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- Journeys Through Bookland - 20/71 -
_By_ SIR SAMUEL W. BAKER [Footnote: Sir Samuel W. Baker (1821-1893) was an English traveler and explorer. Besides _Cast Up by the Sea_, Baker wrote _The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon_; _The Albert Nyansa_; _Wild Beasts and their Ways_, and other books.]
In an hour after the arrival of the "Polly" in the deceitful port, Paul and his entire crew were marched through the streets of a French village, and were drawn up opposite the prison entrance.
Upon their arrival at the gate they were met by the governor and the principal jailer, who allotted them to various cells in separate parties. Paul, as their captain, was placed in a superior apartment, together with Dick Stone, whom he had requested might be permitted to accompany him.
As the door of the prison had closed upon their admittance to the court-yard, Paul had noticed a remarkably pretty girl about eighteen who had fixed her eyes upon him with extreme earnestness. As he was now led with Dick Stone to the room that they were to occupy he observed that she accompanied the jailer, and appeared to observe him with great interest. Taking from his pocket a guinea that was pierced with a hole, he slipped it into her hand; at the same time laughingly he told her in a few words of broken French to suspend it as a charm around her neck to preserve her from everything English.
Instead of receiving it with pleasure, as he had expected, she simply looked at it with curiosity for an instant, and then, keeping it in her hand, she asked in her native tongue with intense feeling, "Have you seen Victor? My dear brother Victor, a prisoner in England?"
"Silly girl," said the jailer, her father, "England is a large place, and there are too many French prisoners to make it likely that Victor should be known"; at the same time the feelings of the father yielded to a vague hope as he looked inquiringly at Paul.
"There are many fine fellows," answered Paul, "who have had the misfortune to become prisoners of war, but they are all cared for, and receive every attention in England. When was your brother taken?" he asked, as he turned to the handsome dark-eyed girl who had just questioned him.
[Illustration: HE SLIPPED A GUINEA INTO HER HAND]
"A year ago next Christmas," she replied; "and we have only once heard from him; he was then at a place called Falmouth, but we do not know where that is."
"Falmouth!" said Paul; "why, I know the place well; with a fair wind the 'Polly' would make it in a few hours from the spot where I live. Your brother then is imprisoned only half a day's sail from my house!"
"Oh! what good fortune, _mon Dieu,_" exclaimed the excited girl, as she clasped her hands in delight, as though the hour of her brother's deliverance was at hand. "How can we reach him? surely you can help us?"
"Alas! I am also a prisoner," replied Paul. "At this moment my wife is sorrowing alone in our cottage on the cliff, and she is looking vainly upon the sea expecting my return. How can I help you? Believe me, if it were possible, I would." At the recollection of Polly's situation Paul hastily brushed a tear from his eye with the back of his rough hand, which instantly awoke the sympathy of the sensitive girl before him.
"Ha! you are married," she exclaimed. "Is she young, and perhaps beautiful?"
"Young enough for me, and handsomer than most women," replied Paul.
At this moment Dick Stone had lighted his pipe, and as he gave two or three tremendous puffs he screwed his face into a profoundly serio- comic expression and winked his right eye mysteriously at Paul.
"I know the young man," said Dick, who now joined in the conversation, and addressed the jailer whom he had been scrutinizing closely; "I saw him once at the prison in Falmouth. Rather tall?" said Dick, as he surveyed the six-foot form of the jailer.
"Yes," said the jailer, eagerly, "as tall as I am."
"Black hair?" continued the impassive Dick, as he cast his eyes upon the raven locks of both father and daughter.
"Yes, as dark as mine," exclaimed the now excited jailer.
"Roman nose?" said Dick, as he looked at the decided form of the parent's feature that was shared by the handsome girl.
"Precisely so, well arched," replied the father.
"Had not lost an arm?" said Dick.
"No, he had both his arms," said the jailer.
"And his name," said Dick, "was Victor?"
"Victor Dioré!" exclaimed the jailer's daughter.
"Precisely so--that's the man," replied the stoical Dick Stone; "that's the man. I know'd him soon after he was captured; and I believe he's now in Falmouth Jail. I'd almost forgotten his name, for you Mounseers are so badly christened that I can't remember how you're called."
The jailer and his daughter were much affected at this sudden intelligence; there could be no doubt that their new prisoner had seen their lost relative, who appeared to be imprisoned not far from Paul's residence, and their hearts at once warmed toward both the captives.
They were led into a large but rather dark room, scantily furnished, with two trestle-beds, a table, and a couple of benches.
"We must talk of this again," said Paul to the jailer's daughter; "perhaps an exchange of prisoners may be arranged at some future time that may serve us all."
"Yes," added Dick Stone, "I think we can manage it if we're all true friends; and may I ask your name, my dear? for you're the prettiest Mounseer that I've ever set eyes on."
"Léontine," replied the girl.
"Well, Leonteen," continued Dick, "if you'll come and have a chat sometimes up in this cold-looking room I dare say we'll be able to hit off some plan that'll make us all agreeable. I've got a secret to tell you yet, but I don't want to let it out before the old 'un," said Dick, mysteriously, as he winked his eye at her in masonic style; then, putting his lips very close to her pretty ear, he whispered, "I can tell you how to get your brother out of prison; but you must keep it close."
The door had hardly closed upon the jailer and his daughter, who had promised to return with breakfast, when Paul turned quickly toward Dick Stone and exclaimed, "What do you mean, Dick, by such a romance as you have just composed? Surety all is false; you never met the French prisoner at Falmouth?"
"Well," replied Dick, "may be I didn't; but perhaps I did. Who knows?-- You see, captain, all's fair in love or war, and it struck me that it's as well to make friends as enemies; now you see we've made friends all at once by a little romance. You see the Mounseers are very purlite people, and so it's better to be purlite when you're in France. You see the pretty little French girl says her brother's in jail in Falmouth; well, I've seen a lot of French prisoners in Falmouth with black hair, and two arms apiece, and a Roman nose; so very likely I've seen her brother. Well, you see, if we can make friends with the jailer, we may p'r'aps get the key of the jail! At all events, it ain't a bad beginning to make friends with the jailer's daughter before we've had our first breakfast in the French prison."
As Dick Stone finished speaking he looked out of the narrow grated window that in the thick stone wall appeared as though it had been intended for musketry; from this aperture he had a beautiful view of the bay and the French corvette, near to which the unfortunate "Polly" was now lying at anchor with the French colors flying at the mizzen.
"Well, that's a bad lookout, I must say," said Dick. "Look here, captain, there's the 'Polly' looking as trim and as saucy, bless her heart! as though we were all on board; and there's the ugly French flag flying, and she don't seem to care more about it than a woman with new ribbons in her bonnet."
Paul looked at his beautiful lugger with bitter feelings. He had sailed in her for many years, and she had become like a member of his family. Although fifteen years old, she had been built of such well-seasoned timber, and had been kept in such excellent repair, that she was better than most vessels of half her age, and he sighed as he now saw her at anchor with the French flag fluttering at her masthead. For a long time he gazed intently upon her without speaking a word; at length he turned sharply 'round, and in a quick, determined voice, he said, "Dick, I'll never live to see the 'Polly' disgraced. If you'll stick by me, Dick, we'll retake her yet, or die!"
For some moments Dick Stone stared Paul carelessly in the face without a reply; he then tapped the bowl of his empty pipe upon the prison wall, and carefully refilling it with tobacco, he once more, lighted it, and puffed for about a minute in perfect silence; he then spoke, after emitting a dense volume of smoke.
"If I'll stick to you, captain? Well, p'r'aps I never have, and p'r'aps Dick Stone's a coward? Well, you see, of course I'll stick to yer; but there's other things to be thought of. What's your plan, captain? It's of no use doing anything without thinking well first. Now if you'll tell me what you mean I'll have a little smoke, just half a pipe, and I'll tell you my opinion."
"My plans are not absolutely defined," said Paul, "but I think that by making friends with the jailer's daughter we may induce her to risk much in the endeavor to rescue her brother. We might prevail upon her to assist in our escape--she might even accompany us to England. Could we only free ourselves from these prison walls on a dark night, when the wind blows strong from the south, why should we not surprise the French crew, and carry off the 'Polly'? Once at sea, there is nothing that could touch her!" Paul's eyes glistened as he spoke, and the muscles stood out on his brawny arm as he clinched his fist, and added, "If I could only once lay hold of Dupuis's throat, and save the 'Polly,' I ask no greater fortune!"
Puff, puff, puff, came in rapid succession from Dick's pipe at these
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