"I see papers inside. But I fear it will be impossible to remove them," he added, "for they appear to have rotted with the damp, and are sticking to the sides of the bottle."
"Break it," said the Major.
"I would rather preserve the whole if I could."
"No doubt you would," said Lady Helena; "but the contents are more valuable than the bottle, and we had better sacrifice the one than the other."
"If your Lordship would simply break off the neck, I think we might easily withdraw the papers," suggested John Mangles.
"Try it, Edward, try it," said Lady Helena.
Lord Glenarvan was very unwilling, but he found there was no alternative; the precious bottle must be broken. They had to get a hammer before this could be done, though, for the stony material had acquired the hardness of granite. A few sharp strokes, however, soon shivered it to fragments, many of which had pieces of paper sticking to them. These were carefully removed by Lord Glenarvan, and separated and spread out on the table before the eager gaze of his wife and friends.
CHAPTER II THE THREE DOCUMENTS
ALL that could be discovered, however, on these pieces of paper was a few words here and there, the remainder of the lines being almost completely obliterated by the action of the water. Lord Glenarvan examined them attentively for a few minutes, turning them over on all sides, holding them up to the light, and trying to decipher the least scrap of writing, while the others looked on with anxious eyes. At last he said: "There are three distinct documents here, apparently copies of the same document in three different languages. Here is one in English, one in French, and one in German."
"But can you make any sense out of them?" asked Lady Helena.
"That's hard to say, my dear Helena, the words are quite incomplete."
"Perhaps the one may supplement the other," suggested Major McNabbs.
"Very likely they will," said the captain. "It is impossible that the very same words should have been effaced in each document, and by putting the scraps together we might gather some intelligible meaning out of them."
"That's what we will do," rejoined Lord Glenarvan; "but let us proceed methodically. Here is the English document first."
All that remained of it was the following:
62 _Bri gow sink stra aland skipp Gr that monit of long and ssistance lost_
"There's not much to be made out of that," said the Major, looking disappointed.
"No, but it is good English anyhow," returned the captain.
"There's no doubt of it," said Glenarvan. "The words SINK, ALAND, LOST are entire; SKIPP is evidently part of the word SKIPPER, and that's what they call ship captains often in England. There seems a Mr. Gr. mentioned, and that most likely is the captain of the shipwrecked vessel."
"Well, come, we have made out a good deal already," said Lady Helena.
"Yes, but unfortunately there are whole lines wanting," said the Major, "and we have neither the name of the ship nor the place where she was shipwrecked."
"We'll get that by and by," said Edward.
"Oh, yes; there is no doubt of it," replied the Major, who always echoed his neighbor's opinion. "But how?"
"By comparing one document with the other."
"Let us try them," said his wife.
The second piece of paper was even more destroyed than the first; only a few scattered words remained here and there.
It ran as follows:
7 Juni Glas zwei atrosen graus bringt ihnen
"This is written in German," said John Mangles the moment he looked at it.
"And you understand that language, don't you?" asked Lord Glenarvan.
"Come, then, tell us the meaning of these words."
The captain examined the document carefully, and said:
"Well, here's the date of the occurrence first: 7 Juni means June 7; and if we put that before the figures 62 we have in the other document, it gives us the exact date, 7th of June, 1862."
"Capital!" exclaimed Lady Helena.