedora-topped chipmunk before the uncertain battle he was about to face--all leaders feel the need to pace their battlements and look into the night sky for reassurance.
For a long time, Basil just watched him from a window, the young chipmunk pacing back and forth across a full moon. Finally, Chip took a seat in a lawn chair. Basil sensed an opening. The detective came out noiselessly, but it wouldn't have mattered. Chip had taken out a pad and was writing in the moonlight, lost in his own work.
Finally, Basil worked his way into Chip's field of view and slowly walked toward the railing facing the chair. "Many's the night I've looked at a starry sky and wondered what was out there," Basil started, "but some things are beyond the scope of pure deduction. Still, I sense there is an order to the universe. One can see it in the beauty around us, but too few raise their heads from the sand to appreciate it."
Basil turned to his comrade, about to ask a question, but saw that Chip was still engrossed. The bright moonlight highlighted his fedora and shadowed his face slightly. A beam spotlighted the pad, which gave the chipmunk ample light to write by.
The mouse outside of time took off his deerstalker. "I remember when Bask was working on the story I recounted to him. He'd follow me through all parts of London, picking it up part by part. A detective's life is rarely sedentary, as I'm sure you can attest. I can remember a night similar to this, when Dr. Dawson, Bask and I were at the top of Westminster Abbey on a stakeout. It was one of those nights when you could see forever, and I remembered when I'd met Arianna. They say there's only one woman for every man, Chip, and she was the one. But she bruised my ego, and I spurned her. It was the only major mistake I made in my life lad, but what can compare to that? And then there's Gadget. I've seen the looks between you two. Chip...do you have feelings for her?"
Chip said nothing, just flipped the pages of his pad back to the start, handed the pad over to Basil and indicated that he should read it. On page after page, poetry of various themes and kinds flowed in now fiery, now flowery words--a testament of an enduring and passionate love. The pages told of Chip's feelings from the moment he'd seen Gadget, how he felt when she was in danger, when he saw her at headquarters, when she smiled at him, and even when she was angered at him.
It took Basil a good ten minutes to thoroughly peruse the pages. When he finally finished, he was visibly moved. "You're good. Very good. How did you get interested in poetry?"
Chip looked aside and smiled wistfully. "It goes back to my father. He loved poetry and classical music. I grew up reading the great poets and dad always encouraged me to write. I guess it just took until now for me to find a muse to inspire me."
Basil closed the pad. "You should show her these, Chip."
"Show her my heart? You think it's that simple?" Chip asked, leaning up. "There's been countless nights I've thought about showing her. But if she doesn't really love me, I mean enough to marry me...I couldn't stand the thought of hurting her. Or worse, the guilt she'd feel at not wanting to hurt me!"
Basil sat down at the end of the lawn chair, just beyond his feet. "I realize I may be butting in, Chip. But from the moment we met, I sensed a kindred spirit in you. Your devotion to me reminds me of that of a son to his father. In some ways, I imagine you to be the son I'd have liked to have. So talking father to son, doesn't she have a right to know, Chip? Aren't you being selfish by keeping the depth of your true feelings from her?"
"I..I don't know. Maybe." Chip answered. "Why all this interest in me and Gadget?"
"Chip, I've spent my life learning to read the thoughts of others by their impressions. The girl likes you very much, possibly even loves you!" Basil said.
Chip nodded. "But if she rejects me, I don't think I'd survive. I've never really loved a girl before! Not like her! I've liked some and had a couple of good memories, but I'd trade them all for just a moment in her arms!"
Basil stared him straight, eye to eye. "Chip, none of us can know the critical moments of our lives. We see opportunities come, and we may think that we'll catch the next one that comes along, like the next hansom. The problem is, the next one never comes. You love the girl, Chip! That counts for something! If you want my advice, I'd go ahead and tell her as soon as this case is resolved."
Chip lowered his head. "But what if...she doesn't love me?"
"It's better to know than to torture yourself all through life!" Basil asserted. "Chip, I've seen too many lives ruined by the 'might have been's'. The annals of crime are rife with them! The loss, the frustration, the blame for what wasn't done! You owe it her, and you owe it to yourself."
"Are you talking about me or you now?" Chip asked pointedly, a half-smile forming.
"Both of us, really," Basil replied. "I too intend to do something about Arianna. I never knew how empty my life was until it was filled for a few brief hours. Your life is full now Chip; don't let it become empty when it's in your power to save it."
Chip was spared the necessity of speaking more on this hard topic when the silhouette of Gadget framed the doorway of headquarters. Basil quickly handed the pad over to Chip with a look toward him, and Chip just as quickly returned the pad to his inner jacket pocket.
"The extra bracelets are done, guys," Gadget said. "We can go anytime you're ready."
"I think we'd better get cracking then!" Chip said. "No time like the present!"
"Until it's past," Basil added with a smirk.
The Rangers assembled for their unique trip with extra tools and supplies. Basil started handing out papers to everyone.
"This is the exact time and place of the robberies, or at least as exact as history records," Basil said. "You should be able to at least find the message in your time frame with this."
Gadget checked everyone's bracelets over one last time, then set the controls. "Be extra careful, guys! If your bracelet is damaged, you can only survive a short time in the past. Even with it, you can only last about a week."
In less than a minute, Basil, Monty and Zipper had left for their destinations. Now it was Chip and Dale's turn. Chip turned to the only girl he would ever love.
"Gadget, don't worry. We'll be back soon," Chip reassured her.
"I know you will, Chip. You take care. You too, Dale," Gadget said. She hugged them both.
Nothing more could be said without emotions taking over, so Gadget turned to her wondrous machine yet again. The glowing white portal to the year 1599 stood before them. Chip took one last look at Gadget, then motioned to Dale and through they went, the portal vanishing with them. Gadget sighed, checked the figures on a piece of paper she’d had in her pocket, then sat down to her long vigil.
The trip was almost instantaneous; however the effect of going from night in America to dawn in India was a shock to the system--not to mention four hundred years in the bargain. Chip and Dale found themselves in a dense jungle. It was cool, and the trees were alive with noise from the many creatures stalking about.
Dale was more than a little nervous. "Uh, Chip? Where did you say we were, again?"
"This is somewhere near Anantapur, India. According to the legend of the Hope diamond, the original 112-carat stone the Hope was cut from came from an idol of a Hindu god somewhere near," Chip said.
"But, uh, why come back here to steal the diamond?" Dale asked. "Why not steal the cut diamond?"
Chip was amazed that every now and again, Dale showed a bit of higher thought.
"My question exactly, Dale. But according to the information we have, a man named Tavernier stole the diamond and took it to France...or will take it to France about 30 years from now."
Dale thought it over. "Oh! So Nimnul's stealing the diamond before anyone outside of India knows about it."
"Looks like it. As far as I'm concerned, they can have it," Chip commented.
"What!" Dale shouted. "But Chip!"
Chip covered his mouth. "Sshhh! Not so loud!" Chip hissed. "We don't know who's around. We may have been spotted already! Remember, we're not here for the diamond, but the clue."
"Oh, right," Dale said. "But which way do we go?"
"I say, can I help?" a voice boomed behind them.
Two chipmunks jumped and shouted at the surprise. They'd been so intent on their conversation, they hadn't noticed the English mouse riding a young Indian elephant nearby when they starting talking.
"Greetings, lads! My name is Sir Wilfred G. Erskine," the mouse said. He was about the height and size of Monterey Jack, wearing an explorer's outfit--a white shirt of heavy cotton with a canvas jacket over it. The pants were a light khaki. His brown hair was slightly mussed under his pith helmet and his bushy mustache extended to connect with his sideburns. "My able mount is called Rama. You're looking for an idol?"
"Why yes! My name is Chip, and this is Dale. Yes, an idol with a large blue jewel in one of its eyes," Chip said.
Rama lowered his trunk. "I know where that is! Climb on and I'll take you!"
The two chipmunks gathered their belongings and swiftly joined Sir Wilfred on Rama's head. They soon learned that the mouse was here as an agent of his government, part of an initial survey of the country for a report of its native goods and valuables as a prelude to future colonization.
"Yes, lads, an Erskine has always been at the head of every major undertaking in the Empire!" he said. "My family prides itself on being explorers, always seeking to be the first to see the next horizon."
For a time, Chip and Dale just sat and looked at the exotic beauty of the jungle. The sky was clear, and a few birds were visible through the mass of trees. The sounds of the jungle seemed louder now--the growl of a tiger, the chattering of a baboon, the alarm of a bird disturbed from its roost. Neither chipmunk said anything for a while, just gazing at the mixture of trees and vines. Finally, Rama stopped at the edge of a clearing.
"The idol is just ahead. But there's always someone guarding it. You'll have to be careful," Rama said.
"Not to worry," the bold mouse said. "With Sir Wilfred Erskine along, you're always one step ahead!"
Chip and Dale got down, thanking Rama for the ride. Stealthily, they proceeded into the clearing. A wondrous, yet frightening sight met their eyes. They had found the idol!
"Ah yes--a stone image of the Hindu goddess Sita," Sir Wilfred commented.
In the idol's left "eye" rested a blue gem the size of a softball! It was an amazing sight. Two men stood guard at the base of the statue. They wore white turbans and billowy pants, but no shirts. They also had swords at the ready.
Sir Wilfred took out a riding crop and pointed at the stone. "That gem was one of the reasons I came here, lads! The natives in Delhi mentioned it to me, and I just had to see it for myself! Come on!"
About fifty feet from the idol, Chip motioned for a stop by a rotted-out stump. They climbed inside, a perfect vantagepoint. Sir Wilfred kept watch while Dale motioned for Chip to come down and talk with him.
"What are we waiting for, Chip?" Dale asked.
"For whoever Nimnul hired to steal the diamond!" Chip said.
Dale was confused. "But how do we know when they're going to steal it? You said we only knew the year!"
Chip sat down. "True, but Basil and I did a little deductive reasoning. Whoever Nimnul picks to steal it couldn't just waltz in here. He'd get someone who'd know when the jewel would be vulnerable to a thief. The most vulnerable time is when the guards are changed out. And according to our research at the library, that only happened three times in a year. Once at the start of the rainy season, once at the end and once in the middle. The end seemed the most logical time, since the guards getting relieved would have been through the worst of the rains. That's where we are--and that exchange should happen within the next hour!"
Finally the relief came. Two men similarly-clad to the ones already present emerged from the jungle and made themselves known.
" one of the guards said.
Faroud raised his hand in greeting. "
The newcomers gave the relieved guards a share of their supplies, enough to last the four-day journey they had ahead of them. The one called Sakim saluted them.
" Sakim said.
With that, Sakim and his companion make their way home. Faroud and his partner took their places at the statue.
"That's strange," Chip mused. "I thought the guards would have been imposters.
Unless that other guard is the one Nimnul hired."
"Did you understand what they said?" Dale asked.
"Not the words, no. But it's pretty obvious that those two humans were friends. If I was going to use someone to steal a jewel, it probably wouldn't be a friend of one of the other guards," Chip pointed out.
"Steal it?" Sir Wilfred said. "You mean you've uncovered a plot to steal the jewel?"
Chip nodded as he faced Sir Wilfred. "We've heard that someone may try, but my guess is that they're waiting for nightfall."
"Uh...Chip, you might want to guess again! Look!" Dale said.
Chip's attention, diverted by his talk with Dale, now was fully on the scene at hand. Sakim was wresting the gem from its setting, while the other guard--who Sakim referred to as Buvali--was keeping watch.
"Of course!" Chip said. "Why bribe just one, when you can get both of them to work for you!"
"We've got to stop those blaggards! Charge, lads!" Sir Wilfred said, brandishing his riding crop like a sword.
"Wait, Sir Wilfred! No!" Chip cried. It was too late, of course. The husky mouse had already cleared half the distance and was at full speed. Chip and Dale started forward as they watched Faroud hand the beautiful blue gem down to Buvali. Faroud then took a slip of paper and placed it in the idol's empty socket. They were about to leave when Buvali suddenly found that the jewel was a little heavier--by one mouse!
"Put that jewel back, you jackenape!" Sir Wilfred demanded.
" Buvali shouted, shaking the husky explorer loose. He landed with a thud, right on Chip and Dale! The thieves seized the moment and disappeared into the jungle, going in the opposite direction of their counterparts.
"Are you all right, lads?" Sir Wilfred asked. He watched the humans disappear. "We failed! The blighters got clean away!"
Chip dusted himself off and helped Dale up. "We're okay. Why don't you check on Rama, and we'll see if we can find any clues as to where they're headed."
"Right-o!" Sir Wilfred said, giving an about-face and heading off toward the jungle the way they came.
"That's our cue, Dale!" Chip said. The chipmunks made their way to the base of the idol and climbed up most of the way. When they ran out of things to grab onto, they were still a good five feet from the eye socket. They brought out the rope and Chip snared an outcropping that was to the right and at the same height as their target. Chip climbed halfway up, then started swinging. The third time around brought him close enough to the socket, and he let go. The paper was easy enough to get, and Dale brought the rope over close enough that Chip could easily jump to it. They returned to the stump with their prize.
"Quick! What's it say Chip?" Dale asked, the image of curiosity.
Chip unfolded the paper. You've won this time
Is a grueling
It tests the mettle
Of all who try
To run its
Can you fill
I think not.
2 4 5 6 0
"What's it mean, Chip?" Dale asked.
I'm not sure Dale," Chip said. "Hopefully, when we put this note together with the others, something will emerge!"
Chip was disappointed. He'd expected something--some kind of useful information to be here. Perhaps there was, but what did it all mean? Clearly, it was a challenge meant only for them. Yet there was a pattern.
Suddenly, Chip snapped his fingers. "That last line! Now I remember, it's from one of Kipling's poems. Of course, he'd pick Kipling in the middle of the Indian jungle! Now who wrote that first one?" Chip fished out the first clue from his jacket pocket. "Of course! It's a variation on Tennyson's 'Charge of the Light Brigade.' But what do those numbers mean?"
"Do you suppose they match up with lines in the poems?" Dale asked.
"Possibly, but each line could be a clue in itself. For example, a minute is a measure of time composed of 60 seconds--'of distance run', as the poem says. It could be that 60 is one of the numbers we're supposed to 'get.'" Chip said.
Dale pointed at the paper. "But what about the numbers there?"
Chip shook his head. "Everything we've seen so far points to a master criminal. He wouldn't make it that easy for us. However, you may be right in thinking that those numbers work in combination with something else."
Speculation was cut off at that moment, as a buzzer went off. Gadget had implanted a timer into each of the bracelets, indicating when the wearer should head back to the rendezvous site to reach the portal in time.
"Well lads, any luck?" Sir Wilfred asked, coming back with Rama.
"I'm afraid not Sir Wilfred," Chip said. "It appears they've gotten clean away."
"Odsbodkins! And with a treasure like that!" Sir Wilfred exclaimed. "That should be in a museum, where everyone can enjoy it!"
"With Sir Wilfred G. Erskine's name on the placard?" Chip asked coyly.
Sir Wilfred let out a belly laugh. "I see you've been around explorers! I only wish I could do something famous."
"Why's that?" Dale asked.
"On account of my brother," Sir Wilfred said, as he helped Chip and Dale onto Rama's head. "Poor Cecil is the only Erskine who ever failed the family."
"Why? What did he do?" Chip asked.
The hurt look on Sir Wilfred's face showed the love he had for his brother. "It shames me even to speak of it, but he turned into a..a common criminal! They stripped him of all rank and title. They even made him change his name when the family banished him from the country for shaming the family honor. Now all anyone will know him as is...Cheshire Cecil!"
"Cheshire?" Chip noted, a question forming in his mind. "Isn't that a type of English cheese?"
"Oh yes, the best!" Sir Wilfred said. "We Erskines have always loved cheese. That's what Cecil stole, hence the name. It wasn't his fault, though. When he smells cheese, he simply loses all control. We've always been like that. In point of fact, my middle name is Gouda. Uh, don't spread that around though. It's kind of embarrassing now, in light of my brother."
"You can count on us!" Dale said. "We won't tell a soul while you're alive!"
The rest of the ride was spent in silence, the munks considering the discovery they had made. Finally, they reached their departure point.
"Thanks again, Sir Wilfred! We'll never forget you!" Chip said.
The bold explorer waved over his shoulder. "Goodbye, lads! Don't stay in the jungle after dark!"
"Goodbye, Rama!" Dale shouted.
It was a good ten minutes after Sir Wilfred had left before the portal opened. Two very reflective chipmunks disappeared through the small oval, the gateway disappearing a few moments later.
"Did you get it, Chip?" Gadget asked, as they emerged from the portal.
Chip held up the paper. "Yep, though it's not much help so far."
"Perhaps the sum of the parts will tell us something," Basil said. "I got back just a few moments ago. Now it's Monterey's and Zipper's turn."
Gadget made the adjustments, the oval modulated a bit, and Monty and Zipper came running through!
"Yaaaaaaah!" Monty cried. "Crikey! Those natives are worse than the time I had to fight off a riverful of Amazon piranhas!"
"Where'd you go, Monty?" Dale asked.
"Oh, didn't they tell you?" Monty asked sarcastically. "They sent us back to 1499 in China! Those blinkin' yahoos attack anything that moves! Still, we got the paper. They took the jewel from the Emperor’s crown at the Forbidden City. I played decoy while Zipper flew in and got the note. Didn't get a chance to look it over yet."
"Let's clear off a spot here and lay all the notes out we have so far," Basil suggested.
The two newest additions were similar in form to the first two--
You win this time,
But time is a river
That is tough
There are many ebbs
And flows to it;
Swim fast or
You may drown.
Fare thee well, Rangers!
And if for ever,
Still for ever,
Fare thee well.
2 4 5 6 0
You beat me this time
But time is like a bird
That takes flight
And then is out of sight.
Each life is short
And then it's flown
We face an end
But some things are worse
Than death's dark door
For surely it is better to have been
Then to be "Nevermore"!
2 4 5 6 0
"Okay, so what do we know?" Basil asked Chip.
"Well, we know it's someone who likes poetry, someone who knows us and is out to get us. Beyond that...I'm not sure!" Chip said.
"Nonsense! We can already make some deductions. We have allusions to our time being short, and needing to swim fast. So apparently, whatever is going to happen is soon to come. It also seems that we won't have much time to react to it. This would also seem to be a villain you defeated," Basil said.
"How do you figure that?" Monty asked. "None of the villains we've fought likes poetry, at least none that I remember off the top of me head."
"This would seem to be a person of high education, with an intelligence approaching my own--possibly surpassing it in some places," Basil added.
"Could it be someone like Lawainie?" Dale asked.
"I don't think so, Dale," Chip answered. "She's reformed, or at least enough that she wouldn't try to kill us. Besides, she doesn't have the know-how to pull something off like this."
Basil stepped between them. "Chip, we're still lacking facts. We've got two more points in time to visit. I suggest we go as a group to these. We'll go to 1799 first, then straight from there to 1699. Hopefully, we'll have a clearer picture of all this when we get the last two messages."
"Gadget, can you set the portal to take us straight to our second destination, then back here?" Chip asked.
"Sure thing, Chip. It'll just take me a few minutes to make the calculations," Gadget said, taking a piece of paper and pencil from her workbench.
Now that they had a moment, Chip and Dale approached Monty. Neither knew where to begin. Fortunately, Monty's curiosity got things rolling.
"What is it, mates? You two like a couple of dingos waitin' for lunch to come by," Monty said.
Chip rubbed the back of his neck, thinking of any kind way to put it. "Uh, Monty? You've never told us much about your earlier ancestors. Did you ever happen to know the name Cheshire Cecil?"
"Cheshire Cecil! Crikey! How'd you ever hear about 'im!?" Monty said. "Has Dad been talkin' to you two behind me back?"
"Uh, no Monty. We just heard the name and thought you might be related," Dale said innocently.
"Too right we are! He's the head of our bloomin' family! A right ruddy lad 'e was, too! Left England and traveled 'alf the world, he did! It was his grandson, Cheshire Cecil the third that traveled to Australia! Ol' Cheshire we call 'im. I remember just how dad told it to me--Ol' Cheshire had come over escortin' some prisoners. They'd brought a full boatload of cheese with 'em. But then, the ship sprung a leak! They only had minutes to plug the hole in the main hold. While everyone else panicked, Ol' Cheshire grabbed a round of the cheese he'd been named for and jammed 'er in there good and tight! Saved the ship, cargo and all that day! The captain asked him his name and everyone laughed right hard when 'e told 'em! Ol’ Cheshire liked the area and decided to stay. Anyway, Monterey Jack wouldn't likely be around if he hadn't settled down!"
Chip and Dale both smiled at the account, then walked off. They looked at each other with helpless expressions. They knew they couldn't tell Monty the truth about the first Cecil--it would break his heart!
Dale whispered, "What'll we do, Chip?"
"We'll keep the secret and never tell him. Besides, he's got one Cecil that he can be proud of! If he hadn't come to Australia, Monty never would have been born!" Chip whispered back.
"I guess there is honor among thieves then, or at least one thief," Dale said.
Chip looked back at Monty and gave a silent word of thanks to Cheshire. **It's strange how one person's dishonor can end up being such a good thing for so many.**
Gadget made her calculations and the Rangers, minus Gadget and Foxglove, joined Basil in the time portal. The first stop was at the Tower of London in 1799.
The group approached the main jewel display. "It should be a simple matter to check the jewels," Basil said.
"Won't do any good to check those jewels, mate," Monty said.
Dale nodded. "That's right. They're fakes!"
Basil did a double take. "How did you know they were fakes? I was about to suggest I check them alone to give me excuse to check the real ones!"
"I've got a proud ancestor of mine to thank for that!" Monty said.
Chip and Dale again changed glances as Basil led the way to the secret staircase.
"Basil, how is it you know where the real jewels are?" Chip asked.
Basil took a lit torch at the base of the staircase and started up, rangers in tow. "Really, Chip. I am a first-class detective. The trained eye can pick out a phony jewel every time. Plus, I was there when they made the original switch. Ah, here we are!"
The diminutive group walked out onto a rafter overlooking the treasures of England. They weren't the only ones who had taken the liberty recently, though. Sure enough, they found the telltale message at the top of an empty scepter, where a diamond had rested.
You found me out this time
But time is like blinders
We can't see its true expanse
Or know its real form
We simply travel on
As quickly by the days do sweep
With miles to go
Before we sleep
Appreciate what you have
Rangers, for your time
Is almost done and mine
Is about to begin anew!
2 4 5 6 0
"Robert Frost now," Chip mused. "Well, he's covering most of the major poets."
"Assuming it's a 'he'," Basil added. "Come on, we've got one more clue to get..."
Continue to Part 2 of Chapter Three
Basil of Baker Street and the Rescue Rangers are copyright Disney and used without permission, but with the utmost respect.