Two hours later the Count d’Artigas comes up through the main hatchway and takes his customary place aft. Serko and Captain Spade at once approach and engage in conversation with him.
All three raise their telescopes and sweep the horizon from southeast to northeast.
No one will be surprised to learn that I gaze intently in the same direction; but having no telescope I cannot distinguish anything.
The midday meal over we all return on deck—all with the exception of Thomas Roch, who has not quitted his cabin.
Towards one o’clock land is sighted by the lookout man on the foretop cross-tree. Inasmuch as the Elba is bowling along at great speed I shall soon be able to make out the coast line.
In effect, two hours later a vague semicircular line that curves outward is discernible about eight miles off. As the schooner approaches it becomes more distinct. It is a mountain, or at all events very high ground, and from its summit a cloud of smoke ascends.
What! A volcano in these parts? It must then be——
In my opinion the Ebba could have struck no other group of islands but the Bermudas in this part of the Atlantic. This is clear from the distance covered from the American coast and the direction sailed in since we issued from Pamlico Sound. This direction has constantly been south-southeast, and the distance, judging from the Ebba’s rate of speed, which has scarcely varied, is approximately seven hundred and fifty miles.
Still, the schooner does not slacken speed. The Count d’Artigas and Engineer Serko remain aft, by the man at the wheel. Captain Spade has gone forward.
Are we not going to leave this island, which appears to be isolated, to the west?
It does not seem likely, since it is still broad daylight, and the hour at which the Ebba was timed to arrive.
All the sailors are drawn up on deck, awaiting orders, and Boatswain Effrondat is making preparations to anchor.
Ere a couple of hours have passed I shall know all about it. It will be the first answer to one of the many questions that have perplexed me since the schooner put to sea.
And yet it is most unlikely that the port to which the Ebba belongs is situated on one of the Bermuda islands, in the middle of an English archipelago—unless the Count d’Artigas has kidnapped Thomas Roch for the British government, which I cannot believe.
I become aware that this extraordinary man is gazing at me with singular persistence. Although he can have no suspicion that I am Simon Hart, the engineer, he must be asking himself what I think of this adventure. If Warder Gaydon is but a poor devil, this poor devil will manifest as much unconcern as to what is in store for him as any gentleman could—even though he were the proprietor of this queer pleasure yacht. Still I am a little uneasy under his gaze.