Treasure and Trigonometry
The Story of a Strange Will and a Strange Discovery
"THIS is the place,” said Pomfret, stoping in front of a high iron gate. “You may not be inclined to believe it, Harry, but there’s a cool million or more hidden away somewhere on this property.
It’s been there for over ten years.”
They stood on one of those quiet, secluded streets which are to be found in the outer reaches of all large cities, odd oases of silence in the desert of din and discord. The tide of commerce surged around on all sides but had not yet penetrated to this sequestered section. The street was lined on both sides with houses that were large but unostentatious in character, having for the most part deep grounds surrounded by high walls or fences. One would judge them to be the homes of old families of just sufficient means to live quietly outside the pale of fashionable life or of retired gentlemen of literary turn.
The property before which the two young men had stopped was surrounded by a crumbling stone wall, over which hung tangled branches of trees. Through the rusted iron gate, securely padlocked but off its hinges on one side, they caught a glimpse of a large stone building standing back some distance from the street. It had once stood tall and imposing, with tower reared high above the trees that surrounded it; and not even the evidences of long unchecked disintegration could conceal the traces of past grandeur. It had quite apparently not been occupied for many years. The walls were crumbling, the roof had fallen in and many of the windows were naked of glass. The tower had become dismantled, a pile of masonry lying at its base overgrown with moss and vines. The grounds were a jungle of rank weeds, interspersed with trees.
“An ideal spot for buried treasure,” commented Harry Beck. “When I came
down here to pay you a visit, Pomfret, I had no idea you’d have anything so interesting to offer as a buried treasure; and it’s in the family too, you say. Well, let’s have the yarn.”
“Wait till we get home,” said Pomfret. “We’ll get Uncle Ralph to spin it for us. He has all the facts at first hand.”
Accordingly they bearded Ralph Pomfret in his library that night with a demand for the story of the Garth treasure. Pomfret, a rather famous corporation lawyer, laid aside the book he was reading and complied unwillingly.
“I’ll tell you the story, boys,” he said, “but in honest truth I don’t like to refer to it any more. Talking of it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. You see, it’s not only a story of treasure but of human weakness, hypocrisy and deceit as well. It’s the story of the disruption of the Pomfret family.
“It dates back over seventy years ago to the time when Nancy Pomfret married James Garth. We have always been a very proud family, we Pomfrets. There’s a title in the senior branch and a tradition that the first Pomfret came over with William the Conqueror. I’ve never taken much stock in genealogy myself but if you care to find out just what grounds there are for the snobbishness which has been one of the worst traits of our family all you have to do is to ask any of your uncles or aunts. They still worship caste as the one consolation left them nowadays.
“Certainly when Nancy Pomfret married the son of a plebeian shopkeeper, there was a to-do in the family. Her own father didn’t speak to her during the five years of her unhappy married life. The women in the family cut her dead. When her son was born and it became certain that she could never rally, she whispered her husband that she would like to see her two sisters once again. Garth carried the message himself and received a curt refusal delivered to him by a man servant. Standing by the bedside of his dying wife, torn by the conflicting emotions of sorrow and a black smothering hate for everything that bore the name of Pomfret, he made a resolution. The child survived and was dedicated by the implacable Garth to a feud with his mother’s family.
“Isaac Garth proved an apt subject for the father’s malicious teachings. Born with a weak spine, he grew up bent and crippled. Pour the precepts of hatred continuously into the ear of a hunchback or one physically deficient and evil suggestions will fester in the naturally gloomy mind.
“As a lad of six or seven I remember once meeting Isaac Garth on the streets. He was then close to thirty years of age and had partly outgrown his weakness. His back was still bent, however, and he walked with a cane. Recognizing me, perhaps by my nose—there is no mistaking the Pomfret nose—he followed me for half a block, waving his cane in a threatening way and telliqg me in a high, cracked voice all the terrible things he thought of doing to me. I ran home to my mother almost frantic with terror.
“As Garth grew older, he became more self-contained in his attitude towards us but I don’t think his malignant regard was permitted to relax in any respect. He acquired wealth at a most astonishing rate. Placed as a lad in the office of an attorney, he soon found more lucra-
tive employment for himself. At thirtyfive he was fully launched as a moneylender on his own account. At forty he had made more money than a spendthrift could lose in a lifetime. How his grandfather Hugh Pomfret—my great grandfather and the head of the family—ever got into his clutches has never been satisfactorily explained. The old gentleman was a high liver and Pomfret Hall—the ruins of which you saw to-day—was a pretty expensive place to keep up. It is probable that, getting into deep waters financially, Hugh Pomfret applied to Garth for assistance. The latter, spinning his web like a cunning, hunchbacked spider, soon had the head of the Pomfret family in his power. So much so that, when my great grandfather died, it was found he did not leave a cent and that the old homestead belonged to Garth.
“You can imagine the consternation of the family when this news was broken to them. They were an improvident as well as a stiff-necked lot, my-kinsmen. Certainly they had all been counting on a little something out of Hugh Pomfret’s estate to improve their own worldly position. To be disappointed in their expectations was bad enough but to have Pomfret Hall, around which all our prides and prejudices and traditions had been twined, pass out of the family—and to Isaac Garth of all men—was the last straw. As a lad of twenty I attended a family council held a fortnight after Hugh Pomfret’s death to discuss ways and means to recover the hall. The question was debated with a portentousness and a solemn asininity that was very impressive to me then but has often made me laugh since. They were an impractical, impotent lot, the then heads of the family, familiar with social customs and pink tea ethics but ignorant of business as unborn babes. Isaac Garth, with his crooked back and diseased mind, was more than a match for the lot of them !
“Garth took possession of the hall by himself. He dismissed all the servants and kept only an old woman who had been his father’s housekeeper. When she died, he kept house for himself, closing up all the rooms but two or three on the ground floor, which sufficed amply for his purposes. I believe it was part of his scheme of revenge to let Pomfret Hall run to seed. Certainly no repairs were ever made and the grounds, which had been the special pride of old Hugh, were never attended to. The temple of family pride had been permanently occupied by a money-changer who could not be driven out.
“Gradually, however, a change came about. One by one, my kinsmen drooped their hostility to Garth, and began even to cultivate his acquaintance. Most branches of the family had become familiar with adversity; and Garth, who had never married and had no relatives on his father’s side, was accumulating more wealth all the time. Truly, poverty makes cowards of us all.
“Garth met their advances without open hostility. I imagine it fed the flame of his insatiable hate to see his erstwhile scornful enemies come in a contrite, nay a humble, mind to seek his favor. I have reason to believe he helped some of them, spinning his webs with such diabolic skill that he gradually entangled them all in the meshes. Instead of the avowed foe of the family, he became its dictator.
“I was the only Pomfret who refused to succumb to the wiles of old Isaac. My father fortunately had bequeathed a certain share of common sense and business acumen to me, which enabled me to make a comfortable living on my own resources.
I was called to the bar the second year after Hugh Pomfret died and a practice come to me rather more rapidly than it does to the average young barrister. By the time Garth began to show evidences of his domination, I had worked up a good law connection and was doing modestly well. And so, of all the family, I was the only one to hold aloof from the interloper.
“For the rest of the family Garth had nothing but contempt. I believe, however, that he mixed a little respect with his hatred in my case. Several times he consulted me on legal matters and showed his opinion of the advice I gave by following it to the letter. I treated him as I would any client and charged him stiffly. He always paid promptly enough. I believe it astonished him to find an out-and-out business man in our family. Through the communication I had with him in this way, I learned something of his life and among other things of the interest he took in all matters scientific. History shows us that generally the minds that have wrung the greatest secrets from that grim custodian, Nature, were encased in frail bodies unequal to the tasks set them by the driving power of the intelligence. Garth had the incisive, enquiring mind of the scientist. He just missed being a genius. Perhaps he lacked the great heart which must always go with a great mind if results are to be achieved. Meanness is incompatible with genius; and Isaac Garth was mean in every thought, action and deed.
“However, he started to study certain branches of science with a fecundity of mind which advanced him rapidly in his researches. A large room in the cellar of Pomfret Hall was fixed up as a laboratory. The wall were reinforced for warmth’s sake—and for added privacy also, I should say. Garth was constitutionally and chronically suspicious. There were only two small windows in this room and he kept them securely shuttered, working almost entirely by artificial light.
I was admitted to this room on rare occasions. From the apparatus that cluttered up the place, I judged that electricity was claiming his attention for the most part.
“One day he said to me, a strange smoldering look in his eyes: ‘Ralph Pomfret, do you think the same about all this’—indicating the packed laboratory with a gesture—‘as the rest of them? Do
you think it the fad of a man half crazed with solitude? That’s what they think. They’ve never dared say it to my face but I’ve seen it in their eyes. They laugh at me!’
“ ‘I disagree with them then,’ I said. ‘I have certainly never considered you a man of fads.’
“He hobbled up and down the room, head sunk between his misshapen shoulders, eyes darting restlessly here, there and everywhere. After several minutes of nervous promenading he began to speak, coming to a halt in front of me.
“ ‘ Ralph Pomfret,’ he said, ‘the nearest I’ve ever come to liking you is a feeling of intense detestation. You’re the haughtiest member of a family noted for its pride. I hate every Pomfret living or who has lived or will live, from the cutthroat who founded the family to the coming generations of weaklings that the living members will beget. But Ralph Pomfret, you’re the only one of the lot that has proven himself a man. I’ve never been able to put my heel on your neck and for some reason that I do not attempt to explain, I want to earn your respect for— for what I have achieved.’
“He turned toward a partly assembled piece of mechanism standing about two feet high on a table beside him, a rather fantastic combination of coils of copper wire and globes of glass with a large brilliant disc of some unknown material perched on top. ‘I have made a discovery,' he declaimed at me. ‘A secret, which the greatest inventors of the age have scarcely yet begun to dream of, has come to me —to me, Isaac Garth. See this jumble of wires. Just let a current of the mightiest power in the solar system be directed into it and it becomes the greatest power in the world, stronger than the force that causes the eruption of volcanoes, swifter than the flight of a hurricane, more deadly than the breath of the simoon. In a few days I shall have harnessed that magic current. I hold the secret now but must wait until certain conditions have righted themselves. Then I shall hold at my command a power that could sweep whole armies from the face of the earth, that could move mountains. I see the world teeming with factories operated by the power I have found, night banished forever by a radiance equal to that of the sun, steamships propelled by a force that makes sport of the elements. Will it be said that I have done well?’
“In a frenzy of exultation he had thrown his arms around the machine and over the strangely brilliant disc, his face bobbed and glowered at me until I began to feel positively uncanny.
“ ‘All the wealth of the world could be mine,’ he went on, ‘but why should I take it? I have no one to leave it to. All the money I possess will be divided among you Pomfrets when I die. Why should I let the fruits of my genius go to your detested family? What has the world done for me that I should give this wonderful power for its happiness and ad-
vancement? Perhaps—I shall take the secret with me to the grave?” .
“He was silent for a few moments. I stood there, rotted to the spot, watching him with something of fascination and not a little fear. When he spoke again he had apparently put his mythical discovery behind him. ‘Ralph Pomfret,’ he shrilled at me, ‘did you hear what I said? When I die my money goes to you and the rest of your family. I am returning good for the evil you have done me. They need the money badly enough those downat-heels relatives of yours and perhaps they’ll come to bless the day the houses of Pomfret and Garth were joined. I leave them all I have—with one condition.
Do you hear me? One condition. How I would like to tell you now what it is !
I laugh whenever I think ■of it and I know I shall chuckle in my grave when those long-faced cousins of yours learn of it.'
“He broke off to laugh— a ghostly cachinnation that sent a shuddery feeling all over me. I groped for my hat and prepared to depart.
“ ‘Ralph Pomfret,’ he croaked, ‘what will you do with your share of my money?’
“ ‘I won’t touch a copper of your filthy money,’ I said, making for the door.
‘If any of it comes my way it will go back as far as lies in my power to the people you stole it from. Nothing I ever do will give you reason to chuckle in your grave.’ And once outside the building I ran for the gate as fast as my legs would carry me.
“Ten days after that interview he was dead. The tradesman who left his meagre supplies each day got no response to his knockings on several successive days and finally became alarmed. He hunted up a policeman and together they broke into the place. The body of old Isaac was found beside the curious contraption I have In a frenzy mentioned. He had been dead several days. A scrap of paper with some disjointed notes, referring apparently to his work, was clutched in one hand.
“And now comes the strangest part of the story. It transpired that, prior to his death, Garth had made legal arrangements for the disposal of his tangible property. Pomfret Hall was to be left untouched for twenty-one years, a sum being left in trust to pay all taxes and legal expenses during that period. No one was to be permitted to occupy the premises and under no circumstances
were any repairs to be attempted. Only under conditions named in his will were persons to be permitted on the property. Instructions for the disposal of the place after the twenty-one-year period were attached in a sealed envelope.
“Acting on directions contained in this extraordinary document, we found his will in a locker in the laboratory. It was in his scrawling hand ; he wrote a terrible fist. Briefly, it willed his money to whatever member of the Pomfret family could find it. Beyond stating that all he had
possessed was deposited on the premises within reach of anyone with enough ingenuity to locate it, the will gave no further information. With the money further instruction for the disposal of the property would be found. The search was to be conducted according to the conditions under which the property had been placed in trust.
“That was all. Can you not construct the sequel from that? The members of the family literally scrambled for the hidden treasure. They dug up every likely
place on the grounds, searched the hall from top to bottom, sounded the walls, measured for secret chambers or compartments, excavated under the cellar for secret passages, worked day and night, frantically, greedily, jealously. They were all afraid that someone else would make the lucky strike and claim the whole hoard, so they dreaded to leave the place. They camped right there, gave up all attention to whatever business had occupied them before and fought bitterly among themselves. As time went on, the search became intermittent Some of them lost faith in the treasure and quit. Others continued a half-hearted search. Finally it was given up as hopeless after practically every man in the family with the exception of myself had wasted a good year on it. Garth had had his revenge. The search had impoverished most of my kinsmen beyond all hope of recovery and it had split the family up into warring factions. Every man jack of them suspected the others of having found the money and divided it up without giving him a share. Several families, through force of adverse circumstances, were forced to move away, which, of course, appeared damningly suspicious to the rest. Many of them will tell you to-day that Hartón Pomfret, who went to Australia is living over there now in luxury on the money of Isaac Garth. Others have lost faith in it at last and believe it was all a hoax of old Isaac’s.” “And what do you think?” asked Harry Beck, who had listened to the recital literally with bated breath.
“Despite the fact that it is ten years since Garth died,” said Ralph Pomfret, seriously, “I believe the money is still there. Garth was worth at least a million dollars. Not a cent of it has ever been traced. I can’t see how he could have the machine disposed of it. No, the money is still concealed on the premises. And what is more, I have always believed that the very effective means of concealment the old fellow found had something to do with that great discovery of his.”
“You mean—” said his auditors with one breath.
“That the gold is guarded by a secret of nature that no one in the whole world has any inkling of,” said Pomfret soberly.
Harry Beck, who would return in the fall for his last year at college before emerging a full-fledged electrical engiContinued on Page 80.
Treasure and Trigonometry
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neer, sighed with huge content. “This is altogether too good to be true,” he said. “Percy, do we visit the Hall tomorrow?” /
“An earthquake might stop us,” said young Pomfret, who was going through for medicine in the same year as his chum, “but I don’t think it would.”
“You might as well have a try,” said his uncle. “It will be necessary to secure permission, of course. You had better have a look at this first. It’s the paper that was in Garth’s hand when his body was found.”
He went to his desk and drew out a crumpled piece of paper from an inner compartment. Smoothing it out with hands that almost shook with excitement, the two students made it out as follows:
'T'HE two students, eyes aglow with the E possibility of wonderful discoveries that lay before them, shoved through the gate early the next day. Even in daylight the building presented a sombre, almost a ghostly appearance. It was a dull autumn day and the crumbling walls stood out dark and forbidding against the leaden background of sky. The silence which broods over the deserted habitations of men seemed intensified in this lonely and desolate pile. A light wind sighed in the tree tops and rustled around and through the building.
“Glad we didn’t tackle the job at night,” said Pomfret. “I’d have seen old Garth’s ghost gibbering at me from every corner of the place.”
Beck, whose nerves were steadier, clambered in a very matter-of-fact way through a window.
“Cut out the quavers, Pom,” he said. “Let’s hunt up this laboratory first. That’s where our investigations will centre all right.”
It did not take long to find the place where Isaac Garth had conducted his mysterious labors. It was a long room, filled with all manner of scientific apparatus. Dynamos of various sizes and in different stages of construction and demolition were there. On a table in the centre was the mysterious machine that Ralph Pomfret had mentioned, the large concave disc on top glittering with a strange metallic brilliance. Beck examined this apparatus with keen interest.
“So this is the dooflang the old boy had rigged up, eh?” he said. “It looks to me as though it was designed to create an electric current; some new way to maki electricity. Though, of course, that’s impossible.”
They searched the place through from top to bottom. Beck found plenty of
things to examine with a growing and critical interest. Finally, he squatted himself on a bench that was littered with test tubes and other implements of chemical research. All flippancy had gone from his manner.
“Pom, this old Garth was no fool,” he said. “He seems to have got farther along certain lines than any of the big men in the electrical field have gotten to-day. This room contains secrets, Pom, things that will make the world sit up and take notice.”
In response to his companion’s urgings, however, Beck, gave up his investigation of the purely scientific aspect of the case and turned his attention to the more material side of it, the search for the buried gold. His mind could not be entirely diverted from the many evidences of electrical research and it was with a shout of triumph that he brought to light a most curious contrivance indeed. In a padded receptacle he had found what looked like a large lens of a heavy, bulbous glass, which gave out a peculiar reddish glow. It was rimmed with heavy copper.
“Here is something,” exclaimed Beck, triumphantly. “Now what in the name of Edison and Marconi was this intended for?”
He threw open the shutters of the small window on the south side of the room and held the lens up to the light. Instantly it gave off a peculiar red glow and a current of light emanated from it that seemed almost to crackle like electric current. Beck held it up at every angle, his face a study of wonderment.
“What’ve you found this time?” demanded Pomfret, impatiently.
Beck did not answer. He laid the lens carefully by and, drawing from his pocket the paper on which Garth had scribbled his last message, studied it with deep concentration.
“Well?” said Pomfret, after several minutes had passed.
Beck glanced up with a look bespeaking the imminence of a discovery that would seem to have a bearing on the important matter in hand.
“I believe I’m on the track,” he said, almost to himself. “Now if there were only a pole of some kind here about sever feet high to which this lens could be attached, I would know I was right.”
“There is,” shouted Pomfret “I founc it over in this corner. How about this?’
He pulled out a strip about the size o: a curtain pole with a copper attachment at one end and handed it over eagerly Beck placed the lens in the attachmen; and found that it fitted perfectly. Witl; greatest care, he then put the lens safelj away and faced his chum in a veritabl blaze of excitement.
“I’m going to discover Garth’s secret! he exclaimed. “Whether that means wer locate the gold too, I don’t know—but think it does. To-day is October 15, s to-morrow at 2.14 p.m. we’ll know fo
sure. By the way, ever hear when it was that Garth died?”
“He was discovered on the eighteenth of October, and it was thought he had been dead several days,” replied Pomfret.
“Everything fits in like a glove,” cried Beck. “Now I am dead sure about everything. See this note that no one was ever able to make anything out of? It tells how to find Garth’s money. And I’ve made it out. Do you hear what I’m saying, Pom? I’ve found out what it means!”
“Instead of hopping around and shouting like a lunatic you might tell me this precious secret you’ve discovered,” said Pomfret, in an aggrieved tone.
“I will. I’ll tell you as we work,” said Beck, spinning around on one heel and deftly kicking a row of test tubes off a shelf. “I feel so good I’d like to bust up something. But come on, Percy, old top. We’ve got a proposition in Euclid to work out first.”
He led the way to the front of the building and examined the grounds. A row of elm trees ran along one side and, as Beck had expected, a sunken sundial stood to the left. He paced off the distance between the second tree and the stone.
“Sixteen feet,” he announced. There’s a spot on a direct line between these two that Garth had to remember but he didn’t dare mark it and he was equally afraid to put any measurements on paper. So what does the wily old codger do? Figures out a way to find that spot by a mathematical calculation. His note read Eue. 2, 11. Look up Euclid, book 2, and you’ll’find that proposition eleven tells how to divide a given line internally in medial section. All we’ve got to do is to divide the line between that second tree and the sundial in medial section and we’ll have the magüe spot.”
Accordingly Beck started in to perform an intricate series of measurements, on the lines laid down by Euclid for the solving of this particular problem. After a strenuous hour, due to the large scale on which the measurements had to be carried out, he finally located the exact spot.
“Do we dig now?” querried Pomfret eagerly.
“We do not,” responded Beck. “You don t suppose old Garth was simple enough to bury his money, do you? Anyone could have found it if he had put it here. Percy, you could dig clean through to China from this spot without striking anything. No, Garth had a deeper plan than that.”
) • * •
A T ten minutes after two the next afternoon, Beck and Pomfret had succeeded in planting the pole with the lens attached to the top, on the exact spot determined by mathematical process the previous day at an exact height of six feet two inches.
“Look,” said Beck, as they gained the laboratory again. “Get behind the disc on this infernal machine and squint your eye out through the window. Do you notice that this disc and the lens outside are directly in line and that the sun is creeping up behind? At 2.14 the sun will re-
fleet the rays from the lens directly on the disc. Then we’U see what’s what.”
“You’re right, Harry,” said Pomfret, dancing with excitement.
“Get over here to this side of the room,” admonished Beck. “There’s no telling what will break loose when they get lined up.”
They waited for two anxious, breathless moments. Then a ray of fiery red fell across the room and focussed on the large disc, placed to receive it. There was a low rumbling sound like the hum of a thousand bees and the lurid red light reflecting from the disc illuminated the room with a distinctness that made a pinpoint visible in the farthest corner. Oui of the rumble that came from the machine there gradually evolved a rythmic hum like a motor at full play.
Pomfret heard his companion draw ir. his breath sharply. Beck was leaning forward, his eyes fixed on the humming machine with the intentness of fascination.
Then suddenly there was a loud repor' like the premature explosion of a shell a' close range. In the small room it re verberated with deadening volume. Thi two students were thrown off their fee behind a table which fortunately screenei them from the flying fragments of the exploded machine. For.a few moment they remained stunned with the suddei shock. Then Beck dragged himself to hi feet and cautiously peered over the table
“It’s wrecked!” he groaned. “Th greatest discovery of the century lost There isn’t a man living who could pate the pieces together now.”
“Look!” almost screamed Pomfret. H had crawled around the other end of th table and was pointing with unstead finger at the opposite wall.
Beck looked. The wall had been bur of stone and plastered over. At one plac about four feet square of plaster had bee broken away and two doors, made of thi layers of stone, had swung open. A larg box, made almost valise shape to fit ini the narrow space thus provided in tl wall, was revealed to view.
“And there’s Garth’s hoard,” whisper« Beck.
«* A LD GARTH guarded his seerwell,” explained Beck that nigl to Ralph Pomfret. “There was only oi way to get into the narrow vault and th; was through the agency of the machin He had it connected so that, as soon as tl motor started, the doors were swung opi and the thin coating of plaster was broki away. There was no way in which t) presence of the vault could have bei detected. The wall was eighteen inch thick and there was a sufficient width stone on each side to give every eviden of complete solidity. So long as the w¡ was not torn down there was absolut« no chance of the deposit being discc ered.”
“But what I would like to know is, what started the motor?”
“The action of the sun’s rays,” explained Beck. “That was Garth’s secret. He had discovered how to create electricity from the heat of the sun. It was done by having the rays pass through the lens at a certain distance from the machine. Now you can appreciate the magnitude of his discovery. By using this method it would be possible to develop enough power to perform miracles. Just as he said, he could have moved mountains, destroyed armies and banished night entirely from the earth.”
“And the secret died with him!” “Absolutely. The machine was ready to fall to pieces and it couldn’t stand the sudden strain. It was blown into a thousand atoms.”