What happened on the night of the 19th inst. can easily be divined. If the three-masted merchantman which lay becalmed was not visible at break of day it was because she had been scuttled by the tug, boarded by the cut-throat band on the Ebba, and sunk with all on board after being pillaged. The bales and things that I had seen on the schooner were a part of her cargo, and all unknown to me the gallant ship was lying at the bottom of the broad Atlantic!
How will this adventure end? Shall I ever be able to escape from Back Cup, denounce the false Count d’Artigas and rid the seas of Ker Karraje’s pirates?
And if Ker Karraje is terrible as it is, how much more so will he become if he ever obtains possession of Roch’s fulgurator! His power will be increased a hundred-fold? If he were able to employ this new engine of destruction no merchantman could resist him, no warship escape total destruction.
I remain for some time absorbed and oppressed by the reflections with which the revelation of Ker Karraje’s name inspires me. All that I have ever heard about this famous pirate recurs to me—his existence when he skimmed the Southern Seas, the useless expeditions organized by the maritime powers to hunt him down. The unaccountable loss of so many vessels in the Atlantic during the past few years is attributable to him. He had merely changed the scene of his exploits. It was supposed that he had been got rid of, whereas he is continuing his piratical practices in the most frequented ocean on the globe, by means of the tug which is believed to be lying at the bottom of Charleston Bay.
“Now,” I say to myself, “I know his real name and that of his lair—Ker Karraje and Back Cup;” and I surmise that if Engineer Serko has let me into the secret he must have been authorized to do so. Am I not meant to understand from this that I must give up all hope of ever recovering my liberty?
Engineer Serko had manifestly remarked the impression created upon me by this revelation. I remember that on leaving me he went towards Ker Karraje’s habitation, no doubt with the intention of apprising him of what had passed.
After a rather long walk around the lagoon I am about to return to my cell, when I hear footsteps behind me. I turn and find myself face to face with the Count d’Artigas, who is accompanied by Captain Spade. He glances at me sharply, and in a burst of irritation that I cannot suppress, I exclaim:
“You are keeping me here, sir, against all right. If it was to wait upon Thomas Roch that you carried me off from Healthful House, I refuse to attend to him, and insist upon being sent back.”
The pirate chief makes a gesture, but does not reply.
Then my temper gets the better of me altogether.
“Answer me, Count d’Artigas—or rather, for I know who you are—answer me, Ker Karraje!” I shout.
“The Count d’Artigas is Ker Karraje,” he coolly replies, “just as Warder Gaydon is Engineer Simon Hart; and Ker Karraje will never restore to liberty Engineer Simon Hart, who knows his secrets.”