2. The Revelation

Armand Seld was now able to go about the house. The first room that he entered, after his tedious stay in his own darkened bedroom, was the dining-room, where the family loved best to sit. The walls of this room were graced by the pictures of the Vollmar ancestors, together with a landscape by a famous master.

The old man's attention was attracted to this painting.

"What do I see?" he shouted. "This picture I once saw by candlelight, and I cannot forget it."

"Strange," said Mr. Vollmar, "that it should have made such an impression upon you."

"May I ask," continued the old man, "have you owned this picture long? Have you lived here some time?"

Mr. Vollmar replied: "This house, as well as the picture, descended to me from my sainted grandparents. But why do you ask?"

"I must inquire still further before I can answer. Tell me--did your grandfather die in this house, or did he flee to a distant country during the war?"

"He died far from here, in a strange land. But it surprises me how you should hit upon this question."

"Did your grandmother die first?"

"Yes; but your questions disturb me."

The old man continued: "Was your own father present before your grandfather's death, and did he not disclose to him a very important secret?"

"My grandfather died of a malignant fever which robbed him of his senses. My father, then a boy, was sent for, but when he arrived he found his father dead."

"One more question I must ask--and I know you will forgive me. Did your father receive a big fortune?"

"My father," continued Mr. Vollmar, "returned to this city and this house a poor man. He married a woman as poor as himself, but with industry they at last became rich."

"Do you know," continued the old man, "you look just like your grandfather? He, too, was about the same age as you are now, and I feel, as I talk to you, as if he were here. But listen to my story and perhaps it may be of value to you.

"Shortly before this city was plundered I worked as a mason. One day my employer, a very honest man, received word to call at once upon a gentleman who wished him to do some work which was to be kept a secret. As my employer was sick, he sent me in his place, vouching for my honor and trustworthiness.

"I entered the house and was ushered into a room where your grandfather (for I have no doubts but that it was he) was seated. He started, and was indeed surprised that my employer should have sent as a substitute such a young man as I was then. After reading my recommendation, he ordered the servants to light two candles and set them on the table over which this picture hung. He made me vow never to tell the secret which he would entrust to me, except in time of need, and then only to one of his descendants. He spoke the oath and I repeated it, word for word, looking up at this picture all the time.

"Then he led me into the cellar, down another stairway made of stone into a lower cellar, where he opened a strongly bolted door. I gazed into a hollow in the wall, where many chests were standing. 'These boxes hold all my valuables, which I wish to save,' said he. 'Now, I want you to cement this door so cleverly that no one will discover its whereabouts.'

"As all the tools were lying there in readiness, and the mortar had been previously prepared, I started to work at once. It cost a little labor and much pains to do the work well and to hide the door, but I succeeded, and received a gold piece for my labor.

"The gentleman laid his finger on my lips, and said: 'Remember your vow.'

"Soon after the enemy appeared. Your grandfather fled and so did I. Never again did I return to this city, nor did I think of the valuables secreted in these walls. The sight of this picture, however, recalls to my mind my vow." With a sigh of relief, Armand Seld continued: "My dear Mr. Vollmar, God moved your heart to help a poor, strange, blind man. He helped to open my eyes, so that I could behold this picture, and to disclose to you your buried riches. Thus has He rewarded you for your kindness to me."

Mr. Vollmar had listened attentively to the old man's story, and said: "You need not thank me. I did only what was my duty. You may be right about the treasure, for we often wondered what could have become of all my grandfather's wealth.

"Being the wise man that he was, he would have known what havoc the war would bring, and consequently would have collected his money and possibly have hidden it somewhere. But where? Neither my father nor I could ever get the slightest clue. What you have said of the little stone stairway and the lower cellar describes exactly the place under this house. I am more and more convinced, each moment, that my grandfather hid his treasures there, but now the question is whether they are still there. Let us go, at once, and find out."

[Illustration: "The chests were opened."]

They went, arm in arm. As they reached the lower cellar, the old man shouted: "This is the place. I remember this little round spot that I filled with putty and covered with cement."

By means of a long crow-bar, an opening was at last made, and one stone after another fell to the floor.

"Victory!" shouted the old man. "Here are the chests, untouched. I know my work. The treasure is still here."

Mr. Vollmar then called his son and a helper to his assistance, and the chests were soon opened. Bags upon bags of money, jewels unnumbered, silverware, hammered copper ornaments and some papers which had yellowed and had almost fallen to pieces--all these, met their astonished eyes.

Taking the papers first, Mr. Vollmar read many important family records, besides an index of the contents of the chests, and the disposition to be made of them. "Oh, what good luck this is! It has all been sent to us just when we need it most," said Mr. Vollmar.

The family soon assembled to hear the good news and see the treasures.

A feast followed and fun and great merriment filled the house. The care of the old man and his grandchild was willingly undertaken by the Vollmars; and these good people lived together in peace and contentment for many years. (End)