“Yes, sir, but you know we have often found that sometimes one, sometimes another, makes a gain in these shifty winds; perhaps tomorrow we may be running along fast, and the Phantom be lying without a breath of wind.”
“That is so, George. I will try to bear it in mind. There, you see, the skipper is taking the exact bearing of the lighthouse, and we shall soon be heading south.”
In five minutes the captain gave the order to the helmsman, and the craft was then laid on her new course.
“The wind is northing a bit,” the skipper said as, after giving the helmsman instructions, he came up to Frank. “It has shifted two points round in the last half hour, and you see we have got the boom off a bit. If it goes round a point more we will get the square-sail ready for hoisting. It will help her along rarely when the head-sails cease to be of any good.”
Half an hour later the wind had gone round far enough for the square-sail to be used to advantage, and it was accordingly hoisted. The captain then had the barrels brought aft, and ranged along each side of the bulwark.
For eight-and-forty hours the Osprey maintained her speed, leaving all the sailing vessels she overtook far behind her, and keeping for hours abreast of a cargo steamer going in the same direction.
“She is bound for Finisterre,” the skipper said, “and we shall pass it some thirty miles to the west, so our courses will gradually draw apart; but we shall see her smoke anyhow until we are pretty nigh abreast of the cape—that is, if the wind holds as it is now. It is falling lighter this afternoon.”
Two or three hours later the wind died away altogether, the square-sail was got down, and the skipper then said:
“I will get the topsail down, too, sir. We can easily get it up again, and I will put a smaller jib on her. I don’t at all think by the look of the sky that we are going to have a blow. The glass would have altered more if we were, but one never can tell. I would not risk the loss of a spar for anything.”
“I should think that you might put a couple of reefs in the mainsail, Hawkins.”
“Well, perhaps it would be the best, sir; for a puff that one thinks nothing of, one way or the other, when a craft has way; will take her over wonderfully when it catches her becalmed.”
Just as he had finished his dinner, the captain came down and asked Frank to come on deck.
“There is a steamer bearing down on us. I can see both her side lights, and as she is coming in from the west she may not notice our starboard light. It is burning all right, but one never can see these green lights. They are the deceivingest things at a distance. I have just sent down for the man to bring up the riding light, and as it is a first-rate one, if we put it on deck it will light up the mainsail. I have told them to bring up the big horn. That ought to waken them if anything will.”