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In due time the Superior cleared for New York, and among the passengers were Robert and his father. Since the meeting with his son Captain Rushton's mental malady had completely disappeared, and his mental recovery affected his physical health favorably. His step became firm and elastic, his eye was bright, and Robert thought he had never looked better. Leaving the two to pursue their voyage home, we return to Captain Haley.
After leaving Robert to his fate, he kept on his way, rejoicing with a wicked satisfaction that he had got rid of an enemy who had it in his power to do him harm, for what Robert might suffer in his island prison, he cared little. He took it for granted that he would never get away, but would pass his life, be it longer or shorter, in dreary exile. Though the crew did not know all, they knew that the captain had heartlessly left Robert to his fate, and all were animated by a common feeling of dislike to their commander, who never under any circumstances would hare been popular. But there was no one among them bold enough to come forward and charge Haley with his crime, even when they reached Calcutta. The captain moved among them, and his orders were obeyed, but not with alacrity. This satisfied him, for he cared nothing for the attachment of those under his command.
One day in Calcutta he had a surprise.
He met Captain Rushton one day when out walking. It seemed like one risen from the dead, for he supposed him lying at the bottom of the sea. Could his eyes deceive him, or was this really the man whom he had so grossly injured? Captain Rushton did not see Haley, for he was partly turned away from him, and was busily conversing with a gentleman of his acquaintance. Haley drew near, and heard Captain Rushton addressed as Mr. Smith. He at once decided that, in spite of the wonderful resemblance, it was not the man he supposed, and breathed more freely in consequence. But he could not help looking back to wonder at the surprising likeness.
"They are as near alike as if they were brothers," he said to himself.
He did not again catch sight of Captain Rushton while in Calcutta.
Before Robert arrived, Captain Haley had sailed for home. But he met with storms, and his vessel received injuries that delayed her, so that his ship only reached New York on the same day with the Superior, bearing as passengers Robert and his father. Our hero lost no time in calling upon his friend, Mr. Morgan, and actually reached the office an hour before Haley, the Superior having reached her pier a little in advance of the other vessel.
When Robert walked into the office, Mr. Morgan, who was at his desk, looked up, and recognized him at once.
"Welcome back, my young friend," he said, cordially, rising to meet him. "I am glad to see you, but I didn't expect you quite so soon. How did you happen to come in advance of the captain?"
"Then you have not heard what happened at sea?" said Robert.
"Yes," said the merchant. "I heard, much to my regret, of Captain Evans' death. He was a worthy man, and I am truly sorry to lose him. What do you think of his successor, Captain Haley? He has never before sailed for me."
"After I have told my story, you can judge of him for yourself. I did not return on your vessel, Mr. Morgan, but on the Superior, Captain Smith."
"How is that?" asked the merchant, surprised.
"Because Captain Haley left me on an island in the Southern Ocean, bound to a tree, and probably supposes that I am dead."
"Your story seems incredible, Robert. Give me a full account of all that led to this action on the part of the captain."
My readers shall not be wearied with a repetition of details with which they are already familiar. Robert related what had happened to him in a straightforward manner, and Mr. Morgan never thought of doubting his statements.
"This Haley must be a villain," he said. "You are, indeed, fortunate in having escaped from the snare he laid for you,"
"I have been fortunate in another way also," said Robert. "I have succeeded in the object of my voyage."
"You have not found your father?"
"I found him in Calcutta, and I have brought him home with me."
"You must have been born under a lucky star, Robert," said the merchant. "Were your father's adventures as remarkable as yours?"
"It was the same man who nearly succeeded in accomplishing the ruin of both--Captain Haley was my father's mate, and was he who, in revenge for some fancied slight, set fire to the vessel in mid-ocean, and then escaped."
Scarcely had this revelation been made, when a clerk entered, and approaching Mr. Morgan, said, "Captain Haley would like to see you."
Mr. Morgan glanced at Robert significantly.
"I wish to know what explanation Mr. Haley has to give of your disappearance. There is a closet. Go in, and close the door partially, so that you may hear what passes without yourself being seen."
Robert was hardly established in his place of concealment when Haley entered the office.
"Good-morning, Mr. Morgan," he said, deferentially, for he wished to keep in his employer's good graces.
"Good-morning, sir," said the merchant, formally. "Captain Haley, I believe?"
"Yes, sir I succeeded to the command of the Argonaut upon the lamented death of my friend, Captain Evans. His death happened on our passage out. I proceeded at once to Calcutta, and after disposing of the cargo sailed for home."
"Your voyage has been a long one."
"Yes, we have had stress of weather, which has delayed us materially. I regret this, but did the best I could under the circumstances. I hope to have discharged my duties in a manner satisfactory to you."
"I cannot, of course, blame you for delay, since the weather was quite beyond your control," said the merchant, but his tone was marked by coldness, for which Haley found it difficult to account. He was anxious to remain in command of the Argonaut, but the want of cordiality evinced by his employer made him doubtful of his success. He was not timid, however, and resolved to broach the subject.
"I hope, Mr. Morgan," he said, "that you have sufficient confidence in me to intrust me I with the command of the Argonaut on her next voyage?"
"He certainly is not lacking in audacity," thought Mr. Morgan. "We will speak of that matter hereafter," he said. "Did my young friend, Robert Rushton, return with you?"
Now was the critical moment. In spite of his audacity, Haley felt embarrassed.
"No, sir," he replied.
"Indeed! I expected that you would bring him back."
"May I ask if the boy is a relative of yours?"
"No, he is not."
"So much the better."
"Why do you say that? I am particularly interested in him."
"Then, sir, my task becomes more painful and embarrassing."
"You speak in enigmas, Captain Haley."
"I hesitate to speak plainly. I know you will be pained by what I have to tell you."
"Don't consider my feelings, Captain Haley, but say what you have to say."
"Then I regret to say that the boy, Robert Rushton, is unworthy of your friendship."
"This is a grievous charge. Of course, I expect you to substantiate it."
"I will do so. Shortly after the death of Captain Evans and my accession to the command I found that this boy was trying to undermine my influence with the men, from what motives I cannot guess. I remonstrated with him mildly but firmly, but only received insolence in return. Nevertheless I continued to treat him well on account of the interest you felt in him. So things went on till we reached Calcutta. He left me at that time, and to my surprise did not return to the ship. I was able to account for his disappearance, however, when I missed one hundred and fifty dollars, of which I have not the slightest doubt that he robbed me. I should have taken measures to have him arrested, but since you felt an interest in him I preferred to suffer the loss in silence. I fear, Mr. Morgan, that you have been greatly deceived in him."
"I suspect that I have been deceived," said Mr. Morgan, gravely. "It is only fair, however, Captain Haley, to hear both sides, and I will therefore summon the boy himself to answer your charge. Robert!"
At the summons, to Captain Haley's equal surprise and dismay, Robert stepped from the closet in which he had been concealed.
"What have you to say, Robert?" asked the merchant.
"Captain Haley knows very well the falsehood of what he says," said our hero, calmly. "It was not at Calcutta I left the Argonaut, nor was it of my own accord. Captain Haley, with his own hands, tied me to a tree on a small island in the Southern Ocean, and there left me, as he supposed, to a solitary death. But Heaven did not forsake me, and sent first a brave sailor and afterward a ship to my assistance. The charge that I stole money from him I shall not answer, for I know Mr. Morgan will not believe it."
Captain Haley was not a fool, and he knew that it would be useless to press the charge further. He rose from his seat; his face was dark with anger and smarting under a sense of defeat.
"You have not done with me yet," he said to Robert, and without another word left the office.
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