Part 04 - Moby Dick Audiobook by Herman Melville (Chs 041-050)


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Transcript:
-Chapter 41. Moby Dick.
I, Ishmael, was one of that crew; my shouts had gone up with the rest; my oath had been
welded with theirs; and stronger I shouted, and more did I hammer and clinch my oath,
because of the dread in my soul.
A wild, mystical, sympathetical feeling was in me; Ahab's quenchless feud seemed mine.
With greedy ears I learned the history of that murderous monster against whom I and
all the others had taken our oaths of violence and revenge.
For some time past, though at intervals only, the unaccompanied, secluded White
Whale had haunted those uncivilized seas mostly frequented by the Sperm Whale
fishermen.
But not all of them knew of his existence; only a few of them, comparatively, had
knowingly seen him; while the number who as yet had actually and knowingly given battle
to him, was small indeed.
For, owing to the large number of whale- cruisers; the disorderly way they were
sprinkled over the entire watery circumference, many of them adventurously
pushing their quest along solitary
latitudes, so as seldom or never for a whole twelvemonth or more on a stretch, to
encounter a single news-telling sail of any sort; the inordinate length of each
separate voyage; the irregularity of the
times of sailing from home; all these, with other circumstances, direct and indirect,
long obstructed the spread through the whole world-wide whaling-fleet of the
special individualizing tidings concerning Moby Dick.
It was hardly to be doubted, that several vessels reported to have encountered, at
such or such a time, or on such or such a meridian, a Sperm Whale of uncommon
magnitude and malignity, which whale, after
doing great mischief to his assailants, had completely escaped them; to some minds it
was not an unfair presumption, I say, that the whale in question must have been no
other than Moby Dick.
Yet as of late the Sperm Whale fishery had been marked by various and not unfrequent
instances of great ferocity, cunning, and malice in the monster attacked; therefore
it was, that those who by accident
ignorantly gave battle to Moby Dick; such hunters, perhaps, for the most part, were
content to ascribe the peculiar terror he bred, more, as it were, to the perils of
the Sperm Whale fishery at large, than to the individual cause.
In that way, mostly, the disastrous encounter between Ahab and the whale had
hitherto been popularly regarded.
And as for those who, previously hearing of the White Whale, by chance caught sight of
him; in the beginning of the thing they had every one of them, almost, as boldly and
fearlessly lowered for him, as for any other whale of that species.
But at length, such calamities did ensue in these assaults--not restricted to sprained
wrists and ankles, broken limbs, or devouring amputations--but fatal to the
last degree of fatality; those repeated
disastrous repulses, all accumulating and piling their terrors upon Moby Dick; those
things had gone far to shake the fortitude of many brave hunters, to whom the story of
the White Whale had eventually come.
Nor did wild rumors of all sorts fail to exaggerate, and still the more horrify the
true histories of these deadly encounters.
For not only do fabulous rumors naturally grow out of the very body of all surprising
terrible events,--as the smitten tree gives birth to its fungi; but, in maritime life,
far more than in that of terra firma, wild
rumors abound, wherever there is any adequate reality for them to cling to.
And as the sea surpasses the land in this matter, so the whale fishery surpasses
every other sort of maritime life, in the wonderfulness and fearfulness of the rumors
which sometimes circulate there.
For not only are whalemen as a body unexempt from that ignorance and
superstitiousness hereditary to all sailors; but of all sailors, they are by
all odds the most directly brought into
contact with whatever is appallingly astonishing in the sea; face to face they
not only eye its greatest marvels, but, hand to jaw, give battle to them.
Alone, in such remotest waters, that though you sailed a thousand miles, and passed a
thousand shores, you would not come to any chiseled hearth-stone, or aught hospitable
beneath that part of the sun; in such
latitudes and longitudes, pursuing too such a calling as he does, the whaleman is
wrapped by influences all tending to make his fancy pregnant with many a mighty
birth.
No wonder, then, that ever gathering volume from the mere transit over the widest
watery spaces, the outblown rumors of the White Whale did in the end incorporate with
themselves all manner of morbid hints, and
half-formed foetal suggestions of supernatural agencies, which eventually
invested Moby Dick with new terrors unborrowed from anything that visibly
appears.
So that in many cases such a panic did he finally strike, that few who by those
rumors, at least, had heard of the White Whale, few of those hunters were willing to
encounter the perils of his jaw.
But there were still other and more vital practical influences at work.
Not even at the present day has the original prestige of the Sperm Whale, as
fearfully distinguished from all other species of the leviathan, died out of the
minds of the whalemen as a body.
There are those this day among them, who, though intelligent and courageous enough in
offering battle to the Greenland or Right whale, would perhaps--either from
professional inexperience, or incompetency,
or timidity, decline a contest with the Sperm Whale; at any rate, there are plenty
of whalemen, especially among those whaling nations not sailing under the American
flag, who have never hostilely encountered
the Sperm Whale, but whose sole knowledge of the leviathan is restricted to the
ignoble monster primitively pursued in the North; seated on their hatches, these men
will hearken with a childish fireside
interest and awe, to the wild, strange tales of Southern whaling.
Nor is the pre-eminent tremendousness of the great Sperm Whale anywhere more
feelingly comprehended, than on board of those prows which stem him.
And as if the now tested reality of his might had in former legendary times thrown
its shadow before it; we find some book naturalists--Olassen and Povelson--
declaring the Sperm Whale not only to be a
consternation to every other creature in the sea, but also to be so incredibly
ferocious as continually to be athirst for human blood.
Nor even down to so late a time as Cuvier's, were these or almost similar
impressions effaced.
For in his Natural History, the Baron himself affirms that at sight of the Sperm
Whale, all fish (sharks included) are "struck with the most lively terrors," and
"often in the precipitancy of their flight
dash themselves against the rocks with such violence as to cause instantaneous death."
And however the general experiences in the fishery may amend such reports as these;
yet in their full terribleness, even to the bloodthirsty item of Povelson, the
superstitious belief in them is, in some
vicissitudes of their vocation, revived in the minds of the hunters.
So that overawed by the rumors and portents concerning him, not a few of the fishermen
recalled, in reference to Moby Dick, the earlier days of the Sperm Whale fishery,
when it was oftentimes hard to induce long
practised Right whalemen to embark in the perils of this new and daring warfare; such
men protesting that although other leviathans might be hopefully pursued, yet
to chase and point lance at such an
apparition as the Sperm Whale was not for mortal man.
That to attempt it, would be inevitably to be torn into a quick eternity.
On this head, there are some remarkable documents that may be consulted.
Nevertheless, some there were, who even in the face of these things were ready to give
chase to Moby Dick; and a still greater number who, chancing only to hear of him
distantly and vaguely, without the specific
details of any certain calamity, and without superstitious accompaniments, were
sufficiently hardy not to flee from the battle if offered.
One of the wild suggestions referred to, as at last coming to be linked with the White
Whale in the minds of the superstitiously inclined, was the unearthly conceit that
Moby Dick was ubiquitous; that he had
actually been encountered in opposite latitudes at one and the same instant of
time.
Nor, credulous as such minds must have been, was this conceit altogether without
some faint show of superstitious probability.
For as the secrets of the currents in the seas have never yet been divulged, even to
the most erudite research; so the hidden ways of the Sperm Whale when beneath the
surface remain, in great part,
unaccountable to his pursuers; and from time to time have originated the most
curious and contradictory speculations regarding them, especially concerning the
mystic modes whereby, after sounding to a
great depth, he transports himself with such vast swiftness to the most widely
distant points.
It is a thing well known to both American and English whale-ships, and as well a
thing placed upon authoritative record years ago by Scoresby, that some whales
have been captured far north in the
Pacific, in whose bodies have been found the barbs of harpoons darted in the
Greenland seas.
Nor is it to be gainsaid, that in some of these instances it has been declared that
the interval of time between the two assaults could not have exceeded very many
days.
Hence, by inference, it has been believed by some whalemen, that the Nor' West
Passage, so long a problem to man, was never a problem to the whale.
So that here, in the real living experience of living men, the prodigies related in old
times of the inland Strello mountain in Portugal (near whose top there was said to
be a lake in which the wrecks of ships
floated up to the surface); and that still more wonderful story of the Arethusa
fountain near Syracuse (whose waters were believed to have come from the Holy Land by
an underground passage); these fabulous
narrations are almost fully equalled by the realities of the whalemen.
Forced into familiarity, then, with such prodigies as these; and knowing that after
repeated, intrepid assaults, the White Whale had escaped alive; it cannot be much
matter of surprise that some whalemen
should go still further in their superstitions; declaring Moby Dick not only
ubiquitous, but immortal (for immortality is but ubiquity in time); that though
groves of spears should be planted in his
flanks, he would still swim away unharmed; or if indeed he should ever be made to
spout thick blood, such a sight would be but a ghastly deception; for again in
unensanguined billows hundreds of leagues
away, his unsullied jet would once more be seen.
But even stripped of these supernatural surmisings, there was enough in the earthly
make and incontestable character of the monster to strike the imagination with
unwonted power.
For, it was not so much his uncommon bulk that so much distinguished him from other
sperm whales, but, as was elsewhere thrown out--a peculiar snow-white wrinkled
forehead, and a high, pyramidical white hump.
These were his prominent features; the tokens whereby, even in the limitless,
uncharted seas, he revealed his identity, at a long distance, to those who knew him.
The rest of his body was so streaked, and spotted, and marbled with the same shrouded
hue, that, in the end, he had gained his distinctive appellation of the White Whale;
a name, indeed, literally justified by his
vivid aspect, when seen gliding at high noon through a dark blue sea, leaving a
milky-way wake of creamy foam, all spangled with golden gleamings.
Nor was it his unwonted magnitude, nor his remarkable hue, nor yet his deformed lower
jaw, that so much invested the whale with natural terror, as that unexampled,
intelligent malignity which, according to
specific accounts, he had over and over again evinced in his assaults.
More than all, his treacherous retreats struck more of dismay than perhaps aught
else.
For, when swimming before his exulting pursuers, with every apparent symptom of
alarm, he had several times been known to turn round suddenly, and, bearing down upon
them, either stave their boats to
splinters, or drive them back in consternation to their ship.
Already several fatalities had attended his chase.
But though similar disasters, however little bruited ashore, were by no means
unusual in the fishery; yet, in most instances, such seemed the White Whale's
infernal aforethought of ferocity, that
every dismembering or death that he caused, was not wholly regarded as having been
inflicted by an unintelligent agent.
Judge, then, to what pitches of inflamed, distracted fury the minds of his more
desperate hunters were impelled, when amid the chips of chewed boats, and the sinking
limbs of torn comrades, they swam out of
the white curds of the whale's direful wrath into the serene, exasperating
sunlight, that smiled on, as if at a birth or a bridal.
His three boats stove around him, and oars and men both whirling in the eddies; one
captain, seizing the line-knife from his broken prow, had dashed at the whale, as an
Arkansas duellist at his foe, blindly
seeking with a six inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the whale.
That captain was Ahab.
And then it was, that suddenly sweeping his sickle-shaped lower jaw beneath him, Moby
Dick had reaped away Ahab's leg, as a mower a blade of grass in the field.
No turbaned Turk, no hired Venetian or Malay, could have smote him with more
seeming malice.
Small reason was there to doubt, then, that ever since that almost fatal encounter,
Ahab had cherished a wild vindictiveness against the whale, all the more fell for
that in his frantic morbidness he at last
came to identify with him, not only all his bodily woes, but all his intellectual and
spiritual exasperations.
The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those
malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living
on with half a heart and half a lung.
That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose dominion even
the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of
the east reverenced in their statue devil;-
-Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but deliriously transferring its idea
to the abhorred white whale, he pitted himself, all mutilated, against it.
All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth
with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle
demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to
crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick.
He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt
by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst
his hot heart's shell upon it.
It is not probable that this monomania in him took its instant rise at the precise
time of his bodily dismemberment.
Then, in darting at the monster, knife in hand, he had but given loose to a sudden,
passionate, corporal animosity; and when he received the stroke that tore him, he
probably but felt the agonizing bodily laceration, but nothing more.
Yet, when by this collision forced to turn towards home, and for long months of days
and weeks, Ahab and anguish lay stretched together in one hammock, rounding in mid
winter that dreary, howling Patagonian
Cape; then it was, that his torn body and gashed soul bled into one another; and so
interfusing, made him mad.
That it was only then, on the homeward voyage, after the encounter, that the final
monomania seized him, seems all but certain from the fact that, at intervals during the
passage, he was a raving lunatic; and,
though unlimbed of a leg, yet such vital strength yet lurked in his Egyptian chest,
and was moreover intensified by his delirium, that his mates were forced to
lace him fast, even there, as he sailed, raving in his hammock.
In a strait-jacket, he swung to the mad rockings of the gales.
And, when running into more sufferable latitudes, the ship, with mild stun'sails
spread, floated across the tranquil tropics, and, to all appearances, the old
man's delirium seemed left behind him with
the Cape Horn swells, and he came forth from his dark den into the blessed light
and air; even then, when he bore that firm, collected front, however pale, and issued
his calm orders once again; and his mates
thanked God the direful madness was now gone; even then, Ahab, in his hidden self,
raved on. Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and
most feline thing.
When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler
form.
Ahab's full lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted; like the unabated
Hudson, when that noble Northman flows narrowly, but unfathomably through the
Highland gorge.
But, as in his narrow-flowing monomania, not one jot of Ahab's broad madness had
been left behind; so in that broad madness, not one jot of his great natural intellect
had perished.
That before living agent, now became the living instrument.
If such a furious trope may stand, his special lunacy stormed his general sanity,
and carried it, and turned all its concentred cannon upon its own mad mark; so
that far from having lost his strength,
Ahab, to that one end, did now possess a thousand fold more potency than ever he had
sanely brought to bear upon any one reasonable object.
This is much; yet Ahab's larger, darker, deeper part remains unhinted.
But vain to popularize profundities, and all truth is profound.
Winding far down from within the very heart of this spiked Hotel de Cluny where we here
stand--however grand and wonderful, now quit it;--and take your way, ye nobler,
sadder souls, to those vast Roman halls of
Thermes; where far beneath the fantastic towers of man's upper earth, his root of
grandeur, his whole awful essence sits in bearded state; an antique buried beneath
antiquities, and throned on torsoes!
So with a broken throne, the great gods mock that captive king; so like a Caryatid,
he patient sits, upholding on his frozen brow the piled entablatures of ages.
Wind ye down there, ye prouder, sadder souls! question that proud, sad king!
A family likeness! aye, he did beget ye, ye young exiled royalties; and from your grim
sire only will the old State-secret come.
Now, in his heart, Ahab had some glimpse of this, namely: all my means are sane, my
motive and my object mad.
Yet without power to kill, or change, or shun the fact; he likewise knew that to
mankind he did long dissemble; in some sort, did still.
But that thing of his dissembling was only subject to his perceptibility, not to his
will determinate.
Nevertheless, so well did he succeed in that dissembling, that when with ivory leg
he stepped ashore at last, no Nantucketer thought him otherwise than but naturally
grieved, and that to the quick, with the terrible casualty which had overtaken him.
The report of his undeniable delirium at sea was likewise popularly ascribed to a
kindred cause.
And so too, all the added moodiness which always afterwards, to the very day of
sailing in the Pequod on the present voyage, sat brooding on his brow.
Nor is it so very unlikely, that far from distrusting his fitness for another whaling
voyage, on account of such dark symptoms, the calculating people of that prudent isle
were inclined to harbor the conceit, that
for those very reasons he was all the better qualified and set on edge, for a
pursuit so full of rage and wildness as the bloody hunt of whales.
Gnawed within and scorched without, with the infixed, unrelenting fangs of some
incurable idea; such an one, could he be found, would seem the very man to dart his
iron and lift his lance against the most appalling of all brutes.
Or, if for any reason thought to be corporeally incapacitated for that, yet
such an one would seem superlatively competent to cheer and howl on his
underlings to the attack.
But be all this as it may, certain it is, that with the mad secret of his unabated
rage bolted up and keyed in him, Ahab had purposely sailed upon the present voyage
with the one only and all-engrossing object of hunting the White Whale.
Had any one of his old acquaintances on shore but half dreamed of what was lurking
in him then, how soon would their aghast and righteous souls have wrenched the ship
from such a fiendish man!
They were bent on profitable cruises, the profit to be counted down in dollars from
the mint. He was intent on an audacious, immitigable,
and supernatural revenge.
Here, then, was this grey-headed, ungodly old man, chasing with curses a Job's whale
round the world, at the head of a crew, too, chiefly made up of mongrel renegades,
and castaways, and cannibals--morally
enfeebled also, by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or right-mindedness in
Starbuck, the invunerable jollity of indifference and recklessness in Stubb, and
the pervading mediocrity in Flask.
Such a crew, so officered, seemed specially picked and packed by some infernal fatality
to help him to his monomaniac revenge.
How it was that they so aboundingly responded to the old man's ire--by what
evil magic their souls were possessed, that at times his hate seemed almost theirs; the
White Whale as much their insufferable foe
as his; how all this came to be--what the White Whale was to them, or how to their
unconscious understandings, also, in some dim, unsuspected way, he might have seemed
the gliding great demon of the seas of
life,--all this to explain, would be to dive deeper than Ishmael can go.
The subterranean miner that works in us all, how can one tell whither leads his
shaft by the ever shifting, muffled sound of his pick?
Who does not feel the irresistible arm drag?
What skiff in tow of a seventy-four can stand still?
For one, I gave myself up to the abandonment of the time and the place; but
while yet all a-rush to encounter the whale, could see naught in that brute but
the deadliest ill.
>
-Chapter 42. The Whiteness of The Whale.
What the white whale was to Ahab, has been hinted; what, at times, he was to me, as
yet remains unsaid.
Aside from those more obvious considerations touching Moby Dick, which
could not but occasionally awaken in any man's soul some alarm, there was another
thought, or rather vague, nameless horror
concerning him, which at times by its intensity completely overpowered all the
rest; and yet so mystical and well nigh ineffable was it, that I almost despair of
putting it in a comprehensible form.
It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me.
But how can I hope to explain myself here; and yet, in some dim, random way, explain
myself I must, else all these chapters might be naught.
Though in many natural objects, whiteness refiningly enhances beauty, as if imparting
some special virtue of its own, as in marbles, japonicas, and pearls; and though
various nations have in some way recognised
a certain royal preeminence in this hue; even the barbaric, grand old kings of Pegu
placing the title "Lord of the White Elephants" above all their other
magniloquent ascriptions of dominion; and
the modern kings of Siam unfurling the same snow-white quadruped in the royal standard;
and the Hanoverian flag bearing the one figure of a snow-white charger; and the
great Austrian Empire, Caesarian, heir to
overlording Rome, having for the imperial colour the same imperial hue; and though
this pre-eminence in it applies to the human race itself, giving the white man
ideal mastership over every dusky tribe;
and though, besides, all this, whiteness has been even made significant of gladness,
for among the Romans a white stone marked a joyful day; and though in other mortal
sympathies and symbolizings, this same hue
is made the emblem of many touching, noble things--the innocence of brides, the
benignity of age; though among the Red Men of America the giving of the white belt of
wampum was the deepest pledge of honour;
though in many climes, whiteness typifies the majesty of Justice in the ermine of the
Judge, and contributes to the daily state of kings and queens drawn by milk-white
steeds; though even in the higher mysteries
of the most august religions it has been made the symbol of the divine spotlessness
and power; by the Persian fire worshippers, the white forked flame being held the
holiest on the altar; and in the Greek
mythologies, Great Jove himself being made incarnate in a snow-white bull; and though
to the noble Iroquois, the midwinter sacrifice of the sacred White Dog was by
far the holiest festival of their theology,
that spotless, faithful creature being held the purest envoy they could send to the
Great Spirit with the annual tidings of their own fidelity; and though directly
from the Latin word for white, all
Christian priests derive the name of one part of their sacred vesture, the alb or
tunic, worn beneath the cassock; and though among the holy pomps of the Romish faith,
white is specially employed in the
celebration of the Passion of our Lord; though in the Vision of St. John, white
robes are given to the redeemed, and the four-and-twenty elders stand clothed in
white before the great-white throne, and
the Holy One that sitteth there white like wool; yet for all these accumulated
associations, with whatever is sweet, and honourable, and sublime, there yet lurks an
elusive something in the innermost idea of
this hue, which strikes more of panic to the soul than that redness which affrights
in blood.
This elusive quality it is, which causes the thought of whiteness, when divorced
from more kindly associations, and coupled with any object terrible in itself, to
heighten that terror to the furthest bounds.
Witness the white bear of the poles, and the white shark of the tropics; what but
their smooth, flaky whiteness makes them the transcendent horrors they are?
That ghastly whiteness it is which imparts such an abhorrent mildness, even more
loathsome than terrific, to the dumb gloating of their aspect.
So that not the fierce-fanged tiger in his heraldic coat can so stagger courage as the
white-shrouded bear or shark.*
*With reference to the Polar bear, it may possibly be urged by him who would fain go
still deeper into this matter, that it is not the whiteness, separately regarded,
which heightens the intolerable hideousness
of that brute; for, analysed, that heightened hideousness, it might be said,
only rises from the circumstance, that the irresponsible ferociousness of the creature
stands invested in the fleece of celestial
innocence and love; and hence, by bringing together two such opposite emotions in our
minds, the Polar bear frightens us with so unnatural a contrast.
But even assuming all this to be true; yet, were it not for the whiteness, you would
not have that intensified terror.
As for the white shark, the white gliding ghostliness of repose in that creature,
when beheld in his ordinary moods, strangely tallies with the same quality in
the Polar quadruped.
This peculiarity is most vividly hit by the French in the name they bestow upon that
fish.
The Romish mass for the dead begins with "Requiem eternam" (eternal rest), whence
REQUIEM denominating the mass itself, and any other funeral music.
Now, in allusion to the white, silent stillness of death in this shark, and the
mild deadliness of his habits, the French call him REQUIN.
Bethink thee of the albatross, whence come those clouds of spiritual wonderment and
pale dread, in which that white phantom sails in all imaginations?
Not Coleridge first threw that spell; but God's great, unflattering laureate,
Nature.* *I remember the first albatross I ever saw.
It was during a prolonged gale, in waters hard upon the Antarctic seas.
From my forenoon watch below, I ascended to the overclouded deck; and there, dashed
upon the main hatches, I saw a regal, feathery thing of unspotted whiteness, and
with a hooked, Roman bill sublime.
At intervals, it arched forth its vast archangel wings, as if to embrace some holy
ark. Wondrous flutterings and throbbings shook
it.
Though bodily unharmed, it uttered cries, as some king's ghost in supernatural
distress.
Through its inexpressible, strange eyes, methought I peeped to secrets which took
hold of God.
As Abraham before the angels, I bowed myself; the white thing was so white, its
wings so wide, and in those for ever exiled waters, I had lost the miserable warping
memories of traditions and of towns.
Long I gazed at that prodigy of plumage. I cannot tell, can only hint, the things
that darted through me then. But at last I awoke; and turning, asked a
sailor what bird was this.
A goney, he replied. Goney! never had heard that name before; is
it conceivable that this glorious thing is utterly unknown to men ashore! never!
But some time after, I learned that goney was some seaman's name for albatross.
So that by no possibility could Coleridge's wild Rhyme have had aught to do with those
mystical impressions which were mine, when I saw that bird upon our deck.
For neither had I then read the Rhyme, nor knew the bird to be an albatross.
Yet, in saying this, I do but indirectly burnish a little brighter the noble merit
of the poem and the poet.
I assert, then, that in the wondrous bodily whiteness of the bird chiefly lurks the
secret of the spell; a truth the more evinced in this, that by a solecism of
terms there are birds called grey
albatrosses; and these I have frequently seen, but never with such emotions as when
I beheld the Antarctic fowl. But how had the mystic thing been caught?
Whisper it not, and I will tell; with a treacherous hook and line, as the fowl
floated on the sea.
At last the Captain made a postman of it; tying a lettered, leathern tally round its
neck, with the ship's time and place; and then letting it escape.
But I doubt not, that leathern tally, meant for man, was taken off in Heaven, when the
white fowl flew to join the wing-folding, the invoking, and adoring cherubim!
Most famous in our Western annals and Indian traditions is that of the White
Steed of the Prairies; a magnificent milk- white charger, large-eyed, small-headed,
bluff-chested, and with the dignity of a
thousand monarchs in his lofty, overscorning carriage.
He was the elected Xerxes of vast herds of wild horses, whose pastures in those days
were only fenced by the Rocky Mountains and the Alleghanies.
At their flaming head he westward trooped it like that chosen star which every
evening leads on the hosts of light.
The flashing cascade of his mane, the curving comet of his tail, invested him
with housings more resplendent than gold and silver-beaters could have furnished
him.
A most imperial and archangelical apparition of that unfallen, western world,
which to the eyes of the old trappers and hunters revived the glories of those
primeval times when Adam walked majestic as
a god, bluff-browed and fearless as this mighty steed.
Whether marching amid his aides and marshals in the van of countless cohorts
that endlessly streamed it over the plains, like an Ohio; or whether with his
circumambient subjects browsing all around
at the horizon, the White Steed gallopingly reviewed them with warm nostrils reddening
through his cool milkiness; in whatever aspect he presented himself, always to the
bravest Indians he was the object of trembling reverence and awe.
Nor can it be questioned from what stands on legendary record of this noble horse,
that it was his spiritual whiteness chiefly, which so clothed him with
divineness; and that this divineness had
that in it which, though commanding worship, at the same time enforced a
certain nameless terror.
But there are other instances where this whiteness loses all that accessory and
strange glory which invests it in the White Steed and Albatross.
What is it that in the Albino man so peculiarly repels and often shocks the eye,
as that sometimes he is loathed by his own kith and kin!
It is that whiteness which invests him, a thing expressed by the name he bears.
The Albino is as well made as other men-- has no substantive deformity--and yet this
mere aspect of all-pervading whiteness makes him more strangely hideous than the
ugliest abortion.
Why should this be so?
Nor, in quite other aspects, does Nature in her least palpable but not the less
malicious agencies, fail to enlist among her forces this crowning attribute of the
terrible.
From its snowy aspect, the gauntleted ghost of the Southern Seas has been denominated
the White Squall.
Nor, in some historic instances, has the art of human malice omitted so potent an
auxiliary.
How wildly it heightens the effect of that passage in Froissart, when, masked in the
snowy symbol of their faction, the desperate White Hoods of Ghent murder their
bailiff in the market-place!
Nor, in some things, does the common, hereditary experience of all mankind fail
to bear witness to the supernaturalism of this hue.
It cannot well be doubted, that the one visible quality in the aspect of the dead
which most appals the gazer, is the marble pallor lingering there; as if indeed that
pallor were as much like the badge of
consternation in the other world, as of mortal trepidation here.
And from that pallor of the dead, we borrow the expressive hue of the shroud in which
we wrap them.
Nor even in our superstitions do we fail to throw the same snowy mantle round our
phantoms; all ghosts rising in a milk-white fog--Yea, while these terrors seize us, let
us add, that even the king of terrors, when
personified by the evangelist, rides on his pallid horse.
Therefore, in his other moods, symbolize whatever grand or gracious thing he will by
whiteness, no man can deny that in its profoundest idealized significance it calls
up a peculiar apparition to the soul.
But though without dissent this point be fixed, how is mortal man to account for it?
To analyse it, would seem impossible.
Can we, then, by the citation of some of those instances wherein this thing of
whiteness--though for the time either wholly or in great part stripped of all
direct associations calculated to impart to
it aught fearful, but nevertheless, is found to exert over us the same sorcery,
however modified;--can we thus hope to light upon some chance clue to conduct us
to the hidden cause we seek?
Let us try. But in a matter like this, subtlety appeals
to subtlety, and without imagination no man can follow another into these halls.
And though, doubtless, some at least of the imaginative impressions about to be
presented may have been shared by most men, yet few perhaps were entirely conscious of
them at the time, and therefore may not be able to recall them now.
Why to the man of untutored ideality, who happens to be but loosely acquainted with
the peculiar character of the day, does the bare mention of Whitsuntide marshal in the
fancy such long, dreary, speechless
processions of slow-pacing pilgrims, down- cast and hooded with new-fallen snow?
Or, to the unread, unsophisticated Protestant of the Middle American States,
why does the passing mention of a White Friar or a White Nun, evoke such an eyeless
statue in the soul?
Or what is there apart from the traditions of dungeoned warriors and kings (which will
not wholly account for it) that makes the White Tower of London tell so much more
strongly on the imagination of an
untravelled American, than those other storied structures, its neighbors--the
Byward Tower, or even the Bloody?
And those sublimer towers, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, whence, in
peculiar moods, comes that gigantic ghostliness over the soul at the bare
mention of that name, while the thought of
Virginia's Blue Ridge is full of a soft, dewy, distant dreaminess?
Or why, irrespective of all latitudes and longitudes, does the name of the White Sea
exert such a spectralness over the fancy, while that of the Yellow Sea lulls us with
mortal thoughts of long lacquered mild
afternoons on the waves, followed by the gaudiest and yet sleepiest of sunsets?
Or, to choose a wholly unsubstantial instance, purely addressed to the fancy,
why, in reading the old fairy tales of Central Europe, does "the tall pale man" of
the Hartz forests, whose changeless pallor
unrustlingly glides through the green of the groves--why is this phantom more
terrible than all the whooping imps of the Blocksburg?
Nor is it, altogether, the remembrance of her cathedral-toppling earthquakes; nor the
stampedoes of her frantic seas; nor the tearlessness of arid skies that never rain;
nor the sight of her wide field of leaning
spires, wrenched cope-stones, and crosses all adroop (like canted yards of anchored
fleets); and her suburban avenues of house- walls lying over upon each other, as a
tossed pack of cards;--it is not these
things alone which make tearless Lima, the strangest, saddest city thou can'st see.
For Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness
of her woe.
Old as Pizarro, this whiteness keeps her ruins for ever new; admits not the cheerful
greenness of complete decay; spreads over her broken ramparts the rigid pallor of an
apoplexy that fixes its own distortions.
I know that, to the common apprehension, this phenomenon of whiteness is not
confessed to be the prime agent in exaggerating the terror of objects
otherwise terrible; nor to the
unimaginative mind is there aught of terror in those appearances whose awfulness to
another mind almost solely consists in this one phenomenon, especially when exhibited
under any form at all approaching to muteness or universality.
What I mean by these two statements may perhaps be respectively elucidated by the
following examples.
First: The mariner, when drawing nigh the coasts of foreign lands, if by night he
hear the roar of breakers, starts to vigilance, and feels just enough of
trepidation to sharpen all his faculties;
but under precisely similar circumstances, let him be called from his hammock to view
his ship sailing through a midnight sea of milky whiteness--as if from encircling
headlands shoals of combed white bears were
swimming round him, then he feels a silent, superstitious dread; the shrouded phantom
of the whitened waters is horrible to him as a real ghost; in vain the lead assures
him he is still off soundings; heart and
helm they both go down; he never rests till blue water is under him again.
Yet where is the mariner who will tell thee, "Sir, it was not so much the fear of
striking hidden rocks, as the fear of that hideous whiteness that so stirred me?"
Second: To the native Indian of Peru, the continual sight of the snowhowdahed Andes
conveys naught of dread, except, perhaps, in the mere fancying of the eternal frosted
desolateness reigning at such vast
altitudes, and the natural conceit of what a fearfulness it would be to lose oneself
in such inhuman solitudes.
Much the same is it with the backwoodsman of the West, who with comparative
indifference views an unbounded prairie sheeted with driven snow, no shadow of tree
or twig to break the fixed trance of whiteness.
Not so the sailor, beholding the scenery of the Antarctic seas; where at times, by some
infernal trick of legerdemain in the powers of frost and air, he, shivering and half
shipwrecked, instead of rainbows speaking
hope and solace to his misery, views what seems a boundless churchyard grinning upon
him with its lean ice monuments and splintered crosses.
But thou sayest, methinks that white-lead chapter about whiteness is but a white flag
hung out from a craven soul; thou surrenderest to a hypo, Ishmael.
Tell me, why this strong young colt, foaled in some peaceful valley of Vermont, far
removed from all beasts of prey--why is it that upon the sunniest day, if you but
shake a fresh buffalo robe behind him, so
that he cannot even see it, but only smells its wild animal muskiness--why will he
start, snort, and with bursting eyes paw the ground in phrensies of affright?
There is no remembrance in him of any gorings of wild creatures in his green
northern home, so that the strange muskiness he smells cannot recall to him
anything associated with the experience of
former perils; for what knows he, this New England colt, of the black bisons of
distant Oregon?
No; but here thou beholdest even in a dumb brute, the instinct of the knowledge of the
demonism in the world.
Though thousands of miles from Oregon, still when he smells that savage musk, the
rending, goring bison herds are as present as to the deserted wild foal of the
prairies, which this instant they may be trampling into dust.
Thus, then, the muffled rollings of a milky sea; the bleak rustlings of the festooned
frosts of mountains; the desolate shiftings of the windrowed snows of prairies; all
these, to Ishmael, are as the shaking of that buffalo robe to the frightened colt!
Though neither knows where lie the nameless things of which the mystic sign gives forth
such hints; yet with me, as with the colt, somewhere those things must exist.
Though in many of its aspects this visible world seems formed in love, the invisible
spheres were formed in fright.
But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and learned why it
appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and far more portentous--why,
as we have seen, it is at once the most
meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the Christian's Deity; and
yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent in things the most appalling to
mankind.
Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities
of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation,
when beholding the white depths of the milky way?
Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a colour as the visible absence
of colour; and at the same time the concrete of all colours; is it for these
reasons that there is such a dumb
blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows--a colourless, all-
colour of atheism from which we shrink?
And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other
earthly hues--every stately or lovely emblazoning--the sweet tinges of sunset
skies and woods; yea, and the gilded
velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but
subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid on from without;
so that all deified Nature absolutely
paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within;
and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces
every one of her hues, the great principle
of light, for ever remains white or colourless in itself, and if operating
without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its
own blank tinge--pondering all this, the
palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who
refuse to wear coloured and colouring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched
infidel gazes himself blind at the
monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him.
And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol.
Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?
Chapter 43. Hark!
"HIST! Did you hear that noise, Cabaco?"
It was the middle-watch; a fair moonlight; the seamen were standing in a cordon,
extending from one of the fresh-water butts in the waist, to the scuttle-butt near the
taffrail.
In this manner, they passed the buckets to fill the scuttle-butt.
Standing, for the most part, on the hallowed precincts of the quarter-deck,
they were careful not to speak or rustle their feet.
From hand to hand, the buckets went in the deepest silence, only broken by the
occasional flap of a sail, and the steady hum of the unceasingly advancing keel.
It was in the midst of this repose, that Archy, one of the cordon, whose post was
near the after-hatches, whispered to his neighbor, a Cholo, the words above.
"Hist! did you hear that noise, Cabaco?"
"Take the bucket, will ye, Archy? what noise d'ye mean?"
"There it is again--under the hatches-- don't you hear it--a cough--it sounded like
a cough."
"Cough be damned! Pass along that return bucket."
"There again--there it is!--it sounds like two or three sleepers turning over, now!"
"Caramba! have done, shipmate, will ye?
It's the three soaked biscuits ye eat for supper turning over inside of ye--nothing
else. Look to the bucket!"
"Say what ye will, shipmate; I've sharp ears."
"Aye, you are the chap, ain't ye, that heard the hum of the old Quakeress's
knitting-needles fifty miles at sea from Nantucket; you're the chap."
"Grin away; we'll see what turns up.
Hark ye, Cabaco, there is somebody down in the after-hold that has not yet been seen
on deck; and I suspect our old Mogul knows something of it too.
I heard Stubb tell Flask, one morning watch, that there was something of that
sort in the wind." "Tish! the bucket!"
Chapter 44. The Chart.
Had you followed Captain Ahab down into his cabin after the squall that took place on
the night succeeding that wild ratification of his purpose with his crew, you would
have seen him go to a locker in the
transom, and bringing out a large wrinkled roll of yellowish sea charts, spread them
before him on his screwed-down table.
Then seating himself before it, you would have seen him intently study the various
lines and shadings which there met his eye; and with slow but steady pencil trace
additional courses over spaces that before were blank.
At intervals, he would refer to piles of old log-books beside him, wherein were set
down the seasons and places in which, on various former voyages of various ships,
sperm whales had been captured or seen.
While thus employed, the heavy pewter lamp suspended in chains over his head,
continually rocked with the motion of the ship, and for ever threw shifting gleams
and shadows of lines upon his wrinkled
brow, till it almost seemed that while he himself was marking out lines and courses
on the wrinkled charts, some invisible pencil was also tracing lines and courses
upon the deeply marked chart of his forehead.
But it was not this night in particular that, in the solitude of his cabin, Ahab
thus pondered over his charts.
Almost every night they were brought out; almost every night some pencil marks were
effaced, and others were substituted.
For with the charts of all four oceans before him, Ahab was threading a maze of
currents and eddies, with a view to the more certain accomplishment of that
monomaniac thought of his soul.
Now, to any one not fully acquainted with the ways of the leviathans, it might seem
an absurdly hopeless task thus to seek out one solitary creature in the unhooped
oceans of this planet.
But not so did it seem to Ahab, who knew the sets of all tides and currents; and
thereby calculating the driftings of the sperm whale's food; and, also, calling to
mind the regular, ascertained seasons for
hunting him in particular latitudes; could arrive at reasonable surmises, almost
approaching to certainties, concerning the timeliest day to be upon this or that
ground in search of his prey.
So assured, indeed, is the fact concerning the periodicalness of the sperm whale's
resorting to given waters, that many hunters believe that, could he be closely
observed and studied throughout the world;
were the logs for one voyage of the entire whale fleet carefully collated, then the
migrations of the sperm whale would be found to correspond in invariability to
those of the herring-shoals or the flights of swallows.
On this hint, attempts have been made to construct elaborate migratory charts of the
sperm whale.*
*Since the above was written, the statement is happily borne out by an official
circular, issued by Lieutenant Maury, of the National Observatory, Washington, April
16th, 1851.
By that circular, it appears that precisely such a chart is in course of completion;
and portions of it are presented in the circular.
"This chart divides the ocean into districts of five degrees of latitude by
five degrees of longitude; perpendicularly through each of which districts are twelve
columns for the twelve months; and
horizontally through each of which districts are three lines; one to show the
number of days that have been spent in each month in every district, and the two others
to show the number of days in which whales, sperm or right, have been seen."
Besides, when making a passage from one feeding-ground to another, the sperm
whales, guided by some infallible instinct- -say, rather, secret intelligence from the
Deity--mostly swim in VEINS, as they are
called; continuing their way along a given ocean-line with such undeviating
exactitude, that no ship ever sailed her course, by any chart, with one tithe of
such marvellous precision.
Though, in these cases, the direction taken by any one whale be straight as a
surveyor's parallel, and though the line of advance be strictly confined to its own
unavoidable, straight wake, yet the
arbitrary VEIN in which at these times he is said to swim, generally embraces some
few miles in width (more or less, as the vein is presumed to expand or contract);
but never exceeds the visual sweep from the
whale-ship's mast-heads, when circumspectly gliding along this magic zone.
The sum is, that at particular seasons within that breadth and along that path,
migrating whales may with great confidence be looked for.
And hence not only at substantiated times, upon well known separate feeding-grounds,
could Ahab hope to encounter his prey; but in crossing the widest expanses of water
between those grounds he could, by his art,
so place and time himself on his way, as even then not to be wholly without prospect
of a meeting.
There was a circumstance which at first sight seemed to entangle his delirious but
still methodical scheme. But not so in the reality, perhaps.
Though the gregarious sperm whales have their regular seasons for particular
grounds, yet in general you cannot conclude that the herds which haunted such and such
a latitude or longitude this year, say,
will turn out to be identically the same with those that were found there the
preceding season; though there are peculiar and unquestionable instances where the
contrary of this has proved true.
In general, the same remark, only within a less wide limit, applies to the solitaries
and hermits among the matured, aged sperm whales.
So that though Moby Dick had in a former year been seen, for example, on what is
called the Seychelle ground in the Indian ocean, or Volcano Bay on the Japanese
Coast; yet it did not follow, that were the
Pequod to visit either of those spots at any subsequent corresponding season, she
would infallibly encounter him there. So, too, with some other feeding grounds,
where he had at times revealed himself.
But all these seemed only his casual stopping-places and ocean-inns, so to
speak, not his places of prolonged abode.
And where Ahab's chances of accomplishing his object have hitherto been spoken of,
allusion has only been made to whatever way-side, antecedent, extra prospects were
his, ere a particular set time or place
were attained, when all possibilities would become probabilities, and, as Ahab fondly
thought, every possibility the next thing to a certainty.
That particular set time and place were conjoined in the one technical phrase--the
Season-on-the-Line.
For there and then, for several consecutive years, Moby Dick had been periodically
descried, lingering in those waters for awhile, as the sun, in its annual round,
loiters for a predicted interval in any one sign of the Zodiac.
There it was, too, that most of the deadly encounters with the white whale had taken
place; there the waves were storied with his deeds; there also was that tragic spot
where the monomaniac old man had found the awful motive to his vengeance.
But in the cautious comprehensiveness and unloitering vigilance with which Ahab threw
his brooding soul into this unfaltering hunt, he would not permit himself to rest
all his hopes upon the one crowning fact
above mentioned, however flattering it might be to those hopes; nor in the
sleeplessness of his vow could he so tranquillize his unquiet heart as to
postpone all intervening quest.
Now, the Pequod had sailed from Nantucket at the very beginning of the Season-on-the-
Line.
No possible endeavor then could enable her commander to make the great passage
southwards, double Cape Horn, and then running down sixty degrees of latitude
arrive in the equatorial Pacific in time to cruise there.
Therefore, he must wait for the next ensuing season.
Yet the premature hour of the Pequod's sailing had, perhaps, been correctly
selected by Ahab, with a view to this very complexion of things.
Because, an interval of three hundred and sixty-five days and nights was before him;
an interval which, instead of impatiently enduring ashore, he would spend in a
miscellaneous hunt; if by chance the White
Whale, spending his vacation in seas far remote from his periodical feeding-grounds,
should turn up his wrinkled brow off the Persian Gulf, or in the Bengal Bay, or
China Seas, or in any other waters haunted by his race.
So that Monsoons, Pampas, Nor'-Westers, Harmattans, Trades; any wind but the
Levanter and Simoon, might blow Moby Dick into the devious zig-zag world-circle of
the Pequod's circumnavigating wake.
But granting all this; yet, regarded discreetly and coolly, seems it not but a
mad idea, this; that in the broad boundless ocean, one solitary whale, even if
encountered, should be thought capable of
individual recognition from his hunter, even as a white-bearded Mufti in the
thronged thoroughfares of Constantinople? Yes.
For the peculiar snow-white brow of Moby Dick, and his snow-white hump, could not
but be unmistakable.
And have I not tallied the whale, Ahab would mutter to himself, as after poring
over his charts till long after midnight he would throw himself back in reveries--
tallied him, and shall he escape?
His broad fins are bored, and scalloped out like a lost sheep's ear!
And here, his mad mind would run on in a breathless race; till a weariness and
faintness of pondering came over him; and in the open air of the deck he would seek
to recover his strength.
Ah, God! what trances of torments does that man endure who is consumed with one
unachieved revengeful desire. He sleeps with clenched hands; and wakes
with his own bloody nails in his palms.
Often, when forced from his hammock by exhausting and intolerably vivid dreams of
the night, which, resuming his own intense thoughts through the day, carried them on
amid a clashing of phrensies, and whirled
them round and round and round in his blazing brain, till the very throbbing of
his life-spot became insufferable anguish; and when, as was sometimes the case, these
spiritual throes in him heaved his being up
from its base, and a chasm seemed opening in him, from which forked flames and
lightnings shot up, and accursed fiends beckoned him to leap down among them; when
this hell in himself yawned beneath him, a
wild cry would be heard through the ship; and with glaring eyes Ahab would burst from
his state room, as though escaping from a bed that was on fire.
Yet these, perhaps, instead of being the unsuppressable symptoms of some latent
weakness, or fright at his own resolve, were but the plainest tokens of its
intensity.
For, at such times, crazy Ahab, the scheming, unappeasedly steadfast hunter of
the white whale; this Ahab that had gone to his hammock, was not the agent that so
caused him to burst from it in horror again.
The latter was the eternal, living principle or soul in him; and in sleep,
being for the time dissociated from the characterizing mind, which at other times
employed it for its outer vehicle or agent,
it spontaneously sought escape from the scorching contiguity of the frantic thing,
of which, for the time, it was no longer an integral.
But as the mind does not exist unless leagued with the soul, therefore it must
have been that, in Ahab's case, yielding up all his thoughts and fancies to his one
supreme purpose; that purpose, by its own
sheer inveteracy of will, forced itself against gods and devils into a kind of
self-assumed, independent being of its own.
Nay, could grimly live and burn, while the common vitality to which it was conjoined,
fled horror-stricken from the unbidden and unfathered birth.
Therefore, the tormented spirit that glared out of bodily eyes, when what seemed Ahab
rushed from his room, was for the time but a vacated thing, a formless somnambulistic
being, a ray of living light, to be sure,
but without an object to colour, and therefore a blankness in itself.
God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose
intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart
for ever; that vulture the very creature he creates.
>
-Chapter 45. The Affidavit.
So far as what there may be of a narrative in this book; and, indeed, as indirectly
touching one or two very interesting and curious particulars in the habits of sperm
whales, the foregoing chapter, in its
earlier part, is as important a one as will be found in this volume; but the leading
matter of it requires to be still further and more familiarly enlarged upon, in order
to be adequately understood, and moreover
to take away any incredulity which a profound ignorance of the entire subject
may induce in some minds, as to the natural verity of the main points of this affair.
I care not to perform this part of my task methodically; but shall be content to
produce the desired impression by separate citations of items, practically or reliably
known to me as a whaleman; and from these
citations, I take it--the conclusion aimed at will naturally follow of itself.
First: I have personally known three instances where a whale, after receiving a
harpoon, has effected a complete escape; and, after an interval (in one instance of
three years), has been again struck by the
same hand, and slain; when the two irons, both marked by the same private cypher,
have been taken from the body.
In the instance where three years intervened between the flinging of the two
harpoons; and I think it may have been something more than that; the man who
darted them happening, in the interval, to
go in a trading ship on a voyage to Africa, went ashore there, joined a discovery
party, and penetrated far into the interior, where he travelled for a period
of nearly two years, often endangered by
serpents, savages, tigers, poisonous miasmas, with all the other common perils
incident to wandering in the heart of unknown regions.
Meanwhile, the whale he had struck must also have been on its travels; no doubt it
had thrice circumnavigated the globe, brushing with its flanks all the coasts of
Africa; but to no purpose.
This man and this whale again came together, and the one vanquished the other.
I say I, myself, have known three instances similar to this; that is in two of them I
saw the whales struck; and, upon the second attack, saw the two irons with the
respective marks cut in them, afterwards taken from the dead fish.
In the three-year instance, it so fell out that I was in the boat both times, first
and last, and the last time distinctly recognised a peculiar sort of huge mole
under the whale's eye, which I had observed there three years previous.
I say three years, but I am pretty sure it was more than that.
Here are three instances, then, which I personally know the truth of; but I have
heard of many other instances from persons whose veracity in the matter there is no
good ground to impeach.
Secondly: It is well known in the Sperm Whale Fishery, however ignorant the world
ashore may be of it, that there have been several memorable historical instances
where a particular whale in the ocean has
been at distant times and places popularly cognisable.
Why such a whale became thus marked was not altogether and originally owing to his
bodily peculiarities as distinguished from other whales; for however peculiar in that
respect any chance whale may be, they soon
put an end to his peculiarities by killing him, and boiling him down into a peculiarly
valuable oil.
No: the reason was this: that from the fatal experiences of the fishery there hung
a terrible prestige of perilousness about such a whale as there did about Rinaldo
Rinaldini, insomuch that most fishermen
were content to recognise him by merely touching their tarpaulins when he would be
discovered lounging by them on the sea, without seeking to cultivate a more
intimate acquaintance.
Like some poor devils ashore that happen to know an irascible great man, they make
distant unobtrusive salutations to him in the street, lest if they pursued the
acquaintance further, they might receive a summary thump for their presumption.
But not only did each of these famous whales enjoy great individual celebrity--
Nay, you may call it an ocean-wide renown; not only was he famous in life and now is
immortal in forecastle stories after death,
but he was admitted into all the rights, privileges, and distinctions of a name; had
as much a name indeed as Cambyses or Caesar.
Was it not so, O Timor Tom! thou famed leviathan, scarred like an iceberg, who so
long did'st lurk in the Oriental straits of that name, whose spout was oft seen from
the palmy beach of Ombay?
Was it not so, O New Zealand Jack! thou terror of all cruisers that crossed their
wakes in the vicinity of the Tattoo Land? Was it not so, O Morquan!
King of Japan, whose lofty jet they say at times assumed the semblance of a snow-white
cross against the sky?
Was it not so, O Don Miguel! thou Chilian whale, marked like an old tortoise with
mystic hieroglyphics upon the back!
In plain prose, here are four whales as well known to the students of Cetacean
History as Marius or Sylla to the classic scholar.
But this is not all.
New Zealand Tom and Don Miguel, after at various times creating great havoc among
the boats of different vessels, were finally gone in quest of, systematically
hunted out, chased and killed by valiant
whaling captains, who heaved up their anchors with that express object as much in
view, as in setting out through the Narragansett Woods, Captain Butler of old
had it in his mind to capture that
notorious murderous savage Annawon, the headmost warrior of the Indian King Philip.
I do not know where I can find a better place than just here, to make mention of
one or two other things, which to me seem important, as in printed form establishing
in all respects the reasonableness of the
whole story of the White Whale, more especially the catastrophe.
For this is one of those disheartening instances where truth requires full as much
bolstering as error.
So ignorant are most landsmen of some of the plainest and most palpable wonders of
the world, that without some hints touching the plain facts, historical and otherwise,
of the fishery, they might scout at Moby
Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and
intolerable allegory.
First: Though most men have some vague flitting ideas of the general perils of the
grand fishery, yet they have nothing like a fixed, vivid conception of those perils,
and the frequency with which they recur.
One reason perhaps is, that not one in fifty of the actual disasters and deaths by
casualties in the fishery, ever finds a public record at home, however transient
and immediately forgotten that record.
Do you suppose that that poor fellow there, who this moment perhaps caught by the
whale-line off the coast of New Guinea, is being carried down to the bottom of the sea
by the sounding leviathan--do you suppose
that that poor fellow's name will appear in the newspaper obituary you will read to-
morrow at your breakfast? No: because the mails are very irregular
between here and New Guinea.
In fact, did you ever hear what might be called regular news direct or indirect from
New Guinea?
Yet I tell you that upon one particular voyage which I made to the Pacific, among
many others we spoke thirty different ships, every one of which had had a death
by a whale, some of them more than one, and three that had each lost a boat's crew.
For God's sake, be economical with your lamps and candles! not a gallon you burn,
but at least one drop of man's blood was spilled for it.
Secondly: People ashore have indeed some indefinite idea that a whale is an enormous
creature of enormous power; but I have ever found that when narrating to them some
specific example of this two-fold
enormousness, they have significantly complimented me upon my facetiousness;
when, I declare upon my soul, I had no more idea of being facetious than Moses, when he
wrote the history of the plagues of Egypt.
But fortunately the special point I here seek can be established upon testimony
entirely independent of my own.
That point is this: The Sperm Whale is in some cases sufficiently powerful, knowing,
and judiciously malicious, as with direct aforethought to stave in, utterly destroy,
and sink a large ship; and what is more, the Sperm Whale HAS done it.
First: In the year 1820 the ship Essex, Captain Pollard, of Nantucket, was cruising
in the Pacific Ocean.
One day she saw spouts, lowered her boats, and gave chase to a shoal of sperm whales.
Ere long, several of the whales were wounded; when, suddenly, a very large whale
escaping from the boats, issued from the shoal, and bore directly down upon the
ship.
Dashing his forehead against her hull, he so stove her in, that in less than "ten
minutes" she settled down and fell over. Not a surviving plank of her has been seen
since.
After the severest exposure, part of the crew reached the land in their boats.
Being returned home at last, Captain Pollard once more sailed for the Pacific in
command of another ship, but the gods shipwrecked him again upon unknown rocks
and breakers; for the second time his ship
was utterly lost, and forthwith forswearing the sea, he has never tempted it since.
At this day Captain Pollard is a resident of Nantucket.
I have seen Owen Chace, who was chief mate of the Essex at the time of the tragedy; I
have read his plain and faithful narrative; I have conversed with his son; and all this
within a few miles of the scene of the catastrophe.*
*The following are extracts from Chace's narrative: "Every fact seemed to warrant me
in concluding that it was anything but chance which directed his operations; he
made two several attacks upon the ship, at
a short interval between them, both of which, according to their direction, were
calculated to do us the most injury, by being made ahead, and thereby combining the
speed of the two objects for the shock; to
effect which, the exact manoeuvres which he made were necessary.
His aspect was most horrible, and such as indicated resentment and fury.
He came directly from the shoal which we had just before entered, and in which we
had struck three of his companions, as if fired with revenge for their sufferings."
Again: "At all events, the whole circumstances taken together, all happening
before my own eyes, and producing, at the time, impressions in my mind of decided,
calculating mischief, on the part of the
whale (many of which impressions I cannot now recall), induce me to be satisfied that
I am correct in my opinion."
Here are his reflections some time after quitting the ship, during a black night an
open boat, when almost despairing of reaching any hospitable shore.
"The dark ocean and swelling waters were nothing; the fears of being swallowed up by
some dreadful tempest, or dashed upon hidden rocks, with all the other ordinary
subjects of fearful contemplation, seemed
scarcely entitled to a moment's thought; the dismal looking wreck, and THE HORRID
ASPECT AND REVENGE OF THE WHALE, wholly engrossed my reflections, until day again
made its appearance."
In another place--p. 45,--he speaks of "THE MYSTERIOUS AND
MORTAL ATTACK OF THE ANIMAL."
Secondly: The ship Union, also of Nantucket, was in the year 1807 totally
lost off the Azores by a similar onset, but the authentic particulars of this
catastrophe I have never chanced to
encounter, though from the whale hunters I have now and then heard casual allusions to
it.
Thirdly: Some eighteen or twenty years ago Commodore J---, then commanding an American
sloop-of-war of the first class, happened to be dining with a party of whaling
captains, on board a Nantucket ship in the harbor of Oahu, Sandwich Islands.
Conversation turning upon whales, the Commodore was pleased to be sceptical
touching the amazing strength ascribed to them by the professional gentlemen present.
He peremptorily denied for example, that any whale could so smite his stout sloop-
of-war as to cause her to leak so much as a thimbleful.
Very good; but there is more coming.
Some weeks after, the Commodore set sail in this impregnable craft for Valparaiso.
But he was stopped on the way by a portly sperm whale, that begged a few moments'
confidential business with him.
That business consisted in fetching the Commodore's craft such a thwack, that with
all his pumps going he made straight for the nearest port to heave down and repair.
I am not superstitious, but I consider the Commodore's interview with that whale as
providential. Was not Saul of Tarsus converted from
unbelief by a similar fright?
I tell you, the sperm whale will stand no nonsense.
I will now refer you to Langsdorff's Voyages for a little circumstance in point,
peculiarly interesting to the writer hereof.
Langsdorff, you must know by the way, was attached to the Russian Admiral
Krusenstern's famous Discovery Expedition in the beginning of the present century.
Captain Langsdorff thus begins his seventeenth chapter:
"By the thirteenth of May our ship was ready to sail, and the next day we were out
in the open sea, on our way to Ochotsh.
The weather was very clear and fine, but so intolerably cold that we were obliged to
keep on our fur clothing.
For some days we had very little wind; it was not till the nineteenth that a brisk
gale from the northwest sprang up.
An uncommon large whale, the body of which was larger than the ship itself, lay almost
at the surface of the water, but was not perceived by any one on board till the
moment when the ship, which was in full
sail, was almost upon him, so that it was impossible to prevent its striking against
him.
We were thus placed in the most imminent danger, as this gigantic creature, setting
up its back, raised the ship three feet at least out of the water.
The masts reeled, and the sails fell altogether, while we who were below all
sprang instantly upon the deck, concluding that we had struck upon some rock; instead
of this we saw the monster sailing off with the utmost gravity and solemnity.
Captain D'Wolf applied immediately to the pumps to examine whether or not the vessel
had received any damage from the shock, but we found that very happily it had escaped
entirely uninjured."
Now, the Captain D'Wolf here alluded to as commanding the ship in question, is a New
Englander, who, after a long life of unusual adventures as a sea-captain, this
day resides in the village of Dorchester near Boston.
I have the honour of being a nephew of his. I have particularly questioned him
concerning this passage in Langsdorff.
He substantiates every word.
The ship, however, was by no means a large one: a Russian craft built on the Siberian
coast, and purchased by my uncle after bartering away the vessel in which he
sailed from home.
In that up and down manly book of old- fashioned adventure, so full, too, of
honest wonders--the voyage of Lionel Wafer, one of ancient Dampier's old chums--I found
a little matter set down so like that just
quoted from Langsdorff, that I cannot forbear inserting it here for a
corroborative example, if such be needed.
Lionel, it seems, was on his way to "John Ferdinando," as he calls the modern Juan
Fernandes.
"In our way thither," he says, "about four o'clock in the morning, when we were about
one hundred and fifty leagues from the Main of America, our ship felt a terrible shock,
which put our men in such consternation
that they could hardly tell where they were or what to think; but every one began to
prepare for death.
And, indeed, the shock was so sudden and violent, that we took it for granted the
ship had struck against a rock; but when the amazement was a little over, we cast
the lead, and sounded, but found no ground.....
The suddenness of the shock made the guns leap in their carriages, and several of the
men were shaken out of their hammocks.
Captain Davis, who lay with his head on a gun, was thrown out of his cabin!"
Lionel then goes on to impute the shock to an earthquake, and seems to substantiate
the imputation by stating that a great earthquake, somewhere about that time, did
actually do great mischief along the Spanish land.
But I should not much wonder if, in the darkness of that early hour of the morning,
the shock was after all caused by an unseen whale vertically bumping the hull from
beneath.
I might proceed with several more examples, one way or another known to me, of the
great power and malice at times of the sperm whale.
In more than one instance, he has been known, not only to chase the assailing
boats back to their ships, but to pursue the ship itself, and long withstand all the
lances hurled at him from its decks.
The English ship Pusie Hall can tell a story on that head; and, as for his
strength, let me say, that there have been examples where the lines attached to a
running sperm whale have, in a calm, been
transferred to the ship, and secured there; the whale towing her great hull through the
water, as a horse walks off with a cart.
Again, it is very often observed that, if the sperm whale, once struck, is allowed
time to rally, he then acts, not so often with blind rage, as with wilful, deliberate
designs of destruction to his pursuers; nor
is it without conveying some eloquent indication of his character, that upon
being attacked he will frequently open his mouth, and retain it in that dread
expansion for several consecutive minutes.
But I must be content with only one more and a concluding illustration; a remarkable
and most significant one, by which you will not fail to see, that not only is the most
marvellous event in this book corroborated
by plain facts of the present day, but that these marvels (like all marvels) are mere
repetitions of the ages; so that for the millionth time we say amen with Solomon--
Verily there is nothing new under the sun.
In the sixth Christian century lived Procopius, a Christian magistrate of
Constantinople, in the days when Justinian was Emperor and Belisarius general.
As many know, he wrote the history of his own times, a work every way of uncommon
value.
By the best authorities, he has always been considered a most trustworthy and
unexaggerating historian, except in some one or two particulars, not at all
affecting the matter presently to be mentioned.
Now, in this history of his, Procopius mentions that, during the term of his
prefecture at Constantinople, a great sea- monster was captured in the neighboring
Propontis, or Sea of Marmora, after having
destroyed vessels at intervals in those waters for a period of more than fifty
years. A fact thus set down in substantial history
cannot easily be gainsaid.
Nor is there any reason it should be. Of what precise species this sea-monster
was, is not mentioned.
But as he destroyed ships, as well as for other reasons, he must have been a whale;
and I am strongly inclined to think a sperm whale.
And I will tell you why.
For a long time I fancied that the sperm whale had been always unknown in the
Mediterranean and the deep waters connecting with it.
Even now I am certain that those seas are not, and perhaps never can be, in the
present constitution of things, a place for his habitual gregarious resort.
But further investigations have recently proved to me, that in modern times there
have been isolated instances of the presence of the sperm whale in the
Mediterranean.
I am told, on good authority, that on the Barbary coast, a Commodore Davis of the
British navy found the skeleton of a sperm whale.
Now, as a vessel of war readily passes through the Dardanelles, hence a sperm
whale could, by the same route, pass out of the Mediterranean into the Propontis.
In the Propontis, as far as I can learn, none of that peculiar substance called BRIT
is to be found, the aliment of the right whale.
But I have every reason to believe that the food of the sperm whale--squid or cuttle-
fish--lurks at the bottom of that sea, because large creatures, but by no means
the largest of that sort, have been found at its surface.
If, then, you properly put these statements together, and reason upon them a bit, you
will clearly perceive that, according to all human reasoning, Procopius's sea-
monster, that for half a century stove the
ships of a Roman Emperor, must in all probability have been a sperm whale.
Chapter 46. Surmises.
Though, consumed with the hot fire of his purpose, Ahab in all his thoughts and
actions ever had in view the ultimate capture of Moby Dick; though he seemed
ready to sacrifice all mortal interests to
that one passion; nevertheless it may have been that he was by nature and long
habituation far too wedded to a fiery whaleman's ways, altogether to abandon the
collateral prosecution of the voyage.
Or at least if this were otherwise, there were not wanting other motives much more
influential with him.
It would be refining too much, perhaps, even considering his monomania, to hint
that his vindictiveness towards the White Whale might have possibly extended itself
in some degree to all sperm whales, and
that the more monsters he slew by so much the more he multiplied the chances that
each subsequently encountered whale would prove to be the hated one he hunted.
But if such an hypothesis be indeed exceptionable, there were still additional
considerations which, though not so strictly according with the wildness of his
ruling passion, yet were by no means incapable of swaying him.
To accomplish his object Ahab must use tools; and of all tools used in the shadow
of the moon, men are most apt to get out of order.
He knew, for example, that however magnetic his ascendency in some respects was over
Starbuck, yet that ascendency did not cover the complete spiritual man any more than
mere corporeal superiority involves
intellectual mastership; for to the purely spiritual, the intellectual but stand in a
sort of corporeal relation.
Starbuck's body and Starbuck's coerced will were Ahab's, so long as Ahab kept his
magnet at Starbuck's brain; still he knew that for all this the chief mate, in his
soul, abhorred his captain's quest, and
could he, would joyfully disintegrate himself from it, or even frustrate it.
It might be that a long interval would elapse ere the White Whale was seen.
During that long interval Starbuck would ever be apt to fall into open relapses of
rebellion against his captain's leadership, unless some ordinary, prudential,
circumstantial influences were brought to bear upon him.
Not only that, but the subtle insanity of Ahab respecting Moby Dick was noways more
significantly manifested than in his superlative sense and shrewdness in
foreseeing that, for the present, the hunt
should in some way be stripped of that strange imaginative impiousness which
naturally invested it; that the full terror of the voyage must be kept withdrawn into
the obscure background (for few men's
courage is proof against protracted meditation unrelieved by action); that when
they stood their long night watches, his officers and men must have some nearer
things to think of than Moby Dick.
For however eagerly and impetuously the savage crew had hailed the announcement of
his quest; yet all sailors of all sorts are more or less capricious and unreliable--
they live in the varying outer weather, and
they inhale its fickleness--and when retained for any object remote and blank in
the pursuit, however promissory of life and passion in the end, it is above all things
requisite that temporary interests and
employments should intervene and hold them healthily suspended for the final dash.
Nor was Ahab unmindful of another thing.
In times of strong emotion mankind disdain all base considerations; but such times are
evanescent.
The permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought Ahab, is
sordidness.
Granting that the White Whale fully incites the hearts of this my savage crew, and
playing round their savageness even breeds a certain generous knight-errantism in
them, still, while for the love of it they
give chase to Moby Dick, they must also have food for their more common, daily
appetites.
For even the high lifted and chivalric Crusaders of old times were not content to
traverse two thousand miles of land to fight for their holy sepulchre, without
committing burglaries, picking pockets, and gaining other pious perquisites by the way.
Had they been strictly held to their one final and romantic object--that final and
romantic object, too many would have turned from in disgust.
I will not strip these men, thought Ahab, of all hopes of cash--aye, cash.
They may scorn cash now; but let some months go by, and no perspective promise of
it to them, and then this same quiescent cash all at once mutinying in them, this
same cash would soon cashier Ahab.
Nor was there wanting still another precautionary motive more related to Ahab
personally.
Having impulsively, it is probable, and perhaps somewhat prematurely revealed the
prime but private purpose of the Pequod's voyage, Ahab was now entirely conscious
that, in so doing, he had indirectly laid
himself open to the unanswerable charge of usurpation; and with perfect impunity, both
moral and legal, his crew if so disposed, and to that end competent, could refuse all
further obedience to him, and even violently wrest from him the command.
From even the barely hinted imputation of usurpation, and the possible consequences
of such a suppressed impression gaining ground, Ahab must of course have been most
anxious to protect himself.
That protection could only consist in his own predominating brain and heart and hand,
backed by a heedful, closely calculating attention to every minute atmospheric
influence which it was possible for his crew to be subjected to.
For all these reasons then, and others perhaps too analytic to be verbally
developed here, Ahab plainly saw that he must still in a good degree continue true
to the natural, nominal purpose of the
Pequod's voyage; observe all customary usages; and not only that, but force
himself to evince all his well known passionate interest in the general pursuit
of his profession.
Be all this as it may, his voice was now often heard hailing the three mast-heads
and admonishing them to keep a bright look- out, and not omit reporting even a
porpoise.
This vigilance was not long without reward.
Chapter 47. The Mat-Maker.
It was a cloudy, sultry afternoon; the seamen were lazily lounging about the
decks, or vacantly gazing over into the lead-coloured waters.
Queequeg and I were mildly employed weaving what is called a sword-mat, for an
additional lashing to our boat.
So still and subdued and yet somehow preluding was all the scene, and such an
incantation of reverie lurked in the air, that each silent sailor seemed resolved
into his own invisible self.
I was the attendant or page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat.
As I kept passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between the long yarns
of the warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as Queequeg, standing
sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy
oaken sword between the threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly and
unthinkingly drove home every yarn: I say so strange a dreaminess did there then
reign all over the ship and all over the
sea, only broken by the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if
this were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and
weaving away at the Fates.
There lay the fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning,
unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of the crosswise
interblending of other threads with its own.
This warp seemed necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own
shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads.
Meantime, Queequeg's impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof
slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the case might be; and by this
difference in the concluding blow producing
a corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the completed fabric; this
savage's sword, thought I, which thus finally shapes and fashions both warp and
woof; this easy, indifferent sword must be
chance--aye, chance, free will, and necessity--nowise incompatible--all
interweavingly working together.
The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course--its every
alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply her
shuttle between given threads; and chance,
though restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and sideways in
its motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns
rules either, and has the last featuring blow at events.
Thus we were weaving and weaving away when I started at a sound so strange, long
drawn, and musically wild and unearthly, that the ball of free will dropped from my
hand, and I stood gazing up at the clouds whence that voice dropped like a wing.
High aloft in the cross-trees was that mad Gay-Header, Tashtego.
His body was reaching eagerly forward, his hand stretched out like a wand, and at
brief sudden intervals he continued his cries.
To be sure the same sound was that very moment perhaps being heard all over the
seas, from hundreds of whalemen's look-outs perched as high in the air; but from few of
those lungs could that accustomed old cry
have derived such a marvellous cadence as from Tashtego the Indian's.
As he stood hovering over you half suspended in air, so wildly and eagerly
peering towards the horizon, you would have thought him some prophet or seer beholding
the shadows of Fate, and by those wild cries announcing their coming.
"There she blows! there! there! there! she blows! she blows!"
"Where-away?"
"On the lee-beam, about two miles off! a school of them!"
Instantly all was commotion.
The Sperm Whale blows as a clock ticks, with the same undeviating and reliable
uniformity. And thereby whalemen distinguish this fish
from other tribes of his genus.
"There go flukes!" was now the cry from Tashtego; and the whales disappeared.
"Quick, steward!" cried Ahab. "Time! time!"
Dough-Boy hurried below, glanced at the watch, and reported the exact minute to
Ahab. The ship was now kept away from the wind,
and she went gently rolling before it.
Tashtego reporting that the whales had gone down heading to leeward, we confidently
looked to see them again directly in advance of our bows.
For that singular craft at times evinced by the Sperm Whale when, sounding with his
head in one direction, he nevertheless, while concealed beneath the surface, mills
round, and swiftly swims off in the
opposite quarter--this deceitfulness of his could not now be in action; for there was
no reason to suppose that the fish seen by Tashtego had been in any way alarmed, or
indeed knew at all of our vicinity.
One of the men selected for shipkeepers-- that is, those not appointed to the boats,
by this time relieved the Indian at the main-mast head.
The sailors at the fore and mizzen had come down; the line tubs were fixed in their
places; the cranes were thrust out; the mainyard was backed, and the three boats
swung over the sea like three samphire baskets over high cliffs.
Outside of the bulwarks their eager crews with one hand clung to the rail, while one
foot was expectantly poised on the gunwale.
So look the long line of man-of-war's men about to throw themselves on board an
enemy's ship.
But at this critical instant a sudden exclamation was heard that took every eye
from the whale.
With a start all glared at dark Ahab, who was surrounded by five dusky phantoms that
seemed fresh formed out of air.
>
-Chapter 48. The First Lowering.
The phantoms, for so they then seemed, were flitting on the other side of the deck,
and, with a noiseless celerity, were casting loose the tackles and bands of the
boat which swung there.
This boat had always been deemed one of the spare boats, though technically called the
captain's, on account of its hanging from the starboard quarter.
The figure that now stood by its bows was tall and swart, with one white tooth evilly
protruding from its steel-like lips.
A rumpled Chinese jacket of black cotton funereally invested him, with wide black
trowsers of the same dark stuff.
But strangely crowning this ebonness was a glistening white plaited turban, the living
hair braided and coiled round and round upon his head.
Less swart in aspect, the companions of this figure were of that vivid, tiger-
yellow complexion peculiar to some of the aboriginal natives of the Manillas;--a race
notorious for a certain diabolism of
subtilty, and by some honest white mariners supposed to be the paid spies and secret
confidential agents on the water of the devil, their lord, whose counting-room they
suppose to be elsewhere.
While yet the wondering ship's company were gazing upon these strangers, Ahab cried out
to the white-turbaned old man at their head, "All ready there, Fedallah?"
"Ready," was the half-hissed reply.
"Lower away then; d'ye hear?" shouting across the deck.
"Lower away there, I say."
Such was the thunder of his voice, that spite of their amazement the men sprang
over the rail; the sheaves whirled round in the blocks; with a wallow, the three boats
dropped into the sea; while, with a
dexterous, off-handed daring, unknown in any other vocation, the sailors, goat-like,
leaped down the rolling ship's side into the tossed boats below.
Hardly had they pulled out from under the ship's lee, when a fourth keel, coming from
the windward side, pulled round under the stern, and showed the five strangers rowing
Ahab, who, standing erect in the stern,
loudly hailed Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, to spread themselves widely, so as to cover
a large expanse of water.
But with all their eyes again riveted upon the swart Fedallah and his crew, the
inmates of the other boats obeyed not the command.
"Captain Ahab?--" said Starbuck.
"Spread yourselves," cried Ahab; "give way, all four boats.
Thou, Flask, pull out more to leeward!"
"Aye, aye, sir," cheerily cried little King-Post, sweeping round his great
steering oar. "Lay back!" addressing his crew.
"There!--there!--there again!
There she blows right ahead, boys!--lay back!"
"Never heed yonder yellow boys, Archy." "Oh, I don't mind'em, sir," said Archy; "I
knew it all before now.
Didn't I hear 'em in the hold? And didn't I tell Cabaco here of it?
What say ye, Cabaco? They are stowaways, Mr. Flask."
"Pull, pull, my fine hearts-alive; pull, my children; pull, my little ones," drawlingly
and soothingly sighed Stubb to his crew, some of whom still showed signs of
uneasiness.
"Why don't you break your backbones, my boys?
What is it you stare at? Those chaps in yonder boat?
Tut!
They are only five more hands come to help us--never mind from where--the more the
merrier. Pull, then, do pull; never mind the
brimstone--devils are good fellows enough.
So, so; there you are now; that's the stroke for a thousand pounds; that's the
stroke to sweep the stakes! Hurrah for the gold cup of sperm oil, my
heroes!
Three cheers, men--all hearts alive! Easy, easy; don't be in a hurry--don't be
in a hurry. Why don't you snap your oars, you rascals?
Bite something, you dogs!
So, so, so, then:--softly, softly! That's it--that's it! long and strong.
Give way there, give way! The devil fetch ye, ye ragamuffin
rapscallions; ye are all asleep.
Stop snoring, ye sleepers, and pull. Pull, will ye? pull, can't ye? pull, won't
ye?
Why in the name of gudgeons and ginger- cakes don't ye pull?--pull and break
something! pull, and start your eyes out!
Here!" whipping out the sharp knife from his girdle; "every mother's son of ye draw
his knife, and pull with the blade between his teeth.
That's it--that's it.
Now ye do something; that looks like it, my steel-bits.
Start her--start her, my silver-spoons! Start her, marling-spikes!"
Stubb's exordium to his crew is given here at large, because he had rather a peculiar
way of talking to them in general, and especially in inculcating the religion of
rowing.
But you must not suppose from this specimen of his sermonizings that he ever flew into
downright passions with his congregation. Not at all; and therein consisted his chief
peculiarity.
He would say the most terrific things to his crew, in a tone so strangely compounded
of fun and fury, and the fury seemed so calculated merely as a spice to the fun,
that no oarsman could hear such queer
invocations without pulling for dear life, and yet pulling for the mere joke of the
thing.
Besides he all the time looked so easy and indolent himself, so loungingly managed his
steering-oar, and so broadly gaped--open- mouthed at times--that the mere sight of
such a yawning commander, by sheer force of contrast, acted like a charm upon the crew.
Then again, Stubb was one of those odd sort of humorists, whose jollity is sometimes so
curiously ambiguous, as to put all inferiors on their guard in the matter of
obeying them.
In obedience to a sign from Ahab, Starbuck was now pulling obliquely across Stubb's
bow; and when for a minute or so the two boats were pretty near to each other, Stubb
hailed the mate.
"Mr. Starbuck! larboard boat there, ahoy! A word with ye, sir, if ye please!"
"Halloa!" returned Starbuck, turning round not a single inch as he spoke; still
earnestly but whisperingly urging his crew; his face set like a flint from Stubb's.
"What think ye of those yellow boys, sir!
"Smuggled on board, somehow, before the ship sailed.
(Strong, strong, boys!)" in a whisper to his crew, then speaking out loud again: "A
sad business, Mr. Stubb!
(seethe her, seethe her, my lads!) but never mind, Mr. Stubb, all for the best.
Let all your crew pull strong, come what will.
(Spring, my men, spring!)
There's hogsheads of sperm ahead, Mr. Stubb, and that's what ye came for.
(Pull, my boys!) Sperm, sperm's the play!
This at least is duty; duty and profit hand in hand."
"Aye, aye, I thought as much," soliloquized Stubb, when the boats diverged, "as soon as
I clapt eye on 'em, I thought so.
Aye, and that's what he went into the after hold for, so often, as Dough-Boy long
suspected. They were hidden down there.
The White Whale's at the bottom of it.
Well, well, so be it! Can't be helped!
All right! Give way, men!
It ain't the White Whale to-day!
Give way!"
Now the advent of these outlandish strangers at such a critical instant as the
lowering of the boats from the deck, this had not unreasonably awakened a sort of
superstitious amazement in some of the
ship's company; but Archy's fancied discovery having some time previous got
abroad among them, though indeed not credited then, this had in some small
measure prepared them for the event.
It took off the extreme edge of their wonder; and so what with all this and
Stubb's confident way of accounting for their appearance, they were for the time
freed from superstitious surmisings; though
the affair still left abundant room for all manner of wild conjectures as to dark
Ahab's precise agency in the matter from the beginning.
For me, I silently recalled the mysterious shadows I had seen creeping on board the
Pequod during the dim Nantucket dawn, as well as the enigmatical hintings of the
unaccountable Elijah.
Meantime, Ahab, out of hearing of his officers, having sided the furthest to
windward, was still ranging ahead of the other boats; a circumstance bespeaking how
potent a crew was pulling him.
Those tiger yellow creatures of his seemed all steel and whalebone; like five trip-
hammers they rose and fell with regular strokes of strength, which periodically
started the boat along the water like a
horizontal burst boiler out of a Mississippi steamer.
As for Fedallah, who was seen pulling the harpooneer oar, he had thrown aside his
black jacket, and displayed his naked chest with the whole part of his body above the
gunwale, clearly cut against the
alternating depressions of the watery horizon; while at the other end of the boat
Ahab, with one arm, like a fencer's, thrown half backward into the air, as if to
counterbalance any tendency to trip; Ahab
was seen steadily managing his steering oar as in a thousand boat lowerings ere the
White Whale had torn him.
All at once the outstretched arm gave a peculiar motion and then remained fixed,
while the boat's five oars were seen simultaneously peaked.
Boat and crew sat motionless on the sea.
Instantly the three spread boats in the rear paused on their way.
The whales had irregularly settled bodily down into the blue, thus giving no
distantly discernible token of the movement, though from his closer vicinity
Ahab had observed it.
"Every man look out along his oars!" cried Starbuck.
"Thou, Queequeg, stand up!"
Nimbly springing up on the triangular raised box in the bow, the savage stood
erect there, and with intensely eager eyes gazed off towards the spot where the chase
had last been descried.
Likewise upon the extreme stern of the boat where it was also triangularly platformed
level with the gunwale, Starbuck himself was seen coolly and adroitly balancing
himself to the jerking tossings of his chip
of a craft, and silently eyeing the vast blue eye of the sea.
Not very far distant Flask's boat was also lying breathlessly still; its commander
recklessly standing upon the top of the loggerhead, a stout sort of post rooted in
the keel, and rising some two feet above the level of the stern platform.
It is used for catching turns with the whale line.
Its top is not more spacious than the palm of a man's hand, and standing upon such a
base as that, Flask seemed perched at the mast-head of some ship which had sunk to
all but her trucks.
But little King-Post was small and short, and at the same time little King-Post was
full of a large and tall ambition, so that this loggerhead stand-point of his did by
no means satisfy King-Post.
"I can't see three seas off; tip us up an oar there, and let me on to that."
Upon this, Daggoo, with either hand upon the gunwale to steady his way, swiftly slid
aft, and then erecting himself volunteered his lofty shoulders for a pedestal.
"Good a mast-head as any, sir.
Will you mount?" "That I will, and thank ye very much, my
fine fellow; only I wish you fifty feet taller."
Whereupon planting his feet firmly against two opposite planks of the boat, the
gigantic negro, stooping a little, presented his flat palm to Flask's foot,
and then putting Flask's hand on his
hearse-plumed head and bidding him spring as he himself should toss, with one
dexterous fling landed the little man high and dry on his shoulders.
And here was Flask now standing, Daggoo with one lifted arm furnishing him with a
breastband to lean against and steady himself by.
At any time it is a strange sight to the tyro to see with what wondrous habitude of
unconscious skill the whaleman will maintain an erect posture in his boat, even
when pitched about by the most riotously perverse and cross-running seas.
Still more strange to see him giddily perched upon the loggerhead itself, under
such circumstances.
But the sight of little Flask mounted upon gigantic Daggoo was yet more curious; for
sustaining himself with a cool, indifferent, easy, unthought of, barbaric
majesty, the noble negro to every roll of the sea harmoniously rolled his fine form.
On his broad back, flaxen-haired Flask seemed a snow-flake.
The bearer looked nobler than the rider.
Though truly vivacious, tumultuous, ostentatious little Flask would now and
then stamp with impatience; but not one added heave did he thereby give to the
negro's lordly chest.
So have I seen Passion and Vanity stamping the living magnanimous earth, but the earth
did not alter her tides and her seasons for that.
Meanwhile Stubb, the third mate, betrayed no such far-gazing solicitudes.
The whales might have made one of their regular soundings, not a temporary dive
from mere fright; and if that were the case, Stubb, as his wont in such cases, it
seems, was resolved to solace the languishing interval with his pipe.
He withdrew it from his hatband, where he always wore it aslant like a feather.
He loaded it, and rammed home the loading with his thumb-end; but hardly had he
ignited his match across the rough sandpaper of his hand, when Tashtego, his
harpooneer, whose eyes had been setting to
windward like two fixed stars, suddenly dropped like light from his erect attitude
to his seat, crying out in a quick phrensy of hurry, "Down, down all, and give way!--
there they are!"
To a landsman, no whale, nor any sign of a herring, would have been visible at that
moment; nothing but a troubled bit of greenish white water, and thin scattered
puffs of vapour hovering over it, and
suffusingly blowing off to leeward, like the confused scud from white rolling
billows.
The air around suddenly vibrated and tingled, as it were, like the air over
intensely heated plates of iron.
Beneath this atmospheric waving and curling, and partially beneath a thin layer
of water, also, the whales were swimming.
Seen in advance of all the other indications, the puffs of vapour they
spouted, seemed their forerunning couriers and detached flying outriders.
All four boats were now in keen pursuit of that one spot of troubled water and air.
But it bade fair to outstrip them; it flew on and on, as a mass of interblending
bubbles borne down a rapid stream from the hills.
"Pull, pull, my good boys," said Starbuck, in the lowest possible but intensest
concentrated whisper to his men; while the sharp fixed glance from his eyes darted
straight ahead of the bow, almost seemed as
two visible needles in two unerring binnacle compasses.
He did not say much to his crew, though, nor did his crew say anything to him.
Only the silence of the boat was at intervals startlingly pierced by one of his
peculiar whispers, now harsh with command, now soft with entreaty.
How different the loud little King-Post.
"Sing out and say something, my hearties. Roar and pull, my thunderbolts!
Beach me, beach me on their black backs, boys; only do that for me, and I'll sign
over to you my Martha's Vineyard plantation, boys; including wife and
children, boys.
Lay me on--lay me on! O Lord, Lord! but I shall go stark, staring
mad! See! see that white water!"
And so shouting, he pulled his hat from his head, and stamped up and down on it; then
picking it up, flirted it far off upon the sea; and finally fell to rearing and
plunging in the boat's stern like a crazed colt from the prairie.
"Look at that chap now," philosophically drawled Stubb, who, with his unlighted
short pipe, mechanically retained between his teeth, at a short distance, followed
after--"He's got fits, that Flask has.
Fits? yes, give him fits--that's the very word--pitch fits into 'em.
Merrily, merrily, hearts-alive. Pudding for supper, you know;--merry's the
word.
Pull, babes--pull, sucklings--pull, all. But what the devil are you hurrying about?
Softly, softly, and steadily, my men. Only pull, and keep pulling; nothing more.
Crack all your backbones, and bite your knives in two--that's all.
Take it easy--why don't ye take it easy, I say, and burst all your livers and lungs!"
But what it was that inscrutable Ahab said to that tiger-yellow crew of his--these
were words best omitted here; for you live under the blessed light of the evangelical
land.
Only the infidel sharks in the audacious seas may give ear to such words, when, with
tornado brow, and eyes of red murder, and foam-glued lips, Ahab leaped after his
prey.
Meanwhile, all the boats tore on.
The repeated specific allusions of Flask to "that whale," as he called the fictitious
monster which he declared to be incessantly tantalizing his boat's bow with its tail--
these allusions of his were at times so
vivid and life-like, that they would cause some one or two of his men to snatch a
fearful look over the shoulder.
But this was against all rule; for the oarsmen must put out their eyes, and ram a
skewer through their necks; usage pronouncing that they must have no organs
but ears, and no limbs but arms, in these critical moments.
It was a sight full of quick wonder and awe!
The vast swells of the omnipotent sea; the surging, hollow roar they made, as they
rolled along the eight gunwales, like gigantic bowls in a boundless bowling-
green; the brief suspended agony of the
boat, as it would tip for an instant on the knife-like edge of the sharper waves, that
almost seemed threatening to cut it in two; the sudden profound dip into the watery
glens and hollows; the keen spurrings and
goadings to gain the top of the opposite hill; the headlong, sled-like slide down
its other side;--all these, with the cries of the headsmen and harpooneers, and the
shuddering gasps of the oarsmen, with the
wondrous sight of the ivory Pequod bearing down upon her boats with outstretched
sails, like a wild hen after her screaming brood;--all this was thrilling.
Not the raw recruit, marching from the bosom of his wife into the fever heat of
his first battle; not the dead man's ghost encountering the first unknown phantom in
the other world;--neither of these can feel
stranger and stronger emotions than that man does, who for the first time finds
himself pulling into the charmed, churned circle of the hunted sperm whale.
The dancing white water made by the chase was now becoming more and more visible,
owing to the increasing darkness of the dun cloud-shadows flung upon the sea.
The jets of vapour no longer blended, but tilted everywhere to right and left; the
whales seemed separating their wakes.
The boats were pulled more apart; Starbuck giving chase to three whales running dead
to leeward.
Our sail was now set, and, with the still rising wind, we rushed along; the boat
going with such madness through the water, that the lee oars could scarcely be worked
rapidly enough to escape being torn from the row-locks.
Soon we were running through a suffusing wide veil of mist; neither ship nor boat to
be seen.
"Give way, men," whispered Starbuck, drawing still further aft the sheet of his
sail; "there is time to kill a fish yet before the squall comes.
There's white water again!--close to!
Spring!"
Soon after, two cries in quick succession on each side of us denoted that the other
boats had got fast; but hardly were they overheard, when with a lightning-like
hurtling whisper Starbuck said: "Stand up!"
and Queequeg, harpoon in hand, sprang to his feet.
Though not one of the oarsmen was then facing the life and death peril so close to
them ahead, yet with their eyes on the intense countenance of the mate in the
stern of the boat, they knew that the
imminent instant had come; they heard, too, an enormous wallowing sound as of fifty
elephants stirring in their litter.
Meanwhile the boat was still booming through the mist, the waves curling and
hissing around us like the erected crests of enraged serpents.
"That's his hump.
THERE, THERE, give it to him!" whispered Starbuck.
A short rushing sound leaped out of the boat; it was the darted iron of Queequeg.
Then all in one welded commotion came an invisible push from astern, while forward
the boat seemed striking on a ledge; the sail collapsed and exploded; a gush of
scalding vapour shot up near by; something
rolled and tumbled like an earthquake beneath us.
The whole crew were half suffocated as they were tossed helter-skelter into the white
curdling cream of the squall.
Squall, whale, and harpoon had all blended together; and the whale, merely grazed by
the iron, escaped. Though completely swamped, the boat was
nearly unharmed.
Swimming round it we picked up the floating oars, and lashing them across the gunwale,
tumbled back to our places.
There we sat up to our knees in the sea, the water covering every rib and plank, so
that to our downward gazing eyes the suspended craft seemed a coral boat grown
up to us from the bottom of the ocean.
The wind increased to a howl; the waves dashed their bucklers together; the whole
squall roared, forked, and crackled around us like a white fire upon the prairie, in
which, unconsumed, we were burning; immortal in these jaws of death!
In vain we hailed the other boats; as well roar to the live coals down the chimney of
a flaming furnace as hail those boats in that storm.
Meanwhile the driving scud, rack, and mist, grew darker with the shadows of night; no
sign of the ship could be seen. The rising sea forbade all attempts to bale
out the boat.
The oars were useless as propellers, performing now the office of life-
preservers.
So, cutting the lashing of the waterproof match keg, after many failures Starbuck
contrived to ignite the lamp in the lantern; then stretching it on a waif pole,
handed it to Queequeg as the standard- bearer of this forlorn hope.
There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of that
almighty forlornness.
There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up
hope in the midst of despair.
Wet, drenched through, and shivering cold, despairing of ship or boat, we lifted up
our eyes as the dawn came on.
The mist still spread over the sea, the empty lantern lay crushed in the bottom of
the boat. Suddenly Queequeg started to his feet,
hollowing his hand to his ear.
We all heard a faint creaking, as of ropes and yards hitherto muffled by the storm.
The sound came nearer and nearer; the thick mists were dimly parted by a huge, vague
form.
Affrighted, we all sprang into the sea as the ship at last loomed into view, bearing
right down upon us within a distance of not much more than its length.
Floating on the waves we saw the abandoned boat, as for one instant it tossed and
gaped beneath the ship's bows like a chip at the base of a cataract; and then the
vast hull rolled over it, and it was seen no more till it came up weltering astern.
Again we swam for it, were dashed against it by the seas, and were at last taken up
and safely landed on board.
Ere the squall came close to, the other boats had cut loose from their fish and
returned to the ship in good time.
The ship had given us up, but was still cruising, if haply it might light upon some
token of our perishing,--an oar or a lance pole.
Chapter 49. The Hyena.
There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life
when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof
he but dimly discerns, and more than
suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.
However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing.
He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard things
visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestion
gobbles down bullets and gun flints.
And as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster,
peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-
natured hits, and jolly punches in the side
bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker.
That odd sort of wayward mood I am speaking of, comes over a man only in some time of
extreme tribulation; it comes in the very midst of his earnestness, so that what just
before might have seemed to him a thing
most momentous, now seems but a part of the general joke.
There is nothing like the perils of whaling to breed this free and easy sort of genial,
desperado philosophy; and with it I now regarded this whole voyage of the Pequod,
and the great White Whale its object.
"Queequeg," said I, when they had dragged me, the last man, to the deck, and I was
still shaking myself in my jacket to fling off the water; "Queequeg, my fine friend,
does this sort of thing often happen?"
Without much emotion, though soaked through just like me, he gave me to understand that
such things did often happen.
"Mr. Stubb," said I, turning to that worthy, who, buttoned up in his oil-jacket,
was now calmly smoking his pipe in the rain; "Mr. Stubb, I think I have heard you
say that of all whalemen you ever met, our
chief mate, Mr. Starbuck, is by far the most careful and prudent.
I suppose then, that going plump on a flying whale with your sail set in a foggy
squall is the height of a whaleman's discretion?"
"Certain.
I've lowered for whales from a leaking ship in a gale off Cape Horn."
"Mr. Flask," said I, turning to little King-Post, who was standing close by; "you
are experienced in these things, and I am not.
Will you tell me whether it is an unalterable law in this fishery, Mr. Flask,
for an oarsman to break his own back pulling himself back-foremost into death's
jaws?"
"Can't you twist that smaller?" said Flask. "Yes, that's the law.
I should like to see a boat's crew backing water up to a whale face foremost.
Ha, ha! the whale would give them squint for squint, mind that!"
Here then, from three impartial witnesses, I had a deliberate statement of the entire
case.
Considering, therefore, that squalls and capsizings in the water and consequent
bivouacks on the deep, were matters of common occurrence in this kind of life;
considering that at the superlatively
critical instant of going on to the whale I must resign my life into the hands of him
who steered the boat--oftentimes a fellow who at that very moment is in his
impetuousness upon the point of scuttling
the craft with his own frantic stampings; considering that the particular disaster to
our own particular boat was chiefly to be imputed to Starbuck's driving on to his
whale almost in the teeth of a squall, and
considering that Starbuck, notwithstanding, was famous for his great heedfulness in the
fishery; considering that I belonged to this uncommonly prudent Starbuck's boat;
and finally considering in what a devil's
chase I was implicated, touching the White Whale: taking all things together, I say,
I thought I might as well go below and make rough draft of my will.
"Queequeg," said I, "come along, you shall be my lawyer, executor, and legatee."
It may seem strange that of all men sailors should be tinkering at their last wills and
testaments, but there are no people in the world more fond of that diversion.
This was the fourth time in my nautical life that I had done the same thing.
After the ceremony was concluded upon the present occasion, I felt all the easier; a
stone was rolled away from my heart.
Besides, all the days I should now live would be as good as the days that Lazarus
lived after his resurrection; a supplementary clean gain of so many months
or weeks as the case might be.
I survived myself; my death and burial were locked up in my chest.
I looked round me tranquilly and contentedly, like a quiet ghost with a
clean conscience sitting inside the bars of a snug family vault.
Now then, thought I, unconsciously rolling up the sleeves of my frock, here goes for a
cool, collected dive at death and destruction, and the devil fetch the
hindmost.
Chapter 50. Ahab's Boat and Crew. Fedallah.
"Who would have thought it, Flask!" cried Stubb; "if I had but one leg you would not
catch me in a boat, unless maybe to stop the plug-hole with my timber toe.
Oh! he's a wonderful old man!"
"I don't think it so strange, after all, on that account," said Flask.
"If his leg were off at the hip, now, it would be a different thing.
That would disable him; but he has one knee, and good part of the other left, you
know." "I don't know that, my little man; I never
yet saw him kneel."
Among whale-wise people it has often been argued whether, considering the paramount
importance of his life to the success of the voyage, it is right for a whaling
captain to jeopardize that life in the active perils of the chase.
So Tamerlane's soldiers often argued with tears in their eyes, whether that
invaluable life of his ought to be carried into the thickest of the fight.
But with Ahab the question assumed a modified aspect.
Considering that with two legs man is but a hobbling wight in all times of danger;
considering that the pursuit of whales is always under great and extraordinary
difficulties; that every individual moment,
indeed, then comprises a peril; under these circumstances is it wise for any maimed man
to enter a whale-boat in the hunt? As a general thing, the joint-owners of the
Pequod must have plainly thought not.
Ahab well knew that although his friends at home would think little of his entering a
boat in certain comparatively harmless vicissitudes of the chase, for the sake of
being near the scene of action and giving
his orders in person, yet for Captain Ahab to have a boat actually apportioned to him
as a regular headsman in the hunt--above all for Captain Ahab to be supplied with
five extra men, as that same boat's crew,
he well knew that such generous conceits never entered the heads of the owners of
the Pequod.
Therefore he had not solicited a boat's crew from them, nor had he in any way
hinted his desires on that head. Nevertheless he had taken private measures
of his own touching all that matter.
Until Cabaco's published discovery, the sailors had little foreseen it, though to
be sure when, after being a little while out of port, all hands had concluded the
customary business of fitting the
whaleboats for service; when some time after this Ahab was now and then found
bestirring himself in the matter of making thole-pins with his own hands for what was
thought to be one of the spare boats, and
even solicitously cutting the small wooden skewers, which when the line is running out
are pinned over the groove in the bow: when all this was observed in him, and
particularly his solicitude in having an
extra coat of sheathing in the bottom of the boat, as if to make it better withstand
the pointed pressure of his ivory limb; and also the anxiety he evinced in exactly
shaping the thigh board, or clumsy cleat,
as it is sometimes called, the horizontal piece in the boat's bow for bracing the
knee against in darting or stabbing at the whale; when it was observed how often he
stood up in that boat with his solitary
knee fixed in the semi-circular depression in the cleat, and with the carpenter's
chisel gouged out a little here and straightened it a little there; all these
things, I say, had awakened much interest and curiosity at the time.
But almost everybody supposed that this particular preparative heedfulness in Ahab
must only be with a view to the ultimate chase of Moby Dick; for he had already
revealed his intention to hunt that mortal monster in person.
But such a supposition did by no means involve the remotest suspicion as to any
boat's crew being assigned to that boat.
Now, with the subordinate phantoms, what wonder remained soon waned away; for in a
whaler wonders soon wane.
Besides, now and then such unaccountable odds and ends of strange nations come up
from the unknown nooks and ash-holes of the earth to man these floating outlaws of
whalers; and the ships themselves often
pick up such queer castaway creatures found tossing about the open sea on planks, bits
of wreck, oars, whaleboats, canoes, blown- off Japanese junks, and what not; that
Beelzebub himself might climb up the side
and step down into the cabin to chat with the captain, and it would not create any
unsubduable excitement in the forecastle.
But be all this as it may, certain it is that while the subordinate phantoms soon
found their place among the crew, though still as it were somehow distinct from
them, yet that hair-turbaned Fedallah remained a muffled mystery to the last.
Whence he came in a mannerly world like this, by what sort of unaccountable tie he
soon evinced himself to be linked with Ahab's peculiar fortunes; nay, so far as to
have some sort of a half-hinted influence;
Heaven knows, but it might have been even authority over him; all this none knew.
But one cannot sustain an indifferent air concerning Fedallah.
He was such a creature as civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone only
see in their dreams, and that but dimly; but the like of whom now and then glide
among the unchanging Asiatic communities,
especially the Oriental isles to the east of the continent--those insulated,
immemorial, unalterable countries, which even in these modern days still preserve
much of the ghostly aboriginalness of
earth's primal generations, when the memory of the first man was a distinct
recollection, and all men his descendants, unknowing whence he came, eyed each other
as real phantoms, and asked of the sun and
the moon why they were created and to what end; when though, according to Genesis, the
angels indeed consorted with the daughters of men, the devils also, add the
uncanonical Rabbins, indulged in mundane amours.
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