Brander Matthews.

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

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blind man. We can see for ourselves."


" I never curled my liair in my life ! ' Tom declared.

"Then who put it up in paper for you this morning,
Tom ? " was Corkscrew's triumphant question.

Involuntarily Tom raised his hand to his head, and he felt
the little twists of paper. The boys laughed, even Cissy
Smith, Tom's best friend, and not an admirer of Lott's,
joined in the merriment. Tom felt his face burning red as
he pulled out the papers.

Then he turned to Lott.

" Go get my cap," he said, angrily.

" I won't," answered Lott. " If you had n't said anything
about my boots, I should n't have touched your cap. And
I 'm glad I did now, for I Ve shown everybody how you get
your pretty curls."

" Will you get that cap ? " repeated Tom.

" No, I won't," Lott replied.

" Then I '11 make you," said Tom.

"I 'd like to see you do it," was Lott's retort although
this was exactly what he would not like to see.

There is no need to describe a boys' quarrel after it ends
in an appeal to arms and fists. The battle between Tom
Paulding and Corkscrew Lott began promptly, and, for a
while, its issue was in doubt. Lott was older than Tom, and
taller and heavier ; but, of late, he had been growing beyond
his strength. In the end, Tom had the best of it. But Cork-
screw did not go after Tom's cap. This gage of battle had
been brought back by one of the smaller boysjluring a pause
in the fight. So it happened that Tom's was but a barren



















victory like nearly all those a boy gains except when he
conquers himself.

Lott and several friends of his went away to coast down
another hill. Tom, when he had recovered his wind and
stanched his wounds, joined in the sport with Cissy and
Harry Zachary. But when he left the slide and went home
to his dinner, he bore with him the scars of war in the shape
of a swollen face and an unmistakable black eye.



OM did not quite know what to do about
his black eye. He knew that his mother
would see it, and then she would be sure to
ask him about it, and he would have to tell
her the whole story. That she would not
approve of the fight Tom felt sure j and he was a little in
doubt whether he himself quite approved of it. He had
often thought that sooner or later he and Corkscrew would
have to " have it out " ; and if the combat had been really
inevitable, he was glad that it was over and that he had not
come out of it second-best. But even in the glow of victory,
he did not feel altogether satisfied with the way in which war
had been declared nor with his own conduct in the begin-
ning. His reference to Lett's keeping his brains in his boots
was altogether uncalled for. It is true that Corkscrew's
throwing of the cap down-hill had slight justification. But,
all the same, Tom had an uneasy consciousness that the real
cause of the anger that had burned so fiercely in his breast
was in great measure the keen mortification arising from


the disclosure of his hair curled up in paper. And Tom knew
that it was Polly who had bedecked his head with twists of
paper, and not Corkscrew. Still they would never have been
seen had it not been for Corkscrew. And so, after all

Tom had gone thus far in the examination of his conscience
when he reached home

As the Careful Katie opened the door, she caught sight of
the black eye.

" Oh, Master Tom ! " she cried, " is it in a fight ye Ve

" Yes," Tom answered. " I 've been in a fight."

" Come into the kitchen, then," she went on, heartily, " and
I '11 give ye a bit of beefsteak to put on yer eye. An ? ye can
tell me all about the fight the while. Sure, beefsteak is the
wan thing for a black eye. It 's many a time me brothers
would have liked a bit, a-comin' back from a fair in Killaloo,
or a wake, or any other merrymakin'."

Tom was following the Brilliant Conversationalist into the
kitchen, when Pauline came dancing out into the hall.

" Oh, Tom/' she cried, " what do you think ? We Ve three
new kittens, one black, and one white with a black eye, and
one all gray ever so pretty. And Marmee says I may keep
the gray one, and I 'm going to. The one that 's white with
the black eye is smaller and cunninger, but I don't like a
white kitten with a black eye, do you ? It looks just as if it
had been fighting, and of course it has n't yet, for it 7 s only
two hours old."

Tom smiled grimly. " I ? d keep the one with the black


eye/' he said, as lie followed Katie into the kitchen, " and you
might call it after me." And with that he turned his head
so that she could see his face.

" Oh, Tom ! " Polly exclaimed. " You look worse than the
kitten ever so much worse ! *

" Perhaps," said Tom, dolefully, " when the kitten gets a
little older, you will put its tail up in curl-papers ; and then
it will go out, and come back again with a black eye bigger
than mine."

" It would be cruel to twist up a cat's tail ! " she declared.

" Was n't it cruel to let me go out with my hair in curl-
papers?" he rejoined.

"Did you!" she cried, penitently. "Oh, Tom, I 'm so
sorry ! I did n't mean to. I never thought. I '11 never do
it again j I '11 be so good next time. I don't see how I ever
came to do it. Won't you forgive me this time f "

Tom made haste to forgive her when he saw how sorrow-
ful she looked.

Then the Brilliant Conversationalist came with a bit of raw
beef and placed this to the injured eye and tied it tight with
Tom's handkerchief bound about his head.

" There," sh# said, " that '11 draw out the poison for you.
Now tell us about the fight. Did ye bate the head off the
villain ? "

Then Tom, half pleased and half ashamed, told his sister
and Katie all about the combat with Corkscrew Lott.

" Oh, Tom ! " Pauline cried suddenly, " what will Marmee


"I don't know," replied Tom, doubtfully. "She won't
like it."

" Shall I go and break the news to her gently, as they do
in the story-books ? " suggested his sister.

" No," Tom answered ; " I 'd better tell her myself."

" I '11 go with you," Pauline persisted j " and I '11 tell her it
was all my fault."

" No," Tom replied again, " 1 'd better go alone."

So he took heart of grace, and went up to his mother's room
and placed before her the whole story 5 not trying to shield
himself, but as well as he could telling the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth.

Mrs. Paulding was a wise mother. She saw that her son
had been punished ; she did not reproach him, but she spoke
to him gently, and when she had ceased speaking Tom had
made up his mind never to get into another fight. Then she
kissed him, and they went down together to their early

That evening, when Uncle Dick returned, the whole story
had to be gone over once more. It is to be recorded with
regret that Mr. Rapallo laughed heartily when he heard about
the curls which Polly put up in paper and which Corkscrew
revealed accidentally.

" Best keep out of a fight if you can," he said when he
had heard the full details; "but if you must fight, go in
to win."

" I don't think I shall go in again," Tom declared, looking
up at his mother with an affectionate glance, which would


have been more effective if the black eye had not been still
covered by the bit of beefsteak and the handkerchief.

" Sure if he goes to a wake, any dacent boy may have to
swing his shillalah about a bit/' the Careful Katie remarked,
as she left the room for the preserves.

" The Brilliant Conversationalist is in favor of a free fight,"
Uncle Dick declared. " But I '11 give you a Spanish proverb
better than her Hibernian advice and there is no more hon-
orable race than the Spanish, and no one is more punctilious
than a Spaniard. Yet they have a saying, 'It is the man
who returns the first blow who begins the quarrel.' '

After supper, Mrs. Paulding and Pauline went upstairs,
leaving Mr. Rapallo and Tom alone together.

" I 've been looking up the ownership of that property
where you think your guineas are," said Uncle Dick.

" Did you find out ? " Tom asked, eagerly.

"I found that the land is in dispute," his uncle replied.
"The title to it is doubtful, and there has been a lawsuit
about it in the courts now for nearly ten years."

" But it must belong to some one," Tom insisted.

"It 's likely to belong to the lawyers, if this litigation
does n't stop soon," Uncle Dick answered. Then he explained
how it was :

" The case seems to be complicated ; there was an assign-
ment of some sort made by the original owner fifty years ago ;
and now there are two mortgages and two wills, and half a
dozen codicils. And all the parties are angry, and there is
' blood on the moon.' So I 'm afraid that when we get reacly


to dig for that buried treasure, we shall have to do it without
asking anybody's permission. In the first place, we don't
know whom to ask and in the second place, whoever we ask
would surely suspect us of coming from one of the other
parties, and would not only refuse but perhaps set a guard
on the property or have detectives watch us."

" Oh ! " said Tom, and he was conscious of a certain swell-
ing pride at the possibility that there might be a detective
" on his track," as he phrased it.

"Of course," Mr. Rapallo continued, "as long as the
frost 's in the ground there is no use in our trying to do any-
thing. In the meanwhile, you will say nothing."

" Not even to Cissy Smith ? " Tom urged, aware of the de-
light that he would have in imparting this real mystery to his

" Not even to anybody," Uncle Dick answered. " If Cissy
were to tell some one, you could n't blame him for not keep-
ing the secret you could n't keep yourself."

Tom felt the force of this reasoning, but he regretted that
his uncle thought it best not to tell Cissy. Tom felt sure of
Cissy's discretion, and he longed to have some one with whom
to talk over the buried treasure. Thus early in life Tom was
made to see the wisdom in the saying of the philosopher,
that a secret is a most undesirable property, for " if you tell
it, you have n't got it ; and if you don't tell it, you lose the
interest on the investment."

The next afternoon, as Tom was coming back from asking
how little Jimmy Wigger was getting on, he saw Mr. Ra-


pallo standing on the stoop of Mr. Joshua Hoffmann's house
talking to the old gentleman he had before seen leaning over
the wall. Tom supposed that the Old Gentleman who leaned
over the Wall, as he called him in his own mind, was proba-
bly Mr. Hoffmann himself, but he was not quite sure of it.

Once again before New Year's Day, Tom saw his uncle in
conference with the Old Gentleman who leaned over the Wall.
Tom noticed that about this time Mr. Rapallo was a little
more restless than usual ; and then again that he would "ink
into frequent fits of thoughtful silence.

On New Year's morning, Mr. Rapallo caught Tom's eye,
after Tom had spoken twice without bringing him out of his
silent abstraction.

" I beg your pardon, Tom," he said ; " I was thinking. The
fact is, I Ve got the idea of a little invention buzzing in my
head, and I keep turning it over and over, and looking at it
on all sides, even when I ought to be doing something else
eating my breakfast, for example."

They were then at their morning meal j and just at that
moment the shrill whistle of the postman was heard.

"There does be only one letter-man this mornin', I 'm
thinkin'," said the Brilliant Conversationalist, as she went out
to see what the postman had for them.

"There may be a letter for me," Uncle Dick remarked,
" that will take me away to-night."

" You are not going to leave us ? " cried Polly.

" I may have to go," her uncle answered.

" Where ? " she asked.


"On a journey to lots of places/ 7 lie replied.

" How long will yon be gone ? " she went on.

" I don't know. Two or three months, perhaps," he an-
swered. Then, catching Tom's inquiring glance, he added,
" I shall be back by the time the frost is out of the ground.
I 'm like a bad penny, I 'm sure to turn up again."

" You are not a bad penny at all," said Polly, with empha-
sis. " You are as good as gold, and a penny is only copper.
And if you have to go, we shall all miss you very, very much ! "
Then she got up and walked around the table and kissed her
uncle on the cheek.

Katie returned and gave Uncle Dick the only letter she
had in her hand.

" The letter-man says he does n't be comin' here again to-
day, mum, but ye can give him his New Year's in the morn-
in'," she reported.

" Must you go ? " asked Mrs. Paulding, who had watched
her brother's face as he read the note.

" Yes. I must start this afternoon at the latest," he an-
swered. "It is to see a man about this little invention of
mine. If he likes it, we shall work it out together. Then,
when I come back in the spring, Mary, I hope to bring you
that Christmas present I owe you."

When Mr. Rapallo left the house, about twelve o'clock,
Tom went with him to the nearest elevated-railroad station.
Uncle Dick did not walk this time, as he had a heavy bag to


After Mr. Rapallo and Tom had stepped down upon the
sidewalk, from the flight of wooden steps leading from the
street up to the rocky crest on which the house was perched,
they saw Cissy Smith. He was coming eagerly toward them.

" Have you heard the news about little Jimmy ? " asked

" No," Tom replied. " What is it ? "

" He died this morning early," Cissy continued. " Father
was there. Little Jimmy did not suffer any. And he
could n't ever have been strong again."

" Poor little chap ! " said Tom, thinking of the eagerness of
the little fellow as he had followed Tom about ready to do
his bidding, whatever it might be.

" The years bring joy to some and sorrow to others," Mr.
Rapallo remarked gently; "but it is a sad house to which
Death pays a New Year's call."



WO days after New Year's, little Jimmy
Wigger was buried, and all the boys of the
Black Band attended the funeral. Eight
of them, including Tom Paulding, Cissy
Smith, G. W. Lott, and Harry Zachary,
were asked to be pall-bearers. Tom long
remembered his silent walk by the side of the coffin as one
of the saddest duties he had ever performed.

The next Monday school began again, and Tom went back
to work. Now that he believed he knew where the stolen
guineas were, and now that he expected to recover them with
his uncle's assistance, his hope of being able to go to the
School of Mines increased, and he studied harder than ever
before that he might fit himself as soon as possible for this
new undertaking. Unless something happened to help Mrs.
Paulding, Tom knew that at the end of the year he would
have to give up his aspirations and take a place in a store,
that his earnings might contribute to the support of the
family. If he could find the buried treasure, he felt sure that


the money would suffice to tide over the difficulties of the
household until after he had been through the School of
Mines, and was able to make his living as a man, and to sup-
port his mother and sister on his income as an engineer.
During the Christmas vacation, after his uncle had gone,
Tom had walked down to Columbia College and had found
out the requirements for admission. Ee believed that he
could pass the examination the next year, late in the spring,
if he could keep on with his studies until then. And whether
he could do this or not depended now absolutely on the find-
ing of the two thousand guineas stolen from his great-grand-

At the house, they all missed Uncle Dick. In the two
months that Mr. Eapallo had spent at Mrs. Paulding's he
had made himself quite at home, and they had come to look
on him as a permanent member of the family. Mrs. Pauld-
ing had greatly enjoyed the long quiet talks she had had
with her brother after her children were gone to bed. Paul-
ine missed a playfellow always ready to join in her sports and
always quick to devise a fresh game. Even the Brilliant
Conversationalist grieved over Mr. Rapallo's departure. Cer-
tain little dishes of which he had been especially fond she
ceased to serve, explaining that she would make these again
" after Mr. Richard do be back."

But Tom missed him most of all. He felt lonely without
Uncle Dick, who was older than he by nearly thirty years, yet
who was always able to look at things from his point of
view. The man and the boy had been very companionable,


one to the other. Until long afterward, Tom did not know
how much his character had been influenced by the example
of his Uncle Dick, and how much Mr. Rapallo's shrewd and
pithy talks had affected his views of lif e.

What Tom most needed was some one with whom he could
discuss the buried treasure. He was young, and youth is
sanguine ; and he felt sure that the stolen guineas were really
where he thought they were. But he wanted to have some
one to whom he could talk about them, so as to keep up his
own enthusiasm. There were days, during the absence of
Uncle Dick, when it was very difficult for Tom not to tell
Cissy Smith, despite Mr. Rapallo's warning. The secret
burned within him and sometimes it almost burst forth of its
own accord. Tom was strong enough to resist the tempta-
tion. He did not like to have to confess to his uncle that
he had disregarded the warning. Besides, he was a little in
doubt how Cissy would accept the revelation ; Cissy was a
skeptical boy, with a superabundance of cold common sense.
In imagination, when Tom told Cissy all about the buried
treasure, and when he came to the long string of mere proba-
bilities on which its discovery depended, he shivered as he
fancied that he heard Cissy's frank opinion :

" Shucks ! I don't take any stock in fairy-stories like that."
So Tom told no one. Yet the effort to bottle up his great
secret must have been obvious at times. Corkscrew Lott be-
came aware of it, or at least suspicious that something was
on Tom's mind. Corkscrew's curiosity was greater than his
pride, and he made up with Tom before they had been back


at school for a week. He threw himself in Tom's way when-
ever Tom went out for a walk. In some strange manner he
discovered that Tom was interested in the vacant lot where
the stepping-stones were j and once, when Tom was drawn
as he often was to go and look at the bank of earth be-
neath which he believed his treasure lay hidden, he found
Corkscrew prowling around in the lot, and poking into its
corners as if to spy out Tom's secret.

Corkscrew's curiosity went so far that he even stopped
Pauline one day, as she was going home from school, to ask
a few questions about Tom's doings, vainly endeavoring to
entrap her into some admission as to the cause of her
brother's change of manner.

'I did n't know he had changed at all," Polly answered,

" Oh, I did n't know, either," explained Corkscrew. " I only
thought that, maybe, you know, he might have got on the
track of that buried treasure, or stolen money, or something
of that sort, that used to belong to his great-great-great-
grandfather, once upon a time."

When this was repeated to Tom, he regretted that he had
ever mentioned the loss of the two thousand guineas to any
of the Black Band, and most of all that he had said anything
in Corkscrew's hearing. He resolved to keep away from the
stepping-stones until Uncle Dick returned.

Then it struck him that it would be fun to lead Corkscrew
off on a false scent. So whenever he had part of an after-
noon to spare, he would start off to Morningside Park, and as



he took care to let Lott know where he was going, he soon
had the satisfaction of seeing Corkscrew skulking along a
block or so behind him. Tom would go gravely down the
stone steps of Morningside Park, and he would pretend to


sound rocks with a stick and to peer into all the crevices he
could find. Sometimes he would push on down to Central
Park when he was sure that Corkscrew was following j and
then he would go all over the old fort which is still standing
at the upper end of the park.


And so the winter passed. Early in January there was a
gentle thaw j and Tom hoped that the cold weather was over
and that the ground would soon be soft enough for them to
begin to dig. But on the day before Washington's Birthday
there came a terrific snow-storm, covering the earth with a
white mantle nearly a yard thick. The wind blew fiercely
down the Hudson, tossing the snow-wreaths high in the air,
and swirling them off down the hillside into the river. Then
there followed a hard frost, and the thermometer fell day
after day, and the wind blew keener and keener.

AH things come to an end in time, and the winter was over
before Tom or his mother had any word from Richard

" Don't expect to hear from me till you see me," he had said
to his sister just before he left the house. " You know I 'm
not ' The Complete Letter- Writer. 7 If I get my work done,
I '11 drop in again when you least expect me."

As the season advanced, and after the final thaw had come,
the boys gave up coasting and skating, and began kite-flying.
The river was open again, although huge fields of ice still
came floating past. There were signs of spring at last.
Across the river, up near the Palisades, there began to be a
hint of fresh verdure. The long tows were once more to be
seen moving slowly up and down the river.

The trees on the hillside below the Riverside Drive and the
few bushes about Mrs. Paulding's house were green again
before there was any news of Uncle Dick. The hard part
or at least so Tom thought it was that they did not know


where Mr. Rapallo was. Sometimes Tom saw the Old Gen-
tleman who leaned over the Wall walking slowly along the
parapet of the drive before his house, as if he were inhaling
the freshness of the spring -, and Tom wondered if this be-
nevolent-looking old gentleman knew where Uncle Dick was,
and whether he would be greatly offended if Tom should go
up and ask him.

One day when spring was well advanced, it was then
about the middle of April, Tom determined to walk past the
vacant lots where the stepping-stones were, that he might at
least enjoy the sight of the outward covering of the wealth he
was seeking. To his dismay he found that there was a cart
standing on the tongue of land projecting out to the step-
ping-stones, and that this cart was but one of a dozen or
more engaged in emptying builder's rubbish.

Tom did not know what to do. If these lots were to be
filled up, then the difficulty of recovering the buried treasure
would be doubled. Of course he saw that he could oppose no
resistance to the work ; he had to suffer in silence.

The next day, when he went to see how far the filling had
progressed, he was delighted to find that the rubbish was now
being emptied at one of the upper corners of the block, and
that the fence had been replaced across the tongue of land
which led out to the stepping-stones.

About that time there came a week of warm weather, and
it seemed indisputable that there would be no more frost till
the fall. Still there was no word from Uncle Dick. Tom
thought that the hour had come when an effort ought to


be made to get at the buried treasure j but lie "himself
did not know how to go to work. He had relied on his
uncle's help.

Suddenly the fear came to him that perhaps Uncle Dick
would not return to them until too late. What would Tom
do then ?

As the days drew on, Tom became more and more doubt-
ful about his uncle's coming. At last he determined to wait
no longer, but to see what he could do by himself.

He recalled what Mr. Rapallo had said about hydraulic
mining on the night of the fire, when little Jimmy was run
over. Uncle Dick had declared that the stolen guineas could
best be got at by hydraulic mining. What that was Tom did
not know. He resolved to find out.

One Saturday afternoon he went down to the Apprentices'
Library, and took out a book which the kindly librarian indi-
cated as likely to give him the best account of the process.
The next Saturday he got another volume ; and a third Sat-

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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 9 of 13)