Facing the Flag
Part 3 out of 4
Ker Karraje at once saw the practical nature of the proposition, and
as they had no lack of money the idea was soon carried out.
While the so-called Count d'Artigas ordered the construction of the
schooner _Ebba_ at the shipyards of Gotteborg, in Sweden, he gave to
the Cramps of Philadelphia, in America, the plans of a submarine boat
whose construction excited no suspicion. Besides, as will be seen, it
soon disappeared and was never heard of again.
The boat was constructed from a model and under the personal
supervision of Engineer Serko, and fitted with all the known
appliances of nautical science. The screw was worked with electric
piles of recent invention which imparted enormous propulsive power to
It goes without saying that no one imagined that Count d'Artigas was
none other than Ker Karraje, the former pirate of the Pacific, and
that Engineer Serko was the most formidable and resolute of his
accomplices. The former was regarded as a foreigner of noble birth and
great fortune, who for several months had been frequenting the ports
of the United States, the _Ebba_ having been launched long before the
tug was ready.
Work upon the latter occupied fully eighteen months, and when the boat
was finished it excited the admiration of all those interested in
these engines of submarine navigation. By its external form, its
interior arrangements, its air-supply system, the rapidity with which
it could be immersed, the facility with which it could be handled and
controlled, and its extraordinary speed, it was conceded to be far
superior to the _Goubet,_ the _Gymnote_, the _Zede_, and other similar
boats which had made great strides towards perfection.
After several extremely successful experiments a public test was given
in the open sea, four miles off Charleston, in presence of several
American and foreign warships, merchant vessels, and pleasure boats
invited for the occasion.
Of course the _Ebba_ was among them, with the Count d'Artigas,
Engineer Serko, and Captain Spade on board, and the old crew as well,
save half a dozen men who manned the submarine machine, which was
worked by a mechanical engineer named Gibson, a bold and very clever
The programme of this definite experiment comprised various evolutions
on the surface of the water, which were to be followed by an immersion
to last several hours, the boat being ordered not to rise again until
a certain buoy stationed many miles out at sea had been attained.
At the appointed time the lid was closed and the boat at first
manoeuvred on the surface. Her speed and the ease with which
she turned and twisted were loudly praised by all the technical
Then at a signal given on board the _Ebba_ the tug sank slowly out
of sight, and several vessels started for the buoy where she was to
Three hours went by, but there was no sign of the boat.
No one could suppose that in accordance with instructions received
from the Count d'Artigas and Engineer Serko this submarine machine,
which was destined to act as the invisible tug of the schooner, would
not emerge till it had gone several miles beyond the rendezvous.
Therefore, with the exception of those who were in the secret, no one
entertained any doubt that the boat and all inside her had perished
as the result of an accident either to her metallic covering or
On board the _Ebba_ consternation was admirably simulated. On board
the other vessels it was real. Drags were used and divers sent down
along the course the boat was supposed to have taken, but it could
not be found, and it was agreed that it had been swallowed up in the
depths of the Atlantic.
Two days later the Count d'Artigas put to sea again, and in
forty-eight hours came up with the tug at the place appointed.
This is how Ker Karraje became possessed of the admirable vessel
which was to perform the double function of towing the schooner and
attacking ships. With this terrible engine of destruction, whose very
existence was ignored, the Count d'Artigas was able to recommence his
career of piracy with security and impunity.
These details I have learned from Engineer Serko, who is very proud of
his handiwork,--and also very positive that the prisoner of Back Cup
will never be able to disclose the secret.
It will easily be realized how powerful was the offensive weapon
Ker Karraje now possessed. During the night the tug would rush at a
merchant vessel, and bore a hole in her with its powerful ram. At
the same time the schooner which could not possibly have excited any
suspicion, would run alongside and her horde of cutthroats would pour
on to the doomed vessel's deck and massacre the helpless crew, after
which they would hurriedly transfer that part of the cargo that was
worth taking to the _Ebba_. Thus it happened that ship after ship
was added to the long list of those that never reached port and were
classed as having gone down with all on board.
For a year after the odious comedy in the bay of Charleston Ker
Karraje operated in the Atlantic, and his wealth increased to enormous
proportions. The merchandise for which he had no use was disposed of
in distant markets in exchange for gold and silver. But what was sadly
needed was a place where the profits could be safely hidden pending
the time when they were to be finally divided.
Chance came to their aid. While exploring the bottom of the sea in
the neighborhood of the Bermudas, Engineer Serko and Driver Gibson
discovered at the base of Back Cup island the tunnel which led to the
interior of the mountain. Would it have been possible for Ker Karraje
to have found a more admirable refuge than this, absolutely safe as it
was from any possible chance of discovery? Thus it came to pass that
one of the islands of the Archipelago of Bermuda, erstwhile the haunt
of buccaneers, became the lair of another gang a good deal more to be
This retreat having been definitely adopted, Count d'Artigas and his
companions set about getting their place in order. Engineer Serko
installed an electric power house, without having recourse to machines
whose construction abroad might have aroused suspicion, simply
employing piles that could be easily mounted and required but metal
plates and chemical substances that the _Ebba_ procured during her
visits to the American coast.
What happened on the night of the 19th inst. can easily be divined.
If the three-masted merchantman which lay becalmed was not visible at
break of day it was because she had been scuttled by the tug, boarded
by the cut-throat band on the _Ebba_, and sunk with all on board after
being pillaged. The bales and things that I had seen on the schooner
were a part of her cargo, and all unknown to me the gallant ship was
lying at the bottom of the broad Atlantic!
How will this adventure end? Shall I ever be able to escape from
Back Cup, denounce the false Count d'Artigas and rid the seas of Ker
And if Ker Karraje is terrible as it is, how much more so will he
become if he ever obtains possession of Roch's fulgurator! His power
will be increased a hundred-fold? If he were able to employ this new
engine of destruction no merchantman could resist him, no warship
escape total destruction.
I remain for some time absorbed and oppressed by the reflections with
which the revelation of Ker Karraje's name inspires me. All that I
have ever heard about this famous pirate recurs to me--his existence
when he skimmed the Southern Seas, the useless expeditions organized
by the maritime powers to hunt him down. The unaccountable loss of so
many vessels in the Atlantic during the past few years is attributable
to him. He had merely changed the scene of his exploits. It was
supposed that he had been got rid of, whereas he is continuing his
piratical practices in the most frequented ocean on the globe, by
means of the tug which is believed to be lying at the bottom of
"Now," I say to myself, "I know his real name and that of his
lair--Ker Karraje and Back Cup;" and I surmise that if Engineer Serko
has let me into the secret he must have been authorized to do so. Am I
not meant to understand from this that I must give up all hope of ever
recovering my liberty?
Engineer Serko had manifestly remarked the impression created upon me
by this revelation. I remember that on leaving me he went towards Ker
Karraje's habitation, no doubt with the intention of apprising him of
what had passed.
After a rather long walk around the lagoon I am about to return to my
cell, when I hear footsteps behind me. I turn and find myself face to
face with the Count d'Artigas, who is accompanied by Captain Spade.
He glances at me sharply, and in a burst of irritation that I cannot
suppress, I exclaim:
"You are keeping me here, sir, against all right. If it was to wait
upon Thomas Roch that you carried me off from Healthful House, I
refuse to attend to him, and insist upon being sent back."
The pirate chief makes a gesture, but does not reply.
Then my temper gets the better of me altogether.
"Answer me, Count d'Artigas--or rather, for I know who you are--answer
me, Ker Karraje!" I shout.
"The Count d'Artigas is Ker Karraje," he coolly replies, "just as
Warder Gaydon is Engineer Simon Hart; and Ker Karraje will never
restore to liberty Engineer Simon Hart, who knows his secrets."
FIVE WEEKS IN BACK CUP.
The situation is plain. Ker Karraje knows who I am. He knew who I was
when he kidnapped Thomas Roch and his attendant.
How did this man manage to find out what I was able to keep from the
staff of Healthful House? How comes it that he knew that a French
engineer was performing the duties of attendant to Thomas Roch? I do
not know how he discovered it, but the fact remains that he did.
Evidently he had means of information which must have been costly, but
from which he has derived considerable profit. Besides, men of his
kidney do not count the cost when they wish to attain an end they have
Henceforward Ker Karraje, or rather Engineer Serko, will replace me
as attendant upon Thomas Roch. Will he succeed better than I did? God
grant that he may not, that the civilized world may be spared such a
I did not reply to Ker Karraje's Parthian shot, for I was stricken
dumb. I did not, however, collapse, as the alleged Count d'Artigas
perhaps expected I would.
No! I looked him straight in the eyes, which glittered angrily, and
crossed my arms defiantly, as he had done. And yet he held my life in
his hands! At a sign a bullet would have laid me dead at his feet.
Then my body, cast into the lagoon, would have been borne out to sea
through the tunnel and there would have been an end of me.
After this scene I am left at liberty, just as before. No measure is
taken against me, I can walk among the pillars to the very end of the
cavern, which--it is only too clear--possesses no other issue except
When I return to my cell, at the extremity of the Beehive, a prey to a
thousand thoughts suggested by my situation, I say to myself:
"If Ker Karraje knows I am Simon Hart, the engineer, he must at any
rate never know that I am aware of the position of Back Cup Island."
As to the plan of confiding Thomas Roch to my care, I do not think
he ever seriously entertained it, seeing that my identity had been
revealed to him. I regret this, inasmuch as the inventor will
indubitably be the object of pressing solicitations, and as Engineer
Serko will employ every means in his power to obtain the composition
of the explosive and deflagrator, of which he will make such
detestable use during future piratical exploits. Yes, it would have
been far better if I could have remained Thomas Roch's keeper here, as
in Healthful House.
For fifteen days I see nothing of my late charge. No one, I repeat,
has placed any obstacles in the way of my daily peregrinations. I have
no need to occupy myself about the material part of my existence. My
meals are brought to me regularly, direct from the kitchen of the
Count d'Artigas--I cannot accustom myself to calling him by any other
name. The food leaves nothing to be desired, thanks to the provisions
that the _Ebba_ brings on her return from each voyage.
It is very fortunate, too, that I have been supplied with all the
writing materials I require, for during my long hours of idleness I
have been able to jot down in my notebook the slightest incidents that
have occurred since I was abducted from Healthful House, and to keep
a diary day by day. As long as I am permitted to use a pen I shall
continue my notes. Mayhap some day, they will help to clear up the
mysteries of Back Cup.
_From July 5 to July 25._--A fortnight has passed, and all my attempts
to get near Thomas Roch have been frustrated. Orders have evidently
been given to keep him away from my influence, inefficacious though
the latter has hitherto been. My only hope is that the Count
d'Artigas, Engineer Serko, and Captain Spade will waste their time
trying to get at the inventor's secrets.
Three or four times to my knowledge, at least, Thomas Roch and
Engineer Serko have walked together around the lagoon. As far as I
have been able to judge, the former listened with some attention to
what the other was saying to him. Serko has conducted him over the
whole cavern, shown him the electric power house and the mechanism of
the tug. Thomas Roch's mental condition has visibly improved since his
departure from Healthful House.
Thomas Roch lives in a private room in Ker Karraje's "mansion." I
have no doubt that he is daily sounded in regard to his discoveries,
especially by Engineer Serko. Will he be able to resist the temptation
if they offer him the exorbitant price that he demands? Has he any
idea of the value of money? These wretches may dazzle him with the
gold that they have accumulated by years of rapine. In the present
state of his mind may he not be induced to disclose the composition
of his fulgurator? They would then only have to fetch the necessary
substances and Thomas Roch would have plenty of time in Back Cup to
devote to his chemical combinations. As to the war-engines themselves
nothing would be easier than to have them made in sections in
different parts of the American continent. My hair stands on end when
I think what they could and would do with them if once they gained
possession of them.
These intolerable apprehensions no longer leave me a minute's peace;
they are wearing me out and my health is suffering in consequence.
Although the air in the interior of Back Cup is pure, I become subject
to attacks of suffocation, and I feel as though my prison walls were
falling upon me and crushing me under their weight. I am, besides,
oppressed by the feeling that I am cut off from the world, as
effectually as though I were no longer upon our planet,--for I know
nothing of what is going on outside.
Ah! if it were only possible to escape through that submarine tunnel,
or through the hole in the dome and slide to the base of the mountain!
On the morning of the 25th I at last encounter Thomas Roch. He is
alone on the other side of the lagoon, and I wonder, inasmuch as
I have not seen them since the previous day, whether Ker Karraje,
Engineer Serko, and Captain Spade have not gone off on some
I walk round towards Thomas Roch, and before he can see me I examine
His serious, thoughtful physiognomy is no longer that of a madman. He
walks slowly, with his eyes bent on the ground, and under his arm a
drawing-board upon which is stretched a sheet of paper covered with
Suddenly he raises his head, advances a step and recognizes me.
"Ah! Gaydon, it is you, is it?" he cries, "I have then escaped from
you! I am free!"
He can, indeed, regard himself as being free--a good deal more at
liberty in Back Cup than he was in Healthful House. But maybe my
presence evokes unpleasant memories, and will bring on another fit,
for he continues with extraordinary animation:
"Yes, I know you, Gaydon.--Do not approach me! Stand off! stand off!
You would like to get me back in your clutches, incarcerate me again
in your dungeon! Never! I have friends here who will protect me. They
are powerful, they are rich. The Count d'Artigas is my backer and
Engineer Serko is my partner. We are going to exploit my invention! We
are going to make my fulgurator! Hence! Get you gone!"
Thomas Roch is in a perfect fury. He raises his voice, agitates his
arms, and finally pulls from his pockets many rolls of dollar bills
and banknotes, and handfuls of English, French, American and German
gold coins, which slip through his fingers and roll about the cavern.
How could he get all this money except from Ker Karraje, and as the
price of his secret? The noise he makes attracts a number of men to
the scene. They watch us for a moment, then seize Thomas Roch and drag
him away. As soon as I am out of his sight he ceases-to struggle and
becomes calm again.
_July 27._--Two hours after meeting with Thomas Roch, I went down to
the lagoon and walked out to the edge of the stone jetty.
The tug is not moored in its accustomed place, nor can I see it
anywhere about the lake. Ker Karraje and Engineer Serko had not gone
yesterday, as I supposed, for I saw them in the evening.
To-day, however, I have reason to believe that they really have gone
away in the tug with Captain Spade and the crew of the _Ebba_, and
that the latter must be sailing away.
Have they set out on a piracy expedition? Very likely. It is equally
likely that Ker Karraje, become once more the Count d'Artigas,
travelling for pleasure on board his yacht, intends to put into some
port on the American coast to procure the substances necessary to the
preparation of Roch's fulgurator.
Ah! if it had only been possible for me to hide in the tug, to slip
into the _Ebba's_ hold, and stow myself away there until the schooner
arrived in port! Then perchance I might have escaped and delivered the
world from this band of pirates.
It will be seen how tenaciously I cling to the thought of escape--of
fleeing--fleeing at any cost from this lair. But flight is impossible,
except through the tunnel, by means of a submarine boat. Is it not
folly to think of such a thing? Sheer folly, and yet what other way is
there of getting out of Back Cup?
While I give myself up to these reflections the water of the lagoon
opens a few yards from me and the tug appears. The lid is raised and
Gibson, the engineer, and the men issue on to the platform. Other men
come up and catch the line that is thrown to them. They haul upon it,
and the tug is soon moored in its accustomed place.
This time, therefore, at any rate, the schooner is not being towed,
and the tug merely went out to put Ker Karraje and his companions
aboard the _Ebba_.
This only confirms my impression that the sole object of their trip is
to reach an American port where the Count d'Artigas can procure the
materials for making the explosive, and order the machines in some
foundry. On the day fixed for their return the tug will go out through
the tunnel again to meet the schooner and Ker Karraje will return to
Decidedly, this evildoer is carrying out his designs and has succeeded
sooner than I thought would be possible.
_August 3._--An incident occurred to-day of which the lagoon was the
theatre--a very curious incident that must be exceedingly rare.
Towards three o'clock in the afternoon there was a prodigious bubbling
in the water, which ceased for a minute or two and then recommenced in
the centre of the lagoon.
About fifteen pirates, whose attention had been attracted by this
unaccountable phenomenon, hurried down to the bank manifesting signs
of astonishment not unmingled with fear--at least I thought so.
The agitation of the water was not caused by the tug, as the latter
was lying alongside the jetty, and the idea that some other submarine
boat had found its way through the tunnel was highly improbable.
Almost at the same instant cries were heard on the opposite bank. The
newcomers shouted something in a hoarse voice to the men on the side
where I was standing, and these immediately rushed off towards the
I conjectured that they had caught sight of some sea-monster that had
found its way in, and was floundering in the lagoon, and that they had
rushed off to fetch arms and harpoons to try and capture it.
I was right, for they speedily returned with the latter weapons and
rifles loaded with explosive bullets.
The monster in question was a whale, of the species that is common
enough in Bermudan waters, which after swimming through the tunnel was
plunging about in the narrow limits of the lake. As it was constrained
to take refuge in Back Cup I concluded that it must have been hard
pressed by whalers.
Some minutes elapsed before the monster rose to the surface. Then the
green shiny mass appeared spouting furiously and darting to and fro as
though fighting with some formidable enemy.
"If it was driven in here by whalers," I said to myself, "there must
be a vessel in proximity to Back Cup--peradventure within a stone's
throw of it. Her boats must have entered the western passes to the
very foot of the mountain. And to think I am unable to communicate
with them! But even if I could, I fail to see how I could go to them
through these massive walls."
I soon found, however, that it was not fishers, but sharks that had
driven the whale through the tunnel, and which infest these waters in
great numbers. I could see them plainly as they darted about, turning
upon their backs and displaying their enormous mouths which were
bristling with their cruel teeth. There were five or six of the
monsters, and they attacked the whale with great viciousness. The
latter's only means of defence was its tail, with which it lashed at
them with terrific force and rapidity. But the whale had received
several wounds and the water was tinged with its life-blood; for
plunge and lash as it would, it could not escape the bites of its
However, the voracious sharks were not permitted to vanquish their
prey, for man, far more powerful with his instruments of death, was
about to take a hand and snatch it from them. Gathered around the
lagoon were the companions of Ker Karraje, every whit as ferocious as
the sharks themselves, and well deserving the same name, for what else
Standing amid a group, at the extremity of the jetty, and armed with
a harpoon, was the big Malay who had prevented me from entering Ker
Karraje's house. When the whale got within shot, he hurled the harpoon
with great force and skill, and it sank into the leviathan's flesh
just under the left fin. The whale plunged immediately, followed by
the relentless sharks. The rope attached to the weapon ran out for
about sixty yards, and then slackened. The men at once began to haul
on it, and the monster rose to the surface again near the end of the
tunnel, struggling desperately in its death agony, and spurting great
columns of water tinged with blood. One blow of its tail struck a
shark, and hurled it clean out of water against the rocky side, where
it dropped in again, badly, if not fatally injured.
The harpoon was torn from the flesh by the jerk, and the whale went
under. It came up again for the last time, and lashed the water so
that it washed up from the tunnel end, disclosing the top of the
Then the sharks again rushed on their prey, but were scared off by a
hail of the explosive bullets. Two men then jumped into a boat and
attached a line to the dead monster. The latter was hauled into the
jetty, and the Malays started to cut it up with a dexterity that
showed they were no novices at the work.
No more sharks were to be seen, but I concluded that it would be as
well to refrain from taking a bath in the lagoon for some days to
I now know exactly where the entrance to the tunnel is situated. The
orifice on this side is only ten feet below the edge of the western
bank. But of what use is this knowledge to me?
_August 7_.--Twelve days have elapsed since the Count d'Artigas,
Engineer Serko, and Captain Spade put to sea. There is nothing to
indicate that their return is expected, though the tug is always kept
in readiness for immediate departure by Gibson, the engine-driver. If
the _Ebba_ is not afraid to enter the ports of the United States by
day, I rather fancy she prefers to enter the rocky channel of Back
Cup at nightfall. I also fancy, somehow, that Ker Karraje and his
companions will return to-night.
_August 10_.--At ten o'clock last night, as I anticipated, the tug
went under and out, just in time to meet the _Ebba_ and tow her
through the channel to her creek, after which she returned with Ker
Karraje and the others.
When I look out this morning, I see Thomas Roch and Engineer Serko
walking down to the lagoon, and talking. What they are talking about I
can easily guess. I go forward and take a good look at my ex-patient.
He is asking questions of Engineer Serko With great animation. His
eyes gleam, his face is flushed, and he is all eagerness to reach the
jetty. Engineer Serko can hardly keep up with him.
The crew of the tug are unloading her, and they have just brought
ashore ten medium-sized boxes. These boxes bear a peculiar red mark,
which Thomas Roch examines closely.
Engineer Serko orders the men to transport them to the storehouses on
the left bank, and the boxes are forthwith loaded on a boat and rowed
In my opinion, these boxes contain the substances by the combination
or mixture of which, the fulgurator and deflagrator are to be made.
The engines, doubtless, are being made in an American foundry, and
when they are ready, the schooner will fetch them and bring them to
For once in a while, anyhow, the _Ebba_ has not returned with any
stolen merchandise. She went out and has returned with a clear bill.
But with what terrible power Ker Karraje will be armed for both
offensive and defensive operations at sea! If Thomas Roch is to be
credited, this fulgurator could shatter the terrestrial spheroid at
one blow. And who knows but what one day, he will try the experiment?
ENGINEER SERKO'S ADVICE.
Thomas Roch has started work and spends hours and hours in a wooden
shed on the left bank of the lagoon that has been set apart as his
laboratory and workshop. No one enters it except himself. Does he
insist upon preparing the explosive in secret and does he intend to
keep the formula thereof to himself? I should not wonder.
The manner of employing Roch's fulgurator is, I believe, very simple
indeed. The projectile in which it is used requires neither gun nor
mortar to launch it, nor pneumatic tube like the Zalinski shell. It is
autopropulsive, it projects itself, and no ship within a certain zone
when the engine explodes could escape utter destruction. With such a
weapon as this at his command Ker Karraje would be invincible.
_From August 11 to August 17_.--During the past week Thomas Roch has
been working without intermission. Every morning the inventor goes to
his laboratory and does not issue therefrom till night. I have made no
attempt to stop him or speak to him, knowing that it would be useless
to do so.
Although he is still indifferent to everything that does not touch
upon his work he appears to be perfectly self-possessed. Why should he
not have recovered his reason? Has he not obtained what he has so long
sought for? Is he not at last able to carry out the plans he formed
years and years ago?
_August 18_.--At one o'clock this morning I was roused by several
"Has Back Cup been attacked?" was my first thought. "Has the schooner
excited suspicion, and been chased to the entrance to the passes? Is
the island being bombarded with a view to its destruction? Has justice
at last overtaken these evil-doers ere Thomas Roch has been able
to complete the manufacture of his explosive, and before the
autopropulsive engine could be fetched from the continent?"
The detonations, which are very violent, continue, succeeding each
other at regular intervals, and it occurs to me that if the schooner
has been destroyed, all communication with the bases of supply being
impossible, Back Cup cannot be provisioned.
It is true the tug would be able to land the Count d'Artigas somewhere
on the American coast where, money being no object, he could easily
buy or order another vessel. But no matter. If Back Cup is only
destroyed before Ker Karraje has Roch's fulgurator at his disposal I
shall render thanks to heaven.
A few hours later, at the usual time, I quit my cell. All is quiet at
the Beehive. The men are going about their business as usual. The tug
is moored near the jetty. Thomas Roch is going to his laboratory, and
Ker Karraje and Engineer Serko are tranquilly pacing backwards and
forwards by the lake and chatting. The island therefore could not have
been attacked during the night. Yet I was awakened by the report of
cannon, this I will swear.
At this moment Ker Karraje goes off towards his abode and Engineer
Serko, smilingly ironical, as usual, advances to meet me.
"Well, Mr. Simon Hart," he says, "are you getting accustomed to
your tranquil existence? Do you appreciate at their just merit the
advantages of this enchanted grotto? Have you given up all hope of
recovering your liberty some day or other?"
What is the use of waxing wroth with this jester? I reply calmly:
"No, sir. I have not given up hope, and I still expect that I shall be
"What! Mr. Hart, separate ourselves from a man whom we all esteem--and
I from a colleague who perhaps, in the course of Thomas Roch's fits of
delirium, has learned some of his secrets? You are not serious!"
So this is why they are keeping me a prisoner in Back Cup! They
suppose that I am in part familiar with Koch's invention, and they
hope to force me to tell what I know if Thomas Koch refuses to give up
his secret. This is the reason why I was kidnapped with him, and why
I have not been accommodated with an involuntary plunge in the lagoon
with a stone fastened to my neck. I see it all now, and it is just as
well to know it.
"Very serious," I affirm, in response to the last remark of my
"Well," he continues, "if I had the honor to be Simon Hart, the
engineer, I should reason as follows: 'Given, on the one hand, the
personality of Ker Karraje, the reasons which incited him to select
such a mysterious retreat as this cavern, the necessity of the said
cavern being kept from any attempt to discover it, not only in the
interest of the Count d'Artigas, but in that of his companions--'"
"Of his accomplices, if you please."
"'Of his accomplices,' then--'and on the other hand, given the
fact that I know the real name of the Count d'Artigas and in what
mysterious safe he keeps his riches--'"
"Riches stolen, and stained with blood, Mr. Serko."
"'Riches stolen and stained with blood,' if you like--'I ought
to understand that this question of liberty cannot be settled in
accordance with my desires.'"
It is useless to argue the point under these conditions, and I switch
the conversation on to another line.
"May I ask," I continue, "how you came to find out that Gaydon, the
warder, was Simon Hart, the engineer?"
"I see no reason for keeping you in ignorance on the subject, my dear
colleague. It was largely by hazard. We had certain relations with the
manufactory in New Jersey with which you were connected, and which you
quitted suddenly one day under somewhat singular circumstances. Well,
during a visit I made to Healthful House some months before the Count
d'Artigas went there, I saw and recognized you."
"My very self, and from that moment I promised myself the pleasure of
having you for a fellow-passenger on board the _Ebba_."
I do not recall ever having seen this Serko at Healthful House, but
what he says is very likely true.
"I hope your whim of having me for a companion will cost you dear,
some day or other," I say to myself.
Then, abruptly, I go on:
"If I am not mistaken, you have succeeded in inducing Thomas Roch to
disclose the secret of his fulgurator?"
"Yes, Mr. Hart. We paid millions for it. But millions, you know, are
nothing to us. We have only the trouble of taking them! Therefore we
filled all his pockets--covered him with millions!"
"Of what use are these millions to him if he is not allowed to enjoy
"That, Mr. Hart, is a matter that does not trouble him a little bit!
This man of genius thinks nothing of the future: he lives but in the
present. While engines are being constructed from his plans over
yonder in America, he is preparing his explosive with chemical
substances with which he has been abundantly supplied. He! he! What an
invention it is, this autopropulsive engine, which flies through
the air of its own power and accelerates its speed till the goal is
reached, thanks to the properties of a certain powder of progressive
combustion! Here we have an invention that will bring about a radical
change in the art of war."
"Defensive war, Mr. Serko."
"And offensive war, Mr. Hart."
"Naturally," I answer.
Then pumping him still more closely, I go on:
"So, what no one else has been able to obtain from Thomas Roch--"
"We obtained without much difficulty."
"By paying him."
"By paying him an incredible price--and, moreover, by causing to
vibrate what in him is a very sensitive chord."
"That of vengeance!"
"Against all those who have made themselves his enemies by
discouraging him, by spurning him, expelling him, by constraining
him to go a-begging from country to country with an invention of
incontestable superiority! Now all notion of patriotism is extinct in
his soul. He has now but one thought, one ferocious desire: to avenge
himself upon those who have denied him--and even upon all mankind!
Really, Mr. Hart, your governments of Europe and America committed a
stupendous blunder in refusing to pay Roch the price his fulgurator is
And Engineer Serko describes enthusiastically the various advantages
of the new explosive which, he says, is incontestably superior to any
"And what a destructive effect it has," he adds. "It is analogous to
that of the Zalinski shell, but is a hundred times more powerful, and
requires no machine for firing it, as it flies through the air on its
own wings, so to speak."
I listen in the hope that Engineer Serko will give away a part of the
secret, but in vain. He is careful not to say more than he wants to.
"Has Thomas Roch," I ask, "made you acquainted with the composition of
"Yes, Mr. Hart--if it is all the same to you--and we shall shortly
have considerable quantities of it stored in a safe place."
"But will there not be a great and ever-impending danger in
accumulating large quantities of it? If an accident were to happen it
would be all up with the island of----!"
Once more the name of Back Cup was on the point of escaping me.
They might consider me too well-informed if they were aware that in
addition to being acquainted with the Count d'Artigas' real name I
also know where his stronghold is situated.
Luckily Engineer Serko has not remarked my reticence, and he replies:
"There will be no cause for alarm. Thomas Roch's explosive will not
burn unless subjected to a special deflagrator. Neither fire nor shock
will explode it."
"And has Thomas Roch also sold you the secret of his deflagrator?"
"Not yet, Mr. Hart, but it will not be long before the bargain is
concluded. Therefore, I repeat, no danger is to be apprehended, and
you need not keep awake of nights on that account. A thousand devils,
sir! We have no desire to be blown up with our cavern and treasures! A
few more years of good business and we shall divide the profits, which
will be large enough to enable each one of us to live as he thinks
proper and enjoy life to the top of his bent--after the dissolution
of the firm of Ker Karraje and Co. I may add that though there is
no danger of an explosion, we have everything to fear from a
denunciation--which you are in the position to make, Mr. Hart.
Therefore, if you take my advice, you will, like a sensible man,
resign yourself to the inevitable until the disbanding of the company.
We shall then see what in the interest of our security is best to be
done with you!"
It will be admitted that these words are not exactly calculated to
reassure me. However, a lot of things may happen ere then. I have
learned one good thing from this conversation, and that is that if
Thomas Roch has sold his explosive to Ker Karraje and Co., he has
at any rate, kept the secret of his deflagrator, without which the
explosive is of no more value than the dust of the highway.
But before terminating the interview I think I ought to make a very
natural observation to Mr. Serko.
"Sir," I say, "you are now acquainted with the composition of Thomas
Roch's explosive. Does it really possess the destructive power that
the inventor attributes to it? Has it ever been tried? May you not
have purchased a composition as inert as a pinch of snuff?"
"You are doubtless better informed upon this point than you pretend,
Mr. Hart. Nevertheless, I thank you for the interest you manifest in
our affairs, and am able to reassure you. The other night we made
a series of decisive experiments. With only a few grains of this
substance great blocks of rock were reduced to impalpable dust!"
This explanation evidently applies to the detonation I heard.
"Thus, my dear colleague," continues Engineer Serko, "I can assure you
that our expectations have been answered. The effects of the explosive
surpass anything that could have been imagined. A few thousand tons of
it would burst our spheroid and scatter the fragments into space. You
can be absolutely certain that it is capable of destroying no matter
what vessel at a distance considerably greater than that attained by
present projectiles and within a zone of at least a mile. The weak
point in the invention is that rather too much time has to be expended
in regulating the firing."
Engineer Serko stops short, as though reluctant to give any further
information, but finally adds:
"Therefore, I end as I began, Mr. Hart. Resign yourself to the
inevitable. Accept your new existence without reserve. Give yourself
up to the tranquil delights of this subterranean life. If one is in
good health, one preserves it; if one has lost one's health, one
recovers it here. That is what is happening to your fellow countryman.
Yes, the best thing you can do is to resign yourself to your lot."
Thereupon this giver of good advice leaves me, after saluting me
with a friendly gesture, like a man whose good intentions merit
appreciation. But what irony there is in his words, in his glance, in
his attitude. Shall I ever be able to get even with him?
I now know that at any rate it is not easy to regulate the aim of
Roch's auto-propulsive engine. It is probable that it always bursts at
the same distance, and that beyond the zone in which the effects of
the fulgurator are so terrible, and once it has been passed, a ship is
safe from its effects. If I could only inform the world of this vital
_August 20_.--For two days no incident worth recording has occurred. I
have explored Back Cup to its extreme limits. At night when the long
perspective of arched columns are illuminated by the electric lamps, I
am almost religiously impressed when I gaze upon the natural wonders
of this cavern, which has become my prison. I have never given up hope
of finding somewhere in the walls a fissure of some kind of which the
pirates are ignorant and through which I could make my escape. It is
true that once outside I should have to wait till a passing ship hove
in sight. My evasion would speedily be known at the Beehive, and I
should soon be recaptured, unless--a happy thought strikes me--unless
I could get at the _Ebba's_ boat that was drawn up high and dry on the
little sandy beach in the creek. In this I might be able to make my
way to St. George or Hamilton.
This evening--it was about nine o'clock--I stretched myself on a bed
of sand at the foot of one of the columns, about one hundred yards to
the east of the lagoon. Shortly afterwards I heard footsteps, then
voices. Hiding myself as best I could behind the rocky base of the
pillar, I listened with all my ears.
I recognized the voices as those of Ker Karraje and Engineer Serko.
The two men stopped close to where I was lying, and continued their
conversation in English--which is the language generally used in Back
Cup. I was therefore able to understand all that they said.
They were talking about Thomas Roch, or rather his fulgurator.
"In a week's time," said Ker Karraje, "I shall put to sea in the
_Ebba_, and fetch the sections of the engines that are being cast in
that Virginian foundry."
"And when they are here," observed Engineer Serko, "I will piece them
together and fix up the frames for firing them. But beforehand, there
is a job to be done which it seems to me is indispensable."
"What is that?"
"To cut a tunnel through the wall of the cavern."
"Through the wall of the cavern?"
"Oh! nothing but a narrow passage through which only one man at a time
could squeeze, a hole easy enough to block, and the outside end of
which would be hidden among the rocks."
"Of what use could it be to us, Serko?"
"I have often thought about the utility of having some other way of
getting out besides the submarine tunnel. We never know what the
future may have in store for us."
"But the walls are so thick and hard," objected Ker Karraje.
"Oh, with a few grains of Roch's explosive I undertake to reduce the
rock to such fine powder that we shall be able to blow it away with
our breath," Serko replied.
It can easily be imagined with what interest and eagerness I listened
to this. Here was a ray of hope. It. was proposed to open up
communication with the outside by a tunnel in the wall, and this held
out the possibility of escape.
As this thought flashed through my mind, Ker Karraje said:
"Very well, Serko, and if it becomes necessary some day to defend Back
Cup and prevent any ship from approaching it----. It is true," he went
on, without finishing the reflection, "our retreat would have to have
been discovered by accident--or by denunciation."
"We have nothing to fear either from accident or denunciation,"
"By one of our band, no, of course not, but by Simon Hart, perhaps."
"Hart!" exclaimed Serko. "He would have to escape first and no one can
escape from Back Cup. I am, by the bye, interested in this Hart. He is
a colleague, after all, and I have always suspected that he knows more
about Roch's invention than he pretends. I will get round him so that
we shall soon be discussing physics, mechanics, and matters ballistic
like a couple of friends."
"No matter," replied the generous and sensible Count d'Artigas, "when
we are in full possession of the secret we had better get rid of the
"We have plenty of time to do that, Ker Karraje."
"If God permits you to, you wretches," I muttered to myself, while my
heart thumped against my ribs.
And yet, without the intervention of Providence, what hope is there
The conversation then took another direction.
"Now that we know the composition of the explosive, Serko," said Ker
Karraje, "we must, at all cost, get that of the deflagrator from
"Yes," replied Engineer Serko, "that is what I am trying to do.
Unfortunately, however, Roch positively refuses to discuss it. Still
he has already made a few drops of it with which those experiments
were made, and he will furnish as with some more to blow a hole
through the wall."
"But what about our expeditions at sea?" queried Ker Karraje.
"Patience! We shall end by getting Roch's thunderbolts entirely in our
own hand, and then----"
"Are you sure, Serko?"
"Quite sure,--by paying the price, Ker Karraje."
The conversation dropped at this point, and they strolled off without
having seen me--very luckily for me, I guess. If Engineer Serko spoke
up somewhat in defence of a colleague, Ker Karraje is apparently
animated with much less benevolent sentiments in regard to me. On the
least suspicion they would throw me into the lake, and if I ever got
through the tunnel, it would only be as a corpse carried out by the
_August 21_.--Engineer Serko has been prospecting with a view to
piercing the proposed passage through the wall, in such a way that its
existence will never be dreamed of outside. After a minute examination
he decided to tunnel through the northern end of the cavern about
sixty feet from the first cells of the Beehive.
I am anxious for the passage to be made, for who knows but what it may
be the way to freedom for me? Ah! if I only knew how to swim, perhaps
I should have attempted to escape through the submarine tunnel, as
since it was disclosed by the lashing back of the waters by the whale
in its death-struggle, I know exactly where the orifice is situated.
It seems to me that at the time of the great tides, this orifice must
be partly uncovered. At the full and new moon, when the sea attains
its maximum depression below the normal level, it is possible that--I
must satisfy myself about this.
I do not know how the fact will help me in any way, even if the
entrance to the tunnel is partly uncovered, but I cannot afford to
miss any detail that may possibly aid in my escape from Back Cup.
_August 29_.--This morning I am witnessing the departure of the tug.
The Count d'Artigas is, no doubt, going off in the _Ebba_ to fetch
the sections of Thomas Roch's engines. Before embarking, the Count
converses long and earnestly with Engineer Serko, who, apparently, is
not going to accompany him on this trip, and is evidently giving him
some recommendations, of which I may be the object. Then, having
stepped on to the platform, he goes below, the lid shuts with a bang,
and the tug sinks out of sight, leaving a trail of bubbles behind it.
The hours go by, night is coming on, yet the tug does not return. I
conclude that it has gone to tow the schooner, and perhaps to destroy
any merchant vessels that may come in their way.
It cannot, however, be absent very long, as the trip to America and
back will not take more than a week.
Besides, if I can judge from the calm atmosphere in the interior of
the cavern, the _Ebba_ must be favored with beautiful weather. This
is, in fact, the fine season in this part of the world. Ah! if only I
could break out of my prison!
GOD BE WITH IT.
_From August 29 to September 10_.--Thirteen days have gone by and
the _Ebba_ has not returned. Did she then not make straight for the
American coast? Has she been delayed by a buccaneering cruise in the
neighborhood of Back Cup? It seems to me that Ker Karraje's only
desire would be to get back with the sections of Roch's engines as
soon as possible. Maybe the Virginian foundry had not quite finished
Engineer Serko does not display the least anxiety or impatience. He
continues to greet me with his accustomed ironical cordiality, and
with a kindly air that I distrust--with good reason. He affects to be
solicitous as to my health, urges me to make the best of a bad job,
calls me Ali Baba, assures me that there is not, in the whole world,
such an enchanting spot as this Arabian Nights cavern, observes that I
am fed, warmed, lodged, and clothed, that I have no taxes to pay, and
that even the inhabitants of the favored principality of Monaco do not
enjoy an existence more free from care.
Sometimes this ironical verbiage brings the blood to my face, and I
am tempted to seize this cynical banterer by the throat and choke the
life out of him. They would kill me afterwards. Still, what would that
matter! Would it not be better to end in this way than to spend years
and years amid these infernal and infamous surroundings? However,
while there is life there is hope, I reflect, and this thought
I have scarcely set eyes upon Thomas Roch since the _Ebba_ went away.
He shuts himself up in his laboratory and works unceasingly. If he
utilizes all the substances placed at his disposition there will be
enough to blow up Back Cup and the whole Bermudan archipelago with it!
I cling to the hope that he will never consent to give up the secret
of his deflagrator, and that Engineer Serko's efforts to acquire it
will remain futile.
_September 3_.--To-day I have been able to witness with my own eyes
the power of Roch's explosive, and also the manner in which the
fulgurator is employed.
During the morning the men began to pierce the passage through the
wall of the cavern at the spot fixed upon by Engineer Serko, who
superintended the work in person. The work began at the base, where
the rock is as hard as granite. To have continued it with pickaxes
would have entailed long and arduous labor, inasmuch as the wall at
this place is not less than from twenty to thirty yards in thickness,
but thanks to Roch's fulgurator the passage will be completed easily
I may well be astonished at what I have seen. The pickaxes hardly made
any impression on the rock, but its disaggregation was effected with
really remarkable facility by means of the fulgurator.
A few grains of this explosive shattered the rocky mass and reduced it
to almost impalpable powder that one's breath could disperse as easily
as vapor. The explosion produced an excavation measuring fully a cubic
yard. It was accompanied by a sharp detonation that may be compared to
the report of a cannon.
The first charge used, although a very small one, a mere pinch, blew
the men in every direction, and two of them were seriously injured.
Engineer Serko himself was projected several yards, and sustained some
rather severe contusions.
Here is how this substance, whose bursting force surpasses anything
hitherto conceived, is employed.
A small hole about an inch and a half in length is pierced obliquely
in the rock. A few grains of the explosive are then inserted, but no
wad is used.
Then Thomas Roch steps forward. In his hand is a little glass phial
containing a bluish, oily liquid that congeals almost as soon as it
comes in contact with the air. He pours one drop on the entrance of
the hole, and draws back, but not with undue haste. It takes a certain
time--about thirty-five seconds, I reckon--before the combination of
the fulgurator and deflagrator is effected. But when the explosion
does take place its power of disaggregation is such--I repeat--that
it may be regarded as unlimited. It is at any rate a thousand times
superior to that of any known explosive.
Under these circumstances it will probably not take more than a week
to complete the tunnel.
_September 19_.--For some time past I have observed that the tide
rises and falls twice every twenty-four hours, and that the ebb and
flow produce a rather swift current through the submarine tunnel. It
is pretty certain therefore that a floating object thrown into the
lagoon when the top of the orifice is uncovered would be carried out
by the receding tide. It is just possible that during the lowest
equinoctial tides the top of the orifice is uncovered. This I shall be
able to ascertain, as this is precisely the time they occur. To-day,
September 19, I could almost distinguish the summit of the hole under
the water. The day after to-morrow, if ever, it will be uncovered.
Very well then, if I cannot myself attempt to get through, may be a
bottle thrown into the lagoon might be carried out during the last
few minutes of the ebb. And might not this bottle by chance--an
ultra-providential chance, I must avow--be picked up by a ship passing
near Back Cup? Perhaps even it might be borne away by a friendly
current and cast upon one of the Bermudan beaches. What if that bottle
contained a letter?
I cannot get this thought out of my mind, and it works me up into a
great state of excitement. Then objections crop up--this one among
others: the bottle might be swept against the rocks and smashed ere
ever it could get out of the tunnel. Very true, but what if, instead
of a bottle a diminutive, tightly closed keg were used? It would not
run any danger of being smashed and would besides stand a much better
chance of reaching the open sea.
_September 20_.--This evening, I, unperceived, entered one of the
store houses containing the booty pillaged from various ships and
procured a keg very suitable for my experiment.
I hid the keg under my coat, and returned to the Beehive and my cell.
Then without losing an instant I set to work. Paper, pen, ink, nothing
was wanting, as will be supposed from the fact that for three months I
have been making notes and dotting down my impressions daily.
I indite the following message:
"On June 15 last Thomas Roch and his keeper Gaydon, or rather Simon
Hart, the French engineer who occupied Pavilion No. 17, at Healthful
House, near New-Berne, North Carolina, United States of America, were
kidnapped and carried on board the schooner _Ebba_, belonging to the
Count d'Artigas. Both are now confined in the interior of a cavern
which serves as a lair for the said Count d'Artigas--who is really Ker
Karraje, the pirate who some time ago carried on his depredations in
the West Pacific--and for about a hundred men of which his band is
"When he has obtained possession of Roch's fulgurator whose power is,
so to speak, without limit, Ker Karraje will be in a position to carry
on his crimes with complete impunity.
"It is therefore urgent that the states interested should destroy his
lair without delay.
"The cavern in which the pirate Ker Karraje has taken refuge is in the
interior of the islet of Back Cup, which is wrongly regarded as
an active volcano. It is situated at the western extremity of the
archipelago of Bermuda, and on the east is bounded by a range of
reefs, but on the north, south, and west is open.
"Communication with the inside of the mountain is only possible
through a tunnel a few yards under water in a narrow pass on the west.
A submarine apparatus therefore is necessary to effect an entrance, at
any rate until a tunnel they are boring through the northwestern wall
of the cavern is completed.
"The pirate Ker Karraje employs an apparatus of this kind--the
submarine boat that the Count d'Artigas ordered of the Cramps and
which was supposed to have been lost during the public experiment with
it in Charleston Bay. This boat is used not only for the purpose of
entering and issuing from Back Cup, but also to tow the schooner and
attack merchant vessels in Bermudan waters.
"This schooner _Ebba_, so well known on the American coast, is kept
in a small creek on the western side of the island, behind a mass of
rocks, and is invisible from the sea.
"The best place to land is on the west coast formerly occupied by the
colony of Bermudan fishers; but it would first be advisable to effect
a breach in the side of the cavern by means of the most powerful
"The fact that Ker Karraje may be in the position to use Roch's
fulgurator for the defence of the island must also be taken into
consideration. Let it be well borne in mind that if its destructive
power surpasses anything ever conceived or dreamed of, it extends over
a zone not exceeding a mile in extent. The distance of this dangerous
zone is variable, but once the engines have been set, the modification
of the distance occupies some time, and a warship that succeeds in
passing the zone has nothing further to fear.
"This document is written on the twentieth day of September at eight
o'clock in the evening and is signed with my name
"THOMAS HART, Engineer."
The above is the text of the statement I have just drawn up. It says
all that is necessary about the island, whose exact situation is
marked on all modern charts and maps, and points out the expediency
of acting without delay, and what to do in case Ker Karraje is in the
position to employ Roch's fulgurator.
I add a plan of the cavern showing its internal configuration, the
situation of the lagoon, the lay of the Beehive, Ker Karraje's
habitation, my cell, and Thomas Roch's laboratory.
I wrap the document in a piece of tarpaulin and insert the package in
the little keg, which measures six inches by three and a half. It
is perfectly watertight and will stand any amount of knocking about
against the rocks.
There is one danger, however, and that is, that it may be swept back
by the returning tide, cast up on the island, and fall into the hands
of the crew of the _Ebba_ when the schooner is hauled into her creek.
If Ker Karraje ever gets hold of it, it will be all up with me.
It will be readily conceived with what anxiety I have awaited the
moment to make the attempt: I am in a perfect fever of excitement,
for it is a matter of life or death to me. I calculate from previous
observations that the tide will be very low at about a quarter to
nine. The top of the tunnel ought then to be a foot and a half above
water, which is more than enough to permit of the keg passing through
it. It will be another half hour at least before the flow sets in
again, and by that time the keg may be far enough away to escape being
thrown back on the coast.
I peer out of my cell. There is no one about, and I advance to the
side of the lagoon, where by the light of a nearby lamp, I perceive
the arch of the tunnel, towards which the current seems to be setting
I go down to the very edge, and cast in the keg which contains the
precious document and all my hopes.
"God be with it!" I fervently exclaim. "God be with it!"
For a minute or two the little barrel remains stationary, and then
floats back to the side again. I throw it out once more with all my
This time it is in the track of the current, which to my great joy
sweeps it along and in twenty seconds, it has disappeared in the
Yes, God be with it! May Heaven guide thee, little barrel! May it
protect all those whom Ker Karraje menaces and grant that this band of
pirates may not escape from the justice of man!
BATTLE BETWEEN THE "SWORD" AND THE TUG.
Through all this sleepless night I have followed the keg in fancy. How
many times I seem to see it swept against the rocks in the tunnel into
a creek, or some excavation. I am in a cold perspiration from head to
foot. Then I imagine that it has been carried out to sea. Heavens!
if the returning tide should sweep it back to the entrance and then
through the tunnel into the lagoon! I must be on the lookout for it.
I rise before the sun and saunter down to the lagoon. Not a single
object is floating on its calm surface.
The work on the tunnel through the side of the cavern goes on, and at
four o'clock in the afternoon on September 23, Engineer Serko blows
away the last rock obstructing the issue, and communication with the
outer world is established. It is only a very narrow hole, and one
has to stoop to go through it. The exterior orifice is lost among the
crannies of the rocky coast, and it would be easy to obstruct it, if
such a measure became necessary.
It goes without saying that the passage will be strictly guarded. No
one without special authorization will be able either to go out or
come in, therefore there is little hope of escape in that direction.
_September 25._--This morning the tug rose from the depth of the
lagoon to the surface, and has now run alongside the jetty. The Count
d'Artigas and Captain Spade disembark, and the crew set to work to
land the provisions--boxes of canned meat, preserves, barrels of wine
and spirits, and other things brought by the _Ebba,_ among which are
several packages destined for Thomas Roch. The men also land the
various sections of Roch's engines which are discoid in shape.
The inventor watches their operations, and his eyes glisten with
eagerness. He seizes one of the sections, examines it, and nods
approval. I notice that his joy no longer finds expression in
incoherent utterances, that he is completely transformed from what he
was while a patient at Healthful House. So much is this the case that
I begin to ask myself whether his madness which was asserted to be
incurable, has not been radically cured.
At last Thomas Roch embarks in the boat used for crossing the lake and
is rowed over to his laboratory. Engineer Serko accompanies him. In an
hour's time the tug's cargo has all been taken out and transported to
Ker Karraje exchanges a word or two with Engineer Serko and then
enters his mansion. Later, in the afternoon, I see them walking up and
down in front of the Beehive and talking earnestly together.
Then they enter the new tunnel, followed by Captain Spade. If I could
but follow them! If I could but breathe for awhile the bracing air
of the Atlantic, of which the interior of Back Cup only receives
attenuated puffs, so to speak.
_From September 26 to October 10_.--Fifteen days have elapsed. Under
the directions of Engineer Serko and Thomas Roch the sections of the
engines have been fitted together. Then the construction of their
supports is begun. These supports are simple trestles, fitted with
transverse troughs or grooves of various degrees of inclination, and
which could be easily installed on the deck of the _Ebba_, or even
on the platform of the tug, which can be kept on a level with the
Thus Ker Karraje, will be ruler of the seas, with his yacht. No
warship, however big, however powerful, will be able to cross the zone
of danger, whereas the _Ebba_ will be out of range of its guns. If
only my notice were found! If only the existence of this lair of Back
Cup were known! Means would soon be found, if not of destroying the
place, at least of starving the band into submission!
_October 20_.--To my extreme surprise I find this morning that the tug
has gone away again. I recall that yesterday the elements of the piles
were renewed, but I thought it was only to keep them in order. In
view of the fact that the outside can now be reached through the new
tunnel, and that Thomas Roch has everything he requires, I can only
conclude that the tug has gone off on another marauding expedition.
Yet this is the season of the equinoctial gales, and the Bermudan
waters are swept by frequent tempests. This is evident from the
violent gusts that drive back the smoke through the crater and the
heavy rain that accompanies it, as well as by the water in the lagoon,
which swells and washes over the brown rocks on its shores.
But it is by no means sure that the _Ebba_ has quitted her cove.
However staunch she may be, she is, it seems to me, of too light a
build to face such tempests as now rage, even with the help of the
On the other hand, although the tug has nothing to fear from the heavy
seas, as it would be in calm water a few yards below the surface, it
is hardly likely that it has gone on a trip unless to accompany the
I do not know to what its departure can be attributed, but its absence
is likely to be prolonged, for it has not yet returned.
Engineer Serko has remained behind, but Ker Karraje, Captain Spade,
and the crew of the schooner, I find, have left.
Life in the cavern goes on with its usual dispiriting monotony. I pass
hour after hour in my cell, meditating, hoping, despairing, following
in fancy the voyage of my little barrel, tossed about at the mercy
of the currents and whose chances of being picked up, I fear, are
becoming fainter each day, and killing time by writing my diary, which
will probably not survive me.
Thomas Roch is constantly occupied in his laboratory manufacturing his
deflagrator. I still entertain the conviction that nothing will ever
induce him to give up the secret of the liquid's composition; but I am
perfectly aware that he will not hesitate to place his invention at
Ker Karraje's service.
I often meet Engineer Serko when my strolls take me in the direction
of the Beehive. He always shows himself disposed to chat with me,
though, it is true, he does so in a tone of impertinent frivolity.
We converse upon all sorts of subjects, but rarely of my position.
Recrimination thereanent is useless and only subjects me to renewed
_October 22_.--To-day I asked Engineer Serko whether the _Ebba_ had
put to sea again with the tug.
"Yes, Mr. Simon Hart," he replied, "and though the clouds gather and
loud the tempest roars, be in no uneasiness in regard to our dear
"Will she be gone long?"
"We expect her back within forty-eight hours. It is the last voyage
Count d'Artigas proposes to make before the winter gales render
navigation in these parts impracticable."
"Is her voyage one of business or pleasure?"
"Of business, Mr. Hart, of business," answered Engineer Serko with
a smile. "Our engines are now completed, and when the fine weather
returns we shall resume offensive operations."
"Against unfortunate merchantmen."
"As unfortunate as they are richly laden."
"Acts of piracy, whose impunity will, I trust, not always be assured,"
"Calm yourself, dear colleague, be calm! Be calm! No one, you know,
can ever discover our retreat, and none can ever disclose the secret!
Besides, with these engines, which are so easily handled and are of
such terrible power, it would be easy for us to blow to pieces any
ship that attempted to get within a certain radius of the island."
"Providing," I said, "that Thomas Roch has sold you the composition of
his deflagrator as he has sold you that of his fulgurator."
"That he has done, Mr. Hart, and it behooves me to set your mind at
rest upon that point."
From this categorical response I ought to have concluded that the
misfortune had been consummated, but a certain hesitation in the
intonation of his voice warned me that implicit reliance was not to be
placed upon Engineer Serko's assertions.
_October 25_.--What a frightful adventure I have just been mixed up
in, and what a wonder I did not lose my life! It is only by a miracle
that I am able to resume these notes, which have been interrupted for
forty-eight hours. With a little luck, I should have been delivered!
I should now be in one of the Bermudan ports--St. George or Hamilton.
The mysteries of Back Cup would have been cleared up. The description
of the schooner would have been wired all over the world, and she
would not dare to put into any port. The provisioning of Back Cup
would be impossible, and Ker Karraje's bandits would be condemned to
starve to death!
This is what occurred:
At eight o'clock in the evening on October 23, I quitted my cell in
an indefinable state of nervousness, and with a presentiment that a
serious event was imminent. In vain I had tried to seek calmness in
sleep. It was impossible to do so, and I rose and went out.
Outside Back Cup the weather must have been very rough. Violent gusts
of wind swept in through the crater and agitated the water of the
I walked along the shore on the Beehive side. No one was about. It
was rather cold, and the air was damp. The pirates were all snugly
ensconced in their cells, with the exception of one man, who stood
guard over the new passage, notwithstanding that the outer entrance
had been blocked. From where he was this man could not see the lagoon,
moreover there were only two lamps alight, one on each side of
the lake, and the forest of pillars was wrapt in the profoundest
I was walking about in the shadow, when some one passed me.
I saw that he was Thomas Roch.
He was walking slowly, absorbed by his thoughts, his brain at work, as
Was this not a favorable opportunity to talk to him, to enlighten him
about what he was probably ignorant, namely, the character of the
people into whose hands he had fallen?
"He cannot," I argued, "know that the Count d'Artigas is none other
than Ker Karraje, the pirate. He cannot be aware that he has given up
a part of his invention to such a bandit. I must open his eyes to the
fact that he will never be able to enjoy his millions, that he is a
prisoner in Back Cup, and will never be allowed to leave it, any
more than I shall. Yes, I will make an appeal to his sentiments of
humanity, and point out to him what frightful misfortunes he will be
responsible for if he does not keep the secret of his deflagrator."
All this I had said to myself, and was preparing to carry out my
resolution, when I suddenly felt myself seized from behind.
Two men held me by the arms, and another appeared in front of me.
Before I had time to cry out the man exclaimed in English:
"Hush! not a word! Are you not Simon Hart?"
"Yes, how did you know?"
"I saw you come out of your cell."
"Who are you, then?"
"Lieutenant Davon, of the British Navy, of H.M.S. _Standard_, which is
stationed at the Bermudas."
Emotion choked me so that it was impossible for me to utter a word.
"We have come to rescue you from Ker Karraje, and also propose to
carry off Thomas Roch," he added.
"Thomas Roch?" I stammered.
"Yes, the document signed by you was found on the beach at St.
"In a keg, Lieutenant Davon, which I committed to the waters of the
"And which contained," went on the officer, "the notice by which we
were apprised that the island of Back Cup served as a refuge for Ker
Karraje and his band--Ker Karraje, this false Count d'Artigas, the
author of the double abduction from Healthful House."
"Ah! Lieutenant Davon----"
"Now we have not a moment to spare, we must profit by the obscurity."
"One word, Lieutenant Davon, how did you penetrate to the interior of
"By means of the submarine boat _Sword_, with which we have been
making experiments at St. George for six months past."
"A submarine boat!"
"Yes, it awaits us at the foot of the rocks. And now, Mr. Hart, where
is Ker Karraje's tug?"
"It has been away for three weeks."
"Ker Karraje is not here, then?"
"No, but we expect him back every day--every hour, I might say."
"It matters little," replied Lieutenant Davon. "It is not after Ker
Karraje, but Thomas Roch, we have come--and you also, Mr. Hart. The
_Sword_ will not leave the lagoon till you are both on board. If she
does not turn up at St. George again, they will know that I have
failed--and they will try again."
"Where is the _Sword_, Lieutenant?"
"On this side, in the shadow of the bank, where it cannot be seen.
Thanks to your directions, I and my crew were able to locate the
tunnel. We came through all right, and ten minutes ago rose to the
surface of the lake. Two men landed with me. I saw you issue from the
cell marked on your plan. Do you know where Thomas Roch is?"
"A few paces off. He has just passed me, on his way to his
"God be praised, Mr. Hart!"
"Amen, Lieutenant Davon."
The lieutenant, the two men and I took the path around the lagoon.
We had not gone far when we perceived Thomas Roch in front of us. To
throw ourselves upon him, gag him before he could utter a cry, bind
him before he could offer any resistance, and bear him off to the
place where the _Sword_ was moored was the work of a minute.
The _Sword_ was a submersible boat of only twelve tons, and
consequently much inferior to the tug, both in respect of dimensions
and power. Her screw was worked by a couple of dynamos fitted with
accumulators that had been charged twelve hours previously in the port
of St. George. However, the _Sword_ would suffice to take us out of
this prison, to restore us to liberty--that liberty of which I had
given up all hope. Thomas Roch was at last to be rescued from the
clutches of Ker Karraje and Engineer Serko. The rascals would not be
able to utilize his invention, and nothing could prevent the warships
from landing a storming party on the island, who would force the
tunnel in the wall and secure the pirates!
We saw no one while the two men were conveying Thomas Roch to the
_Sword_, and all got on board without incident. The lid was shut and
secured, the water compartments filled, and the _Sword_ sank out of
sight. We were saved!
The _Sword_ was divided into three water-tight compartments. The after
one contained the accumulators and machinery. The middle one, occupied
by the pilot, was surmounted by a periscope fitted with lenticular
portholes, through which an electric search-lamp lighted the way
through the water. Forward, in the other compartment, Thomas Roch and
I were shut in.
My companion, though the gag which was choking him had been removed,
was still bound, and, I thought, knew what was going on.
But we were in a hurry to be off, and hoped to reach St. George that
very night if no obstacle was encountered.
I pushed open the door of the compartment and rejoined Lieutenant
Davon, who was standing by the man at the wheel. In the after
compartment three other men, including the engineer, awaited the
lieutenant's orders to set the machinery in motion.
"Lieutenant Davon," I said, "I do not think there is any particular
reason why I should stay in there with Roch. If I can help you to get
through the tunnel, pray command me."
"Yes, I shall be glad to have you by me, Mr. Hart."
It was then exactly thirty-seven minutes past eight.
The search-lamp threw a vague light through the water ahead of the
_Sword_. From where we were, we had to cross the lagoon through its
entire length to get to the tunnel. It would be pretty difficult to
fetch it, we knew, but, if necessary, we could hug the sides of the
lake until we located it. Once outside the tunnel the _Sword_ would
rise to the surface and make for St. George at full speed.
"At what depth are we now?" I asked the lieutenant.
"About a fathom."
"It is not necessary to go any lower," I said. "From what I was able
to observe during the equinoctial tides, I should think that we are in
the axis of the tunnel."
"All right," he replied.
Yes, it was all right, and I felt that Providence was speaking by the
mouth of the officer. Certainly Providence could not have chosen a
better agent to work its will.
In the light of the lamp I examined him. He was about thirty years of
age, cool, phlegmatic, with resolute physiognomy--the English officer
in all his native impassibility--no more disturbed than if he had been
on board the _Standard_, operating with extraordinary _sang-froid,_ I
might even say, with the precision of a machine.
"On coming through the tunnel I estimated its length at about fifty
yards," he remarked.
"Yes, Lieutenant, about fifty yards from one extremity to the other."
This calculation must have been pretty exact, since the new tunnel cut
on a level with the coast is thirty-five feet in length.
The order was given to go ahead, and the _Sword_ moved forward very
slowly for fear of colliding against the rocky side.
Sometimes we came near enough to it to distinguish a black mass ahead
of it, but a turn of the wheel put us in the right direction again.
Navigating a submarine boat in the open sea is difficult enough. How
much more so in the confines of a lagoon!
After five minutes' manoeuvring, the _Sword_, which was kept at about
a fathom below the surface, had not succeeded in sighting the orifice.
"Perhaps it would be better to return to the surface, Lieutenant," I
said. "We should then be able to see where we are."
"I think you are right, Mr. Hart, if you can point out just about
where the tunnel is located."
"I think I can."
"Very well, then."
As a precaution the light was turned off. The engineer set the pumps
in motion, and, lightened of its water ballast, the boat slowly rose
in the darkness to the surface.
I remained at my post so that I could peer through the lookouts.
At last the ascensional movement of the _Sword_ stopped, and the
periscope emerged about a foot.
On one side of me, lighted by the lamp by the shore, I could see the
"What is your opinion?" demanded the lieutenant.
"We are too far north. The orifice is in the west side of the cavern."
"Is anybody about?"
"Not a soul."
"Capital, Mr. Hart. Then we will keep on a level with the surface, and
when we are in front of the tunnel, and you give the signal, we will
It was the best thing to be done. We moved off again and the pilot
kept her head towards the tunnel.
When we were about twelve yards off I gave the signal to stop. As soon
as the current was turned off the _Sword_ stopped, opened her water
tanks and slowly sank again.
Then the light in the lookout was turned on again, and there in front
of us was a black circle that did not reflect the lamp's rays.
"There it is, there is the tunnel!" I cried.
Was it not the door by which I was going to escape from my prison? Was
not liberty awaiting me on the other side?
Gently the _Sword_ moved towards the orifice.
Oh! the horrible mischance! How have I survived it? How is it that my
heart is not broken?
A dim light appeared in the depth of the tunnel, about twenty-five
yards in front of us. The advancing light could be none other than
that, projected through the lookout of Ker Karraje's submarine boat.
"The tug! The tug!" I exclaimed. "Lieutenant, here is the tug
returning to Back Cup!"
"Full speed astern," ordered the officer, and the _Sword_ drew back
just as she was about to enter the tunnel.
One chance remained. The lieutenant had swiftly turned off the light,
and it was just possible that we had not been seen by the people in
the tug. Perhaps, in the dark waters of the lagoon, we should escape
notice, and when the oncoming boat had risen and moored to the jetty,
we should be able to slip out unperceived.
We had backed close in to the south side and the _Sword_ was about to
stop, but alas, for our hopes! Captain Spade had seen that another
submarine boat was about to issue through the tunnel, and he was
making preparations to chase us. How could a frail craft like the
_Sword_ defend itself against the attacks of Ker Karraje's powerful
Lieutenant Davon turned to me and said: "Go back to the compartment
where Thomas Roch is and shut yourself in. I will close the
after-door. There is just a chance that if the tug rams us the
water-tight compartments will keep us up."
After shaking hands with the lieutenant, who was as cool as though we
were in no danger, I went forward and rejoined Thomas Roch. I closed
the door and awaited the issue in profound darkness.
Then I could feel the desperate efforts made by the _Sword_ to
escape from or ram her enemy. I could feel her rushing, gyrating and
plunging. Now she would twist to avoid a collision. Now she would rise
to the surface, then sink to the bottom of the lagoon. Can any one
conceive such a struggle as that in which, like two marine monsters,
these machines were engaged in beneath the troubled waters of this
A few minutes elapsed, and I began to think that the _Sword_ had
eluded the tug and was rushing through the tunnel.
Suddenly there was a collision. The shock was not, it seemed to me,
very violent, but I could be under no illusion: the _Sword_ had been
struck on her starboard quarter. Perhaps her plates had resisted,
and if not, the water would only invade one of her compartments, I
Almost immediately after, however, there was another shock that pushed
the _Sword_ with extreme violence. She was raised by the ram of the
tug which sawed and ripped its way into her side. Then I could feel
her heel over and sink straight down, stern foremost.
Thomas Roch and I were tumbled over violently by. this movement. There
was another bump, another ripping sound, and the _Sword_ lay still.
Just what happened after that I am unable to say, for I lost
I have since learned that all this occurred many hours ago.
I however distinctly remember that my last thought was:
"If I am to die, at any rate Thomas Roch and his secret perish with
me--and the pirates of Back Cup will not escape punishment for their
As soon as I recover my senses I find myself lying on my bed in my
cell, where it appears I have been lying for thirty-six hours.
I am not alone. Engineer Serko is near me. He has attended to me
himself, not because he regards me as a friend, I surmise, but as
a man from whom indispensable explanations are awaited, and who
afterwards can be done away with if necessary.
I am still so weak that I could not walk a step. A little more and I
should have been asphyxiated in that narrow compartment of the _Sword_
at the bottom of the lagoon.
Am I in condition to reply to the questions that Engineer Serko is
dying to put to me? Yes--but I shall maintain the utmost reserve.
In the first place I wonder what has become of Lieutenant Davon and
the crew of the _Sword_. Did those brave Englishmen perish in the
collision? Are they safe and sound like us--for I suppose that Thomas
Roch has also survived?
The first question that Engineer Serko puts to me is this:
"Will you explain to me what happened, Mr. Hart?"
Instead of replying it occurs to me to question him myself.
"And Thomas Roch?" I inquire.
"In good health, Mr. Hart." Then he adds in an imperious tone: "Tell
me what occurred!"
"In the first place, tell me what became of the others."
"What others?" replies Serko, glancing at me savagely.
"Why, those men who threw themselves upon Thomas Roch and me, who
gagged, bound, and carried us off and shut us up, I know not where?"
On reflection I had come to the conclusion that the best thing to do
was to pretend that I had been surprised before I knew where I was or
who my aggressors were.
"You will know what became of them later. But first, tell me how, the
thing was done."
By the threatening tone of his voice, as he for the third time puts
this question, I understand the nature of the suspicions entertained
of me. Yet to be in the position to accuse me of having had relations
with the outside he would have had to get possession of my keg. This
he could not have done, seeing that it is in the hands of the Bermudan
authorities. The pirates cannot, I am convinced, have a single proof
to back up their suspicions.
I therefore recount how about eight o'clock on the previous evening I
was walking along the edge of the lagoon, after Thomas Roch had passed
me, going towards his laboratory, when I felt myself seized from
behind; how having been gagged, bound, and blindfolded, I felt myself
carried off and lowered into a hole with another person whom I thought
I recognized from his groans as Thomas Roch; how I soon felt that I
was on board a boat of some description and naturally concluded that
it was the tug; how I felt it sink; how I felt a shock that threw me
violently against the side, and how I felt myself suffocating and lost
consciousness, since I remember nothing further.
Engineer Serko listens with profound attention, a stern look in his
eyes and a frown on his brow; and yet he can have no reason that
authorizes him to doubt my word.
"You claim that three men threw themselves upon you?" he asks.
"Yes. I thought they were some of your people, for I did not see them
coming. Who were they?"
"Strangers, as you must have known from their language."
"They did not utter a word!"
"Have you no idea as to their nationality?"
"Not the remotest."
Do you know what were their intentions in entering the cavern?"
"I do not."
"What is your opinion about it?"
"My opinion, Mr. Serko? I repeat I thought they were two or three of
your pirates who had come to throw me into the lagoon by the Count
d'Artigas' orders, and that they were going to do the same thing to
Thomas Roch. I supposed that having obtained his secrets--as you
informed me was the case--you had no further use for him and were
about to get rid of us both."
"Is it possible, Mr. Hart, that you could have thought such a thing!"
continued Serko in his sarcastic way.
"I did, until having been able to remove the bandage from my eyes, I
perceived that I was in the tug."
"It was not the tug, but a boat of the same kind that had got through
"A submarine boat?" I ejaculate.
"Yes, and manned by persons whose mission was to kidnap you and Thomas
"Kidnap us?" I echo, continuing to feign surprise.
"And," adds Engineer Serko, "I want to know what you think about the
"What I think about it? Well, it appears to me that there is only one
plausible explanation possible. If the secret of your retreat has not
been betrayed--and I cannot conceive how you could have been betrayed
or what imprudence you or yours could have committed--my opinion is
that this submarine boat was exploring the bottom of the sea in this
neighborhood, that she must have found her way into the tunnel,
that she rose to the surface of the lagoon, that her crew, greatly
surprised to find themselves inside an inhabited cavern, seized hold
of the first persons they came across, Thomas Roch and myself, and
others as well perhaps, for of course I do not know----"
Engineer Serko has become serious again. Does he realize the inanity
of the hypothesis I try to pass off on him? Does he think I know more
than I will say? However this may be, he accepts my professed view,
"In effect, Mr. Hart, it must have happened as you suggest, and when
the stranger tried to make her way out through the tunnel just as the
tug was entering, there was a collision--a collision of which she was
the victim. But we are not the kind of people to allow our fellow-men
to perish before our eyes. Moreover, the disappearance of Thomas Roch
and yourself was almost immediately discovered. Two such valuable
lives had to be saved at all hazards. We set to work. There are many
expert divers among our men. They hastily donned their suits and
descended to the bottom of the lagoon. They passed lines around the
hull of the _Sword_----"
"The _Sword_?" I exclaim.
"That is the name we saw painted on the bow of the vessel when we
raised her to the surface. What satisfaction we experienced when we
recovered you--unconscious, it is true, but still breathing--and were
able to bring you back to life! Unfortunately all our attentions to
the officer who commanded the _Sword_, and to his crew were useless.
The shock had torn open the after and middle compartments, and
they paid with their lives the misfortune--due to chance, as you
observe--of having discovered our mysterious retreat."
On learning that Lieutenant Davon and his companions are dead, my
heart is filled with anguish; but to keep up my role--as they were
persons with whom, presumably, I was not acquainted, and had never
seen--I am careful not to display any emotion. I must, on no account,
afford ground for the suspicion that there was any connivance between
the commander of the _Sword_ and me. For aught I know, Engineer Serko
may have reason to be very skeptical about the discovery of the tunnel
What, however, I am most concerned about is that the unlooked-for
occasion to recover my liberty was lost. Shall I ever be afforded
another chance? However this may be, my notice reached the English
authorities of the archipelago, and they now know where Ker Karraje
is to be found. When it is seen that the _Sword_ does not return to
Bermuda, there can be no doubt that another attempt will be made to
get inside Back Cup, in which, had it not been for the inopportune
return of the tug, I should no longer be a prisoner.
I have resumed my usual existence, and having allayed all mistrust, am
permitted to wander freely about the cavern, as usual.
It is patent that the adventure has had no ill effect upon Thomas
Roch. Intelligent nursing brought him around, as it did me. In full
possession of his mental faculties he has returned to work, and spends
the entire day in his laboratory.
The _Ebba_ brought back from her last trip bales, boxes, and a
quantity of objects of varied origin, and I conclude that a number of
ships must have been pillaged during this marauding expedition.
The work on the trestles for Roch's engine goes steadily forward, and
there are now no fewer than fifty engines. If Ker Karraje and Engineer
Serko are under the necessity of defending Back Cup, three or four
will be sufficient to render the island unapproachable, as they will
cover a zone which no vessel could enter without being blown to
pieces. And it occurs to me that they intend to put Back Cup in a
state of defence after having argued as follows:
"If the appearance of the _Sword_ in the lagoon was due to chance the
situation remains unchanged, and no power, not even England, will
think of seeking for the _Sword_ inside the cavern. If, on the other
hand, as the result of an incomprehensible revelation, it has been
learned that Back Cup is become the retreat of Ker Karraje, if the
expedition of the _Sword_ was a first effort against the island,
another of a different kind--either a bombardment from a distance, or
an attack by a landing party--is to be expected. Therefore, ere we
can quit Back Cup and carry away our plunder, we shall have to defend
ourselves by means of Roch's fulgurator."
In my opinion the rascals must have gone on to reason still further in
"Is there any connection between the disclosure of our secret--if it
was, and however it may have been made--and the double abduction from
Healthful House? Is it known that Thomas Roch and his keeper are
confined in Back Cup? Is it known that the abduction was effected in
the interest of Ker Karraje? Have Americans, English, French, Germans,
and Russians reason to fear that an attack in force against the island
would be doomed to failure?"
Ker Karraje must know very well that these powers would not hesitate
to attack him, however great the danger might be. The destruction of
his lair is an urgent duty in the interest of public security and
of humanity. After sweeping the West Pacific the pirate and his
companions are infesting the West Atlantic, and must be wiped out at
In any case, it is imperative that the inhabitants of Back Cup should
be on their guard. This fact is realized, and, from the day on which
the _Sword_ was destroyed, strict watch has been kept. Thanks to the
new passage, they are able to hide among the rocks without having
recourse to the submarine tunnel to get there, and day and night a
dozen sentries are posted about the island. The moment a ship appears
in sight the fact is at once made known inside the cavern.
Nothing occurs for some days, and the latter succeed each other with
dreadful monotony. The pirates, however, feel that Back Cup no longer
enjoys its former security. Every moment an alarm from the sentries
posted outside is expected. The situation is no longer the same since
the advent of the _Sword_. Gallant Lieutenant Davon, gallant crew,
may England, may the civilized nations, never forget that you have
sacrificed your lives in the cause of humanity!
It is evident that now, however powerful may be their means of
defence, even more powerful than a network of torpedoes, Engineer
Serko and Captain Spade are filled with an anxiety that they vainly
essay to dissemble. They hold frequent conferences together. Maybe
they discuss the advisability of quitting Back Cup with their wealth,
for they are aware that if the existence of the cavern is known means
will be found to reduce it, even if the inmates have to be starved
This is, of course, mere conjecture on my part. What is essential to
me is that they do not suspect me of having launched the keg that
was so providentially picked up at Bermuda. Never, I must say, has
Engineer Serko ever made any allusion to any such probability. No, I
am not even suspected. If the contrary were the case I am sufficiently
acquainted with Ker Karraje to know that he would long ago have sent
me to rejoin Lieutenant Davon and the _Sword_ at the bottom of the
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