But that was not the moment to allow himself to be cast down. Dick Sand had said all that to himself. Mrs. Weldon found him as energetic as he had ever been.
And then he had confidence, that brave Sand, and if confidence does not command itself, at least it commands.
"Dick, my dear child, my captain," said Mrs. Weldon, holding out her hand to the young novice.
"Ah! Mrs. Weldon," exclaimed Dick Sand, smiling, "you disobey your captain. You return on deck, you leave your cabin in spite of his--prayers."
"Yes, I disobey you," replied Mrs. Weldon; "but I have, as it were, a presentiment that the tempest is going down or is going to become calm."
"It is becoming calm, in fact, Mrs. Weldon," replied the novice. "You are not mistaken. The barometer has not fallen since yesterday. The wind has moderated, and I have reason to believe that our hardest trials are over."
"Heaven hears you, Dick. All! you have suffered much, my poor child! You have done there----"
"Only my duty, Mrs. Weldon."
"But at last will you be able to take some rest?"
"Rest!" replied the novice; "I have no need of rest, Mrs. Weldon. I am well, thank God, and it is necessary for me to keep up to the end. You have called me captain, and I shall remain captain till the moment when all the 'Pilgrim's' passengers shall be in safety."
"Dick," returned Mrs. Weldon, "my husband and I, we shall never forget what you have just done."
"God has done all," replied Dick Sand; "all!"
"My child, I repeat it, that by your moral and physical energy, you have shown yourself a man--a man fit to command, and before long, as soon as your studies are finished--my husband will not contradict me--you will command for the house of James W. Weldon!"
"I--I----" exclaimed Dick Sand, whose eyes filled with tears.
"Dick," replied Mrs. Weldon, "you are already our child by adoption, and now, you are our son, the deliverer of your mother, and of your little brother Jack. My dear Dick, I embrace you for my husband and for myself!"
The courageous woman did not wish to give way while clasping the young novice in her arms, but her heart overflowed. As to Dick Sand's feelings, what pen could do them justice? He asked himself if he could not do more than give his life for his benefactors, and he accepted in advance all the trials which might come upon him in the future.
After this conversation Dick Sand felt stronger. If the wind should become so moderate that he should be able to hoist some canvas, he did not doubt being able to steer his ship to a port where all those which it carried would at last be in safety.
On the 29th, the wind having moderated a little, Dick Sand thought of setting the foresail and the top-sail, consequently to increase the speed of the "Pilgrim" while directing her course.
"Come, Tom; come, my friends!" cried he, when he went on deck at daybreak; "come, I need your arms!"
"We are ready, Captain Sand," replied old Tom.
"Ready for everything," added Hercules. "There was nothing to do during that tempest, and I begin to grow rusty."
"You should have blown with your big mouth," said little Jack; "I bet you would have been as strong as the wind!"
"That is an idea, Jack," replied Dick Sand, laughing. "When there is a calm we shall make Hercules blow on the sails."
"At your service, Mister Dick!" replied the brave black, inflating his cheeks like a gigantic Boreas.
"Now, my friends," continued the novice, we are to begin by binding a spare sail to the yard, because our top-sail was carried away in the hurricane. It will be difficult, perhaps, but it must be done."
"It shall be done!" replied Acteon.
"Can I help you?" asked little Jack, always ready to work.
"Yes, my Jack," replied the novice. "You will take your place at the wheel, with our friend Bat, and you will help him to steer."
If little Jack was proud of being assistant helmsman on the "Pilgrim," it is superfluous to say so.
"Now to work," continued Dick Sand, "and we must expose ourselves as little as possible."
The blacks, guided by the novice, went to work at once.