But, suddenly, Dick Sand in turn stretched out his hand.
"Yes! yes! land!" said he.
A kind of summit had just appeared in an opening in the fog. His sailor's eyes could not deceive him.
"At last!" cried he; "at last!"
He clang feverishly to the netting. Mrs. Weldon, sustained by Hercules, continued to watch that land almost despaired of.
The coast, formed by that high summit, rose at a distance of ten miles to leeward.
The opening being completely made in a breaking of the clouds, they saw it again more distinctly. Doubtless it was some promontory of the American continent. The "Pilgrim," without sails, was not in a condition to head toward it, but it could not fail to make the land there.
That could be only a question of a few hours. Now, it was eight o'clock in the morning. Then, very certainly, before noon the "Pilgrim" would be near the land.
At a sign from Dick Sand, Hercules led Mrs. Weldon aft again, for she could not bear up against the violence of the pitching.
The novice remained forward for another instant, then he returned to the helm, near old Tom.
At last, then, he saw that coast, so slowly made, so ardently desired! but it was now with a feeling of terror.
In fact, in the "Pilgrim's" present condition, that is to say, scudding before the tempest, land to leeward, was shipwreck with all its terrible contingencies.
Two hours passed away. The promontory was then seen off from the ship.
At that moment they saw Negoro come on deck. This time he regarded the coast with extreme attention, shook his head like a man who would know what to believe, and went down again, after pronouncing a name that nobody could hear.
Dick Sand himself sought to perceive the coast, which ought to round off behind the promontory.
Two hours rolled by. The promontory was standing on the larboard stern, but the coast was not yet to be traced.
Meanwhile the sky cleared at the horizon, and a high coast, like the American land, bordered by the immense chain of the Andes, should be visible for more than twenty miles.
Dick Sand took his telescope and moved it slowly over the whole eastern horizon.
Nothing! He could see nothing!
At two o'clock in the afternoon every trace of land had disappeared behind the "Pilgrim." Forward, the telescope could not seize any outline whatsoever of a coast, high or low.
Then a cry escaped Dick Sand. Immediately leaving the deck, he rushed into the cabin, where Mrs. Weldon was with little Jack, Nan, and Cousin Benedict.
"An island! That was only an island!" said he.
"An island, Dick! but what?" asked Mrs. Weldon.
"The chart will tell us," replied the novice.
And running to his berth, he brought the ship's chart.
"There, Mrs. Weldon, there!" said he. "That land which we have seen, it can only be this point, lost in the middle of the Pacific! It can only be the Isle of Paques; there is no other in these parts."
"And we have already left it behind?" asked Mrs. Weldon.
"Yes, well to the windward of us."
Mrs. Weldon looked attentively at the Isle of Paques, which only formed an imperceptible point on the chart.
"And at what distance is it from the American coast?"
"About two thousand miles."
"But then the 'Pilgrim' has not sailed, if we are still so far from the continent?"
"Mrs. Weldon," replied Dick Sand, who passed his hand over his forehead for a moment, as if to concentrate his ideas, "I do not know--I cannot explain this incredible delay! No! I cannot--unless the indications of the compass have been false? But that island can only be the Isle of Paques, because we have been obliged to scud before the wind to the northeast, and we must thank Heaven, which has permitted me to mark our position! Yes, it is still two thousand miles from the coast! I know, at last, where the tempest has blown us, and, if it abates, we shall be able to land on the American continent with some chance of safety. Now, at least, our ship is no longer lost on the immensity of the Pacific!"
This confidence, shown by the young novice, was shared by all those who heard him speak.