“Oh, madam, you can no doubt give me the information I desire as well as Mr. Bowles,” answered Erik. “I wish to know whether you are acquainted with a sailor named Patrick O’Donoghan, and whether he is now with you, or if you can tell me where I can find him?”
“Patrick O’Donoghan: yes, I know him, but it is five or six years since he has been here, and I am unable to say where he is now.”
Erik’s countenance displayed such great disappointment that the old woman was touched.
“Are you so anxious to find Patrick O’Donoghan that you are disappointed in not finding him here?” she asked.
“Yes, indeed,” he answered. “He alone can solve a mystery that I shall seek all my life to make clear.”
During the three weeks that Erik had been running everywhere in search of information, he gained a certain amount of experience in human nature. He saw that the curiosity of Mrs. Bowles was aroused by his questions, he therefore entered the hotel and asked for a glass of soda-water.
The low room in which he found himself was furnished with green tables, and wooden chairs, but it was empty. This circumstance emboldened Erik to enter into conversation with Mrs. Bowles, when she handed him the bottle of soda-water which he had ordered.
“You are doubtless wondering, madam, what I can want with Patrick O’Donoghan, and I will tell you,” said he, with a smile.
“An American vessel called the ‘Cynthia’ was lost about seventeen years ago on the coast of Norway; Patrick O’Donoghan was employed on board. I was picked up by a Norwegian fisherman when I was about nine months old. I was floating in a cradle attached to a buoy of the ‘Cynthia.’ I am seeking O’Donoghan to see if he can give me any information about my family, or at least about my country.”
Mrs. Bowles uttered a cry that put a stop to Erik’s explanation.
“To a buoy, do you say? You were tied to a buoy?”
But without waiting for any reply she ran to the stairway. “Bowles! Bowles! come down quickly,” she cried, in a piercing voice.
“On a buoy! you are the child who was tied to the buoy! Who ever would have expected such a thing to happen?” she said, as she returned to Erik, who had turned pale from surprise.
Was he going to learn the secret which he was so anxious to make out.
A heavy footstep was heard on the stairs, and soon an old man, fat and rosy, clothed in a complete suit of blue cloth, and with gold rings in his ears, appeared on the threshold.
“What is the matter?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.
“Here is somebody who wants you,” said Mrs. Bowles; “sit down and listen to the gentleman, who will repeat what he has told me.”
Mr. Bowles obeyed without any protestation; Erik did the same. He repeated in as few words as he could what he had told the old woman.
As he listened, the countenance of Mr. Bowles dilated like a full moon, his lips parted in a broad smile, and he looked at his wife, and rubbed his hands. She on her side appeared equally well pleased.