She then remained almost motionless, seeming to wait for her young whale, which this furious course must have left behind.
Captain Hull made use of the oars so as to join her again, and soon he was only a short distance from her.
Two oars were laid down and two sailors armed themselves, as the captain had done, with long lances, intended to strike the enemy.
Howik worked skilfully then, and held himself ready to make the boat turn rapidly, in case the whale should turn suddenly on it.
"Attention!" cried Captain Hull. "Do not lose a blow! Aim well, boys! Are we ready, Howik?"
"I am prepared, sir," replied the boatswain, "but one thing troubles me. It is that the beast, after having fled so rapidly, is very quiet now."
"In fact, Howik, that seems to me suspicious. Let us be careful!"
"Yes, but let us go forward."
Captain Hull grew more and more animated.
The boat drew still nearer. The jubarte only turned in her place. Her young one was no longer near her; perhaps she was trying to find it again.
Suddenly she made a movement with her tail, which took her thirty feet away.
Was she then going to take flight again, and must they take up this interminable pursuit again on the surface of the waters?
"Attention!" cried Captain Hull. "The beast is going to take a spring and throw herself on us. Steer, Howik, steer!"
The jubarte, in fact, had turned in such a manner as to present herself in front of the whale-boat. Then, beating the sea violently with her enormous fins, she rushed forward.
The boatswain, who expected this direct blow, turned in such a fashion that the jubarte passed by the boat, but without reaching it.
Captain Hull and the two sailors gave her three vigorous thrusts on the passage, seeking to strike some vital organ.
The jubarte stopped, and, throwing to a great height two columns of water mingled with blood, she turned anew on the boat, bounding, so to say, in a manner frightful to witness.
These seamen must have been expert fishermen, not to lose their presence of mind on this occasion.
Howik again skilfully avoided the jubarte's attack, by darting the boat aside.
Three new blows, well aimed, again gave the animal three new wounds. But, in passing, she struck the water so roughly with her formidable tail, that an enormous wave arose, as if the sea were suddenly opened.
The whale-boat almost capsized, and, the water rushing in over the side, it was half filled.
"The bucket, the bucket!" cried Captain Hull.
The two sailors, letting go their oars, began to bale out the boat rapidly, while the captain cut the line, now become useless.
No! the animal, rendered furious by grief, no longer dreamt of flight. It was her turn to attack, and her agony threatened to be terrible.
A third time she turned round, "head to head," a seaman would say, and threw herself anew on the boat.
But the whale-boat, half full of water, could no longer move with the same facility. In this condition, how could it avoid the shock which threatened it? If it could be no longer steered, there was still less power to escape.
And besides, no matter how quickly the boat might be propelled, the swift jubarte would have always overtaken it with a few bounds. It was no longer a question of attack, but of defense.
Captain Hull understood it all.
The third attack of the animal could not be entirely kept off. In passing she grazed the whale-boat with her enormous dorsal fin, but with so much force that Howik was thrown down from his bench.
The three lances, unfortunately affected by the oscillation, this time missed their aim.
"Howik! Howik!" cried Captain Hull, who himself had been hardly able to keep his place.
"Present!" replied the boatswain, as he got up. But he then perceived that in his fall his stern oar had broken in the middle.
"Another oar!" said Captain Hull.
"I have one," replied Howik.
At that moment, a bubbling took place under the waters only a few fathoms from the boat.
The young whale had just reappeared.