Copyright
André Laurie.

The Waif of the Cynthia online

. (page 6 of 17)
Online LibraryAndré LaurieThe Waif of the Cynthia → online text (page 6 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


well as all along the coast of Norway.

When they met at midday at a given point, which had been agreed upon
before separating, no trace of Mr. Hersebom had been discovered. As the
search had apparently been well conducted, everyone was of the opinion
that they had nothing more to do but to go home.

But Erik was not willing to own himself defeated, and give up all hope
so easily. He declared that having visited all the islands which lay
toward the south, he now wished to explore those which were in the
north. Mr. Malarius and Otto supported him; and seeing this they granted
his desire.

This persistence deserved some recompense. Toward two o'clock as they
approached a large island, Kaas began suddenly to bark furiously; then
before they could prevent him he threw himself into the water, and swam
to the shore.

Erik and Otto rowed with all their strength in the same direction. Soon
they saw the dog reach the island, and bound, while he uttered loud
howls, toward what appeared to be a human form lying extended upon the
sand. They made all possible haste, and soon saw beyond a doubt that it
was a man who was lying there, and this man was Mr. Hersebom; bloody,
pale, cold, inanimate - dead, perhaps. Kaas was licking his hands, and
uttering mournful cries.

Erik's first action was to drop on his knees beside the cold body, and
apply his ear to his heart.

"He is alive, I feel it beat," he cried.

Mr. Malarias had taken one of Mr. Hersebom's hand's, and was feeling his
pulse and he shook his head, sadly and doubtfully; but he would not
neglect any of the means which are usually tried in such cases. After
taking off a large woolen girdle which he wore around his waist, he tore
it in three pieces, and giving one to each of the young men, they rubbed
vigorously the body, the arms, and the legs of the fisherman.

It was soon manifest that this simple treatment had produced the effect
of restoring the circulation. The beating of the heart grew stronger,
the chest rose, and a feeble respiration escaped through the lips. In a
little while Mr. Hersebom was partially restored to consciousness, for
he distinctly moaned.

Mr. Malarias, and the two young men lifted him from the ground, and
carried him to the boat, where they hastily arranged a bed for him of
sails. As they laid him in the bottom of the boat he opened his eyes.

"A drink!" he said in a weak voice.

Erik held a flask of brandy to his lips. He swallowed a mouthful and
appeared to be conscious of their arrival, for he tried to give them an
affectionate and grateful smile. But fatigue overcame him almost
immediately, and he fell into a heavy sleep which resembled a complete
lethargy. Thinking justly that the best thing they could do was to get
him home as speedily as possible, they took their oars and rowed
vigorously; and in a very short time they reached Noroe.

Mr. Hersebom was carried to his bed, and his wounds were dressed with
arnica. He was fed with broth, and given a glass of beer, and in a short
time he recovered consciousness. His injuries were not of a very grave
nature. One of his arms was fractured, and his body was covered with
wound and bruises. But Mr. Malarius insisted that he should remain quiet
and rest, and not fatigue himself by attempting to talk. He was soon
sleeping peacefully.

It was not until the next day that they permitted him to speak and
explain in a few words what had happened to him.

He had been overtaken by the cyclone just as he had hoisted his sail to
return to Noroe. He had been dashed against the rocks of the island and
his boat had been broken into a thousand pieces and carried away by the
waves. He had thrown himself into the sea to escape the frightful shock,
when she struck, but in spite of all his efforts, he had been dashed by
the waves upon the rocks and terribly wounded; he had only been able to
drag himself beyond the reach of the waves.

Exhausted by fatigue, one arm broken, and his whole body covered with
wounds, he had lain in an unconscious state, unable to move. He could
give no account of the manner in which he had passed the twenty hours;
doubtless he had either been delirious or unconscious.

Now that he was saved, he began to lament for the loss of his boat, and
because of his broken arm, which was now in splints. What would become
of him, even admitting that he might be able to use his arm again after
eight or ten weeks? The boat was the only capital possessed by the
family, and the boat had been broken to pieces by the wind.

It would be very hard for a man of his age to be compelled to work for
others. Besides, could he find work? It was very doubtful, for nobody in
Noroe employed any assistant, and the factory even had lately reduced
its hands.

Such were the bitter reflections of Mr. Hersebom, while he lay upon his
bed of pain; and he felt still worse when he was able to get up, and
occupy his accustomed seat in his arm-chair.

While waiting for his complete recovery, the family lived upon such
provisions as they had in the house, and by the sale of the salt
cod-fish which still remained. But the future looked very dark, and
nobody could see how it was to be lightened.

This imminent distress had given a new turn to Erik's thoughts. For two
or three days he reflected that it was by his good fortune that Mr.
Hersebom had been discovered. How could he help feeling proud, when he
saw Dame Katrina and Vanda look at him with intense gratitude, as they
said: "Dear Erik, our father saved you from the waves, and now, in your
turn, you have snatched him from death."

Certainly it was the highest recompense that he could desire for the
self-abnegation of which he had given such a noble proof, in condemning
himself to a fisherman's life. To feel that he had been able to render
his adopted family such an inestimable benefit was to him a thought full
of sweetness and strength. This family, who had so generously shared
with him all that they possessed, were now in trouble, and in want of
food. But, could he remain to be a burden to them? Was it not rather his
duty to try and do something to assist them?

Erik did not doubt his obligation to do this. He only hesitated as to
the best way for him to do it. Should he go to Bergen and become a
sailor? or was there some better occupation open to him, where he could
be immediately useful to them. He resolved to consult Mr. Malarius, who
listened to his reasons, and approved of them, but did not think well of
his project of becoming a sailor.

"I understood, but I deplored your decision when you were resigned to
remain here and share the life of your adopted parents; but I can not
understand why you should condemn yourself to the life of a sailor,
which would take you far away from them, when Doctor Schwaryencrona
offers you every advantage to pursue a more congenial career," said Mr.
Malarius. "Reflect, my dear child, before you make such a decision."

Mr. Malarius did not tell him that he had already written to Stockholm
to inform the doctor of the sad state of their affairs, and the change
which the cyclone of the 3d of March had made in the circumstances of
Erik's family. He was not surprised, when three days after his
conversation with Erik, he received the following letter, which he lost
no time in carrying to the house of Mr. Hersebom.

The letter read as follows:

"STOCKHOLM, March 17th.

"MY DEAR MR. MALARIUS, - I thank you cordially for informing me of
the disastrous consequences of the cyclone of the 3d of March to
the worthy Mr. Hersebom. I am proud and happy to learn that Erik
acted in these circumstances, as always before, like a brave boy
and a devoted son. You will find a check in this letter for 500
kroners; and I beg you to give them to him from me. Tell him if it
is not enough to buy at Bergen a first-class boat, he must let me
know without delay. He must name this boat 'Cynthia,' and then
present it to Mr. Hersebom as a souvenir of filial love. That done,
if Erik wishes to please me he will return to Stockholm and resume
his studies. His place is always ready for him at my fireside, and
if he needs a motive to assist in this decision, I add that I have
at length obtained some information, and hope yet to be able to
solve the mystery enshrouding his birth.

"Believe me, my dear Malarius, your sincere and devoted friend,

"R.W. SCHWARYENCRONA, M.D."

You may imagine with what joy this letter was received. The doctor, by
sending this gift to Erik, showed that he understood the character of
the old fisherman. If he had offered it directly to him, it is hardly
probable that Mr. Hersebom would have accepted it. But he could not
refuse the boat from Erik's hand, and bearing the name of "Cynthia,"
which recalled how Erik had become a member of the family. Their only
grief now, which already began to sadden all their countenances, was the
thought that he must soon leave them again. Nobody dared to speak about
it, although it was constantly in their thoughts. Erik himself, with his
head bowed, was divided between the desire of satisfying the doctor, and
realizing the secret wishes of his own heart, and the no less natural
wish of giving no offense to his adopted parents.

It was Vanda who first broke the reserve, and spoke upon the subject.

"Erik," she said, in her sweet grave voice, "you can not say 'No' to the
doctor after receiving such a letter. You can not do it, because it
would be treating him most ungratefully, and sinning against yourself.
Your place is among scholars, and not among fishermen. I have thought so
for a long time. Nobody has dared to tell you, therefore I tell you."

"Vanda is right," said Mr. Malarius, with a smile.

"Vanda is right," repeated Dame Katrina, drying her eyes.

And in this manner, for the second time, Erik's departure was decided.




CHAPTER VIII.

PATRICK O'DONOGHAN.


The information which Dr. Schwaryencrona had received was not very
important, but it sufficed to start his inquiries in a new direction.

He had learned the name of the ex-director of the Canadian
Transportation Company, it was Mr. Joshua Churchill. But they did not
know what had become of this gentleman since the dissolution of the
company. If they could succeed in finding him, he might be able to give
them some information about the old records of the company; perhaps
there might have been a list of the passengers by the "Cynthia," and the
baby might have been registered with his family or with the persons who
had charge of him. But their investigations proved very unsatisfactory.
The solicitor who had formerly had the books in his possession as the
receiver of the company about ten years before; did not know what had
become of Mr. Churchill. For a moment Dr. Schwaryencrona consoled
himself with a false hope. He remembered that the American newspapers
usually published a list of the passengers embarking for Europe, and he
sent for a number of old gazettes to see if he could find the
"Cynthia's" list; but he was soon convinced that this was a fruitless
effort. He discovered that the practice of publishing the names of
passengers on European steamships was of comparatively recent date. But
the old gazettes were of one use to him, they gave the exact date of
sailing of the "Cynthia," which had left on the 3d of November, not from
a Canadian port as they had at first supposed, but from New York, to go
to Hamburg.

It was therefore in New York that the doctor must first make his
investigations, and, if unsuccessful, then in other parts of the United
States.

At Hamburg all his inquiries proved to be useless. The consignee of the
Canadian Transportation Company knew nothing about the passengers of the
"Cynthia," and could only give them information about the freight, which
they had already obtained.

Erik had been in Stockholm six months when they learned that the
ex-director, Mr. Joshua Churchill, had died several years before, in an
hospital, without leaving any known heirs, or probably any money. As for
the registers of the company, they had probably been sold long before as
waste paper.

These long researches led to nothing, except to provoke the sarcasms of
Mr. Bredejord, which were wounding, to the doctor's self-love, who,
however, did not as yet give way to despair.

Erik's history was now well known in the doctor's household. They no
longer forbore to speak openly about it, and the results of their
researches were talked of both in the dining-room and the parlor.

Perhaps the doctor had acted more discreetly during the first two years
of Erik's sojourn with him, when he had kept his affairs a secret. Now
they furnished food for the gossiping of Kajsa and Dame Greta, and even
occupied the thoughts of Erik himself; and his reflections were often
very melancholy.

Not to know whether his parents were still living, to reflect that he
might never be able to discover the secret of his birth, was in itself a
sad thought to him; but it was still more sad to be ignorant of the land
of his birth.

"The poorest child in the streets, the most miserable peasant, knew at
least what his country was, and to what branch of the great human family
he belonged," he would sometimes say to himself, as he thought of those
things. "But I am ignorant of all this. I am cast on the globe like a
waif, like a grain of dust tossed by the winds, and nobody knows where I
came from. I have no tradition - no past. The spot where my mother was
born, and where her ashes now rest, is perhaps profaned and trodden
under foot, and I am powerless to defend and protect it."

These thoughts saddened Erik. Sometimes he would tell himself that he
had a mother in Dame Katrina, and a home at Mr. Hersebom's, and that
Noroe was his country. He vowed that he would repay their kindness to
him fourfold, and would always be a devoted son to Norway, but still he
felt himself in an exceptional position.

Sometimes when he caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror, he could
observe the physical difference between himself and those surrounding
him. The color of his eyes and his skin often occasioned him gloomy
reflections. Sometimes he would ask himself which country he would
prefer to be a native of if he had a choice, and he studied history and
geography that he might become better acquainted with the civilization
of different countries, and with the habits of their inhabitants. It was
a sort of consolation to him to believe that he belonged to the Celtic
race, and he sought in books a confirmation of the theory of the doctor.

But when the learned man repeated that in his opinion he was certainly
Irish, Erik felt depressed. Why among all the Celtic race should he
belong to the people who were the most oppressed? If he had felt
absolutely sure of this, he would have loved this unfortunate country.
But all proof being wanting, why might he not rather believe that he was
French? There were certainly Celts in France, and it was a country that
he would have been proud to claim as his own, with her glorious
traditions, her dramatic history, and her fruitful principles, which she
had disseminated all over the world. Oh! he could have passionately
loved, and served with devotion, such a country. He would have felt a
filial interest in studying her glorious annals, in reading the works of
her great authors, and in studying her poets. But alas! all these
delicate emotions were denied him, and he felt that the problem of his
origin would never be solved, since after so many years spent in making
inquiries they had learned nothing.

However, it seemed to Erik that if he could pursue these inquiries
himself, and follow up the information already obtained, that he might
discover something which might lead to some result, and his activity and
zeal might succeed where money had failed. Would he not work with an
ardor which must overcome all difficulties?

This idea took possession of his mind, and insensibly had a marked
effect in his studies, giving them a special direction; although he was
not aware of this fact himself. As he had made up his mind to travel, he
commenced to study cosmography and nautical matters; in fact, everything
that was taught in the school for marines.

"Some day," he said to himself, "I will pass my examination as a
captain, and then I shall go to New York in my own vessel, and pursue my
inquiries with regard to the 'Cynthia.'"

As a natural consequence, this project of personally investigating the
matter of his birth soon became known, for he was candor itself.

Dr. Schwaryencrona, Mr. Bredejord and Professor Hochstedt ended by
becoming interested, and finally adopted his views as their own. The
question of Erik's birth, which had at first only been an interesting
problem in their eyes, engrossed them more and more. They saw how much
Erik took it to heart, and as they were sincerely attached to him, they
realized how important it was to him, and they were disposed to do
everything in their power to cast some light upon the mystery.

One fine evening, just as the vacation was approaching, it occurred to
them that it would be a good idea to make an excursion to New York
together, and see if they could, obtain any further news about the
matter.

Who first conceived this idea was a disputed point among them, and gave
rise to many discussions between the doctor and Mr. Bredejord, each
claiming a priority. Doubtless it occurred to them both simultaneously;
but be this as it may, the proposal was adopted unanimously, and in the
month of September the three friends, accompanied by Erik, embarked at
Christiana for New York. Ten days later they had reached that city, and
opened communication with the house of Jeremiah Smith, Walker & Company,
from whom they had received the first intelligence.

And now a new agent appeared on the scene, whose assistance they had had
little suspicion of, and this was Erik himself. In New York he only saw
what would assist him in his search. He was up at daybreak visiting the
wharves, accosting the sailors, whom he might chance to meet, working
with indefatigable activity to collect the most minute intelligence.

"Do you know anything about the Canadian Transportation Company? Could
you tell me of any officer, or passenger, or sailor, who had sailed on
the 'Cynthia'?" he asked everywhere.

Thanks to his perfect knowledge of the English language, his sweet and
serious countenance, and his familiarity with everything pertaining to
the sea, he was well received everywhere. They mentioned to him
successively several old officers, sailors, and employs, of the
Canadian Transportation Company. Sometimes he was able to find them.
Sometimes all traces of them were lost. But none of them could give him
any useful information about the last voyage of the "Cynthia." It took
fifteen days of walking, and searching incessantly, to obtain one little
bit of information which might prove valuable, among all the confused
and contradictory accounts which were poured into poor Erik's willing
ears.

This one little truth however seemed to be worth its weight in gold.

They assured him that a sailor named Patrick O'Donoghan, had survived
the shipwreck of the "Cynthia," and had even returned to New York
several times since that eventful voyage. This Patrick O'Donoghan had
been on the "Cynthia," on her last voyage, and had been a special
attendant of the captain. In all probability he would know the
first-class passengers, who always eat at the captain's table. They
judged by the fineness of the infant's clothing that he belonged to this
class. It was now a matter of the greatest importance to find this
sailor.

This was the conclusion of Dr. Schwaryencrona and Mr. Bredejord, when
Erik informed them of his discovery, when he returned to the Fifth
Avenue Hotel to dinner.

As usual it led to a discussion, since the doctor tried to draw from
this discovery a confirmation of his favorite theory.

"If ever there was an Irish name," he cried, "Patrick O'Donoghan is one.
Did I not always say that I was sure that Erik was of Irish birth?"

"Does this discovery prove it?" asked Mr. Bredejord laughing. "An Irish
cabin-boy does not prove much. It would be difficult, I fancy, to find
an American vessel without one or two natives of Erin among her crew."

They discussed the matter for two or three hours, neither of them
willing to give way to the other.

From that day Erik devoted all his energies to the task of finding
Patrick O'Donoghan.

He was not successful it is true, but by force of seeking, and
questioning, he discovered a sailor who had known this man, and who was
able to give him some information. Patrick O'Donoghan was a native of
the County Cork. He was between thirty-three and thirty-four years old,
of medium height, with red hair, black eyes, and a nose which had been
broken by some accident.

"A boy one would remember among a thousand," said the sailor. "I
recollect him very well, although I have not seen him for seven or eight
years."

"Is it in New York you usually meet him?" asked Erik.

"Yes, in New York, and in other places; but the last time was in New
York."

"Do you know any one who could give me any information about him, so
that I could find out what has become of him?"

"No, unless it is the proprietor of the hotel called the Red Anchor, in
Brooklyn. Patrick O'Donoghan lodges there when he is in New York. The
name of the hotel-keeper is Mr. Bowles, and he is an old sailor. If he
does not know, I do not know of any one else who can tell you anything
about him."

Erik hurried on board one of the ferry-boats that cross the East River,
and ten minutes later he was in Brooklyn.


At the door-way of the Red Anchor he saw an old woman, who was neatly
dressed, and busily occupied in peeling potatoes.

"Is Mr. Bowles at home?" he said, saluting her politely, after the
custom of his adopted country.

"He is at home, but he is taking a nap," answered the good woman,
looking with curiosity at her questioner. "If you have any message for
him, you can give it to me. I am Mrs. Bowles."

"Oh, madam, you can no doubt give me the information I desire as well as
Mr. Bowles," answered Erik. "I wish to know whether you are acquainted
with a sailor named Patrick O'Donoghan, and whether he is now with you,
or if you can tell me where I can find him?"

"Patrick O'Donoghan: yes, I know him, but it is five or six years since
he has been here, and I am unable to say where he is now."

Erik's countenance displayed such great disappointment that the old
woman was touched.

"Are you so anxious to find Patrick O'Donoghan that you are disappointed
in not finding him here?" she asked.

"Yes, indeed," he answered. "He alone can solve a mystery that I shall
seek all my life to make clear."

During the three weeks that Erik had been running everywhere in search
of information, he gained a certain amount of experience in human
nature. He saw that the curiosity of Mrs. Bowles was aroused by his
questions, he therefore entered the hotel and asked for a glass of
soda-water.

The low room in which he found himself was furnished with green tables,
and wooden chairs, but it was empty. This circumstance emboldened Erik
to enter into conversation with Mrs. Bowles, when she handed him the
bottle of soda-water which he had ordered.

"You are doubtless wondering, madam, what I can want with Patrick
O'Donoghan, and I will tell you," said he, with a smile.

"An American vessel called the 'Cynthia' was lost about seventeen years
ago on the coast of Norway; Patrick O'Donoghan was employed on board. I
was picked up by a Norwegian fisherman when I was about nine months old.
I was floating in a cradle attached to a buoy of the 'Cynthia.' I am
seeking O'Donoghan to see if he can give me any information about my
family, or at least about my country."

Mrs. Bowles uttered a cry that put a stop to Erik's explanation.

"To a buoy, do you say? You were tied to a buoy?"

But without waiting for any reply she ran to the stairway. "Bowles!
Bowles! come down quickly," she cried, in a piercing voice.

"On a buoy! you are the child who was tied to the buoy! Who ever would
have expected such a thing to happen?" she said, as she returned to
Erik, who had turned pale from surprise.

Was he going to learn the secret which he was so anxious to make out.

A heavy footstep was heard on the stairs, and soon an old man, fat and
rosy, clothed in a complete suit of blue cloth, and with gold rings in
his ears, appeared on the threshold.


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryAndré LaurieThe Waif of the Cynthia → online text (page 6 of 17)