“On the contrary, it blows fresher than ever. I did not expect such a nasty time as we are having of it,” added the commander.
“According to Captain Haines of the Indian navy, we may expect it to last five days longer, for we have had nearly one day of it.”
“Not quite so bad as that, Mr. Scott. If we had stayed in the vicinity of Kuria Muria Bay, we might have got five days more of it; but this is a local storm, and we shall doubtless run out of it in a day or two at most, and come again into the region of the north-east monsoon.”
“I hope so for the sake of those in the cabin; and I did not think of the local feature you mention.”
“The deck is well officered now,” added the captain with a gape, “and I will take a nap in my cabin for an hour or two. Mr. Boulong will have me called if the storm gets any worse.”
The commander went to his cabin, and Scott walked aft to the compass abaft the mainmast. The binnacle was lighted, and he looked into it. The course was all right, though the ship yawed a good deal in the trough of the sea, the gale pelting her squarely on the beam. Though it was not an easy thing even for a thorough seaman to preserve his centre of gravity, the young officer made his way fore and aft with the aid of the life-lines which had been extended the evening before. He watched the motions of the Blanche, for there was nothing else to be seen but the waste of angry waters.
Far ahead the light of the breaking day began to penetrate the gloomy black clouds. It was a pleasure to come out of the deep darkness, and he observed with interest the increase of the light. While he was watching the east, the lookout man in the foretop hailed the deck. He listened and moved forward to the foremast to hear what passed between him and the first officer.
“Steamer on the port bow, sir!” reported the man aloft.
Scott saw the vessel, but she was too far off to be made out. She passed and disappeared; but about the moment he lost sight of her, he thought he heard the report of a musket, or some other firearm, to the northward of the ship. He listened with all his ears, and then distinguished very faintly shouts from human voices. He waited only long enough to satisfy himself that he had not mistaken the roar of the sea for calls for help, and then went forward to the pilot-house, where he announced that he had heard the shots and the cries.
“Are you sure of it, Mr. Scott?” asked the first officer.
“Very sure, sir.”
“We have heard nothing, and the lookouts have not reported anything,” added Mr. Boulong.
“On deck, sir! Wreck on the port beam!” yelled the lookout aloft.
“Call the captain, Mr. Scott,” said the first officer, as he went out on deck.
He made out the ominous sounds, and judged that they came from a point not more than a mile distant. The commander and Scott appeared immediately; and with the increased daylight they discovered several men clinging to what appeared to be a wreck.