Part 02 - Moby Dick Audiobook by Herman Melville (Chs 010-025)

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-Chapter 10. A Bosom Friend.
Returning to the Spouter-Inn from the Chapel, I found Queequeg there quite alone;
he having left the Chapel before the benediction some time.
He was sitting on a bench before the fire, with his feet on the stove hearth, and in
one hand was holding close up to his face that little negro idol of his; peering hard
into its face, and with a jack-knife gently
whittling away at its nose, meanwhile humming to himself in his heathenish way.
But being now interrupted, he put up the image; and pretty soon, going to the table,
took up a large book there, and placing it on his lap began counting the pages with
deliberate regularity; at every fiftieth
page--as I fancied--stopping a moment, looking vacantly around him, and giving
utterance to a long-drawn gurgling whistle of astonishment.
He would then begin again at the next fifty; seeming to commence at number one
each time, as though he could not count more than fifty, and it was only by such a
large number of fifties being found
together, that his astonishment at the multitude of pages was excited.
With much interest I sat watching him.
Savage though he was, and hideously marred about the face--at least to my taste--his
countenance yet had a something in it which was by no means disagreeable.
You cannot hide the soul.
Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw the traces of a simple honest
heart; and in his large, deep eyes, fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a
spirit that would dare a thousand devils.
And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing about the Pagan, which even
his uncouthness could not altogether maim. He looked like a man who had never cringed
and never had had a creditor.
Whether it was, too, that his head being shaved, his forehead was drawn out in freer
and brighter relief, and looked more expansive than it otherwise would, this I
will not venture to decide; but certain it
was his head was phrenologically an excellent one.
It may seem ridiculous, but it reminded me of General Washington's head, as seen in
the popular busts of him.
It had the same long regularly graded retreating slope from above the brows,
which were likewise very projecting, like two long promontories thickly wooded on
Queequeg was George Washington cannibalistically developed.
Whilst I was thus closely scanning him, half-pretending meanwhile to be looking out
at the storm from the casement, he never heeded my presence, never troubled himself
with so much as a single glance; but
appeared wholly occupied with counting the pages of the marvellous book.
Considering how sociably we had been sleeping together the night previous, and
especially considering the affectionate arm I had found thrown over me upon waking in
the morning, I thought this indifference of his very strange.
But savages are strange beings; at times you do not know exactly how to take them.
At first they are overawing; their calm self-collectedness of simplicity seems a
Socratic wisdom.
I had noticed also that Queequeg never consorted at all, or but very little, with
the other seamen in the inn.
He made no advances whatever; appeared to have no desire to enlarge the circle of his
All this struck me as mighty singular; yet, upon second thoughts, there was something
almost sublime in it.
Here was a man some twenty thousand miles from home, by the way of Cape Horn, that
is--which was the only way he could get there--thrown among people as strange to
him as though he were in the planet
Jupiter; and yet he seemed entirely at his ease; preserving the utmost serenity;
content with his own companionship; always equal to himself.
Surely this was a touch of fine philosophy; though no doubt he had never heard there
was such a thing as that.
But, perhaps, to be true philosophers, we mortals should not be conscious of so
living or so striving.
So soon as I hear that such or such a man gives himself out for a philosopher, I
conclude that, like the dyspeptic old woman, he must have "broken his digester."
As I sat there in that now lonely room; the fire burning low, in that mild stage when,
after its first intensity has warmed the air, it then only glows to be looked at;
the evening shades and phantoms gathering
round the casements, and peering in upon us silent, solitary twain; the storm booming
without in solemn swells; I began to be sensible of strange feelings.
I felt a melting in me.
No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world.
This soothing savage had redeemed it.
There he sat, his very indifference speaking a nature in which there lurked no
civilized hypocrisies and bland deceits.
Wild he was; a very sight of sights to see; yet I began to feel myself mysteriously
drawn towards him.
And those same things that would have repelled most others, they were the very
magnets that thus drew me.
I'll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow
I drew my bench near him, and made some friendly signs and hints, doing my best to
talk with him meanwhile.
At first he little noticed these advances; but presently, upon my referring to his
last night's hospitalities, he made out to ask me whether we were again to be
I told him yes; whereat I thought he looked pleased, perhaps a little complimented.
We then turned over the book together, and I endeavored to explain to him the purpose
of the printing, and the meaning of the few pictures that were in it.
Thus I soon engaged his interest; and from that we went to jabbering the best we could
about the various outer sights to be seen in this famous town.
Soon I proposed a social smoke; and, producing his pouch and tomahawk, he
quietly offered me a puff.
And then we sat exchanging puffs from that wild pipe of his, and keeping it regularly
passing between us.
If there yet lurked any ice of indifference towards me in the Pagan's breast, this
pleasant, genial smoke we had, soon thawed it out, and left us cronies.
He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as I to him; and when our
smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist,
and said that henceforth we were married;
meaning, in his country's phrase, that we were bosom friends; he would gladly die for
me, if need should be.
In a countryman, this sudden flame of friendship would have seemed far too
premature, a thing to be much distrusted; but in this simple savage those old rules
would not apply.
After supper, and another social chat and smoke, we went to our room together.
He made me a present of his embalmed head; took out his enormous tobacco wallet, and
groping under the tobacco, drew out some thirty dollars in silver; then spreading
them on the table, and mechanically
dividing them into two equal portions, pushed one of them towards me, and said it
was mine.
I was going to remonstrate; but he silenced me by pouring them into my trowsers'
pockets. I let them stay.
He then went about his evening prayers, took out his idol, and removed the paper
By certain signs and symptoms, I thought he seemed anxious for me to join him; but well
knowing what was to follow, I deliberated a moment whether, in case he invited me, I
would comply or otherwise.
I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian
Church. How then could I unite with this wild
idolator in worshipping his piece of wood?
But what is worship? thought I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the
magnanimous God of heaven and earth--pagans and all included--can possibly be jealous
of an insignificant bit of black wood?
Impossible! But what is worship?--to do the will of
God--THAT is worship.
And what is the will of God?--to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man
to do to me--THAT is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man.
And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me?
Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship.
Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator.
So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt
biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that
done, we undressed and went to bed, at
peace with our own consciences and all the world.
But we did not go to sleep without some little chat.
How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures
between friends.
Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and
some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning.
Thus, then, in our hearts' honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg--a cosy, loving pair.
Chapter 11. Nightgown.
We had lain thus in bed, chatting and napping at short intervals, and Queequeg
now and then affectionately throwing his brown tattooed legs over mine, and then
drawing them back; so entirely sociable and
free and easy were we; when, at last, by reason of our confabulations, what little
nappishness remained in us altogether departed, and we felt like getting up
again, though day-break was yet some way down the future.
Yes, we became very wakeful; so much so that our recumbent position began to grow
wearisome, and by little and little we found ourselves sitting up; the clothes
well tucked around us, leaning against the
head-board with our four knees drawn up close together, and our two noses bending
over them, as if our kneepans were warming- pans.
We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors; indeed
out of bed-clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the room.
The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must
be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by
Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all
over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be
comfortable any more.
But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your
head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most
delightfully and unmistakably warm.
For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is
one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich.
For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the
blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air.
Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.
We had been sitting in this crouching manner for some time, when all at once I
thought I would open my eyes; for when between sheets, whether by day or by night,
and whether asleep or awake, I have a way
of always keeping my eyes shut, in order the more to concentrate the snugness of
being in bed.
Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright except his eyes be closed;
as if darkness were indeed the proper element of our essences, though light be
more congenial to our clayey part.
Upon opening my eyes then, and coming out of my own pleasant and self-created
darkness into the imposed and coarse outer gloom of the unilluminated twelve-o'clock-
at-night, I experienced a disagreeable revulsion.
Nor did I at all object to the hint from Queequeg that perhaps it were best to
strike a light, seeing that we were so wide awake; and besides he felt a strong desire
to have a few quiet puffs from his Tomahawk.
Be it said, that though I had felt such a strong repugnance to his smoking in the bed
the night before, yet see how elastic our stiff prejudices grow when love once comes
to bend them.
For now I liked nothing better than to have Queequeg smoking by me, even in bed,
because he seemed to be full of such serene household joy then.
I no more felt unduly concerned for the landlord's policy of insurance.
I was only alive to the condensed confidential comfortableness of sharing a
pipe and a blanket with a real friend.
With our shaggy jackets drawn about our shoulders, we now passed the Tomahawk from
one to the other, till slowly there grew over us a blue hanging tester of smoke,
illuminated by the flame of the new-lit lamp.
Whether it was that this undulating tester rolled the savage away to far distant
scenes, I know not, but he now spoke of his native island; and, eager to hear his
history, I begged him to go on and tell it.
He gladly complied.
Though at the time I but ill comprehended not a few of his words, yet subsequent
disclosures, when I had become more familiar with his broken phraseology, now
enable me to present the whole story such
as it may prove in the mere skeleton I give.
Chapter 12. Biographical.
Queequeg was a native of Rokovoko, an island far away to the West and South.
It is not down in any map; true places never are.
When a new-hatched savage running wild about his native woodlands in a grass
clout, followed by the nibbling goats, as if he were a green sapling; even then, in
Queequeg's ambitious soul, lurked a strong
desire to see something more of Christendom than a specimen whaler or two.
His father was a High Chief, a King; his uncle a High Priest; and on the maternal
side he boasted aunts who were the wives of unconquerable warriors.
There was excellent blood in his veins-- royal stuff; though sadly vitiated, I fear,
by the cannibal propensity he nourished in his untutored youth.
A Sag Harbor ship visited his father's bay, and Queequeg sought a passage to Christian
But the ship, having her full complement of seamen, spurned his suit; and not all the
King his father's influence could prevail. But Queequeg vowed a vow.
Alone in his canoe, he paddled off to a distant strait, which he knew the ship must
pass through when she quitted the island.
On one side was a coral reef; on the other a low tongue of land, covered with mangrove
thickets that grew out into the water.
Hiding his canoe, still afloat, among these thickets, with its prow seaward, he sat
down in the stern, paddle low in hand; and when the ship was gliding by, like a flash
he darted out; gained her side; with one
backward dash of his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up the chains; and
throwing himself at full length upon the deck, grappled a ring-bolt there, and swore
not to let it go, though hacked in pieces.
In vain the captain threatened to throw him overboard; suspended a cutlass over his
naked wrists; Queequeg was the son of a King, and Queequeg budged not.
Struck by his desperate dauntlessness, and his wild desire to visit Christendom, the
captain at last relented, and told him he might make himself at home.
But this fine young savage--this sea Prince of Wales, never saw the Captain's cabin.
They put him down among the sailors, and made a whaleman of him.
But like Czar Peter content to toil in the shipyards of foreign cities, Queequeg
disdained no seeming ignominy, if thereby he might happily gain the power of
enlightening his untutored countrymen.
For at bottom--so he told me--he was actuated by a profound desire to learn
among the Christians, the arts whereby to make his people still happier than they
were; and more than that, still better than they were.
But, alas! the practices of whalemen soon convinced him that even Christians could be
both miserable and wicked; infinitely more so, than all his father's heathens.
Arrived at last in old Sag Harbor; and seeing what the sailors did there; and then
going on to Nantucket, and seeing how they spent their wages in that place also, poor
Queequeg gave it up for lost.
Thought he, it's a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a pagan.
And thus an old idolator at heart, he yet lived among these Christians, wore their
clothes, and tried to talk their gibberish.
Hence the queer ways about him, though now some time from home.
By hints, I asked him whether he did not propose going back, and having a
coronation; since he might now consider his father dead and gone, he being very old and
feeble at the last accounts.
He answered no, not yet; and added that he was fearful Christianity, or rather
Christians, had unfitted him for ascending the pure and undefiled throne of thirty
pagan Kings before him.
But by and by, he said, he would return,-- as soon as he felt himself baptized again.
For the nonce, however, he proposed to sail about, and sow his wild oats in all four
They had made a harpooneer of him, and that barbed iron was in lieu of a sceptre now.
I asked him what might be his immediate purpose, touching his future movements.
He answered, to go to sea again, in his old vocation.
Upon this, I told him that whaling was my own design, and informed him of my
intention to sail out of Nantucket, as being the most promising port for an
adventurous whaleman to embark from.
He at once resolved to accompany me to that island, ship aboard the same vessel, get
into the same watch, the same boat, the same mess with me, in short to share my
every hap; with both my hands in his, boldly dip into the Potluck of both worlds.
To all this I joyously assented; for besides the affection I now felt for
Queequeg, he was an experienced harpooneer, and as such, could not fail to be of great
usefulness to one, who, like me, was wholly
ignorant of the mysteries of whaling, though well acquainted with the sea, as
known to merchant seamen.
His story being ended with his pipe's last dying puff, Queequeg embraced me, pressed
his forehead against mine, and blowing out the light, we rolled over from each other,
this way and that, and very soon were sleeping.
-Chapter 13. Wheelbarrow.
Next morning, Monday, after disposing of the embalmed head to a barber, for a block,
I settled my own and comrade's bill; using, however, my comrade's money.
The grinning landlord, as well as the boarders, seemed amazingly tickled at the
sudden friendship which had sprung up between me and Queequeg--especially as
Peter Coffin's cock and bull stories about
him had previously so much alarmed me concerning the very person whom I now
companied with.
We borrowed a wheelbarrow, and embarking our things, including my own poor carpet-
bag, and Queequeg's canvas sack and hammock, away we went down to "the Moss,"
the little Nantucket packet schooner moored at the wharf.
As we were going along the people stared; not at Queequeg so much--for they were used
to seeing cannibals like him in their streets,--but at seeing him and me upon
such confidential terms.
But we heeded them not, going along wheeling the barrow by turns, and Queequeg
now and then stopping to adjust the sheath on his harpoon barbs.
I asked him why he carried such a troublesome thing with him ashore, and
whether all whaling ships did not find their own harpoons.
To this, in substance, he replied, that though what I hinted was true enough, yet
he had a particular affection for his own harpoon, because it was of assured stuff,
well tried in many a mortal combat, and deeply intimate with the hearts of whales.
In short, like many inland reapers and mowers, who go into the farmers' meadows
armed with their own scythes--though in no wise obliged to furnish them--even so,
Queequeg, for his own private reasons, preferred his own harpoon.
Shifting the barrow from my hand to his, he told me a funny story about the first
wheelbarrow he had ever seen.
It was in Sag Harbor. The owners of his ship, it seems, had lent
him one, in which to carry his heavy chest to his boarding house.
Not to seem ignorant about the thing-- though in truth he was entirely so,
concerning the precise way in which to manage the barrow--Queequeg puts his chest
upon it; lashes it fast; and then shoulders the barrow and marches up the wharf.
"Why," said I, "Queequeg, you might have known better than that, one would think.
Didn't the people laugh?"
Upon this, he told me another story.
The people of his island of Rokovoko, it seems, at their wedding feasts express the
fragrant water of young cocoanuts into a large stained calabash like a punchbowl;
and this punchbowl always forms the great
central ornament on the braided mat where the feast is held.
Now a certain grand merchant ship once touched at Rokovoko, and its commander--
from all accounts, a very stately punctilious gentleman, at least for a sea
captain--this commander was invited to the
wedding feast of Queequeg's sister, a pretty young princess just turned of ten.
Well; when all the wedding guests were assembled at the bride's bamboo cottage,
this Captain marches in, and being assigned the post of honour, placed himself over
against the punchbowl, and between the High
Priest and his majesty the King, Queequeg's father.
Grace being said,--for those people have their grace as well as we--though Queequeg
told me that unlike us, who at such times look downwards to our platters, they, on
the contrary, copying the ducks, glance
upwards to the great Giver of all feasts-- Grace, I say, being said, the High Priest
opens the banquet by the immemorial ceremony of the island; that is, dipping
his consecrated and consecrating fingers
into the bowl before the blessed beverage circulates.
Seeing himself placed next the Priest, and noting the ceremony, and thinking himself--
being Captain of a ship--as having plain precedence over a mere island King,
especially in the King's own house--the
Captain coolly proceeds to wash his hands in the punchbowl;--taking it I suppose for
a huge finger-glass. "Now," said Queequeg, "what you tink now?--
Didn't our people laugh?"
At last, passage paid, and luggage safe, we stood on board the schooner.
Hoisting sail, it glided down the Acushnet river.
On one side, New Bedford rose in terraces of streets, their ice-covered trees all
glittering in the clear, cold air.
Huge hills and mountains of casks on casks were piled upon her wharves, and side by
side the world-wandering whale ships lay silent and safely moored at last; while
from others came a sound of carpenters and
coopers, with blended noises of fires and forges to melt the pitch, all betokening
that new cruises were on the start; that one most perilous and long voyage ended,
only begins a second; and a second ended,
only begins a third, and so on, for ever and for aye.
Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all earthly effort.
Gaining the more open water, the bracing breeze waxed fresh; the little Moss tossed
the quick foam from her bows, as a young colt his snortings.
How I snuffed that Tartar air!--how I spurned that turnpike earth!--that common
highway all over dented with the marks of slavish heels and hoofs; and turned me to
admire the magnanimity of the sea which will permit no records.
At the same foam-fountain, Queequeg seemed to drink and reel with me.
His dusky nostrils swelled apart; he showed his filed and pointed teeth.
On, on we flew; and our offing gained, the Moss did homage to the blast; ducked and
dived her bows as a slave before the Sultan.
Sideways leaning, we sideways darted; every ropeyarn tingling like a wire; the two tall
masts buckling like Indian canes in land tornadoes.
So full of this reeling scene were we, as we stood by the plunging bowsprit, that for
some time we did not notice the jeering glances of the passengers, a lubber-like
assembly, who marvelled that two fellow
beings should be so companionable; as though a white man were anything more
dignified than a whitewashed negro.
But there were some boobies and bumpkins there, who, by their intense greenness,
must have come from the heart and centre of all verdure.
Queequeg caught one of these young saplings mimicking him behind his back.
I thought the bumpkin's hour of doom was come.
Dropping his harpoon, the brawny savage caught him in his arms, and by an almost
miraculous dexterity and strength, sent him high up bodily into the air; then slightly
tapping his stern in mid-somerset, the
fellow landed with bursting lungs upon his feet, while Queequeg, turning his back upon
him, lighted his tomahawk pipe and passed it to me for a puff.
Capting!" yelled the bumpkin, running towards that officer; "Capting, Capting,
here's the devil."
"Hallo, you sir," cried the Captain, a gaunt rib of the sea, stalking up to
Queequeg, "what in thunder do you mean by that?
Don't you know you might have killed that chap?"
"What him say?" said Queequeg, as he mildly turned to me.
"He say," said I, "that you came near kill- e that man there," pointing to the still
shivering greenhorn.
"Kill-e," cried Queequeg, twisting his tattooed face into an unearthly expression
of disdain, "ah! him bevy small-e fish-e; Queequeg no kill-e so small-e fish-e;
Queequeg kill-e big whale!"
"Look you," roared the Captain, "I'll kill- e YOU, you cannibal, if you try any more of
your tricks aboard here; so mind your eye."
But it so happened just then, that it was high time for the Captain to mind his own
The prodigious strain upon the main-sail had parted the weather-sheet, and the
tremendous boom was now flying from side to side, completely sweeping the entire after
part of the deck.
The poor fellow whom Queequeg had handled so roughly, was swept overboard; all hands
were in a panic; and to attempt snatching at the boom to stay it, seemed madness.
It flew from right to left, and back again, almost in one ticking of a watch, and every
instant seemed on the point of snapping into splinters.
Nothing was done, and nothing seemed capable of being done; those on deck rushed
towards the bows, and stood eyeing the boom as if it were the lower jaw of an
exasperated whale.
In the midst of this consternation, Queequeg dropped deftly to his knees, and
crawling under the path of the boom, whipped hold of a rope, secured one end to
the bulwarks, and then flinging the other
like a lasso, caught it round the boom as it swept over his head, and at the next
jerk, the spar was that way trapped, and all was safe.
The schooner was run into the wind, and while the hands were clearing away the
stern boat, Queequeg, stripped to the waist, darted from the side with a long
living arc of a leap.
For three minutes or more he was seen swimming like a dog, throwing his long arms
straight out before him, and by turns revealing his brawny shoulders through the
freezing foam.
I looked at the grand and glorious fellow, but saw no one to be saved.
The greenhorn had gone down.
Shooting himself perpendicularly from the water, Queequeg, now took an instant's
glance around him, and seeming to see just how matters were, dived down and
A few minutes more, and he rose again, one arm still striking out, and with the other
dragging a lifeless form. The boat soon picked them up.
The poor bumpkin was restored.
All hands voted Queequeg a noble trump; the captain begged his pardon.
From that hour I clove to Queequeg like a barnacle; yea, till poor Queequeg took his
last long dive.
Was there ever such unconsciousness? He did not seem to think that he at all
deserved a medal from the Humane and Magnanimous Societies.
He only asked for water--fresh water-- something to wipe the brine off; that done,
he put on dry clothes, lighted his pipe, and leaning against the bulwarks, and
mildly eyeing those around him, seemed to
be saying to himself--"It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians.
We cannibals must help these Christians."
Chapter 14. Nantucket.
Nothing more happened on the passage worthy the mentioning; so, after a fine run, we
safely arrived in Nantucket. Nantucket!
Take out your map and look at it.
See what a real corner of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off
shore, more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse.
Look at it--a mere hillock, and elbow of sand; all beach, without a background.
There is more sand there than you would use in twenty years as a substitute for
blotting paper.
Some gamesome wights will tell you that they have to plant weeds there, they don't
grow naturally; that they import Canada thistles; that they have to send beyond
seas for a spile to stop a leak in an oil
cask; that pieces of wood in Nantucket are carried about like bits of the true cross
in Rome; that people there plant toadstools before their houses, to get under the shade
in summer time; that one blade of grass
makes an oasis, three blades in a day's walk a prairie; that they wear quicksand
shoes, something like Laplander snow-shoes; that they are so shut up, belted about,
every way inclosed, surrounded, and made an
utter island of by the ocean, that to their very chairs and tables small clams will
sometimes be found adhering, as to the backs of sea turtles.
But these extravaganzas only show that Nantucket is no Illinois.
Look now at the wondrous traditional story of how this island was settled by the red-
Thus goes the legend. In olden times an eagle swooped down upon
the New England coast, and carried off an infant Indian in his talons.
With loud lament the parents saw their child borne out of sight over the wide
waters. They resolved to follow in the same
Setting out in their canoes, after a perilous passage they discovered the
island, and there they found an empty ivory casket,--the poor little Indian's skeleton.
What wonder, then, that these Nantucketers, born on a beach, should take to the sea for
a livelihood!
They first caught crabs and quohogs in the sand; grown bolder, they waded out with
nets for mackerel; more experienced, they pushed off in boats and captured cod; and
at last, launching a navy of great ships on
the sea, explored this watery world; put an incessant belt of circumnavigations round
it; peeped in at Behring's Straits; and in all seasons and all oceans declared
everlasting war with the mightiest animated
mass that has survived the flood; most monstrous and most mountainous!
That Himmalehan, salt-sea Mastodon, clothed with such portentousness of unconscious
power, that his very panics are more to be dreaded than his most fearless and
malicious assaults!
And thus have these naked Nantucketers, these sea hermits, issuing from their ant-
hill in the sea, overrun and conquered the watery world like so many Alexanders;
parcelling out among them the Atlantic,
Pacific, and Indian oceans, as the three pirate powers did Poland.
Let America add Mexico to Texas, and pile Cuba upon Canada; let the English overswarm
all India, and hang out their blazing banner from the sun; two thirds of this
terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer's.
For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires; other seamen having but a
right of way through it.
Merchant ships are but extension bridges; armed ones but floating forts; even pirates
and privateers, though following the sea as highwaymen the road, they but plunder other
ships, other fragments of the land like
themselves, without seeking to draw their living from the bottomless deep itself.
The Nantucketer, he alone resides and riots on the sea; he alone, in Bible language,
goes down to it in ships; to and fro ploughing it as his own special plantation.
THERE is his home; THERE lies his business, which a Noah's flood would not interrupt,
though it overwhelmed all the millions in China.
He lives on the sea, as prairie cocks in the prairie; he hides among the waves, he
climbs them as chamois hunters climb the Alps.
For years he knows not the land; so that when he comes to it at last, it smells like
another world, more strangely than the moon would to an Earthsman.
With the landless gull, that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to sleep
between billows; so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight of land, furls
his sails, and lays him to his rest, while
under his very pillow rush herds of walruses and whales.
Chapter 15. Chowder.
It was quite late in the evening when the little Moss came snugly to anchor, and
Queequeg and I went ashore; so we could attend to no business that day, at least
none but a supper and a bed.
The landlord of the Spouter-Inn had recommended us to his cousin Hosea Hussey
of the Try Pots, whom he asserted to be the proprietor of one of the best kept hotels
in all Nantucket, and moreover he had
assured us that Cousin Hosea, as he called him, was famous for his chowders.
In short, he plainly hinted that we could not possibly do better than try pot-luck at
the Try Pots.
But the directions he had given us about keeping a yellow warehouse on our starboard
hand till we opened a white church to the larboard, and then keeping that on the
larboard hand till we made a corner three
points to the starboard, and that done, then ask the first man we met where the
place was: these crooked directions of his very much puzzled us at first, especially
as, at the outset, Queequeg insisted that
the yellow warehouse--our first point of departure--must be left on the larboard
hand, whereas I had understood Peter Coffin to say it was on the starboard.
However, by dint of beating about a little in the dark, and now and then knocking up a
peaceable inhabitant to inquire the way, we at last came to something which there was
no mistaking.
Two enormous wooden pots painted black, and suspended by asses' ears, swung from the
cross-trees of an old top-mast, planted in front of an old doorway.
The horns of the cross-trees were sawed off on the other side, so that this old top-
mast looked not a little like a gallows.
Perhaps I was over sensitive to such impressions at the time, but I could not
help staring at this gallows with a vague misgiving.
A sort of crick was in my neck as I gazed up to the two remaining horns; yes, TWO of
them, one for Queequeg, and one for me. It's ominous, thinks I.
A Coffin my Innkeeper upon landing in my first whaling port; tombstones staring at
me in the whalemen's chapel; and here a gallows! and a pair of prodigious black
pots too!
Are these last throwing out oblique hints touching Tophet?
I was called from these reflections by the sight of a freckled woman with yellow hair
and a yellow gown, standing in the porch of the inn, under a dull red lamp swinging
there, that looked much like an injured
eye, and carrying on a brisk scolding with a man in a purple woollen shirt.
"Get along with ye," said she to the man, "or I'll be combing ye!"
"Come on, Queequeg," said I, "all right.
There's Mrs. Hussey." And so it turned out; Mr. Hosea Hussey
being from home, but leaving Mrs. Hussey entirely competent to attend to all his
Upon making known our desires for a supper and a bed, Mrs. Hussey, postponing further
scolding for the present, ushered us into a little room, and seating us at a table
spread with the relics of a recently
concluded repast, turned round to us and said--"Clam or Cod?"
"What's that about Cods, ma'am?" said I, with much politeness.
"Clam or Cod?" she repeated.
"A clam for supper? a cold clam; is THAT what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?" says I, "but
that's a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter time, ain't it, Mrs. Hussey?"
But being in a great hurry to resume scolding the man in the purple Shirt, who
was waiting for it in the entry, and seeming to hear nothing but the word
"clam," Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open
door leading to the kitchen, and bawling out "clam for two," disappeared.
"Queequeg," said I, "do you think that we can make out a supper for us both on one
However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently
cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the
mystery was delightfully explained.
Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me.
It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded
ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with
butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.
Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing
his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent,
we despatched it with great expedition:
when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey's clam and cod
announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment.
Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word "cod" with great emphasis, and resumed
my seat.
In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor,
and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.
We resumed business; and while plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I to myself, I
wonder now if this here has any effect on the head?
What's that stultifying saying about chowder-headed people?
"But look, Queequeg, ain't that a live eel in your bowl?
Where's your harpoon?"
Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved its name; for the
pots there were always boiling chowders.
Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you
began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes.
The area before the house was paved with clam-shells.
Mrs. Hussey wore a polished necklace of codfish vertebra; and Hosea Hussey had his
account books bound in superior old shark- skin.
There was a fishy flavor to the milk, too, which I could not at all account for, till
one morning happening to take a stroll along the beach among some fishermen's
boats, I saw Hosea's brindled cow feeding
on fish remnants, and marching along the sand with each foot in a cod's decapitated
head, looking very slip-shod, I assure ye.
Supper concluded, we received a lamp, and directions from Mrs. Hussey concerning the
nearest way to bed; but, as Queequeg was about to precede me up the stairs, the lady
reached forth her arm, and demanded his
harpoon; she allowed no harpoon in her chambers.
"Why not?" said I; "every true whaleman sleeps with his harpoon--but why not?"
"Because it's dangerous," says she.
"Ever since young Stiggs coming from that unfort'nt v'y'ge of his, when he was gone
four years and a half, with only three barrels of ile, was found dead in my
first floor back, with his harpoon in his
side; ever since then I allow no boarders to take sich dangerous weepons in their
rooms at night.
So, Mr. Queequeg" (for she had learned his name), "I will just take this here iron,
and keep it for you till morning. But the chowder; clam or cod to-morrow for
breakfast, men?"
"Both," says I; "and let's have a couple of smoked herring by way of variety."
-Chapter 16. The Ship.
In bed we concocted our plans for the morrow.
But to my surprise and no small concern, Queequeg now gave me to understand, that he
had been diligently consulting Yojo--the name of his black little god--and Yojo had
told him two or three times over, and
strongly insisted upon it everyway, that instead of our going together among the
whaling-fleet in harbor, and in concert selecting our craft; instead of this, I
say, Yojo earnestly enjoined that the
selection of the ship should rest wholly with me, inasmuch as Yojo purposed
befriending us; and, in order to do so, had already pitched upon a vessel, which, if
left to myself, I, Ishmael, should
infallibly light upon, for all the world as though it had turned out by chance; and in
that vessel I must immediately ship myself, for the present irrespective of Queequeg.
I have forgotten to mention that, in many things, Queequeg placed great confidence in
the excellence of Yojo's judgment and surprising forecast of things; and
cherished Yojo with considerable esteem, as
a rather good sort of god, who perhaps meant well enough upon the whole, but in
all cases did not succeed in his benevolent designs.
Now, this plan of Queequeg's, or rather Yojo's, touching the selection of our
craft; I did not like that plan at all.
I had not a little relied upon Queequeg's sagacity to point out the whaler best
fitted to carry us and our fortunes securely.
But as all my remonstrances produced no effect upon Queequeg, I was obliged to
acquiesce; and accordingly prepared to set about this business with a determined
rushing sort of energy and vigor, that
should quickly settle that trifling little affair.
Next morning early, leaving Queequeg shut up with Yojo in our little bedroom--for it
seemed that it was some sort of Lent or Ramadan, or day of fasting, humiliation,
and prayer with Queequeg and Yojo that day;
HOW it was I never could find out, for, though I applied myself to it several
times, I never could master his liturgies and XXXIX Articles--leaving Queequeg, then,
fasting on his tomahawk pipe, and Yojo
warming himself at his sacrificial fire of shavings, I sallied out among the shipping.
After much prolonged sauntering and many random inquiries, I learnt that there were
three ships up for three-years' voyages-- The Devil-dam, the Tit-bit, and the Pequod.
DEVIL-DAM, I do not know the origin of; TIT-BIT is obvious; PEQUOD, you will no
doubt remember, was the name of a celebrated tribe of Massachusetts Indians;
now extinct as the ancient Medes.
I peered and pryed about the Devil-dam; from her, hopped over to the Tit-bit; and
finally, going on board the Pequod, looked around her for a moment, and then decided
that this was the very ship for us.
You may have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for aught I know;--square-toed
luggers; mountainous Japanese junks; butter-box galliots, and what not; but take
my word for it, you never saw such a rare old craft as this same rare old Pequod.
She was a ship of the old school, rather small if anything; with an old-fashioned
claw-footed look about her.
Long seasoned and weather-stained in the typhoons and calms of all four oceans, her
old hull's complexion was darkened like a French grenadier's, who has alike fought in
Egypt and Siberia.
Her venerable bows looked bearded.
Her masts--cut somewhere on the coast of Japan, where her original ones were lost
overboard in a gale--her masts stood stiffly up like the spines of the three old
kings of Cologne.
Her ancient decks were worn and wrinkled, like the pilgrim-worshipped flag-stone in
Canterbury Cathedral where Becket bled.
But to all these her old antiquities, were added new and marvellous features,
pertaining to the wild business that for more than half a century she had followed.
Old Captain Peleg, many years her chief- mate, before he commanded another vessel of
his own, and now a retired seaman, and one of the principal owners of the Pequod,--
this old Peleg, during the term of his
chief-mateship, had built upon her original grotesqueness, and inlaid it, all over,
with a quaintness both of material and device, unmatched by anything except it be
Thorkill-Hake's carved buckler or bedstead.
She was apparelled like any barbaric Ethiopian emperor, his neck heavy with
pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing of trophies.
A cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies.
All round, her unpanelled, open bulwarks were garnished like one continuous jaw,
with the long sharp teeth of the sperm whale, inserted there for pins, to fasten
her old hempen thews and tendons to.
Those thews ran not through base blocks of land wood, but deftly travelled over
sheaves of sea-ivory.
Scorning a turnstile wheel at her reverend helm, she sported there a tiller; and that
tiller was in one mass, curiously carved from the long narrow lower jaw of her
hereditary foe.
The helmsman who steered by that tiller in a tempest, felt like the Tartar, when he
holds back his fiery steed by clutching its jaw.
A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy!
All noble things are touched with that.
Now when I looked about the quarter-deck, for some one having authority, in order to
propose myself as a candidate for the voyage, at first I saw nobody; but I could
not well overlook a strange sort of tent,
or rather wigwam, pitched a little behind the main-mast.
It seemed only a temporary erection used in port.
It was of a conical shape, some ten feet high; consisting of the long, huge slabs of
limber black bone taken from the middle and highest part of the jaws of the right-
Planted with their broad ends on the deck, a circle of these slabs laced together,
mutually sloped towards each other, and at the apex united in a tufted point, where
the loose hairy fibres waved to and fro
like the top-knot on some old Pottowottamie Sachem's head.
A triangular opening faced towards the bows of the ship, so that the insider commanded
a complete view forward.
And half concealed in this queer tenement, I at length found one who by his aspect
seemed to have authority; and who, it being noon, and the ship's work suspended, was
now enjoying respite from the burden of command.
He was seated on an old-fashioned oaken chair, wriggling all over with curious
carving; and the bottom of which was formed of a stout interlacing of the same elastic
stuff of which the wigwam was constructed.
There was nothing so very particular, perhaps, about the appearance of the
elderly man I saw; he was brown and brawny, like most old seamen, and heavily rolled up
in blue pilot-cloth, cut in the Quaker
style; only there was a fine and almost microscopic net-work of the minutest
wrinkles interlacing round his eyes, which must have arisen from his continual
sailings in many hard gales, and always
looking to windward;--for this causes the muscles about the eyes to become pursed
together. Such eye-wrinkles are very effectual in a
"Is this the Captain of the Pequod?" said I, advancing to the door of the tent.
"Supposing it be the captain of the Pequod, what dost thou want of him?" he demanded.
"I was thinking of shipping."
"Thou wast, wast thou? I see thou art no Nantucketer--ever been in
a stove boat?" "No, Sir, I never have."
"Dost know nothing at all about whaling, I dare say--eh?
"Nothing, Sir; but I have no doubt I shall soon learn.
I've been several voyages in the merchant service, and I think that--"
"Merchant service be damned. Talk not that lingo to me.
Dost see that leg?--I'll take that leg away from thy stern, if ever thou talkest of the
marchant service to me again. Marchant service indeed!
I suppose now ye feel considerable proud of having served in those marchant ships.
But flukes! man, what makes thee want to go a whaling, eh?--it looks a little
suspicious, don't it, eh?--Hast not been a pirate, hast thou?--Didst not rob thy last
Captain, didst thou?--Dost not think of
murdering the officers when thou gettest to sea?"
I protested my innocence of these things.
I saw that under the mask of these half humorous innuendoes, this old seaman, as an
insulated Quakerish Nantucketer, was full of his insular prejudices, and rather
distrustful of all aliens, unless they hailed from Cape Cod or the Vineyard.
"But what takes thee a-whaling? I want to know that before I think of
shipping ye."
"Well, sir, I want to see what whaling is. I want to see the world."
"Want to see what whaling is, eh? Have ye clapped eye on Captain Ahab?"
"Who is Captain Ahab, sir?"
"Aye, aye, I thought so. Captain Ahab is the Captain of this ship."
"I am mistaken then. I thought I was speaking to the Captain
"Thou art speaking to Captain Peleg--that's who ye are speaking to, young man.
It belongs to me and Captain Bildad to see the Pequod fitted out for the voyage, and
supplied with all her needs, including crew.
We are part owners and agents.
But as I was going to say, if thou wantest to know what whaling is, as thou tellest ye
do, I can put ye in a way of finding it out before ye bind yourself to it, past backing
Clap eye on Captain Ahab, young man, and thou wilt find that he has only one leg."
"What do you mean, sir? Was the other one lost by a whale?"
"Lost by a whale!
Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured, chewed up, crunched by the
monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped a boat!--ah, ah!"
I was a little alarmed by his energy, perhaps also a little touched at the hearty
grief in his concluding exclamation, but said as calmly as I could, "What you say is
no doubt true enough, sir; but how could I
know there was any peculiar ferocity in that particular whale, though indeed I
might have inferred as much from the simple fact of the accident."
"Look ye now, young man, thy lungs are a sort of soft, d'ye see; thou dost not talk
shark a bit. SURE, ye've been to sea before now; sure of
"Sir," said I, "I thought I told you that I had been four voyages in the merchant--"
"Hard down out of that!
Mind what I said about the marchant service--don't aggravate me--I won't have
it. But let us understand each other.
I have given thee a hint about what whaling is; do ye yet feel inclined for it?"
"I do, sir." "Very good.
Now, art thou the man to pitch a harpoon down a live whale's throat, and then jump
after it? Answer, quick!"
"I am, sir, if it should be positively indispensable to do so; not to be got rid
of, that is; which I don't take to be the fact."
"Good again.
Now then, thou not only wantest to go a- whaling, to find out by experience what
whaling is, but ye also want to go in order to see the world?
Was not that what ye said?
I thought so. Well then, just step forward there, and
take a peep over the weather-bow, and then back to me and tell me what ye see there."
For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this curious request, not knowing exactly
how to take it, whether humorously or in earnest.
But concentrating all his crow's feet into one scowl, Captain Peleg started me on the
Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived that the ship swinging to
her anchor with the flood-tide, was now obliquely pointing towards the open ocean.
The prospect was unlimited, but exceedingly monotonous and forbidding; not the
slightest variety that I could see. "Well, what's the report?" said Peleg when
I came back; "what did ye see?"
"Not much," I replied--"nothing but water; considerable horizon though, and there's a
squall coming up, I think." "Well, what does thou think then of seeing
the world?
Do ye wish to go round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh?
Can't ye see the world where you stand?"
I was a little staggered, but go a-whaling I must, and I would; and the Pequod was as
good a ship as any--I thought the best--and all this I now repeated to Peleg.
Seeing me so determined, he expressed his willingness to ship me.
"And thou mayest as well sign the papers right off," he added--"come along with ye."
And so saying, he led the way below deck into the cabin.
Seated on the transom was what seemed to me a most uncommon and surprising figure.
It turned out to be Captain Bildad, who along with Captain Peleg was one of the
largest owners of the vessel; the other shares, as is sometimes the case in these
ports, being held by a crowd of old
annuitants; widows, fatherless children, and chancery wards; each owning about the
value of a timber head, or a foot of plank, or a nail or two in the ship.
People in Nantucket invest their money in whaling vessels, the same way that you do
yours in approved state stocks bringing in good interest.
Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and indeed many other Nantucketers, was a Quaker, the
island having been originally settled by that sect; and to this day its inhabitants
in general retain in an uncommon measure
the peculiarities of the Quaker, only variously and anomalously modified by
things altogether alien and heterogeneous.
For some of these same Quakers are the most sanguinary of all sailors and whale-
hunters. They are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers
with a vengeance.
So that there are instances among them of men, who, named with Scripture names--a
singularly common fashion on the island-- and in childhood naturally imbibing the
stately dramatic thee and thou of the
Quaker idiom; still, from the audacious, daring, and boundless adventure of their
subsequent lives, strangely blend with these unoutgrown peculiarities, a thousand
bold dashes of character, not unworthy a
Scandinavian sea-king, or a poetical Pagan Roman.
And when these things unite in a man of greatly superior natural force, with a
globular brain and a ponderous heart; who has also by the stillness and seclusion of
many long night-watches in the remotest
waters, and beneath constellations never seen here at the north, been led to think
untraditionally and independently; receiving all nature's sweet or savage
impressions fresh from her own virgin
voluntary and confiding breast, and thereby chiefly, but with some help from accidental
advantages, to learn a bold and nervous lofty language--that man makes one in a
whole nation's census--a mighty pageant creature, formed for noble tragedies.
Nor will it at all detract from him, dramatically regarded, if either by birth
or other circumstances, he have what seems a half wilful overruling morbidness at the
bottom of his nature.
For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness.
Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but disease.
But, as yet we have not to do with such an one, but with quite another; and still a
man, who, if indeed peculiar, it only results again from another phase of the
Quaker, modified by individual circumstances.
Like Captain Peleg, Captain Bildad was a well-to-do, retired whaleman.
But unlike Captain Peleg--who cared not a rush for what are called serious things,
and indeed deemed those self-same serious things the veriest of all trifles--Captain
Bildad had not only been originally
educated according to the strictest sect of Nantucket Quakerism, but all his subsequent
ocean life, and the sight of many unclad, lovely island creatures, round the Horn--
all that had not moved this native born
Quaker one single jot, had not so much as altered one angle of his vest.
Still, for all this immutableness, was there some lack of common consistency about
worthy Captain Peleg.
Though refusing, from conscientious scruples, to bear arms against land
invaders, yet himself had illimitably invaded the Atlantic and Pacific; and
though a sworn foe to human bloodshed, yet
had he in his straight-bodied coat, spilled tuns upon tuns of leviathan gore.
How now in the contemplative evening of his days, the pious Bildad reconciled these
things in the reminiscence, I do not know; but it did not seem to concern him much,
and very probably he had long since come to
the sage and sensible conclusion that a man's religion is one thing, and this
practical world quite another. This world pays dividends.
Rising from a little cabin-boy in short clothes of the drabbest drab, to a
harpooneer in a broad shad-bellied waistcoat; from that becoming boat-header,
chief-mate, and captain, and finally a ship
owner; Bildad, as I hinted before, had concluded his adventurous career by wholly
retiring from active life at the goodly age of sixty, and dedicating his remaining days
to the quiet receiving of his well-earned income.
Now, Bildad, I am sorry to say, had the reputation of being an incorrigible old
hunks, and in his sea-going days, a bitter, hard task-master.
They told me in Nantucket, though it certainly seems a curious story, that when
he sailed the old Categut whaleman, his crew, upon arriving home, were mostly all
carried ashore to the hospital, sore exhausted and worn out.
For a pious man, especially for a Quaker, he was certainly rather hard-hearted, to
say the least.
He never used to swear, though, at his men, they said; but somehow he got an inordinate
quantity of cruel, unmitigated hard work out of them.
When Bildad was a chief-mate, to have his drab-coloured eye intently looking at you,
made you feel completely nervous, till you could clutch something--a hammer or a
marling-spike, and go to work like mad, at something or other, never mind what.
Indolence and idleness perished before him. His own person was the exact embodiment of
his utilitarian character.
On his long, gaunt body, he carried no spare flesh, no superfluous beard, his chin
having a soft, economical nap to it, like the worn nap of his broad-brimmed hat.
Such, then, was the person that I saw seated on the transom when I followed
Captain Peleg down into the cabin.
The space between the decks was small; and there, bolt-upright, sat old Bildad, who
always sat so, and never leaned, and this to save his coat tails.
His broad-brim was placed beside him; his legs were stiffly crossed; his drab vesture
was buttoned up to his chin; and spectacles on nose, he seemed absorbed in reading from
a ponderous volume.
"Bildad," cried Captain Peleg, "at it again, Bildad, eh?
Ye have been studying those Scriptures, now, for the last thirty years, to my
certain knowledge.
How far ye got, Bildad?"
As if long habituated to such profane talk from his old shipmate, Bildad, without
noticing his present irreverence, quietly looked up, and seeing me, glanced again
inquiringly towards Peleg.
"He says he's our man, Bildad," said Peleg, "he wants to ship."
"Dost thee?" said Bildad, in a hollow tone, and turning round to me.
"I dost," said I unconsciously, he was so intense a Quaker.
"What do ye think of him, Bildad?" said Peleg.
"He'll do," said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spelling away at his book in a
mumbling tone quite audible.
I thought him the queerest old Quaker I ever saw, especially as Peleg, his friend
and old shipmate, seemed such a blusterer. But I said nothing, only looking round me
Peleg now threw open a chest, and drawing forth the ship's articles, placed pen and
ink before him, and seated himself at a little table.
I began to think it was high time to settle with myself at what terms I would be
willing to engage for the voyage.
I was already aware that in the whaling business they paid no wages; but all hands,
including the captain, received certain shares of the profits called lays, and that
these lays were proportioned to the degree
of importance pertaining to the respective duties of the ship's company.
I was also aware that being a green hand at whaling, my own lay would not be very
large; but considering that I was used to the sea, could steer a ship, splice a rope,
and all that, I made no doubt that from all
I had heard I should be offered at least the 275th lay--that is, the 275th part of
the clear net proceeds of the voyage, whatever that might eventually amount to.
And though the 275th lay was what they call a rather LONG LAY, yet it was better than
nothing; and if we had a lucky voyage, might pretty nearly pay for the clothing I
would wear out on it, not to speak of my
three years' beef and board, for which I would not have to pay one stiver.
It might be thought that this was a poor way to accumulate a princely fortune--and
so it was, a very poor way indeed.
But I am one of those that never take on about princely fortunes, and am quite
content if the world is ready to board and lodge me, while I am putting up at this
grim sign of the Thunder Cloud.
Upon the whole, I thought that the 275th lay would be about the fair thing, but
would not have been surprised had I been offered the 200th, considering I was of a
broad-shouldered make.
But one thing, nevertheless, that made me a little distrustful about receiving a
generous share of the profits was this: Ashore, I had heard something of both
Captain Peleg and his unaccountable old
crony Bildad; how that they being the principal proprietors of the Pequod,
therefore the other and more inconsiderable and scattered owners, left nearly the whole
management of the ship's affairs to these two.
And I did not know but what the stingy old Bildad might have a mighty deal to say
about shipping hands, especially as I now found him on board the Pequod, quite at
home there in the cabin, and reading his Bible as if at his own fireside.
Now while Peleg was vainly trying to mend a pen with his jack-knife, old Bildad, to my
no small surprise, considering that he was such an interested party in these
proceedings; Bildad never heeded us, but
went on mumbling to himself out of his book, "LAY not up for yourselves treasures
upon earth, where moth--"
"Well, Captain Bildad," interrupted Peleg, "what d'ye say, what lay shall we give this
young man?"
"Thou knowest best," was the sepulchral reply, "the seven hundred and seventy-
seventh wouldn't be too much, would it?-- 'where moth and rust do corrupt, but LAY--
LAY, indeed, thought I, and such a lay! the seven hundred and seventy-seventh!
Well, old Bildad, you are determined that I, for one, shall not LAY up many LAYS here
below, where moth and rust do corrupt.
It was an exceedingly LONG LAY that, indeed; and though from the magnitude of
the figure it might at first deceive a landsman, yet the slightest consideration
will show that though seven hundred and
seventy-seven is a pretty large number, yet, when you come to make a TEENTH of it,
you will then see, I say, that the seven hundred and seventy-seventh part of a
farthing is a good deal less than seven
hundred and seventy-seven gold doubloons; and so I thought at the time.
"Why, blast your eyes, Bildad," cried Peleg, "thou dost not want to swindle this
young man! he must have more than that."
"Seven hundred and seventy-seventh," again said Bildad, without lifting his eyes; and
then went on mumbling--"for where your treasure is, there will your heart be
"I am going to put him down for the three hundredth," said Peleg, "do ye hear that,
Bildad! The three hundredth lay, I say."
Bildad laid down his book, and turning solemnly towards him said, "Captain Peleg,
thou hast a generous heart; but thou must consider the duty thou owest to the other
owners of this ship--widows and orphans,
many of them--and that if we too abundantly reward the labors of this young man, we may
be taking the bread from those widows and those orphans.
The seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay, Captain Peleg."
"Thou Bildad!" roared Peleg, starting up and clattering about the cabin.
"Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had followed thy advice in these matters, I
would afore now had a conscience to lug about that would be heavy enough to founder
the largest ship that ever sailed round Cape Horn."
"Captain Peleg," said Bildad steadily, "thy conscience may be drawing ten inches of
water, or ten fathoms, I can't tell; but as thou art still an impenitent man, Captain
Peleg, I greatly fear lest thy conscience
be but a leaky one; and will in the end sink thee foundering down to the fiery pit,
Captain Peleg." "Fiery pit! fiery pit! ye insult me, man;
past all natural bearing, ye insult me.
It's an all-fired outrage to tell any human creature that he's bound to hell.
Flukes and flames!
Bildad, say that again to me, and start my soul-bolts, but I'll--I'll--yes, I'll
swallow a live goat with all his hair and horns on.
Out of the cabin, ye canting, drab-coloured son of a wooden gun--a straight wake with
As he thundered out this he made a rush at Bildad, but with a marvellous oblique,
sliding celerity, Bildad for that time eluded him.
Alarmed at this terrible outburst between the two principal and responsible owners of
the ship, and feeling half a mind to give up all idea of sailing in a vessel so
questionably owned and temporarily
commanded, I stepped aside from the door to give egress to Bildad, who, I made no
doubt, was all eagerness to vanish from before the awakened wrath of Peleg.
But to my astonishment, he sat down again on the transom very quietly, and seemed to
have not the slightest intention of withdrawing.
He seemed quite used to impenitent Peleg and his ways.
As for Peleg, after letting off his rage as he had, there seemed no more left in him,
and he, too, sat down like a lamb, though he twitched a little as if still nervously
"Whew!" he whistled at last--"the squall's gone off to leeward, I think.
Bildad, thou used to be good at sharpening a lance, mend that pen, will ye.
My jack-knife here needs the grindstone.
That's he; thank ye, Bildad. Now then, my young man, Ishmael's thy name,
didn't ye say? Well then, down ye go here, Ishmael, for
the three hundredth lay."
"Captain Peleg," said I, "I have a friend with me who wants to ship too--shall I
bring him down to-morrow?" "To be sure," said Peleg.
"Fetch him along, and we'll look at him."
"What lay does he want?" groaned Bildad, glancing up from the book in which he had
again been burying himself. "Oh! never thee mind about that, Bildad,"
said Peleg.
"Has he ever whaled it any?" turning to me. "Killed more whales than I can count,
Captain Peleg." "Well, bring him along then."
And, after signing the papers, off I went; nothing doubting but that I had done a good
morning's work, and that the Pequod was the identical ship that Yojo had provided to
carry Queequeg and me round the Cape.
But I had not proceeded far, when I began to bethink me that the Captain with whom I
was to sail yet remained unseen by me; though, indeed, in many cases, a whale-ship
will be completely fitted out, and receive
all her crew on board, ere the captain makes himself visible by arriving to take
command; for sometimes these voyages are so prolonged, and the shore intervals at home
so exceedingly brief, that if the captain
have a family, or any absorbing concernment of that sort, he does not trouble himself
much about his ship in port, but leaves her to the owners till all is ready for sea.
However, it is always as well to have a look at him before irrevocably committing
yourself into his hands.
Turning back I accosted Captain Peleg, inquiring where Captain Ahab was to be
found. "And what dost thou want of Captain Ahab?
It's all right enough; thou art shipped."
"Yes, but I should like to see him." "But I don't think thou wilt be able to at
I don't know exactly what's the matter with him; but he keeps close inside the house;
a sort of sick, and yet he don't look so. In fact, he ain't sick; but no, he isn't
well either.
Any how, young man, he won't always see me, so I don't suppose he will thee.
He's a queer man, Captain Ahab--so some think--but a good one.
Oh, thou'lt like him well enough; no fear, no fear.
He's a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab; doesn't speak much; but, when
he does speak, then you may well listen.
Mark ye, be forewarned; Ahab's above the common; Ahab's been in colleges, as well as
'mong the cannibals; been used to deeper wonders than the waves; fixed his fiery
lance in mightier, stranger foes than whales.
His lance! aye, the keenest and the surest that out of all our isle!
Oh! he ain't Captain Bildad; no, and he ain't Captain Peleg; HE'S AHAB, boy; and
Ahab of old, thou knowest, was a crowned king!"
"And a very vile one.
When that wicked king was slain, the dogs, did they not lick his blood?"
"Come hither to me--hither, hither," said Peleg, with a significance in his eye that
almost startled me.
"Look ye, lad; never say that on board the Pequod.
Never say it anywhere. Captain Ahab did not name himself.
'Twas a foolish, ignorant whim of his crazy, widowed mother, who died when he was
only a twelvemonth old.
And yet the old squaw Tistig, at Gayhead, said that the name would somehow prove
prophetic. And, perhaps, other fools like her may tell
thee the same.
I wish to warn thee. It's a lie.
I know Captain Ahab well; I've sailed with him as mate years ago; I know what he is--a
good man--not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a swearing good man--something
like me--only there's a good deal more of him.
Aye, aye, I know that he was never very jolly; and I know that on the passage home,
he was a little out of his mind for a spell; but it was the sharp shooting pains
in his bleeding stump that brought that about, as any one might see.
I know, too, that ever since he lost his leg last voyage by that accursed whale,
he's been a kind of moody--desperate moody, and savage sometimes; but that will all
pass off.
And once for all, let me tell thee and assure thee, young man, it's better to sail
with a moody good captain than a laughing bad one.
So good-bye to thee--and wrong not Captain Ahab, because he happens to have a wicked
name. Besides, my boy, he has a wife--not three
voyages wedded--a sweet, resigned girl.
Think of that; by that sweet girl that old man has a child: hold ye then there can be
any utter, hopeless harm in Ahab? No, no, my lad; stricken, blasted, if he
be, Ahab has his humanities!"
As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had been incidentally
revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me with a certain wild vagueness of
painfulness concerning him.
And somehow, at the time, I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for him, but for I don't know
what, unless it was the cruel loss of his leg.
And yet I also felt a strange awe of him; but that sort of awe, which I cannot at all
describe, was not exactly awe; I do not know what it was.
But I felt it; and it did not disincline me towards him; though I felt impatience at
what seemed like mystery in him, so imperfectly as he was known to me then.
However, my thoughts were at length carried in other directions, so that for the
present dark Ahab slipped my mind.
-Chapter 17. The Ramadan.
As Queequeg's Ramadan, or Fasting and Humiliation, was to continue all day, I did
not choose to disturb him till towards night-fall; for I cherish the greatest
respect towards everybody's religious
obligations, never mind how comical, and could not find it in my heart to undervalue
even a congregation of ants worshipping a toad-stool; or those other creatures in
certain parts of our earth, who with a
degree of footmanism quite unprecedented in other planets, bow down before the torso of
a deceased landed proprietor merely on account of the inordinate possessions yet
owned and rented in his name.
I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these things, and
not fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals, pagans and what not, because
of their half-crazy conceits on these subjects.
There was Queequeg, now, certainly entertaining the most absurd notions about
Yojo and his Ramadan;--but what of that?
Queequeg thought he knew what he was about, I suppose; he seemed to be content; and
there let him rest.
All our arguing with him would not avail; let him be, I say: and Heaven have mercy on
us all--Presbyterians and Pagans alike--for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about
the head, and sadly need mending.
Towards evening, when I felt assured that all his performances and rituals must be
over, I went up to his room and knocked at the door; but no answer.
I tried to open it, but it was fastened inside.
"Queequeg," said I softly through the key- hole:--all silent.
"I say, Queequeg! why don't you speak?
It's I--Ishmael." But all remained still as before.
I began to grow alarmed.
I had allowed him such abundant time; I thought he might have had an apoplectic
I looked through the key-hole; but the door opening into an odd corner of the room, the
key-hole prospect was but a crooked and sinister one.
I could only see part of the foot-board of the bed and a line of the wall, but nothing
I was surprised to behold resting against the wall the wooden shaft of Queequeg's
harpoon, which the landlady the evening previous had taken from him, before our
mounting to the chamber.
That's strange, thought I; but at any rate, since the harpoon stands yonder, and he
seldom or never goes abroad without it, therefore he must be inside here, and no
possible mistake.
"Queequeg!--Queequeg!"--all still. Something must have happened.
Apoplexy! I tried to burst open the door; but it
stubbornly resisted.
Running down stairs, I quickly stated my suspicions to the first person I met--the
chamber-maid. "La! la!" she cried, "I thought something
must be the matter.
I went to make the bed after breakfast, and the door was locked; and not a mouse to be
heard; and it's been just so silent ever since.
But I thought, may be, you had both gone off and locked your baggage in for safe
keeping. La! la, ma'am!--Mistress! murder!
Mrs. Hussey! apoplexy!"--and with these cries, she ran towards the kitchen, I
Mrs. Hussey soon appeared, with a mustard- pot in one hand and a vinegar-cruet in the
other, having just broken away from the occupation of attending to the castors, and
scolding her little black boy meantime.
"Wood-house!" cried I, "which way to it?
Run for God's sake, and fetch something to pry open the door--the axe!--the axe! he's
had a stroke; depend upon it!"--and so saying I was unmethodically rushing up
stairs again empty-handed, when Mrs. Hussey
interposed the mustard-pot and vinegar- cruet, and the entire castor of her
countenance. "What's the matter with you, young man?"
"Get the axe!
For God's sake, run for the doctor, some one, while I pry it open!"
"Look here," said the landlady, quickly putting down the vinegar-cruet, so as to
have one hand free; "look here; are you talking about prying open any of my
doors?"--and with that she seized my arm.
"What's the matter with you? What's the matter with you, shipmate?"
In as calm, but rapid a manner as possible, I gave her to understand the whole case.
Unconsciously clapping the vinegar-cruet to one side of her nose, she ruminated for an
instant; then exclaimed--"No! I haven't seen it since I put it there."
Running to a little closet under the landing of the stairs, she glanced in, and
returning, told me that Queequeg's harpoon was missing.
"He's killed himself," she cried.
"It's unfort'nate Stiggs done over again there goes another counterpane--God pity
his poor mother!--it will be the ruin of my house.
Has the poor lad a sister?
Where's that girl?--there, Betty, go to Snarles the Painter, and tell him to paint
me a sign, with--"no suicides permitted here, and no smoking in the parlor;"--might
as well kill both birds at once.
Kill? The Lord be merciful to his ghost!
What's that noise there? You, young man, avast there!"
And running up after me, she caught me as I was again trying to force open the door.
"I don't allow it; I won't have my premises spoiled.
Go for the locksmith, there's one about a mile from here.
But avast!" putting her hand in her side- pocket, "here's a key that'll fit, I guess;
let's see."
And with that, she turned it in the lock; but, alas!
Queequeg's supplemental bolt remained unwithdrawn within.
"Have to burst it open," said I, and was running down the entry a little, for a good
start, when the landlady caught at me, again vowing I should not break down her
premises; but I tore from her, and with a
sudden bodily rush dashed myself full against the mark.
With a prodigious noise the door flew open, and the knob slamming against the wall,
sent the plaster to the ceiling; and there, good heavens! there sat Queequeg,
altogether cool and self-collected; right
in the middle of the room; squatting on his hams, and holding Yojo on top of his head.
He looked neither one way nor the other way, but sat like a carved image with
scarce a sign of active life.
"Queequeg," said I, going up to him, "Queequeg, what's the matter with you?"
"He hain't been a sittin' so all day, has he?" said the landlady.
But all we said, not a word could we drag out of him; I almost felt like pushing him
over, so as to change his position, for it was almost intolerable, it seemed so
painfully and unnaturally constrained;
especially, as in all probability he had been sitting so for upwards of eight or ten
hours, going too without his regular meals.
"Mrs. Hussey," said I, "he's ALIVE at all events; so leave us, if you please, and I
will see to this strange affair myself."
Closing the door upon the landlady, I endeavored to prevail upon Queequeg to take
a chair; but in vain.
There he sat; and all he could do--for all my polite arts and blandishments--he would
not move a peg, nor say a single word, nor even look at me, nor notice my presence in
the slightest way.
I wonder, thought I, if this can possibly be a part of his Ramadan; do they fast on
their hams that way in his native island.
It must be so; yes, it's part of his creed, I suppose; well, then, let him rest; he'll
get up sooner or later, no doubt.
It can't last for ever, thank God, and his Ramadan only comes once a year; and I don't
believe it's very punctual then. I went down to supper.
After sitting a long time listening to the long stories of some sailors who had just
come from a plum-pudding voyage, as they called it (that is, a short whaling-voyage
in a schooner or brig, confined to the
north of the line, in the Atlantic Ocean only); after listening to these plum-
puddingers till nearly eleven o'clock, I went up stairs to go to bed, feeling quite
sure by this time Queequeg must certainly have brought his Ramadan to a termination.
But no; there he was just where I had left him; he had not stirred an inch.
I began to grow vexed with him; it seemed so downright senseless and insane to be
sitting there all day and half the night on his hams in a cold room, holding a piece of
wood on his head.
"For heaven's sake, Queequeg, get up and shake yourself; get up and have some
supper. You'll starve; you'll kill yourself,
But not a word did he reply. Despairing of him, therefore, I determined
to go to bed and to sleep; and no doubt, before a great while, he would follow me.
But previous to turning in, I took my heavy bearskin jacket, and threw it over him, as
it promised to be a very cold night; and he had nothing but his ordinary round jacket
For some time, do all I would, I could not get into the faintest doze.
I had blown out the candle; and the mere thought of Queequeg--not four feet off--
sitting there in that uneasy position, stark alone in the cold and dark; this made
me really wretched.
Think of it; sleeping all night in the same room with a wide awake pagan on his hams in
this dreary, unaccountable Ramadan!
But somehow I dropped off at last, and knew nothing more till break of day; when,
looking over the bedside, there squatted Queequeg, as if he had been screwed down to
the floor.
But as soon as the first glimpse of sun entered the window, up he got, with stiff
and grating joints, but with a cheerful look; limped towards me where I lay;
pressed his forehead again against mine; and said his Ramadan was over.
Now, as I before hinted, I have no objection to any person's religion, be it
what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person,
because that other person don't believe it also.
But when a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to
him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I
think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him.
And just so I now did with Queequeg. "Queequeg," said I, "get into bed now, and
lie and listen to me."
I then went on, beginning with the rise and progress of the primitive religions, and
coming down to the various religions of the present time, during which time I labored
to show Queequeg that all these Lents,
Ramadans, and prolonged ham-squattings in cold, cheerless rooms were stark nonsense;
bad for the health; useless for the soul; opposed, in short, to the obvious laws of
Hygiene and common sense.
I told him, too, that he being in other things such an extremely sensible and
sagacious savage, it pained me, very badly pained me, to see him now so deplorably
foolish about this ridiculous Ramadan of his.
Besides, argued I, fasting makes the body cave in; hence the spirit caves in; and all
thoughts born of a fast must necessarily be half-starved.
This is the reason why most dyspeptic religionists cherish such melancholy
notions about their hereafters.
In one word, Queequeg, said I, rather digressively; hell is an idea first born on
an undigested apple-dumpling; and since then perpetuated through the hereditary
dyspepsias nurtured by Ramadans.
I then asked Queequeg whether he himself was ever troubled with dyspepsia;
expressing the idea very plainly, so that he could take it in.
He said no; only upon one memorable occasion.
It was after a great feast given by his father the king, on the gaining of a great
battle wherein fifty of the enemy had been killed by about two o'clock in the
afternoon, and all cooked and eaten that very evening.
"No more, Queequeg," said I, shuddering; "that will do;" for I knew the inferences
without his further hinting them.
I had seen a sailor who had visited that very island, and he told me that it was the
custom, when a great battle had been gained there, to barbecue all the slain in the
yard or garden of the victor; and then, one
by one, they were placed in great wooden trenchers, and garnished round like a
pilau, with breadfruit and cocoanuts; and with some parsley in their mouths, were
sent round with the victor's compliments to
all his friends, just as though these presents were so many Christmas turkeys.
After all, I do not think that my remarks about religion made much impression upon
Because, in the first place, he somehow seemed dull of hearing on that important
subject, unless considered from his own point of view; and, in the second place, he
did not more than one third understand me,
couch my ideas simply as I would; and, finally, he no doubt thought he knew a good
deal more about the true religion than I did.
He looked at me with a sort of condescending concern and compassion, as
though he thought it a great pity that such a sensible young man should be so
hopelessly lost to evangelical pagan piety.
At last we rose and dressed; and Queequeg, taking a prodigiously hearty breakfast of
chowders of all sorts, so that the landlady should not make much profit by reason of
his Ramadan, we sallied out to board the
Pequod, sauntering along, and picking our teeth with halibut bones.
Chapter 18. His Mark.
As we were walking down the end of the wharf towards the ship, Queequeg carrying
his harpoon, Captain Peleg in his gruff voice loudly hailed us from his wigwam,
saying he had not suspected my friend was a
cannibal, and furthermore announcing that he let no cannibals on board that craft,
unless they previously produced their papers.
"What do you mean by that, Captain Peleg?" said I, now jumping on the bulwarks, and
leaving my comrade standing on the wharf. "I mean," he replied, "he must show his
"Yes," said Captain Bildad in his hollow voice, sticking his head from behind
Peleg's, out of the wigwam. "He must show that he's converted.
Son of darkness," he added, turning to Queequeg, "art thou at present in communion
with any Christian church?" "Why," said I, "he's a member of the first
Congregational Church."
Here be it said, that many tattooed savages sailing in Nantucket ships at last come to
be converted into the churches.
"First Congregational Church," cried Bildad, "what! that worships in Deacon
Deuteronomy Coleman's meeting-house?" and so saying, taking out his spectacles, he
rubbed them with his great yellow bandana
handkerchief, and putting them on very carefully, came out of the wigwam, and
leaning stiffly over the bulwarks, took a good long look at Queequeg.
"How long hath he been a member?" he then said, turning to me; "not very long, I
rather guess, young man."
"No," said Peleg, "and he hasn't been baptized right either, or it would have
washed some of that devil's blue off his face."
"Do tell, now," cried Bildad, "is this Philistine a regular member of Deacon
Deuteronomy's meeting? I never saw him going there, and I pass it
every Lord's day."
"I don't know anything about Deacon Deuteronomy or his meeting," said I; "all I
know is, that Queequeg here is a born member of the First Congregational Church.
He is a deacon himself, Queequeg is."
"Young man," said Bildad sternly, "thou art skylarking with me--explain thyself, thou
young Hittite. What church dost thee mean? answer me."
Finding myself thus hard pushed, I replied.
"I mean, sir, the same ancient Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain
Peleg there, and Queequeg here, and all of us, and every mother's son and soul of us
belong; the great and everlasting First
Congregation of this whole worshipping world; we all belong to that; only some of
us cherish some queer crotchets no ways touching the grand belief; in THAT we all
join hands."
"Splice, thou mean'st SPLICE hands," cried Peleg, drawing nearer.
"Young man, you'd better ship for a missionary, instead of a fore-mast hand; I
never heard a better sermon.
Deacon Deuteronomy--why Father Mapple himself couldn't beat it, and he's reckoned
something. Come aboard, come aboard; never mind about
the papers.
I say, tell Quohog there--what's that you call him? tell Quohog to step along.
By the great anchor, what a harpoon he's got there! looks like good stuff that; and
he handles it about right.
I say, Quohog, or whatever your name is, did you ever stand in the head of a whale-
boat? did you ever strike a fish?"
Without saying a word, Queequeg, in his wild sort of way, jumped upon the bulwarks,
from thence into the bows of one of the whale-boats hanging to the side; and then
bracing his left knee, and poising his
harpoon, cried out in some such way as this:--
"Cap'ain, you see him small drop tar on water dere?
You see him? well, spose him one whale eye, well, den!" and taking sharp aim at it, he
darted the iron right over old Bildad's broad brim, clean across the ship's decks,
and struck the glistening tar spot out of sight.
"Now," said Queequeg, quietly hauling in the line, "spos-ee him whale-e eye; why,
dad whale dead."
"Quick, Bildad," said Peleg, his partner, who, aghast at the close vicinity of the
flying harpoon, had retreated towards the cabin gangway.
"Quick, I say, you Bildad, and get the ship's papers.
We must have Hedgehog there, I mean Quohog, in one of our boats.
Look ye, Quohog, we'll give ye the ninetieth lay, and that's more than ever
was given a harpooneer yet out of Nantucket."
So down we went into the cabin, and to my great joy Queequeg was soon enrolled among
the same ship's company to which I myself belonged.
When all preliminaries were over and Peleg had got everything ready for signing, he
turned to me and said, "I guess, Quohog there don't know how to write, does he?
I say, Quohog, blast ye! dost thou sign thy name or make thy mark?"
But at this question, Queequeg, who had twice or thrice before taken part in
similar ceremonies, looked no ways abashed; but taking the offered pen, copied upon the
paper, in the proper place, an exact
counterpart of a queer round figure which was tattooed upon his arm; so that through
Captain Peleg's obstinate mistake touching his appellative, it stood something like
Quohog. his X mark.
Meanwhile Captain Bildad sat earnestly and steadfastly eyeing Queequeg, and at last
rising solemnly and fumbling in the huge pockets of his broad-skirted drab coat,
took out a bundle of tracts, and selecting
one entitled "The Latter Day Coming; or No Time to Lose," placed it in Queequeg's
hands, and then grasping them and the book with both his, looked earnestly into his
eyes, and said, "Son of darkness, I must do
my duty by thee; I am part owner of this ship, and feel concerned for the souls of
all its crew; if thou still clingest to thy Pagan ways, which I sadly fear, I beseech
thee, remain not for aye a Belial bondsman.
Spurn the idol Bell, and the hideous dragon; turn from the wrath to come; mind
thine eye, I say; oh! goodness gracious! steer clear of the fiery pit!"
Something of the salt sea yet lingered in old Bildad's language, heterogeneously
mixed with Scriptural and domestic phrases. "Avast there, avast there, Bildad, avast
now spoiling our harpooneer," Peleg.
"Pious harpooneers never make good voyagers--it takes the shark out of 'em; no
harpooneer is worth a straw who aint pretty sharkish.
There was young Nat Swaine, once the bravest boat-header out of all Nantucket
and the Vineyard; he joined the meeting, and never came to good.
He got so frightened about his plaguy soul, that he shrinked and sheered away from
whales, for fear of after-claps, in case he got stove and went to Davy Jones."
Peleg!" said Bildad, lifting his eyes and hands, "thou thyself, as I myself, hast
seen many a perilous time; thou knowest, Peleg, what it is to have the fear of
death; how, then, can'st thou prate in this ungodly guise.
Thou beliest thine own heart, Peleg.
Tell me, when this same Pequod here had her three masts overboard in that typhoon on
Japan, that same voyage when thou went mate with Captain Ahab, did'st thou not think of
Death and the Judgment then?"
"Hear him, hear him now," cried Peleg, marching across the cabin, and thrusting
his hands far down into his pockets,--"hear him, all of ye.
Think of that!
When every moment we thought the ship would sink!
Death and the Judgment then? What?
With all three masts making such an everlasting thundering against the side;
and every sea breaking over us, fore and aft.
Think of Death and the Judgment then?
No! no time to think about Death then.
Life was what Captain Ahab and I was thinking of; and how to save all hands--how
to rig jury-masts--how to get into the nearest port; that was what I was thinking
Bildad said no more, but buttoning up his coat, stalked on deck, where we followed
There he stood, very quietly overlooking some sailmakers who were mending a top-sail
in the waist.
Now and then he stooped to pick up a patch, or save an end of tarred twine, which
otherwise might have been wasted.
Chapter 19. The Prophet.
"Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship?"
Queequeg and I had just left the Pequod, and were sauntering away from the water,
for the moment each occupied with his own thoughts, when the above words were put to
us by a stranger, who, pausing before us,
levelled his massive forefinger at the vessel in question.
He was but shabbily apparelled in faded jacket and patched trowsers; a rag of a
black handkerchief investing his neck.
A confluent small-pox had in all directions flowed over his face, and left it like the
complicated ribbed bed of a torrent, when the rushing waters have been dried up.
"Have ye shipped in her?" he repeated.
"You mean the ship Pequod, I suppose," said I, trying to gain a little more time for an
uninterrupted look at him.
"Aye, the Pequod--that ship there," he said, drawing back his whole arm, and then
rapidly shoving it straight out from him, with the fixed bayonet of his pointed
finger darted full at the object.
"Yes," said I, "we have just signed the articles."
"Anything down there about your souls?" "About what?"
"Oh, perhaps you hav'n't got any," he said quickly.
"No matter though, I know many chaps that hav'n't got any,--good luck to 'em; and
they are all the better off for it.
A soul's a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon."
"What are you jabbering about, shipmate?" said I.
"HE'S got enough, though, to make up for all deficiencies of that sort in other
chaps," abruptly said the stranger, placing a nervous emphasis upon the word HE.
"Queequeg," said I, "let's go; this fellow has broken loose from somewhere; he's
talking about something and somebody we don't know."
"Stop!" cried the stranger.
"Ye said true--ye hav'n't seen Old Thunder yet, have ye?"
"Who's Old Thunder?" said I, again riveted with the insane earnestness of his manner.
"Captain Ahab."
"What! the captain of our ship, the Pequod?"
"Aye, among some of us old sailor chaps, he goes by that name.
Ye hav'n't seen him yet, have ye?"
"No, we hav'n't. He's sick they say, but is getting better,
and will be all right again before long."
"All right again before long!" laughed the stranger, with a solemnly derisive sort of
"Look ye; when Captain Ahab is all right, then this left arm of mine will be all
right; not before." "What do you know about him?"
"What did they TELL you about him?
Say that!" "They didn't tell much of anything about
him; only I've heard that he's a good whale-hunter, and a good captain to his
"That's true, that's true--yes, both true enough.
But you must jump when he gives an order. Step and growl; growl and go--that's the
word with Captain Ahab.
But nothing about that thing that happened to him off Cape Horn, long ago, when he lay
like dead for three days and nights; nothing about that deadly skrimmage with
the Spaniard afore the altar in Santa?-- heard nothing about that, eh?
Nothing about the silver calabash he spat into?
And nothing about his losing his leg last voyage, according to the prophecy.
Didn't ye hear a word about them matters and something more, eh?
No, I don't think ye did; how could ye?
Who knows it? Not all Nantucket, I guess.
But hows'ever, mayhap, ye've heard tell about the leg, and how he lost it; aye, ye
have heard of that, I dare say.
Oh yes, THAT every one knows a'most--I mean they know he's only one leg; and that a
parmacetti took the other off."
"My friend," said I, "what all this gibberish of yours is about, I don't know,
and I don't much care; for it seems to me that you must be a little damaged in the
But if you are speaking of Captain Ahab, of that ship there, the Pequod, then let me
tell you, that I know all about the loss of his leg."
"ALL about it, eh--sure you do?--all?"
"Pretty sure."
With finger pointed and eye levelled at the Pequod, the beggar-like stranger stood a
moment, as if in a troubled reverie; then starting a little, turned and said:--"Ye've
shipped, have ye?
Names down on the papers? Well, well, what's signed, is signed; and
what's to be, will be; and then again, perhaps it won't be, after all.
Anyhow, it's all fixed and arranged a'ready; and some sailors or other must go
with him, I suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity 'em!
Morning to ye, shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bless ye; I'm sorry I
stopped ye."
"Look here, friend," said I, "if you have anything important to tell us, out with it;
but if you are only trying to bamboozle us, you are mistaken in your game; that's all I
have to say."
"And it's said very well, and I like to hear a chap talk up that way; you are just
the man for him--the likes of ye. Morning to ye, shipmates, morning!
Oh! when ye get there, tell 'em I've concluded not to make one of 'em."
"Ah, my dear fellow, you can't fool us that way--you can't fool us.
It is the easiest thing in the world for a man to look as if he had a great secret in
him." "Morning to ye, shipmates, morning."
"Morning it is," said I.
"Come along, Queequeg, let's leave this crazy man.
But stop, tell me your name, will you?" "Elijah."
Elijah! thought I, and we walked away, both commenting, after each other's fashion,
upon this ragged old sailor; and agreed that he was nothing but a humbug, trying to
be a bugbear.
But we had not gone perhaps above a hundred yards, when chancing to turn a corner, and
looking back as I did so, who should be seen but Elijah following us, though at a
Somehow, the sight of him struck me so, that I said nothing to Queequeg of his
being behind, but passed on with my comrade, anxious to see whether the
stranger would turn the same corner that we did.
He did; and then it seemed to me that he was dogging us, but with what intent I
could not for the life of me imagine.
This circumstance, coupled with his ambiguous, half-hinting, half-revealing,
shrouded sort of talk, now begat in me all kinds of vague wonderments and half-
apprehensions, and all connected with the
Pequod; and Captain Ahab; and the leg he had lost; and the Cape Horn fit; and the
silver calabash; and what Captain Peleg had said of him, when I left the ship the day
previous; and the prediction of the squaw
Tistig; and the voyage we had bound ourselves to sail; and a hundred other
shadowy things.
I was resolved to satisfy myself whether this ragged Elijah was really dogging us or
not, and with that intent crossed the way with Queequeg, and on that side of it
retraced our steps.
But Elijah passed on, without seeming to notice us.
This relieved me; and once more, and finally as it seemed to me, I pronounced
him in my heart, a humbug.
Chapter 20. All Astir.
A day or two passed, and there was great activity aboard the Pequod.
Not only were the old sails being mended, but new sails were coming on board, and
bolts of canvas, and coils of rigging; in short, everything betokened that the ship's
preparations were hurrying to a close.
Captain Peleg seldom or never went ashore, but sat in his wigwam keeping a sharp look-
out upon the hands: Bildad did all the purchasing and providing at the stores; and
the men employed in the hold and on the
rigging were working till long after night- fall.
On the day following Queequeg's signing the articles, word was given at all the inns
where the ship's company were stopping, that their chests must be on board before
night, for there was no telling how soon the vessel might be sailing.
So Queequeg and I got down our traps, resolving, however, to sleep ashore till
the last.
But it seems they always give very long notice in these cases, and the ship did not
sail for several days.
But no wonder; there was a good deal to be done, and there is no telling how many
things to be thought of, before the Pequod was fully equipped.
Every one knows what a multitude of things- -beds, sauce-pans, knives and forks,
shovels and tongs, napkins, nut-crackers, and what not, are indispensable to the
business of housekeeping.
Just so with whaling, which necessitates a three-years' housekeeping upon the wide
ocean, far from all grocers, costermongers, doctors, bakers, and bankers.
And though this also holds true of merchant vessels, yet not by any means to the same
extent as with whalemen.
For besides the great length of the whaling voyage, the numerous articles peculiar to
the prosecution of the fishery, and the impossibility of replacing them at the
remote harbors usually frequented, it must
be remembered, that of all ships, whaling vessels are the most exposed to accidents
of all kinds, and especially to the destruction and loss of the very things
upon which the success of the voyage most depends.
Hence, the spare boats, spare spars, and spare lines and harpoons, and spare
everythings, almost, but a spare Captain and duplicate ship.
At the period of our arrival at the Island, the heaviest storage of the Pequod had been
almost completed; comprising her beef, bread, water, fuel, and iron hoops and
But, as before hinted, for some time there was a continual fetching and carrying on
board of divers odds and ends of things, both large and small.
Chief among those who did this fetching and carrying was Captain Bildad's sister, a
lean old lady of a most determined and indefatigable spirit, but withal very
kindhearted, who seemed resolved that, if
SHE could help it, nothing should be found wanting in the Pequod, after once fairly
getting to sea.
At one time she would come on board with a jar of pickles for the steward's pantry;
another time with a bunch of quills for the chief mate's desk, where he kept his log;
a third time with a roll of flannel for the small of some one's rheumatic back.
Never did any woman better deserve her name, which was Charity--Aunt Charity, as
everybody called her.
And like a sister of charity did this charitable Aunt Charity bustle about hither
and thither, ready to turn her hand and heart to anything that promised to yield
safety, comfort, and consolation to all on
board a ship in which her beloved brother Bildad was concerned, and in which she
herself owned a score or two of well-saved dollars.
But it was startling to see this excellent hearted Quakeress coming on board, as she
did the last day, with a long oil-ladle in one hand, and a still longer whaling lance
in the other.
Nor was Bildad himself nor Captain Peleg at all backward.
As for Bildad, he carried about with him a long list of the articles needed, and at
every fresh arrival, down went his mark opposite that article upon the paper.
Every once in a while Peleg came hobbling out of his whalebone den, roaring at the
men down the hatchways, roaring up to the riggers at the mast-head, and then
concluded by roaring back into his wigwam.
During these days of preparation, Queequeg and I often visited the craft, and as often
I asked about Captain Ahab, and how he was, and when he was going to come on board his
To these questions they would answer, that he was getting better and better, and was
expected aboard every day; meantime, the two captains, Peleg and Bildad, could
attend to everything necessary to fit the vessel for the voyage.
If I had been downright honest with myself, I would have seen very plainly in my heart
that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once
laying my eyes on the man who was to be the
absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea.
But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already
involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even
from himself.
And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.
At last it was given out that some time next day the ship would certainly sail.
So next morning, Queequeg and I took a very early start.
Chapter 21. Going Aboard.
It was nearly six o'clock, but only grey imperfect misty dawn, when we drew nigh the
"There are some sailors running ahead there, if I see right," said I to Queequeg,
"it can't be shadows; she's off by sunrise, I guess; come on!"
"Avast!" cried a voice, whose owner at the same time coming close behind us, laid a
hand upon both our shoulders, and then insinuating himself between us, stood
stooping forward a little, in the uncertain
twilight, strangely peering from Queequeg to me.
It was Elijah. "Going aboard?"
"Hands off, will you," said I.
"Lookee here," said Queequeg, shaking himself, "go 'way!"
"Ain't going aboard, then?" "Yes, we are," said I, "but what business
is that of yours?
Do you know, Mr. Elijah, that I consider you a little impertinent?"
"No, no, no; I wasn't aware of that," said Elijah, slowly and wonderingly looking from
me to Queequeg, with the most unaccountable glances.
"Elijah," said I, "you will oblige my friend and me by withdrawing.
We are going to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and would prefer not to be
"Ye be, be ye? Coming back afore breakfast?"
"He's cracked, Queequeg," said I, "come on."
"Holloa!" cried stationary Elijah, hailing us when we had removed a few paces.
"Never mind him," said I, "Queequeg, come on."
But he stole up to us again, and suddenly clapping his hand on my shoulder, said--
"Did ye see anything looking like men going towards that ship a while ago?"
Struck by this plain matter-of-fact question, I answered, saying, "Yes, I
thought I did see four or five men; but it was too dim to be sure."
"Very dim, very dim," said Elijah.
"Morning to ye." Once more we quitted him; but once more he
came softly after us; and touching my shoulder again, said, "See if you can find
'em now, will ye?
"Find who?" "Morning to ye! morning to ye!" he
rejoined, again moving off.
"Oh! I was going to warn ye against--but never mind, never mind--it's all one, all
in the family too;--sharp frost this morning, ain't it?
Good-bye to ye.
Shan't see ye again very soon, I guess; unless it's before the Grand Jury."
And with these cracked words he finally departed, leaving me, for the moment, in no
small wonderment at his frantic impudence.
At last, stepping on board the Pequod, we found everything in profound quiet, not a
soul moving.
The cabin entrance was locked within; the hatches were all on, and lumbered with
coils of rigging. Going forward to the forecastle, we found
the slide of the scuttle open.
Seeing a light, we went down, and found only an old rigger there, wrapped in a
tattered pea-jacket.
He was thrown at whole length upon two chests, his face downwards and inclosed in
his folded arms. The profoundest slumber slept upon him.
"Those sailors we saw, Queequeg, where can they have gone to?" said I, looking
dubiously at the sleeper.
But it seemed that, when on the wharf, Queequeg had not at all noticed what I now
alluded to; hence I would have thought myself to have been optically deceived in
that matter, were it not for Elijah's otherwise inexplicable question.
But I beat the thing down; and again marking the sleeper, jocularly hinted to
Queequeg that perhaps we had best sit up with the body; telling him to establish
himself accordingly.
He put his hand upon the sleeper's rear, as though feeling if it was soft enough; and
then, without more ado, sat quietly down there.
Queequeg, don't sit there," said I. "Oh! perry dood seat," said Queequeg, "my
country way; won't hurt him face."
"Face!" said I, "call that his face? very benevolent countenance then; but how hard
he breathes, he's heaving himself; get off, Queequeg, you are heavy, it's grinding the
face of the poor.
Get off, Queequeg! Look, he'll twitch you off soon.
I wonder he don't wake."
Queequeg removed himself to just beyond the head of the sleeper, and lighted his
tomahawk pipe. I sat at the feet.
We kept the pipe passing over the sleeper, from one to the other.
Meanwhile, upon questioning him in his broken fashion, Queequeg gave me to
understand that, in his land, owing to the absence of settees and sofas of all sorts,
the king, chiefs, and great people
generally, were in the custom of fattening some of the lower orders for ottomans; and
to furnish a house comfortably in that respect, you had only to buy up eight or
ten lazy fellows, and lay them round in the piers and alcoves.
Besides, it was very convenient on an excursion; much better than those garden-
chairs which are convertible into walking- sticks; upon occasion, a chief calling his
attendant, and desiring him to make a
settee of himself under a spreading tree, perhaps in some damp marshy place.
While narrating these things, every time Queequeg received the tomahawk from me, he
flourished the hatchet-side of it over the sleeper's head.
"What's that for, Queequeg?"
"Perry easy, kill-e; oh! perry easy!"
He was going on with some wild reminiscences about his tomahawk-pipe,
which, it seemed, had in its two uses both brained his foes and soothed his soul, when
we were directly attracted to the sleeping rigger.
The strong vapour now completely filling the contracted hole, it began to tell upon
He breathed with a sort of muffledness; then seemed troubled in the nose; then
revolved over once or twice; then sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"Holloa!" he breathed at last, "who be ye smokers?"
"Shipped men," answered I, "when does she sail?"
"Aye, aye, ye are going in her, be ye?
She sails to-day. The Captain came aboard last night."
"What Captain?--Ahab?" "Who but him indeed?"
I was going to ask him some further questions concerning Ahab, when we heard a
noise on deck. "Holloa!
Starbuck's astir," said the rigger.
"He's a lively chief mate, that; good man, and a pious; but all alive now, I must turn
to." And so saying he went on deck, and we
It was now clear sunrise.
Soon the crew came on board in twos and threes; the riggers bestirred themselves;
the mates were actively engaged; and several of the shore people were busy in
bringing various last things on board.
Meanwhile Captain Ahab remained invisibly enshrined within his cabin.
-Chapter 22. Merry Christmas.
At length, towards noon, upon the final dismissal of the ship's riggers, and after
the Pequod had been hauled out from the wharf, and after the ever-thoughtful
Charity had come off in a whale-boat, with
her last gift--a night-cap for Stubb, the second mate, her brother-in-law, and a
spare Bible for the steward--after all this, the two Captains, Peleg and Bildad,
issued from the cabin, and turning to the chief mate, Peleg said:
"Now, Mr. Starbuck, are you sure everything is right?
Captain Ahab is all ready--just spoke to him--nothing more to be got from shore, eh?
Well, call all hands, then. Muster 'em aft here--blast 'em!"
"No need of profane words, however great the hurry, Peleg," said Bildad, "but away
with thee, friend Starbuck, and do our bidding."
How now!
Here upon the very point of starting for the voyage, Captain Peleg and Captain
Bildad were going it with a high hand on the quarter-deck, just as if they were to
be joint-commanders at sea, as well as to all appearances in port.
And, as for Captain Ahab, no sign of him was yet to be seen; only, they said he was
in the cabin.
But then, the idea was, that his presence was by no means necessary in getting the
ship under weigh, and steering her well out to sea.
Indeed, as that was not at all his proper business, but the pilot's; and as he was
not yet completely recovered--so they said- -therefore, Captain Ahab stayed below.
And all this seemed natural enough; especially as in the merchant service many
captains never show themselves on deck for a considerable time after heaving up the
anchor, but remain over the cabin table,
having a farewell merry-making with their shore friends, before they quit the ship
for good with the pilot.
But there was not much chance to think over the matter, for Captain Peleg was now all
alive. He seemed to do most of the talking and
commanding, and not Bildad.
"Aft here, ye sons of bachelors," he cried, as the sailors lingered at the main-mast.
"Mr. Starbuck, drive'em aft." "Strike the tent there!"--was the next
As I hinted before, this whalebone marquee was never pitched except in port; and on
board the Pequod, for thirty years, the order to strike the tent was well known to
be the next thing to heaving up the anchor.
"Man the capstan! Blood and thunder!--jump!"--was the next
command, and the crew sprang for the handspikes.
Now in getting under weigh, the station generally occupied by the pilot is the
forward part of the ship.
And here Bildad, who, with Peleg, be it known, in addition to his other officers,
was one of the licensed pilots of the port- -he being suspected to have got himself
made a pilot in order to save the Nantucket
pilot-fee to all the ships he was concerned in, for he never piloted any other craft--
Bildad, I say, might now be seen actively engaged in looking over the bows for the
approaching anchor, and at intervals
singing what seemed a dismal stave of psalmody, to cheer the hands at the
windlass, who roared forth some sort of a chorus about the girls in Booble Alley,
with hearty good will.
Nevertheless, not three days previous, Bildad had told them that no profane songs
would be allowed on board the Pequod, particularly in getting under weigh; and
Charity, his sister, had placed a small
choice copy of Watts in each seaman's berth.
Meantime, overseeing the other part of the ship, Captain Peleg ripped and swore astern
in the most frightful manner.
I almost thought he would sink the ship before the anchor could be got up;
involuntarily I paused on my handspike, and told Queequeg to do the same, thinking of
the perils we both ran, in starting on the voyage with such a devil for a pilot.
I was comforting myself, however, with the thought that in pious Bildad might be found
some salvation, spite of his seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay; when I felt a
sudden sharp poke in my rear, and turning
round, was horrified at the apparition of Captain Peleg in the act of withdrawing his
leg from my immediate vicinity. That was my first kick.
"Is that the way they heave in the marchant service?" he roared.
"Spring, thou sheep-head; spring, and break thy backbone!
Why don't ye spring, I say, all of ye-- spring!
Quohog! spring, thou chap with the red whiskers; spring there, Scotch-cap; spring,
thou green pants.
Spring, I say, all of ye, and spring your eyes out!"
And so saying, he moved along the windlass, here and there using his leg very freely,
while imperturbable Bildad kept leading off with his psalmody.
Thinks I, Captain Peleg must have been drinking something to-day.
At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided.
It was a short, cold Christmas; and as the short northern day merged into night, we
found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean, whose freezing spray cased us
in ice, as in polished armor.
The long rows of teeth on the bulwarks glistened in the moonlight; and like the
white ivory tusks of some huge elephant, vast curving icicles depended from the
Lank Bildad, as pilot, headed the first watch, and ever and anon, as the old craft
deep dived into the green seas, and sent the shivering frost all over her, and the
winds howled, and the cordage rang, his steady notes were heard,--
"Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood, Stand dressed in living green.
So to the Jews old Canaan stood, While Jordan rolled between."
Never did those sweet words sound more sweetly to me than then.
They were full of hope and fruition.
Spite of this frigid winter night in the boisterous Atlantic, spite of my wet feet
and wetter jacket, there was yet, it then seemed to me, many a pleasant haven in
store; and meads and glades so eternally
vernal, that the grass shot up by the spring, untrodden, unwilted, remains at
midsummer. At last we gained such an offing, that the
two pilots were needed no longer.
The stout sail-boat that had accompanied us began ranging alongside.
It was curious and not unpleasing, how Peleg and Bildad were affected at this
juncture, especially Captain Bildad.
For loath to depart, yet; very loath to leave, for good, a ship bound on so long
and perilous a voyage--beyond both stormy Capes; a ship in which some thousands of
his hard earned dollars were invested; a
ship, in which an old shipmate sailed as captain; a man almost as old as he, once
more starting to encounter all the terrors of the pitiless jaw; loath to say good-bye
to a thing so every way brimful of every
interest to him,--poor old Bildad lingered long; paced the deck with anxious strides;
ran down into the cabin to speak another farewell word there; again came on deck,
and looked to windward; looked towards the
wide and endless waters, only bounded by the far-off unseen Eastern Continents;
looked towards the land; looked aloft; looked right and left; looked everywhere
and nowhere; and at last, mechanically
coiling a rope upon its pin, convulsively grasped stout Peleg by the hand, and
holding up a lantern, for a moment stood gazing heroically in his face, as much as
to say, "Nevertheless, friend Peleg, I can stand it; yes, I can."
As for Peleg himself, he took it more like a philosopher; but for all his philosophy,
there was a tear twinkling in his eye, when the lantern came too near.
And he, too, did not a little run from cabin to deck--now a word below, and now a
word with Starbuck, the chief mate.
But, at last, he turned to his comrade, with a final sort of look about him,--
"Captain Bildad--come, old shipmate, we must go.
Back the main-yard there!
Boat ahoy! Stand by to come close alongside, now!
Careful, careful!--come, Bildad, boy--say your last.
Luck to ye, Starbuck--luck to ye, Mr. Stubb--luck to ye, Mr. Flask--good-bye and
good luck to ye all--and this day three years I'll have a hot supper smoking for ye
in old Nantucket.
Hurrah and away!" "God bless ye, and have ye in His holy
keeping, men," murmured old Bildad, almost incoherently.
"I hope ye'll have fine weather now, so that Captain Ahab may soon be moving among
ye--a pleasant sun is all he needs, and ye'll have plenty of them in the tropic
voyage ye go.
Be careful in the hunt, ye mates. Don't stave the boats needlessly, ye
harpooneers; good white cedar plank is raised full three per cent. within the
Don't forget your prayers, either. Mr. Starbuck, mind that cooper don't waste
the spare staves. Oh! the sail-needles are in the green
Don't whale it too much a' Lord's days, men; but don't miss a fair chance either,
that's rejecting Heaven's good gifts. Have an eye to the molasses tierce, Mr.
Stubb; it was a little leaky, I thought.
If ye touch at the islands, Mr. Flask, beware of fornication.
Good-bye, good-bye! Don't keep that cheese too long down in the
hold, Mr. Starbuck; it'll spoil.
Be careful with the butter--twenty cents the pound it was, and mind ye, if--"
"Come, come, Captain Bildad; stop palavering,--away!" and with that, Peleg
hurried him over the side, and both dropt into the boat.
Ship and boat diverged; the cold, damp night breeze blew between; a screaming gull
flew overhead; the two hulls wildly rolled; we gave three heavy-hearted cheers, and
blindly plunged like fate into the lone Atlantic.
Chapter 23. The Lee Shore.
Some chapters back, one Bulkington was spoken of, a tall, newlanded mariner,
encountered in New Bedford at the inn.
When on that shivering winter's night, the Pequod thrust her vindictive bows into the
cold malicious waves, who should I see standing at her helm but Bulkington!
I looked with sympathetic awe and fearfulness upon the man, who in mid-winter
just landed from a four years' dangerous voyage, could so unrestingly push off again
for still another tempestuous term.
The land seemed scorching to his feet. Wonderfullest things are ever the
unmentionable; deep memories yield no epitaphs; this six-inch chapter is the
stoneless grave of Bulkington.
Let me only say that it fared with him as with the storm-tossed ship, that miserably
drives along the leeward land.
The port would fain give succor; the port is pitiful; in the port is safety, comfort,
hearthstone, supper, warm blankets, friends, all that's kind to our
But in that gale, the port, the land, is that ship's direst jeopardy; she must fly
all hospitality; one touch of land, though it but graze the keel, would make her
shudder through and through.
With all her might she crowds all sail off shore; in so doing, fights 'gainst the very
winds that fain would blow her homeward; seeks all the lashed sea's landlessness
again; for refuge's sake forlornly rushing
into peril; her only friend her bitterest foe!
Know ye now, Bulkington?
Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest
thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her
sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and
earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?
But as in landlessness alone resides highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as
God--so, better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously
dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety!
For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land!
Terrors of the terrible! is all this agony so vain?
Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee grimly, demigod!
Up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing-- straight up, leaps thy apotheosis!
Chapter 24. The Advocate.
As Queequeg and I are now fairly embarked in this business of whaling; and as this
business of whaling has somehow come to be regarded among landsmen as a rather
unpoetical and disreputable pursuit;
therefore, I am all anxiety to convince ye, ye landsmen, of the injustice hereby done
to us hunters of whales.
In the first place, it may be deemed almost superfluous to establish the fact, that
among people at large, the business of whaling is not accounted on a level with
what are called the liberal professions.
If a stranger were introduced into any miscellaneous metropolitan society, it
would but slightly advance the general opinion of his merits, were he presented to
the company as a harpooneer, say; and if in
emulation of the naval officers he should append the initials S.W.F (Sperm Whale
Fishery) to his visiting card, such a procedure would be deemed pre-eminently
presuming and ridiculous.
Doubtless one leading reason why the world declines honouring us whalemen, is this:
they think that, at best, our vocation amounts to a butchering sort of business;
and that when actively engaged therein, we
are surrounded by all manner of defilements.
Butchers we are, that is true.
But butchers, also, and butchers of the bloodiest badge have been all Martial
Commanders whom the world invariably delights to honour.
And as for the matter of the alleged uncleanliness of our business, ye shall
soon be initiated into certain facts hitherto pretty generally unknown, and
which, upon the whole, will triumphantly
plant the sperm whale-ship at least among the cleanliest things of this tidy earth.
But even granting the charge in question to be true; what disordered slippery decks of
a whale-ship are comparable to the unspeakable carrion of those battle-fields
from which so many soldiers return to drink in all ladies' plaudits?
And if the idea of peril so much enhances the popular conceit of the soldier's
profession; let me assure ye that many a veteran who has freely marched up to a
battery, would quickly recoil at the
apparition of the sperm whale's vast tail, fanning into eddies the air over his head.
For what are the comprehensible terrors of man compared with the interlinked terrors
and wonders of God!
But, though the world scouts at us whale hunters, yet does it unwittingly pay us the
profoundest homage; yea, an all-abounding adoration! for almost all the tapers,
lamps, and candles that burn round the
globe, burn, as before so many shrines, to our glory!
But look at this matter in other lights; weigh it in all sorts of scales; see what
we whalemen are, and have been.
Why did the Dutch in De Witt's time have admirals of their whaling fleets?
Why did Louis XVI. of France, at his own personal expense, fit out whaling ships
from Dunkirk, and politely invite to that town some score or two of families from our
own island of Nantucket?
Why did Britain between the years 1750 and 1788 pay to her whalemen in bounties
upwards of L1,000,000?
And lastly, how comes it that we whalemen of America now outnumber all the rest of
the banded whalemen in the world; sail a navy of upwards of seven hundred vessels;
manned by eighteen thousand men; yearly
consuming 4,000,000 of dollars; the ships worth, at the time of sailing, $20,000,000!
and every year importing into our harbors a well reaped harvest of $7,000,000.
How comes all this, if there be not something puissant in whaling?
But this is not the half; look again.
I freely assert, that the cosmopolite philosopher cannot, for his life, point out
one single peaceful influence, which within the last sixty years has operated more
potentially upon the whole broad world,
taken in one aggregate, than the high and mighty business of whaling.
One way and another, it has begotten events so remarkable in themselves, and so
continuously momentous in their sequential issues, that whaling may well be regarded
as that Egyptian mother, who bore offspring themselves pregnant from her womb.
It would be a hopeless, endless task to catalogue all these things.
Let a handful suffice.
For many years past the whale-ship has been the pioneer in ferreting out the remotest
and least known parts of the earth.
She has explored seas and archipelagoes which had no chart, where no Cook or
Vancouver had ever sailed.
If American and European men-of-war now peacefully ride in once savage harbors, let
them fire salutes to the honour and glory of the whale-ship, which originally showed
them the way, and first interpreted between them and the savages.
They may celebrate as they will the heroes of Exploring Expeditions, your Cooks, your
Krusensterns; but I say that scores of anonymous Captains have sailed out of
Nantucket, that were as great, and greater than your Cook and your Krusenstern.
For in their succourless empty-handedness, they, in the heathenish sharked waters, and
by the beaches of unrecorded, javelin islands, battled with virgin wonders and
terrors that Cook with all his marines and muskets would not willingly have dared.
All that is made such a flourish of in the old South Sea Voyages, those things were
but the life-time commonplaces of our heroic Nantucketers.
Often, adventures which Vancouver dedicates three chapters to, these men accounted
unworthy of being set down in the ship's common log.
Ah, the world!
Oh, the world!
Until the whale fishery rounded Cape Horn, no commerce but colonial, scarcely any
intercourse but colonial, was carried on between Europe and the long line of the
opulent Spanish provinces on the Pacific coast.
It was the whaleman who first broke through the jealous policy of the Spanish crown,
touching those colonies; and, if space permitted, it might be distinctly shown how
from those whalemen at last eventuated the
liberation of Peru, Chili, and Bolivia from the yoke of Old Spain, and the
establishment of the eternal democracy in those parts.
That great America on the other side of the sphere, Australia, was given to the
enlightened world by the whaleman.
After its first blunder-born discovery by a Dutchman, all other ships long shunned
those shores as pestiferously barbarous; but the whale-ship touched there.
The whale-ship is the true mother of that now mighty colony.
Moreover, in the infancy of the first Australian settlement, the emigrants were
several times saved from starvation by the benevolent biscuit of the whale-ship
luckily dropping an anchor in their waters.
The uncounted isles of all Polynesia confess the same truth, and do commercial
homage to the whale-ship, that cleared the way for the missionary and the merchant,
and in many cases carried the primitive missionaries to their first destinations.
If that double-bolted land, Japan, is ever to become hospitable, it is the whale-ship
alone to whom the credit will be due; for already she is on the threshold.
But if, in the face of all this, you still declare that whaling has no aesthetically
noble associations connected with it, then am I ready to shiver fifty lances with you
there, and unhorse you with a split helmet every time.
The whale has no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler, you will say.
Who wrote the first account of our Leviathan?
Who but mighty Job!
And who composed the first narrative of a whaling-voyage?
Who, but no less a prince than Alfred the Great, who, with his own royal pen, took
down the words from Other, the Norwegian whale-hunter of those times!
And who pronounced our glowing eulogy in Parliament?
Who, but Edmund Burke!
True enough, but then whalemen themselves are poor devils; they have no good blood in
They have something better than royal blood there.
The grandmother of Benjamin Franklin was Mary Morrel; afterwards, by marriage, Mary
Folger, one of the old settlers of Nantucket, and the ancestress to a long
line of Folgers and harpooneers--all kith
and kin to noble Benjamin--this day darting the barbed iron from one side of the world
to the other. Good again; but then all confess that
somehow whaling is not respectable.
WHALING NOT RESPECTABLE? Whaling is imperial!
By old English statutory law, the whale is declared "a royal fish."*
Oh, that's only nominal!
The whale himself has never figured in any grand imposing way.
In one of the mighty triumphs given to a Roman general upon his entering the world's
capital, the bones of a whale, brought all the way from the Syrian coast, were the
most conspicuous object in the cymballed procession.*
*See subsequent chapters for something more on this head.
Grant it, since you cite it; but, say what you will, there is no real dignity in
The dignity of our calling the very heavens attest.
Cetus is a constellation in the South! No more!
Drive down your hat in presence of the Czar, and take it off to Queequeg!
No more! I know a man that, in his lifetime, has
taken three hundred and fifty whales.
I account that man more honourable than that great captain of antiquity who boasted
of taking as many walled towns.
And, as for me, if, by any possibility, there be any as yet undiscovered prime
thing in me; if I shall ever deserve any real repute in that small but high hushed
world which I might not be unreasonably
ambitious of; if hereafter I shall do anything that, upon the whole, a man might
rather have done than to have left undone; if, at my death, my executors, or more
properly my creditors, find any precious
MSS. in my desk, then here I prospectively ascribe all the honour and the glory to
whaling; for a whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.
Chapter 25. Postscript.
In behalf of the dignity of whaling, I would fain advance naught but substantiated
But after embattling his facts, an advocate who should wholly suppress a not
unreasonable surmise, which might tell eloquently upon his cause--such an
advocate, would he not be blameworthy?
It is well known that at the coronation of kings and queens, even modern ones, a
certain curious process of seasoning them for their functions is gone through.
There is a saltcellar of state, so called, and there may be a castor of state.
How they use the salt, precisely--who knows?
Certain I am, however, that a king's head is solemnly oiled at his coronation, even
as a head of salad.
Can it be, though, that they anoint it with a view of making its interior run well, as
they anoint machinery?
Much might be ruminated here, concerning the essential dignity of this regal
process, because in common life we esteem but meanly and contemptibly a fellow who
anoints his hair, and palpably smells of that anointing.
In truth, a mature man who uses hair-oil, unless medicinally, that man has probably
got a quoggy spot in him somewhere.
As a general rule, he can't amount to much in his totality.
But the only thing to be considered here, is this--what kind of oil is used at
Certainly it cannot be olive oil, nor macassar oil, nor castor oil, nor bear's
oil, nor train oil, nor cod-liver oil.
What then can it possibly be, but sperm oil in its unmanufactured, unpolluted state,
the sweetest of all oils?
Think of that, ye loyal Britons! we whalemen supply your kings and queens with
coronation stuff!