Chapter 11 – Tempest

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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

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

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.

"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

"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

Twenty-five fathoms were hardly unrolled, when the rope suddenly
slackened between Tom’s hands.

"Ah! Mr. Dick!" cried he.

"Well, Tom?"

"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.


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