Facing the Flag

Page 14

The carrying off of the mad inventor would be easy enough, inasmuch as he was unconscious, and could not raise a finger to help himself.

Gaydon came round a clump of bushes and approached the entrance to the pavilion. As he raised his foot to mount the steps the four sailors sprang upon him, bore him backwards to the ground, and had gagged him, securely bound him hand and foot, and bandaged his eyes before he began to realize what had happened.

Two of the men then kept guard over him, while Captain Spade and the others entered the house.

As the captain had surmised, Thomas Roch had sunk into such a torpor that he could have heard nothing of what had been going on outside. Reclining at full length, with his eyes closed, he might have been taken for a dead man but for his heavy breathing. There was no need either to bind or gag him. One man took him by the head and another by the feet and started off with him to the schooner.

Captain Spade was the last to quit the house after extinguishing the lamp and closing the door behind him. In this way there was no reason to suppose that the inmates would be missed before morning.

Gaydon was carried off in the same way as Thomas Roch had been. The two remaining sailors lifted him and bore him quietly but rapidly down the path to the door in the wall. The park was pitch dark. Not even a glimmer of the lights in the windows of Healthful House could be seen through the thick foliage.

Arrived at the wall, Spade, who had led the way, stepped aside to allow the sailors with their burdens to pass through, then followed and closed and locked the door. He put the key in his pocket, intending to throw it into the Neuse as soon as they were safely on board the schooner.

There was no one on the road, nor on the bank of the river.

The party made for the boat, and found that Effrondat, the boatswain, had made all ready to receive them.

Thomas Roch and Gaydon were laid in the bottom of the boat, and the sailors again took their places at the oars.

"Hurry up, Effrondat, and cast off the painter," ordered the captain.

The boatswain obeyed, and pushed the boat off with his foot as he scrambled in.

The men bent to their oars and rowed rapidly to the schooner, which was easily distinguishable, having hung out a light at her mizzenmast head.

In two minutes they were alongside.

The Count d'Artigas was leaning on the bulwarks by the gangway.

"All right, Spade?" he questioned.

"Yes, sir, all right!"

"Both of them?"

"Both the madman and his keeper."

"Doesn't anybody know about it up at Healthful House?

"Not a soul."

It was not likely that Gaydon, whose eyes and ears were bandaged, but who preserved all his sang-froid, could have recognized the voices of the Count d'Artigas and Captain Spade. Nor did he have the chance to. No attempt was immediately made to hoist him on board. He had been lying in the bottom of the boat alongside the schooner for fully half an hour, he calculated, before he felt himself lifted, and then lowered, doubtless to the bottom of the hold.

The kidnapping having been accomplished it would seem that it only remained for the _Ebba_ to weigh anchor, descend the estuary and make her way out to sea through Pamlico Sound. Yet no preparations for departure were made.

Was it not dangerous to stay where they were after their daring raid? Had the Count d'Artigas hidden his prisoners so securely as to preclude the possibility of their being discovered if the _Ebba_, whose presence in proximity to Healthful House could not fail to excite suspicion, received a visit from the New-Berne police?

However this might have been, an hour after the return of the expedition, every soul on board save the watch--the Count d'Artigas, Serko, and Captain Spade in their respective cabins, and the crew in the fore-castle, were sound asleep.

CHAPTER IV.

THE SCHOONER EBBA.

It was not till the next morning, and then very leisurely, that the _Ebba_ began to make preparations for her departure.

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Jules Verne

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