The Iron Pirate/Chapter 26

The Iron Pirate  (1905)  by Max Pemberton
Chapter XXVI

CHAPTER XXVI.


A PAGE IN BLACK'S LIFE.


I know not whether it was the amazing spectacle of the nameless ship's end, or the sudden coming down of night, that kept attention from our boat when the great vessel had sunk; but those on the ironclads, which were at least two miles from us when we put off, seemed to be unaware that any boat from the ship lived; and, although they steamed for some hours in our vicinity, they saw nothing of us as we lay in the plunging dinghy. When night fell, and with it what breeze that had been blowing, we lost sight of them altogether, and knew for the first time the whole terror of the situation. Black had indeed recovered much of his old calm, and drank long draughts of champagne; but he sat silent, and uttered no word for many hours after the end of that citadel which had given him such great power. As for the little boat, it was a puny protection against the sweeping rollers of the Atlantic, and I doubt not that we had been drowned that very night if a storm of any moment had broken upon us.

About midnight a thunderstorm got up from the south, and the sea, rising somewhat with it, wetted us to the skin. The lightning, terribly vivid and incessant, lighted up the whole sea again and again, showing each the other's face, the face of a worn and fatigue-stricken man. And the rain and the sea beat on us until we shivered, cowering, and were numbed; our hands stiffened with the salt upon them, so that we could scarce get the warming liquor to our lips. Yet Black held to his silence, moaning at rare intervals as he had moaned when the great ship sank. It was not until the sun rose over the long swell that we slept for an hour or more; and after sleep we were both calmer, looking for ships with much expectation, and that longing which the derelict only may know. The Captain was then very quiet, and he gazed often at me with the expression I had seen on his face when he saved me from his men.

"Boy," he said, "look well at the sun, lest you never look at it again."

"I am looking," I replied; "it is life to me."

"If," he continued, very thoughtful, "you, who have years with you, should live when I go under, you'll take this belt I'm wearing off me; it'll help you ashore. If it happen that I live with you, it'll help both of us."

"We're in the track of steamers," said I; "there's no reason to look at it that way yet. Please God, we'll be seen."

"That's your way, and the right one," he answered; "but I'm not a man like that, and my heart's gone with my ship: we shall never see her like again."

"You built her?" I said questioningly.

"Yes," he responded. "I built her when I put my hand against the world, and, if it happened to me to go through it again, I'd do the same."

"What did you go through?" I asked, as he passed me the biscuits and the cup with liquor in it, and as he sat up in the raft I saw that the man had death written on his face.

But at that time he told me nothing in answer to my question; and sat for many hours motionless, his glassy eyes fixed upon the bottom of the boat. In the afternoon, however, he suddenly sat up, and took up his thread as if he had broken it but a minute before.

"I went through much," said he, gazing over the mirror-like surface of the trackless water-desert, "as boy and man. I lived a life which was hell; God knows it."

I did not press him to tell me more, for in truth I shivered so and was so numbed that even my curiosity to know of this life of crime and of mystery was not so paramount as to banish that other thought: Shall we live when the sun sinks this night? But he found relief in his talk, and, as the liquor warmed him, he continued faster than before—

"I was a stepson, boy; bound to a brute with not as much conscience as a big dog, and no more human nature in him than a wild bull. My mother died three months after he took her, and I'm not going to speak about her, God help me; but if I had the man under my hands that treated her so, I'd crush his skull like I crush this biscuit. Well, that ain't my tale; you ask me what I went through, and I'm trying to tell you. Have you ever wanted a meal? No, I reckon not; and you can't get it in your mind to know what living on bones and bits for more than a couple of years means, can you, as I lived down in my home at Glasgow, and often since out West and at Colorado? I'd come out from Scotland as a bit of a lad not turned thirteen, and I sailed aboard the Savannah City to Montreal, and then to Rio, and in Japan waters; and for three years, until I deserted at 'Frisco, no devilry that human fiends could think of was unknown to me. But they made a sailor of me; and full-rigged ship or steamer I'd navigate with the best of 'em. After that, I went aboard a brig plying between 'Frisco and Yokohama, and there I picked up much, leaving her after two years to get across to Europe, and do the ocean trade with the Jackson line between Southampton and Buenos Ayres. It was in that city I met my wife. I married her in Mendoza; for she came of rich folk, who spat on me, and was only a bit of a girl who'd never wanted a comfort on this earth until that time, and who starved with me then and for years. My God! my whole body burns when I think of it—that bit of a creature who'd never known the lack of a gratification and who was dragged down to every degradation by my curse."

I looked at him in surprise, and he answered me instinctively.

"Yes, by my curse. Maybe you don't know what it was, for I've held it under a bit since she died, but I was a drunkard then—a maniac when I had the liquor on me, a devil from whom all men fled. Not that there isn't work for any man in that country—work, and well paid—but I had the fever on me, and well, we sank very low. How I lived I can't tell you; but after a couple of years of it I worked a passage to New York, and there my son was born. When he grew up he was the very image of you. That's why I gave you your life when you came on my ship."

The words were spoken in that gentle voice he could command sometimes, and, as he uttered them, he took my hand and gave it a great grip. I understood then that curious look he had given me at our first meeting; his partisanship for me against the men; and that last great risk which had brought the end of it all, If it had not brought death to both of us. Somewhere down in that human well of crime and ferocity there was a spring of purer water. I had set it free when I brought old memories to him, and I owed it to him that amazing chance that I lived through the frenzies of Ice-haven.

"Yes," said Black, observing my surprise, and passing me the liquor which he compelled me to drink; "my boy was your height, and your build, and he had your eyes. What's more, he had your grit, and there was no cooler hand living. Not that he owed much to me, for I was mad drunk half his life; and, when sober, I lived as often as not in prison for what I had done in liquor. It was when he was nearly twenty that the change came; for he began to bring home money, do you see? and what with his work and the way he talked to me, I set myself to get the craving under; and I was a new man in one year, and in two my brain came back to me, and I made the discovery that I was not born a fool. You may reckon I worshipped the lad! God knows, he and his mother did for me more than man or woman ever did for a breathing body. And when my wits came back to me, and I thought what I might have done, and what I had done, and that my boy had borne it all only to drag me to my reason at hist, I could have ended it there and then. Maybe I should have done it if a new turn hadn't come in my life's road. It was when I was at my lowest, and we were sore put to it to get food in New York, that I was taken up by a man who was going to Michigan seeking copper. My lad was then working with a Mike Leveston in the city—a land-agent for the upcountry work, and the owner of a line of small brigs running between Boston and the Bahamas; but times had gone bad with him, and the boy, who had been getting good money, found himself with no more than enough to keep him, let alone his mother. Well, I thought the thing out, and, as my partner had some capital and agreed to let me have ten dollars a week any way, I made an agreement with Leveston that he should allow the wife and the boy enough to live on for six months, and I set out for the State where the copper find was beginning to attract notice, and in a year I was a made man. We found the ore as thick as clay, and, under the excitement of it, I kept my head, and the drink craze never touched me. When the money came in, I made Leveston my New York agent, and sent him enough to set up the woman who'd stood by me all through in more luxury than she'd known since she married me. For awhile her letters told me of her new life, and I kept them under my shirt as I would have kept leaves of gold. In the spring, I sent the agent twenty thousand dollars for her; and I got his acknowledgment, saying she'd gone down to Charleston to see about the boy's work there, and I should hear from her on her return.

"I think this was about eighteen months after I left New York, and from that time my wife ceased to write to me, and I heard nothing more from the lad. We'd been doing such work in the mine that we had enough money to pay our way for life, and we hoped to make an almighty pile before many years had gone; but I couldn't bear not hearing from them as I worked for, and in the fall of the year I went back to New York—under protest from my partner, who could do nothing without me—and I never rested until I reached my house in Fifty-Fourth Street. I found it shut up, the furniture gone, not a sign of living being in it; and when I went to make inquiries amongst my neighbours, they told me what came to this. My wife had died of starvation—nothing less, boy, for the devil I'd sent the money to had doled out to her and the lad a few dollars for the first year, but had cut and run when the big sums reached him; and he took the boy with him on the pretence of a job in the Southern city. My son, you see, had turned naturally to architect's work, and was induced by this long-toothed vulture to quit New York, because they heard from the mine that I was dead—that I died, as Leveston had told them, of small-pox and left not a shilling for them. God! if only I could bring him to life to clutch his cursed throat again!"

"But what became of your son?" I asked, as he ceased speaking, and we lay riding gently over the long rollers, with a great flood of sunlight making the sea as a sheet of beaten gold, touched with diamond points where the spray broke. Then he went on with it; but you could see some awful emotion moving him, and he kept plying himself with drink, which made his words the fiercer.

"What became of the boy?" he repeated after me. "Why, he went south in the hope of sending money to his mother; and directly he reached Charleston, Leveston shipped him on a brig, knowing that I must hear of his doings in a month or more. He sent the lad to Panama, and there he died, one of the first to be stricken in the fever land. They buried him in the country, as the Lord is my witness. Then I came home—rich, my trunks stuffed with notes, able, if I cared, to buy up half the land-agents in New York City; and the money I'd got seemed to turn black in my hands when I found that those it was made for needed it no more. Not as I knew then of the lad's death—that I was to hear of later; but, free from the drink, I had loved the woman who was gone; and I was a madman for days and weeks. When I got my head again I changed as I don't believe any man ever changed before; there was something in my mind which I could not cope with. I can't lay it down any clearer than this: it was a hatred of all men that took possession of me—a fierce desire to make mankind pay for the wrongs I had suffered. I gave myself up to the drink again, but not as I did when they named me a drunkard. This time I was the master of it; I used it for my purpose; I fed my thoughts of vengeance on it; and, while my partner was sending me more than a thousand pounds a week from Michigan, I remained in New York with the double purpose in my head—to get my boy back to me, and to crush the life out of the man who had left my wife to die.

"All the news I could get at that time was this: the boy had left Charleston, ostensibly for the Bahamas, three months before I reached New York City; but nothing more had been heard of him or the ship. I put the best detectives in the city on Leveston's trail, raining the money into their pockets to keep them to the work; and they got it out of some of Leveston's seamen in Savannah that he had gone a long cruise in one of his barques to Rio, and even farther south. This news was like red-hot iron to my head. I knew that I couldn't touch the man by law, except for the robbery of the bit of money, and that I didn't care a brass button about. What I meant to have was his life, and I swore that no man should take it but me. Then I went into every low haunt in New York. I searched the drinking dens of the Bowery; I made friends with all the thieves, picked up the loafers, and the starving. The parson who's gone I found running a gambling hell in New Jersey; the man 'Four-Eyes' I took from a crimp at Boston; John we got later on at Rio, where we bought him from the police. I had as fine a crew of scoundrels in a month as ever cursed in a fo'castle; and I shipped them all on the screw-steamer, Rossa, which I bought for six thousand pounds from the Rossa Company. She was just on six hundred tons, an iron boat built for the meat trade; but we knocked her about quick enough, setting three machine-guns forard, and fifty Winchester rifles among her stores. We put out from Sandy Hook, it must be nearly six years ago; and we steamed straight ahead for Rio, where we got tidings of Leveston's barque. She had sailed for Buenos Ayres, but they looked for her return within the month, and we left again next day, cruising near shore as far as Desterro, where luck was with us.

"I remember that morning as if it was yesterday. We had struck eight-bells, and the men were going down to dinner, when the mate sighted a ship on the port-bow. We put straight out to sea at the hail, and within half-an-hour we stood alongside her; and the man who answered my call was Mike Leveston. When he saw me hailing him from the poop of a steamer, he turned green as the sea about him; and he yelled to me to stand off if I didn't want a bullet in me. The sight of him maddened me; I turned the machine-gun on his decks, and swept them clear as a grass field, but he lay flat on his face by the taffrail, and he bellowed for mercy like a woman. And he got it. I ran the steamer alongside him, smashing in his quarter, and when we had gripped, I got aboard. Then he grovelled at my feet, and, as I held my pistol at his head, he gabbled out the news that my son was dead—told me that he died at Panama, and he screamed for mercy like a hog at the block. But I cut his throat from ear to ear with my own knife, and I threw his body to the sharks limb by limb as you would throw a dead sheep to the dogs. God knows, I was mad then, as I have been often since, and am now. My poor son!"

"The man told you the truth, then?"

"Yes. When I had made chips of his ship I went back to Panama, and there got news of the boy. They had buried him at Porto Bello, and I stopped there long enough to make his grave decent, and then returned up the coast to New York. Coming back, the vermin with me took a fancy on the third day out, when three parts of them were drunk, to do with a strange brig as they had done with Leveston's. They stopped her with the guns, and cleared her of every dollar aboard, sending her to the bottom out of pure devilry. I didn't stop 'em; for I had the madness of the drink on me again, and I led 'em at the work then, and when they sent a dozen more coasters after the two that had gone on the voyage to Sandy Hook. By the time we were in New York again, I had got a taste for the new work which nothing could cure. It seemed as if I was to revenge on mankind the wrong I had suffered from one man; and, more than that, I saw there was money in heaps in it. They said at home that piracy was played out, but I asked myself, 'How's that? Give me a ship big enough,' said I, 'and under certain conditions I'll sweep the Atlantic.' There was danger in the job, and it was big enough to tempt that curious brain of mine, which had always dreamed of big jobs since I'd been a bit of a boy; and I was fascinated with this big idea until I couldn't hold myself. That's what led me to keep the crew together at New York, and to return to Michigan, where I found that the mine was making money faster almost than they could bank it, and if I was worth a penny, 1 was worth a million sterling at that very time; for my partner behaved square all through, and paid my share to the last penny. I stayed with him about a couple of months then, giving my wits to the job, and it was there I met Karl, the German engineer, who had got it into his head that gas was the motor of the near future. He talked of using it for the copper work, and then of building gas launches for transport; but he didn't know that he'd set me all aglow with another thought, which was nothing less than this—that I should build a steamer driven by gas, and run a game of piracy on the Atlantic with her. Do you call it lunacy? Well, other men have made good company for such lunatics, the Corsican murderer at Moscow among 'em. And what was it to be but a fight of one man against the world—a fight to set your best blood running fast in your veins, to brace every nerve in your body? Boy, I lived for a year on that excitement, which was more even than the drink to me. I left the mine to cruise again in the Rossa with the old hands; but we had added a long 'chaser' to our list of guns, and in the three months out we took twenty ships and over two hundred thousand in specie. I saw from the beginning of it that the one thing we couldn't stand against with a coal steamer was the constant putting into port to fill her bunkers; and I knew that if we didn't find some haven of refuge out of the common run, the day would come when we should swing like common cut-throats. I had taken Karl on board with me for the trip, and he was the man to set both things square. He ran me north of Godthaab, in Greenland, and put me into the fjord you have known; and he drew the plans of my ship, which I made the Italians at Spezia build for me—for I had the money, and, as for the metal, the phosphor bronze of which I built her—well, that was Karl's idea, too. You may know that phosphor bronze is the finest material for ship-building in the world, but the majority of 'em can't use it on account of the cost of the copper. Well, the copper I had, any amount of it; and I shipped it to Italy, and the great vessel which your friend Hall thought was all of gold had the look of it, and was the finest sight man ever saw when under her own colours.

"Once the ship was built, our game was easy. She was armoured heavily amidships; she had two ten-inch guns in her turrets, and machine-guns thick all over her; and she was the best-fitted ship in her quarters swimming. It's a rum thing, but I always had a bit of a taste for nice things—fine painting, gold work, and stones—and my only hobby to speak of has been the buying of 'em. This led me to meet your friend Hall. Not that I didn't know him from the first, for my men saw him in the yards at Spezia, and from that day I never left him unwatched. I followed him to Paris, to Liverpool, to London, when I was ashore; but I never brought my ship within a hundred miles of any port: and I used to hire yachts and sink 'em in mid-ocean when I wanted to reach her. Your friend would be alive now if he hadn't sought to find out where I got to when I left port in the La France. But I took him aboard to end him, and they shot him off the Needles and lashed him to the shrouds of the yacht when we fired her. He was a brave man, and indirectly he brought me to this—him and you——"

"And the justice of God," I said, thinking hatred towards him again as I remembered Hall's death.

"Perhaps," he answered, "but you know my history; and what's done can't be undone. Yet I say again that, if my son was alive, and was taken from me as he was taken seven years ago in Panama, I'd do what I did, though they burnt me alive for it. I've been agen Europe, and I've licked 'em, by Heaven; for what they've took is only my ship, and agen that I've a million of their money to put. One man with his hand agen the world's a fine sight, and what I've claimed I've done. Is piracy not worth a cent? Is it played out, do you tell me? I reckon them as says it lies. Give me a ship like mine that can show 'em twenty-nine knots; give me the harbour to coal once in six months; and I'll live against the lot of them, fight 'em one by one, rule this ocean more sure than any man ruled a people. I say I'd do it; I should have said I could have done it, for it's over now, and the day's gone. Before another twenty-four hours you'll be alone in this dinghy, boy. I've death on me, and I wouldn't live without the ship; no, I'll go under as she went under—the Lord have mercy on me!"

The firmness of the captain was near to leaving him in that moment, but he pulled himself together with a great effort, and sat aft, sculling with the short oar in a mechanical and altogether absent way. The long talk with me about his past had exhausted him, I thought; and he did not seem disposed to speak again. It was then near mid-day, and the sun, being right above us, poured down an intolerable heat, so that the paint of the dinghy was hot to the hand, and we ourselves were consumed with an unquenchable thirst. Nor could I restrain myself, but drank long draughts from the water-kegs, while Black kept to liquor; and was, I saw with fear, rapidly working himself up to a state of intoxication. You may ask if the terrors of the position came home to us thoroughly in that long day when we rode in a bit of a cockle-shell on the sweeping rollers of the Atlantic, but I answer you, I do not think that they did. The fear of such a position is the after-recollection of it. We were in a sense numbed to mental apprehension by the vigour of the physical suffering we endured, by that overwhelming thirst, by the devouring heat, by the cutting spray which drove upon our faces, by the stiffening of our clothes when the sun scorched them. Seethed in the brine one hour, we were nigh burnt up the next; and yet we knew that water would soon fail us—that we could not hope for life for many days unless we should sight some ship, and she in turn should sight us.

It is, perhaps, only in a small boat that one appreciates the magnitude of an Atlantic wave, even when the ocean seems comparatively still. Sometimes on a steamer's deck, when there is heavy wind and the sea is driven before it, you may watch a huge roller sweeping the great vessel as a pond wave will sweep a match; but at any time from a boat, which is, as it were, right down upon the water, you cannot fail to be impressed by the onward flow of those mighty translucent billows, which rush forward in their course and thunder at last upon the granite rocks of the western face of Europe. High above you in one moment as hills of emerald and silver, you wait with nerves all braced up as they come upon you, giving promise that you will be engulfed in the liquid bosom of the towering mountain; and you breathe again as your boat is taken in their swift embrace, and you are borne far above the darker ravine of the sea to a pinnacle of spreading foam, whence you may look to the distant horizon in that search for other ships; which may be pastime, or may be, as in our case, a search on which your very life depends.

How often during that long afternoon, when my hair was matted with the salt of the spray, and my hands were burnt with a consuming fire, and my body was chill or hot with the fever of the long exposure, did I, from such a pinnacle, cast my eyes around the foam-decked waste, and finding it all barren, feel my heart sink as the dinghy swept again into the dark-green abyss, and all around me were the walls of water! How many prayers did not I send up in the silence of my heart: how many thoughts of Roderick and of Mary, how many farewells to them! And when I prayed for life, and no answer seemed to come, and I remembered the years that might have been before me—years now to be unknown in the silence of the grave—I had a great bitterness against all fate and all men, and I crouched in the boat with my suffering heavy upon me. But Black continued to drink, and when the sun fell low in the west, and the whole heavens were as mountains and peaks of the crimson fire, I knew by his mutterings that the frenzy of the old madness was upon him.

At one time he called upon his wife, I doubt not, and gave mad words of self-reproach and of regret. And then he would mutter of his son, as though the lad could help him; and many times he cried out: "My God! the ship's going—hands, lower boats!" Or he raved with fierce threats and awful cries at the American he had buried, or made desperate appeals to some apparition that came to him in his dreadful dream. But at the last he grew almost incoherent, thinking that I was the dead lad; and he set himself wildly to chafe my hand, and put spirit at my lips. I was then nigh dead with want of sleep and fatigue, for I had not rested during the fight with the ironclads; and when he covered me with the small tarpaulin, and made a rough pillow in the bow, I went to sleep almost at once; and was as one drunk with the torpor of the rest.

Twice during that long night I must have roused myself. I recall well a heaven of stars, and a moonlit sea glowing with the pale light; while looking down upon me were the eyes of a madman, who clutched the sides of the dinghy with trembling and claw-like hands, and had a scream upon his lips. And again at the second time I looked upward to behold a faint break of grey in the leaden sky, and to feel warm raindrops beating upon me. But I heard no sound, and scarce turning in my heaviness, I slept again; and all through my sleep I dreamed that there was the echo of a voice, as of the voice of the damned, calling to me from the sea, and that, though I would have helped the man whose hand was above the waters, I could not move, for an iron grip, as the grip of Fate, held me to my place.

When I awoke for the third time, the dinghy was held firmly by a boat-hook, and was being drawn towards a jolly-boat full of seamen. I rose up, rubbing my eyes as a man seeing a vision; but, when the men shouted something to me in German, I had another exclamation on my lips; for I was alone in the boat, and Black had left me.

Then I looked across the sea, and I saw a long black steamer lying-to a mile away, and the men dragged me into their craft, and shouted hearty words of encouragement, and they put liquor to my lips, and fell to rowing with great joy. Yet I remembered my dream, and it seemed to me that the voice I had heard in my sleep was the voice of Black, who cried to me as he had cast himself to his death in the Atlantic.

****

Was the man dead? Had he really ended that most remarkable life of evil enterprise and of crime; or had he by some miracle found safety while I slept? As the Germans rowed me quickly towards their steamer, and comforted me as one would comfort a child that is found destitute by the wayside, I turned this thought over again and again in my mind. Had the man gone out of my life wrapped in the mystery which had surrounded him from the first? Did he still live to dream dreams of vengeance and of robbery? Or had he simply cast himself from the dinghy in a fit of insanity, and died the terrible death of the suicide? I could not answer the tremendous question; had no clue to it; but I had not reached the shelter of the steamer which had saved me before I made the discovery that the belt of linen which had been about Black's waist was now about mine, tied firmly with a sailor's knot, and when I put my hand upon the linen I found that it was filled with some hard and sharp stones, which had all the feel of pebbles. Instinctively I knew the truth: that in his last hour the master of the nameless ship had retained his curious affection for me; had made over to me some of that huge hoard of wealth he must have accumulated by his years of pillage; and I restrained myself with difficulty from casting the whole there and then into the waters which had witnessed his battles for it. But the belt was firmly lashed about me, and we were on the deck of the steamer before my benumbed hands could set the lashing free.

It would be idle for me to attempt to describe to you all I felt as the captain of the steamship Hoffnung greeted me upon his quarterdeck, and his men sent up rounds of cheers which echoed over the waters. I stood for some minutes forgetful of everything, save that I had been snatched from that prison of steel; brought from the shadow of the living death to the hope of seeing friends, and country, and home again. Now one man wrung my hand, now another brought clothes, now another hot food; but I stood as one stricken dumb, holding nervously to the taffrail as though none should drag me down again to the horrors of the dinghy, or to that terrible loneliness which had hung over my life for so many weeks. And then there came a great reaction, an overpowering weakness, a great sense of thankfulness, and tears gushed up in my eyes, and fell upon my numbed hands. The good fellows about me, whose German was for the most part unintelligible to me, appreciated well the condition in which I was; and, with many encouraging pats on the back, they forced me down their companion way to the skipper's cabin, and so to a bunk, where I lay inanimate, and deep in sleep for many hours. But I awoke as another man, and when I had taken a great bowl of soup and some wine, my strength seemed to return to me with bounds, and I sat up to find they had taken away my clothes, but that the belt which Black had bound about me lay at the foot of the bunk, and was unopened.

For some minutes I held this belt in my hand with a curious and inexplicable hesitation. It was not heavy, being all of linen finely sewed; but when at last I made up my mind to open it, I did so with my teeth, tearing the threads at the top of it, and so ripping it down. The action was followed by a curious result, for as I opened the seams there fell upon my bed some twenty or thirty diamonds of such size and such lustre that they lay sparkling with a thousand lights which dazzled the eyes, and made me utter a cry at once of surprise and of admiration. White stones they were, Brazilian diamonds of the first water; and when I undid the rest of the seam, and opened the belt fully, I found at least fifty more, with some superb black pearls, a fine emerald, and a little parcel of exquisite rubies. To the latter there was attached a paper with the words, "My son, for as such I regard you, take these; they are honestly come by. And let me write while I can that I have loved you before God. Remember this when you forget Captain Black."

That was all; and I judged that the stones were worth five thousand pounds if they were worth a penny. I could scarce realise it all as I read the note again and again, and handled the sparkling, glittering baubles, which made my bunk a cave of dazzling light; or wrapped them once more in the linen, using it as a bag, and tying it round my neck for safety. It seemed indeed that I had come to riches as I had come again to freedom; and in the strange bewilderment of it all, I dressed myself in the rough clothes which the skipper had sent to me, and bounded on deck to greet a glorious day and the fresh awakening breezes of the sun-lit Atlantic. It was difficult to believe that there was not a reckoning yet to come; that the nameless ship had gone to her doom. Had I in reality escaped the terrors of the dinghy? This question I asked myself again and again as the soft wind fanned my face; and I went to the bulwarks, looking away where soon we should sight the Scillies, while the honest fellows crowded round me, and showered every kindness upon me. Yet for days and weeks after that, even now sometimes when I am amongst my own again, I wake in my sleep with troubled cries, and the dark gives me back the life which was my long night of suffering.

The Hoffnung was bound for Konigsberg, but when the skipper and I had come to understand each other by signs and writing, he, with great consideration, offered to put into Southampton and leave me there. This took a great weight from my mind, for I was burning with anxiety to hear of my friends again; and when we entered the Channel on the third night, I found sleep far from my eyes, and paced the deck until dawn broke. We dropped anchor off Southampton at three in the afternoon, and when I had insisted on Captain Wolfram taking one of my diamonds as a souvenir for himself, and one to sell for the crew, I put off in his long-boat with a deep sense of his humanity and kindness, and with hearty cheers from his crew.

I should have gone to the quay at once then, but crossing the roads I saw a yacht at anchor, and I recognised her as my own yacht Celsis, with Dan pacing her poop. To put to her side was the work of a moment, and I do not think that I ever gave a heartier hail than that "Ahoy, Daniel!" which then fell from my lips.

"Ahoy!" cried Dan in reply, "not as it oughtn't to be Daniel, but with no disrespect to the other gent—why, blister my foretop, if it ain't the guvnor!"

And the old fellow began to shout and to wave his arms and to throw ropes about as though he were smitten with lunacy.