In Search of the Castaways
Part 10 out of 11
but when this new issue was afforded, it rushed forth fiercely,
and by the laws of equilibrium, the other eruptions in the island must
on that night have lost their usual intensity.
An hour after this volcano burst upon the world, broad streams of lava
were running down its sides. Legions of rats came out of their holes,
and fled from the scene.
All night long, and fanned by the tempest in the upper sky,
the crater never ceased to pour forth its torrents with a violence
that alarmed Glenarvan. The eruption was breaking away the edges
of the opening. The prisoners. hidden behind the inclosure of stakes,
watched the fearful progress of the phenomenon.
Morning came. The fury of the volcano had not slackened.
Thick yellowish fumes were mixed with the flames; the lava
torrents wound their serpentine course in every direction.
Glenarvan watched with a beating heart, looking from all the interstices
of the palisaded enclosure, and observed the movements in the native camp.
The Maories had fled to the neighboring ledges, out of the reach
of the volcano. Some corpses which lay at the foot of the cone,
were charred by the fire. Further off toward the "pah," the lava
had reached a group of twenty huts, which were still smoking.
The Maories, forming here and there groups, contemplated the canopied
summit of Maunganamu with religious awe.
Kai-Koumou approached in the midst of his warriors, and Glenarvan
recognized him. The chief advanced to the foot of the hill,
on the side untouched by the lava, but he did not ascend
the first ledge.
Standing there, with his arms stretched out like an ex-erciser,
he made some grimaces, whose meaning was obvious to the prisoners.
As Paganel had foreseen, Kai-Koumou launched on the avenging mountain
a more rigorous taboo.
Soon after the natives left their positions and followed the winding
paths that led toward the pah.
"They are going!" exclaimed Glenarvan. "They have left
their posts! God be praised! Our stratagem has succeeded!
My dear Lady Helena, my brave friends, we are all dead and buried!
But this evening when night comes, we shall rise and leave our tomb,
and fly these barbarous tribes!"
It would be difficult to conceive of the joy that pervaded the oudoupa.
Hope had regained the mastery in all hearts. The intrepid travelers
forgot the past, forgot the future, to enjoy the present delight!
And yet the task before them was not an easy one--to gain
some European outpost in the midst of this unknown country.
But Kai-Koumou once off their track, they thought themselves safe
from all the savages in New Zealand.
A whole day had to elapse before they could make a start,
and they employed it in arranging a plan of flight.
Paganel had treasured up his map of New Zealand, and on it
could trace out the best roads.
After discussion, the fugitives resolved to make for the Bay of Plenty,
towards the east. The region was unknown, but apparently desert.
The travelers, who from their past experience, had learned
to make light of physical difficulties, feared nothing but
meeting Maories. At any cost they wanted to avoid them and gain
the east coast, where the missionaries had several stations.
That part of the country had hitherto escaped the horrors of war,
and the natives were not in the habit of scouring the country.
As to the distance that separated Lake Taupo from the Bay
of Plenty, they calculated it about a hundred miles.
Ten days' march at ten miles a day, could be done,
not without fatigue, but none of the party gave that a thought.
If they could only reach the mission stations they could rest there
while waiting for a favorable opportunity to get to Auckland,
for that was the point they desired to reach.
This question settled, they resumed their watch of the
native proceedings, and continued so doing till evening fell.
Not a solitary native remained at the foot of the mountain,
and when darkness set in over the Taupo valleys, not a fire
indicated the presence of the Maories at the base.
The road was free.
At nine o'clock, the night being unusually dark,
Glenarvan gave the order to start. His companions and he,
armed and equipped at the expense of Kara-Tete, began
cautiously to descend the slopes of Maunganamu, John Mangles
and Wilson leading the way, eyes and ears on the alert.
They stopped at the slightest sound, they started at every
passing cloud. They slid rather than walked down the spur,
that their figures might be lost in the dark mass of the mountain.
At two hundred feet below the summit, John Mangles and his
sailors reached the dangerous ridge that had been so obstinately
defended by the natives. If by ill luck the Maories,
more cunning than the fugitives, had only pretended to retreat;
if they were not really duped by the volcanic phenomenon,
this was the spot where their presence would be betrayed.
Glenarvan could not but shudder, in spite of his confidence,
and in spite of the jokes of Paganel. The fate of the whole party
would hang in the balance for the ten minutes required to pass
along that ridge. He felt the beating of Lady Helena's heart,
as she clung to his arm.
He had no thought of turning back. Neither had John.
The young captain, followed closely by the whole party,
and protected by the intense darkness, crept along the ridge,
stopping when some loose stone rolled to the bottom.
If the savages were still in the ambush below, these unusual
sounds might provoke from both sides a dangerous fusillade.
But speed was impossible in their serpent-like progress down this
sloping crest. When John Mangles had reached the lowest point,
he was scarcely twenty-five feet from the plateau, where the natives
were encamped the night before, and then the ridge rose again pretty
steeply toward a wood for about a quarter of a mile.
All this lower part was crossed without molestation, and they
commenced the ascent in silence. The clump of bush was invisible,
though they knew it was there, and but for the possibility of an ambush,
Glenarvan counted on being safe when the party arrived at that point.
But he observed that after this point, they were no longer protected
by the taboo. The ascending ridge belonged not to Maunganamu,
but to the mountain system of the eastern side of Lake Taupo, so that
they had not only pistol shots, but hand-to-hand fighting to fear.
For ten minutes, the little band ascended by insensible degrees
toward the higher table-land. John could not discern the dark wood,
but he knew it ought to be within two hundred feet. Suddenly he stopped;
almost retreated. He fancied he heard something in the darkness;
his stoppage interrupted the march of those behind.
He remained motionless long enough to alarm his companions.
They waited with unspeakable anxiety, wondering if they were doomed
to retrace their steps, and return to the summit of Maunganamu.
But John, finding that the noise was not repeated, resumed the ascent
of the narrow path of the ridge. Soon they perceived the shadowy
outline of the wood showing faintly through the darkness.
A few steps more and they were hid from sight in the thick foliage
of the trees.
CHAPTER XV FROM PERIL TO SAFETY
THE night favored their escape, and prudence urged them
to lose no time in getting away from the fatal neighborhood
of Lake Taupo. Paganel took the post of leader, and his wonderful
instinct shone out anew in this difficult mountain journey.
His nyctalopia was a great advantage, his cat-like sight enabling
him to distinguish the smallest object in the deepest gloom.
For three hours they walked on without halting along the far-reaching
slope of the eastern side. Paganel kept a little to the southeast,
in order to make use of a narrow passage between the Kaimanawa
and the Wahiti Ranges, through which the road from Hawkes' Bay to
Auckland passes. Once through that gorge, his plan was to keep off
the road, and, under the shelter of the high ranges, march to the coast
across the inhabited regions of the province.
At nine o'clock in the morning, they had made twelve miles
in twelve hours. The courageous women could not be pressed
further, and, besides, the locality was suitable for camping.
The fugitives had reached the pass that separates the two chains.
Paganel, map in hand, made a loop toward the northeast,
and at ten o'clock the little party reached a sort of redan,
formed by a projecting rock.
The provisions were brought out, and justice was done to their meal.
Mary Grant and the Major, who had not thought highly of the edible fern
till then, now ate of it heartily.
The halt lasted till two o'clock in the afternoon, then they
resumed their journey; and in the evening they stopped eight
miles from the mountains, and required no persuasion to sleep
in the open air.
Next day was one of serious difficulties. Their route lay across
this wondrous region of volcanic lakes, geysers, and solfataras,
which extended to the east of the Wahiti Ranges. It is a country
more pleasant for the eye to ramble over, than for the limbs.
Every quarter of a mile they had to turn aside or go around for
some obstacle, and thus incurred great fatigue; but what a strange
sight met their eyes! What infinite variety nature lavishes
on her great panoramas!
On this vast extent of twenty miles square, the subterranean
forces had a field for the display of all their varied effects.
Salt springs, of singular transparency, peopled by myriads
of insects, sprang up from thickets of tea-tree scrub.
They diffused a powerful odor of burnt powder, and scattered
on the ground a white sediment like dazzling snow.
The limpid waters were nearly at boiling point, while some
neighboring springs spread out like sheets of glass.
Gigantic tree-ferns grew beside them, in conditions analogous
to those of the Silurian vegetation.
On every side jets of water rose like park fountains, out of
a sea of vapor; some of them continuous, others intermittent,
as if a capricious Pluto controlled their movements.
They rose like an amphitheater on natural terraces; their waters
gradually flowed together under folds of white smoke, and corroding
the edges of the semi-transparent steps of this gigantic staircase.
They fed whole lakes with their boiling torrents.
Farther still, beyond the hot springs and tumultuous geysers,
came the solfataras. The ground looked as if covered with
large pustules. These were slumbering craters full of cracks
and fissures from which rose various gases. The air was
saturated with the acrid and unpleasant odor of sulphurous acid.
The ground was encrusted with sulphur and crystalline concretions.
All this incalculable wealth had been accumulating for centuries,
and if the sulphur beds of Sicily should ever be exhausted,
it is here, in this little known district of New Zealand,
that supplies must be sought.
The fatigue in traveling in such a country as this will be
best understood. Camping was very difficult, and the sportsmen
of the party shot nothing worthy of Olbinett's skill; so that they
had generally to content themselves with fern and sweet potato--
a poor diet which was scarcely sufficient to recruit the exhausted
strength of the little party, who were all anxious to escape
from this barren region.
But four days at least must elapse before they could hope to leave it.
On February 23, at a distance of fifty miles from Maunganamu, Glenarvan
called a halt, and camped at the foot of a nameless mountain,
marked on Paganel's map. The wooded plains stretched away from sight,
and great forests appeared on the horizon.
That day McNabbs and Robert killed three kiwis, which filled the chief
place on their table, not for long, however, for in a few moments they
were all consumed from the beaks to the claws.
At dessert, between the potatoes and sweet potatoes,
Paganel moved a resolution which was carried with enthusiasm.
He proposed to give the name of Glenarvan to this unnamed mountain,
which rose 3,000 feet high, and then was lost in the clouds,
and he printed carefully on his map the name of the Scottish nobleman.
It would be idle to narrate all the monotonous and uninteresting
details of the rest of the journey. Only two or three occurrences
of any importance took place on the way from the lakes to
the Pacific Ocean. The march was all day long across forests
and plains. John took observations of the sun and stars.
Neither heat nor rain increased the discomfort of the journey,
but the travelers were so reduced by the trials they had undergone,
that they made very slow progress; and they longed to arrive
at the mission station.
They still chatted, but the conversation had ceased to be general.
The little party broke up into groups, attracted to each other,
not by narrow sympathies, but by a more personal communion of ideas.
Glenarvan generally walked alone; his mind seemed to recur
to his unfortunate crew, as he drew nearer to the sea.
He apparently lost sight of the dangers which lay before them
on their way to Auckland, in the thought of his massacred men;
the horrible picture haunted him.
Harry Grant was never spoken of; they were no longer in a position
to make any effort on his behalf. If his name was uttered at all,
it was between his daughter and John Mangles.
John had never reminded Mary of what she had said to him
on that last night at Ware-Atoua. He was too wise to take
advantage of a word spoken in a moment of despair.
When he mentioned Captain Grant, John always spoke of further search.
He assured Mary that Lord Glenarvan would re-embark in the enterprise.
He persistently returned to the fact that the authenticity
of the document was indisputable, and that therefore Harry Grant
was somewhere to be found, and that they would find him, if they
had to try all over the world. Mary drank in his words, and she
and John, united by the same thought, cherished the same hope.
Often Lady Helena joined in the conversation; but she did
not participate in their illusions, though she refrained from
chilling their enthusiasm.
McNabbs, Robert, Wilson, and Mulrady kept up their hunting parties,
without going far from the rest, and each one furnished his QUOTA of game.
Paganel, arrayed in his flax mat, kept himself aloof, in a silent
and pensive mood.
And yet, it is only justice to say, in spite of the general rule that,
in the midst of trials, dangers, fatigues, and privations, the most
amiable dispositions become ruffled and embittered, all our travelers
were united, devoted, ready to die for one another.
On the 25th of February, their progress was stopped by a river which
answered to the Wakari on Paganel's map, and was easily forded. For two
days plains of low scrub succeeded each other without interruption.
Half the distance from Lake Taupo to the coast had been traversed
without accident, though not without fatigue.
Then the scene changed to immense and interminable forests, which reminded
them of Australia, but here the kauri took the place of the eucalyptus.
Although their enthusiasm had been incessantly called forth during
their four months' journey, Glenarvan and his companions were compelled
to admire and wonder at those gigantic pines, worthy rivals of the Cedars
of Lebanon, and the "Mammoth trees" of California. The kauris measured
a hundred feet high, before the ramification of the branches.
They grew in isolated clumps, and the forest was not composed of trees,
but of innumerable groups of trees, which spread their green canopies
in the air two hundred feet from the ground.
Some of these pines, still young, about a hundred years old,
resembled the red pine of Europe. They had a dark crown
surmounted by a dark conical shoot. Their older brethren,
five or six hundred years of age, formed great green pavilions
supported on the inextricable network of their branches.
These patriarchs of the New Zealand forest measured fifty yards
in circumference, and the united arms of all the travelers
could not embrace the giant trunk.
For three days the little party made their way under these vast arches,
over a clayey soil which the foot of man had never trod.
They knew this by the quantity of resinous gum that lay in heaps
at the foot of the trees, and which would have lasted for native
exportation many years.
The sportsmen found whole coveys of the kiwi, which are scarce
in districts frequented by the Maories; the native dogs drive
them away to the shelter of these inaccessible forests.
They were an abundant source of nourishing food to our travelers.
Paganel also had the good fortune to espy, in a thicket, a pair
of gigantic birds; his instinct as a naturalist was awakened.
He called his companions, and in spite of their fatigue,
the Major, Robert, and he set off on the track of these animals.
His curiosity was excusable, for he had recognized, or thought
he had recognized, these birds as "moas" belonging to the species
of "dinornis," which many naturalists class with the extinct birds.
This, if Paganel was right, would confirm the opinion of Dr. Hochstetter
and other travelers on the present existence of the wingless giants
of New Zealand.
These moas which Paganel was chasing, the contemporaries of the
Megatherium and the Pterodactyles, must have been eighteen feet high.
They were huge ostriches, timid too, for they fled with extreme rapidity.
But no shot could stay their course. After a few minutes of chase,
these fleet-footed moas disappeared among the tall trees,
and the sportsmen lost their powder and their pains.
That evening, March 1, Glenarvan and his companions, emerging at last
from the immense kauri-forest, camped at the foot of Mount Ikirangi,
whose summit rose five thousand five hundred feet into the air.
At this point they had traveled a hundred miles from Maunganamu,
and the shore was still thirty miles away. John Mangles had calculated
on accomplishing the whole journey in ten days, but he did not foresee
the physical difficulties of the country.
On the whole, owing to the circuits, the obstacles,
and the imperfect observations, the journey had been extended
by fully one-fifth, and now that they had reached Mount Ikirangi,
they were quite worn out.
Two long days of walking were still to be accomplished,
during which time all their activity and vigilance would be required,
for their way was through a district often frequented by the natives.
The little party conquered their weariness, and set out next
morning at daybreak.
Between Mount Ikirangi which was left to the right, and Mount Hardy
whose summit rose on the left to a height of 3,700 feet, the journey
was very trying; for about ten miles the bush was a tangle
of "supple-jack," a kind of flexible rope, appropriately called
"stifling-creeper," that caught the feet at every step.
For two days, they had to cut their way with an ax through
this thousand-headed hydra. Hunting became impossible,
and the sportsmen failed in their accustomed tribute.
The provisions were almost exhausted, and there was no means
of renewing them; their thirst was increasing by fatigue,
and there was no water wherewith to quench it.
The sufferings of Glenarvan and his party became terrible,
and for the first time their moral energy threatened to give way.
They no longer walked, they dragged themselves along, soulless bodies,
animated only by the instinct of self-preservation which survives
every other feeling, and in this melancholy plight they reached
Point Lottin on the shores of the Pacific.
Here they saw several deserted huts, the ruins of a village
lately destroyed by the war, abandoned fields, and everywhere
signs of pillage and incendiary fires.
They were toiling painfully along the shore, when they saw,
at a distance of about a mile, a band of natives, who rushed toward
them brandishing their weapons. Glenarvan, hemmed in by the sea,
could not fly, and summoning all his remaining strength he was
about to meet the attack, when John Mangles cried:
"A boat! a boat!"
And there, twenty paces off, a canoe with six oars lay on the beach.
To launch it, jump in and fly from the dangerous shore,
was only a minute's work. John Mangles, McNabbs, Wilson and
Mulrady took the oars; Glenarvan the helm; the two women,
Robert and Olbinett stretched themselves beside him.
In ten minutes the canoe was a quarter of a mile from the shore.
The sea was calm. The fugitives were silent. But John,
who did not want to get too far from land, was about to give
the order to go up the coast, when he suddenly stopped rowing.
He saw three canoes coming out from behind Point Lottin and evidently
about to give chase.
"Out to sea! Out to sea!" he exclaimed. "Better to drown
if we must!"
The canoe went fast under her four rowers. For half an hour she
kept her distance; but the poor exhausted fellows grew weaker,
and the three pursuing boats began to gain sensibly on them.
At this moment, scarcely two miles lay between them.
It was impossible to avoid the attack of the natives, who were
already preparing to fire their long guns.
What was Glenarvan about?--standing up in the stern he was looking
toward the horizon for some chimerical help. What did he hope for?
What did he wish? Had he a presentiment?
In a moment his eyes gleamed, his hand pointed out into the distance.
"A ship! a ship!" he cried. "My friends, row! row hard!"
Not one of the rowers turned his head--not an oar-stroke must be lost.
Paganel alone rose, and turned his telescope to the point indicated.
"Yes," said he, "a ship! a steamer! they are under full steam! they
are coming to us! Found now, brave comrades!"
The fugitives summoned new energy, and for another half hour,
keeping their distance, they rowed with hasty strokes.
The steamer came nearer and nearer. They made out her two masts,
bare of sails, and the great volumes of black smoke.
Glenarvan, handing the tiller to Robert, seized Paganel's glass,
and watched the movements of the steamer.
John Mangles and his companions were lost in wonder when they
saw Glenarvan's features contract and grow pale, and the glass
drop from his hands. One word explained it.
"The DUNCAN!" exclaimed Glenarvan. "The DUNCAN, and the convicts!"
"The DUNCAN!" cried John, letting go his oar and rising.
"Yes, death on all sides!" murmured Glenarvan, crushed by despair.
It was indeed the yacht, they could not mistake her--the yacht
and her bandit crew!
The major could scarcely restrain himself from cursing their destiny.
The canoe was meantime standing still. Where should they go?
Whither fly? What choice was there between the convicts
and the savages?
A shot was fired from the nearest of the native boats, and the ball
struck Wilson's oar.
A few strokes then carried the canoe nearer to the DUNCAN.
The yacht was coming down at full speed, and was not more than half
a mile off.
John Mangles, between two enemies, did not know what to advise,
whither to fly! The two poor ladies on their knees,
prayed in their agony.
The savages kept up a running fire, and shots were raining
round the canoe, when suddenly a loud report was heard,
and a ball from the yacht's cannon passed over their heads,
and now the boat remained motionless between the DUNCAN and
the native canoes.
John Mangles, frenzied with despair, seized his ax. He was about
to scuttle the boat and sink it with his unfortunate companions,
when a cry from Robert arrested his arm.
"Tom Austin! Tom Austin!" the lad shouted. "He is on board!
I see him! He knows us! He is waving his hat."
The ax hung useless in John's hand.
A second ball whistled over his head, and cut in two the nearest
of the three native boats, while a loud hurrah burst forth
on board the DUNCAN.
The savages took flight, fled and regained the shore.
"Come on, Tom, come on!" cried John Mangles in a joyous voice.
And a few minutes after, the ten fugitives, how, they knew not,
were all safe on board the DUNCAN.
CHAPTER XVI WHY THE "DUNCAN" WENT TO NEW ZEALAND
IT would be vain to attempt to depict the feelings of Glenarvan
and his friends when the songs of old Scotia fell on their ears.
The moment they set foot on the deck of the DUNCAN, the piper blew
his bagpipes, and commenced the national pibroch of the Malcolm clan,
while loud hurrahs rent the air.
Glenarvan and his whole party, even the Major himself, were crying
and embracing each other. They were delirious with joy.
The geographer was absolutely mad. He frisked about, telescope in hand,
pointing it at the last canoe approaching the shore.
But at the sight of Glenarvan and his companions, with their
clothing in rags, and thin, haggard faces, bearing marks of
horrible sufferings, the crew ceased their noisy demonstrations.
These were specters who had returned--not the bright,
adventurous travelers who had left the yacht three months before,
so full of hope! Chance, and chance only, had brought them
back to the deck of the yacht they never thought to see again.
And in what a state of exhaustion and feebleness.
But before thinking of fatigue, or attending to the imperious
demands of hunger and thirst, Glenarvan questioned Tom Austin
about his being on this coast.
Why had the DUNCAN come to the eastern coast of New Zealand? How was it
not in the hands of Ben Joyce? By what providential fatality had God
brought them in the track of the fugitives?
Why? how? and for what purpose? Tom was stormed with questions
on all sides. The old sailor did not know which to listen
to first, and at last resolved to hear nobody but Glenarvan,
and to answer nobody but him.
"But the convicts?" inquired Glenarvan. "What did you do with them?"
"The convicts?" replied Tom, with the air of a man who does
not in the least understand what he is being asked.
"Yes, the wretches who attacked the yacht."
"What yacht? Your Honor's?"
"Why, of course, Tom. The DUNCAN, and Ben Joyce, who came on board."
"I don't know this Ben Joyce, and have never seen him."
"Never seen him!" exclaimed Paganel, stupefied at the old
sailor's replies. "Then pray tell me, Tom, how it is that the DUNCAN
is cruising at this moment on the coast of New Zealand?"
But if Glenarvan and his friends were totally at a loss to understand
the bewilderment of the old sailor, what was their amazement when
he replied in a calm voice:
"The DUNCAN is cruising here by your Honor's orders."
"By my orders?" cried Glenarvan.
"Yes, my Lord. I only acted in obedience to the instructions
sent in your letter of January fourteenth."
"My letter! my letter!" exclaimed Glenarvan.
The ten travelers pressed closer round Tom Austin, devouring him
with their eyes. The letter dated from Snowy River had reached
the DUNCAN, then.
"Let us come to explanations, pray, for it seems to me I am dreaming.
You received a letter, Tom?"
"Yes, a letter from your Honor."
"At Melbourne, just as our repairs were completed."
"And this letter?"
"It was not written by you, but bore your signature, my Lord."
"Just so; my letter was brought by a convict called Ben Joyce."
"No, by a sailor called Ayrton, a quartermaster on the BRITANNIA."
"Yes, Ayrton or Ben Joyce, one and the same individual.
Well, and what were the contents of this letter?"
"It contained orders to leave Melbourne without delay, and go
and cruise on the eastern coast of--"
"Australia!" said Glenarvan with such vehemence that the old sailor
was somewhat disconcerted.
"Of Australia?" repeated Tom, opening his eyes. "No, but New Zealand."
"Australia, Tom! Australia!" they all cried with one voice.
Austin's head began to feel in a whirl. Glenarvan spoke
with such assurance that he thought after all he must have
made a mistake in reading the letter. Could a faithful,
exact old servant like himself have been guilty of such a thing!
He turned red and looked quite disturbed.
"Never mind, Tom," said Lady Helena. "God so willed it."
"But, no, madam, pardon me," replied old Tom. "No, it is impossible,
I was not mistaken. Ayrton read the letter as I did, and it was he,
on the contrary, who wished to bring me to the Australian coast."
"Ayrton!" cried Glenarvan.
"Yes, Ayrton himself. He insisted it was a mistake:
that you meant to order me to Twofold Bay."
"Have you the letter still, Tom?" asked the Major, extremely interested
in this mystery.
"Yes, Mr. McNabbs," replied Austin. "I'll go and fetch it."
V. IV Verne
He ran at once to his cabin in the forecastle. During his momentary
absence they gazed at each other in silence, all but the Major,
who crossed his arms and said:
"Well, now, Paganel, you must own this would be going a little too far."
"What?" growled Paganel, looking like a gigantic note of interrogation,
with his spectacles on his forehead and his stooping back.
Austin returned directly with the letter written by Paganel
and signed by Glenarvan.
"Will your Honor read it?" he said, handing it to him.
Glenarvan took the letter and read as follows:
"Order to Tom Austin to put out to sea without delay,
and to take the Duncan, by latitude 37 degrees to the eastern
coast of New Zealand!"
"New Zealand!" cried Paganel, leaping up.
And he seized the letter from Glenarvan, rubbed his eyes,
pushed down his spectacles on his nose, and read it for himself.
"New Zealand!" he repeated in an indescribable tone, letting the order
slip between his fingers.
That same moment he felt a hand laid on his shoulder,
and turning round found himself face to face with the Major,
who said in a grave tone:
"Well, my good Paganel, after all, it is a lucky thing you did
not send the DUNCAN to Cochin China!"
This pleasantry finished the poor geographer. The crew burst
out into loud Homeric laughter. Paganel ran about like
a madman, seized his head with both hands and tore his hair.
He neither knew what he was doing nor what he wanted to do.
He rushed down the poop stairs mechanically and paced the deck,
nodding to himself and going straight before without aim or object
till he reached the forecastle. There his feet got entangled
in a coil of rope. He stumbled and fell, accidentally catching
hold of a rope with both hands in his fall.
Suddenly a tremendous explosion was heard. The forecastle gun
had gone off, riddling the quiet calm of the waves with a volley
of small shot. The unfortunate Paganel had caught hold of the cord
of the loaded gun. The geographer was thrown down the forecastle
ladder and disappeared below.
A cry of terror succeeded the surprise produced by the explosion.
Everybody thought something terrible must have happened. The sailors
rushed between decks and lifted up Paganel, almost bent double.
The geographer uttered no sound.
They carried his long body onto the poop. His companions were
in despair. The Major, who was always the surgeon on great occasions,
began to strip the unfortunate that he might dress his wounds;
but he had scarcely put his hands on the dying man when he started
up as if touched by an electrical machine.
"Never! never!" he exclaimed, and pulling his ragged coat tightly
round him, he began buttoning it up in a strangely excited manner.
"But, Paganel," began the Major.
"No, I tell you!"
"I must examine--"
"You shall not examine."
"You may perhaps have broken--" continued McNabbs.
"Yes," continued Paganel, getting up on his long legs, "but what I
have broken the carpenter can mend."
"What is it, then?"
Bursts of laughter from the crew greeted this speech.
Paganel's friends were quite reassured about him now.
They were satisfied that he had come off safe and sound from
his adventure with the forecastle gun.
"At any rate," thought the Major, "the geographer is wonderfully bashful."
But now Paganel was recovered a little, he had to reply to a question
he could not escape.
"Now, Paganel," said Glenarvan, "tell us frankly all about it.
I own that your blunder was providential. It is sure and certain that
but for you the DUNCAN would have fallen into the hands of the convicts;
but for you we should have been recaptured by the Maories. But for my
sake tell me by what supernatural aberration of mind you were induced
to write New Zealand instead of Australia?"
"Well, upon my oath," said Paganel, "it is--"
But the same instant his eyes fell on Mary and Robert Grant,
and he stopped short and then went on:
"What would you have me say, my dear Glenarvan? I am mad,
I am an idiot, an incorrigible fellow, and I shall live and die
the most terrible absent man. I can't change my skin."
"Unless you get flayed alive."
"Get flayed alive!" cried the geographer, with a furious look.
"Is that a personal allusion?"
"An allusion to what?" asked McNabbs, quietly. This was all that passed.
The mystery of the DUNCAN'S presence on the coast was explained,
and all that the travelers thought about now was to get back to their
comfortable cabins, and to have breakfast.
However, Glenarvan and John Mangles stayed behind with Tom Austin
after the others had retired. They wished to put some further
questions to him.
"Now, then, old Austin," said Glenarvan, "tell me, didn't it
strike you as strange to be ordered to go and cruise on the coast
of New Zealand?"
"Yes, your Honor," replied Tom. "I was very much surprised, but it
is not my custom to discuss any orders I receive, and I obeyed. Could I
do otherwise? If some catastrophe had occurred through not carrying
out your injunctions to the letter, should not I have been to blame?
Would you have acted differently, captain?"
"No, Tom," replied John Mangles.
"But what did you think?" asked Glenarvan.
"I thought, your Honor, that in the interest of Harry Grant,
it was necessary to go where I was told to go. I thought that in
consequence of fresh arrangements, you were to sail over to New Zealand,
and that I was to wait for you on the east coast of the island.
Moreover, on leaving Melbourne, I kept our destination a secret,
and the crew only knew it when we were right out at sea,
and the Australian continent was finally out of sight.
But one circumstance occurred which greatly perplexed me."
"What was it, Tom?" asked Glenarvan.
"Just this, that when the quartermaster of the BRITANNIA
heard our destination--"
"Ayrton!" cried Glenarvan. "Then he is on board?"
"Yes, your Honor."
"Ayrton here?" repeated Glenarvan, looking at John Mangles.
"God has so willed!" said the young captain.
In an instant, like lightning, Ayrton's conduct, his long-planned
treachery, Glenarvan's wound, Mulrady's assassination, the sufferings
of the expedition in the marshes of the Snowy River, the whole past
life of the miscreant, flashed before the eyes of the two men.
And now, by the strangest concourse of events, the convict was
in their power.
"Where is he?" asked Glenarvan eagerly.
"In a cabin in the forecastle, and under guard."
"Why was he imprisoned?"
"Because when Ayrton heard the vessel was going to New Zealand, he was
in a fury; because he tried to force me to alter the course of the ship;
because he threatened me; and, last of all, because he incited my men
to mutiny. I saw clearly he was a dangerous individual, and I must
take precautions against him."
"And since then?"
"Since then he has remained in his cabin without attempting
to go out."
"That's well, Tom."
Just at this moment Glenarvan and John Mangles were summoned to the saloon
where breakfast, which they so sorely needed, was awaiting them.
They seated themselves at the table and spoke no more of Ayrton.
But after the meal was over, and the guests were refreshed
and invigorated, and they all went upon deck, Glenarvan acquainted
them with the fact of the quartermaster's presence on board,
and at the same time announced his intention of having him
brought before them.
"May I beg to be excused from being present at his examination?"
said Lady Helena. "I confess, dear Edward, it would be extremely
painful for me to see the wretched man."
"He must be confronted with us, Helena," replied Lord Glenarvan; "I beg
you will stay. Ben Joyce must see all his victims face to face."
Lady Helena yielded to his wish. Mary Grant sat beside her,
near Glenarvan. All the others formed a group round them, the whole party
that had been compromised so seriously by the treachery of the convict.
The crew of the yacht, without understanding the gravity of the situation,
kept profound silence.
"Bring Ayrton here," said Glenarvan.
CHAPTER XVII AYRTON'S OBSTINACY
AYRTON came. He crossed the deck with a confident tread,
and mounted the steps to the poop. His eyes were gloomy,
his teeth set, his fists clenched convulsively.
His appearance betrayed neither effrontery nor timidity.
When he found himself in the presence of Lord Glenarvan he folded
his arms and awaited the questions calmly and silently.
"Ayrton," said Glenarvan, "here we are then, you and us,
on this very DUNCAN that you wished to deliver into the hands
of the convicts of Ben Joyce."
The lips of the quartermaster trembled slightly and a quick flush
suffused his impassive features. Not the flush of remorse,
but of shame at failure. On this yacht which he thought
he was to command as master, he was a prisoner, and his fate
was about to be decided in a few seconds.
However, he made no reply. Glenarvan waited patiently.
But Ayrton persisted in keeping absolute silence.
"Speak, Ayrton, what have you to say?" resumed Glenarvan.
Ayrton hesitated, the wrinkles in his forehead deepened,
and at length he said in calm voice:
"I have nothing to say, my Lord. I have been fool enough to allow
myself to be caught. Act as you please."
Then he turned his eyes away toward the coast which lay on the west,
and affected profound indifference to what was passing around him.
One would have thought him a stranger to the whole affair.
But Glenarvan was determined to be patient. Powerful motives
urged him to find out certain details concerning the mysterious
life of Ayrton, especially those which related to Harry Grant
and the BRITANNIA. He therefore resumed his interrogations,
speaking with extreme gentleness and firmly restraining his violent
irritation against him.
"I think, Ayrton," he went on, "that you will not refuse to reply
to certain questions that I wish to put to you; and, first of all,
ought I to call you Ayrton or Ben Joyce? Are you, or are you not,
the quartermaster of the BRITANNIA?"
Ayrton remained impassive, gazing at the coast, deaf to every question.
Glenarvan's eyes kindled, as he said again:
"Will you tell me how you left the BRITANNIA, and why you
are in Australia?"
The same silence, the same impassibility.
"Listen to me, Ayrton," continued Glenarvan; "it is to your
interest to speak. Frankness is the only resource left to you,
and it may stand you in good stead. For the last time, I ask you,
will you reply to my questions?"
Ayrton turned his head toward Glenarvan, and looked into his eyes.
"My Lord," he said, "it is not for me to answer. Justice may witness
against me, but I am not going to witness against myself."
"Proof will be easy," said Glenarvan.
"Easy, my Lord," repeated Ayrton, in a mocking tone.
"Your honor makes rather a bold assertion there, it seems to me.
For my own part, I venture to affirm that the best judge in
the Temple would be puzzled what to make of me. Who will say why
I came to Australia, when Captain Grant is not here to tell?
Who will prove that I am the Ben Joyce placarded by the police,
when the police have never had me in their hands, and my companions
are at liberty? Who can damage me except yourself, by bringing
forward a single crime against me, or even a blameable action?
Who will affirm that I intended to take possession of this
ship and deliver it into the hands of the convicts?
No one, I tell you, no one. You have your suspicions, but you
need certainties to condemn a man, and certainties you have none.
Until there is a proof to the contrary, I am Ayrton,
quartermaster of the BRITANNIA."
Ayrton had become animated while he was speaking, but soon relapsed
into his former indifference.
He, no doubt, expected that his reply would close the examination,
but Glenarvan commenced again, and said:
"Ayrton, I am not a Crown prosecutor charged with your indictment.
That is no business of mine. It is important that our
respective situations should be clearly defined.
I am not asking you anything that could compromise you.
That is for justice to do. But you know what I am searching for,
and a single word may put me on the track I have lost.
Will you speak?"
Ayrton shook his head like a man determined to be silent.
"Will you tell me where Captain Grant is?" asked Glenarvan.
"No, my Lord," replied Ayrton.
"Will you tell me where the BRITANNIA was wrecked?"
"No, neither the one nor the other."
"Ayrton," said Glenarvan, in almost beseeching tones, "if you know
where Harry Grant is, will you, at least, tell his poor children,
who are waiting for you to speak the word?"
Ayrton hesitated. His features contracted, and he muttered
in a low voice, "I cannot, my Lord."
Then he added with vehemence, as if reproaching himself for
a momentary weakness:
"No, I will not speak. Have me hanged, if you choose."
"Hanged!" exclaimed Glenarvan, overcome by a sudden feeling of anger.
But immediately mastering himself, he added in a grave voice:
"Ayrton, there is neither judge nor executioner here.
At the first port we touch at, you will be given up into the hands
of the English authorities."
"That is what I demand," was the quartermaster's reply.
Then he turned away and quietly walked back to his cabin,
which served as his prison. Two sailors kept guard at
the door, with orders to watch his slightest movement.
The witnesses of this examination retired from the scene
indignant and despairing.
As Glenarvan could make no way against Ayrton's obstinacy,
what was to be done now? Plainly no course remained but to
carry out the plan formed at Eden, of returning to Europe
and giving up for the time this unsuccessful enterprise,
for the traces of the BRITANNIA seemed irrevocably lost,
and the document did not appear to allow any fresh interpretation.
On the 37th parallel there was not even another country,
and the DUNCAN had only to turn and go back.
After Glenarvan had consulted his friends, he talked over
the question of returning, more particularly with the captain.
John examined the coal bunkers, and found there was only
enough to last fifteen days longer at the outside.
It was necessary, therefore, to put in at the nearest port
for a fresh supply.
John proposed that he should steer for the Bay of Talcahuano,
where the DUNCAN had once before been revictualed before she
commenced her voyage of circumnavigation. It was a direct
route across, and lay exactly along the 37th parallel.
From thence the yacht, being amply provisioned, might go south,
double Cape Horn, and get back to Scotland by the Atlantic route.
This plan was adopted, and orders were given to the engineer to get up
the steam. Half an hour afterward the beak-head of the yacht was turned
toward Talcahuano, over a sea worthy of being called the Pacific,
and at six P. M. the last mountains of New Zealand had disappeared
in warm, hazy mist on the horizon.
The return voyage was fairly commenced. A sad voyage, for the
courageous searching party to come back to the port without bringing
home Harry Grant with them! The crew, so joyous at departure and
so hopeful, were coming back to Europe defeated and discouraged.
There was not one among the brave fellows whose heart did
not swell at the thought of seeing his own country once more;
and yet there was not one among them either who would not have
been willing to brave the perils of the sea for a long time still
if they could but find Captain Grant.
Consequently, the hurrahs which greeted the return of Lord Glenarvan
to the yacht soon gave place to dejection. Instead of the close
intercourse which had formerly existed among the passengers,
and the lively conversations which had cheered the voyage,
each one kept apart from the others in the solitude of his own cabin,
and it was seldom that anyone appeared on the deck of the DUNCAN.
Paganel, who generally shared in an exaggerated form
the feelings of those about him, whether painful or joyous--
a man who could have invented hope if necessary--even Paganel
was gloomy and taciturn. He was seldom visible; his natural
loquacity and French vivacity gave place to silence and dejection.
He seemed even more downhearted than his companions.
If Glenarvan spoke at all of renewing the search, he shook his
head like a man who has given up all hope, and whose convictions
concerning the fate of the shipwrecked men appeared settled.
It was quite evident he believed them irrevocably lost.
And yet there was a man on board who could have spoken the decisive word,
and refused to break his silence. This was Ayrton. There was no doubt
the fellow knew, if not the present whereabouts of the captain, at least
the place of shipwreck. But it was evident that were Grant found,
he would be a witness against him. Hence his persistent silence,
which gave rise to great indignation on board, especially among the crew,
who would have liked to deal summarily with him.
Glenarvan repeatedly renewed his attempts with the quartermaster,
but promises and threats were alike useless.
Ayrton's obstinacy was so great, and so inexplicable,
that the Major began to believe he had nothing to reveal.
His opinion was shared, moreover, by the geographer, as it
corroborated his own notion about Harry Grant.
But if Ayrton knew nothing, why did he not confess his ignorance?
It could not be turned against him. His silence increased the difficulty
of forming any new plan. Was the presence of the quartermaster
on the Australian continent a proof of Harry Grant's being there?
It was settled that they must get this information out of Ayrton.
Lady Helena, seeing her husband's ill-success, asked his permission
to try her powers against the obstinacy of the quartermaster.
When a man had failed, a woman perhaps, with her gentler influence,
might succeed. Is there not a constant repetition going on of
the story of the fable where the storm, blow as it will, cannot tear
the cloak from the shoulders of the traveler, while the first warm
rays of sunshine make him throw it off immediately?
Glenarvan, knowing his young wife's good sense, allowed her to act
as she pleased.
The same day (the 5th of March), Ayrton was conducted to
Lady Helena's saloon. Mary Grant was to be present at the interview,
for the influence of the young girl might be considerable,
and Lady Helena would not lose any chance of success.
For a whole hour the two ladies were closeted with
the quartermaster, but nothing transpired about their interview.
What had been said, what arguments they used to win the secret
from the convict, or what questions were asked, remained unknown;
but when they left Ayrton, they did not seem to have succeeded,
as the expression on their faces denoted discouragement.
In consequence of this, when the quartermaster was being taken
back to his cabin, the sailors met him with violent menaces.
He took no notice except by shrugging his shoulders, which so increased
their rage, that John Mangles and Glenarvan had to interfere,
and could only repress it with difficulty.
But Lady Helena would not own herself vanquished.
She resolved to struggle to the last with this pitiless man,
and went next day herself to his cabin to avoid exposing him
again to the vindictiveness of the crew.
The good and gentle Scotchwoman stayed alone with the convict leader
for two long hours. Glenarvan in a state of extreme nervous anxiety,
remained outside the cabin, alternately resolved to exhaust completely
this last chance of success, alternately resolved to rush in and snatch
his wife from so painful a situation.
But this time when Lady Helena reappeared, her look was full of hope.
Had she succeeded in extracting the secret, and awakening in that adamant
heart a last faint touch of pity?
McNabbs, who first saw her, could not restrain a gesture of incredulity.
However the report soon spread among the sailors that the quartermaster
had yielded to the persuasions of Lady Helena. The effect
was electrical. The entire crew assembled on deck far quicker
than Tom Austin's whistle could have brought them together.
Glenarvan had hastened up to his wife and eagerly asked:
"Has he spoken?"
"No," replied Lady Helena, "but he has yielded to my entreaties,
and wishes to see you."
"Ah, dear Helena, you have succeeded!"
"I hope so, Edward."
"Have you made him any promise that I must ratify?"
"Only one; that you will do all in your power to mitigate his punishment."
"Very well, dear Helena. Let Ayrton come immediately."
Lady Helena retired to her cabin with Mary Grant, and the quartermaster
was brought into the saloon where Lord Glenarvan was expecting him.
CHAPTER XVIII A DISCOURAGING CONFESSION
As soon as the quartermaster was brought into the presence
of Lord Glenarvan, his keepers withdrew.
"You wanted to speak to me, Ayrton?" said Glenarvan.
"Yes, my Lord," replied the quartermaster.
"Did you wish for a private interview?"
"Yes, but I think if Major McNabbs and Mr. Paganel were present
it would be better."
Ayrton spoke quite calmly and firmly. Glenarvan looked at him
for an instant, and then sent to summon McNabbs and Paganel,
who came at once.
"We are all ready to listen to you," said Glenarvan, when his
two friends had taken their place at the saloon table.
Ayrton collected himself, for an instant, and then said:
"My Lord, it is usual for witnesses to be present at every
contract or transaction between two parties. That is why I
desire the presence of Messrs. Paganel and McNabbs, for it is,
properly speaking, a bargain which I propose to make."
Glenarvan, accustomed to Ayrton's ways, exhibited no surprise,
though any bargaining between this man and himself seemed strange.
"What is the bargain?" he said.
"This," replied Ayrton. "You wish to obtain from me
certain facts which may be useful to you. I wish to obtain
from you certain advantages which would be valuable to me.
It is giving for giving, my Lord. Do you agree to this or not?"
"What are the facts?" asked Paganel eagerly.
"No," said Glenarvan. "What are the advantages?"
Ayrton bowed in token that he understood Glenarvan's distinction.
"These," he said, "are the advantages I ask. It is still your intention,
I suppose, to deliver me up to the English authorities?"
"Yes, Ayrton, it is only justice."
"I don't say it is not," replied the quartermaster quietly.
"Then of course you would never consent to set me at liberty."
Glenarvan hesitated before replying to a question so plainly put.
On the answer he gave, perhaps the fate of Harry Grant might depend!
However, a feeling of duty toward human justice compelled him to say:
"No, Ayrton, I cannot set you at liberty."
"I do not ask it," said the quartermaster proudly.
"Then, what is it you want?"
"A middle place, my Lord, between the gibbet that awaits me
and the liberty which you cannot grant me."
"And that is--"
"To allow me to be left on one of the uninhabited islands
of the Pacific, with such things as are absolute necessaries.
I will manage as best I can, and will repent if I have time."
Glenarvan, quite unprepared for such a proposal, looked at his two
friends in silence. But after a brief reflection, he replied:
"Ayrton, if I agree to your request, you will tell me all I
have an interest in knowing."
"Yes, my Lord, that is to say, all I know about Captain Grant
and the BRITANNIA."
"The whole truth?"
"But what guarantee have I?"
"Oh, I see what you are uneasy about. You need a guarantee
for me, for the truth of a criminal. That's natural.
But what can you have under the circumstances. There is no help
for it, you must either take my offer or leave it."
"I will trust to you, Ayrton," said Glenarvan, simply.
"And you do right, my Lord. Besides, if I deceive you,
vengeance is in your own power."
"You can come and take me again from where you left me,
as I shall have no means of getting away from the island."
Ayrton had an answer for everything. He anticipated the difficulties
and furnished unanswerable arguments against himself. It was
evident he intended to affect perfect good faith in the business.
It was impossible to show more complete confidence.
And yet he was prepared to go still further in disinterestedness.
"My Lord and gentlemen," he added, "I wish to convince you of the fact
that I am playing cards on the table. I have no wish to deceive you,
and I am going to give you a fresh proof of my sincerity in this matter.
I deal frankly with you, because I reckon on your honor."
"Speak, Ayrton," said Glenarvan.
"My Lord, I have not your promise yet to accede to my proposal,
and yet I do not scruple to tell you that I know very little
about Harry Grant."
"Very little," exclaimed Glenarvan.
"Yes, my Lord, the details I am in a position to give you relate
to myself. They are entirely personal, and will not do much
to help you to recover the lost traces of Captain Grant."
Keen disappointment was depicted on the faces of Glenarvan and the Major.
They thought the quartermaster in the possession of an important secret,
and he declared that his communications would be very nearly barren.
Paganel's countenance remained unmoved.
Somehow or other, this avowal of Ayrton, and surrender of himself,
so to speak, unconditionally, singularly touched his auditors,
especially when the quartermaster added:
"So I tell you beforehand, the bargain will be more to my
profit than yours."
"It does not signify," replied Glenarvan. "I accept
your proposal, Ayrton. I give you my word to land you on one
of the islands of the Pacific Ocean."
"All right, my Lord," replied the quartermaster.
Was this strange man glad of this decision? One might have doubted it,
for his impassive countenance betokened no emotion whatever.
It seemed as if he were acting for someone else rather than himself.
"I am ready to answer," he said.
"We have no questions to put to you," said Glenarvan. "Tell us
all you know, Ayrton, and begin by declaring who you are."
"Gentlemen," replied Ayrton, "I am really Tom Ayrton, the quartermaster
of the BRITANNIA. I left Glasgow on Harry Grant's ship on the 12th
of March, 1861. For fourteen months I cruised with him in the Pacific
in search of an advantageous spot for founding a Scotch colony.
Harry Grant was the man to carry out grand projects, but serious
disputes often arose between us. His temper and mine could not agree.
I cannot bend, and with Harry Grant, when once his resolution is taken,
any resistance is impossible, my Lord. He has an iron will both for
himself and others.
"But in spite of that, I dared to rebel, and I tried to get
the crew to join me, and to take possession of the vessel.
Whether I was to blame or not is of no consequence.
Be that as it may, Harry Grant had no scruples, and on the 8th
of April, 1862, he left me behind on the west coast of Australia."
"Of Australia!" said the Major, interrupting Ayrton in his narrative.
"Then of course you had quitted the BRITANNIA before she touched
at Callao, which was her last date?"
"Yes," replied the quartermaster, "for the BRITANNIA did not touch
there while I was on board. And how I came to speak of Callao
at Paddy O'Moore's farm was that I learned the circumstances
from your recital."
"Go on, Ayrton," said Glenarvan.
"I found myself abandoned on a nearly desert coast,
but only forty miles from the penal settlement at Perth,
the capital of Western Australia. As I was wandering there
along the shore, I met a band of convicts who had just escaped,
and I joined myself to them. You will dispense, my Lord,
with any account of my life for two years and a half.
This much, however, I must tell you, that I became the leader
of the gang, under the name of Ben Joyce. In September,
1864, I introduced myself at the Irish farm, where I engaged
myself as a servant in my real name, Ayrton. I waited
there till I should get some chance of seizing a ship.
This was my one idea. Two months afterward the DUNCAN arrived.
During your visit to the farm you related Captain Grant's history,
and I learned then facts of which I was not previously aware--
that the BRITANNIA had touched at Callao, and that her latest
news was dated June, 1862, two months after my disembarkation,
and also about the document and the loss of the ship somewhere
along the 37th parallel; and, lastly, the strong reasons you
had for supposing Harry Grant was on the Australian continent.
Without the least hesitation I determined to appropriate the DUNCAN,
a matchless vessel, able to outdistance the swiftest ships
in the British Navy. But serious injuries had to be repaired.
I therefore let it go to Melbourne, and joined myself to you
in my true character as quartermaster, offering to guide
you to the scene of the shipwreck, fictitiously placed
by me on the east coast of Australia. It was in this way,
followed or sometimes preceded by my gang of convicts,
I directed your expedition toward the province of Victoria. My men
committed a bootless crime at Camden Bridge; since the DUNCAN,
if brought to the coast, could not escape me, and with the yacht
once mine, I was master of the ocean. I led you in this way
unsuspectingly as far as the Snowy River. The horses and
bullocks dropped dead one by one, poisoned by the gastrolobium.
I dragged the wagon into the marshes, where it got half buried.
At my instance--but you know the rest, my Lord, and you may
be sure that but for the blunder of Mr. Paganel, I should
now command the DUNCAN. Such is my history, gentlemen.
My disclosures, unfortunately, cannot put you on the track
of Harry Grant, and you perceive that you have made but a poor
bargain by coming to my terms."
The quartermaster said no more, but crossed his arms in his usual
fashion and waited. Glenarvan and his friends kept silence.
They felt that this strange criminal had spoken the whole truth.
He had only missed his coveted prize, the DUNCAN, through a cause
independent of his will. His accomplices had gone to Twofold Bay,
as was proved by the convict blouse found by Glenarvan. Faithful to
the orders of their chief, they had kept watch on the yacht,
and at length, weary of waiting, had returned to the old haunt
of robbers and incendiaries in the country parts of New South Wales.
The Major put the first question, his object being to verify
the dates of the BRITANNIA.
"You are sure then," he said, "that it was on the 8th of April
you were left on the west coast of Australia?"
"On that very day," replied Ayrton.
"And do you know what projects Harry Grant had in view at the time?"
"In an indefinite way I do."
"Say all you can, Ayrton," said Glenarvan, "the least indication
may set us in the right course."
"I only know this much, my Lord," replied the quartermaster,
"that Captain Grant intended to visit New Zealand. Now, as this
part of the programme was not carried out while I was on board,
it is not impossible that on leaving Callao the BRITANNIA went
to reconnoiter New Zealand. This would agree with the date assigned
by the document to the shipwreck--the 27th of June, 1862."
"Clearly," said Paganel.
"But," objected Glenarvan, "there is nothing in the fragmentary
words in the document that could apply to New Zealand."
"That I cannot answer," said the quartermaster.
"Well, Ayrton," said Glenarvan, "you have kept your word,
and I will keep mine. We have to decide now on what island
of the Pacific Ocean you are to be left?"
"It matters little, my Lord," replied Ayrton.
"Return to your cabin," said Glenarvan, "and wait our decision."
The quartermaster withdrew, guarded by the two sailors.
"That villain might have been a man," said the Major.
"Yes," returned Glenarvan; "he is a strong, clear-headed fellow.
Why was it that he must needs turn his powers to such evil account?"
"But Harry Grant?"
"I must fear he is irrevocably lost. Poor children!
Who can tell them where their father is?"
"I can!" replied Paganel. "Yes; I can!" One could not help
remarking that the geographer, so loquacious and impatient usually,
had scarcely spoken during Ayrton's examination. He listened
without opening his mouth. But this speech of his now was worth
many others, and it made Glenarvan spring to his feet, crying out:
"You, Paganel! you know where Captain Grant is?"
"Yes, as far as can be known."
"How do you know?"
"From that infernal document."
"Ah!" said the Major, in a tone of the most profound incredulity.
"Hear me first, and shrug your shoulders afterward,"
said Paganel. "I did not speak sooner, because you would not
have believed me. Besides, it was useless; and I only speak
to-day because Ayrton's opinion just supports my own."
V. IV Verne
"Then it is New Zealand?" asked Glenarvan.
"Listen and judge," replied Paganel. "It is not without reason,
or, rather, I had a reason for making the blunder which has saved
our lives. When I was in the very act of writing the letter
to Glenarvan's dictation, the word ZEALAND was swimming in
my brain. This is why. You remember we were in the wagon.
McNabbs had just apprised Lady Helena about the convicts;
he had given her the number of the _Australian and
New Zealand Gazette_ which contained the account of
the catastrophe at Camden Bridge. Now, just as I was writing,
the newspaper was lying on the ground, folded in such a manner
that only two syllables of the title were visible; these two
syllables were ALAND. What a sudden light flashed on my mind.
ALAND was one of the words in the English document, one that
hitherto we had translated _a terre_, and which must have been
the termination of the proper noun, ZEALAND."
"Indeed!" said Glenarvan.
"Yes," continued Paganel, with profound conviction; "this meaning
had escaped me, and do you know why? Because my wits were exercised
naturally on the French document, as it was most complete,
and in that this important word was wanting."
"Oh, oh!" said the Major; "your imagination goes too far, Paganel;
and you forget your former deductions."
"Go on, Major; I am ready to answer you."
"Well, then, what do you make of your word AUSTRA?"
"What it was at first. It merely means southern countries."
"Well, and this syllable, INDI, which was first the root of the INDIANS,
and second the root of the word _indigenes?_"
"Well, the third and last time," replied Paganel, "it will be
the first syllable of the word INDIGENCE."
"And CONTIN?" cried McNabbs. "Does that still mean CONTINENT?"
"No; since New Zealand is only an island."
"What then?" asked Glenarvan.
"My dear lord," replied Paganel, "I am going to translate the document
according to my third interpretation, and you shall judge.
I only make two observations beforehand. First, forget as much
as possible preceding interpretations, and divest your mind
of all preconceived notions. Second, certain parts may appear
to you strained, and it is possible that I translate them badly;
but they are of no importance; among others, the word AGONIE,
which chokes me; but I cannot find any other explanation.
Besides, my interpretation was founded on the French document;
and don't forget it was written by an Englishman, who could
not be familiar with the idioms of the French language.
Now then, having said this much, I will begin."
And slowly articulating each syllable, he repeated
the following sentences:
"LE 27th JUIN, 1862, _le trois-mats Britannia_, de _Glasgow,
a sombre_ apres une longue AGONIE dans les mers AUSTRALES sur les
cotes de la Nouvelle ZELANDE--in English _Zealand. Deux matelots_
et le _Capitaine Grant_ ont pu y ABORDER. La CONTINUellement en
PRoie a une CRUELle INDIgence, ils ont _jete ce document_ par--_de
lon_gitude ET 37 degrees 11' de LATItude. _Venex a leur_ secours,
ou ils sont PERDUS!" (On the 27th of June, 1865, the three-mast
vessel BRITANNIA, of Glasgow, has foundered after a long AGOnie
in the Southern Seas, on the coast of New Zealand. Two sailors
and Captain Grant have succeeded in landing. Continually a prey
to cruel indigence, they have thrown this document into the sea in--
longitude and 37 degrees 11' latitude. Come to their help,
or they are lost.)
Paganel stopped. His interpretation was admissible.
But precisely because it appeared as likely as the preceding,
it might be as false. Glenarvan and the Major did not then try
and discuss it. However, since no traces of the BRITANNIA had yet
been met with, either on the Patagonian or Australian coasts,
at the points where these countries are crossed by the 37th parallel,
the chances were in favor of New Zealand.
"Now, Paganel," said Glenarvan, "will you tell me why you have kept
this interpretation secret for nearly two months?"
"Because I did not wish to buoy you up again with vain hopes.
Besides, we were going to Auckland, to the very spot indicated
by the latitude of the document."
"But since then, when we were dragged out of the route,
why did you not speak?"
"Because, however just the interpretation, it could do nothing
for the deliverance of the captain."
"Why not, Paganel?"
"Because, admitting that the captain was wrecked on the New Zealand coast,
now that two years have passed and he has not reappeared, he must
have perished by shipwreck or by the New Zealanders."
"Then you are of the opinion," said Glenarvan, "that--"
"That vestiges of the wreck might be found; but that the survivors
of the BRITANNIA have, beyond doubt, perished."
"Keep all this silent, friends," said Glenarvan, "and let
me choose a fitting moment to communicate these sad tidings
to Captain Grant's children."
CHAPTER XIX A CRY IN THE NIGHT
THE crew soon heard that no light had been thrown on the situation
of Captain Grant by the revelations of Ayrton, and it caused profound
disappointment among them, for they had counted on the quartermaster,
and the quartermaster knew nothing which could put the DUNCAN on
the right track.
The yacht therefore continued her course. They had yet to select
the island for Ayrton's banishment.
Paganel and John Mangles consulted the charts on board,
and exactly on the 37th parallel found a little isle marked
by the name of Maria Theresa, a sunken rock in the middle
of the Pacific Ocean, 3,500 miles from the American coast,
and 1,500 miles from New Zealand. The nearest land on the north
was the Archipelago of Pomotou, under the protectorate of France;
on the south there was nothing but the eternal ice-belt of the
Polar Sea. No ship would come to reconnoiter this solitary isle.
No echoes from the world would ever reach it. The storm
birds only would rest awhile on it during their long flight,
and in many charts the rock was not even marked.
If ever complete isolation was to be found on earth, it was on this
little out-of-the-way island. Ayrton was informed of its situation,
and expressed his willingness to live there apart from his fellows.
The head of the vessel was in consequence turned toward it immediately.
Two days later, at two o'clock, the man on watch signaled land
on the horizon. This was Maria Theresa, a low, elongated island,
scarcely raised above the waves, and looking like an enormous whale.
It was still thirty miles distant from the yacht, whose stem
was rapidly cutting her way over the water at the rate of sixteen
knots an hour.
Gradually the form of the island grew more distinct on the horizon.
The orb of day sinking in the west, threw up its peculiar outlines
in sharp relief. A few peaks of no great elevation stood out here
and there, tipped with sunlight. At five o'clock John Mangles could
discern a light smoke rising from it.
"Is it a volcano?" he asked of Paganel, who was gazing at this
new land through his telescope.
"I don't know what to think," replied the geographer;
"Maria Theresa is a spot little known; nevertheless, it would not
be surprising if its origin were due to some submarine upheaval,
and consequently it may be volcanic."
"But in that case," said Glenarvan, "is there not reason to fear
that if an eruption produced it, an eruption may carry it away?"
"That is not possible," replied Paganel. "We know of its
existence for several centuries, which is our security.
When the Isle Julia emerged from the Mediterranean, it did
not remain long above the waves, and disappeared a few months
after its birth."
"Very good," said Glenarvan. "Do you think, John, we can
get there to-night?"
"No, your honor, I must not risk the DUNCAN in the dark,
for I am unacquainted with the coast. I will keep under steam,
but go very slowly, and to-morrow, at daybreak, we can send
off a boat."
At eight o'clock in the evening, Maria Theresa, though five miles
to leeward, appeared only an elongated shadow, scarcely visible.
The DUNCAN was always getting nearer.
At nine o'clock, a bright glare became visible, and flames shot
up through the darkness. The light was steady and continued.
"That confirms the supposition of a volcano," said Paganel,
observing it attentively.
"Yet," replied John Mangles, "at this distance we ought to hear
the noise which always accompanies an eruption, and the east wind
brings no sound whatever to our ear."
"That's true," said Paganel. "It is a volcano that blazes,
but does not speak. The gleam seems intermittent too, sometimes,
like that of a lighthouse."
"You are right," said John Mangles, "and yet we are not on
a lighted coast."
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "another fire? On the shore this time!
Look! It moves! It has changed its place!"
John was not mistaken. A fresh fire had appeared, which seemed
to die out now and then, and suddenly flare up again.
"Is the island inhabited then?" said Glenarvan.
"By savages, evidently," replied Paganel.
"But in that case, we cannot leave the quartermaster there."
"No," replied the Major, "he would be too bad a gift even
to bestow on savages."
"We must find some other uninhabited island," said Glenarvan,
who could not help smiling at the delicacy of McNabbs. "I promised
Ayrton his life, and I mean to keep my promise."
"At all events, don't let us trust them," added Paganel.
"The New Zealanders have the barbarous custom of deceiving ships by
moving lights, like the wreckers on the Cornish coast in former times.
Now the natives of Maria Theresa may have heard of this proceeding."
"Keep her off a point," called out John to the man at the helm.
"To-morrow at sunrise we shall know what we're about."
At eleven o'clock, the passengers and John Mangles retired
to their cabins. In the forepart of the yacht the man on watch
was pacing the deck, while aft, there was no one but the man
at the wheel.
At this moment Mary Grant and Robert came on the poop.
The two children of the captain, leaning over the rail,
gazed sadly at the phosphorescent waves and the luminous wake of
the DUNCAN. Mary was thinking of her brother's future, and Robert
of his sister's. Their father was uppermost in the minds of both.
Was this idolized parent still in existence? Must they give him up?
But no, for what would life be without him? What would become
of them without him? What would have become of them already,
but for Lord Glenarvan and Lady Helena?
The young boy, old above his years through trouble, divined the thoughts
that troubled his sister, and taking her hand in his own, said, "Mary, we
must never despair. Remember the lessons our father gave us.
Keep your courage up and no matter what befalls you, let us
show this obstinate courage which can rise above everything.
Up to this time, sister, you have been working for me, it is my turn now,
and I will work for you."
"Dear Robert!" replied the young girl.
"I must tell you something," resumed Robert. "You mustn't
be vexed, Mary!"
"Why should I be vexed, my child?"
"And you will let me do it?"
"What do you mean?" said Mary, getting uneasy.
"Sister, I am going to be a sailor!"
"You are going to leave me!" cried the young girl,
pressing her brother's hand.
"Yes, sister; I want to be a sailor, like my father and
Captain John. Mary, dear Mary, Captain John has not lost all hope,
he says. You have confidence in his devotion to us, and so have I. He
is going to make a grand sailor out of me some day, he has promised
me he will; and then we are going to look for our father together.
Tell me you are willing, sister mine. What our father would
have done for us it is our duty, mine, at least, to do for him.
My life has one purpose to which it should be entirely consecrated--
that is to search, and never cease searching for my father, who would
never have given us up. Ah, Mary, how good our father was!"
"And so noble, so generous!" added Mary. "Do you know, Robert, he was
already a glory to our country, and that he would have been numbered
among our great men if fate had not arrested his course."
"Yes, I know it," said Robert.
Mary put her arm around the boy, and hugged him fondly as he felt
her tears fall on his forehead.
"Mary, Mary!" he cried, "it doesn't matter what our friends say,
I still hope, and will always hope. A man like my father doesn't
die till he has finished his work."
Mary Grant could not reply. Sobs choked her voice.
A thousand feelings struggled in her breast at the news that
fresh attempts were about to be made to recover Harry Grant,
and that the devotion of the captain was so unbounded.
"And does Mr. John still hope?" she asked.
"Yes," replied Robert. "He is a brother that will never
forsake us, never! I will be a sailor, you'll say yes,
won't you, sister? And let me join him in looking for my father.
I am sure you are willing."
"Yes, I am willing," said Mary. "But the separation!" she murmured.
"You will not be alone, Mary, I know that. My friend John
told me so. Lady Helena will not let you leave her.
You are a woman; you can and should accept her kindness.
To refuse would be ungrateful, but a man, my father has said
a hundred times, must make his own way."
"But what will become of our own dear home in Dundee,
so full of memories?"
"We will keep it, little sister! All that is settled, and settled
so well, by our friend John, and also by Lord Glenarvan. He is
to keep you at Malcolm Castle as if you were his daughter.
My Lord told my friend John so, and he told me. You will be
at home there, and have someone to speak to about our father,
while you are waiting till John and I bring him back to you some day.
Ah! what a grand day that will be!" exclaimed Robert, his face
glowing with enthusiasm.
"My boy, my brother," replied Mary, "how happy my father
would be if he could hear you. How much you are like him,
dear Robert, like our dear, dear father. When you grow up
you'll be just himself."
"I hope I may," said Robert, blushing with filial and sacred pride.
"But how shall we requite Lord and Lady Glenarvan?" said Mary Grant.
"Oh, that will not be difficult," replied Robert, with boyish confidence.
"We will love and revere them, and we will tell them so; and we will
give them plenty of kisses, and some day, when we can get the chance,
we will die for them."
"We'll live for them, on the contrary," replied the young girl,
covering her brother's forehead with kisses. "They will like that better,
and so shall I."
The two children then relapsed into silence, gazing out into
the dark night, and giving way to long reveries, interrupted
occasionally by a question or remark from one to the other.
A long swell undulated the surface of the calm sea, and the screw
turned up a luminous furrow in the darkness.
A strange and altogether supernatural incident now occurred.
The brother and sister, by some of those magnetic communications
which link souls mysteriously together, were the subjects at
the same time and the same instant of the same hallucination.
Out of the midst of these waves, with their alternations
of light and shadow, a deep plaintive voice sent up a cry,
the tones of which thrilled through every fiber of their being.
"Come! come!" were the words which fell on their ears.
They both started up and leaned over the railing, and peered
into the gloom with questioning eyes.
"Mary, you heard that? You heard that?" cried Robert.
But they saw nothing but the long shadow that stretched before them.
"Robert," said Mary, pale with emotion, "I thought--yes, I thought
as you did, that--We must both be ill with fever, Robert."
A second time the cry reached them, and this time the illusion
was so great, that they both exclaimed simultaneously,
"My father! My father!"
It was too much for Mary. Overcome with emotion, she fell fainting
into Robert's arms.
"Help!" shouted Robert. "My sister! my father! Help! Help!"
The man at the wheel darted forward to lift up the girl.
The sailors on watch ran to assist, and John Mangles, Lady Helena,
and Glenarvan were hastily roused from sleep.
"My sister is dying, and my father is there!" exclaimed Robert,
pointing to the waves.
They were wholly at a loss to understand him.
"Yes!" he repeated, "my father is there! I heard my father's voice;
Mary heard it too!"
Just at this moment, Mary Grant recovering consciousness, but wandering
and excited, called out, "My father! my father is there!"
And the poor girl started up, and leaning over the side of the yacht,
wanted to throw herself into the sea.
"My Lord--Lady Helena!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands,
"I tell you my father is there! I can declare that I heard
his voice come out of the waves like a wail, as if it were
a last adieu."
The young girl went off again into convulsions and spasms,
which became so violent that she had to be carried to
her cabin, where Lady Helena lavished every care on her.
Robert kept on repeating, "My father! my father is there!
I am sure of it, my Lord!"
The spectators of this painful scene saw that the captain's
children were laboring under an hallucination. But how were
they to be undeceived?
Glenarvan made an attempt, however. He took Robert's hand, and said,
"You say you heard your father's voice, my dear boy?"
"Yes, my Lord; there, in the middle of the waves.
He cried out, 'Come! come!'"
"And did you recognize his voice?"
"Yes, I recognized it immediately. Yes, yes; I can swear to it!
My sister heard it, and recognized it as well. How could we
both be deceived? My Lord, do let us go to my father's help.
A boat! a boat!"
Glenarvan saw it was impossible to undeceive the poor boy,
but he tried once more by saying to the man at the wheel:
"Hawkins, you were at the wheel, were you not, when Miss Mary
was so strangely attacked?"
"Yes, your Honor," replied Hawkins.
"And you heard nothing, and saw nothing?"
"Now Robert, see?"
"If it had been Hawkins's father," returned the boy,
with indomitable energy, "Hawkins would not say he had heard nothing.
It was my father, my lord! my father."
Sobs choked his voice; he became pale and silent, and presently
fell down insensible, like his sister.
Glenarvan had him carried to his bed, where he lay in a deep swoon.
"Poor orphans," said John Mangles. "It is a terrible trial they
have to bear!"
"Yes," said Glenarvan; "excessive grief has produced the same
hallucination in both of them, and at the same time."
"In both of them!" muttered Paganel; "that's strange, and pure
science would say inadmissible."
He leaned over the side of the vessel, and listened attentively,
making a sign to the rest to keep still.
But profound silence reigned around. Paganel shouted his loudest.
No response came.
"It is strange," repeated the geographer, going back to his cabin.
"Close sympathy in thought and grief does not suffice to
explain this phenomenon."
Next day, March 4, at 5 A. M., at dawn, the passengers, including Mary
and Robert, who would not stay behind, were all assembled on the poop,
each one eager to examine the land they had only caught a glimpse
of the night before.
The yacht was coasting along the island at the distance of about a mile,
and its smallest details could be seen by the eye.
Suddenly Robert gave a loud cry, and exclaimed he could see two men
running about and gesticulating, and a third was waving a flag.
"The Union Jack," said John Mangles, who had caught up a spy-glass.
"True enough," said Paganel, turning sharply round toward Robert.
"My Lord," said Robert, trembling with emotion, "if you
don't want me to swim to the shore, let a boat be lowered.
Oh, my Lord, I implore you to let me be the first to land."
No one dared to speak. What! on this little isle,
crossed by the 37th parallel, there were three men,
shipwrecked Englishmen! Instantaneously everyone thought
of the voice heard by Robert and Mary the preceding night.
The children were right, perhaps, in the affirmation.
The sound of a voice might have reached them, but this voice--
was it their father's? No, alas, most assuredly no.
And as they thought of the dreadful disappointment that awaited them,
they trembled lest this new trial should crush them completely.
But who could stop them from going on shore? Lord Glenarvan
had not the heart to do it.
"Lower a boat," he called out.
Another minute and the boat was ready. The two children of
Captain Grant, Glenarvan, John Mangles, and Paganel, rushed into it,
and six sailors, who rowed so vigorously that they were presently
almost close to the shore.
At ten fathoms' distance a piercing cry broke from Mary's lips.
"My father!" she exclaimed.
A man was standing on the beach, between two others.
His tall, powerful form, and his physiognomy, with its mingled
expression of boldness and gentleness, bore a resemblance
both to Mary and Robert. This was indeed the man the children
had so often described. Their hearts had not deceived them.
This was their father, Captain Grant!
The captain had heard Mary's cry, for he held out his arms,
and fell flat on the sand, as if struck by a thunderbolt.
CHAPTER XX CAPTAIN GRANT'S STORY
JOY does not kill, for both father and children recovered before they
had reached the yacht. The scene which followed, who can describe?
Language fails. The whole crew wept aloud at the sight of these three
clasped together in a close, silent embrace.
The moment Harry Grant came on deck, he knelt down reverently. The pious
Scotchman's first act on touching the yacht, which to him was the soil
of his native land, was to return thanks to the God of his deliverance.
Then, turning to Lady Helena and Lord Glenarvan, and his companions,
he thanked them in broken words, for his heart was too full to speak.
During the short passage from the isle to the yacht, his children had
given him a brief sketch of the DUNCAN'S history.
What an immense debt he owed to this noble lady and her friends!
From Lord Glenarvan, down to the lowest sailor on board,
how all had struggled and suffered for him! Harry Grant
expressed his gratitude with such simplicity and nobleness,
his manly face suffused with pure and sweet emotion, that the whole
crew felt amply recompensed for the trials they had undergone.
Even the impassable Major himself felt a tear steal down his cheek
in spite of all his self-command; while the good, simple Paganel
cried like a child who does not care who sees his tears.
Harry Grant could not take his eyes off his daughter.
He thought her beautiful, charming; and he not only said so to himself,
but repeated it aloud, and appealed to Lady Helena for confirmation
of his opinion, as if to convince himself that he was not blinded
by his paternal affection. His boy, too, came in for admiration.
"How he has grown! he is a man!" was his delighted exclamation.
And he covered the two children so dear to him with the kisses
he had been heaping up for them during his two years of absence.
Robert then presented all his friends successively,
and found means always to vary the formula of introduction,
though he had to say the same thing about each. The fact was,
each and all had been perfect in the children's eyes.
John Mangles blushed like a child when his turn came, and his voice
trembled as he spoke to Mary's father.
Lady Helena gave Captain Grant a narrative of the voyage,
and made him proud of his son and daughter. She told him of
the young hero's exploits, and how the lad had already paid back
part of the paternal debt to Lord Glenarvan. John Mangles sang
Mary's praises in such terms, that Harry Grant, acting on a hint
from Lady Helena, put his daughter's hand into that of the brave
young captain, and turning to Lord and Lady Glenarvan, said:
"My Lord, and you, Madam, also give your blessing to our children."
When everything had been said and re-said over and over again,
Glenarvan informed Harry Grant about Ayrton. Grant confirmed
the quartermaster's confession as far as his disembarkation
on the coast of Australia was concerned.
"He is an intelligent, intrepid man," he added, "whose passions
have led him astray. May reflection and repentance bring him
to a better mind!"
Back to Full Books