Brander Matthews.

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

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thetically that they were sure to be delighted with her pres-
ents to them.

Uncle Dick thanked Pauline for the housewife and Tom
for the box.

" What do you suppose I have for you?" he asked. Per-
haps he had noticed a slight shadow of disappointment on
their faces when they failed to find by their plates any gift
from him.

" I don't know," said Tom, interested in the presents in
spite of his excitement over his " working hypothesis " as to
the whereabouts of the stolen guineas.

" But I 'm sure it will be simply lovely/' volunteered Paul-

"Well," said Uncle Dick, "for a long while I could not
find out what any of you wanted j but at last I heard Polly
say that she wished she was rich enough to buy her mother
a sewing-machine, because there were so many things she
wanted to make for herself. So I have got a sewing-machine
for Polly it is now upstairs in her room."

" Oh, Uncle ! " cried Polly. " Thank you ever so much ! "
and she jumped from her chair and ran around and kissed

" And one day," Uncle Dick resumed, " when Tom and I


were walking by the water, I heard him say that he wished
he had a telescope to look up and down the stream. Now, a
telescope is not so useful as a field-glass j and if Tom will
look under his chair he will find a field-glass through which
he can see a good many miles up the Hudson.' 7

After Tom had thanked him, Mr. Rapallo turned to his
sister and said, " The present I hoped to have for you, Mary,
is not ready yet. I may have it by New Year's and I may
have to go after it. But I think you will like it when you
get it, and "

" I am sure I shall, Richard," was Mrs. Paulding's response.

"And until you do get it," Uncle Dick continued, "I
sha'n't tell you anything at all about it."

"But " Polly began, with a keen disappointment de-
picted in her face.

"But" her uncle interrupted, "you will have to possess
your soul in patience, for I shall not give you a hint about it
until you see it."

" An' quite right, too," said the Brilliant Conversationalist,
who was bringing in the buckwheat cakes. " The child may
be sure that whatever you buy, Mr. Richard, will be beauti-
ful. See what I found in me kitchen this mornin' " ; and
she produced a pair of rather startling ear-rings that Uncle
Dick had bought for her.

After breakfast they all went to church ; and after dinner
Uncle Dick called Tom and took him off for a walk.

" I want you to show me the place where you think Jeffrey
Kerr lies buried, with the gold he stole from your great-


grandfather concealed about his skeleton," he said, as they
started out.

Tom led him straight to the vacant lots, into which from
about the middle of the block a tongue of made land pro-

" There 's where the stepping-stones were, according to this
map," said Tom, as he handed the paper to his uncle. " That
big boulder there used to be one of them, I think j and as far
as I can make out, those two other high rocks over there be-
longed to them, too."

It took Mr. Rapallo but a short time to familiarize himself
with the ground before him and to identify it with that
sketched out in the rough but fairly accurate map which he
held in his hand. As yet there was hardly a house within
two or three blocks on either side ; and in one of the adjoin-
ing blocks also, below the street-level, it was not difficult to
trace the course of the brook, partly by the stones and partly
by the stumps of the broken willows which had lined its
banks here and there. The outline of the pool below the
stepping-stones was less easy to make out, but at last Mr.
Rapallo and Tom were able to identify its limits to their

"Where do you think the deep part of the pool was?"
asked Uncle Dick.

" Here," said Tom, as he pointed to a stone which projected
a little from the edge of the peninsula of filled land. "I
think that is the tip of a tall rock marked in the map ; and
if it is, then the deep part of the pool was just behind that."



" That is to say/' his uncle rejoined, " if the body of Jef-
frey Kerr is here at all, it is buried somewhere near the base
of that stone f "

" Yes/' Tom answered j " don't you think so ? "

" I think your enthusiasm is catching/' Uncle Dick replied j
" and now I am here on the spot, I begin to believe that the
stolen gold is down there somewhere, aljst under our feet.
By the way, how far down do you suppose it is ? "

"I 've been thinking about that," Tom returned, "and I
believe that the skeleton must be several feet below the level
of the bottom of the old pool, as it is now perhaps only a
foot or so, and perhaps three or four."

"And the part of the pool near the rock there is buried
under at least ten feet of dirt, ashes, and all sorts of builder's
rubbish. It won't be easy for us to excavate this to prospect
for that gold."

" Suppose we go down and look at it," Tom suggested.

His uncle started down the steep incline and the boy
followed. At the point where the rock stood, the level
of the lot was fully twenty feet below the surface of the
street j and farther down, nearer the river, it sloped away
still deeper. In the hollows here and there the snow lin-
,gered, dry and harsh beneath their feet. The ground was
frozen hard.

" There is no use in our trying to do anything here until
there is a thaw," Mr. Rapallo declared. "In fact, I think
that it will be best to postpone our serious effort to excavate
until spring."


11 And when spring comes will you be here, Uncle Dick ? *
Tom asked, eagerly.

"That 's more than I can say, Tom," he answered. "It
depends well, it depends on many things."

"And in spring how are we going to dig out all that
dirt ? " Tom inquired.

"I don't know how we shall do it," Mr. Rapallo replied.
" But you will find a way out of that difficulty, I 'm sure.
What I wonder about is whether we shall be able to get per-
mission to dig here."

" Shall we have to ask leave ? " cried Tom, in great sur*

" It is n't our land, is it ? " answered his uncle.

" But it is our money," Tom urged in response.

Mr. Rapallo smiled. " The money is yours, no doubt," he
said ; " but it will be best for you to get the right to see if it
is buried here."

" And suppose we can't get it ? " Tom demanded.

" We '11 discuss that when the permission is refused. Don't
cross the stream till you get there. In the mean time I '11
look up the owner of this land "

" But I don't know who owns it," said Tom.

" I can find out all about it, down-town to-morrow ; andj
that 's the first thing to do. It is our duty at least to try to
get permission to enter on another man's land. As you grow
older, Tom, you will find that the short cut is the straight

That evening, when they were finishing their supper, there


came a sudden clang of bells and the rattling rush of a fire-

" There 's a fire ! " cried Tom, with an appealing look at
his mother. Tom had the American boy's intense fondness
for going to see fires ; but his mother did not like to have
him run after the engine at night, as many other lads were
allowed to do.

" I pity the poor people whose house it is ! n said Mrs.
Paulding, not replying to Tom's glance of appeal.

" It 's a long while since I have seen a fire here," Uncle
Dick remarked, rising from the table. " I think I shall go
and take a look at it. Would you like to come, too, Tom ? "

" Would n't I just?' 7 Tom replied, as the hose-carriage rat-
tled past the house in hot pursuit of its engine. " May I go,
mother ? "

"Let him come with me," said Uncle Dick. "I '11 keep
guard over him, and I '11 return m'm right side up with care."

" Wrap yourself up well, Tom," said his mother.

" I wish I was a boy and could go to fires," declared Paul-
ine. " When I 'm grown up I shall live next door to an en-
gine-house, and I '11 make friends with the firemen, and when
there 's a great, big fire, I '11 get them to let me ride on the

As Uncle Dick and Tom were leaving the house, Mr. Ra-
pallo turned back and said to his sister :

" Mary, don't be uneasy about this boy, and don't sit up for
him. If there 's anything to see, I shall not hurry back, and
Tom will stay with me."



It was lucky that Mrs. Paulding had thus been warned, as
her brother and her son returned to the house long after

By the fiery track of the glowing sparks which the engine


had left behind it, Mr. Rapallo and Tom were able to go
direct to the conflagration, one of the largest ever seen on
that part of Manhattan Island. The fire had begun, no one
knew how, in a new warehouse, which had recently been
completed at the water's edge, between the railroad and a


narrow wharf built out into the river. This building, half
filled with combustible goods, was blazing fiercely when Uncle
Dick and Tom came out at the upper end of the Riverside
Drive, where they could look down into the fiery furnace on
the bank of the frozen river below.

Tom found Cissy Smith standing there with his father;
and while Dr. Smith and Mr. Rapallo renewed their acquaint-
ance, broken off since Uncle Dick had last been in Denver,
five years before, Cissy greeted Tom heartily.

" That 's a bully old fire, is n't it ? " he cried.

" It 's the biggest I Ve ever seen," Tom responded.

From the first the firemen seemed hopeless of saving the
warehouse where the fire had started, for the flames had
gained full control over it before a single engine was able to
throw a stream on it. There was difficulty in getting water,
as more than one hydrant was frozen solid ; it took precious
time to thaw them out by building bonfires all over them.
The center of the river was still open and the ice inshore
was not so thick that a resolute steamboat could not crush
through it. Soon after Tom and Cissy had taken their places
to see the spectacle, a fire-boat came up the river and forced
its way through the ice till it stopped almost alongside the
burning building. Leaving this boat to attend to the ware-
house, the firemen ashore turned their attention chiefly to
preventing the spread of the conflagration. There was a
lumber-yard, piled high with boards and planks, within a
hundred feet of the blazing storehouse, and the saving of this
was a work of great difficulty. The labor of the firemen was


made doubly severe by a chill wind which blew up the river,
carrying the flames toward the tall piles of planks, scattering
sparks over the neighboring houses, and freezing the water
almost as it left the nozles of the hose. Despite the intense
heat of the burning building, long icicles began to descend
from every projecting plank in the yard, and the firemen
were soon clad in a frozen coat of mail, stiff and crackling
as the wearers went about their work.

While the two boys were standing there on the hilltop, en-
joying the magnificent spectacle, with no thought of the cost
at which it was provided, and accepting it as a sort of unex-
pected and superior Fourth-of-July celebration, Corkscrew
Lott came twisting up the hill toward them, as fast as his
high boots would carry him. As he drew near it seemed to
Torn that Lott was taller than ever.

" He 's getting on for six feet," said Tom, involuntarily.

" i 111 weeds grow apace/ " returned Cissy ; " at least that ? s
what my father says."

" I say, Cissy/ 7 cried Lott, approaching hastily, " where 's
jrour father ? "

" He 's here," Cissy answered. " What 's the matter ? "

" They want the doctor quick, down at little Jimmy Wig-
ger's aunt's," Lott replied.

"Who 's hurt?" Tom asked.

" It 's little Jimmy himself," Lott responded. " His aunt
lent him out on an errand, and he did n't look sharp, and
one of the engines came around a corner and ran over him,
and they think he 's broken something inside."


Cissy told his father, and under Corkscrew's guidance Dr.
mith and his son went off to the house of little Jimmy's

Tom and Uncle Dick stood watching the fire that was leap-
ing higher than ever, in despite of the long curves of water
which spent themselves in vain in their attack on it. The
steam from the engines rose white in the night air, and the
ruddy glare of the fire colored the arching lines of water that
the steamboat poured into the burning building.

" There 7 s a sort of likeness in this operation," said Uncle
Dick, " to hydraulic mining. At Monotony Dam, in Calif or-
nia, I have seen a bigger stream than all those put together ;
and, when the full head of water was turned on, it would eat
into the side of a hill and wash out the pay-gravel by the

Tom, being greatly interested by this remark, was about
to ask for an explanation of the methods of hydraulic mining,
when his uncle turned to him suddenly.

" Tom," he said, hastily, " come to think of it, that ? s the
way you may get at that buried treasure of yours."

" How ? " asked Tom.

" We '11 turn on a stream of water and wash the guineas
out of that bank of rubbish. I 've done a good many odd
things in my life, first and last, but I confess it will be a
novel experience to try hydraulic mining for gold right here
in the streets of New York ! ;;



R. RAPALLO and Tom were so interested
in the fire that they were very late in get-
ting to bed. For the first time in his life
Tom " heard the chimes at midnight/ 7 or
at least he heard the bell in the tower of a
church near by strike twelve. It was a
clear winter night ; there was not a cloud in the heavens,
but there was no moon, and the sky was dark as if the freez-
ing wind had blown out the stars, which twinkled, chill and
remote. In this murk midnight, black and cold, the mighty
bonfire by the water's edge blazed away, rolling dense masses
of smoke up the river and affording a delightful spectacle to
those who were unthinking enough to forget its cost.

It was after one o'clock when Uncle Dick and Tom re-
turned home. Everybody had gone to bed hours before;
but Mrs. Paulding's quick ear recognized her boy's footstep
on the stairs as he went up to his room.

Five minutes after he entered the house he was in bed and
asleep. Indeed, it seemed as if he was in his first nap when
there came a rap on the door, and Katie's voice wasf heard.


" Get up out o' that bed, Master Tom. Sure it 's gettin'
cold the breakfast is, an' it 's the buckwheat cakes ye like
that ye 're missin'. Mr. Richard has been 'atin' away this
last half hour."

Thus aroused and besought, Tom got out of bed and
dressed sleepily. Even when he took his seat at the break-
fast-table he was not yet wide awake.

To his great surprise Uncle Dick looked as fresh as if he
had had ten hours' rest.

" Oh, Tom," cried Polly, " you are very late ! "

"Better late than never," Tom replied, cheerfully but
drowsily, as he helped himself to the buckwheat cakes.

" You 've got sleep in your eyes still," said Uncle Dick.

" I shall be all right in a minute," Tom declared. " I sup-
pose it is the light that makes my eyes blink."

" I don't know how you would manage if you were on a
long march," Uncle Dick went on, " when you had to walk
twenty hours out of twenty-four for three or four days

" I could n't manage it at all," Tom confessed ; " that is, not
without training for it. I suppose that one can train for
anything, even for going without sleep."

Mr. Rapallo laughed. " I should n't like to make trial of
that. I think the result would be not unlike the experience
of the man who believed that eating was all a matter of
habit, and that a horse could be gradually accustomed to live
on nothing. Unfortunately for the success of the experiment^
just when he was getting the horse trained down it died."


" Oh," said Polly, " I don't see how people can ever be so
cruel to horses or dogs or cats. It 's hateful."

" Experiments are rarely pleasant for those on whom they
are tried," Uncle Dick returned. " They are like practical
jokes, in that respect."

When Tom had finished his breakfast, his mother left the
dining-room for a conference with the Brilliant Conversa-
tionalist. Her son stood for a moment before the fireplace.

" I think that you had better go upstairs again and take
another nap," suggested his uncle, noticing how the boy's
eyes were closing involuntarily.

" 1 'm not very sleepy," Tom asserted, rousing himself with
an effort. " Besides, I could n't go to sleep if I wanted to.
Cissy Smith and a lot more boys are going coasting this
morning. Cissy is coming for me."

There was a lounge on one side of the dining-room. Tom
walked over to it with affected unconcern.

" I 've nothing to do to-day," he exclaimed, " and I think
I '11 just lie down here and shut my eyes till the boys come."

Pauline slipped off her uncle's knees and drew a shawl over
Tom as he lay on the lounge.

" Marmee says," she remarked, sagely, as she did this, " that
you must never go to sleep without something over you."

" But I 'm not going to sleep," Tom declared.

The little girl pulled the shawl up to his shoulders and
tucked it in. Then she stood for a moment at the head of
the lounge, smoothing her brother's hair.

"I wish I had curls like yours, Tom," she. said; "they


would be so becoming on a girl, and they are just wasted on

" Pauline," her uncle called to her, gently, " better leave
your brother alone and let him have his nap."

" I don't want a nap," asserted Tom, as he turned over ;
and in less than sixty seconds the regularity of his breathing
was very like a snore.

Uncle Dick laughed gently. " The boy was up late last
night. No wonder he can't keep awake."

He parted with Polly at the door.

"Good-by, Polly," he said, "I 'm going down-town to

" Have n't you any Christmas holidays ? " she asked, sym-

" No," her uncle answered. " The Christmas vacation is
intended only for boys and girls, because they have had to
labor hard over their lessons all the fall. Of course grown-
up men don't work so much, and therefore they don't need

" Then I 'm glad 1 'm not going to be a grown-up man,"
returned Pauline.

After her uncle had gone she patted Tom's curls, trying to
smooth them and then disarranging them completely with-
out in any way disturbing his sound slumber.

" How they do curl ! " she thought. " I wonder if I could
make them curl the other way."

So she got half a dozen little pieces of paper and began to
twist her brother's locks up in them. He still slept on. She


was careful not to pull the distorted curls. In a few minutes
Tom's head was covered with half a dozen little twists of

" I do wonder, really/' she said to herself , " whether that
will take any of his curls out of curl, or whether it will make
them curl the other way. It will be most curious to see."

She moved across the room to judge of the possible effect j
and then her mother called to her and she flitted lightly up-
stairs, leaving her brother fast asleep, all unconscious of the
adornment of his head with little twisted bits of paper.

Tom lay there for nearly an hour, and then he was
awakened by the signal of the Black Band outside the

It was not until Cissy Smith had whistled twice that Tom
was aroused sufficiently to understand that his friend had
come for him.

He sprang from the lounge and rushed into the hall. He
put on his cap and, while he was getting his overcoat but-
toned, he opened the door and returned the signal.

" Is that your new sled ? " he cried, as he came out and
found Cissy Smith waiting for him. " It 's a beauty ! "

"It 's my best Christmas present," Cissy declared.
" Father had it made for me at the same place one was made
for him when he was a boy. You can't buy them anywhere ;
you have to order them a year ahead."

The sled was worthy of praise. It was a shapely and
seemly piece of work. It stood high from the ground on two
firm but delicate runners, shod and braced ^dth steel. Its


slender length was not disfigured by paint, but the tough
wood showed clear-grained through the white varnish.

After the sled had been duly admired, Tom and Cissy set
out for the hillside where they were to coast.

At the first corner, they met Lott and Harry Zachary j
and other boys joined them as they went on.

Lott asked Cissy, " How is little Jimmy Wigger this morn-
ing ? " and he twisted himself into an interrogation-mark in
his anxiety to get all the details of the sad story.

Cissy reported that the little boy was not improving.

" If his back is hurt/ 7 suggested Harry Zachary, gently, " I
reckon the doctors will have to cut out his backbone, may-
be, or amputate both his legs."

" Pop says that little Jimmy is going to have a close call,"
Cissy Smith declared, conscious of the advantage he had in
being the doctor's son.

" A call, eh ? " Harry Zachary returned. " Well, I reckon
he ? s right. We ought to go over and see how he is this

" Pop says he is n't any better," Cissy Smith asserted.

" We 're not calling to find out how he is, but just out of
manners," explained Harry.

" Then come along," replied Cissy, lurching ahead in his
usual rolling gait.

" And when they tell him we 've been there," Tom inter-
jected, "perhaps it will make him feel better."

" Do you suppose that they will really cut off his legs ? "
asked Lott.


" Corkscrew would n't like to have his legs cut off/' Tom
remarked, at large, "because he 'keeps his brains in his
boots.' "

The boys greeted with a hearty laugh this allusion to a
recent remark of one of the school-teachers about Lott a
remark which was nearer the truth than the teacher suspected.

Lett's insatiate curiosity did not extend to his lessons at
school. In these he took no interest whatever. He rarely
studied. In his recitations he relied on the help of the boys
who might be next to him and on even less lawful aids. He
had picked up a key to the arithmetic used in the school j
and this illegal assistant to recitation he used to take into
class with him every day j at least, he took with him the one
or two pages containing the answers needed in the lesson of
the day. These loose leaves he concealed in a secret place
feasible only to himself, for no one else wore such tall boots.
The tops of these boots projected above his knees when he
sat down ; and behind the shields thus erected Corkscrew
placed the needed pages of the key. The room in which
arithmetic was taught was overcrowded; and Corkscrew's
recent sudden growth, and his strange habit of twisting about,
and his enormous boots, all made him conspicuous. It was
as if he was taking up more than his share of the room. The
teacher especially disliked the boots, and various remarks
were directed against them. The last of these remarks was
to the effect that "there is no use saying anything more
about Lott's boots ; he will not part with them ; I believe he
keeps his brains in those boots."


When Tom Paulding recalled this remark of the teacher's,
Lott did not like it. But he could think of no other retort
than to say, " You are ever so smart, you are ! r

As Tom failed to reply to this taunt, it seemed less effect-
ive than Corkscrew could have desired.

The boys had now come to the brow of the hill down which
they were to coast.

In default of any more cutting response to the remark
about the boots, Lott seized Tom's cap and threw it as far as
he could down the hillside.

If Tom Paulding had not made Corkscrew angry by
an unprovoked allusion, he would not have exposed him-
self to this sudden exhibition of his own head with its
adornment of little twists of paper all unknown to Tom

" Who curled your hair ? " asked Cissy, when the cap was
plucked from Tom's head.

"What do you mean?" cried Tom, partly to Lott and
partly to Cissy.

By this time Lott, who had been watching the cap as it
circled through the air and then slid along the glassy surface
of the slide, had caught sight of the half-dozen bits of paper
which bedecked Tom's head.

" Ah, ha ! " he cried, " I told you Tom put his hair up in
paper ! ' :

" I don't," said Tom.

" Don't you ? " shouted Lott, forcibly. " You tell that to a

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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 8 of 13)