Copyright
André Laurie.

The Waif of the Cynthia online

. (page 16 of 17)
Online LibraryAndré LaurieThe Waif of the Cynthia → online text (page 16 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


gave her to him with joy. Shortly after their marriage I was
appointed consul to Riga; and my son-in-law being detained by
business interests in the United States, I was obliged to leave my
daughter. She became a mother, and to her son was given my
Christian name, united to that of his father - Emile Henry Georges.

"Six months afterward my son-in-law was killed by an accident in
the mines. As soon as she could settle up his affairs, my poor
daughter, only twenty years of age, embarked at New York on the
'Cynthia' for Hamburg, to join me by the most direct route.

"On the 7th of October, 1858, the 'Cynthia' was shipwrecked off the
Faroe Islands. The circumstances of the shipwreck were suspicious,
and have never been explained.

"At the moment of the disaster, when the passengers were taking
their places one by one in the boat, my little grandson, seven
months old - whom his mother had tied to a buoy for safety - slipped
or was pushed into the sea, and was carried away by the storm and
disappeared. His mother, crazed by this frightful spectacle, tried
to throw herself into the sea. She was prevented by main force and
placed in a fainting condition in one of the boats, in which were
three other persons, and who had alone escaped from the shipwrecked
vessel. In forty-nine hours this boat reached one of the Faroe
Islands. From there my daughter returned to me after a dangerous
illness which lasted seven weeks, thanks to the devoted attentions
of the sailor who saved her and who brought her to me. This brave
man, John Denman, died in my service in Asia Minor.

"We had but little hope that the baby had survived the shipwreck. I,
however, sought for him among the Faroe and Shetland Islands, and
upon the Norwegian coast north of Bergen. The idea of his cradle
floating any further seemed impossible, but I did not give up my
search for three years; and Noroe must be a very retired spot, or
surely some inquiries would have been made there. When I had given
up all hope I devoted myself exclusively to my daughter, whose
physical and moral health required great attention. I succeeded in
being sent to the Orient, and I sought, by traveling and scientific
enterprises, to draw off her thoughts from her affliction. She has
been my inseparable companion sharing all my labors, but I have
never been able to lighten her incurable grief. We returned to
France, and we now live in Paris in an old house which I own.

"Will it be my happiness to receive there my grandson, for whom we
have mourned so many years? This hope fills me with too much joy,
and I dare not speak of it to my daughter, until I am assured of
its truth; for, if it should prove false, the disappointment would
be too cruel.

"To-day is Monday: they tell me at the post-office that by next
Saturday I can receive your answer."

Erik had hardly been able to read this, for the tears would obscure his
sight. He also felt afraid to yield too quickly to the hope which had
been so suddenly restored to him. He told himself that every detail
coincided - the dates agreed; all the events down to the most minute
particulars. He hardly dared to believe, however, that it could be true.
It was too much happiness to recover in a moment his family, his own
mother, his country. And such a country - the one that he could have
chosen above all because she possessed the grandeur, the graces, the
supreme gifts of humanity - because she had fostered genius, and the
civilization of antiquity, and the discoveries and inventions of modern
times.

He was afraid that he was only dreaming. His hopes had been so often
disappointed. Perhaps the doctor would say something to dispel his
illusions. Before he did anything he would submit these facts to his
cooler judgment.

The doctor read the documents attentively which he carried to him, but
not without exclamations of joy and surprise.

"You need not feel the slightest doubt!" he said, when he had finished.
"All the details agree perfectly, even those that your correspondent
omits to mention, the initials on the linen, the device engraved on the
locket, which are the same as those on the letter. My dear child, you
have found your family this time. You must telegraph immediately to your
grandfather!"

"But what shall I tell him?" asked Erik, pale with joy.

"Tell him that to-morrow you will set out by express, to go and embrace
him and your mother!"

The young captain only took time to press the hands of this excellent
man, and he ran and jumped into a cab to hasten to the telegraph office.

He left Stockholm that same day, took the railroad to Malmo on the
north-west coast of Sweden, crossed the strait in twenty minutes,
reached Copenhagen, took the express train through to Holland and
Belgium, and at Brussels the train for Paris.

On Saturday, at seven o'clock in the evening, exactly six days after Mr.
Durrien had posted his letter, he had the joy of waiting for his
grandson at the depot.

As soon as the train stopped they fell into each other's arms. They had
thought so much about each other during these last few days that they
both felt already well acquainted.

"My mother?" asked Erik.

"I have not dared to tell her, much as I was tempted to do so!" answered
Mr. Durrien.

"And she knows nothing yet?"

"She suspects something, she fears, she hopes. Since your dispatch I
have done my best to prepare her for the unheard-of joy that awaits her.
I told her of a track upon which I had been placed by a young Swedish
officer, the one whom I had met at Brest, and of whom I had often spoken
to her. She does not know, she hesitates to hope for any good news, but
this morning at breakfast I could see her watching me, and two or three
times I felt afraid that she was going to question me. One can not tell,
something might have happened to you, some other misfortune, some sudden
mischance. So I did not dine with her to-night, I made an excuse to
escape from a situation intolerable to me."

Without waiting for his baggage, they departed in the _coup_ that Mr.
Durrien had brought.

Mme. Durrien, alone in the parlor in Varennes Street, awaited
impatiently the return of her father. She had had her suspicions
aroused, and was only waiting until the dinner hour arrived to ask for
an explanation.

For several days she had been disturbed by his strange behavior, by the
dispatches which were continually arriving, and by the double meaning
which she thought she detected beneath all he said. Accustomed to talk
with him about his lightest thoughts and impressions, she could not
understand why he should seek to conceal anything from her. Several
times she had been on the point of demanding a solution of the enigma,
but she had kept silence, out of respect for the evident wishes of her
father.

"He is trying to prepare me for some surprise, doubtless," she said to
herself. "He is sure to tell me if anything pleasant has occurred."

But for the last two or three days, especially that morning, she had
been impressed with a sort of eagerness which Mr. Durrien displayed in
all his manner, as well as the happy air with which he regarded her,
insisting in hearing over and over again from her lips, all the details
of the disaster of the "Cynthia," which he had avoided speaking of for a
long time. As she mused over his strange behavior a sort of revelation
came to her. She felt sure that her father must have received some
favorable intelligence which had revived the hope of finding her child.
But without the least idea that he had already done so, she determined
not to retire that night until she had questioned him closely.

Mme. Durrien had never definitely renounced the idea that her son was
living. She had never seen him dead before her eyes, and she clung
mother-like to the hope that he was not altogether lost to her. She said
that the proofs were insufficient, and she nourished the possibility of
his sudden return. She might be said to pass her days waiting for him.
Thousands of women, mothers of soldiers and sailors, pass their lives
under this touching delusion. Mrs. Durrien had a greater right than they
had to preserve her faith in his existence. In truth the tragical scene
enacted twenty-two years ago was always before her eyes. She beheld the
"Cynthia" filling with water and ready to sink. She saw herself tying
her infant to a large buoy while the passengers and sailors were rushing
for the boats. They left her behind, she saw herself imploring,
beseeching that they would at least take her baby. A man took her
precious burden, and threw it into one of the boats, a heavy sea dashed
over it, and to her horror she saw the buoy floating away on the crest
of the waves. She gave a dispairing cry and tried to jump after him,
then came unconsciousness. When she awoke she was a prey to despair, to
fever, to delirium. To this succeeded increasing grief. Yes, the poor
woman recalled all this. Her whole being had in fact received a shock
from which she had never recovered. It was now nearly a quarter of a
century since this had happened, and Mrs. Durrien still wept for her son
as on the first day. Her maternal heart so full of grief was slowly
consuming her life. She sometimes pictured to herself her son passing
through the successive phases of infancy, youth, and manhood. From year
to year she represented to herself how he would have looked, how he was
looking, for she obstinately clung to her belief of the possibility of
his return.

This vain hope nothing had as yet had the power to shake - neither
travels, nor useless researches, nor the passage of time.

This is why this evening she awaited her father with the firm resolution
of knowing all that he had to tell.

Mr. Darrien entered. He was followed by a young gentleman, whom he
presented to her in the following words:

"My daughter, this is Mr. Erik Hersebom, of whom I have often spoken to
you, and who has just arrived at Paris. The Geographical Society wish to
bestow upon him a grand medal, and he has done me the honor to accept
our hospitality."

She had arisen from her arm-chair, and was looking kindly at him.
Suddenly her eyes dilated, her lips trembled, and she stretched out her
hands toward him.

"My son! you are my son!" she cried.

Then she advanced a step toward Erik.

"Yes, you are my child," she said. "Your father lives over again in
you!"

When Erik, bursting into tears, fell on his knees before her, the poor
woman took his head in her hands, and fainted from joy and happiness as
she tried to press a kiss on his forehead.




CHAPTER XXII.

AT VAL-FERAY.


A month later at Val-Féray, an old homestead of the family, situated
half a league from Brest, Erik's adopted family were assembled, together
with his mother and grandfather. Mrs. Durrien had, with the delicacy of
feeling habitual to her, desired that the good, simple-hearted beings
who had saved her son's life should share her profound and inexpressible
joy. She had insisted that Dame Katrina, and Vanda, Mr. Hersebom, and
Otto should accompany Doctor Schwaryencrona, Kajsa, Mr. Bredejord, and
Mr. Malarius, and they held a great festival together.

Amidst the rugged natural scenery of Breton and near the sea, her
Norwegian guests felt more at their ease than they could have done in
Varennes Street. They took long walks in the woods together, and told
each other all they knew about Erik's still somewhat obscure history,
and little by little many hitherto inexplicable points became clear.
Their long talks and discussions cast light upon many obscure
circumstances.

The first question they asked each other was, Who was Tudor Brown? What
great interest did he have in preventing Patrick O'Donoghan from telling
who Erik's relations were? The words of that unfortunate man had
established one fact, viz., that Tudor Brown's real name was Jones, as
it was the only one that the Irishman had known him by. Now, a Mr. Noah
Jones had been associated with Erik's father in working a petroleum
mine, that the young engineer had discovered in Pennsylvania. The simple
announcement of this fact gave a sinister aspect to many events which
had so long appeared mysterious: the suspicious wreck of the "Cynthia,"
the fall of the infant into the sea, perhaps the death of Erik's father.
A document that Mr. Durrien found among his papers elucidated many of
these perplexing questions.

"Several months before his marriage," he said to Erik's friends, "my
son-in-law had discovered, near Harrisburg, a petroleum well. He lacked
the capital necessary to purchase it, and he saw that he was in danger
of losing all the advantages which the possession of it would secure to
him. Chance made him acquainted with Mr. Noah Jones, who represented
himself as a cattle dealer from the far West. But in reality, as he
found out afterward, he was a slave-trader.

"This individual agreed to advance the sum necessary to purchase and work
the petroleum mine, which was called the Vandalia. He made my son-in-law
sign, in exchange for this assistance, an agreement which was very
profitable to himself. I was ignorant of the terms of this contract at
the time of his marriage to my daughter, and according to all
appearances he thought but little of it. Unusually gifted, and
understanding chemistry and mechanics, yet he was entirely ignorant of
business matters, and already had to pay dearly for his inexperience. No
doubt he had trusted all the arrangements to Noah Jones, according to
his usual habit. Probably he signed with closed eyes the contract which
was laid before him. These are the principle articles agreed upon:

"Art. III. The Vandalia shall remain the sole property of Mr.
George Durrien, the discoverer, and Mr. Noah Jones, his silent
partner.

"Art. IV. Mr. Noah Jones will take charge of moneys, and pay out
what is necessary for the exploration of the mine, he will also
sell the product, take charge of the receipts, and have a
settlement with his partner every year, when they will divide the
net profits.

"Art. V. If either of the partners should wish to sell his share,
the other would have the first right to purchase it, and he
should have three months in which to make arrangements to do so. He
might then become sole proprietor by paying the capital and three
per cent. on the net revenue, according to what it had been proved
to be at the last inventory.

"Art. VI. Only the children of the two partners could become
inheritors of these rights. In case one of the partners should die
childless, or his children should not live until they were
twenty-one years of age, the entire property to revert to the
survivor, to the exclusion of all other heirs of the dead partner.

"N.B. The last article is on account of the different nationalities
of the two partners, and because of the complications that could
not fail to arise in case of the death of either of them without
issue."

"Such," continued Mr. Durrien, "was the contract which my future
son-in-law had signed at the time, when he had no thought of marrying,
and when everybody, except, perhaps, Mr. Noah Jones, was ignorant of
what immense value the Vandalia mine would become in the course of time.
They had then hardly commenced operations, and they met with the usual
discouragements incident to all new undertakings. Perhaps Noah Jones
hoped that his associate would become disgusted with the whole business
and retire, leaving him sole proprietor. The marriage of George with my
daughter, the birth of his son, and the well becoming suddenly
prodigiously fruitful, must have modified his plans by degrees. He could
no longer hope to purchase for a trifling sum this splendid property;
but before it came into the possession of Noah Jones, first George
himself, and then his only child, must disappear from the world. Two
years after his marriage and six months after the birth of my grandson,
George was found dead near one of the wells - asphyxiated, the doctors
said, by gas. I had left the United States upon my nomination as consul
to Riga. The business relating to the partnership was left to an
attorney to settle. Noah Jones behaved vert well, and agreed to
all the arrangements that were made for the benefit of my daughter. He
agreed to continue the work, and pay every six months into the Central
Bank of New York that part of the net profits which belonged to the infant.
Alas! he never made the first payment. My daughter took passage in the
'Cynthia' in order to join me. The 'Cynthia' was lost with her crew and
freight under such suspicious circumstances that the insurance company
refused to pay; and in this shipwreck the sole heir of my son-in-law
disappeared.

"Noah Jones remained the sole proprietor of the Vandalia, which has
yielded him at the least since that event an annual income of one
hundred and eighty thousand dollars a year."

"Did you never suspect that he had had some hand in these successive
catastrophies?" asked Mr. Bredejord.

"I have certainly suspected him; it was only too natural. Such an
accumulation of misfortunes, and all tending to his private enrichment,
seemed to point him out as the author only too clearly. But how could I
prove my suspicions, particularly in a court of justice? They were only
vague, and I knew too well that they would have but little weight in an
international contest. And then, besides I had my daughter to console,
or at least to try and draw away her thoughts from this tragedy, and a
lawsuit would only have revived her grief. Briefly I resigned myself to
silence. Did I do wrong? Is it to be regretted?"

"I think not, for I feel convinced that it would have produced no
results. You see how difficult it is even today, after we have related
all the facts in our possession, to arrive at any definite conclusion!"

"But how can you explain the part which Patrick O'Donoghan has taken in
this matter?" asked Dr. Schwaryencrona.

"On this point, as on many others, we are reduced to conjectures, but it
seems to me that there is one which is plausible enough. This O'Donoghan
was cabin-boy on board of the 'Cynthia,' in the personal service of the
captain, and consequently in constant communication with the first-class
passengers, who always eat at the captain's table. He therefore
certainly knew the name of my daughter, and her French origin, and he
could easily have found her again.

"Had he been commissioned by Noah Jones to perform some dark mission?
Had he a hand in causing the shipwreck of the 'Cynthia,' or simply in
pushing the infant into the sea? this they could never know for a
certainty since he was dead. One thing was evident, he was aware how
important the knowledge of this fact was for Noah Jones. But did this
lazy drunken man know that the infant was living? Had he any hand in
saving it? Had he rescued it from the sea to leave it floating near
Noroe?

"This was a doubtful point. In any case he must have assured Noah Jones
that the infant had survived. He was doubtless proud of knowing the
country which had received him, and he had probably taken precautions to
know all about the child, so that if any misfortune happened to
him - O'Donoghan - Noah Jones would be obliged to pay him well for his
silence. He was doubtless the person from whom he received money every
time he landed in New York."

"All this appears to me to be very probable," said Mr. Bredejord, "and I
think that subsequent events confirm it. The first advertisements of
Doctor Schwaryencrona disturbed Noah Jones, and he believed it to be an
imperative necessity to get rid of Patrick O'Donoghan, but he was
obliged to act prudently. He therefore contented himself with
frightening the Irishman, by making him believe that he would be brought
before a criminal court. The result of this we know from Mr. and Mrs.
Bowles, of the Red Anchor, who told us of the haste with which Patrick
O'Donoghan had taken flight. He evidently believed that he was in danger
of being arrested, or he would not have gone so far, to live among the
Samoyedes, and under an assumed name, which Noah Jones had doubtless
advised him to do.

"But the announcement in the newspapers about Patrick O'Donoghan must
have been a severe blow to him. He had made a journey to Stockholm
expressly to assure us that the Irishman was dead, and doubtless to
discover if possible how far we had pushed our inquiries. The
publication of the correspondence of the 'Vega, and the departure of the
'Alaska,' must have made Noah Jones, or Tudor Brown, as he called
himself, feel that he was in imminent peril, for his confidence in
Patrick O'Donoghan could be only very limited, and he would have
revealed his secret to any one who would have assured him that he would
not be punished. Happily as affairs have turned out, we may congratulate
ourselves upon having escaped pretty well."

"Who knows?" said the doctor, "perhaps all the danger we have
encountered has only helped to bring us to the knowledge of the truth.
But for running on the rocks of the Basse-Froide, we would probably have
pursued the route through the Suez Canal, and then we should have
reached Behring's Strait too late to meet the 'Vega.' It is at least
doubtful whether we would have undertaken the voyage to the Island of
Ljakow, and more doubtful still whether we would have been able to
extract any information from Patrick O'Donoghan if we had met him in
company with Tudor Brown.

"So, although our entire voyage has been marked by tragical events, it
is due to the fact of our having accomplished the periplus in the
'Alaska, and the consequent celebrity which has been the result for
Erik, that he has at last found his family."

"Yes," said Mrs. Durrien, laying her hand proudly on the head of her
son, "it is his glory which has restored him to me."

And immediately she added:

"It was a crime that deprived me of you, but your own goodness which has
restored you to me!"

"And the rascality of Noah Jones has resulted in making our Erik one of
the richest men in America," cried Mr. Bredejord.

Every one looked at him with surprise.

"Doubtless," answered the eminent lawyer. "Erik is his father's heir,
and has a share in the income, derived from the Vandalia mine. Has he
not been unjustly deprived of this for the last twenty-two years?

"We have only to give proofs of his identity, and we have plenty of
witnesses, Mr. Hersebom, Dame Katrina and Mr. Malarius, besides
ourselves. If Noah Jones has left any children, they are responsible for
the enormous arrears which will probably consume all their share of the
capital stock.

"If the rascal has left no children, by the terms of the contract which
Mr. Durrien has just read, Erik is the sole inheritor of the entire
property; and according to all accounts he ought to have in Pennsylvania
an income of one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand dollars a
year!"

"Ah, ah," said the doctor, laughing. "Behold the little fisherman of
Noroe become an eligible _parti!_ Laureate of the Geographical Society,
author of the first circumpolar periplus, and afflicted with the modest
income of two hundred thousand dollars. There are not many such husbands
to be met with in Stockholm. What do you say Kajsa?"

The young girl blushed painfully at being thus addressed, but her uncle
had no suspicion that he had made a cruel speech.

Kajsa had felt that she had not acted wisely in treating Erik as she had
done, and she resolved for the future to show him more attention.

But it was a singular fact that Erik no longer cared for her, since he
felt himself elevated above her unjust disdain. Perhaps it was absence,
or the lonely hours which he had spent walking the deck at night, which
had revealed to him the poverty of Kajsa's heart; or it might be the
satisfaction he felt that she could no longer regard him as "a waif"; he
only treated her now with the most perfect courtesy, to which she was
entitled as a young lady and Dr. Schwaryencrona's niece.

All his preference now was for Vanda, who indeed grew every day more and
more charming, and was losing all her little village awkwardness under
the roof of an amiable and cultivated lady. Her exquisite goodness, her
native grace, and perfect simplicity, made her beloved by all who
approached her. She had not been eight days at Val-Fray, when Mrs.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16

Online LibraryAndré LaurieThe Waif of the Cynthia → online text (page 16 of 17)