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Chapter 4 THE CHINAMAN'S ESCAPE

  • THE night on which I discovered that Nikola's drugs had been stolen wa_estined to prove unpleasant in more senses than one. The sweetest-tempered o_en could scarcely have failed to take offence had they been treated as th_aptain had treated me. I had told him in so many words, and with as muc_mphasis as I was master of, that I had distinctly seen the Chinaman standin_pon the main deck of his steamer. The second engineer had also entered th_ame report; his evidence, however, while serving to corroborate my assertion, was of little further use to me, inasmuch as I had still better proof tha_hat I said was correct—namely, that the medicines were missing. Under th_ircumstances it was small wonder that I slept badly. Even had the cabin bee_s large as a hotel bedroom, and the bunk the latest invention in the way o_omfortable couches, it is scarcely possible I should have had better rest. A_t was, the knowledge that I had been outwitted was sufficient to keep m_umbling and tossing to and fro, from the moment I laid my head upon th_illow until the sun was streaming in through my porthole next morning. Agai_nd again I went over the events of the previous day, recalling every inciden_ith photographic distinctness; but always returning to the same point. Ho_he man could have obtained admittance to the saloon at all was more than _ould understand, and, having got there, why he should have stolen the bottle_f medicine when there were so many other articles which would have seemed t_e of infinitely more value to him, scattered about, was, to say the least o_t, incomprehensible. Hour after hour I puzzled over it, and at the end was n_earer a solution of the enigma than at the beginning. At first I fel_nclined to believe that I must have taken them from the bag myself and fo_ecurity's sake have placed them elsewhere. A few moments' search, however, was sufficient to knock the bottom out of that theory. Hunt high and low, where I would, I could discover no traces of the queer little bottles. Then _emembered that when I had sent the steward for them to the Don's cabin th_revious afternoon, I had taken them from the bag and placed them upon th_eck beside the old man's bunk. Could I have left them there? On reconsiderin_he matter more carefully, however, I remembered that before leaving the cabi_ had replaced them in my bag, and that as I carried them back to my berth _ad bumped the satchel against the corner of the saloon table and was afraid _ight have broken them. This effectually disposed of that theory also. At las_he suspense of irritation, by whichever name you may describe it, becam_nbearable, and unable to remain in bed any longer, I rose, dressed myself, and prepared to go on deck. Entering the saloon, I found the steward busie_ver a number of coffee-cups.
  • "Good morning, sir," he said, looking up from his work. "If you'll excuse m_aying so, sir, you're about early."
  • "I was late in bed," I answered, with peculiar significance. "How is it, m_riend, that you allow people, who have no right here, to enter the saloon an_o thieve from the passengers' cabins?"
  • "To thieve, sir!" the man replied in a startled tone; "I'm sure I don'_nderstand you, sir. I allow no one to enter the saloon who has no right t_be_  there."
  • I glanced at him sharply, wondering whether the fellow was as innocent as h_retended to be.
  • "At any rate," I said, "the fact remains that some one entered my cabin las_ight, while I was on deck, and stole the medicines with which I am treatin_he old gentleman in the cabin yonder."
  • The man looked inexpressibly shocked. "God bless my soul alive, sir—you don'_ean that!" he said, with a falter in his voice. "Surely you don't mean it?"
  • "But I  _do_  mean it," I answered. "There can be no sort of doubt about it.
  • When I left the old gentleman's cabin yesterday I carried the bag containin_he medicines back with me to my own berth, locked it, and hung it upon th_eg beside the looking-glass with my own hands. After that I went on deck, returned to my cabin an hour or so later, opened the bag, and the bottles wer_one."
  • "But, sir, have you any idea who could have taken them?" the man replied. "_ope you don't think, sir, as how I should have allowed such a thing to tak_lace in this saloon with my knowledge?"
  • "I hope you would not," I answered, "but that does not alter the fact that th_hings are missing."
  • "But don't you think, sir, the young lady herself might have come in search o_ou, and when she found you were not there did the next best thing and too_way the medicines to use herself?"
  • "At present I do not know what to think," I replied with some hesitation, fo_hat view of the case had not presented itself to me. "But if there has bee_nything underhand going on, I think I can promise the culprit that it will b_ade exceedingly hot for him when we reach our destination."
  • Having fired this parting shot, I left him to the contemplation of his coffee- cups and made my way up the companion-ladder to the deck above. It was _ovely morning, a brisk breeze was blowing, and the steamer was running fairl_teady under a staysail and a foresail. It was not the sort of morning to fee_epressed, and yet the incidents of the previous night were sufficient t_ender me more than a little uncomfortable. Nikola had trusted me, and in th_atter of the medicines at least I had been found wanting. I believe at th_oment I would have given all I possessed—which was certainly not much, bu_till a good deal to me—to have been able to solve the mystery that surrounde_he disappearance of those drugs. Shortly before eight bells the skippe_merged from the chart room and came along the hurricane deck towards th_oop. Seeing me he waved his hand, and, after he had ascended the ladder fro_he main deck, bade me good morning. "I'm afraid our accommodation is not ver_ood," he said, "but I trust you have passed a fairly comfortable night. N_ore dreams of one-eared Chinamen, I hope?"
  • From the tone in which he spoke it was plain that he imagined I must have bee_reaming on the previous evening. Had it not been for the seriousness of m_osition with Nikola, I could have laughed aloud when I thought of the shell _as about to drop into the skipper's camp.
  • "Dreams or no dreams, Captain Windover," I replied, "I have to make a ver_erious complaint to you. It will remain then for you to say whether yo_onsider that the assertion I made to you last night was, or was not, founde_pon fact. As I believe you are aware, I was instructed by my principal, Dr.
  • Nikola, to join this vessel in the Thames and to take charge of Don Miguel d_oreno until his arrival in Newcastle-on-Tyne. Dr. Nikola was fully aware o_he difficulty and responsibility of the task he had assigned to me, and fo_his reason he furnished me with a number of very rare drugs which I was t_dminister to the patient as occasion demanded. In the letter of instruction_hich I received prior to embarking, I was particularly warned to beware of _ertain Chinaman whose peculiar characteristic was that he had lost half a_ar. In due course I joined your vessel, and attended the Don, used the drug_o which I have referred, and afterwards returned them to my cabin. A quarte_f an hour or so later I made my way to the deck, where I found mysel_uddenly brought face to face with the Asiatic of whom I had been warned. O_he recommendation of the chief engineer I reported the matter to you; yo_earched the ship, found no one at all like the man I described, and from tha_ime forward set down the story I had told you either as a fabrication on m_art, or the creation of a dream."
  • "Pardon me, my dear sir, not a fabrication," the skipper began: "only a—"
  • "Pardon me in your turn," I replied: "I have not quite finished. As I hav_nferred, you treat the matter with contempt. What  _is_  the result? I retur_o my cabin, and, before retiring to rest, in order to make sure that they ar_eady at hand in case I should require them during the night, open the bag i_hich the medicines until that moment had been stored. To my consternatio_hey are not there. Some one had entered my cabin during my absence and stole_hem. I leave you to put what construction on it you please, and to say wha_hat some one was."
  • The captain's face was a study. "But&mdash but—" he began.
  • "Buts will not mend the matter," I answered, I am afraid rather sharply.
  • "There can be no getting away from the fact that they are gone, and that som_ne must have taken them. They could scarcely walk away by themselves."
  • "But supposing your suspicions to be correct, what possible use could a fe_mall bottles of unknown medicine be to a man like that, a Chinaman? Had h_aken your watch and chain, or your money, I could understand it; but fro_hat you say, I gather that nothing else is missing."
  • "Nothing else," I replied, in the tone of a man who is making an admissio_hat is scarcely likely to add to the weight of the argument he i_ndeavouring to adduce.
  • "Besides," continued the skipper, "there are half a hundred other ways i_hich the things might have been lost or mislaid. Last night the ship wa_olling heavily: why might they not have tumbled out and have slipped unde_our bunk or behind your bags? I have known things like that occur."
  • "And would the ship have closed the bag again, may I ask?" I answere_cornfully. "No, no! Captain, I am afraid that won't do. The man I reported t_ou last night, the one-eared Chinaman, is aboard your ship, and for som_eason best known to himself he has stolen some of my property, thereby no_nly inconveniencing me but placing in absolute danger the life of the old ma_hom I was sent on board to take care of. As the thief is scarcely likely t_ave jumped overboard, he must be on board now; and as he would not be likel_o have stolen the bottles only to smash them, it stands to reason that h_ust have them in his keeping at the present moment."
  • "And suppose he has, what do you want me to do?"
  • "I want you to find him for me," I answered, "or, if you don't care to tak_he trouble, to put sufficient men at my disposal and allow me to do so."
  • On hearing this the captain became very red and shifted uneasily on his feet.
  • "My dear sir," he said a little testily, "much as I would like to put mysel_ut to serve you, I must confess that what you ask seems a littl_nreasonable. Don't I tell you I have already searched the ship twice in a_ttempt to find this man, and each time without success? Upon my word I don'_hink it is fair to ask me to do so again."
  • "In that case I am very much afraid I have no alternative but to make _omplaint to you in writing and to hold you responsible, should Don Miguel d_oreno lose his life through this robbery which has been committed, and whic_ou will not help me to set right."
  • What the captain would have answered in reply to this I cannot say; it i_uite certain, however, that it would have been something sharp had not th_ofia Consuelo made her appearance from the companion hatch that moment. Sh_truck me as looking very pale, as if she had passed a bad night. The skippe_nd I went forward together to meet her.
  • "Good morning," I said, as I took the little hand she held out to me. "I hop_our great-grandfather is better this morning?"
  • "He has passed a fairly good-night, and is sleeping quietly at present," sh_nswered. "The steward is sitting with him now while I come up for a fe_oments to get a little fresh air on deck."
  • The skipper made some remark about the beauty of the morning, and while he wa_peaking I watched the girl's face. There was an expression upon it I did no_uite understand.
  • "I am afraid you have not passed a very good-night," I said, after the othe_ad finished. "Yesterday's anxiety must have upset you more than you allowe_e to suppose."
  • "I will confess that it did upset me," she answered, with her pretty foreig_ccent and the expressive gesticulation which was so becoming to her. "I hav_ad a wretched night. I had such a terrible dream that I have scarcel_ecovered from it yet."
  • "I am sorry to hear that," the skipper and I answered almost together, while _dded, "Pray tell us about it."
  • "It does not seem very much to tell," she answered, "and yet the effect i_roduced upon me is just as vivid now as it was then. After you left the cabi_ast night, Dr. Ingleby, I sat for a little while by my grandfather's side, trying to read; but finding that impossible, I retired to rest, lying upon th_ed the steward is kind enough to make up for me upon the floor. I was utterl_orn out, and almost as soon as I closed my eyes I fell asleep. How long I ha_een sleeping I cannot say, but suddenly I felt there was some one in the roo_ho was watching me: who it was I could not tell, but that it was some one, o_omething, utterly repulsive to me I felt certain. In vain I endeavoured t_pen my eyes, but, as in most nightmares, I found it impossible to do so; an_ll the time I could feel this loathsome thing, whatever it was, drawin_loser and closer to me. Then, putting forth a great effort, I managed t_ake, or perhaps to dream that I did so. I had much better have kept my eye_losed, for leaning over me was the most horrible face I have ever seen o_magined. It was flatter than that of a European, with small, narrow eyes, an_uch cruel eyes."
  • "Good heavens!" I cried, unable to keep silence any longer, "can it b_ossible that you saw him too?"
  • Meanwhile the skipper, who had been leaning against the bulwarks, his hand_hrust deep in his pockets and his cap upon the back of his head, suddenl_prang to attention.
  • "Can you remember anything else about the man?" he inquired.
  • The girl considered for a moment.
  • "I do not know that I can," she answered. "I can only repeat what I sai_efore, that it was the most awful face I have ever seen in my life.—Stay, there is one other thing that I remember. I noticed that half his left ear wa_issing."
  • "It is the Chinaman!" I cried, with an air of triumph that I could no longe_uppress. And as I said it I took from my pocket the letter of instructio_ikola had sent me the week before, and read aloud the passage in which h_eferred to the one-eared Chinaman of whom I was to beware. The effect wa_xactly what I imagined it would be.
  • "Do you mean to tell me I was not dreaming after all?" the Dona inquired, wit_ frightened expression on her face.
  • "That is exactly what I  _do_  mean," I answered. "And I am glad to have you_vidence that you saw the man, for the reason that it bears out what I hav_een saying to our friend the captain here."
  • Then turning to that individual, I continued: "I hope, sir, you will now se_he advisability of instituting another search for this man. If I were in you_lace I would turn the ship inside out, from truck to keelson. It seems to m_utrageous that a rascal like this can hide himself on board, and you, th_aptain, be ignorant of his whereabouts."
  • "There is no necessity to instruct me in my duty," he answered stiffly, an_hen going to the companion called down it for the steward, who presently mad_is appearance on deck.
  • "Williams," said the skipper, "Dr. Ingleby informs me that a theft wa_ommitted in his cabin last night. He declares that a man made his way int_he saloon, visiting not only his berth, but that of Don Miguel de Moreno. Ho_o you account for this?"
  • "Dr. Ingleby  _did_  say something to me about it this morning, sir," th_teward replied: "but to tell you the plain truth, sir, I don't know what t_hink of it. It's the first time I've ever known such a thing happen. O_ourse I shouldn't like to say as how Dr. Ingleby was mistaken."
  • "You had better not," I replied, so sharply that the man jumped with surprise.
  • "Anyway, sir," the steward continued, "I feel certain that if the man  _had_ome aft I should have heard him. I am a light sleeper, as the saying is, an_ believe that a cat coming down the companion-ladder would be enough to wak_e, much less a man."
  • "On this occasion you must have slept sounder than usual," I said. "At an_ate the fact remains that the man did come; and I have to ask you once more, Captain, what you intend to do to find my stolen property?"
  • "I must take time to consider the matter," the captain replied. "If the man i_board the ship, as you assert, I will find him, and if I do find him he ha_etter look out for squalls—that's all I can say."
  • "And at the same time," I added, "I hope you will severely punish any membe_f your crew who may have been instrumental in secreting him on board."
  • As I said this I glanced at the steward, and it seemed to me his always sallo_ace became even paler than usual.
  • "You need not bother yourself about that," said the skipper: "you may be sur_ shall do so."
  • Then, lifting his cap to the Dona Consuelo, he went forward along the deck; while the steward, having informed us that breakfast was upon the table, returned to the companion-ladder and disappeared below.
  • "What does all this mystery mean, Dr. Ingleby?" inquired my companion, as w_urned and walked aft together.
  • "It means that there is more at the back of it than meets the eye," I replied.
  • "Before I left London I was warned by Dr. Nikola, as you heard me say jus_ow, to beware of a certain Asiatic with only half an ear. What Nikola feare_e would do I have no notion, but there seems to be no doubt that this is th_an."
  • "But he has done us no harm," she replied, "beyond frightening me; so if th_aptain takes care that he does not come as far as the saloon again, it doe_ot seem to me we need think any more about him."
  • "But he  _has_  done us harm," I asserted—"grievous harm. He has stolen th_edicine with which I treated your great-grandfather so successfull_esterday."
  • On hearing this she gave a little start.
  • "Do you mean that if he should become ill again in the same way that he di_esterday, you would be unable to save him?" she inquired, almos_reathlessly.
  • "I cannot say anything about that," I answered. "I should of course do m_est, but I must confess the loss of those drugs is a very serious matter fo_e. They are exceedingly valuable, and were specially entrusted to my care."
  • "And you think that Dr. Nikola will be angry with you for having lost them?"
  • she said.
  • "I am very much afraid he will," I answered. "But if he is, I must put up wit_t. Now let us come below to breakfast." With that I led her along the dec_nd down the companion-ladder to the saloon.
  • "Before we sit down to our meal I think it would perhaps be as well if I sa_our great-grandfather," I said. "I should like to convince myself that he i_one the worse for his attack yesterday."
  • Upon this we entered the cabin together, and I bent over the recumbent figur_f the old man. He lay just as he had done on the previous day; his long thi_ands were clasped upon his breast, and his eyes looked upward just as _emembered seeing them. For all the difference that was to be seen, he migh_ever have moved since I had left him so many hours before.
  • "He is awake," whispered his great-granddaughter, who had looked at him ove_y shoulder. Then, raising her voice a little, she continued, still i_nglish, "This is Dr. Ingleby, grandfather, whom your friend Dr. Nikola ha_ent to take care of you."
  • "I thank you, sir, for your kindness," replied the old man, in a voice tha_as little louder than a whisper. "You must forgive me if my reception of yo_ppears somewhat discourteous, but I am very feeble. A month ago I celebrate_y ninety-eighth birthday, and at such an age, I venture to assert, much ma_e forgiven a man."
  • "Pray do not apologise," I replied. "I am indeed glad to find you looking s_uch better this morning."
  • "If to be still alive is to be better, then I suppose I must be," he answered, in a tone that was almost one of regret; and then continued, "The days of ou_ge are threescore years and ten; and though men be so strong that they com_o fourscore years, yet is their strength but labour and sorrow; labour an_orrow—aye, labour and sorrow."
  • "Come, come, sir," I said, "you must not talk like this. You are not ver_omfortable here, but we are nearly at our journey's end. Once there, you wil_e able to rest more quietly and in greater comfort than it is possible fo_ou to do in this tiny cabin."
  • "You speak well," he answered, "when you say that I am nearly at my journey'_nd. God knows I am near it—very, very near it. The wonder is I have no_eached it long since. But it will come at last, and when it comes I shal_est, as you say, more quietly than in this tiny cabin."
  • Seeing that in his present humour there was not much to be done with him, _ompleted my examination, gave certain instructions to his great- granddaughter, and then left the cabin, feeling very much as if I had steppe_nto the nineteenth out of another and quite different century. Breakfast wa_aid in the saloon; and as the steward informed me that the skipper invariabl_ad his sent forward to the chart room, while the Dona Consuelo usuall_artook of hers by the old gentleman's bedside, I sat down to it alone. Th_teward waited upon me, a trifle nervously I thought, and with a_bsequiousness that told me he was anxious to make up to me for the robbery o_he night before. Whatever he might think, however, I had not the smalles_ntention of allowing myself to be drawn into a discussion with him on th_ubject. The matter would have to be settled some way or another when w_eached our destination, and then, in all probability, Nikola would look afte_t for himself.
  • Whatever else may be said of the good ship Dona Mercedes, her warmest admirer_ould scarcely assert that she possessed a wonderful turn of speed. Even wit_verything in her favour it was as much as the chief engineer could do t_nock nine knots out of her, but on the present occasion seven was somewher_earer her mark. For this reason, instead of reaching our destination a_idday, as I had hoped we should do, night had closed in on us before we ha_rossed the bar and could count ourselves safely in the river, while fiv_ells in the first watch had been sounded before we lay at anchor in th_yneside.
  • As soon as I heard the cable rattling out through the hawse hole I made my wa_o the deck. The night was a dark one, but a more interesting picture than _ad before me then could scarcely be imagined. Around me on every side wer_hips: colliers, tramps, passenger-vessels and merchantmen of every possibl_ort and description. The lights of the city could be plainly distinguished, and innumerable tongues of fire containing all the colours of the rainbo_lashed up continually from factory chimneys. A couple of steam-launches wer_ying alongside, with at least a dozen small boats; and thinking Nikola migh_e in one of them, I went forward to the gangway in search of him, but thoug_ scanned the faces below me, his was not among them. For the reason that w_ere so late getting into the river, and knowing that the vessel would b_ikely to remain for some time to come, I argued that in all probability h_ad put off boarding her until the morning. I accordingly turned away, and wa_bout to walk aft when a hand was placed on my shoulder.
  • "Well, friend Ingleby," said a voice that there was no mistaking, and which _hould have known anywhere, "what sort of a voyage have you had, and how i_our patient progressing?"
  • "Dr. Nikola!" I cried in astonishment, as I turned and found him standin_efore me. "I was just looking for you in the boats alongside. I had no ide_ou were on board."
  • "I came up by the other gangway," Nikola replied. "But you have not answere_y question. How is your patient?"
  • "He is still alive," I answered, "and I fancy, if possible, a little bette_han when we left London. But he is so feeble that to speak of his being wel_eems almost a sarcasm. Yesterday for a few moments I thought he was gone, bu_ith the help of the drugs you gave me I managed to bring him round again.
  • This morning he was strong enough to converse with me."
  • "I am pleased to hear it," he replied. "You have done admirably, and _ongratulate you. Now we must think about their trans-shipment."
  • "Trans-shipment?" I replied. "Is it possible they have to make anothe_ourney?"
  • "It is more than possible—it is quite certain," he answered. "Allerdeyn_astle is a matter of some fifty miles up the coast, and a steam yacht wil_ake us there. A bed has been prepared for the old gentleman in the saloon, and all we have to do is to get him off this boat and on board her. You ha_etter let me have those drugs and I'll mix him up a slight stimulus. He'l_eed it."
  • This was the question I had been dreading all along, but the die was cast an_illy nilly the position had to be faced.
  • "I should like to speak to you upon that matter," I said. "I very much fea_hat you will consider me to blame for not having exercised greater care ove_hem, but I had no idea they would be of any value to any one who did not kno_he use of them."
  • "Pray what do you mean?" he asked, with a look of astonishment that I believ_as more than half assumed. "To what are you alluding? Have you had a_ccident with the drugs?"
  • While we had been talking we had walked along the main deck, and wer_pproaching the entrance leading therefrom to the cuddy, the light from whic_ell upon his face. There was a look upon it that I did not like. When he wa_n an affable mood Nikola's countenance was singularly prepossessing: when, however, he was put out by anything it was the face of a devil rather than _an.
  • "I exceedingly regret having to inform you that last night the drugs i_uestion were stolen from my cabin."
  • In a moment he was all excitement.
  • "By the man of whom I bade you beware, of course—the one-eared Chinaman?"
  • "The same," I answered; and went on to inform him of all that had transpire_ince my arrival on board, including my trouble with the captain and th_uspicions I entertained, without much foundation I'm afraid, against th_teward. He heard me out without speaking, and when I had finished bade m_ait on deck while he went below to the Morenos' cabin. While he was gone _trolled to the side, and once more stood watching the lights reflected in th_ater below. On an old tramp steamer a short distance astern of us a man wa_inging. It was one of Chevalier's coster songs, and I could recognise th_ords quite distinctly. The last time I had heard that song was in Cape Coas_astle, just after I had recovered from my attack of fever; and I was stil_ursuing the train of thought it conjured up, when I noticed a boat drawin_nto the circle of light to which I have just alluded. It contained two men, one of whom was standing up while the other rowed. A second or two later the_ad come close enough for me to see the face of the man in the bows. To m_mazement he was a Chinaman! So overwhelming was my astonishment that _ttered an involuntary cry, and, running to the skylight, called to Nikola t_ome on deck. Then, bounding to the bulwarks again, I looked for the boat. Bu_ was too late. Either they had achieved their object, or my prompt action ha_iven them a fright. At any rate, they were gone.
  • "What do you want?" cried Nikola, who by this time had reached the deck.
  • "The Chinamen!" I cried. "I saw one of them a moment ago in a boat alongside."
  • "Where are they now?" he inquired.
  • "I cannot see them. They have disappeared into the darkness again; but when _alled to you they were scarcely twenty yards away. What does their presenc_ere signify, do you think?"
  • "It signifies that they know that I am on board," answered Nikola, with _ueer sort of smile upon his face. "It means also that, although this is th_ineteenth century and the law-abiding land of England, if we were to ventur_ little out of the beaten track ashore to-night, you and I would stand a ver_air chance of having our throats cut before morning. It has one othe_eaning, and that is that you and I must play the old game of the partridg_nd its nest, and lure them away from this boat while the skipper transfer_on Miguel and his great-granddaughter to the yacht I have in waiting down th_iver."
  • "That is all very well," I interrupted, "but I am not at all sure the skippe_ould be willing. To put it bluntly, he and I have already had a few word_ogether over this matter."
  • "That will make no difference," Nikola answered. "I assure you you need hav_o fear that he will play us false: he knows me far too well to attempt that.
  • I will confer with him at once, and while I am doing so you had better ge_our traps together. We will then go ashore and do our best to draw thes_ascals off the scent."
  • So saying, Nikola made his way forward towards the chart room, while I wen_hrough the cuddy to my own berth. The steward carried my bags out on to th_ain deck, and, after I had spoken a word or two with Dona Consuelo, _ollowed him. Five minutes later Nikola joined me, accompanied by the captain.
  • I had bidden the latter good-bye earlier in the evening, and Nikola was givin_im one last word of advice, when I happened to glance towards the alley-wa_n the port side. Imagine my surprise—nay, I might almost say m_onsternation—on beholding, standing in the dark by the corner of the mai_atch, the same mysterious Chinaman who I felt certain had committed th_obbery of the drugs the previous night.
  • "Look, look," I cried to my companions; "see, there is the man again!"
  • They wheeled round and looked in the direction to which I pointed. At the sam_oment the man's right arm went up, and from where I stood I could se_omething glittering in the palm. An inspiration, how or by what occasioned _hall never be able to understand, induced me to seize Nikola by the arm an_o swing him behind me. It was well that I did so, for almost before we coul_ealise what was happening, a knife was thrown, and stood imbedded a goo_hree inches in the bulwark, exactly behind where Nikola had been standing a_nstant before. Then, springing on to the ladder which leads from the main t_he hurricane deck, he raced up it, jumped on to the rail, and dived headlon_nto the water alongside. By the time we reached the deck whence he had take_is departure, all we could see was a boat pulling swiftly in the direction o_he shore.
  • "That settles it, friend Ingleby," said Nikola.
  • "We have no alternative now but to make our way ashore and do as I proposed.
  • If you are ready, come along. I think I can safely promise you an adventure."