"Good, my boy," replied Captain Hull. "Courage and coolness. Behold yourself assistant captain. Do honor to your grade. No one has been such at your age!"
Dick Sand did not reply, but he blushed while smiling. Captain Hull understood that blush and that smile.
"The honest boy!" he said to himself; "modesty and good humor, in truth, it is just like him!"
Meanwhile, by these urgent recommendations, it was plain that, even though there would be no danger in doing it, Captain Hull did not leave his ship willingly, even for a few hours. But an irresistible fisherman's instinct, above all, the strong desire to complete his cargo of oil, and not fall short of the engagements made by James W. Weldon in Valparaiso, all that told him to attempt the adventure. Besides, that sea, so fine, was marvelously conducive to the pursuit of a cetacean. Neither his crew nor he could resist such a temptation. The fishing cruise would be finally complete, and this last consideration touched Captain Hull's heart above everything.
Captain Hull went toward the ladder.
"I wish you success," said Mrs. Weldon to him.
"Thank you, Mrs. Weldon."
"I beg you, do not do too much harm to the poor whale," cried little Jack.
"No, my boy," replied Captain Hull.
"Take it very gently, sir."
"Yes--with gloves, little Jack."
"Sometimes," observed Cousin Benedict, "we find rather curious insects on the back of these large mammals."
"Well, Mr. Benedict," replied Captain Hull, laughing, "you shall have the right to 'entomologize' when our jubarte will be alongside of the 'Pilgrim.'"
Then turning to Tom:
"Tom, I count on your companions and you," said he, "to assist us in cutting up the whale, when it is lashed to the ship's hull--which will not be long."
"At your disposal, sir," replied the old black.
"Good!" replied Captain Hull.
"Dick, these honest men will aid you in preparing the empty barrels. During our absence they will bring them on deck, and by this means the work will go fast on our return."
"That shall be done, captain."
For the benefit of those who do not know, it is necessary to say that the jubarte, once dead, must be towed as far as the "Pilgrim," and firmly lashed to her starboard side. Then the sailors, shod in boots, with cramp-hooks would take their places on the back of the enormous cetacean, and cut it up methodically in parallel bands marked off from the head to the tail. These bands would be then cut across in slices of a foot and a half, then divided into pieces, which, after being stowed in the barrels, would be sent to the bottom of the hold.
Generally the whaling ship, when the fishing is over, manages to land as soon as possible, so as to finish her manipulations. The crew lands, and then proceeds to melt the lard, which, under the action of the heat, gives up all its useful part--that is, the oil. In this operation, the whale's lard weighs about a third of its weight.
But, under present circumstances, Captain Hull could not dream of putting back to finish that operation. He only counted on melting this quantity of lard at Valparaiso. Besides, with winds which could not fail to hail from the west, he hoped to make the American coast before twenty days, and that lapse of time could not compromise the results of his fishing.
The moment for setting out had come. Before the "Pilgrim's" sails had been brought aback, she had drawn a little nearer to the place where the jubarte continued to signal its presence by jets of vapor and water.
The jubarte was all this time swimming in the middle of the vast red field of crustaceans, opening its large mouth automatically, and absorbing at each draught myriads of animalcules.
According to the experienced ones on board, there was no fear that the whale dreamt of escaping. It was, doubtless, what the whalers call a "fighting" whale.
Captain Hull strode over the netting, and, descending the rope ladder, he reached the prow of the whale-boat.
Mrs. Weldon, Jack, Cousin Benedict, Tom, and his companions, for a last time wished the captain success.