This was Simon Hart's position, and this the mission to which he had wholly devoted himself in the interest of his native country.
However, notwithstanding his deceptions and troubles, Thomas Roch's physical health, thanks to his vigorous constitution, was not particularly affected. A man of medium height, with a large head, high, wide forehead, strongly-cut features, iron-gray hair and moustache, eyes generally haggard, but which became piercing and imperious when illuminated by his dominant idea, thin lips closely compressed, as though to prevent the escape of a word that could betray his secret--such was the inventor confined in one of the pavilions of Healthful House, probably unconscious of his sequestration, and confided to the surveillance of Simon Hart the engineer, become Gaydon the warder.
Just who was this Count d'Artigas? A Spaniard? So his name would appear to indicate. Yet on the stern of his schooner, in letters of gold, was the name _Ebba_, which is of pure Norwegian origin. And had you asked him the name of the captain of the _Ebba_, he would have replied, Spade, and would doubtless have added that that of the boatswain was Effrondat, and that of the ship's cook, Helim--all singularly dissimilar and indicating very different nationalities.
Could any plausible hypothesis be deducted from the type presented by Count d'Artigas? Not easily. If the color of his skin, his black hair, and the easy grace of his attitude denoted a Spanish origin, the _ensemble_ of his person showed none of the racial characteristics peculiar to the natives of the Iberian peninsula.
He was a man of about forty-five years of age, about the average height, and robustly constituted. With his calm and haughty demeanor he resembled an Hindoo lord in whose blood might mingle that of some superb type of Malay. If he was not naturally of a cold temperament, he at least, with his imperious gestures and brevity of speech, endeavored to make it appear that he was. As to the language usually spoken by him and his crew, it was one of those idioms current in the islands of the Indian Ocean and the adjacent seas. Yet when his maritime excursions brought him to the coasts of the old or new world he spoke English with remarkable facility, and with so slight an accent as to scarcely betray his foreign origin.
None could have told anything about his past, nor even about his present life, nor from what source he derived his fortune,--obviously a large one, inasmuch as he was able to gratify his every whim and lived in the greatest luxury whenever he visited America,--nor where he resided when at home, nor where was the port from which his schooner hailed, and none would have ventured to question him upon any of these points so little disposed was he to be communicative. He was not the kind of man to give anything away or compromise himself in the slightest degree, even when interviewed by American reporters.
All that was known about him was what was published in the papers when the arrival of the _Ebba_ was reported in some port, and particularly in the ports of the east coast of the United States, where the schooner was accustomed to put in at regular periods to lay in provisions and stores for a lengthy voyage. She would take on board not only flour, biscuits, preserves, fresh and dried meat, live stock, wines, beers, and spirits, but also clothing, household utensils, and objects of luxury--all of the finest quality and highest price, and which were paid for either in dollars, guineas, or other coins of various countries and denominations.
Consequently, if no one knew anything about the private life of Count d'Artigas, he was nevertheless very well known in the various ports of the United States from the Florida peninsula to New England.
It is therefore in no way surprising that the director of Healthful House should have felt greatly flattered by the Count's visit, and have received him with every mark of honor and respect.
It was the first time that the schooner _Ebba_ had dropped anchor in the port of New-Berne, and no doubt a mere whim of her owner had brought him to the mouth of the Neuse.