Facing the Flag

Page 27

"I am Warder Gaydon, the attendant of Thomas Roch," I continue, "and I want to know why you have carried me off and placed me on board this schooner?"

The captain interrupts me with a sign. It is not made to me, however, but to some sailors standing near.

They catch me by the arms, and taking no notice of the angry movement that I cannot restrain, bundle me down the hatchway. The hatchway stair in reality, I remark, is a perpendicular iron ladder, at the bottom of which, to right and left, are some cabins, and forward, the men's quarters.

Are they going to put me back in my dark prison at the bottom of the hold?

No. They turn to the left and push me into a cabin. It is lighted by a port-hole, which is open, and through which the fresh air comes in gusts from the briny. The furniture consists of a bunk, a chair, a chest of drawers, a wash-hand-stand and a table.

The latter is spread for dinner, and I sit down. Then the cook's mate comes in with two or three dishes. He is a colored lad, and as he is about to withdraw, I try to question him, but he, too, vouchsafes no reply. Perhaps he doesn't understand me.

The door is closed, and I fall to and eat with an excellent appetite, with the intention of putting off all further questioning till some future occasion when I shall stand a chance of getting answered.

It is true I am a prisoner, but this time I am comfortable enough, and I hope I shall be permitted to occupy this cabin for the remainder of the voyage, and not be lowered into that black hole again.

I now give myself up to my thoughts, the first of which is that it was the Count d'Artigas who planned the abduction; that it was he who is responsible for the kidnapping of Thomas Roch, and that consequently the French inventor must be just as comfortably installed somewhere on board the schooner.

But who is this Count d'Artigas? Where does he hail from? If he has seized Thomas Roch, is it not because he is determined to secure the secret of the fulgurator at no matter what cost? Very likely, and I must therefore be careful not to betray my identity, for if they knew the truth, I should never be afforded a chance to get away.

But what a lot of mysteries to clear up, how many inexplicable things to explain--the origin of this d'Artigas, his intentions as to the future, whither we are bound, the port to which the schooner belongs, and this mysterious progress through the water without sails and without screws, at a speed of at least ten knots an hour!

The air becoming keener as night deepens, I close and secure the port-hole, and as my cabin is bolted on the outside, the best thing I can do is to get into my bunk and let myself be gently rocked to sleep by the broad Atlantic in this mysterious cradle, the _Ebba_.

The next morning I rise at daybreak, and having performed my ablutions, dress myself and wait.

Presently the idea of trying the door occurs to me. I find that it has been unbolted, and pushing it open, climb the iron ladder and emerge on deck.

The crew are washing down the deck, and standing aft and conversing are two men, one of whom is the captain. The latter manifests no surprise at seeing me, and indicates my presence to his companion by a nod.

This other man, whom I have never before seen, is an individual of about fifty years of age, whose dark hair is streaked with gray. His features are delicately chiselled, his eyes are bright, and his expression is intelligent and not at all displeasing. He is somewhat of the Grecian type, and T have no doubt that he is of Hellenic origin when I hear him called Serko--Engineer Serko--by the Captain of the _Ebba_.

As to the latter, he is called Spade--Captain Spade--and this name has an Italian twang about it. Thus there is a Greek, an Italian, and a crew recruited from every corner of the earth to man a schooner with a Norwegian name! This mixture strikes me as being suspicious.

And that Count d'Artigas, with his Spanish name and Asiatic type, where does he come from?

Captain Spade and Engineer Serko continue to converse in a low tone of voice.

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Facing the Flag Page 28

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Jules Verne

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Jules Verne
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