Brander Matthews.

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

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in the air just as naturally as walking on the floor j and,
in my dream, when I float around, nobody seems at all
surprised, any more than if it was the most ordinary thing
to do.

" I dreamed that I floated out to Mount Vesuvius, where
there was an eruption going on and the flames were pouring
out of the crater. There I heard cries of distress, and I found
seven great genies had tied a fairy to a white marble altar,
and they were dancing about her, and making ready to stone


her with sticky lumps of red-hot lava. So I floated over to
her and asked her what I could do for her "

"Did n't the seven evil spirits see you!" interrupted

" They did n't in the dream," Tom answered, " though now
I don't understand why they did n't."

" Perhaps the fairy had made you invisible," explained his

"That may have been the way," Tom admitted. "So I
floated over to the altar and I asked what I could do for her,
and she whispered to stoop down and try if I could see three
flat stones in the ground "

" Did you see them ? " interrupted Polly again.

" I did," said Tom " and if you ''11 just let me go on, you '11
get to the end of this story a sight sooner."

" I won't say another word," Pauline said.

" The three flat stones were just under my feet," said Tom.
" The fairy told me to lift the center stone and she said that
I should find under it a large copper ring "

" And did y n began Polly. " Oh ! " and she suddenly


" She told me to pull on the ring and I would find an iron
box," Tom went on, " and in that box was a beautiful silver-
mounted, seven-shot revolver loaded with seven magic bullets
with which I was to kill the seven genies. So I took the re-
volver and I shot the seven genies, one after the other , and
then I released the fairy."

" What did she give you ? " asked Polly, eagerly.



" If you don't say a word/' Tom continued, " I will inform
you that she gave me three wishes."

" What did you wish for ? " Polly asked at once. " I know
what I should like. I ; d ask for a little bag containing all
the things they have in fairy stories a cap that makes you
invisible, and shoes that make you go fast, and a carpet to
carry you through the air, and all the things of that sort.
You see it is always so awkward to have the wrong things ;
for instance, when there 's a great, big, green dragon coming
to eat you up and you want to be invisible all at once and in
a hurry, it is n't any use having a purse that is always full
of money. I should ask for them all and if she was a real
generous fairy, she 'd count that as only one wish."

When his sister had finished this long speech, Tom was
calmly eating the last of his oatmeal. She looked at him
and cried :

" Tom, you are just too aggravoking for anything. What
were your three wishes f "

" I don't know," answered Tom.

" Why not ? " asked Pauline.

" Because," Tom responded, leisurely, " you interrupted me
in my dream exactly as you did just now. That was as far
as I 'd got when you waked me up."

" Oh, oh ! " said Polly. " If I 'd known you were going to
have three wishes, I would n't have called you for anything
in the world. What were you going to wish for ? " she went
on. " Don't you remember now ? "

" I don't know what I should have wished for in the dream,"


Tom answered ; " but I know what I should wish for now,
if a real, live, sure-enough fairy gave me one wish. I 'd wish
that mother's income were just twice as big as it is, so that
she should n't have to worry about the mortgage and our
clothes and my education."

Mrs. Paulding held out her hand, and Tom gave it a

"You would be glad to have that Purse of Fortunatus
that Pauline despised so," she said. " And so should I. The
mortgage does bother me, now and then, and there are
other things, too. I wish I had enough to let you study en-
gineering, since your mind is made up that you would like
that best."

" My mind is made up that I 'd like best to be an engineer,
if I could," Tom responded j " but I sha'n't complain a bit if
I have to go into a store next year."

" I hope that I shall at least be able to keep you at school,"
said his mother.

" I 'd like to study for a profession, mother, as you know,"
he went on; "but I 7 m not willing to have you worry
about it."

" I think I >d like to study for a profession, too," inter-
rupted Pauline. "I 'd like to learn doctory. We begin
physiology next term, and they have a real skeleton for that
ugh ! it will be great fun."

" You need not shiver in anticipation," said her mother,
with a laugh.

" Tom/' Polly asked, seriously, " did you ever have con.


vulsions? You know I did and when I was only two
years old, too. So when we girls get a-talking over the
things we 've all had, measles and mumps, and they find
out I have n't had whooping-cough, why, then I just tell
them I 've had convulsions j and they have n't, not one of

" Mother," said Tom, who had been thinking quietly while
his sister rattled on, " you told me once about some money
that my great-grandfather lost. Did n't anybody ever try to
find it ? "

"Yes," Mrs. Paulding answered. "Your grandfather
made a great search for it, so your father told me ; and at
one time he thought he was very 'warm,' as children say,
but he suddenly seemed to lose all interest in it, and gave
over the hunt all at once."

" Why ? " asked Tom, eagerly.

" I don't know why," answered Mrs. Paulding ; " nor did
your father know, either."

" How did my great-grandfather lose the money f " Tom

" It was stolen from him," replied his mother. " He was
a paymaster in Washington's army; and when the British
captured New York, the American army retreated up the
island and held the upper part. A large sum of money had
been paid to your great-grandfather or rather he had raised
it on his own property, for I believe that the stolen gold was
his own and not the government's."

" And when was it stolen ? " asked Tom.


" I think I heard your father say that it was taken from
his grandfather during the night during the night before
the battle of Harlem Plains."

"That was in 1776," said Tom, "in September. Our
teacher told us all about it only two or three weeks ago.
And it was fought just around the corner from here, between
Morningside Park and Central Park. Was Nicholas Pauld-
ing robbed during the fight ? "

" Really, my son," responded Mrs. Paulding, " I know very
little about it. Your father rarely spoke of it ; it seemed to
be a sore subject with him. But I think the robbery took
place late that evening, after the battle was over, or it may
have been the night before."

" Who was the robber ? " asked Tom. " They know who
he was, don't they ? "

" Yes," said his mother, " I think it is known who took the
money. He was a deserter from our army. His name was
Kerr, or Carr. He disappeared and the money was missing
at the same time."

" Did n't you say once that the thief was never heard of
after the stealing ? " said Tom.

" That is what I have always understood," his mother de-
clared. " The man left our army and was never seen again.
After the war your grandfather made a careful search for
him, but he could find no trace."

"Did n't the British receive him when he ran away? I
thought the armies in that war were always glad to receive
deserters from the other side."



" I think he never reached the British at all."

" Then what did become of him ? " asked Tom.

"That is the mystery/ 7 replied his mother. "It was a
mystery to your great-grandfather at the time and when the
war was over ; and it seems to have puzzled and interested
your grandfather, too, at least for a while."

" It interests me/' Tom declared. " I like puzzles. I wish
I knew more about this one."

"There are a lot of papers of your grandfather's, maps
and letters and scraps of old newspapers, somewhere in an
old box where your grandfather put them more than fifty
years ago," said Mrs. Paulding.

" And where is that box now ? " was Tom's eager question.

" I think that it is in one of the old trunks in the attic,"
Mrs. Paulding replied.

Before Tom could say anything more, a shrill whistle was

" There 's the postman ! " cried Pauline, jumping up from
the breakfast-table. "I hope he has brought a letter for
me ! "

The Careful Katie entered and gave Mrs. Paulding a let-
ter, saying, " It 's a new letter-man, this one, and he says
he ought to have left this letter yesterday. More fool he,
say I."

With that she took the coffee-pot from the table and went
out of the room again.

Mrs. Paulding looked at the handwriting for a moment
and said, " It is from Mr. Duncan." Then she opened it and


glanced at the signature and exclaimed, " Yes, it is from Mr.
Duncan. I wonder what he has to say."

Tom knew that Mr. Duncan was a lawyer, and an old
friend of the family, and that he had always advised Mrs.
Paulding in business affairs. As his mother read, Tom
watched her face. When she had finished the letter she let
it fall in her lap.

" Well, mother," he asked, " have you received bad news ? "

"Yes," she answered, "bad news indeed. Mr. Duncan
writes that the gentleman who holds the mortgage on the
house wishes us to pay it off soon, and Mr. Duncan is afraid
that we shall not be able to get as much from anybody else."

" Well, suppose we don't ? " Tom inquired.

" Then we shall have to sell this house and move away,"
said Mrs. Paulding; and she sank back in the chair, and
with difficulty kept back her tears.

Pauline, who had been a silent spectator, walked over and
put her arms about her mother. " How soon shall we have
to go ? " she asked.

" I hope we shall not have to go at all," Mrs. Paulding
answered. " Mr. Duncan says that we have several months
before us to see what we can do. Perhaps the mortgagee
won't want his money before that time."

" Or perhaps Uncle Dick will come back with lots and lots
of money," suggested Pauline.

" Mother," said Tom, suddenly, while he strapped up his
school-books, " would you let me look at that box of papers
about that stolen gold?"


" Certainly, my son, if you would like to see them," she

"How much money was it that my great-grandfather
lost?" he asked.

"I don't know exactly. I think I once told you as much

*/ V

as the thief could carry comfortably about two thousand
pounds, perhaps."

" Whew ! That 's ten thousand dollars ! " exclaimed Tom,
as he bade her good-by before going to school. " Don't
worry about that mortgage. I J m going to see if we can't
get back some of that stolen money. Nobody knows where
it is, and I may be lucky enough to find out. At any rate, I
mean to try. 7/





OWEVER much men may differ in the
five quarters of the globe, boys are alike
the world over. Wherever they may be
born, and whatever be their bringing up,
the quality of boyishness is sure to be
in all of them. When the little cock-
ney lad in the dark lanes of London hears the sound of
Bow Bells, he cannot help sometimes putting himself in the
place of Whittington, and, by sheer force of make-believe,
succeeds in owning a cat, and in disposing of it for a high
price to the Barbary king. No doubt the little Arab of Bag-
dad plays at Haroun al Raschid, and makes up out of his
own head a tale of which he is the hero one that in unex-
pectedness of adventure and in variety of incident far sur-
passes any told by the fair Scheherazade to the cruel Sultan
in the watches of the " Thousand and One Nights."

So it is no wonder that the boys of America delight in be-
ing Indians. The condition of the streets and parks near
the house where Tom Paulding lived w&s yery well adapted


for redskin raids, sudden ambushes, and long scouts after a
retreating tribe of hostiles. Rarely a week passed that the
Black Band did not go upon the war-path. And it was
therefore with no surprise that Tom was called upon by Cissy
Smith and Corkscrew Lott, the next Saturday morning, and
was by them bidden to hurry over to Morningside Park as
soon after dinner as he could.

Tom was kept busy at school during all the week j and
Saturday was the only day when he really had any time to
himself. In the morning he had usually a few errands to
run for his mother and a few chores to do about the house.
The afternoon was always his own.

" What are you going to do to-day I " asked Tom.

" We 've got a mighty good idea," Cissy replied. " We are
going over to Morningside to play the l Death of Custer in
'"he Lava Beds.' "

" That is a good scheme/ 7 Tom said. " Whose was it?"

"Harry Zachary suggested it," answered Smith. "He
said that, if we did, we could have a bully massacree, and
that we could pretend to kill them all off one by one."

"Harry has first-rate notions about a good fight," Tom
declared. " I ? d like to join in, but I can't."

" Why not f " asked Corkscrew.

" Well," said Tom, with a sense of the importance of the
disclosure he was about to make, " I have some business to
attend to. You remember that stolen gold I said belonged
to us if we could only find it ? "

"Yes," Cissy replied.


" Have you found out where it is ? " asked Lott, eagerly.

" No/ 7 Tom answered j "at least not yet. But my mother
has given me all the papers a whole box full of them and
I 'm going over them this afternoon."

" Shucks ! " said Cissy, scornfully. " If you don't know
where the gold is, what 's the use of looking for it ? "

" I hope to find a clue that 's what the detectives call it,
is n't it ? " Tom responded.

"All the clues you find," returned Cissy, "you can clue
yourself up with ! You had better come over to Morning-
side, instead of staying at home looking at old papers."

" What sort of papers are they f " inquired Lott. " News-
papers ? "

"All sorts," Tom replied; "newspapers and old letters
and reports j lots and lots of them. I have n't sorted them
out yet, but they seem to be very interesting."

"Would you like me to come around and help you?"
asked Lott.

" No," responded Tom, " I am going to find that gold my-
self, if it 's to be found at all."

" I don't believe it 's to be found at all," said Cissy. " I
don't believe there ever was any to be found anywhere. This
is just a sort of ghost-story they are fooling you with. I '11
tell you what you had better do. You come over with us
this afternoon, and we '11 let you be Custer."

This was a temptation to Tom, and for a moment he

" We 'd let you be the Indian Chief, Rain-in-the-Face,"


Cissy went on, noticing Tom's hesitation, " but Harry said,
as he 'd suggested it, he thought he ought to be the Indian
chief and lead in the scalping. But you can be Ouster, if
you '11 come."

" I 'd like to," answered Tom, who had made up his mind
now, " but I can't. I 'm going over these papers this after-


" If you find out anything, will you tell me ? " Lott inquired.

" I '11 see," was Tom's response.

" He '11 tell you all he finds out," declared Cissy, as he rolled
away, " and so could I for he won't find out anything. As
I said before, I don't believe there 's anything to find out."

This discouraging remark was intended for Tom's ear, and
it had its due effect. Tom had a great respect for Cissy
Smith's judgment. For a few seconds he wondered whether
it was really worth while to give up a beautiful day just to
turn over a lot of dusty old papers in the wild hope of find-
ing something which the owner of the papers had ceased to
seek long before he died.

But he had made his choice and he stuck to it. After the
midday dinner of the family, Tom's resolve was fixed as if it
had never faltered. His mother had given him permission
to take the box of papers from a trunk in the attic where it
had been ever since the death of Nicholas Paulding; and
early in the morning he had gone up and opened the trunk
and lifted out the box. As soon as he had finished his din-
ner, he went upstairs to his own room and locked his door.
Then he emptied out upon his bed all the papers in the box.


The tumbled heap was about a foot high, and it contained
one hundred and twenty-seven separate pieces. There were
letters of his great-grandfather's. There were letters from
and to his grandfather. There were copies of official docu-
ments. There were newspapers, and there were single
articles cut from newspapers. There were old maps, marked
over with notes in Wyllys Paulding's handwriting. There
was a pamphlet printed in London in 1776, and giving a full
and detailed account of the taking of New York by His
Majesty's Forces. There were several old magazines with
descriptions of the events which preceded and followed the
battle of Harlem Heights. This pamphlet and these maga-
zines contained notes in red ink by the hand of Wyllys
Paulding. Most important of all was a statement, addressed
in the handwriting of Tom's great-grandfather, in which
Nicholas told his son the whole story of the stolen guineas.

Tom wondered why it was that his grandfather, having
taken so much interest in the search for the stolen gold,
should have abandoned it suddenly. This wonder, strong in
the beginning, kept coming back again and again as Tom
pursued his quest j and it grew stronger with every return.
A day was to come when Tom would understand why his
grandfather had so suddenly given up the search. For the
time, and for a long while afterward, Tom could see no
reason for this strange action.

With the aid of the statement Nicholas Paulding had
written for Wyllys Paulding, the grandson of the latter was
able to learn the exact circumstances under which the money


had disappeared. Tom had to puzzle out and piece together,
but at last he got at all the facts so far as it was possible to
discover them.

Here, then, is an orderly account of events from the time
the treasure came into the possession of Nicholas Paulding
to the hour of its disappearance and the disappearance o
the man who had stolen it :

When General Washington had his headquarters in New
York, after the battle of Long Island, Nicholas Paulding
mortgaged his houses and lots near the Battery for the large
sum. of two thousand guineas. He had great difficulty in
getting any one to lend him the money. In those troublous
times, when none knew what might be the future of the
colonies, few men were willing to part with the gold in their
possession. At last, however, Nicholas Paulding found a
man willing to let him have the money on his bond and
mortgage. This man was a newly arrived German, and his
name was Horwitz Simon Horwitz. He was very particu-
lar about the form of the papers; and even after all the
papers had been drawn up to his complete satisfaction, he
delayed the payment of the money. It was not until Satur-
day, September 14, 1776, when the Continental army was
leaving New York, and when the patriots were flocking out
of the city, knowing that the British might take possession
at any hour it was not until then that Simon HorwitZ
finally accepted the bond and mortgage of Nicholas Pauld'
ing and paid over the two thousand guineas.

Nicholas Paulding was a very young man, barely of age.


He had been at King's College (as Columbia College was
then called) with Alexander Hamilton, and he was scarcely
second to that great man in devotion to the cause of his
country. He had early enrolled himself in Washington's
army, and he had been chosen to act as paymaster of a New
York regiment. The post was honorable but laborious, for
the soldiers would expect their pay regularly and there was
little money in the treasury. It was as his contribution to
the cost of the struggle for liberty that Nicholas Paulding
had borrowed two thousand guineas on the security of his
homestead. He intended to devote the money to the pay-
ment of the men in his regiment as there might be need.

As soon as he had counted the coins received from Simon
Horwitz, Nicholas Paulding tied them up in four canvas
bags, sealing the knots with wax, on which he impressed his
seal. Then he concealed these bags about his person as best
he could. He was a stalwart man, of full stature and un-
usual strength for his years, but the weight of these bags
must have been an inconvenient burden. Two thousand
guineas would be worth more than ten thousand dollars;
they would be in bulk a little more than a thousand solid
eagles ; and they would weigh not far from forty pounds.

Early on the morning of Sunday, September 15, the day
after Nicholas Paulding had received his money, three British
men-of-war sailed boldly by the Battery and entered the Hud-
son River. Every one knew then that the city was doomed
to fall into the hands of the King's forces in a few hours.
The American troops made ready to retreat, and there were


none to oppose the landing of the British soldiers as they
crossed from Long Island under cover of the fire of the fleet.
Nicholas Paulding was with some men who made a stand
against a regiment of Hessians in the fields across which ran
the Boston Road (near what is now the corner of Third
Avenue and Twenty-third Street). Then the Americans fell
back and joined the main body of the Continental army re-
tiring on Harlem Heights, The rain poured in torrents, and
there sprang up a chill wind. The men of Paulding's regi-
ment were footsore from their long march when they halted
for the night a little above Bloomingdale, and not far from
the eight-mile stone.

They found small comfort in their hasty camp, a smoky
fire of damp wood, what food they had with them and no
more, no tents and no blankets. Upon the sodden earth
they laid them down to sleep j and despite the raging of the
storm, most of them were so tired that they slept soundly.

"With his fellow-officers, Nicholas Paulding had done his
share in seeing to the safety and the comfort of his men.
After the sentries were placed, he joined his companions in
consultation as to the work for the next day. Then he went
to the place set apart for him, before a smoking fire beaten
by the pelting rain ; and there he lay down to sleep, if he
could. A man named Jeffrey Kerr had been serving as pay-
master's clerk, and to this fellow Nicholas Paulding had con-
fided the fact that he had two thousand guineas concealed
about his person. This Kerr was lying before the camp-fire,
apparently asleep, when Nicholas Paulding settled himself


for the night ; the clerk was wrapped in a huge, loose surtout
with enormous pockets.

How long Nicholas Paulding slept he did not know, but
he remembered a faint dream of a capture by brigands who
felt about his body and robbed him of his treasure. When
he slowly awakened, he was being turned from his side over
to his back, and some one was loosening the belt which sus-
tained the bags of guineas. The night was blacker than ever,
and the rain was pouring down in sheets. Still almost asleep,
he resisted drowsily and gripped the belt with his hands.
When the belt was pulled from his grasp, he awoke and
sprang to his feet. In the black darkness before him he could
see nothing ; but his hand, extended at a venture, clasped a
rough coat.

Then there came a dazzling flash of lightning, and Nicholas
Paulding found himself face to face with the man Kerr, who
had hold of the belt and the four pendent bags of treasure.
The two men were almost in the center of the storm; the
lightning had struck a tree between them and the British
troops; but before the clap of thunder followed the flash,
Jeffrey Kerr smote the man he was trying to rob and forced
him to let go the coat. Whether Kerr had seized a limb of a
tree lying there ready for the fire, or whether he had used as
a weapon the belt itself with the treasure-bags attached, the
robbed man never knew.

Nicholas Paulding was stunned for a moment, but he soon
recovered and gave the alarm. As the thief passed the sentry
lie was fired at, but in the dense darkness the shot went wide


of its mark, and Kerr mshed on through the lines of the
American army.

He was familiar with the region. He had been a clerk
with Colonel Morris at the Red Mill, and knew every foot of
that part of Manhattan Island. It was well for him that he

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Online LibraryBrander MatthewsTom Paulding : the story of a search for buried treasure in the streets of New York → online text (page 3 of 13)