I took up the glass from the wheel box, and scanned the line carefully. There was not a thing in sight save the smooth swell, ruffled now by the slight breeze, and turning a deep blue-gray in the light of the early morning. The sun rose from a cloudless horizon and shone warmly upon the wreck. The foam glistened and sparkled in the rosy sunlight, and looking over the rail I could see deep down into the clear depths. The copper on the ship’s bilge looked a light gray, and even the tacks were visible. She drifted slowly along with just steering way, and the spar alongside, which the men had tried to get aboard again, made a gurgling wake with its heel.
“What do you make of it, Chips?” I asked, as the carpenter waded out in the waist and came up the poop ladder.
“Long cruise an’ plenty o’ water, that’s about th’ size av ut, don’t ye think, sir?” the carpenter answered. “Trunnell has been took off, fer sure. I don’t mind stickin’ aboard th’ bleedin’ hooker if there was a chanst to get th’ salvage; but no fear o’ that while Andrews is here. He’ll block any argument to divvy up. Seems as we might even get down under her bilge durin’ this spell av weather, an’ see where th’ leak is located. ’Tis a butt started, most like. Them English stevedores generally rams th’ stuffin’ out av a ship in spite av th’ marks they puts on ’em.”
Captain Sackett came from below and joined us.
“I’d like to get that foremast aboard while it holds calm,” said he; “and if you’ll start the men, we’ll have it done by noon. The sooner we all work together, the better. We ought to get sail on forward in less than a week, and then, with a jury topmast, make enough way to get in while the grub holds out.”
The steward got breakfast in the after-cabin, and as soon as the men had eaten they were turned to rigging tackles to hoist the dragging foremast aboard. It was trailing by the lee rigging, which had held, and it had thumped and pounded along the ship’s side to such an extent during the blow that several of her strakes were nearly punched through. It was a beautiful morning,—the blue sky overhead and the calm, blue ocean all around us. The men worked well, and even the sour ruffian, Andrews, who stood near and took charge of part of the work,—for he was an expert sailor,—seemed to brighten under the sun’s influence. Chips went to work at the stump of the foremast, and cut well into it at a point almost level with the deck. This he fashioned into a scarf-joint for a corresponding cut in the piece of mast which had gone overboard. Tackles were rigged from the main-topmast head, and, by a careful bracing with guys forward and at both sides, the wreck of the foremast was slowly raised aboard.
The Sovereign forged ahead faster when relieved of this load. On the second day, when we had the foremast fished, and the yards, which had held to it, safe on deck, ready to be hoisted and slung again, we found that the vessel had made over seventy miles to the westward along the thirty-eighth parallel. This was over a mile an hour; but of course some of this drift was due to the edge of the Agullas current, which was setting somewhat to the southward and westward.