The jubarte saw it, and rushed towards it.
This circumstance could only give a more terrible character to the contest. The whale was going to fight for two.
Captain Hull looked toward the "Pilgrim." His hand shook the boat-hook, which bore the flag, frantically.
What could Dick Sand do that had not been already done at the first signal from the captain? The "Pilgrim's" sails were trimmed, and the wind commenced to fill them. Unhappily the schooner did not possess a helix, by which the action could be increased to sail faster.
To lower one of the boats, and, with the aid of the blacks, row to the assistance of the captain, would be a considerable loss of time; besides, the novice had orders not to quit the ship, no matter what happened. However, he had the stern-boat lowered from its pegs, and towed it along, so that the captain and his companions might take refuge in it, in case of need.
At that moment the jubarte, covering the young whale with her body, had returned to the charge. This time she turned in such a manner as to reach the boat exactly.
"Attention, Howik!" cried Captain Hull, for the last time.
But the boatswain was, so to speak, disarmed. Instead of a lever, whose length gave force, he only held in his hand an oar relatively short. He tried to put about; it was impossible.
The sailors knew that they were lost. All rose, giving a terrible cry, which was perhaps heard on the "Pilgrim."
A terrible blow from the monster's tail had just struck the whale-boat underneath. The boat, thrown into the air with irresistible violence, fell back, broken in three pieces, in the midst of waves furiously lashed by the whale's bounds.
The unfortunate sailors, although grievously wounded, would have had, perhaps, the strength to keep up still, either by swimming or by hanging on to some of the floating wreck. That is what Captain Hull did, for he was seen for a moment hoisting the boatswain on a wreck.
But the jubarte, in the last degree of fury, turned round, sprang up, perhaps in the last pangs of a terrible agony, and with her tail she beat the troubled waters frightfully, where the unfortunate sailors were still swimming.
For some minutes one saw nothing but a liquid water-spout scattering itself in sheafs on all sides.
A quarter of an hour after, when Dick Sand, who, followed by the blacks, had rushed into the boat, had reached the scene of the catastrophe, every living creature had disappeared. There was nothing left but some pieces of the whale-boat on the surface of the waters, red with blood.
* * * * *
The first impression felt by the passengers of the "Pilgrim" in presence of this terrible catastrophe was a combination of pity and horror. They only thought of this frightful death of Captain Hull and the five sailors. This fearful scene had just taken place almost under their eyes, while they could do nothing to save the poor men. They had not even been able to arrive in time to pick up the whale-boat's crew, their unfortunate companions, wounded, but still living, and to oppose the "Pilgrim's" hull to the jubarte's formidable blows. Captain Hull and his men had forever disappeared.
When the schooner arrived at the fatal place, Mrs. Weldon fell on her knees, her hands raised toward Heaven.
"Let us pray!" said the pious woman.
She was joined by her little Jack, who threw himself on his knees, weeping, near his mother. The poor child understood it all. Dick Sand, Nan, Tom, and the other blacks remained standing, their heads bowed. All repeated the prayer that Mrs. Weldon addressed to God, recommending to His infinite goodness those who had just appeared before Him.
Then Mrs. Weldon, turning to her companions, "And now, my friends," said she, "let us ask Heaven for strength and courage for ourselves."
Yes! They could not too earnestly implore the aid of Him who can do all things, for their situation was one of the gravest!
This ship which carried them had no longer a captain to command her, no longer a crew to work her.