What was still less likely was, that a wretch in Sarah Brandon’s pay should have found his way on board “The Conquest,” and should then have been precisely at the right moment at the wharf, the first time Daniel went on shore. Still his suspicions troubled him to such a degree, that he determined to make every effort to solve the mystery.
To begin, he asked for a list of all the men who had been allowed to go on shore the night before. He learned in reply, that only the crews of the different boats had been at Saigon, but that all the emigrants having been allowed to land, several of these men had also gone on shore. With this information, and in spite of his great weakness, Daniel went to the chief of police at Saigon, and asked him for an officer. With this agent he went to the wharf, to the spot where the boat of “The Conquest” had been lying the night before, and asked him to make inquiries there as to any boatman that might have disappeared during the night.
None of the boatmen was missing; but they brought Daniel a poor Annamite fellow, who had been wandering about the river-bank ever since early morning, tearing his hair, and crying that he had been robbed; that they had stolen his boat. Daniel had been unable the night before to distinguish the form or the dress of the man whose services he had accepted; but he had heard his voice, and he recalled the peculiar intonation so perfectly, that he would have recognized it among thousands. Besides, this poor devil did not know a word of French (more than ten persons bore witness to it); and born on the river, and having always lived there, he was an excellent sailor. Finally, it was very clear, that, if this man had committed the crime, he would have been careful not to claim his boat.
What could Daniel conclude from this summary inquiry?
“There is no doubt about it,” he thought. “I was to be murdered.”
There is no man, however brave he may think himself, who would not tremble at the idea that he has, just by a miracle, escaped from the assassin’s hand. There is not one who would not feel his blood grow chill in his veins at the thought that those who have failed in their attempt once will no doubt renew their efforts, and that perhaps the miracle may not be repeated.
That was Daniel’s position.
He felt henceforth this terrible certainty, that war had been declared against him, a savage warfare, merciless, pitiless, a war of treachery and cunning, of snare and ambush. It had been proved to him that at his side, so to say, as his very shadow, there was ever a terrible enemy, stimulated by the thirst of gain, watching all his steps, ever awake and on the watch, and ready to seize the first opportunity to strike. The infernal cunning of the first two attempts enabled Daniel to measure the superior wickedness of the man who had been chosen and enlisted—at least Daniel thought so—by Sarah Brandon.