"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. Weldon.
"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 parts!"
"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 out.
Twenty-five fathoms were hardly unrolled, when the rope suddenly slackened between Tom's hands.
"Ah! Mr. Dick!" cried he.
"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.