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advanced toward me, holding out bis hand, and addressing me by my name.
"How singular it is that we should meet here in t his deserted house!" he said. "What could have brought you here t"
I took his offered hand, and replied, ■ "Well, my dear Theack, it does not seem to occur to you that I might with propriety ask you the same question. I assure you that my surprise is as great as your own, if not greater, and there is some ground for it, yon must allow, siuce you live in New York, while I live in Virginia."
"Yes, yes, you are right," he said, in his deep, melancholy voice.
"And then," I said, pointing to the skull, and endeavoring to assume a light tone— "and then consider the mysterious occupation in which I find you engaged, prosecuting your eccentric tastes for craniology in this out-of-the-way place; adding to your collection under circumstances so strange. As to my own presence, I am a mere tourist, passing an idle hour here in this house which was t he residence formerly of a man of some note in Virginia, Governor Spotswood—a fact with which it is possible you were unacquainted."
His melancholy did not relax as I spoke.
"I was well aware of the fact; it induced me to come all the way from New York to visit this house."
"Indeed f And may I ask how Governor Spotswood, a man dead more than a century since, came to interest you, as he plainly does f"
"Yes, greatly, very greatly," he replied, in a dreamy voice; "and if I had only known what I should find in this house, in that dusty closet there, half buried uuder cobwebs in the darkest corner, I should have made this journey years ago instead of now."
"You really excite my curiosity in the highest degree, my dear friend," I said, " and it would be extremely unkiud in you to leave it longer ungratified. I say this at the risk of appearing intrusive and even illbred; but remember that you were about to give me an explanation of your strange passion for craniological studios when I met you in New York, just after the war. You were prevented, you will also remember, from telling me what object you had in view by the accident to the little girl run over by the street car, and I was unable to see you. again. You may now finish your explanation, and I await it with very great curiosity, I assure you."
"That is natural," he said, in a low voice. I could see that he was hesitating.
"You have an excellent opportunity to deliver your views, my dear friend," I went on, still endeavoring to speak cheerfully, "since you hold, I sec, in your hand what may enable you to illustrate your philosophy."
"Yes," he said, in the same low, hesitating tone.
"Is that the skull of Governor Alexander Spotswood f If so, I should like of all things to look at it. I am familiar with his character and career: he was a hardy soldier, a man of indexible resolution, as brave as steel, imperious in character, but, as Colonel Byrd tells us, so gentle and tender in his family that people laughed at him and called him uxoriom. A piquant assemblage of traits, you must confess; and I should not be averse to examining the head of such an individual, with you at hand to point out the phrenological indications."
"This is not the skull of Governor Spotswood," was the low reply, in a tone of deep depression.
"Whose, thenf You will not be able probably to answer that question. But stop! there is a label—the name, no doubt, of the individual—"
I made a movement of the hand to take the skull from him, but he suddenly drew back, exclaiming, in a quick, confused tone,
As he spoke he tore off with nervous and trembling fingers the scrap of paper, crumpled it up, and put it in his pocket. It was an inner pocket of his coat, over his left breast, and as he threw back the lapel, I saw that this pocket already contained a bundle of papers, yellow from age, and written over with faded ink.
For some moments after this singular action Theack remained perfectly silent, his breast heaving, and drawing his breath with evident difficulty. He was plainly laboring under strong emotion of some description, and was hesitating apparently whether he should or should not follow some course. At last he shook his head slowly, with a gravo, depressed air, and said, deliberately,
"All this must excite your curiosity more than it has ever been excited up to this moment, my friend. I will be frank with you, and say that, some minutes since, I had nearly resolved to unburden my mind of this whole mysterious matter; but I must defer the explanation for the present. Indeed, I am not in a physical condition to explain myself: the narrative, to be understood, would necessarily be of some leugth; and it might not even suit your own convenience to listen to it."
"Oh, perfectly! perfectly 1 Do not let that dissuade you. My visit is one of idle curiosity—my time of no value whatever."
He shook his head anew.
"I fear I can not. I have scarcely the strength. I have been quite ill, as you may see from my appearance; and then—and then— Pardon me, friend; this painful subject must be deferred to another time. To be frank with yon, my physical weakness is not the ouly obstacle. "I have
here"—he laid his hand upon the breast of his coat—"some papers which it is necessary for me first to examine. I have merely glanced at them, and have not ascertained their contents, only that they contain information which I have come hundreds of miles to search for."
"Yon came to look for these papers V
"Yes; something told me that they must be in existence, and I first visited Richmond. There I examined the old documents in the General Court which were rescued from the conflagration of the city, and the archives of the Commonwealth in the clerk's office of the House of Delegates in tlir Capitol. I could find nothing, and repaired to Williamsburg, the old colonial capital, where I supposed some ancient documents might be discovered, but discovered none. Then, as a last hope, I came to this house."
"What induced you to do so, may I ask?"
"The fact that it was once the residence of Governor Spotswood."
"Yes," he said, in a low tone. "It was during the term of Governor Spotswood, that is, early in the eighteenth century, that— that the events I wished to examine the record of took place."
"Yes," he interrupted, speaking in quick and feverish tones—"yes, I have at last been fortunate. I have discovered what I was looking for. I have here—here in my breast—what I have longed for years to secure. But I have not had time to exninine the documents; they may—I can not tell— I—I—"
He began to tremble, and, turning toward the closet, again stooped down, and felt carefully in every dark corner.
"There are no more," he muttered, "but perhaps—"
He rose quickly, and in turn explored a second closet.
"Nothing," he muttered.
He then passed rapidly by me, carefully examined the other rooms, which wore without closets and wholly bare, and coming out to the top of the stairs, said,
"I have all the papers the house contains. There is nothing down stairs. Come, let us get out of this lonely place; the air stifles me!"
He went hastily down stairs as he spoke, and I could see from the manner in which he grasped the baluster that he was very weak—probably from the illness he had mentioned. I followed him, and we left the house, followed the overgrown path, passed through the gate hanging by its one rusty hinge, and walked toward Yorktown in silence. He went on for a hundred yards without speaking. He then said, more calmly, but in a tone of utter depression,
"All this must necessarily appear strange to the last degree, friend, and 1 regret that I can not tell you every thing at once. It is enough for me to say that I can not do so to-day. I promise you one thing, however, that whatever the result may bo of my examination of the papers I have discovered, you shall sooner or later hear my whole story, and the explanation of this singular incident—our meeting here. Pardon my reserve now, and do not think ill of me. I shall return at once to Now York—the boat passes Y'orktown at half past four—it is now just four, I see, and I shall take the night train from Baltimore."
He carefully wrapped his handkerchief around the skull and walked on; evidently sunk in gloomy thought. No further allusion was made to the subject of our discourse. We reached the village, and at four o'clock the York River steamer made its appearance, and Hamilton Theack embarked for New York.
I have given thus, as fully as was possible in so brief a space, an account of my personal relations with Hamilton Theack, and of our meeting at three distinct places and periods —at Harvard in 1859, at New York in 1866, and in the neighborhood of Yorktown in the year 1873. Before proceeding to speak of the secoud visit which I paid him in Now York, in 1874, when I found him no longer poor and single, but married and living in an elegant mansion, I must copy a passage from a letter which I received in the spring of that year from a friend residing in an old country-house on York River, and describe a visit which I made to the place in consequence of this letter. Of the somewhat singular passage referred to above, the following is an exact copy. Having mentioned the discovery ofan old forgotten drain leading from the house toward York River, and noticed the fact that " the hollow echo under the horses' tread had often made the servants say there was buried treasure there," the writer of the letter thus continued:
"Speaking of hidden treasure, a strange Incident occurred here some lime since. On the broad beach, a mile or so from the house, was a large holly-tree, a very king among trees, being nearly as large as the largest oak I ever saw. The symmetry of Its shape was complete. It stood almost alone, viewing a Bheet of water three miles In expanse, and it had served as a landmark for long years to the sailors and oystermen, who in return had incmsted its trunk with names, dates, and other marks. It was justly an object of interest to us all, aud its rich berries illumined many a Christinas for our household. Yon may Imagine our surprise and distress when, on walking down to show it to a friend, we found It green and beautiful sllll, but lying prone upon the earth. A ditch eight feet or more iu depth had been dug aronnd its roots, and the earth inclosed by thiB circle had been riddled through and through as if by iron Instruments. The tree had consequently fallen upon Its side. Tills work must have furnished employment for many mou during many hours, and yet no one knows exactly why it was
done. We made many Inquiries, but with little result A brig had been Been in the river a day or two [before ?], but she took neither oysters nor grain. The negroes nay that at night her crew dug up a large tree on the adjoining farm, and remarked they had made a mistake. A young white mail of reliable character simply states that when he saw our tree lying on its side, he examined it, and found an impression in the earth under the roots, as if a square chest had been removed. It had rained before he saw the tree. The negroes say they had heard it called a treasure tree, but had never thought much about It. Aud this is all wc know of it.'"
This passage greatly excited ray curiosity. I have always felt a keen interest in the subject of buried treasure, and am satisfied that large amounts of money were really hidden at certain spots along the Atlantic coast by the old marauders of the eighteenth century. The letter produced a strong effect upon my mind; I had abundant leisure at the moment; and I resolved to visit the spot where the old holly-tree had stood, and endeavor to discover the clew to the mysterious overthrow of this ancient landmark.
The York River Railway took me to West Point, where I embarked on the steamboat, and a few hours afterward I -was put off at an old wharf, and walked to my friend's house, where I was cordially welcomed. I informed him of the object of my visit, in which he warmly encouraged me, and on the next morning we went to the locality which I had come to examine—the site where the holly-tree had stood, a sort of plateau rising above the beach on a narrow tongue of land, from which was obtained a superb view of the great river, here nearly or quite three miles wide. The holly lay where it fell. It was a tree of enormous size, and evident!}' of great age, partially hollow, but still green and sturdy. The roots were huge, and protruded upward and sidewise, after a weird fashion; but a portion still remained in the ground, the result of which was that the foliage of the tree was still fresh and green. The ditch traced around it was perfectly defined, in spite of numerous rains which had fallen, aud it was easy to make out the perforations in the interior wall of earth, the peculiar appearance of which left no doubt in my mind that they had been made by a sharp instrument, with the view of discovering whether some object was not buried immediately beneath the trunk of the tree.
Having satisfied myself of the accuracy of my friend's account so far, I proceeded, in a mood of highly excited interest, to examine the cavity beneath the upturned roots, into which I scrambled down. The result left no question that something in the shape of a square chest had been buried beneath the tree. Not only were the
• The letter from which the above is taken, word for word, Is now lying before the writer of this paper.
sharp traces still plain in the earth, but, what was still more conclusive, the base of the tree itself aud the interior of the roots bore the distinct impress of the object. After a careful inspection, I could come to but one conclusion, namely, that a long time before, and probably when the tree was small, an opening had been hollowed out directly beneath it, that in this cavity a box of iron or some other durable substance had been inserted, and that the root* of the tree had gradually enveloped the box, taking the impression of its sharp outline. The box was gone, but there were the roots with its stamp upon them and the marks in the earth. Having an ordinary two-foot rule with me, I measured these marks without difficulty. They indicated that the chest had been four feet six inches long, and three feet six inches wide; the depth could not be accurately determined, but had probably been about three feet, or perhaps a little more.
Having terminated this first examination of the locality of the strange incident, I came up out of the cavity and looked around. I confess I did so in that state of mind which is described by the word dazed. What was the meaning of all this? If the incident had taken place in the Middle Ages, when romance aud mystery were so ranch in vogue, I might have felt less surprise; but to have such an incident occur in the nineteenth century, in the commonplace and prosaic year 1874, was startling. There was before me plain evidence of the fact that a party of men had stolen silently to this spot under cover of darkueBS, labored for hours, burrowed under the great holly, and borne off a chest containing something, aud disappeared. Who were those men, and what did the chest contain t How did they know, or why did they suppose, that any such object was buried beneath the tree 1 Whence had they come, whither had they gone, aud what did the whole mean f
I went to and fro, backward and forward, over the whole ground in the vicinity of the tree, without making the least discovery. After two hours thus spent I gave up the investigation, and resolved to return to the house. It occurred to me, however, to stroll down to a little cove in sight, where I thought it probable that the party had landed, and here, half buried in the sand, over which the waves went and came, I suddenly observed a small glittering object, and at once hastened toward it, a vague instinct telling me that I would find at last a clew to this nocturnal mystery. I was not mistaken. 1 picked up the object, and saw that it was a small golden locket. Something in its appearance seemed familiar; and, opening it, I saw that it was the miniature showed me by Hamilton Theack when I visited him at his office in New York—that of the beautifnl young girl with whom he was so passionately in love.
This discovery incited iu me unbounded astonishment. What connection could my friend Hamilton Theack have with this party of marauders, apparently searching for buried treasure? Had he been present f If so, what had induced him to make this singular search f If present, he had probably been the leader of the party. If the leader, then, no doubt, he had originated and organized the whole affair. What had led him to do so f What was his object f What had he expected to find f Why had he expected to find any thing? and what, if any thing, had he found? These questions chased themselves through my mind, and the mystery seemed only to become deeper as I pondered. There was the tree lying, stout and lusty .still, upon the earth, where no-wind could have laid it; there were the marks of picks and the sharp ontline of the chest. There, lastly, was the locket, which said as plainly as if it uttered the words," Hamilton Theack has visited this spot." There could be no reasonable doubt of the fact. The locket had always been guarded carefully on his person, and could only have left it by accident—in the hurry, say, of embarking or disembarking in darkness. Had I found any other object connecting him with the incident, I might have doubted—-a letter, say, or the envelope of a letter addressed " Hamilton Theack." Such an incident might have been odd, but nothiug more. A letter may be dropped from a passing steamer, and the tide might wash it ashore at any point. But I had not found a letter: I had found the locket which I knew my friend never allowed to leave his person. Then—I came round fatally to that conclusion—then he had accompanied this party of unknown persons who came and went in silence; he it was who, in all probability, had been the leader and head of the singular expedition.
I exhibited the locket to my friend R ,
and, thiuking it unnecessary to take him into my confidence, asked him if he had ever seen the original of the miniature, or knew whom it was intended to represent. He replied that the face was wholly unknown to him—certainly the likeness was not that of any young lady iu Gloucester County or the region around Yorktown. After a new search, which resulted in nothing further, we went back to the hospitable residence of my friend; and when, after a visit of a few days, during which I again visited the fallen tree, I returned home, I took the locket with me. It is unnecessary to say that I designed restoring it to Hamilton Theack; and I came near doing so by inclosing it in a letter, with an account of the circumstances under which I fouud it. This, however, seemed unsafe, and I determined to wait until I made a projected visit to Richmond,
iu order to send it by express. This visit was unexpectedly delayed, and meanwhile I found that business required my presence iu New York. I therefore resolved to preserve the locket, to take it with me to New York, to call on Dr. Hamilton Theack in his small office near the Park, and after restoring to him his precious treasure, demand iu return for its recovery a full explanation of every mystery connected with his study of crauiology, his visit to the deserted house near Yorktown, and the discovery of the locket, half buried in the sand on the banks of York River, near the fallen tree.
My visit to New York was delayed until October of the same year, 1874. I then arrived by the night train from the south, which reaches Jersey City Ferry about daylight; and going to my accustomed and favorite hotel, near Union Square, made my toilet, breakfasted, aud then set out first of all for Dr. Theack's office. I remembered the street and locality perfectly well, aud went straight to the spot. The small sign with "Dr. Hamilton Theack" upon it bad disappeared, and the room was occupied by another person, who knew nothiug whatever in regard to his predecessor. The disappointment was so unexpected that I scarcely knew what course to pursue. The brilliant idea, however, occurred to me to consult a directory. I returned to my hotel and asked for this useful publication, aud turning to the letter T, at once discovered that Dr. Hamilton Theack resided at No. — West Twenty-third Street. Half an hour afterward I ascended the steps of the elegant residence indicated by the directory. A silent and deferential servant promptly appeared aud took my card. I was shown into a drawing-room where every object indicated wealth and taste, and five minutes afterward Hamilton Theack came with a bounding step into the apartment, holding out both bands, and exclaiming, joyfully, " My dear friend, your visit is a treat indeed."
I looked at him with perfect astonishmeut. I am certain that if I had met him casually on Broadway, I should never have recognized him. His face was no longer thin, pale, and woe-begoue. It had grown plump and ruddy, and his expression was laughing and joyous. The emaciated frame had undergone a similar metamorphosis. It uo longer resembled a skeleton draped in sombre black, but was stout, well developed, and he was dressed in a handsome brown suit of the last fashion. On his finger I saw a diamond solitaire of great value, and another sparkled from the folds of his rich silk cravat. Hamilton Theack had evidently become an altogether new being, physically and morally, and I looked at him with an astonishment which I could not conceal, and which he plainly observed.
"I understand," he said, laughing: "you