V. The Adventure of the Flora Macdonald
‘This is the point indicated, latitude so and so, longitude so and so,’ said Mr Macrae. ’But I do not see a sail or a funnel on the western horizon. Nothing since we left the Fleet behind us, far to the East. Yet it is the hour. It is strange!’
Mr. Macrae was addressing Bude. They stood together on the deck of the Flora Macdonald, the vast yacht of the millionaire. She was lying to on a sea as glassy and radiant, under a blazing August sun, as the Atlantic can show in her mildest moods. On the quarter-deck of the yacht were piled great iron boxes containing the millions in gold with which the millionaire had at last consented to ransom his daughter. He had been negotiating with her captors through the wireless machine, and, as Logan could not promise any certain release, Mr. Macrae had finally surrendered, while informing Logan of the circumstances and details of his rendezvous with the kidnappers. The amassing of the gold had shaken the exchanges of two worlds. Banks trembled, rates were enormous, but the precious metal had been accumulated. The pirates would not take Mr. Macrae’s cheque; bank notes they laughed at, the millions must be paid in gold. Now at last the gold was on the spot of ocean indicated by the kidnappers, but there was no sign of sail or ship, no promise of their coming. Men with telescopes in the rigging of the Flora were on the outlook in vain. They could pick up one of the floating giants of our fleet, far off to the East, but North, West and South were empty wastes of water.
‘Three o’clock has come and gone. I hope there has been no accident,’ said Mr. Macrae nervously. ‘But where are those thieves?’ He absently pressed his repeater, it tingled out the half-hour.
‘It is odd,’ said Bude. ‘Hullo, look there, what’s that?’
That was a slim spar, which suddenly shot from the plain of ocean, at a distance of a hundred yards. On its apex a small black hood twisted itself this way and that like a living thing; so tranquil was the hour that the spar with its dull hood was distinctly reflected in the mirror-like waters of the ocean.
‘By gad, it is the periscope of a submarine!’ said Bude.
There could not be a doubt of it. The invention of Napier of Merchistoun and of M. Jules Verne, now at last an actual engine of human warfare, had been employed by the kidnappers of the daughter of the millionaire!
A light flashed on the mind, steady and serviceable, but not brilliantly ingenious, of Mr. Macrae. ‘This,’ he exclaimed rather superfluously, ’accounts for the fiendish skill with which these miscreants took cover when pursued by the Marine Police. This explains the subtle art with which they dodged observation. Doubtless they had always, somewhere, a well-found normal yacht containing their supplies. Do you not agree with me, my lord?’