A CALIFORNIAN MYSTERY
AUTHOR'S COPYRIGHT EDITION
LONDON: SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & COMPANY, Limited.
PAGE In which the reader has the opportunity of buying an Island in the Pacific Ocean 1
How William W. Kolderup, of San Francisco, was at loggerheads with J. R. Taskinar, of Stockton 11
The conversation of Phina Hollaney and Godfrey Morgan, with a piano accompaniment 24
In which T. Artelett, otherwise Tartlet, is duly introduced to the reader 35
In which they prepare to go, and at the end of which they go for good 43
In which the reader makes the acquaintance of a new personage 53
In which it will be seen that William W. Kolderup was probably right in insuring his ship 62
Which leads Godfrey to bitter reflections on the mania for travelling 77
In which it is shown that Crusoes do not have everything as they wish 91
In which Godfrey does what any other shipwrecked man would have done under the circumstances 104
In which the question of lodging is solved as well as it could be 117
Which ends with a thunder-bolt 129
In which Godfrey again sees a slight smoke over another part of the Island 143
Wherein Godfrey finds some wreckage, to which he and his companion give a hearty welcome 155
In which there happens what happens at least once in the life of every Crusoe, real or imaginary 167
In which something happens which cannot fail to surprise the reader 179
In which Professor Tartlet's gun really does marvels 190
Which treats of the moral and physical education of a simple native of the Pacific 203
In which the situation already gravely compromised becomes more and more complicated 216
In which Tartlet reiterates in every key that he would rather be off 228
Which ends with quite a surprising reflection by the negro Carefinotu 242
Which concludes by explaining what up to now had appeared inexplicable 260
IN WHICH THE READER HAS THE OPPORTUNITY OF BUYING AN ISLAND IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN.
"An island to sell, for cash, to the highest bidder!" said Dean Felporg, the auctioneer, standing behind his rostrum in the room where the conditions of the singular sale were being noisily discussed.
"Island for sale! island for sale!" repeated in shrill tones again and again Gingrass, the crier, who was threading his way in and out of the excited crowd closely packed inside the largest saloon in the auction mart at No. 10, Sacramento Street.
The crowd consisted not only of a goodly number of Americans from the States of Utah, Oregon, and California, but also of a few Frenchmen, who form quite a sixth of the population.
Mexicans were there enveloped in their sarapes; Chinamen in their large-sleeved tunics, pointed shoes, and conical hats; one or two Kanucks from the coast; and even a sprinkling of Black Feet, Grosventres, or Flatheads, from the banks of the Trinity river.
The scene is in San Francisco, the capital of California, but not at the period when the placer-mining fever was raging—from 1849 to 1852. San Francisco was no longer what it had been then, a caravanserai, a terminus, an inn, where for a night there slept the busy men who were hastening to the gold-fields west of the Sierra Nevada. At the end of some twenty years the old unknown Yerba-Buena had given place to a town unique of its kind, peopled by 100,000 inhabitants, built under the shelter of a couple of hills, away from the shore, but stretching off to the farthest heights in the background—a city in short which has dethroned Lima, Santiago, Valparaiso, and every other rival, and which the Americans have made the queen of the Pacific, the "glory of the western coast!"
It was the 15th of May, and the weather was still cold. In California, subject as it is to the direct action of the polar currents, the first weeks of this month are somewhat similar to the last weeks of March in Central Europe. But the cold was hardly noticeable in the thick of the auction crowd. The bell with its incessant clangour had brought together an enormous throng, and quite a summer temperature caused the drops of perspiration to glisten on the foreheads of the spectators which the cold outside would have soon solidified.
Do not imagine that all these folks had come to the auction-room with the intention of buying. I might say that all of them had but come to see. Who was going to be mad enough, even if he were rich enough, to purchase an isle of the Pacific, which the government had in some eccentric moment decided to sell? Would the reserve price ever be reached? Could anybody be found to work up the bidding? If not, it would scarcely be the fault of the public crier, who tried his best to tempt buyers by his shoutings and gestures, and the flowery metaphors of his harangue. People laughed at him, but they did not seem much influenced by him.
"An island! an isle to sell!" repeated Gingrass.
"But not to buy!" answered an Irishman, whose pocket did not hold enough to pay for a single pebble.
"An island which at the valuation will not fetch six dollars an acre!" said the auctioneer.
"And which won't pay an eighth per cent.!" replied a big farmer, who was well acquainted with agricultural speculations.
"An isle which measures quite sixty-four miles round and has an area of two hundred and twenty-five thousand acres!"
"Is it solid on its foundation?" asked a Mexican, an old customer at the liquor-bars, whose personal solidity seemed rather doubtful at the moment.
"An isle with forests still virgin!" repeated the crier, "with prairies, hills, watercourses—"
"Warranted?" asked a Frenchman, who seemed rather inclined to nibble.
"Yes! warranted!" added Felporg, much too old at his trade to be moved by the chaff of the public.
"For two years?"
"To the end of the world!"
"A freehold island!" repeated the crier, "an island without a single noxious animal, no wild beasts, no reptiles!—"
"No birds?" added a wag.
"No insects?" inquired another.
"An island for the highest bidder!" said Dean Felporg, beginning again. "Come, gentlemen, come! Have a little courage in your pockets! Who wants an island in perfect state of repair, never been used, an island in the Pacific, that ocean of oceans? The valuation is a mere nothing! It is put at eleven hundred thousand dollars, is there any one will bid? Who speaks first? You, sir?—you, over there nodding your head like a porcelain mandarin? Here is an island! a really good island! Who says an island?"
"Pass it round!" said a voice as if they were dealing with a picture or a vase.
And the room shouted with laughter, but not a half-dollar was bid.
However, if the lot could not be passed round, the map of the island was at the public disposal. The whereabouts of the portion of the globe under consideration could be accurately ascertained. There was neither surprise nor disappointment to be feared in that respect. Situation, orientation, outline, altitudes, levels, hydrography, climatology, lines of communication, all these were easily to be verified in advance. People were not buying a pig in a poke, and most undoubtedly there could be no mistake as to the nature of the goods on sale. Moreover, the innumerable journals of the United States, especially those of California, with their dailies, bi-weeklies, weeklies, bi-monthlies, monthlies, their reviews, magazines, bulletins, &c., had been for several months directing constant attention to the island whose sale by auction had been authorized by Act of Congress.
The island was Spencer Island, which lies in the west-south-west of the Bay of San Francisco, about 460 miles from the Californian coast, in 32 deg. 15' north latitude, and 145 deg. 18' west longitude, reckoning from Greenwich. It would be impossible to imagine a more isolated position, quite out of the way of all maritime or commercial traffic, although Spencer Island was relatively, not very far off, and situated practically in American waters. But thereabouts the regular currents diverging to the north and south have formed a kind of lake of calms, which is sometimes known as the "Whirlpool of Fleurieu."
It is in the centre of this enormous eddy, which has hardly an appreciable movement, that Spencer Island is situated. And so it is sighted by very few ships. The main routes of the Pacific, which join the new to the old continent, and lead away to China or Japan, run in a more southerly direction. Sailing-vessels would meet with endless calms in the Whirlpool of Fleurieu; and steamers, which always take the shortest road, would gain no advantage by crossing it. Hence ships of neither class know anything of Spencer Island, which rises above the waters like the isolated summit of one of the submarine mountains of the Pacific. Truly, for a man wishing to flee from the noise of the world, seeking quiet in solitude, what could be better than this island, lost within a few hundred miles of the coast? For a voluntary Robinson Crusoe, it would be the very ideal of its kind! Only of course he must pay for it.
And now, why did the United States desire to part with the island? Was it for some whim? No! A great nation cannot act on caprice in any matter, however simple. The truth was this: situated as it was, Spencer Island had for a long time been known as a station perfectly useless. There could be no practical result from settling there. In a military point of view it was of no importance, for it only commanded an absolutely deserted portion of the Pacific. In a commercial point of view there was a similar want of importance, for the products would not pay the freight either inwards or outwards. For a criminal colony it was too far from the coast. And to occupy it in any way, would be a very expensive undertaking. So it had remained deserted from time immemorial, and Congress, composed of "eminently practical" men, had resolved to put it up for sale—on one condition only, and that was, that its purchaser should be a free American citizen. There was no intention of giving away the island for nothing, and so the reserve price had been fixed at $1,100,000. This amount for a financial society dealing with such matters was a mere bagatelle, if the transaction could offer any advantages; but as we need hardly repeat, it offered none, and competent men attached no more value to this detached portion of the United States, than to one of the islands lost beneath the glaciers of the Pole.
In one sense, however, the amount was considerable. A man must be rich to pay for this hobby, for in any case it would not return him a halfpenny per cent. He would even have to be immensely rich for the transaction was to be a "cash" one, and even in the United States it is as yet rare to find citizens with $1,100,000 in their pockets, who would care to throw them into the water without hope of return.
And Congress had decided not to sell the island under the price. Eleven hundred thousand dollars, not a cent less, or Spencer Island would remain the property of the Union.
It was hardly likely that any one would be mad enough to buy it on the terms.
Besides, it was expressly reserved that the proprietor, if one offered, should not become king of Spencer Island, but president of a republic. He would gain no right to have subjects, but only fellow-citizens, who could elect him for a fixed time, and would be free from re-electing him indefinitely. Under any circumstances he was forbidden to play at monarchy. The Union could never tolerate the foundation of a kingdom, no matter how small, in American waters.
This reservation was enough to keep off many an ambitious millionaire, many an aged nabob, who might like to compete with the kings of the Sandwich, the Marquesas, and the other archipelagoes of the Pacific.
In short, for one reason or other, nobody presented himself. Time was getting on, the crier was out of breath in his efforts to secure a buyer, the auctioneer orated without obtaining a single specimen of those nods which his estimable fraternity are so quick to discover; and the reserve price was not even mentioned.
However, if the hammer was not wearied with oscillating above the rostrum, the crowd was not wearied with waiting around it. The joking continued to increase, and the chaff never ceased for a moment. One individual offered two dollars for the island, costs included. Another said that a man ought to be paid that for taking it.
And all the time the crier was heard with,—
"An island to sell! an island for sale!"
And there was no one to buy it.
"Will you guarantee that there are flats there?" said Stumpy, the grocer of Merchant Street, alluding to the deposits so famous in alluvial gold-mining.
"No," answered the auctioneer, "but it is not impossible that there are, and the State abandons all its rights over the gold lands."
"Haven't you got a volcano?" asked Oakhurst, the bar-keeper of Montgomery Street.
"No volcanoes," replied Dean Felporg, "if there were, we could not sell at this price!"
An immense shout of laughter followed.
"An island to sell! an island for sale!" yelled Gingrass, whose lungs tired themselves out to no purpose.
"Only a dollar! only a half-dollar! only a cent above the reserve!" said the auctioneer for the last time, "and I will knock it down! Once! Twice!"
"If nobody bids we must put the lot back! Once! Twice!
"Twelve hundred thousand dollars!"
The four words rang through the room like four shots from a revolver.
The crowd, suddenly speechless, turned towards the bold man who had dared to bid.
It was William W. Kolderup, of San Francisco.
HOW WILLIAM W. KOLDERUP, OF SAN FRANCISCO, WAS AT LOGGERHEADS WITH J. R. TASKINAR, OF STOCKTON.
A man extraordinarily rich, who counted dollars by the million as other men do by the thousand; such was William W. Kolderup.
People said he was richer than the Duke of Westminster, whose income is some $4,000,000 a year, and who can spend his $10,000 a day, or seven dollars every minute; richer than Senator Jones, of Nevada, who has $35,000,000 in the funds; richer than Mr. Mackay himself, whose annual $13,750,000 give him $1560 per hour, or half-a-dollar to spend every second of his life.
I do not mention such minor millionaires as the Rothschilds, the Vanderbilts, the Dukes of Northumberland, or the Stewarts, nor the directors of the powerful bank of California, and other opulent personages of the old and new worlds whom William W. Kolderup would have been able to comfortably pension. He could, without inconvenience, have given away a million just as you and I might give away a shilling.
It was in developing the early placer-mining enterprises in California that our worthy speculator had laid the solid foundations of his incalculable fortune. He was the principal associate of Captain Sutter, the Swiss, in the localities, where, in 1848, the first traces were discovered. Since then, luck and shrewdness combined had helped him on, and he had interested himself in all the great enterprises of both worlds. He threw himself boldly into commercial and industrial speculations. His inexhaustible funds were the life of hundreds of factories, his ships were on every sea. His wealth increased not in arithmetical but in geometrical progression. People spoke of him as one of those few "milliardaires" who never know how much they are worth. In reality he knew almost to a dollar, but he never boasted of it.
At this very moment when we introduce him to our readers with all the consideration such a many-sided man merits, William W. Kolderup had 2000 branch offices scattered over the globe, 80,000 employes in America, Europe, and Australia, 300,000 correspondents, a fleet of 500 ships which continually ploughed the ocean for his profit, and he was spending not less than a million a year in bill-stamps and postages. In short, he was the honour and glory of opulent Frisco—the nickname familiarly given by the Americans to the Californian capital.
A bid from William W. Kolderup could not but be a serious one. And when the crowd in the auction room had recognized who it was that by $100,000 had capped the reserve price of Spencer Island, there was an irresistible sensation, the chaffing ceased instantly, jokes gave place to interjections of admiration, and cheers resounded through the saloon. Then a deep silence succeeded to the hubbub, eyes grew bigger, and ears opened wider. For our part had we been there we would have had to hold our breath that we might lose nothing of the exciting scene which would follow should any one dare to bid against William W. Kolderup.
But was it probable? Was it even possible?
No! And at the outset it was only necessary to look at William W. Kolderup to feel convinced that he could never yield on a question where his financial gallantry was at stake.
He was a big, powerful man, with huge head, large shoulders, well-built limbs, firmly knit, and tough as iron. His quiet but resolute look was not willingly cast downwards, his grey hair, brushed up in front, was as abundant as if he were still young. The straight lines of his nose formed a geometrically-drawn right-angled triangle. No moustache; his beard cut in Yankee fashion bedecked his chin, and the two upper points met at the opening of the lips and ran up to the temples in pepper-and-salt whiskers; teeth of snowy whiteness were symmetrically placed on the borders of a clean-cut mouth. The head of one of those true kings of men who rise in the tempest and face the storm. No hurricane could bend that head, so solid was the neck which supported it. In these battles of the bidders each of its nods meant an additional hundred thousand dollars.
There was no one to dispute with him.
"Twelve hundred thousand dollars—twelve hundred thousand!" said the auctioneer, with that peculiar accent which men of his vocation find most effective.
"Going at twelve hundred thousand dollars!" repeated Gingrass the crier.
"You could safely bid more than that," said Oakhurst, the bar-keeper; "William Kolderup will never give in."
"He knows no one will chance it," answered the grocer from Merchant Street.
Repeated cries of "Hush!" told the two worthy tradesmen to be quiet. All wished to hear. All hearts palpitated. Dare any one raise his voice in answer to the voice of William W. Kolderup? He, magnificent to look upon, never moved. There he remained as calm as if the matter had no interest for him. But—and this those near to him noticed—his eyes were like revolvers loaded with dollars, ready to fire.
"Nobody speaks?" asked Dean Felporg.
"Once! Twice!" repeated Gingrass, quite accustomed to this little dialogue with his chief.
"That is so? No mistake?"
"For twelve hundred thousand dollars, Spencer Island!"
The waistcoats rose and fell convulsively. Could it be possible that at the last second a higher bid would come? Felporg with his right hand stretched on the table was shaking his ivory hammer—one rap, two raps, and the deed would be done.
The public could not have been more absorbed in the face of a summary application of the law of Justice Lynch!
The hammer slowly fell, almost touched the table, rose again, hovered an instant like a sword which pauses ere the drawer cleaves the victim in twain; then it flashed swiftly downwards.
But before the sharp rap could be given, a voice was heard giving utterance to these four words,—
There was a preliminary "Ah!" of general stupefaction, then a second "Ah!" of not less general satisfaction. Another bidder had presented himself! There was going to be a fight after all!
But who was the reckless individual who had dared to come to dollar strokes with William W. Kolderup of San Francisco?
It was J. R. Taskinar, of Stockton.
J. R. Taskinar was rich, but he was more than proportionately fat. He weighed 490 lbs. If he had only run second in the last fat-man show at Chicago, it was because he had not been allowed time to finish his dinner, and had lost about a dozen pounds.
This colossus, who had had to have special chairs made for his portly person to rest upon, lived at Stockton, on the San Joachim. Stockton is one of the most important cities in California, one of the depot centres for the mines of the south, the rival of Sacramento the centre for the mines of the north. There the ships embark the largest quantity of Californian corn.
Not only had the development of the mines and speculations in wheat furnished J. R. Taskinar with the occasion of gaining an enormous fortune, but petroleum, like another Pactolus, had run through his treasury. Besides, he was a great gambler, a lucky gambler, and he had found "poker" most prodigal of its favours to him.
But if he was a Croesus, he was also a rascal; and no one would have addressed him as "honourable," although the title in those parts is so much in vogue. After all, he was a good war-horse, and perhaps more was put on his back than was justly his due. One thing was certain, and that was that on many an occasion he had not hesitated to use his "Derringer"—the Californian revolver.
Now J. R. Taskinar particularly detested William W. Kolderup. He envied him for his wealth, his position, and his reputation. He despised him as a fat man despises a lean one. It was not the first time that the merchant of Stockton had endeavoured to do the merchant of San Francisco out of some business or other, good or bad, simply owing to a feeling of rivalry. William W. Kolderup thoroughly knew his man, and on all occasions treated him with scorn enough to drive him to distraction.
The last success which J. R. Taskinar could not forgive his opponent was that gained in the struggle over the state elections. Notwithstanding his efforts, his threats, and his libels, not to mention the millions of dollars squandered by his electoral courtiers, it was William W. Kolderup who sat in his seat in the Legislative Council of Sacramento.
J. R. Taskinar had learnt—how, I cannot tell—that it was the intention of William W. Kolderup to acquire possession of Spencer Island. This island seemed doubtless as useless to him as it did to his rival. No matter. Here was another chance for fighting, and perhaps for conquering. J. R. Taskinar would not allow it to escape him.
And that is why J. R. Taskinar had come to the auction room among the curious crowd who could not be aware of his designs, why at all points he had prepared his batteries, why before opening fire, he had waited till his opponent had covered the reserve, and why when William W. Kolderup had made his bid of—
"Twelve hundred thousand dollars!"
J. R. Taskinar at the moment when William W. Kolderup thought he had definitely secured the island, woke up with the words shouted in stentorian tones,—
"Thirteen hundred thousand dollars!"
Everybody as we have seen turned to look at him.
The name passed from mouth to mouth. Yes. Fat Taskinar! He was known well enough! His corpulence had been the theme of many an article in the journals of the Union.
I am not quite sure which mathematician it was who had demonstrated by transcendental calculations, that so great was his mass that it actually influenced that of our satellite and in an appreciable manner disturbed the elements of the lunar orbit.
But it was not J. R. Taskinar's physical composition which interested the spectators in the room. It was something far different which excited them; it was that he had entered into direct public rivalry with William W. Kolderup. It was a fight of heroes, dollar versus dollar, which had opened, and I do not know which of the two coffers would turn out to be best lined. Enormously rich were both these mortal enemies! After the first sensation, which was rapidly suppressed, renewed silence fell on the assembly. You could have heard a spider weaving his web.
It was the voice of Dean Felporg which broke the spell.
"For thirteen hundred thousand dollars, Spencer Island!" declaimed he, drawing himself up so as to better command the circle of bidders.
William W. Kolderup had turned towards J. R. Taskinar. The bystanders moved back, so as to allow the adversaries to behold each other. The man of Stockton and the man of San Francisco were face to face, mutually staring, at their ease. Truth compels me to state that they made the most of the opportunity. Never would one of them consent to lower his eyes before those of his rival.
"Fourteen hundred thousand dollars," said William W. Kolderup.
"Fifteen hundred thousand!" retorted J. R. Taskinar.
"Sixteen hundred thousand!"
"Seventeen hundred thousand!"
Have you ever heard the story of the two mechanics of Glasgow, who tried which should raise the other highest up the factory chimney at the risk of a catastrophe? The only difference was that here the chimney was of ingots of gold.
Each time after the capping bid of J. R. Taskinar, William W. Kolderup took a few moments to reflect before he bid again. On the contrary Taskinar burst out like a bomb, and did not seem to require a second to think.
"Seventeen hundred thousand dollars!" repeated the auctioneer. "Now, gentlemen, that is a mere nothing! It is giving it away!"
And one can well believe that, carried away by the jargon of his profession, he was about to add,—
"The frame alone is worth more than that!" When—
"Seventeen hundred thousand dollars!" howled Gingrass, the crier.
"Eighteen hundred thousand!" replied William W. Kolderup.
"Nineteen hundred thousand!" retorted J. R. Taskinar.
"Two millions!" quoth William W. Kolderup, and so quickly that this time he evidently had not taken the trouble to think. His face was a little pale when these last words escaped his lips, but his whole attitude was that of a man who did not intend to give in.
J. R. Taskinar was simply on fire. His enormous face was like one of those gigantic railway bull's-eyes which, screened by the red, signal the stoppage of the train. But it was highly probable that his rival would disregard the block, and decline to shut off steam.
This J. R. Taskinar felt. The blood mounted to his brows, and seemed apoplectically congested there. He wriggled his fat fingers, covered with diamonds of great price, along the huge gold chain attached to his chronometer. He glared at his adversary, and then shutting his eyes so as to open them with a more spiteful expression a moment afterwards.
"Two million, four hundred thousand dollars!" he remarked, hoping by this tremendous leap to completely rout his rival.
"Two million, seven hundred thousand!" replied William W. Kolderup in a peculiarly calm voice.
"Two million, nine hundred thousand!"
Yes! William W. Kolderup, of San Francisco, said three millions of dollars!
Applause rang through the room, hushed, however, at the voice of the auctioneer, who repeated the bid, and whose oscillating hammer threatened to fall in spite of himself by the involuntary movement of his muscles. It seemed as though Dean Felporg, surfeited with the surprises of public auction sales, would be unable to contain himself any longer.
All glances were turned on J. R. Taskinar. That voluminous personage was sensible of this, but still more was he sensible of the weight of these three millions of dollars, which seemed to crush him. He would have spoken, doubtless to bid higher—but he could not. He would have liked to nod his head—he could do so no more.
After a long pause, however, his voice was heard; feeble it is true, but sufficiently audible.
"Three millions, five hundred thousand!"
"Four millions," was the answer of William W. Kolderup.
It was the last blow of the bludgeon. J. R. Taskinar succumbed. The hammer gave a hard rap on the marble table and—
Spencer Island fell for four millions of dollars to William W. Kolderup, of San Francisco.
"I will be avenged!" muttered J. R. Taskinar, and throwing a glance of hatred at his conqueror, he returned to the Occidental Hotel.
But "hip, hip, hurrah," three times thrice, smote the ears of William W. Kolderup, then cheers followed him to Montgomery Street, and such was the delirious enthusiasm of the Americans that they even forgot to favour him with the customary bars of "Yankee Doodle."
THE CONVERSATION OF PHINA HOLLANEY AND GODFREY MORGAN, WITH A PIANO ACCOMPANIMENT.
William W. Kolderup had returned to his mansion in Montgomery Street. This thoroughfare is the Regent Street, the Broadway, the Boulevard des Italiens of San Francisco. Throughout its length, the great artery which crosses the city parallel with its quays is astir with life and movement; trams there are innumerable; carriages with horses, carriages with mules; men bent on business, hurrying to and fro over its stone pavements, past shops thronged with customers; men bent on pleasure, crowding the doors of the "bars," where at all hours are dispensed the Californian's drinks.
There is no need for us to describe the mansion of a Frisco nabob. With so many millions, there was proportionate luxury. More comfort than taste. Less of the artistic than the practical. One cannot have everything.
So the reader must be contented to know that there was a magnificent reception-room, and in this reception-room a piano, whose chords were permeating the mansion's warm atmosphere when the opulent Kolderup walked in.
"Good!" he said. "She and he are there! A word to my cashier, and then we can have a little chat."
And he stepped towards his office to arrange the little matter of Spencer Island, and then dismiss it from his mind. He had only to realize a few certificates in his portfolio and the acquisition was settled for. Half-a-dozen lines to his broker—no more. Then William W. Kolderup devoted himself to another "combination" which was much more to his taste.
Yes! she and he were in the drawing-room—she, in front of the piano; he, half reclining on the sofa, listening vaguely to the pearly arpeggios which escaped from the fingers of the charmer.
"Are you listening?" she said.
"Yes! but do you understand it?"
"Do I understand it, Phina! Never have you played those 'Auld Robin Gray' variations more superbly."
"But it is not 'Auld Robin Gray,' Godfrey: it is 'Happy Moments.'"
"Oh! ah! yes! I remember!" answered Godfrey, in a tone of indifference which it was difficult to mistake. The lady raised her two hands, held them suspended for an instant above the keys as if they were about to grasp another chord, and then with a half-turn on her music-stool she remained for a moment looking at the too tranquil Godfrey, whose eyes did their best to avoid hers.
Phina Hollaney was the goddaughter of William W. Kolderup. An orphan, he had educated her, and given her the right to consider herself his daughter, and to love him as her father. She wanted for nothing. She was young, "handsome in her way" as people say, but undoubtedly fascinating, a blonde of sixteen with the ideas of a woman much older, as one could read in the crystal of her blue-black eyes. Of course, we must compare her to a lily, for all beauties are compared to lilies in the best American society. She was then a lily, but a lily grafted into an eglantine. She certainly had plenty of spirit, but she had also plenty of practical common-sense, a somewhat selfish demeanour, and but little sympathy with the illusions and dreams so characteristic of her sex and age.
Her dreams were when she was asleep, not when she was awake. She was not asleep now, and had no intention of being so.
"Godfrey?" she continued.
"Phina?" answered the young man.
"Where are you now?"
"Near you—in this room—"
"Not near me, Godfrey! Not in this room! But far far away, over the seas, is it not so?"
And mechanically Phina's hand sought the key-board and rippled along a series of sinking sevenths, which spoke of a plaintive sadness, unintelligible perhaps to the nephew of William W. Kolderup.
For such was this young man, such was the relationship he bore towards the master of the house. The son of a sister of this buyer of islands, fatherless and motherless for a good many years, Godfrey Morgan, like Phina, had been brought up in the house of his uncle, in whom the fever of business had still left a place for the idea of marrying these two to each other.
Godfrey was in his twenty-third year. His education now finished, had left him with absolutely nothing to do. He had graduated at the University, but had found it of little use. For him life opened out but paths of ease; go where he would, to the right or the left, whichever way he went, fortune would not fail him.
Godfrey was of good presence, gentlemanly, elegant—never tying his cravat in a ring, nor starring his fingers, his wrists or his shirt-front with those jewelled gimcracks so dear to his fellow-citizens.
I shall surprise no one in saying that Godfrey Morgan was going to marry Phina Hollaney. Was he likely to do otherwise? All the proprieties were in favour of it. Besides, William W. Kolderup desired the marriage. The two people whom he loved most in this world were sure of a fortune from him, without taking into consideration whether Phina cared for Godfrey, or Godfrey cared for Phina. It would also simplify the bookkeeping of the commercial house. Ever since their births an account had been opened for the boy, another for the girl. It would then be only necessary to rule these off and transfer the balances to a joint account for the young couple. The worthy merchant hoped that this would soon be done, and the balances struck without error or omission.
But it is precisely that there had been an omission and perhaps an error that we are about to show.
An error, because at the outset Godfrey felt that he was not yet old enough for the serious undertaking of marriage; an omission, because he had not been consulted on the subject.
In fact, when he had finished his studies Godfrey had displayed a quite premature indifference to the world, in which he wanted for nothing, in which he had no wish remaining ungratified, and nothing whatever to do. The thought of travelling round the world was always present to him. Of the old and new continents he knew but one spot—San Francisco, where he was born, and which he had never left except in a dream. What harm was there in a young man making the tour of the globe twice or thrice—especially if he were an American? Would it do him any good? Would he learn anything in the different adventures he would meet with in a voyage of any length? If he were not already satiated with a life of adventure, how could he be answered? Finally, how many millions of leagues of observation and instruction were indispensable for the completion of the young man's education?
Things had reached this pass; for a year or more Godfrey had been immersed in books of voyages of recent date, and had passionately devoured them. He had discovered the Celestial Empire with Marco Polo, America with Columbus, the Pacific with Cook, the South Pole with Dumont d'Urville. He had conceived the idea of going where these illustrious travellers had been without him. In truth, he would not have considered an exploring expedition of several years to cost him too dear at the price of a few attacks of Malay pirates, several ocean collisions, and a shipwreck or two on a desert island where he could live the life of a Selkirk or a Robinson Crusoe! A Crusoe! To become a Crusoe! What young imagination has not dreamt of this in reading as Godfrey had often, too often done, the adventures of the imaginary heroes of Daniel de Foe and De Wyss?
Yes! The nephew of William W. Kolderup was in this state when his uncle was thinking of binding him in the chains of marriage. To travel in this way with Phina, then become Mrs. Morgan, would be clearly impossible! He must go alone or leave it alone. Besides, once his fancy had passed away, would not she be better disposed to sign the settlements? Was it for the good of his wife that he had not been to China or Japan, not even to Europe? Decidedly not.
And hence it was that Godfrey was now absent in the presence of Phina, indifferent when she spoke to him, deaf when she played the airs which used to please him; and Phina, like a thoughtful, serious girl, soon noticed this.
To say that she did not feel a little annoyance mingled with some chagrin, is to do her a gratuitous injustice. But accustomed to look things in the face, she had reasoned thus,—
"If we must part, it had better be before marriage than afterwards!"
And thus it was that she had spoken to Godfrey in these significant words.
"No! You are not near me at this moment—you are beyond the seas!"
Godfrey had risen. He had walked a few steps without noticing Phina, and unconsciously his index finger touched one of the keys of the piano. A loud C# of the octave below the staff, a note dismal enough, answered for him.
Phina had understood him, and without more discussion was about to bring matters to a crisis, when the door of the room opened.
William W. Kolderup appeared, seemingly a little preoccupied as usual. Here was the merchant who had just finished one negotiation and was about to begin another.
"Well," said he, "there is nothing more now than for us to fix the date."
"The date?" answered Godfrey, with a start. "What date, if you please, uncle?"
"The date of your wedding!" said William W. Kolderup. "Not the date of mine, I suppose!"
"Perhaps that is more urgent?" said Phina.
"Hey?—what?" exclaimed the uncle—"what does that matter? We are only talking of current affairs, are we not?"
"Godfather Will," answered the lady. "It is not of a wedding that we are going to fix the date to-day, but of a departure."
"Yes, the departure of Godfrey," continued Phina, "of Godfrey who, before he gets married, wants to see a little of the world!"
"You want to go away—you?" said William W. Kolderup, stepping towards the young man and raising his arms as if he were afraid that this "rascal of a nephew" would escape him.
"Yes; I do, uncle," said Godfrey gallantly.
"And for how long?"
"For eighteen months, or two years, or more, if—"
"If you will let me, and Phina will wait for me."
"Wait for you! An intended who intends until he gets away!" exclaimed William W. Kolderup.
"You must let Godfrey go," pleaded Phina; "I have thought it carefully over. I am young, but really Godfrey is younger. Travel will age him, and I do not think it will change his taste! He wishes to travel, let him travel! The need of repose will come to him afterwards, and he will find me when he returns."
"What!" exclaimed William W. Kolderup, "you consent to give your bird his liberty?"
"Yes, for the two years he asks."
"And you will wait for him?"
"Uncle Will, if I could not wait for him I could not love him!" and so saying Phina returned to the piano, and whether she willed it or no, her fingers softly played a portion of the then fashionable "Depart du Fiance," which was very appropriate under the circumstances. But Phina, without perceiving it perhaps, was playing in "A minor," whereas it was written in "A major," and all the sentiment of the melody was transformed, and its plaintiveness chimed in well with her hidden feelings.
But Godfrey stood embarrassed, and said not a word. His uncle took him by the head and turning it to the light looked fixedly at him for a moment or two. In this way he questioned him without having to speak, and Godfrey was able to reply without having occasion to utter a syllable.
And the lamentations of the "Depart du Fiance" continued their sorrowful theme, and then William W. Kolderup, having made the turn of the room, returned to Godfrey, who stood like a criminal before the judge. Then raising his voice,—
"You are serious," he asked.
"Quite serious!" interrupted Phina, while Godfrey contented himself with making a sign of affirmation.
"You want to try travelling before you marry Phina! Well! You shall try it, my nephew!"
He made two or three steps and stopping with crossed arms before Godfrey, asked,—
"Where do you want to go to?"
"And when do you want to start?"
"When you please, Uncle Will."
"All right," replied William W. Kolderup, fixing a curious look on his nephew.
Then he muttered between his teeth,—
"The sooner the better."
At these last words came a sudden interruption from Phina. The little finger of her left hand touched a G#, and the fourth had, instead of falling on the key-note, rested on the "sensible," like Ralph in the "Huguenots," when he leaves at the end of his duet with Valentine.
Perhaps Phina's heart was nearly full, she had made up her mind to say nothing.
It was then that William W. Kolderup, without noticing Godfrey, approached the piano.
"Phina," said he gravely, "you should never remain on the 'sensible'!"
And with the tip of his large finger he dropped vertically on to one of the keys and an "A natural" resounded through the room.
IN WHICH T. ARTELETT, OTHERWISE TARTLET, IS DULY INTRODUCED TO THE READER.
If T. Artelett had been a Parisian, his compatriots would not have failed to nickname him Tartlet, but as he had already received this title we do not hesitate to describe him by it. If Tartlet was not a Frenchman he ought to have been one.
In his "Itineraire de Paris a Jerusalem," Chateaubriand tells of a little man "powdered and frizzed in the old-fashioned style, with a coat of apple green, a waistcoat of drouget, shirt-frill and cuffs of muslin, who scraped a violin and made the Iroquois dance 'Madeleine Friquet.'"
The Californians are not Iroquois, far from it; but Tartlet was none the less professor of dancing and deportment in the capital of their state. If they did not pay him for his lessons, as they had his predecessor in beaver-skins and bear-hams, they did so in dollars. If in speaking of his pupils he did not talk of the "bucks and their squaws," it was because his pupils were highly civilized, and because in his opinion he had contributed considerably to their civilization.
Tartlet was a bachelor, and aged about forty-five at the time we introduce him to our readers. But for a dozen years or so his marriage with a lady of somewhat mature age had been expected to take place.
Under present circumstances it is perhaps advisable to give "two or three lines" concerning his age, appearance, and position in life. He would have responded to such a request we imagine as follows, and thus we can dispense with drawing his portrait from a moral and physical point of view.
"He was born on the 17th July, 1835, at a quarter-past three in the morning.
"His height is five feet, two inches, three lines.
"His girth is exactly two feet, three inches.
"His weight, increased by some six pounds during the last year, is one hundred and fifty one pounds, two ounces.
"He has an oblong head.
"His hair, very thin above the forehead, is grey chestnut, his forehead is high, his face oval, his complexion fresh coloured.
"His eyes—sight excellent—a greyish brown, eyelashes and eyebrows clear chestnut, eyes themselves somewhat sunk in their orbits beneath the arches of the brows.
"His nose is of medium size, and has a slight indentation towards the end of the left nostril.
"His cheeks and temples are flat and hairless.
"His ears are large and flat.
"His mouth, of middling size, is absolutely free from bad teeth.
"His lips, thin and slightly pinched, are covered with a heavy moustache and imperial, his chin is round and also shaded with a many-tinted beard.
"A small mole ornaments his plump neck—in the nape.
"Finally, when he is in the bath it can be seen that his skin is white and smooth.
"His life is calm and regular. Without being robust, thanks to his great temperance, he has kept his health uninjured since his birth. His lungs are rather irritable, and hence he has not contracted the bad habit of smoking. He drinks neither spirits, coffee, liqueurs, nor neat wine. In a word, all that could prejudicially affect his nervous system is vigorously excluded from his table. Light beer, and weak wine and water are the only beverages he can take without danger. It is on account of his carefulness that he has never had to consult a doctor since his life began.
"His gesture is prompt, his walk quick, his character frank and open. His thoughtfulness for others is extreme, and it is on account of this that in the fear of making his wife unhappy, he has never entered into matrimony."
Such would have been the report furnished by Tartlet, but desirable as he might be to a lady of a certain age, the projected union had hitherto failed. The professor remained a bachelor, and continued to give lessons in dancing and deportment.
It was in this capacity that he entered the mansion of William W. Kolderup. As time rolled on his pupils gradually abandoned him, and he ended by becoming one wheel more in the machinery of the wealthy establishment.
After all, he was a brave man, in spite of his eccentricities. Everybody liked him. He liked Godfrey, he liked Phina, and they liked him. He had only one ambition in the world, and that was to teach them all the secrets of his art, to make them in fact, as far as deportment was concerned, two highly accomplished individuals.
Now, what would you think? It was he, this Professor Tartlet, whom William W. Kolderup had chosen as his nephew's companion during the projected voyage. Yes! He had reason to believe that Tartlet had not a little contributed to imbue Godfrey with this roaming mania, so as to perfect himself by a tour round the world. William W. Kolderup had resolved that they should go together. On the morrow, the 16th of April, he sent for the professor to his office.
The request of the nabob was an order for Tartlet. The professor left his room, with his pocket violin—generally known as a kit—so as to be ready for all emergencies. He mounted the great staircase of the mansion with his feet academically placed as was fitting for a dancing-master; knocked at the door of the room, entered—his body half inclined, his elbows rounded, his mouth on the grin—and waited in the third position, after having crossed his feet one before the other, at half their length, his ankles touching and his toes turned out. Any one but Professor Tartlet placed in this sort of unstable equilibrium would have tottered on his base, but the professor preserved an absolute perpendicularity.
"Mr. Tartlet," said William W. Kolderup, "I have sent for you to tell you some news which I imagine will rather surprise you."
"As you think best!" answered the professor.
"My nephew's marriage is put off for a year or eighteen months, and Godfrey, at his own request, is going to visit the different countries of the old and new world."
"Sir," answered Tartlet, "my pupil, Godfrey, will do honour to the country of his birth, and—"
"And, to the professor of deportment who has initiated him into etiquette," interrupted the merchant, in a tone of which the guileless Tartlet failed to perceive the irony.
And, in fact, thinking it the correct thing to execute an "assemblee," he first moved one foot and then the other, by a sort of semi-circular side slide, and then with a light and graceful bend of the knee, he bowed to William W. Kolderup.
"I thought," continued the latter, "that you might feel a little regret at separating from your pupil?"
"The regret will be extreme," answered Tartlet, "but should it be necessary—"
"It is not necessary," answered William W. Kolderup, knitting his bushy eyebrows.
"Ah!" replied Tartlet.
Slightly troubled, he made a graceful movement to the rear, so as to pass from the third to the fourth position; but he left the breadth of a foot between his feet, without perhaps being conscious of what he was doing.
"Yes!" added the merchant in a peremptory tone, which admitted not of the ghost of a reply; "I have thought it would really be cruel to separate a professor and a pupil so well made to understand each other!"
"Assuredly!—the journey?" answered Tartlet, who did not seem to want to understand.
"Yes! Assuredly!" replied William W. Kolderup; "not only will his travels bring out the talents of my nephew, but the talents of the professor to whom he owes so correct a bearing."
Never had the thought occurred to this great baby that one day he would leave San Francisco, California, America, to roam the seas. Such an idea had never entered the brain of a man more absorbed in choregraphy than geography, and who was still ignorant of the suburbs of the capital beyond ten miles radius. And now this was offered to him. He was to understand that nolens volens he was to expatriate himself, he himself was to experience with all their costs and inconveniences the very adventures he had recommended to his pupil! Here, decidedly, was something to trouble a brain much more solid than his, and the unfortunate Tartlet for the first time in his life felt an involuntary yielding in the muscles of his limbs, suppled as they were by thirty-five years' exercise.
"Perhaps," said he, trying to recall to his lips the stereotyped smile of the dancer which had left him for an instant,—"perhaps—am I not—"
"You will go!" answered William W. Kolderup like a a man with whom discussion was useless.
To refuse was impossible. Tartlet did not even think of such a thing. What was he in the house? A thing, a parcel, a package to be sent to every corner of the world. But the projected expedition troubled him not a little.
"And when am I to start?" demanded he, trying to get back into an academical position.
"In a month."
"And on what raging ocean has Mr. Kolderup decided that his vessel should bear his nephew and me?"
"The Pacific, at first."
"And on what point of the terrestrial globe shall I first set foot?"
"On the soil of New Zealand," answered William W. Kolderup; "I have remarked that the New Zealanders always stick their elbows out! Now you can teach them to turn them in!"
And thus was Professor Tartlet selected as the travelling-companion of Godfrey Morgan.
A nod from the merchant gave him to understand that the audience had terminated. He retired, considerably agitated, and the performance of the special graces which he usually displayed in this difficult act left a good deal to be desired. In fact, for the first time in his life, Professor Tartlet, forgetting in his preoccupation the most elementary principles of his art, went out with his toes turned in!
IN WHICH THEY PREPARE TO GO, AND AT THE END OF WHICH THEY GO FOR GOOD.
Before the long voyage together through life, which men call marriage, Godfrey then was to make the tour of the world—a journey sometimes even more dangerous. But he reckoned on returning improved in every respect; he left a lad, he would return a man. He would have seen, noted, compared. His curiosity would be satisfied. There would only remain for him to settle down quietly, and live happily at home with his wife, whom no temptation would take him from. Was he wrong or right? Was he to learn a valuable lesson? The future will show.
In short, Godfrey was enchanted.
Phina, anxious without appearing to be so, was resigned to this apprenticeship.
Professor Tartlet, generally so firm on his limbs, had lost all his dancing equilibrium. He had lost all his usual self-possession, and tried in vain to recover it; he even tottered on the carpet of his room as if he were already on the floor of a cabin, rolling and pitching on the ocean.
As for William W. Kolderup, since he had arrived at a decision, he had become very uncommunicative, especially to his nephew. The closed lips, and eyes half hidden beneath their lids, showed that there was some fixed idea in the head where generally floated the highest commercial speculations.
"Ah! you want to travel," muttered he every now and then; "travel instead of marrying and staying at home! Well, you shall travel."
Preparations were immediately begun.
In the first place, the itinerary had to be projected, discussed, and settled.
Was Godfrey to go south, or east, or west? That had to be decided in the first place.
If he went southwards, the Panama, California and British Columbia Company, or the Southampton and Rio Janeiro Company would have to take him to Europe.
If he went eastwards, the Union Pacific Railway would take him in a few days to New York, and thence the Cunard, Inman, White Star, Hamburg-American, or French-Transatlantic Companies would land him on the shores of the old world.
If he went westwards, the Golden Age Steam Transoceanic would render it easy for him to reach Melbourne, and thence he could get to the Isthmus of Suez by the boats of the Peninsular and Oriental Company.
The means of transport were abundant, and thanks to their mathematical agreement the round of the world was but a simple pleasure tour.
But it was not thus that the nephew and heir of the nabob of Frisco was to travel.
No! William W. Kolderup possessed for the requirements of his business quite a fleet of steam and sailing-vessels. He had decided that one of these ships should be "put at the disposal" of Godfrey Morgan, as if he were a prince of the blood, travelling for his pleasure—at the expense of his father's subjects.
By his orders the Dream, a substantial steamer of 600 tons and 200 horse-power, was got ready. It was to be commanded by Captain Turcott, a tough old salt, who had already sailed in every latitude in every sea. A thorough sailor, this friend of tornadoes, cyclones, and typhoons, had already spent of his fifty years of life, forty at sea. To bring to in a hurricane was quite child's play to this mariner, who was never disconcerted, except by land-sickness when he was in port. His incessantly unsteady existence on a vessel's deck had endowed him with the habit of constantly balancing himself to the right or the left, or behind or in front, as though he had the rolling and pitching variety of St. Vitus's dance.
A mate, an engineer, four stokers, a dozen seamen, eighteen men in all, formed the crew of the Dream. And if the ship was contented to get quietly through eight miles an hour, she possessed a great many excellent nautical qualities. If she was not swift enough to race the waves when the sea was high, the waves could not race over her, and that was an advantage which quite compensated for the mediocrity of her speed, particularly when there was no hurry. The Dream was brigantine rigged, and in a favourable wind, with her 400 square yards of canvas, her steaming rate could be considerably increased.
It should be borne in mind all through that the voyage of the Dream was carefully planned, and would be punctually performed. William W. Kolderup was too practical a man not to put to some purpose a journey of 15,000 or 16,000 leagues across all the oceans of the globe. His ship was to go without cargo, undoubtedly, but it was easy to get her down to her right trim by means of water ballast, and even to sink her to her deck, if it proved necessary.
The Dream was instructed to communicate with the different branch establishments of the wealthy merchant. She was to go from one market to another.
Captain Turcott, never fear, would not find it difficult to pay the expenses of the voyage! Godfrey Morgan's whim would not cost the avuncular purse a single dollar! That is the way they do business in the best commercial houses!
All this was decided at long, very secret interviews between William W. Kolderup and Captain Turcott. But it appeared that the regulation of this matter, simple as it seemed, could not be managed alone, for the captain paid numerous visits to the merchant's office. When he came away, it would be noticed that his face bore a curious expression, that his hair stood on end as if he had been ruffling it up with fevered hands, and that all his body rolled and pitched more than usual. High words were constantly heard, proving that the interviews were stormy. Captain Turcott, with his plain speaking, knew how to withstand William W. Kolderup, who loved and esteemed him enough to permit him to contradict him.
And now all was arranged. Who had given in? William W. Kolderup or Turcott? I dare not say, for I do not even know the subject of their discussion. However, I rather think it must have been the captain.
Anyhow, after eight days of interviewing, the merchant and the captain were in accord, but Turcott did not cease to grumble between his teeth.
"May five hundred thousand Davy Joneses drag me to the bottom if ever I had a job like this before!"
However, the Dream fitted out rapidly, and her captain neglected nothing which would enable him to put to sea in the first fortnight in June. She had been into dock, and the hull had been gone over with composition, whose brilliant red contrasted vividly with the black of her upper works.
A great number of vessels of all kinds and nationalities came into the port of San Francisco. In a good many years the old quays of the town, built straight along the shore, would have been insufficient for the embarkation and disembarkation of their cargoes, if engineers had not devised subsidiary wharves. Piles of red deal were driven into the water, and many square miles of planks were laid on them and formed huge platforms. A good deal of the bay was thus taken up, but the bay is enormous. There were also regular landing-stages, with numberless cranes and crabs, at which steamers from both oceans, steamboats from the Californian rivers, clippers from all countries, and coasters from the American seaboard were ranged in proper order, so as not to interfere one with the other.
It was at one of these artificial quays, at the extremity of Mission Wharf Street, that the Dream had been securely moored after she had come out of dock.
Nothing was neglected, and the steamer would start under the most favourable conditions. Provisioning, outfit, all were minutely studied. The rigging was perfect, the boilers had been tested and the screw was an excellent one. A steam launch was even carried, to facilitate communication with the shore, and this would probably be of great service during the voyage.
Everything was ready on the 10th of June. They had only to put to sea. The men shipped by Captain Turcott to work the sails or drive the engine were a picked crew, and it would have been difficult to find a better one. Quite a stock of live animals, agouties, sheep, goats, poultry, &c., were stowed between decks, the material wants of the travellers were likewise provided for by numerous cases of preserved meats of the best brands.
The route the Dream was to follow had doubtless been the subject of the long conferences which William W. Kolderup had had with his captain. All knew that they were first bound for Auckland, in New Zealand, unless want of coal necessitated by the persistence of contrary winds obliged them to refill perhaps at one of the islands of the Pacific or some Chinese port.
All this detail mattered little to Godfrey once he was on the sea, and still less to Tartlet, whose troubled spirit exaggerated from day to day the dangers of navigation. There was only one formality to be gone through—the formality of being photographed.
An engaged man could not decently start on a long voyage round the world without taking with him the image of her he loved, and in return leaving his own image behind him.
Godfrey in tourist costume accordingly handed himself over to Messrs Stephenson and Co., photographers of Montgomery Street, and Phina, in her walking-dress, confided in like manner to the sun the task of fixing her charming but somewhat sorrowing features on the plate of those able operators.
It is also the custom to travel together, and so Phina's portrait had its allotted place in Godfrey's cabin, and Godfrey's portrait its special position in Phina's room. As for Tartlet, who had no betrothed and who was not thinking of having one at present, he thought it better to confide his image to sensitised paper. But although great was the talent of the photographers they failed to present him with a satisfactory proof. The negative was a confused fog in which it was impossible to recognize the celebrated professor of dancing and deportment.
This was because the patient could not keep himself still, in spite of all that was said about the invariable rule in studios devoted to operations of this nature.
They tried other means, even the instantaneous process. Impossible. Tartlet pitched and rolled in anticipation as violently as the captain of the Dream.
The idea of obtaining a picture of the features of this remarkable man had thus to be abandoned. Irreparable would be the misfortune if—but far from us be the thought!—if in imagining he was leaving the new world for the old world Tartlet had left the new world for the other world from which nobody returns.
On the 9th of June all was ready. The Dream was complete. Her papers, bills of lading, charter-party, assurance policy, were all in order, and two days before the ship-broker had sent on the last signatures.
On that day a grand farewell breakfast was given at the mansion in Montgomery Street. They drank to the happy voyage of Godfrey and his safe return.
Godfrey was rather agitated, and he did not strive to hide it. Phina showed herself much the most composed. As for Tartlet he drowned his apprehensions in several glasses of champagne, whose influence was perceptible up to the moment of departure. He even forgot his kit, which was brought to him as they were casting off the last hawsers of the Dream.
The last adieux were said on board, the last handshakings took place on the poop, then the engine gave two or three turns of the screw and the steamer was under way.
"May Heaven protect you!" said the uncle.
"And above all may it bring us back!" murmured Professor Tartlet.
"And never forget, Godfrey," added William W. Kolderup, "the device which the Dream bears on her stern, 'Confide, recte agens.'"
"Never, Uncle Will! Good-bye, Phina!"
The steamer moved off, handkerchiefs were shaken as long as she remained in sight from the quay, and even after. Soon the bay of San Francisco, the largest in the world, was crossed, the Dream passed the narrow throat of the Golden Gate and then her prow cleft the waters of the Pacific Ocean. It was as though the Gates of Gold had closed upon her.
IN WHICH THE READER MAKES THE ACQUAINTANCE OF A NEW PERSONAGE.
The voyage had begun. There had not been much difficulty so far, it must be admitted.
Professor Tartlet, with incontestable logic, often repeated,—
"Any voyage can begin! But where and how it finishes is the important point."
The cabin occupied by Godfrey was below the poop of the Dream and opened on to the dining-saloon. Our young traveller was lodged there as comfortably as possible. He had given Phina's photograph the best place on the best lighted panel of his room. A cot to sleep on, a lavatory for toilet purposes, some chests of drawers for his clothes and his linen, a table to work at, an armchair to sit upon, what could a young man in his twenty-second year want more? Under such circumstances he might have gone twenty-two times round the world! Was he not at the age of that practical philosophy which consists in good health and good humour? Ah! young people, travel if you can, and if you cannot—travel all the same!
Tartlet was not in a good humour. His cabin, near that of his pupil, seemed to him too narrow, his bed too hard, the six square yards which he occupied quite insufficient for his steps and strides. Would not the traveller in him absorb the professor of dancing and deportment? No! It was in the blood, and when Tartlet reached the hour of his last sleep his feet would be found placed in a horizontal line with the heels one against the other, in the first position.
Meals were taken in common. Godfrey and Tartlet sat opposite to each other, the captain and mate occupying each end of the rolling table. This alarming appellation, the "rolling table," is enough to warn us that the professor's place would too often be vacant.
At the start, in the lovely month of June, there was a beautiful breeze from the north-east, and Captain Turcott was able to set his canvas so as to increase his speed. The Dream thus balanced hardly rolled at all, and as the waves followed her, her pitching was but slight. This mode of progressing was not such as to affect the looks of the passengers and give them pinched noses, hollow eyes, livid foreheads, or colourless cheeks. It was supportable. They steered south-west over a splendid sea, hardly lifting in the least, and the American coast soon disappeared below the horizon.
For two days nothing occurred worthy of mention. The Dream made good progress. The commencement of the voyage promised well—so that Captain Turcott seemed occasionally to feel an anxiety which he tried in vain to hide. Each day as the sun crossed the meridian he carefully took his observations. But it could be noticed that immediately afterwards he retired with the mate into his cabin, and then they remained in secret conclave as if they were discussing some grave eventuality. This performance passed probably unnoticed by Godfrey, who understood nothing about the details of navigation, but the boatswain and the crew seemed somewhat astonished at it, particularly as for two or three times during the first week, when there was not the least necessity for the manoeuvre, the course of the Dream at night was completely altered, and resumed again in the morning. In a sailing-ship this might be intelligible; but in a steamer, which could keep on the great circle line and only use canvas when the wind was favourable, it was somewhat extraordinary.
During the morning of the 12th of June a very unexpected incident occurred on board.
Captain Turcott, the mate, and Godfrey, were sitting down to breakfast when an unusual noise was heard on deck. Almost immediately afterwards the boatswain opened the door and appeared on the threshold.
"Captain!" he said.
"What's up?" asked Turcott, sailor as he was, always on the alert.
"Here's a—Chinee!" said the boatswain.
"Yes! a genuine Chinese we have just found by chance at the bottom of the hold!"
"At the bottom of the hold!" exclaimed Turcott. "Well, by all the—somethings—of Sacramento, just send him to the bottom of the sea!"
"All right!" answered the boatswain.
And that excellent man with all the contempt of a Californian for a son of the Celestial Empire, taking the order as quite a natural one, would have had not the slightest compunction in executing it.
However, Captain Turcott rose from his chair, and followed by Godfrey and the mate, left the saloon and walked towards the forecastle of the Dream.
There stood a Chinaman, tightly handcuffed, and held by two or three sailors, who were by no means sparing of their nudges and knocks. He was a man of from five-and-thirty to forty, with intelligent features, well built, of lithe figure, but a little emaciated, owing to his sojourn for sixteen hours at the bottom of a badly ventilated hold.
Captain Turcott made a sign to his men to leave the unhappy intruder alone.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"A son of the sun."
"And what is your name?"
"Seng Vou," answered the Chinese, whose name in the Celestial language signifies "he who does not live."
"And what are you doing on board here?"
"I am out for a sail!" coolly answered Seng Vou, "but am doing you as little harm as I can."
"Really! as little harm!—and you stowed yourself away in the hold when we started?"
"Just so, captain."
"So that we might take you for nothing from America to China, on the other side of the Pacific?"
"If you will have it so."
"And if I don't wish to have it so, you yellow-skinned nigger. If I will have it that you have to swim to China."
"I will try," said the Chinaman with a smile, "but I shall probably sink on the road!"
"Well, John," exclaimed Captain Turcott, "I am going to show you how to save your passage-money."
And Captain Turcott, much more angry than circumstances necessitated, was perhaps about to put his threat into execution, when Godfrey intervened.
"Captain," he said, "one more Chinee on board the Dream is one Chinee less in California, where there are too many."
"A great deal too many!" answered Captain Turcott.
"Yes, too many. Well, if this poor beggar wishes to relieve San Francisco of his presence, he ought to be pitied! Bah! we can throw him on shore at Shanghai, and there needn't be any fuss about it!"
In saying that there were too many Chinese in California Godfrey held the same language as every true Californian. The emigration of the sons of the Celestial Empire—there are 300,000,000 in China as against 30,000,000 of Americans in the United States—has become dangerous to the provinces of the Far West; and the legislators of these States of California, Lower California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and even Congress itself, are much concerned at this new epidemic of invasion, to which the Yankees have given the name of the "yellow-plague."
At this period there were more than 50,000 Chinese, in the State of California alone. These people, very industrious at gold-washing, very patient, living on a pinch of rice, a mouthful of tea, and a whiff of opium, did an immense deal to bring down the price of manual labour, to the detriment of the native workmen. They had to submit to special laws, contrary to the American constitution—laws which regulated their immigration, and withheld from them the right of naturalization, owing to the fear that they would end by obtaining a majority in the Congress. Generally ill-treated, much as Indians or negroes, so as to justify the title of "pests" which was applied to them, they herded together in a sort of ghetto, where they carefully kept up the manners and customs of the Celestial Empire.
In the Californian capital, it is in the Sacramento Street district, decked with their banners and lanterns, that this foreign race has taken up its abode. There they can be met in thousands, trotting along in their wide-sleeved blouses, conical hats, and turned-up shoes. Here, for the most part, they live as grocers, gardeners, or laundresses—unless they are working as cooks or belong to one of those dramatic troupes which perform Chinese pieces in the French theatre at San Francisco.
And—there is no reason why we should conceal the fact—Seng Vou happened to form part of one of these troupes, in which he filled the role of "comic lead," if such a description can apply to any Chinese artiste. As a matter of fact they are so serious, even in their fun, that the Californian romancer, Bret Harte, has told us that he never saw a genuine Chinaman laugh, and has even confessed that he is unable to say whether one of the national pieces he witnessed was a tragedy or a farce.
In short, Seng Vou was a comedian. The season had ended, crowned with success—perhaps out of proportion to the gold pieces he had amassed—he wished to return to his country otherwise than as a corpse, for Chinamen always like to get buried at home and there are special steamers who carry dead Celestials and nothing else. At all risks, therefore, he had secretly slipped on board the Dream.
Loaded with provisions, did he hope to get through, incognito, a passage of several weeks, and then to land on the coast of China without being seen?
It is just possible. At any rate, the case was hardly one for a death penalty.
So Godfrey had good reason to interfere in favour of the intruder, and Captain Turcott, who pretended to be angrier than he really was, gave up the idea of sending Seng Vou overboard to battle with the waves of the Pacific.
Seng Vou, however, did not return to his hiding-place in the hold, though he was rather an incubus on board. Phlegmatic, methodic, and by no means communicative, he carefully avoided the seamen, who had always some prank to play off on him, and he kept to his own provisions. He was thin enough in all conscience, and his additional weight but imperceptibly added to the cost of navigating the Dream. If Seng Vou got a free passage it was obvious that his carriage did not cost William W. Kolderup very much.
His presence on board put into Captain Turcott's head an idea which his mate probably was the only one to understand thoroughly.
"He will bother us a bit—this confounded Chinee!—after all, so much the worse for him."
"What ever made him stow himself away on board the Dream?" answered the mate.
"To get to Shanghai!" replied Captain Turcott. "Bless John and all John's sons too!"
IN WHICH IT WILL BE SEEN THAT WILLIAM W. KOLDERUP WAS PROBABLY RIGHT IN INSURING HIS SHIP.
During the following days, the 13th, 14th, and 15th of June, the barometer slowly fell, without an attempt to rise in the slightest degree, and the weather became variable, hovering between rain and wind or storm. The breeze strengthened considerably, and changed to south-westerly. It was a head-wind for the Dream, and the waves had now increased enormously, and lifted her forward. The sails were all furled, and she had to depend on her screw alone; under half steam, however, so as to avoid excessive labouring.
Godfrey bore the trial of the ship's motion without even losing his good-humour for a moment. Evidently he was fond of the sea.
But Tartlet was not fond of the sea, and it served him out.
It was pitiful to see the unfortunate professor of deportment deporting himself no longer, the professor of dancing dancing contrary to every rule of his art. Remain in his cabin, with the seas shaking the ship from stem to stern, he could not.
"Air! air!" he gasped.
And so he never left the deck. A roll sent him rolling from one side to the other, a pitch sent him pitching from one end to the other. He clung to the rails, he clutched the ropes, he assumed every attitude that is absolutely condemned by the principles of the modern choregraphic art. Ah! why could he not raise himself into the air by some balloon-like movement, and escape the eccentricities of that moving plane? A dancer of his ancestors had said that he only consented to set foot to the ground so as not to humiliate his companions, but Tartlet would willingly never have come down at all on the deck, whose perpetual agitation threatened to hurl him into the abyss.
What an idea it was for the rich William W. Kolderup to send him here.
"Is this bad weather likely to last?" asked he of Captain Turcott twenty times a day.
"Dunno! barometer is not very promising!" was the invariable answer of the captain, knitting his brows.
"Shall we soon get there?"
"Soon, Mr. Tartlet? Hum! soon!"
"And they call this the Pacific Ocean!" repeated the unfortunate man, between a couple of shocks and oscillations.
It should be stated that, not only did Professor Tartlet suffer from sea-sickness, but also that fear had seized him as he watched the great seething waves breaking into foam level with the bulwarks of the Dream, and heard the valves, lifted by the violent beats, letting the steam off through the waste-pipes, as he felt the steamer tossing like a cork on the mountains of water.
"No," said he with a lifeless look at his pupil, "it is not impossible for us to capsize."
"Take it quietly, Tartlet," replied Godfrey. "A ship was made to float! There are reasons for all this."
"I tell you there are none."
And, thinking thus, the professor had put on his life-belt. He wore it night and day, tightly buckled round his waist. He would not have taken it off for untold gold. Every time the sea gave him a moment's respite he would replenish it with another puff. In fact, he never blew it out enough to please him.
We must make some indulgence for the terrors of Tartlet. To those unaccustomed to the sea, its rolling is of a nature to cause some alarm, and we know that this passenger-in-spite-of-himself had not even till then risked his safety on the peaceable waters of the Bay of San Francisco; so that we can forgive his being ill on board a ship in a stiffish breeze, and his feeling terrified at the playfulness of the waves.
The weather became worse and worse, and threatened the Dream with a gale, which, had she been near the shore, would have been announced to her by the semaphores.
During the day the ship was dreadfully knocked about, though running at half steam so as not to damage her engines. Her screw was continually immerging and emerging in the violent oscillations of her liquid bed. Hence, powerful strokes from its wings in the deeper water, or fearful tremors as it rose and ran wild, causing heavy thunderings beneath the stern, and furious gallopings of the pistons which the engineer could master but with difficulty.
One observation Godfrey made, of which at first he could not discover the cause. This was, that during the night the shocks experienced by the steamer were infinitely less violent than during the day. Was he then to conclude that the wind then fell, and that a calm set in after sundown?
This was so remarkable that, on the night between the 21st and 22nd of June, he endeavoured to find out some explanation of it. The day had been particularly stormy, the wind had freshened, and it did not appear at all likely that the sea would fall at night, lashed so capriciously as it had been for so many hours.
Towards midnight then Godfrey dressed, and, wrapping himself up warmly, went on deck.
The men on watch were forward, Captain Turcott was on the bridge.
The force of the wind had certainly not diminished. The shock of the waves, which should have dashed on the bows of the Dream, was, however, very much less violent. But in raising his eyes towards the top of the funnel, with its black canopy of smoke, Godfrey saw that the smoke, instead of floating from the bow aft, was, on the contrary, floating from aft forwards, and following the same direction as the ship.
"Has the wind changed?" he said to himself.
And extremely glad at the circumstance he mounted the bridge. Stepping up to Turcott,—
"Captain!" he said.
The latter, enveloped in his oilskins, had not heard him approach, and at first could not conceal a movement of annoyance in seeing him close to him.
"You, Mr. Godfrey, you—on the bridge?"
"Yes, I, captain. I came to ask—"
"What?" answered Captain Turcott sharply.
"If the wind has not changed?"
"No, Mr. Godfrey, no. And, unfortunately, I think it will turn to a storm!"
"But we now have the wind behind us!"
"Wind behind us—yes—wind behind us!" replied the captain, visibly disconcerted at the observation. "But it is not my fault."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that in order not to endanger the vessel's safety I have had to put her about and run before the storm."
"That will cause us a most lamentable delay!" said Godfrey.
"Very much so," answered Captain Turcott, "but when day breaks, if the sea falls a little, I shall resume our westerly route. I should recommend you, Mr. Godfrey, to get back to your cabin. Take my advice, try and sleep while we are running before the wind. You will be less knocked about."
Godfrey made a sign of affirmation; turning a last anxious glance at the low clouds which were chasing each other with extreme swiftness, he left the bridge, returned to his cabin, and soon resumed his interrupted slumbers. The next morning, the 22nd of June, as Captain Turcott had said, the wind having sensibly abated, the Dream was headed in proper direction.
This navigation towards the west during the day, towards the east during the night, lasted for forty-eight hours more; but the barometer showed some tendency to rise, its oscillations became less frequent; it was to be presumed that the bad weather would end in northerly winds. And so in fact it happened.
On the 25th of June, about eight o'clock in the morning, when Godfrey stepped on deck, a charming breeze from the north-east had swept away the clouds, the sun's rays were shining through the rigging and tipping its projecting points with touches of fire. The sea, deep green in colour, glittered along a large section of its surface beneath the direct influence of its beams. The wind blew only in feeble gusts which laced the wave-crests with delicate foam. The lower sails were set.
Properly speaking, they were not regular waves on which the sea rose and fell, but only lengthened undulations which gently rocked the steamer.
Undulations or waves, it is true, it was all one to Professor Tartlet, as unwell when it was "too mild," as when it was "too rough." There he was, half crouching on the deck, with his mouth open like a carp fainted out of water.
The mate on the poop, his telescope at his eye, was looking towards the north-east.
Godfrey approached him.
"Well, sir," said he gaily, "to-day is a little better than yesterday."
"Yes, Mr. Godfrey," replied the mate, "we are now in smooth water."
"And the Dream is on the right road!"
"Not yet? and why?"
"Because we have evidently drifted north-eastwards during this last spell, and we must find out our position exactly."
"But there is a good sun and a horizon perfectly clear."
"At noon in taking its height we shall get a good observation, and then the captain will give us our course."
"Where is the captain?" asked Godfrey.
"He has gone off."
"Yes! our look-outs saw from the whiteness of the sea that there were some breakers away to the east; breakers which are not shown on the chart. So the steam launch was got out, and with the boatswain and three men, Captain Turcott has gone off to explore."
"How long ago?"
"About an hour and a half!"
"Ah!" said Godfrey, "I am sorry he did not tell me. I should like to have gone too."
"You were asleep, Mr. Godfrey," replied the mate, "and the captain did not like to wake you."
"I am sorry; but tell me, which way did the launch go?"
"Over there," answered the mate, "over the starboard bow, north-eastwards."
"And can you see it with the telescope?"
"No, she is too far off."
"But will she be long before she comes back?"
"She won't be long, for the captain is going to take the sights himself, and to do that he must be back before noon."
At this Godfrey went and sat on the forecastle, having sent some one for his glasses. He was anxious to watch the return of the launch. Captain Turcott's reconnaissance did not cause him any surprise. It was natural that the Dream should not be run into danger on a part of the sea where breakers had been reported.
Two hours passed. It was not until half-past ten that a light line of smoke began to rise on the horizon.
It was evidently the steam launch which, having finished the reconnaissance, was making for the ship.
It amused Godfrey to follow her in the field of his glasses. He saw her little by little reveal herself in clearer outline, he saw her grow on the surface of the sea, and then give definite shape to her smoke wreath, as it mingled with a few curls of steam on the clear depth of the horizon.
She was an excellent little vessel, of immense speed, and as she came along at full steam, she was soon visible to the naked eye. Towards eleven o'clock, the wash from her bow as she tore through the waves was perfectly distinct, and behind her the long furrow of foam gradually growing wider and fainter like the tail of a comet.
At a quarter-past eleven, Captain Turcott hailed and boarded the Dream.
"Well, captain, what news?" asked Godfrey, shaking his hand.
"Ah! Good morning, Mr. Godfrey!"
"And the breakers?"
"Only show!" answered Captain Turcott. "We saw nothing suspicious, our men must have been deceived, but I am rather surprised at that, all the same."
"We are going ahead then?" said Godfrey.
"Yes, we are going on now, but I must first take an observation."
"Shall we get the launch on board?" asked the mate.
"No," answered the captain, "we may want it again. Leave it in tow!"
The captain's orders were executed, and the launch, still under steam, dropped round to the stern of the Dream.
Three-quarters of an hour afterwards, Captain Turcott, with his sextant in his hand, took the sun's altitude, and having made his observation, he gave the course. That done, having given a last look at the horizon, he called the mate, and taking him into his cabin, the two remained there in a long consultation.
The day was a very fine one. The sails had been furled, and the Dream steamed rapidly without their help. The wind was very slight, and with the speed given by the screw there would not have been enough to fill them.
Godfrey was thoroughly happy. This sailing over a beautiful sea, under a beautiful sky, could anything be more cheering, could anything give more impulse to thought, more satisfaction to the mind? And it is scarcely to be wondered at that Professor Tartlet also began to recover himself a little. The state of the sea did not inspire him with immediate inquietude, and his physical being showed a little reaction. He tried to eat, but without taste or appetite. Godfrey would have had him take off the life-belt which encircled his waist, but this he absolutely refused to do. Was there not a chance of this conglomeration of wood and iron, which men call a vessel, gaping asunder at any moment.
The evening came, a thick mist spread over the sky, without descending to the level of the sea. The night was to be much darker than would have been thought from the magnificent daytime.
There was no rock to fear in these parts, for Captain Turcott had just fixed his exact position on the charts; but collisions are always possible, and they are much more frequent on foggy nights.
The lamps were carefully put into place as soon as the sun set. The white one was run up the mast, and the green light to the right and the red one to the left gleamed in the shrouds. If the Dream was run down, at the least it would not be her fault—that was one consolation. To founder even when one is in order is to founder nevertheless, and if any one on board made this observation it was of course Professor Tartlet. However, the worthy man, always on the roll and the pitch, had regained his cabin, Godfrey his; the one with the assurance, the other in the hope that he would pass a good night, for the Dream scarcely moved on the crest of the lengthened waves.
Captain Turcott, having handed over the watch to the mate, also came under the poop to take a few hours' rest. All was in order. The steamer could go ahead in perfect safety, although it did not seem as though the thick fog would lift.
In about twenty minutes Godfrey was asleep, and the sleepless Tartlet, who had gone to bed with his clothes on as usual, only betrayed himself by distant sighs. All at once—at about one in the morning—Godfrey was awakened by a dreadful clamour.
He jumped out of bed, slipped on his clothes, his trousers, his waistcoat and his sea-boots.
Almost immediately a fearful cry was heard on deck, "We are sinking! we are sinking!"
In an instant Godfrey was out of his cabin and in the saloon. There he cannoned against an inert mass which he did not recognize. It was Professor Tartlet.
The whole crew were on deck, hurrying about at the orders of the mate and captain.
"A collision?" asked Godfrey.
"I don't know, I don't know—this beastly fog—" answered the mate; "but we are sinking!"
"Sinking?" exclaimed Godfrey.
And in fact the Dream, which had doubtless struck on a rock was sensibly foundering. The water was creeping up to the level of the deck. The engine fires were probably already out below.
"To the sea! to the sea, Mr. Morgan!" exclaimed the captain. "There is not a moment to lose! You can see the ship settling down! It will draw you down in the eddy!"
"I'll look after him!—We are only half a cable from the shore!"
"My duty compels me to remain here to the last, and I remain!" said the captain. "But get off! get off!"
Godfrey still hesitated to cast himself into the waves, but the water was already up to the level of the deck.
Captain Turcott knowing that Godfrey swam like a fish, seized him by the shoulders, and did him the service of throwing him overboard.
It was time! Had it not been for the darkness, there would doubtless have been seen a deep raging vortex in the place once occupied by the Dream.
But Godfrey, in a few strokes in the calm water, was able to get swiftly clear of the whirlpool, which would have dragged him down like the maelstrom.