Part 1 out of 12
OR THE WHALE
by Herman Melville
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--
having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular
to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little
and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have
of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation.
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth;
whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I
find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses,
and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet;
and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me,
that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from
deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking
people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea
as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.
With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword;
I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this.
If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time
or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards
the ocean with me.
There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves
as Indian isles by coral reefs--commerce surrounds it with her surf.
Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme downtown
is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled
by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land.
Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.
Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from
Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward.
What do you see?--Posted like silent sentinels all around the town,
stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries.
Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads;
some looking over the bulwarks glasses! of ships from China; some high
aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep.
But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster--
tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks.
How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?
But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water,
and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content
them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady
lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get
just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in.
And there they stand--miles of them--leagues. Inlanders all,
they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues,--
north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite.
Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses
of all those ships attract them thither?
Once more. Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes.
Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you
down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream.
There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be
plunged in his deepest reveries--stand that man on his legs,
set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water,
if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst
in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your
caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor.
Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.
But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest,
shadiest, quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all
the valley of the Saco. What is the chief element he employs?
There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit
and a crucifix were within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there
sleep his cattle; and up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke.
Deep into distant woodlands winds a mazy way, reaching to overlapping
spurs of mountains bathed in their hill-side blue. But though
the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down
its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd's head, yet all were vain,
unless the shepherd's eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him.
Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you
wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies--what is the one charm wanting?--
Water there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a
cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it?
Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls
of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed,
or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is
almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him,
at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage
as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration,
when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land?
Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks
give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this
is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story
of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting,
mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned.
But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans.
It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key
to it all.
Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin
to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of my lungs,
I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger.
For to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and a purse is but
a rag unless you have something in it. Besides, passengers get sea-sick--
grow quarrelsome--don't sleep of nights--do not enjoy themselves much,
as a general thing;--no, I never go as a passenger; nor, though I am
something of a salt, do I ever go to sea as a Commodore, or a Captain,
or a Cook. I abandon the glory and distinction of such offices
to those who like them. For my part, I abominate all honorable
respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever.
It is quite as much as I can do to take care of myself, without taking
care of ships, barques, brigs, schooners, and what not. And as for
going as cook,--though I confess there is considerable glory in that,
a cook being a sort of officer on ship-board--yet, somehow, I never
fancied broiling fowls;--though once broiled, judiciously buttered,
and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who will speak more
respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a broiled fowl than I will.
It is out of the idolatrous dotings of the old Egyptians upon broiled
ibis and roasted river horse, that you see the mummies of those creatures
in their huge bakehouses the pyramids.
No, when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast,
plumb down into the fore-castle, aloft there to the royal
mast-head. True, they rather order me about some, and make me
jump from spar to spar, like a grasshopper in a May meadow.
And at first, this sort of thing is unpleasant enough.
It touches one's sense of honor, particularly if you come
of an old established family in the land, the Van Rensselaers,
or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than all, if just
previous to putting your hand into the tar-pot, you have been
lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys
stand in awe of you. The transition is a keen one, I assure you,
from a schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction
of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it.
But even this wears off in time.
What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get
a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to,
weighed, I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think
the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly
and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance?
Who ain't a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old
sea-captains may order me about--however they may thump and punch
me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right;
that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way--
either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is;
and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub
each other's shoulder-blades, and be content.
Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make
a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never
pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of.
On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is
all the difference in the world between paying and being paid.
The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction
that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But being paid,--
what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a
man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we
so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills,
and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven.
Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!
Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the
wholesome exercise and pure air of the fore-castle deck.
For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds
from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim),
so for the most part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his
atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle.
He thinks he breathes it first; but not so. In much the same
way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many other things,
at the same time that the leaders little suspect it.
But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt
the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my
head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police
officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me,
and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way--
he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless,
my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand
programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago.
It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more
extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill
must have run something like this:
"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.
"WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL."
"BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN."
Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers,
the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage,
when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies,
and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces--
though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall
all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and
motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises,
induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me
into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased
freewill and discriminating judgment.
Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great
whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster
roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where
he rolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils
of the whale; these, with all the attending marvels of a thousand
Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish.
With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements;
but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote.
I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.
Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror,
and could still be social with it--would they let me--since it is
but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place
one lodges in.
By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome;
the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild
conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my
inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them all,
one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.
I stuffed a shirt or two into my old carpet-bag, tucked it under my arm,
and started for Cape Horn and the Pacific. Quitting the good city
of old Manhatto, I duly arrived in New Bedford. It was on a Saturday
night in December. Much was I disappointed upon learning that the little
packet for Nantucket had already sailed, and that no way of reaching
that place would offer, till the following Monday.
As most young candidates for the pains and penalties of whaling
stop at this same New Bedford, thence to embark on their voyage,
it may as well be related that I, for one, had no idea of so doing.
For my mind was made up to sail in no other than a Nantucket craft,
because there was a fine, boisterous something about everything
connected with that famous old island, which amazingly pleased me.
Besides though New Bedford has of late been gradually monopolizing
the business of whaling, and though in this matter poor old Nantucket
is now much behind her, yet Nantucket was her great original--
the Tyre of this Carthage;--the place where the first dead
American whale was stranded. Where else but from Nantucket did
those aboriginal whalemen, the Red-Men, first sally out in canoes
to give chase to the Leviathan? And where but from Nantucket,
too, did that first adventurous little sloop put forth,
partly laden with imported cobblestones--so goes the story--
to throw at the whales, in order to discover when they were nigh
enough to risk a harpoon from the bowsprit?
Now having a night, a day, and still another night following before me
in New Bedford, ere I could embark for my destined port, it became
a matter of concernment where I was to eat and sleep meanwhile.
It was a very dubious-looking, nay, a very dark and dismal night,
bitingly cold and cheerless. I knew no one in the place.
With anxious grapnels I had sounded my pocket, and only brought up a few
pieces of silver,--So, wherever you go, Ishmael, said I to myself,
as I stood in the middle of a dreary street shouldering my bag,
and comparing the gloom towards the north with the darkness towards
the south--wherever in your wisdom you may conclude to lodge
for the night, my dear Ishmael, be sure to inquire the price,
and don't be too particular.
With halting steps I paced the streets, and passed the sign of
"The Crossed Harpoons"--but it looked too expensive and jolly there.
Further on, from the bright red windows of the "Sword-Fish Inn,"
there came such fervent rays, that it seemed to have melted
the packed snow and ice from before the house, for everywhere
else the congealed frost lay ten inches thick in a hard,
asphaltic pavement,--rather weary for me, when I struck
my foot against the flinty projections, because from hard,
remorseless service the soles of my boots were in a most
miserable plight. Too expensive and jolly, again thought I,
pausing one moment to watch the broad glare in the street,
and hear the sounds of the tinkling glasses within.
But go on, Ishmael, said I at last; don't you hear? get away
from before the door; your patched boots are stopping the way.
So on I went. I now by instinct followed the streets that
took me waterward, for there, doubtless, were the cheapest,
if not the cheeriest inns.
Such dreary streets! Blocks of blackness, not houses, on either hand,
and here and there a candle, like a candle moving about in a tomb.
At this hour of the night, of the last day of the week,
that quarter of the town proved all but deserted. But presently
I came to a smoky light proceeding from a low, wide building,
the door of which stood invitingly open. It had a careless look,
as if it were meant for the uses of the public; so, entering,
the first thing I did was to stumble over an ash-box in the porch.
Ha! thought I, ha, as the flying particles almost choked me, are these
ashes from that destroyed city, Gomorrah? But "The Crossed Harpoons,"
and the "The Sword-Fish?"--this, then must needs be the sign
of "The Trap." However, I picked myself up and hearing a loud
voice within, pushed on and opened a second, interior door.
It seemed the great Black Parliament sitting in Tophet. A hundred
black faces turned round in their rows to peer; and beyond,
a black Angel of Doom was beating a book in a pulpit.
It was a negro church; and the preacher's text was about
the blackness of darkness, and the weeping and wailing and
teeth-gnashing there. Ha, Ishmael, muttered I, backing out,
Wretched entertainment at the sign of 'The Trap!'
Moving on, I at last came to a dim sort of light not far from
the docks, and heard a forlorn creaking in the air; and looking up,
saw a swinging sign over the door with a white painting upon it,
faintly representing a tall straight jet of misty spray,
and these words underneath--"The Spouter Inn:--Peter Coffin."
Coffin?--Spouter?--Rather ominous in that particular connexion,
thought I. But it is a common name in Nantucket, they say, and I
suppose this Peter here is an emigrant from there. As the light
looked so dim, and the place, for the time, looked quiet enough,
and the dilapidated little wooden house itself looked as if it
might have been carted here from the ruins of some burnt district,
and as the swinging sign had a poverty-stricken sort of creak
to it, I thought that here was the very spot for cheap lodgings,
and the best of pea coffee.
It was a queer sort of place--a gable-ended old house, one side
palsied as it were, and leaning over sadly. It stood on a sharp
bleak corner, where that tempestuous wind Euroclydon kept up
a worse howling than ever it did about poor Paul's tossed craft.
Euroclydon, nevertheless, is a mighty pleasant zephyr to any one
in-doors, with his feet on the hob quietly toasting for bed.
In judging of that tempestuous wind called Euroclydon,"
says an old writer--of whose works I possess the only copy
extant--"it maketh a marvellous difference, whether thou lookest
out at it from a glass window where the frost is all on the outside,
or whether thou observest it from that sashless window,
where the frost is on both sides, and of which the wight Death
is the only glazier." True enough, thought I, as this passage
occurred to my mind--old black-letter, thou reasonest well.
Yes, these eyes are windows, and this body of mine is the house.
What a pity they didn't stop up the chinks and the crannies though,
and thrust in a little lint here and there. But it's too late
to make any improvements now. The universe is finished;
the copestone is on, and the chips were carted off a million
years ago. Poor Lazarus there, chattering his teeth against
the curbstone for his pillow, and shaking off his tatters
with his shiverings, he might plug up both ears with rags,
and put a corn-cob into his mouth, and yet that would not keep
out the tempestuous Euroclydon. Euroclydon! says old Dives,
in his red silken wrapper--(he had a redder one afterwards)
pooh, pooh! What a fine frosty night; how Orion glitters;
what northern lights! Let them talk of their oriental summer
climes of everlasting conservatories; give me the privilege
of making my own summer with my own coals.
But what thinks Lazarus? Can he warm his blue hands by holding them up
to the grand northern lights? Would not Lazarus rather be in Sumatra
than here? Would he not far rather lay him down lengthwise along
the line of the equator; yea, ye gods! go down to the fiery pit itself,
in order to keep out this frost?
Now, that Lazarus should lie stranded there on the curbstone before
the door of Dives, this is more wonderful than that an iceberg
should be moored to one of the Moluccas. Yet Dives himself,
he too lives like a Czar in an ice palace made of frozen sighs,
and being a president of a temperance society, he only drinks
the tepid tears of orphans.
But no more of this blubbering now, we are going a-whaling, and there is
plenty of that yet to come. Let us scrape the ice from our frosted feet,
and see what sort of a place this "Spouter" may be.
Entering that gable-ended Spouter-Inn, you found yourself
in a wide, low, straggling entry with old-fashioned wainscots,
reminding one of the bulwarks of some condemned old craft.
On one side hung a very large oil painting so thoroughly besmoked,
and every way defaced, that in the unequal crosslights by which
you viewed it, it was only by diligent study and a series of
systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of the neighbors,
that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its purpose.
Such unaccountable masses of shades and shadows, that at
first you almost thought some ambitious young artist,
in the time of the New England hags, had endeavored to delineate
chaos bewitched. But by dint of much and earnest contemplation,
and oft repeated ponderings, and especially by throwing open
the little window towards the back of the entry, you at last
come to the conclusion that such an idea, however wild,
might not be altogether unwarranted.
But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber, portentous,
black mass of something hovering in the centre of the picture over
three blue, dim, perpendicular lines floating in a nameless yeast.
A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive
a nervous man distracted. Yet was there a sort of indefinite,
half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze
you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself
to find out what that marvellous painting meant. Ever and anon
a bright, but, alas, deceptive idea would dart you through.--
It's the Black Sea in a midnight gale.--It's the unnatural
combat of the four primal elements.--It's a blasted heath.--
It's a Hyperborean winter scene.--It's the breaking-up of
the icebound stream of Time. But at last all these fancies
yielded to that one portentous something in the picture's midst.
That once found out, and all the rest were plain. But stop;
does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic fish? even
the great leviathan himself?
In fact, the artist's design seemed this: a final theory of my own,
partly based upon the aggregated opinions of many aged persons
with whom I conversed upon the subject. The picture represents
a Cape-Horner in a great hurricane; the half-foundered ship
weltering there with its three dismantled masts alone visible;
and an exasperated whale, purposing to spring clean over the craft,
is in the enormous act of impaling himself upon the three mast-heads.
The opposite wall of this entry was hung all over with a heathenish array
of monstrous clubs and spears. Some were thickly set with glittering
teeth resembling ivory saws; others were tufted with knots of human hair;
and one was sickle-shaped, with a vast handle sweeping round
like the segment made in the new-mown grass by a long-armed mower.
You shuddered as you gazed, and wondered what monstrous cannibal
and savage could ever have gone a death-harvesting with such a hacking,
horrifying implement. Mixed with these were rusty old whaling lances
and harpoons all broken and deformed. Some were storied weapons.
With this once long lance, now wildly elbowed, fifty years ago did
Nathan Swain kill fifteen whales between a sunrise and a sunset.
And that harpoon--so like a corkscrew now--was flung in Javan seas,
and run away with by a whale, years afterwards slain off the Cape
of Blanco. The original iron entered nigh the tail, and, like a restless
needle sojourning in the body of a man, travelled full forty feet,
and at last was found imbedded in the hump.
Crossing this dusky entry, and on through yon low-arched way--
cut through what in old times must have been a great central
chimney with fireplaces all round--you enter the public room.
A still duskier place is this, with such low ponderous
beams above, and such old wrinkled planks beneath, that you
would almost fancy you trod some old craft's cockpits,
especially of such a howling night, when this corner-anchored
old ark rocked so furiously. On one side stood a long, low,
shelf-like table covered with cracked glass cases, filled with
dusty rarities gathered from this wide world's remotest nooks.
Projecting from the further angle of the room stands a
dark-looking den--the bar--a rude attempt at a right whale's head.
Be that how it may, there stands the vast arched bone of the
whale's jaw, so wide, a coach might almost drive beneath it.
Within are shabby shelves, ranged round with old decanters,
bottles, flasks; and in those jaws of swift destruction,
like another cursed Jonah (by which name indeed they called
him), bustles a little withered old man, who, for their money,
dearly sells the sailors deliriums and death.
Abominable are the tumblers into which he pours his poison.
Though true cylinders without--within, the villanous green goggling
glasses deceitfully tapered downwards to a cheating bottom.
Parallel meridians rudely pecked into the glass, surround
these footpads' goblets. Fill to this mark, and your charge is
but a penny; to this a penny more; and so on to the full glass--
the Cape Horn measure, which you may gulp down for a shilling.
Upon entering the place I found a number of young seamen gathered about
a table, examining by a dim light divers specimens of skrimshander.
I sought the landlord, and telling him I desired to be accommodated
with a room, received for answer that his house was full--
not a bed unoccupied. "But avast," he added, tapping his forehead,
"you haint no objections to sharing a harpooneer's blanket, have ye?
I s'pose you are goin' a-whalin', so you'd better get used to that
sort of thing."
I told him that I never liked to sleep two in a bed; that if I
should ever do so, it would depend upon who the harpooneer might be,
and that if he (the landlord) really had no other place for me,
and the harpooneer was not decidedly objectionable, why rather
than wander further about a strange town on so bitter a night,
I would put up with the half of any decent man's blanket.
"I thought so. All right; take a seat. Supper?--you want supper?
Supper'll be ready directly."
I sat down on an old wooden settle, carved all over like a
bench on the Battery. At one end a ruminating tar was still
further adorning it with his jack-knife, stooping over
and diligently working away at the space between his legs.
He was trying his hand at a ship under full sail, but he didn't
make much headway, I thought.
At last some four or five of us were summoned to our
meal in an adjoining room. It was cold as Iceland--
no fire at all--the landlord said he couldn't afford it.
Nothing but two dismal tallow candles, each in a winding sheet.
We were fain to button up our monkey jackets, and hold to our
lips cups of scalding tea with our half frozen fingers.
But the fare was of the most substantial kind--not only meat
and potatoes, but dumplings; good heavens! dumplings for supper!
One young fellow in a green box coat, addressed himself
to these dumplings in a most direful manner.
"My boy," said the landlord, "you'll have the nightmare
to a dead sartainty."
"Landlord," I whispered, "that aint the harpooneer is it?"
"Oh, no," said he, looking a sort of diabolically funny, "the harpooneer
is a dark complexioned chap. He never eats dumplings, he don't--
he eats nothing but steaks, and he likes 'em rare."
"The devil he does," says I. "Where is that harpooneer?
Is he here?"
"He'll be here afore long," was the answer.
I could not help it, but I began to feel suspicious of this
"dark complexioned" harpooneer. At any rate, I made up my
mind that if it so turned out that we should sleep together,
he must undress and get into bed before I did.
Supper over, the company went back to the bar-room, when,
knowing not what else to do with myself, I resolved to spend
the rest of the evening as a looker on.
Presently a rioting noise was heard without. Starting up,
the landlord cried, "That's the Grampus's crew. I seed her reported
in the offing this morning; a three years' voyage, and a full ship.
Hurrah, boys; now we'll have the latest news from the Feegees."
A tramping of sea boots was heard in the entry; the door was flung open,
and in rolled a wild set of mariners enough. Enveloped in their shaggy
watch coats, and with their heads muffled in woollen comforters,
all bedarned and ragged, and their beards stiff with icicles,
they seemed an eruption of bears from Labrador. They had just
landed from their boat, and this was the first house they entered.
No wonder, then, that they made a straight wake for the whale's mouth--
the bar--when the wrinkled little old Jonah, there officiating,
soon poured them out brimmers all round. One complained of a bad
cold in his head, upon which Jonah mixed him a pitch-like potion
of gin and molasses, which he swore was a sovereign cure for all
colds and catarrhs whatsoever, never mind of how long standing,
or whether caught off the coast of Labrador, or on the weather side
of an ice-island.
The liquor soon mounted into their heads, as it generally
does even with the arrantest topers newly landed from sea,
and they began capering about most obstreperously.
I observed, however, that one of them held somewhat aloof,
and though he seemed desirous not to spoil the hilarity of his
shipmates by his own sober face, yet upon the whole he refrained from
making as much noise as the rest. This man interested me at once;
and since the sea-gods had ordained that he should soon become my shipmate
(though but a sleeping partner one, so far as this narrative is
concerned), I will here venture upon a little description of him.
He stood full six feet in height, with noble shoulders, and a chest
like a coffer-dam. I have seldom seen such brawn in a man.
His face was deeply brown and burnt, making his white teeth
dazzling by the contrast; while in the deep shadows of his eyes
floated some reminiscences that did not seem to give him much joy.
His voice at once announced that he was a Southerner, and from his
fine stature, I thought he must be one of those tall mountaineers
from the Alleghanian Ridge in Virginia. When the revelry of his
companions had mounted to its height, this man slipped away unobserved,
and I saw no more of him till he became my comrade on the sea.
In a few minutes, however, he was missed by his shipmates,
and being, it seems, for some reason a huge favorite with them,
they raised a cry of "Bulkington! Bulkington! where's Bulkington?"
and darted out of the house in pursuit of him.
It was now about nine o'clock, and the room seeming almost
supernaturally quiet after these orgies, I began to congratulate
myself upon a little plan that had occurred to me just previous
to the entrance of the seamen.
No man prefers to sleep two in a bed. In fact, you would
a good deal rather not sleep with your own brother. I don't know
how it is, but people like to be private when they are sleeping.
And when it comes to sleeping with an unknown stranger,
in a strange inn, in a strange town, and that stranger
a harpooneer, then your objections indefinitely multiply.
Nor was there any earthly reason why I as a sailor should sleep
two in a bed, more than anybody else; for sailors no more
sleep two in a bed at sea, than bachelor Kings do ashore.
To be sure they all sleep together in one apartment, but you
have your own hammock, and cover yourself with your own blanket,
and sleep in your own skin.
The more I pondered over this harpooneer, the more I abominated
the thought of sleeping with him. It was fair to presume that
being a harpooneer, his linen or woollen, as the case might be,
would not be of the tidiest, certainly none of the finest.
I began to twitch all over. Besides, it was getting late,
and my decent harpooneer ought to be home and going bedwards.
Suppose now, he should tumble in upon me at midnight--
how could I tell from what vile hole he had been coming?
"Landlord! I've changed my mind about that harpooneer.--
I shan't sleep with him. I'll try the bench here."
"Just as you please; I'm sorry I cant spare ye a tablecloth for
a mattress, and it's a plaguy rough board here"--feeling of the knots
and notches. "But wait a bit, Skrimshander; I've got a carpenter's
plane there in the bar--wait, I say, and I'll make ye snug enough."
So saying he procured the plane; and with his old silk handkerchief
first dusting the bench, vigorously set to planing away at my bed,
the while grinning like an ape. The shavings flew right and left;
till at last the plane-iron came bump against an indestructible knot.
The landlord was near spraining his wrist, and I told him for heaven's
sake to quit--the bed was soft enough to suit me, and I did not know
how all the planing in the world could make eider down of a pine plank.
So gathering up the shavings with another grin, and throwing them into
the great stove in the middle of the room, he went about his business,
and left me in a brown study.
I now took the measure of the bench, and found that it was
a foot too short; but that could be mended with a chair.
But it was a foot too narrow, and the other bench in
the room was about four inches higher than the planed one--
so there was no yoking them. I then placed the first bench
lengthwise along the only clear space against the wall,
leaving a little interval between, for my back to settle down in.
But I soon found that there came such a draught of cold air
over me from under the sill of the window, that this plan would
never do at all, especially as another current from the rickety
door met the one from the window, and both together formed
a series of small whirlwinds in the immediate vicinity of the spot
where I had thought to spend the night.
The devil fetch that harpooneer, thought I, but stop,
couldn't I steal a march on him--bolt his door inside, and jump
into his bed, not to be wakened by the most violent knockings?
It seemed no bad idea but upon second thoughts I dismissed it.
For who could tell but what the next morning, so soon as I popped
out of the room, the harpooneer might be standing in the entry,
all ready to knock me down!
Still looking around me again, and seeing no possible chance
of spending a sufferable night unless in some other person's bed,
I began to think that after all I might be cherishing
unwarrantable prejudices against this unknown harpooneer.
Thinks I, I'll wait awhile; he must be dropping in before long.
I'll have a good look at him then, and perhaps we may become
jolly good bedfellows after all--there's no telling.
But though the other boarders kept coming in by ones, twos, and threes,
and going to bed, yet no sign of my harpooneer.
"Landlord! said I, "what sort of a chap is he--does he always
keep such late hours?" It was now hard upon twelve o'clock.
The landlord chuckled again with his lean chuckle, and seemed
to be mightily tickled at something beyond my comprehension.
"No," he answered, "generally he's an early bird--airley to bed
and airley to rise--yea, he's the bird what catches the worm.
But to-night he went out a peddling, you see, and I don't see
what on airth keeps him so late, unless, may be, he can't
sell his head."
"Can't sell his head?--What sort of a bamboozingly story
is this you are telling me?" getting into a towering rage.
"Do you pretend to say, landlord, that this harpooneer is actually
engaged this blessed Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning,
in peddling his head around this town?"
"That's precisely it," said the landlord, "and I told him he couldn't
sell it here, the market's overstocked."
"With what?" shouted I.
"With heads to be sure; ain't there too many heads in the world?"
"I tell you what it is, landlord," said I quite calmly,
"you'd better stop spinning that yarn to me--I'm not green."
"May be not," taking out a stick and whittling a toothpick,
"but I rayther guess you'll be done brown if that ere harpooneer
hears you a slanderin' his head."
"I'll break it for him," said I, now flying into a passion again
at this unaccountable farrago of the landlord's.
"It's broke a'ready," said he.
"Broke," said I--"broke, do you mean?"
"Sartain, and that's the very reason he can't sell it, I guess."
"Landlord," said I, going up to him as cool as Mt. Hecla in a
snowstorm--"landlord, stop whittling. You and I must understand
one another, and that too without delay. I come to your house
and want a bed; you tell me you can only give me half a one;
that the other half belongs to a certain harpooneer.
And about this harpooneer, whom I have not yet seen, you persist
in telling me the most mystifying and exasperating stories tending
to beget in me an uncomfortable feeling towards the man whom you
design for my bedfellow--a sort of connexion, landlord, which is
an intimate and confidential one in the highest degree.
I now demand of you to speak out and tell me who and what this
harpooneer is, and whether I shall be in all respects safe
to spend the night with him. And in the first place, you will
be so good as to unsay that story about selling his head,
which if true I take to be good evidence that this harpooneer
is stark mad, and I've no idea of sleeping with a madman;
and you, sir, you I mean, landlord, you, sir, by trying to induce
me to do so knowingly would thereby render yourself liable
to a criminal prosecution."
"Wall," said the landlord, fetching a long breath, "that's a
purty long sarmon for a chap that rips a little now and then.
But be easy, be easy, this here harpooneer I have been tellin'
you of has just arrived from the south seas, where he bought up
a lot of 'balmed New Zealand heads (great curios, you know),
and he's sold all on 'em but one, and that one he's trying to sell
to-night, cause to-morrow's Sunday, and it would not do to be sellin'
human heads about the streets when folks is goin' to churches.
He wanted to last Sunday, but I stopped him just as he was goin'
out of the door with four heads strung on a string, for all
the airth like a string of inions."
This account cleared up the otherwise unaccountable mystery,
and showed that the landlord, after all, had had no idea of fooling me--
but at the same time what could I think of a harpooneer who stayed
out of a Saturday night clean into the holy Sabbath, engaged in such
a cannibal business as selling the heads of dead idolators?
"Depend upon it, landlord, that harpooneer is a dangerous man."
"He pays reg'lar," was the rejoinder. "But come, it's getting
dreadful late, you had better be turning flukes--it's a nice bed:
Sal and me slept in that ere bed the night we were spliced.
There's plenty of room for two to kick about in that bed;
it's an almighty big bed that. Why, afore we give it up,
Sal used to put our Sam and little Johnny in the foot of it.
But I got a dreaming and sprawling about one night, and somehow,
Sam got pitched on the floor, and came near breaking his arm.
After that, Sal said it wouldn't do. Come along here,
I'll give ye a glim in a jiffy;" and so saying he lighted
a candle and held it towards me, offering to lead the way.
But I stood irresolute; when looking at a clock in the corner,
he exclaimed "I vum it's Sunday--you won't see that harpooneer to-night;
he's come to anchor somewhere--come along then; do come;
won't ye come?"
I considered the matter a moment, and then up stairs we went,
and I was ushered into a small room, cold as a clam, and furnished,
sure enough, with a prodigious bed, almost big enough indeed
for any four harpooneers to sleep abreast.
"There," said the landlord, placing the candle on a crazy old
sea chest that did double duty as a wash-stand and centre table;
"there, make yourself comfortable now; and good night to ye."
I turned round from eyeing the bed, but he had disappeared.
Folding back the counterpane, I stooped over the bed.
Though none of the most elegant, it yet stood the scrutiny
tolerably well. I then glanced round the room; and besides
the bedstead and centre table, could see no other furniture
belonging to the place, but a rude shelf, the four walls,
and a papered fireboard representing a man striking a whale.
Of things not properly belonging to the room, there was a
hammock lashed up, and thrown upon the floor in one corner;
also a large seaman's bag, containing the harpooneer's wardrobe,
no doubt in lieu of a land trunk. Likewise, there was a parcel
of outlandish bone fish hooks on the shelf over the fire-place,
and a tall harpoon standing at the head of the bed.
But what is this on the chest? I took it up, and held it close
to the light, and felt it, and smelt it, and tried every way
possible to arrive at some satisfactory conclusion concerning it.
I can compare it to nothing but a large door mat,
ornamented at the edges with little tinkling tags something
like the stained porcupine quills round an Indian moccasin.
There was a hole or slit in the middle of this mat, as you see
the same in South American ponchos. But could it be possible
that any sober harpooneer would get into a door mat, and parade
the streets of any Christian town in that sort of guise?
I put it on, to try it, and it weighed me down like a hamper,
being uncommonly shaggy and thick, and I thought a little damp,
as though this mysterious harpooneer had been wearing it
of a rainy day. I went up in it to a bit of glass stuck
against the wall, and I never saw such a sight in my life.
I tore myself out of it in such a hurry that I gave myself
a kink in the neck.
I sat down on the side of the bed, and commenced thinking
about this head-peddling harpooneer, and his door mat.
After thinking some time on the bed-side, I got up and took off my
monkey jacket, and then stood in the middle of the room thinking.
I then took off my coat, and thought a little more in my shirt sleeves.
But beginning to feel very cold now, half undressed as I was,
and remembering what the landlord said about the harpooneer's
not coming home at all that night, it being so very late,
I made no more ado, but jumped out of my pantaloons and boots,
and then blowing out the light tumbled into bed, and commended
myself to the care of heaven.
Whether that mattress was stuffed with corncobs or broken crockery,
there is no telling, but I rolled about a good deal, and could
not sleep for a long time. At last I slid off into a light doze,
and had pretty nearly made a good offing towards the land of Nod,
when I heard a heavy footfall in the passage, and saw a glimmer
of light come into the room from under the door.
Lord save me, thinks I, that must be the harpooneer,
the infernal head-peddler. But I lay perfectly still,
and resolved not to say a word till spoken to. Holding a light
in one hand, and that identical New Zealand head in the other,
the stranger entered the room, and without looking towards
the bed, placed his candle a good way off from me on the floor
in one corner, and then began working away at the knotted cords
of the large bag I before spoke of as being in the room.
I was all eagerness to see his face, but he kept it averted
for some time while employed in unlacing the bag's mouth.
This accomplished, however, he turned round--when, good heavens;
what a sight! Such a face! It was of a dark, purplish, yellow color,
here and there stuck over with large blackish looking squares.
Yes, it's just as I thought, he's a terrible bedfellow;
he's been in a fight, got dreadfully cut, and here he is,
just from the surgeon. But at that moment he chanced to turn
his face so towards the light, that I plainly saw they could not
be sticking-plasters at all, those black squares on his cheeks.
They were stains of some sort or other. At first I knew not what
to make of this; but soon an inkling of the truth occurred to me.
I remembered a story of a white man--a whaleman too--
who, falling among the cannibals, had been tattooed by them.
I concluded that this harpooneer, in the course of his
distant voyages, must have met with a similar adventure.
And what is it, thought I, after all! It's only his outside;
a man can be honest in any sort of skin. But then, what to make of
his unearthly complexion, that part of it, I mean, lying round about,
and completely independent of the squares of tattooing.
To be sure, it might be nothing but a good coat of tropical tanning;
but I never heard of a hot sun's tanning a white man into a
purplish yellow one. However, I had never been in the South Seas;
and perhaps the sun there produced these extraordinary effects
upon the skin. Now, while all these ideas were passing
through me like lightning, this harpooneer never noticed me
at all. But, after some difficulty having opened his bag,
he commenced fumbling in it, and presently pulled out a sort
of tomahawk, and a seal-skin wallet with the hair on.
Placing these on the old chest in the middle of the room,
he then took the New Zealand head--a ghastly thing enough--
and crammed it down into the bag. He now took off his hat--
a new beaver hat--when I came nigh singing out with fresh surprise.
There was no hair on his head--none to speak of at least--
nothing but a small scalp-knot twisted up on his forehead. His bald
purplish head now looked for all the world like a mildewed skull.
Had not the stranger stood between me and the door, I would
have bolted out of it quicker than ever I bolted a dinner.
Even as it was, I thought something of slipping out of
the window, but it was the second floor back. I am no coward,
but what to make of this headpeddling purple rascal altogether
passed my comprehension. Ignorance is the parent of fear,
and being completely nonplussed and confounded about the stranger,
I confess I was now as much afraid of him as if it was the devil
himself who had thus broken into my room at the dead of night.
In fact, I was so afraid of him that I was not game enough
just then to address him, and demand a satisfactory answer
concerning what seemed inexplicable in him.
Meanwhile, he continued the business of undressing, and at
last showed his chest and arms. As I live, these covered
parts of him were checkered with the same squares as his face,
his back, too, was all over the same dark squares;
he seemed to have been in a Thirty Years' War, and just
escaped from it with a sticking-plaster shirt.
Still more, his very legs were marked, as if a parcel of dark
green frogs were running up the trunks of young palms.
It was now quite plain that he must be some abominable savage
or other shipped aboard of a whaleman in the South Seas,
and so landed in this Christian country. I quaked to think of it.
A peddler of heads too--perhaps the heads of his own brothers.
He might take a fancy to mine--heavens! look at that tomahawk!
But there was no time for shuddering, for now the savage went
about something that completely fascinated my attention,
and convinced me that he must indeed be a heathen.
Going to his heavy grego, or wrapall, or dreadnaught,
which he had previously hung on a chair, he fumbled in the pockets,
and produced at length a curious little deformed image with a hunch
on its back, and exactly the color of a three days' old Congo baby.
Remembering the embalmed head, at first I almost thought that this
black manikin was a real baby preserved in some similar manner.
But seeing that it was not at all limber, and that it glistened
a good deal like polished ebony, I concluded that it must
be nothing but a wooden idol, which indeed it proved to be.
For now the savage goes up to the empty fire-place,
and removing the papered fire-board, sets up this little
hunch-backed image, like a tenpin, between the andirons.
The chimney jambs and all the bricks inside were very sooty,
so that I thought this fire-place made a very appropriate little
shrine or chapel for his Congo idol.
I now screwed my eyes hard towards the half hidden image,
feeling but ill at ease meantime--to see what was next to follow.
First he takes about a double handful of shavings out of his grego pocket,
and places them carefully before the idol; then laying a bit of ship
biscuit on top and applying the flame from the lamp, he kindled
the shavings into a sacrificial blaze. Presently, after many hasty
snatches into the fire, and still hastier withdrawals of his fingers
(whereby he seemed to be scorching them badly), he at last succeeded
in drawing out the biscuit; then blowing off the heat and ashes
a little, he made a polite offer of it to the little negro.
But the little devil did not seem to fancy such dry sort of fare at all;
he never moved his lips. All these strange antics were accompanied
by still stranger guttural noises from the devotee, who seemed to be
praying in a sing-song or else singing some pagan psalmody or other,
during which his face twitched about in the most unnatural manner.
At last extinguishing the fire, he took the idol up very unceremoniously,
and bagged it again in his grego pocket as carelessly as if he were
a sportsman bagging a dead woodcock.
All these queer proceedings increased my uncomfortableness,
and seeing him now exhibiting strong symptoms of concluding
his business operations, and jumping into bed with me, I thought
it was high time, now or never, before the light was put out,
to break the spell in which I had so long been bound.
But the interval I spent in deliberating what to say, was a fatal one.
Taking up his tomahawk from the table, he examined the head of it
for an instant, and then holding it to the light, with his mouth
at the handle, he puffed out great clouds of tobacco smoke.
The next moment the light was extinguished, and this wild cannibal,
tomahawk between his teeth, sprang into bed with me. I sang out,
I could not help it now; and giving a sudden grunt of astonishment
he began feeling me.
Stammering out something, I knew not what, I rolled away from him
against the wall, and then conjured him, whoever or whatever he might be,
to keep quiet, and let me get up and light the lamp again.
But his guttural responses satisfied me at once that he but ill
comprehended my meaning.
"Who-e debel you?"--he at last said--"you no speak-e, dam-me, I kill-e."
And so saying the lighted tomahawk began flourishing about me in the dark.
"Landlord, for God's sake, Peter Coffin!" shouted
I. "Landlord! Watch! Coffin! Angels! save me!"
"Speak-e! tell-ee me who-ee be, or dam-me, I kill-e!" again growled
the cannibal, while his horrid flourishings of the tomahawk scattered
the hot tobacco ashes about me till I thought my linen would get on fire.
But thank heaven, at that moment the landlord came into the room light
in hand, and leaping from the bed I ran up to him.
"Don't be afraid now," said he, grinning again, "Queequeg here wouldn't
harm a hair of your head."
"Stop your grinning," shouted I, "and why didn't you tell me
that that infernal harpooneer was a cannibal?"
"I thought ye know'd it;--didn't I tell ye, he was a peddlin'
heads around town?--but turn flukes again and go to sleep.
Queequeg, look here--you sabbee me, I sabbee--you this man
sleepe you--you sabbee?"
"Me sabbee plenty"--grunted Queequeg, puffing away at his pipe
and sitting up in bed.
"You gettee in," he added, motioning to me with his tomahawk,
and throwing the clothes to one side. He really did this
in not only a civil but a really kind and charitable way.
I stood looking at him a moment. For all his tattooings
he was on the whole a clean, comely looking cannibal.
What's all this fuss I have been making about, thought I
to myself--the man's a human being just as I am: he has just
as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him.
Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.
"Landlord," said I, "tell him to stash his tomahawk there, or pipe,
or whatever you call it; tell him to stop smoking, in short, and I will
turn in with him. But I don't fancy having a man smoking in bed with me.
It's dangerous. Besides, I ain't insured."
This being told to Queequeg, he at once complied, and again politely
motioned me to get into bed--rolling over to one side as much as to say--
I won't touch a leg of ye."
"Good night, landlord," said I, "you may go."
I turned in, and never slept better in my life.
Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg's arm
thrown over me in the most loving and affectionate manner.
You had almost thought I had been his wife. The counterpane was
of patchwork, full of odd little parti-colored squares and triangles;
and this arm of his tattooed all over with an interminable Cretan
labyrinth of a figure, no two parts of which were of one precise shade--
owing I suppose to his keeping his arm at sea unmethodically in sun
and shade, his shirt sleeves irregularly rolled up at various times--
this same arm of his, I say, looked for all the world like a strip
of that same patchwork quilt. Indeed, partly lying on it as the arm
did when I first awoke, I could hardly tell it from the quilt,
they so blended their hues together; and it was only by the sense
of weight and pressure that I could tell that Queequeg was hugging me.
My sensations were strange. Let me try to explain them. When I was
a child, I well remember a somewhat similar circumstance that befell me;
whether it was a reality or a dream, I never could entirely settle.
The circumstance was this. I had been cutting up some caper or other--
I think it was trying to crawl up the chimney, as I had seen a little
sweep do a few days previous; and my stepmother who, somehow or other,
was all the time whipping me, or sending me to bed supperless,--
my mother dragged me by the legs out of the chimney and packed me off
to bed, though it was only two o'clock in the afternoon of the 21st June,
the longest day in the year in our hemisphere. I felt dreadfully.
But there was no help for it, so up stairs I went to my little room
in the third floor, undressed myself as slowly as possible so as to
kill time, and with a bitter sigh got between the sheets.
I lay there dismally calculating that sixteen entire hours
must elapse before I could hope for a resurrection.
Sixteen hours in bed! the small of my back ached to think of it.
And it was so light too; the sun shining in at the window,
and a great rattling of coaches in the streets, and the sound
of gay voices all over the house. I felt worse and worse--
at last I got up, dressed, and softly going down in my
stockinged feet, sought out my stepmother, and suddenly threw
myself at her feet, beseeching her as a particular favor to give
me a good slippering for my misbehaviour: anything indeed but
condemning me to lie abed such an unendurable length of time.
But she was the best and most conscientious of stepmothers,
and back I had to go to my room. For several hours I lay
there broad awake, feeling a great deal worse than I have ever
done since, even from the greatest subsequent misfortunes.
At last I must have fallen into a troubled nightmare of a doze;
and slowly waking from it--half steeped in dreams--I opened my eyes,
and the before sunlit room was now wrapped in outer darkness.
Instantly I felt a shock running through all my frame;
nothing was to be seen, and nothing was to be heard;
but a supernatural hand seemed placed in mine. My arm hung
over the counterpane, and the nameless, unimaginable, silent form
or phantom, to which the hand belonged, seemed closely
seated by my bed-side. For what seemed ages piled on ages,
I lay there, frozen with the most awful fears, not daring
to drag away my hand; yet ever thinking that if I could but
stir it one single inch, the horrid spell would be broken.
I knew not how this consciousness at last glided away from me;
but waking in the morning, I shudderingly remembered it all,
and for days and weeks and months afterwards I lost myself
in confounding attempts to explain the mystery. Nay, to this
very hour, I often puzzle myself with it.
Now, take away the awful fear, and my sensations at
feeling the supernatural hand in mine were very similar,
in their strangeness, to those which I experienced on waking
up and seeing Queequeg's pagan arm thrown round me.
But at length all the past night's events soberly recurred,
one by one, in fixed reality, and then I lay only alive to
the comical predicament. For though I tried to move his arm--
unlock his bridegroom clasp--yet, sleeping as he was, he still
hugged me tightly, as though naught but death should part us twain.
I now strove to rouse him--"Queequeg!"--but his only answer
was a snore. I then rolled over, my neck feeling as if it
were in a horse-collar; and suddenly felt a slight scratch.
Throwing aside the counterpane, there lay the tomahawk sleeping
by the savage's side, as if it were a hatchet-faced baby.
A pretty pickle, truly, thought I; abed here in a strange
house in the broad day, with a cannibal and a tomahawk!
"Queequeg!--in the name of goodness, Queequeg, wake!" At length,
by dint of much wriggling, and loud and incessant expostulations
upon the unbecomingness of his hugging a fellow male in that
matrimonial sort of style, I succeeded in extracting a grunt;
and presently, he drew back his arm, shook himself all over
like a Newfoundland dog just from the water, and sat up in bed,
stiff as a pike-staff, looking at me, and rubbing his eyes
as if he did not altogether remember how I came to be there,
though a dim consciousness of knowing something about me seemed
slowly dawning over him. Meanwhile, I lay quietly eyeing him,
having no serious misgivings now, and bent upon narrowly observing
so curious a creature. When, at last, his mind seemed made
up touching the character of his bedfellow, and he became,
as it were, reconciled to the fact; he jumped out upon the floor,
and by certain signs and sounds gave me to understand that,
if it pleased me, he would dress first and then leave me
to dress afterwards, leaving the whole apartment to myself.
Thinks I, Queequeg, under the circumstances, this is a very
civilized overture; but, the truth is, these savages have an
innate sense of delicacy, say what you will; it is marvellous
how essentially polite they are. I pay this particular
compliment to Queequeg, because he treated me with so much
civility and consideration, while I was guilty of great rudeness;
staring at him from the bed, and watching all his toilette motions;
for the time my curiosity getting the better of my breeding.
Nevertheless, a man like Queequeg you don't see every day,
he and his ways were well worth unusual regarding.
He commenced dressing at top by donning his beaver hat,
a very tall one, by the by, and then--still minus his trowsers--
he hunted up his boots. What under the heavens he did it for,
I cannot tell, but his next movement was to crush himself--
boots in hand, and hat on--under the bed; when, from sundry
violent gaspings and strainings, I inferred he was hard at work
booting himself; though by no law of propriety that I ever heard of,
is any man required to be private when putting on his boots.
But Queequeg, do you see, was a creature in the transition state--
neither caterpillar nor butterfly. He was just enough civilized
to show off his outlandishness in the strangest possible manner.
His education was not yet completed. He was an undergraduate.
If he had not been a small degree civilized, he very probably
would not have troubled himself with boots at all; but then,
if he had not been still a savage, he never would have dreamt
of getting under the bed to put them on. At last, he emerged
with his hat very much dented and crushed down over his eyes,
and began creaking and limping about the room, as if, not being
much accustomed to boots, his pair of damp, wrinkled cowhide ones--
probably not made to order either--rather pinched and tormented
him at the first go off of a bitter cold morning.
Seeing, now, that there were no curtains to the window, and that
the street being very narrow, the house opposite commanded a plain view
into the room, and observing more and more the indecorous figure that
Queequeg made, staving about with little else but his hat and boots on;
I begged him as well as I could, to accelerate his toilet somewhat,
and particularly to get into his pantaloons as soon as possible.
He complied, and then proceeded to wash himself. At that time in
the morning any Christian would have washed his face; but Queequeg,
to my amazement, contented himself with restricting his ablutions
to his chest, arms, and hands. He then donned his waistcoat,
and taking up a piece of hard soap on the wash-stand centre table,
dipped it into water and commenced lathering his face.
I was watching to see where he kept his razor, when lo and behold,
he takes the harpoon from the bed corner, slips out the long
wooden stock, unsheathes the head, whets it a little on his boot,
and striding up to the bit of mirror against the wall,
begins a vigorous scraping, or rather harpooning of his cheeks.
Thinks I, Queequeg, this is using Rogers's best cutlery with a vengeance.
Afterwards I wondered the less at this operation when I came to know
of what fine steel the head of a harpoon is made, and how exceedingly
sharp the long straight edges are always kept.
The rest of his toilet was soon achieved, and he proudly marched
out of the room, wrapped up in his great pilot monkey jacket,
and sporting his harpoon like a marshal's baton.
I quickly followed suit, and descending into the bar-room accosted
the grinning landlord very pleasantly. I cherished no malice
towards him, though he had been skylarking with me not a little
in the matter of my bedfellow.
However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too
scarce a good thing; the more's the pity. So, if any one man,
in his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke
to anybody, let him not be backward, but let him cheerfully
allow himself to spend and to be spent in that way.
And the man that has anything bountifully laughable about him,
be sure there is more in that man than you perhaps think for.
The bar-room was now full of the boarders who had been dropping
in the night previous, and whom I had not as yet had a good look at.
They were nearly all whalemen; chief mates, and second mates,
and third mates, and sea carpenters, and sea coopers,
and sea blacksmiths, and harpooneers, and ship keepers;
a brown and brawny company, with bosky beards; an unshorn,
shaggy set, all wearing monkey jackets for morning gowns.
You could pretty plainly tell how long each one had been ashore.
This young fellow's healthy cheek is like a sun-toasted
pear in hue, and would seem to smell almost as musky;
he cannot have been three days landed from his Indian voyage.
That man next him looks a few shades lighter; you might say
a touch of satin wood is in him. In the complexion of a third
still lingers a tropic tawn, but slightly bleached withal;
he doubtless has tarried whole weeks ashore. But who could
show a cheek like Queequeg? which, barred with various tints,
seemed like the Andes' western slope, to show forth in one array,
contrasting climates, zone by zone.
"Grub, ho!" now cried the landlord, flinging open a door,
and in we went to breakfast.
They say that men who have seen the world, thereby become
quite at ease in manner, quite self-possessed in company.
Not always, though: Ledyard, the great New England traveller,
and Mungo Park, the Scotch one; of all men, they possessed
the least assurance in the parlor. But perhaps the mere
crossing of Siberia in a sledge drawn by dogs as Ledyard did,
or the taking a long solitary walk on an empty stomach, in the negro
heart of Africa, which was the sum of poor Mungo's performances--
this kind of travel, I say, may not be the very best mode
of attaining a high social polish. Still, for the most part,
that sort of thing is to be had anywhere.
These reflections just here are occasioned by the circumstance
that after we were all seated at the table, and I was preparing
to hear some good stories about whaling; to my no small
surprise nearly every man maintained a profound silence.
And not only that, but they looked embarrassed. Yes, here were
a set of sea-dogs, many of whom without the slightest bashfulness
had boarded great whales on the high seas--entire strangers to them--
and duelled them dead without winking; and yet, here they
sat at a social breakfast table--all of the same calling,
all of kindred tastes--looking round as sheepishly at each other
as though they had never been out of sight of some sheepfold
among the Green Mountains. A curious sight; these bashful bears,
these timid warrior whalemen!
But as for Queequeg--why, Queequeg sat there among them--
at the head of the table, too, it so chanced; as cool as an icicle.
To be sure I cannot say much for his breeding. His greatest
admirer could not have cordially justified his bringing his harpoon
into breakfast with him, and using it there without ceremony;
reaching over the table with it, to the imminent jeopardy
of many heads, and grappling the beefsteaks towards him.
But that was certainly very coolly done by him, and every one
knows that in most people's estimation, to do anything coolly
is to do it genteelly.
We will not speak of all Queequeg's peculiarities here;
how he eschewed coffee and hot rolls, and applied his undivided
attention to beefsteaks, done rare. Enough, that when breakfast
was over he withdrew like the rest into the public room,
lighted his tomahawk-pipe, and was sitting there quietly
digesting and smoking with his inseparable hat on, when I
sallied out for a stroll.
If I had been astonished at first catching a glimpse of so outlandish
an individual as Queequeg circulating among the polite society
of a civilized town, that astonishment soon departed upon taking
my first daylight stroll through the streets of New Bedford.
In thoroughfares nigh the docks, any considerable seaport will frequently
offer to view the queerest looking nondescripts from foreign parts.
Even in Broadway and Chestnut streets, Mediterranean mariners will
sometimes jostle the affrighted ladies. Regent Street is not unknown
to Lascars and Malays; and at Bombay, in the Apollo Green, live Yankees
have often scared the natives. But New Bedford beats all Water Street
and Wapping. In these last-mentioned haunts you see only sailors;
but in New Bedford, actual cannibals stand chatting at street corners;
savages outright; many of whom yet carry on their bones unholy flesh.
It makes a stranger stare.
But, besides the Feegeeans, Tongatobooarrs, Erromanggoans, Pannangians,
and Brighggians, and, besides the wild specimens of the whaling-craft
which unheeded reel about the streets, you will see other sights still
more curious, certainly more comical. There weekly arrive in this town
scores of green Vermonters and New Hampshire men, all athirst for gain
and glory in the fishery. They are mostly young, of stalwart frames;
fellows who have felled forests, and now seek to drop the axe and snatch
the whale-lance. Many are as green as the Green Mountains whence
they came. In some things you would think them but a few hours old.
Look there! that chap strutting round the corner. He wears a beaver hat
and swallow-tailed coat, girdled with a sailor-belt and a sheath-knife.
Here comes another with a sou'-wester and a bombazine cloak.
No town-bred dandy will compare with a country-bred one--I mean
a downright bumpkin dandy--a fellow that, in the dog-days, will mow
his two acres in buckskin gloves for fear of tanning his hands.
Now when a country dandy like this takes it into his head to make
a distinguished reputation, and joins the great whale-fishery, you
should see the comical things he does upon reaching the seaport.
In bespeaking his sea-outfit, he orders bell-buttons to his waistcoats;
straps to his canvas trowsers. Ah, poor Hay-Seed! how bitterly
will burst those straps in the first howling gale, when thou
art driven, straps, buttons, and all, down the throat of the tempest.
But think not that this famous town has only harpooneers,
cannibals, and bumpkins to show her visitors. Not at all.
Still New Bedford is a queer place. Had it not been for us whalemen,
that tract of land would this day perhaps have been in as howling
condition as the coast of Labrador. As it is, parts of her
back country are enough to frighten one, they look so bony.
The town itself is perhaps the dearest place to live in,
in all New England. It is a land of oil, true enough:
but not like Canaan; a land, also, of corn and wine.
The streets do not run with milk; nor in the spring-time
do they pave them with fresh eggs. Yet, in spite of this,
nowhere in all America will you find more patrician-like houses;
parks and gardens more opulent, than in New Bedford. Whence came
they? how planted upon this once scraggy scoria of a country?
Go and gaze upon the iron emblematical harpoons round yonder lofty
mansion, and your question will be answered. Yes; all these brave houses
and flowery gardens came from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.
One and all, they were harpooned and dragged up hither from the bottom
of the sea. Can Herr Alexander perform a feat like that?
In New Bedford, fathers, they say, give whales for dowers to their
daughters, and portion off their nieces with a few porpoises a-piece.
You must go to New Bedford to see a brilliant wedding; for, they say,
they have reservoirs of oil in every house, and every night recklessly
burn their lengths in spermaceti candles.
In summer time, the town is sweet to see; full of fine maples--
long avenues of green and gold. And in August, high in air,
the beautiful and bountiful horse-chestnuts, candelabra-wise, proffer
the passer-by their tapering upright cones of congregated blossoms.
So omnipotent is art; which in many a district of New Bedford has
superinduced bright terraces of flowers upon the barren refuse
rocks thrown aside at creation's final day.
And the women of New Bedford, they bloom like their own red roses.
But roses only bloom in summer; whereas the fine carnation
of their cheeks is perennial as sunlight in the seventh heavens.
Elsewhere match that bloom of theirs, ye cannot, save in Salem,
where they tell me the young girls breathe such musk, their sailor
sweethearts smell them miles off shore, as though they were drawing
nigh the odorous Moluccas instead of the Puritanic sands.
In this same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman's Chapel,
and few are the moody fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean
or Pacific, who fail to make a Sunday visit to the spot.
I am sure that I did not.
Returning from my first morning stroll, I again sallied out
upon this special errand. The sky had changed from clear,
sunny cold, to driving sleet and mist. Wrapping myself in my
shaggy jacket of the cloth called bearskin, I fought my way
against the stubborn storm. Entering, I found a small scattered
congregation of sailors, and sailors' wives and widows. A muffled
silence reigned, only broken at times by the shrieks of the storm.
Each silent worshipper seemed purposely sitting apart from the other,
as if each silent grief were insular and incommunicable.
The chaplain had not yet arrived; and there these silent islands
of men and women sat steadfastly eyeing several marble tablets,
with black borders, masoned into the wall on either side the pulpit.
Three of them ran something like the following, but I do not
pretend to quote:
TO THE MEMORY
Who, at the age of eighteen, was lost overboard
Near the Isle of Desolation, off Patagonia,
November 1st, 1836.
Is erected to his Memory
BY HIS SISTER.
TO THE MEMORY
ROBERT LONG, WILLIS ELLERY,
NATHAN COLEMAN, WALTER CANNY, SETH MACY,
AND SAMUEL GLEIG,
Forming one of the boats' crews
THE SHIP ELIZA
Who were towed out of sight by a Whale,
On the Off-shore Ground in the
December 31st, 1839.
Is here placed by their surviving
TO THE MEMORY
CAPTAIN EZEKIEL HARDY,
Who in the bows of his boat was killed by a
Sperm Whale on the coast of Japan,
August 3d, 1833.
Is erected to his Memory
Shaking off the sleet from my ice-glazed hat and jacket, I seated
myself near the door, and turning sideways was surprised to see
Queequeg near me. Affected by the solemnity of the scene, there was
a wondering gaze of incredulous curiosity in his countenance.
This savage was the only person present who seemed to notice
my entrance; because he was the only one who could not read,
and, therefore, was not reading those frigid inscriptions on the wall.
Whether any of the relatives of the seamen whose names
appeared there were now among the congregation, I knew not;
but so many are the unrecorded accidents in the fishery,
and so plainly did several women present wear the countenance
if not the trappings of some unceasing grief, that I feel sure
that here before me were assembled those, in whose unhealing
hearts the sight of those bleak tablets sympathetically caused
the old wounds to bleed afresh.
Oh! ye whose dead lie buried beneath the green grass;
who standing among flowers can say--here, here lies my beloved;
ye know not the desolation that broods in bosoms like these.
What bitter blanks in those black-bordered marbles which cover
no ashes! What despair in those immovable inscriptions!
What deadly voids and unbidden infidelities in the lines
that seem to gnaw upon all Faith, and refuse resurrections
to the beings who have placelessly perished without a grave.
As well might those tablets stand in the cave of Elephanta as here.
In what census of living creatures, the dead of mankind are included;
why it is that a universal proverb says of them, that they tell no tales,
though containing more secrets than the Goodwin Sands! how it is
that to his name who yesterday departed for the other world, we prefix
so significant and infidel a word, and yet do not thus entitle him,
if he but embarks for the remotest Indies of this living earth;
why the Life Insurance Companies pay death-forfeitures upon immortals;
in what eternal, unstirring paralysis, and deadly, hopeless trance,
yet lies antique Adam who died sixty round centuries ago;
how it is that we still refuse to be comforted for those who we
nevertheless maintain are dwelling in unspeakable bliss;
why all the living so strive to hush all the dead; wherefore but
the rumor of a knocking in a tomb will terrify a whole city.
All these things are not without their meanings.
But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from
these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.
It needs scarcely to be told, with what feelings, on the eve
of a Nantucket voyage, I regarded those marble tablets,
and by the murky light of that darkened, doleful day read
the fate of the whalemen who had gone before me. Yes, Ishmael,
the same fate may be thine. But somehow I grew merry again.
Delightful inducements to embark, fine chance for promotion,
it seems--aye, a stove boat will make me an immortal by brevet.
Yes, there is death in this business of whaling--a speechlessly
quick chaotic bundling of a man into Eternity. But what then?
Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life
and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth
is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual,
we are too much like oysters observing the sun through
the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.
Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being.
In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me.
And therefore three cheers for Nantucket; and come a stove
boat and stove body when they will, for stave my soul,
Jove himself cannot.
I had not been seated very long ere a man of a certain venerable
robustness entered; immediately as the storm-pelted door flew
back upon admitting him, a quick regardful eyeing of him by all
the congregation, sufficiently attested that this fine old
man was the chaplain. Yes, it was the famous Father Mapple,
so called by the whalemen, among whom he was a very great favorite.
He had been a sailor and a harpooneer in his youth, but for
many years past had dedicated his life to the ministry.
At the time I now write of, Father Mapple was in the hardy winter
of a healthy old age; that sort of old age which seems merging into
a second flowering youth, for among all the fissures of his wrinkles,
there shone certain mild gleams of a newly developing bloom--
the spring verdure peeping forth even beneath February's snow.
No one having previously heard his history, could for the first time
behold Father Mapple without the utmost interest, because there
were certain engrafted clerical peculiarities about him,
imputable to that adventurous maritime life he had led.
When he entered I observed that he carried no umbrella,
and certainly had not come in his carriage, for his tarpaulin
hat ran down with melting sleet, and his great pilot cloth
jacket seemed almost to drag him to the floor with the weight
of the water it had absorbed. However, hat and coat and
overshoes were one by one removed, and hung up in a little
space in an adjacent corner; when, arrayed in a decent suit,
he quietly approached the pulpit.
Like most old fashioned pulpits, it was a very lofty one, and since
a regular stairs to such a height would, by its long angle with
the floor, seriously contract the already small area of the chapel,
the architect, it seemed, had acted upon the hint of Father Mapple,
and finished the pulpit without a stairs, substituting a perpendicular
side ladder, like those used in mounting a ship from a boat at sea.
The wife of a whaling captain had provided the chapel with a handsome
pair of red worsted man-ropes for this ladder, which, being itself
nicely headed, and stained with a mahogany color, the whole contrivance,
considering what manner of chapel it was, seemed by no means
in bad taste. Halting for an instant at the foot of the ladder,
and with both hands grasping the ornamental knobs of the man-ropes,
Father Mapple cast a look upwards, and then with a truly sailor-like
but still reverential dexterity, hand over hand, mounted the steps
as if ascending the main-top of his vessel.
The perpendicular parts of this side ladder, as is usually the case
with swinging ones, were of cloth-covered rope, only the rounds
were of wood, so that at every step there was a joint. At my first
glimpse of the pulpit, it had not escaped me that however convenient
for a ship, these joints in the present instance seemed unnecessary.
For I was not prepared to see Father Mapple after gaining the height,
slowly turn round, and stooping over the pulpit, deliberately drag
up the ladder step by step, till the whole was deposited within,
leaving him impregnable in his little Quebec.
I pondered some time without fully comprehending the reason for this.
Father Mapple enjoyed such a wide reputation for sincerity and sanctity,
that I could not suspect him of courting notoriety by any mere
tricks of the stage. No, thought I, there must be some sober reason
for this thing; furthermore, it must symbolize something unseen.
Can it be, then, that by that act of physical isolation,
he signifies his spiritual withdrawal for the time, from all outward
worldly ties and connexions? Yes, for replenished with the meat
and wine of the word, to the faithful man of God, this pulpit,
I see, is a self-containing stronghold--a lofty Ehrenbreitstein,
with a perennial well of water within the walls.
But the side ladder was not the only strange feature of the place,
borrowed from the chaplain's former sea-farings. Between the marble
cenotaphs on either hand of the pulpit, the wall which formed its back was
adorned with a large painting representing a gallant ship beating against
a terrible storm off a lee coast of black rocks and snowy breakers.
But high above the flying scud and dark-rolling clouds, there floated
a little isle of sunlight, from which beamed forth an angel's face;
and this bright face shed a distant spot of radiance upon the ship's
tossed deck, something like that silver plate now inserted into
the Victory's plank where Nelson fell. "Ah, 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 fiddle-headed beak.
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 favorable 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. "Star board 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 joy--
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 consists.
"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 worldwide 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 the cabin.
"'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 meaning.
"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 look'st 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 upward,
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 wrestling 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 all-outward 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 so many white bolts, upon his prison.
Then Jonah prayed unto 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 them.
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 these words:
"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 it!
"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 dishonor!
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 drooped 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 for a moment, looking vacantly around him,
and giving utterance to a long-drawn gurgling whistle of astonishment.
He would then begin again at the next fifty; seeming to commence at
number one each time, as though he could not count more than fifty,
and it was only by such a large number of fifties being found together,
that his astonishment at the multitude of pages was excited.
With much interest I sat watching him. Savage though he was,
and hideously marred about the face--at least to my taste--
his countenance yet had a something in it which was by no
means disagreeable. You cannot hide the soul. Through all his
unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw the traces of a simple
honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes, fiery black and bold,
there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a thousand devils.
And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing about
the Pagan, which even his uncouthness could not altogether maim.
He looked like a man who had never cringed and never had had a creditor.
Whether it was, too, that his head being shaved, his forehead was
drawn out in freer and brighter relief, and looked more expansive
than it otherwise would, this I will not venture to decide;
but certain it was his head was phrenologically an excellent one.
It may seem ridiculous, but it reminded me of General Washington's head,
as seen in the popular busts of him. It had the same long regularly
graded retreating slope from above the brows, which were likewise
very projecting, like two long promontories thickly wooded on 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 as 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,