Part 8 (1/2)

”Well, I don't think we shall agree about Mr. Gusher. The truth is, mother--I don't know why--but then I don't think I ever can love him.

But then, you know, mother, I have not seen him yet; and you would'nt have me love a man before I saw him?”

”Perhaps not, my daughter; but I would have you look up, remember your quality, and consider what you may be. If you condescend to look down on that sailor-boy, there's no hope of the family ever moving in the upper circles. But he'll never come back. That s.h.i.+p'll go to the bottom as sure as the world. Something tells me she will go down, and I know she will.”

At this Mattie's eyes filled with tears, and she buried her face in her hands and gave vent to her emotions in sobs. ”Mother, mother,” she rejoined, after a short pause, ”how cruel of you to say so, even if you thought so. He was so manly, and so kind to me.”

At this Mrs. Chapman rose from her chair with an air of injured dignity, and walked in silence up and down the room for several minutes. Then she heaved a sigh, extended her hand, and resumed: ”Your tears, my daughter, are what tear down my pride. No use, I see; my advice is all thrown away--all thrown away! Oh, what a thing it is to have a daughter, and yet not have a daughter. I mean to have a daughter that will have her own way.” Again Mrs. Chapman resumed her chair, and became thoughtful and silent.

”You know I love to please you, mother, for you are such a good mother to me in everything else,” rejoined Mattie, kneeling beside her mother, placing her arms on her knees, and looking up lovingly in her face. ”You know I like to please you, mother,” she repeated; ”and I won't marry anybody until t.i.te comes home. But then you must not say anything more to me about Mr. Gusher.”

”That's poor consolation--very poor consolation, my daughter,” replied Mrs. Chapman, rebukingly. ”Exactly what I did'nt want you to promise.

Then you have promised yourself to the young man? I'd never have got your father if I'd made such a promise to such a young man. I have always looked forward to the time when we should have a fine house on the Battery, and move in the higher circles.”

Chapman now entered the room, which put an end to the conversation between Mattie and her mother. Chapman smiled for once, and was evidently in a pleasant mood. After rubbing his hands and taking a seat by the fire, and looking first at Mattie and then at her mother, he said: ”I have good news to tell you. The storm has prevented Gusher from getting here to-night. But the Kidd Discovery Company matter is settled, and will be a great success. No need of inventing a new religion now.

Hanz has got his head full of the project. Has made all his Dutch neighbors believe there is a fortune in it for them all. We go on an expedition up the river to-morrow night, in search of the d----l's sounding-rock. That's the place where Kidd buried his treasure, you see.

These honest old Dutchmen firmly believe that Kidd had an understanding with the devil when he buried it there. Just show them how to start an enterprise and make money, and they are as ready to make it as anybody.”

CHAPTER XVI.

A NIGHT EXPEDITION.

The wind and the cold had moderated, and a heavy grey mist hung over the Tappan Zee on the following night. Hollow, echoing sounds came over and through the mist clouds, and re-echoed up the mountain. The scene was one common at that season of the year; still there was something strange and mysterious in the very atmosphere that composed it. Gloom hung over everything, and touched a melancholy chord in one's feelings. Curious figures, dim and indistinct, seemed to move and dance up and down, and thread their way through the curtain of mist, like phantoms in winding sheets. They were but delusions, betraying the eye. But there is a reality now; a steamer is seen cutting her way through the deep gloom, and throwing a long trail of light high up over the grey mist and reflecting curiously in the heavens.

Two stalworth men were seen walking down the road that night about eight o'clock, dressed in a style common to boatmen. One carried a pair of oars over his shoulder; the other had a well-filled haversack slung across his, and a crowbar in his right hand. They halted on reaching Bright's inn, and having stacked the oars and the bar against the little porch, entered, and were greeted by a number of friends already refres.h.i.+ng themselves at the counter. The appearance of these men--for they were known to be the best boatmen on the Tappan Zee--greatly surprised Bright and the gossips who were enjoying his ale around a little table. One and then another invited them to drink, but they refused, saying they had merely dropped in to light their pipes and look for the men who were to join them. Various questions were now put to them concerning their mission and its object. But the boatmen affected a mysterious air; and all that could be got from them was that when they returned it would be with money enough to buy all Nyack. They seemed somewhat disappointed at not meeting some one, whose name they would not disclose, at the inn.

Bright now mixed warm punches and set them before the boatmen, saying that on such a night they were just what were needed to prop a man's courage up. The men, however, steadily refused all invitations to drink, and when they had lighted their pipes, and bid the host and his customers good night, left the inn and proceeded to a landing at the bank of the river, where a boat with two men in it was waiting them.

The manners of the boatmen had so excited the curiosity of the inn-keeper and his guests, that no sooner had they left the inn than Bright and several others put on their hats and followed, resolved to see for themselves what was going on. Imagine, then, what must have been their surprise to find the men in the boat Bigelow Chapman and Hanz Toodleburg--both with heavy overcoats on. The boatmen were welcomed by the men in the boat, whose voices were plainly heard, and after exchanging a few words they threw in their oars carelessly and followed themselves. In another minute the little craft was heading up the stream, and disappeared in the thick mist.

”I have it all!” said Bright, turning to his companions with an a.s.suring nod of the head, and lowering his voice. ”Toodleburg--Chapman--a Dutchman and a Yankee--pick-axes, crowbars, and big ropes. Put them all together; add going off at night to it--dark and misty night at that--and there's something we'll all hear from in the wind. If Hanz and that quarrelsome Yankee have got their heads together, then the devil will get cheated out of Kidd's money. Sarves him right, too. Now them two is after Kidd's money. Always knew old Hanz could tell where it was.”

The inn-keeper and his friends now returned to the inn and discussed the matter over warm punch until nearly midnight, or until their wits became so confused that the four men in the boat increased to forty. In short, Nyack waked up on the following morning to find herself filled with the wildest reports concerning this midnight expedition and its object.

The little boat moved on steadily up the stream, her st.u.r.dy oarsmen pulling at a measured stroke through the bewildering fog. In this way the boat was kept on up the river until past midnight, a glimpse of the land being caught here and there, an a.s.surance to Hanz that they were not far out at sea. Indeed, Hanz began to get somewhat uneasy, and to wish himself back with Angeline in the little house. As this expedition, however, was to establish a solid basis for the great Kidd Discovery Company, out of which a fortune for t.i.te was to come, he was willing to run the risk of being lost in the fog for a night or two.

Towards morning the men became uneasy and hungry, and began cursing Kidd and all connected with him, and enquired of Chapman if he knew where he was going. Indeed, one of them declared it his belief that they had been brought on a fool's errand. Chapman, however, a.s.sured them that he knew exactly where Kidd had buried his treasure--that it was on a point not many miles below the Highlands, and under a big rock called the d----l's sounding stone. That if they kept on they would reach the place before daybreak. Hanz a.s.sured the men that every word Chapman said concerning Kidd was true, and this inspired their confidence, for they honestly believed his father to be an intimate friend of the pirate, and of course ought to know all about his money.

The boatmen now rested their oars and proceeded to refresh themselves.

And while they were doing this, and wondering what this night expedition really meant, Hanz smoked his pipe and nursed his courage. In his heart, however, he wished himself out of the affair and in a more honest occupation. As for Chapman, he told a number of stories tended to excite the cupidity of the boatmen. After resting an hour or two the party proceeded about five miles further up the river, and landed just at daybreak on a point jutting into the west side of the river, and just above which there was a dilapidated little cabin, inhabited by a laboring man and his wife.

It would not do to disturb these poor people at so early an hour, Chapman said, nor to tell them what sort of a mission we were on.

Thereupon Hanz and he proceeded up the bank of the river, to make, as he said, a discovery. So the boatmen were left to take care of themselves.

The boatmen waited for nearly two hours, still neither Chapman nor Hanz returned. Where they had gone was fast becoming a mystery. The men at length became alarmed and disappointed, and proceeded towards the little house to enquire the name of the place, and see what they could do to get breakfast. Before they reached the house, however, the door opened and two half-naked, tow-headed urchins came toddling out, and as soon as they saw the strangers scampered back in a state of great alarm. A l.u.s.ty dame, ragged and shoeless, and with her hair hanging loose about her neck, now came to the door, with a broom in one hand and a frying-pan in the other.

”Where on arth are you two come from?” enquired the woman, in a surly tone, as she raised her broom. ”Another lot o' fools com'd to look for Mr. Kidd's money,” she continued, without waiting for a reply. ”Seems as if all the folks atween this and Yonkers had got crazy about Mr. Kidd, and was a comin' up here to dig for his money.”

The men confessed that she was right in regard to their mission, and begged that she would get them some breakfast, for which they would pay her liberally.