Facing the Flag

Page 20

Having dropped the latter overboard again, the captain and the sailor returned to the ship and the boat was hoisted in.

Almost immediately the hawser tautened, and the _Elba_, though not a stitch of canvas had been set, sped off in an easterly direction at a speed that could not have been less than ten knots an hour.

Night was falling fast, and soon the rapidly receding lights along the American coast were lost in the mist on the horizon.

CHAPTER V.

WHERE AM I?

(Notes by Simon Hart, the Engineer.)

Where am I? What has happened since the sudden aggression of which I was the victim near the pavilion.

I had just quitted the doctor, and was about to mount the steps, close the door and resume my post beside Thomas Roch when several men sprang upon me and knocked me down. Who are they? My eyes having been bandaged I was unable to recognize them. I could not cry for help, having been gagged. I could make no resistance, for they had bound me hand and foot. Thus powerless, I felt myself lifted and carried about one hundred paces, then hoisted, then lowered, then laid down.

Where? Where?

And Thomas Roch, what has become of him? It must have been he rather than I they were after. I was but Gaydon, the warder. None suspected that I was Simon Hart, the engineer, nor could they have suspected my nationality. Why, therefore, should they have desired to kidnap a mere hospital attendant?

There can consequently be no doubt that the French inventor has been carried off; and if he was snatched from Healthful House it must have been in the hope of forcing his secret from him.

But I am reasoning on the supposition that Thomas Roch was carried off with me. Is it so? Yes--it must be--it is. I can entertain no doubt whatever about it. I have not fallen into the hands of malefactors whose only intention is robbery. They would not have acted in this way. After rendering it impossible for me to cry out, after having thrown me into a clump of bushes in the corner of the garden, after having kidnapped Thomas Roch they would not have shut me up--where I now am.

Where? This is the question which I have been asking myself for hours without being able to answer it.

However, one thing is certain, and that is that I have embarked upon an extraordinary adventure, that will end?--In what manner I know not--I dare not even imagine what the upshot of it will be. Anyhow, it is my intention to commit to memory, minute by minute, the least circumstance, and then, if it be possible, to jot down my daily impressions. Who knows what the future has in store for me? And who knows but what, in my new position, I may finally discover the secret of Roth's fulgurator? If I am to be delivered one day, this secret must be made known, as well as who is the author, or who are the authors, of this criminal outrage, which may be attended with such serious consequences.

I continually revert to this question, hoping that some incident will occur to enlighten me:

Where am I?

Let me begin from the beginning.

After having been carried by the head and feet from Healthful House, I felt that I was laid, without any brutality, I must admit, upon the stretchers of a row-boat of small dimensions.

The rocking caused by the weight of my body was succeeded shortly afterwards by a further rocking--which I attribute to the embarking of a second person. Can there be room for doubt that it was Thomas Roch? As far as he was concerned they would not have had to take the precaution of gagging him, or of bandaging his eyes, or of binding him. He must still have been in a state of prostration which precluded the possibility of his making any resistance, or even of being conscious of what was being done. The proof that I am not deceiving myself is that I could smell the unmistakable odor of ether. Now, yesterday, before taking leave of us, the doctor administered a few drops of ether to the invalid and--I remember distinctly--a little of this extremely volatile substance fell upon his clothing while he was struggling in his fit.

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