Liesel Elizabeth and Savannah arrived at Piney Point after the tiring journey by rail and steamboat. The two special friends had come up from Kisco Hills to escape the summer heat and to have some time apart from the other girls.
“We’re here all by ourselves,” Liesel Elizabeth said, “two weeks alone together in the woods by Goose Lake.”
The Lodge was too big for just the two of them so they set up housekeeping in one of the small cabins. While making their bed, Savannah found an old wooden box beside it. Curious as to what was in it she brought it down to the main room.
Liesel Elizabeth was just as curious.
“What do you suppose is in it?” asked Savannah.
“Well, dear, let’s find out.”
Liesel Elizabeth had the top open in no time.
“It’s full of old books and papers.” She picked up a letter and looked at it. “Why, some of these may be a hundred years old or more!”
They started going through the box. There were books, letters, some old journals, and older newspapers.
“Look at this letter!” said Liesel Elizabeth, “From the style of the handwriting I’d say this is very old, maybe from the 1700s! It’s addressed to Mister Samuel Cole, Williamsburg, Commonwealth of Virginia.”
“And look! The seal isn’t broken! This letter was never sent! Let’s open it!”
“Would that be right?” Savannah wondered, “It’s not addressed to us.”
“This is history, dear, right here in my hands! Mr. Cole is long dead by now, I’m sure he won’t mind.” With that, she broke the seal and opened the letter. There was a second paper folded inside it.
She scanned the letter quickly, gasped, and handed the letter and enclosure to Savannah, who read the letter aloud:
“My dear Mister Cole, I am your second cousin, Josiah Cole; my grandfather was your grandfather’s brother. You are, as far as I know, my only relation in the American Colonies. It is because of this connection that I take the liberty of addressing you. I am loyal to the Crown, and since the defeat of General Burgoyne last autumn, I find myself in a precarious position in a country filled with rebels. I have chosen to travel to Canada for the duration of the war, hoping against hope that the rebellion will be put down. I am writing this from Fort Augusta Sophia, a frontier post held for the Crown. The route ahead is mountainous and I am not a young man, so I am taking with me only what I can carry, and have left behind my family treasure, buried not far from here.
"I fear I will never return to claim it, so I am leaving the knowledge of it to you, cousin, together with this map, which should direct you to the place where it is concealed. If you are able to recover it, use it wisely. I remain, your cousin, Josiah Cole. Written at Fort Augusta Sophia on Goose Lake in New York.”
The girls were stunned. At last Liesel Elizabeth spoke.
“The Lost Tory Treasure of Fort Augusta Sophia!” she exclaimed, “Samantha told me that Admiral Bemis once told her a story about it, but it was just a legend that no one really believed. He showed Samantha where the fort had been, but there’s not much of it left. Let me see the map.” She examined it closely, and read the various legends on it.
“This shows part of Goose Lake and the mountains above it. Piney Point is just off the map at the bottom.”
“We should go searching for this treasure! I’m sure I can follow this map, crude though it is.”
Savannah’s eyes widened. “Go treasure hunting in the mountains? Oh, Liesel, how brave you are!”
Liesel Elizabeth smiled. “Savannah, dear, it will be an adventure! And don’t be afraid in the woods, I’ll look after you.”
Savannah blushed, “Thank you, Liesel.”
The next morning, the two girls headed off into the woods, hoping to find the ruins of Fort Augusta Sophia.
Sooner than they thought, they spotted the remains of the one surviving blockhouse.
“There it is!” said Liesel Elizabeth, “All that remains above ground of the old fort. There are probably some foundations and post holes to be found if we dug a little, but that’s not why we’re here. Let me see the map.”
“It looks like we need to get close to the lake shore. Let’s head this way.” And off they went.
They walked along the shore, Piney Point no longer in sight as they entered a small cove.
“At that next promontory we should head into the woods and up the mountains. It looks like the route takes us into a pass between Mount George and Mount Charlotte. But after that it is very unclear. Josiah Cole may have been a loyal subject of the King, but he was a terrible cartographer!”
They went inland through a stand of ancient pines.
Then they started up the slope of Mount Charlotte.
The trail up the mountain was long and winding, and at times dangerously close to a sheer cliff edge.
They made their way up a narrow ravine, which got steeper and narrower, and then ended in a vertical rock face. The girls were not equipped for serious mountaineering.
“What do we do now?” asked Savannah.
“On the map there’s a gap in the route we’re supposed to take. Somehow we have to get to the other side of this pass, that’s where the route on the map starts up again.” Liesel Elizabeth went forward boldly. “Come on, we can’t stop now! I’ll help you climb.”
Liesel Elizabeth clambered up the rock ledges, and Savannah, with only a little damage to her modesty, scrambled up after her. They made their way through a narrow defile which opened onto a ledge, mountain wall on one side, a long drop on the other.
Suddenly Liesel Elizabeth lost her footing, twisted her ankle and fell from the ledge!
“Liesel!” Savannah screamed in terror!
Liesel Elizabeth tumbled down the rock face and landed on a bed of soft moss. She was shaken but unhurt.
She stood up and called up to Savannah.
“I’m all right! I’m not hurt.”
“Oh, thank goodness!” cried Savannah, “I don’t know what I would have done if you were injured! But how will you get up again?”
Liesel Elizabeth looked around to see if she could find a way to climb back up when she saw a cave to one side. She looked closer and saw daylight at the far end. It was a tunnel under the pass!
“Savannah!” she called, “I’ve found the way through the mountain!”
She went back and stood below Savannah, and coaxed the girl down the rock face. When there was nothing else for Savannah to hold on to, Liesel Elizabeth called, “Jump, and I’ll catch you!”
Savannah held her breath, closed her eyes and dropped into her friend’s arms.
“Come on,” said Liesel Elizabeth, “Follow me! It looks like it might be something of a scramble, but nothing we can’t do!” She led them into the tunnel.
She came at last through a gap in the rocks and found herself on the far side.
Savannah came trough the gap and Liesel Elizabeth helped her up the last few steps.
They looked with wonder at where the tunnel had led them. They were in a deep ravine, high cliffs on all sides, and before them was the opening of a cave.
They went closer.
“This is it!” cried Liesel Elizabeth, “This is the cave shown on the map where the treasure is buried! I’m sure of it!”
They retraced their steps back through the tunnel, found a rough way up to the pass, and made their way back along the trail they had come.
That night, snug in their cabin at Piney Pont, they laid their plans. Getting a pick and shovel from the tool shed, they set off through the woods the next morning.
They had no trouble finding the route they had taken before.
Arriving at the cave they wondered where to start digging.
“If you were going to hide a treasure, dear, where would you bury it?” Liesel Elizabeth asked.
“How about . . . there! It’s as far back as you can get and still stand upright.”
“So that’s where we’ll start!”
They hadn’t dug more than a couple of feet before they hit something hard that wasn’t a rock. They dug around it and pulled it free.
“It’s a chest!” cried out Liesel Elizabeth, “We’ve found the treasure chest!”
They quickly made plans for getting it back through the tunnel and over the pass. They hoisted it between them, and found it surprisingly light.
“This may be easier than we thought” said Liesel Elizabeth.
It was awkward going, to be sure, but they persevered, knowing they had an ancient family treasure in their grasp.
It was late when they got the chest back to Piney Point, but they knew they couldn’t sleep until they had opened it. Liesel Elizabeth got a hacksaw from the tool chest and set to work on the padlock. Cutting through it, she tore it off and flung open the lid.
The chest was filled with leaves and sticks and pine cones!
The discovery was met with silence. Liesel Elizabeth finally managed to say, “. . . The Tory Treasure of Fort Augusta Sophia . . .”
“No!” cried Savannah, “There has to be something here!” She sat down and started digging through the leaves . . . and uncovered the treasure! There was a long sheet of birch bark with writing on both sides, and a crystal as big as her fist, translucent pink with grey flecks within it.
Liesel Elizabeth sat down, perplexed.
“What kind of treasure is this?” she asked.
“Let’s see what it says,” said Savannah, as she picked up the birch bark.
“This is the Seer Stone of the Pokonoket Tribe. My grandfather, Mathias Cole, as a young boy was captured by Indians in a raid during the war with King Phillip. He was given to an old man who had lost his sons fighting the English, but who treated him well and raised him as his own. He was a holy man, a healer and diviner, and he taught my grandfather as much of his art as he could. This gem was his most sacred possession. Entering a trance, and gazing into the stone, he could find hidden things and foresee the future. When my grandfather had grown, the holy man died, and my grandfather contrived to escape from the Indians and made his way back to New England. He took with him the seer stone, which he hoped would protect him and bring him luck. He lived to a great age, which he attributed to the stone, settling at last in the Hudson Valley. On his deathbed he passed the stone and its story to his only surviving son, my father, William Cole, who before his death, passed it to me, Josiah Cole."
"I have no children, and circumstances prevent me from keeping it in my possession. I pass the stone to whosoever shall find it, the person who is destined to have it next. The magic is in the seer, not the stone, but if you have the skill, use it wisely. Josiah Cole, 21 April, 1778.”
Liesel Elizabeth held the stone up in awe.
“I had hoped for a chest full of Gold Louies and Spanish Dollars, even some old silver plate, but this is a greater treasure by far!”
“What should we do with it?” asked Susannah the following morning. “I’ve been trying to clear my mind and see into the stone for hours, but I’m just getting cross-eyed. Maybe one of the other girls knows how to go into a trance.”
“Maybe we’re not the ones who are supposed to use the stone, only to keep it safe until that person comes along. The stone is very ancient and has more patience than we have. Let’s tell the other girls about it, and put it in a special place on the mantelpiece in the Lodge. If nothing else, it will bring good luck to Piney Point.”
“What an adventure we’ve had these past few days, dear,” said Liesel Elizabeth after they had gotten ready for bed. “I’m so glad that we were able to share it together. I couldn’t have done it alone.”
“Yes,” smiled Savannah, “and we still have more than a week here together before we have to go back.”
“What new adventures will we have?”