It was eight o'clock in the morning. Dick Sand had just ascended into the bars. At that moment the fogs were condensed under the first rays of the sun, and the horizon was pretty clearly defined.
From Dick Sand's lips escaped at last the so long expected cry:
"Land! land before us!"
At that cry every one ran on deck, little Jack, curious as folks are at that age, Mrs. Weldon, whose trials were going to cease with the landing, Tom and his companions, who were at last going to set foot again on the American continent, Cousin Benedict himself, who had great hope of picking up quite a rich collection of new insects for himself.
Negoro, alone, did not appear.
Each then saw what Dick Sand had seen, some very distinctly, others with the eyes of faith. But on the part of the novice, so accustomed to observe sea horizons, there was no error possible, and an hour after, it must be allowed he was not deceived.
At a distance of about four miles to the east stretched a rather low coast, or at least what appeared such. It must be commanded behind by the high chain of the Andes, but the last zone of clouds did not allow the summits to be perceived.
The "Pilgrim" sailed directly and rapidly to this coast, which grew larger to the eye.
Two hours after it was only three miles away.
This part of the coast ended in the northeast by a pretty high cape, which covered a sort of roadstead protected from land winds. On the contrary, in the southeast, it lengthened out like a thin peninsula.
A few trees crowned a succession of low cliffs, which were then clearly defined under the sky. But it was evident, the geographical character of the country being given, that the high mountain chain of the Andes formed their background.
Moreover, no habitation in sight, no port, no river mouth, which might serve as a harbor for a vessel.
At that moment the "Pilgrim" was running right on the land. With the reduced sail which she carried, the winds driving her to the coast, Dick Sand would not be able to set off from it.
In front lay a long band of reefs, on which the sea was foaming all white. They saw the waves unfurl half way up the cliffs. There must be a monstrous surf there.
Dick Sand, after remaining on the forecastle to observe the coast, returned aft, and, without saying a word, he took the helm.
The wind was freshening all the time. The schooner was soon only a mile from the shore.
Dick Sand then perceived a sort of little cove, into which he resolved to steer; but, before reaching it, he must cross a line of reefs, among which it would be difficult to follow a channel. The surf indicated that the water was shallow everywhere.
At that moment Dingo, who was going backwards and forwards on the deck, dashed forward, and, looking at the land, gave some lamentable barks. One would say that the dog recognized the coast, and that its instinct recalled some sad remembrance.
Negoro must have heard it, for an irresistible sentiment led him out of his cabin; and although he had reason to fear the dog, he came almost immediately to lean on the netting.
Very fortunately for him Dingo, whose sad barks were all the time being addressed to that land, did not perceive him.
Negoro looked at that furious surf, and that did not appear to frighten him. Mrs. Weldon, who was looking at him, thought she saw his face redden a little, and that for an instant his features were contracted.
Then, did Negoro know this point of the continent where the winds were driving the "Pilgrim?"
At that moment Dick Sand left the wheel, which he gave back to old Tom. For a last time he came to look at the cove, which gradually opened. Then:
"Mrs. Weldon," said he, in a firm voice, "I have no longer any hope of finding a harbor! Before half an hour, in spite of all my efforts, the 'Pilgrim' will be on the reefs! We must run aground! I shall not bring the ship into port! I am forced to lose her to save you! But, between your safety and hers, I do not hesitate!"
"You have done all that depended on you, Dick?" asked Mrs.