Part 2 out of 12
noble ship," the angel seemed to say, "beat on, beat on, thou noble
ship, and bear a hardy helm; for lo! the sun is breaking through; the
clouds are rolling off--serenest azure is at hand."
Nor was the pulpit itself without a trace of the same sea-taste that
had achieved the ladder and the picture. Its panelled front was in
the likeness of a ship's bluff bows, and the Holy Bible rested on a
projecting piece of scroll work, fashioned after a ship's
What could be more full of meaning?--for the pulpit is ever this
earth's foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit
leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God's quick wrath is
first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From
thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for
favourable winds. Yes, the world's a ship on its passage out, and not
a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.
Father Mapple rose, and in a mild voice of unassuming authority
ordered the scattered people to condense. "Starboard gangway,
there! side away to larboard--larboard gangway to starboard!
There was a low rumbling of heavy sea-boots among the benches, and a
still slighter shuffling of women's shoes, and all was quiet again,
and every eye on the preacher.
He paused a little; then kneeling in the pulpit's bows, folded his
large brown hands across his chest, uplifted his closed eyes, and
offered a prayer so deeply devout that he seemed kneeling and praying
at the bottom of the sea.
This ended, in prolonged solemn tones, like the continual tolling of
a bell in a ship that is foundering at sea in a fog--in such tones he
commenced reading the following hymn; but changing his manner towards
the concluding stanzas, burst forth with a pealing exultation and
"The ribs and terrors in the whale,
Arched over me a dismal gloom,
While all God's sun-lit waves rolled by,
And lift me deepening down to doom.
"I saw the opening maw of hell,
With endless pains and sorrows there;
Which none but they that feel can tell--
Oh, I was plunging to despair.
"In black distress, I called my God,
When I could scarce believe him mine,
He bowed his ear to my complaints--
No more the whale did me confine.
"With speed he flew to my relief,
As on a radiant dolphin borne;
Awful, yet bright, as lightning shone
The face of my Deliverer God.
"My song for ever shall record
That terrible, that joyful hour;
I give the glory to my God,
His all the mercy and the power.
Nearly all joined in singing this hymn, which swelled high above the
howling of the storm. A brief pause ensued; the preacher slowly
turned over the leaves of the Bible, and at last, folding his hand
down upon the proper page, said: "Beloved shipmates, clinch the last
verse of the first chapter of Jonah--'And God had prepared a great
fish to swallow up Jonah.'"
"Shipmates, this book, containing only four chapters--four yarns--is
one of the smallest strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures.
Yet what depths of the soul does Jonah's deep sealine sound! what a
pregnant lesson to us is this prophet! What a noble thing is that
canticle in the fish's belly! How billow-like and boisterously
grand! We feel the floods surging over us; we sound with him to the
kelpy bottom of the waters; sea-weed and all the slime of the sea is
about us! But WHAT is this lesson that the book of Jonah teaches?
Shipmates, it is a two-stranded lesson; a lesson to us all as sinful
men, and a lesson to me as a pilot of the living God. As sinful men,
it is a lesson to us all, because it is a story of the sin,
hard-heartedness, suddenly awakened fears, the swift punishment,
repentance, prayers, and finally the deliverance and joy of Jonah.
As with all sinners among men, the sin of this son of Amittai was in
his wilful disobedience of the command of God--never mind now what
that command was, or how conveyed--which he found a hard command.
But all the things that God would have us do are hard for us to
do--remember that--and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavors
to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it
is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God
"With this sin of disobedience in him, Jonah still further flouts at
God, by seeking to flee from Him. He thinks that a ship made by men
will carry him into countries where God does not reign, but only the
Captains of this earth. He skulks about the wharves of Joppa, and
seeks a ship that's bound for Tarshish. There lurks, perhaps, a
hitherto unheeded meaning here. By all accounts Tarshish could have
been no other city than the modern Cadiz. That's the opinion of
learned men. And where is Cadiz, shipmates? Cadiz is in Spain; as
far by water, from Joppa, as Jonah could possibly have sailed in
those ancient days, when the Atlantic was an almost unknown sea.
Because Joppa, the modern Jaffa, shipmates, is on the most easterly
coast of the Mediterranean, the Syrian; and Tarshish or Cadiz more
than two thousand miles to the westward from that, just outside the
Straits of Gibraltar. See ye not then, shipmates, that Jonah sought
to flee world-wide from God? Miserable man! Oh! most contemptible
and worthy of all scorn; with slouched hat and guilty eye, skulking
from his God; prowling among the shipping like a vile burglar
hastening to cross the seas. So disordered, self-condemning is his
look, that had there been policemen in those days, Jonah, on the mere
suspicion of something wrong, had been arrested ere he touched a
deck. How plainly he's a fugitive! no baggage, not a hat-box,
valise, or carpet-bag,--no friends accompany him to the wharf with
their adieux. At last, after much dodging search, he finds the
Tarshish ship receiving the last items of her cargo; and as he steps
on board to see its Captain in the cabin, all the sailors for the
moment desist from hoisting in the goods, to mark the stranger's evil
eye. Jonah sees this; but in vain he tries to look all ease and
confidence; in vain essays his wretched smile. Strong intuitions of
the man assure the mariners he can be no innocent. In their gamesome
but still serious way, one whispers to the other--"Jack, he's robbed
a widow;" or, "Joe, do you mark him; he's a bigamist;" or, "Harry
lad, I guess he's the adulterer that broke jail in old Gomorrah, or
belike, one of the missing murderers from Sodom." Another runs to
read the bill that's stuck against the spile upon the wharf to which
the ship is moored, offering five hundred gold coins for the
apprehension of a parricide, and containing a description of his
person. He reads, and looks from Jonah to the bill; while all his
sympathetic shipmates now crowd round Jonah, prepared to lay their
hands upon him. Frighted Jonah trembles, and summoning all his
boldness to his face, only looks so much the more a coward. He will
not confess himself suspected; but that itself is strong suspicion.
So he makes the best of it; and when the sailors find him not to be
the man that is advertised, they let him pass, and he descends into
"'Who's there?' cries the Captain at his busy desk, hurriedly making
out his papers for the Customs--'Who's there?' Oh! how that harmless
question mangles Jonah! For the instant he almost turns to flee
again. But he rallies. 'I seek a passage in this ship to Tarshish;
how soon sail ye, sir?' Thus far the busy Captain had not looked up
to Jonah, though the man now stands before him; but no sooner does he
hear that hollow voice, than he darts a scrutinizing glance. 'We
sail with the next coming tide,' at last he slowly answered, still
intently eyeing him. 'No sooner, sir?'--'Soon enough for any honest
man that goes a passenger.' Ha! Jonah, that's another stab. But he
swiftly calls away the Captain from that scent. 'I'll sail with
ye,'--he says,--'the passage money how much is that?--I'll pay now.'
For it is particularly written, shipmates, as if it were a thing not
to be overlooked in this history, 'that he paid the fare thereof' ere
the craft did sail. And taken with the context, this is full of
"Now Jonah's Captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects
crime in any, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless.
In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely,
and without a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at
all frontiers. So Jonah's Captain prepares to test the length of
Jonah's purse, ere he judge him openly. He charges him thrice the
usual sum; and it's assented to. Then the Captain knows that Jonah
is a fugitive; but at the same time resolves to help a flight that
paves its rear with gold. Yet when Jonah fairly takes out his purse,
prudent suspicions still molest the Captain. He rings every coin to
find a counterfeit. Not a forger, any way, he mutters; and Jonah is
put down for his passage. 'Point out my state-room, Sir,' says Jonah
now, 'I'm travel-weary; I need sleep.' 'Thou lookest like it,' says
the Captain, 'there's thy room.' Jonah enters, and would lock the
door, but the lock contains no key. Hearing him foolishly fumbling
there, the Captain laughs lowly to himself, and mutters something
about the doors of convicts' cells being never allowed to be locked
within. All dressed and dusty as he is, Jonah throws himself into
his berth, and finds the little state-room ceiling almost resting on
his forehead. The air is close, and Jonah gasps. Then, in that
contracted hole, sunk, too, beneath the ship's water-line, Jonah
feels the heralding presentiment of that stifling hour, when the
whale shall hold him in the smallest of his bowels' wards.
"Screwed at its axis against the side, a swinging lamp slightly
oscillates in Jonah's room; and the ship, heeling over towards the
wharf with the weight of the last bales received, the lamp, flame and
all, though in slight motion, still maintains a permanent obliquity
with reference to the room; though, in truth, infallibly straight
itself, it but made obvious the false, lying levels among which it
hung. The lamp alarms and frightens Jonah; as lying in his berth his
tormented eyes roll round the place, and this thus far successful
fugitive finds no refuge for his restless glance. But that
contradiction in the lamp more and more appals him. The floor, the
ceiling, and the side, are all awry. 'Oh! so my conscience hangs in
me!' he groans, 'straight upwards, so it burns; but the chambers of
my soul are all in crookedness!'
"Like one who after a night of drunken revelry hies to his bed, still
reeling, but with conscience yet pricking him, as the plungings of
the Roman race-horse but so much the more strike his steel tags into
him; as one who in that miserable plight still turns and turns in
giddy anguish, praying God for annihilation until the fit be passed;
and at last amid the whirl of woe he feels, a deep stupor steals over
him, as over the man who bleeds to death, for conscience is the
wound, and there's naught to staunch it; so, after sore wrestlings in
his berth, Jonah's prodigy of ponderous misery drags him drowning
down to sleep.
"And now the time of tide has come; the ship casts off her cables;
and from the deserted wharf the uncheered ship for Tarshish, all
careening, glides to sea. That ship, my friends, was the first of
recorded smugglers! the contraband was Jonah. But the sea rebels; he
will not bear the wicked burden. A dreadful storm comes on, the
ship is like to break. But now when the boatswain calls all hands to
lighten her; when boxes, bales, and jars are clattering overboard;
when the wind is shrieking, and the men are yelling, and every plank
thunders with trampling feet right over Jonah's head; in all this
raging tumult, Jonah sleeps his hideous sleep. He sees no black sky
and raging sea, feels not the reeling timbers, and little hears he or
heeds he the far rush of the mighty whale, which even now with open
mouth is cleaving the seas after him. Aye, shipmates, Jonah was gone
down into the sides of the ship--a berth in the cabin as I have taken
it, and was fast asleep. But the frightened master comes to him, and
shrieks in his dead ear, 'What meanest thou, O, sleeper! arise!'
Startled from his lethargy by that direful cry, Jonah staggers to his
feet, and stumbling to the deck, grasps a shroud, to look out upon
the sea. But at that moment he is sprung upon by a panther billow
leaping over the bulwarks. Wave after wave thus leaps into the ship,
and finding no speedy vent runs roaring fore and aft, till the
mariners come nigh to drowning while yet afloat. And ever, as the
white moon shows her affrighted face from the steep gullies in the
blackness overhead, aghast Jonah sees the rearing bowsprit pointing
high upward, but soon beat downward again towards the tormented deep.
"Terrors upon terrors run shouting through his soul. In all his
cringing attitudes, the God-fugitive is now too plainly known. The
sailors mark him; more and more certain grow their suspicions of him,
and at last, fully to test the truth, by referring the whole matter
to high Heaven, they fall to casting lots, to see for whose
cause this great tempest was upon them. The lot is Jonah's; that
discovered, then how furiously they mob him with their questions.
'What is thine occupation? Whence comest thou? Thy country? What
people? But mark now, my shipmates, the behavior of poor Jonah. The
eager mariners but ask him who he is, and where from; whereas, they
not only receive an answer to those questions, but likewise another
answer to a question not put by them, but the unsolicited answer is
forced from Jonah by the hard hand of God that is upon him.
"'I am a Hebrew,' he cries--and then--'I fear the Lord the God of
Heaven who hath made the sea and the dry land!' Fear him, O Jonah?
Aye, well mightest thou fear the Lord God THEN! Straightway, he now
goes on to make a full confession; whereupon the mariners became more
and more appalled, but still are pitiful. For when Jonah, not yet
supplicating God for mercy, since he but too well knew the darkness
of his deserts,--when wretched Jonah cries out to them to take him
and cast him forth into the sea, for he knew that for HIS sake this
great tempest was upon them; they mercifully turn from him, and seek
by other means to save the ship. But all in vain; the indignant gale
howls louder; then, with one hand raised invokingly to God, with the
other they not unreluctantly lay hold of Jonah.
"And now behold Jonah taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea;
when instantly an oily calmness floats out from the east, and the sea
is still, as Jonah carries down the gale with him, leaving smooth
water behind. He goes down in the whirling heart of such a
masterless commotion that he scarce heeds the moment when he drops
seething into the yawning jaws awaiting him; and the whale shoots-to
all his ivory teeth, like so many white bolts, upon his prison. Then
Jonah prayed unto the Lord out of the fish's belly. But observe his
prayer, and learn a weighty lesson. For sinful as he is, Jonah does
not weep and wail for direct deliverance. He feels that his dreadful
punishment is just. He leaves all his deliverance to God, contenting
himself with this, that spite of all his pains and pangs, he will
still look towards His holy temple. And here, shipmates, is true and
faithful repentance; not clamorous for pardon, but grateful for
punishment. And how pleasing to God was this conduct in Jonah, is
shown in the eventual deliverance of him from the sea and the whale.
Shipmates, I do not place Jonah before you to be copied for his sin
but I do place him before you as a model for repentance. Sin not;
but if you do, take heed to repent of it like Jonah."
While he was speaking these words, the howling of the shrieking,
slanting storm without seemed to add new power to the preacher, who,
when describing Jonah's sea-storm, seemed tossed by a storm himself.
His deep chest heaved as with a ground-swell; his tossed arms seemed
the warring elements at work; and the thunders that rolled away from
off his swarthy brow, and the light leaping from his eye, made all
his simple hearers look on him with a quick fear that was strange to
There now came a lull in his look, as he silently turned over the
leaves of the Book once more; and, at last, standing motionless, with
closed eyes, for the moment, seemed communing with God and himself.
But again he leaned over towards the people, and bowing his head
lowly, with an aspect of the deepest yet manliest humility, he spake
"Shipmates, God has laid but one hand upon you; both his hands press
upon me. I have read ye by what murky light may be mine the lesson
that Jonah teaches to all sinners; and therefore to ye, and still
more to me, for I am a greater sinner than ye. And now how gladly
would I come down from this mast-head and sit on the hatches there
where you sit, and listen as you listen, while some one of you reads
ME that other and more awful lesson which Jonah teaches to ME, as a
pilot of the living God. How being an anointed pilot-prophet, or
speaker of true things, and bidden by the Lord to sound those
unwelcome truths in the ears of a wicked Nineveh, Jonah, appalled at
the hostility he should raise, fled from his mission, and sought to
escape his duty and his God by taking ship at Joppa. But God is
everywhere; Tarshish he never reached. As we have seen, God came
upon him in the whale, and swallowed him down to living gulfs of
doom, and with swift slantings tore him along 'into the midst of the
seas,' where the eddying depths sucked him ten thousand fathoms down,
and 'the weeds were wrapped about his head,' and all the watery world
of woe bowled over him. Yet even then beyond the reach of any
plummet--'out of the belly of hell'--when the whale grounded upon the
ocean's utmost bones, even then, God heard the engulphed, repenting
prophet when he cried. Then God spake unto the fish; and from the
shuddering cold and blackness of the sea, the whale came breeching up
towards the warm and pleasant sun, and all the delights of air and
earth; and 'vomited out Jonah upon the dry land;' when the word of
the Lord came a second time; and Jonah, bruised and beaten--his ears,
like two sea-shells, still multitudinously murmuring of the
ocean--Jonah did the Almighty's bidding. And what was that,
shipmates? To preach the Truth to the face of Falsehood! That was
"This, shipmates, this is that other lesson; and woe to that pilot of
the living God who slights it. Woe to him whom this world charms
from Gospel duty! Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters
when God has brewed them into a gale! Woe to him who seeks to please
rather than to appal! Woe to him whose good name is more to him than
goodness! Woe to him who, in this world, courts not dishonour! Woe
to him who would not be true, even though to be false were salvation!
Yea, woe to him who, as the great Pilot Paul has it, while preaching
to others is himself a castaway!"
He dropped and fell away from himself for a moment; then lifting his
face to them again, showed a deep joy in his eyes, as he cried out
with a heavenly enthusiasm,--"But oh! shipmates! on the starboard
hand of every woe, there is a sure delight; and higher the top of
that delight, than the bottom of the woe is deep. Is not the
main-truck higher than the kelson is low? Delight is to him--a far,
far upward, and inward delight--who against the proud gods and
commodores of this earth, ever stands forth his own inexorable self.
Delight is to him whose strong arms yet support him, when the ship of
this base treacherous world has gone down beneath him. Delight is to
him, who gives no quarter in the truth, and kills, burns, and
destroys all sin though he pluck it out from under the robes of
Senators and Judges. Delight,--top-gallant delight is to him, who
acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his God, and is only a
patriot to heaven. Delight is to him, whom all the waves of the
billows of the seas of the boisterous mob can never shake from this
sure Keel of the Ages. And eternal delight and deliciousness will be
his, who coming to lay him down, can say with his final breath--O
Father!--chiefly known to me by Thy rod--mortal or immortal, here I
die. I have striven to be Thine, more than to be this world's, or
mine own. Yet this is nothing: I leave eternity to Thee; for what
is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?"
He said no more, but slowly waving a benediction, covered his face
with his hands, and so remained kneeling, till all the people had
departed, and he was left alone in the place.
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
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 top. 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 acquaintances. 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 courtesy. 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
bedfellows. 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 fireboard. 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
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
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 contrast. 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
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 lands. 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 oceans. 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
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.
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
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
"Capting! 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 eye. 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 disappeared. 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."
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-men. 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 direction. 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.
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
"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 affairs. 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 clam?"
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
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
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-whale. 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
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
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 scowl.
"Is this the Captain of the Pequod?" said I, advancing to the door of
"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
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
"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
"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 out. Clap eye on Captain Ahab, young man, and thou wilt find
that he has only one leg."
"What do you mean, sir? Was the other one lost by a whale?"
"Lost by a whale! Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured,
chewed up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped
a boat!--ah, ah!"
I was a little alarmed by his energy, perhaps also a little touched
at the hearty grief in his concluding exclamation, but said as calmly
as I could, "What you say is no doubt true enough, sir; but how could
I know there was any peculiar ferocity in that particular whale,
though indeed I might have inferred as much from the simple fact of
"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
"Sir," said I, "I thought I told you that I had been four voyages in
"Hard down out of that! Mind what I said about the marchant
service--don't aggravate me--I won't have it. But let us understand
each other. I have given thee a hint about what whaling is; do ye
yet feel inclined for it?"
"I do, sir."
"Very good. Now, art thou the man to pitch a harpoon down a live
whale's throat, and then jump after it? Answer, quick!"
"I am, sir, if it should be positively indispensable to do so; not to
be got rid of, that is; which I don't take to be the fact."
"Good again. Now then, thou not only wantest to go a-whaling, to
find out by experience what whaling is, but ye also want to go in
order to see the world? Was not that what ye said? I thought so.
Well then, just step forward there, and take a peep over the
weather-bow, and then back to me and tell me what ye see there."
For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this curious request, not
knowing exactly how to take it, whether humorously or in earnest.
But concentrating all his crow's feet into one scowl, Captain Peleg
started me on the errand.
Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived that the
ship swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide, was now obliquely
pointing towards the open ocean. The prospect was unlimited, but
exceedingly monotonous and forbidding; not the slightest variety that
I could see.
"Well, what's the report?" said Peleg when I came back; "what did ye
"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
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
So that there are instances among them of men, who, named with
Scripture names--a singularly common fashion on the island--and in
childhood naturally imbibing the stately dramatic thee and thou of
the Quaker idiom; still, from the audacious, daring, and boundless
adventure of their subsequent lives, strangely blend with these
unoutgrown peculiarities, a thousand bold dashes of character, not
unworthy a Scandinavian sea-king, or a poetical Pagan Roman. And
when these things unite in a man of greatly superior natural force,
with a globular brain and a ponderous heart; who has also by the
stillness and seclusion of many long night-watches in the remotest
waters, and beneath constellations never seen here at the north, been
led to think untraditionally and independently; receiving all
nature's sweet or savage impressions fresh from her own virgin
voluntary and confiding breast, and thereby chiefly, but with some
help from accidental advantages, to learn a bold and nervous lofty
language--that man makes one in a whole nation's census--a mighty
pageant creature, formed for noble tragedies. Nor will it at all
detract from him, dramatically regarded, if either by birth or other
circumstances, he have what seems a half wilful overruling morbidness
at the bottom of his nature. For all men tragically great are made
so through a certain morbidness. Be sure of this, O young ambition,
all mortal greatness is but disease. But, as yet we have not to do
with such an one, but with quite another; and still a man, who, if
indeed peculiar, it only results again from another phase of the
Quaker, modified by individual circumstances.
Like Captain Peleg, Captain Bildad was a well-to-do, retired
whaleman. But unlike Captain Peleg--who cared not a rush for what
are called serious things, and indeed deemed those self-same serious
things the veriest of all trifles--Captain Bildad had not only been
originally educated according to the strictest sect of Nantucket
Quakerism, but all his subsequent ocean life, and the sight of many
unclad, lovely island creatures, round the Horn--all that had not
moved this native born Quaker one single jot, had not so much as
altered one angle of his vest. Still, for all this immutableness,
was there some lack of common consistency about worthy Captain
Peleg. Though refusing, from conscientious scruples, to bear arms
against land invaders, yet himself had illimitably invaded the
Atlantic and Pacific; and though a sworn foe to human bloodshed, yet
had he in his straight-bodied coat, spilled tuns upon tuns of
leviathan gore. How now in the contemplative evening of his days,
the pious Bildad reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do
not know; but it did not seem to concern him much, and very probably
he had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a
man's religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another.
This world pays dividends. Rising from a little cabin-boy in short
clothes of the drabbest drab, to a harpooneer in a broad shad-bellied
waistcoat; from that becoming boat-header, chief-mate, and captain,
and finally a ship owner; Bildad, as I hinted before, had concluded
his adventurous career by wholly retiring from active life at the
goodly age of sixty, and dedicating his remaining days to the quiet
receiving of his well-earned income.
Now, Bildad, I am sorry to say, had the reputation of being an
incorrigible old hunks, and in his sea-going days, a bitter, hard
task-master. They told me in Nantucket, though it certainly seems a
curious story, that when he sailed the old Categut whaleman, his
crew, upon arriving home, were mostly all carried ashore to the
hospital, sore exhausted and worn out. For a pious man, especially
for a Quaker, he was certainly rather hard-hearted, to say the
least. He never used to swear, though, at his men, they said; but
somehow he got an inordinate quantity of cruel, unmitigated hard work
out of them. When Bildad was a chief-mate, to have his drab-coloured
eye intently looking at you, made you feel completely nervous, till
you could clutch something--a hammer or a marling-spike, and go to
work like mad, at something or other, never mind what. Indolence and
idleness perished before him. His own person was the exact
embodiment of his utilitarian character. On his long, gaunt body, he
carried no spare flesh, no superfluous beard, his chin having a soft,
economical nap to it, like the worn nap of his broad-brimmed hat.
Such, then, was the person that I saw seated on the transom when I
followed Captain Peleg down into the cabin. The space between the
decks was small; and there, bolt-upright, sat old Bildad, who always
sat so, and never leaned, and this to save his coat tails. His
broad-brim was placed beside him; his legs were stiffly crossed; his
drab vesture was buttoned up to his chin; and spectacles on nose, he
seemed absorbed in reading from a ponderous volume.
"Bildad," cried Captain Peleg, "at it again, Bildad, eh? Ye have
been studying those Scriptures, now, for the last thirty years, to my
certain knowledge. How far ye got, Bildad?"
As if long habituated to such profane talk from his old shipmate,
Bildad, without noticing his present irreverence, quietly looked up,
and seeing me, glanced again inquiringly towards Peleg.
"He says he's our man, Bildad," said Peleg, "he wants to ship."
"Dost thee?" said Bildad, in a hollow tone, and turning round to me.
"I dost," said I unconsciously, he was so intense a Quaker.
"What do ye think of him, Bildad?" said Peleg.
"He'll do," said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spelling away at
his book in a mumbling tone quite audible.
I thought him the queerest old Quaker I ever saw, especially as
Peleg, his friend and old shipmate, seemed such a blusterer. But I
said nothing, only looking round me sharply. Peleg now threw open a
chest, and drawing forth the ship's articles, placed pen and ink
before him, and seated himself at a little table. I began to think
it was high time to settle with myself at what terms I would be
willing to engage for the voyage. I was already aware that in the
whaling business they paid no wages; but all hands, including the
captain, received certain shares of the profits called lays, and that
these lays were proportioned to the degree of importance pertaining
to the respective duties of the ship's company. I was also aware
that being a green hand at whaling, my own lay would not be very
large; but considering that I was used to the sea, could steer a
ship, splice a rope, and all that, I made no doubt that from all I
had heard I should be offered at least the 275th lay--that is, the
275th part of the clear net proceeds of the voyage, whatever that
might eventually amount to. And though the 275th lay was what they
call a rather LONG LAY, yet it was better than nothing; and if we had
a lucky voyage, might pretty nearly pay for the clothing I would wear
out on it, not to speak of my three years' beef and board, for which
I would not have to pay one stiver.
It might be thought that this was a poor way to accumulate a princely
fortune--and so it was, a very poor way indeed. But I am one of
those that never take on about princely fortunes, and am quite
content if the world is ready to board and lodge me, while I am
putting up at this grim sign of the Thunder Cloud. Upon the whole, I
thought that the 275th lay would be about the fair thing, but would not
have been surprised had I been offered the 200th, considering I was
of a broad-shouldered make.
But one thing, nevertheless, that made me a little distrustful about
receiving a generous share of the profits was this: Ashore, I had
heard something of both Captain Peleg and his unaccountable old crony
Bildad; how that they being the principal proprietors of the Pequod,
therefore the other and more inconsiderable and scattered owners,
left nearly the whole management of the ship's affairs to these two.
And I did not know but what the stingy old Bildad might have a mighty
deal to say about shipping hands, especially as I now found him on
board the Pequod, quite at home there in the cabin, and reading his
Bible as if at his own fireside. Now while Peleg was vainly trying
to mend a pen with his jack-knife, old Bildad, to my no small
surprise, considering that he was such an interested party in these
proceedings; Bildad never heeded us, but went on mumbling to himself
out of his book, "LAY not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,
"Well, Captain Bildad," interrupted Peleg, "what d'ye say, what lay
shall we give this young man?"
"Thou knowest best," was the sepulchral reply, "the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh wouldn't be too much, would it?--'where moth and rust
do corrupt, but LAY--'"
LAY, indeed, thought I, and such a lay! the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh! Well, old Bildad, you are determined that I, for
one, shall not LAY up many LAYS here below, where moth and rust do
corrupt. It was an exceedingly LONG LAY that, indeed; and though
from the magnitude of the figure it might at first deceive a
landsman, yet the slightest consideration will show that though seven
hundred and seventy-seven is a pretty large number, yet, when you
come to make a TEENTH of it, you will then see, I say, that the seven
hundred and seventy-seventh part of a farthing is a good deal less
than seven hundred and seventy-seven gold doubloons; and so I thought
at the time.
"Why, blast your eyes, Bildad," cried Peleg, "thou dost not want to
swindle this young man! he must have more than that."
"Seven hundred and seventy-seventh," again said Bildad, without
lifting his eyes; and then went on mumbling--"for where your treasure
is, there will your heart be also."
"I am going to put him down for the three hundredth," said Peleg, "do
ye hear that, Bildad! The three hundredth lay, I say."
Bildad laid down his book, and turning solemnly towards him said,
"Captain Peleg, thou hast a generous heart; but thou must consider
the duty thou owest to the other owners of this ship--widows and
orphans, many of them--and that if we too abundantly reward the
labors of this young man, we may be taking the bread from those
widows and those orphans. The seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay,
"Thou Bildad!" roared Peleg, starting up and clattering about the
cabin. "Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had followed thy advice in
these matters, I would afore now had a conscience to lug about that
would be heavy enough to founder the largest ship that ever sailed
round Cape Horn."
"Captain Peleg," said Bildad steadily, "thy conscience may be drawing
ten inches of water, or ten fathoms, I can't tell; but as thou art
still an impenitent man, Captain Peleg, I greatly fear lest thy
conscience be but a leaky one; and will in the end sink thee
foundering down to the fiery pit, Captain Peleg."
"Fiery pit! fiery pit! ye insult me, man; past all natural bearing,
ye insult me. It's an all-fired outrage to tell any human creature
that he's bound to hell. Flukes and flames! Bildad, say that again
to me, and start my soul-bolts, but I'll--I'll--yes, I'll swallow a
live goat with all his hair and horns on. Out of the cabin, ye
canting, drab-coloured son of a wooden gun--a straight wake with ye!"
As he thundered out this he made a rush at Bildad, but with a
marvellous oblique, sliding celerity, Bildad for that time eluded
Alarmed at this terrible outburst between the two principal and
responsible owners of the ship, and feeling half a mind to give up
all idea of sailing in a vessel so questionably owned and temporarily
commanded, I stepped aside from the door to give egress to Bildad,
who, I made no doubt, was all eagerness to vanish from before the
awakened wrath of Peleg. But to my astonishment, he sat down again
on the transom very quietly, and seemed to have not the slightest
intention of withdrawing. He seemed quite used to impenitent Peleg
and his ways. As for Peleg, after letting off his rage as he had,
there seemed no more left in him, and he, too, sat down like a lamb,
though he twitched a little as if still nervously agitated. "Whew!"
he whistled at last--"the squall's gone off to leeward, I think.
Bildad, thou used to be good at sharpening a lance, mend that pen,
will ye. My jack-knife here needs the grindstone. That's he; thank
ye, Bildad. Now then, my young man, Ishmael's thy name, didn't ye
say? Well then, down ye go here, Ishmael, for the three hundredth
"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
But I had not proceeded far, when I began to bethink me that the
Captain with whom I was to sail yet remained unseen by me; though,
indeed, in many cases, a whale-ship will be completely fitted out,
and receive all her crew on board, ere the captain makes himself
visible by arriving to take command; for sometimes these voyages are
so prolonged, and the shore intervals at home so exceedingly brief,
that if the captain have a family, or any absorbing concernment of
that sort, he does not trouble himself much about his ship in port,
but leaves her to the owners till all is ready for sea. However, it
is always as well to have a look at him before irrevocably committing
yourself into his hands. Turning back I accosted Captain Peleg,
inquiring where Captain Ahab was to be found.
"And what dost thou want of Captain Ahab? It's all right enough;
thou art shipped."
"Yes, but I should like to see him."
"But I don't think thou wilt be able to at present. I don't know
exactly what's the matter with him; but he keeps close inside the
house; a sort of sick, and yet he don't look so. In fact, he ain't
sick; but no, he isn't well either. Any how, young man, he won't
always see me, so I don't suppose he will thee. He's a queer man,
Captain Ahab--so some think--but a good one. Oh, thou'lt like him
well enough; no fear, no fear. He's a grand, ungodly, god-like man,
Captain Ahab; doesn't speak much; but, when he does speak, then you
may well listen. Mark ye, be forewarned; Ahab's above the common;
Ahab's been in colleges, as well as 'mong the cannibals; been used to
deeper wonders than the waves; fixed his fiery lance in mightier,
stranger foes than whales. His lance! aye, the keenest and the surest
that out of all our isle! Oh! he ain't Captain Bildad; no, and he
ain't Captain Peleg; HE'S AHAB, boy; and Ahab of old, thou knowest,
was a crowned king!"
"And a very vile one. When that wicked king was slain, the dogs, did
they not lick his blood?"
"Come hither to me--hither, hither," said Peleg, with a significance
in his eye that almost startled me. "Look ye, lad; never say that on
board the Pequod. Never say it anywhere. Captain Ahab did not name
himself. 'Twas a foolish, ignorant whim of his crazy, widowed
mother, who died when he was only a twelvemonth old. And yet the old
squaw Tistig, at Gayhead, said that the name would somehow prove
prophetic. And, perhaps, other fools like her may tell thee the
same. I wish to warn thee. It's a lie. I know Captain Ahab well;
I've sailed with him as mate years ago; I know what he is--a good
man--not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a swearing good
man--something like me--only there's a good deal more of him. Aye,
aye, I know that he was never very jolly; and I know that on the
passage home, he was a little out of his mind for a spell; but it was
the sharp shooting pains in his bleeding stump that brought that
about, as any one might see. I know, too, that ever since he lost
his leg last voyage by that accursed whale, he's been a kind of
moody--desperate moody, and savage sometimes; but that will all pass
off. And once for all, let me tell thee and assure thee, young man,
it's better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing bad
one. So good-bye to thee--and wrong not Captain Ahab, because he
happens to have a wicked name. Besides, my boy, he has a wife--not
three voyages wedded--a sweet, resigned girl. Think of that; by that
sweet girl that old man has a child: hold ye then there can be any
utter, hopeless harm in Ahab? No, no, my lad; stricken, blasted, if
he be, Ahab has his humanities!"
As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had been
incidentally revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me with a certain
wild vagueness of painfulness concerning him. And somehow, at the
time, I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for him, but for I don't know
what, unless it was the cruel loss of his leg. And yet I also felt a
strange awe of him; but that sort of awe, which I cannot at all
describe, was not exactly awe; I do not know what it was. But I felt
it; and it did not disincline me towards him; though I felt
impatience at what seemed like mystery in him, so imperfectly as he
was known to me then. However, my thoughts were at length carried in
other directions, so that for the present dark Ahab slipped my mind.
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
I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these
things, and not fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals,
pagans and what not, because of their half-crazy conceits on these
subjects. There was Queequeg, now, certainly entertaining the most
absurd notions about Yojo and his Ramadan;--but what of that?
Queequeg thought he knew what he was about, I suppose; he seemed to
be content; and there let him rest. All our arguing with him would
not avail; let him be, I say: and Heaven have mercy on us
all--Presbyterians and Pagans alike--for we are all somehow
dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.
Towards evening, when I felt assured that all his performances and
rituals must be over, I went up to his room and knocked at the door;
but no answer. I tried to open it, but it was fastened inside.
"Queequeg," said I softly through the key-hole:--all silent. "I say,
Queequeg! why don't you speak? It's I--Ishmael." But all remained
still as before. I began to grow alarmed. I had allowed him such
abundant time; I thought he might have had an apoplectic fit. I
looked through the key-hole; but the door opening into an odd corner
of the room, the key-hole prospect was but a crooked and sinister
one. I could only see part of the foot-board of the bed and a line
of the wall, but nothing more. I was surprised to behold resting
against the wall the wooden shaft of Queequeg's harpoon, which the
landlady the evening previous had taken from him, before our mounting
to the chamber. That's strange, thought I; but at any rate, since
the harpoon stands yonder, and he seldom or never goes abroad without
it, therefore he must be inside here, and no possible mistake.
"Queequeg!--Queequeg!"--all still. Something must have happened.
Apoplexy! I tried to burst open the door; but it stubbornly
resisted. Running down stairs, I quickly stated my suspicions to the
first person I met--the chamber-maid. "La! la!" she cried, "I
thought something must be the matter. I went to make the bed after
breakfast, and the door was locked; and not a mouse to be heard; and
it's been just so silent ever since. But I thought, may be, you had
both gone off and locked your baggage in for safe keeping. La! la,
ma'am!--Mistress! murder! Mrs. Hussey! apoplexy!"--and with these
cries, she ran towards the kitchen, I following.
Mrs. Hussey soon appeared, with a mustard-pot in one hand and a
vinegar-cruet in the other, having just broken away from the
occupation of attending to the castors, and scolding her little black
"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
"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,
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
"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
"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
"For heaven's sake, Queequeg, get up and shake yourself; get up and
have some supper. You'll starve; you'll kill yourself, Queequeg."
But not a word did he reply.
Despairing of him, therefore, I determined to go to bed and to sleep;
and no doubt, before a great while, he would follow me. But previous
to turning in, I took my heavy bearskin jacket, and threw it over
him, as it promised to be a very cold night; and he had nothing but
his ordinary round jacket on. For some time, do all I would, I could
not get into the faintest doze. I had blown out the candle; and the
mere thought of Queequeg--not four feet off--sitting there in that
uneasy position, stark alone in the cold and dark; this made me
really wretched. Think of it; sleeping all night in the same room
with a wide awake pagan on his hams in this dreary, unaccountable
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
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
After all, I do not think that my remarks about religion made much
impression upon Queequeg. Because, in the first place, he somehow
seemed dull of hearing on that important subject, unless considered
from his own point of view; and, in the second place, he did not more
than one third understand me, couch my ideas simply as I would; and,
finally, he no doubt thought he knew a good deal more about the true
religion than I did. He looked at me with a sort of condescending
concern and compassion, as though he thought it a great pity that
such a sensible young man should be so hopelessly lost to evangelical
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
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
"What do you mean by that, Captain Peleg?" said I, now jumping on the
bulwarks, and leaving my comrade standing on the wharf.
"I mean," he replied, "he must show his papers."
"Yes," said Captain Bildad in his hollow voice, sticking his head
from behind Peleg's, out of the wigwam. "He must show that he's
converted. Son of darkness," he added, turning to Queequeg, "art
thou at present in communion with any Christian church?"
"Why," said I, "he's a member of the first Congregational Church."
Here be it said, that many tattooed savages sailing in Nantucket
ships at last come to be converted into the churches.
"First Congregational Church," cried Bildad, "what! that worships in
Deacon Deuteronomy Coleman's meeting-house?" and so saying, taking
out his spectacles, he rubbed them with his great yellow bandana
handkerchief, and putting them on very carefully, came out of the
wigwam, and leaning stiffly over the bulwarks, took a good long look
"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?
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
"Now," said Queequeg, quietly hauling in the line, "spos-ee him
whale-e eye; why, dad whale dead."
"Quick, Bildad," said Peleg, his partner, who, aghast at the close
vicinity of the flying harpoon, had retreated towards the cabin
gangway. "Quick, I say, you Bildad, and get the ship's papers. We
must have Hedgehog there, I mean Quohog, in one of our boats. Look
ye, Quohog, we'll give ye the ninetieth lay, and that's more than
ever was given a harpooneer yet out of Nantucket."
So down we went into the cabin, and to my great joy Queequeg was soon
enrolled among the same ship's company to which I myself belonged.
When all preliminaries were over and Peleg had got everything ready
for signing, he turned to me and said, "I guess, Quohog there don't
know how to write, does he? I say, Quohog, blast ye! dost thou sign
thy name or make thy mark?
But at this question, Queequeg, who had twice or thrice before taken
part in similar ceremonies, looked no ways abashed; but taking the
offered pen, copied upon the paper, in the proper place, an exact
counterpart of a queer round figure which was tattooed upon his arm;
so that through Captain Peleg's obstinate mistake touching his
appellative, it stood something like this:--
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,