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?"
"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."