He had then this sentiment, that, if a frightful responsibility fell upon him in the future, it was for him to have the strength to accept it. He dared to look at the survivors of the "Pilgrim," whose eyes were now fixed on him. And, reading in their faces that he could count on them, he said to them in two words, that they could in their turn count on him.
Dick Sand had, in all sincerity, examined his conscience.
If he was capable of taking in or setting the sails of the schooner, according to circumstances, by employing the arms of Tom and his companions, he evidently did not yet possess all the knowledge necessary to determine his position by calculation.
In four or five years more, Dick Sand would know thoroughly that beautiful and difficult sailor's craft. He would know how to use the sextant--that instrument which Captain Hull's hand had held every day, and which gave him the height of the stars. He would read on the chronometer the hour of the meridian of Greenwich, and from it would be able to deduce the longitude by the hour angle. The sun would be made his counselor each day. The moon--the planets would say to him, "There, on that point of the ocean, is thy ship!" That firmament, on which the stars move like the hands of a perfect clock, which nothing shakes nor can derange, and whose accuracy is absolute--that firmament would tell him the hours and the distances. By astronomical observations he would know, as his captain had known every day, nearly to a mile, the place occupied by the "Pilgrim," and the course followed as well as the course to follow.
And now, by reckoning, that is by the progress measured on the log, pointed out by the compass, and corrected by the drift, he must alone ask his way.
However, he did not falter.
Mrs. Weldon understood all that was passing in the young novice's resolute heart.
"Thank you, Dick," she said to him, in a voice which did not tremble. "Captain Hull is no more. All his crew have perished with him. The fate of the ship is in your hands! Dick, you will save the ship and those on board!"
"Yes, Mrs. Weldon," replied Dick Sand, "yes! I shall attempt it, with the aid of God!"
"Tom and his companions are honest men on whom you can depend entirely."
"I know it, and I shall make sailors of them, and we shall work together. With fine weather that will be easy. With bad weather--well, with bad weather, we shall strive, and we shall save you yet, Mrs. Weldon--you and your little Jack, both! Yes, I feel that I shall do it."
And he repeated:
"With the aid of God!"
"Now, Dick, can you tell where the 'Pilgrim' is?" asked Mrs. Weldon.
"Easily," replied the novice. "I have only to consult the chart on board, on which her position was marked yesterday by Captain Hull."
"And will you be able to put the ship in the right direction?"
"Yes, I shall be able to put her prow to the east, nearly at the point of the American coast that we must reach."
"But, Dick," returned Mrs. Weldon, "you well understand, do you not, that this catastrophe may, and indeed must, modify our first projects? It is no longer a question of taking the 'Pilgrim' to Valparaiso. The nearest port of the American coast is now her port of destination."
"Certainly, Mrs. Weldon," replied the novice. "So fear nothing! We cannot fail to reach that American coast which stretches so far to the south."
"Where is it situated?" asked Mrs. Weldon.
"There, in that direction," replied Dick Sand, pointing to the east, which he knew by means of the compass.
"Well, Dick, we may reach Valparaiso, or any other part of the coast. What matter? What we want is to land."
"And we shall do it, Mrs. Weldon, and I shall land you on a good place," replied the young man, in a firm voice. "Besides, in standing in for the land, I do not renounce the hope of encountering some of those vessels which do the coasting trade on that shore. Ah! Mrs. Weldon, the wind begins to blow steadily from the northwest! God grant that it may keep on; we shall make progress, and good progress.