Dick Sand and Jack, toward nine o'clock in the morning, in very clear weather, were installed on the booms of the mizzen-topmast. Thence they looked down on the whole ship and a portion of the ocean in a largo circumference. Behind, the perimeter of the horizon was broken to their eyes, only by the mainmast, carrying brigantine and fore-staff. That beacon hid from them a part of the sea and the sky. In the front, they saw the bowsprit stretching over the waves, with its three jibs, which were hauled tightly, spread out like three great unequal wings. Underneath rounded the foremast, and above, the little top-sail and the little gallant-sail, whose bolt-rope quivered with the pranks of the breeze. The schooner was then running on the larboard tack, and hugging the wind as much as possible.
Dick Sand explained to Jack how the "Pilgrim," ballasted properly, well balanced in all her parts, could not capsize, even if she gave a pretty strong heel to starboard, when the little boy interrupted him.
"What do I see there?" said he.
"You see something, Jack?" demanded Dick Sand, who stood up straight on the booms.
"Yes--there!" replied little Jack, showing a point of the sea, left open by the interval between the stays of the standing-jib and the flying-jib.
Dick Sand looked at the point indicated attentively, and forthwith, with a loud voice, he cried;
"A wreck to windward, over against starboard!"
* * * * *
Dick Sand's cry brought all the crew to their feet. The men who were not on watch came on deck. Captain Hull, leaving his cabin, went toward the bow.
Mrs. Weldon, Nan, even the indifferent Cousin Benedict himself, came to lean over the starboard rail, so as to see the wreck signaled by the young novice.
Negoro, alone, did not leave the cabin, which served him for a kitchen; and as usual, of all the crew, he was the only one whom the encounter with a wreck did not appear to interest.
Then all regarded attentively the floating object which the waves were rocking, three miles from the "Pilgrim."
"Ah! what can that be?" said a sailor.
"Some abandoned raft," replied another.
"Perhaps there are some unhappy shipwrecked ones on that raft," said Mrs. Weldon.
"We shall find out," replied Captain Hull. "But that wreck is not a raft. It is a hull thrown over on the side."
"Ah! is it not more likely to be some marine animal--some mammifer of great size?" observed Cousin Benedict.
"I do not think so," replied the novice.
"Then what is your idea, Dick?" asked Mrs. Weldon.
"An overturned hull, as the captain has said, Mrs. Weldon. It even seems to me that I see its copper keel glistening in the sun."
"Yes--indeed," replied Captain Hull. Then addressing the helmsman: "Steer to the windward, Bolton. Let her go a quarter, so as to come alongside the wreck."
"Yes, sir," replied the helmsman.
"But," continued Cousin Benedict, "I keep to what I have said. Positively it is an animal."
"Then this would be a whale in copper," replied Captain Hull, "for, positively, also, I see it shine in the sun!"
"At all events, Cousin Benedict," added Mrs. Weldon, "you will agree with us that this whale must be dead, for it is certain that it does not make the least movement."
"Ah! Cousin Weldon," replied Cousin Benedict, who was obstinate, "this would not be the first time that one has met a whale sleeping on the surface of the waves."
"That is a fact," replied Captain Hull; "but to-day, the thing is not a whale, but a ship."
"We shall soon see," replied Cousin Benedict, who, after all, would give all the mammifers of the Arctic or Antarctic seas for an insect of a rare species.
"Steer, Bolton, steer!" cried Captain Hull again, "and do not board the wreck. Keep a cable's length. If we cannot do much harm to this hull, it might cause us some damage, and I do not care to hurt the sides of the 'Pilgrim' with it. Tack a little, Bolton, tack!"
The "Pilgrim's" prow, which had been directed toward the wreck, was turned aside by a slight movement of the helm.