“But I recognize you,” said Faringhea; “I saw you at Cardoville Castle the day that a ship and a steamer were wrecked together.”
“At Cardoville Castle? It is very possible, sir. I was there when a shipwreck took place.”
“And that day I called you by your name, and you asked me what I wanted. I replied: ‘Nothing now, brother—hereafter, much.’ The time has arrived. I have come to ask for much.”
“My dear sir,” said Rodin, still impassible, “before we continue this conversation, which appears hitherto tolerably obscure, I must repeat my wish to be informed to whom I have the advantage of speaking. You have introduced yourself here under pretext of a commission from Mynheer Joshua Van Dael, a respectable merchant of Batavia, and—”
“You know the writing of M. Van Dael?” said Faringhea, interrupting Rodin.
“I know it perfectly.”
“Look!” The half-caste drew from his pocket (he was shabbily dressed in European clothes) a long dispatch, which he had taken from one Mahal the Smuggler, after strangling him on the beach near Batavia. These papers he placed before Rodin’s eyes, but without quitting his hold of them.
“It is, indeed, M. Van Dael’s writing,” said Rodin, and he stretched out his hard towards the letter, which Faringhea quickly and prudently returned to his pocket.
“Allow me to observe, my dear sir, that you have a singular manner of executing a commission,” said Rodin. “This letter, being to my address, and having been entrusted to you by M. Van Dael, you ought—”
“This letter was not entrusted to me by M. Van Dael,” said Faringhea, interrupting Rodin.
“How, then, is it in your possession?”
“A Javanese smuggler betrayed me. Van Dael had secured a passage to Alexandria for this man, and had given him this letter to carry with him for the European mail. I strangled the smuggler, took the letter, made the passage—and here I am.”
The Thug had pronounced these words with an air of savage boasting; his wild, intrepid glance did not quail before the piercing look of Rodin, who, at this strange confession, had hastily raised his head to observe the speaker.
Faringhea thought to astonish or intimidate Rodin by these ferocious words; but, to his great surprise, the socius, impassible as a corpse, said to him, quite simply: “Oh! they strangle people in Java?”
“Yes, there and elsewhere,” answered Faringhea, with a bitter smile.
“I would prefer to disbelieve you; but I am surprised at your sincerity M.—, what is your name?”
“Well, then, M. Faringhea, what do you wish to come to? You have obtained by an abominable crime, a letter addressed to me, and now you hesitate to deliver it.”
“Because I have read it, and it may be useful to me.”
“Oh! you have read it?” said Rodin, disconcerted for a moment. Then he resumed: “It is true, that judging by your mode of possessing yourself of other people’s correspondence, we cannot expect any great amount of honesty on your part. And pray what have you found so useful to you in this letter?”