“Mr. Malarius told you the truth,” said the doctor. “It is evident the child belonged to a rich and distinguished family,” he added, while Katrina replaced the babe’s outfit in the oaken chest.
“Have you any idea what country he came from?”
“How could we know anything about it, since I found him on the sea?” replied Hersebom.
“Yes, but the cradle was attached to a buoy, you said, and it is customary on all vessels to write on the buoy the name of the ship to which it belongs,” answered the doctor, fixing his penetrating eyes upon those of the fisherman.
“Doubtless,” said the latter, hanging his head.
“Well, this buoy, what name did it bear?”
“Doctor, I am not a savant. I can read my own language a little, but as for foreign tongues—and then it was so long ago.”
“However, you ought to be able to remember something about it—and doubtless you showed it to Mr. Malarius, with the rest of the articles—make a little effort, Mr. Hersebom. Was not this name inscribed on the buoy, ’Cynthia’?”
“I believe it was something like that,” answered the fisherman vaguely.
“It is a strange name. To what country does it belong in your judgment, Mr. Hersebom?”
“How should I know? Have I ever been beyond the shores of Noroe and Bergen, except once or twice to fish off the coast of Greenland and Iceland?” answered the good man, in a tone which grew more and more morose.
“I think it is either an English or a German name,” said the doctor, taking no notice of his crossness. “It would be easy to decide on account of the shape of the letters, if I could see the buoy. Have you preserved it?”
“By my faith no. It was burnt up ages ago,” answered Hersebom, triumphantly.
“As near as Mr. Malarius could remember, the letters were Roman,” said the doctor, as if he were talking to himself—“and the letters on the linen certainly are. It is therefore probable that the ‘Cynthia’ was not a German vessel. I think it was an English one. Is not this your opinion, Mr. Hersebom?”
“Well, I have thought little about it,” replied the fisherman. “Whether it was English, German, or Russian, makes no difference to me. For many years according to all appearances, they have lain beneath the sea, which alone could tell the secret.”
“But you have doubtless made some effort to discover the family to whom the child belonged?” said the doctor, whose glasses seemed to shine with irony. “You doubtless wrote to the Governor of Bergen, and had him insert an advertisement in the journals?”
“I!” cried the fisherman, “I did nothing of the kind. God knows where the baby came from; why should I trouble myself about it? Can I afford to spend money to find his people, who perhaps care little for him? Put yourself in my place, doctor. I am not a millionaire, and you may be sure if we had spent all we had, we should have discovered nothing. I have done the best I could; we have raised the little one as our own son, we have loved him and taken care of him.”