Wednesday, September 14, 2005

 

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"Thou art speaking to Captain Peleg--that's who ye are speaking to,
young man. It belongs to me and Captain Bildad to see the Pequod
fitted out for the voyage, and supplied with all her needs, including
crew. We are part owners and agents. But as I was going to say, if
thou wantest to know what whaling is, as thou tellest ye do, I can
put ye in a way of finding it out before ye bind yourself to it, past
backing out. Clap eye on Captain Ahab, young man, and thou wilt find
that he has only one leg."

"What do you mean, sir? Was the other one lost by a whale?"

"Lost by a whale! Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured,
chewed up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped
a boat!--ah, ah!"

I was a little alarmed by his energy, perhaps also a little touched
at the hearty grief in his concluding exclamation, but said as calmly
as I could, "What you say is no doubt true enough, sir; but how could
I know there was any peculiar ferocity in that particular whale,
though indeed I might have inferred as much from the simple fact of
the accident."

"Look ye now, young man, thy lungs are a sort of soft, d'ye see; thou
dost not talk shark a bit. SURE, ye've been to sea before now; sure
of that?"

"Sir," said I, "I thought I told you that I had been four voyages in
the merchant--"

"Hard down out of that! Mind what I said about the marchant
service--don't aggravate me--I won't have it. But let us understand
each other. I have given thee a hint about what whaling is; do ye
yet feel inclined for it?"

"I do, sir."

"Very good. Now, art thou the man to pitch a harpoon down a live
whale's throat, and then jump after it? Answer, quick!"

"I am, sir, if it should be positively indispensable to do so; not to
be got rid of, that is; which I don't take to be the fact."

"Good again. Now then, thou not only wantest to go a-whaling, to
find out by experience what whaling is, but ye also want to go in
order to see the world? Was not that what ye said? I thought so.
Well then, just step forward there, and take a peep over the
weather-bow, and then back to me and tell me what ye see there."

For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this curious request, not
knowing exactly how to take it, whether humorously or in earnest.
But concentrating all his crow's feet into one scowl, Captain Peleg
started me on the errand.

Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived that the
ship swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide, was now obliquely
pointing towards the open ocean. The prospect was unlimited, but
exceedingly monotonous and forbidding; not the slightest variety that
I could see.

"Well, what's the report?" said Peleg when I came back; "what did ye
see?"

"Not much," I replied--"nothing but water; considerable horizon
though, and there's a squall coming up, I think."

"Well, what does thou think then of seeing the world? Do ye wish to
go round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh? Can't ye see the world
where you stand?"

I was a little staggered, but go a-whaling I must, and I would; and
the Pequod was as good a ship as any--I thought the best--and all
this I now repeated to Peleg. Seeing me so determined, he expressed
his willingness to ship me.

"And thou mayest as well sign the papers right off," he added--"come
along with ye." And so saying, he led the way below deck into the
cabin.

Seated on the transom was what seemed to me a most uncommon and
surprising figure. It turned out to be Captain Bildad, who along
with Captain Peleg was one of the largest owners of the vessel; the
other shares, as is sometimes the case in these ports, being held by
a crowd of old annuitants; widows, fatherless children, and chancery
wards; each owning about the value of a timber head, or a foot of
plank, or a nail or two in the ship. People in Nantucket invest
their money in whaling vessels, the same way that you do yours in
approved state stocks bringing in good interest.

Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and indeed many other Nantucketers, was a
Quaker, the island having been originally settled by that sect; and
to this day its inhabitants in general retain in an uncommon measure
the peculiarities of the Quaker, only variously and anomalously
modified by things altogether alien and heterogeneous. For some of
these same Quakers are the most sanguinary of all sailors and
whale-hunters. They are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a
vengeance.

So that there are instances among them of men, who, named with
Scripture names--a singularly common fashion on the island--and in
childhood naturally imbibing the stately dramatic thee and thou of
the Quaker idiom; still, from the audacious, daring, and boundless
adventure of their subsequent lives, strangely blend with these
unoutgrown peculiarities, a thousand bold dashes of character, not
unworthy a Scandinavian sea-king, or a poetical Pagan Roman. And
when these things unite in a man of greatly superior natural force,
with a globular brain and a ponderous heart; who has also by the
stillness and seclusion of many long night-watches in the remotest
waters, and beneath constellations never seen here at the north, been
led to think untraditionally and independently; receiving all
nature's sweet or savage impressions fresh from her own virgin
voluntary and confiding breast, and thereby chiefly, but with some
help from accidental advantages, to learn a bold and nervous lofty
language--that man makes one in a whole nation's census--a mighty
pageant creature, formed for noble tragedies. Nor will it at all
detract from him, dramatically regarded, if either by birth or other
circumstances, he have what seems a half wilful overruling morbidness
at the bottom of his nature. For all men tragically great are made
so through a certain morbidness. Be sure of this, O young ambition,
all mortal greatness is but disease. But, as yet we have not to do
with such an one, but with quite another; and still a man, who, if
indeed peculiar, it only results again from another phase of the
Quaker, modified by individual circumstances.

Like Captain Peleg, Captain Bildad was a well-to-do, retired
whaleman. But unlike Captain Peleg--who cared not a rush for what
are called serious things, and indeed deemed those self-same serious
things the veriest of all trifles--Captain Bildad had not only been
originally educated according to the strictest sect of Nantucket
Quakerism, but all his subsequent ocean life, and the sight of many
unclad, lovely island creatures, round the Horn--all that had not
moved this native born Quaker one single jot, had not so much as
altered one angle of his vest. Still, for all this immutableness,
was there some lack of common consistency about worthy Captain
Peleg. Though refusing, from conscientious scruples, to bear arms
against land invaders, yet himself had illimitably invaded the
Atlantic and Pacific; and though a sworn foe to human bloodshed, yet
had he in his straight-bodied coat, spilled tuns upon tuns of
leviathan gore. How now in the contemplative evening of his days,
the pious Bildad reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do
not know; but it did not seem to concern him much, and very probably
he had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a
man's religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another.
This world pays dividends. Rising from a little cabin-boy in short
clothes of the drabbest drab, to a harpooneer in a broad shad-bellied
waistcoat; from that becoming boat-header, chief-mate, and captain,
and finally a ship owner; Bildad, as I hinted before, had concluded
his adventurous career by wholly retiring from active life at the
goodly age of sixty, and dedicating his remaining days to the quiet
receiving of his well-earned income.

Now, Bildad, I am sorry to say, had the reputation of being an
incorrigible old hunks, and in his sea-going days, a bitter, hard
task-master. They told me in Nantucket, though it certainly seems a
curious story, that when he sailed the old Categut whaleman, his
crew, upon arriving home, were mostly all carried ashore to the
hospital, sore exhausted and worn out. For a pious man, especially
for a Quaker, he was certainly rather hard-hearted, to say the
least. He never used to swear, though, at his men, they said; but
somehow he got an inordinate quantity of cruel, unmitigated hard work
out of them. When Bildad was a chief-mate, to have his drab-coloured
eye intently looking at you, made you feel completely nervous, till
you could clutch something--a hammer or a marling-spike, and go to
work like mad, at something or other, never mind what. Indolence and
idleness perished before him. His own person was the exact
embodiment of his utilitarian character. On his long, gaunt body, he
carried no spare flesh, no superfluous beard, his chin having a soft,
economical nap to it, like the worn nap of his broad-brimmed hat.

Such, then, was the person that I saw seated on the transom when I
followed Captain Peleg down into the cabin. The space between the
decks was small; and there, bolt-upright, sat old Bildad, who always
sat so, and never leaned, and this to save his coat tails. His
broad-brim was placed beside him; his legs were stiffly crossed; his
drab vesture was buttoned up to his chin; and spectacles on nose, he
seemed absorbed in reading from a ponderous volume.

"Bildad," cried Captain Peleg, "at it again, Bildad, eh? Ye have
been studying those Scriptures, now, for the last thirty years, to my
certain knowledge. How far ye got, Bildad?"

As if long habituated to such profane talk from his old shipmate,
Bildad, without noticing his present irreverence, quietly looked up,
and seeing me, glanced again inquiringly towards Peleg.

"He says he's our man, Bildad," said Peleg, "he wants to ship."

"Dost thee?" said Bildad, in a hollow tone, and turning round to me.

"I dost," said I unconsciously, he was so intense a Quaker.

"What do ye think of him, Bildad?" said Peleg.

"He'll do," said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spelling away at
his book in a mumbling tone quite audible.

I thought him the queerest old Quaker I ever saw, especially as
Peleg, his friend and old shipmate, seemed such a blusterer. But I
said nothing, only looking round me sharply. Peleg now threw open a
chest, and drawing forth the ship's articles, placed pen and ink
before him, and seated himself at a little table. I began to think
it was high time to settle with myself at what terms I would be
willing to engage for the voyage. I was already aware that in the
whaling business they paid no wages; but all hands, including the
captain, received certain shares of the profits called lays, and that
these lays were proportioned to the degree of importance pertaining
to the respective duties of the ship's company. I was also aware
that being a green hand at whaling, my own lay would not be very
large; but considering that I was used to the sea, could steer a
ship, splice a rope, and all that, I made no doubt that from all I
had heard I should be offered at least the 275th lay--that is, the
275th part of the clear net proceeds of the voyage, whatever that
might eventually amount to. And though the 275th lay was what they
call a rather LONG LAY, yet it was better than nothing; and if we had
a lucky voyage, might pretty nearly pay for the clothing I would wear
out on it, not to speak of my three years' beef and board, for which
I would not have to pay one stiver.

It might be thought that this was a poor way to accumulate a princely
fortune--and so it was, a very poor way indeed. But I am one of
those that never take on about princely fortunes, and am quite
content if the world is ready to board and lodge me, while I am
putting up at this grim sign of the Thunder Cloud. Upon the whole, I
thought that the 275th lay would be about the fair thing, but would not
have been surprised had I been offered the 200th, considering I was
of a broad-shouldered make.

But one thing, nevertheless, that made me a little distrustful about
receiving a generous share of the profits was this: Ashore, I had
heard something of both Captain Peleg and his unaccountable old crony
Bildad; how that they being the principal proprietors of the Pequod,
therefore the other and more inconsiderable and scattered owners,
left nearly the whole management of the ship's affairs to these two.
And I did not know but what the stingy old Bildad might have a mighty
deal to say about shipping hands, especially as I now found him on
board the Pequod, quite at home there in the cabin, and reading his
Bible as if at his own fireside. Now while Peleg was vainly trying
to mend a pen with his jack-knife, old Bildad, to my no small
surprise, considering that he was such an interested party in these
proceedings; Bildad never heeded us, but went on mumbling to himself
out of his book, "LAY not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,
where moth--"

"Well, Captain Bildad," interrupted Peleg, "what d'ye say, what lay
shall we give this young man?"

"Thou knowest best," was the sepulchral reply, "the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh wouldn't be too much, would it?--'where moth and rust
do corrupt, but LAY--'"

LAY, indeed, thought I, and such a lay! the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh! Well, old Bildad, you are determined that I, for
one, shall not LAY up many LAYS here below, where moth and rust do
corrupt. It was an exceedingly LONG LAY that, indeed; and though
from the magnitude of the figure it might at first deceive a
landsman, yet the slightest consideration will show that though seven
hundred and seventy-seven is a pretty large number, yet, when you
come to make a TEENTH of it, you will then see, I say, that the seven
hundred and seventy-seventh part of a farthing is a good deal less
than seven hundred and seventy-seven gold doubloons; and so I thought
at the time.

"Why, blast your eyes, Bildad," cried Peleg, "thou dost not want to
swindle this young man! he must have more than that."

"Seven hundred and seventy-seventh," again said Bildad, without
lifting his eyes; and then went on mumbling--"for where your treasure
is, there will your heart be also."

"I am going to put him down for the three hundredth," said Peleg, "do
ye hear that, Bildad! The three hundredth lay, I say."

Bildad laid down his book, and turning solemnly towards him said,
"Captain Peleg, thou hast a generous heart; but thou must consider
the duty thou owest to the other owners of this ship--widows and
orphans, many of them--and that if we too abundantly reward the
labors of this young man, we may be taking the bread from those
widows and those orphans. The seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay,
Captain Peleg."

"Thou Bildad!" roared Peleg, starting up and clattering about the
cabin. "Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had followed thy advice in
these matters, I would afore now had a conscience to lug about that
would be heavy enough to founder the largest ship that ever sailed
round Cape Horn."

"Captain Peleg," said Bildad steadily, "thy conscience may be drawing
ten inches of water, or ten fathoms, I can't tell; but as thou art
still an impenitent man, Captain Peleg, I greatly fear lest thy
conscience be but a leaky one; and will in the end sink thee
foundering down to the fiery pit, Captain Peleg."

"Fiery pit! fiery pit! ye insult me, man; past all natural bearing,
ye insult me. It's an all-fired outrage to tell any human creature
that he's bound to hell. Flukes and flames! Bildad, say that again
to me, and start my soul-bolts, but I'll--I'll--yes, I'll swallow a
live goat with all his hair and horns on. Out of the cabin, ye
canting, drab-coloured son of a wooden gun--a straight wake with ye!"

As he thundered out this he made a rush at Bildad, but with a
marvellous oblique, sliding celerity, Bildad for that time eluded
him.

Alarmed at this terrible outburst between the two principal and
responsible owners of the ship, and feeling half a mind to give up
all idea of sailing in a vessel so questionably owned and temporarily
commanded, I stepped aside from the door to give egress to Bildad,
who, I made no doubt, was all eagerness to vanish from before the
awakened wrath of Peleg. But to my astonishment, he sat down again
on the transom very quietly, and seemed to have not the slightest
intention of withdrawing. He seemed quite used to impenitent Peleg
and his ways. As for Peleg, after letting off his rage as he had,
there seemed no more left in him, and he, too, sat down like a lamb,
though he twitched a little as if still nervously agitated. "Whew!"
he whistled at last--"the squall's gone off to leeward, I think.
Bildad, thou used to be good at sharpening a lance, mend that pen,
will ye. My jack-knife here needs the grindstone. That's he; thank
ye, Bildad. Now then, my young man, Ishmael's thy name, didn't ye
say? Well then, down ye go here, Ishmael, for the three hundredth
lay."

"Captain Peleg," said I, "I have a friend with me who wants to ship
too--shall I bring him down to-morrow?"

"To be sure," said Peleg. "Fetch him along, and we'll look at him."

"What lay does he want?" groaned Bildad, glancing up from the book
in which he had again been burying himself.

"Oh! never thee mind about that, Bildad," said Peleg. "Has he ever
whaled it any?" turning to me.

"Killed more whales than I can count, Captain Peleg."

"Well, bring him along then."

And, after signing the papers, off I went; nothing doubting but that
I had done a good morning's work, and that the Pequod was the
identical ship that Yojo had provided to carry Queequeg and me round
the Cape.

But I had not proceeded far, when I began to bethink me that the
Captain with whom I was to sail yet remained unseen by me; though,
indeed, in many cases, a whale-ship will be completely fitted out,
and receive all her crew on board, ere the captain makes himself
visible by arriving to take command; for sometimes these voyages are
so prolonged, and the shore intervals at home so exceedingly brief,
that if the captain have a family, or any absorbing concernment of
that sort, he does not trouble himself much about his ship in port,
but leaves her to the owners till all is ready for sea. However, it
is always as well to have a look at him before irrevocably committing
yourself into his hands. Turning back I accosted Captain Peleg,
inquiring where Captain Ahab was to be found.

"And what dost thou want of Captain Ahab? It's all right enough;
thou art shipped."

"Yes, but I should like to see him."

"But I don't think thou wilt be able to at present. I don't know
exactly what's the matter with him; but he keeps close inside the
house; a sort of sick, and yet he don't look so. In fact, he ain't
sick; but no, he isn't well either. Any how, young man, he won't
always see me, so I don't suppose he will thee. He's a queer man,
Captain Ahab--so some think--but a good one. Oh, thou'lt like him
well enough; no fear, no fear. He's a grand, ungodly, god-like man,
Captain Ahab; doesn't speak much; but, when he does speak, then you
may well listen. Mark ye, be forewarned; Ahab's above the common;
Ahab's been in colleges, as well as 'mong the cannibals; been used to
deeper wonders than the waves; fixed his fiery lance in mightier,
stranger foes than whales. His lance! aye, the keenest and the surest
that out of all our isle! Oh! he ain't Captain Bildad; no, and he
ain't Captain Peleg; HE'S AHAB, boy; and Ahab of old, thou knowest,
was a crowned king!"

"And a very vile one. When that wicked king was slain, the dogs, did
they not lick his blood?"

"Come hither to me--hither, hither," said Peleg, with a significance
in his eye that almost startled me. "Look ye, lad; never say that on
board the Pequod. Never say it anywhere. Captain Ahab did not name
himself. 'Twas a foolish, ignorant whim of his crazy, widowed
mother, who died when he was only a twelvemonth old. And yet the old
squaw Tistig, at Gayhead, said that the name would somehow prove
prophetic. And, perhaps, other fools like her may tell thee the
same. I wish to warn thee. It's a lie. I know Captain Ahab well;
I've sailed with him as mate years ago; I know what he is--a good
man--not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a swearing good
man--something like me--only there's a good deal more of him. Aye,
aye, I know that he was never very jolly; and I know that on the
passage home, he was a little out of his mind for a spell; but it was
the sharp shooting pains in his bleeding stump that brought that
about, as any one might see. I know, too, that ever since he lost
his leg last voyage by that accursed whale, he's been a kind of
moody--desperate moody, and savage sometimes; but that will all pass
off. And once for all, let me tell thee and assure thee, young man,
it's better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing bad
one. So good-bye to thee--and wrong not Captain Ahab, because he
happens to have a wicked name. Besides, my boy, he has a wife--not
three voyages wedded--a sweet, resigned girl. Think of that; by that
sweet girl that old man has a child: hold ye then there can be any
utter, hopeless harm in Ahab? No, no, my lad; stricken, blasted, if
he be, Ahab has his humanities!"

As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had been
incidentally revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me with a certain
wild vagueness of painfulness concerning him. And somehow, at the
time, I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for him, but for I don't know
what, unless it was the cruel loss of his leg. And yet I also felt a
strange awe of him; but that sort of awe, which I cannot at all
describe, was not exactly awe; I do not know what it was. But I felt
it; and it did not disincline me towards him; though I felt
impatience at what seemed like mystery in him, so imperfectly as he
was known to me then. However, my thoughts were at length carried in
other directions, so that for the present dark Ahab slipped my mind.



CHAPTER 17

The Ramadan.


As Queequeg's Ramadan, or Fasting and Humiliation, was to continue
all day, I did not choose to disturb him till towards night-fall; for
I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody's religious
obligations, never mind how comical, and could not find it in my
heart to undervalue even a congregation of ants worshipping a
toad-stool; or those other creatures in certain parts of our earth,
who with a degree of footmanism quite unprecedented in other planets,
bow down before the torso of a deceased landed proprietor merely on
account of the inordinate possessions yet owned and rented in his
name.

I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these
things, and not fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals,
pagans and what not, because of their half-crazy conceits on these
subjects. There was Queequeg, now, certainly entertaining the most
absurd notions about Yojo and his Ramadan;--but what of that?
Queequeg thought he knew what he was about, I suppose; he seemed to
be content; and there let him rest. All our arguing with him would
not avail; let him be, I say: and Heaven have mercy on us
all--Presbyterians and Pagans alike--for we are all somehow
dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.

Towards evening, when I felt assured that all his performances and
rituals must be over, I went up to his room and knocked at the door;
but no answer. I tried to open it, but it was fastened inside.
"Queequeg," said I softly through the key-hole:--all silent. "I say,
Queequeg! why don't you speak? It's I--Ishmael." But all remained
still as before. I began to grow alarmed. I had allowed him such
abundant time; I thought he might have had an apoplectic fit. I
looked through the key-hole; but the door opening into an odd corner
of the room, the key-hole prospect was but a crooked and sinister
one. I could only see part of the foot-board of the bed and a line
of the wall, but nothing more. I was surprised to behold resting
against the wall the wooden shaft of Queequeg's harpoon, which the
landlady the evening previous had taken from him, before our mounting
to the chamber. That's strange, thought I; but at any rate, since
the harpoon stands yonder, and he seldom or never goes abroad without
it, therefore he must be inside here, and no possible mistake.

"Queequeg!--Queequeg!"--all still. Something must have happened.
Apoplexy! I tried to burst open the door; but it stubbornly
resisted. Running down stairs, I quickly stated my suspicions to the
first person I met--the chamber-maid. "La! la!" she cried, "I
thought something must be the matter. I went to make the bed after
breakfast, and the door was locked; and not a mouse to be heard; and
it's been just so silent ever since. But I thought, may be, you had
both gone off and locked your baggage in for safe keeping. La! la,
ma'am!--Mistress! murder! Mrs. Hussey! apoplexy!"--and with these
cries, she ran towards the kitchen, I following.

Mrs. Hussey soon appeared, with a mustard-pot in one hand and a
vinegar-cruet in the other, having just broken away from the
occupation of attending to the castors, and scolding her little black
boy meantime.

"Wood-house!" cried I, "which way to it? Run for God's sake, and
fetch something to pry open the door--the axe!--the axe! he's had a
stroke; depend upon it!"--and so saying I was unmethodically rushing
up stairs again empty-handed, when Mrs. Hussey interposed the
mustard-pot and vinegar-cruet, and the entire castor of her
countenance.

"What's the matter with you, young man?"

"Get the axe! For God's sake, run for the doctor, some one, while I
pry it open!"

"Look here," said the landlady, quickly putting down the
vinegar-cruet, so as to have one hand free; "look here; are you
talking about prying open any of my doors?"--and with that she seized
my arm. "What's the matter with you? What's the matter with you,
shipmate?"

In as calm, but rapid a manner as possible, I gave her to understand
the whole case. Unconsciously clapping the vinegar-cruet to one side
of her nose, she ruminated for an instant; then exclaimed--"No! I
haven't seen it since I put it there." Running to a little closet
under the landing of the stairs, she glanced in, and returning, told
me that Queequeg's harpoon was missing. "He's killed himself," she
cried. "It's unfort'nate Stiggs done over again there goes another
counterpane--God pity his poor mother!--it will be the ruin of my
house. Has the poor lad a sister? Where's that girl?--there, Betty,
go to Snarles the Painter, and tell him to paint me a sign, with--"no
suicides permitted here, and no smoking in the parlor;"--might as
well kill both birds at once. Kill? The Lord be merciful to his
ghost! What's that noise there? You, young man, avast there!"

And running up after me, she caught me as I was again trying to force
open the door.

"I don't allow it; I won't have my premises spoiled. Go for the
locksmith, there's one about a mile from here. But avast!" putting
her hand in her side-pocket, "here's a key that'll fit, I guess;
let's see." And with that, she turned it in the lock; but, alas!
Queequeg's supplemental bolt remained unwithdrawn within.

"Have to burst it open," said I, and was running down the entry a
little, for a good start, when the landlady caught at me, again
vowing I should not break down her premises; but I tore from her, and
with a sudden bodily rush dashed myself full against the mark.

With a prodigious noise the door flew open, and the knob slamming
against the wall, sent the plaster to the ceiling; and there, good
heavens! there sat Queequeg, altogether cool and self-collected;
right in the middle of the room; squatting on his hams, and holding
Yojo on top of his head. He looked neither one way nor the other
way, but sat like a carved image with scarce a sign of active life.

"Queequeg," said I, going up to him, "Queequeg, what's the matter
with you?"

"He hain't been a sittin' so all day, has he?" said the landlady.

But all we said, not a word could we drag out of him; I almost felt
like pushing him over, so as to change his position, for it was
almost intolerable, it seemed so painfully and unnaturally
constrained; especially, as in all probability he had been sitting so
for upwards of eight or ten hours, going too without his regular
meals.

"Mrs. Hussey," said I, "he's ALIVE at all events; so leave us, if you
please, and I will see to this strange affair myself."

Closing the door upon the landlady, I endeavored to prevail upon
Queequeg to take a chair; but in vain. There he sat; and all he
could do--for all my polite arts and blandishments--he would not move
a peg, nor say a single word, nor even look at me, nor notice my
presence in the slightest way.

I wonder, thought I, if this can possibly be a part of his Ramadan;
do they fast on their hams that way in his native island. It must be
so; yes, it's part of his creed, I suppose; well, then, let him
rest; he'll get up sooner or later, no doubt. It can't last for
ever, thank God, and his Ramadan only comes once a year; and I don't
believe it's very punctual then.

I went down to supper. After sitting a long time listening to the
long stories of some sailors who had just come from a plum-pudding
voyage, as they called it (that is, a short whaling-voyage in a
schooner or brig, confined to the north of the line, in the Atlantic
Ocean only); after listening to these plum-puddingers till nearly
eleven o'clock, I went up stairs to go to bed, feeling quite sure by
this time Queequeg must certainly have brought his Ramadan to a
termination. But no; there he was just where I had left him; he had
not stirred an inch. I began to grow vexed with him; it seemed so
downright senseless and insane to be sitting there all day and half
the night on his hams in a cold room, holding a piece of wood on his
head.

"For heaven's sake, Queequeg, get up and shake yourself; get up and
have some supper. You'll starve; you'll kill yourself, Queequeg."
But not a word did he reply.

Despairing of him, therefore, I determined to go to bed and to sleep;
and no doubt, before a great while, he would follow me. But previous
to turning in, I took my heavy bearskin jacket, and threw it over
him, as it promised to be a very cold night; and he had nothing but
his ordinary round jacket on. For some time, do all I would, I could
not get into the faintest doze. I had blown out the candle; and the
mere thought of Queequeg--not four feet off--sitting there in that
uneasy position, stark alone in the cold and dark; this made me
really wretched. Think of it; sleeping all night in the same room
with a wide awake pagan on his hams in this dreary, unaccountable
Ramadan!

But somehow I dropped off at last, and knew nothing more till break
of day; when, looking over the bedside, there squatted Queequeg, as
if he had been screwed down to the floor. But as soon as the first
glimpse of sun entered the window, up he got, with stiff and grating
joints, but with a cheerful look; limped towards me where I lay;
pressed his forehead again against mine; and said his Ramadan was
over.

Now, as I before hinted, I have no objection to any person's
religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or
insult any other person, because that other person don't believe it
also. But when a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a
positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an
uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that
individual aside and argue the point with him.

And just so I now did with Queequeg. "Queequeg," said I, "get into
bed now, and lie and listen to me." I then went on, beginning with
the rise and progress of the primitive religions, and coming down to
the various religions of the present time, during which time I
labored to show Queequeg that all these Lents, Ramadans, and
prolonged ham-squattings in cold, cheerless rooms were stark
nonsense; bad for the health; useless for the soul; opposed, in
short, to the obvious laws of Hygiene and common sense. I told him,
too, that he being in other things such an extremely sensible and
sagacious savage, it pained me, very badly pained me, to see him now
so deplorably foolish about this ridiculous Ramadan of his. Besides,
argued I, fasting makes the body cave in; hence the spirit caves in;
and all thoughts born of a fast must necessarily be half-starved.
This is the reason why most dyspeptic religionists cherish such
melancholy notions about their hereafters. In one word, Queequeg,
said I, rather digressively; hell is an idea first born on an
undigested apple-dumpling; and since then perpetuated through the
hereditary dyspepsias nurtured by Ramadans.

I then asked Queequeg whether he himself was ever troubled with
dyspepsia; expressing the idea very plainly, so that he could take it
in. He said no; only upon one memorable occasion. It was after a
great feast given by his father the king, on the gaining of a great
battle wherein fifty of the enemy had been killed by about two
o'clock in the afternoon, and all cooked and eaten that very evening.

"No more, Queequeg," said I, shuddering; "that will do;" for I knew
the inferences without his further hinting them. I had seen a sailor
who had visited that very island, and he told me that it was the
custom, when a great battle had been gained there, to barbecue all
the slain in the yard or garden of the victor; and then, one by one,
they were placed in great wooden trenchers, and garnished round like
a pilau, with breadfruit and cocoanuts; and with some parsley in
their mouths, were sent round with the victor's compliments to all
his friends, just as though these presents were so many Christmas
turkeys.

After all, I do not think that my remarks about religion made much
impression upon Queequeg. Because, in the first place, he somehow
seemed dull of hearing on that important subject, unless considered
from his own point of view; and, in the second place, he did not more
than one third understand me, couch my ideas simply as I would; and,
finally, he no doubt thought he knew a good deal more about the true
religion than I did. He looked at me with a sort of condescending
concern and compassion, as though he thought it a great pity that
such a sensible young man should be so hopelessly lost to evangelical
pagan piety.

At last we rose and dressed; and Queequeg, taking a prodigiously
hearty breakfast of chowders of all sorts, so that the landlady
should not make much profit by reason of his Ramadan, we sallied out
to board the Pequod, sauntering along, and picking our teeth with
halibut bones.



CHAPTER 18

His Mark.


As we were walking down the end of the wharf towards the ship,
Queequeg carrying his harpoon, Captain Peleg in his gruff voice
loudly hailed us from his wigwam, saying he had not suspected my
friend was a cannibal, and furthermore announcing that he let no
cannibals on board that craft, unless they previously produced their
papers.

"What do you mean by that, Captain Peleg?" said I, now jumping on the
bulwarks, and leaving my comrade standing on the wharf.

"I mean," he replied, "he must show his papers."

"Yes," said Captain Bildad in his hollow voice, sticking his head
from behind Peleg's, out of the wigwam. "He must show that he's
converted. Son of darkness," he added, turning to Queequeg, "art
thou at present in communion with any Christian church?"

"Why," said I, "he's a member of the first Congregational Church."
Here be it said, that many tattooed savages sailing in Nantucket
ships at last come to be converted into the churches.

"First Congregational Church," cried Bildad, "what! that worships in
Deacon Deuteronomy Coleman's meeting-house?" and so saying, taking
out his spectacles, he rubbed them with his great yellow bandana
handkerchief, and putting them on very carefully, came out of the
wigwam, and leaning stiffly over the bulwarks, took a good long look
at Queequeg.

"How long hath he been a member?" he then said, turning to me; "not
very long, I rather guess, young man."

"No," said Peleg, "and he hasn't been baptized right either, or it
would have washed some of that devil's blue off his face."

"Do tell, now," cried Bildad, "is this Philistine a regular member of
Deacon Deuteronomy's meeting? I never saw him going there, and I
pass it every Lord's day."

"I don't know anything about Deacon Deuteronomy or his meeting," said
I; "all I know is, that Queequeg here is a born member of the First
Congregational Church. He is a deacon himself, Queequeg is."

"Young man," said Bildad sternly, "thou art skylarking with
me--explain thyself, thou young Hittite. What church dost thee mean?
answer me."

Finding myself thus hard pushed, I replied. "I mean, sir, the same
ancient Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain Peleg there,
and Queequeg here, and all of us, and every mother's son and soul of
us belong; the great and everlasting First Congregation of this whole
worshipping world; we all belong to that; only some of us cherish
some queer crotchets no ways touching the grand belief; in THAT we
all join hands."

"Splice, thou mean'st SPLICE hands," cried Peleg, drawing nearer.
"Young man, you'd better ship for a missionary, instead of a
fore-mast hand; I never heard a better sermon. Deacon
Deuteronomy--why Father Mapple himself couldn't beat it, and he's
reckoned something. Come aboard, come aboard; never mind about the
papers. I say, tell Quohog there--what's that you call him? tell
Quohog to step along. By the great anchor, what a harpoon he's got
there! looks like good stuff that; and he handles it about right. I
say, Quohog, or whatever your name is, did you ever stand in the head
of a whale-boat? did you ever strike a fish?"

Without saying a word, Queequeg, in his wild sort of way, jumped upon
the bulwarks, from thence into the bows of one of the whale-boats
hanging to the side; and then bracing his left knee, and poising his
harpoon, cried out in some such way as this:--

"Cap'ain, you see him small drop tar on water dere? You see him?
well, spose him one whale eye, well, den!" and taking sharp aim at
it, he darted the iron right over old Bildad's broad brim, clean
across the ship's decks, and struck the glistening tar spot out of
sight.

"Now," said Queequeg, quietly hauling in the line, "spos-ee him
whale-e eye; why, dad whale dead."

"Quick, Bildad," said Peleg, his partner, who, aghast at the close
vicinity of the flying harpoon, had retreated towards the cabin
gangway. "Quick, I say, you Bildad, and get the ship's papers. We
must have Hedgehog there, I mean Quohog, in one of our boats. Look
ye, Quohog, we'll give ye the ninetieth lay, and that's more than
ever was given a harpooneer yet out of Nantucket."

So down we went into the cabin, and to my great joy Queequeg was soon
enrolled among the same ship's company to which I myself belonged.

When all preliminaries were over and Peleg had got everything ready
for signing, he turned to me and said, "I guess, Quohog there don't
know how to write, does he? I say, Quohog, blast ye! dost thou sign
thy name or make thy mark?

But at this question, Queequeg, who had twice or thrice before taken
part in similar ceremonies, looked no ways abashed; but taking the
offered pen, copied upon the paper, in the proper place, an exact
counterpart of a queer round figure which was tattooed upon his arm;
so that through Captain Peleg's obstinate mistake touching his
appellative, it stood something like this:--

Quohog.
his X mark.

Meanwhile Captain Bildad sat earnestly and steadfastly eyeing
Queequeg, and at last rising solemnly and fumbling in the huge
pockets of his broad-skirted drab coat, took out a bundle of tracts,
and selecting one entitled "The Latter Day Coming; or No Time to
Lose," placed it in Queequeg's hands, and then grasping them and the
book with both his, looked earnestly into his eyes, and said, "Son of
darkness, I must do my duty by thee; I am part owner of this ship,
and feel concerned for the souls of all its crew; if thou still
clingest to thy Pagan ways, which I sadly fear, I beseech thee,
remain not for aye a Belial bondsman. Spurn the idol Bell, and the
hideous dragon; turn from the wrath to come; mind thine eye, I say;
oh! goodness gracious! steer clear of the fiery pit!"

Something of the salt sea yet lingered in old Bildad's language,
heterogeneously mixed with Scriptural and domestic phrases.

"Avast there, avast there, Bildad, avast now spoiling our
harpooneer," Peleg. "Pious harpooneers never make good voyagers--it
takes the shark out of 'em; no harpooneer is worth a straw who aint
pretty sharkish. There was young Nat Swaine, once the bravest
boat-header out of all Nantucket and the Vineyard; he joined the
meeting, and never came to good. He got so frightened about his
plaguy soul, that he shrinked and sheered away from whales, for fear
of after-claps, in case he got stove and went to Davy Jones."

"Peleg! Peleg!" said Bildad, lifting his eyes and hands, "thou
thyself, as I myself, hast seen many a perilous time; thou knowest,
Peleg, what it is to have the fear of death; how, then, can'st thou
prate in this ungodly guise. Thou beliest thine own heart, Peleg.
Tell me, when this same Pequod here had her three masts overboard in
that typhoon on Japan, that same voyage when thou went mate with
Captain Ahab, did'st thou not think of Death and the Judgment then?"

"Hear him, hear him now," cried Peleg, marching across the cabin, and
thrusting his hands far down into his pockets,--"hear him, all of ye.
Think of that! When every moment we thought the ship would sink!
Death and the Judgment then? What? With all three masts making such
an everlasting thundering against the side; and every sea breaking
over us, fore and aft. Think of Death and the Judgment then? No!
no time to think about Death then. Life was what Captain Ahab and I
was thinking of; and how to save all hands--how to rig
jury-masts--how to get into the nearest port; that was what I was
thinking of."

Bildad said no more, but buttoning up his coat, stalked on deck,
where we followed him. There he stood, very quietly overlooking some
sailmakers who were mending a top-sail in the waist. Now and then he
stooped to pick up a patch, or save an end of tarred twine, which
otherwise might have been wasted.



CHAPTER 19

The Prophet.


"Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship?"

Queequeg and I had just left the Pequod, and were sauntering away from
the water, for the moment each occupied with his own thoughts, when
the above words were put to us by a stranger, who, pausing before us,
levelled his massive forefinger at the vessel in question. He was
but shabbily apparelled in faded jacket and patched trowsers; a rag
of a black handkerchief investing his neck. A confluent small-pox
had in all directions flowed over his face, and left it like the
complicated ribbed bed of a torrent, when the rushing waters have
been dried up.

"Have ye shipped in her?" he repeated.

"You mean the ship Pequod, I suppose," said I, trying to gain a
little more time for an uninterrupted look at him.

"Aye, the Pequod--that ship there," he said, drawing back his whole
arm, and then rapidly shoving it straight out from him, with the
fixed bayonet of his pointed finger darted full at the object.

"Yes," said I, "we have just signed the articles."

"Anything down there about your souls?"

"About what?"

"Oh, perhaps you hav'n't got any," he said quickly. "No matter
though, I know many chaps that hav'n't got any,--good luck to 'em;
and they are all the better off for it. A soul's a sort of a fifth
wheel to a wagon."

"What are you jabbering about, shipmate?" said I.

"HE'S got enough, though, to make up for all deficiencies of that
sort in other chaps," abruptly said the stranger, placing a nervous
emphasis upon the word HE.

"Queequeg," said I, "let's go; this fellow has broken loose from
somewhere; he's talking about something and somebody we don't know."

"Stop!" cried the stranger. "Ye said true--ye hav'n't seen Old
Thunder yet, have ye?"

"Who's Old Thunder?" said I, again riveted with the insane
earnestness of his manner.

"Captain Ahab."

"What! the captain of our ship, the Pequod?"

"Aye, among some of us old sailor chaps, he goes by that name. Ye
hav'n't seen him yet, have ye?"

"No, we hav'n't. He's sick they say, but is getting better, and will
be all right again before long."

"All right again before long!" laughed the stranger, with a solemnly
derisive sort of laugh. "Look ye; when Captain Ahab is all right,
then this left arm of mine will be all right; not before."

"What do you know about him?"

"What did they TELL you about him? Say that!"

"They didn't tell much of anything about him; only I've heard that
he's a good whale-hunter, and a good captain to his crew."

"That's true, that's true--yes, both true enough. But you must jump
when he gives an order. Step and growl; growl and go--that's the
word with Captain Ahab. But nothing about that thing that happened
to him off Cape Horn, long ago, when he lay like dead for three days
and nights; nothing about that deadly skrimmage with the Spaniard
afore the altar in Santa?--heard nothing about that, eh? Nothing
about the silver calabash he spat into? And nothing about his losing
his leg last voyage, according to the prophecy. Didn't ye hear a
word about them matters and something more, eh? No, I don't think ye
did; how could ye? Who knows it? Not all Nantucket, I guess. But
hows'ever, mayhap, ye've heard tell about the leg, and how he lost
it; aye, ye have heard of that, I dare say. Oh yes, THAT every one
knows a'most--I mean they know he's only one leg; and that a
parmacetti took the other off."

"My friend," said I, "what all this gibberish of yours is about, I
don't know, and I don't much care; for it seems to me that you must
be a little damaged in the head. But if you are speaking of Captain
Ahab, of that ship there, the Pequod, then let me tell you, that I
know all about the loss of his leg."

"ALL about it, eh--sure you do?--all?"

"Pretty sure."

With finger pointed and eye levelled at the Pequod, the beggar-like
stranger stood a moment, as if in a troubled reverie; then starting a
little, turned and said:--"Ye've shipped, have ye? Names down on the
papers? Well, well, what's signed, is signed; and what's to be, will
be; and then again, perhaps it won't be, after all. Anyhow, it's
all fixed and arranged a'ready; and some sailors or other must go
with him, I suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity 'em!
Morning to ye, shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bless ye;
I'm sorry I stopped ye."

"Look here, friend," said I, "if you have anything important to tell
us, out with it; but if you are only trying to bamboozle us, you are
mistaken in your game; that's all I have to say."

"And it's said very well, and I like to hear a chap talk up that way;
you are just the man for him--the likes of ye. Morning to ye,
shipmates, morning! Oh! when ye get there, tell 'em I've concluded
not to make one of 'em."

"Ah, my dear fellow, you can't fool us that way--you can't fool us.
It is the easiest thing in the world for a man to look as if he had a
great secret in him."

"Morning to ye, shipmates, morning."

"Morning it is," said I. "Come along, Queequeg, let's leave this
crazy man. But stop, tell me your name, will you?"

"Elijah."

Elijah! thought I, and we walked away, both commenting, after each
other's fashion, upon this ragged old sailor; and agreed that he was
nothing but a humbug, trying to be a bugbear. But we had not gone
perhaps above a hundred yards, when chancing to turn a corner, and
looking back as I did so, who should be seen but Elijah following us,
though at a distance. Somehow, the sight of him struck me so, that I
said nothing to Queequeg of his being behind, but passed on with my
comrade, anxious to see whether the stranger would turn the same
corner that we did. He did; and then it seemed to me that he was
dogging us, but with what intent I could not for the life of me
imagine. This circumstance, coupled with his ambiguous,
half-hinting, half-revealing, shrouded sort of talk, now begat in me
all kinds of vague wonderments and half-apprehensions, and all
connected with the Pequod; and Captain Ahab; and the leg he had lost;
and the Cape Horn fit; and the silver calabash; and what Captain
Peleg had said of him, when I left the ship the day previous; and the
prediction of the squaw Tistig; and the voyage we had bound ourselves
to sail; and a hundred other shadowy things.

I was resolved to satisfy myself whether this ragged Elijah was
really dogging us or not, and with that intent crossed the way with
Queequeg, and on that side of it retraced our steps. But Elijah
passed on, without seeming to notice us. This relieved me; and once
more, and finally as it seemed to me, I pronounced him in my heart, a
humbug.



CHAPTER 20

All Astir.


A day or two passed, and there was great activity aboard the Pequod.
Not only were the old sails being mended, but new sails were coming
on board, and bolts of canvas, and coils of rigging; in short,
everything betokened that the ship's preparations were hurrying to a
close. Captain Peleg seldom or never went ashore, but sat in his
wigwam keeping a sharp look-out upon the hands: Bildad did all the
purchasing and providing at the stores; and the men employed in the
hold and on the rigging were working till long after night-fall.

On the day following Queequeg's signing the articles, word was given
at all the inns where the ship's company were stopping, that their
chests must be on board before night, for there was no telling how
soon the vessel might be sailing. So Queequeg and I got down our
traps, resolving, however, to sleep ashore till the last. But it
seems they always give very long notice in these cases, and the ship
did not sail for several days. But no wonder; there was a good deal
to be done, and there is no telling how many things to be thought of,
before the Pequod was fully equipped.

Every one knows what a multitude of things--beds, sauce-pans, knives
and forks, shovels and tongs, napkins, nut-crackers, and what not,
are indispensable to the business of housekeeping. Just so with
whaling, which necessitates a three-years' housekeeping upon the wide
ocean, far from all grocers, costermongers, doctors, bakers, and
bankers. And though this also holds true of merchant vessels, yet
not by any means to the same extent as with whalemen. For besides
the great length of the whaling voyage, the numerous articles
peculiar to the prosecution of the fishery, and the impossibility of
replacing them at the remote harbors usually frequented, it must be
remembered, that of all ships, whaling vessels are the most exposed
to accidents of all kinds, and especially to the destruction and loss
of the very things upon which the success of the voyage most depends.
Hence, the spare boats, spare spars, and spare lines and harpoons,
and spare everythings, almost, but a spare Captain and duplicate
ship.

At the period of our arrival at the Island, the heaviest storage of
the Pequod had been almost completed; comprising her beef, bread,
water, fuel, and iron hoops and staves. But, as before hinted, for
some time there was a continual fetching and carrying on board of
divers odds and ends of things, both large and small.

Chief among those who did this fetching and carrying was Captain
Bildad's sister, a lean old lady of a most determined and
indefatigable spirit, but withal very kindhearted, who seemed
resolved that, if SHE could help it, nothing should be found wanting
in the Pequod, after once fairly getting to sea. At one time she
would come on board with a jar of pickles for the steward's pantry;
another time with a bunch of quills for the chief mate's desk, where
he kept his log; a third time with a roll of flannel for the small of
some one's rheumatic back. Never did any woman better deserve her
name, which was Charity--Aunt Charity, as everybody called her. And
like a sister of charity did this charitable Aunt Charity bustle
about hither and thither, ready to turn her hand and heart to
anything that promised to yield safety, comfort, and consolation to
all on board a ship in which her beloved brother Bildad was
concerned, and in which she herself owned a score or two of
well-saved dollars.

But it was startling to see this excellent hearted Quakeress coming
on board, as she did the last day, with a long oil-ladle in one hand,
and a still longer whaling lance in the other. Nor was Bildad himself
nor Captain Peleg at all backward. As for Bildad, he carried about
with him a long list of the articles needed, and at every fresh
arrival, down went his mark opposite that article upon the paper.
Every once in a while Peleg came hobbling out of his whalebone den,
roaring at the men down the hatchways, roaring up to the riggers at
the mast-head, and then concluded by roaring back into his wigwam.

During these days of preparation, Queequeg and I often visited the
craft, and as often I asked about Captain Ahab, and how he was, and
when he was going to come on board his ship. To these questions they
would answer, that he was getting better and better, and was expected
aboard every day; meantime, the two captains, Peleg and Bildad, could
attend to everything necessary to fit the vessel for the voyage. If
I had been downright honest with myself, I would have seen very
plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this
way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who
was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out
upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes
happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly
strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And much this
way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.

At last it was given out that some time next day the ship would
certainly sail. So next morning, Queequeg and I took a very early
start.



CHAPTER 21

Going Aboard.


It was nearly six o'clock, but only grey imperfect misty dawn, when
we drew nigh the wharf.

"There are some sailors running ahead there, if I see right," said I
to Queequeg, "it can't be shadows; she's off by sunrise, I guess;
come on!"

"Avast!" cried a voice, whose owner at the same time coming close
behind us, laid a hand upon both our shoulders, and then insinuating
himself between us, stood stooping forward a little, in the uncertain
twilight, strangely peering from Queequeg to me. It was Elijah.

"Going aboard?"

"Hands off, will you," said I.

"Lookee here," said Queequeg, shaking himself, "go 'way!"

"Ain't going aboard, then?"

"Yes, we are," said I, "but what business is that of yours? Do you
know, Mr. Elijah, that I consider you a little impertinent?"

"No, no, no; I wasn't aware of that," said Elijah, slowly and
wonderingly looking from me to Queequeg, with the most unaccountable
glances.

"Elijah," said I, "you will oblige my friend and me by withdrawing.
We are going to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and would prefer not
to be detained."

"Ye be, be ye? Coming back afore breakfast?"

"He's cracked, Queequeg," said I, "come on."

"Holloa!" cried stationary Elijah, hailing us when we had removed a
few paces.

"Never mind him," said I, "Queequeg, come on."

But he stole up to us again, and suddenly clapping his hand on my
shoulder, said--"Did ye see anything looking like men going towards
that ship a while ago?"

Struck by this plain matter-of-fact question, I answered, saying,
"Yes, I thought I did see four or five men; but it was too dim to be
sure."

"Very dim, very dim," said Elijah. "Morning to ye."

Once more we quitted him; but once more he came softly after us; and
touching my shoulder again, said, "See if you can find 'em now, will
ye?

"Find who?"

"Morning to ye! morning to ye!" he rejoined, again moving off. "Oh!
I was going to warn ye against--but never mind, never mind--it's all
one, all in the family too;--sharp frost this morning, ain't it?
Good-bye to ye. Shan't see ye again very soon, I guess; unless it's
before the Grand Jury." And with these cracked words he finally
departed, leaving me, for the moment, in no small wonderment at his
frantic impudence.

At last, stepping on board the Pequod, we found everything in
profound quiet, not a soul moving. The cabin entrance was locked
within; the hatches were all on, and lumbered with coils of rigging.
Going forward to the forecastle, we found the slide of the scuttle
open. Seeing a light, we went down, and found only an old rigger
there, wrapped in a tattered pea-jacket. He was thrown at whole
length upon two chests, his face downwards and inclosed in his folded
arms. The profoundest slumber slept upon him.

"Those sailors we saw, Queequeg, where can they have gone to?" said
I, looking dubiously at the sleeper. But it seemed that, when on the
wharf, Queequeg had not at all noticed what I now alluded to; hence I
would have thought myself to have been optically deceived in that
matter, were it not for Elijah's otherwise inexplicable question.
But I beat the thing down; and again marking the sleeper, jocularly
hinted to Queequeg that perhaps we had best sit up with the body;
telling him to establish himself accordingly. He put his hand upon
the sleeper's rear, as though feeling if it was soft enough; and
then, without more ado, sat quietly down there.

"Gracious! Queequeg, don't sit there," said I.

"Oh! perry dood seat," said Queequeg, "my country way; won't hurt
him face."

"Face!" said I, "call that his face? very benevolent countenance
then; but how hard he breathes, he's heaving himself; get off,
Queequeg, you are heavy, it's grinding the face of the poor. Get
off, Queequeg! Look, he'll twitch you off soon. I wonder he don't
wake."

Queequeg removed himself to just beyond the head of the sleeper, and
lighted his tomahawk pipe. I sat at the feet. We kept the pipe
passing over the sleeper, from one to the other. Meanwhile, upon
questioning him in his broken fashion, Queequeg gave me to understand
that, in his land, owing to the absence of settees and sofas of all
sorts, the king, chiefs, and great people generally, were in the
custom of fattening some of the lower orders for ottomans; and to
furnish a house comfortably in that respect, you had only to buy up
eight or ten lazy fellows, and lay them round in the piers and
alcoves. Besides, it was very convenient on an excursion; much
better than those garden-chairs which are convertible into
walking-sticks; upon occasion, a chief calling his attendant, and
desiring him to make a settee of himself under a spreading tree,
perhaps in some damp marshy place.

While narrating these things, every time Queequeg received the
tomahawk from me, he flourished the hatchet-side of it over the
sleeper's head.

"What's that for, Queequeg?"

"Perry easy, kill-e; oh! perry easy!

He was going on with some wild reminiscences about his tomahawk-pipe,
which, it seemed, had in its two uses both brained his foes and
soothed his soul, when we were directly attracted to the sleeping
rigger. The strong vapour now completely filling the contracted hole,
it began to tell upon him. He breathed with a sort of muffledness;
then seemed troubled in the nose; then revolved over once or twice;
then sat up and rubbed his eyes.

"Holloa!" he breathed at last, "who be ye smokers?"

"Shipped men," answered I, "when does she sail?"

"Aye, aye, ye are going in her, be ye? She sails to-day. The
Captain came aboard last night."

"What Captain?--Ahab?"

"Who but him indeed?"

I was going to ask him some further questions concerning Ahab, when
we heard a noise on deck.

"Holloa! Starbuck's astir," said the rigger. "He's a lively chief
mate, that; good man, and a pious; but all alive now, I must turn
to." And so saying he went on deck, and we followed.

It was now clear sunrise. Soon the crew came on board in twos and
threes; the riggers bestirred themselves; the mates were actively
engaged; and several of the shore people were busy in bringing
various last things on board. Meanwhile Captain Ahab remained
invisibly enshrined within his cabin.



CHAPTER 22

Merry Christmas.


At length, towards noon, upon the final dismissal of the ship's
riggers, and after the Pequod had been hauled out from the wharf, and
after the ever-thoughtful Charity had come off in a whale-boat, with
her last gift--a night-cap for Stubb, the second mate, her
brother-in-law, and a spare Bible for the steward--after all this,
the two Captains, Peleg and Bildad, issued from the cabin, and
turning to the chief mate, Peleg said:

"Now, Mr. Starbuck, are you sure everything is right? Captain Ahab
is all ready--just spoke to him--nothing more to be got from shore,
eh? Well, call all hands, then. Muster 'em aft here--blast 'em!"

"No need of profane words, however great the hurry, Peleg," said
Bildad, "but away with thee, friend Starbuck, and do our bidding."

How now! Here upon the very point of starting for the voyage,
Captain Peleg and Captain Bildad were going it with a high hand on
the quarter-deck, just as if they were to be joint-commanders at sea,
as well as to all appearances in port. And, as for Captain Ahab, no
sign of him was yet to be seen; only, they said he was in the cabin.
But then, the idea was, that his presence was by no means necessary
in getting the ship under weigh, and steering her well out to sea.
Indeed, as that was not at all his proper business, but the pilot's;
and as he was not yet completely recovered--so they said--therefore,
Captain Ahab stayed below. And all this seemed natural enough;
especially as in the merchant service many captains never show
themselves on deck for a considerable time after heaving up the
anchor, but remain over the cabin table, having a farewell
merry-making with their shore friends, before they quit the ship for
good with the pilot.

But there was not much chance to think over the matter, for Captain
Peleg was now all alive. He seemed to do most of the talking and
commanding, and not Bildad.

"Aft here, ye sons of bachelors," he cried, as the sailors lingered
at the main-mast. "Mr. Starbuck, drive'em aft."

"Strike the tent there!"--was the next order. As I hinted before,
this whalebone marquee was never pitched except in port; and on board
the Pequod, for thirty years, the order to strike the tent was well
known to be the next thing to heaving up the anchor.

"Man the capstan! Blood and thunder!--jump!"--was the next command,
and the crew sprang for the handspikes.

Now in getting under weigh, the station generally occupied by the
pilot is the forward part of the ship. And here Bildad, who, with
Peleg, be it known, in addition to his other officers, was one of the
licensed pilots of the port--he being suspected to have got himself
made a pilot in order to save the Nantucket pilot-fee to all the
ships he was concerned in, for he never piloted any other
craft--Bildad, I say, might now be seen actively engaged in looking
over the bows for the approaching anchor, and at intervals singing
what seemed a dismal stave of psalmody, to cheer the hands at the
windlass, who roared forth some sort of a chorus about the girls in
Booble Alley, with hearty good will. Nevertheless, not three days
previous, Bildad had told them that no profane songs would be allowed
on board the Pequod, particularly in getting under weigh; and
Charity, his sister, had placed a small choice copy of Watts in each
seaman's berth.

Meantime, overseeing the other part of the ship, Captain Peleg ripped
and swore astern in the most frightful manner. I almost thought he
would sink the ship before the anchor could be got up; involuntarily
I paused on my handspike, and told Queequeg to do the same, thinking
of the perils we both ran, in starting on the voyage with such a
devil for a pilot. I was comforting myself, however, with the
thought that in pious Bildad might be found some salvation, spite of
his seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay; when I felt a sudden sharp
poke in my rear, and turning round, was horrified at the apparition
of Captain Peleg in the act of withdrawing his leg from my immediate
vicinity. That was my first kick.

"Is that the way they heave in the marchant service?" he roared.
"Spring, thou sheep-head; spring, and break thy backbone! Why don't
ye spring, I say, all of ye--spring! Quohog! spring, thou chap with
the red whiskers; spring there, Scotch-cap; spring, thou green
pants. Spring, I say, all of ye, and spring your eyes out!" And so
saying, he moved along the windlass, here and there using his leg
very freely, while imperturbable Bildad kept leading off with his
psalmody. Thinks I, Captain Peleg must have been drinking something
to-day.

At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It
was a short, cold Christmas; and as the short northern day merged
into night, we found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean,
whose freezing spray cased us in ice, as in polished armor. The long
rows of teeth on the bulwarks glistened in the moonlight; and like
the white ivory tusks of some huge elephant, vast curving icicles
depended from the bows.

Lank Bildad, as pilot, headed the first watch, and ever and anon, as
the old craft deep dived into the green seas, and sent the shivering
frost all over her, and the winds howled, and the cordage rang, his
steady notes were heard,--

"Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood,
Stand dressed in living green.
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between."


Never did those sweet words sound more sweetly to me than then. They
were full of hope and fruition. Spite of this frigid winter night in
the boisterous Atlantic, spite of my wet feet and wetter jacket,
there was yet, it then seemed to me, many a pleasant haven in store;
and meads and glades so eternally vernal, that the grass shot up by
the spring, untrodden, unwilted, remains at midsummer.

At last we gained such an offing, that the two pilots were needed no
longer. The stout sail-boat that had accompanied us began ranging
alongside.

It was curious and not unpleasing, how Peleg and Bildad were affected
at this juncture, especially Captain Bildad. For loath to depart,
yet; very loath to leave, for good, a ship bound on so long and
perilous a voyage--beyond both stormy Capes; a ship in which some
thousands of his hard earned dollars were invested; a ship, in which
an old shipmate sailed as captain; a man almost as old as he, once
more starting to encounter all the terrors of the pitiless jaw; loath
to say good-bye to a thing so every way brimful of every interest to
him,--poor old Bildad lingered long; paced the deck with anxious
strides; ran down into the cabin to speak another farewell word
there; again came on deck, and looked to windward; looked towards the
wide and endless waters, only bounded by the far-off unseen Eastern
Continents; looked towards the land; looked aloft; looked right and
left; looked everywhere and nowhere; and at last, mechanically
coiling a rope upon its pin, convulsively grasped stout Peleg by the
hand, and holding up a lantern, for a moment stood gazing heroically
in his face, as much as to say, "Nevertheless, friend Peleg, I can
stand it; yes, I can."

As for Peleg himself, he took it more like a philosopher; but for all
his philosophy, there was a tear twinkling in his eye, when the
lantern came too near. And he, too, did not a little run from cabin
to deck--now a word below, and now a word with Starbuck, the chief
mate.

But, at last, he turned to his comrade, with a final sort of look
about him,--"Captain Bildad--come, old shipmate, we must go. Back
the main-yard there! Boat ahoy! Stand by to come close alongside,
now! Careful, careful!--come, Bildad, boy--say your last. Luck to
ye, Starbuck--luck to ye, Mr. Stubb--luck to ye, Mr. Flask--good-bye
and good luck to ye all--and this day three years I'll have a hot
supper smoking for ye in old Nantucket. Hurrah and away!"

"God bless ye, and have ye in His holy keeping, men," murmured old
Bildad, almost incoherently. "I hope ye'll have fine weather now, so
that Captain Ahab may soon be moving among ye--a pleasant sun is all
he needs, and ye'll have plenty of them in the tropic voyage ye go.
Be careful in the hunt, ye mates. Don't stave the boats needlessly,
ye harpooneers; good white cedar plank is raised full three per cent.
within the year. Don't forget your prayers, either. Mr. Starbuck,
mind that cooper don't waste the spare staves. Oh! the sail-needles
are in the green locker! Don't whale it too much a' Lord's days,
men; but don't miss a fair chance either, that's rejecting Heaven's
good gifts. Have an eye to the molasses tierce, Mr. Stubb; it was a
little leaky, I thought. If ye touch at the islands, Mr. Flask,
beware of fornication. Good-bye, good-bye! Don't keep that cheese
too long down in the hold, Mr. Starbuck; it'll spoil. Be careful
with the butter--twenty cents the pound it was, and mind ye, if--"

"Come, come, Captain Bildad; stop palavering,--away!" and with that,
Peleg hurried him over the side, and both dropt into the boat.

Ship and boat diverged; the cold, damp night breeze blew between; a
screaming gull flew overhead; the two hulls wildly rolled; we gave
three heavy-hearted cheers, and blindly plunged like fate into the
lone Atlantic.




CHAPTER 23

The Lee Shore.


Some chapters back, one Bulkington was spoken of, a tall, newlanded
mariner, encountered in New Bedford at the inn.

When on that shivering winter's night, the Pequod thrust her
vindictive bows into the cold malicious waves, who should I see
standing at her helm but Bulkington! I looked with sympathetic awe
and fearfulness upon the man, who in mid-winter just landed from a
four years' dangerous voyage, could so unrestingly push off again for
still another tempestuous term. The land seemed scorching to his
feet. Wonderfullest things are ever the unmentionable; deep memories
yield no epitaphs; this six-inch chapter is the stoneless grave of
Bulkington. Let me only say that it fared with him as with the
storm-tossed ship, that miserably drives along the leeward land. The
port would fain give succor; the port is pitiful; in the port is
safety, comfort, hearthstone, supper, warm blankets, friends, all
that's kind to our mortalities. But in that gale, the port, the
land, is that ship's direst jeopardy; she must fly all hospitality;
one touch of land, though it but graze the keel, would make her
shudder through and through. With all her might she crowds all sail
off shore; in so doing, fights 'gainst the very winds that fain would
blow her homeward; seeks all the lashed sea's landlessness again; for
refuge's sake forlornly rushing into peril; her only friend her
bitterest foe!

Know ye now, Bulkington? Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally
intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the
intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea;
while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on
the treacherous, slavish shore?

But as in landlessness alone resides highest truth, shoreless,
indefinite as God--so, better is it to perish in that howling
infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were
safety! For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land!
Terrors of the terrible! is all this agony so vain? Take heart, take
heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee grimly, demigod! Up from the spray
of thy ocean-perishing--straight up, leaps thy apotheosis!



CHAPTER 24

The Advocate.


As Queequeg and I are now fairly embarked in this business of
whaling; and as this business of whaling has somehow come to be
regarded among landsmen as a rather unpoetical and disreputable
pursuit; therefore, I am all anxiety to convince ye, ye landsmen, of
the injustice hereby done to us hunters of whales.

In the first place, it may be deemed almost superfluous to establish
the fact, that among people at large, the business of whaling is not
accounted on a level with what are called the liberal professions.
If a stranger were introduced into any miscellaneous metropolitan
society, it would but slightly advance the general opinion of his
merits, were he presented to the company as a harpooneer, say; and if
in emulation of the naval officers he should append the initials
S.W.F. (Sperm Whale Fishery) to his visiting card, such a procedure
would be deemed pre-eminently presuming and ridiculous.

Doubtless one leading reason why the world declines honouring us
whalemen, is this: they think that, at best, our vocation amounts to
a butchering sort of business; and that when actively engaged
therein, we are surrounded by all manner of defilements. Butchers we
are, that is true. But butchers, also, and butchers of the bloodiest
badge have been all Martial Commanders whom the world invariably
delights to honour. And as for the matter of the alleged
uncleanliness of our business, ye shall soon be initiated into
certain facts hitherto pretty generally unknown, and which, upon the
whole, will triumphantly plant the sperm whale-ship at least among
the cleanliest things of this tidy earth. But even granting the
charge in question to be true; what disordered slippery decks of a
whale-ship are comparable to the unspeakable carrion of those
battle-fields from which so many soldiers return to drink in all
ladies' plaudits? And if the idea of peril so much enhances the
popular conceit of the soldier's profession; let me assure ye that
many a veteran who has freely marched up to a battery, would quickly
recoil at the apparition of the sperm whale's vast tail, fanning into
eddies the air over his head. For what are the comprehensible
terrors of man compared with the interlinked terrors and wonders of
God!

But, though the world scouts at us whale hunters, yet does it
unwittingly pay us the profoundest homage; yea, an all-abounding
adoration! for almost all the tapers, lamps, and candles that burn
round the globe, burn, as before so many shrines, to our glory!

But look at this matter in other lights; weigh it in all sorts of
scales; see what we whalemen are, and have been.

Why did the Dutch in De Witt's time have admirals of their whaling
fleets? Why did Louis XVI. of France, at his own personal expense,
fit out whaling ships from Dunkirk, and politely invite to that town
some score or two of families from our own island of Nantucket? Why
did Britain between the years 1750 and 1788 pay to her whalemen in
bounties upwards of L1,000,000? And lastly, how comes it that we
whalemen of America now outnumber all the rest of the banded whalemen
in the world; sail a navy of upwards of seven hundred vessels; manned
by eighteen thousand men; yearly consuming 4,000,000 of dollars; the
ships worth, at the time of sailing, $20,000,000! and every year
importing into our harbors a well reaped harvest of $7,000,000. How
comes all this, if there be not something puissant in whaling?

But this is not the half; look again.

I freely assert, that the cosmopolite philosopher cannot, for his
life, point out one single peaceful influence, which within the last
sixty years has operated more potentially upon the whole broad world,
taken in one aggregate, than the high and mighty business of whaling.
One way and another, it has begotten events so remarkable in
themselves, and so continuously momentous in their sequential issues,
that whaling may well be regarded as that Egyptian mother, who bore
offspring themselves pregnant from her womb. It would be a hopeless,
endless task to catalogue all these things. Let a handful suffice.
For many years past the whale-ship has been the pioneer in ferreting
out the remotest and least known parts of the earth. She has
explored seas and archipelagoes which had no chart, where no Cook or
Vancouver had ever sailed. If American and European men-of-war
now peacefully ride in once savage harbors, let them fire salutes to
the honour and glory of the whale-ship, which originally showed them
the way, and first interpreted between them and the savages. They
may celebrate as they will the heroes of Exploring Expeditions, your
Cooks, your Krusensterns; but I say that scores of anonymous
Captains have sailed out of Nantucket, that were as great, and
greater than your Cook and your Krusenstern. For in their
succourless empty-handedness, they, in the heathenish sharked waters,
and by the beaches of unrecorded, javelin islands, battled with
virgin wonders and terrors that Cook with all his marines and
muskets would not willingly have dared. All that is made such a
flourish of in the old South Sea Voyages, those things were but the
life-time commonplaces of our heroic Nantucketers. Often,
adventures which Vancouver dedicates three chapters to, these men
accounted unworthy of being set down in the ship's common log. Ah,
the world! Oh, the world!

Until the whale fishery rounded Cape Horn, no commerce but colonial,
scarcely any intercourse but colonial, was carried on between Europe
and the long line of the opulent Spanish provinces on the Pacific
coast. It was the whaleman who first broke through the jealous
policy of the Spanish crown, touching those colonies; and, if space
permitted, it might be distinctly shown how from those whalemen at
last eventuated the liberation of Peru, Chili, and Bolivia from the
yoke of Old Spain, and the establishment of the eternal democracy in
those parts.

That great America on the other side of the sphere, Australia, was
given to the enlightened world by the whaleman. After its first
blunder-born discovery by a Dutchman, all other ships long shunned
those shores as pestiferously barbarous; but the whale-ship touched
there. The whale-ship is the true mother of that now mighty colony.
Moreover, in the infancy of the first Australian settlement, the
emigrants were several times saved from starvation by the benevolent
biscuit of the whale-ship luckily dropping an anchor in their waters.
The uncounted isles of all Polynesia confess the same truth, and do
commercial homage to the whale-ship, that cleared the way for the
missionary and the merchant, and in many cases carried the primitive
missionaries to their first destinations. If that double-bolted
land, Japan, is ever to become hospitable, it is the whale-ship alone
to whom the credit will be due; for already she is on the threshold.

But if, in the face of all this, you still declare that whaling has
no aesthetically noble associations connected with it, then am I
ready to shiver fifty lances with you there, and unhorse you with a
split helmet every time.

The whale has no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler, you
will say.

THE WHALE NO FAMOUS AUTHOR, AND WHALING NO FAMOUS CHRONICLER? Who
wrote the first account of our Leviathan? Who but mighty Job! And
who composed the first narrative of a whaling-voyage? Who, but no
less a prince than Alfred the Great, who, with his own royal pen,
took down the words from Other, the Norwegian whale-hunter of those
times! And who pronounced our glowing eulogy in Parliament? Who,
but Edmund Burke!

True enough, but then whalemen themselves are poor devils; they have
no good blood in their veins.

NO GOOD BLOOD IN THEIR VEINS? They have something better than royal
blood there. The grandmother of Benjamin Franklin was Mary Morrel;
afterwards, by marriage, Mary Folger, one of the old settlers of
Nantucket, and the ancestress to a long line of Folgers and
harpooneers--all kith and kin to noble Benjamin--this day darting the
barbed iron from one side of the world to the other.

Good again; but then all confess that somehow whaling is not
respectable.

WHALING NOT RESPECTABLE? Whaling is imperial! By old English
statutory law, the whale is declared "a royal fish."*

Oh, that's only nominal! The whale himself has never figured in any
grand imposing way.

THE WHALE NEVER FIGURED IN ANY GRAND IMPOSING WAY? In one of the
mighty triumphs given to a Roman general upon his entering the
world's capital, the bones of a whale, brought all the way from the
Syrian coast, were the most conspicuous object in the cymballed
procession.*


*See subsequent chapters for something more on this head.


Grant it, since you cite it; but, say what you will, there is no real
dignity in whaling.

NO DIGNITY IN WHALING? The dignity of our calling the very heavens
attest. Cetus is a constellation in the South! No more! Drive
down your hat in presence of the Czar, and take it off to Queequeg!
No more! I know a man that, in his lifetime, has taken three hundred
and fifty whales. I account that man more honourable than that great
captain of antiquity who boasted of taking as many walled towns.

And, as for me, if, by any possibility, there be any as yet
undiscovered prime thing in me; if I shall ever deserve any real
repute in that small but high hushed world which I might not be
unreasonably ambitious of; if hereafter I shall do anything that, upon
the whole, a man might rather have done than to have left undone; if,
at my death, my executors, or more properly my creditors, find any
precious MSS. in my desk, then here I prospectively ascribe all the
honour and the glory to whaling; for a whale-ship was my Yale College
and my Harvard.



CHAPTER 25

Postscript.


In behalf of the dignity of whaling, I would fain advance naught but
substantiated facts. But after embattling his facts, an advocate who
should wholly suppress a not unreasonable surmise, which might tell
eloquently upon his cause--such an advocate, would he not be
blameworthy?

It is well known that at the coronation of kings and queens, even
modern ones, a certain curious process of seasoning them for their
functions is gone through. There is a saltcellar of state, so
called, and there may be a castor of state. How they use the salt,
precisely--who knows? Certain I am, however, that a king's head is
solemnly oiled at his coronation, even as a head of salad. Can it
be, though, that they anoint it with a view of making its interior
run well, as they anoint machinery? Much might be ruminated here,
concerning the essential dignity of this regal process, because in
common life we esteem but meanly and contemptibly a fellow who
anoints his hair, and palpably smells of that anointing. In truth, a
mature man who uses hair-oil, unless medicinally, that man has
probably got a quoggy spot in him somewhere. As a general rule, he
can't amount to much in his totality.

But the only thing to be considered here, is this--what kind of oil
is used at coronations? Certainly it cannot be olive oil, nor
macassar oil, nor castor oil, nor bear's oil, nor train oil, nor
cod-liver oil. What then can it possibly be, but sperm oil in
its unmanufactured, unpolluted state, the sweetest of all oils?

Think of that, ye loyal Britons! we whalemen supply your kings and
queens with coronation stuff!



CHAPTER 26

Knights and Squires.


The chief mate of the Pequod was Starbuck, a native of Nantucket, and
a Quaker by descent. He was a long, earnest man, and though born on
an icy coast, seemed well adapted to endure hot latitudes, his flesh
being hard as twice-baked biscuit. Transported to the Indies, his
live blood would not spoil like bottled ale. He must have been born
in some time of general drought and famine, or upon one of those fast
days for which his state is famous. Only some thirty arid summers
had he seen; those summers had dried up all his physical
superfluousness. But this, his thinness, so to speak, seemed no more
the token of wasting anxieties and cares, than it seemed the
indication of any bodily blight. It was merely the condensation of
the man. He was by no means ill-looking; quite the contrary. His
pure tight skin was an excellent fit; and closely wrapped up in it,
and embalmed with inner health and strength, like a revivified
Egyptian, this Starbuck seemed prepared to endure for long ages to
come, and to endure always, as now; for be it Polar snow or torrid
sun, like a patent chronometer, his interior vitality was warranted
to do well in all climates. Looking into his eyes, you seemed to
see there the yet lingering images of those thousand-fold perils he
had calmly confronted through life. A staid, steadfast man, whose
life for the most part was a telling pantomime of action, and not a
tame chapter of sounds. Yet, for all his hardy sobriety and
fortitude, there were certain qualities in him which at times
affected, and in some cases seemed well nigh to overbalance all the
rest. Uncommonly conscientious for a seaman, and endued with a deep
natural reverence, the wild watery loneliness of his life did
therefore strongly incline him to superstition; but to that sort of
superstition, which in some organizations seems rather to spring,
somehow, from intelligence than from ignorance. Outward portents and
inward presentiments were his. And if at times these things bent the
welded iron of his soul, much more did his far-away domestic memories
of his young Cape wife and child, tend to bend him still more from
the original ruggedness of his nature, and open him still further to
those latent influences which, in some honest-hearted men, restrain
the gush of dare-devil daring, so often evinced by others in the more
perilous vicissitudes of the fishery. "I will have no man in my
boat," said Starbuck, "who is not afraid of a whale." By this, he
seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage
was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered
peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous
comrade than a coward.

"Aye, aye," said Stubb, the second mate, "Starbuck, there, is as
careful a man as you'll find anywhere in this fishery." But we shall
ere long see what that word "careful" precisely means when used by a
man like Stubb, or almost any other whale hunter.

Starbuck was no crusader after perils; in him courage was not a
sentiment; but a thing simply useful to him, and always at hand upon
all mortally practical occasions. Besides, he thought, perhaps, that
in this business of whaling, courage was one of the great staple
outfits of the ship, like her beef and her bread, and not to be
foolishly wasted. Wherefore he had no fancy for lowering for whales
after sun-down; nor for persisting in fighting a fish that too much
persisted in fighting him. For, thought Starbuck, I am here in this
critical ocean to kill whales for my living, and not to be killed by
them for theirs; and that hundreds of men had been so killed Starbuck
well knew. What doom was his own father's? Where, in the bottomless
deeps, could he find the torn limbs of his brother?

With memories like these in him, and, moreover, given to a certain
superstitiousness, as has been said; the courage of this Starbuck
which could, nevertheless, still flourish, must indeed have been
extreme. But it was not in reasonable nature that a man so
organized, and with such terrible experiences and remembrances as he
had; it was not in nature that these things should fail in latently
engendering an element in him, which, under suitable circumstances,
would break out from its confinement, and burn all his courage up.
And brave as he might be, it was that sort of bravery chiefly,
visible in some intrepid men, which, while generally abiding firm in
the conflict with seas, or winds, or whales, or any of the ordinary
irrational horrors of the world, yet cannot withstand those more
terrific, because more spiritual terrors, which sometimes menace you
from the concentrating brow of an enraged and mighty man.

But were the coming narrative to reveal in any instance, the complete
abasement of poor Starbuck's fortitude, scarce might I have the heart
to write it; for it is a thing most sorrowful, nay shocking, to
expose the fall of valour in the soul. Men may seem detestable as
joint stock-companies and nations; knaves, fools, and murderers there
may be; men may have mean and meagre faces; but man, in the ideal,
is so noble and so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that
over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to
throw their costliest robes. That immaculate manliness we feel
within ourselves, so far within us, that it remains intact though all
the outer character seem gone; bleeds with keenest anguish at the
undraped spectacle of a valor-ruined man. Nor can piety itself, at
such a shameful sight, completely stifle her upbraidings against the
permitting stars. But this august dignity I treat of, is not the
dignity of kings and robes, but that abounding dignity which has no
robed investiture. Thou shalt see it shining in the arm that wields
a pick or drives a spike; that democratic dignity which, on all
hands, radiates without end from God; Himself! The great God
absolute! The centre and circumference of all democracy! His
omnipresence, our divine equality!

If, then, to meanest mariners, and renegades and castaways, I shall
hereafter ascribe high qualities, though dark; weave round them
tragic graces; if even the most mournful, perchance the most abased,
among them all, shall at times lift himself to the exalted mounts; if
I shall touch that workman's arm with some ethereal light; if I shall
spread a rainbow over his disastrous set of sun; then against all
mortal critics bear me out in it, thou Just Spirit of Equality,
which hast spread one royal mantle of humanity over all my kind!
Bear me out in it, thou great democratic God! who didst not refuse to
the swart convict, Bunyan, the pale, poetic pearl; Thou who didst
clothe with doubly hammered leaves of finest gold, the stumped and
paupered arm of old Cervantes; Thou who didst pick up Andrew Jackson
from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a war-horse; who didst
thunder him higher than a throne! Thou who, in all Thy mighty,
earthly marchings, ever cullest Thy selectest champions from the
kingly commons; bear me out in it, O God!



CHAPTER 27

Knights and Squires.


Stubb was the second mate. He was a native of Cape Cod; and hence,
according to local usage, was called a Cape-Cod-man. A
happy-go-lucky; neither craven nor valiant; taking perils as they
came with an indifferent air; and while engaged in the most imminent
crisis of the chase, toiling away, calm and collected as a journeyman
joiner engaged for the year. Good-humored, easy, and careless, he
presided over his whale-boat as if the most deadly encounter were but
a dinner, and his crew all invited guests. He was as particular
about the comfortable arrangement of his part of the boat, as an
old stage-driver is about the snugness of his box. When close to the
whale, in the very death-lock of the fight, he handled his unpitying
lance coolly and off-handedly, as a whistling tinker his hammer. He
would hum over his old rigadig tunes while flank and flank with the
most exasperated monster. Long usage had, for this Stubb, converted
the jaws of death into an easy chair. What he thought of death
itself, there is no telling. Whether he ever thought of it at all,
might be a question; but, if he ever did chance to cast his mind that
way after a comfortable dinner, no doubt, like a good sailor, he took
it to be a sort of call of the watch to tumble aloft, and bestir
themselves there, about something which he would find out when he
obeyed the order, and not sooner.

What, perhaps, with other things, made Stubb such an easy-going,
unfearing man, so cheerily trudging off with the burden of life in a
world full of grave pedlars, all bowed to the ground with their
packs; what helped to bring about that almost impious good-humor of
his; that thing must have been his pipe. For, like his nose, his
short, black little pipe was one of the regular features of his face.
You would almost as soon have expected him to turn out of his bunk
without his nose as without his pipe. He kept a whole row of pipes
there ready loaded, stuck in a rack, within easy reach of his hand;
and, whenever he turned in, he smoked them all out in succession,
lighting one from the other to the end of the chapter; then loading
them again to be in readiness anew. For, when Stubb dressed, instead
of first putting his legs into his trowsers, he put his pipe into his
mouth.

I say this continual smoking must have been one cause, at least, of
his peculiar disposition; for every one knows that this earthly air,
whether ashore or afloat, is terribly infected with the nameless
miseries of the numberless mortals who have died exhaling it; and as
in time of the cholera, some people go about with a camphorated
handkerchief to their mouths; so, likewise, against all mortal
tribulations, Stubb's tobacco smoke might have operated as a sort of
disinfecting agent.

The third mate was Flask, a native of Tisbury, in Martha's Vineyard.
A short, stout, ruddy young fellow, very pugnacious concerning
whales, who somehow seemed to think that the great leviathans had
personally and hereditarily affronted him; and therefore it was a
sort of point of honour with him, to destroy them whenever
encountered. So utterly lost was he to all sense of reverence for
the many marvels of their majestic bulk and mystic ways; and so dead
to anything like an apprehension of any possible danger from
encountering them; that in his poor opinion, the wondrous whale was
but a species of magnified mouse, or at least water-rat, requiring
only a little circumvention and some small application of time and
trouble in order to kill and boil. This ignorant, unconscious
fearlessness of his made him a little waggish in the matter of
whales; he followed these fish for the fun of it; and a three years'
voyage round Cape Horn was only a jolly joke that lasted that length
of time. As a carpenter's nails are divided into wrought nails and
cut nails; so mankind may be similarly divided. Little Flask was one
of the wrought ones; made to clinch tight and last long. They called
him King-Post on board of the Pequod; because, in form, he could be
well likened to the short, square timber known by that name in Arctic
whalers; and which by the means of many radiating side timbers
inserted into it, serves to brace the ship against the icy
concussions of those battering seas.

Now these three mates--Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, were momentous
men. They it was who by universal prescription commanded three of the
Pequod's boats as headsmen. In that grand order of battle in which
Captain Ahab would probably marshal his forces to descend on the
whales, these three headsmen were as captains of companies. Or,
being armed with their long keen whaling spears, they were as a
picked trio of lancers; even as the harpooneers were flingers of
javelins.

And since in this famous fishery, each mate or headsman, like a
Gothic Knight of old, is always accompanied by his boat-steerer or
harpooneer, who in certain conjunctures provides him with a fresh
lance, when the former one has been badly twisted, or elbowed in the
assault; and moreover, as there generally subsists between the two, a
close intimacy and friendliness; it is therefore but meet, that in
this place we set down who the Pequod's harpooneers were, and to what
headsman each of them belonged.

First of all was Queequeg, whom Starbuck, the chief mate, had
selected for his squire. But Queequeg is already known.

Next was Tashtego, an unmixed Indian from Gay Head, the most westerly
promontory of Martha's Vineyard, where there still exists the last
remnant of a village of red men, which has long supplied the
neighboring island of Nantucket with many of her most daring
harpooneers. In the fishery, they usually go by the generic name of
Gay-Headers. Tashtego's long, lean, sable hair, his high cheek
bones, and black rounding eyes--for an Indian, Oriental in their
largeness, but Antarctic in their glittering expression--all this
sufficiently proclaimed him an inheritor of the unvitiated blood of
those proud warrior hunters, who, in quest of the great New England
moose, had scoured, bow in hand, the aboriginal forests of the main.
But no longer snuffing in the trail of the wild beasts of the
woodland, Tashtego now hunted in the wake of the great whales of the
sea; the unerring harpoon of the son fitly replacing the infallible
arrow of the sires. To look at the tawny brawn of his lithe snaky
limbs, you would almost have credited the superstitions of some of
the earlier Puritans, and half-believed this wild Indian to be a son
of the Prince of the Powers of the Air. Tashtego was Stubb the
second mate's squire.

Third among the harpooneers was Daggoo, a gigantic, coal-black
negro-savage, with a lion-like tread--an Ahasuerus to behold.
Suspended from his ears were two golden hoops, so large that the
sailors called them ring-bolts, and would talk of securing the
top-sail halyards to them. In his youth Daggoo had voluntarily
shipped on board of a whaler, lying in a lonely bay on his native
coast. And never having been anywhere in the world but in Africa,
Nantucket, and the pagan harbors most frequented by whalemen; and
having now led for many years the bold life of the fishery in the
ships of owners uncommonly heedful of what manner of men they
shipped; Daggoo retained all his barbaric virtues, and erect as a
giraffe, moved about the decks in all the pomp of six feet five in
his socks. There was a corporeal humility in looking up at him; and
a white man standing before him seemed a white flag come to beg truce
of a fortress. Curious to tell, this imperial negro, Ahasuerus
Daggoo, was the Squire of little Flask, who looked like a chess-man
beside him. As for the residue of the Pequod's company, be it said,
that at the present day not one in two of the many thousand men
before the mast employed in the American whale fishery, are Americans
born, though pretty nearly all the officers are. Herein it is the
same with the American whale fishery as with the American army and
military and merchant navies, and the engineering forces employed in
the construction of the American Canals and Railroads. The same, I
say, because in all these cases the native American liberally
provides the brains, the rest of the world as generously supplying
the muscles. No small number of these whaling seamen belong to the
Azores, where the outward bound Nantucket whalers frequently touch to
augment their crews from the hardy peasants of those rocky shores.
In like manner, the Greenland whalers sailing out of Hull or London,
put in at the Shetland Islands, to receive the full complement of
their crew. Upon the passage homewards, they drop them there again.
How it is, there is no telling, but Islanders seem to make the best
whalemen. They were nearly all Islanders in the Pequod, ISOLATOES
too, I call such, not acknowledging the common continent of men, but
each ISOLATO living on a separate continent of his own. Yet now,
federated along one keel, what a set these Isolatoes were! An
Anacharsis Clootz deputation from all the isles of the sea, and all
the ends of the earth, accompanying Old Ahab in the Pequod to lay the
world's grievances before that bar from which not very many of them
ever come back. Black Little Pip--he never did--oh, no! he went
before. Poor Alabama boy! On the grim Pequod's forecastle, ye shall
ere long see him, beating his tambourine; prelusive of the eternal
time, when sent for, to the great quarter-deck on high, he was bid
strike in with angels, and beat his tambourine in glory; called a
coward here, hailed a hero there!



CHAPTER 28

Ahab.


For several days after leaving Nantucket, nothing above hatches was
seen of Captain Ahab. The mates regularly relieved each other at the
watches, and for aught that could be seen to the contrary, they
seemed to be the only commanders of the ship; only they sometimes
issued from the cabin with orders so sudden and peremptory, that
after all it was plain they but commanded vicariously. Yes, their
supreme lord and dictator was there, though hitherto unseen by any
eyes not permitted to penetrate into the now sacred retreat of the
cabin.

Every time I ascended to the deck from my watches below, I instantly
gazed aft to mark if any strange face were visible; for my first
vague disquietude touching the unknown captain, now in the seclusion
of the sea, became almost a perturbation. This was strangely
heightened at times by the ragged Elijah's diabolical incoherences
uninvitedly recurring to me, with a subtle energy I could not have
before conceived of. But poorly could I withstand them, much as in
other moods I was almost ready to smile at the solemn whimsicalities
of that outlandish prophet of the wharves. But whatever it was of
apprehensiveness or uneasiness--to call it so--which I felt, yet
whenever I came to look about me in the ship, it seemed against all
warrantry to cherish such emotions. For though the harpooneers, with
the great body of the crew, were a far more barbaric, heathenish, and
motley set than any of the tame merchant-ship companies which my
previous experiences had made me acquainted with, still I ascribed
this--and rightly ascribed it--to the fierce uniqueness of the very
nature of that wild Scandinavian vocation in which I had so
abandonedly embarked. But it was especially the aspect of the three
chief officers of the ship, the mates, which was most forcibly
calculated to allay these colourless misgivings, and induce confidence
and cheerfulness in every presentment of the voyage. Three better,
more likely sea-officers and men, each in his own different way,
could not readily be found, and they were every one of them
Americans; a Nantucketer, a Vineyarder, a Cape man. Now, it being
Christmas when the ship shot from out her harbor, for a space we had
biting Polar weather, though all the time running away from it to the
southward; and by every degree and minute of latitude which we
sailed, gradually leaving that merciless winter, and all its
intolerable weather behind us. It was one of those less lowering,
but still grey and gloomy enough mornings of the transition, when
with a fair wind the ship was rushing through the water with a
vindictive sort of leaping and melancholy rapidity, that as I mounted
to the deck at the call of the forenoon watch, so soon as I levelled
my glance towards the taffrail, foreboding shivers ran over me.
Reality outran apprehension; Captain Ahab stood upon his
quarter-deck.

There seemed no sign of common bodily illness about him, nor of the
recovery from any. He looked like a man cut away from the stake,
when the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without
consuming them, or taking away one particle from their compacted aged
robustness. His whole high, broad form, seemed made of solid bronze,
and shaped in an unalterable mould, like Cellini's cast Perseus.
Threading its way out from among his grey hairs, and continuing right
down one side of his tawny scorched face and neck, till it
disappeared in his clothing, you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly
whitish. It resembled that perpendicular seam sometimes made in the
straight, lofty trunk of a great tree, when the upper lightning
tearingly darts down it, and without wrenching a single twig, peels
and grooves out the bark from top to bottom, ere running off into the
soil, leaving the tree still greenly alive, but branded. Whether
that mark was born with him, or whether it was the scar left by some
desperate wound, no one could certainly say. By some tacit consent,
throughout the voyage little or no allusion was made to it,
especially by the mates. But once Tashtego's senior, an old Gay-Head
Indian among the crew, superstitiously asserted that not till he was
full forty years old did Ahab become that way branded, and then it
came upon him, not in the fury of any mortal fray, but in an
elemental strife at sea. Yet, this wild hint seemed inferentially
negatived, by what a grey Manxman insinuated, an old sepulchral man,
who, having never before sailed out of Nantucket, had never ere this
laid eye upon wild Ahab. Nevertheless, the old sea-traditions, the
immemorial credulities, popularly invested this old Manxman with
preternatural powers of discernment. So that no white sailor
seriously contradicted him when he said that if ever Captain Ahab
should be tranquilly laid out--which might hardly come to pass, so he
muttered--then, whoever should do that last office for the dead,
would find a birth-mark on him from crown to sole.

So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of Ahab affect me, and the
livid brand which streaked it, that for the first few moments I
hardly noted that not a little of this overbearing grimness was owing
to the barbaric white leg upon which he partly stood. It had
previously come to me that this ivory leg had at sea been fashioned
from the polished bone of the sperm whale's jaw. "Aye, he was
dismasted off Japan," said the old Gay-Head Indian once; "but like
his dismasted craft, he shipped another mast without coming home for
it. He has a quiver of 'em."

I was struck with the singular posture he maintained. Upon each side
of the Pequod's quarter deck, and pretty close to the mizzen shrouds,
there was an auger hole, bored about half an inch or so, into the
plank. His bone leg steadied in that hole; one arm elevated, and
holding by a shroud; Captain Ahab stood erect, looking straight out
beyond the ship's ever-pitching prow. There was an infinity of
firmest fortitude, a determinate, unsurrenderable wilfulness, in the
fixed and fearless, forward dedication of that glance. Not a word he
spoke; nor did his officers say aught to him; though by all their
minutest gestures and expressions, they plainly showed the uneasy, if
not painful, consciousness of being under a troubled master-eye. And
not only that, but moody stricken Ahab stood before them with a
crucifixion in his face; in all the nameless regal overbearing
dignity of some mighty woe.

Ere long, from his first visit in the air, he withdrew into his
cabin. But after that morning, he was every day visible to the crew;
either standing in his pivot-hole, or seated upon an ivory stool he
had; or heavily walking the deck. As the sky grew less gloomy;
indeed, began to grow a little genial, he became still less and less
a recluse; as if, when the ship had sailed from home, nothing but the
dead wintry bleakness of the sea had then kept him so secluded. And,
by and by, it came to pass, that he was almost continually in the
air; but, as yet, for all that he said, or perceptibly did, on the at
last sunny deck, he seemed as unnecessary there as another mast. But
the Pequod was only making a passage now; not regularly cruising;
nearly all whaling preparatives needing supervision the mates were
fully competent to, so that there was little or nothing, out of
himself, to employ or excite Ahab, now; and thus chase away, for that
one interval, the clouds that layer upon layer were piled upon his
brow, as ever all clouds choose the loftiest peaks to pile themselves
upon.

Nevertheless, ere long, the warm, warbling persuasiveness of the
pleasant, holiday weather we came to, seemed gradually to charm him
from his mood. For, as when the red-cheeked, dancing girls, April
and May, trip home to the wintry, misanthropic woods; even the
barest, ruggedest, most thunder-cloven old oak will at least send
forth some few green sprouts, to welcome such glad-hearted visitants;
so Ahab did, in the end, a little respond to the playful allurings of
that girlish air. More than once did he put forth the faint blossom
of a look, which, in any other man, would have soon flowered out in a
smile.



CHAPTER 29

Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb.


Some days elapsed, and ice and icebergs all astern, the Pequod now
went rolling through the bright Quito spring, which, at sea, almost
perpetually reigns on the threshold of the eternal August of the
Tropic. The warmly cool, clear, ringing, perfumed, overflowing,
redundant days, were as crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped
up--flaked up, with rose-water snow. The starred and stately nights
seemed haughty dames in jewelled velvets, nursing at home in lonely
pride, the memory of their absent conquering Earls, the golden
helmeted suns! For sleeping man, 'twas hard to choose between such
winsome days and such seducing nights. But all the witcheries of
that unwaning weather did not merely lend new spells and potencies to
the outward world. Inward they turned upon the soul, especially when
the still mild hours of eve came on; then, memory shot her crystals
as the clear ice most forms of noiseless twilights. And all these
subtle agencies, more and more they wrought on Ahab's texture.

Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the
less man has to do with aught that looks like death. Among
sea-commanders, the old greybeards will oftenest leave their berths
to visit the night-cloaked deck. It was so with Ahab; only that now,
of late, he seemed so much to live in the open air, that truly
speaking, his visits were more to the cabin, than from the cabin to
the planks. "It feels like going down into one's tomb,"--he would
mutter to himself--"for an old captain like me to be descending this
narrow scuttle, to go to my grave-dug berth."

So, almost every twenty-four hours, when the watches of the night
were set, and the band on deck sentinelled the slumbers of the band
below; and when if a rope was to be hauled upon the forecastle, the
sailors flung it not rudely down, as by day, but with some
cautiousness dropt it to its place for fear of disturbing their
slumbering shipmates; when this sort of steady quietude would begin
to prevail, habitually, the silent steersman would watch the
cabin-scuttle; and ere long the old man would emerge, gripping at the
iron banister, to help his crippled way. Some considering touch of
humanity was in him; for at times like these, he usually abstained
from patrolling the quarter-deck; because to his wearied mates,
seeking repose within six inches of his ivory heel, such would have
been the reverberating crack and din of that bony step, that their
dreams would have been on the crunching teeth of sharks. But once,
the mood was on him too deep for common regardings; and as with
heavy, lumber-like pace he was measuring the ship from taffrail to
mainmast, Stubb, the old second mate, came up from below, with a
certain unassured, deprecating humorousness, hinted that if Captain
Ahab was pleased to walk the planks, then, no one could say nay; but
there might be some way of muffling the noise; hinting something
indistinctly and hesitatingly about a globe of tow, and the insertion
into it, of the ivory heel. Ah! Stubb, thou didst not know Ahab
then.

"Am I a cannon-ball, Stubb," said Ahab, "that thou wouldst wad me
that fashion? But go thy ways; I had forgot. Below to thy nightly
grave; where such as ye sleep between shrouds, to use ye to the
filling one at last.--Down, dog, and kennel!"

Starting at the unforseen concluding exclamation of the so suddenly
scornful old man, Stubb was speechless a moment; then said excitedly,
"I am not used to be spoken to that way, sir; I do but less than half
like it, sir."

"Avast! gritted Ahab between his set teeth, and violently moving
away, as if to avoid some passionate temptation.

"No, sir; not yet," said Stubb, emboldened, "I will not tamely be
called a dog, sir."

"Then be called ten times a donkey, and a mule, and an ass, and
begone, or I'll clear the world of thee!"

As he said this, Ahab advanced upon him with such overbearing terrors
in his aspect, that Stubb involuntarily retreated.

"I was never served so before without giving a hard blow for it,"
muttered Stubb, as he found himself descending the cabin-scuttle.
"It's very queer. Stop, Stubb; somehow, now, I don't well know
whether to go back and strike him, or--what's that?--down here on my
knees and pray for him? Yes, that was the thought coming up in me;
but it would be the first time I ever DID pray. It's queer; very
queer; and he's queer too; aye, take him fore and aft, he's about the
queerest old man Stubb ever sailed with. How he flashed at me!--his
eyes like powder-pans! is he mad? Anyway there's something on his
mind, as sure as there must be something on a deck when it cracks.
He aint in his bed now, either, more than three hours out of the
twenty-four; and he don't sleep then. Didn't that Dough-Boy, the
steward, tell me that of a morning he always finds the old man's
hammock clothes all rumpled and tumbled, and the sheets down at the
foot, and the coverlid almost tied into knots, and the pillow a sort
of frightful hot, as though a baked brick had been on it? A hot old
man! I guess he's got what some folks ashore call a conscience; it's
a kind of Tic-Dolly-row they say--worse nor a toothache. Well, well;
I don't know what it is, but the Lord keep me from catching it. He's
full of riddles; I wonder what he goes into the after hold for, every
night, as Dough-Boy tells me he suspects; what's that for, I should
like to know? Who's made appointments with him in the hold? Ain't
that queer, now? But there's no telling, it's the old game--Here
goes for a snooze. Damn me, it's worth a fellow's while to be born
into the world, if only to fall right asleep. And now that I think
of it, that's about the first thing babies do, and that's a sort of
queer, too. Damn me, but all things are queer, come to think of 'em.
But that's against my principles. Think not, is my eleventh
commandment; and sleep when you can, is my twelfth--So here goes
again. But how's that? didn't he call me a dog? blazes! he called me
ten times a donkey, and piled a lot of jackasses on top of THAT! He
might as well have kicked me, and done with it. Maybe he DID kick
me, and I didn't observe it, I was so taken all aback with his brow,
somehow. It flashed like a bleached bone. What the devil's the
matter with me? I don't stand right on my legs. Coming afoul of
that old man has a sort of turned me wrong side out. By the Lord, I
must have been dreaming, though--How? how? how?--but the only way's
to stash it; so here goes to hammock again; and in the morning, I'll
see how this plaguey juggling thinks over by daylight."



CHAPTER 30

The Pipe.


When Stubb had departed, Ahab stood for a while leaning over the
bulwarks; and then, as had been usual with him of late, calling a
sailor of the watch, he sent him below for his ivory stool, and also
his pipe. Lighting the pipe at the binnacle lamp and planting the
stool on the weather side of the deck, he sat and smoked.

In old Norse times, the thrones of the sea-loving Danish kings were
fabricated, saith tradition, of the tusks of the narwhale. How could
one look at Ahab then, seated on that tripod of bones, without
bethinking him of the royalty it symbolized? For a Khan of the
plank, and a king of the sea, and a great lord of Leviathans was
Ahab.

Some moments passed, during which the thick vapour came from his mouth
in quick and constant puffs, which blew back again into his face.
"How now," he soliloquized at last, withdrawing the tube, "this
smoking no longer soothes. Oh, my pipe! hard must it go with me if
thy charm be gone! Here have I been unconsciously toiling, not
pleasuring--aye, and ignorantly smoking to windward all the while; to
windward, and with such nervous whiffs, as if, like the dying whale,
my final jets were the strongest and fullest of trouble. What
business have I with this pipe? This thing that is meant for
sereneness, to send up mild white vapours among mild white hairs, not
among torn iron-grey locks like mine. I'll smoke no more--"

He tossed the still lighted pipe into the sea. The fire hissed in
the waves; the same instant the ship shot by the bubble the sinking
pipe made. With slouched hat, Ahab lurchingly paced the planks.



CHAPTER 31

Queen Mab.


Next morning Stubb accosted Flask.

"Such a queer dream, King-Post, I never had. You know the old man's
ivory leg, well I dreamed he kicked me with it; and when I tried to
kick back, upon my soul, my little man, I kicked my leg right off!
And then, presto! Ahab seemed a pyramid, and I, like a blazing fool,
kept kicking at it. But what was still more curious, Flask--you know
how curious all dreams are--through all this rage that I was in, I
somehow seemed to be thinking to myself, that after all, it was not
much of an insult, that kick from Ahab. 'Why,' thinks I, 'what's the
row? It's not a real leg, only a false leg.' And there's a mighty
difference between a living thump and a dead thump. That's what
makes a blow from the hand, Flask, fifty times more savage to bear
than a blow from a cane. The living member--that makes the living
insult, my little man. And thinks I to myself all the while, mind,
while I was stubbing my silly toes against that cursed pyramid--so
confoundedly contradictory was it all, all the while, I say, I was
thinking to myself, 'what's his leg now, but a cane--a whalebone
cane. Yes,' thinks I, 'it was only a playful cudgelling--in fact,
only a whaleboning that he gave me--not a base kick. Besides,'
thinks I, 'look at it once; why, the end of it--the foot part--what a
small sort of end it is; whereas, if a broad footed farmer kicked me,
THERE'S a devilish broad insult. But this insult is whittled down to
a point only.' But now comes the greatest joke of the dream, Flask.
While I was battering away at the pyramid, a sort of badger-haired
old merman, with a hump on his back, takes me by the shoulders, and
slews me round. 'What are you 'bout?' says he. Slid! man, but I was
frightened. Such a phiz! But, somehow, next moment I was over the
fright. 'What am I about?' says I at last. 'And what business is
that of yours, I should like to know, Mr. Humpback? Do YOU want a
kick?' By the lord, Flask, I had no sooner said that, than he turned
round his stern to me, bent over, and dragging up a lot of seaweed he
had for a clout--what do you think, I saw?--why thunder alive, man,
his stern was stuck full of marlinspikes, with the points out. Says
I, on second thoughts, 'I guess I won't kick you, old fellow.' 'Wise
Stubb,' said he, 'wise Stubb;' and kept muttering it all the time, a
sort of eating of his own gums like a chimney hag. Seeing he wasn't
going to stop saying over his 'wise Stubb, wise Stubb,' I thought I
might as well fall to kicking the pyramid again. But I had only just
lifted my foot for it, when he roared out, 'Stop that kicking!'
'Halloa,' says I, 'what's the matter now, old fellow?' 'Look ye
here,' says he; 'let's argue the insult. Captain Ahab kicked ye,
didn't he?' 'Yes, he did,' says I--'right HERE it was.' 'Very
good,' says he--'he used his ivory leg, didn't he?' 'Yes, he did,'
says I. 'Well then,' says he, 'wise Stubb, what have you to complain
of? Didn't he kick with right good will? it wasn't a common pitch
pine leg he kicked with, was it? No, you were kicked by a great man,
and with a beautiful ivory leg, Stubb. It's an honour; I consider it
an honour. Listen, wise Stubb. In old England the greatest lords
think it great glory to be slapped by a queen, and made
garter-knights of; but, be YOUR boast, Stubb, that ye were kicked by
old Ahab, and made a wise man of. Remember what I say; BE kicked by
him; account his kicks honours; and on no account kick back; for you
can't help yourself, wise Stubb. Don't you see that pyramid?' With
that, he all of a sudden seemed somehow, in some queer fashion, to
swim off into the air. I snored; rolled over; and there I was in my
hammock! Now, what do you think of that dream, Flask?"

"I don't know; it seems a sort of foolish to me, tho.'"

"May be; may be. But it's made a wise man of me, Flask. D'ye see
Ahab standing there, sideways looking over the stern? Well, the best
thing you can do, Flask, is to let the old man alone; never speak to
him, whatever he says. Halloa! What's that he shouts? Hark!"

"Mast-head, there! Look sharp, all of ye! There are whales
hereabouts!

If ye see a white one, split your lungs for him!

"What do you think of that now, Flask? ain't there a small drop of
something queer about that, eh? A white whale--did ye mark that,
man? Look ye--there's something special in the wind. Stand by for
it, Flask. Ahab has that that's bloody on his mind. But, mum; he
comes this way."



CHAPTER 32

Cetology.


Already we are boldly launched upon the deep; but soon we shall be
lost in its unshored, harbourless immensities. Ere that come to pass;
ere the Pequod's weedy hull rolls side by side with the barnacled
hulls of the leviathan; at the outset it is but well to attend to a
matter almost indispensable to a thorough appreciative understanding
of the more special leviathanic revelations and allusions of all
sorts which are to follow.

It is some systematized exhibition of the whale in his broad genera,
that I would now fain put before you. Yet is it no easy task. The
classification of the constituents of a chaos, nothing less is here
essayed. Listen to what the best and latest authorities have laid
down.

"No branch of Zoology is so much involved as that which is entitled
Cetology," says Captain Scoresby, A.D. 1820.

"It is not my intention, were it in my power, to enter into the
inquiry as to the true method of dividing the cetacea into groups and
families.... Utter confusion exists among the historians of this
animal" (sperm whale), says Surgeon Beale, A.D. 1839.

"Unfitness to pursue our research in the unfathomable waters."
"Impenetrable veil covering our knowledge of the cetacea." "A field
strewn with thorns." "All these incomplete indications but serve to
torture us naturalists."

Thus speak of the whale, the great Cuvier, and John Hunter, and
Lesson, those lights of zoology and anatomy. Nevertheless, though of
real knowledge there be little, yet of books there are a plenty; and
so in some small degree, with cetology, or the science of whales.
Many are the men, small and great, old and new, landsmen and seamen,
who have at large or in little, written of the whale. Run over a
few:--The Authors of the Bible; Aristotle; Pliny; Aldrovandi; Sir
Thomas Browne; Gesner; Ray; Linnaeus; Rondeletius; Willoughby; Green;
Artedi; Sibbald; Brisson; Marten; Lacepede; Bonneterre; Desmarest;
Baron Cuvier; Frederick Cuvier; John Hunter; Owen; Scoresby; Beale;
Bennett; J. Ross Browne; the Author of Miriam Coffin; Olmstead; and
the Rev. T. Cheever. But to what ultimate generalizing purpose all
these have written, the above cited extracts will show.

Of the names in this list of whale authors, only those following Owen
ever saw living whales; and but one of them was a real professional
harpooneer and whaleman. I mean Captain Scoresby. On the separate
subject of the Greenland or right-whale, he is the best existing
authority. But Scoresby knew nothing and says nothing of the great
sperm whale, compared with which the Greenland whale is almost
unworthy mentioning. And here be it said, that the Greenland whale
is an usurper upon the throne of the seas. He is not even by any
means the largest of the whales. Yet, owing to the long priority of
his claims, and the profound ignorance which, till some seventy years
back, invested the then fabulous or utterly unknown sperm-whale, and
which ignorance to this present day still reigns in all but some few
scientific retreats and whale-ports; this usurpation has been every
way complete. Reference to nearly all the leviathanic allusions in
the great poets of past days, will satisfy you that the Greenland
whale, without one rival, was to them the monarch of the seas. But
the time has at last come for a new proclamation. This is Charing
Cross; hear ye! good people all,--the Greenland whale is
deposed,--the great sperm whale now reigneth!

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