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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/117

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TROUBLED MEN ON THE TROUBLED SEA.

helm as often as possible, trusting no one but himself to prevent her from dropping to leeward, the effect of the rudder being influenced by the steerage-way.

The difference between the true and apparent course being considerable, the hooker seemed to lie closer to the wind than she really did. The breeze was not a-beam, nor was the hooker close-hauled; but one cannot ascertain the true course made, except when the wind is abaft. When one perceives long streaks of clouds meeting in a point on the horizon, one may be sure that the wind is in that quarter. But this evening the wind was variable; the needle fluctuated. The captain distrusted the erratic movements of the vessel. He steered carefully but resolutely, luffed her up, watched her coming-to, prevented her from yawing and from running into the winds' eye; noted the leeway, the little jerks of the helm; was observant of every roll and pitch of the vessel, of the difference in her speed, and of the variable gusts of wind. For fear of accidents, he was constantly on the lookout for squalls from off the land he was hugging; and above all he was cautious to keep her sails full,—the indications of the compass being uncertain from the small size of the instrument. The captain's eyes, frequently lowered, remarked every change in the waves. Once, however, he raised them towards the sky, and tried to make out the three stars of Orion's belt. These stars are called the three magi, and an old proverb of the ancient Spanish pilots declares that, "He who sees the three magi is not far from the Saviour."

This glance of the captain tallied with an aside growled out, at the other end of the vessel, by the old man: "We don't even see the pointers, nor the star Antares, red as he is. Not one of them is visible."

No fears troubled the other fugitives. Still, when the first hilarity they felt at their escape had passed away,