"But why not?" persisted the captain.
"Because these very Spaniards have, by formal contract, made over Ceuta, in its integrity, to the British government."
Servadac uttered an exclamation of surprise.
"And as the price of that important cession," continued Major Oliphant, "they have received a fair equivalent in British gold."
"Ah!" cried Ben Zoof, "that accounts for that fellow Negrete and his people having such a lot of money."
Servadac was silent. It had become clear to his mind what had been the object of that secret visit to Ceuta which he had heard of as being made by the two English officers. The arguments that he had intended to use had completely fallen through; all that he had now to do was carefully to prevent any suspicion of his disappointed project.
"May I be allowed to ask, Captain Servadac, to what I am indebted for the honor of this visit?" asked Major Oliphant presently.
"I have come, Major Oliphant, in the hope of doing you and your companions a service," replied Servadac, rousing himself from his reverie.