“Must I suppose that you are already acquainted with my story?” asked Erik, with a beating heart.
Mr. Bowles made an affirmative sign, and scratching his ear, made up his mind to speak:
“I know it without your telling me,” he said, at length, “and my wife knows it as well as I do. We have often talked about it without understanding it.”
Erik, pale and with tightly compressed lips, hung upon his words, expecting some revelation, but this he had to wait for. Mr. Bowles had not the gift of either eloquence or clearness, and perhaps his ideas were still clouded with sleep, and in order to recover his faculties he took two or three glasses of a liquor called “pick me up,” which greatly resembled gin.
After his wife had placed the bottle and two glasses before him, and he had sufficiently fortified himself, he began to speak.
His story was so confused, and mingled with so many useless details, that it was impossible to draw any conclusions from it, but Erik listened attentively to all he said, and by questioning and insisting, and aided by Mrs. Bowles, he ended by gathering some facts about himself.
In which A reward of five hundred pounds sterling is offered.
Patrick O’Donoghan, as far as Erik could make out through Mr. Bowles’ rambling account of him, was not a model of virtue. The proprietor of the Red Anchor had known him as a cabin-boy and sailor, both before and after the loss of the “Cynthia.” Up to that time Patrick O’Donoghan had been poor, as all sailors are. After the shipwreck he had returned from Europe with a large bundle of bank-notes, pretending to have inherited some money in Ireland, which seemed likely enough.
Mr. Bowles, however, had never believed in this inheritance. He thought that this sudden accession of wealth was connected in some way with the loss of the “Cynthia,” and that Patrick O’Donoghan was afraid to say so; for it was evident that contrary to the usual habit of seamen in such cases, he carefully avoided speaking about the sad occurrence. He would always turn the conversation if any one alluded to it before him, and he was very anxious to start on a long voyage before the lawsuit brought by the company to recover the insurance due on the “Cynthia” should take place. He did not wish to be summoned as a witness. This conduct appeared very suspicious, as he was the sole known survivor from the shipwreck. Mr. Bowles and his wife had always suspected him, but they had kept their own counsel.
What looked still more suspicious was the fact that when Patrick O’Donoghan was in New York he was never short of money. He brought back very little with him after a voyage, but a few days after his return he always had gold and bank-notes; and when he was tipsy, which frequently happened, he would boast of being in possession of a secret which was worth a fortune to him. The words which most frequently escaped from his lips were, “the baby tied to the buoy!”