“I cannot say, Bertha. I shall have a talk with Hawkins, presently, as to what course we had better take. It may be best to sail to Bermuda. If we find a mail steamer about to start from there, we might go home in it, and get there a fortnight earlier than we should do in the yacht, perhaps more. However, that we can talk over. I can see there may be difficulties, but undoubtedly the sooner you are home the better. You see, we are well in November now.
“What day is it?” he reflected.
“I have lost all count, Frank.”
He consulted a pocketbook.
“Today is the twenty-first of November. I should think that if we get favourable winds, we might make Bermuda in a week—ten days at the outside; and if we could catch a steamer a day or two after getting there, you might be able to spend your Christmas at Greendale.”
“That would be very nice. The difficulty would be, that I might afterwards meet some of the people who were with us on the steamer.”
“It would not be likely,” he said. “Still, we can talk it over. At any rate, from the Bermudas we can send a letter to your mother, and set her mind at rest.”
The captain and Purvis, consulting the book of sailing directions, came to the conclusion that the passage via the Bermudas would be distinctly the best and shortest. The wind was abeam and steady, and with all sail set the Osprey maintained a speed of nine knots an hour until Bermuda was in sight. They were still undecided as to whether they had better go home by the mail, but it was settled for them by their finding, on entering the port, that the steamer had touched there the day before and gone on the same evening, and that it was not probable that any other steamer would be sailing for England for another ten days.
They stopped only long enough to lay in a store of fresh provisions and water, of which the supply was now beginning to run very short. Indeed, had not the wind been so steady, all hands would have been placed on half rations of water.
Bertha did not land. She was nervously afraid of meeting anyone who might recognise her afterwards, and six hours after entering the port the Osprey was again under way. The wind, as is usual at Barbadoes, was blowing from the southwest; and it held with them the whole way home, so that after a remarkably quick run they dropped anchor off Southampton on the fifteenth of December. Frank had already made all arrangements with the captain to lay up the Osprey at once.
“I shall want her out again in the first week in April, so that she will not be long in winter quarters.”
On landing, Frank despatched a telegram to Lady Greendale:
“Returned all safe and well. Just starting for town. Shall be with you about six o’clock.”
The train was punctual, and five minutes before six Frank arrived with Bertha at Lady Greendale’s. He had already told Bertha that he should not come in.