Moreover, the sea which bears us along feels its power, and large waves are certainly running in shore. It is impossible for us to have remained in the current which was dragging us to the west, we must have been driven out of it, and towards the south. Last time we took our bearings we were two hundred miles from the coast, and in seven days “——
“Your reasonings are very just, Lieutenant,” replied the Sergeant, “and I feel that whether the wind helps us or not, God will not forsake us. It cannot be His will that so many unfortunate creatures should perish, and I put my trust in Him!”
The two talked on in broken sentences, making each other hear above the roaring of the storm, and struggling to pierce the gloom which closed them in on every side; but they could see nothing, not a ray of light broke the thick darkness.
About half past one A.M. the hurricane ceased for a few minutes, whilst the fury of the sea seemed to be redoubled, and the large waves, lashed into foam, broke over each other with a roar like thunder.
Suddenly Hobson seizing his companion’s arm shouted—
“Sergeant, do you hear?”
“The noise of the sea?”
“Of course I do, sir,” replied Long, listening more attentively, “and the sound of the breakers seems to me not”——
“Not exactly the same... isn’t it Sergeant; listen, listen, it is like the sound of surf!... it seems as if the waves were breaking against rocks!”
Hobson and the Sergeant now listened intently, the monotonous sound of the waves dashing against each other in the offing was certainly exchanged for the regular rolling sound produced by the breaking of water against a hard body; they heard the reverberating echoes which told of the neighbourhood of rocks, and they knew that along the whole of the coast of their island there was not a single stone, and nothing more sonorous than the earth and sand of which it was composed!
Could they have been deceived? The Sergeant tried to rise to listen better, but he was immediately flung down by the hurricane, which recommenced with renewed violence. The lull was over, and again the noise of the waves was drowned in the shrill whistling of the wind, and the peculiar echo could no longer be made out.
The anxiety of the two explorers will readily be imagined. They again crouched down in their hole, doubting whether it would not perhaps be prudent to leave even this shelter, for they felt the sand giving way beneath them, and the pines cracking at their very roots. They persevered, however, in gazing towards the south, every nerve strained to the utmost, in the effort to distinguish objects through the darkness.
The first grey twilight of the dawn might soon be expected to appear, and a little before half-past two A.M. Long suddenly exclaimed:
“I see it!”
“Yes, there—over there!”
And he pointed to the south-west. Was he mistaken? No, for Hobson also made out a faint glimmer in the direction indicated.
“Yes!” he cried, “yes, Sergeant, a fire; there is land there!”
“Unless it is a fire on board ship,” replied Long.
“A ship at sea in this weather!” exclaimed Hobson, “impossible! No, no, there is land there, land I tell you, a few miles from us!”
“Well, let us make a signal!”
“Yes, Sergeant, we will reply to the fire on the mainland by a fire on our island!”
Of course neither Hobson nor Long had a torch, but above their heads rose resinous pines distorted by the hurricane.
“Your flint, Sergeant,” said Hobson.
Long at once struck his flint, lighted the touchwood, and creeping along the sand climbed to the foot of the thicket of firs, where he was soon joined by the Lieutenant. There was plenty of deadwood about, and they piled it up at the stems of the trees, set fire to it, and soon, the wind helping them, they had the satisfaction of seeing the whole thicket in a blaze
“Ah!” said Hobson, “as we saw their fire, they will see ours!”
The firs burnt with a lurid glare like a large torch. The dried resin in the old trunks aided the conflagration, and they were rapidly consumed.