The first snow of the year fell gently to the ground, covering the tree branches with a fine layer that looked like powdered sugar.
Winston, a Dachshund with a talent for solving mysteries, lay on his cushion in front of the fireplace, enjoying the warmth of the crackling fire. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his mom sitting under a thick wool blanket.
She had been busy for several days knitting a scarf with many colorful balls of wool. Inspector Winston reflected on some of his unsolved cases as he listened to the soothing sound of rattling knitting needles.
Now and then, his mind would drift to the source of the delicious smells that he associated with this season: peeled tangerines, cookies, Christmas punch and, of course, smoked sausages.
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“It’s the most wonderful time of year,” Winston said to himself. His mom looked over at him from the armchair. Apparently he had barked louder than he thought.
He went back to his thoughts and had just drifted off to sleep when the doorbell rang.
“Who could that be at this hour?” his mom asked.
Of course, Winston was first to the door, waiting to find out the answer. Often he could tell from a distance who the visitor was. After all, Winston’s sense of smell was very refined.
Only this time, he couldn’t even venture a guess. Tensely, he peered through the door as his mom opened it and was surprised to see countless beaming children.
They had lined up in front of the door, looking curiously at the dachshund and then back into their songbooks. Unprompted, they began to perform Christmas carols. Winston watched intently as the snowflakes gently fell through the air, settling on the children’s hats, noses, and instruments.
When the children moved on to the next house in the neighborhood, Winston snuggled back into his cozy spot. It wasn’t even five minutes later when the doorbell rang again.
“I don’t believe it! Who could it be this time?” Winston’s dad called down the stairs.
Winston was first to the door again. This time he knew even before the door opened who was there. He barked happily and wagged his tail.
Of course, Winston could not tell his family who was at the door, but they knew he was happy to see the visitor. When the door opened, the neighbor, Mrs. Robertson, stood before them in a thick, warm coat. She held a stack of beautiful hand-made cards.
“Sorry to bother you so late,” she said. “I just didn’t get around to handing out the invitations earlier. I would like to cordially invite the three of you to my annual Advent party this Sunday.”
Mrs. Robertson bent down to Winston and patted his head. “Of course, in addition to my famous bread wreath, there will be some delicious sausages for you!” With a twinkle in her eye, she stood up straight again and tugged her coat into place.
While the two women talked some more, Winston made himself comfortable again in his basket under the stairs.
He remembered past Advent parties at his neighbor’s house and thought of how much all the guests loved her bread wreath. He had never tasted it himself, but the smell alone was scrumptious. Winston’s eyes fell shut at the thought of the delicacies to come.
The next day marked the beginning of Advent. Winston walked through the snowy village. He watched the residents clear the snow from their hedges in order to hang fairy lights.
The smell of red cabbage and roast poured out of a neighbor’s open window. Winston’s mouth watered.
When he arrived back home, Winston could see through the window that Mrs. Robertson was in the process of taking her famous bread wreath out of the oven. He watched as she gingerly placed it on the windowsill, wearing thick gloves and calling out to someone.
Winston concluded that Mrs. Robertson already had a visitor. Then he heard children’s voices and saw a shock of blond hair standing at the window. Now that his view of the bread wreath was blocked, he decided to get comfortable in the chair.
His dad was busy carrying in new wood for the fireplace and stacking it neatly.
Winston felt sleepy. “A little nap before the big celebration can’t hurt,” he decided and fell asleep without a care in the world.
A flurry of activity began. All the guests had already arrived at Mrs. Robertson’s house and were listening to beautiful Christmas music played by Mrs. Robertson’s granddaughter Rose on the piano.
The guests made themselves comfortable in the armchairs or gathered in small groups around the warm fireplace in the living room. Mrs. Robertson served punch and tea as everyone eagerly awaited the moment when the food would be ready and the official cutting of the bread wreath would begin.
Winston made his way through the crowd, making sure to avoid Mrs. Robertson’s cat. Suddenly, there was a noise in the kitchen followed by a loud scream.
Inspector Winston knew it was his time to shine. He immediately made his way to the kitchen, where the noises had come from. He saw a startled Mrs. Robertson running frantically through the small room.
She was searching the entire kitchen, running from one cupboard to another, looking in every box and drawer.
Rose had stopped playing the piano in the commotion and spotted Winston in the doorway to the kitchen.
“Psst,” she called to him to get his attention. “Grandma’s bread wreath has disappeared. Do you think it was stolen? That would spoil the whole party. I can’t imagine how sad my grandmother and the guests would be.”
Winston felt the fur on his back rise. Who among these friendly neighbors would do such a thing?
He jumped into action, contemplating which of the invited guests might have a motive. He thoughtfully considered each of the guests he had seen in the kitchen.
He noted that some of Mrs. Robertson’s visitors had been in the kitchen the whole time saying they had wanted to help wash the dishes.
Mrs. Robertson’s best friend from the church choir had been helping Mrs. Robertson with the preparations. She had been dashing hurriedly from the kitchen to the living room, during which time, the bread wreath had been left unattended.
“Don’t jump to conclusions,” Winston admonished himself, trying to follow the bread wreath trail with his fine nose.
“I’ll find it all right, and the thief, too!” Winston made his way through the numerous guests, getting closer and closer to the scent.
When he got to the top of the stairs down to Mrs. Robertson’s cellar, he felt a hand on his head. Flustered, Winston barked, “Leave me alone you thief! You can’t stop me!”
But it was only his dad’s hand. Soon, he heard his soothing voice as he gently scratched the dog’s ears.
“What’s the matter, Winston?” he asked. “That must have been an exciting dream you were having. It’s time to leave for Mrs. Robertson’s Advent party. I can’t wait for her famous bread wreath.”
Confused, Winston opened his eyes. It had all been a dream. The bread wreath had not disappeared at all, and soon everyone would be enjoying a wonderful afternoon.