Chapter XXXII. A Successful Mission.
 

There was no one in sight, but it was evident that a party from an American ship had visited the island. Had they departed? That was a momentous question. Instinctively the eyes of both sought the sea. They saw an American ship riding at anchor a mile or more from shore.

"Give me your handkerchief, Robert," said Bates; "I'll signal them."

"It isn't very clean," said our hero.

"It'll do. See, they are looking at us."

"Your eyes must be good."

"I'm used to looking out to sea, lad."

He waved the handkerchief aloft, and felt sure that he had attracted the attention of those on board. But there was no motion to put off a boat.

"Do they see it?" asked Robert, eagerly.

"I think so."

"Do you think they will come for us? If not, we can put off in our boat."

"I think the party that planted that flagstaff hasn't got back. It is exploring the island, and will be back soon."

"Of course it is," said Robert, suddenly. "Don't you see their boat?"

"Ay, ay, lad; it's all right. All we've got to do is to stay here till they come."

They had not long to wait. A party of sailors, headed by an officer, came out of the woods, and headed for the shore. They stopped short in surprise at the sight of Robert and Bates.

"Who are you?" asked the leader, approaching.

Bates touched his hat, for he judged this was the captain of the vessel he had seen.

"I am a sailor from the ship Argonaut, bound from New York to Calcutta, and this young gentleman is Robert Rushton, passenger aboard the same ship."

"Where is your ship?"

"I don't know, captain."

"How came you here?"

"We were left here. The vessel went without us."

"How long have you been here?"

"Six weeks."

"There is something about this which I do not understand. Are you here of your own accord?"

"We are anxious to get away, captain," said Robert. "Will you take us?"

"To be sure I will. There's room enough on my ship for both of you. But I can't understand how you were left here."

"It's a long yarn, captain," said Bates. "If you haven't time to hear it now, I will tell you aboard ship."

"You look like a good seaman," said the captain, addressing Bates. "I'm short-handed just now. If you will engage with me, I will enroll you among my crew."

"That I'll do," said Bates, with satisfaction. "I wasn't made for a passenger."

"My ship is the Superior, bound from Boston to Calcutta; so your destination will be the same. My name is Smith. Do you know the name of this island?"

"I never heard of it before."

"I have taken possession of it in the name of the United States, supposing myself the first discoverer."

"That's all right. To my mind, the Star-Spangled Banner is the best that can wave over it."

"We might offer the captain our boat," suggested Robert.

The offer was made and accepted; and, while the captain and his party returned in one boat, Robert and Bates rowed to the ship in their own, and were soon on the deck of the Superior to their unbounded satisfaction.

"This is something like," said Bates. "The island is well enough, but there's nothing like the deck of a good ship."

"I don't think I wholly agree with you," said Robert, smiling; "but just at present I do. I am glad enough to be here. We may meet Captain Haley at Calcutta," he added, after a pause.

"Likely he'll have got away before we get there."

"I hope not. I should like to meet him face to face, and charge him with his treachery. I don't think he'll be over glad to see me."

"That's so, lad. He don't expect ever to set eyes on you again."

Robert soon felt at home on the new vessel. Captain Smith he found to be a very different man from Captain Haley. When he heard the story told him by our hero, he said:

"I like your pluck, Robert. You've had contrary winds so far, but you've borne up against them. The wind's changed now, and you are likely to have a prosperous voyage. This Captain Haley is a disgrace to the service. He'll be overhauled some time."

"When I get back to New York I shall tell Mr. Morgan how he treated me."

"That will put a spoke in his wheel."

"There's one thing I want to speak to you about, Captain Smith. How much will my passage be?"

"Nothing at all."

"But I have some money with me. I am willing to pay."

"Keep your money, my lad You will need it all before you get through. I was once a poor boy myself, obliged to struggle for my living. I haven't forgotten that time, and it makes me willing to lend a helping hand to others in the same position."

"You are very kind, Captain Smith," said Robert, gratefully.

"I ought to be. How long do you want to stay in Calcutta?"

"Only long enough to look about for my father."

"Then you can return to New York in my ship. It shall cost you nothing."

This offer was gratefully accepted--the more so that our hero had begun to realize that two hundred dollars was a small sum to carry on a journey of such length.

At last they reached Calcutta. Robert surveyed with much interest the great city of India, so different in its external appearance from New York, the only great city besides that he knew anything about.

"Well, Robert," said Captain Smith, on their arrival, "what are your plans? Will you make your home on board the ship, or board in the city, during our stay in port?"

"I think," said Robert, "I should prefer to live in the city, if you would recommend me to a good boarding place."

"That I can do. I am in the habit of boarding at a quiet house kept by a widow. Her terms are reasonable, and you can do no better than go there with me."

"Thank you, Captain Smith. I shall be glad to follow your advice."

So it happened that Captain Smith and Robert engaged board at the house of Mrs. Start, where, it will be remembered, that Captain Rushton was also a boarder, passing still under the name of Smith. Physically he had considerably improved, but mentally he was not yet recovered. His mind had received a shock, which, as it proved, a shock equally great was needed to bring it back to its proper balance.

"By the way," said Mrs. Start to Captain Smith, "we have another gentleman of your name here."

"Indeed?"

"You will see him at dinner. Poor gentleman, his mind is affected, and we only gave him this name because we didn't know his real name."

Robert little dreamed who it was of whom Mrs. Start was speaking, nor did he look forward with any particular curiosity to seeing the other Mr. Smith.

When dinner was announced, Robert and the captain were early in their seats, and were introduced to the other boarders as they came in. Finally Captain Rushton entered, and moved forward to a seat beside the landlady. Robert chanced to look up as he entered, and his heart made a mighty bound when in the new Mr. Smith he recognized his father.

"Father!" he exclaimed, eagerly, springing from his seat, and overturning his chair in his haste.

Captain Rushton looked at him for a moment in bewilderment. Then all at once the mists that had obscured his faculties were dispelled, and he cried, "Robert! my dear son, how came you here?"

"I came in search of you, father. Thank Heaven I have found you alive and well."

"I think I have been in a dream, Robert They call me Smith. That surely is not my name."

"Rushton, father! You have not forgotten?"

"Yes, that is it. Often it has been on the tip of my tongue, and then it slipped away from me. But, tell me, how came you here?"

"I am indebted to the kindness of this gentleman--Captain Smith, father--who rescued me from great peril."

This scene, of course, excited great astonishment among the boarders, and the worthy landlady who had been uniformly kind to Captain Rushton, was rejoiced at his sudden recovery. Feeling that mutual explanations in public would be unpleasant, she proposed to send dinner for both to Captain Rushton's room, and this offer was gladly accepted.

"And how did you leave your mother, Robert?" asked the captain.

"She was well, father, but mourning for your loss."

"I wish I could fly to her."

"You shall go back with me in Captain Smith's vessel. I am sure he will take us as passengers,"

"So we will. You are sure your mother is well provided for? But Mr. Davis has, no doubt, supplied her with money?"

"Not a cent, father."

"Not a cent! I deposited five thousand dollars with him for her benefit, just before sailing!"

"So you wrote in the letter which you sent in the bottle."

"Was that letter received?"

"Yes; it was that which led me to come in search of you."

"And did you go to Mr. Davis?"

"He denied the deposit, and demanded to see the receipt."

"The villain! He thought I was at the bottom of the sea, and the receipt with me. He shall find his mistake!"

"Then you have the receipt still, father?"

"To be sure I have," and Captain Rushton drew it from the pocket where it had laid concealed for two years and more.

Robert regarded it with satisfaction.

"He won't dare to deny it after this. I wish we were going back at once."

"Now, Robert, tell me all that has happened in my absence, and how you raised money enough to come out here."

So father and son exchanged narrations. Captain Rushton was astonished to find that the same man, Ben Haley, who had been the cause of his misfortunes, had also come so near compassing the destruction of his son.

"Thanks to a kind Providence," he said, "his wicked machinations have failed, and we are alive to defeat his evil schemes."