Brander Matthews.

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

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be called Curly! And you sha'n't do it any more," Tom
declared, indignantly. He regretted bitterly that his dark


hair persisted in curling, despite his utmost endeavor to
straighten it out and to plaster it down.

"If I had hah' like a girl's, all curls and ringlets, I
should n ? t mind being called Curly," Corkscrew explained, a
little sulkily.

" Well, I do mind," Tom said, emphatically ; " and I want
it stopped.''

Lott was silent. Perhaps he had no answer ready. He
was a little older than Tom, and of late he had begun to
grow at a most surprising rate. He was already the tallest
boy of the group. Cissy Smith had said that if Corkscrew
only kept on growing, the Black Band would make him their
standard-bearer and use him as the flagstaff, too. Lott's
spare figure seemed taller and thinner than it was because of
the hiorh boots he alwavs wore.

< ' \f

" I reckon there '11 be a row between Tom and Corkscrew,
sooner or later," whispered Harry Zachary to Smith. " They
are both of 'em just spoiling for a fight."

" Tom would knock the fight out of hi-m in no time," Cissy
answered. " He 's well set up, while Lott 's all out of shape,
like a big clothes-pin. If he tried to bully me, I 'd tell him
to stop it, or I 'd make him sorry."

Lott hesitated and then held out his hand to Tom. " I tell
you what I '11 do," he said. " 1 11 agree never to call you
Curly again, if you '11 take me into this search of yours. I 'd
like to know all about it, and I can find out a lot for you."

" Oh, ho ! " cried Cissy. " I thought you called it a wild-
goose chase ? n


"So I did/' Lott replied. "But that was only to tease

" I do not want any help," Tom declared.

" I '11 do what I can/' urged Lott. "And when we get it,
I '11 ask for only a third of the money."

" No/' Tom replied. " I 'in going to find it alone or not at

" I'll help you for a quarter of what we get " Lott went

"There 's no use talking about it/' said Tom. "When I
want a side-partner in this business, I ? 11 pick one out for

"All right," Corkscrew answered, with a sudden twist
which took him out of the circle. " It 's your loss, not mine.
Any way, I don't believe you '11 ever find anything, either."

At this juncture little Jimmy Wigger ran up breathlessly
and joined the group of boys.

" Are you going to play any good games to-day ? " he asked,
eagerly. " Can't I play, too f I 'd have been here before, but
my aunt would n't let me till now. She 's given me permis-
sion to be out two hours if I 'm with Cissy or Tom, and if I
promise to be very careful and not to get my feet wet."

" I '11 take care of you," said Cissy.

" And we '11 let you play with us, if you are a good boy,
and don't cry," added Lott.

" I have n't cried for 'most a year now," little Jimmy de-
clared, indignantly.

"Then see you don't cry to-day," said Lott, taking from


his pocket what was apparently a bit of wooden pencil.
" Oh, I say, Jimmy, just hold this for me, will you, while I
tie it ? "

" Certainly/' little Jimmy replied, willingly.

" Hold it this way," Lott explained, " between your thumb
and your finger so. Press tight against each end that 's
it. Now I '11 tie the string."

As Corkscrew took hold of the threads which came out of
a hole in the middle of the pencil, and which, if pulled, would
thrust two needles into little Jimmy's hand, Tom grabbed
him by the arm.

" Drop that, Corkscrew ! " he cried. " You sha'n't play
that on Jimmy."

"Why not?" asked Lott. "I fooled you with it yester-

" I 'm old enough to take care of myself," Tom answered.
" Jimmy is n't. Besides, he 's just been put under my care
and Cissy's for to-day."

Lott sullenly wound the threads about the mean contriv-
ance in preparing which he had spent his study hour the day
before. As he put it in his pocket he said, " I don't see why
some people can't mind their own business ! ' :

" 1 7 m going to make it my business to keep you from
bullying Jimmy," Tom responded.

"How are you going to do it?" sneered Lott.

" I 've been able to do it so far by catching you in time.
But before we get through I believe we shall have to fight it
out," Tom asserted.



" Oh, indeed ! n Lott rejoined. "And who '11 take you
home to your mother then ? "

" I 'm younger than you/' Tom answered, " and I 'm not so
big, but I don't believe you can hurt me. And I don't mean
to have you hurt
Jimmy here. Do
you understand ? "

" Oh, yes, I under-
stand fast enough/ 7
Corkscrew rejoined;
" and I shall do just
what I like. So
there !

There was a little
more talk among the
boys, and then they
parted. The Black
Band marched off,
Cissy Smith lurch-
ing ahead as cap-
tain, with little Jim-
my Wigger and
Corkscrew Lott in the ranks together. Tom went on his
way to verify the map made by his great-grandfather.

Just as the Black Band was going around a corner which
would take them out of sight, Lott stopped and called back.

Tom turned in answer to this hail. What he heard was
the taunting voice of Corkscrew shouting after him, " Good-



by, Curly ! Curly ! Oh 7 Curly ! Put them up in paper when
you get home ! "

Tom hesitated whether he should run after Lott and have
their fight out once for all, or whether he should pay no at-
tention to his words. He chose the latter course, and went
on his way again.

During the afternoon, before the early twilight closed in,
he was able to find most of the positions indicated on the
map. Some of them were plainly to be seen, being very little
changed from their condition the night before the Battle of
Harlem Heights. Others were difficult to verify, because of
the new streets and the houses which had been built of late

The little brook, which was the chief object Tom wished
to trace, he succeeded at last in locating precisely. Of course
it was no longer a brook. When streets are run across
meadows and through hills, the watercourses must needs
lie dry and bare. But there were several adjoining blocks
where the street-level was higher than the original surface,
and where the vacant lots had not been filled in.

Across three of these open spaces Tom was able to trace
the course of the little stream, with its occasional rock-bor-
dered pools, in which fish once used to feed, and which had
become dry and deserted. The willows which bordered one
bank of the brook were still standing. Tom was successful
in discovering even the site of the Seven Stones which had
served for a passage across the stream where it broadened
out into a tiny pond.


In the plan made by Tom's great-grandfather these were
marked "the stepping-stones" simply; but in another and
rougher map, which also Tom had found among the papers
of Wyllys Paulding, they were called the Seven Stones.
Tom was interested in identifying them, as he thought that
Jeffrey Kerr might have crossed them in his flight from the
American camp to the British.

But as Kerr never reached the British forces, there was no
need of speculating how it was that he might have gone if
he had reached them. This Tom felt keenly. In fact the
more he studied the situation, and the better he became ac-
quainted with the surroundings, the more difficult seemed the
problem of Kerr's disappearance. When that feeling was at
its worst, he would recollect that his grandfather had made
the same inquiries he was now trying to make, and that his
grandfather had suddenly and unhesitatingly abandoned the
quest ; and the reason for this strange proceeding seemed to
Tom as hard to seek as the other.

Tom walked slowly home in the gathering dusk of the De-
cember day. The sun was setting far down across the river,
and the clouds were rosy and golden with the glow. Tom
did not see the glories of nature ; his mind was busy with his
puzzles. He kept turning them over and over again. He
wished that he had some one to whom he could talk plainly,
and who might be able to suggest some new point of view.
None of his school-fellows was available for this purpose.
Corkscrew, of course, would not do, and Harry Zachary was
too young, while Cissy Smith was so practical and so sarcas-


tic sometimes that Tom hated to go to him, although he and
Cissy were the best of friends.

His mother he was not willing to bother with his hopes and
his fears. She had her own burdens. Besides, the delight
of bringing her money to pay off the mortgage and do with
as she pleased would be sadly damped if she had any share
in the recovery of the guineas.

Tom found himself wishing that he had some older friend
whom he could consult. He wondered even whether he
might not do well to go down town and have a talk with the
lawyer, Mr. Duncan,

When he had climbed the steep flight of wooden steps
which led from the street to the ground about their house, he
thought he saw Pauline at a window as though she were
waiting for him. As he drew near the porch, the front door
was opened and Pauline came flying out, her eyes sparkling
and her hair streaming out behind.

" Tom," she cried ; " oh, Tom, guess who is here ! "

" I can't guess," he answered. " Who is it ? "

" It 's Uncle Dick," she answered. " He came this after-
noon just after you went out, and I was all alone, and I had
to receive him. And now he 's in the parlor talking to Mar-
mee and waiting to see you."

Here, as it happened, was the very friend Tom had been
hoping for.



HEN Tom followed Pauline into the parlor
lie found his uncle seated on the sofa be-
side their mother. The first sight of his
uncle gave Tom the impression of strength
and heartiness, which was confirmed as
they came to know each other well. Uncle
Dick was neither tall nor stout, but his figure was well built
and solid ; perhaps he was rather under than over the aver-
age height of man. His eyes were dark, and so was his
hail', save where it was touched with gray at the temples.
His hands, which were resting on his knees, seemed a little
large ; and the distinct sinews of the wrists indicated unusual
strength of grip. His face was clean shaven, except for the
mustache which curled heavily down each cheek.

His smile was kindly as his eyes looked Tom straight in
the face, and his greeting was hearty.

" So this is Tom, is it ? " he said, holding out his hand and
giving Tom a cordial clasp.

" And you are Uncle Dick/ 7 Tom responded, echoing his
uncle's pleasant laugh.


" Yes, I am Uncle Dick. 1 'm your mother's only brother
and you are her only son. Let me get a good look at you."

So saying, he raised his hands and grasped Tom by the
shoulders and held the boy off at arm's-length, while he took
(stock of him.

After a long searching gaze, which Tom met unflinchingly,
Uncle Dick said to Mrs. Paulding, " He has your eyes, Mary,
and your hair, but how like he is to his father ! "

Despite his bold front, Tom had endured the close scrutiny
with secret discomfort; but now he flushed with pleasure.
Mrs. Paulding had often talked to her son about the father
he could scarcely remember, and it was Tom's chief wish to
grow as like his father as he could.

" Yes," repeated Uncle Dick, " he is very like Stuyvesant."
Then he released his hold on Tom's shoulders. " I do not
see, Mary," he said, turning to Mrs. Paulding, " that you have
any reason to be dissatisfied with these youngsters. They
look like healthy young Americans with clear consciences
and good appetites. If they take to me as I have taken to
them, we shall get along all right."

" I 'm sure we shall all be ever so fond of you, if you '11
only stay here," said Pauline ; " in fact, I 'm fond of ycu


"You see, your sister and I," explained Uncle Dick to
Tom, " have already made friends. She has shown me round
her cat-ranch outside there, and "

" And what do you think ? " interrupted Pauline. " Mousie
approved of Uncle Dick at once, and went up and let him


stroke his neck and you know Mousie is very hard to

" Then I can look upon Mousie's approval of me as a cer-
tificate of good moral character/' said Uncle Dick, with a
ringing laugh. "And I don't know but what 1 'd rather have
a letter of recommendation from a dumb beast than from
many a man 1 've met. As a judge of human nature, t the
biped without feathers/ as Plato called him, is sometimes
inferior to our four-footed friends."

" I 'm glad to be told I 'm like my father," Tom remarked,
as he sat down by his mother's side.

" You are like him, as I 've said," responded his uncle, " and
that 's a reason you and I should be good friends, for no
man ever had a better friend than your father was to me.
When we were boys of your age we played together on these
grounds ; and we went off on long walks together up to High
Bridge and across the Harlem River. This is a fine place for
a boy at least we found it so. There are lots of good spots
for sham fights and so forth. Down in the woods by the
river, near the railroad track, we used to go on long scouting-
raids after the Indians. But I suppose that is altogether too
old-fashioned a sport for you boys nowadays."

Tom promptly informed his uncle all about the Black
Band, and about the bonfire on election night, when he had
to run the gantlet and had afterward been burnt at the stake.

" Mother has told us about your adventure with the Indians
in the Black Hills," Tom said ; " that is, she 's told us all you
wrote, but there must be lots more to tell is n't there?"


" There 's one thing to tell/ 7 replied Uncle Dick ; " it 's a
great deal more fun to play at Indians here on Manhattan
Island than it is to have the real redskins come whooping
after your scalp."

" They did n't get yours, did they ? " asked Pauline.

" They did n't that time but it was a very tight squeak,"
Uncle Dick answered

" You '11 tell us about all your adventures, won't you ? v
Pauline besought

Uncle Dick laughed heartily. " I 've been about a good
deal, here and there, but I don't know that I 've really had
any adventures that you could call adventures," he said.

" But you ran away to sea ? " Polly cried.

" Oh, yes," he answered.

" And you were wrecked ? " she continued.

" Yes," assented her uncle.

" And you went to the war, and you were taken prisoner f *
she went on.


" And you 've fought the horrid Indians, and you 've been
to Africa for diamonds, and you 've done lots and lots of
other things like that, and if those are not adventures, I 'd
just like to know what are ? " she urged.

" Some of these things were rather exciting while they
lasted," said Uncle Dick, calmly, " but I don't think I should
call any of them adventures."

" What would you call an adventure, then ? " asked Pauline.

" Oh, I don't know," he replied. " Perhaps it is an advent-


ure to have been sliut up in the Rock Temple at Petra, alone
with your deadly enemy, when he had a revolver and you
had nothing but a penknife, and when you believed that if
you got out alive the natives outside would promptly kill

"Did that happen to you?" asked Tom, with intense

" Well, it was n't exactly that way," responded his uncle.
" You see he had only a single-barreled pistol and I had a
bowie-knife, so it was almost an even thing."

" Did you fight him ? " Polly inquired.

" I had to."

" And how did it end ? " Polly asked, eagerly. " Did he
kill you ? "

Uncle Dick laughed again and responded, " Do I look like
a ghost?"

Polly blushed and explained hastily, " I mean, did you kill

" No," her uncle said, " I did n't kill him and he did n't kill
me. He fired at me and missed my head by half an inch
I believe he did cut off a stray lock of hair you see I have
curls like yours, Tom."

" And what did you do then ? " was Polly's instant query.

" He sprang on me and I defended myself, and he got a
wound "

" A serious wound ? " asked Polly.

" I never yet saw a wound that was comic," Uncle Dick re-
plied, " either for the man who had it, or the man who gave


it. Fighting is a sad business, at best, and I keep out of it
when I can. As good luck would have it, this man's wound
was not dangerous ; but it left me free to make my escape."

" But how did you get past the natives outside, who were
waiting to kill you ? " asked Tom.

" I did n't get past them," was the answer.

" But they did n't Mil you ! " Polly cried.

" They got ready to do it," Uncle Dick explained, " when an
old sheik interfered. He was a great friend of mine, that
old sheik, and I had done him a favor once j and so he saved
my lif e and got me away to the coast. Of course you ought
to do people favors whenever you can j and the very least
reason is that you never know when their gratitude may
come in handy."

" How did you happen to be in the Rock Temple ? " asked
Tom, " and with your enemy, too ? "

" How did I happen to get into all my scrapes ? " returned
Uncle Dick. " For a simple reason. Because I did not fol-
low the advice of the Turkish proverb which says, t Before
you go in, find a way out.' All my life I Ve been going into
all sorts of things and generally I Ve had to squeeze out
of the little end of the horn. As the old colonel of my regi-
ment used to say, 'I ; ve had lots of luck in my life good
and bad.' "

" It is good luck which has brought you back to me, Dick,"
said Mrs. Paulding. "And the longer you stay the better I
shall like it."

" I don't know how long it will be, Mary," he answered j


" that all depends on what Joshua Hoffmann says on Mon-
day morning."

" Joshua Hoffmann ? " Tom repeated j " is n't he the gen-
tleman who owns that grand new house on the Riverside
Drive, with the broad piazzas, and the towers, and the ground
around it with a brick wall ? "

"Yes," Mrs. Paulding replied. "Mr. Hoffmann has built
a new house near us since you were here last, Dick."

" Everything around this place seems new since I was here
last," Uncle Dick returned. " But even if Joshua Hoffmann
has a house near us, I sha'n't intrude on him up here at
least not at first. I '11 talk business down-town at his office."

" He 's sure to be glad to see you, Dick," said Mrs. Pauld-
ing. " Children, you know that your uncle saved Mr. Hoff
mann's life ? "

" I did n't know it at all," Tom replied.

" Neither did I," Uncle Dick declared.

"Tell us all about it at once, please," Polly besought. "I
like to hear about people's lives being saved."

" It >s very little to tell," her uncle responded ; " all I did
was to give him warning of a plot against him. It was when
he was out in the China Seas, aboard his private steam-
yacht, the ' Rhadamanthus.' He had a crew of Lascars, and
was going down the coast. From a Chinaman I had once
recommended I received warning not to go he 'd offered
me a berth on the yacht because the Chinese pirates had
bribed half the crew, and they meant to attack Mr. Hoff-
mann in a pirate junk which would come alongside under


pretense of being in need of water. Of course I warned Mr.
Hoffmann, and I accepted the berth on the yacht, and we
made ready for a good fight. We ran out of port, dropped
alongside an American man-of-war, sent back the treacherous
crew, and took on board a lot of new men we could trust."

"And did the pirate junk attack you ? " Tom asked, eagerly.

" It did," Uncle Dick answered. " And when they made
their sudden assault and found us ready for them with a
couple of Gatling guns on the main deck, you never saw
pirates so surprised in all your life."

"I didn't know that Chinamen were ever pirates," said
Polly ; "I thought they all either made tea or took in

" How did the fight end ? " was Tom's impatient question.

"The junk was sunk, and the crew were sent back as

prisoners; and I suppose that in time
they were tried and sentenced."

At this juncture in the conversation,
the Careful Katie entered to announce
that supper was ready. Tom rushed up-
stairs to wash and to brush his hair.

When he came down, he found his mother and Uncle Dick
discussing Mr. Joshua Hoffmann, who was at once one of
the richest and one of the best men in New York a man
good himself and never tired of doing good to others a man
full of public spirit and leading in notable public enterprises ;
a man who considered his great fortune as a trust for the bene-
fit of those who had been less fortunate.



" He 's a man riches have not spoiled/' remarked Uncle
Dick ; " and that 's saying a great deal for anybody."

" He 's a man that 's good to the poor," interjected the
Careful Katie. " Heaven bless him ! "

For a second Uncle Dick looked a little surprised at this


intrusion of the waitress into the conversation. Then he
laughed softly to himself ; and he said to his sister, as the
Careful Katie left the dining-room to get the hot biscuits, " I
see that she is quite as talkative as ever."

Mrs. Paulding smiled and answered, "She 7 s a faithful
creature, and I am used to her occasional loquacity ."



I like it," Uncle Dick responded ; "I like anybody out of
the common, anybody or anything that has a character of
its own. I have no use for a man who has had all his edges
and corners smoothed off till he is just as round and as com-
monplace as his neighbors.' 7

The Careful Katie returned and placed on the table a plate-
ful of smoking hot biscuits. As she did this she dislodged a
knife, which fell to the floor.

"That's a gentleman's coming to the house/' she said,
promptly. " Sure if I 'd done it yesterday, I 'd 'a' said it
meant you comin' back to us to-day, Mr. Richard."

" So if you drop a knife it means a gentleman is coming
to the house, does it?" asked Uncle Dick, with immediate
interest. He had studied the folk-lore and strange beliefs of
savage peoples in all parts of the world ; and to find a super-
stition quite as absurd in the chief city of the United States,
in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, was a surprise.

" What else should it mane ? " answered Katie.

" And if you drop a fork," Uncle Dick continued, " I sup-
pose that means a lady is coming ? "

"An' how could it mane anything else?" she asked in
answer. " I do be wondering who it is that knife '11 bring
us here to-night."

And with that she left the room.

"Mary," said Uncle Dick, as the door closed behind the
Careful Katie, "you were remarking that tin's house was
old-fashioned and had no modern conveniences no dumb-
waiter, for example. It seems to me that it has something


more useful than a dumb-waiter, it has a talking wait-


Mrs. Paulding laughed. " Katie will talk a little too much,"
she said, " but we don't mind it.' 7

" Mind it ! " repeated Uncle Dick. " It is delightful. I en-
joy it. I have often heard of a certain person's being a brill-
iant conversationalist and I never knew exactly what that
meant. But now I know. Why, the Careful Katie is a brill-
iant conversationalist."

" She 's very good to the pussies," said Polly, as if Uncle
Dick were attacking the Careful Katie.

" I Ve no doubt she is good in every way," responded Uncle
Dick. " She 's a good talker, and that is a good thing. Con-
versation is her hobby and we must never look a friend's
hobby in the mouth."

In chat like this the evening sped away. Pauline first and
then Tom went to bed reluctantly, unwilling to leave their
uncle, and fearing that in their absence he might tell of some
new and strange adventure by land or sea. The next day
was Sunday ; and before they went to bed again they had
learned more of their uncle's varied career. But it would
have taken many a " month of Sundays," as the Careful Katie
phrased it, for them to have been told a tithe of the extraor-
dinary adventures in which he had taken part.

Just turned two score years at the time he went back to his
sister's house in New York, Richard Rapallo had not spent
more than twelve weeks in any one place since he was thir-
teen. A little before the Rebellion had broken out, in Feb-


raary, 1861, when he was exactly thirteen years old, he had
run away to sea. He made a voyage in a whaler as cabin-
boy ; and when they had gathered a fair harvest of oil and
bone in the Northern Pacific, and had come homeward around

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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 5 of 13)