“What has happened?” replied Erik. “My dear master, the ‘Alaska’ has been cast upon breakers, and the captain has killed himself!”
“Oh!” said Mr. Malarius, overcome with surprise. “Then, my dear child, adieu to our expedition!”
“That is another affair,” said Erik. “I am not dead, and as long as a spark of life remains in me, I shall say, ‘Go forward!’”
On the rocks.
The “Alaska” had been thrown upon the rocks with such violence that she remained perfectly motionless, and the situation did not appear to be immediately dangerous for her crew and passengers. The waves, encountering this unusual obstacle, beat over the deck, and covered everything with their spray; but the sea was not rough enough to make this state of affairs dangerous. If the weather did not change, day would break without any further disaster. Erik saw this at a glance. He had naturally taken command of the vessel, as he was the first officer. Having given orders to close the port-holes and scuttles carefully, and to throw tarred cloths over all openings, in case the sea should become rougher, he descended to the bottom of the hold, in company with the master carpenter. There he saw with great satisfaction that no water had entered. The exterior covering of the “Alaska” had protected her, and the precaution which they had taken against polar icebergs had proved very efficacious against the rocky coast; in fact the engine had stopped at once, being disarranged by the frightful shock, but it had produced no explosion, and they had, therefore, no vital damage to deplore. Erik resolved to wait for daybreak, and then disembark his passengers if it should prove necessary.
He, therefore, contented himself with firing a cannon to ask aid from the inhabitants of the Island of Sein, and with dispatching his small steam launch to L’Orient.
He said to himself, that at no place would they find the means of repairing their damages so promptly and well as at this great maritime arsenal of Western France.
Thus in this glooming hour when every one on board believed that their chances were irretrievably lost, he already began to feel hopeful, or rather he was one of those courageous souls who know no discouragement and never confess themselves vanquished.
“If we can only get the ‘Alaska’ off these rocks, everything may yet go well with us,” he said.
But he was careful not to express this hope to the others, who would doubtless have considered it chimerical. He only told them when he returned from his visit to the hold that they were in no danger at present, and that there was plenty of time for them to receive aid.
Then he ordered a distribution of tea and rum to all the crew.
This sufficed to put these children of a larger growth in a good humor, and their little steam-boat was speedily launched.