That would leave three months and a half for them to reach Behring’s Strait by the end of June. It was not impossible to do this, although the time was very limited. Erik would not hear of abandoning the enterprise. He feared only one thing, and that was being compelled to do so. Therefore he refused to send to Stockholm a report of the shipwreck, and he would not make a formal complaint against the presumed author of the attempt to shipwreck them for fear of being delayed by legal proceedings, yet he had his fears that this might encourage Tudor Brown to throw some new obstacle in the way of the “Alaska.” This is what Dr. Schwaryencrona and Mr. Bredejord asked each other as they were playing at whist with Mr. Malarius, in the little sitting-room of the hotel to which they had gone after arriving at L’Orient.
As for Mr. Bredejord, he had no doubts about the matter.
A rascal like Tudor Brown, if he knew of the failure of his scheme—and how could any one doubt that he was acquainted with this fact?—would not hesitate to renew the attempt.
To believe that they would ever succeed in reaching Behring’s Strait was therefore more than self-delusion—it was foolishness. Mr. Bredejord did not know what steps Tudor Brown would take to prevent this, but he felt certain that he would find some means of doing so. Dr. Schwaryencrona was inclined to the same opinion, and even Mr. Malarius could not think of anything very reassuring to say. The games of whist were therefore not very lively, and the long strolls that the three friends took were not very gay.
Their principal occupation was to watch the erection of the mausoleum which they were building for poor Captain Marsilas, whose funeral obsequies had been attended by the entire population of L’Orient.
The sight of this funeral monument was not calculated to raise the spirits of the survivors of the “Alaska.”
But when they joined Erik again their hopes revived. His resolution was unshakable, his activity untiring, he was so bent upon overcoming all obstacles, so certain of success, that it was impossible for them to express, or even to preserve, less heroic sentiments.
They had a new proof of the malignity of Tudor Brown, and that he still was pursuing them.
On the 14th of March, Erik saw that the work upon the machinery was almost finished. They only had to adjust the pumps, and that was to be done the next day.
But in the night, between the 14th and 15th, the body of the pump disappeared from the workshop of the Messrs. Gainard, Norris & Co.
It was impossible to find it.
How had it been taken away—who had done it?
After investigation they were unable to discover.
However, it would take ten days more to replace it, and that would make it the 25th of March before the “Alaska” could leave L’Orient.
It was a singular fact, but this incident affected Erik’s spirits more than the shipwreck had done. He saw in it a sure sign of a persistent desire to prevent the voyage of the “Alaska.”