Brander Matthews.

Tom Paulding : the story of a search for buried treasure in the streets of New York online

. (page 11 of 13)
Online LibraryBrander MatthewsTom Paulding : the story of a search for buried treasure in the streets of New York → online text (page 11 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tions at all hours of the night, so Cissy tells me. His house
is just by a station."

" I do not think any one is likely to see us at work unless
he suspects what we are up to," said Uncle Dick. " By the
way, is there any danger from that inquisitive boy you used
to call Corkscrew ? "

"No," Tom answered. "I don't believe Corkscrew Lott
will be up at half -past four or at half -past six either."

" I hope we shall have our job done before six," said Mr.

" Of course," Tom continued, " Corkscrew would get up
over-night if he thought he could pry out anything. But I
don't believe that he will bother us this time, because he is
in bed with a sprained ankle."

"Then we need not worry about him," Uncle Dick re-

" I heard that he was better this morning," Tom added,
doubtfully. " Perhaps he '11 be out by Decoration Day."

Mr. Rapallo replied: "I do not believe that there is
much chance of this Corkscrew's bothering us; and if he
does, why there will be time enough to attend to him


And when the time came, Uncle Dick was able to attend
to him.

On Monday, Tom told Cissy Smith and Harry Zachary
that all was ready to begin work the next morning. Decora-
tion Day came on a Tuesday that year.

" Shucks ! " cried Cissy, " that lets me out. Pop will want
to know where 1 'm going, if I try to get out of the house
'in the morning by the bright light/ as you want."

"And my mother would never let me go," said Harry
Zachary; "at least not without asking awkward ques-

" I told Uncle Dick that I did n't believe you two fellows
could get off j and he said he 'd settle that."

" Pop would settle me," Cissy declared, " if he caught me
at it."

" Uncle Dick is going to ask Dr. Smith if you can't spend
to-night with me so that we can all go off on an expedition
with him in the morning."

" Then I guess it '11 be all right," Cissy admitted. " My
father sets store by your uncle. He knew him out in Den-
ver, you know, and he thinks a lot of him."

" And how about me ? " asked Harry Zachary.

" Uncle Dick 's fixed that too," Tom explained. " He 's
going to get my mother to write to your mother inviting
you over to our house to spend the night with me."

" I reckon that '11 do it," responded Harry.

" Uncle Dick 's going to take Cissy into his room and
you are to sleep with me, Harry," said Tom.


" I don't believe we shall sleep much/' Cissy declared ; " we
shall be too excited to sleep."

" Napoleon used to slumber soundly before his biggest and
bloodiest battles/' Harry Zachary remarked, reflectively;
" and I reckon it 's a good habit to get into."

As it happened, the boys went to bed far earlier than they
had expected. Mr. Rapallo succeeded in arranging with Dr.
Smith that Cissy should be left in his charge for one night,
and Mrs. Zachary intrusted her son to Mrs. Paulding to
whom Uncle Dick gave no reason for the invitation other
than that he was going to take the three boys out, and that
they would see the sun rise.

When Polly heard this, she wanted to go, too. But Mr.
Rapallo tactfully suggested a variety of reasons why she
should not join the party ; and some one of them must have
struck the little girl as adequate, for she did not renew her

After supper during which meal it had been very diffi-
cult for the three boys to refrain from discussing the subject
they were all thinking about Mr. Rapallo gave them each
a coil of hose, and they set out for the vacant block. There
was more hose than could conveniently be carried at once by
the four of them. So they took about half of it the evening
before and left it in the open air, half -hidden under the
bushes. There was no moon, and Mr. Rapallo thought that
it would be perfectly safe to trust the hose at night in a place
where nobody was likely to go.

When they had returned to the house it was barely eight


o'clock, but Uncle Dick promptly sent the boys off to bed j
or rather, he led the way himself, answering their protests
by the assertion that they would need all the sleep they could
get. He declared that he was not going to have his work-
men too sleepy to see what they were about in the morning.

He set them the example himself, and all four were sound
asleep before nine o'clock.

They had had nearly seven hours' slumber when Mr.
Rapallo roused them. In the gray dawn which struck
them as being colder and darker than they had expected
the boys dressed themselves hastily. They gladly ate the
bread and butter that Uncle Dick had ready for them, and
each drank a glass or two of milk.

Then they crept softly downstairs and out into the garden.
Mr. Rapallo divided the rest of the hose among them, and
added to his own load three light spades and a pickax.

Thus the procession set out. Tom's heart had already be-
gun to beat with alternating hopes and doubts ; he was in
haste to get at the work and to find the buried treasure as
soon as might be. Cissy Smith and Harry Zachary had a
boyish delight in the pleasantly romantic flavor of the ad-
venture. To them it was as if they were knights-errant
going to a rescue, or scouts setting out on a scalp-hunt, or, per-
haps, pirates making ready for a sea-fight against a Spanish
galleon laden with doubloons. Harry Zachary's imagination
was the more active ; but in his own way Cissy Smith took
quite as much enjoyment in the situation.



HEY walked on as the gray dawn was
breaking with a faint, rosy tinge in the
eastern sky. Two abreast, they bore with
them the implements of their new craft,
Tied in a bundle and slung over his shoul-
der, Tom had also the bags in which to
put the buried treasure.

When they had come to the vacant block they set down
part of the hose on the sidewalk. The rest they carried with
them down the steep sides of the parallelogram.

The first thing Tom and Mr. Rapallo did was to make sure
that the things which had been brought over-night were still
there. Apparently no one had touched these.

" Now, boys," cried Uncle Dick, " I '11 go to work and get
the hose ready, while you dig me a trench to carry off the
water and the waste it will wash down."

The stepping-stones crossed what had been the middle of
a wide pool into which the brook had broadened. A little
, the ground sloped away sharply. As Tom believed


that the body of Jeffrey Kerr lay at the bottom of the pool,
covered with sand, it was needful to remove not only the
later rubbish, shot down from the street when the projecting
tongue of land was made out into the block, but also to get
a fall of water sufficient to carry off the sand at the bottom
of the pool.

Fortunately, this was not a difficult task. By digging a
trench a foot wide around a rock which had retarded the
stream, and by carrying it along less than twenty feet, the
natural declivity of the ground would then bear the water
off to the open culvert at the end of the block.

Mr. Rapallo consulted with the boys as to the best course
of this little trench. Then he roughly traced its path with
the point of the pick, loosening the earth here and there
where it seemed more than ordinarily compact. They set to
work with the spades he had brought, while he went over to
make ready the hose. The sections of common kind were
first unrolled and stretched out across the block from the
hydrant toward the point of attack. He screwed them firmly
together. Then he went up to the hydrant and fastened to
it the section of heavier hose, to the lower end of which was
affixed a screw- joint to receive the end of the garden hose.
By the aid of this, Mr. Rapallo joined the two kinds ; and
he had then a flexible tube more than a hundred and fifty
feet long, with the hydrant at one end and a broad nozle at
the other.

When he had thus prepared the hose for its work, he
went over to the trench to see how the boys were getting on.


By this time the sun had risen and was visible, a dull red
ball glowing in the east and slowly climbing the sky.

" Are you all ready ? " cried Tom, as his uncle came up.

"I can turn on the water now if you have the trench
done/' was the answer.

The boys had followed the line Mr. Rapallo had traced,
and, working with the eagerness and enthusiastic strength
of youth, they had dug a ditch both broader and deeper than
he had declared to be necessary.

" That 's excellent," said Uncle Dick, when he saw what
they had done. " It could n't be better."

" Shall we knock off now ? " asked Cissy.

" You need n't do anything more to the trench," Mr.
Rapallo answered. "That is just right. Gather up the
spades and take them back out of the way of the water."

Then as they drew back he explained what he proposed
next. What they needed to do was to lay bare the original
surface of the pool by the stepping-stones. To do that they
would have to wash out a hole in the bank at least twenty
feet broad, perhaps fifteen high, and certainly ten feet deep.

"Can you do that with the hose?" asked Cissy, doubt-

" I think so," Mr. Rapallo answered. " Luckily, we shall
have a strong head of water. Owing to the work on the
new aqueduct, part of the supply for this portion of the city
has been shut off below us for three or four days, so that
hereabout there is a very full pressure. What I 'm most in
doubt about is whether this small hose will stand it. We


might as well find out as soon as possible. Tom, you can
take this key and turn on the hydrant up there."

Tom hastily grasped the key, and sprang away across the
open space. In a minute he had climbed to the street and
turned on the water.

Mr. Rapallo seized the hose by the long brass nozle and
stood pointing it firmly toward the bank of earth before him.
As Tom opened the valve of the hydrant, the long line of
hose stiffened and filled out. There was a whishing of air
out of the nozle as the water rushed into the flexible tube.
At the juncture of the larger hose with the smaller the
joint was not tight, and a fine spray filled the air.

" Let 's see if you can tighten that,' 7 cried Mr. Rapallo to
Cissy, who ran back at once and succeeded in stopping the

Then the smaller hose distended to the utmost. But Mr.
Rapallo's fears were nearly groundless, for it was stanch and
stood the strain.

It seemed but a second after Tom had turned the handle
of the hydrant that a stout stream of water gushed solidly
from the end of the pipe and curved in a powerful arch
toward the bank before them.

Uncle Dick turned the stream upon the lower end of the
trench the boys had dug, and in a minute he had washed it
out to double its former capacity.

On his way back Tom joined Cissy and assisted him to
tighten the valve which united the two kinds of hose. Harry
Zachary had been helping Mr. Rapallo to get the end of the


tube into working order, adjusting the curves and straight-
ening it, so that the utmost force of the water might be

When he had washed out the trench, Mr. Rapallo raised
the nozle carefully and directed the stream full at the center
of the bank before him, striking it at what had been the level
of the ground before the filling-in. The water plunged into
the soft earth, and in less than five minutes it had washed
out a large cave five or six feet deep.

Then Uncle Dick brought the force of the current again
into the ditch, which had partly filled up. The stream,
adroitly applied first at the lower end, swept out the trench
as if a giant were at work on it with a huge broom.

Turning the water again on the bank of earth, Mr. Rapallo
loosened the overhanging roof of the cavern he had first
made, and it fell in soft heaps as the stream bored its way
into the mound of earth. The hose removed the dirt faster
than a dozen men could have shoveled it away j and a little
attention now and then served to spread the stuff washed
out over the lower part of the vacant block, leaving open a
channel by which the water could make its escape to the

Minute by minute the cavity in the tongue of made land
grew larger and larger, and the rubbish dumped there
ashes, builder's dirt, even old bits of brick and odds and ends
of broken plaster seemed to melt away under the impact
of the curving current of water.

The sun slowly rose, and its early rays fell on this bend-


ing fountain, which sparkled as if it were a string of dia-
monds. As yet not a single passer-by had disturbed them at
their work. But now and again the rattle of an early milk-
cart could be heard in the morning quiet.

Once, when the bulk of the earth to be removed was nearly
gone, Harry Zachary tapped Mr. Rapallo on the shoulder
and pointed to the avenue on the west of them. Uncle Dick
turned off the flow at once, and in the silence they heard the
wagon of a market-gardener come rumbling toward them.
Mr. Rapallo raised his hand and they all sheltered themselves
hastily under the shadow of the bank until the intruder had
passed on out of hearing.

As Uncle Dick turned on the water again he said, " We Ve
been very lucky, so far. But as soon as we get this first job
done I think we had better put out sentinels."

In a few minutes more the heap of dirt was washed away
and the original level of the ground was laid bare up to the
edge of the tall rock by the side of which Tom hoped to find
his great-grandfather's guineas.

Uncle Dick thoroughly cleaned out the trench again and
then turned off the stream.

" Now, Tom," he said, " here we Ve got down to the sur-
face of the soil as it used to be. We are now standing on
what was the bottom of the brook before it dried up.
Where had we best begin on this ? "

"Here," Tom answered, pointing to the base of the tall
rock. " At least it seems to me that if a man tried to cross
on those stepping-stones there, and got washed off by the


brook, his body would be carried into the pool there, and then
rolled over and over and nearer and nearer to that rock."

"Well," Uncle Dick returned, "I think that's the place,
myself. But we must clear away here so that the water can
get in its fine work."

He took the pickax and loosened a few stones and pried
them out. The boys opened another trench leading down to
the first ditch.

When this was done, Mr. Rapallo said, " We shall know in
ten minutes now whether Tom has located his mine properly,
or whether the claim is to be abandoned."

Tom was excited, and his voice shook as he answered, " Go
ahead, Uncle Dick the sooner I know the better."

" I think we ought to have outposts," Mr. Rapallo declared.
" Cissy, will you keep your eyes open for any one approach,
ing from the south or east ? Harry, you take charge of the
north side and the west. Tom, stay with me."

This last admonition was hardly necessary, as it would
have been difficult to make Tom move a step just then.

Cissy went back to the left of the group and looked about
him. Harry withdrew a little to the right. But the fascina-
tion of expectancy was upon them both, and they kept a
most negligent watch. They had eyes only for the stream
of water, as Mr. Rapallo turned it on again and as it tore its
way into the compact sand which had formed the bottom of
the brook. Only now and then did they recall their ap-
pointed duties, and then they would give but a hasty glance



The water washed out the edge of the bottom of the pool,
and Mr. Rapallo was able to expose a depth of fully five feet,
into which the stream was steadily eating its way. As the
open space approached nearer and nearer to the tall rock at
the base of which Tom hoped to find the buried treasure,
his heart began to beat, and he pressed forward in his eager-
ness to be the first to see whatever might have been hidden
in the sand of the brook.

When about two yards only remained between the tall
rock and the widening breach made by the water, he thought
he caught sight of something white. With a cry he sprang
forward, and the stream of water washed away the sand
which had concealed the bones of a human foot and leg.

At that moment there came a whistle from Cissy Smith :

f^ H

tm s* *i




r ^ '


- _T

In a second, as it seemed, this was followed by a second
warning from Harry Zachary :

A b


EN *1




^ '


involuntarily, Tom whistled the answer :

Then he looked at Cissy, who was pointing to the figure of
a man standing on the sidewalk behind them, within a yard
of the hydrant.



Mr. Rapallo looked also, and then waved his hand. The
man waved back.

" That 7 s all right," said Uncle Dick.

Something in the man's gesture seemed familiar to Tom


as he saw it indistinctly in the grow-
ing light of the morning.

"Is n't that the Old Gentleman
who leaned over the Wall ? " he asked.

" Yes," his uncle replied. " And is n't that your friend
Corkscrew?" he continued, indicating a tall figure in high
boots who was then advancing out on the tongue of made
land before them.

This was the stranger Harry Zachary had seen when it


was too late. As this visitor came to the edge of the hollow
which they had washed out, they knew that it was Corkscrew

" What 's he doing here ? n Tom wondered. " I thought he
was in bed with a sprained foot."

" I '11 send him to bed again with a shock of surprise/' said
Mr. Rapallo, raising the nozle again and turning on the

As it gushed forth Uncle Dick aimed it full and square at
Corkscrew, and it took the intruder first in the chest and then
in the face. In a second he was soaked through. He turned
and twisted and staggered back, but Mr. Rapallo never re-
lented. The full stream was kept steadily on the inquisitive
visitor until the tall boy crawled out on the sidewalk and
started home on a full run.

As soon as he was out of sight, Tom cried to Mr. Rapallo,
" Turn it on the place where it was before, Uncle Dick ; I
think I saw a bone there ! "

" I thought so, too/ 7 Mr. Rapallo replied, as the full head
of water began searching again in the sand.

Tom ran forward as far as he could, and in a moment he
gave a cry of joy; for the water was uncovering a human
skeleton, and among the bones he had caught a glitter of



R. RAPALLO instantly turned the valve
in the nozle of the tube and shut off the
water. He threw down the hose and
sprang forward to see what had been dis-

There in the sand were the lower bones
of a human skeleton, bleached white by time. The feet were
already separated by the action of the water, and the shin-
bones were detached at the knees.

The three boys stood by the side of Mr. Rapallo, looking
with intense interest at these relics of what had once been a
fellow human-being. Amid the sand, and by the side of a
thigh-bone half uncovered by the stream of water, lay a dozen
or more yellow coins.

Tom Paulding came closer, stooped and picked these out.
They were dull, most of them, from their long burial in the
earth, and some of them were covered with mold or incrusted
with rusty earth. But one had been protected, perhaps by
its position in the center of the bag ; and this one glittered
as the early rays of the sun fell on it.


The boy held it out to Mr. Rapallo. " This is a guinea,
Uncle Dick. I have seen pictures of them," he cried. " And
see, the portrait of Greorgius III."

Mr. Rapallo took the coin and looked at it carefully, turn-
ing it over. " It seems a little queer somehow," he remarked,
" but it is a George the Third guinea. There can be no doubt
of that."

" Then my guess was right," Tom said ; " and we have found
Jeffrey Kerr."

" The ' working hypothesis ' worked excellently," his uncle
answered. " This must be the skeleton of Jeffrey Kerr, and
these are the guineas he stole. The punishment followed
hard on the crime 5 and it was the weight of the stolen money
which caused his death here at the bottom of the pool a few
minutes after the theft, and when it seemed as if he had
made his escape and got off scot-free. The retribution was
swift enough for once ; and the manner of it worked out a
singular case of poetic justice."

"These six or seven coins are not all the money, I sup-
pose $ " asked Cissy.

" Of course not," Tom declared ; " there are two thousand
of them in all. We shall find them safe enough now."

" Shall I play the hose for you ? " Harry Zachary inquired.

" No," Mr. Rapallo answered. " I think we must abandon
our hydraulic mining now. I 'm afraid the force of the
stream of water might wash away the coins before we could
get at them. We have found the gold now, and we had best
dig it out carefully ourselves."


He himself took the pickax, and gently loosened all the
earth abont the upper part of the skeleton, which was not
as yet uncovered. Then, with the spades, the boys very cau-
tiously removed the sand from about the bones of the dead
man's body. Every spadeful taken away was sifted through
their fingers, and a little pile of guineas began to heap up
near the skull, where Tom had laid the bags he had brought
to carry home the treasure when he should find it. The stolen
money had been tied in four bags originally ; and they dis-
covered the coins in four separate heaps, but they had been
slightly scattered in the century and more between the loss
of the guineas by Nicholas Paulding and their recovery by
his great-grandson.

Two of these little heaps of coins were close together under
the thighs of the skeleton ; and it was from one of these
heaps that the first glittering guinea had been washed out.

" Uncle Dick/' said Tom, as they picked up these coins and
put them in the bags, " do you remember that one of the pa-
pers I showed you said that Jeffrey Kerr had on a big over-
coat with pockets ? "

" Yes," Mr. Rapallo answered ; " what of it ? "

" Well," returned Tom, " I should n't wonder if these two
piles of gold here under the body were once in the two of the
bags which he had put into the pockets of his coat."

"I see," Mr. Rapallo responded; "and you think these
pockets it was that weighted him down when he strug-
gled for life in the swift waters of the swollen brook? I
think it very likely."


The two other heaps were not so near together. The bags
containing the coins in these piles had apparently been held
in his hands nntil the thief fell into the stream as he was
crossing the stepping-stones. With an involuntary clutch
he had carried them with him as he went down into the pool.
Perhaps he had then released them in his efforts to get free,
perhaps they also had been attached to his person.

" It may be that the man did not make any struggle at
all/ 7 said Mr. Rapallo, as they discussed these queries while
gathering the coins together and putting them in the new
bags. " He was fired on twice, remember and at the second
shot the sentry heard a cry of pain. Now it may be that he
was wounded and faint, and so had no strength left."

" I wonder " Harry Zachary remarked, as he went up to
the bones and began to examine them carefully. " I reckon
you 're right, Mr. Rapallo," he cried a minute later. " That
second shot took him in the shoulder."

" How do you know ? " asked Cissy Smith, skeptically.

" Here 's the hole in the bone," Harry answered j " and here
is the bullet that made it." And with that he pulled out a
large leaden ball that had been fast to the shoulder-blade.

" Then there can be no doubt now," said Mr. Rapallo, " as
to the identity of the skeleton before us, as to the cause of
his death, and as to the ownership of this gold. The more
we discover about this, the more closely does everything fit
together in accordance with Tom's ( working hypothesis.' '

When they had picked up the last coin in the four heaps,
and after they had searched the sand below and on all sides


without finding a single separate guinea, Mr. Rapallo said at
last, " I think our work is done. There is no use in our lin-
gering here and looking for more."

"There have been three more carts along here in the
last ten minutes/ 7 Cissy remarked ; " and I think it is
about time for us to light out, if we don't want a crowd
about us."

" That 's so/' Tom replied. " There may be a dozen people

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13

Online LibraryBrander MatthewsTom Paulding : the story of a search for buried treasure in the streets of New York → online text (page 11 of 13)