A CATASTROPHEby@julesverne


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Experienced whaleman as he was, Captain Hull knew the difficulty of the task he had undertaken, he was alive to the importance of making his approach to the whale from the leeward, so that there should be no sound to apprize the creature of the proximity of the boat. He had perfect confidence in his boatswain, and felt sure that he would take the proper course to insure a favourable result to the enterprise. "We mustn't show ourselves too soon, Howick," he said. "Certainly not," replied Howick, "I am going to skirt the edge of the discoloured water, and I shall take good care to get well to leeward." "All right," the captain answered, and turning to the crew said, "now, my lads, as quietly as you can." Muffling the sound of their oars by placing straw in the rowlocks, and avoiding the least unnecessary noise, the men skilfully propelled the boat along the outline of the water tinged by the crustacea, so that while the starboard oars still dipped in the green and limpid sea, the larboard were in the deep-dyed waves, and seemed as though they were dripping with blood. "Wine on this side, water on that," said one of the sailors jocosely. "But neither of them fit to drink," rejoined the captain sharply, "so just hold your tongue!" Under Howick's guidance the boat now glided stealthily [Illustration: The whale seemed utterly unconscious of the attack that was threatening it] on to the greasy surface of the reddened waters, where she appeared to float as on a pool of oil. The whale seemed utterly unconscious of the attack that was threatening it, and allowed the boat to come nearer without exhibiting any sign of alarm.
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