“But,” he said at last, with an effort, “if we succeed in getting away from here, and we reach some country where there are judges and courts, you could do me some harm?”
“No, I swear that I would not. I swear it by all that is sacred,” said Erik, hotly. “Whatever may be the injuries you have inflicted upon me or upon others, I guarantee that you shall not suffer for them in any way. Besides, there is one fact of which you seem to be ignorant, it is that there is a limit to such matters. When such events have taken place more than twenty years ago, human justice has no longer the right to demand an accounting for them.”
“Is that true?” asked Patrick O’Donoghan, distrustfully. “Mr. Jones told me that the ‘Alaska’ had been sent by the police, and you yourself spoke of a tribunal.”
“That was about recent events—an accident that happened to us at the beginning of our journey. You may be sure that Mr. Jones was mocking you, Patrick. Doubtless he has some interest of his own for wishing you not to tell.”
“You may be sure of that,” said the Irishman, earnestly. “But how did you discover that I was acquainted with this secret?”
“Through Mr. and Mrs. Bowles of the Red Anchor in Brooklyn, who had often heard you speak of the infant tied to the buoy.”
“That is true,” said the Irishman. He reflected again. “Then you are sure that you were not sent by the police?” he said, at length.
“No—what an absurd idea. I came of my own accord on account of my ardent desire, my thirst, to discover the land of my birth and to find out who my parents were, that is all.”
O’Donoghan smiled, proudly:
“Ah, that is what you want to know,” he said. “Well, it is true that I can tell you. It is true that I know.”
“Tell me—tell me!” cried Erik, seeing that he hesitated. “Tell me and I promise you pardon for all the evil that you have done, and my everlasting gratitude if I am ever in a position to show it!”
The Irishman gave a covetous look at the leathern bottle.
“It makes my throat dry to talk so much,” he said, in a faint tone. “I will drink a little more if you are willing to give it to me.”
“There is no more here, but we can get some at our depot of provisions. We have two large cases of brandy there,” answered Erik, handing the bottle to Mr. Hersebom.
The latter immediately walked away, followed by Kaas.
“They will not be gone long,” said the young man, turning toward his companion. “Now, my brave fellow, do not make merchandise of your confidence. Put yourself in my place. Suppose that during all your life you had been ignorant of the name of your country, and that of your mother, and that at last you found yourself in the presence of a man who knew all about it, and who refused the information which was of such inestimable value to you, and that at the very time when you had saved him, restored him to consciousness and life. I do not ask you to do anything impossible. I do not ask you to criminate yourself if you have anything to reproach yourself with. Give me only an indication, the very slightest. Put me on the track, so that I can find my family; and that is all that I shall ask of you.”