Two minutes later, the “Alaska” was rushing after her.
At the same time that he gave orders to pursue the “Albatross,” Erik also desired his men to get the cannon in readiness. The operation took some time, and when they had everything in order the enemy was beyond their reach. Doubtless they had taken advantage of the time occupied by their stoppage to increase their fires, and they were two or three miles ahead. This was not too great a distance for a Gatling gun to carry, but the rolling and speed of the two vessels made it probable that they would miss her; and they thought it better to wait, hoping that the “Alaska” would gain upon the enemy. It soon became evident, however, that the two vessels were equally matched, for the distance between them remained about the same for several hours.
They were obliged to burn an enormous amount of coal—an article which was becoming very scarce on board the “Alaska”—and this would be a heavy loss if they could not succeed in overtaking the “Albatross” before night set in. Erik did not think it right to do this without consulting his crew. He therefore mounted the bridge, and frankly explained to them the position in which he was placed.
“My friends,” he said, “you know that I am anxious to seize and deliver up to justice this rascal who attempted to shipwreck our vessel on the rocks of Sein. But we have hardly coal enough left to last us for six days. Any deviation from our route will compel us to finish our voyage under sail, which may make it very long and toilsome for all of us, and may even cause us to fail in our undertaking. On the other hand, the ‘Albatross’ counts upon being able to get away from us during the night. To prevent this we must not slacken our speed for a moment, and we must keep her within the range of our electric light. I feel sure, however, that we will eventually overtake her, but it may take us some time to do so. I did not feel willing to continue this pursuit without laying the facts plainly before you, and asking you if you were willing to risk the dangers which may arise for us.”
The men consulted together in a low tone, and then commissioned Mr. Hersebom to speak for them:
“We are of opinion that it is the duty of the ‘Alaska’ to capture this rascal at any sacrifice!” he said, quietly.
“Very well, then, we will do our best to accomplish it,” answered Erik.
When he found that he had the confidence of his crew, he did not spare fuel, and in spite of the desperate efforts of Tudor Brown, he could not increase the distance between them. The sun had scarcely set when the electric light of the “Alaska” was brought to bear unpityingly upon the “Albatross,” and continued in this position during the night. At day-break the distance between them was still the same, and they were flying toward the pole. At midday they made a solar observation, and found that they were in 78, 21’, 14” of latitude north, by 90 of longitude east.