Facing the Flag

Page 23

They wouldn't have taken the trouble to bring me aboard, but would have dropped me to the bottom of the river had they been desirous of getting rid of me. Once we are out at sea, what will they have to fear from me? No one could hear my shouts. As to demanding an explanation and making a fuss, it would be useless. Besides, what am I to the men who have carried us off? A mere hospital attendant--one Gaydon, who is of no consequence. It is Thomas Roch they were after. I was taken along too because I happened to return to the pavilion at the critical moment.

At any rate, no matter what happens, no matter who our kidnappers may be, no matter where we are taken, I shall stick to this resolution: I will continue to play my role of warder. No one, no! none, can suspect that Gaydon is Simon Hart, the engineer. There are two advantages in this: in the first place, they will take no notice of a poor devil of a warder, and in the second, I may be able to solve the mystery surrounding this plot and turn my knowledge to profit, if I succeed in making my escape.

But whither are my thoughts wandering? I must perforce wait till we arrive at our destination before thinking of escaping. It will be time enough to bother about that when the occasion presents itself. Until then the essential is that they remain ignorant as to my identity, and they cannot, and shall not, know who I am.

I am now certain that we are going through the water. But there is one thing that puzzles me. It is hot a sailing vessel, neither can it be a steamer. Yet it is incontestably propelled by some powerful machine. There are none of the noises, nor is there the trembling that accompanies the working of steam engines. The movement of the vessel is more continuous and regular, it is a sort of direct rotation that is communicated by the motor, whatever the latter may be. No mistake is possible: the ship is propelled by some special mechanism. But what is it?

Is it one of those turbines that have been spoken of lately, which, fitted into a submerged tube, are destined to replace the ordinary screw, it being claimed that they utilize the resistance of the water better than the latter and give increased speed to a ship?

In a few hours' time I shall doubtless know all about this means of locomotion.

Meanwhile there is another thing that equally puzzles me. There is not the slightest rolling or pitching. How is it that Pamlico Sound is so extraordinarily calm? The varying currents continuously ruffle the surface of the Sound, even if nothing else does.

It is true the tide may be out, and I remember that last night the wind had fallen altogether. Still, no matter, the thing is inexplicable, for a ship propelled by machinery, no matter at what speed she may be going, always oscillates more or less, and I cannot perceive the slightest rocking.

Such are the thoughts with which my mind is persistently filled. Despite an almost overpowering desire to sleep, despite the torpor that is coming upon me in this suffocating atmosphere, I am resolved not to close my eyes. I will keep awake till daylight, and there will be no daylight for me till it is let into my prison from the outside. Perhaps even if the door were open it would not penetrate to this black hole, and I shall probably not see it again until I am taken on deck.

I am squatting in a corner of my prison, for I have no stool or anything to sit upon, but as my eyelids are heavy and I feel somnolent in spite of myself, I get up and walk about. Then I wax wrathful, anger fills my soul, I beat upon the iron walls with my fists, and shout for help. In vain! I hurt my hands against the bolts of the plates, and no one answers my cries.

Such conduct is unworthy of me. I flattered myself that I would remain calm under all circumstances and here I am acting like a child.

The absence of any rolling or lurching movement at least proves that we are not yet at sea. Instead of crossing Pamlico Sound, may we not be going in the opposite direction, up the River Neuse? No! What would they go further inland for? If Thomas Roch has been carried off from Healthful House, his captors obviously mean to take him out of the United States--probably to a distant island in the Atlantic, or to some point on the European continent.

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Facing the Flag Page 24

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Jules Verne

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