Was it, on the contrary, a "humpback," belonging to the species of baloenopters, a designation whose termination should at least gain it the entomologist's esteem? These possess dorsal fins, white in color, and as long as half the body, which resemble a pair of wings—something like a flying whale.
Had they not in view, more likely, a "finback" mammifer, as well known by the name "jubarte," which is provided with a dorsal fin, and whose length may equal that of the "right" whale?
Captain Hull and his crew could not yet decide, but they regarded the animal with more desire than admiration.
If it is true that a clockmaker cannot find himself in a room in the presence of a clock without experiencing the irresistible wish to wind it up, how much more must the whaler, before a whale, be seized with the imperative desire to take possession of it? The hunters of large game, they say, are more eager than the hunters of small game. Then, the larger the animal, the more it excites covetousness. Then, how should hunters of elephants and fishers of whalers feel? And then there was that disappointment, felt by all the "Pilgrim's" crew, of returning with an incomplete cargo.
Meanwhile, Captain Hull tried to distinguish the animal which had been signaled in the offing. It was not very visible from that distance. Nevertheless, the trained eye of a whaler could not be deceived in certain details easier to discern at a distance.
In fact, the water-spout, that is, that column of vapor and water which the whale throws back by its rents, would attract Captain Hull's attention, and fix it on the species to which this cetacean belonged.
"That is not a 'right' whale," cried he. "Its water-spout would be at once higher and of a smaller volume. On the other hand, if the noise made by that spout in escaping could be compared to the distant noise of a cannon, I should be led to believe that that whale belongs to the species of 'humpbacks;' but there is nothing of the kind, and, on listening, we are assured that this noise is of quite a different nature. What is your opinion on this subject, Dick?" asked Captain Hull, turning toward the novice.
"I am ready to believe, captain," replied Dick Sand, "that we have to do with a jubarte. See how his rents throw that column of liquid violently into the air. Does it not seem to you also—which would confirm my idea—that that spout contains more water than condensed vapor? And, if I am not mistaken, it is a special peculiarity of the jubarte."
"In fact, Dick," replied Captain Hull, "there is no longer any doubt possible! It is a jubarte which floats on the surface of these red waters."
"That's fine," cried little Jack.
"Yes, my boy! and when we think that the great beast is there, in process of breakfasting, and little suspecting that the whalers are watching it."
"I would dare to affirm that it is a jubarte of great size," observed Dick Sand.
"Truly," replied Captain Hull, who was gradually becoming more excited. "I think it is at least seventy feet long!"
"Good!" added the boatswain. "Half a dozen whales of that size would suffice to fill a ship as large as ours!"
"Yes, that would be sufficient," replied Captain Hull, who mounted on the bowsprit to see better.
"And with this one," added the boatswain, "we should take on board in a few hours the half of the two hundred barrels of oil which we lack."
"Yes!—truly—yes!" murmured Captain Hull.
"That is true," continued Dick Sand; "but it is sometimes a hard matter to attack those enormous jubartes!"
"Very hard, very hard!" returned Captain Hull. "Those baloenopters have formidable tails, which must not be approached without distrust. The strongest pirogue would not resist a well-given blow. But, then, the profit is worth the trouble!"
"Bah!" said one of the sailors, "a fine jubarte is all the same a fine capture!"
"And profitable!" replied another.
"It would be a pity not to salute this one on the way!"
It was evident that these brave sailors were growing excited in looking at the whale. It was a whole cargo of barrels of oil that was floating within reach of their hands. To hear them, without doubt there was nothing more to be done, except to stow those barrels in the "Pilgrim's" hold to complete her lading. Some of the sailors, mounted on the ratlines of the fore-shrouds, uttered longing cries. Captain Hull, who no longer spoke, was in a dilemma. There was something there, like an irresistible magnet, which attracted the "Pilgrim" and all her crew.
"Mama, mama!" then cried little Jack, "I should like to have the whale, to see how it is made."
"Ah! you wish to have this whale, my boy? Ah! why not, my friends?" replied Captain Hull, finally yielding to his secret desire. "Our additional fishermen are lacking, it is true, but we alone——"
"Yes! yes!" cried the sailors, with a single voice.
"This will not be the first time that I have followed the trade of harpooner," added Captain Hull, "and you will see if I still know how to throw the harpoon!"
"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" responded the crew.
* * * * *
It will be understood that the sight of this prodigious mammifer was necessary to produce such excitement on board the "Pilgrim."
The whale, which floated in the middle of the red waters, appeared enormous. To capture it, and thus complete the cargo, that was very tempting. Could fishermen let such an occasion escape them?
However, Mrs. Weldon believed she ought to ask Captain Hull if it was not dangerous for his men and for him to attack a whale under those circumstances.
"No, Mrs. Weldon," replied Captain Hull. "More than once it has been my lot to hunt the whale with a single boat, and I have always finished by taking possession of it. I repeat it, there is no danger for us, nor, consequently, for yourself."
Mrs. Weldon, reassured, did not persist.
Captain Hull at once made his preparations for capturing the jubarte. He knew by experience that the pursuit of that baloenopter was not free from difficulties, and he wished to parry all.
What rendered this capture less easy was that the schooner's crew could only work by means of a single boat, while the "Pilgrim" possessed a long-boat, placed on its stocks between the mainmast and the mizzen-mast, besides three whale-boats, of which two were suspended on the larboard and starboard pegs, and the third aft, outside the crown-work.
Generally these three whale-boats were employed simultaneously in the pursuit of cetaceans. But during the fishing season, we know, an additional crew, hired at the stations of New Zealand, came to the assistance of the "Pilgrim's" sailors.
Now, in the present circumstances, the "Pilgrim" could only furnish the five sailors on board—that is, enough to arm a single whale-boat. To utilize the group of Tom and his friends, who had offered themselves at once, was impossible. In fact, the working of a fishing pirogue requires very well trained seamen. A false move of the helm, or a false stroke of an oar, would be enough to compromise the safety of the whale-boat during an attack.
On the other hand, Captain Hull did not wish to leave his ship without leaving on board at least one man from the crew, in whom he had confidence. It was necessary to provide for all eventualities.
Now Captain Hull, obliged to choose strong seamen to man the whale-boat, was forced to put on Dick Sand the care of guarding the "Pilgrim."
"Dick," said he to him, "I shall charge you to remain on board during my absence, which I hope will be short."
"Well, sir," replied the young novice.
Dick Sand would have wished to take part in this fishing, which had a great attraction for him, but he understood that, for one reason, a man's arms were worth more than his for service in a whale-boat, and that for another, he alone could replace Captain Hull. So he was satisfied. The whale-boat's crew must be composed of the five men, including the master, Howik, which formed the whole crew of the "Pilgrim." The four sailors were going to take their places at the oars, and Howik would hold the stern oar, which serves to guide a boat of this kind. A simple rudder, in fact, would not have a prompt enough action, and in case the side oars should be disabled, the stern oar, well handled, could put the whale-boat beyond the reach of the monster's blows.
There was only Captain Hull besides. He had reserved to himself the post of harpooner, and, as he had said, this would not be his first attempt. It was he who must first throw the harpoon, then watch the unrolling of the long line fastened at its end; then, finally finish the animal with spears, when it should return to the surface of the ocean.
Whalers sometimes employ firearms for this kind of fishing. By means of a special instrument, a sort of small cannon, stationed either on board the ship or at the front of the boat, they throw either a harpoon, which draws with it the rope fastened to its end, or explosive balls, which produce great ravages in the body of the animal.
But the "Pilgrim" was not furnished with apparatus of this kind. This was, besides, an instrument of high price, rather difficult to manage, and fishermen, but little friendly to innovations, seem to prefer the employment of primitive weapons, which they use skilfully—that is to say,—the harpoon and spear.
It was then by the usual method, attacking the whale with the sword, that Captain Hull was going to attempt to capture the jubarte signaled five miles from his ship.
Besides, the weather would favor this expedition. The sea, being very calm, was propitious for the working of a whale-boat. The wind was going down, and the "Pilgrim" would only drift in an insensible manner while her crew were occupied in the offing.
So the starboard whale-boat was immediately lowered, and the four sailors went into it.
Howik passed them two of those long spears which serve as harpoons, then two long lances with sharp points. To those offensive arms he added five coils of those strong flexible ropes that the whalers call "lines," and which measure six hundred feet in length. Less would not do, for it sometimes happens that these cords, fastened end to end, are not enough for the "demand," the whale plunges down so deep.
Such were the different weapons which were carefully disposed in the front of the boat.
Howik and the four sailors only waited for the order to let go the rope.
A single place was vacant in the prow of the whale-boat—that which Captain Hull would occupy.
It is needless to say that the "Pilgrim's" crew, before quitting her, had brought the ship's sails aback. In other words, the yards were braced in such a manner that the sails, counteracting their action, kept the vessel almost stationary.
Just as he was about to embark, Captain Hull gave a last glance at his ship. He was sure that all was in order, the halliards well turned, the sails suitably trimmed. As he was leaving the young novice on board during an absence which might last several hours, he wished, with a good reason, that unless for some urgent cause, Dick Sand would not have to execute a single maneuver.
At the moment of departing he gave the young man some last words of advice.
"Dick," said he, "I leave you alone. Watch over everything. If, as is possible, it should become necessary to get the ship under way, in case we should be led too far in pursuit of this jubarte, Tom and his companions could come to your aid perfectly well. After telling them clearly what they would have to do, I am assured that they would do it."
"Yes, Captain Hull," replied old Tom, "and Mr. Dick can count on us."
"Command! command!" cried Bat. "We have such a strong desire to make ourselves useful."
"On what must we pull?" asked Hercules, turning up the large sleeves of his jacket.
"On nothing just now," replied Dick Sand, smiling.
"At your service," continued the colossus.
"Dick," continued Captain Hull, "the weather is beautiful. The wind has gone down. There is no indication that it will freshen again. Above all, whatever may happen, do not put a boat to sea, and do not leave the ship."
"That is understood."
"If it should become necessary for the 'Pilgrim' to come to us, I shall make a signal to you, by hoisting a flag at the end of a boat-hook."
"Rest assured, captain, I shall not lose sight of the whale-boat," replied Dick Sand.
"Good, my boy," replied Captain Hull. "Courage and coolness. Behold yourself assistant captain. Do honor to your grade. No one has been such at your age!"
Dick Sand did not reply, but he blushed while smiling. Captain Hull understood that blush and that smile.
"The honest boy!" he said to himself; "modesty and good humor, in truth, it is just like him!"
Meanwhile, by these urgent recommendations, it was plain that, even though there would be no danger in doing it, Captain Hull did not leave his ship willingly, even for a few hours. But an irresistible fisherman's instinct, above all, the strong desire to complete his cargo of oil, and not fall short of the engagements made by James W. Weldon in Valparaiso, all that told him to attempt the adventure. Besides, that sea, so fine, was marvelously conducive to the pursuit of a cetacean. Neither his crew nor he could resist such a temptation. The fishing cruise would be finally complete, and this last consideration touched Captain Hull's heart above everything.
Captain Hull went toward the ladder.
"I wish you success," said Mrs. Weldon to him.
"Thank you, Mrs. Weldon."
"I beg you, do not do too much harm to the poor whale," cried little Jack.
"No, my boy," replied Captain Hull.
"Take it very gently, sir."
"Yes—with gloves, little Jack."
"Sometimes," observed Cousin Benedict, "we find rather curious insects on the back of these large mammals."
"Well, Mr. Benedict," replied Captain Hull, laughing, "you shall have the right to 'entomologize' when our jubarte will be alongside of the 'Pilgrim.'"
Then turning to Tom:
"Tom, I count on your companions and you," said he, "to assist us in cutting up the whale, when it is lashed to the ship's hull—which will not be long."
"At your disposal, sir," replied the old black.
"Good!" replied Captain Hull.
"Dick, these honest men will aid you in preparing the empty barrels. During our absence they will bring them on deck, and by this means the work will go fast on our return."
"That shall be done, captain."
For the benefit of those who do not know, it is necessary to say that the jubarte, once dead, must be towed as far as the "Pilgrim," and firmly lashed to her starboard side. Then the sailors, shod in boots, with cramp-hooks would take their places on the back of the enormous cetacean, and cut it up methodically in parallel bands marked off from the head to the tail. These bands would be then cut across in slices of a foot and a half, then divided into pieces, which, after being stowed in the barrels, would be sent to the bottom of the hold.
Generally the whaling ship, when the fishing is over, manages to land as soon as possible, so as to finish her manipulations. The crew lands, and then proceeds to melt the lard, which, under the action of the heat, gives up all its useful part—that is, the oil. In this operation, the whale's lard weighs about a third of its weight.
But, under present circumstances, Captain Hull could not dream of putting back to finish that operation. He only counted on melting this quantity of lard at Valparaiso. Besides, with winds which could not fail to hail from the west, he hoped to make the American coast before twenty days, and that lapse of time could not compromise the results of his fishing.
The moment for setting out had come. Before the "Pilgrim's" sails had been brought aback, she had drawn a little nearer to the place where the jubarte continued to signal its presence by jets of vapor and water.
The jubarte was all this time swimming in the middle of the vast red field of crustaceans, opening its large mouth automatically, and absorbing at each draught myriads of animalcules.
According to the experienced ones on board, there was no fear that the whale dreamt of escaping. It was, doubtless, what the whalers call a "fighting" whale.
Captain Hull strode over the netting, and, descending the rope ladder, he reached the prow of the whale-boat.
Mrs. Weldon, Jack, Cousin Benedict, Tom, and his companions, for a last time wished the captain success.
Dingo itself, rising on its paws and passing its head above the railing, seemed to wish to say good-by to the crew.
Then all returned to the prow, so as to lose none of the very attractive movements of such a fishing.
The whale-boat put off, and, under the impetus of its four oars, vigorously handled, it began to distance itself from the "Pilgrim."
"Watch well, Dick, watch well!" cried Captain Hull to the young novice for the last time.
"Count on me, sir."
"One eye for the ship, one eye for the whale-boat, my boy. Do not forget it."
"That shall be done, captain," replied Dick Sand, who went to take his place near the helm.
Already the light boat was several hundred feet from the ship. Captain Hull, standing at the prow, no longer able to make himself heard, renewed his injunctions by the most expressive gestures.
It was then that Dingo, its paws still resting on the railing, gave a sort of lamentable bark, which would have an unfavorable effect upon men somewhat given to superstition.
That bark even made Mrs. Weldon shudder.
"Dingo," said she, "Dingo, is that the way you encourage your friends? Come, now, a fine bark, very clear, very sonorous, very joyful."
But the dog barked no more, and, letting itself fall back on its paws, it came slowly to Mrs. Weldon, whose hand it licked affectionately.
"It does not wag its tail," murmured Tom in a low tone. "Bad sign—bad sign."
But almost at once Dingo stood up, and a howl of anger escaped it.
Mrs. Weldon turned round.
Negoro had just left his quarters, and was going toward the forecastle, with the intention, no doubt, of looking for himself at the movements of the whale-boat.
Dingo rushed at the head cook, a prey to the strongest as well as to the most inexplicable fury.
Negoro seized a hand-spike and took an attitude of defense.
The dog was going to spring at his throat.
"Here, Dingo, here!" cried Dick Sand, who, leaving his post of observation for an instant, ran to the prow of the ship.
Mrs. Weldon on her side, sought to calm the dog.
Dingo obeyed, not without repugnance, and returned to the young novice, growling secretly.
Negoro had not pronounced a single word, but his face had grown pale for a moment. Letting go of his hand-spike, he regained his cabin.
"Hercules," then said Dick Sand, "I charge you especially to watch over that man."
"I shall watch," simply replied Hercules, clenching his two enormous fists in sign of assent.
Mrs. Weldon and Dick Sand then turned their eyes again on the whale-boat, which the four oarsmen bore rapidly away.
It was nothing but a speck on the sea.
* * * * *
Captain Hull, an experienced whaler, would leave nothing to chance. The capture of a jubarte is a difficult thing. No precaution ought to be neglected. None was in this case.
And, first of all, Captain Hull sailed so as to come up to the whale on the leeward, so that no noise might disclose the boat's approach.
Howik then steered the whale-boat, following the rather elongated curve of that reddish shoal, in the midst of which floated the jubarte. They would thus turn the curve.
The boatswain, set over this work, was a seaman of great coolness, who inspired Captain Hull with every confidence. He had not to fear either hesitation or distraction from Howik.
"Attention to the steering, Howik," said Captain Hull. "We are going to try to surprise the jubarte. We will only show ourselves when we are near enough to harpoon it."
"That is understood, sir," replied the boatswain.
"I am going to follow the contour of these reddish waters, so as to keep to the leeward."
"Good!" said Captain Hull. "Boys, as little noise as possible in rowing."
The oars, carefully muffled with straw, worked silently. The boat, skilfully steered by the boatswain, had reached the large shoal of crustaceans. The starboard oars still sank in the green and limpid water, while those to larboard, raising the reddish liquid, seemed to rain drops of blood.
"Wine and water!" said one of the sailors.
"Yes," replied Captain Hull, "but water that we cannot drink, and wine that we cannot swallow. Come, boys, let us not speak any more, and heave closer!"
The whale-boat, steered by the boatswain, glided noiselessly on the surface of those half-greased waters, as if it were floating on a bed of oil.
The jubarte did not budge, and did not seem to have yet perceived the boat, which described a circle around it.
Captain Hull, in making the circuit, necessarily went farther than the "Pilgrim," which gradually grew smaller in the distance. This rapidity with which objects diminish at sea has always an odd effect. It seems as if we look at them shortened through the large end of a telescope. This optical illusion evidently takes place because there are no points of comparison on these large spaces. It was thus with the "Pilgrim," which decreased to the eye and seemed already much more distant than she really was.
Half an hour after leaving her, Captain Hull and his companions found themselves exactly to the leeward of the whale, so that the latter occupied an intermediate point between the ship and the boat.
So the moment had come to approach, while making as little noise as possible. It was not impossible for them to get beside the animal and harpoon it at good range, before its attention would be attracted.
"Row more slowly, boys," said Captain Hull, in a low voice.
"It seems to me," replied Howik, "that the gudgeon suspects something. It breathes less violently than it did just now!"
"Silence! silence!" repeated Captain Hull.
Five minutes later the whale-boat was at a cable's length from the jubarte. A cable's length, a measure peculiar to the sea, comprises a length of one hundred and twenty fathoms, that is to say, two hundred meters.
The boatswain, standing aft, steered in such a manner as to approach the left side of the mammal, but avoiding, with the greatest care, passing within reach of the formidable tail, a single blow of which would be enough to crush the boat.
At the prow Captain Hull, his legs a little apart to maintain his equilibrium, held the weapon with which he was going to give the first blow. They could count on his skill to fix that harpoon in the thick mass which emerged from the waters.
Near the captain, in a pail, was coiled the first of the five lines, firmly fastened to the harpoon, and to which they would successively join the other four if the whale plunged to great depths.
"Are we ready, boys?" murmured Captain Hull.
"Yes," replied Howik, grasping his oar firmly in his large hands.
The boatswain obeyed the order, and the whale-boat came within less than ten feet of the animal.
The latter no longer moved, and seemed asleep.
Whales thus surprised while asleep offer an easier prize, and it often happens that the first blow which is given wounds them mortally.
"This immovableness is quite astonishing!" thought Captain Hull. "The rascal ought not to be asleep, and nevertheless——there is something there!"
The boatswain thought the same, and he tried to see the opposite side of the animal.
But it was not the moment to reflect, but to attack.
Captain Hull, holding his harpoon by the middle of the handle, balanced it several times, to make sure of good aim, while he examined the jubarte's side. Then he threw it with all the strength of his arm.
"Back, back!" cried he at once.
And the sailors, pulling together, made the boat recoil rapidly, with the intention of prudently putting it in safety from the blows of the cetacean's tail.
But at that moment a cry from the boatswain made them understand why the whale was so extraordinarily motionless for so long a time on the surface of the sea.
"A young whale!" said he.
In fact, the jubarte, after having been struck by the harpoon, was almost entirely overturned on the side, thus discovering a young whale, which she was in process of suckling.
This circumstance, as Captain Hull well knew, would render the capture of the jubarte much more difficult. The mother was evidently going to defend herself with greater fury, as much for herself as to protect her "little one "—if, indeed, we can apply that epithet to an animal which did not measure less than twenty feet.
Meanwhile, the jubarte did not rush at the boat, as there was reason to fear, and there was no necessity, before taking flight, to quickly cut the line which connected the boat with the harpoon. On the contrary, and as generally happens, the whale, followed by the young one, dived, at first in a very oblique line; then rising again with an immense bound, she commenced to cleave the waters with extreme rapidity.
But before she had made her first plunge, Captain Hull and the boatswain, both standing, had had time to see her, and consequently to estimate her at her true value.
This jubarte was, in reality, a whale of the largest size. From the head to the tail, she measured at least eighty feet. Her skin, of a yellowish brown, was much varied with numerous spots of a darker brown.
It would indeed be a pity, after an attack so happily begun, to be under the necessity of abandoning so rich a prey.
The pursuit, or rather the towing, had commenced. The whale-boat, whose oars had been raised, darted like an arrow while swinging on the tops of the waves.
Howik kept it steady, notwithstanding those rapid and frightful oscillations. Captain Hull, his eye on his prey, did not cease making his eternal refrain:
"Be watchful, Howik, be watchful!"
And they could be sure that the boatswain's vigilance would not be at fault for an instant.
Meanwhile, as the whale-boat did not fly nearly as fast as the whale, the line of the harpoon spun out with such rapidity that it was to be feared that it would take fire in rubbing against the edge of the whale-boat. So Captain Hull took care to keep it damp, by filling with water the pail at the bottom of which the line was coiled.
All this time the jubarte did not seem inclined to stop her flight, nor willing to moderate it. The second line was then lashed to the end of the first, and it was not long before it was played out with the same velocity.
At the end of five minutes it was necessary to join on the third line, which ran off under the water.
The jubarte did not stop. The harpoon had evidently not penetrated into any vital part of the body. They could even observe, by the increased obliquity of the line, that the animal, instead of returning to the surface, was sinking into lower depths.
"The devil!" cried Captain Hull, "but that rascal will use up our five lines!"
"And lead us to a good distance from the 'Pilgrim,'" replied the boatswain.
"Nevertheless, she must return to the surface to breathe," replied Captain Hull. "She is not a fish, and she must have the provision of air like a common individual."
"She has held her breath to run better," said one of the sailors, laughing.
In fact, the line was unrolling all the time with equal rapidity.
To the third line, it was soon necessary to join the fourth, and that was not done without making the sailors somewhat anxious touching their future part of the prize.
"The devil! the devil!" murmured Captain Hull. "I have never seen anything like that! Devilish jubarte!"
Finally the fifth line had to be let out, and it was already half unrolled when it seemed to slacken.
"Good! good!" cried Captain Hull. "The line is less stiff. The jubarte is getting tired."
At that moment, the "Pilgrim" was more than five miles to the leeward of the whale-boat. Captain Hull, hoisting a flag at the end of a boat-hook, gave the signal to come nearer.
And almost at once, he could see that Dick Sand, aided by Tom and his companions, commenced to brace the yards in such a manner as to trim them close to the wind.
But the breeze was feeble and irregular. It only came in short puffs. Most certainly, the "Pilgrim" would have some trouble in joining the whale-boat, if indeed she could reach it. Meanwhile, as they had foreseen, the jubarte had returned to the surface of the water to breathe, with the harpoon fixed in her side all the time. She then remained almost motionless, seeming to wait for her young whale, which this furious course must have left behind.
Captain Hull made use of the oars so as to join her again, and soon he was only a short distance from her.
Two oars were laid down and two sailors armed themselves, as the captain had done, with long lances, intended to strike the enemy.
Howik worked skilfully then, and held himself ready to make the boat turn rapidly, in case the whale should turn suddenly on it.
"Attention!" cried Captain Hull. "Do not lose a blow! Aim well, boys! Are we ready, Howik?"
"I am prepared, sir," replied the boatswain, "but one thing troubles me. It is that the beast, after having fled so rapidly, is very quiet now."
"In fact, Howik, that seems to me suspicious. Let us be careful!"
"Yes, but let us go forward."
Captain Hull grew more and more animated.
The boat drew still nearer. The jubarte only turned in her place. Her young one was no longer near her; perhaps she was trying to find it again.
Suddenly she made a movement with her tail, which took her thirty feet away.
Was she then going to take flight again, and must they take up this interminable pursuit again on the surface of the waters?
"Attention!" cried Captain Hull. "The beast is going to take a spring and throw herself on us. Steer, Howik, steer!"
The jubarte, in fact, had turned in such a manner as to present herself in front of the whale-boat. Then, beating the sea violently with her enormous fins, she rushed forward.
The boatswain, who expected this direct blow, turned in such a fashion that the jubarte passed by the boat, but without reaching it.
Captain Hull and the two sailors gave her three vigorous thrusts on the passage, seeking to strike some vital organ.
The jubarte stopped, and, throwing to a great height two columns of water mingled with blood, she turned anew on the boat, bounding, so to say, in a manner frightful to witness.
These seamen must have been expert fishermen, not to lose their presence of mind on this occasion.
Howik again skilfully avoided the jubarte's attack, by darting the boat aside.
Three new blows, well aimed, again gave the animal three new wounds. But, in passing, she struck the water so roughly with her formidable tail, that an enormous wave arose, as if the sea were suddenly opened.
The whale-boat almost capsized, and, the water rushing in over the side, it was half filled.
"The bucket, the bucket!" cried Captain Hull.
The two sailors, letting go their oars, began to bale out the boat rapidly, while the captain cut the line, now become useless.
No! the animal, rendered furious by grief, no longer dreamt of flight. It was her turn to attack, and her agony threatened to be terrible.
A third time she turned round, "head to head," a seaman would say, and threw herself anew on the boat.
But the whale-boat, half full of water, could no longer move with the same facility. In this condition, how could it avoid the shock which threatened it? If it could be no longer steered, there was still less power to escape.
And besides, no matter how quickly the boat might be propelled, the swift jubarte would have always overtaken it with a few bounds. It was no longer a question of attack, but of defense.
Captain Hull understood it all.
The third attack of the animal could not be entirely kept off. In passing she grazed the whale-boat with her enormous dorsal fin, but with so much force that Howik was thrown down from his bench.
The three lances, unfortunately affected by the oscillation, this time missed their aim.
"Howik! Howik!" cried Captain Hull, who himself had been hardly able to keep his place.
"Present!" replied the boatswain, as he got up. But he then perceived that in his fall his stern oar had broken in the middle.
"Another oar!" said Captain Hull.
"I have one," replied Howik.
At that moment, a bubbling took place under the waters only a few fathoms from the boat.
The young whale had just reappeared. The jubarte saw it, and rushed towards it.
This circumstance could only give a more terrible character to the contest. The whale was going to fight for two.
Captain Hull looked toward the "Pilgrim." His hand shook the boat-hook, which bore the flag, frantically.
What could Dick Sand do that had not been already done at the first signal from the captain? The "Pilgrim's" sails were trimmed, and the wind commenced to fill them. Unhappily the schooner did not possess a helix, by which the action could be increased to sail faster.
To lower one of the boats, and, with the aid of the blacks, row to the assistance of the captain, would be a considerable loss of time; besides, the novice had orders not to quit the ship, no matter what happened. However, he had the stern-boat lowered from its pegs, and towed it along, so that the captain and his companions might take refuge in it, in case of need.
At that moment the jubarte, covering the young whale with her body, had returned to the charge. This time she turned in such a manner as to reach the boat exactly.
"Attention, Howik!" cried Captain Hull, for the last time.
But the boatswain was, so to speak, disarmed. Instead of a lever, whose length gave force, he only held in his hand an oar relatively short. He tried to put about; it was impossible.
The sailors knew that they were lost. All rose, giving a terrible cry, which was perhaps heard on the "Pilgrim."
A terrible blow from the monster's tail had just struck the whale-boat underneath. The boat, thrown into the air with irresistible violence, fell back, broken in three pieces, in the midst of waves furiously lashed by the whale's bounds.
The unfortunate sailors, although grievously wounded, would have had, perhaps, the strength to keep up still, either by swimming or by hanging on to some of the floating wreck. That is what Captain Hull did, for he was seen for a moment hoisting the boatswain on a wreck.
But the jubarte, in the last degree of fury, turned round, sprang up, perhaps in the last pangs of a terrible agony, and with her tail she beat the troubled waters frightfully, where the unfortunate sailors were still swimming.
For some minutes one saw nothing but a liquid water-spout scattering itself in sheafs on all sides.
A quarter of an hour after, when Dick Sand, who, followed by the blacks, had rushed into the boat, had reached the scene of the catastrophe, every living creature had disappeared. There was nothing left but some pieces of the whale-boat on the surface of the waters, red with blood.
* * * * *
The first impression felt by the passengers of the "Pilgrim" in presence of this terrible catastrophe was a combination of pity and horror. They only thought of this frightful death of Captain Hull and the five sailors. This fearful scene had just taken place almost under their eyes, while they could do nothing to save the poor men. They had not even been able to arrive in time to pick up the whale-boat's crew, their unfortunate companions, wounded, but still living, and to oppose the "Pilgrim's" hull to the jubarte's formidable blows. Captain Hull and his men had forever disappeared.
When the schooner arrived at the fatal place, Mrs. Weldon fell on her knees, her hands raised toward Heaven.
"Let us pray!" said the pious woman.
She was joined by her little Jack, who threw himself on his knees, weeping, near his mother. The poor child understood it all. Dick Sand, Nan, Tom, and the other blacks remained standing, their heads bowed. All repeated the prayer that Mrs. Weldon addressed to God, recommending to His infinite goodness those who had just appeared before Him.
Then Mrs. Weldon, turning to her companions, "And now, my friends," said she, "let us ask Heaven for strength and courage for ourselves."
Yes! They could not too earnestly implore the aid of Him who can do all things, for their situation was one of the gravest!
This ship which carried them had no longer a captain to command her, no longer a crew to work her. She was in the middle of that immense Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from any land, at the mercy of the winds and waves.
What fatality then had brought that whale in the "Pilgrim's" course? What still greater fatality had urged the unfortunate Captain Hull, generally so wise, to risk everything in order to complete his cargo? And what a catastrophe to count among the rarest of the annals of whale-fishing was this one, which did not allow of the saving of one of the whale-boat's sailors!
Yes, it was a terrible fatality! In fact, there was no longer a seaman on board the "Pilgrim." Yes, one—Dick Sand—and he was only a beginner, a young man of fifteen. Captain, boatswain, sailors, it may be said that the whole crew was now concentrated in him.
On board there was one lady passenger, a mother and her son, whose presence would render the situation much more difficult. Then there were also some blacks, honest men, courageous and zealous without a doubt, ready to obey whoever should undertake to command them, but ignorant of the simplest notions of the sailor's craft.
Dick Sand stood motionless, his arms crossed, looking at the place where Captain Hull had just been swallowed up—Captain Hull, his protector, for whom he felt a filial affection. Then his eyes searched the horizon, seeking to discover some ship, from which he would demand aid and assistance, to which he might be able at least to confide Mrs. Weldon. He would not abandon the "Pilgrim," no, indeed, without having tried his best to bring her into port. But Mrs. Weldon and her little boy would be in safety. He would have had nothing more to fear for those two beings, to whom he was devoted body and soul.
The ocean was deserted. Since the disappearance of the jubarte, not a speck came to alter the surface. All was sky and water around the "Pilgrim." The young novice knew only too well that he was beyond the routes followed by the ships of commerce, and that the other whalers were cruising still farther away at the fishing-grounds.
However, the question was, to look the situation in the face, to see things as they were. That is what Dick Sand did, asking God, from the depths of his heart, for aid and succor. What resolution was he going to take?
At that moment Negoro appeared on the deck, which he had left after the catastrophe. What had been felt in the presence of this irreparable misfortune by a being so enigmatical, no one could tell. He had contemplated the disaster without making a gesture, without departing from his speechlessness. His eye had evidently seized all the details of it. But if at such a moment one could think of observing him, he would be astonished at least, because not a muscle of his impassible face had moved. At any rate, and as if he had not heard it, he had not responded to the pious appeal of Mrs. Weldon, praying for the engulfed crew. Negoro walked aft, there even where Dick Sand was standing motionless. He stopped three steps from the novice.
"You wish to speak to me?" asked Dick Sand.
"I wish to speak to Captain Hull," replied Negoro, coolly, "or, in his absence, to boatswain Howik."
"You know well that both have perished!" cried the novice.
"Then who commands on board now?" asked Negoro, very insolently.
"I," replied Dick Sand, without hesitation.
"You!" said Negoro, shrugging his shoulders. "A captain of fifteen years?"
"A captain of fifteen years!" replied the novice, advancing toward the cook.
The latter drew back.
"Do not forget it," then said Mrs. Weldon. "There is but one captain here—Captain Sand, and it is well for all to remember that he will know how to make himself obeyed."
Negoro bowed, murmuring in an ironical tone a few words that they could not understand, and he returned to his post.
We see, Dick's resolution was taken.
Meanwhile the schooner, under the action of the breeze, which commenced to freshen, had already passed beyond the vast shoal of crustaceans.
Dick Sand examined the condition of the sails; then his eyes were cast on the deck. He had then this sentiment, that, if a frightful responsibility fell upon him in the future, it was for him to have the strength to accept it. He dared to look at the survivors of the "Pilgrim," whose eyes were now fixed on him. And, reading in their faces that he could count on them, he said to them in two words, that they could in their turn count on him.
Dick Sand had, in all sincerity, examined his conscience.
If he was capable of taking in or setting the sails of the schooner, according to circumstances, by employing the arms of Tom and his companions, he evidently did not yet possess all the knowledge necessary to determine his position by calculation.
In four or five years more, Dick Sand would know thoroughly that beautiful and difficult sailor's craft. He would know how to use the sextant—that instrument which Captain Hull's hand had held every day, and which gave him the height of the stars. He would read on the chronometer the hour of the meridian of Greenwich, and from it would be able to deduce the longitude by the hour angle. The sun would be made his counselor each day. The moon—the planets would say to him, "There, on that point of the ocean, is thy ship!" That firmament, on which the stars move like the hands of a perfect clock, which nothing shakes nor can derange, and whose accuracy is absolute—that firmament would tell him the hours and the distances. By astronomical observations he would know, as his captain had known every day, nearly to a mile, the place occupied by the "Pilgrim," and the course followed as well as the course to follow.
And now, by reckoning, that is by the progress measured on the log, pointed out by the compass, and corrected by the drift, he must alone ask his way.
However, he did not falter.
Mrs. Weldon understood all that was passing in the young novice's resolute heart.
"Thank you, Dick," she said to him, in a voice which did not tremble. "Captain Hull is no more. All his crew have perished with him. The fate of the ship is in your hands! Dick, you will save the ship and those on board!"
"Yes, Mrs. Weldon," replied Dick Sand, "yes! I shall attempt it, with the aid of God!"
"Tom and his companions are honest men on whom you can depend entirely."
"I know it, and I shall make sailors of them, and we shall work together. With fine weather that will be easy. With bad weather—well, with bad weather, we shall strive, and we shall save you yet, Mrs. Weldon—you and your little Jack, both! Yes, I feel that I shall do it."
And he repeated:
"With the aid of God!"
"Now, Dick, can you tell where the 'Pilgrim' is?" asked Mrs. Weldon.
"Easily," replied the novice. "I have only to consult the chart on board, on which her position was marked yesterday by Captain Hull."
"And will you be able to put the ship in the right direction?"
"Yes, I shall be able to put her prow to the east, nearly at the point of the American coast that we must reach."
"But, Dick," returned Mrs. Weldon, "you well understand, do you not, that this catastrophe may, and indeed must, modify our first projects? It is no longer a question of taking the 'Pilgrim' to Valparaiso. The nearest port of the American coast is now her port of destination."
"Certainly, Mrs. Weldon," replied the novice. "So fear nothing! We cannot fail to reach that American coast which stretches so far to the south."
"Where is it situated?" asked Mrs. Weldon.
"There, in that direction," replied Dick Sand, pointing to the east, which he knew by means of the compass.
"Well, Dick, we may reach Valparaiso, or any other part of the coast. What matter? What we want is to land."
"And we shall do it, Mrs. Weldon, and I shall land you on a good place," replied the young man, in a firm voice. "Besides, in standing in for the land, I do not renounce the hope of encountering some of those vessels which do the coasting trade on that shore. Ah! Mrs. Weldon, the wind begins to blow steadily from the northwest! God grant that it may keep on; we shall make progress, and good progress. We shall drive in the offing with all our sails set, from the brigantine to the flying-jib!"
Dick Sand had spoken with the confidence of the seaman, who feels that he stands on a good ship, a ship of whose every movement he is master. He was going to take the helm and call his companions to set the sails properly, when Mrs. Weldon reminded him that he ought first to know the "Pilgrim's" position.
It was, indeed, the first thing to do. Dick Sand went into the captain's cabin for the chart on which the position of the day before was indicated. He could then show Mrs. Weldon that the schooner was in latitude 43 deg. 35', and in longitude 164 deg. 13', for, in the last twenty-four hours, she had not, so to say, made any progress.
Mrs. Weldon leaned over this chart. She looked at the brown color which represented the land on the right of the ocean. It was the coast of South America, an immense barrier thrown between the Pacific and the Atlantic from Cape Horn to the shores of Columbia. To consider it in that way, that chart, which, was then spread out under her eyes, on which was drawn a whole ocean, gave the impression that it would be easy to restore the "Pilgrim's" passengers to their country. It is an illusion which is invariably produced on one who is not familiar with the scale on which marine charts are drawn. And, in fact, it seemed to Mrs. Weldon that the land ought to be in sight, as it was on that piece of paper!
And, meanwhile, on that white page, the "Pilgrim" drawn on an exact scale, would be smaller than the most microscopic of infusoria! That mathematical point, without appreciable dimensions, would appear lost, as it was in reality in the immensity of the Pacific!
Dick Sand himself had not experienced the same impression as Mrs. Weldon. He knew how far off the land was, and that many hundreds of miles would not suffice to measure the distance from it. But he had taken his part; he had become a man under the responsibility which had fallen upon him.
The moment to act had come. He must profit by this northwest breeze which was blowing up. Contrary winds had given place to favorable winds, and some clouds scattered in the zenith under the cirrous form, indicated that they would blow steadily for at least a certain time.
Dick called Tom and his companions.
"My friends," he said to them, "our ship has no longer any crew but you. I cannot work without your aid. You are not sailors, but you have good arms. Place them, then, at the 'Pilgrim's' service and we can steer her. Every one's salvation depends on the good work of every one on board."
"Mr. Dick," replied Tom, "my companions and I, we are your sailors. Our good will shall not be wanting. All that men can do, commanded by you, we shall do it."
"Well spoken, old Tom," said Mrs. Weldon.
"Yes, well spoken," continued Dick Sand; "but we must be prudent, and I shall not carry too much canvas, so as not to run any risk. Circumstances require a little less speed, but more security. I will show you, my friends, what each will have to do in the work. As to me, I shall remain at the helm, as long as fatigue does not oblige me to leave it. From time to time a few hours' sleep will be sufficient to restore me. But, during those few hours, it will be very necessary for one of you to take my place. Tom, I shall show you how we steer by means of the mariner's compass. It is not difficult, and, with a little attention, you will soon learn to keep the ship's head in the right direction."
"Whenever you like, Mr. Dick," replied the old black.
"Well," replied the novice, "stay near me at the helm till the end of the day, and if fatigue overcomes me, you will then be able to replace me for a few hours."
"And I," said little Jack, "will I not be able to help my friend, Dick, a little?"
"Yes, dear child," replied Mrs. Weldon, clasping Jack in her arms, "you shall learn to steer, and I am sure that while you are at the helm we shall have good winds."
"Very sure—very sure. Mother, I promise it to you," replied the little boy, clapping his hands.
"Yes," said the young novice, smiling, "good cabin-boys know how to maintain good winds. That is well known by old sailors." Then, addressing Tom, and the other blacks: "My friends," he said to them, "we are going to put the 'Pilgrim' under full sail. You will only have to do what I shall tell you."
"At your orders," replied Tom, "at your orders, Captain Sand."
* * * * *
THE FOUR DAYS WHICH FOLLOW.
Dick Sand was then captain of the "Pilgrim," and, without losing an instant, he took the necessary measures for putting the ship under full sail.
It was well understood that the passengers could have only one hope—that of reaching some part of the American coast, if not Valparaiso. What Dick Sand counted on doing was to ascertain the direction and speed of the "Pilgrim," so as to get an average. For that, it was sufficient to make each day on the chart the way made, as it has been said, by the log and the compass. There was then on board one of those "patent logs," with an index and helix, which give the speed very exactly for a fixed time. This useful instrument, very easily handled, could render the most useful services, and the blacks were perfectly adapted to work it.
A single cause of error would interfere—the currents. To combat it, reckoning would be insufficient; astronomical observations alone would enable one to render an exact calculation from it. Now, those observations the young novice was still unable to make.
For an instant Dick Sand had thought of bringing the "Pilgrim" back to New Zealand. The passage would be shorter, and he would certainly have done it if the wind, which, till then, had been contrary, had not become favorable. Better worth while then to steer for America.
In fact, the wind had changed almost to the contrary direction, and now it blew from the northwest with a tendency to freshen. It was then necessary to profit by it and make all the headway possible.
So Dick Sand prepared to put the "Pilgrim" under full sail.
In a schooner brig-rigged, the foremast carries four square sails; the foresail, on the lower mast; above, the top-sail, on the topmast; then, on the top-gallant mast, a top-sail and a royal.
The mainmast, on the contrary, has fewer sails. It only carries a brigantine below, and a fore-staffsail above. Between these two masts, on the stays which support them at the prow, a triple row of triangular sails may be set.
Finally, at the prow, on the bowsprit, and its extreme end, were hauled the three jibs.
The jibs, the brigantine, the fore-staff, and the stay-sails are easily managed. They can be hoisted from the deck without the necessity of climbing the masts, because they are not fastened on the yards by means of rope-bands, which must be previously loosened.
On the contrary, the working of the foremast sails demands much greater proficiency in seamanship. In fact, when it is necessary to set them, the sailors must climb by the rigging—it may be in the foretop, it may be on the spars of the top-gallant mast, it may be to the top of the said mast—and that, as well in letting them fly as in drawing them in to diminish their surface in reefing them. Thence the necessity of running out on foot-ropes—movable ropes stretched below the yards—of working with one hand while holding on by the other—perilous work for any one who is not used to it. The oscillation from the rolling and pitching of the ship, very much increased by the length of the lever, the flapping of the sails under a stiff breeze, have often sent a man overboard. It was then a truly dangerous operation for Tom and his companions.
Very fortunately, the wind was moderate. The sea had not yet had time to become rough. The rolling and pitching kept within bounds.
When Dick Sand, at Captain Hull's signal, had steered toward the scene of the catastrophe, the "Pilgrim" only carried her jibs, her brigantine, her foresail, and her top-sail. To get the ship under way as quickly as possible, the novice had only to make use of, that is, to counter-brace, the foresail. The blacks had easily helped him in that maneuver.
The question now was to get under full sail, and, to complete the sails, to hoist the top-sails, the royal, the fore-staff, and the stay-sails.
"My friends," said the novice to the five blacks, "do as I tell you, and all will go right."
Dick Sand was standing at the wheel of the helm.
"Go!" cried he. "Tom, let go that rope quickly!"
"Let go?" said Tom, who did not understand that expression.
"Yes, loosen it! Now you, Bat—the same thing! Good! Heave—haul taut. Let us see, pull it in!"
"Like that?" said Bat.
"Yes, like that. Very good. Come, Hercules—strong. A good pull there!"
To say "strong" to Hercules was, perhaps, imprudent. The giant of course gave a pull that brought down the rope.
"Oh! not so strong, my honest fellow!" cried Dick Sand, smiling. "You are going to bring down the masts!"
"I have hardly pulled," replied Hercules.
"Well, only make believe! You will see that that will be enough! Well, slacken—cast off! Make fast—Make fast—like that! Good! All together! Heave—pull on the braces."
And the whole breadth of the foremast, whose larboard braces had been loosened, turned slowly. The wind then swelling the sails imparted a certain speed to the ship.
Dick Sand then had the jib sheet-ropes loosened. Then he called the blacks aft:
"Behold what is done, my friends, and well done. Now let us attend to the mainmast. But break nothing, Hercules."
"I shall try," replied the colossus, without being willing to promise more.
This second operation was quite easy. The main-boom sheet-rope having been let go gently, the brigantine took the wind more regularly, and added its powerful action to that of the forward sails.
The fore-staff was then set above the brigantine, and, as it is simply brailed up, there was nothing to do but bear on the rope, to haul aboard, then to secure it. But Hercules pulled so hard, along with his friend Acteon, without counting little Jack, who had joined them, that the rope broke off.
All three fell backwards—happily, without hurting themselves. Jack was enchanted.
"That's nothing! that's nothing!" cried the novice. "Fasten the two ends together for this time and hoist softly!"
That was done under Dick Sand's eyes, while he had not yet left the helm. The "Pilgrim" was already sailing rapidly, headed to the east, and there was nothing more to be done but keep it in that direction. Nothing easier, because the wind was favorable, and lurches were not to be feared.
"Good, my friends!" said the novice. "You will be good sailors before the end of the voyage!"
"We shall do our best, Captain Sand," replied Tom.
Mrs. Weldon also complimented those honest men.
Little Jack himself received his share of praise, for he had worked bravely.
"Indeed, I believe, Mr. Jack," said Hercules, smiling, "that it was you who broke the rope. What a good little fist you have. Without you we should have done nothing right."
And little Jack, very proud of himself, shook his friend Hercules' hand vigorously.
The setting of the "Pilgrim's" sails was not yet complete. She still lacked those top-sails whose action is not to be despised under this full-sail movement. Top-sail, royal, stay-sails, would add sensibly to the schooner's speed, and Dick Sand resolved to set them.
This operation would be more difficult than the others, not for the stay-sails, which could be hoisted, hauled aboard and fastened from below, but for the cross-jacks of the foremast. It was necessary to climb to the spars to let them out, and Dick Sand, not wishing to expose any one of his improvised crew, undertook to do it himself.
He then called Tom and put him at the wheel, showing him how he should keep the ship. Then Hercules, Bat, Acteon and Austin being placed, some at the royal halyards, others at those of the top-sails, he proceeded up the mast. To climb the rattlings of the fore-shrouds, then the rattlings of the topmast-shrouds, to gain the spars, that was only play for the young novice. In a minute he was on the foot-rope of the top-sail yard, and he let go the rope-bands which kept the sail bound.
Then he stood on the spars again and climbed on the royal yard, where he let out the sail rapidly.
Dick Sand had finished his task, and seizing one of the starboard backstays, he slid to the deck.
There, under his directions, the two sails were vigorously hauled and fastened, then the two yards hoisted to the block. The stay-sails being set next between the mainmast and the foremast, the work was finished. Hercules had broken nothing this time.
The "Pilgrim" then carried all the sails that composed her rigging. Doubtless Dick Sand could still add the foremast studding-sails to larboard, but it was difficult work under the present circumstances, and should it be necessary to take them in, in case of a squall, it could not be done fast enough. So the novice stopped there.
Tom was relieved from his post at the wheel, which Dick Sand took charge of again.
The breeze freshened. The "Pilgrim," making a slight turn to starboard, glided rapidly over the surface of the sea, leaving behind her a very flat track, which bore witness to the purity of her water-line.
"We are well under way, Mrs. Weldon," then said Dick Sand, "and, now, may God preserve this favorable wind!"
Mrs. Weldon pressed the young man's hand. Then, fatigued with all the emotions of that last hour, she sought her cabin, and fell into a sort of painful drowsiness, which was not sleep.
The new crew remained on the schooner's deck, watching on the forecastle, and ready to obey Dick Sand's orders—that is to say, to change the set of the sails according to the variations of the wind; but so long as the breeze kept both that force and that direction, there would be positively nothing to do.
During all this time what had become of Cousin Benedict?
Cousin Benedict was occupied in studying with a magnifying glass an articulate which he had at last found on board—a simple orthopter, whose head disappeared under the prothorax; an insect with flat elytrums, with round abdomen, with rather long wings, which belonged to the family of the roaches, and to the species of American cockroaches.
It was exactly while ferreting in Negoro's kitchen, that he had made that precious discovery, and at the moment when the cook was going to crush the said insect pitilessly. Thence anger, which, indeed, Negoro took no notice of.
But this Cousin Benedict, did he know what change had taken place on board since the moment when Captain Hull and his companions had commenced that fatal whale-fishing? Yes, certainly. He was even on the deck when the "Pilgrim" arrived in sight of the remains of the whale-boat. The schooner's crew had then perished before his eyes.
To pretend that this catastrophe had not affected him, would be to accuse his heart. That pity for others that all people feel, he had certainly experienced it. He was equally moved by his cousin's situation. He had come to press Mrs. Weldon's hand, as if to say to her: "Do not be afraid. I am here. I am left to you."
Then Cousin Benedict had turned toward his cabin, doubtless so as to reflect on the consequences of this disastrous event, and on the energetic measures that he must take. But on his way he had met the cockroach in question, and his desire was—held, however, against certain entomologists—to prove the cockroaches of the phoraspe species, remarkable for their colors, have very different habits from cockroaches properly so called; he had given himself up to the study, forgetting both that there had been a Captain Hull in command of the "Pilgrim," and that that unfortunate had just perished with his crew. The cockroach absorbed him entirely. He did not admire it less, and he made as much time over it as if that horrible insect had been a golden beetle.
The life on board had then returned to its usual course, though every one would remain for a long time yet under the effects of such a keen and unforeseen catastrophe.
During this day Dick Sand was everywhere, so that everything should be in its place, and that he could be prepared for the smallest contingency. The blacks obeyed him with zeal. The most perfect order reigned on board the "Pilgrim." It might then be hoped that all would go well.
On his side, Negoro made no other attempt to resist Dick Sand's authority. He appeared to have tacitly recognized him. Occupied as usual in his narrow kitchen, he was not seen more than before. Besides, at the least infraction—at the first symptom of insubordination, Dick Sand was determined to send him to the hold for the rest of the passage. At a sign from him, Hercules would take the head cook by the skin of the neck; that would not have taken long. In that case, Nan, who knew how to cook, would replace the cook in his functions. Negoro then could say to himself that he was indispensable, and, as he was closely watched, he seemed unwilling to give any cause of complaint.
The wind, though growing stronger till evening, did not necessitate any change in the "Pilgrim's" sails. Her solid masting, her iron rigging, which was in good condition, would enable her to bear in this condition even a stronger breeze.
During the night it is often the custom to lessen the sails, and particularly to take in the high sails, fore-staff, top-sail, royal, etc. That is prudent, in case some squall of wind should come up suddenly. But Dick Sand believed he could dispense with this precaution. The state of the atmosphere indicated nothing of the kind, and besides, the young novice determined to pass the first night on the deck, intending to have an eye to everything. Then the progress was more rapid, and he longed to be in less desolate parts.
It has been said that the log and the compass were the only instruments which Dick Sand could use, so as to estimate approximately the way made by the "Pilgrim."
During this day the novice threw the log every half-hour, and he noted the indications furnished by the instrument.
As to the instrument which bears the name of compass, there were two on board. One was placed in the binnacle, under the eyes of the man at the helm. Its dial, lighted by day by the diurnal light, by night by two side-lamps, indicated at every moment which way the ship headed—that is, the direction she followed. The other compass was an inverted one, fixed to the bars of the cabin which Captain Hull formerly occupied. By that means, without leaving his chamber, he could always know if the route given was exactly followed, if the man at the helm, from ignorance or negligence, allowed the ship to make too great lurches.
Besides, there is no ship employed in long voyages which does not possess at least two compasses, as she has two chronometers. It is necessary to compare these instruments with each other, and, consequently, control their indications.
The "Pilgrim" was then sufficiently provided for in that respect, and Dick Sand charged his men to take the greatest care of the two compasses, which were so necessary to him.
Now, unfortunately, during the night of the 12th to the 13th of February, while the novice was on watch, and holding the wheel of the helm, a sad accident took place. The inverted compass, which was fastened by a copper ferule to the woodwork of the cabin, broke off and fell on the floor. It was not seen till the next day.
How had the ferule come to break. It was inexplicable enough. It was possible, however, that it was oxydized, and that the pitching and rolling had broken it from the woodwork. Now, indeed, the sea had been rougher during the night. However it was, the compass was broken in such a manner that it could not be repaired.
Dick Sand was much thwarted. Henceforth he was reduced to trust solely to the compass in the binnacle. Very evidently no one was responsible for the breaking of the second compass, but it might have sad consequences. The novice then took every precaution to keep the other compass beyond the reach of every accident.
Till then, with that exception, all went well on board the "Pilgrim."
Mrs. Weldon, seeing Dick Sand's calmness, had regained confidence. It was not that she had ever yielded to despair. Above all, she counted on the goodness of God. Also, as a sincere and pious Catholic, she comforted herself by prayer.
Dick Sand had arranged so as to remain at the helm during the night. He slept five or six hours in the day, and that seemed enough for him, as he did not feel too much fatigued. During this time Tom or his son Bat took his place at the wheel of the helm, and, thanks to his counsels, they were gradually becoming passable steersmen.
Often Mrs. Weldon and the novice talked to each other. Dick Sand willingly took advice from this intelligent and courageous woman. Each day he showed her on the ship's chart the course run, which he took by reckoning, taking into account only the direction and the speed of the ship. "See, Mrs. Weldon," he often repeated to her, "with these winds blowing, we cannot fail to reach the coast of South America. I should not like to affirm it, but I verily believe that when our vessel shall arrive in sight of land, it will not be far from Valparaiso."
Mrs. Weldon could not doubt the direction of the vessel was right, favored above all by those winds from the northwest. But how far the "Pilgrim" still seemed to be from the American coast! How many dangers between her and the firm land, only counting those which might come from a change in the state of the sea and the sky!
Jack, indifferent like children of his age, had returned to his usual games, running on the deck, amusing himself with Dingo. He found, of course, that his friend Dick was less with him than formerly; but his mother had made him understand that they must leave the young novice entirely to his occupations. Little Jack had given up to these reasons, and no longer disturbed "Captain Sand."
So passed life on board. The blacks did their work intelligently, and each day became more skilful in the sailor's craft. Tom was naturally the boatswain, and it was he, indeed, whom his companions would have chosen for that office. He commanded the watch while the novice rested, and he had with him his son Bat and Austin. Acteon and Hercules formed the other watch, under Dick Sand's direction. By this means, while one steered, the others watched at the prow.
Even though these parts were deserted, and no collision was really to be feared, the novice exacted a rigorous watch during the night. He never sailed without having his lights in position—a green light on the starboard, a red light on the larboard—and in that he acted wisely.
All the time, during those nights which Dick Sand passed entirely at the helm, he occasionally felt an irresistible heaviness over him. His hand then steered by pure instinct. It was the effect of a fatigue of which he did not wish to take account.
Now, it happened that during the night of the 13th to the 14th of February, that Dick Sand was very tired, and was obliged to take a few hours' rest. He was replaced at the helm by old Tom.
The sky was covered with thick clouds, which had gathered with the evening, under the influence of the cold air. It was then very dark, and it was impossible to distinguish the high sails lost in the darkness. Hercules and Acteon were on watch on the forecastle.
Aft, the light from the binnacle only gave a faint gleam, which the metallic apparatus of the wheel reflected softly. The ship's lanterns throwing their lights laterally, left the deck of the vessel in profound darkness.
Toward three o'clock in the morning, a kind of hypnotic phenomenon took place, of which old Tom was not even conscious. His eves, which were fixed too long on a luminous point of the binnacle, suddenly lost the power of vision, and he fell into a true anaesthetic sleep.
Not only was he incapable of seeing, but if one had touched or pinched him hard he would probably have felt nothing.
So he did not see a shadow which glided over the deck.
It was Negoro.
Arrived aft, the head cook placed under the binnacle a pretty heavy object which he held in hand.
Then, after observing for an instant the luminous index of the compass, he retired without having been seen.
If, the next day, Dick Sand had perceived that object placed by Negoro under the binnacle, he might have hastened to take it away.
In fact, it was a piece of iron, whose influence had just altered the indications of the compass. The magnetic needle had been deviated, and instead of marking the magnetic north, which differs a little from the north of the world, it marked the northeast. It was then, a deviation of four points; in other words, of half a right angle.
Tom soon recovered from his drowsiness. His eyes were fixed on the compass. He believed, he had reason to believe, that the "Pilgrim" was not in the right direction. He then moved the helm so as to head the ship to the east—at least, he thought so.
But, with the deviation of the needle, which he could not suspect, that point, changed by four points, was the southeast.
And thus, while under the action of a favorable wind, the "Pilgrim" was supposed to follow the direction wished for, she sailed with an error of forty-five degrees in her route!
During the week which followed that event, from the 14th of February to the 21st, no incident took place on board. The wind from the northwest freshened gradually, and the "Pilgrim" sailed rapidly, making on an average one hundred and sixty miles in twenty-four hours. It was nearly all that could be asked of a vessel of that size.
Dick Sand thought the schooner must be approaching those parts more frequented by the merchant vessels which seek to pass from one hemisphere to the other. The novice was always hoping to encounter one of those ships, and he clearly intended either to transfer his passengers, or to borrow some additional sailors, and perhaps an officer. But, though he watched vigilantly, no ship could be signaled, and the sea was always deserted.
Dick Sand continued to be somewhat astonished at that. He had crossed this part of the Pacific several times during his three fishing voyages to the Southern Seas. Now, in the latitude and longitude where his reckoning put him, it was seldom that some English or American ship did not appear, ascending from Cape Horn toward the equator, or coming toward the extreme point of South America.
But what Dick Sand was ignorant of, what he could not even discover, was that the "Pilgrim" was already in higher latitude—that is to say, more to the south than he supposed. That was so for two reasons:
The first was, that the currents of these parts, whose swiftness the novice could only imperfectly estimate, had contributed—while he could not possibly keep account of them—to throw the ship out of her route.
The second was, that the compass, made inaccurate by Negoro's guilty hand, henceforth only gave incorrect bearings—bearings that, since the loss of the second compass, Dick Sand could not control. So that, believing, and having reason to believe, that he was sailing eastward, in reality, he was sailing southeast. The compass, it was always before his eyes. The log, it was thrown regularly. His two instruments permitted him, in a certain measure, to direct the "Pilgrim," and to estimate the number of miles sailed. But, then, was that sufficient?
However, the novice always did his best to reassure Mrs. Weldon, whom the incidents of this voyage must at times render anxious.
"We shall arrive, we shall arrive!" he repeated. "We shall reach the American coast, here or there; it matters little, on the whole, but we cannot fail to land there!"
"I do not doubt it, Dick."
"Of course, Mrs. Weldon, I should be more at ease if you were not on board—if we had only ourselves to answer for; but——"
"But if I were not on board," replied Mrs. Weldon; "if Cousin Benedict, Jack, Nan and I, had not taken passage on the 'Pilgrim,' and if, on the other hand, Tom and his companions had not been picked up at sea, Dick, there would be only two men here, you and Negoro! What would have become of you, alone with that wicked man, in whom you cannot have confidence? Yes, my child, what would have become of you?"
"I should have begun," replied Dick Sand, resolutely, "by putting Negoro where he could not injure me."
"And you would have worked alone?"
"Yes—alone—with the aid of God!"
The firmness of these words was well calculated to encourage Mrs. Weldon. But, nevertheless, while thinking of her little Jack, she often felt uneasy. If the woman would not show what she experienced as a mother, she did not always succeed in preventing some secret anguish for him to rend her heart.
Meanwhile, if the young novice was not sufficiently advanced in his hydrographic studies to make his point, he possessed a true sailor's scent, when the question was "to tell the weather." The appearance of the sky, for one thing; on the other hand, the indications of the barometer, enabled him to be on his guard. Captain Hull, a good meteorologist, had taught him to consult this instrument, whose prognostications are remarkably sure.
Here is, in a few words, what the notices relative to the observation of the barometer contain:
1. When, after a rather long continuance of fine weather, the barometer begins to fall in a sudden and continuous manner, rain will certainly fall; but, if the fine weather has had a long duration, the mercury may fall two or three days in the tube of the barometer before any change in the state of the atmosphere may be perceived. Then, the longer the time between the falling of the mercury and the arrival of the rain, the longer will be the duration of rainy weather.
2. If, on the contrary, during a rainy period which has already had a long duration, the barometer commences to rise slowly and regularly, very certainly fine weather will come, and it will last much longer if a long interval elapses between its arrival and the rising of the barometer.
3. In the two cases given, if the change of weather follows immediately the movement of the barometrical column, that change will last only a very short time.
4. If the barometer rises with slowness and in a continuous manner for two or three days, or even more, it announces fine weather, even when the rain will not cease during those three days, and vice versa; but if the barometer rises two days or more during the rain, then, the fine weather having come, if it commences to fall again, the fine weather will last a very short time, and vice versa.
5. In the spring and in the autumn, a sudden fall of the barometer presages wind. In the summer, if the weather is very warm, it announces a storm. In winter, after a frost of some duration, a rapid falling of the barometrical column announces a change of wind, accompanied by a thaw and rain; but a rising which happens during a frost which has already lasted a certain time, prognosticates snow.
6. Rapid oscillations of the barometer should never be interpreted as presaging dry or rainy weather of any duration. Those indications are given exclusively by the rising or the falling which takes place in a slow and continuous manner.
7. Toward the end of autumn, if after prolonged rainy and windy weather, the barometer begins to rise, that rising announces the passage of the wind to the north and the approach of the frost.
Such are the general consequences to draw from the indications of this precious instrument.
Dick Sand knew all that perfectly well, as he had ascertained for himself in different circumstances of his sailor's life, which made him very skilful in putting himself on his guard against all contingencies.
Now, just toward the 20th of February, the oscillations of the barometrical column began to preoccupy the young novice, who noted them several times a day with much care. In fact, the barometer began to fall in a slow and continuous manner, which presages rain; but, this rain being delayed, Dick Sand concluded from that, that the bad weather would last. That is what must happen.
But the rain was the wind, and in fact, at that date, the breeze freshened so much that the air was displaced with a velocity of sixty feet a second, say thirty-one miles an hour.
Dick Sand was obliged to take some precautions so as not to risk the "Pilgrim's" masting and sails.
Already he had the royal, the fore-staff, and the flying-jib taken in, and he resolved to do the same with the top-sail, then take in two reefs in the top-sail.
This last operation must present certain difficulties with a crew of little experience. Hesitation would not do, however, and no one hesitated. Dick Sand, accompanied by Bat and Austin, climbed into the rigging of the foremast, and succeeded, not without trouble, in taking in the top-sail. In less threatening weather he would have left the two yards on the mast, but, foreseeing that he would probably be obliged to level that mast, and perhaps even to lay it down upon the deck, he unrigged the two yards and sent them to the deck. In fact, it is understood that when the wind becomes too strong, not only must the sails be diminished, but also the masting. That is a great relief to the ship, which, carrying less weight above, is no longer so much strained with the rolling and pitching.
This first work accomplished—and it took two hours—Dick Sand and his companions were busy reducing the surface of the top-sail, by taking in two reefs. The "Pilgrim" did not carry, like the majority of modern ships, a double top-sail, which facilitates the operation. It was necessary, then, to work as formerly—that is to say, to run out on the foot-ropes, pull toward you a sail beaten by the wind, and lash it firmly with its reef-lines. It was difficult, long, perilous; but, finally, the diminished top-sail gave less surface to the wind, and the schooner was much relieved.
Dick Sand came down again with Bat and Austin. The "Pilgrim" was then in the sailing condition demanded by that state of the atmosphere which has been qualified as "very stiff."
During the three days which followed, 20th, 21st and 22d of February, the force and direction of the wind were not perceptibly changed. All the time the mercury continued to fall in the barometrical tube, and, on this last day, the novice noted that it kept continually below twenty-eight and seven-tenths inches.
Besides, there was no appearance that the barometer would rise for some time. The aspect of the sky was bad, and extremely windy. Besides, thick fogs covered it constantly. Their stratum was even so deep that the sun was no longer seen, and it would have been difficult to indicate precisely the place of his setting and rising.
Dick Sand began to be anxious. He no longer left the deck; he hardly slept. However, his moral energy enabled him to drive back his fears to the bottom of his heart.
The next day, February 22d, the breeze appeared to decrease a little in the morning, but Dick Sand did not trust in it. He was right, for in the afternoon the wind freshened again, and the sea became rougher.
Toward four o'clock, Negoro, who was rarely seen, left his post and came up on the forecastle. Dingo, doubtless, was sleeping in some corner, for it did not bark as usual.
Negoro, always silent, remained for half an hour observing the horizon.
Long surges succeeded each other without, as yet, being dashed together. However, they were higher than the force of the wind accounted for. One must conclude from that, that there was very bad weather in the west, perhaps at a rather short distance, and that it would not be long in reaching these parts.
Negoro watched that vast extent of sea, which was greatly troubled, around the "Pilgrim." Then his eyes, always cold and dry, turned toward the sky.
The aspect of the sky was disturbing. The vapors moved with very different velocities. The clouds of the upper zone traveled more rapidly than those of the low strata of the atmosphere. The case then must be foreseen, in which those heavy masses would fall, and might change into a tempest, perhaps a hurricane, what was yet only a very stiff breeze—that is to say, a displacement of the air at the rate of forty-three miles an hour.
Whether Negoro was not a man to be frightened, or whether he understood nothing of the threats of the weather, he did not appear to be affected. However, an evil smile glided over his lips. One would say, at the end of his observations, that this state of things was rather calculated to please him than to displease him. One moment he mounted on the bowsprit and crawled as far as the ropes, so as to extend his range of vision, as if he were seeking some indication on the horizon. Then he descended again, and tranquilly, without having pronounced a single word, without having made a gesture, he regained the crew's quarters.
Meanwhile, in the midst of all these fearful conjunctions, there remained one happy circumstance which each one on board ought to remember; it was that this wind, violent as it was or might become, was favorable, and that the "Pilgrim" seemed to be rapidly making the American coast. If, indeed, the weather did not turn to tempest, this navigation would continue to be accomplished without great danger, and the veritable perils would only spring up when the question would be to land on some badly ascertained point of the coast.
That was indeed what Dick Sand was already asking himself. When he should once make the land, how should he act, if he did not encounter some pilot, some one who knew the coast? In case the bad weather should oblige him to seek a port of refuge, what should he do, because that coast was to him absolutely unknown? Indeed, he had not yet to trouble himself with that contingency. However, when the hour should come, he would be obliged to adopt some plan. Well, Dick Sand adopted one.
During the thirteen days which elapsed, from the 24th of February to the 9th of March, the state of the atmosphere did not change in any perceptible manner. The sky was always loaded with heavy fogs. For a few hours the wind went down, then it began to blow again with the same force. Two or three times the barometer rose again, but its oscillation, comprising a dozen lines, was too sudden to announce a change of weather and a return of more manageable winds. Besides the barometrical column fell again almost immediately, and nothing could inspire any hope of the end of that bad weather within a short period.
Terrible storms burst forth also, which very seriously disturbed Dick Sand. Two or three times the lightning struck the waves only a few cable-lengths from the ship. Then the rain fell in torrents, and made those whirlpools of half condensed vapors, which surrounded the "Pilgrim" with a thick mist.
For entire hours the man at the lookout saw nothing, and the ship sailed at random.
Even though the ship, although resting firmly on the waves, was horribly shaken, Mrs. Weldon, fortunately, supported this rolling and pitching without being incommoded. But her little boy was very much tried, and she was obliged to give him all her care.
As to Cousin Benedict, he was no more sick than the American cockroaches which he made his society, and he passed his time in studying, as if he were quietly settled in his study in San Francisco.
Very fortunately, also, Tom and his companions found themselves little sensitive to sea-sickness, and they could continue to come to the young novice's aid—well accustomed, himself, to all those excessive movements of a ship which flies before the weather.
The "Pilgrim" ran rapidly under this reduced sail, and already Dick Sand foresaw that he would be obliged to reduce it again. But he wished to hold out as long as it would be possible to do so without danger. According to his reckoning, the coast ought to be no longer distant. So they watched with care. All the time the novice could hardly trust his companions' eyes to discover the first indications of land. In fact, no matter what good sight he may have, he who is not accustomed to interrogating the sea horizons is not skilful in distinguishing the first contours of a coast, above all in the middle of fogs. So Dick Sand must watch himself, and he often climbed as far as the spars to see better. But no sign yet of the American coast.
This astonished him, and Mrs. Weldon, by some words which escaped him, understood that astonishment.
It was the 9th of March. The novice kept at the prow, sometimes observing the sea and the sky, sometimes looking at the "Pilgrim's" masting, which began to strain under the force of the wind.
"You see nothing yet, Dick?" she asked him, at a moment when he had just left the long lookout.
"Nothing, Mrs. Weldon, nothing," replied the novice; and meanwhile, the horizon seems to clear a little under this violent wind, which is going to blow still harder."
"And, according to you, Dick, the American coast ought not to be distant now."
"It cannot be, Mrs. Weldon, and if anything astonishes me, it is not having made it yet."
"Meanwhile," continued Mrs. Weldon, "the ship has always followed the right course."
"Always, since the wind settled in the northwest," replied Dick Sand; "that is to say, since the day when we lost our unfortunate captain and his crew. That was the 10th of February. We are now on the 9th of March. There have been then, twenty-seven since that."
"But at that period what distance were we from the coast?" asked Mrs. Weldon.
"About four thousand five hundred miles, Mrs. Weldon. If there are things about which I have more than a doubt, I can at least guarantee this figure within about twenty miles."
"And what has been the ship's speed?"
"On an average, a hundred and eighty miles a day since the wind freshened," replied the novice. "So, I am surprised at not being in sight of land. And, what is still more extraordinary, is that we do not meet even a single one of those vessels which generally frequent these parts!"
"Could you not be deceived, Dick," returned Mrs. Weldon, "in estimating the 'Pilgrim's' speed?"
"No, Mrs. Weldon. On that point I could not be mistaken. The log has been thrown every half hour, and I have taken its indications very accurately. Wait, I am going to have it thrown anew, and you will see that we are sailing at this moment at the rate of ten miles an hour, which would give us more than two hundred miles a day."
Dick Sand called Tom, and gave him the order to throw the log, an operation to which the old black was now quite accustomed.
The log, firmly fastened to the end of the line, was brought and sent out.
Twenty-five fathoms were hardly unrolled, when the rope suddenly slackened between Tom's hands.
"Ah! Mr. Dick!" cried he.
"The rope has broken!"
"Broken!" cried Dick Sand. "And the log is lost!"
Old Tom showed the end of the rope which remained in his hand.
It was only too true. It was not the fastening which had failed. The rope had broken in the middle. And, nevertheless, that rope was of the first quality. It must have been, then, that the strands of the rope at the point of rupture were singularly worn! They were, in fact, and Dick Sand could tell that when he had the end of the rope in his hands! But had they become so by use? was what the novice, become suspicious, asked himself.
However that was, the log was now lost, and Dick Sand had no longer any means of telling exactly the speed of his ship. In the way of instruments, he only possessed one compass, and he did not know that its indications were false.
Mrs. Weldon saw him so saddened by this accident, that she did not wish to insist, and, with a very heavy heart, she retired into her cabin.
But if the "Pilgrim's" speed and consequently the way sailed over could no longer be estimated, it was easy to tell that the ship's headway was not diminishing.
In fact, the next day, March 10th, the barometer fell to twenty-eight and two-tenths inches. It was the announcement of one of those blasts of wind which travel as much as sixty miles an hour.
It became urgent to change once more the state of the sails, so as not to risk the security of the vessel.
Dick Sand resolved to bring down his top-gallant mast and his fore-staff, and to furl his low sails, so as to sail under his foretop-mast stay-sail and the low reef of his top-sail.
He called Tom and his companions to help him in that difficult operation, which, unfortunately, could not be executed with rapidity.
And meanwhile time pressed, for the tempest already declared itself with violence.
Dick Sands, Austin, Acteon, and Bat climbed into the masting, while Tom remained at the wheel, and Hercules on the deck, so as to slacken the ropes, as soon as he was commanded.
After numerous efforts, the fore-staff and the top-gallant mast were gotten down upon the deck, not without these honest men having a hundred times risked being precipitated into the sea, the rolling shook the masting to such an extent. Then, the top-sail having been lessened and the foresail furled, the schooner carried only her foretop-mast stay-sail and the low reef of the top-sail.
Even though her sails were then extremely reduced, the "Pilgrim" continued, none the less, to sail with excessive velocity.
The 12th the weather took a still worse appearance. On that day, at dawn, Dick Sand saw, not without terror, the barometer fall to twenty-seven and nine-tenths inches. It was a real tempest which was raging, and such that the "Pilgrim" could not carry even the little sail she had left.
Dick Sand, seeing that his top-sail was going to be torn, gave the order to furl. But it was in vain. A more violent gust struck the ship at that moment, and tore off the sail. Austin, who was on the yard of the foretop-sail, was struck by the larboard sheet-rope. Wounded, but rather slightly, he could climb down again to the deck.
Dick Sand, extremely anxious, had but one thought. It was that the ship, urged with such fury, was going to be dashed to pieces every moment; for, according to his calculation, the rocks of the coast could not be distant. He then returned to the prow, but he saw nothing which had the appearance of land, and then, came back to the wheel.
A moment after Negoro came on deck. There, suddenly, as if in spite of himself, his arm was extended toward a point of the horizon. One would say that he recognized some high land in the fogs!
Still, once more he smiled wickedly, and without saying anything of what he had been able to see, he returned to his post.
* * * * *
ON THE HORIZON.
At that date the tempest took its most terrible form, that of the hurricane. The wind had set in from the southwest. The air moved with a velocity of ninety miles an hour. It was indeed a hurricane, in fact, one of those terrible windstorms which wrecks all the ships of a roadstead, and which, even on land, the most solid structures cannot resist. Such was the one which, on the 25th of July, 1825, devastated Guadaloupe. When heavy cannons, carrying balls of twenty-four pounds, are raised from their carriages, one may imagine what would become of a ship which has no other point of support than an unsteady sea? And meanwhile, it is to its mobility alone that she may owe her salvation. She yields to the wind, and, provided she is strongly built, she is in a condition to brave the most violent surges. That was the case with the "Pilgrim."
A few minutes after the top-sail had been torn in pieces, the foretop-mast stay-sail was in its turn torn off. Dick Sand must then give up the idea of setting even a storm-jib—a small sail of strong linen, which would make the ship easier to govern.
The "Pilgrim" then ran without canvas, but the wind took effect on her hull, her masts, her rigging, and nothing more was needed to impart to her an excessive velocity. Sometimes even she seemed to emerge from the waves, and it was to be believed that she hardly grazed them. Under these circumstances, the rolling of the ship, tossed about on the enormous billows raised by the tempest, was frightful. There was danger of receiving some monstrous surge aft. Those mountains of water ran faster than the schooner, threatening to strike her stern if she did not rise pretty fast. That is extreme danger for every ship which scuds before the tempest. But what could be done to ward off that contingency? Greater speed could not be imparted to the "Pilgrim," because she would not have kept the smallest piece of canvas. She must then be managed as much as possible by means of the helm, whose action was often powerless.
Dick Sand no longer left the helm. He was lashed by the waist, so as not to be carried away by some surge. Tom and Bat, fastened also, stood near to help him. Hercules and Acteon, bound to the bitts, watched forward. As to Mrs. Weldon, to Little Jack, to Cousin Benedict, to Nan, they remained, by order of the novice, in the aft cabins. Mrs. Weldon would have preferred to have remained on deck, but Dick Sand was strongly opposed to it; it would be exposing herself uselessly.
All the scuttles had been hermetically nailed up. It was hoped that they would resist if some formidable billow should fall on the ship. If, by any mischance, they should yield under the weight of these avalanches, the ship might fill and sink. Very fortunately, also, the stowage had been well attended to, so that, notwithstanding the terrible tossing of the vessel, her cargo was not moved about.
Dick Sand had again reduced the number of hours which he gave to sleep. So Mrs. Weldon began to fear that he would take sick. She made him consent to take some repose.
Now, it was while he was still lying down, during the night of the 13th to the 14th of March, that a new incident took place.
Tom and Bat were aft, when Negoro, who rarely appeared on that part of the deck, drew near, and even seemed to wish to enter into conversation with them; but Tom and his son did not reply to him.
Suddenly, in a violent rolling of the ship, Negoro fell, and he would, doubtless, have been thrown into the sea if he had not held on to the binnacle.
Tom gave a cry, fearing the compass would be broken.
Dick Sand, in a moment of wakefulness, heard that cry, and rushing out of his quarters, he ran aft.
Negoro had already risen, but he held in his hand the piece of iron which he had just taken from under the binnacle, and he hid it before Dick Sand could see it.
Was it, then, Negoro's interest for the magnetic needle to return to its true direction? Yes, for these southwest winds served him now!
"What's the matter?" asked the novice.
"It's that cook of misfortune, who has just fallen on the compass!" replied Tom.
At those words Dick Sand, in the greatest anxiety, leaned over the binnacle. It was in good condition; the compass, lighted by two lamps, rested as usual on its concentric circles.
The young novice was greatly affected. The breaking of the only compass on board would be an irreparable misfortune.
But what Dick Sand could not observe was that, since the taking away of the piece of iron, the needle had returned to its normal position, and indicated exactly the magnetic north as it ought to be under that meridian.
Meanwhile, if Negoro could not be made responsible for a fall which seemed to be involuntary, Dick Sand had reason to be astonished that he was, at that hour, aft in the ship.
"What are you doing there?" he asked him.
"What I please," replied Negoro.
"You say——" cried Dick Sand, who could not restrain his anger.
"I say," replied the head cook, "that there is no rule which forbids walking aft."
"Well, I make that the rule," replied Dick Sand, "and I forbid you, remember, to come aft."
"Indeed!" replied Negoro.
That man, so entirely under self-control, then made a menacing gesture.
The novice drew a revolver from his pocket, and pointed it at the head cook.
"Negoro," said he, "recollect that I am never without this revolver, and that on the first act of insubordination I shall blow out your brains!"
At that moment Negoro felt himself irresistibly bent to the deck.
It was Hercules, who had just simply laid his heavy hand on Negoro's shoulder.
"Captain Sand," said the giant, "do you want me to throw this rascal overboard? He will regale the fishes, who are not hard to please!"
"Not yet," replied Dick Sand.
Negoro rose as soon as the black's hand no longer weighed upon him. But, in passing Hercules:
"Accursed negro," murmured he, "I'll pay you back!"
Meanwhile, the wind had just changed; at least, it seemed to have veered round forty-five degrees. And, notwithstanding, a singular thing, which struck the novice, nothing in the condition of the sea indicated that change. The ship headed the same way all the time, but the wind and the waves, instead of taking her directly aft, now struck her by the larboard quarter—a very dangerous situation, which exposes a ship to receive bad surges. So Dick Sand was obliged to veer round four points to continue to scud before the tempest.