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the purtiest fight I ever hearn tell ov, a fight thet lasted twenty hours, stove three boats 'n killed two men. Then agin I've seen a hunderd 'n fifty barl whale lay 'n take his grool 'thout hardly wunkin 'neyelid, never moved ten fathom from fust iron till fin eout. So yew may say, boy, that they're like peepul -got thar individooal pekyewlyarities, an thar's no countin' on em for sartin, nary time. I was in great hopes of getting some useful information while his mood lasted, but it was over and silence reigned. Nor did I dare to ask any more questions, he looked so stern and fierce.
The scene was very striking. Overhead a bright blue sky just fringed with fleecy little clouds, beneath a deep, blue sea, with innumerable tiny wavelets dancing and glittering in the blaze of the sun, but all swayed in one direction by & great solemn swell that slowly rolled from east to west like the measured breathing of some world-supporting monster. Four little craft in a group, with twenty-four men in them, silently waiting for battle with one of the mightiest of God's creatures, one that was indeed a terrible foe to encounter were he but wise enough to make the best use of his opportunities. Against him we came with our puny weapons, of which I could not help reminding myself that 'he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.' But when the man's brain was thrown into the scale against the instinct of the brute, the contest looked less unequal than at first sight, for there is the secret of success. My musings were very suddenly interrupted. Whether we had overrun our distance, or the whale, who was not 'making a passage, but feeding, had changed his course, I do not know, but anyhow he broke water close ahead, coming straight for our boat. His great black head, like the broad bow of a dumb barge, driving the waves before it, loomed high and menacing to me, for I was not forbidden to look ahead now. But coolly, as if coming alongside the ship, the mate bent to the big steer oar and swung the boat off at right angles to her course, bringing her back again with another broad sheer as the whale passed foaming. This maneuvre brought us side by side with him before he had time to realise that we were there. Up till that instant he had evidently not seen us, and his surprise was correspondingly great. To see Louis raise his harpoon high above his head and with a hoarse grunt of satisfaction plunge it into the black shining mass beside him up to the hitches, was indeed a sight to be remembered. Quick as thought he snatched up a second harpoon, and as the whale rolled from us it flew from
his hands, burying itself like the former one, but lower down the body. The great impetus we had when we reached the whale carried us a long way past him, out of all danger from his struggles. No hindrance was experienced from the line by which we were connected with the whale, for it was loosely coiled in a space for the purpose in the boat's bow to the extent of a couple of hundred feet, and this was cast overboard by the harpooner as soon as the fish was fast. He made a fearful to-do over it, rolling completely over several times backward and forward, at the same time smiting the sea with his mighty tail, making an almost deafening noise and pother. But we were comfortable enough while we unshipped the mast and made ready for action, being sufficiently far away from him to escape the full effect of his gambols. It was impossible to avoid reflecting, however, upon what would happen if, in our unprepared and so far helpless state, he were, instead of simply tumbling about in an aimless, blind sort of fury, to rush at the boat and try to destroy it. Very few indeed would survive such an attack, unless the tactics were radically altered. No doubt they would be, for practices grow up in consequence of the circumstances with which they have to deal.
After the usual time spent in furious attempts to free himself from our annoyance, he betook himself below, leaving us to await his return and hasten it as much as possible by keeping a severe strain upon the line. Our efforts in this direction, however, did not seem to have any effect upon him at all. Flake after flake ran out of the tubs until we were compelled to band the end of our line to the second mate to splice his own to. Still it slipped away, and at last it was handed to the third mate, whose two tubs met the same fate. It was now Mistah' Jones's turn to 'bend on,' which he did with many chuckles, as of a man who was the last resource of the unfortunate.
But his face grew longer and longer as the never-resting line continued to disappear. Soon he signalled us that he was nearly out of line, and two or three minutes after he bent on his drogue' (a square piece of plank with a rope tail spliced into its centre, and considered to hinder a whale's progress at least as much as four boats) and let go the end. We had each bent on our drogues in the same way when we passed our ends to one another. So now our friend was getting along somewhere below with 7,200 feet of 1}-inch rope, and weight additional equal to the drag of sixteen 30-feet boats.
Of course we knew that unless he were dead and sinking he could not possibly remain much longer beneath the surface. The exhibition of endurance we had just been favoured with was a very unusual one, I was told, it being a rare thing for a cachalot to take out two boats' lines before returning to the surface to spout.
Therefore we separated as widely as was thought necessary in order to be near him on his arrival. It was, as might be imagined, some time before we saw the light of his countenance, but when we did we had no difficulty in getting alongside of him again. My friend Goliath, much to my delight, got there first, and succeeded in picking up the bight of the line. But having done so, his chance of distinguishing himself was gone. Hampered by the immense quantity of sunken line which was attached to the whale, he could do nothing, and soon received orders to cut the bight of the line and pass the whale's end to us. He had hardly obeyed, with a very bad grace, when the whale started off to windward with us at a tremendous rate. The other boats, having no line, could do nothing to help, so away we went alone, with barely a hundred fathoms of line in case he should take it into his head to sound again. The speed at which he went made it appear as if a gale of wind was blowing, and we flew along the sea surface, leaping from crest to crest of the waves, with an incessant succession of cracks like pistol-shots. The flying spray drenched us and prevented us from seeing him, but I fully realised that it was nothing to what we should have to put up with if the wind freshened much. One hand was kept baling the water out which came so freely over the bows, but the rest hauled with all their might upon the line, hoping to get a little closer to the flying monster. Inch by inch we gained on him, encouraged by the hoarse objurgations of the mate, whose excitement was intense. After what seemed a terribly long chase we found his speed slackening, and we redoubled our efforts. Now we were close upon him; now, in obedience to the steersman, the boat sheered out a bit, and we were abreast of his labouring Alukes. Now the mate hurls his quivering lance with such hearty goodwill that every inch of its slender shaft disappears within the huge body.
• Lay off; off with her, Louey,' screamed the mate, and she gave a wide sheer away from the whale, not a second too soon. Up flew that awful tail, descending with a crash upon the water
not two feet from us. Out oars, pull two, starn three,' shouted the mate, and as we obeyed our foe turned to fight. Then might one see how courage and skill were such mighty factors in the apparently unequal contest. The whale's great length made it no easy job for him to turn, while our boat, with the two oars a-side and the great leverage at the stern supplied by the nineteen-foot steer-oar, circled, backed, and darted ahead like a living thing animated by the mind of our commander. When the leviathan settled we gave a wide berth to his probable place of ascent, when he rushed at us we dodged him, when he paused, if only momentarily, in we flew and got home a fearful thrust of the deadly lance.
All fear was forgotten now. I panted—thirsted for his life. Once, indeed, in a sort of frenzy, when for an instant we lay side by side with him, I drew my sheath-knife and plunged it repeatedly into the blubber, as if I were assisting in his destruction. Suddenly the mate gave a howl : ‘Starn all! Starn all ! Oh, starn!' and the oars bent like canes as we obeyed. There was an upheaval of the sea just ahead; then slowly, majestically, the vast body of our foe rose into the air. Up, up it went, while my heart stood still, until the whole of that immense creature hung on high, apparently motionless, and then fell, a hundred tons of solid flesh, back into the sea. On either side of that mountainous mass the waters rose in shining towers of snowy foam, which fell in their turn, whirling and eddying around us as we tossed and spun like a chip in a whirlpool. Blinded by the Aying spray, baling for very life to free the boat from the water with wbich she was nearly full, it was some minutes before I was able to decide whether we were still uninjured or not. Then I saw at a little distance the whale lying quietly. As I looked, he spouted, and the vapour was red with his blood. Starn all!' again cried our chief, and we retreated to a considerable distance. The old warrior's practised eye had detected the coming climax of our efforts—the dying agony or 'flurry' of the great mammal. Turning upon his side, he began to move in a circular direction, slowly at first, then faster and faster, until he was rushing round at tremendous speed, his great head raised quite out of water at times, clashing his enormous jaws. Torrents of blood poured from his spout-hole, accompanied by hoarse bellowings as of some gigantic bull, but really caused by the labouring breath trying to pass through the clogged air-passages. The utmost caution and
rapidity of manipulation of the boat were necessary to avoid his maddened rush ; but this tremendous energy was short-lived. In a few minutes he subsided slowly in death; his mighty body reclined on one side, the fin uppermost waving limply as he rolled to the swell, while the small waves broke gently over the carcase in a low, monotonous surf, intensifying the profound silence that bad succeeded the tumult of our conflict with the late monarch of the deep.
Hardly had the flurry ceased when we hauled up alongside of our hard-won prize in order to secure a line to him in a better manner than at present for hauling him to the ship. This was effected by cutting a hole through the tough, gristly substance of the flukes with the short boat-spade' carried for the purpose. The end of the line, cut off from the faithful harpoon that had held it so long, was then passed through this hole and made fast. This done, it was 'smoke-oh.' The luxury of that rest and refreshment was indeed something to be grateful for, coming as it did in such complete contrast to our recent violent exertions.
The ship was some three or four miles off to leeward, so we reckoned she would take at least an hour and a half to work up to
Meanwhile, our part of the performance being over-and well over-we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, lazily rocking on the gentle swell by the side of a catch worth at least 8001. During the conflict I had not noticed what now claimed attention-several great masses of white, semi-transparent-looking substance floating about, of huge size and irregular shape. But one of these curious lumps came floating by as we lay, tugged at by several fish, and I immediately asked the mate if he could tell me what it was and where it came from. He told me that, when dying, the cachalot always ejected the contents of his stomach, which were invariably composed of such masses as we saw before us; that he believed the stuff to be portions of big cuttle-fish bitten off by the whale for the purpose of swallowing, but he wasn't sure; anyhow, I could haul this piece alongside now, if I liked, and see. Secretly wondering at the indifference shown by this officer of forty years' whaling experience to such a wonderful fact as appeared to be here presented, I thanked him, and, sticking the boathook into the lump, drew it alongside. It was at once evident that it was a massive fragment of cuttle-fish tentacle or arm, as thick as a very stout man's body, and with six or seven sucking discs or acetabula on it. These were about as large as a