Brander Matthews.

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

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It is a puzzle of the most puzzling kind."

" And there is one question which puzzles me quite as much
as the fate of the thief or the disappearance of the gold," Tom
declared j " and that 's why it was that my grandfather sud-
denly gave up the search."

"That is odd," Uncle Dick confessed; "very odd, indeed.
It will bear a good deal of thinking over."

" And I want you to help me, Uncle Dick," pleaded Tom.

" Of course I will," replied Mr. Rapallo, heartily. " I '11 do
what I can that is, if I can do anything. Have you told
any of the boys here about this ? "

" They know I 'm going to try to find it/' Tom replied,
" but that 7 s all they do know. I thought at first of consult-
ing Harry Zachary, he has such good ideas. He 's just been
reading a book called the i Last Days of Pompeii/ and he
wants us to make a big volcano for the Fourth of July and
have an eruption of Vesuvius after it gets dark, and then
by the light of the burning mountain two of us will fight
a duel with stilettos that 's a kind of Italian bowie-knife,
is n't it ? "

" Yes," answered Uncle Dick, smiling. " I think that is a
good scheme. This young friend of yours seems to have ex-
cellent ideas, as you say. Why did n't you consult him ?


" Well," Tom answered, " his head 's all right, but he is n't
very strong, and he gets scared easily. Besides, his father
thinks he 's delicate, and he won't always let him out. His
father 's a tailor that is, he manufactures clothes. Harry
says he has more than a hundred hands."

" Quite a Briareus," said Mr. Kapallo. "And is he the only
one you could take into confidence ? "

" Oh, no," Tom responded ; " there 's Cissy Smith."

" I don't think I would advise you to consult a girl," said
his uncle.

"Cissy is n't a girl," Tom explained. "< Cissy 7 is simply
short for Cicero. His full name is Marcus Cicero Smith,

" Then I think I must know his father," Mr. Rapallo de-
clared j " that is, if he 's a doctor, and if he used to live in

" He did," said Tom.

" And why did n't you consult him ? " asked his uncle.

"Well," Tom explained, a little hesitatingly, "I don't
know that I can tell, for sure. I like Cissy. He 's my best
friend. But he 's so sharp, and he sits down on one so hard.
And besides, I thought I 'd rather do all the work myself."

They were then walking along the upper terrace of Morn-
ingside Park.

Mr. Rapallo glanced down into the park below and said,
" Is n't that boy making signals to you ? "

Tom leaned over and caught sight of Corkscrew Lott, who
was waving his hands as if signaling.



As Tom came to the edge of the parapet, Lott whistled :


9 ' ^

m ^* -^






Tom promptly answered :



" That sounds like a rallying-call," said Mr. Rapallo, smil-

" We ? ve got a secret society, called the Black Band, and
that 's our signal," Tom explained.

They walked a little way down toward Lott, and stood still
until he came up. Then Tom presented him to Mr. Rapallo.

Lott hardly waited for this introduction, he was so anxious
to communicate his intelligence.

" Have you heard the news ? " he asked, twisting with im-

" What news ? n Tom returned.

" Then you have n't heard it," Lott went on, gleefully. " It
was found only this forenoon, and I was almost the first to
see it."

" What was found ? " asked Tom, with a sudden chill as he
feared that possibly some one else had discovered the treasure
he was after.

" It ? s the skeleton of a soldier who was killed during the
Revolutionary War," Lott explained.

Uncle Dick and Tom looked at each other with the same
thought in their minds.




" Where was this discovered ? n Mr. Rapallo asked.

"Over there," Corkscrew answered, pointing toward the
Hudson River behind them. " The men at work there on the
new aqueduct dug up the bones. It was the skeleton of a
British soldier."

" A British soldier ? " echoed Mr. Rapallo. " How do you
know that?"

" Oh, everybody says so," Lott answered. " Besides, they
found things with him that prove it."

" Did they find any money ? " cried Tom, anxiously.
i " Did n't they though ? " Corkscrew replied.

Again Tom and Uncle Dick exchanged glances, and their
faces fell.

4< Do you know how much they found ? " inquired Mr. Ra-

"Of course I do," Corkscrew answered. "I went up at
once, and I asked all about it, and I Ve seen all the money.
There are two silver shillings and a silver sixpence and a cop-
per penny a great big one with the head of George the
Second on it."

"Is that all?" Tom demanded.

" Is n't that enough ? " Lott returned. " How much do you
a British soldier ought to have had ? "

Tom drew a breath of relief. " If that is all," he began
" How do you know it was a British soldier ? " Mr. Rapallo

repeated. " An American soldier might have had two-and-

six in silver and a penny in copper."

" The money was n't all that was found," Lott explained.


"I thought you said it was," Tom interrupted.

" I did n't say anything of the sort," Lott replied. " I said
that was all the money j but they found something else the
buttons of his uniform j and Dr. Smith, who has collected
buttons I 'm going to begin a collection at once ; I can get
one from a ( sparrow ? policeman, and I Ve a cousin in the
fire department at Boston, and "

" Never mind about the collection you are going to begin,"
said Mr. Rapallo ; " tell us about these buttons now."

"Well," Lott returned, "Dr. Smith recognized them at
once ; he said that they were worn in 1776 by the Seventeenth
Light Dragoons j and that that was one of the British regi-
ments which took part in the Battle of Harlem Heights."

" And what did Dr. Smith say about the death of the poor
fellow whose bones have been found ? " asked Uncle Dick.

" He said it was easy to see how the man had been killed,
and he took a big musket-ball out of the skull," said Lott.
" He thinks that in the hurry of the fighting some of the other
soldiers must have thrown a little earth hastily over the body,
and left it where it fell ; and so, in time, with the washing of
the rain and the settling of the dust and the growing of the
grass, somehow the skeleton got to be well under ground.
Why, it was at least six feet down, where they dug it out."

" Are you sure that they did not find anything else with it ? *
Mr. Rapallo inquired.

" Certain sure ! " said Corkscrew. " I asked every one of
them all about it. Oh, that 's all right : if there 'd been any-
thing else, 1 7 d have found out all about it. Maybe the men


are there still j you can go and ask them yourself, and I can
show you exactly where the bones were."

Mr. Rapallo and Tom Paulding walked with Lott to the
place where the men were yet at work sinking a deep ditch for
one of the huge pipes of the new aqueduct. The laborers had
advanced at least ten feet beyond the spot in which the skele-
ton had been discovered, but Corkscrew pointed out the place.

Uncle Dick asked the foreman a few questions, and then
he and Tom started for home.

" I don't see how that can be the skeleton of your thief,
Tom," said Mr. Rapallo, as they walked on after parting with

" 1 'm sure that Kerr could n't have got to the place where
those bones were found/' Tom declared. " Kerr did n't reach
the British camp, and that place is well inside their lines.
Besides, he could n't have had on the uniform of the Seven-
teenth Light Dragoons, you know j he was an assistant pay-
master in our army. And then those two shillings, and that
sixpence, and that penny there was more than that in my
great-grandfather's money-bags ! No ; this can't be the man
we 're after."

" Then you are no nearer the solution of your problem," said
Uncle Dick. " I 'm afraid it will take you a long while to work
it out. I 'd help you if I could, but I don't see how I can."

" It helps me just to have some one to talk to about it,*
Tom urged.

" Oh, you can talk to me till you are tired," Uncle Dick
laughed. " The mystery of the thing fascinates me, and I


shall be glad to talk about it. But you will have to do the
hard thinking yourself. 'Be sure you're right then go
ahead ! ' That was a good motto for Davy Crockett, and it
is n't a bad one for any other American."

" I wish I only knew which way to go/' said Tom ; " I M
go ahead with all my might."

" Put on your thinking-cap," remarked Mr. Rapallo, as they
mounted the flight of steps leading from the street to the
knoll on which stood Mrs. Paulding's house. " Sleep on it
To-morrow is Christmas, you know ; perhaps in the morning
you will find an idea in your stocking."

Generally Tom was a late sleeper, like most boys, and it
was not easy to rouse him from his slumbers. But on Christ-
mas morning, by some strange chance, he waked very early.
Despite his utmost endeavor he could not go to sleep again.
He lay there wide awake, and he recalled the events of the
preceding day. Soon he began to turn over in his mind the
circumstances connected with Jeffrey Kerr's mysterious dis-

Suddenly he sprang from his bed and lighted the gas.
Without waiting to dress, he pulled out the box of papers
and searched among them for a certain newspaper. When
he had found this he read a marked paragraph with almost
feverish eagerness. Then he put the paper away again in
the box, and dressed himself as rapidly as he could.

By the time he got down-stairs, creeping softly that he
might not disturb his mother, it was just daybreak.


At the foot of the stairs he met the Careful Katie, who was
just back from early mass.

" Holy Saints defend us ! " she cried. " Is that the boy, or
his banshee ? "

" Merry Christmas, Katie ! " he said, as he put on his over-

"An' is it goin 7 out ye are?" she asked in astonishment.
"For why? Ye can't buy no more Christmas presents
the stores is n't open, even them that ain't closed the day."

" I 've got to go out to see about something," he explained.
" I shall be back in half an hour."

" It '11 bring no luck this goin' out in the night, an' not to
church either," said the Careful Katie, as she opened the door
for him.

An hour or so later, when Mr. Rapallo was dressing lei-
surely, there came a tap at his door.

" Who >s there ? " he cried.

" Merry Christmas, Uncle Dick ! " Tom answered. " You
were right, and Santa Claus has given me a suggestion."

" What do you mean ? " asked his uncle, opening the door.

" I have found an idea in my stocking," Tom explained j
" or at least it came to me this morning early, and I Ve been
out to see about it. And I think I 've made a discovery."

" Produce your discovery ! " Uncle Dick responded, noting
the excitement in the boy's voice and the light in his eyes.

" I think I know what became of Jeffrey Kerr," said Tom ;
" and if I 'm right, then I know where the stolen gold is ! "



NCLE DICK looked at Tom for a moment
Then he whistled gently.

"If you have found out that, then
you have the finest Christmas present of
us all."

" I think I have," Tom declared.
" 1 7 m very glad to hear it," his uncle responded, heartily.
" Now, sit down here and tell me all about it."
Tom took a chair and sat down beside Mr. Rapallo.
" I think I know where the thief is," the boy began, " and
I hope I know where the gold is j though, of course, 1 7 m not
sure. After all, it is only a guess, but still "

" If you express all your doubts before you let me have all
the facts," interrupted Uncle Dick, "it will be a long time
before I can see what you are driving at. Better begin at
the beginning."

" The real beginning," Tom answered, " was when I got to
looking at this mystery just as if it was a problem in alge-
bra. Jeffrey Kerr was my x. He was n't exactly an un-



known quantity, but there was a lot about him I did n't know.
I set down the facts, and then tried to work out my x that
is, to see what had become of Kerr. If what my grandfather


had found out and written down was right, then the thief
had vanished suddenly after he had got past the sentries of
Washington's army. Now, this morning when I was waking
up I found that I was thinking about this problem, just as if


I had been at work on it in my sleep, puzzling it out in a
dream. I was still half asleep when I found that one
thought kept on coming back and coming back. And I
suppose that thought was the present Santa Clans had
brought me during the night, as you said he would."

" I did n't say that he would, for sure/ 7 said Mr. Rapallo.
" I hoped that perhaps he might. What was it that he told
you ? "

" It seems so simple/ 7 Tom continued, " that I don't see
how I ever came to miss seeing it for so long."

" The greatest ideas are generally the simplest," Uncle Dick
remarked, encouragingly. "You remember that little egg
trick of Columbus's T "

"And it never seemed to me quite fair either," Tom
returned, "because "

" Don't let ? s discuss that now," his uncle interposed.
" What was your new idea ? "

"Well," Tom went on, "I found myself thinking that as
Kerr had left the American army, and as he had n't got to
the British army, and as he had n't ever been seen anywhere
since that night, or heard of by anybody, why, perhaps the
shot the sentinel had fired at him had wounded him badly
you remember my great-grandfather's account said there was
a cry of pain after that second shot ? "

" I remember," said Uncle Dick.

" And if the shot had wounded him badly," Tom continued,
"that perhaps he had fallen dead somewhere between the
lines, and that perhaps somehow his body had got covered


over or concealed or something of that sort, and so it might
perhaps be there now."

" I understand/' Mr. Kapallo remarked, as Tom paused for
a moment to see if his uncle were following him. " If the
body was hidden then, there is no reason why it might not
be there to this day. But where can it be hidden? That
will be a difficult question to solve."

Tom smiled cheerfully. "Well/ 7 he said, "of course I
don't know that I Ve found out that, certain sure ; but I 've
got another idea about that, too."

" Produce idea number two ! " ordered Uncle Dick.

" As soon as I had really got hold of the first idea the one
that possibly Kerr was wounded by that shot and that his
body might be there now I waked right up," Tom re-
sponded j "and it was when I was wide awake that I won-
dered where we could look for Kerr's body, with the gold on
it, perhaps. Suddenly it struck me that as Kerr was trying
to escape to the British, and as he knew the country, he M
been living up near here at an old mill for months before,
why, he 'd naturally try some kind of a short cut. There
was a little brook separating those two camps, and it had
been raining hard all day, I looked at the old newspaper to
make sure of that, but I believe it nearly always does rain
hard after there 's been a battle, and so I thought the brook
would be high, and Kerr was smart enough to know that it
would be, and so perhaps he 'd make for those stepping-
stones. You remember, I once showed them to you marked
on the map my great-grandfather made ? "


"Yes, I remember," Mr. Rapallo replied j "and I think I
see where you are going. I should n't wonder if you were on
the right track at last."

Tom's eyes lighted again with pleasure as he continued :

" I got out that map, and I looked to see if it would help
me. Well, the place is marked where the first sentry stood
that fired at Kerr, and then the place is marked where the
second sentry stood when he fired ; so I drew a line from one
to the other, and I thought that would show which way Kerr
was going. Then I stretched out that line toward the British
troops to see where he would cross the brook ; and I found
that if he had kept on the same way he started, then he was
running straight for those stepping-stones which my great-
grandfather had marked in his plan."

" And supposing you are right ? " Uncle Dick queried.

" Supposing I 'm right," Tom responded, " and supposing
he was badly wounded, perhaps when he got to those step-
ping-stones and tried to cross, he slipped and fell in. You
see the brook was up, and maybe the water was over the top
of some of the stones. It was a very dark night, and he
was running for his life, and perhaps he slipped and fell into
the pool."

" Well T " said Mr. Rapallo.

" Well, if he did," Tom went on " if he did fall, and he was
wounded, and the current was strong, and he had all that heavy
gold weighing him down, perhaps he was drowned there."

" If that happened," Uncle Dick inquired, " why was n't the
body found next day ? "


"I thought/ 7 Tom suggested, "that perhaps the strength
of the current might have rolled the body into the deepest
part of the pool, and then the sand and dirt and things which
the brook was carrying down would be caught by the body ;
and perhaps there would be enough of them to cover it up
completely. And if there was, why, then perhaps the gold
is there now."

" With the skeleton of the thief guarding it for you/' said
Mr. Rapallo.

" What do you think about this idea ? " Tom asked, anx-

" I think/ 7 his uncle replied, " that you are probably right.
I see that your story has a ' perhaps ' in almost every sen-
tence. Perhaps the man was wounded, perhaps he tried to
cross at the stepping-stones, perhaps he slipped, perhaps he
was drowned partly by the weight of the guineas he had
stolen, perhaps the brook washed down sand and earth
enough to cover him, and perhaps nobody has ever found
him. Here are perliapses enough and to spare, you must

As his uncle paused, Tom's face fell. This did not seem so
cordial an acquiescence as he had hoped for.

"But your theory at least fits all the facts as we know
them," said Mr. Rapallo, cheerfully. " It seems to me excel-
lent as a ' working hypothesis/ so to speak. At least it may
very well explain the mystery of Kerr's disappearance. And
if I were you I should go ahead on this line, and fight it out
if it takes all winter."


" Will you help me ? " asked Tom, eagerly.

" Of course I will/' his uncle responded, heartily. " What-
ever I can do, I will. First of all, have you any idea where
the current would have taken the body of the thief ? "

" Yes/ 7 Tom answered, quickly j " I think I know at least
1 Ve been guessing at it. On the map the pool is shaped
somewhat like a figure eight, with the stepping-stones at the
middle in the narrow part, and with the lower end swung on
one side in a sort of bay j and the brook goes on out of one
corner of this sort of bay. Now, it seems to me that if Kerr
slipped off the stepping-stones, he probably rolled to the mid-
dle of this lower pool and that he is there now."

" Do you think that any one else has found his body ? "
asked Uncle Dick.

"No/ 7 said Tom. "At least I think nobody has ever
thought of digging there. The brook has dried up only since
they began to open the streets through here. I showed you
where the stepping-stones are, and the little pool just below
them is still to be traced out at least I can do it now 1 7 ve
seen the map. The trouble is that the pool is in a vacant
block which they have begun to fill in. The lots are 'way
down below the level of the street. They ? ve done some fill-
ing in, and they are going to do more soon. I went there to
see it just now, and I think I could see the edge of the pool
distinctly. But the part where I guessed the guineas were
has been filled in twenty feet at least."

"Does a street run across it?" Mr. Rapallo inquired.
" Foolish people used to think that the streets of great cities


were paved with gold j and it would be curious if there were
really treasure hidden down below their surfaces."

" This is n't a street/' Tom explained j " it 's just the ordi-
nary filling in, with rubbish and dirt and old brickbats and
ashes and things. It starts about the middle of the block
and makes a sort of bow-window into the middle of the
vacant lots."

" Then how are you going to get out the golden guineas ? "
asked Uncle Dick.

" That 's just what I don't know," Tom answered. " I 'm
counting on you to help me out there."

" I Ve mined for gold in California, and for silver in the
Black Hills, and for diamonds in South Africa," Mr. Rapallo
replied, with an amused smile ; " but I never supposed that
I should sink a shaft in the streets of New York in search of
buried treasure. It will be a novel experience, at any rate.
But we must see what we can do. This afternoon, if you
will take me over to the place where the pool was, I '11 have
a look around."

Tom arose to go. When he had opened the door he hesi-
tated and then said : " If you don't mind, Uncle Dick, I M
rather we did n't say anything about this l working hypothe-
sis ' until we know whether it will work or not."

" Certainly not," Mr. Rapallo replied. " It is always best
to say nothing till you have something to show. ' When in
doubt, hold your tongue ' there 's a good motto."

Then he came out into the hall to Tom, and they went
down-stairs together to their Christmas breakfast.



N Mrs. Paulding's family it was the tradi-
tion to keep Christmas and to make pres-
ents; but the moderate circumstances of
the household prevented the purchase of
costly gifts. Nor was the preparation of
presents made by the giver allowed to be-
come burdensome. There are homes where the pressure of
Christmas giving has crushed out the proper Christmas feel-
ing, where the obligation is accepted of providing every
other member of the household with a present which is often
Useless and which is always expensive. Nothing of this sort
was seen at Mrs. Paulding's fireside. With gentle tact she
found out early in the fall what were the cherished desires
of her children ; and, in so far as her means might allow,
she gratified these at Christmas. They in turn consulted
each other and saved up their pocket-money that they might
give her something likely to be useful.

On this Christmas morning there was the added interest
of Uncle Dick's being in the house. Just what to give him


had greatly puzzled Tom and Polly, but they had at last hit
upon things they thought their uncle would welcome. Polly
made him a " housewife n to contain needles and thread and
buttons and tapes, and a tiny pair of scissors.

She explained to Tom that if Uncle Dick ever went back
to South Africa, or even out "West again among those In-
dians, she thought the needles and the other accompanying
tools of woman's craft might be very useful.

"If the real Africans," she said, "are anything like the
pictures in my jog., I don't believe that Uncle Dick could
find one of them to do his sewing for him. They can't have
had much practice in making buttonholes. If those pictures
are right, then I should n't wonder if there was n't a single
sewing-machine in all South Africa. So, you see, he might
have to mend his own clothes some day and sew on buttons.
Of course he 's only a man and he would n't do it well j but,
all the same, I think he ought not to go away again without
needle and thread."

Mr. Rapallo had told them that he never knew how long
he would be able to stay with them. He might, at any time,
be called away suddenly ; and if he once went, he could not
guess when he should get back.

Tom had borne in mind this possibility of his uncle's trav-
'eling, and he had gone over to Cissy Smith's, whose father
had given him a lathe the year before ; and with Cissy's as-
sistance Tom had turned a box large enough to hold a few
of the indispensable effects of a traveler.

When Tom and his uncle came down that Christmas morn-


ing, they found Mrs. Paulding and Pauline waiting for them
at the breakfast- table 5 and the presents were placed at the
plate of each member of the household.

Mrs. Paulding was always pleased with what her children
gave her; and she had interpreted their desires so sympa-

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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 7 of 13)