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"What is the matter?" he asked, rubbing his eyes.

"Here is somebody who wants you," said Mrs. Bowles; "sit down and listen
to the gentleman, who will repeat what he has told me."

Mr. Bowles obeyed without any protestation; Erik did the same. He
repeated in as few words as he could what he had told the old woman.

As he listened, the countenance of Mr. Bowles dilated like a full moon,
his lips parted in a broad smile, and he looked at his wife, and rubbed
his hands. She on her side appeared equally well pleased.

"Must I suppose that you are already acquainted with my story?" asked
Erik, with a beating heart.

Mr. Bowles made an affirmative sign, and scratching his ear, made up his
mind to speak:

"I know it without your telling me," he said, at length, "and my wife
knows it as well as I do. We have often talked about it without
understanding it."

Erik, pale and with tightly compressed lips, hung upon his words,
expecting some revelation, but this he had to wait for. Mr. Bowles had
not the gift of either eloquence or clearness, and perhaps his ideas
were still clouded with sleep, and in order to recover his faculties he
took two or three glasses of a liquor called "pick me up," which greatly
resembled gin.

After his wife had placed the bottle and two glasses before him, and he
had sufficiently fortified himself, he began to speak.

His story was so confused, and mingled with so many useless details,
that it was impossible to draw any conclusions from it, but Erik
listened attentively to all he said, and by questioning and insisting,
and aided by Mrs. Bowles, he ended by gathering some facts about
himself.




CHAPTER IX.

IN WHICH A REWARD OF FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS STERLING IS OFFERED.


Patrick O'Donoghan, as far as Erik could make out through Mr. Bowles'
rambling account of him, was not a model of virtue. The proprietor of
the Red Anchor had known him as a cabin-boy and sailor, both before and
after the loss of the "Cynthia." Up to that time Patrick O'Donoghan had
been poor, as all sailors are. After the shipwreck he had returned from
Europe with a large bundle of bank-notes, pretending to have inherited
some money in Ireland, which seemed likely enough.

Mr. Bowles, however, had never believed in this inheritance. He thought
that this sudden accession of wealth was connected in some way with the
loss of the "Cynthia," and that Patrick O'Donoghan was afraid to say so;
for it was evident that contrary to the usual habit of seamen in such
cases, he carefully avoided speaking about the sad occurrence. He would
always turn the conversation if any one alluded to it before him, and he
was very anxious to start on a long voyage before the lawsuit brought by
the company to recover the insurance due on the "Cynthia" should take
place. He did not wish to be summoned as a witness. This conduct
appeared very suspicious, as he was the sole known survivor from the
shipwreck. Mr. Bowles and his wife had always suspected him, but they
had kept their own counsel.

What looked still more suspicious was the fact that when Patrick
O'Donoghan was in New York he was never short of money. He brought back
very little with him after a voyage, but a few days after his return he
always had gold and bank-notes; and when he was tipsy, which frequently
happened, he would boast of being in possession of a secret which was
worth a fortune to him. The words which most frequently escaped from his
lips were, "the baby tied to the buoy!"

"The baby tied to the buoy," he would say, striking the table with his
fist, "The baby tied to the buoy is worth its weight in gold."

Then he would laugh, as if well satisfied with himself. But they could
never draw out of him any explanation of these words, and for many years
the Bowles household were lost in conjectures as to what they could
possibly mean.

This accounted for Mrs. Bowles' excitement, when Erik suddenly announced
to her that he was the famous baby who had been tied to a buoy.

Patrick O'Donoghan, who had been in the habit of lodging at the Red
Anchor, whenever he was in New York, for more than fifteen years, had
not been seen there now for more than four years. There had also been
something mysterious about his last departure. He had received a visit
from a man who had been closeted with him for more than an hour. After
this visit Patrick O'Donoghan, who had seemed worried and troubled, had
paid his board bill, taken his carpet bag, and left in a hurry.

They had never seen him since that day.

Mr. and Mrs. Bowles were naturally ignorant of the cause of his sudden
departure, but they had always thought that it had some connection with
the loss of the "Cynthia." In their opinion the visitor had come to warn
Patrick O'Donoghan of some danger which threatened him, and the Irishman
had thought it prudent to leave New York immediately. Mrs. Bowles did
not think he had ever returned. If he had done so, they would have been
sure to hear of him through other seamen who frequented their house, and
who would have been astonished if Patrick O'Donoghan had boarded
anywhere else, and would have been sure to ask questions as to the
reasons for his doing so.

This was the substance of the story related to Erik, and he hastened to
communicate it to his friends.

His report was naturally received with all the interest which it
merited. For the first time, after so many years, they were on the track
of a man who had made reiterated allusions to the baby tied to a buoy.
It was true they did not know where this man was, but they hoped to find
him some day. It was the most important piece of news which they had as
yet obtained. They resolved to telegraph to Mrs. Bowles, and beg her to
prepare a dinner for six persons. Mr. Bredejord had suggested this idea,
as a good means of drawing the worthy couple out; for while they talked
during the dinner, they might be able to glean some new facts.

Erik had little hopes of obtaining any further information. He thought
that he already knew Mr. and Mrs. Bowles well enough to be convinced
that they had told him all that they knew. But he did not take into
account Mr. Bredejord's skill in questioning witnesses, and in drawing
from them information which they themselves were scarcely aware of.

Mrs. Bowles had surpassed herself in preparing the dinner. She had laid
the table in the best room on the first floor. She felt very much
flattered at being invited to partake of it, in the society of such
distinguished guests, and answered willingly all of Mr. Bredejord's
questions.

They gathered from this conversation a certain number of facts which
were not unimportant.

One was that Patrick O'Donoghan had said at the time, of the lawsuit
against the insurance company, that he was going away to avoid being
summoned as a witness. This was evident proof that he did not wish to
explain the circumstances under which the shipwreck had occurred, and
his subsequent conduct confirmed this theory. It was also evident that
in New York or its environs he received the suspicious revenue which
seemed to be connected with his secret. For when he arrived he was
always without money, but after he had been about for a short time he
always returned with his pockets full of gold. They could not doubt that
his secret was connected with the infant tied to the buoy, for he had
frequently affirmed that such was the case.

The evening before his sudden departure Patrick O'Donoghan had said that
he was tired of a sea-faring life, and that he thought he should give up
making voyages, and settle in New York for the remainder of his life.

Lastly, the individual who had called to see Patrick O'Donoghan was
interested in his departure, for he had called the next day and asked
for the Irishman who was boarding at the Red Anchor, and had seemed
pleased to hear that he was no longer there. Mr. Bowles felt sure that
he would recognize this man if he saw him again. By his conversation and
actions he had believed him to be a detective, or some agent of the
police.

Mr. Bredejord concluded from these facts that Patrick O'Donoghan had
been systematically frightened by the person from whom he drew the
money, and that this man had been sent to make him fear that criminal
proceedings were about to be taken against him. This would explain his
precipitate flight, and why he had never returned to New York.

It was important to find this detective, as well as Patrick O'Donoghan.

Mr. and Mrs. Bowles, by referring to their books, were able to give the
exact date of the Irishman's departure, which was four years, lacking
three months; although they had previously believed that it was four or
five years ago.

Dr. Schwaryencrona was immediately struck by the fact that the date of
his departure, and consequently of the visit of the detective,
corresponded precisely with the date of the first advertisements which
he had caused to be made in Great Britain for the survivors of the
"Cynthia." This coincidence was so striking that it was impossible not
to believe that there was some connection between them.

They began to understand the mystery a little better. The abandonment of
Erik on the buoy had been the result of some crime - a crime of which the
cabin-boy O'Donoghan had been a witness or an accomplice. He knew the
authors of this crime, who lived in New York or its environs, and he had
for a long time enjoyed the reward of his secrecy. Then a day had come
when the excessive demands of the Irishman had become burdensome, and
the announcement in the newspapers by advertisement had been made use of
to frighten Patrick, and cause his hurried departure.

In any case, even if these deductions were not correct in every point,
they had obtained sufficient information to entitle them to demand a
judicial investigation.

Erik and his friends therefore left the Red Anchor full of hope that
they would soon obtain some favorable intelligence.

The next day Mr. Bredejord was introduced by the Swedish consul to the
chief of police of New York, and he made him acquainted with the facts
which had become known to him. At the same time he entered into
conversation with the officers of the insurance company who had refused
to pay the claims due on the "Cynthia," and read the old documents
relative to this matter, which had lain undisturbed so many years. But
the examination of these papers did not afford him any important
intelligence. The matter had been decided upon technical points,
relating to an excess of insurance far above the value of the vessel and
cargo. Neither side had been able to produce any person who had been a
witness of the shipwreck. The owners of the "Cynthia" had not been able
to prove their good faith, or to explain how the shipwreck had taken
place, and the Court had decided in favor of their adversaries. Their
defense had been weak, and their opponents had triumphed.

The insurance company, however, had been compelled to pay several claims
on the lives of the passengers to their heirs. But, in all these law
proceedings, there was no trace of any infant nine months old.

These examinations had occupied several days. Finally, the chief of
police informed Mr. Bredejord that he had been unable to obtain any
intelligence about the matter. Nobody in New York knew any detective who
answered to Mr. Bowles' description. Nobody could tell who the
individual was who was interested in the departure of Patrick
O'Donoghan. As for this sailor, he did not appear to have set his foot
in the United States for at least four years. All they could do was to
keep the address of the place where he was born, which might prove
useful some time. But the chief of police told Mr. Bredejord, without
any dissimulation, that the affair had happened so long ago - now nearly
twenty years - that even if Patrick O'Donoghan ever returned to New York,
it was at least doubtful if the authorities would be willing to
investigate the matter.

At the moment when Erik believed that he was about to obtain a solution
of the mystery which clouded his life, all their investigations came to
a sudden end, and without producing the slightest result. The only thing
that remained to be done was to pass through Ireland as they returned to
Sweden, to see if perchance Patrick O'Donoghan had returned there to
pass the remainder of his days planting cabbages.

Dr. Schwaryencrona and his friends, after taking leave of Mr. and Mrs.
Bowles, resolved to pursue this route. The steamers between New York and
Liverpool touch at Cork, and this was only a few miles from Innishannon,
the place where Patrick was born. There they learned that Patrick
O'Donoghan had never returned to his native place since he left it at
the age of twelve years, and that they had never heard from him.

"Where shall we look for him now?" asked Dr. Schwaryencrona, as they
embarked for England, on the way to Stockholm.

"At the seaport towns evidently, and clearly at those which are not
American," answered Mr. Bredejord. "For note this point, a sailor, a
sea-faring man, does not renounce his profession at the age of
thirty-five. It is the only one he knows. Patrick is doubtless still on
the sea. And all vessels have some port or other for their destination,
and it is only there that we can hope to find this man. What do you
think, Hochstedt?"

"Your reasoning seems to be just, although not altogether indisputable,"
answered the professor, with his customary prudence.

"Admit that it is right," continued Mr. Bredejord. "We know that Patrick
O'Donoghan was frightened away and would be in dread of pursuit, perhaps
of being extradited. In that case, he would avoid his old companions,
and seek in preference ports where he was not likely to meet any of
them. I know that my ideas can be contradicted, but let us suppose they
are well founded. The number of ports which are not frequented by
American vessels is not very large. I think we might begin by seeking in
these places news of Patrick O'Donoghan."

"Why not have recourse to advertisements?" asked Dr. Schwaryencrona.

"Because Patrick O'Donoghan would not answer them if he is trying to
hide himself; even supposing that a sailor would be likely to see your
advertisement."

"But you could word your advertisement so as to assure him that you
intended to do him no injury, but rather that it would be greatly to his
advantage to communicate with you."

"You are right, but still I am afraid that an ordinary seaman would not
be likely to see such an advertisement."

"Well, you might try offering a reward to Patrick O'Donoghan, or to any
one who would give you information as to where he might be found. What
do you think about it, Erik?"

"It seems to me that such an advertisement to produce any result would
have to be continued for a long time, and in a great many different
papers. That would cost a great deal, and might only frighten Patrick
O'Donoghan, no matter how well worded the advertisement might be,
provided it is to his interest to remain concealed. Would it not be
better to employ some one to visit personally those seaports which this
man would be likely to frequent?"

"But where could we find a trusty man who would be willing to undertake
such a task?"

"I can furnish one, if you wish it," answered Erik. "I would go myself."

"You, my dear child - and what would become of your studies?"

"My studies need not suffer. There is nothing to prevent me from
pursuing them, even during my travels. And another thing, doctor, I must
confess to you, that I have already secured the means of doing so
without costing me anything."

"How is that possible," asked Dr. Schwaryencrona, Mr. Bredejord, and
Professor Hochstedt, simultaneously.

"I have simply been preparing myself for a sea-faring life. I can pass
the examination to-day if necessary. Once in possession of my diploma,
it would be easy for me to obtain a position as a lieutenant in any
sea-port.

"And you have done all this without saying a word to me?" said the
doctor, half grieved, while the lawyer and the professor both laughed
heartily.

"Well," said Erik, "I do not think that I have committed any great
crime. I have only made inquiries as to the requisite amount of
knowledge, and I have mastered it. I should not have made any use of it
without asking your permission, and I now solicit it."

"And I shall grant it, wicked boy," said the doctor, "But to let you set
out all alone now is another matter - we will wait until you have
attained your majority."

Erik submitted to this decision willingly and gratefully.

However, the doctor was not willing to give up his own ideas. To search
the sea-ports personally he regarded as a last expedient. An
advertisement on the other hand would go everywhere. If Patrick
O'Donoghan was not hiding away, they might possibly find him by this
means. If he was hiding, some one might see it and betray him. He
therefore had this advertisement written in seven or eight different
languages, and dispatched to the four quarters of the globe in a hundred
of the most widely circulated newspapers.

"Patrick O'Donoghan, a sailor, has been absent from New York for
four years. A reward of one hundred pounds sterling will be paid to
any one who can give me news of him. Five hundred pounds sterling
will be given to the said Patrick O'Donoghan if he will communicate
with the advertiser. He need fear nothing, as no advantage will be
taken of him.

"DOCTOR SCHWARYENCRONA.

"Stockholm."

By the 20th of October, the doctor and his companions had returned to
their homes.

The next day the advertisement was sent to the advertising agency in
Stockholm, and three days afterward it had made its appearance in
several newspapers. Erik could not repress a sigh and a presentiment
that it would be unsuccessful as he read it.

As for Mr. Bredejord, he declared openly that it was the greatest folly
in the world, and that for the future he considered the affair a
failure.

But Erik and Mr. Bredejord were deceived, as events afterward proved.




CHAPTER X.

TUDOR BROWN, ESQUIRE.


One morning in May the doctor was in his office, when his servant
brought him a visitor's card. This card, which was small as is usual in
America, had the name of "Mr. Tudor Brown, on board the 'Albatross'"
printed upon it.

"Mr. Tudor Brown," said the doctor, trying to remember whom he had ever
known who bore this name.

"This gentleman asked to see the doctor," said the servant.

"Can he not come at my office-hour?" asked the doctor.

"He said his business was about a personal matter."

"Show him in, then," said the doctor, with a sigh.

He lifted his head as the door opened again, and was surprised when he
beheld the singular person who answered to the feudal name of Tudor, and
the plebeian name of Brown.

He was a man about fifty years of age, his forehead was covered with a
profusion of little ringlets, of a carroty color, while the most
superficial examination betrayed that they were made of curled silk; his
nose was hooked, and surmounted with an enormous pair of gold
spectacles; his teeth were as long as those of a horse, his cheeks were
smooth, but under his chin he wore a little red beard. This odd head,
covered by a high hat which he did not pretend to remove, surmounted a
thin angular body, clothed from head to foot in a woolen suit. In his
cravat he wore a pin, containing a diamond as large as a walnut; also a
large gold chain, and his vest buttons were amethysts. He had a dozen
rings on his fingers, which were as knotty as those of a chimpanzee.
Altogether he was the most pretentious and grotesque-looking man that it
was possible to behold. This person entered the doctor's office as if he
had been entering a railway station, without even bowing. He stopped to
say, in a voice that resembled that of Punch, its tone was so nasal and
guttural:

"Are you Doctor Schwaryencrona?"

"I am," answered the doctor, very much astonished at his manners.

He was debating in his mind whether he should ring for his servant to
conduct this offensive person to the door, when a word put a stop to his
intention.

"I saw your advertisement about Patrick O'Donoghan," said the stranger,
"and I thought you would like to know that I can tell you something
about him."

"Take a seat, sir," answered the doctor.

But he perceived that the stranger had not waited to be asked.

After selecting the most comfortable arm-chair, he drew it toward the
doctor, then he seated himself with his hands in his pockets, lifted his
feet and placed his heels on the window-sill, and looked at the doctor
with the most self-satisfied air in the world.

"I thought," he said, "that you would listen to these details with
pleasure, since you offer five hundred pounds for them. That is why I
have called upon you."

The doctor bowed without saying a word.

"Doubtless," continued the other, in his nasal voice, "you are wondering
who I am. I am going to tell you. My card has informed you as to my
name, and I am a British subject."

"Irish perhaps?" asked the doctor with interest.

The Granger, evidently surprised, hesitated a moment, and then said:

"No, Scotch. Oh, I know I do not look like a Scotchman, they take me
very often for a Yankee - but that is nothing - I am Scotch."

As he gave this piece of information, he looked at Dr. Schwaryencrona as
much as to say:

"You can believe what you please, it is a matter of indifference to me."

"From Inverness, perhaps?" suggested the doctor, still clinging to his
favorite theory.

The stranger again hesitated for a moment.

"No, from Edinburgh," he answered. "But that is of no importance after
all, and has nothing to do with the matter in hand. I have an
independent fortune and owe nothing to anybody. If I tell you who I am,
it is because it gives me pleasure to do so, for I am not obliged to do
it."

"Permit me to observe that I did not ask you," said the doctor, smiling.

"No, but do not interrupt me, or we shall never reach the end of this
matter. You published an advertisement to find out what became of
Patrick O'Donoghan, did you not? - you therefore have some interest in
knowing. I know what has become of him."

"You know?" asked the doctor, drawing his seat closer to that of the
stranger.

"I know, but before I tell you, I want to ask you what interest you have
in finding him?"

"That is only just," answered the doctor.

In as few words as possible, he related Erik's history, to which his
visitor listened with profound attention.

"And this boy is still living?" asked Tudor Brown.

"Assuredly he is living. He is in good health, and in October next he
will begin his studies in the Medical University at Upsal."

"Ah! ah!" answered the stranger, who seemed lost in reflection. "Tell
me," he said at length, "have you no other means of solving this mystery
of his birth except by finding Patrick O'Donoghan?"

"I know of no other," replied the doctor. "After years of searching I
only found out that this O'Donoghan was in possession of the secret,
that he alone could reveal it to me, and that is why I have advertised
for him in the papers. I must confess that I had no great hopes of
finding him by this means."

"How is that?"

"Because I had reasons for believing that this O'Donoghan has grave
motives for remaining unknown, consequently it was not likely that he
would respond to my advertisement. I had the intention of resorting to
other means. I have a description of him. I know what ports he would be
likely to frequent, and I propose to employ special agents to be on the
lookout for him."

Dr. Schwaryencrona did not say this lightly. He spoke with the intention
of seeing what effect these words would produce on the man before him.
And as he watched him intently, he saw that in spite of the affected
coolness of the stranger his eyelids fell and the muscles of his month
contracted. But almost immediately Tudor Brown recovered his
self-possession, and said:

"Well, doctor, if you have no other means of solving this mystery,
except by discovering Patrick O'Donoghan, I am afraid that you will
never find it out. Patrick O'Donoghan is dead."

The doctor was too much taken aback by this disappointing announcement
to say a word, and only looked at his visitor, who continued:

"Dead and buried, three hundred fathoms beneath the sea. This man, whose
past life always appeared to me to have been mysterious, was employed
three years on board my yacht, the 'Albatross.' I must tell you that my
yacht is a stanch vessel, in which I often cruise for seven or eight


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Online LibraryAndré LaurieThe Waif of the Cynthia → online text (page 7 of 17)