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.