Dingo itself, rising on its paws and passing its head above the railing, seemed to wish to say good-by to the crew.
Then all returned to the prow, so as to lose none of the very attractive movements of such a fishing.
The whale-boat put off, and, under the impetus of its four oars, vigorously handled, it began to distance itself from the "Pilgrim."
"Watch well, Dick, watch well!" cried Captain Hull to the young novice for the last time.
"Count on me, sir."
"One eye for the ship, one eye for the whale-boat, my boy. Do not forget it."
"That shall be done, captain," replied Dick Sand, who went to take his place near the helm.
Already the light boat was several hundred feet from the ship. Captain Hull, standing at the prow, no longer able to make himself heard, renewed his injunctions by the most expressive gestures.
It was then that Dingo, its paws still resting on the railing, gave a sort of lamentable bark, which would have an unfavorable effect upon men somewhat given to superstition.
That bark even made Mrs. Weldon shudder.
"Dingo," said she, "Dingo, is that the way you encourage your friends? Come, now, a fine bark, very clear, very sonorous, very joyful."
But the dog barked no more, and, letting itself fall back on its paws, it came slowly to Mrs. Weldon, whose hand it licked affectionately.
"It does not wag its tail," murmured Tom in a low tone. "Bad sign--bad sign."
But almost at once Dingo stood up, and a howl of anger escaped it.
Mrs. Weldon turned round.
Negoro had just left his quarters, and was going toward the forecastle, with the intention, no doubt, of looking for himself at the movements of the whale-boat.
Dingo rushed at the head cook, a prey to the strongest as well as to the most inexplicable fury.
Negoro seized a hand-spike and took an attitude of defense.
The dog was going to spring at his throat.
"Here, Dingo, here!" cried Dick Sand, who, leaving his post of observation for an instant, ran to the prow of the ship.
Mrs. Weldon on her side, sought to calm the dog.
Dingo obeyed, not without repugnance, and returned to the young novice, growling secretly.
Negoro had not pronounced a single word, but his face had grown pale for a moment. Letting go of his hand-spike, he regained his cabin.
"Hercules," then said Dick Sand, "I charge you especially to watch over that man."
"I shall watch," simply replied Hercules, clenching his two enormous fists in sign of assent.
Mrs. Weldon and Dick Sand then turned their eyes again on the whale-boat, which the four oarsmen bore rapidly away.
It was nothing but a speck on the sea.
* * * * *
Captain Hull, an experienced whaler, would leave nothing to chance. The capture of a jubarte is a difficult thing. No precaution ought to be neglected. None was in this case.
And, first of all, Captain Hull sailed so as to come up to the whale on the leeward, so that no noise might disclose the boat's approach.
Howik then steered the whale-boat, following the rather elongated curve of that reddish shoal, in the midst of which floated the jubarte. They would thus turn the curve.
The boatswain, set over this work, was a seaman of great coolness, who inspired Captain Hull with every confidence. He had not to fear either hesitation or distraction from Howik.
"Attention to the steering, Howik," said Captain Hull. "We are going to try to surprise the jubarte. We will only show ourselves when we are near enough to harpoon it."
"That is understood, sir," replied the boatswain.
"I am going to follow the contour of these reddish waters, so as to keep to the leeward."
"Good!" said Captain Hull. "Boys, as little noise as possible in rowing."
The oars, carefully muffled with straw, worked silently. The boat, skilfully steered by the boatswain, had reached the large shoal of crustaceans. The starboard oars still sank in the green and limpid water, while those to larboard, raising the reddish liquid, seemed to rain drops of blood.