They understood it. Its pantomime and its language were as clear as a man's language could be. The boat was brought immediately as far as the larboard cat-head. There the two sailors moored it firmly, while Captain Hull and Dick Sand, setting foot on the deck at the same time as the dog, raised themselves, not without difficulty, to the hatch which opened between the stumps of the two masts.
By this hatch the two made their way into the hold.
The "Waldeck's" hold, half full of water, contained no goods. The brig sailed with ballast--a ballast of sand which had slid to larboard and which helped to keep the ship on her side. On that head, then, there was no salvage to effect.
"Nobody here," said Captain Hull.
"Nobody," replied the novice, after having gone to the foremost part of the hold.
But the dog, which was on the deck, kept on barking and seemed to call the captain's attention more imperatively.
"Let us go up again," said Captain Hull to the novice.
Both appeared again on the deck.
The dog, running to them, sought to draw them to the poop.
They followed it.
There, in the square, five bodies--undoubtedly five corpses--were lying on the floor.
By the daylight which entered in waves by the opening, Captain Hull discovered the bodies of five negroes.
Dick Sand, going from one to the other, thought he felt that the unfortunates were still breathing.
"On board! on board!" cried Captain Hull.
The two sailors who took care of the boat were called, and helped to carry the shipwrecked men out of the poop.
This was not without difficulty, but two minutes after, the five blacks were laid in the boat, without being at all conscious that any one was trying to save them. A few drops of cordial, then a little fresh water prudently administered, might, perhaps, recall them to life.
The "Pilgrim" remained a half cable's length from the wreck, and the boat would soon reach her.
A girt-line was let down from the main-yard, and each of the blacks drawn up separately reposed at last on the "Pilgrim's" deck.
The dog had accompanied them.
"The unhappy creatures!" cried Mrs. Weldon, on perceiving those poor men, who were only inert bodies.
"They are alive, Mrs. Weldon. We shall save them. Yes, we shall save them," cried Dick Sand.
"What has happened to them?" demanded Cousin Benedict.
"Wait till they can speak," replied Captain Hull, "and they will tell us their history. But first of all, let us make them drink a little water, in which we shall mix a few drops of rum." Then, turning round: "Negoro!" he called.
At that name the dog stood up as if it knew the sound, its hair bristling, its mouth open.
Meanwhile, the cook did not appear.
"Negoro!" repeated Captain Hull.
The dog again gave signs of extreme fury.
Negoro left the kitchen.
Hardly had he shown himself on the deck, than the dog sprang on him and wanted to jump at his throat.
With a blow from the poker with which he was armed, the cook drove away the animal, which some of the sailors succeeded in holding.
"Do you know this dog?" Captain Hull asked the master cook.
"I?" replied Negoro. "I have never seen it."
"That is singular," murmured Dick Sand.
* * * * *
THE SURVIVORS OF THE "WALDECK."
The slave trade was still carried on, on a large scale, in all equinoctial Africa. Notwithstanding the English and French cruisers, ships loaded with slaves leave the coasts of Angola and Mozambique every year to transport negroes to various parts of the world, and, it must be said, of the civilized world.
Captain Hull was not ignorant of it. Though these parts were not ordinarily frequented by slave-ships, he asked himself if these blacks, whose salvage he had just effected, were not the survivors of a cargo of slaves that the "Waldeck" was going to sell to some Pacific colony. At all events, if that was so, the blacks became free again by the sole act of setting foot on his deck, and he longed to tell it to them.