But these efforts only redoubled his ardor, and he determined that nothing should be wanting on his part to bring the expedition to a successful termination.
These ten days of delay were almost exclusively occupied by him in considering the question in all its aspects. The more he studied, the more he became convinced that he could not reach Behring’s Straits in three months, for they had suffered a detention of forty days since they had left Stockholm, and to persist would only be to court failure and perhaps some irremediable disaster.
This conclusion did not stop him, but it only led him to think that some modification of their original plans was indispensable.
He took care, however, to say nothing, rightly judging that secrecy was the first condition of victory. He contented himself with watching more closely than ever the work of repairing the vessel.
But his companions thought that they perceived that he was less eager to set out.
They therefore concluded that he saw that the enterprise was impracticable, which they had also believed for some time.
But they were mistaken.
On the 25th of March, at midday, the repairs of the “Alaska” were completed, and she was once more afloat in the harbor of L’Orient.
The shortest route.
Night was closing in when Erik summoned his three friends and counselors to hold a serious consultation.
“I have reflected a great deal,” he said to them, “upon the circumstances which have made our voyage memorable since we left Stockholm. I have been forced to arrive at one conclusion, which is that we must expect to meet with obstacles or accidents during our voyage. Perhaps they may befall us at Gibraltar or at Malta. If we are not destroyed, it appears to me certain that we shall be delayed. In that case we can not reach Behring’s Straits during the summer, which is the only season when it is practicable to navigate the polar sea!”
“That is also the conclusion which I formed some time ago,” declared Mr. Bredejord: “but I kept it to myself, as I did not wish to dampen your hopes, my dear boy. But I am sure that we must give up the idea of reaching Behring’s Strait in three months!”
“That is also my opinion,” said the doctor.
Mr. Malarius on his part indicated by a motion of his head that he agreed with them all.
“Well!” said Erik, “having settled that point, what line of conduct now remains for us to adopt?”
“There is one right course which it is our duty to take,” answered Mr. Bredejord, “it is to renounce an enterprise which we see clearly is impracticable and return to Stockholm. You understand this fact, my child, and I congratulate you upon being able to look the situation calmly in the face!”
“You pay me a compliment which I can not accept,” said Erik smiling, “for I do not merit it. No—I have no thoughts of abandoning the expedition, for I am far from regarding it as impracticable. I only think that it is best for us all to baffle the machinations of that scoundrel who is lying in wait for us, and the first thing to do is to change our route.”