Gacquoil was at the helm, thoughtful.
Sea captains are wont to put the best face on the matter, in misfortune.
La Vieuville who was naturally gay in times of disaster, addressed Gacquoil,—
"Well, pilot," he said, "the hurricane missed us. Its attempt to sneeze came to naught. We shall get out of it. We shall have wind, that is all." Gacquoil replied seriously,—
"A heavy wind makes a heavy sea."
Neither gay nor sad, such is the sailor. His reply had a meaning of alarm in it. For a leaking ship to be in a heavy sea is to fill rapidly. Gacquoil had emphasized this prophecy with a slight frown. Perhaps la Vieuville had spoken these almost jovial and trifling words a little too soon after the disaster of the gun and the gunner. There are things which bode ill luck when at sea. The ocean is secret; one never knows what she will do. It is necessary to be on the watch.
La Vieuville felt the need of becoming serious.
"Where are we, pilot?" he asked.
The pilot replied,—
"We are in the hands of God."
A pilot is a master; it is always best to let him have his own way, and often to have his own say.
Besides, this sort of man speaks but little. La Vieuville walked away.
La Vieuville had asked the pilot a question, the horizon gave the answer.
The sea suddenly burst into sight.
The fog which hung over the waves lifted, all the dark upheaving of the billows was spread out in a mysterious twilight as far as one's eyes could reach, and this is what was seen,—
The sky seemed to have a lid of clouds over it; but the clouds no longer touched the sea; in the east appeared a whiteness, which was the dawn of day; in the west, another fading whiteness, which was the setting of the moon. These two bright places opposite each other, made two narrow bands of pale light along the horizon, between the dark sea and the cloudy sky.
Against these two bright strips were outlined black figures, straight and motionless.