After some moments I now spoke his name. He simply said, “Well,” and turned a leaf in his book without removing his eyes from the page.
“Doyle,” I repeated, “did they save her?”
He now deigned to look at me and smiled as if amused. He evidently thought me but half awake.
“Her? Whom do you mean?”
His amusement turned to amazement; he stared at me fixedly, saying nothing.
“You will tell me after a while,” I continued; “I suppose you will tell me after a while.”
A moment later I asked: “What ship is this?”
Doyle stared again. “The steamer City of Prague, bound from Liverpool to New York, three weeks out with a broken shaft. Principal passenger, Mr. Gordon Doyle; ditto lunatic, Mr. William Jarrett. These two distinguished travelers embarked together, but they are about to part, it being the resolute intention of the former to pitch the latter overboard.”
I sat bolt upright. “Do you mean to say that I have been for three weeks a passenger on this steamer?”
“Yes, pretty nearly; this is the 3d of July.”
“Have I been ill?”
“Right as a trivet all the time, and punctual at your meals.”
“My God! Doyle, there is some mystery here; do have the goodness to be serious. Was I not rescued from the wreck of the ship Morrow?”
Doyle changed color, and approaching me, laid his fingers on my wrist. A moment later, “What do you know of Janette Harford?” he asked very calmly.
“First tell me what you know of her?”
Mr. Doyle gazed at me for some moments as if thinking what to do, then seating himself again on the couch, said:
“Why should I not? I am engaged to marry Janette Harford, whom I met a year ago in London. Her family, one of the wealthiest in Devonshire, cut up rough about it, and we eloped—are eloping rather, for on the day that you and I walked to the landing stage to go aboard this steamer she and her faithful servant, a negress, passed us, driving to the ship Morrow. She would not consent to go in the same vessel with me, and it had been deemed best that she take a sailing vessel in order to avoid observation and lessen the risk of detection. I am now alarmed lest this cursed breaking of our machinery may detain us so long that the Morrow will get to New York before us, and the poor girl will not know where to go.”
I lay still in my berth—so still I hardly breathed. But the subject was evidently not displeasing to Doyle, and after a short pause he resumed:
“By the way, she is only an adopted daughter of the Harfords. Her mother was killed at their place by being thrown from a horse while hunting, and her father, mad with grief, made away with himself the same day. No one ever claimed the child, and after a reasonable time they adopted her. She has grown up in the belief that she is their daughter.”