At eight Silas took to carrying around a little wooden box everywhere he went. “It is my treasure chest,” he explained solemnly, and refused to the point of tears to let anyone see what was inside. His parents, fond and foolish as they were — for Silas, dear Silas, was the apple of their eyes, a sweet-tempered, stout lad, clever and polite and wise as ever an eight year old boy can be — smiled and nodded and let Silas have his treasure.
At school he ran into more difficulties. “Show us what’s in the box, Silas, go on then, show us what’s in the box.” “No, no, no! It is my treasure, it is not for anyone else. You may not see it!” And so they yelled at him and shook their fingers in his face and pushed him up against the wall. Things would have gone poorly indeed for Silas had it not been for the arrival of Mr. Calkins, the yard monitor, who drove the other boys away and set the pale-cheeked and dry-eyed Silas to rights.
His troubles were not over, but this episode had made Silas’s treasure as real as any gold or doubloons buried by pirate kings in the West Indies, as real as the cities of gold in South America, as real as the National Treasury. Inside the chest was a secret, Silas’s secret, and he knew that to keep something secret is to gild it, but to open a treasure chest is to turn even pirate gold and jewels into withered autumn leaves and grubby copper coins.