Chapter 12 – On The Horizon

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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

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

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

"Negoro," said he, "recollect that I am never without this revolver,
and that on the first act of insubordination I shall blow out your

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

"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.

But, on the other hand, his attention was awakened more than ever. He
asked himself if there was not some connection between Negoro’s fall
and the breaking of the first compass. What did the head cook intend to
do there? Had he some interest in putting the second compass out of
service also? What could that interest be? There was no explanation of
that. Must not Negoro desire, as they all desired, to land on the
American coast as soon as possible?

When Dick Sand spoke of this incident to Mrs. Weldon, the latter,
though she shared his distrust in a certain measure, could find no
plausible motive for what would be criminal premeditation on the part
of the head cook.

However, as a matter of prudence, Negoro was well watched. Thereafter
he attended to the novice’s orders and he did not risk coming aft in
the ship, where his duties never called him. Besides, Dingo having been
installed there permanently, the cook took earn to keep away.

During all that week the tempest did not abate. The barometer fell
again. From the 14th to the 26th of March it was impossible to profit
by a single calm to set a few sails. The "Pilgrim" scudded to the
northeast with a speed which could not be less than two hundred miles
in twenty-four hours, and still the land did not appear! – that land,
America, which is thrown like an immense barrier between the Atlantic
and the Pacific, over an extent of more than a hundred and twenty

Dick Sand asked himself if he was not a fool, if he was still in his
right mind, if, for so many days, unknown to him, he was not sailing in
a false direction. No, he could not find fault with himself on that
point. The sun, even though he could not perceive it in the fogs,
always rose before him to set behind him. But, then, that land, had it
disappeared? That America, on which his vessel would go to pieces,
perhaps, where was it, if it was not there? Be it the Southern
Continent or the Northern Continent – for anything way possible in that
chaos – the "Pilgrim" could not miss either one or the other. What had
happened since the beginning of this frightful tempest? What was still
going on, as that coast, whether it should prove salvation or
destruction, did not appear? Must Dick Sand suppose, then, that he was
deceived by his compass, whose indications he could no longer control,
because the second compass was lacking to make that control? Truly, he
had that fear which the absence of all land might justify.

So, when he was at the helm, Dick Sand did not cease to devour the
chart with his eyes. But he interrogated it in vain; it could not give
him the solution of an enigma which, in the situation in which Negoro
had placed him, was incomprehensible for him, as it would have been for
any one else.

On this day, however, the 26th of March, towards eight o’clock in the
morning, an incident of the greatest importance took place.

Hercules, on watch forward, gave this cry:

"Land! land!"

Dick Sand sprang to the forecastle. Hercules could not have eyes like a
seaman. Was he not mistaken?

"Land?" cried Dick Sand.

"There," replied Hercules, showing an almost imperceptible point on the
horizon in the northeast.

They hardly heard each other speak in the midst of the roaring of the
sea and the sky.

"You have seen the land?" said the novice.

"Yes," replied Hercules.

And his hand was still stretched out to larboard forward.

The novice looked. He saw nothing.

At that moment, Mrs. Weldon, who had heard the cry given by Hercules,
came up on deck, notwithstanding her promise not to come there.

"Madam!" cried Dick Sand.

Mrs. Weldon, unable to make herself heard, tried, for herself, to
perceive that land signaled by the black, and she seemed to have
concentrated all her life in her eyes.

It must be believed that Hercules’s hand indicated badly the point of
the horizon which he wished to show: neither Mrs. Weldon nor the novice
could see anything.

But, suddenly, Dick Sand in turn stretched out his hand.

"Yes! yes! land!" said he.

A kind of summit had just appeared in an opening in the fog. His
sailor’s eyes could not deceive him.

"At last!" cried he; "at last!"

He clang feverishly to the netting. Mrs. Weldon, sustained by Hercules,
continued to watch that land almost despaired of.

The coast, formed by that high summit, rose at a distance of ten miles
to leeward.

The opening being completely made in a breaking of the clouds, they saw
it again more distinctly. Doubtless it was some promontory of the
American continent. The "Pilgrim," without sails, was not in a
condition to head toward it, but it could not fail to make the land

That could be only a question of a few hours. Now, it was eight o’clock
in the morning. Then, very certainly, before noon the "Pilgrim" would
be near the land.

At a sign from Dick Sand, Hercules led Mrs. Weldon aft again, for she
could not bear up against the violence of the pitching.

The novice remained forward for another instant, then he returned to
the helm, near old Tom.

At last, then, he saw that coast, so slowly made, so ardently desired!
but it was now with a feeling of terror.

In fact, in the "Pilgrim’s" present condition, that is to say, scudding
before the tempest, land to leeward, was shipwreck with all its
terrible contingencies.

Two hours passed away. The promontory was then seen off from the ship.

At that moment they saw Negoro come on deck. This time he regarded the
coast with extreme attention, shook his head like a man who would know
what to believe, and went down again, after pronouncing a name that
nobody could hear.

Dick Sand himself sought to perceive the coast, which ought to round
off behind the promontory.

Two hours rolled by. The promontory was standing on the larboard stern,
but the coast was not yet to be traced.

Meanwhile the sky cleared at the horizon, and a high coast, like the
American land, bordered by the immense chain of the Andes, should be
visible for more than twenty miles.

Dick Sand took his telescope and moved it slowly over the whole eastern

Nothing! He could see nothing!

At two o’clock in the afternoon every trace of land had disappeared
behind the "Pilgrim." Forward, the telescope could not seize any
outline whatsoever of a coast, high or low.

Then a cry escaped Dick Sand. Immediately leaving the deck, he rushed
into the cabin, where Mrs. Weldon was with little Jack, Nan, and Cousin

"An island! That was only an island!" said he.

"An island, Dick! but what?" asked Mrs. Weldon.

"The chart will tell us," replied the novice.

And running to his berth, he brought the ship’s chart.

"There, Mrs. Weldon, there!" said he. "That land which we have seen, it
can only be this point, lost in the middle of the Pacific! It can only
be the Isle of Paques; there is no other in these parts."

"And we have already left it behind?" asked Mrs. Weldon.

"Yes, well to the windward of us."

Mrs. Weldon looked attentively at the Isle of Paques, which only formed
an imperceptible point on the chart.

"And at what distance is it from the American coast?"

"Thirty-five degrees."

"Which makes – – "

"About two thousand miles."

"But then the ‘Pilgrim’ has not sailed, if we are still so far from the

"Mrs. Weldon," replied Dick Sand, who passed his hand over his forehead
for a moment, as if to concentrate his ideas, "I do not know – I cannot
explain this incredible delay! No! I cannot – unless the indications of
the compass have been false? But that island can only be the Isle of
Paques, because we have been obliged to scud before the wind to the
northeast, and we must thank Heaven, which has permitted me to mark our
position! Yes, it is still two thousand miles from the coast! I know,
at last, where the tempest has blown us, and, if it abates, we shall be
able to land on the American continent with some chance of safety. Now,
at least, our ship is no longer lost on the immensity of the Pacific!"

This confidence, shown by the young novice, was shared by all those who
heard him speak. Mrs. Weldon, herself, gave way to it. It seemed,
indeed, that these poor people were at the end of their troubles, and
that the "Pilgrim," being to the windward of her port, had only to wait
for the open sea to enter it! The Isle of Paques – by its true name
Vai-Hon – discovered by David in 1686, visited by Cook and Laperouse, is
situated 27° south latitude and 112° east longitude. If the schooner
had been thus led more than fifteen degrees to the north, that was
evidently due to that tempest from the southwest, before which it had
been obliged to scud.

Then the "Pilgrim" was still two thousand miles from the coast.
However, under the impetus of that wind which blew like thunder, it
must, in less than ten days, reach some point of the coast of South

But could they not hope, as the novice had said, that the weather would
become more manageable, and that it would be possible to set some sail,
when they should make the land?

It was still Dick Sand’s hope. He said to himself that this hurricane,
which had lasted so many days, would end perhaps by "killing itself."
And now that, thanks to the appearance of the Isle of Paques, he knew
exactly his position, he had reason to believe that, once master of his
vessel again, he would know how to lead her to a safe place.

Yes! to have had knowledge of that isolated point in the middle of the
sea, as by a providential favor, that had restored confidence to Dick
Sand; if he was going all the time at the caprice of a hurricane, which
he could not subdue, at least, he was no longer going quite blindfold.

Besides, the "Pilgrim," well-built and rigged, had suffered little
during those rude attacks of the tempest. Her damages reduced
themselves to the loss of the top-sail and the foretop-mast
stay-sail – a loss which it would be easy to repair. Not a drop of water
had penetrated through the well-stanched seams of the hull and the
deck. The pumps were perfectly free. In this respect there was nothing
to fear.

There was, then, this interminable hurricane, whose fury nothing seemed
able to moderate. If, in a certain measure, Dick Sand could put his
ship in a condition to struggle against the violent storm, he could not
order that wind to moderate, those waves to be still, that sky to
become serene again. On board, if he was "master after God," outside
the ship, God alone commanded the winds and the waves.


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