Brander Matthews.

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

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did, else he never could have escaped from his pursuers, in
spite of the blackness of the night. He was within thirty
yards of a second sentry when another flash of lightning
revealed him again.

The soldier fired at once. There was a slight cry of pain ;
but the man could not have been wounded severely, since
Nicholas Paulding, with a company of the men of his regi-
ment, carefully examined the ground where Kerr had stood
at the moment of firing, and thence down a hundred yards
or so, to a little brook, which divided the lines of the Ameri-
cans from the British, and across which it was not safe to
venture, even if the rain-storm had not so swollen the stream
as to make a crossing dangerous in the darkness.

And after that hour Nicholas Paulding had no news of his
treasure, and no man ever laid eyes on Jeffrey Kerr.

The morning following the robbery, there was fought the
Battle of Harlem Heights, which was a decided victory for
the Continental army.

Encouraged greatly by the result of this fight, the Ameri-
can forces lay intrenched on Harlem Heights for three weeks,
facing the British troops, separated from them by barely
three hundred yards, the width of the little valley of Manhat-
tanville. During these three weeks, Nicholas Paulding made


every possible search for the man who had robbed him, but
without learning anything. From prisoners taken during
the Battle of Harlem Heights he inquired whether any de-
serter had been received in the British lines on the night of
September 15, but he could hear of none.

A month later most of Washington's army was marched
away from Manhattan Island, to do its part in the long and
bloody struggle of the Revolution.

For seven years Nicholas Paulding did not set foot in the
city of New York, which was held for George III. until the
close of the war.

When the cause of the patriots had triumphed, and the
British troops had departed, Nicholas Paulding seems to have
made but few inquiries after his stolen guineas. Apparently,
in the wanderings and hardships of the Continental army,
he had made up his mind that the money was gone and that
any further effort was useless. Besides, he did not feel any
pressing need of it, as he made money after the war was
over, being able to buy lands and to build the house where
his descendants were to live during the most of the next

But early in this century, when Wyllys, Nicholas Paulding's
only son and Tom's grandfather, was nearing manhood, the
tide of fortune turned and several successive investments
were most unfortunate. Long before the War of 1812 the
lost two thousand guineas would have been very welcome
again. Even then Nicholas Paulding seemed to take little
interest in the guest at least all the correspondence waa


carried on by Wyllys. The statement of the circumstances
of the robbery written by Nicholas bore an indorsement that
it was drawn up " at the Special Request of my Son, Wyllys
Paulding, Esq."

The first thing Wyllys Paulding tried to do was to hunt
down Jeffrey Kerr ; but he had no better luck than his father.
Tom found among the papers two letters which showed how
carefully Wyllys had conducted the search. One was from
the British officer who had commanded the King's troops en-
camped opposite the regiment in which Nicholas Paulding
served on the night of Sunday, September 15, 1776. This
letter was dated London, October 10, 1810 and in it the
British officer declared that he remembered distinctly the
night before the Battle of Harlem Heights, and that he was
certain that if a deserter had entered their lines that night he
would surely recall it ; but he had no such recollection ; and
on looking in the journal which he had kept all through the
war, from his landing in New York to the surrender at Sara-
toga, he found no account there of any deserter having come
in on the night in question and he felt certain, therefore,
that Kerr had not been received by his Majesty's forces. This
letter was indorsed, in Wyllys's handwriting :

" A Courteous Epistle : the Writer, having survived the
seven years of the Revolution and the Continental Wars of
Buonaparte, was killed at the Battle of New Orleans."

The second of these letters was from a clergyman at New
London, evidently a very old man, judging by the shaky
handwriting. It was dated February 22, 1811. The writer


declared that lie had known Jeffrey Kerr as a boy in New
London, where he was born, and that even as a boy Kerr
was not trusted. His fellow-townsmen had been greatly sur-
prised when they heard in 1776 that he was appointed pay-
master's clerk, and they had remarked then that it was just
the position he would have chosen for himself. The news of
his robbery of his superior and of his flight had caused no
wonder j it was exactly what was expected. Kerr had not
been seen by any of his townsmen since he had left New
London to join the army, and nothing had ever been heard
of him. There was a general belief that he was dead ; and
this ripened into certainty when the wife he had left behind
him inherited a fortune and he never came back to share it
with her. The wife was firmly convinced that she was a
widow ; and so, in 1787, she had married again.

Upon this letter Wyllys Paulding had indorsed, " Can the
man have been shot the night he stole the money ? We know
he did not reach the British lines, and now we are told that
he never returned home, though he had every reason to do
so. Well, if he be dead, where is our money ? "

Among the other papers were cuttings from Rivington's
New York Gazetteer or the Connecticut, New Jersey, Hudson 's
River and Quebec Weekly Advertiser; a folded sheet of paper
on which was written " Notes of Horwitz's confession, Dec.
13, 1811," but which was blank on the other side (nor could
Tom find any writing that might seem to belong within the
cover of this paper) ; a letter from a fellow-officer of Nicholas
Paulding's who was with him on the night of the robbery and


who set forth the circumstances very much as Nicholas him-
self had already recorded them j and, most important of all,
a rough outline map of the positions of the American and
British troops on the night of September 15, 1776. This
map had been sketched from memory by Nicholas Paulding,
whose name it bore, with the date January, 1810.

On this map Nicholas had marked in red ink his own
position when he was robbed, and the positions of the two
sentries who had fired at Jeffrey as the thief fled in the dark-

There were many other papers in the box besides those
here mentioned, but the most of them did not seem to have
anything to do with the stolen money.

There were not a few letters in answer to inquiries about
Jeffrey Kerr; there were many newspapers and cuttings
from newspapers ; and there were all sorts of odds and ends,
memoranda, and stray notes such, for instance, as a calcu-
lation of the exact weight of two thousand guineas.

Tom went through them all, laying aside those which
seemed to contain anything of importance. When he had
examined every paper in the heap on his bed, he had two
piles of documents before him : one was large and contained
the less important papers and newspapers 5 the other was
smaller, as it held only those of real importance.

Tom took the papers in the smaller heap and set out to
arrange them in order by their dates.

When this was done he made a curious discovery. They
were all the work of little more than two years.


Wyllys Paulding seemed to have started out to search late
in 1809 and there was no document of any kind bearing
date in 1812. Although he had not found what he was seek-
ing and what he had sought most diligently at least for two
years, it seemed as if he had suddenly tired and desisted from
his quest.

So it was when Tom Paulding went to bed that night he
had three questions to which he could find no answers :

I. What became of Jeffrey Kerr I

II. If Kerr was killed, what became of the two thousand
guineas ?

III. Why did Wyllys Paulding suddenly abandon all effort
to find the stolen money ?



EVERAL successive Saturday afternoons
Tom Paulding devoted to the box of old
papers, carefully going over every letter
twice or thrice, that he might make sure
of its full meaning and of its exact bear-
ing on the problems to be solved. With
like industry he read through the old newspapers and the
cuttings therefrom which made up more than half the con-
tents of the box. In these newspapers Tom found nothing
relating to his investigation ; but he discovered much in
them that was amusing ; and the glimpse of old New York
they gave seemed to him so strange that Tom began to take
interest in the early history of his native city. The more
thoroughly he came to know the annals of New York, the
prouder he was that he and his had been New-Yorkers for
five generations at least.

One Saturday morning, early in December, about a month
after Mrs. Paulding had given her son permission to take
the box of old papers, Tom was going out to get his mother
the ingredients for a batch of cakes she had to bake for a


customer. Mrs. Paulding was fond of cooking, and she
made delicious broths and jellies; but her special gift was
for baking cake. When the New York Exchange for
Woman's Work was opened, Mrs. Paulding sent to it for sale
a Washington pie, made after a receipt which had been a
tradition in the family, even before the days of Mrs. Nicholas
Paulding, Tom's great-grandmother. The purchaser of this
delicacy was so delighted with it that she went again to the
exchange and asked for another. So in time it came about
that Mrs. Paulding was one of the ladies who eke out a slen-
der income by making soups, jellies, and cakes to order for
the customers of this Woman's Exchange.

In this pleasant labor Tom and Pauline were always
anxious to aid. Polly had much of her mother s lightness of
touch, and was already well skilled as a maker of what she
chose to call " seedaway cake," because it was thus that she
first had tried to name a cake flavored with caraway seeds.
Tom had no liking for the kitchen, but he was glad to do
what chores he could and to run all his mother's errands.
Besides, Mrs. Paulding, with motherly forethought, was wont
to contrive that there should be left over, now and again,
small balls of dough, which she molded in little tins and
baked for Tom and for Polly. These, however, were acci-
dental delights to which thev looked forward whenever their


mother had a lot of cakes to make.

The Careful Katie did not always approve of Mrs. Pallid-
ing's invasion of her kitchen to make cake for others ; but
she always was pleased to see the little cakes which might lie


a-baking in a corner of the oven as a treat for Tom and for

" It 's a sweet tooth they have, both o' the childer," she said.

Polly had just called to her brother, " Oh, Tom, don't go
out till you have given me that 'rithmetic of yours ! "

" All right," answered her brother.

Just then Katie left the room, and Polly again delayed
Tom's departure.

" When you were little," she said, " and Katie used to say
you had a sweet tooth in your head, did it make you open
your mouth, and feel your teeth, and wonder why she said
you had only one ? Because I did, and I used to be afraid
that perhaps if I ate too much cake I might lose my sweet
tooth and not be able to taste it any more."

"You did lose all that set of sweet teeth, my dear," re-
marked Mrs. Paulding, smiling at Polly, as she weighed out
the powdered sugar for her frosting.

" But I Ve got a new set of them," Polly replied, " and I 'm
sure that I like cake now more than ever."

" There was one of Katie's sayings that used to worry me,"
said Tom ; " and that was when she pretended to be tired of
talking to us, and declared that she would n't waste her
breath on us. That made me think that perhaps we had
only just so much breath each, and that if we wasted it when
we were young, we should n't have any left when we were
grown up "

" I used to think that too," interrupted Pauline.

" And I thought that it would be horrible," continued her


brother, "to be an old man, and not be able to speak. So
when I went to bed, sometimes I used to save my breath,
keeping it in as long as I could."

" I wish I 'd thought of that," Polly declared. " But I
did n't. Now, where 's that Arithmetic ? " she added, seeing
that her brother had again started to go.

" I '11 get it for you," Tom answered. " It 's in my room."

In a minute he returned with the book in his hand.

Across the cover were written the following characters :

ro/z navXdivy's (3oo%.

Polly took the volume, and, seeing this strange legend, she
asked at once, " What 's that ? "

" That ? " echoed Tom. " Oh, that 's Greek."

Mrs. Paulding looked around in surprise.

" I did not know you were studying Greek," she said.

"I'm not," Tom answered. "That isn't really Greek.
It 's just my name in Greek letters I got them out of the
end of the dictionary, you know. Besides, I did that years
ago. I have n't used that book since I was eleven."

Then he took the list of things his mother wished him to
get, and went out.

When he came back, Pauline danced out to meet him,
waving a paper above her head with one hand, while with
the other she kept tight hold of the kitten which had climbed
to her shoulder.

" Guess what I 've found ! " she cried j " and guess where
I found it ! "



Tom went into the dining-room to make his report to his
mother. Then he turned to Polly and said : " Well, and what
did you find ? "

"I found this in your Arithmetic," she answered, open-
ing the paper and
holding it before
him. " It 's one of
your compositions,
written when you
were younger than
I am now when
you were only ten.
It 's about money
and Marmee and
I don't think that
it is so bad, con-
sidering how very
young you were
when you wrote it."
Mrs. Paulding
smiled, but said



" Let me see ! " cried Tom, holding out his hand.

" Will you promise to give it back ? " she asked, retreating
behind her mother.

" It 's mine, is n't it ? " he replied.

" But I want to keep it. I would like to show it to our
teacher and to some of the girls, because it is so funny. I


can tell them that a little boy wrote it, without telling who
it was. It was a good subject to write about, I think. Just
think what I 've got to do a composition on next week ! On
i Loyalty ! ' What can I write about Loyalty ? That 's one
of those head-in-the-air words I never have anything to say
about. The teachers we had last year used to let us write
descriptive compositions. I wrote one on 'A Walk in River-
side Park/ and I told all about the little girl's tomb with the
urn on it, you know. And we kept changing teachers, and
I handed in that composition three times ! "

" O Pauline ! " said her mother, reproachfully.

"Well," the little girl explained, "I wrote it over every
time and made it longer and fixed it up a bit. It 's so hard to
think of things to say when you have to write a composition."

" Let me have mine now," said Torn, " and I '11 give it back."

" Honest ? " she asked.

" Certain sure," he answered.

" Hands across your heart ? " she inquired, holding out the

" Never see the back of my neck again, if I don't ! " declared
Tom, taking it from her hand hastily.

When he had opened it, and when he saw the irregular
handwriting and the defective spelling, he blushed slightly.

" I wrote this when I was a boy," he said, apologetically.

" What are you now ? " asked his mother, as she glanced
up from her labors, smiling.

" I mean a little boy," Tom answered.

This is the composition which Tom Paulding had written


when he was "a little boy." The signature and the date
under it are omitted, but the latter showed that Tom was
just ten years and three months old when he composed it :


I Money is one of the most useful things in the world

II and if it was not for money we should not have

III half the comforts and emploments which we have. Money

IV is a great thing and goes a great sometimes. There

V are a great many kinds of coins of different nations

VI the English, the French, the American, the Austriun, and the

VII Russian, and a great many others kinds of coins,

VIII There has been a great deal of money spent in

IX the war, To pay the soldier, and to buy the imple-

X ments of war, such as cannons, mortars, and cannans balls

XI and powder, and some of it to give to the widows

XII of the soldierds who have been killed, There are

XIII two kinds of Money, one kind of which is paper

XIV and the other kind is speice which is coin such

XV as gold silver and copper The coin, of the United

XVI, States are eagles, dollars, dimes, cents, and

XVII, mills, These are gold silver and copper. The

XVIII, Eagles dollars are gold, dollars dimes half dimes are sil

XIX, ver, cents and half cents are copper., Besides the paper

XX money of the United States, which are the 100, 10, 5

XXI dollars and less.

"What I like about it," said Polly, stooping so that the
kitten could jump off her shoulder, "is the way you have
numbered the lines. Those Xs and Vs take up a lot more
space than plain figures, and they help to fill up beautifully.
Our teacher now wants us to write forty lines, but she
won't let us number them is n't that mean?"

" I suppose you could write a very different composition


on the same subject now, Tom, since you have been in
search of the money stolen from your great-grandfather,"
Mrs. Paulding suggested.

" I don't know," Tom answered, with a laugh j " I think I
have learned something about the history of the battles here
in September, 1776; but I don't know any more about
money, because I have n't found any yet."

" How do you get on with your search ? " asked his mother.

" I don't get on at all," Tom answered, frankly. " I seem
to have found out all there is to know and that does n't
tell me anything really. I know all about the stealing, but
I have n't the first idea where the stolen money is."

" Then I would not waste any more time on it," said Mrs.

" Oh, I 'm not going to give it up now," Tom declared,
forcibly ; " it 's just like a puzzle to me, and I 've worked
over puzzles before. Sometimes you go a long while, and
you don't see in the least how it could be done ; and then,
all of a sudden, it comes to you, and you do it as easily as
can be. And that 's what I hope will happen about this two-
thousand-guinea puzzle. At any rate, that 's the biggest
prize I ever had a chance at, and I 'm not going to give it
up without trying hard for it."

Mrs. Paulding's eyes lighted up with pleasure at Tom's

" I wish your Uncle Dick were here to help you," she said.

" I 'd rather do it all by myself, if I can," Tom returned
If I can't, then I 'd like Uncle Dick's help."


" Where is Uncle Dick now ? " asked Pauline.

" I believe lie is at the diamond-fields in South Africa/' her
mother answered. " That is where I wrote him last j but I
have n't heard from him for nearly a year now."

" But if Uncle Dick came back, mother, we should n't need
t/ie two thousand guineas," said Tom j " he 'd pay off the
mortgage, and send me to study engineering, and get a new
doll for Polly, a,nd "

" I ; m not a baby ! " interrupted Pauline, " and I don't want
a new doll. If I had lots and lots of money, I think I should
like a little teeny-weeny tiger just a tiger-kitten, you know.
It would be such fun to play with it. Is Uncle Dick very
rich, Marmee?"

" I do not know whether he has any money at all or not,"
answered Mrs. Paulding. " He was always a rolling stone,
and I doubt if he has gathered any moss."

"I should n't like an uncle who had about him anything
so green as moss/' said Tom.

" We 'd like to see him, if he had n't a cent," cried Polly.
" But I Ve read stories where uncles came back, and were
ever so rich, and did everything you wanted, and paid off the
mortgage, and gave everybody all the money they needed."

" I 'm afraid you must n't expect that kind of an uncle,"
sighed Mrs. Paulding.

" Then I wish we had a fairy godmother ! " Polly declared.

" We Ve got something finer than that," said Tom, bending
forward and kissing Mrs. Paulding ; " we Ve got a mother
better than any fairy."



T must not be supposed that Tom Pauld-
ing's whole time was given up to his quest
for the stolen guineas, or that he in any
way neglected his studies at school or his
duties at home. He went to school regu-
larly, and he did his usual tasks much as
he had done them before he had taken up the search ; per-
haps his interest in American history was a little keener now
that he felt himself in touch with the soldiers of the Conti-
nental army. His liking for mathematics, and his ingenuity
in solving problems, were no greater than before, as the
science of numbers had always been his favorite branch of

At home, as at school, life went on with the same round
of duties and pleasures, the sameness of which was not re-
lieved after Tom had set his mind on a single object. It was
only on Saturdays, and then chiefly in the afternoon, that
Tom could really devote himself to his quest. And this fix-
ing of Tom's energies on a private enterprise caused a loosen-


ing of the tie that bound him to the Black Band. He lacked
the time to take part in all the elaborate sports of his friends j
and although, now and again, some specially wild plan of the
delicate Harry Zachary might for a moment tempt him, he
wavered for a moment only and went on his own way with)
little regret, leaving his friends to amuse themselves after
their fashion.

At first this giving up of the pleasant sports of boyhood,
even for a little while, was not easy but us time went on ;
and as Tom became more and more deeply interested in the
work to which he had given himself, he found that it was
easier and easier to turn aside from the tempting suggestions
of Harry Zachary and the hearty invitations of Cissy Smith.
It seemed to Tom as if he had now a more serious object in
life, to gain which would relieve not only himself, but his
mother and his sister j and this thought strengthened him,
and he ceased to regret in any way his lessened interest in
the doings of the Black Band.

On the afternoon of the Saturday when Pauline had read
his early composition on " Money," Tom took a map he had
found in the boxes of papers. This was the map roughly
outlined by Nicholas Paulding, and it showed the position of
the American and British forces on the night of the robbery.)
On it were marked also the situation of the camp-fire where*
Nicholas had slept that evening, and the posts of the two
sentries who had fired at the thief. It showed, moreover, the
course of the little stream which separated the opposing
armies. Tom intended to compare this map with the ground


as it was now, and to see if lie could identify any of the land-
marks, and so make sure exactly where the robbery took
place and in which direction Jeffrey Kerr had fled.

The weather was mild for the season of the year. It was
almost the middle of December, and as yet there had been
neither ice nor snow. A bright, clear December day in New
York is, as Shakspere says of old age, " frosty, but kindly."
Tom felt the bracing effect of the breeze as he stepped briskly
along. What he wished chiefly to discover was a trace of
the brook which the map indicated as having flowed between
the camp of George Washington's men and the camp of the
men of George III. He knew the ground fairly well already,
but he did not recall any such stream.

As he was hurrying along he came suddenly upon a little
group of the Black Band, marching down the street two
abreast under command of Cissy Smith, who careened at the

" HeUo, Tom ! " cried Cissy Smith.

" Hello ! " replied Tom.

" Halt ! " commanded the leader of the Black Band.
" Break ranks ! Go as you please ! "

Lott twisted himself forward and greeted Tom sneer-

" Hello, Curly ! Are you off on your wild-goose chase

" Look here, Corkscrew, I Ve told you before that I won't

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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 4 of 13)