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 binnacle.

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 meridian.

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 cook.

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

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 shoulder.

"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.

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A Captain at Fifteen Page 48

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Jules Verne

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