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Chapter 10 – The Four Days Which Follow

Jules VerneNov 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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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 anæsthetic 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!

 

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