The mother was evidently going to defend herself with greater fury, as much for herself as to protect her "little one "--if, indeed, we can apply that epithet to an animal which did not measure less than twenty feet.
Meanwhile, the jubarte did not rush at the boat, as there was reason to fear, and there was no necessity, before taking flight, to quickly cut the line which connected the boat with the harpoon. On the contrary, and as generally happens, the whale, followed by the young one, dived, at first in a very oblique line; then rising again with an immense bound, she commenced to cleave the waters with extreme rapidity.
But before she had made her first plunge, Captain Hull and the boatswain, both standing, had had time to see her, and consequently to estimate her at her true value.
This jubarte was, in reality, a whale of the largest size. From the head to the tail, she measured at least eighty feet. Her skin, of a yellowish brown, was much varied with numerous spots of a darker brown.
It would indeed be a pity, after an attack so happily begun, to be under the necessity of abandoning so rich a prey.
The pursuit, or rather the towing, had commenced. The whale-boat, whose oars had been raised, darted like an arrow while swinging on the tops of the waves.
Howik kept it steady, notwithstanding those rapid and frightful oscillations. Captain Hull, his eye on his prey, did not cease making his eternal refrain:
"Be watchful, Howik, be watchful!"
And they could be sure that the boatswain's vigilance would not be at fault for an instant.
Meanwhile, as the whale-boat did not fly nearly as fast as the whale, the line of the harpoon spun out with such rapidity that it was to be feared that it would take fire in rubbing against the edge of the whale-boat. So Captain Hull took care to keep it damp, by filling with water the pail at the bottom of which the line was coiled.
All this time the jubarte did not seem inclined to stop her flight, nor willing to moderate it. The second line was then lashed to the end of the first, and it was not long before it was played out with the same velocity.
At the end of five minutes it was necessary to join on the third line, which ran off under the water.
The jubarte did not stop. The harpoon had evidently not penetrated into any vital part of the body. They could even observe, by the increased obliquity of the line, that the animal, instead of returning to the surface, was sinking into lower depths.
"The devil!" cried Captain Hull, "but that rascal will use up our five lines!"
"And lead us to a good distance from the 'Pilgrim,'" replied the boatswain.
"Nevertheless, she must return to the surface to breathe," replied Captain Hull. "She is not a fish, and she must have the provision of air like a common individual."
"She has held her breath to run better," said one of the sailors, laughing.
In fact, the line was unrolling all the time with equal rapidity.
To the third line, it was soon necessary to join the fourth, and that was not done without making the sailors somewhat anxious touching their future part of the prize.
"The devil! the devil!" murmured Captain Hull. "I have never seen anything like that! Devilish jubarte!"
Finally the fifth line had to be let out, and it was already half unrolled when it seemed to slacken.
"Good! good!" cried Captain Hull. "The line is less stiff. The jubarte is getting tired."
At that moment, the "Pilgrim" was more than five miles to the leeward of the whale-boat. Captain Hull, hoisting a flag at the end of a boat-hook, gave the signal to come nearer.
And almost at once, he could see that Dick Sand, aided by Tom and his companions, commenced to brace the yards in such a manner as to trim them close to the wind.
But the breeze was feeble and irregular. It only came in short puffs. Most certainly, the "Pilgrim" would have some trouble in joining the whale-boat, if indeed she could reach it. Meanwhile, as they had foreseen, the jubarte had returned to the surface of the water to breathe, with the harpoon fixed in her side all the time.