It will thus be seen that in the alliance which Pauline and I proposed there was to be no love-making. The bargain was one that might have been made in the course of De Decker’s business. I was to give Pauline my wealth and name, in return for which she promised to become my wife, and to undertake the management of my household. It was a shameful bargain, and I was well served for my part in it.
We had not been married a month before each of us began to observe in the other an incompatibility of temper which made any kind of agreement between us, even on the most trivial matters, impossible. Pauline declared that I brought the manners of the forecastle into her drawing-room, while the social inanities to which she devoted most of her time angered me into upbraiding her with her frivolity and lack of common sense. These mutual recriminations soon led us into a condition of life which destroyed all prospect of peace and contentment in our home. Neither would give way one jot. The more Pauline stormed at me for my boorishness and want of consideration for her the more obstinate did I become in ascribing to her frivolous nature the true cause of our unhappiness. I admired Pauline, and I looked to her to become the mother of my children; but we could neither of us endure the other’s presence for any length of time without a squabble, so that our domestic infelicity became a jest and a byword even among our servants. In these circumstances I felt it would be better that we should part. It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I was convinced that I would regard Pauline with more kindly feelings if seas between us rolled than were possible if we remained together in the same house, and I have no doubt that Pauline thoroughly reciprocated my sentiments.
In this mood I sought my old comrade Dirk Hartog. I found him, as I expected, at a tavern which he frequented. He was seated at a table with Bantum and Janstins, poring over a chart in which all three appeared to be deeply interested.
THE YELLOW PARCHMENT
“Welcome, Peter!” cried Hartog, when he saw me. “I’d have wagered you’d be with us, and here you are in the nick of time.”
“What’s in the wind now?” I asked, as I drew a chair to the table at which the three were seated.
“The greatest and best chance that was ever offered to seafarers,” answered Hartog. “Read that, and say whether any man with the blood of a rover in him could sit tamely at home when such a country as this is waiting to be explored.”
With these words he pushed toward me a parchment yellow with age, but very clearly written, so it was easy to decipher. The paper, a translation in Spanish from some ancient tongue, read as follows: