Part 10 - Moby Dick Audiobook by Herman Melville (Chs 124-135)

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-Chapter 124. The Needle.
Next morning the not-yet-subsided sea rolled in long slow billows of mighty bulk,
and striving in the Pequod's gurgling track, pushed her on like giants' palms
The strong, unstaggering breeze abounded so, that sky and air seemed vast
outbellying sails; the whole world boomed before the wind.
Muffled in the full morning light, the invisible sun was only known by the spread
intensity of his place; where his bayonet rays moved on in stacks.
Emblazonings, as of crowned Babylonian kings and queens, reigned over everything.
The sea was as a crucible of molten gold, that bubblingly leaps with light and heat.
Long maintaining an enchanted silence, Ahab stood apart; and every time the tetering
ship loweringly pitched down her bowsprit, he turned to eye the bright sun's rays
produced ahead; and when she profoundly
settled by the stern, he turned behind, and saw the sun's rearward place, and how the
same yellow rays were blending with his undeviating wake.
"Ha, ha, my ship! thou mightest well be taken now for the sea-chariot of the sun.
Ho, ho! all ye nations before my prow, I bring the sun to ye!
Yoke on the further billows; hallo! a tandem, I drive the sea!"
But suddenly reined back by some counter thought, he hurried towards the helm,
huskily demanding how the ship was heading.
"East-sou-east, sir," said the frightened steersman.
"Thou liest!" smiting him with his clenched fist.
"Heading East at this hour in the morning, and the sun astern?"
Upon this every soul was confounded; for the phenomenon just then observed by Ahab
had unaccountably escaped every one else; but its very blinding palpableness must
have been the cause.
Thrusting his head half way into the binnacle, Ahab caught one glimpse of the
compasses; his uplifted arm slowly fell; for a moment he almost seemed to stagger.
Standing behind him Starbuck looked, and lo! the two compasses pointed East, and the
Pequod was as infallibly going West.
But ere the first wild alarm could get out abroad among the crew, the old man with a
rigid laugh exclaimed, "I have it! It has happened before.
Mr. Starbuck, last night's thunder turned our compasses--that's all.
Thou hast before now heard of such a thing, I take it."
"Aye; but never before has it happened to me, sir," said the pale mate, gloomily.
Here, it must needs be said, that accidents like this have in more than one case
occurred to ships in violent storms.
The magnetic energy, as developed in the mariner's needle, is, as all know,
essentially one with the electricity beheld in heaven; hence it is not to be much
marvelled at, that such things should be.
Instances where the lightning has actually struck the vessel, so as to smite down some
of the spars and rigging, the effect upon the needle has at times been still more
fatal; all its loadstone virtue being
annihilated, so that the before magnetic steel was of no more use than an old wife's
knitting needle.
But in either case, the needle never again, of itself, recovers the original virtue
thus marred or lost; and if the binnacle compasses be affected, the same fate
reaches all the others that may be in the
ship; even were the lowermost one inserted into the kelson.
Deliberately standing before the binnacle, and eyeing the transpointed compasses, the
old man, with the sharp of his extended hand, now took the precise bearing of the
sun, and satisfied that the needles were
exactly inverted, shouted out his orders for the ship's course to be changed
The yards were hard up; and once more the Pequod thrust her undaunted bows into the
opposing wind, for the supposed fair one had only been juggling her.
Meanwhile, whatever were his own secret thoughts, Starbuck said nothing, but
quietly he issued all requisite orders; while Stubb and Flask--who in some small
degree seemed then to be sharing his
feelings--likewise unmurmuringly acquiesced.
As for the men, though some of them lowly rumbled, their fear of Ahab was greater
than their fear of Fate.
But as ever before, the pagan harpooneers remained almost wholly unimpressed; or if
impressed, it was only with a certain magnetism shot into their congenial hearts
from inflexible Ahab's.
For a space the old man walked the deck in rolling reveries.
But chancing to slip with his ivory heel, he saw the crushed copper sight-tubes of
the quadrant he had the day before dashed to the deck.
"Thou poor, proud heaven-gazer and sun's pilot! yesterday I wrecked thee, and to-day
the compasses would fain have wrecked me. So, so.
But Ahab is lord over the level loadstone yet.
Mr. Starbuck--a lance without a pole; a top-maul, and the smallest of the sail-
maker's needles.
Accessory, perhaps, to the impulse dictating the thing he was now about to do,
were certain prudential motives, whose object might have been to revive the
spirits of his crew by a stroke of his
subtile skill, in a matter so wondrous as that of the inverted compasses.
Besides, the old man well knew that to steer by transpointed needles, though
clumsily practicable, was not a thing to be passed over by superstitious sailors,
without some shudderings and evil portents.
"Men," said he, steadily turning upon the crew, as the mate handed him the things he
had demanded, "my men, the thunder turned old Ahab's needles; but out of this bit of
steel Ahab can make one of his own, that will point as true as any."
Abashed glances of servile wonder were exchanged by the sailors, as this was said;
and with fascinated eyes they awaited whatever magic might follow.
But Starbuck looked away.
With a blow from the top-maul Ahab knocked off the steel head of the lance, and then
handing to the mate the long iron rod remaining, bade him hold it upright,
without its touching the deck.
Then, with the maul, after repeatedly smiting the upper end of this iron rod, he
placed the blunted needle endwise on the top of it, and less strongly hammered that,
several times, the mate still holding the rod as before.
Then going through some small strange motions with it--whether indispensable to
the magnetizing of the steel, or merely intended to augment the awe of the crew, is
uncertain--he called for linen thread; and
moving to the binnacle, slipped out the two reversed needles there, and horizontally
suspended the sail-needle by its middle, over one of the compass-cards.
At first, the steel went round and round, quivering and vibrating at either end; but
at last it settled to its place, when Ahab, who had been intently watching for this
result, stepped frankly back from the
binnacle, and pointing his stretched arm towards it, exclaimed,--"Look ye, for
yourselves, if Ahab be not lord of the level loadstone!
The sun is East, and that compass swears it!"
One after another they peered in, for nothing but their own eyes could persuade
such ignorance as theirs, and one after another they slunk away.
In his fiery eyes of scorn and triumph, you then saw Ahab in all his fatal pride.
Chapter 125. The Log and Line.
While now the fated Pequod had been so long afloat this voyage, the log and line had
but very seldom been in use.
Owing to a confident reliance upon other means of determining the vessel's place,
some merchantmen, and many whalemen, especially when cruising, wholly neglect to
heave the log; though at the same time, and
frequently more for form's sake than anything else, regularly putting down upon
the customary slate the course steered by the ship, as well as the presumed average
rate of progression every hour.
It had been thus with the Pequod. The wooden reel and angular log attached
hung, long untouched, just beneath the railing of the after bulwarks.
Rains and spray had damped it; sun and wind had warped it; all the elements had
combined to rot a thing that hung so idly.
But heedless of all this, his mood seized Ahab, as he happened to glance upon the
reel, not many hours after the magnet scene, and he remembered how his quadrant
was no more, and recalled his frantic oath about the level log and line.
The ship was sailing plungingly; astern the billows rolled in riots.
"Forward, there!
Heave the log!" Two seamen came.
The golden-hued Tahitian and the grizzly Manxman.
"Take the reel, one of ye, I'll heave."
They went towards the extreme stern, on the ship's lee side, where the deck, with the
oblique energy of the wind, was now almost dipping into the creamy, sidelong-rushing
The Manxman took the reel, and holding it high up, by the projecting handle-ends of
the spindle, round which the spool of line revolved, so stood with the angular log
hanging downwards, till Ahab advanced to him.
Ahab stood before him, and was lightly unwinding some thirty or forty turns to
form a preliminary hand-coil to toss overboard, when the old Manxman, who was
intently eyeing both him and the line, made bold to speak.
"Sir, I mistrust it; this line looks far gone, long heat and wet have spoiled it."
"'Twill hold, old gentleman.
Long heat and wet, have they spoiled thee? Thou seem'st to hold.
Or, truer perhaps, life holds thee; not thou it."
"I hold the spool, sir.
But just as my captain says. With these grey hairs of mine 'tis not
worth while disputing, 'specially with a superior, who'll ne'er confess."
"What's that?
There now's a patched professor in Queen Nature's granite-founded College; but
methinks he's too subservient. Where wert thou born?"
"In the little rocky Isle of Man, sir."
"Excellent! Thou'st hit the world by that."
"I know not, sir, but I was born there." "In the Isle of Man, hey?
Well, the other way, it's good.
Here's a man from Man; a man born in once independent Man, and now unmanned of Man;
which is sucked in--by what? Up with the reel!
The dead, blind wall butts all inquiring heads at last.
Up with it! So."
The log was heaved.
The loose coils rapidly straightened out in a long dragging line astern, and then,
instantly, the reel began to whirl.
In turn, jerkingly raised and lowered by the rolling billows, the towing resistance
of the log caused the old reelman to stagger strangely.
"Hold hard!"
Snap! the overstrained line sagged down in one long festoon; the tugging log was gone.
"I crush the quadrant, the thunder turns the needles, and now the mad sea parts the
But Ahab can mend all. Haul in here, Tahitian; reel up, Manxman.
And look ye, let the carpenter make another log, and mend thou the line.
See to it."
"There he goes now; to him nothing's happened; but to me, the skewer seems
loosening out of the middle of the world. Haul in, haul in, Tahitian!
These lines run whole, and whirling out: come in broken, and dragging slow.
Ha, Pip? come to help; eh, Pip?" "Pip? whom call ye Pip?
Pip jumped from the whale-boat.
Pip's missing. Let's see now if ye haven't fished him up
here, fisherman. It drags hard; I guess he's holding on.
Jerk him, Tahiti!
Jerk him off; we haul in no cowards here. Ho! there's his arm just breaking water.
A hatchet! a hatchet! cut it off--we haul in no cowards here.
Captain Ahab! sir, sir! here's Pip, trying to get on board again."
"Peace, thou crazy loon," cried the Manxman, seizing him by the arm.
"Away from the quarter-deck!"
"The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser," muttered Ahab, advancing.
"Hands off from that holiness! Where sayest thou Pip was, boy?
"Astern there, sir, astern!
Lo! lo!" "And who art thou, boy?
I see not my reflection in the vacant pupils of thy eyes.
Oh God! that man should be a thing for immortal souls to sieve through!
Who art thou, boy?" "Bell-boy, sir; ship's-crier; ding, dong,
Pip! Pip!
One hundred pounds of clay reward for Pip; five feet high--looks cowardly--quickest
known by that! Ding, dong, ding!
Who's seen Pip the coward?"
"There can be no hearts above the snow- line.
Oh, ye frozen heavens! look down here. Ye did beget this luckless child, and have
abandoned him, ye creative libertines.
Here, boy; Ahab's cabin shall be Pip's home henceforth, while Ahab lives.
Thou touchest my inmost centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven of my heart-
Come, let's down." "What's this? here's velvet shark-skin,"
intently gazing at Ahab's hand, and feeling it.
"Ah, now, had poor Pip but felt so kind a thing as this, perhaps he had ne'er been
lost! This seems to me, sir, as a man-rope;
something that weak souls may hold by.
Oh, sir, let old Perth now come and rivet these two hands together; the black one
with the white, for I will not let this go."
"Oh, boy, nor will I thee, unless I should thereby drag thee to worse horrors than are
here. Come, then, to my cabin.
Lo! ye believers in gods all goodness, and in man all ill, lo you! see the omniscient
gods oblivious of suffering man; and man, though idiotic, and knowing not what he
does, yet full of the sweet things of love and gratitude.
Come! I feel prouder leading thee by thy black
hand, than though I grasped an Emperor's!"
"There go two daft ones now," muttered the old Manxman.
"One daft with strength, the other daft with weakness.
But here's the end of the rotten line--all dripping, too.
Mend it, eh? I think we had best have a new line
I'll see Mr. Stubb about it."
Chapter 126. The Life-Buoy.
Steering now south-eastward by Ahab's levelled steel, and her progress solely
determined by Ahab's level log and line; the Pequod held on her path towards the
Making so long a passage through such unfrequented waters, descrying no ships,
and ere long, sideways impelled by unvarying trade winds, over waves
monotonously mild; all these seemed the
strange calm things preluding some riotous and desperate scene.
At last, when the ship drew near to the outskirts, as it were, of the Equatorial
fishing-ground, and in the deep darkness that goes before the dawn, was sailing by a
cluster of rocky islets; the watch--then
headed by Flask--was startled by a cry so plaintively wild and unearthly--like half-
articulated wailings of the ghosts of all Herod's murdered Innocents--that one and
all, they started from their reveries, and
for the space of some moments stood, or sat, or leaned all transfixedly listening,
like the carved Roman slave, while that wild cry remained within hearing.
The Christian or civilized part of the crew said it was mermaids, and shuddered; but
the pagan harpooneers remained unappalled.
Yet the grey Manxman--the oldest mariner of all--declared that the wild thrilling
sounds that were heard, were the voices of newly drowned men in the sea.
Below in his hammock, Ahab did not hear of this till grey dawn, when he came to the
deck; it was then recounted to him by Flask, not unaccompanied with hinted dark
He hollowly laughed, and thus explained the wonder.
Those rocky islands the ship had passed were the resort of great numbers of seals,
and some young seals that had lost their dams, or some dams that had lost their
cubs, must have risen nigh the ship and
kept company with her, crying and sobbing with their human sort of wail.
But this only the more affected some of them, because most mariners cherish a very
superstitious feeling about seals, arising not only from their peculiar tones when in
distress, but also from the human look of
their round heads and semi-intelligent faces, seen peeringly uprising from the
water alongside.
In the sea, under certain circumstances, seals have more than once been mistaken for
But the bodings of the crew were destined to receive a most plausible confirmation in
the fate of one of their number that morning.
At sun-rise this man went from his hammock to his mast-head at the fore; and whether
it was that he was not yet half waked from his sleep (for sailors sometimes go aloft
in a transition state), whether it was thus
with the man, there is now no telling; but, be that as it may, he had not been long at
his perch, when a cry was heard--a cry and a rushing--and looking up, they saw a
falling phantom in the air; and looking
down, a little tossed heap of white bubbles in the blue of the sea.
The life-buoy--a long slender cask--was dropped from the stern, where it always
hung obedient to a cunning spring; but no hand rose to seize it, and the sun having
long beat upon this cask it had shrunken,
so that it slowly filled, and that parched wood also filled at its every pore; and the
studded iron-bound cask followed the sailor to the bottom, as if to yield him his
pillow, though in sooth but a hard one.
And thus the first man of the Pequod that mounted the mast to look out for the White
Whale, on the White Whale's own peculiar ground; that man was swallowed up in the
But few, perhaps, thought of that at the time.
Indeed, in some sort, they were not grieved at this event, at least as a portent; for
they regarded it, not as a foreshadowing of evil in the future, but as the fulfilment
of an evil already presaged.
They declared that now they knew the reason of those wild shrieks they had heard the
night before. But again the old Manxman said nay.
The lost life-buoy was now to be replaced; Starbuck was directed to see to it; but as
no cask of sufficient lightness could be found, and as in the feverish eagerness of
what seemed the approaching crisis of the
voyage, all hands were impatient of any toil but what was directly connected with
its final end, whatever that might prove to be; therefore, they were going to leave the
ship's stern unprovided with a buoy, when
by certain strange signs and inuendoes Queequeg hinted a hint concerning his
coffin. "A life-buoy of a coffin!" cried Starbuck,
"Rather queer, that, I should say," said Stubb.
"It will make a good enough one," said Flask, "the carpenter here can arrange it
"Bring it up; there's nothing else for it," said Starbuck, after a melancholy pause.
"Rig it, carpenter; do not look at me so-- the coffin, I mean.
Dost thou hear me?
Rig it." "And shall I nail down the lid, sir?"
moving his hand as with a hammer. "Aye."
"And shall I caulk the seams, sir?" moving his hand as with a caulking-iron.
"And shall I then pay over the same with pitch, sir?" moving his hand as with a
pitch-pot. "Away! what possesses thee to this?
Make a life-buoy of the coffin, and no more.--Mr. Stubb, Mr. Flask, come forward
with me." "He goes off in a huff.
The whole he can endure; at the parts he baulks.
Now I don't like this.
I make a leg for Captain Ahab, and he wears it like a gentleman; but I make a bandbox
for Queequeg, and he won't put his head into it.
Are all my pains to go for nothing with that coffin?
And now I'm ordered to make a life-buoy of it.
It's like turning an old coat; going to bring the flesh on the other side now.
I don't like this cobbling sort of business--I don't like it at all; it's
undignified; it's not my place.
Let tinkers' brats do tinkerings; we are their betters.
I like to take in hand none but clean, virgin, fair-and-square mathematical jobs,
something that regularly begins at the beginning, and is at the middle when
midway, and comes to an end at the
conclusion; not a cobbler's job, that's at an end in the middle, and at the beginning
at the end. It's the old woman's tricks to be giving
cobbling jobs.
Lord! what an affection all old women have for tinkers.
I know an old woman of sixty-five who ran away with a bald-headed young tinker once.
And that's the reason I never would work for lonely widow old women ashore, when I
kept my job-shop in the Vineyard; they might have taken it into their lonely old
heads to run off with me.
But heigh-ho! there are no caps at sea but snow-caps.
Let me see.
Nail down the lid; caulk the seams; pay over the same with pitch; batten them down
tight, and hang it with the snap-spring over the ship's stern.
Were ever such things done before with a coffin?
Some superstitious old carpenters, now, would be tied up in the rigging, ere they
would do the job.
But I'm made of knotty Aroostook hemlock; I don't budge.
Cruppered with a coffin! Sailing about with a grave-yard tray!
But never mind.
We workers in woods make bridal-bedsteads and card-tables, as well as coffins and
We work by the month, or by the job, or by the profit; not for us to ask the why and
wherefore of our work, unless it be too confounded cobbling, and then we stash it
if we can.
Hem! I'll do the job, now, tenderly.
I'll have me--let's see--how many in the ship's company, all told?
But I've forgotten.
Any way, I'll have me thirty separate, Turk's-headed life-lines, each three feet
long hanging all round to the coffin.
Then, if the hull go down, there'll be thirty lively fellows all fighting for one
coffin, a sight not seen very often beneath the sun!
Come hammer, caulking-iron, pitch-pot, and marling-spike!
Let's to it."
Chapter 127. The Deck.
"Back, lad; I will be with ye again presently.
He goes!
Not this hand complies with my humor more genially than that boy.--Middle aisle of a
church! What's here?"
"Life-buoy, sir.
Mr. Starbuck's orders. Oh, look, sir!
Beware the hatchway!" "Thank ye, man.
Thy coffin lies handy to the vault."
"Sir? The hatchway? oh!
So it does, sir, so it does." "Art not thou the leg-maker?
Look, did not this stump come from thy shop?"
"I believe it did, sir; does the ferrule stand, sir?"
"Well enough.
But art thou not also the undertaker?" "Aye, sir; I patched up this thing here as
a coffin for Queequeg; but they've set me now to turning it into something else."
"Then tell me; art thou not an arrant, all- grasping, intermeddling, monopolising,
heathenish old scamp, to be one day making legs, and the next day coffins to clap them
in, and yet again life-buoys out of those same coffins?
Thou art as unprincipled as the gods, and as much of a jack-of-all-trades."
"But I do not mean anything, sir.
I do as I do." "The gods again.
Hark ye, dost thou not ever sing working about a coffin?
The Titans, they say, hummed snatches when chipping out the craters for volcanoes; and
the grave-digger in the play sings, spade in hand.
Dost thou never?"
"Sing, sir? Do I sing?
Oh, I'm indifferent enough, sir, for that; but the reason why the grave-digger made
music must have been because there was none in his spade, sir.
But the caulking mallet is full of it.
Hark to it." "Aye, and that's because the lid there's a
sounding-board; and what in all things makes the sounding-board is this--there's
naught beneath.
And yet, a coffin with a body in it rings pretty much the same, Carpenter.
Hast thou ever helped carry a bier, and heard the coffin knock against the
churchyard gate, going in?
"Faith, sir, I've--" "Faith?
What's that?" "Why, faith, sir, it's only a sort of
exclamation-like--that's all, sir."
"Um, um; go on." "I was about to say, sir, that--"
"Art thou a silk-worm? Dost thou spin thy own shroud out of
Look at thy bosom! Despatch! and get these traps out of
sight." "He goes aft.
That was sudden, now; but squalls come sudden in hot latitudes.
I've heard that the Isle of Albemarle, one of the Gallipagos, is cut by the Equator
right in the middle.
Seems to me some sort of Equator cuts yon old man, too, right in his middle.
He's always under the Line--fiery hot, I tell ye!
He's looking this way--come, oakum; quick.
Here we go again. This wooden mallet is the cork, and I'm the
professor of musical glasses--tap, tap!" (AHAB TO HIMSELF.)
"There's a sight!
There's a sound! The grey-headed woodpecker tapping the
hollow tree! Blind and dumb might well be envied now.
See! that thing rests on two line-tubs, full of tow-lines.
A most malicious wag, that fellow. Rat-tat!
So man's seconds tick!
Oh! how immaterial are all materials! What things real are there, but
imponderable thoughts?
Here now's the very dreaded symbol of grim death, by a mere hap, made the expressive
sign of the help and hope of most endangered life.
A life-buoy of a coffin!
Does it go further? Can it be that in some spiritual sense the
coffin is, after all, but an immortality- preserver!
I'll think of that.
But no. So far gone am I in the dark side of earth,
that its other side, the theoretic bright one, seems but uncertain twilight to me.
Will ye never have done, Carpenter, with that accursed sound?
I go below; let me not see that thing here when I return again.
Now, then, Pip, we'll talk this over; I do suck most wondrous philosophies from thee!
Some unknown conduits from the unknown worlds must empty into thee!"
-Chapter 128. The Pequod Meets The Rachel.
Next day, a large ship, the Rachel, was descried, bearing directly down upon the
Pequod, all her spars thickly clustering with men.
At the time the Pequod was making good speed through the water; but as the broad-
winged windward stranger shot nigh to her, the boastful sails all fell together as
blank bladders that are burst, and all life fled from the smitten hull.
"Bad news; she brings bad news," muttered the old Manxman.
But ere her commander, who, with trumpet to mouth, stood up in his boat; ere he could
hopefully hail, Ahab's voice was heard. "Hast seen the White Whale?"
"Aye, yesterday.
Have ye seen a whale-boat adrift?"
Throttling his joy, Ahab negatively answered this unexpected question; and
would then have fain boarded the stranger, when the stranger captain himself, having
stopped his vessel's way, was seen descending her side.
A few keen pulls, and his boat-hook soon clinched the Pequod's main-chains, and he
sprang to the deck.
Immediately he was recognised by Ahab for a Nantucketer he knew.
But no formal salutation was exchanged. "Where was he?--not killed!--not killed!"
cried Ahab, closely advancing.
"How was it?"
It seemed that somewhat late on the afternoon of the day previous, while three
of the stranger's boats were engaged with a shoal of whales, which had led them some
four or five miles from the ship; and while
they were yet in swift chase to windward, the white hump and head of Moby Dick had
suddenly loomed up out of the water, not very far to leeward; whereupon, the fourth
rigged boat--a reserved one--had been instantly lowered in chase.
After a keen sail before the wind, this fourth boat--the swiftest keeled of all--
seemed to have succeeded in fastening--at least, as well as the man at the mast-head
could tell anything about it.
In the distance he saw the diminished dotted boat; and then a swift gleam of
bubbling white water; and after that nothing more; whence it was concluded that
the stricken whale must have indefinitely
run away with his pursuers, as often happens.
There was some apprehension, but no positive alarm, as yet.
The recall signals were placed in the rigging; darkness came on; and forced to
pick up her three far to windward boats-- ere going in quest of the fourth one in the
precisely opposite direction--the ship had
not only been necessitated to leave that boat to its fate till near midnight, but,
for the time, to increase her distance from it.
But the rest of her crew being at last safe aboard, she crowded all sail--stunsail on
stunsail--after the missing boat; kindling a fire in her try-pots for a beacon; and
every other man aloft on the look-out.
But though when she had thus sailed a sufficient distance to gain the presumed
place of the absent ones when last seen; though she then paused to lower her spare
boats to pull all around her; and not
finding anything, had again dashed on; again paused, and lowered her boats; and
though she had thus continued doing till daylight; yet not the least glimpse of the
missing keel had been seen.
The story told, the stranger Captain immediately went on to reveal his object in
boarding the Pequod.
He desired that ship to unite with his own in the search; by sailing over the sea some
four or five miles apart, on parallel lines, and so sweeping a double horizon, as
it were.
"I will wager something now," whispered Stubb to Flask, "that some one in that
missing boat wore off that Captain's best coat; mayhap, his watch--he's so cursed
anxious to get it back.
Who ever heard of two pious whale-ships cruising after one missing whale-boat in
the height of the whaling season?
See, Flask, only see how pale he looks-- pale in the very buttons of his eyes--look-
-it wasn't the coat--it must have been the- -"
"My boy, my own boy is among them.
For God's sake--I beg, I conjure"--here exclaimed the stranger Captain to Ahab, who
thus far had but icily received his petition.
"For eight-and-forty hours let me charter your ship--I will gladly pay for it, and
roundly pay for it--if there be no other way--for eight-and-forty hours only--only
that--you must, oh, you must, and you SHALL do this thing."
"His son!" cried Stubb, "oh, it's his son he's lost!
I take back the coat and watch--what says Ahab?
We must save that boy."
"He's drowned with the rest on 'em, last night," said the old Manx sailor standing
behind them; "I heard; all of ye heard their spirits."
Now, as it shortly turned out, what made this incident of the Rachel's the more
melancholy, was the circumstance, that not only was one of the Captain's sons among
the number of the missing boat's crew; but
among the number of the other boat's crews, at the same time, but on the other hand,
separated from the ship during the dark vicissitudes of the chase, there had been
still another son; as that for a time, the
wretched father was plunged to the bottom of the cruellest perplexity; which was only
solved for him by his chief mate's instinctively adopting the ordinary
procedure of a whale-ship in such
emergencies, that is, when placed between jeopardized but divided boats, always to
pick up the majority first.
But the captain, for some unknown constitutional reason, had refrained from
mentioning all this, and not till forced to it by Ahab's iciness did he allude to his
one yet missing boy; a little lad, but
twelve years old, whose father with the earnest but unmisgiving hardihood of a
Nantucketer's paternal love, had thus early sought to initiate him in the perils and
wonders of a vocation almost immemorially the destiny of all his race.
Nor does it unfrequently occur, that Nantucket captains will send a son of such
tender age away from them, for a protracted three or four years' voyage in some other
ship than their own; so that their first
knowledge of a whaleman's career shall be unenervated by any chance display of a
father's natural but untimely partiality, or undue apprehensiveness and concern.
Meantime, now the stranger was still beseeching his poor boon of Ahab; and Ahab
still stood like an anvil, receiving every shock, but without the least quivering of
his own.
"I will not go," said the stranger, "till you say aye to me.
Do to me as you would have me do to you in the like case.
For YOU too have a boy, Captain Ahab-- though but a child, and nestling safely at
home now--a child of your old age too--Yes, yes, you relent; I see it--run, run, men,
now, and stand by to square in the yards."
"Avast," cried Ahab--"touch not a rope- yarn"; then in a voice that prolongingly
moulded every word--"Captain Gardiner, I will not do it.
Even now I lose time.
Good-bye, good-bye. God bless ye, man, and may I forgive
myself, but I must go.
Mr. Starbuck, look at the binnacle watch, and in three minutes from this present
instant warn off all strangers: then brace forward again, and let the ship sail as
Hurriedly turning, with averted face, he descended into his cabin, leaving the
strange captain transfixed at this unconditional and utter rejection of his so
earnest suit.
But starting from his enchantment, Gardiner silently hurried to the side; more fell
than stepped into his boat, and returned to his ship.
Soon the two ships diverged their wakes; and long as the strange vessel was in view,
she was seen to yaw hither and thither at every dark spot, however small, on the sea.
This way and that her yards were swung round; starboard and larboard, she
continued to tack; now she beat against a head sea; and again it pushed her before
it; while all the while, her masts and
yards were thickly clustered with men, as three tall cherry trees, when the boys are
cherrying among the boughs.
But by her still halting course and winding, woeful way, you plainly saw that
this ship that so wept with spray, still remained without comfort.
She was Rachel, weeping for her children, because they were not.
Chapter 129. The Cabin.
"Lad, lad, I tell thee thou must not follow Ahab now.
The hour is coming when Ahab would not scare thee from him, yet would not have
thee by him. There is that in thee, poor lad, which I
feel too curing to my malady.
Like cures like; and for this hunt, my malady becomes my most desired health.
Do thou abide below here, where they shall serve thee, as if thou wert the captain.
Aye, lad, thou shalt sit here in my own screwed chair; another screw to it, thou
must be."
"No, no, no! ye have not a whole body, sir; do ye but use poor me for your one lost
leg; only tread upon me, sir; I ask no more, so I remain a part of ye."
"Oh! spite of million villains, this makes me a bigot in the fadeless fidelity of
man!--and a black! and crazy!--but methinks like-cures-like applies to him too; he
grows so sane again."
"They tell me, sir, that Stubb did once desert poor little Pip, whose drowned bones
now show white, for all the blackness of his living skin.
But I will never desert ye, sir, as Stubb did him.
Sir, I must go with ye." "If thou speakest thus to me much more,
Ahab's purpose keels up in him.
I tell thee no; it cannot be." "Oh good master, master, master!
"Weep so, and I will murder thee! have a care, for Ahab too is mad.
Listen, and thou wilt often hear my ivory foot upon the deck, and still know that I
am there. And now I quit thee.
Thy hand!--Met!
True art thou, lad, as the circumference to its centre.
So: God for ever bless thee; and if it come to that,--God for ever save thee, let what
will befall."
(AHAB GOES; PIP STEPS ONE STEP FORWARD.) "Here he this instant stood; I stand in his
air,--but I'm alone. Now were even poor Pip here I could endure
it, but he's missing.
Pip! Pip!
Ding, dong, ding! Who's seen Pip?
He must be up here; let's try the door.
What? neither lock, nor bolt, nor bar; and yet there's no opening it.
It must be the spell; he told me to stay here: Aye, and told me this screwed chair
was mine.
Here, then, I'll seat me, against the transom, in the ship's full middle, all her
keel and her three masts before me.
Here, our old sailors say, in their black seventy-fours great admirals sometimes sit
at table, and lord it over rows of captains and lieutenants.
Ha! what's this? epaulets! epaulets! the epaulets all come crowding!
Pass round the decanters; glad to see ye; fill up, monsieurs!
What an odd feeling, now, when a black boy's host to white men with gold lace upon
their coats!--Monsieurs, have ye seen one Pip?--a little negro lad, five feet high,
hang-dog look, and cowardly!
Jumped from a whale-boat once;--seen him? No! Well then, fill up again, captains, and
let's drink shame upon all cowards! I name no names.
Shame upon them!
Put one foot upon the table. Shame upon all cowards.--Hist! above there,
I hear ivory--Oh, master! master! I am indeed down-hearted when you walk over
But here I'll stay, though this stern strikes rocks; and they bulge through; and
oysters come to join me."
Chapter 130. The Hat.
And now that at the proper time and place, after so long and wide a preliminary
cruise, Ahab,--all other whaling waters swept--seemed to have chased his foe into
an ocean-fold, to slay him the more
securely there; now, that he found himself hard by the very latitude and longitude
where his tormenting wound had been inflicted; now that a vessel had been
spoken which on the very day preceding had
actually encountered Moby Dick;--and now that all his successive meetings with
various ships contrastingly concurred to show the demoniac indifference with which
the white whale tore his hunters, whether
sinning or sinned against; now it was that there lurked a something in the old man's
eyes, which it was hardly sufferable for feeble souls to see.
As the unsetting polar star, which through the livelong, arctic, six months' night
sustains its piercing, steady, central gaze; so Ahab's purpose now fixedly gleamed
down upon the constant midnight of the gloomy crew.
It domineered above them so, that all their bodings, doubts, misgivings, fears, were
fain to hide beneath their souls, and not sprout forth a single spear or leaf.
In this foreshadowing interval too, all humor, forced or natural, vanished.
Stubb no more strove to raise a smile; Starbuck no more strove to check one.
Alike, joy and sorrow, hope and fear, seemed ground to finest dust, and powdered,
for the time, in the clamped mortar of Ahab's iron soul.
Like machines, they dumbly moved about the deck, ever conscious that the old man's
despot eye was on them.
But did you deeply scan him in his more secret confidential hours; when he thought
no glance but one was on him; then you would have seen that even as Ahab's eyes so
awed the crew's, the inscrutable Parsee's
glance awed his; or somehow, at least, in some wild way, at times affected it.
Such an added, gliding strangeness began to invest the thin Fedallah now; such
ceaseless shudderings shook him; that the men looked dubious at him; half uncertain,
as it seemed, whether indeed he were a
mortal substance, or else a tremulous shadow cast upon the deck by some unseen
being's body. And that shadow was always hovering there.
For not by night, even, had Fedallah ever certainly been known to slumber, or go
He would stand still for hours: but never sat or leaned; his wan but wondrous eyes
did plainly say--We two watchmen never rest.
Nor, at any time, by night or day could the mariners now step upon the deck, unless
Ahab was before them; either standing in his pivot-hole, or exactly pacing the
planks between two undeviating limits,--the
main-mast and the mizen; or else they saw him standing in the cabin-scuttle,--his
living foot advanced upon the deck, as if to step; his hat slouched heavily over his
eyes; so that however motionless he stood,
however the days and nights were added on, that he had not swung in his hammock; yet
hidden beneath that slouching hat, they could never tell unerringly whether, for
all this, his eyes were really closed at
times; or whether he was still intently scanning them; no matter, though he stood
so in the scuttle for a whole hour on the stretch, and the unheeded night-damp
gathered in beads of dew upon that stone- carved coat and hat.
The clothes that the night had wet, the next day's sunshine dried upon him; and so,
day after day, and night after night; he went no more beneath the planks; whatever
he wanted from the cabin that thing he sent for.
He ate in the same open air; that is, his two only meals,--breakfast and dinner:
supper he never touched; nor reaped his beard; which darkly grew all gnarled, as
unearthed roots of trees blown over, which
still grow idly on at naked base, though perished in the upper verdure.
But though his whole life was now become one watch on deck; and though the Parsee's
mystic watch was without intermission as his own; yet these two never seemed to
speak--one man to the other--unless at long
intervals some passing unmomentous matter made it necessary.
Though such a potent spell seemed secretly to join the twain; openly, and to the awe-
struck crew, they seemed pole-like asunder.
If by day they chanced to speak one word; by night, dumb men were both, so far as
concerned the slightest verbal interchange.
At times, for longest hours, without a single hail, they stood far parted in the
starlight; Ahab in his scuttle, the Parsee by the mainmast; but still fixedly gazing
upon each other; as if in the Parsee Ahab
saw his forethrown shadow, in Ahab the Parsee his abandoned substance.
And yet, somehow, did Ahab--in his own proper self, as daily, hourly, and every
instant, commandingly revealed to his subordinates,--Ahab seemed an independent
lord; the Parsee but his slave.
Still again both seemed yoked together, and an unseen tyrant driving them; the lean
shade siding the solid rib. For be this Parsee what he may, all rib and
keel was solid Ahab.
At the first faintest glimmering of the dawn, his iron voice was heard from aft,--
"Man the mast-heads!"--and all through the day, till after sunset and after twilight,
the same voice every hour, at the striking
of the helmsman's bell, was heard--"What d'ye see?--sharp! sharp!"
But when three or four days had slided by, after meeting the children-seeking Rachel;
and no spout had yet been seen; the monomaniac old man seemed distrustful of
his crew's fidelity; at least, of nearly
all except the Pagan harpooneers; he seemed to doubt, even, whether Stubb and Flask
might not willingly overlook the sight he sought.
But if these suspicions were really his, he sagaciously refrained from verbally
expressing them, however his actions might seem to hint them.
"I will have the first sight of the whale myself,"--he said.
Ahab must have the doubloon! and with his own hands he rigged a nest of basketed
bowlines; and sending a hand aloft, with a single sheaved block, to secure to the
main-mast head, he received the two ends of
the downward-reeved rope; and attaching one to his basket prepared a pin for the other
end, in order to fasten it at the rail.
This done, with that end yet in his hand and standing beside the pin, he looked
round upon his crew, sweeping from one to the other; pausing his glance long upon
Daggoo, Queequeg, Tashtego; but shunning
Fedallah; and then settling his firm relying eye upon the chief mate, said,--
"Take the rope, sir--I give it into thy hands, Starbuck."
Then arranging his person in the basket, he gave the word for them to hoist him to his
perch, Starbuck being the one who secured the rope at last; and afterwards stood near
And thus, with one hand clinging round the royal mast, Ahab gazed abroad upon the sea
for miles and miles,--ahead, astern, this side, and that,--within the wide expanded
circle commanded at so great a height.
When in working with his hands at some lofty almost isolated place in the rigging,
which chances to afford no foothold, the sailor at sea is hoisted up to that spot,
and sustained there by the rope; under
these circumstances, its fastened end on deck is always given in strict charge to
some one man who has the special watch of it.
Because in such a wilderness of running rigging, whose various different relations
aloft cannot always be infallibly discerned by what is seen of them at the deck; and
when the deck-ends of these ropes are being
every few minutes cast down from the fastenings, it would be but a natural
fatality, if, unprovided with a constant watchman, the hoisted sailor should by some
carelessness of the crew be cast adrift and fall all swooping to the sea.
So Ahab's proceedings in this matter were not unusual; the only strange thing about
them seemed to be, that Starbuck, almost the one only man who had ever ventured to
oppose him with anything in the slightest
degree approaching to decision--one of those too, whose faithfulness on the look-
out he had seemed to doubt somewhat;--it was strange, that this was the very man he
should select for his watchman; freely
giving his whole life into such an otherwise distrusted person's hands.
Now, the first time Ahab was perched aloft; ere he had been there ten minutes; one of
those red-billed savage sea-hawks which so often fly incommodiously close round the
manned mast-heads of whalemen in these
latitudes; one of these birds came wheeling and screaming round his head in a maze of
untrackably swift circlings.
Then it darted a thousand feet straight up into the air; then spiralized downwards,
and went eddying again round his head.
But with his gaze fixed upon the dim and distant horizon, Ahab seemed not to mark
this wild bird; nor, indeed, would any one else have marked it much, it being no
uncommon circumstance; only now almost the
least heedful eye seemed to see some sort of cunning meaning in almost every sight.
"Your hat, your hat, sir!" suddenly cried the Sicilian seaman, who being posted at
the mizen-mast-head, stood directly behind Ahab, though somewhat lower than his level,
and with a deep gulf of air dividing them.
But already the sable wing was before the old man's eyes; the long hooked bill at his
head: with a scream, the black hawk darted away with his prize.
An eagle flew thrice round Tarquin's head, removing his cap to replace it, and
thereupon Tanaquil, his wife, declared that Tarquin would be king of Rome.
But only by the replacing of the cap was that omen accounted good.
Ahab's hat was never restored; the wild hawk flew on and on with it; far in advance
of the prow: and at last disappeared; while from the point of that disappearance, a
minute black spot was dimly discerned, falling from that vast height into the sea.
Chapter 131. The Pequod Meets The Delight.
The intense Pequod sailed on; the rolling waves and days went by; the life-buoy-
coffin still lightly swung; and another ship, most miserably misnamed the Delight,
was descried.
As she drew nigh, all eyes were fixed upon her broad beams, called shears, which, in
some whaling-ships, cross the quarter-deck at the height of eight or nine feet;
serving to carry the spare, unrigged, or disabled boats.
Upon the stranger's shears were beheld the shattered, white ribs, and some few
splintered planks, of what had once been a whale-boat; but you now saw through this
wreck, as plainly as you see through the
peeled, half-unhinged, and bleaching skeleton of a horse.
"Hast seen the White Whale?"
"Look!" replied the hollow-cheeked captain from his taffrail; and with his trumpet he
pointed to the wreck. "Hast killed him?"
"The harpoon is not yet forged that ever will do that," answered the other, sadly
glancing upon a rounded hammock on the deck, whose gathered sides some noiseless
sailors were busy in sewing together.
"Not forged!" and snatching Perth's levelled iron from the crotch, Ahab held it
out, exclaiming--"Look ye, Nantucketer; here in this hand I hold his death!
Tempered in blood, and tempered by lightning are these barbs; and I swear to
temper them triply in that hot place behind the fin, where the White Whale most feels
his accursed life!"
"Then God keep thee, old man--see'st thou that"--pointing to the hammock--"I bury but
one of five stout men, who were alive only yesterday; but were dead ere night.
Only THAT one I bury; the rest were buried before they died; you sail upon their
Then turning to his crew--"Are ye ready there? place the plank then on the rail,
and lift the body; so, then--Oh! God"-- advancing towards the hammock with uplifted
hands--"may the resurrection and the life-- "
"Brace forward! Up helm!" cried Ahab like lightning to his
But the suddenly started Pequod was not quick enough to escape the sound of the
splash that the corpse soon made as it struck the sea; not so quick, indeed, but
that some of the flying bubbles might have
sprinkled her hull with their ghostly baptism.
As Ahab now glided from the dejected Delight, the strange life-buoy hanging at
the Pequod's stern came into conspicuous relief.
"Ha! yonder! look yonder, men!" cried a foreboding voice in her wake.
"In vain, oh, ye strangers, ye fly our sad burial; ye but turn us your taffrail to
show us your coffin!"
Chapter 132. The Symphony.
It was a clear steel-blue day.
The firmaments of air and sea were hardly separable in that all-pervading azure;
only, the pensive air was transparently pure and soft, with a woman's look, and the
robust and man-like sea heaved with long,
strong, lingering swells, as Samson's chest in his sleep.
Hither, and thither, on high, glided the snow-white wings of small, unspeckled
birds; these were the gentle thoughts of the feminine air; but to and fro in the
deeps, far down in the bottomless blue,
rushed mighty leviathans, sword-fish, and sharks; and these were the strong,
troubled, murderous thinkings of the masculine sea.
But though thus contrasting within, the contrast was only in shades and shadows
without; those two seemed one; it was only the sex, as it were, that distinguished
Aloft, like a royal czar and king, the sun seemed giving this gentle air to this bold
and rolling sea; even as bride to groom.
And at the girdling line of the horizon, a soft and tremulous motion--most seen here
at the Equator--denoted the fond, throbbing trust, the loving alarms, with which the
poor bride gave her bosom away.
Tied up and twisted; gnarled and knotted with wrinkles; haggardly firm and
unyielding; his eyes glowing like coals, that still glow in the ashes of ruin;
untottering Ahab stood forth in the
clearness of the morn; lifting his splintered helmet of a brow to the fair
girl's forehead of heaven. Oh, immortal infancy, and innocency of the
Invisible winged creatures that frolic all round us!
Sweet childhood of air and sky! how oblivious were ye of old Ahab's close-
coiled woe!
But so have I seen little Miriam and Martha, laughing-eyed elves, heedlessly
gambol around their old sire; sporting with the circle of singed locks which grew on
the marge of that burnt-out crater of his brain.
Slowly crossing the deck from the scuttle, Ahab leaned over the side and watched how
his shadow in the water sank and sank to his gaze, the more and the more that he
strove to pierce the profundity.
But the lovely aromas in that enchanted air did at last seem to dispel, for a moment,
the cankerous thing in his soul.
That glad, happy air, that winsome sky, did at last stroke and caress him; the step-
mother world, so long cruel--forbidding-- now threw affectionate arms round his
stubborn neck, and did seem to joyously sob
over him, as if over one, that however wilful and erring, she could yet find it in
her heart to save and to bless.
From beneath his slouched hat Ahab dropped a tear into the sea; nor did all the
Pacific contain such wealth as that one wee drop.
Starbuck saw the old man; saw him, how he heavily leaned over the side; and he seemed
to hear in his own true heart the measureless sobbing that stole out of the
centre of the serenity around.
Careful not to touch him, or be noticed by him, he yet drew near to him, and stood
there. Ahab turned.
"Sir." "Oh, Starbuck! it is a mild, mild wind, and
a mild looking sky.
On such a day--very much such a sweetness as this--I struck my first whale--a boy-
harpooneer of eighteen! Forty--forty--forty years ago!--ago!
Forty years of continual whaling! forty years of privation, and peril, and storm-
time! forty years on the pitiless sea! for forty years has Ahab forsaken the peaceful
land, for forty years to make war on the horrors of the deep!
Aye and yes, Starbuck, out of those forty years I have not spent three ashore.
When I think of this life I have led; the desolation of solitude it has been; the
masoned, walled-town of a Captain's exclusiveness, which admits but small
entrance to any sympathy from the green country without--oh, weariness! heaviness!
Guinea-coast slavery of solitary command!-- when I think of all this; only half-
suspected, not so keenly known to me before--and how for forty years I have fed
upon dry salted fare--fit emblem of the dry
nourishment of my soil!--when the poorest landsman has had fresh fruit to his daily
hand, and broken the world's fresh bread to my mouldy crusts--away, whole oceans away,
from that young girl-wife I wedded past
fifty, and sailed for Cape Horn the next day, leaving but one dent in my marriage
pillow--wife? wife?--rather a widow with her husband alive!
Aye, I widowed that poor girl when I married her, Starbuck; and then, the
madness, the frenzy, the boiling blood and the smoking brow, with which, for a
thousand lowerings old Ahab has furiously,
foamingly chased his prey--more a demon than a man!--aye, aye! what a forty years'
fool--fool--old fool, has old Ahab been!
Why this strife of the chase? why weary, and palsy the arm at the oar, and the iron,
and the lance? how the richer or better is Ahab now?
Oh, Starbuck! is it not hard, that with this weary load I bear, one poor leg should
have been snatched from under me? Here, brush this old hair aside; it blinds
me, that I seem to weep.
Locks so grey did never grow but from out some ashes!
But do I look very old, so very, very old, Starbuck?
I feel deadly faint, bowed, and humped, as though I were Adam, staggering beneath the
piled centuries since Paradise. God!
God!--crack my heart!--stave my brain!-- mockery! mockery! bitter, biting mockery of
grey hairs, have I lived enough joy to wear ye; and seem and feel thus intolerably old?
Close! stand close to me, Starbuck; let me look into a human eye; it is better than to
gaze into sea or sky; better than to gaze upon God.
By the green land; by the bright hearth- stone! this is the magic glass, man; I see
my wife and my child in thine eye.
No, no; stay on board, on board!--lower not when I do; when branded Ahab gives chase to
Moby Dick. That hazard shall not be thine.
No, no! not with the far away home I see in that eye!"
"Oh, my Captain! my Captain! noble soul! grand old heart, after all! why should any
one give chase to that hated fish!
Away with me! let us fly these deadly waters! let us home!
Wife and child, too, are Starbuck's--wife and child of his brotherly, sisterly, play-
fellow youth; even as thine, sir, are the wife and child of thy loving, longing,
paternal old age!
Away! let us away!--this instant let me alter the course!
How cheerily, how hilariously, O my Captain, would we bowl on our way to see
old Nantucket again!
I think, sir, they have some such mild blue days, even as this, in Nantucket."
"They have, they have. I have seen them--some summer days in the
About this time--yes, it is his noon nap now--the boy vivaciously wakes; sits up in
bed; and his mother tells him of me, of cannibal old me; how I am abroad upon the
deep, but will yet come back to dance him again."
"'Tis my Mary, my Mary herself!
She promised that my boy, every morning, should be carried to the hill to catch the
first glimpse of his father's sail! Yes, yes! no more! it is done! we head for
Come, my Captain, study out the course, and let us away!
See, see! the boy's face from the window! the boy's hand on the hill!"
But Ahab's glance was averted; like a blighted fruit tree he shook, and cast his
last, cindered apple to the soil.
"What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening,
hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that
against all natural lovings and longings,
I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making
me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare?
Is Ahab, Ahab?
Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm?
But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one
single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one
small heart beat; this one small brain
think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that
living, and not I.
By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass,
and Fate is the handspike. And all the time, lo! that smiling sky, and
this unsounded sea!
Look! see yon Albicore! who put it into him to chase and fang that flying-fish?
Where do murderers go, man! Who's to doom, when the judge himself is
dragged to the bar?
But it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky; and the air smells now, as if
it blew from a far-away meadow; they have been making hay somewhere under the slopes
of the Andes, Starbuck, and the mowers are sleeping among the new-mown hay.
Sleeping? Aye, toil we how we may, we all sleep at
last on the field.
Sleep? Aye, and rust amid greenness; as last
year's scythes flung down, and left in the half-cut swaths--Starbuck!"
But blanched to a corpse's hue with despair, the Mate had stolen away.
Ahab crossed the deck to gaze over on the other side; but started at two reflected,
fixed eyes in the water there.
Fedallah was motionlessly leaning over the same rail.
-Chapter 133. The Chase--First Day.
That night, in the mid-watch, when the old man--as his wont at intervals--stepped
forth from the scuttle in which he leaned, and went to his pivot-hole, he suddenly
thrust out his face fiercely, snuffing up
the sea air as a sagacious ship's dog will, in drawing nigh to some barbarous isle.
He declared that a whale must be near.
Soon that peculiar odor, sometimes to a great distance given forth by the living
sperm whale, was palpable to all the watch; nor was any mariner surprised when, after
inspecting the compass, and then the dog-
vane, and then ascertaining the precise bearing of the odor as nearly as possible,
Ahab rapidly ordered the ship's course to be slightly altered, and the sail to be
The acute policy dictating these movements was sufficiently vindicated at daybreak, by
the sight of a long sleek on the sea directly and lengthwise ahead, smooth as
oil, and resembling in the pleated watery
wrinkles bordering it, the polished metallic-like marks of some swift tide-rip,
at the mouth of a deep, rapid stream. "Man the mast-heads!
Call all hands!"
Thundering with the butts of three clubbed handspikes on the forecastle deck, Daggoo
roused the sleepers with such judgment claps that they seemed to exhale from the
scuttle, so instantaneously did they appear with their clothes in their hands.
"What d'ye see?" cried Ahab, flattening his face to the sky.
"Nothing, nothing sir!" was the sound hailing down in reply.
"T'gallant sails!--stunsails! alow and aloft, and on both sides!"
All sail being set, he now cast loose the life-line, reserved for swaying him to the
main royal-mast head; and in a few moments they were hoisting him thither, when, while
but two thirds of the way aloft, and while
peering ahead through the horizontal vacancy between the main-top-sail and top-
gallant-sail, he raised a gull-like cry in the air.
"There she blows!--there she blows!
A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!"
Fired by the cry which seemed simultaneously taken up by the three look-
outs, the men on deck rushed to the rigging to behold the famous whale they had so long
been pursuing.
Ahab had now gained his final perch, some feet above the other look-outs, Tashtego
standing just beneath him on the cap of the top-gallant-mast, so that the Indian's head
was almost on a level with Ahab's heel.
From this height the whale was now seen some mile or so ahead, at every roll of the
sea revealing his high sparkling hump, and regularly jetting his silent spout into the
To the credulous mariners it seemed the same silent spout they had so long ago
beheld in the moonlit Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
"And did none of ye see it before?" cried Ahab, hailing the perched men all around
"I saw him almost that same instant, sir, that Captain Ahab did, and I cried out,"
said Tashtego.
"Not the same instant; not the same--no, the doubloon is mine, Fate reserved the
doubloon for me. I only; none of ye could have raised the
White Whale first.
There she blows!--there she blows!--there she blows!
There again!--there again!" he cried, in long-drawn, lingering, methodic tones,
attuned to the gradual prolongings of the whale's visible jets.
"He's going to sound!
In stunsails! Down top-gallant-sails!
Stand by three boats. Mr. Starbuck, remember, stay on board, and
keep the ship.
Helm there! Luff, luff a point!
So; steady, man, steady! There go flukes!
No, no; only black water!
All ready the boats there? Stand by, stand by!
Lower me, Mr. Starbuck; lower, lower,-- quick, quicker!" and he slid through the
air to the deck.
"He is heading straight to leeward, sir," cried Stubb, "right away from us; cannot
have seen the ship yet." "Be dumb, man!
Stand by the braces!
Hard down the helm!--brace up! Shiver her!--shiver her!--So; well that!
Boats, boats!"
Soon all the boats but Starbuck's were dropped; all the boat-sails set--all the
paddles plying; with rippling swiftness, shooting to leeward; and Ahab heading the
A pale, death-glimmer lit up Fedallah's sunken eyes; a hideous motion gnawed his
Like noiseless nautilus shells, their light prows sped through the sea; but only slowly
they neared the foe.
As they neared him, the ocean grew still more smooth; seemed drawing a carpet over
its waves; seemed a noon-meadow, so serenely it spread.
At length the breathless hunter came so nigh his seemingly unsuspecting prey, that
his entire dazzling hump was distinctly visible, sliding along the sea as if an
isolated thing, and continually set in a
revolving ring of finest, fleecy, greenish foam.
He saw the vast, involved wrinkles of the slightly projecting head beyond.
Before it, far out on the soft Turkish- rugged waters, went the glistening white
shadow from his broad, milky forehead, a musical rippling playfully accompanying the
shade; and behind, the blue waters
interchangeably flowed over into the moving valley of his steady wake; and on either
hand bright bubbles arose and danced by his side.
But these were broken again by the light toes of hundreds of gay fowl softly
feathering the sea, alternate with their fitful flight; and like to some flag-staff
rising from the painted hull of an argosy,
the tall but shattered pole of a recent lance projected from the white whale's
back; and at intervals one of the cloud of soft-toed fowls hovering, and to and fro
skimming like a canopy over the fish,
silently perched and rocked on this pole, the long tail feathers streaming like
A gentle joyousness--a mighty mildness of repose in swiftness, invested the gliding
Not the white bull Jupiter swimming away with ravished Europa clinging to his
graceful horns; his lovely, leering eyes sideways intent upon the maid; with smooth
bewitching fleetness, rippling straight for
the nuptial bower in Crete; not Jove, not that great majesty Supreme! did surpass the
glorified White Whale as he so divinely swam.
On each soft side--coincident with the parted swell, that but once leaving him,
then flowed so wide away--on each bright side, the whale shed off enticings.
No wonder there had been some among the hunters who namelessly transported and
allured by all this serenity, had ventured to assail it; but had fatally found that
quietude but the vesture of tornadoes.
Yet calm, enticing calm, oh, whale! thou glidest on, to all who for the first time
eye thee, no matter how many in that same way thou may'st have bejuggled and
destroyed before.
And thus, through the serene tranquillities of the tropical sea, among waves whose
hand-clappings were suspended by exceeding rapture, Moby Dick moved on, still
withholding from sight the full terrors of
his submerged trunk, entirely hiding the wrenched hideousness of his jaw.
But soon the fore part of him slowly rose from the water; for an instant his whole
marbleized body formed a high arch, like Virginia's Natural Bridge, and warningly
waving his bannered flukes in the air, the
grand god revealed himself, sounded, and went out of sight.
Hoveringly halting, and dipping on the wing, the white sea-fowls longingly
lingered over the agitated pool that he left.
With oars apeak, and paddles down, the sheets of their sails adrift, the three
boats now stilly floated, awaiting Moby Dick's reappearance.
"An hour," said Ahab, standing rooted in his boat's stern; and he gazed beyond the
whale's place, towards the dim blue spaces and wide wooing vacancies to leeward.
It was only an instant; for again his eyes seemed whirling round in his head as he
swept the watery circle. The breeze now freshened; the sea began to
"The birds!--the birds!" cried Tashtego.
In long Indian file, as when herons take wing, the white birds were now all flying
towards Ahab's boat; and when within a few yards began fluttering over the water
there, wheeling round and round, with joyous, expectant cries.
Their vision was keener than man's; Ahab could discover no sign in the sea.
But suddenly as he peered down and down into its depths, he profoundly saw a white
living spot no bigger than a white weasel, with wonderful celerity uprising, and
magnifying as it rose, till it turned, and
then there were plainly revealed two long crooked rows of white, glistening teeth,
floating up from the undiscoverable bottom.
It was Moby Dick's open mouth and scrolled jaw; his vast, shadowed bulk still half
blending with the blue of the sea.
The glittering mouth yawned beneath the boat like an open-doored marble tomb; and
giving one sidelong sweep with his steering oar, Ahab whirled the craft aside from this
tremendous apparition.
Then, calling upon Fedallah to change places with him, went forward to the bows,
and seizing Perth's harpoon, commanded his crew to grasp their oars and stand by to
Now, by reason of this timely spinning round the boat upon its axis, its bow, by
anticipation, was made to face the whale's head while yet under water.
But as if perceiving this stratagem, Moby Dick, with that malicious intelligence
ascribed to him, sidelingly transplanted himself, as it were, in an instant,
shooting his pleated head lengthwise beneath the boat.
Through and through; through every plank and each rib, it thrilled for an instant,
the whale obliquely lying on his back, in the manner of a biting shark, slowly and
feelingly taking its bows full within his
mouth, so that the long, narrow, scrolled lower jaw curled high up into the open air,
and one of the teeth caught in a row-lock.
The bluish pearl-white of the inside of the jaw was within six inches of Ahab's head,
and reached higher than that.
In this attitude the White Whale now shook the slight cedar as a mildly cruel cat her
With unastonished eyes Fedallah gazed, and crossed his arms; but the tiger-yellow crew
were tumbling over each other's heads to gain the uttermost stern.
And now, while both elastic gunwales were springing in and out, as the whale dallied
with the doomed craft in this devilish way; and from his body being submerged beneath
the boat, he could not be darted at from
the bows, for the bows were almost inside of him, as it were; and while the other
boats involuntarily paused, as before a quick crisis impossible to withstand, then
it was that monomaniac Ahab, furious with
this tantalizing vicinity of his foe, which placed him all alive and helpless in the
very jaws he hated; frenzied with all this, he seized the long bone with his naked
hands, and wildly strove to wrench it from its gripe.
As now he thus vainly strove, the jaw slipped from him; the frail gunwales bent
in, collapsed, and snapped, as both jaws, like an enormous shears, sliding further
aft, bit the craft completely in twain, and
locked themselves fast again in the sea, midway between the two floating wrecks.
These floated aside, the broken ends drooping, the crew at the stern-wreck
clinging to the gunwales, and striving to hold fast to the oars to lash them across.
At that preluding moment, ere the boat was yet snapped, Ahab, the first to perceive
the whale's intent, by the crafty upraising of his head, a movement that loosed his
hold for the time; at that moment his hand
had made one final effort to push the boat out of the bite.
But only slipping further into the whale's mouth, and tilting over sideways as it
slipped, the boat had shaken off his hold on the jaw; spilled him out of it, as he
leaned to the push; and so he fell flat- faced upon the sea.
Ripplingly withdrawing from his prey, Moby Dick now lay at a little distance,
vertically thrusting his oblong white head up and down in the billows; and at the same
time slowly revolving his whole spindled
body; so that when his vast wrinkled forehead rose--some twenty or more feet out
of the water--the now rising swells, with all their confluent waves, dazzlingly broke
against it; vindictively tossing their
shivered spray still higher into the air.* So, in a gale, the but half baffled Channel
billows only recoil from the base of the Eddystone, triumphantly to overleap its
summit with their scud.
*This motion is peculiar to the sperm whale.
It receives its designation (pitchpoling) from its being likened to that preliminary
up-and-down poise of the whale-lance, in the exercise called pitchpoling, previously
By this motion the whale must best and most comprehensively view whatever objects may
be encircling him.
But soon resuming his horizontal attitude, Moby Dick swam swiftly round and round the
wrecked crew; sideways churning the water in his vengeful wake, as if lashing himself
up to still another and more deadly assault.
The sight of the splintered boat seemed to madden him, as the blood of grapes and
mulberries cast before Antiochus's elephants in the book of Maccabees.
Meanwhile Ahab half smothered in the foam of the whale's insolent tail, and too much
of a cripple to swim,--though he could still keep afloat, even in the heart of
such a whirlpool as that; helpless Ahab's
head was seen, like a tossed bubble which the least chance shock might burst.
From the boat's fragmentary stern, Fedallah incuriously and mildly eyed him; the
clinging crew, at the other drifting end, could not succor him; more than enough was
it for them to look to themselves.
For so revolvingly appalling was the White Whale's aspect, and so planetarily swift
the ever-contracting circles he made, that he seemed horizontally swooping upon them.
And though the other boats, unharmed, still hovered hard by; still they dared not pull
into the eddy to strike, lest that should be the signal for the instant destruction
of the jeopardized castaways, Ahab and all;
nor in that case could they themselves hope to escape.
With straining eyes, then, they remained on the outer edge of the direful zone, whose
centre had now become the old man's head.
Meantime, from the beginning all this had been descried from the ship's mast heads;
and squaring her yards, she had borne down upon the scene; and was now so nigh, that
Ahab in the water hailed her!--"Sail on
the"--but that moment a breaking sea dashed on him from Moby Dick, and whelmed him for
the time.
But struggling out of it again, and chancing to rise on a towering crest, he
shouted,--"Sail on the whale!--Drive him off!"
The Pequod's prows were pointed; and breaking up the charmed circle, she
effectually parted the white whale from his victim.
As he sullenly swam off, the boats flew to the rescue.
Dragged into Stubb's boat with blood-shot, blinded eyes, the white brine caking in his
wrinkles; the long tension of Ahab's bodily strength did crack, and helplessly he
yielded to his body's doom: for a time,
lying all crushed in the bottom of Stubb's boat, like one trodden under foot of herds
of elephants. Far inland, nameless wails came from him,
as desolate sounds from out ravines.
But this intensity of his physical prostration did but so much the more
abbreviate it.
In an instant's compass, great hearts sometimes condense to one deep pang, the
sum total of those shallow pains kindly diffused through feebler men's whole lives.
And so, such hearts, though summary in each one suffering; still, if the gods decree
it, in their life-time aggregate a whole age of woe, wholly made up of instantaneous
intensities; for even in their pointless
centres, those noble natures contain the entire circumferences of inferior souls.
"The harpoon," said Ahab, half way rising, and draggingly leaning on one bended arm--
"is it safe?"
"Aye, sir, for it was not darted; this is it," said Stubb, showing it.
"Lay it before me;--any missing men?" "One, two, three, four, five;--there were
five oars, sir, and here are five men."
"That's good.--Help me, man; I wish to stand.
So, so, I see him! there! there! going to leeward still; what a leaping spout!--Hands
off from me!
The eternal sap runs up in Ahab's bones again!
Set the sail; out oars; the helm!"
It is often the case that when a boat is stove, its crew, being picked up by another
boat, help to work that second boat; and the chase is thus continued with what is
called double-banked oars.
It was thus now.
But the added power of the boat did not equal the added power of the whale, for he
seemed to have treble-banked his every fin; swimming with a velocity which plainly
showed, that if now, under these
circumstances, pushed on, the chase would prove an indefinitely prolonged, if not a
hopeless one; nor could any crew endure for so long a period, such an unintermitted,
intense straining at the oar; a thing
barely tolerable only in some one brief vicissitude.
The ship itself, then, as it sometimes happens, offered the most promising
intermediate means of overtaking the chase.
Accordingly, the boats now made for her, and were soon swayed up to their cranes--
the two parts of the wrecked boat having been previously secured by her--and then
hoisting everything to her side, and
stacking her canvas high up, and sideways outstretching it with stun-sails, like the
double-jointed wings of an albatross; the Pequod bore down in the leeward wake of
At the well known, methodic intervals, the whale's glittering spout was regularly
announced from the manned mast-heads; and when he would be reported as just gone
down, Ahab would take the time, and then
pacing the deck, binnacle-watch in hand, so soon as the last second of the allotted
hour expired, his voice was heard.--"Whose is the doubloon now?
D'ye see him?" and if the reply was, No, sir! straightway he commanded them to lift
him to his perch.
In this way the day wore on; Ahab, now aloft and motionless; anon, unrestingly
pacing the planks.
As he was thus walking, uttering no sound, except to hail the men aloft, or to bid
them hoist a sail still higher, or to spread one to a still greater breadth--thus
to and fro pacing, beneath his slouched
hat, at every turn he passed his own wrecked boat, which had been dropped upon
the quarter-deck, and lay there reversed; broken bow to shattered stern.
At last he paused before it; and as in an already over-clouded sky fresh troops of
clouds will sometimes sail across, so over the old man's face there now stole some
such added gloom as this.
Stubb saw him pause; and perhaps intending, not vainly, though, to evince his own
unabated fortitude, and thus keep up a valiant place in his Captain's mind, he
advanced, and eyeing the wreck exclaimed--
"The thistle the ass refused; it pricked his mouth too keenly, sir; ha! ha!"
"What soulless thing is this that laughs before a wreck?
Man, man! did I not know thee brave as fearless fire (and as mechanical) I could
swear thou wert a poltroon. Groan nor laugh should be heard before a
"Aye, sir," said Starbuck drawing near, "'tis a solemn sight; an omen, and an ill
one." "Omen? omen?--the dictionary!
If the gods think to speak outright to man, they will honourably speak outright; not
shake their heads, and give an old wives' darkling hint.--Begone!
Ye two are the opposite poles of one thing; Starbuck is Stubb reversed, and Stubb is
Starbuck; and ye two are all mankind; and Ahab stands alone among the millions of the
peopled earth, nor gods nor men his neighbors!
Cold, cold--I shiver!--How now? Aloft there!
D'ye see him?
Sing out for every spout, though he spout ten times a second!"
The day was nearly done; only the hem of his golden robe was rustling.
Soon, it was almost dark, but the look-out men still remained unset.
"Can't see the spout now, sir;--too dark"-- cried a voice from the air.
"How heading when last seen?"
"As before, sir,--straight to leeward." "Good! he will travel slower now 'tis
night. Down royals and top-gallant stun-sails, Mr.
We must not run over him before morning; he's making a passage now, and may heave-to
a while.
Helm there! keep her full before the wind!- -Aloft! come down!--Mr. Stubb, send a fresh
hand to the fore-mast head, and see it manned till morning."--Then advancing
towards the doubloon in the main-mast--
"Men, this gold is mine, for I earned it; but I shall let it abide here till the
White Whale is dead; and then, whosoever of ye first raises him, upon the day he shall
be killed, this gold is that man's; and if
on that day I shall again raise him, then, ten times its sum shall be divided among
all of ye! Away now!--the deck is thine, sir!"
And so saying, he placed himself half way within the scuttle, and slouching his hat,
stood there till dawn, except when at intervals rousing himself to see how the
night wore on.
-Chapter 134. The Chase--Second Day.
At day-break, the three mast-heads were punctually manned afresh.
"D'ye see him?" cried Ahab after allowing a little space for the light to spread.
"See nothing, sir."
"Turn up all hands and make sail! he travels faster than I thought for;--the
top-gallant sails!--aye, they should have been kept on her all night.
But no matter--'tis but resting for the rush."
Here be it said, that this pertinacious pursuit of one particular whale, continued
through day into night, and through night into day, is a thing by no means
unprecedented in the South sea fishery.
For such is the wonderful skill, prescience of experience, and invincible confidence
acquired by some great natural geniuses among the Nantucket commanders; that from
the simple observation of a whale when last
descried, they will, under certain given circumstances, pretty accurately foretell
both the direction in which he will continue to swim for a time, while out of
sight, as well as his probable rate of progression during that period.
And, in these cases, somewhat as a pilot, when about losing sight of a coast, whose
general trending he well knows, and which he desires shortly to return to again, but
at some further point; like as this pilot
stands by his compass, and takes the precise bearing of the cape at present
visible, in order the more certainly to hit aright the remote, unseen headland,
eventually to be visited: so does the
fisherman, at his compass, with the whale; for after being chased, and diligently
marked, through several hours of daylight, then, when night obscures the fish, the
creature's future wake through the darkness
is almost as established to the sagacious mind of the hunter, as the pilot's coast is
to him.
So that to this hunter's wondrous skill, the proverbial evanescence of a thing writ
in water, a wake, is to all desired purposes well nigh as reliable as the
steadfast land.
And as the mighty iron Leviathan of the modern railway is so familiarly known in
its every pace, that, with watches in their hands, men time his rate as doctors that of
a baby's pulse; and lightly say of it, the
up train or the down train will reach such or such a spot, at such or such an hour;
even so, almost, there are occasions when these Nantucketers time that other
Leviathan of the deep, according to the
observed humor of his speed; and say to themselves, so many hours hence this whale
will have gone two hundred miles, will have about reached this or that degree of
latitude or longitude.
But to render this acuteness at all successful in the end, the wind and the sea
must be the whaleman's allies; for of what present avail to the becalmed or windbound
mariner is the skill that assures him he is
exactly ninety-three leagues and a quarter from his port?
Inferable from these statements, are many collateral subtile matters touching the
chase of whales.
The ship tore on; leaving such a furrow in the sea as when a cannon-ball, missent,
becomes a plough-share and turns up the level field.
"By salt and hemp!" cried Stubb, "but this swift motion of the deck creeps up one's
legs and tingles at the heart. This ship and I are two brave fellows!--Ha,
Some one take me up, and launch me, spine- wise, on the sea,--for by live-oaks! my
spine's a keel. Ha, ha! we go the gait that leaves no dust
"There she blows--she blows!--she blows!-- right ahead!" was now the mast-head cry.
"Aye, aye!" cried Stubb, "I knew it--ye can't escape--blow on and split your spout,
O whale! the mad fiend himself is after ye! blow your trump--blister your lungs!--Ahab
will dam off your blood, as a miller shuts his watergate upon the stream!"
And Stubb did but speak out for well nigh all that crew.
The frenzies of the chase had by this time worked them bubblingly up, like old wine
worked anew.
Whatever pale fears and forebodings some of them might have felt before; these were not
only now kept out of sight through the growing awe of Ahab, but they were broken
up, and on all sides routed, as timid
prairie hares that scatter before the bounding bison.
The hand of Fate had snatched all their souls; and by the stirring perils of the
previous day; the rack of the past night's suspense; the fixed, unfearing, blind,
reckless way in which their wild craft went
plunging towards its flying mark; by all these things, their hearts were bowled
The wind that made great bellies of their sails, and rushed the vessel on by arms
invisible as irresistible; this seemed the symbol of that unseen agency which so
enslaved them to the race.
They were one man, not thirty.
For as the one ship that held them all; though it was put together of all
contrasting things--oak, and maple, and pine wood; iron, and pitch, and hemp--yet
all these ran into each other in the one
concrete hull, which shot on its way, both balanced and directed by the long central
keel; even so, all the individualities of the crew, this man's valor, that man's
fear; guilt and guiltiness, all varieties
were welded into oneness, and were all directed to that fatal goal which Ahab
their one lord and keel did point to. The rigging lived.
The mast-heads, like the tops of tall palms, were outspreadingly tufted with arms
and legs.
Clinging to a spar with one hand, some reached forth the other with impatient
wavings; others, shading their eyes from the vivid sunlight, sat far out on the
rocking yards; all the spars in full
bearing of mortals, ready and ripe for their fate.
Ah! how they still strove through that infinite blueness to seek out the thing
that might destroy them!
"Why sing ye not out for him, if ye see him?" cried Ahab, when, after the lapse of
some minutes since the first cry, no more had been heard.
"Sway me up, men; ye have been deceived; not Moby Dick casts one odd jet that way,
and then disappears."
It was even so; in their headlong eagerness, the men had mistaken some other
thing for the whale-spout, as the event itself soon proved; for hardly had Ahab
reached his perch; hardly was the rope
belayed to its pin on deck, when he struck the key-note to an orchestra, that made the
air vibrate as with the combined discharges of rifles.
The triumphant halloo of thirty buckskin lungs was heard, as--much nearer to the
ship than the place of the imaginary jet, less than a mile ahead--Moby Dick bodily
burst into view!
For not by any calm and indolent spoutings; not by the peaceable gush of that mystic
fountain in his head, did the White Whale now reveal his vicinity; but by the far
more wondrous phenomenon of breaching.
Rising with his utmost velocity from the furthest depths, the Sperm Whale thus booms
his entire bulk into the pure element of air, and piling up a mountain of dazzling
foam, shows his place to the distance of seven miles and more.
In those moments, the torn, enraged waves he shakes off, seem his mane; in some
cases, this breaching is his act of defiance.
"There she breaches! there she breaches!" was the cry, as in his immeasurable
bravadoes the White Whale tossed himself salmon-like to Heaven.
So suddenly seen in the blue plain of the sea, and relieved against the still bluer
margin of the sky, the spray that he raised, for the moment, intolerably
glittered and glared like a glacier; and
stood there gradually fading and fading away from its first sparkling intensity, to
the dim mistiness of an advancing shower in a vale.
"Aye, breach your last to the sun, Moby Dick!" cried Ahab, "thy hour and thy
harpoon are at hand!--Down! down all of ye, but one man at the fore.
The boats!--stand by!"
Unmindful of the tedious rope-ladders of the shrouds, the men, like shooting stars,
slid to the deck, by the isolated backstays and halyards; while Ahab, less dartingly,
but still rapidly was dropped from his perch.
"Lower away," he cried, so soon as he had reached his boat--a spare one, rigged the
afternoon previous.
"Mr. Starbuck, the ship is thine--keep away from the boats, but keep near them.
Lower, all!"
As if to strike a quick terror into them, by this time being the first assailant
himself, Moby Dick had turned, and was now coming for the three crews.
Ahab's boat was central; and cheering his men, he told them he would take the whale
head-and-head,--that is, pull straight up to his forehead,--a not uncommon thing; for
when within a certain limit, such a course
excludes the coming onset from the whale's sidelong vision.
But ere that close limit was gained, and while yet all three boats were plain as the
ship's three masts to his eye; the White Whale churning himself into furious speed,
almost in an instant as it were, rushing
among the boats with open jaws, and a lashing tail, offered appalling battle on
every side; and heedless of the irons darted at him from every boat, seemed only
intent on annihilating each separate plank of which those boats were made.
But skilfully manoeuvred, incessantly wheeling like trained chargers in the
field; the boats for a while eluded him; though, at times, but by a plank's breadth;
while all the time, Ahab's unearthly slogan tore every other cry but his to shreds.
But at last in his untraceable evolutions, the White Whale so crossed and recrossed,
and in a thousand ways entangled the slack of the three lines now fast to him, that
they foreshortened, and, of themselves,
warped the devoted boats towards the planted irons in him; though now for a
moment the whale drew aside a little, as if to rally for a more tremendous charge.
Seizing that opportunity, Ahab first paid out more line: and then was rapidly hauling
and jerking in upon it again--hoping that way to disencumber it of some snarls--when
lo!--a sight more savage than the embattled teeth of sharks!
Caught and twisted--corkscrewed in the mazes of the line, loose harpoons and
lances, with all their bristling barbs and points, came flashing and dripping up to
the chocks in the bows of Ahab's boat.
Only one thing could be done.
Seizing the boat-knife, he critically reached within--through--and then, without-
-the rays of steel; dragged in the line beyond, passed it, inboard, to the bowsman,
and then, twice sundering the rope near the
chocks--dropped the intercepted fagot of steel into the sea; and was all fast again.
That instant, the White Whale made a sudden rush among the remaining tangles of the
other lines; by so doing, irresistibly dragged the more involved boats of Stubb
and Flask towards his flukes; dashed them
together like two rolling husks on a surf- beaten beach, and then, diving down into
the sea, disappeared in a boiling maelstrom, in which, for a space, the
odorous cedar chips of the wrecks danced
round and round, like the grated nutmeg in a swiftly stirred bowl of punch.
While the two crews were yet circling in the waters, reaching out after the
revolving line-tubs, oars, and other floating furniture, while aslope little
Flask bobbed up and down like an empty
vial, twitching his legs upwards to escape the dreaded jaws of sharks; and Stubb was
lustily singing out for some one to ladle him up; and while the old man's line--now
parting--admitted of his pulling into the
creamy pool to rescue whom he could;--in that wild simultaneousness of a thousand
concreted perils,--Ahab's yet unstricken boat seemed drawn up towards Heaven by
invisible wires,--as, arrow-like, shooting
perpendicularly from the sea, the White Whale dashed his broad forehead against its
bottom, and sent it, turning over and over, into the air; till it fell again--gunwale
downwards--and Ahab and his men struggled
out from under it, like seals from a sea- side cave.
The first uprising momentum of the whale-- modifying its direction as he struck the
surface--involuntarily launched him along it, to a little distance from the centre of
the destruction he had made; and with his
back to it, he now lay for a moment slowly feeling with his flukes from side to side;
and whenever a stray oar, bit of plank, the least chip or crumb of the boats touched
his skin, his tail swiftly drew back, and came sideways smiting the sea.
But soon, as if satisfied that his work for that time was done, he pushed his pleated
forehead through the ocean, and trailing after him the intertangled lines, continued
his leeward way at a traveller's methodic pace.
As before, the attentive ship having descried the whole fight, again came
bearing down to the rescue, and dropping a boat, picked up the floating mariners,
tubs, oars, and whatever else could be
caught at, and safely landed them on her decks.
Some sprained shoulders, wrists, and ankles; livid contusions; wrenched harpoons
and lances; inextricable intricacies of rope; shattered oars and planks; all these
were there; but no fatal or even serious ill seemed to have befallen any one.
As with Fedallah the day before, so Ahab was now found grimly clinging to his boat's
broken half, which afforded a comparatively easy float; nor did it so exhaust him as
the previous day's mishap.
But when he was helped to the deck, all eyes were fastened upon him; as instead of
standing by himself he still half-hung upon the shoulder of Starbuck, who had thus far
been the foremost to assist him.
His ivory leg had been snapped off, leaving but one short sharp splinter.
"Aye, aye, Starbuck, 'tis sweet to lean sometimes, be the leaner who he will; and
would old Ahab had leaned oftener than he has."
"The ferrule has not stood, sir," said the carpenter, now coming up; "I put good work
into that leg." "But no bones broken, sir, I hope," said
Stubb with true concern.
"Aye! and all splintered to pieces, Stubb!- -d'ye see it.--But even with a broken bone,
old Ahab is untouched; and I account no living bone of mine one jot more me, than
this dead one that's lost.
Nor white whale, nor man, nor fiend, can so much as graze old Ahab in his own proper
and inaccessible being.
Can any lead touch yonder floor, any mast scrape yonder roof?--Aloft there! which
way?" "Dead to leeward, sir."
"Up helm, then; pile on the sail again, ship keepers! down the rest of the spare
boats and rig them--Mr. Starbuck away, and muster the boat's crews."
"Let me first help thee towards the bulwarks, sir."
"Oh, oh, oh! how this splinter gores me now!
Accursed fate! that the unconquerable captain in the soul should have such a
craven mate!" "Sir?"
"My body, man, not thee.
Give me something for a cane--there, that shivered lance will do.
Muster the men. Surely I have not seen him yet.
By heaven it cannot be!--missing?--quick! call them all."
The old man's hinted thought was true. Upon mustering the company, the Parsee was
not there.
"The Parsee!" cried Stubb--"he must have been caught in--"
"The black vomit wrench thee!--run all of ye above, alow, cabin, forecastle--find
him--not gone--not gone!"
But quickly they returned to him with the tidings that the Parsee was nowhere to be
"Aye, sir," said Stubb--"caught among the tangles of your line--I thought I saw him
dragging under." "MY line!
MY line?
Gone?--gone? What means that little word?--What death-
knell rings in it, that old Ahab shakes as if he were the belfry.
The harpoon, too!--toss over the litter there,--d'ye see it?--the forged iron, men,
the white whale's--no, no, no,--blistered fool! this hand did dart it!--'tis in the
fish!--Aloft there!
Keep him nailed--Quick!--all hands to the rigging of the boats--collect the oars--
harpooneers! the irons, the irons!--hoist the royals higher--a pull on all the
sheets!--helm there! steady, steady for your life!
I'll ten times girdle the unmeasured globe; yea and dive straight through it, but I'll
slay him yet!
"Great God! but for one single instant show thyself," cried Starbuck; "never, never
wilt thou capture him, old man--In Jesus' name no more of this, that's worse than
devil's madness.
Two days chased; twice stove to splinters; thy very leg once more snatched from under
thee; thy evil shadow gone--all good angels mobbing thee with warnings:--
"What more wouldst thou have?--Shall we keep chasing this murderous fish till he
swamps the last man? Shall we be dragged by him to the bottom of
the sea?
Shall we be towed by him to the infernal world?
Oh, oh,--Impiety and blasphemy to hunt him more!"
"Starbuck, of late I've felt strangely moved to thee; ever since that hour we both
saw--thou know'st what, in one another's eyes.
But in this matter of the whale, be the front of thy face to me as the palm of this
hand--a lipless, unfeatured blank. Ahab is for ever Ahab, man.
This whole act's immutably decreed.
'Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled.
Fool! I am the Fates' lieutenant; I act under
Look thou, underling! that thou obeyest mine.--Stand round me, men.
Ye see an old man cut down to the stump; leaning on a shivered lance; propped up on
a lonely foot.
'Tis Ahab--his body's part; but Ahab's soul's a centipede, that moves upon a
hundred legs.
I feel strained, half stranded, as ropes that tow dismasted frigates in a gale; and
I may look so.
But ere I break, yell hear me crack; and till ye hear THAT, know that Ahab's hawser
tows his purpose yet. Believe ye, men, in the things called
Then laugh aloud, and cry encore! For ere they drown, drowning things will
twice rise to the surface; then rise again, to sink for evermore.
So with Moby Dick--two days he's floated-- tomorrow will be the third.
Aye, men, he'll rise once more,--but only to spout his last!
D'ye feel brave men, brave?"
"As fearless fire," cried Stubb. "And as mechanical," muttered Ahab.
Then as the men went forward, he muttered on: "The things called omens!
And yesterday I talked the same to Starbuck there, concerning my broken boat.
Oh! how valiantly I seek to drive out of
others' hearts what's clinched so fast in mine!--The Parsee--the Parsee!--gone, gone?
and he was to go before:--but still was to
be seen again ere I could perish--How's that?--There's a riddle now might baffle
all the lawyers backed by the ghosts of the whole line of judges:--like a hawk's beak
it pecks my brain.
I'LL, I'LL solve it, though!" When dusk descended, the whale was still in
sight to leeward.
So once more the sail was shortened, and
everything passed nearly as on the previous night; only, the sound of hammers, and the
hum of the grindstone was heard till nearly
daylight, as the men toiled by lanterns in the complete and careful rigging of the
spare boats and sharpening their fresh weapons for the morrow.
Meantime, of the broken keel of Ahab's
wrecked craft the carpenter made him another leg; while still as on the night
before, slouched Ahab stood fixed within
his scuttle; his hid, heliotrope glance anticipatingly gone backward on its dial;
sat due eastward for the earliest sun.
-Chapter 135. The Chase.--Third Day.
The morning of the third day dawned fair and fresh, and once more the solitary
night-man at the fore-mast-head was relieved by crowds of the daylight look-
outs, who dotted every mast and almost every spar.
"D'ye see him?" cried Ahab; but the whale was not yet in sight.
"In his infallible wake, though; but follow that wake, that's all.
Helm there; steady, as thou goest, and hast been going.
What a lovely day again! were it a new-made world, and made for a summer-house to the
angels, and this morning the first of its throwing open to them, a fairer day could
not dawn upon that world.
Here's food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only
feels, feels, feels; THAT'S tingling enough for mortal man! to think's audacity.
God only has that right and privilege.
Thinking is, or ought to be, a coolness and a calmness; and our poor hearts throb, and
our poor brains beat too much for that.
And yet, I've sometimes thought my brain was very calm--frozen calm, this old skull
cracks so, like a glass in which the contents turned to ice, and shiver it.
And still this hair is growing now; this moment growing, and heat must breed it; but
no, it's like that sort of common grass that will grow anywhere, between the earthy
clefts of Greenland ice or in Vesuvius lava.
How the wild winds blow it; they whip it about me as the torn shreds of split sails
lash the tossed ship they cling to.
A vile wind that has no doubt blown ere this through prison corridors and cells,
and wards of hospitals, and ventilated them, and now comes blowing hither as
innocent as fleeces.
Out upon it!--it's tainted. Were I the wind, I'd blow no more on such a
wicked, miserable world. I'd crawl somewhere to a cave, and slink
And yet, 'tis a noble and heroic thing, the wind! who ever conquered it?
In every fight it has the last and bitterest blow.
Run tilting at it, and you but run through it.
Ha! a coward wind that strikes stark naked men, but will not stand to receive a single
Even Ahab is a braver thing--a nobler thing than THAT.
Would now the wind but had a body; but all the things that most exasperate and outrage
mortal man, all these things are bodiless, but only bodiless as objects, not as
There's a most special, a most cunning, oh, a most malicious difference!
And yet, I say again, and swear it now, that there's something all glorious and
gracious in the wind.
These warm Trade Winds, at least, that in the clear heavens blow straight on, in
strong and steadfast, vigorous mildness; and veer not from their mark, however the
baser currents of the sea may turn and
tack, and mightiest Mississippies of the land swift and swerve about, uncertain
where to go at last.
And by the eternal Poles! these same Trades that so directly blow my good ship on;
these Trades, or something like them-- something so unchangeable, and full as
strong, blow my keeled soul along!
To it! Aloft there!
What d'ye see?" "Nothing, sir."
"Nothing! and noon at hand!
The doubloon goes a-begging! See the sun!
Aye, aye, it must be so. I've oversailed him.
How, got the start?
Aye, he's chasing ME now; not I, HIM-- that's bad; I might have known it, too.
Fool! the lines--the harpoons he's towing. Aye, aye, I have run him by last night.
About! about!
Come down, all of ye, but the regular look outs!
Man the braces!"
Steering as she had done, the wind had been somewhat on the Pequod's quarter, so that
now being pointed in the reverse direction, the braced ship sailed hard upon the breeze
as she rechurned the cream in her own white wake.
"Against the wind he now steers for the open jaw," murmured Starbuck to himself, as
he coiled the new-hauled main-brace upon the rail.
"God keep us, but already my bones feel damp within me, and from the inside wet my
flesh. I misdoubt me that I disobey my God in
obeying him!"
"Stand by to sway me up!" cried Ahab, advancing to the hempen basket.
"We should meet him soon."
"Aye, aye, sir," and straightway Starbuck did Ahab's bidding, and once more Ahab
swung on high. A whole hour now passed; gold-beaten out to
Time itself now held long breaths with keen suspense.
But at last, some three points off the weather bow, Ahab descried the spout again,
and instantly from the three mast-heads three shrieks went up as if the tongues of
fire had voiced it.
"Forehead to forehead I meet thee, this third time, Moby Dick!
On deck there!--brace sharper up; crowd her into the wind's eye.
He's too far off to lower yet, Mr. Starbuck.
The sails shake! Stand over that helmsman with a top-maul!
So, so; he travels fast, and I must down.
But let me have one more good round look aloft here at the sea; there's time for
An old, old sight, and yet somehow so young; aye, and not changed a wink since I
first saw it, a boy, from the sand-hills of Nantucket!
The same!--the same!--the same to Noah as to me.
There's a soft shower to leeward. Such lovely leewardings!
They must lead somewhere--to something else than common land, more palmy than the
Leeward! the white whale goes that way; look to windward, then; the better if the
bitterer quarter. But good bye, good bye, old mast-head!
What's this?--green? aye, tiny mosses in these warped cracks.
No such green weather stains on Ahab's head!
There's the difference now between man's old age and matter's.
But aye, old mast, we both grow old together; sound in our hulls, though, are
we not, my ship?
Aye, minus a leg, that's all. By heaven this dead wood has the better of
my live flesh every way.
I can't compare with it; and I've known some ships made of dead trees outlast the
lives of men made of the most vital stuff of vital fathers.
What's that he said? he should still go before me, my pilot; and yet to be seen
again? But where?
Will I have eyes at the bottom of the sea, supposing I descend those endless stairs?
and all night I've been sailing from him, wherever he did sink to.
Aye, aye, like many more thou told'st direful truth as touching thyself, O
Parsee; but, Ahab, there thy shot fell short.
Good-bye, mast-head--keep a good eye upon the whale, the while I'm gone.
We'll talk to-morrow, nay, to-night, when the white whale lies down there, tied by
head and tail."
He gave the word; and still gazing round him, was steadily lowered through the
cloven blue air to the deck.
In due time the boats were lowered; but as standing in his shallop's stern, Ahab just
hovered upon the point of the descent, he waved to the mate,--who held one of the
tackle-ropes on deck--and bade him pause.
"Starbuck!" "Sir?"
"For the third time my soul's ship starts upon this voyage, Starbuck."
"Aye, sir, thou wilt have it so."
"Some ships sail from their ports, and ever afterwards are missing, Starbuck!"
"Truth, sir: saddest truth."
"Some men die at ebb tide; some at low water; some at the full of the flood;--and
I feel now like a billow that's all one crested comb, Starbuck.
I am old;--shake hands with me, man."
Their hands met; their eyes fastened; Starbuck's tears the glue.
"Oh, my captain, my captain!--noble heart-- go not--go not!--see, it's a brave man that
weeps; how great the agony of the persuasion then!"
"Lower away!"--cried Ahab, tossing the mate's arm from him.
"Stand by the crew!" In an instant the boat was pulling round
close under the stern.
"The sharks! the sharks!" cried a voice from the low cabin-window there; "O master,
my master, come back!"
But Ahab heard nothing; for his own voice was high-lifted then; and the boat leaped
Yet the voice spake true; for scarce had he pushed from the ship, when numbers of
sharks, seemingly rising from out the dark waters beneath the hull, maliciously
snapped at the blades of the oars, every
time they dipped in the water; and in this way accompanied the boat with their bites.
It is a thing not uncommonly happening to the whale-boats in those swarming seas; the
sharks at times apparently following them in the same prescient way that vultures
hover over the banners of marching regiments in the east.
But these were the first sharks that had been observed by the Pequod since the White
Whale had been first descried; and whether it was that Ahab's crew were all such
tiger-yellow barbarians, and therefore
their flesh more musky to the senses of the sharks--a matter sometimes well known to
affect them,--however it was, they seemed to follow that one boat without molesting
the others.
"Heart of wrought steel!" murmured Starbuck gazing over the side, and following with
his eyes the receding boat--"canst thou yet ring boldly to that sight?--lowering thy
keel among ravening sharks, and followed by
them, open-mouthed to the chase; and this the critical third day?--For when three
days flow together in one continuous intense pursuit; be sure the first is the
morning, the second the noon, and the third
the evening and the end of that thing--be that end what it may.
Oh! my God! what is this that shoots through me, and leaves me so deadly calm,
yet expectant,--fixed at the top of a shudder!
Future things swim before me, as in empty outlines and skeletons; all the past is
somehow grown dim. Mary, girl! thou fadest in pale glories
behind me; boy!
I seem to see but thy eyes grown wondrous blue.
Strangest problems of life seem clearing; but clouds sweep between--Is my journey's
end coming?
My legs feel faint; like his who has footed it all day.
Feel thy heart,--beats it yet? Stir thyself, Starbuck!--stave it off--
move, move! speak aloud!--Mast-head there!
See ye my boy's hand on the hill?--Crazed;- -aloft there!--keep thy keenest eye upon
the boats:--
"Mark well the whale!--Ho! again!--drive off that hawk! see! he pecks--he tears the
vane"--pointing to the red flag flying at the main-truck--"Ha! he soars away with
it!--Where's the old man now? see'st thou that sight, oh Ahab!--shudder, shudder!"
The boats had not gone very far, when by a signal from the mast-heads--a downward
pointed arm, Ahab knew that the whale had sounded; but intending to be near him at
the next rising, he held on his way a
little sideways from the vessel; the becharmed crew maintaining the profoundest
silence, as the head-beat waves hammered and hammered against the opposing bow.
"Drive, drive in your nails, oh ye waves! to their uttermost heads drive them in! ye
but strike a thing without a lid; and no coffin and no hearse can be mine:--and hemp
only can kill me!
Ha! ha!"
Suddenly the waters around them slowly swelled in broad circles; then quickly
upheaved, as if sideways sliding from a submerged berg of ice, swiftly rising to
the surface.
A low rumbling sound was heard; a subterraneous hum; and then all held their
breaths; as bedraggled with trailing ropes, and harpoons, and lances, a vast form shot
lengthwise, but obliquely from the sea.
Shrouded in a thin drooping veil of mist, it hovered for a moment in the rainbowed
air; and then fell swamping back into the deep.
Crushed thirty feet upwards, the waters flashed for an instant like heaps of
fountains, then brokenly sank in a shower of flakes, leaving the circling surface
creamed like new milk round the marble trunk of the whale.
"Give way!" cried Ahab to the oarsmen, and the boats darted forward to the attack; but
maddened by yesterday's fresh irons that corroded in him, Moby Dick seemed
combinedly possessed by all the angels that fell from heaven.
The wide tiers of welded tendons overspreading his broad white forehead,
beneath the transparent skin, looked knitted together; as head on, he came
churning his tail among the boats; and once
more flailed them apart; spilling out the irons and lances from the two mates' boats,
and dashing in one side of the upper part of their bows, but leaving Ahab's almost
without a scar.
While Daggoo and Queequeg were stopping the strained planks; and as the whale swimming
out from them, turned, and showed one entire flank as he shot by them again; at
that moment a quick cry went up.
Lashed round and round to the fish's back; pinioned in the turns upon turns in which,
during the past night, the whale had reeled the involutions of the lines around him,
the half torn body of the Parsee was seen;
his sable raiment frayed to shreds; his distended eyes turned full upon old Ahab.
The harpoon dropped from his hand. "Befooled, befooled!"--drawing in a long
lean breath--"Aye, Parsee!
I see thee again.--Aye, and thou goest before; and this, THIS then is the hearse
that thou didst promise. But I hold thee to the last letter of thy
Where is the second hearse?
Away, mates, to the ship! those boats are useless now; repair them if ye can in time,
and return to me; if not, Ahab is enough to die--Down, men! the first thing that but
offers to jump from this boat I stand in, that thing I harpoon.
Ye are not other men, but my arms and my legs; and so obey me.--Where's the whale?
gone down again?"
But he looked too nigh the boat; for as if bent upon escaping with the corpse he bore,
and as if the particular place of the last encounter had been but a stage in his
leeward voyage, Moby Dick was now again
steadily swimming forward; and had almost passed the ship,--which thus far had been
sailing in the contrary direction to him, though for the present her headway had been
He seemed swimming with his utmost velocity, and now only intent upon pursuing
his own straight path in the sea. "Oh! Ahab," cried Starbuck, "not too late
is it, even now, the third day, to desist.
See! Moby Dick seeks thee not. It is thou, thou, that madly seekest him!"
Setting sail to the rising wind, the lonely boat was swiftly impelled to leeward, by
both oars and canvas.
And at last when Ahab was sliding by the vessel, so near as plainly to distinguish
Starbuck's face as he leaned over the rail, he hailed him to turn the vessel about, and
follow him, not too swiftly, at a judicious interval.
Glancing upwards, he saw Tashtego, Queequeg, and Daggoo, eagerly mounting to
the three mast-heads; while the oarsmen were rocking in the two staved boats which
had but just been hoisted to the side, and were busily at work in repairing them.
One after the other, through the port- holes, as he sped, he also caught flying
glimpses of Stubb and Flask, busying themselves on deck among bundles of new
irons and lances.
As he saw all this; as he heard the hammers in the broken boats; far other hammers
seemed driving a nail into his heart. But he rallied.
And now marking that the vane or flag was gone from the main-mast-head, he shouted to
Tashtego, who had just gained that perch, to descend again for another flag, and a
hammer and nails, and so nail it to the mast.
Whether fagged by the three days' running chase, and the resistance to his swimming
in the knotted hamper he bore; or whether it was some latent deceitfulness and malice
in him: whichever was true, the White
Whale's way now began to abate, as it seemed, from the boat so rapidly nearing
him once more; though indeed the whale's last start had not been so long a one as
And still as Ahab glided over the waves the unpitying sharks accompanied him; and so
pertinaciously stuck to the boat; and so continually bit at the plying oars, that
the blades became jagged and crunched, and
left small splinters in the sea, at almost every dip.
"Heed them not! those teeth but give new rowlocks to your oars.
Pull on!
'tis the better rest, the shark's jaw than the yielding water."
"But at every bite, sir, the thin blades grow smaller and smaller!"
"They will last long enough! pull on!--But who can tell"--he muttered--"whether these
sharks swim to feast on the whale or on Ahab?--But pull on!
Aye, all alive, now--we near him.
The helm! take the helm! let me pass,"--and so saying two of the oarsmen helped him
forward to the bows of the still flying boat.
At length as the craft was cast to one side, and ran ranging along with the White
Whale's flank, he seemed strangely oblivious of its advance--as the whale
sometimes will--and Ahab was fairly within
the smoky mountain mist, which, thrown off from the whale's spout, curled round his
great, Monadnock hump; he was even thus close to him; when, with body arched back,
and both arms lengthwise high-lifted to the
poise, he darted his fierce iron, and his far fiercer curse into the hated whale.
As both steel and curse sank to the socket, as if sucked into a morass, Moby Dick
sideways writhed; spasmodically rolled his nigh flank against the bow, and, without
staving a hole in it, so suddenly canted
the boat over, that had it not been for the elevated part of the gunwale to which he
then clung, Ahab would once more have been tossed into the sea.
As it was, three of the oarsmen--who foreknew not the precise instant of the
dart, and were therefore unprepared for its effects--these were flung out; but so fell,
that, in an instant two of them clutched
the gunwale again, and rising to its level on a combing wave, hurled themselves bodily
inboard again; the third man helplessly dropping astern, but still afloat and
Almost simultaneously, with a mighty volition of ungraduated, instantaneous
swiftness, the White Whale darted through the weltering sea.
But when Ahab cried out to the steersman to take new turns with the line, and hold it
so; and commanded the crew to turn round on their seats, and tow the boat up to the
mark; the moment the treacherous line felt
that double strain and tug, it snapped in the empty air!
"What breaks in me? Some sinew cracks!--'tis whole again; oars!
Burst in upon him!"
Hearing the tremendous rush of the sea- crashing boat, the whale wheeled round to
present his blank forehead at bay; but in that evolution, catching sight of the
nearing black hull of the ship; seemingly
seeing in it the source of all his persecutions; bethinking it--it may be--a
larger and nobler foe; of a sudden, he bore down upon its advancing prow, smiting his
jaws amid fiery showers of foam.
Ahab staggered; his hand smote his forehead.
"I grow blind; hands! stretch out before me that I may yet grope my way.
Is't night?"
"The whale! The ship!" cried the cringing oarsmen.
"Oars! oars!
Slope downwards to thy depths, O sea, that ere it be for ever too late, Ahab may slide
this last, last time upon his mark! I see: the ship! the ship!
Dash on, my men!
Will ye not save my ship?"
But as the oarsmen violently forced their boat through the sledge-hammering seas, the
before whale-smitten bow-ends of two planks burst through, and in an instant almost,
the temporarily disabled boat lay nearly
level with the waves; its half-wading, splashing crew, trying hard to stop the gap
and bale out the pouring water.
Meantime, for that one beholding instant, Tashtego's mast-head hammer remained
suspended in his hand; and the red flag, half-wrapping him as with a plaid, then
streamed itself straight out from him, as
his own forward-flowing heart; while Starbuck and Stubb, standing upon the
bowsprit beneath, caught sight of the down- coming monster just as soon as he.
"The whale, the whale!
Up helm, up helm! Oh, all ye sweet powers of air, now hug me
close! Let not Starbuck die, if die he must, in a
woman's fainting fit.
Up helm, I say--ye fools, the jaw! the jaw! Is this the end of all my bursting prayers?
all my life-long fidelities? Oh, Ahab, Ahab, lo, thy work.
Steady! helmsman, steady.
Nay, nay! Up helm again!
He turns to meet us! Oh, his unappeasable brow drives on towards
one, whose duty tells him he cannot depart.
My God, stand by me now!" "Stand not by me, but stand under me,
whoever you are that will now help Stubb; for Stubb, too, sticks here.
I grin at thee, thou grinning whale!
Who ever helped Stubb, or kept Stubb awake, but Stubb's own unwinking eye?
And now poor Stubb goes to bed upon a mattrass that is all too soft; would it
were stuffed with brushwood!
I grin at thee, thou grinning whale! Look ye, sun, moon, and stars!
I call ye assassins of as good a fellow as ever spouted up his ghost.
For all that, I would yet ring glasses with ye, would ye but hand the cup!
Oh, oh! oh, oh! thou grinning whale, but there'll be plenty of gulping soon!
Why fly ye not, O Ahab!
For me, off shoes and jacket to it; let Stubb die in his drawers!
A most mouldy and over salted death, though;--cherries! cherries! cherries!
Oh, Flask, for one red cherry ere we die!"
"Cherries? I only wish that we were where they grow.
Oh, Stubb, I hope my poor mother's drawn my part-pay ere this; if not, few coppers will
now come to her, for the voyage is up."
From the ship's bows, nearly all the seamen now hung inactive; hammers, bits of plank,
lances, and harpoons, mechanically retained in their hands, just as they had darted
from their various employments; all their
enchanted eyes intent upon the whale, which from side to side strangely vibrating his
predestinating head, sent a broad band of overspreading semicircular foam before him
as he rushed.
Retribution, swift vengeance, eternal malice were in his whole aspect, and spite
of all that mortal man could do, the solid white buttress of his forehead smote the
ship's starboard bow, till men and timbers reeled.
Some fell flat upon their faces.
Like dislodged trucks, the heads of the harpooneers aloft shook on their bull-like
necks. Through the breach, they heard the waters
pour, as mountain torrents down a flume.
"The ship! The hearse!--the second hearse!" cried Ahab
from the boat; "its wood could only be American!"
Diving beneath the settling ship, the whale ran quivering along its keel; but turning
under water, swiftly shot to the surface again, far off the other bow, but within a
few yards of Ahab's boat, where, for a time, he lay quiescent.
"I turn my body from the sun. What ho, Tashtego! let me hear thy hammer.
Oh! ye three unsurrendered spires of mine; thou uncracked keel; and only god-bullied
hull; thou firm deck, and haughty helm, and Pole-pointed prow,--death-glorious ship!
must ye then perish, and without me?
Am I cut off from the last fond pride of meanest shipwrecked captains?
Oh, lonely death on lonely life! Oh, now I feel my topmost greatness lies in
my topmost grief.
Ho, ho! from all your furthest bounds, pour ye now in, ye bold billows of my whole
foregone life, and top this one piled comber of my death!
Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I
grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last
breath at thee.
Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine,
let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou
damned whale!
THUS, I give up the spear!" The harpoon was darted; the stricken whale
flew forward; with igniting velocity the line ran through the grooves;--ran foul.
Ahab stooped to clear it; he did clear it; but the flying turn caught him round the
neck, and voicelessly as Turkish mutes bowstring their victim, he was shot out of
the boat, ere the crew knew he was gone.
Next instant, the heavy eye-splice in the rope's final end flew out of the stark-
empty tub, knocked down an oarsman, and smiting the sea, disappeared in its depths.
For an instant, the tranced boat's crew stood still; then turned.
"The ship? Great God, where is the ship?"
Soon they through dim, bewildering mediums saw her sidelong fading phantom, as in the
gaseous Fata Morgana; only the uppermost masts out of water; while fixed by
infatuation, or fidelity, or fate, to their
once lofty perches, the pagan harpooneers still maintained their sinking lookouts on
the sea.
And now, concentric circles seized the lone boat itself, and all its crew, and each
floating oar, and every lance-pole, and spinning, animate and inanimate, all round
and round in one vortex, carried the smallest chip of the Pequod out of sight.
But as the last whelmings intermixingly poured themselves over the sunken head of
the Indian at the mainmast, leaving a few inches of the erect spar yet visible,
together with long streaming yards of the
flag, which calmly undulated, with ironical coincidings, over the destroying billows
they almost touched;--at that instant, a red arm and a hammer hovered backwardly
uplifted in the open air, in the act of
nailing the flag faster and yet faster to the subsiding spar.
A sky-hawk that tauntingly had followed the main-truck downwards from its natural home
among the stars, pecking at the flag, and incommoding Tashtego there; this bird now
chanced to intercept its broad fluttering
wing between the hammer and the wood; and simultaneously feeling that etherial
thrill, the submerged savage beneath, in his death-gasp, kept his hammer frozen
there; and so the bird of heaven, with
archangelic shrieks, and his imperial beak thrust upwards, and his whole captive form
folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship, which, like Satan, would not sink
to hell till she had dragged a living part
of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it.
Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat
against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea
rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.
Chapter 136 Epilogue
The drama's done. Why then here does any one step forth?--
Because one did survive the wreck.
It so chanced, that after the Parsee's disappearance, I was he whom the Fates
ordained to take the place of Ahab's bowsman, when that bowsman assumed the
vacant post; the same, who, when on the
last day the three men were tossed from out of the rocking boat, was dropped astern.
So, floating on the margin of the ensuing scene, and in full sight of it, when the
halfspent suction of the sunk ship reached me, I was then, but slowly, drawn towards
the closing vortex.
When I reached it, it had subsided to a creamy pool.
Round and round, then, and ever contracting towards the button-like black bubble at the
axis of that slowly wheeling circle, like another Ixion I did revolve.
Till, gaining that vital centre, the black bubble upward burst; and now, liberated by
reason of its cunning spring, and, owing to its great buoyancy, rising with great
force, the coffin life-buoy shot lengthwise
from the sea, fell over, and floated by my side.
Buoyed up by that coffin, for almost one whole day and night, I floated on a soft
and dirgelike main.
The unharming sharks, they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths; the savage
sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks. On the second day, a sail drew near,
nearer, and picked me up at last.
It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing
children, only found another orphan.