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  • 1896
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But whither are my thoughts wandering? I must perforce wait till we arrive at our destination before thinking of escaping. It will be time enough to bother about that when the occasion presents itself. Until then the essential is that they remain ignorant as to my identity, and they cannot, and shall not, know who I am.

I am now certain that we are going through the water. But there is one thing that puzzles me. It is hot a sailing vessel, neither can it be a steamer. Yet it is incontestably propelled by some powerful machine. There are none of the noises, nor is there the trembling that accompanies the working of steam engines. The movement of the vessel is more continuous and regular, it is a sort of direct rotation that is communicated by the motor, whatever the latter may be. No mistake is possible: the ship is propelled by some special mechanism. But what is it?

Is it one of those turbines that have been spoken of lately, which, fitted into a submerged tube, are destined to replace the ordinary screw, it being claimed that they utilize the resistance of the water better than the latter and give increased speed to a ship?

In a few hours’ time I shall doubtless know all about this means of locomotion.

Meanwhile there is another thing that equally puzzles me. There is not the slightest rolling or pitching. How is it that Pamlico Sound is so extraordinarily calm? The varying currents continuously ruffle the surface of the Sound, even if nothing else does.

It is true the tide may be out, and I remember that last night the wind had fallen altogether. Still, no matter, the thing is inexplicable, for a ship propelled by machinery, no matter at what speed she may be going, always oscillates more or less, and I cannot perceive the slightest rocking.

Such are the thoughts with which my mind is persistently filled. Despite an almost overpowering desire to sleep, despite the torpor that is coming upon me in this suffocating atmosphere, I am resolved not to close my eyes. I will keep awake till daylight, and there will be no daylight for me till it is let into my prison from the outside. Perhaps even if the door were open it would not penetrate to this black hole, and I shall probably not see it again until I am taken on deck.

I am squatting in a corner of my prison, for I have no stool or anything to sit upon, but as my eyelids are heavy and I feel somnolent in spite of myself, I get up and walk about. Then I wax wrathful, anger fills my soul, I beat upon the iron walls with my fists, and shout for help. In vain! I hurt my hands against the bolts of the plates, and no one answers my cries.

Such conduct is unworthy of me. I flattered myself that I would remain calm under all circumstances and here I am acting like a child.

The absence of any rolling or lurching movement at least proves that we are not yet at sea. Instead of crossing Pamlico Sound, may we not be going in the opposite direction, up the River Neuse? No! What would they go further inland for? If Thomas Roch has been carried off from Healthful House, his captors obviously mean to take him out of the United States–probably to a distant island in the Atlantic, or to some point on the European continent. It is, therefore, not up the Neuse that our maritime machine, whatever it may be, is going, but across Pamlico Sound, which must be as calm as a mirror.

Very well, then, when we get to sea I shall soon, know, for the vessel will rock right enough in the swell off shore, even though there be no wind,–unless I am aboard a battleship, or big cruiser, and this I fancy can hardly be!

But hark! If I mistake not–no, it was not imagination–I hear footsteps. Some one is approaching the side of the compartment where the door is. One of the crew no doubt. Are they going to let me out at last? I can now hear voices. A conversation is going on outside the door, but it is carried on in a language that I do not understand. I shout to them–I shout again, but no answer is vouchsafed.

There is nothing to do, then, but wait, wait, wait! I keep repeating the word and it rings in my ears like a bell.

Let me try to calculate how long I have been here. The ship must have been under way for at least four or five hours. I reckon it must be past midnight, but I cannot tell, for unfortunately my watch is of no use to me in this Cimmerian darkness.

Now, if we have been going for five hours, we must have cleared Pamlico Sound, whether we issued by Ocracoke or Hatteras inlet, and must be off the coast a good mile, at least. Yet I haven’t felt any motion from the swell of the sea.

It is inexplicable, incredible! Come now, have I made a mistake? Am I the dupe of an illusion? Am I not imprisoned in the hold of a ship under way?

Another hour has passed and the movement of the ship suddenly ceases; I realize perfectly that she is stationary. Has she reached her destination? In this event we can only be in one of the coast ports to the north or south of Pamlico Sound. But why should Thomas Roch be landed again? The abduction must soon have been discovered, and our kidnappers would run the greatest risk of falling into the hands of the authorities if they attempted to disembark.

However this may be, if the vessel is coming to anchor I shall hear the noise of the chain as it is paid out, and feel the jerk as the ship is brought up. I know that sound and that jerk well from experience, and I am bound to hear and feel them in a minute or two.

I wait–I listen.

A dead and disquieting silence reigns on board. I begin to wonder whether I am not the only living being in the ship.

Now I feel an irresistible torpor coming over me. The air is vitiated. I cannot breathe. My chest is bursting. I try to resist, but it is impossible to do so. The temperature rises to such a degree that I am compelled to divest myself of part of my clothing. Then I lie me down in a corner. My heavy eyelids close, and I sink into a prostration that eventually forces me into heavy slumber.

How long have I been asleep? I cannot say. Is it night? Is it day? I know not. I remark, however, that I breathe more easily, and that the air is no longer poisoned carbonic acid.

Was the air renewed while I slept? Has the door been opened? Has anybody been in here?

Yes, here is the proof of it!

In feeling about, my hand has come in contact with a mug filled with a liquid that exhales an inviting odor. I raise it to my lips, which, are burning, for I am suffering such an agony of thirst that I would even drink brackish water.

It is ale–an ale of excellent quality–which refreshes and comforts me, and I drain the pint to the last drop.

But if they have not condemned me to die of thirst, neither have they condemned me to die of hunger, I suppose?

No, for in one of the corners I find a basket, and this basket contains some bread and cold meat.

I fall to, eating greedily, and my strength little by little returns.

Decidedly, I am not so abandoned as I thought I was. Some one entered this obscure hole, and the open door admitted a little of the oxygen from the outside, without which I should have been suffocated. Then the wherewithal to quench my thirst and appease the pangs of hunger was placed within my reach.

How much longer will this incarceration last? Days? Months? I cannot estimate the hours that have elapsed since I fell asleep, nor have I any idea as to what time of the day or night it may be. I was careful to wind up my watch, though, and perhaps by feeling the hands–Yes, I think the little hand marks eight o’clock–in the morning, no doubt. What I do know, however, is that the ship is not in motion. There is not the slightest quiver.

Hours and hours, weary, interminable hours go by, and I wonder whether they are again waiting till night comes on to renew my stock of air and provisions. Yes, they are waiting to take advantage of my slumbers. But this time I am resolved to resist. I will feign to be asleep–and I shall know how to force an answer from whoever enters!



Here I am in the open air, breathing freely once more. I have at last been hauled out of that stifling box and taken on deck. I gaze around me in every direction and see no sign of land. On every hand is that circular line which defines earth and sky. No, there is not even a speck of land to be seen to the west, where the coast of North America extends for thousands of miles.

The setting sun now throws but slanting rays upon the bosom of the ocean. It must be about six o’clock in the evening. I take out my watch and it marks thirteen minutes past six.

As I have already mentioned, I waited for the door of my prison to open, thoroughly resolved not to fall asleep again, but to spring upon the first person who entered and force him to answer my questions. I was not aware then that it was day, but it was, and hour after hour passed and no one came. I began to suffer again from hunger and thirst, for I had not preserved either bite or sup.

As soon as I awoke I felt that the ship was in motion again, after having, I calculated, remained stationary since the previous day–no doubt in some lonely creek, since I had not heard or felt her come to anchor.

A few minutes ago–it must therefore have been six o’clock–I again heard footsteps on the other side of the iron wall of my compartment. Was anybody coming to my cell? Yes, for I heard the creaking of the bolts as they were drawn back, and then the door opened, and the darkness in which I had been plunged since the first hour of my captivity was illumined by the light of a lantern.

Two men, whom I had no time to look at, entered and seized me by the arms. A thick cloth was thrown over my head, which was enveloped in such a manner that I could see absolutely nothing.

What did it all mean? What were they going to do with me? I struggled, but they held me in an iron grasp. I questioned them, but they made no reply. The men spoke to each other in a language that I could not understand, and had never heard before.

They stood upon no ceremony with me. It is true I was only a madhouse warder, and they probably did not consider it necessary to do so; but I question very much whether Simon Hart, the engineer, would have received any more courtesy at their hands.

This time, however, no attempt was made to gag me nor to bind either my arms or legs. I was simply restrained by main force from breaking away from them.

In a moment I was dragged out of the compartment and pushed along a narrow passage. Next, the steps of a metallic stairway resounded under our feet. Then the fresh air blew in my face and I inhaled it with avidity.

Finally they took their hands from off me, and I found myself free. I immediately tore the cloth off my head and gazed about me.

I am on board a schooner which is ripping through the water at a great rate and leaving a long white trail behind her.

I had to clutch at one of the stays for support, dazzled as I was by the light after my forty-eight hours’ imprisonment in complete obscurity.

On the deck a dozen men with rough, weather-beaten faces come and go–very dissimilar types of men, to whom it would be impossible to attribute any particular nationality. They scarcely take any notice of me.

As to the schooner, I estimate that she registers from two hundred and fifty to three hundred tons. She has a fairly wide beam, her masts are strong and lofty, and her large spread of canvas must carry her along at a spanking rate in a good breeze.

Aft, a grizzly-faced man is at the wheel, and he is keeping her head to the sea that is running pretty high.

I try to find out the name of the vessel, but it is not to be seen anywhere, even on the life-buoys.

I walk up to one of the sailors and inquire:

“What is the name of this ship?”

No answer, and I fancy the man does not understand me.

“Where is the captain?” I continue.

But the sailor pays no more heed to this than he did to the previous question.

I turn on my heel and go forward.

Above the forward hatchway a bell is suspended. Maybe the name of the schooner is engraved upon it. I examine it, but can find no name upon it.

I then return to the stern and address the man at the wheel. He gazes at me sourly, shrugs his shoulders, and bending, grasps the spokes of the wheel solidly, and brings the schooner, which had been headed off by a large wave from port, stem on to sea again.

Seeing that nothing is to be got from that quarter, I turn away and look about to see if I can find Thomas Roch, but I do not perceive him anywhere. Is he not on board? He must be. They could have had no reason for carrying me off alone. No one could have had any idea that I was Simon Hart, the engineer, and even had they known it what interest could they have had in me, and what could they expect of me?

Therefore, as Roch is not on deck, I conclude that he is locked in one of the cabins, and trust he has met with better treatment than his ex-guardian.

But what is this–and how on earth could I have failed to notice it before? How is this schooner moving? Her sails are furled–there is not an inch of canvas set–the wind has fallen, and the few puffs that occasionally come from the east are unfavorable, in view of the fact that we are going in that very direction. And yet the schooner speeds through the sea, her bows down, throwing off clouds of foam, and leaving a long, milky, undulating trail in her wake.

Is she a steam-yacht? No–there is not a smokestack about her. Is she propelled by electricity–by a battery of accumulators, or by piles of great power that work her screw and send her along at this rate?

I can come to no other conclusion. In any case she must be fitted with a screw, and by leaning over the stern I shall be able to see it, and can find out what sets it working afterwards.

The man at the wheel watches me ironically as I approach, but makes no effort to prevent me from looking over.

I gaze long and earnestly, but there is no foaming and seething of the water such as is invariably caused by the revolutions of the screw–naught but the long white furrow that a sailing vessel leaves behind is discernible in the schooner’s wake.

Then, what kind of a machine is it that imparts such a marvellous speed to the vessel? As I have already said, the wind is against her, and there is a heavy swell on.

I must–I will know. No one pays the slightest attention, and I again go forward.

As I approach the forecastle I find myself face to face with a man who is leaning nonchalantly on the raised hatchway and who is watching me. He seems to be waiting for me to speak to him.

I recognize him instantly. He is the person who accompanied the Count d’Artigas during the latter’s visit to Healthful House. There can be no mistake–it is he right enough.

It was, then, that rich foreigner who abducted Thomas Roch, and I am on board the _Ebba_ his schooner-yacht which is so well known on the American coast!

The man before me will enlighten me about what I want to know. I remember that he and the Count spoke English together.

I take him to be the captain of the schooner.

“Captain,” I say, “you are the person I saw at Healthful House. You remember me, of course?”

He looks me up and down but does not condescend to reply.

“I am Warder Gaydon, the attendant of Thomas Roch,” I continue, “and I want to know why you have carried me off and placed me on board this schooner?”

The captain interrupts me with a sign. It is not made to me, however, but to some sailors standing near.

They catch me by the arms, and taking no notice of the angry movement that I cannot restrain, bundle me down the hatchway. The hatchway stair in reality, I remark, is a perpendicular iron ladder, at the bottom of which, to right and left, are some cabins, and forward, the men’s quarters.

Are they going to put me back in my dark prison at the bottom of the hold?

No. They turn to the left and push me into a cabin. It is lighted by a port-hole, which is open, and through which the fresh air comes in gusts from the briny. The furniture consists of a bunk, a chair, a chest of drawers, a wash-hand-stand and a table.

The latter is spread for dinner, and I sit down. Then the cook’s mate comes in with two or three dishes. He is a colored lad, and as he is about to withdraw, I try to question him, but he, too, vouchsafes no reply. Perhaps he doesn’t understand me.

The door is closed, and I fall to and eat with an excellent appetite, with the intention of putting off all further questioning till some future occasion when I shall stand a chance of getting answered.

It is true I am a prisoner, but this time I am comfortable enough, and I hope I shall be permitted to occupy this cabin for the remainder of the voyage, and not be lowered into that black hole again.

I now give myself up to my thoughts, the first of which is that it was the Count d’Artigas who planned the abduction; that it was he who is responsible for the kidnapping of Thomas Roch, and that consequently the French inventor must be just as comfortably installed somewhere on board the schooner.

But who is this Count d’Artigas? Where does he hail from? If he has seized Thomas Roch, is it not because he is determined to secure the secret of the fulgurator at no matter what cost? Very likely, and I must therefore be careful not to betray my identity, for if they knew the truth, I should never be afforded a chance to get away.

But what a lot of mysteries to clear up, how many inexplicable things to explain–the origin of this d’Artigas, his intentions as to the future, whither we are bound, the port to which the schooner belongs, and this mysterious progress through the water without sails and without screws, at a speed of at least ten knots an hour!

The air becoming keener as night deepens, I close and secure the port-hole, and as my cabin is bolted on the outside, the best thing I can do is to get into my bunk and let myself be gently rocked to sleep by the broad Atlantic in this mysterious cradle, the _Ebba_.

The next morning I rise at daybreak, and having performed my ablutions, dress myself and wait.

Presently the idea of trying the door occurs to me. I find that it has been unbolted, and pushing it open, climb the iron ladder and emerge on deck.

The crew are washing down the deck, and standing aft and conversing are two men, one of whom is the captain. The latter manifests no surprise at seeing me, and indicates my presence to his companion by a nod.

This other man, whom I have never before seen, is an individual of about fifty years of age, whose dark hair is streaked with gray. His features are delicately chiselled, his eyes are bright, and his expression is intelligent and not at all displeasing. He is somewhat of the Grecian type, and T have no doubt that he is of Hellenic origin when I hear him called Serko–Engineer Serko–by the Captain of the _Ebba_.

As to the latter, he is called Spade–Captain Spade–and this name has an Italian twang about it. Thus there is a Greek, an Italian, and a crew recruited from every corner of the earth to man a schooner with a Norwegian name! This mixture strikes me as being suspicious.

And that Count d’Artigas, with his Spanish name and Asiatic type, where does he come from?

Captain Spade and Engineer Serko continue to converse in a low tone of voice. The former is keeping a sharp eye on the man at the wheel, who does not appear to pay any particular attention to the compass in front of him. He seems to pay more heed to the gestures of one of the sailors stationed forward, and who signals to him to put the helm to port or to starboard.

Thomas Roch is near them, gazing vacantly out upon the vast expanse which is not limited on the horizon by a single speck of land. Two sailors watch his every movement. It is evidently feared that the madman may possibly attempt to jump overboard.

I wonder whether I shall be permitted to communicate with my ward.

I walk towards him, and Captain Spade and Engineer Serko watch me.

Thomas Roch doesn’t see me coming, and I stand beside him. Still he takes no notice of me, and makes no movement. His eyes, which sparkle brightly, wander over the ocean, and he draws in deep breaths of the salt, vivifying atmosphere. Added to the air surcharged with oxygen is a magnificent sunset in a cloudless sky. Does he perceive the change in his situation? Has he already forgotten about Healthful House, the pavilion in which he was a prisoner, and Gaydon, his keeper? It is highly probable. The past has presumably been effaced from his memory and he lives solely in the present.

In my opinion, even on the deck of the _Ebba_, in the middle of the sea, Thomas Roch is still the helpless, irresponsible man whom I tended for fifteen months. His intellectual condition has undergone no change, and his reason will return only when he is spoken to about his inventions. The Count d’Artigas is perfectly aware of this mental disposition, having had a proof of it during his visit, and he evidently relies thereon to surprise sooner or later the inventor’s secret. But with what object?

“Thomas Roch!” I exclaim.

My voice seems to strike him, and after gazing at me fixedly for an instant he averts his eyes quickly.

I take his hand and press it. He withdraws it brusquely and walks away, without having recognized me, in the direction of Captain Spade and Engineer Serko.

Does he think of speaking to one or other of these men, and if they speak to him will he be more reasonable than he was with me, and reply to them?

At this moment his physiognomy lights up with a gleam of intelligence. His attention, obviously, has been attracted by the queer progress of the schooner. He gazes at the masts and the furled sails. Then he turns back and stops at the place where, if the _Ebba_ were a steamer, the funnel ought to be, and which in this case ought to be belching forth a cloud of black smoke.

What appeared so strange to me evidently strikes Thomas Roch as being strange, too. He cannot explain what I found inexplicable, and, as I did, he walks aft to see if there is a screw.

On the flanks of the _Ebba_ a shoal of porpoises are sporting. Swift as is the schooner’s course they easily pass her, leaping and gambolling in their native element with surprising grace and agility.

Thomas Roch pays no attention to them, but leans over the stern.

Engineer Serko and Captain Spade, fearful lest he should fall overboard, hurry to him and drag him gently, but firmly, away.

I observe from long experience that Roch is a prey to violent excitement. He turns about and gesticulates, uttering incoherent phrases the while.

It is plain to me that another fit is coming on, similar to the one he had in the pavilion of Healthful House on the night we were abducted. He will have to be seized and carried down to his cabin, and I shall perhaps be summoned to attend to him.

Meanwhile Engineer Serko and Captain Spade do not lose sight of him for a moment. They are evidently curious to see what he will do.

After walking towards the mainmast and assuring himself that the sails are not set, he goes up to it and flinging his arms around it, tries with all his might to shake it, as though seeking to pull it down.

Finding his efforts futile, he quits it and goes to the foremast, where the same performance is gone through. He waxes more and more excited. His vague utterances are followed by inarticulate cries.

Suddenly he rushes to the port stays and clings to them, and I begin to fear that he will leap into the rigging and climb to the cross-tree, where he might be precipitated into the sea by a lurch of the ship.

On a sign from Captain Spade, some sailors run up and try to make him relinquish his grasp of the stays, but are unable to do so. I know that during his fits he is endowed with the strength of ten men, and many a time I have been compelled to summon assistance in order to overpower him.

Other members of the crew, however, come up, and the unhappy madman is borne to the deck, where two big sailors hold him down, despite his extraordinary strength.

The only thing to do is to convey him to his cabin, and let him lie there till he gets over his fit. This is what will be done in conformity with orders given by a new-comer whose voice seems familiar to me.

I turn and recognize him.

He is the Count d’Artigas, with a frown on his face and an imperious manner, just as I had seen him at Healthful House.

I at once advance toward him. I want an explanation and mean to have it.

“By what right, sir?”–I begin.

“By the right of might,” replies the Count.

Then he turns on his heel, and Thomas Roch is carried below.



Perhaps–should circumstances render it necessary–I may be induced to tell the Count d’Artigas that I am Simon Hart, the engineer. Who knows but what I may receive more consideration than if I remain Warder Gaydon? This measure, however, demands reflection. I have always been dominated by the thought that if the owner of the _Ebba_ kidnapped the French inventor, it was in the hope of getting possession of Roch’s fulgurator, for which, neither the old nor new continent would pay the impossible price demanded. In that case the best thing I can do is to remain Warder Gaydon, on the chance that I may be allowed to continue in attendance upon him. In this way, if Thomas Roch should ever divulge his secret, I may learn what it was impossible to do at Healthful House, and can act accordingly.

Meanwhile, where is the _Ebba_ bound?–first question.

Who and what is the Count d’Artigas?–second question.

The first will be answered in a few days’ time, no doubt, in view of the rapidity with which we are ripping through the water, under the action of a means of propulsion that I shall end by finding out all about. As regards the second, I am by no means so sure that my curiosity will ever be gratified.

In my opinion this enigmatical personage has an all important reason for hiding his origin, and I am afraid there is no indication by which I can gauge his nationality. If the Count d’Artigas speaks English fluently–and I was able to assure myself of that fact during his visit to Pavilion No. 17,–he pronounces it with a harsh, vibrating accent, which is not to be found among the peoples of northern latitudes. I do not remember ever to have heard anything like it in the course of my travels either in the Old or New World–unless it be the harshness characteristic of the idioms in use among the Malays. And, in truth, with his olive, verging on copper-tinted skin, his jet-black, crinkly hair, his piercing, deep-set, restless eyes, his square shoulders and marked muscular development, it is by no means unlikely that he belongs to one of the extreme Eastern races.

I believe this name of d’Artigas is an assumed one, and his title of Count likewise. If his schooner bears a Norwegian name, he at any rate is not of Scandinavian origin. He has nothing of the races of Northern Europe about him.

But whoever and whatever he may be, this man abducted Thomas Roch–and me with him–with no good intention, I’ll be bound.

But what I should like to know is, has he acted as the agent of a foreign power, or on his own account? Does he wish to profit alone by Thomas Roch’s invention, and is he in the position to dispose of it profitably? That is another question that I cannot yet answer. Maybe I shall be able to find out from what I hear and see ere I make my escape, if escape be possible.

The _Ebba_ continues on her way in the same mysterious manner. I am free to walk about the deck, without, however, being able to go beyond the fore hatchway. Once I attempted to go as far as the bows where I could, by leaning over, perceive the schooner’s stem as it cut through the water, but acting, it was plain, on orders received, the watch on deck turned me back, and one of them, addressing me brusquely in harsh, grating English, said:

“Go back! Go back! You are interfering with the working of the ship!”

With the working of the ship! There was no working.

Did they realize that I was trying to discover by what means the schooner was propelled? Very likely, and Captain Spade, who had looked on, must have known it, too. Even a hospital attendant could not fail to be astonished at the fact that a vessel without either screw or sails was going along at such a speed. However this may be, for some reason or other, the bows of the _Ebba_ are barred to me.

Toward ten o’clock a breeze springs up–a northwest wind and very favorable–and Captain Spade gives an order to the boatswain. The latter immediately pipes all hands on deck, and the mainsail, the foresail, staysail and jibs are hoisted. The work could not have been executed with greater regularity and discipline on board a man-of-war.

The _Ebba_ now has a slight list to port, and her speed is notably increased. But the motor continues to push her along, as is evident from the fact that the sails are not always as full as they ought to be if the schooner were bowling along solely under their action. However, they continue to render yeoman’s service, for the breeze has set in steadily.

The sky is clear, for the clouds in the west disappear as soon as they attain the horizon, and the sunlight dances on the water.

My preoccupation now is to find out as near as possible where we are bound for. I am a good-enough sailor to be able to estimate the approximate speed of a ship. In my opinion the _Ebba_ has been travelling at the rate of from ten to eleven knots an hour. As to the direction we have been going in, it is always the same, and I have been able to verify this by casual glances at the binnacle. If the fore part of the vessel is barred to Warder Gaydon he has been allowed a free run of the remainder of it. Time and again I have glanced at the compass, and noticed that the needle invariably pointed to the east, or to be exact, east-southeast.

These are the conditions in which we are navigating this part of the Atlantic Ocean, which is bounded on the west by the coast of the United States of America.

I appeal to my memory. What are the islands or groups of islands to be found in the direction we are going, ere the continent of the Old World is reached?

North Carolina, which the schooner quitted forty-eight hours ago, is traversed by the thirty-fifth parallel of latitude, and this parallel, extending eastward, must, if I mistake not, cut the African coast at Morocco. But along the line, about three thousand miles from America, are the Azores. Is it presumable that the _Ebba_ is heading for this archipelago, that the port to which she belongs is somewhere in these islands which constitute one of Portugal’s insular domains? I cannot admit such an hypothesis.

Besides, before the Azores, on the line of the thirty-fifth parallel, is the Bermuda group, which belongs to England. It seems to me to be a good deal less hypothetical that, if the Count d’Artigas was entrusted with the abduction of Thomas Roch by a European Power at all, it was by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The possibility, however, remains that he may be acting solely in his own interest.

Three or four times during the day Count d’Artigas has come aft and remained for some time scanning the surrounding horizon attentively. When a sail or the smoke from a steamer heaves in sight he examines the passing vessel for a considerable time with a powerful telescope. I may add that he has not once condescended to notice my presence on deck.

Now and then Captain Spade joins him and both exchange a few words in a language that I can neither understand nor recognize.

It is with Engineer Serko, however, that the owner of the _Ebba_ converses more readily than with anybody else, and the latter appears to be very intimate with him. The engineer is a good deal more free, more loquacious and less surly than his companions, and I wonder what position he occupies on the schooner. Is he a personal friend of the Count d’Artigas? Does he scour the seas with him, sharing the enviable life enjoyed by the rich yachtsman? He is the only man of the lot who seems to manifest, if not sympathy with, at least some interest in me.

I have not seen Thomas Roch all day. He must be shut in his cabin, still under the influence of the fit that came upon him last night.

I feel certain that this is so, when about three o’clock in the afternoon, just as he is about to go below, the Count beckons me to approach.

I do not know what he wishes to say to me, this Count d’Artigas, but I do know what I will say to him.

“Do these fits to which Thomas Roch is subject last long?” he asks me in English.

“Sometimes forty-eight hours,” I reply.

“What is to be done?”

“Nothing at all. Let him alone until he falls asleep. After a night’s sleep the fit will be over and Thomas Roch will be his own helpless self again.”

“Very well, Warder Gaydon, you will continue to attend him as you did at Healthful House, if it be necessary.”

“To attend to him!”

“Yes–on board the schooner–pending our arrival.”


“Where we shall be to-morrow afternoon,” replies the Count.

To-morrow, I say to myself. Then we are not bound for the coast of Africa, nor even the Azores. There only remains the hypothesis that we are making for the Bermudas.

Count d’Artigas is about to go down the hatchway when I interrogate him in my turn:

“Sir,” I exclaim, “I desire to know, I have the right to know, where I am going, and—-“

“Here, Warder Gaydon,” he interrupted, “you have no rights. All you have to do is to answer when you are spoken to.” “I protest!”

“Protest, then,” replies this haughty and imperious personage, glancing at me menacingly.

Then he disappears down the hatchway, leaving me face to face with Engineer Serko.

“If I were you, Warder Gaydon, I would resign myself to the inevitable,” remarks the latter with a smile. “When one is caught in a trap—-“

“One can cry out, I suppose?”

“What is the use when no one is near to hear you?”

“I shall be heard some day, sir.”

“Some day–that’s a long way off. However, shout as much as you please.”

And with this ironical advice, Engineer Serko leaves me to my own reflections.

Towards four o’clock a big ship is reported about six miles off to the east, coming in our direction. She is moving rapidly and grows perceptibly larger. Black clouds of smoke pour out of her two funnels. She is a warship, for a narrow pennant floats from her main-mast, and though she is not flying any flag I take her to be an American cruiser.

I wonder whether the _Ebba_ will render her the customary salute as she passes.

No; for the schooner suddenly changes her course with the evident intention of avoiding her.

This proceeding on the part of such a suspicious yacht does not astonish me greatly. But what does cause me extreme surprise is Captain Spade’s way of manoeuvring.

He runs forward to a signalling apparatus in the bows, similar to that by which orders are transmitted to the engine room of a steamer. As soon as he presses one of the buttons of this apparatus the _Ebba_ veers off a point to the south-west.

Evidently an order of “some kind” has been transmitted to the driver of the machine of “some kind” which causes this inexplicable movement of the schooner by the action of a motor of “some kind” the principle of which I cannot guess at.

The result of this manoeuvre is that the _Ebba_ slants away from the cruiser, whose course does not vary. Why should this warship cause a pleasure-yacht to turn out of its way? I have no idea.

But the _Ebba_ behaves in a very different manner when about six o’clock in the evening a second ship comes in sight on the port bow. This time, instead of seeking to avoid her, Captain Spade signals an order by means of the apparatus above referred to, and resumes his course to the east–which will bring him close to the said ship.

An hour later, the two vessels are only about four miles from each other.

The wind has dropped completely. The strange ship, which is a three-masted merchantman, is taking in her top-gallant sails. It is useless to expect the wind to spring up again during the night, and she will lay becalmed till morning. The _Ebba_, however, propelled by her mysterious motor, continues to approach her.

It goes without saying, that Captain Spade has also begun to take in sail, and the work, under the direction of the boatswain Effrondat, is executed with the same precision and promptness that struck me before.

When the twilight deepens into darkness, only a mile and a half separates the vessels.

Captain Spade then comes up to me–I am standing on the starboard side–and unceremoniously orders me to go below.

I can but obey. I remark, however, ere I go, that the boatswain has not lighted the head-lamps, whereas the lamps of the three-master shine brightly–green to starboard, and red to port.

I entertain no doubt that the schooner intends to pass her without being seen; for though she has slackened speed somewhat, her direction has not been in any way modified.

I enter my cabin under the impression of a vague foreboding. My supper is on the table, but uneasy, I know not why, I hardly touch it, and lie down to wait for sleep that does not come.

I remain in this condition for two hours. The silence is unbroken save by the water that ripples along the vessel’s sides.

My mind is full of the events of the past two days, and other thoughts crowd thickly upon me. To-morrow afternoon we shall reach our destination. To-morrow, I shall resume, on land, my attendance upon Thomas Roch, “if it be necessary,” said the Count d’Artigas.

If, when I was thrown into that black hole at the bottom of the hold, I was able to perceive when the schooner started off across Pamlico Sound, I now feel that she has come to a stop. It must be about ten o’clock.

Why has she stopped? When Captain Spade ordered me below, there was no land in sight. In this direction, there is no island until the Bermuda group is reached–at least there is none on the map–and we shall have to go another fifty or sixty miles before the Bermudas can be sighted by the lookout men. Not only has the _Ebba_ stopped, but her immobility is almost complete. There is not a breath of wind, and scarcely any swell, and her slight, regular rocking is hardly perceptible.

Then my thoughts turn to the merchantman, which was only a mile and a half off, on our bow, when I came below. If the schooner continued her course towards her, she must be almost alongside now. We certainly cannot be lying more than one or two cables’ length from her. The three-master, which was becalmed at sundown, could not have gone west. She must be close by, and if the night is clear, I shall be able to see her through the porthole.

It occurs to me, that perhaps a chance of escape presents itself. Why should I not attempt it, since no hope of being restored to liberty is held out to me? It is true I cannot swim, but if I seize a life buoy and jump overboard, I may be able to reach the ship, if I am not observed by the watch on deck.

I must quit my cabin and go up by the forward hatchway. I listen. I hear no noise, either in the men’s quarters, or on deck. The sailors must all be asleep at this hour. Here goes.

I try to open the door, and find it is bolted on the outside, as I might have expected.

I must give up the attempt, which, after all, had small chance of success.

The best thing I can do, is to go to sleep, for I am weary of mind, if not of body. I am restless and racked by conflicting thoughts, and apprehensions of I know not what. Oh! if I could but sink into the blessed oblivion of slumber!

I must have managed to fall asleep, for I have just been awakened by a noise–an unusual noise, such as I have not hitherto heard on board the schooner.

Day begins to peer through the glass of my port-hole, which is turned towards the east. I look at my watch. It is half-past four.

The first thing I wonder is, whether the _Ebba_ has resumed her voyage.

No, I am certain she has not, either by sail, or by her motor. The sea is as calm at sunrise as it was at sunset. If the _Ebba_ has been going ahead while I slept, she is at any rate, stationary now.

The noise to which I referred, is caused by men hurrying to and fro on deck–by men heavily laden. I fancy I can also hear a similar noise in the hold beneath my cabin floor, the entrance to which is situated abaft the foremast. I also feel that something is scraping against the schooner’s hull. Have boats come alongside? Are the crew engaged in loading or unloading merchandise?

And yet we cannot possibly have reached our journey’s end. The Count d’Artigas said that we should not reach our destination till this afternoon. Now, I repeat, she was, last night, fully fifty or sixty miles from the nearest land, the group of the Bermudas. That she could have returned westward, and can be in proximity to the American coast, is inadmissible, in view of the distance. Moreover, I have reason to believe that the _Ebba_ has remained stationary all night. Before I fell asleep, I know she had stopped, and I now know that she is not moving.

However, I shall see when I am allowed to go on deck. My cabin door is still bolted, I find on trying it; but I do not think they are likely to keep me here when broad daylight is on.

An hour goes by, and it gradually gets lighter. I look out of my porthole. The ocean is covered by a mist, which the first rays of the sun will speedily disperse.

I can, however, see for a half a mile, and if the three-masted merchantman is not visible, it is probably because she is lying off the other, or port, side of the _Ebba_.

Presently I hear a key turned in my door, and the bolts drawn. I push the door open and clamber up the iron ladder to the deck, just as the men are battening down the cover of the hold.

I look for the Count d’Artigas, but do not see him. He has not yet left his cabin.

Aft, Captain Spade and Engineer Serko are superintending the stowing of some bales, which have doubtless been hoisted from the hold. This explains the noisy operations that were going on when I was awakened. Obviously, if the crew are getting out the cargo, we are approaching the end of our voyage. We are not far from port, and perhaps in a few hours, the schooner will drop anchor.

But what about the sailing ship that was to port of us? She ought to be in the same place, seeing that there has been and is no wind.

I look for her, but she is nowhere to be seen. There is not a sail, not a speck on the horizon either east, west, north or south.

After cogitating upon the circumstance I can only arrive at the following conclusion, which, however, can only be accepted under reserve: Although I did not notice it, the _Ebba_ resumed her voyage while I slept, leaving the three-master becalmed behind her, and this is why the merchantman is no longer visible.

I am careful not to question Captain Spade about it, nor even Engineer Serko, as I should certainly receive no answer.

Besides, at this moment Captain Spade goes to the signalling apparatus and presses one of the buttons on the upper disk. Almost immediately the _Ebba_ gives a jerk, then with her sails still furled, she starts off eastward again.

Two hours later the Count d’Artigas comes up through the main hatchway and takes his customary place aft. Serko and Captain Spade at once approach and engage in conversation with him.

All three raise their telescopes and sweep the horizon from southeast to northeast.

No one will be surprised to learn that I gaze intently in the same direction; but having no telescope I cannot distinguish anything.

The midday meal over we all return on deck–all with the exception of Thomas Roch, who has not quitted his cabin.

Towards one o’clock land is sighted by the lookout man on the foretop cross-tree. Inasmuch as the _Elba_ is bowling along at great speed I shall soon be able to make out the coast line.

In effect, two hours later a vague semicircular line that curves outward is discernible about eight miles off. As the schooner approaches it becomes more distinct. It is a mountain, or at all events very high ground, and from its summit a cloud of smoke ascends.

What! A volcano in these parts? It must then be—-



In my opinion the _Ebba_ could have struck no other group of islands but the Bermudas in this part of the Atlantic. This is clear from the distance covered from the American coast and the direction sailed in since we issued from Pamlico Sound. This direction has constantly been south-southeast, and the distance, judging from the _Ebba’s_ rate of speed, which has scarcely varied, is approximately seven hundred and fifty miles.

Still, the schooner does not slacken speed. The Count d’Artigas and Engineer Serko remain aft, by the man at the wheel. Captain Spade has gone forward.

Are we not going to leave this island, which appears to be isolated, to the west?

It does not seem likely, since it is still broad daylight, and the hour at which the _Ebba_ was timed to arrive.

All the sailors are drawn up on deck, awaiting orders, and Boatswain Effrondat is making preparations to anchor.

Ere a couple of hours have passed I shall know all about it. It will be the first answer to one of the many questions that have perplexed me since the schooner put to sea.

And yet it is most unlikely that the port to which the _Ebba_ belongs is situated on one of the Bermuda islands, in the middle of an English archipelago–unless the Count d’Artigas has kidnapped Thomas Roch for the British government, which I cannot believe.

I become aware that this extraordinary man is gazing at me with singular persistence. Although he can have no suspicion that I am Simon Hart, the engineer, he must be asking himself what I think of this adventure. If Warder Gaydon is but a poor devil, this poor devil will manifest as much unconcern as to what is in store for him as any gentleman could–even though he were the proprietor of this queer pleasure yacht. Still I am a little uneasy under his gaze.

I dare say that if the Count d’Artigas could guess how certain things have suddenly become clear to me, he would not hesitate to have me thrown overboard.

Prudence therefore commands me to be more circumspect than ever.

Without giving rise to any suspicion–even in the mind of Engineer Serko–I have succeeded in raising a corner of the mysterious veil, and I begin to see ahead a bit.

As the _Ebba_ draws nearer, the island, or rather islet, towards which she is speeding shows more sharply against the blue background of the sky. The sun which has passed the zenith, shines full upon the western side. The islet is isolated, or at any rate I cannot see any others of the group to which it belongs, either to north or south.

This islet, of curious contexture, resembles as near as possible a cup turned upside down, from which a fuliginous vapor arises. Its summit–the bottom of the cup, if you like–is about three hundred feet above the level of the sea, and its flanks, which are steep and regular, are as bare as the sea-washed rocks at its base.

There is another peculiarity about it which must render the islet easily recognizable by mariners approaching it from the west, and this is a rock which forms a natural arch at the base of the mountain–the handle of the cup, so to speak–and through which the waves wash as freely as the sunshine passes. Seen this way the islet fully justifies the name of Back Cup given to it.

Well, I know and recognize this islet! It is situated at the extremity of the archipelago of the Bermudas. It is the “reversed cup” that I had occasion to visit a few years ago–No, I am not mistaken. I then climbed over the calcareous and crooked rocks at its base on the east side. Yes, it is Back Cup, sure enough!

Had I been less self-possessed I might have uttered an exclamation of surprise–and satisfaction–which, with good reason, would have excited the attention and suspicion of the Count d’Artigas.

These are the circumstances under which I came to explore Back Cup while on a visit to Bermuda.

This archipelago, which is situated about seven hundred and fifty miles from North Carolina is composed of several hundred islands or islets. Its centre is crossed by the sixty-fourth meridian and the thirty-second parallel. Since the Englishman Lomer was shipwrecked and cast up there in 1609, the Bermudas have belonged to the United Kingdom, and in consequence the colonial population has increased to ten thousand inhabitants. It was not for its productions of cotton, coffee, indigo, and arrowroot that England annexed the group–seized it, one might say; but because it formed a splendid maritime station in that part of the Ocean, and in proximity to the United States of America. Possession was taken of it without any protest on the part of other powers, and Bermuda is now administered by a British governor with the addition of a council and a General Assembly.

The principal islands of the archipelago are called St. David, Somerset, Hamilton, and St. George. The latter has a free port, and the town of the same name is also the capital of the group.

The largest of these isles is not more than seventeen miles long and five wide. Leaving out the medium-sized ones, there remains but an agglomeration of islets and reefs scattered over an area of twelve square leagues.

Although the climate of Bermuda is very healthy, very salubrious, the isles are nevertheless frightfully beaten by the heavy winter tempests of the Atlantic, and their approach by navigators presents certain difficulties.

What the archipelago especially lacks are rivers and rios. However, as abundant rains fall frequently, this drawback is got over by the inhabitants, who treasure up the heaven-sent water for household and agricultural purposes. This has necessitated the construction of vast cisterns which the downfalls keep filled. These works of engineering skill justly merit the admiration they receive and do honor to the genius of man.

It was in connection with the setting up of these cisterns that I made the trip, as well as out of curiosity to inspect the fine works.

I obtained from the company of which I was the engineer in New Jersey a vacation of several weeks, and embarked at New York for the Bermudas.

While I was staying on Hamilton Island, in the vast port of Southampton, an event occurred of great interest to geologists.

One day a whole flotilla of fishers, men, women and children, entered Southampton Harbor. For fifty years these families had lived on the east coast of Back Cup, where they had erected log-cabins and houses of stone. Their position for carrying on their industry was an exceptionally favorable one, for the waters teem with fish all the year round, and in March and April whales abound.

Nothing had hitherto occurred to disturb their tranquil existence. They were quite contented with their rough lot, which was rendered less onerous by the facility of communication with Hamilton and St. George. Their solid barks took cargoes of fish there, which they exchanged for the necessities of life.

Why had they thus abandoned the islet with the intention, as it pretty soon appeared, of never returning to it? The reason turned out to be that they no longer considered themselves in safety there.

A couple of months previously they had been at first surprised, then alarmed, by several distinct detonations that appeared to have taken place in the interior of the mountain. At the same time smoke and flames issued from the summit–or the bottom of the reversed cup, if you like. Now no one had ever suspected that the islet was of volcanic origin, or that there was a crater at the top, no one having been able to climb its sides. Now, however, there could be no possible doubt that the mountain was an ancient volcano that had suddenly become active again and threatened the village with destruction.

During the ensuing two months internal rumblings and explosions continued to be heard, which were accompanied by bursts of flame from the top–especially at night. The island was shaken by the explosions–the shocks could be distinctly felt. All these phenomena were indicative of an imminent eruption, and there was no spot at the base of the mountain that could afford any protection from the rivers of lava that would inevitably pour down its smooth, steep slopes and overwhelm the village in their boiling flood. Besides, the very mountain might be destroyed in the eruption.

There was nothing for the population exposed to such a dire catastrophe to do but leave. This they did. Their humble Lares and Penates, in fact all their belongings, were loaded into the fishing-smacks, and the entire colony sought refuge in Southhampton Harbor.

The news that a volcano, that had presumably been smouldering for centuries at the western extremity of the group, showed signs of breaking out again, caused a sensation throughout the Bermudas. But while some were terrified, the curiosity of others was aroused, mine included. The phenomenon was worth investigation, even if the simple fisher-folk had exaggerated.

Back Cup, which, as already stated, lies at the western extremity of the archipelago, is connected therewith by a chain of small islets and reefs, which cannot be approached from the east. Being only three hundred feet in altitude, it cannot be seen either from St. George or Hamilton. I joined a party of explorers and we embarked in a cutter that landed us on the island, and made our way to the abandoned village of the Bermudan fishers.

The internal crackings and detonations could be plainly heard, and a sheaf of smoke was swayed by the wind at the summit.

Beyond a peradventure the ancient volcano had been started again by the subterranean fire, and an eruption at any moment was to be apprehended.

In vain we attempted to climb to the mouth of the crater. The mountain sheered down at an angle of from seventy-five to eighty degrees, and its smooth, slippery sides afforded absolutely no foothold. Anything more barren than this rocky freak of nature it would be difficult to conceive. Only a few tufts of wild herbs were to be seen upon the whole island, and these seemed to have no _raison d’etre_.

Our explorations were therefore necessarily limited, and in view of the active symptoms of danger that manifested themselves, we could but approve the action of the villagers in abandoning the place; for we entertained no doubt that its destruction was imminent.

These were the circumstances in which I was led to visit Back Cup, and no one will consequently be surprised at the fact that I recognized it immediately we hove in sight of the queer structure.

No, I repeat, the Count d’Artigas would probably not be overpleased if he were aware that Warder Gaydon is perfectly acquainted with this islet, even if the _Ebba_ was to anchor there–which, as there is no port, is, to say the least, extremely improbable.

As we draw nearer, I attentively examine Back Cup. Not one of its former inhabitants has been induced to return, and, as it is absolutely deserted, I cannot imagine why the schooner should visit the place.

Perhaps, however, the Count d’Artigas and his companions have no intention of landing there. Even though the _Ebba_ should find temporary shelter between the rocky sides of a narrow creek there is nothing to give ground to the supposition that a wealthy yachtsman would have the remotest idea of fixing upon as his residence an arid cone exposed to all the terrible tempests of the Western Atlantic. To live hero is all very well for rustic fishermen, but not for the Count d’Artigas, Engineer Serko, Captain Spade and his crew.

Back Cup is now only half a mile off, and the seaweed thrown up on its rocky base is plainly discernible. The only living things upon it are the sea-gulls and other birds that circle in clouds around the smoking crater.

When she is only two cable’s lengths off, the schooner slackens speed, and then stops at the entrance of a sort of natural canal formed by a couple of reefs that barely rise above the water.

I wonder whether the _Ebba_ will venture to try the dangerous feat of passing through it. I do not think so. She will probably lay where she is–though why she should do so I do not know–for a few hours, and then continue her voyage towards the east.

However this may be I see no preparations in progress for dropping anchor. The anchors are suspended in their usual places, the cables have not been cleared, and no motion has been made to lower a single boat.

At this moment Count d’Artigas, Engineer Serko and Captain Spade go forward and perform some manoeuvre that is inexplicable to me.

I walk along the port side of the deck until I am near the foremast, and then I can see a small buoy that the sailors are hoisting in. Almost immediately the water, at the same spot becomes dark and I observe a black mass rising to the surface. Is it a big whale rising for air, and is the _Ebba_ in danger of being shattered by a blow from the monster’s tail?

Now I understand! At last the mystery is solved. I know what was the motor that caused the schooner to go at such an extraordinary speed without sails and without a screw. Her indefatigable motor is emerging from the sea, after having towed her from the coast of America to the archipelago of the Bermudas. There it is, floating alongside–a submersible boat, a submarine tug, worked by a screw set in motion by the current from a battery of accumulators or powerful electric piles.

On the upper part of the long cigar-shaped iron tug is a platform in the middle of which is the “lid” by which an entrance is effected. In the fore part of the platform projects a periscope, or lookout, formed by port-holes or lenses through which an electric searchlight can throw its gleam for some distance under water in front of and on each side of the tug. Now relieved of its ballast of water the boat has risen to the surface. Its lid will open and fresh air will penetrate it to every part. In all probability, if it remained submerged during the day it rose at night and towed the _Ebba_ on the surface.

But if the mechanical power of the tug is produced by electricity the latter must be furnished by some manufactory where it is stored, and the means of procuring the batteries is not to be found on Back Cup, I suppose.

And then, why does the _Ebba_ have recourse to this submarine towing system? Why is she not provided with her own means of propulsion, like other pleasure-boats?

These are things, however, upon which I have at present no leisure to ruminate.

The lid of the tug opens and several men issue on to the platform. They are the crew of this submarine boat, and Captain Spade has been able to communicate with them and transmit his orders as to the direction to be taken by means of electric signals connected with the tug by a wire that passes along the stem of the schooner.

Engineer Serko approaches me and says, pointing to the boat:

“Get in.”

“Get in!” I exclaim.

“Yes, in the tug, and look sharp about it.”

As usual there is nothing for it but to obey. I hasten to comply with the order and clamber over the side.

At the same time Thomas Roch appears on deck accompanied by one of the crew. He appears to be very calm, and very indifferent too, and makes no resistance when he is lifted over and lowered into the tug. When he has been taken in, Count d’Artigas and Engineer Serko follow.

Captain Spade and the crew of the _Ebba_ remain behind, with the exception of four men who man the dinghy, which has been lowered. They have hold of a long hawser, with which the schooner is probably to be towed through the reef. Is there then a creek in the middle of the rocks where the vessel is secure from the breakers? Is this the port to which she belongs?

They row off with the hawser and make the end fast to a ring in the reef. Then the crew on board haul on it and in five minutes the schooner is so completely lost to sight among the rocks that even the tip of her mast could not be seen from the sea.

Who in Bermuda imagines that a vessel is accustomed to lay up in this secret creek? Who in America would have any idea that the rich yachtsman so well known in all the eastern ports abides in the solitude of Back Cup mountain?

Twenty minutes later the dinghy returns with the four men towards the tug which was evidently waiting for them before proceeding–where?

They climb on board, the little boat is made fast astern, a movement is felt, the screw revolves rapidly and the tug skims along the surface to Back Cup, skirting the reefs to the south.

Three cable’s lengths further on, another tortuous canal is seen that leads to the island. Into this the tug enters. When it gets close inshore, an order is given to two men who jump out and haul the dinghy up on a narrow sandy beach out of the reach of wave or weed, and where it will be easily get-at-able when wanted.

This done the sailors return to the tug and Engineer Serko signs to me to go below.

A short iron ladder leads into a central cabin where various bales and packages are stored, and for which no doubt there was not room in the hold of the schooner. I am pushed into a side cabin, the door is shut upon me, and here I am once more a prisoner in profound darkness.

I recognize the cabin the moment I enter it. It is the place in which I spent so many long hours after our abduction from Healthful House, and in which I was confined until well out at sea off Pamlico Sound.

It is evident that Thomas Roch has been placed in a similar compartment.

A loud noise is heard, the banging of the lid as it closes, and the tug begins to sink as the water is admitted to the tanks.

This movement is succeeded by another–a movement that impels the boat through the water.

Three minutes later it stops, and I feel that we are rising to the surface again.

Another noise made by the lid being raised.

The door of my cabin opens, and I rush out and clamber on to the platform.

I look around and find that the tug has penetrated to the interior of Back Cup mountain.

This is the mysterious retreat where Count d’Artigas lives with his companions–out of the world, so to speak.



The next morning I am able to make a first inspection of the vast cavern of Back Cup. No one seeks to prevent me.

What a night I have passed! What strange visions I have seen! With what impatience I waited for morning!

I was conducted to a grotto about a hundred paces from the edge of the lake where the tug stopped. The grotto, twelve feet by ten, was lighted by an incandescent lamp, and fitted with an entrance door that was closed upon me.

I am not surprised that electricity is employed in lighting the interior of the cavern, as it is also used in the submarine boat. But where is it generated? Where does it come from? Is there a manufactory installed somewhere or other in this vast crypt, with machinery, dynamos and accumulators?

My cell is neatly furnished with a table on which provisions are spread, a bunk with bedding, a basket chair, a wash-hand-stand with toilet set, and a closet containing linen and various suits of clothes. In a drawer of the table I find paper, ink and pens.

My dinner consists of fresh fish, preserved meat, bread of excellent quality, ale and whisky; but I am so excited that I scarcely touch it. Yet I feel that I ought to fortify myself and recover my calmness of mind. I must and will solve the mystery surrounding the handful of men who burrow in the bowels of this island.

So it is under the carapace of Back Cup that Count d’Artigas has established himself! This cavity, the existence of which is not even suspected, is his home when he is not sailing in the _Ebba_ along the coasts of the new world or the old. This is the unknown retreat he has discovered, to which access is obtained by a submarine passage twelve or fifteen feet below the surface of the ocean.

Why has he severed himself from the world? What has been his past? If, as I suspect, this name of d’Artigas and this title of Count are assumed, what motive has he for hiding his identity? Has he been banished, is he an outcast of society that he should have selected this place above all others? Am I not in the power of an evildoer anxious to ensure impunity for his crimes and to defy the law by seeking refuge in this undiscoverable burrow? I have the right of supposing anything in the case of this suspicious foreigner, and I exercise it.

Then the question to which I have never been able to suggest a satisfactory answer once more surges into my mind. Why was Thomas Roch abducted from Healthful House in the manner already fully described? Does the Count d’Artigas hope to force from him the secret of his fulgurator with a view to utilizing it for the defence of Back Cup in case his retreat should by chance be discovered? Hardly. It would be easy enough to starve the gang out of Back Cup, by preventing the tug from supplying them with provisions. On the other hand, the schooner could never break through the investing lines, and if she did her description would be known in every port. In this event, of what possible use would Thomas Roch’s invention be to the Count d’Artigas Decidedly, I cannot understand it!

About seven o’clock in the morning I jump out of bed. If I am a prisoner in the cavern I am at least not imprisoned in my grotto cell. The door yields when I turn the handle and push against it, and I walk out.

Thirty yards in front of me is a rocky plane, forming a sort of quay that extends to right and left. Several sailors of the _Ebba_ are engaged in landing bales and stores from the interior of the tug, which lays alongside a little stone jetty.

A dim light to which my eyes soon grow accustomed envelops the cavern and comes from a hole in the centre of the roof, through which the blue sky can be seen.

“It is from that hole that the smoke which can be seen for such a distance issues,” I say to myself, and this discovery suggests a whole series of reflections.

Back Cup, then, is not a volcano, as was supposed–as I supposed myself. The flames that were seen a few years ago, and the columns of smoke that still rise were and are produced artificially. The detonations and rumblings that so alarmed the Bermudan fishers were not caused by the internal workings of nature. These various phenomena were fictitious. They manifested themselves at the mere will of the owner of the island, who wanted to scare away the inhabitants who resided on the coast. He succeeded, this Count d’Artigas, and remains the sole and undisputed monarch of the mountain. By exploding gunpowder, and burning seaweed swept up in inexhaustible quantities by the ocean, he has been able to simulate a volcano upon the point of eruption and effectually scare would-be settlers away!

The light becomes stronger as the sun rises higher, the daylight streams through the fictitious crater, and I shall soon be able to estimate the cavern’s dimensions. This is how I calculate:

Exteriorly the island of Back Cup, which is as nearly as possible circular, measures two hundred and fifty yards in circumference, and presents an interior superficies of about six acres. The sides of the mountain at its base vary in thickness from thirty to a hundred yards.

It therefore follows that this excavation practically occupies the whole of that part of Back Cup island which appears above water. As to the length of the submarine tunnel by which communication is obtained with the outside, and through which the tug passed, I estimate that it is fifty yards in length.

The size of the cavern can be judged from these approximate figures. But vast as it is, I remember that there are caverns of larger dimensions both in the old and new worlds. For instance in Carniole, Northumberland, Derbyshire, Piedmont, the Balearics, Hungary and California are larger grottoes than Back Cup, and those at Han-sur-Lesse in Belgium, and the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, are also more extensive. The latter contain no fewer than two hundred and twenty-six domes, seven rivers, eight cataracts, thirty two wells of unknown depth, and an immense lake which extends over six or seven leagues, the limit of which has never been reached by explorers.

I know these Kentucky grottoes, having visited them, as many thousands of tourists have done. The principal one will serve as a comparison to Back Cup. The roof of the former, like that of the latter, is supported by pillars of various lengths, which give it the appearance of a Gothic cathedral, with naves and aisles, though it lacks the architectural regularity of a religious edifice. The only difference is that whereas the roof of the Kentucky grotto is over four hundred feet high, that of Back Cup is not above two hundred and twenty at that part of it where the round hole through which issue the smoke and flames is situated.

Another peculiarity, and a very important one, that requires to be pointed out, is that whereas the majority of the grottoes referred to are easily accessible, and were therefore bound to be discovered some time or other, the same remark does not apply to Back Cup. Although it is marked on the map as an island forming part of the Bermuda group, how could any one imagine that it is hollow, that its rocky sides are only the walls of an enormous cavern? In order to make such a discovery it would be necessary to get inside, and to get inside a submarine apparatus similar to that of the Count d’Artigas would be necessary.

In my opinion this strange yachtsman’s discovery of the tunnel by which he has been able to found this disquieting colony of Back Cup must have been due to pure chance.

Now I turn my attention to the lake and observe that it is a very small one, measuring not more than four hundred yards in circumference. It is, properly speaking, a lagoon, the rocky sides of which are perpendicular. It is large enough for the tug to work about in it, and holds enough water too, for it must be one hundred and twenty-five feet deep.

It goes without saying that this crypt, given its position and structure, belongs to the category of those which are due to the encroachments of the sea. It is at once of Neptunian and Plutonian origin, like the grottoes of Crozon and Morgate in the bay of Douarnenez in France, of Bonifacio on the Corsican coast, Thorgatten in Norway, the height of which is estimated at over three hundred feet, the catavaults of Greece, the grottoes of Gibraltar in Spain, and Tourana in Cochin China, whose carapace indicates that they are all the product of this dual geological labor.

The islet of Back Cup is in great part formed of calcareous rocks, which slope upwards gently from the lagoon towards the sides and are separated from each other by narrow beaches of fine sand. Thick layers of seaweed that have been swept through the tunnel by the tide and thrown up around the lake have been piled into heaps, some of which are dry and some still wet, but all of which exhale the strong odor of the briny ocean. This, however, is not the only combustible employed by the inhabitants of Back Cup, for I see an enormous store of coal that must have been brought by the schooner and the tug. But it is the incineration of masses of dried seaweed that causes the smoke vomited forth by the crater of the mountain.

Continuing my walk I perceive on the northern side of the lagoon the habitations of this colony of troglodytes–do they not merit the appellation? This part of the cavern, which is known as the Beehive, fully justifies its name, for it is honeycombed by cells excavated in the limestone rock and in which these human bees–or perhaps they should rather be called wasps–reside.

The lay of the cavern to the east is very different. Here hundreds of pillars of all shapes rise to the dome, and form a veritable forest of stone trees through the sinuous avenues of which one can thread one’s way to the extreme limit of the place.

By counting the cells of the Beehive I calculate that Count d’Artigas’ companions number from eighty to one hundred.

As my eye wanders over the place I notice that the Count is standing in front of one of the cells, which is isolated from the others, and talking to Engineer Serko and Captain Spade. After a while they stroll down to the jetty alongside which the tug is lying.

A dozen men have been emptying the merchandise out of the tug and transporting the goods in boats to the other side, where great cellars have been excavated in the rocks and form the storehouses of the band.

The orifice of the tunnel is not visible in the waters of the lagoon, and I remember that when I was brought here I felt the tug sink several feet before it entered. In this respect therefore Back Cup does not resemble either the grottoes of Staffa or Morgate, entrance to which is always open, even at high tide. There may be another passage communicating with the coast, either natural or artificial, and this I shall have to make my business to find out.

The island well merits its name of Back Cup. It is indeed a gigantic cup turned upside down, not only to outward appearance, but inwardly, too, though people are ignorant of the fact.

I have already remarked that the Beehive is situated to the north of the lagoon, that is to say to the left on entering by the tunnel. On the opposite side are the storerooms filled with provisions of all kinds, bales of merchandise, barrels of wine, beer, and spirits and various packets bearing different marks and labels that show that they came from all parts of the world. One would think that the cargoes of a score of ships had been landed here.

A little farther on is a large wooden shed the nature of which is easily distinguishable. From a pole above it a network of thick copper wires extends which conducts the current to the powerful electric lights suspended from the roof or dome, and to the incandescent lamps in each of the cells of the hive. A large number of lamps are also installed among the stone pillars and light up the avenues to their extremities.

“Shall I be permitted to roam about wherever I please?” I ask myself. I hope so. I cannot for the life of me see why the Count d’Artigas should prohibit me from doing so, for I cannot get farther than the surrounding walls of his mysterious domain. I question whether there is any other issue than the tunnel, and how on earth could I get through that?

Besides, admitting that I am able to get through it, I cannot get off the island. My disappearance would be soon noticed, and the tug would take out a dozen men who would explore every nook and cranny. I should inevitably be recaptured, brought back to the Beehive, and deprived of my liberty for good.

I must therefore give up all idea of making my escape, unless I can see that it has some chance of being successful, and if ever an opportunity does present itself I shall not be slow to take advantage of it.

On strolling round by the rows of cells I am able to observe a few of these companions of the Count d’Artigas who are content to pass their monotonous existence in the depths of Back Cup. As I said before, calculating from the number of cells in the Beehive, there must be between eighty and a hundred of them.

They pay no attention whatever to me as I pass, and on examining them closely it seems to me that they must have been recruited from every country. I do not distinguish any community of origin among them, not even a similarity by which they might be classed as North Americans, Europeans or Asiatics. The color of their skin shades from white to yellow and black–the black peculiar to Australia rather than to Africa. To sum up, they appear for the most part to pertain to the Malay races. I may add that the Count d’Artigas certainly belongs to that particular race which peoples the Dutch isles in the West Pacific, while Engineer Serko must be Levantine and Captain Spade of Italian origin.

But if the inhabitants of Back Cup are not bound to each other by ties of race, they certainly are by instinct and inclination. What forbidding, savage-looking faces they have, to be sure! They are men of violent character who have probably never placed any restraint upon their passions, nor hesitated at anything, and it occurs to me that in all likelihood they have sought refuge in this cavern, where they fancy they can continue to defy the law with impunity, after a long series of crimes–robbery, murder, arson, and excesses of all descriptions committed together. In this case Back Cup is nothing but a lair of pirates, the Count d’Artigas is the leader of the band and Serko and Spade are his lieutenants.

I cannot get this idea out of my head, and the more I consider the more convinced I am that I am right, especially as everything I see during my stroll about the cavern seems to confirm my opinion.

However this may be, and whatever may be the circumstances that have brought them together in this place, Count d’Artigas’ companions appear to accept his all-powerful domination without question. On the other hand, if he keeps them under his iron heel by enforcing the severest discipline, certain advantages, some compensation, must accrue from the servitude to which they bow. What can this compensation be?

Having turned that part of the bank under which the tunnel passes, I find myself on the opposite side of the lagoon, where are situated the storerooms containing the merchandise brought by the _Ebba_ on each trip, and which contain a great quantity of bales.

Beyond is the manufactory of electric energy. I gaze in at the windows as I pass and notice that it contains machines of the latest invention and highest attained perfection, which take up little space. Not one steam engine, with its more or less complicated mechanism and need of fuel, is to be seen in the place. As I had surmised, piles of extraordinary power supply the current to the lamps in the cavern, as well as to the dynamos of the tug. No doubt the current is also utilized for domestic purposes, such as warming the Beehive and cooking food, I can see that in a neighboring cavity it is applied to the alembics used to produce fresh water. At any rate the colonists of Back Cup are not reduced to catching the rain water that falls so abundantly upon the exterior of the mountain.

A few paces from the electric power house is a large cistern that, save in the matter of proportions, is the counterpart of those I visited in Bermuda. In the latter place the cisterns have to supply the needs of over ten thousand people, this one of a hundred–what?

I am not sure yet what to call them. That their chief had serious reasons for choosing the bowels of this island for his abiding place is obvious. But what were those reasons? I can understand monks shutting themselves behind their monastery walls with the intention of separating themselves from the world, but these subjects of the Count d’Artigas have nothing of the monk about them, and would not be mistaken for such by the most simple-minded of mortals.

I continue my way through the pillars to the extremity of the cavern. No one has sought to stop me, no one has spoken to me, not a soul apparently has taken the very slightest notice of me. This portion of Back Cup is extremely curious, and comparable to the most marvellous of the grottoes of Kentucky or the Balearics. I need hardly say that nowhere is the labor of man apparent. All this is the handiwork of nature, and it is not without wonder, mingled with awe, that I reflect upon the telluric forces capable of engendering such prodigious substructions. The daylight from the crater in the centre only strikes this part of the cavern obliquely, so that it is very imperfectly lighted, but at night, when illuminated by the electric lamps, its aspect must be positively fantastic.

I have examined the walls everywhere with minute attention, but have been unable to discover any means of communicating with the outside.

Quite a colony of birds–gulls, sea-swallows and other feathery denizens of the Bermudan beaches have made their home in the cavern. They have apparently never been hunted, for they are in no way disturbed by the presence of man.

But besides sea-birds, which are free to come and go as they please by the orifice in the dome, there is a whole farmyard of domestic poultry, and cows and pigs. The food supply is therefore no less assured than it is varied, when the fish of all kinds that abound in the lagoon and around the island are taken into consideration.

Moreover, a mere glance at the colonists of Back Cup amply suffices to show that they are not accustomed to fare scantily. They are all vigorous, robust seafaring men, weatherbeaten and seasoned in the burning beat of tropical latitudes, whose rich blood is surcharged with oxygen by the breezes of the ocean. There is not a youth nor an old man among them. They are all in their prime, their ages ranging from thirty to fifty.

But why do they submit to such an existence? Do they never leave their rocky retreat?

Perhaps I shall find out ere I am much older.



The cell in which I reside is about a hundred paces from the habitation of the Count d’Artigas, which is one of the end ones of this row of the Beehive. If I am not to share it with Thomas Roch, I presume the latter’s cell is not far off, for in order that Warder Gaydon may continue to care for the ex-patient of Healthful House, their respective apartments will have to be contiguous. However, I suppose I shall soon be enlightened on this point.

Captain Spade and Engineer Serko reside separately in proximity to D’Artigas’ mansion.

Mansion? Yes, why not dignify it with the title since this habitation has been arranged with a certain art? Skillful hands have carved an ornamental facade in the rock. A large door affords access to it. Colored glass windows in wooden frames let into the limestone walls admit the light. The interior comprises several chambers, a dining-room and a drawing-room lighted by a stained-glass window, the whole being perfectly ventilated. The furniture is of various styles and shapes and of French, English and American make. The kitchen, larder, etc., are in adjoining cells in rear of the Beehive.

In the afternoon, just as I issue from my cell with the firm intention of “obtaining an audience” of the Count d’Artigas, I catch sight of him coming along the shore of the lagoon towards the hive. Either he does not see me, or wishes to avoid me, for he quickens his steps and I am unable to catch him.

“Well, he will have to receive me, anyhow!” I mutter to myself.

I hurry up to the door through which he has just disappeared and which has closed behind him.

It is guarded by a gigantic, dark-skinned Malay, who orders me away in no amiable tone of voice.

I decline to comply with his injunction, and repeat to him twice the following request in my very best English:

“Tell the Count d’Artigas that I desire to be received immediately.”

I might just as well have addressed myself to the surrounding rock. This savage, no doubt, does not understand a word of English, for he scowls at me and orders me away again with a menacing cry.

I have a good mind to attempt to force the door and shout so that the Count d’Artigas cannot fail to hear me, but in all probability I shall only succeed in rousing the wrath of the Malay, who appears to be endowed with herculean strength. I therefore judge discretion to be the better part of valor, and put off the explanation that is owing to me–and which, sooner or later, I will have–to a more propitious occasion.

I meander off in front of the Beehive towards the east, and my thoughts revert to Thomas Roch. I am surprised that I have not seen him yet. Can he be in the throes of a fresh paroxysm?

This hypothesis is hardly admissible, for if the Count d’Artigas is to be believed, he would in this event have summoned me to attend to the inventor.

A little farther on I encounter Engineer Serko.

With his inviting manner and usual good-humor this ironical individual smiles when he perceives me, and does not seek to avoid me. If he knew I was a colleague, an engineer–providing he himself really is one–perhaps he might receive me with more cordiality than I have yet encountered, but I am not going to be such a fool as to tell him who and what I am.

He stops, with laughing eyes and mocking mouth, and accompanies a “Good day, how do you do?” with a gracious gesture of salutation.

I respond coldly to his politeness–a fact which he affects not to notice.

“May Saint Jonathan protect you, Mr. Gaydon!” he continues in his clear, ringing voice. “You are not, I presume, disposed to regret the fortunate circumstance by which you were permitted to visit this surpassingly marvellous cavern–and it really is one of the finest, although the least known on this spheroid.”

This word of a scientific language used in conversation with a simple hospital attendant surprises me, I admit, and I merely reply:

“I should have no reason to complain, Mr. Serko, if, after having had the pleasure of visiting this cavern, I were at liberty to quit it.”

“What! Already thinking of leaving us, Mr. Gaydon,–of returning to your dismal pavilion at Healthful House? Why, you have scarcely had time to explore our magnificent domain, or to admire the incomparable beauty with which nature has endowed it.”

“What I have seen suffices,” I answer; “and should you perchance be talking seriously I will assure you seriously that I do not want to see any more of it.”

“Come, now, Mr. Gaydon, permit me to point out that you have not yet had the opportunity of appreciating the advantages of an existence passed in such unrivalled surroundings. It is a quiet life, exempt from care, with an assured future, material conditions such as are not to be met with anywhere, an even climate and no more to fear from the tempests which desolate the coasts in this part of the Atlantic than from the cold of winter, or the heat of summer. This temperate and salubrious atmosphere is scarcely affected by changes of season. Here we have no need to apprehend the wrath of either Pluto or Neptune.”

“Sir,” I reply, “it is impossible that this climate can suit you, that you can appreciate living in this grotto of—-“

I was on the point of pronouncing the name of Back Cup. Fortunately I restrained myself in time. What would happen if they suspected that I am aware of the name of their island, and, consequently, of its position at the extremity of the Bermuda group?

“However,” I continue, “if this climate does not suit me, I have, I presume, the right to make a change.”

“The right, of course.”

“I understand from your remark that I shall be furnished with the means of returning to America when I want to go?”

“I have no reason for opposing your desires, Mr. Gaydon,” Engineer Serko replies, “and I regard your presumption as a very natural one. Observe, however, that we live here in a noble and superb independence, that we acknowledge the authority of no foreign power, that we are subject to no outside authority, that we are the colonists of no state, either of the old or new world. This is worth consideration by whomsoever has a sense of pride and independence. Besides, what memories are evoked in a cultivated mind by these grottoes which seem to have been chiselled by the hands of the gods and in which they were wont to render their oracles by the mouth of Trophonius.”

Decidedly, Engineer Serko is fond of citing mythology! Trophonius after Pluto and Neptune? Does he imagine that Warder Gaydon ever heard of Trophonius? It is clear this mocker continues to mock, and I have to exercise the greatest patience in order not to reply in the same tone.

“A moment ago,” I continue shortly, “I wanted to enter yon habitation, which, if I mistake not, is that of the Count d’Artigas, but I was prevented.”

“By whom, Mr. Gaydon?”

“By a man in the Count’s employ.”

“He probably had received strict orders about it.”

“Possibly, yet whether he likes it or not, Count d’Artigas will have to see me and listen to me.”

“Maybe it would be difficult, and even impossible to get him to do so,” says Engineer Serko with a smile.

“Why so?”

“Because there is no such person as Count d’Artigas here.”

“You are jesting, I presume; I have just seen him.”

“It was not the Count d’Artigas whom you saw, Mr. Gaydon.”

“Who was it then, may I ask?”

“The pirate Ker Karraje.”

This name was thrown at me in a hard tone of voice, and Engineer Serko walked off before I had presence of mind enough to detain him.

The pirate Ker Karraje!

Yes, this name is a revelation to me. I know it well, and what memories it evokes! It by itself explains what has hitherto been inexplicable to me. I now know into whose hands I have fallen.

With what I already knew, with what I have learned since my arrival in Back Cup from Engineer Serko, this is what I am able to tell about the past and present of Ker Karraje:

Eight or nine years ago, the West Pacific was infested by pirates who acted with the greatest audacity. A band of criminals of various origins, composed of escaped convicts, military and naval deserters, etc., operated with incredible audacity under the orders of a redoubtable chief. The nucleus of the band had been formed by men pertaining to the scum of Europe who had been attracted to New South Wales, in Australia, by the discovery of gold there. Among these gold-diggers, were Captain Spade and Engineer Serko, two outcasts, whom a certain community of ideas and character soon bound together in close friendship.

These intelligent, well educated, resolute men would most assuredly have succeeded in any career. But being without conscience or scruples, and determined to get rich at no matter what cost, deriving from gambling and speculation what they might have earned by patient and steady work, they engaged in all sorts of impossible adventures. One day they were rich, the next day poor, like most of the questionable individuals who had hurried to the gold-fields in search of fortune.

Among the diggers in New South Wales was a man of incomparable audacity, one of those men who stick at nothing–not even at crime–and whose influence upon bad and violent natures is irresistible.

That man’s name was Ker Karraje.

The origin or nationality or antecedents of this pirate were never established by the investigations ordered in regard to him. He eluded all pursuit, and his name–or at least the name he gave himself–was known all over the world, and inspired horror and terror everywhere, as being that of a legendary personage, a bogey, invisible and unseizable.

I have now reason to believe that Ker Karraje is a Malay. However, it is of little consequence, after all. What is certain is that he was with reason regarded as a formidable and dangerous villain who had many crimes, committed in distant seas, to answer for.

After spending a few years on the Australian goldfields, where he made the acquaintance of Engineer Serko and Captain Spade, Ker Karraje managed to seize a ship in the port of Melbourne, in the province of Victoria. He was joined by about thirty rascals whose number was speedily tripled. In that part of the Pacific Ocean where piracy is still carried on with great facility, and I may say, profit, the number of ships pillaged, crews massacred, and raids committed in certain western islands which the colonists were unable to defend, cannot be estimated.

Although the whereabouts of Ker Karraje’s vessel, commanded by Captain Spade, was several times made known to the authorities, all attempts to capture it proved futile. The marauder would disappear among the innumerable islands of which he knew every cove and creek, and it was impossible to come across him.

He maintained a perfect reign of terror. England, France, Germany, Russia and America vainly dispatched warships in pursuit of the phantom vessel which disappeared, no one knew whither, after robberies and murders that could not be prevented or punished had been committed by her crew.

One day this series of crimes came to an end, and no more was heard of Ker Karraje. Had he abandoned the Pacific for other seas? Would this pirate break out in a fresh place? It was argued that notwithstanding what they must have spent in orgies and debauchery the pirate and his companions must still have an enormous amount of wealth hidden in some place known only to themselves, and that they were enjoying their ill-gotten gains.

Where had the band hidden themselves since they had ceased their depredations? This was a question which everybody asked and none was able to answer. All attempts to run them to earth were vain. Terror and uneasiness having ceased with the danger, Ker Karraje’s exploits soon began to be forgotten, even in the West Pacific.

This is what had happened–and what will never be known unless I succeed in escaping from Back Cup:

These wretches were, as a matter of fact, possessed of great wealth when they abandoned the Southern Seas. Having destroyed their ship they dispersed in different directions after having arranged to meet on the American continent.

Engineer Serko, who was well versed in his profession, and was a clever mechanic to boot, and who had made a special study of submarine craft, proposed to Ker Karraje that they should construct one of these boats in order to continue their criminal exploits with greater secrecy and effectiveness.