Part 2 out of 12
he must have "broken his digester."
As I sat there in that now lonely room; the fire burning low,
in that mild stage when, after its first intensity has warmed the air,
it then only glows to be looked at; the evening shades and phantoms
gathering round the casements, and peering in upon us silent,
solitary twain; the storm booming without in solemn swells;
I began to be sensible of strange feelings. I felt a melting in me.
No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against
the wolfish world. This soothing savage had redeemed it.
There he sat, his very indifference speaking a nature in which
there lurked no civilized hypocrisies and bland deceits.
Wild he was; a very sight of sights to see; yet I began to feel
myself mysteriously drawn towards him. And those same things
that would have repelled most others, they were the very magnets
that thus drew me. I'll try a pagan friend, thought I,
since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy.
I drew my bench near him, and made some friendly signs
and hints, doing my best to talk with him meanwhile.
At first he little noticed these advances; but presently,
upon my referring to his last night's hospitalities,
he made out to ask me whether we were again to be bedfellows.
I told him yes; whereat I thought he looked pleased,
perhaps a little complimented.
We then turned over the book together, and I endeavored to explain
to him the purpose of the printing, and the meaning of the few
pictures that were in it. Thus I soon engaged his interest;
and from that we went to jabbering the best we could about
the various outer sights to be seen in this famous town.
Soon I proposed a social smoke; and, producing his pouch
and tomahawk, he quietly offered me a puff. And then we sat
exchanging puffs from that wild pipe of his, and keeping it
regularly passing between us.
If there yet lurked any ice of indifference towards me
in the Pagan's breast, this pleasant, genial smoke we had,
soon thawed it out, and left us cronies. He seemed to take
to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as I to him;
and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine,
clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we
were married; meaning, in his country's phrase, that we were
bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be.
In a countryman, this sudden flame of friendship would have
seemed far too premature, a thing to be much distrusted;
but in this simple savage those old rules would not apply.
After supper, and another social chat and smoke, we went to our
room together. He made me a present of his embalmed head;
took out his enormous tobacco wallet, and groping under the tobacco,
drew out some thirty dollars in silver; then spreading them on
the table, and mechanically dividing them into two equal portions,
pushed one of them towards me, and said it was mine.
I was going to remonstrate; but he silenced me by pouring
them into my trowsers' pockets. I let them stay.
He then went about his evening prayers, took out his idol,
and removed the paper firebrand. By certain signs and symptoms,
I thought he seemed anxious for me to join him; but well
knowing what was to follow, I deliberated a moment whether,
in case he invited me, I would comply or otherwise.
I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible
Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator
in worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought
I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven
and earth--pagans and all included--can possibly be jealous of an
insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?--
to do the will of God? that is worship. And what is the will of God?--
to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me--
that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man.
And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me
in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must
then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator.
So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol;
offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice
or thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went
to bed, at peace with our own consciences and all the world.
But we did not go to sleep without some little chat.
How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for
confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say,
there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some
old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning.
Thus, then, in our hearts' honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg--
a cosy, loving pair.
We had lain thus in bed, chatting and napping at short intervals,
and Queequeg now and then affectionately throwing his brown
tattooed legs over mine, and then drawing them back;
so entirely sociable and free and easy were we; when, at last,
by reason of our confabulations, what little nappishness remained
in us altogether departed, and we felt like getting up again,
though day-break was yet some way down the future.
Yes, we became very wakeful; so much so that our recumbent
position began to grow wearisome, and by little and little we
found ourselves sitting up; the clothes well tucked around us,
leaning against the headboard with our four knees drawn up
close together, and our two noses bending over them, as if
our knee-pans were warming-pans. We felt very nice and snug,
the more so since it was so chilly out of doors; indeed out
of bed-clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the room.
The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth,
some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality
in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast.
Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you
are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time,
then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if,
like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown
of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general
consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm.
For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished
with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich.
For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing
but the blankets between you and your snugness and the cold
of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark
in the heart of an arctic crystal.
We had been sitting in this crouching manner for some time,
when all at once I thought I would open my eyes; for when
between sheets, whether by day or by night, and whether
asleep or awake, I have a way of always keeping my eyes shut,
in order the more to concentrate the snugness of being in bed.
Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright except his
eyes be closed; as if, darkness were indeed the proper element
of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part.
Upon opening my eyes then, and coming out of my own pleasant
and self-created darkness into the imposed and coarse outer gloom
of the unilluminated twelve-o'clock-at-night, I experienced
a disagreeable revulsion. Nor did I at all object to the hint
from Queequeg that perhaps it were best to strike a light,
seeing that we were so wide awake; and besides he felt a strong
desire to have a few quiet puffs from his Tomahawk. Be it said,
that though I had felt such a strong repugnance to his smoking
in the bed the night before, yet see how elastic our stiff prejudices
grow when love once love comes to bend them. For now I liked
nothing better than to have Queequeg smoking by me, even in bed,
because he seemed to be full of such serene household joy then.
I no more felt unduly concerned for the landlord's policy of insurance.
I was only alive to the condensed confidential comfortableness
of sharing a pipe and a blanket with a real friend.
With our shaggy jackets drawn about our shoulders, we now passed
the Tomahawk from one to the other, till slowly there grew
over us a blue hanging tester of smoke, illuminated by the flame
of the new-lit lamp.
Whether it was that this undulating tester rolled the savage
away to far distant scenes, I know not, but he now spoke
of his native island; and, eager to hear his history,
I begged him to go on and tell it. He gladly complied.
Though at the time I but ill comprehended not a few of his words,
yet subsequent disclosures, when I had become more familiar
with his broken phraseology, now enable me to present the whole
story such as it may prove in the mere skeleton I give.
Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West
and South. It is not down on any map; true places never are.
When a new-hatched savage running wild about his native woodlands
in a grass clout, followed by the nibbling goats, as if he were
a green sapling; even then, in Queequeg's ambitious soul,
lurked a strong desire to see something more of Christendom
than a specimen whaler or two. His father was a High Chief,
a King; his uncle a High Priest; and on the maternal side
he boasted aunts who were the wives of unconquerable warriors.
There was excellent blood in his veins--royal stuff;
though sadly vitiated, I fear, by the cannibal propensity
he nourished in his untutored youth.
A Sag Harbor ship visited his father's bay, and Queequeg sought
a passage to Christian lands. But the ship, having her full
complement of seamen, spurned his suit; and not all the King
his father's influence could prevail. But Queequeg vowed a vow.
Alone in his canoe, he paddled off to a distant strait, which he
knew the ship must pass through when she quitted the island.
On one side was a coral reef; on the other a low tongue of land,
covered with mangrove thickets that grew out into the water.
Hiding his canoe, still afloat, among these thickets, with its
prow seaward, he sat down in the stern, paddle low in hand;
and when the ship was gliding by, like a flash he darted out;
gained her side; with one backward dash of his foot capsized
and sank his canoe; climbed up the chains; and throwing himself
at full length upon the deck, grappled a ring-bolt there,
and swore not to let it go, though hacked in pieces.
In vain the captain threatened to throw him overboard; suspended a
cutlass over his naked wrists; Queequeg was the son of a King,
and Queequeg budged not. Struck by his desperate dauntlessness,
and his wild desire to visit Christendom, the captain at last relented,
and told him he might make himself at home. But this fine young savage--
this sea Prince of Wales, never saw the Captain's cabin.
They put him down among the sailors, and made a whaleman of him.
But like Czar Peter content to toil in the shipyards of foreign cities,
Queequeg disdained no seeming ignominy, if thereby he might
happily gain the power of enlightening his untutored countrymen.
For at bottom--so he told me--he was actuated by a profound
desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby to make
his people still happier than they were; and more than that,
still better than they were. But, alas! the practices of whalemen
soon convinced him that even Christians could be both miserable
and wicked; infinitely more so, than all his father's heathens.
Arrived at last in old Sag Harbor; and seeing what the sailors
did there; and then going on to Nantucket, and seeing how they spent
their wages in that place also, poor Queequeg gave it up for lost.
Thought he, it's a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a pagan.
And thus an old idolator at heart, he yet lived among these Christians,
wore their clothes, and tried to talk their gibberish.
Hence the queer ways about him, though now some time from home.
By hints I asked him whether he did not propose going back,
and having a coronation; since he might now consider his father
dead and gone, he being very old and feeble at the last accounts.
He answered no, not yet; and added that he was fearful Christianity,
or rather Christians, had unfitted him for ascending the pure
and undefiled throne of thirty pagan Kings before him.
But by and by, he said, he would return,--as soon as he felt
himself baptized again. For the nonce, however, he proposed
to sail about, and sow his wild oats in all four oceans.
They had made a harpooneer of him, and that barbed iron was
in lieu of a sceptre now.
I asked him what might be his immediate purpose, touching his
future movements. He answered, to go to sea again, in his old vocation.
Upon this, I told him that whaling was my own design, and informed
him of my intention to sail out of Nantucket, as being the most
promising port for an adventurous whaleman to embark from.
He at once resolved to accompany me to that island, ship aboard
the same vessel, get into the same watch, the same boat,
the same mess with me, in short to share my every hap; with both
my hands in his, boldly dip into the Potluck of both worlds.
To all this I joyously assented; for besides the affection I now
felt for Queequeg, he was an experienced harpooneer, and as such,
could not fail to be of great usefulness to one, who, like me,
was wholly ignorant of the mysteries of whaling, though well
acquainted with the sea, as known to merchant seamen.
His story being ended with his pipe's last dying puff,
Queequeg embraced me, pressed his forehead against mine,
and blowing out the light, we rolled over from each other,
this way and that, and very soon were sleeping.
Next morning, Monday, after disposing of the embalmed head
to a barber, for a block, I settled my own and comrade's bill;
using, however, my comrade's money. The grinning landlord,
as well as the boarders, seemed amazingly tickled at the sudden
friendship which had sprung up between me and Queequeg--
especially as Peter Coffin's cock and bull stories about him
had previously so much alarmed me concerning the very person
whom I now companied with.
We borrowed a wheelbarrow, and embarking our things, including my own poor
carpet-bag, and Queequeg's canvas sack and hammock, away we went down
to "the Moss," the little Nantucket packet schooner moored at the wharf.
As we were going along the people stared; not at Queequeg so much--
for they were used to seeing cannibals like him in their streets,--
but at seeing him and me upon such confidential terms. But we heeded
them not, going along wheeling the barrow by turns, and Queequeg
now and then stopping to adjust the sheath on his harpoon barbs.
I asked him why he carried such a troublesome thing with him ashore,
and whether all whaling ships did not find their own harpoons.
To this, in substance, he replied, that though what I hinted was
true enough, yet he had a particular affection for his own harpoon,
because it was of assured stuff, well tried in many a mortal combat,
and deeply intimate with the hearts of whales. In short, like many
inland reapers and mowers, who go into the farmer's meadows armed
with their own scythes--though in no wise obliged to furnish them--
even so, Queequeg, for his own private reasons, preferred his own harpoon.
Shifting the barrow from my hand to his, he told me a funny
story about the first wheelbarrow he had ever seen.
It was in Sag Harbor. The owners of his ship, it seems, had lent
him one, in which to carry his heavy chest to his boarding house.
Not to seem ignorant about the thing--though in truth he was
entirely so, concerning the precise way in which to manage
the barrow--Queequeg puts his chest upon it; lashes it fast;
and then shoulders the barrow and marches up the wharf.
"Why," said I, "Queequeg, you might have known better than that,
one would think. Didn't the people laugh?"
Upon this, he told me another story. The people of his island
of Rokovoko, it seems, at their wedding feasts express the fragrant
water of young cocoanuts into a large stained calabash like a punchbowl;
and this punchbowl always forms the great central ornament on
the braided mat where the feast is held. Now a certain grand merchant
ship once touched at Rokovoko, and its commander--from all accounts,
a very stately punctilious gentleman, at least for a sea captain--
this commander was invited to the wedding feast of Queequeg's sister,
a pretty young princess just turned of ten. Well; when all
the wedding guests were assembled at the bride's bamboo cottage,
this Captain marches in, and being assigned the post of honor,
placed himself over against the punchbowl, and between
the High Priest and his majesty the King, Queequeg's father.
Grace being said,--for those people have their grace as well as we--
though Queequeg told me that unlike us, who at such times look
downwards to our platters, they, on the contrary, copying the ducks,
glance upwards to the great Giver of all feasts--Grace, I say,
being said, the High Priest opens the banquet by the immemorial ceremony
of the island; that is, dipping his consecrated and consecrating
fingers into the bowl before the blessed beverage circulates.
Seeing himself placed next the Priest, and noting the ceremony,
and thinking himself--being Captain of a ship--as having plain
precedence over a mere island King, especially in the King's own house--
the Captain coolly proceeds to wash his hands in the punch bowl;--
taking it I suppose for a huge finger-glass. "Now," said Queequeg,
"what you tink now?--Didn't our people laugh?"
At last, passage paid, and luggage safe, we stood on board the schooner.
Hoisting sail, it glided down the Acushnet river. On one side,
New Bedford rose in terraces of streets, their ice-covered trees all
glittering in the clear, cold air. Huge hills and mountains of casks
on casks were piled upon her wharves, and side by side the world-wandering
whale ships lay silent and safely moored at last; while from others came
a sound of carpenters and coopers, with blended noises of fires and forges
to melt the pitch, all betokening that new cruises were on the start;
that one most perilous and long voyage ended, only begins a second;
and a second ended, only begins a third, and so on, for ever and for aye.
Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all earthly effort.
Gaining the more open water, the bracing breeze waxed fresh; the little
Moss tossed the quick foam from her bows, as a young colt his snortings.
How I snuffed that Tartar air!--how I spurned that turnpike earth!--
that common highway all over dented with the marks of slavish heels
and hoofs; and turned me to admire the magnanimity of the sea which will
permit no records.
At the same foam-fountain, Queequeg seemed to drink and reel with me.
His dusky nostrils swelled apart; he showed his filed and pointed teeth.
On, on we flew, and our offing gained, the Moss did homage to the blast;
ducked and dived her bows as a slave before the Sultan. Sideways leaning,
we sideways darted; every ropeyarn tingling like a wire;
the two tall masts buckling like Indian canes in land tornadoes.
So full of this reeling scene were we, as we stood by the
plunging bowsprit, that for some time we did not notice the jeering
glances of the passengers, a lubber-like assembly, who marvelled
that two fellow beings should be so companionable; as though
a white man were anything more dignified than a whitewashed negro.
But there were some boobies and bumpkins there, who, by their intense
greenness, must have come from the heart and centre of all verdure.
Queequeg caught one of these young saplings mimicking him behind
his back. I thought the bumpkin's hour of doom was come.
Dropping his harpoon, the brawny savage caught him in his arms,
and by an almost miraculous dexterity and strength, sent him high up
bodily into the air; then slightly tapping his stern in mid-somerset,
the fellow landed with bursting lungs upon his feet, while Queequeg,
turning his back upon him, lighted his tomahawk pipe and passed it
to me for a puff.
"Capting! Capting! yelled the bumpkin, running toward that officer;
"Capting, Capting, here's the devil."
"Hallo, you sir," cried the Captain, a gaunt rib of the sea,
stalking up to Queequeg, "what in thunder do you mean by that?
Don't you know you might have killed that chap?"
"What him say?" said Queequeg, as he mildly turned to me.
"He say," said I, "that you came near kill-e that man there,"
pointing to the still shivering greenhorn.
"Kill-e," cried Queequeg, twisting his tattooed face into an
unearthly expression of disdain, "ah! him bevy small-e fish-e;
Queequeg no kill-e so small-e fish-e; Queequeg kill-e big whale!"
"Look you," roared the Captain, "I'll kill-e you, you cannibal,
if you try any more of your tricks aboard here; so mind your eye."
But it so happened just then, that it was high time for the Captain
to mind his own eye. The prodigious strain upon the main-sail had
parted the weather-sheet, and the tremendous boom was now flying
from side to side, completely sweeping the entire after part
of the deck. The poor fellow whom Queequeg had handled so roughly,
was swept overboard; all hands were in a panic; and to attempt
snatching at the boom to stay it, seemed madness. It flew from
right to left, and back again, almost in one ticking of a watch,
and every instant seemed on the point of snapping into splinters.
Nothing was done, and nothing seemed capable of being done;
those on deck rushed toward the bows, and stood eyeing the boom
as if it were the lower jaw of an exasperated whale. In the midst
of this consternation, Queequeg dropped deftly to his knees,
and crawling under the path of the boom, whipped hold of a rope,
secured one end to the bulwarks, and then flinging the other
like a lasso, caught it round the boom as it swept over his head,
and at the next jerk, the spar was that way trapped, and all was safe.
The schooner was run into the wind, and while the hands were
clearing away the stern boat, Queequeg, stripped to the waist,
darted from the side with a long living arc of a leap.
For three minutes or more he was seen swimming like a dog,
throwing his long arms straight out before him, and by turns
revealing his brawny shoulders through the freezing foam.
I looked at the grand and glorious fellow, but saw no one to be saved.
The greenhorn had gone down. Shooting himself perpendicularly
from the water, Queequeg, now took an instant's glance around him,
and seeming to see just how matters were, dived down and disappeared.
A few minutes more, and he rose again, one arm still
striking out, and with the other dragging a lifeless form.
The boat soon picked them up. The poor bumpkin was restored.
All hands voted Queequeg a noble trump; the captain begged his pardon.
From that hour I clove to Queequeg like a barnacle; yea, till poor
Queequeg took his last long dive.
Was there ever such unconsciousness? He did not seem to think that he at
all deserved a medal from the Humane and Magnanimous Societies. He only
asked for water--fresh water--something to wipe the brine off;
that done, he put on dry clothes, lighted his pipe, and leaning against
the bulwarks, and mildly eyeing those around him, seemed to be saying
to himself--"It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians.
We cannibals must help these Christians."
Nothing more happened on the passage worthy the mentioning;
so, after a fine run, we safely arrived in Nantucket.
Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner
of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore,
more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse. Look at it--
a mere hillock, and elbow of sand; all beach, without a background.
There is more sand there than you would use in twenty years as a
substitute for blotting paper. Some gamesome wights will tell you
that they have to plant weeds there, they don't grow naturally;
that they import Canada thistles; that they have to send beyond
seas for a spile to stop a leak in an oil cask; that pieces of wood
in Nantucket are carried about like bits of the true cross in Rome;
that people there plant toadstools before their houses, to get under
the shade in summer time; that one blade of grass makes an oasis,
three blades in a day's walk a prairie; that they wear quicksand shoes,
something like Laplander snow-shoes; that they are so shut up,
belted about, every way inclosed, surrounded, and made an utter island
of by the ocean, that to their very chairs and tables small clams
will sometimes be found adhering as to the backs of sea turtles.
But these extravaganzas only show that Nantucket is no Illinois.
Look now at the wondrous traditional story of how this
island was settled by the red-men. Thus goes the legend.
In olden times an eagle swooped down upon the New England
coast and carried off an infant Indian in his talons.
With loud lament the parents saw their child borne out of sight over
the wide waters. They resolved to follow in the same direction.
Setting out in their canoes, after a perilous passage they
discovered the island, and there they found an empty ivory casket,--
the poor little Indian's skeleton.
What wonder, then, that these Nantucketers, born on a beach, should take
to the sea for a livelihood! They first caught crabs and quahogs
in the sand; grown bolder, they waded out with nets for mackerel;
more experienced, they pushed off in boats and captured cod;
and at last, launching a navy of great ships on the sea, explored this
watery world; put an incessant belt of circumnavigations round it;
peeped in at Behring's Straits; and in all seasons and all oceans
declared everlasting war with the mightiest animated mass that
has survived the flood; most monstrous and most mountainous!
That Himmalehan, salt-sea, Mastodon, clothed with such portentousness
of unconscious power, that his very panics are more to be dreaded
than his most fearless and malicious assaults!
And thus have these naked Nantucketers, these sea hermits,
issuing from their ant-hill in the sea, overrun and conquered
the watery world like so many Alexanders; parcelling out among
them the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, as the three
pirate powers did Poland. Let America add Mexico to Texas,
and pile Cuba upon Canada; let the English overswarm all India,
and hang out their blazing banner from the sun; two thirds of this
terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer's. For the sea is his;
he owns it, as Emperors own empires; other seamen having but a right
of way through it. Merchant ships are but extension bridges;
armed ones but floating forts; even pirates and privateers,
though following the sea as highwaymen the road. they but plunder
other ships, other fragments of the land like themselves,
without seeking to draw their living from the bottomless deep itself.
The Nantucketer, he alone resides and riots on the sea;
he alone, in Bible language, goes down to it in ships;
to and fro ploughing it as his own special plantation.
There is his home; there lies his business which a Noah's flood
would not interrupt, though it overwhelmed all the millions
in China. He lives on the sea, as prairie cocks in the prairie;
he hides among the waves, he climbs them as chamois hunters
climb the Alps. For years he knows not the land; so that
when he comes to it at last, it smells like another world,
more strangely than the moon would to an Earthsman. With the
landless gull, that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked
to sleep between billows; so at nightfall, the Nantucketer,
out of sight of land, furls his sails, and lays him to his rest,
while under his very pillow rush herds of walruses and whales.
It was quite late in the evening when the little Moss came snugly
to anchor, and Queequeg and I went ashore; so we could attend
to no business that day, at least none but a supper and a bed.
The landlord of the Spouter-Inn had recommended us to his cousin
Hosea Hussey of the Try Pots, whom he asserted to be the proprietor of one
of the best kept hotels in all Nantucket, and moreover he had assured
us that Cousin Hosea, as he called him, was famous for his chowders.
In short, he plainly hinted that we could not possibly do better
than try pot-luck at the Try Pots. But the directions he had given
us about keeping a yellow warehouse on our starboard hand till we
opened a white church to the larboard, and then keeping that on
the larboard hand till we made a corner three points to the starboard,
and that done, then ask the first man we met where the place was;
these crooked directions of his very much puzzled us at first,
especially as, at the outset, Queequeg insisted that the yellow warehouse--
our first point of departure--must be left on the larboard hand,
whereas I had understood Peter Coffin to say it was on the starboard.
However, by dint of beating about a little in the dark, and now
and then knocking up a peaceable inhabitant to inquire the way,
we at last came to something which there was no mistaking.
Two enormous wooden pots painted black, and suspended by asses'
ears, swung from the cross-trees of an old top-mast, planted in front
of an old doorway. The horns of the cross-trees were sawed off on the
other side, so that this old top-mast looked not a little like a gallows.
Perhaps I was over sensitive to such impressions at the time,
but I could not help staring at this gallows with a vague misgiving.
A sort of crick was in my neck as I gazed up to the two
remaining horns; yes, two of them, one for Queequeg, and one for me.
It's ominous, thinks I. A Coffin my Innkeeper upon landing in my first
whaling port; tombstones staring at me in the whalemen's chapel,
and here a gallows! and a pair of prodigious black pots too!
Are these last throwing out oblique hints touching Tophet?
I was called from these reflections by the sight of a freckled
woman with yellow hair and a yellow gown, standing in the porch
of the inn, under a dull red lamp swinging there, that looked much
like an injured eye, and carrying on a brisk scolding with a man
in a purple woollen shirt.
"Get along with ye," said she to the man, "or I'll be combing ye!"
"Come on, Queequeg," said I, "all right. There's Mrs. Hussey."
And so it turned out; Mr. Hosea Hussey being from home, but leaving
Mrs. Hussey entirely competent to attend to all his affairs.
Upon making known our desires for a supper and a bed,
Mrs. Hussey, postponing further scolding for the present,
ushered us into a little room, and seating us at a table spread
with the relics of a recently concluded repast, turned round
to us and said--"Clam or Cod?"
"What's that about Cods, ma'am?" said I, with much politeness.
"Clam or Cod?" she repeated.
"A clam for supper? a cold clam; is that what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?"
says I, "but that's a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter time,
ain't it, Mrs. Hussey?"
But being in a great hurry to resume scolding the man in the purple
shirt who was waiting for it in the entry, and seeming to hear nothing
but the word "clam," Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading
to the kitchen, and bawling out "clam for two," disappeared.
"Queequeg," said I, "do you think that we can make out a supper
for us both on one clam?"
However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie
the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that
smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained.
Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams,
scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits,
and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched
with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.
Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular,
Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder
being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition:
when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey's clam
and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment.
Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word "cod" with
great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury
steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good
time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.
We resumed business; and while plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I
to myself, I wonder now if this here has any effect on the head?
What's that stultifying saying about chowder-headed people?
"But look, Queequeg, ain't that a live eel in your bowl?
Where's your harpoon?"
Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved
its name; for the pots there were always boiling chowders.
Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper,
till you began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes.
The area before the house was paved with clam-shells. Mrs. Hussey
wore a polished necklace of codfish vertebra; and Hosea Hussey had
his account books bound in superior old shark-skin. There was a fishy
flavor to the milk, too, which I could not at all account for,
till one morning happening to take a stroll along the beach among some
fishermen's boats, I saw Hosea's brindled cow feeding on fish remnants,
and marching along the sand with each foot in a cod's decapitated head,
looking very slipshod, I assure ye.
Supper concluded, we received a lamp, and directions from Mrs. Hussey
concerning the nearest way to bed; but, as Queequeg was about
to precede me up the stairs, the lady reached forth her arm,
and demanded his harpoon; she allowed no harpoon in her chambers.
"Why not? said I; "every true whaleman sleeps with his harpoon--
but why not?" "Because it's dangerous," says she.
"Ever since young Stiggs coming from that unfort'nt v'y'ge of his,
when he was gone four years and a half, with only three barrels
of ile, was found dead in my first floor back, with his harpoon
in his side; ever since then I allow no boarders to take sich
dangerous weepons in their rooms at night. So, Mr. Queequeg"
(for she had learned his name), "I will just take this here iron,
and keep it for you till morning. But the chowder; clam or cod
to-morrow for breakfast, men?"
"Both," says I; "and let's have a couple of smoked herring
by way of variety."
In bed we concocted our plans for the morrow. But to my surprise
and no small concern, Queequeg now gave me to understand, that he had
been diligently consulting Yojo--the name of his black little god--
and Yojo had told him two or three times over, and strongly
insisted upon it everyway, that instead of our going together among
the whaling-fleet in harbor, and in concert selecting our craft;
instead of this, I say, Yojo earnestly enjoined that the selection
of the ship should rest wholly with me, inasmuch as Yojo purposed
befriending us; and, in order to do so, had already pitched upon
a vessel, which, if left to myself, I, Ishmael, should infallibly
light upon, for all the world as though it had turned out by chance;
and in that vessel I must immediately ship myself, for the present
irrespective of Queequeg.
I have forgotten to mention that, in many things, Queequeg placed
great confidence in the excellence of Yojo's judgment and surprising
forecast of things; and cherished Yojo with considerable esteem,
as a rather good sort of god, who perhaps meant well enough upon
the whole, but in all cases did not succeed in his benevolent designs.
Now, this plan of Queequeg's or rather Yojo's, touching
the selection of our craft; I did not like that plan at all.
I had not a little relied on Queequeg's sagacity to point out
the whaler best fitted to carry us and our fortunes securely.
But as all my remonstrances produced no effect upon Queequeg, I was
obliged to acquiesce; and accordingly prepared to set about this
business with a determined rushing sort of energy and vigor,
that should quickly settle that trifling little affair.
Next morning early, leaving Queequeg shut up with Yojo
in our little bedroom--for it seemed that it was some sort
of Lent or Ramadan, or day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer
with Queequeg and Yojo that day; how it was I never could
find out, for, though I applied myself to it several times,
I never could master his liturgies and XXXIX Articles--
leaving Queequeg, then, fasting on his tomahawk pipe,
and Yojo warming himself at his sacrificial fire of shavings,
I sallied out among the shipping. After much prolonged sauntering,
and many random inquiries, I learnt that there were three ships
up for three-years' voyages--The Devil-Dam the Tit-bit,
and the Pequod. Devil-dam, I do not know the origin of;
Tit-bit is obvious; Pequod you will no doubt remember,
was the name of a celebrated tribe of Massachusetts Indians;
now extinct as the ancient Medes. I peered and pryed about
the Devil-Dam; from her, hopped over to the Tit-bit; and finally,
going on board the Pequod, looked around her for a moment,
and then decided that this was the very ship for us.
You may have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for aught I know;--
square-toed luggers; mountainous Japanese junks; butter-box galliots,
and what not; but take my word for it, you never saw such a rare old
craft as this same rare old Pequod. She was a ship of the old school,
rather small if anything; with an old-fashioned claw-footed look
about her. Long seasoned and weather-stained in the typhoons and calms
of all four oceans, her old hull's complexion was darkened like a French
grenadier's, who has alike fought in Egypt and Siberia. Her venerable
bows looked bearded. Her masts--cut somewhere on the coast of Japan,
where her original ones were lost overboard in a gale--her masts stood
stiffly up like the spines of the three old kings of Cologne. Her ancient
decks were worn and wrinkled, like the pilgrim-worshipped flag-stone
in Canterbury Cathedral where Beckett bled. But to all these her
old antiquities, were added new and marvellous features, pertaining to
the wild business that for more than half a century she had followed.
Old Captain Peleg, many years her chief-mate, before he commanded
another vessel of his own, and now a retired seaman, and one of the
principal owners of the Pequod,--this old Peleg, during the term of his
chief-mateship, had built upon her original grotesqueness, and inlaid it,
all over, with a quaintness both of material and device, unmatched by
anything except it be Thorkill-Hake's carved buckler or bedstead.
She was apparelled like any barbaric Ethiopian emperor, his neck
heavy with pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing of trophies.
A cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones
of her enemies. All round, her unpanelled, open bulwarks were garnished
like one continuous jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the sperm whale,
inserted there for pins, to fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to.
Those thews ran not through base blocks of land wood, but deftly travelled
over sheaves of sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her reverend
helm, she sported there a tiller; and that tiller was in one mass,
curiously carved from the long narrow lower jaw of her hereditary foe.
The helmsman who steered by that tiller in a tempest, felt like
the Tartar, when he holds back his fiery steed by clutching its jaw.
A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are
touched with that.
Now when I looked about the quarter-deck, for some one having authority,
in order to propose myself as a candidate for the voyage, at first I
saw nobody; but I could not well overlook a strange sort of tent,
or rather wigwam, pitched a little behind the main-mast. It seemed
only a temporary erection used in port. It was of a conical shape,
some ten feet high; consisting of the long, huge slabs of limber
black bone taken from the middle and highest part of the jaws of
the right-whale. Planted with their broad ends on the deck, a circle
of these slabs laced together, mutually sloped towards each other,
and at the apex united in a tufted point, where the loose hairy fibres
waved to and fro like a top-knot on some old Pottowotamie Sachem's head.
A triangular opening faced towards the bows of the ship, so that
the insider commanded a complete view forward.
And half concealed in this queer tenement, I at length found
one who by his aspect seemed to have authority; and who,
it being noon, and the ship's work suspended, was now enjoying
respite from the burden of command. He was seated on an
old-fashioned oaken chair, wriggling all over with curious carving;
and the bottom of which was formed of a stout interlacing
of the same elastic stuff of which the wigwam was constructed.
There was nothing so very particular, perhaps, about the appearance
of the elderly man I saw; he was brown and brawny, like most old seamen,
and heavily rolled up in blue pilot-cloth, cut in the Quaker style;
only there was a fine and almost microscopic net-work of the minutest
wrinkles interlacing round his eyes, which must have arisen from his
continual sailings in many hard gales, and always looking to windward;--
for this causes the muscles about the eyes to become pursed together.
Such eye-wrinkles are very effectual in a scowl.
"Is this the Captain of the Pequod?" said I, advancing to the door
of the tent.
"Supposing it be the Captain of the Pequod, what dost thou want
of him?" he demanded.
"I was thinking of shipping."
"Thou wast, wast thou? I see thou art no Nantucketer--
ever been in a stove boat?"
"No, Sir, I never have."
"Dost know nothing at all about whaling, I dare say--eh?
"Nothing, Sir; but I have no doubt I shall soon learn.
I've been several voyages in the merchant service, and I think that-"
"Merchant service be damned. Talk not that lingo to me.
Dost see that leg?--I'll take that leg away from thy stern,
if ever thou talkest of the merchant service to me again.
Marchant service indeed! I suppose now ye feel considerable
proud of having served in those marchant ships. But flukes! man,
what makes thee want to go a whaling, eh?--it looks a little
suspicious, don't it, eh?--Hast not been a pirate, hast thou?--
Didst not rob thy last Captain, didst thou?--Dost not think
of murdering the officers when thou gettest to sea?"
I protested my innocence of these things. I saw that under
the mask of these half humorous innuendoes, this old seaman,
as an insulated Quakerish Nantucketer, was full of his
insular prejudices, and rather distrustful of all aliens,
unless they hailed from Cape Cod or the Vineyard.
"But what takes thee a-whaling? I want to know that before I
think of shipping ye."
"Well, sir, I want to see what whaling is. I want to see the world."
"Want to see what whaling is, eh? Have ye clapped eye on Captain Ahab?"
"Who is Captain Ahab, sir?"
"Aye, aye, I thought so. Captain Ahab is the Captain of this ship."
"I am mistaken then. I thought I was speaking to the Captain himself."
"Thou art speaking to Captain Peleg--that's who ye are speaking to,
young man. It belongs to me and Captain Bildad to see the Pequod fitted
out for the voyage, and supplied with all her needs, including crew.
We are part owners and agents. But as I was going to say, if thou wantest
to know what whaling is, as thou tellest ye do, I can put ye in a way
of finding it out before ye bind yourself to it, past backing out.
Clap eye on Captain Ahab, young man, and thou wilt find that he has
only one leg."
"What do you mean, sir? Was the other one lost by a whale?"
"Lost by a whale! Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured,
chewed up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped
a boat!--ah, ah!"
I was a little alarmed by his energy, perhaps also a little touched
at the hearty grief in his concluding exclamation, but said as calmly
as I could, "What you say is no doubt true enough, sir; but how could
I know there was any peculiar ferocity in that particular whale,
though indeed I might have inferred as much from the simple fact
of the accident."
"Look ye now, young man, thy lungs are a sort of soft, d'ye see;
thou dost not talk shark a bit. Sure, ye've been to sea before now;
sure of that?"
"Sir," said I, "I thought I told you that I had been four voyages
in the merchant-"
"Hard down out of that! Mind what I said about the marchant service--
don't aggravate me--I won't have it. But let us understand each other.
I have given thee a hint about what whaling is! do ye yet feel
inclined for it?"
"I do, sir."
"Very good. Now, art thou the man to pitch a harpoon down a live
whale's throat, and then jump after it? Answer, quick!"
"I am, sir, if it should be positively indispensable to do so;
not to be got rid of, that is; which I don't take to be the fact."
"Good again. Now then, thou not only wantest to go a-whaling,
to find out by experience what whaling is, but ye also want
to go in order to see the world? Was not that what ye said?
I thought so. Well then, just step forward there, and take
a peep over the weather bow, and then back to me and tell me
what ye see there."
For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this curious request,
not knowing exactly how to take it, whether humorously or in earnest.
But concentrating all his crow's feet into one scowl, Captain Peleg
started me on the errand.
Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived
that the ship swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide, was
now obliquely pointing towards the open ocean. The prospect
was unlimited, but exceedingly monotonous and forbidding;
not the slightest variety that I could see.
"Well, what's the report?" said Peleg when I came back;
"what did ye see?"
"Not much," I replied--"nothing but water; considerable horizon though,
and there's a squall coming up, I think."
"Well, what dost thou think then of seeing the world?
Do ye wish to go round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh?
Can't ye see the world where you stand?"
I was a little staggered, but go a-whaling I must, and I would;
and the Pequod was as good a ship as any--I thought the best--
and all this I now repeated to Peleg. Seeing me so determined,
he expressed his willingness to ship me.
"And thou mayest as well sign the papers right off,"
he added--"come along with ye." And so saying, he led the way
below deck into the cabin.
Seated on the transom was what seemed to me a most uncommon and
surprising figure. It turned out to be Captain Bildad who along
with Captain Peleg was one of the largest owners of the vessel;
the other shares, as is sometimes the case in these ports,
being held by a crowd of old annuitants; widows, fatherless children,
and chancery wards; each owning about the value of a timber head,
or a foot of plank, or a nail or two in the ship.
People in Nantucket invest their money in whaling vessels,
the same way that you do yours in approved state stocks bringing
in good interest.
Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and indeed many other Nantucketers,
was a Quaker, the island having been originally settled by that sect;
and to this day its inhabitants in general retain in an uncommon
measure the peculiarities of the Quaker, only variously and
anomalously modified by things altogether alien and heterogeneous.
For some of these same Quakers are the most sanguinary
of all sailors and whale-hunters. They are fighting Quakers;
they are Quakers with a vengeance.
So that there are instances among them of men, who, named with
Scripture names--a singularly common fashion on the island--
and in childhood naturally imbibing the stately dramatic thee
and thou of the Quaker idiom; still, from the audacious,
daring, and boundless adventure of their subsequent lives,
strangely blend with these unoutgrown peculiarities, a thousand
bold dashes of character, not unworthy a Scandinavian sea-king,
or a poetical Pagan Roman. And when these things unite
in a man of greatly superior natural force, with a globular
brain and a ponderous heart; who has also by the stillness
and seclusion of many long night-watches in the remotest waters,
and beneath constellations never seen here at the north,
been led to think untraditionally and independently; receiving all
nature's sweet or savage impressions fresh from her own virgin
voluntary and confiding breast, and thereby chiefly, but with some
help from accidental advantages, to learn a bold and nervous
lofty language--that man makes one in a whole nation's census--
a mighty pageant creature, formed for noble tragedies.
Nor will it at all detract from him, dramatically regarded,
if either by birth or other circumstances, he have what seems
a half wilful overruling morbidness at the bottom of his nature.
For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness.
Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is
but disease. But, as yet we have not to do with such an one,
but with quite another; and still a man, who, if indeed peculiar,
it only results again from another phase of the Quaker,
modified by individual circumstances.
Like Captain Peleg, Captain Bildad was a well-to-do, retired whaleman.
But unlike Captain Peleg--who cared not a rush for what are called
serious things, and indeed deemed those self-same serious things
the veriest of all trifles--Captain Bildad had not only been originally
educated according to the strictest sect of Nantucket Quakerism,
but all his subsequent ocean life, and the sight of many unclad,
lovely island creatures, round the Horn--all that had not moved this
native born Quaker one single jot, had not so much as altered one angle
of his vest. Still, for all this immutableness, was there some lack
of common consistency about worthy Captain Bildad. Though refusing,
from conscientious scruples, to bear arms against land invaders,
yet himself had illimitably invaded the Atlantic and Pacific;
and though a sworn foe to human bloodshed, yet had he in his
straight-bodied coat, spilled tuns upon tuns of leviathan gore.
How now in the contemplative evening of his days, the pious Bildad
reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do not know;
but it did not seem to concern him much, and very probably he had
long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man's
religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another.
This world pays dividends. Rising from a little cabin boy
in short clothes of the drabbest drab, to a harpooneer in a broad
shad-bellied waistcoat; from that becoming boat-header, chief mate,
and captain, and finally a shipowner; Bildad, as I hinted before,
had concluded his adventurous career by wholly retiring from active
life at the goodly age of sixty, and dedicating his remaining days
to the quiet receiving of his well-earned income.
Now, Bildad, I am sorry to say, had the reputation of being
an incorrigible old hunks, and in his sea-going days, a bitter,
hard task-master. They told me in Nantucket, though it
certainly seems a curious story, that when he sailed the old
Categut whaleman, his crew, upon arriving home, were mostly all
carried ashore to the hospital, sore exhausted and worn out.
For a pious man, especially for a Quaker, he was certainly
rather hard-hearted, to say the least. He never used to swear,
though, at his men, they said; but somehow he got an inordinate
quantity of cruel, unmitigated hard work out of them.
When Bildad was a chief-mate, to have his drab-colored eye
intently looking at you, made you feel completely nervous,
till you could clutch something--a hammer or a marling-spike,
and go to work like mad, at something or other, never mind what.
Indolence and idleness perished from before him. His own
person was the exact embodiment of his utilitarian character.
On his long, gaunt body, he carried no spare flesh,
no superfluous beard, his chin having a soft, economical nap to it,
like the worn nap of his broad-brimmed hat.
Such, then, was the person that I saw seated on the transom
when I followed Captain Peleg down into the cabin.
The space between the decks was small; and there, bolt upright,
sat old Bildad, who always sat so, and never leaned, and this
to save his coat-tails. His broad-brim was placed beside him;
his legs were stiffly crossed; his drab vesture was buttoned
up to his chin; and spectacles on nose, he seemed absorbed
in reading from a ponderous volume.
"Bildad," cried Captain Peleg, "at it again, Bildad, eh? Ye have
been studying those Scriptures, now, for the last thirty years,
to my certain knowledge. How far ye got, Bildad?"
As if long habituated to such profane talk from his old shipmate,
Bildad, without noticing his present irreverence, quietly looked up,
and seeing me, glanced again inquiringly towards Peleg.
"He says he's our man, Bildad," said Peleg, "he wants to ship."
"Dost thee?" said Bildad, in a hollow tone, and turning round to me.
"I dost," said I unconsciously, he was so intense a Quaker.
"What do ye think of him, Bildad?" said Peleg.
"He'll do," said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spelling
away at his book in a mumbling tone quite audible.
I thought him the queerest old Quaker I ever saw, especially as Peleg,
his friend and old shipmate, seemed such a blusterer.
But I said nothing, only looking round me sharply.
Peleg now threw open a chest, and drawing forth the ship's articles,
placed pen and ink before him, and seated himself at a little table.
I began to think it was high time to settle with myself
at what terms I would be willing to engage for the voyage.
I was already aware that in the whaling business they
paid no wages; but all hands, including the captain,
received certain shares of the profits called lays, and that
these lays were proportioned to the degree of importance
pertaining to the respective duties of the ship's company.
I was also aware that being a green hand at whaling, my own
lay would not be very large; but considering that I was used
to the sea, could steer a ship, splice a rope, and all that,
I made no doubt that from all I had heard I should be offered
at least the 275th lay--that is, the 275th part of the clear net
proceeds of the voyage, whatever that might eventually amount to.
And though the 275th lay was what they call a rather long lay,
yet it was better than nothing; and if we had a lucky voyage,
might pretty nearly pay for the clothing I would wear out on it,
not to speak of my three years' beef and board, for which I
would not have to pay one stiver.
It might be thought that this was a poor way to accumulate
a princely fortune--and so it was, a very poor way indeed.
But I am one of those that never take on about princely fortunes,
and am quite content if the world is ready to board and lodge me, while I
am putting up at this grim sign of the Thunder Cloud. Upon the whole,
I thought that the 275th lay would be about the fair thing,
but would not have been surprised had I been offered the 200th,
considering I was of a broad-shouldered make.
But one thing, nevertheless, that made me a little distrustful about
receiving a generous share of the profits was this: Ashore, I had heard
something of both Captain Peleg and his unaccountable old crony Bildad;
how that they being the principal proprietors of the Pequod,
therefore the other and more inconsiderable and scattered owners,
left nearly the whole management of the ship's affairs to these two.
And I did not know but what the stingy old Bildad might have a mighty
deal to say about shipping hands, especially as I now found him on board
the Pequod, quite at home there in the cabin, and reading his Bible
as if at his own fireside. Now while Peleg was vainly trying to mend
a pen with his jack-knife, old Bildad, to my no small surprise,
considering that he was such an interested party in these proceedings;
Bildad never heeded us, but went on mumbling to himself out of his book,
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth-"
"Well, Captain Bildad," interrupted Peleg, "what d'ye say,
what lay shall we give this young man?"
"Thou knowest best," was the sepulchral reply, "the seven hundred
and seventy-seventh wouldn't be too much, would it?--'where moth
and rust do corrupt, but lay-'"
Lay, indeed, thought I, and such a lay! the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh! Well, old Bildad, you are determined that I, for one,
shall not lay up many lays here below, where moth and rust do corrupt.
It was an exceedingly long lay that, indeed; and though from the magnitude
of the figure it might at first deceive a landsman, yet the slightest
consideration will show that though seven hundred and seventy-seven
is a pretty large number, yet, when you come to make a teenth of it,
you will then see, I say, that the seven hundred and seventy-seventh part
of a farthing is a good deal less than seven hundred and seventy-seven
gold doubloons; and so I thought at the time.
"Why, blast your eyes, Bildad," cried Peleg, Thou dost not want
to swindle this young man! he must have more than that."
"Seven hundred and seventy-seventh," again said Bildad, without lifting
his eyes; and then went on mumbling--"for where your treasure is,
there will your heart be also."
"I am going to put him down for the three hundredth," said Peleg,
"do ye hear that, Bildad! The three hundredth lay, I say."
Bildad laid down his book, and turning solemnly towards
him said, "Captain Peleg, thou hast a generous heart;
but thou must consider the duty thou owest to the other
owners of this ship--widows and orphans, many of them--
and that if we too abundantly reward the labors of this young man,
we may be taking the bread from those widows and those orphans.
The seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay, Captain Peleg."
"Thou Bildad!" roared Peleg, starting up and clattering about the cabin.
"Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had followed thy advice in these matters,
I would afore now had a conscience to lug about that would be heavy
enough to founder the largest ship that ever sailed round Cape Horn."
"Captain Peleg," said Bildad steadily, "thy conscience may be
drawing ten inches of water, or ten fathoms, I can't tell;
but as thou art still an impenitent man, Captain Peleg, I greatly
fear lest thy conscience be but a leaky one; and will in the end
sink thee foundering down to the fiery pit, Captain Peleg."
"Fiery pit! fiery pit! ye insult me, man; past all natural bearing,
ye insult me. It's an all-fired outrage to tell any human creature
that he's bound to hell. Flukes and flames! Bildad, say that again
to me, and start my soulbolts, but I'll--I'll--yes, I'll swallow a live
goat with all his hair and horns on. Out of the cabin, ye canting,
drab-colored son of a wooden gun--a straight wake with ye!"
As he thundered out this he made a rush at Bildad, but with a
marvellous oblique, sliding celerity, Bildad for that time eluded him.
Alarmed at this terrible outburst between the two principal
and responsible owners of the ship, and feeling half a mind
to give up all idea of sailing in a vessel so questionably
owned and temporarily commanded, I stepped aside from the door
to give egress to Bildad, who, I made no doubt, was all eagerness
to vanish from before the awakened wrath of Peleg. But to
my astonishment, he sat down again on the transom very quietly,
and seemed to have not the slightest intention of withdrawing.
He seemed quite used to impenitent Peleg and his ways.
As for Peleg, after letting off his rage as he had, there seemed
no more left in him, and he, too, sat down like a lamb,
though he twitched a little as if still nervously agitated.
"Whew!" he whistled at last--"the squall's gone off to leeward,
I think. Bildad, thou used to be good at sharpening a lance,
mend that pen, will ye. My jack-knife here needs the grindstone.
That's he; thank ye, Bildad. Now then, my young man,
Ishmael's thy name, didn't ye say? Well then, down ye
go here, Ishmael, for the three hundredth lay."
"Captain Peleg," said I, "I have a friend with me who wants to ship too--
shall I bring him down to-morrow?"
"To be sure," said Peleg. "Fetch him along, and we'll look at him."
"What lay does he want?" groaned Bildad, glancing up from the Book
in which he had again been burying himself.
"Oh! never thee mind about that, Bildad," said Peleg. "Has he ever
whaled it any?" turning to me.
"Killed more whales than I can count, Captain Peleg."
"Well, bring him along then."
And, after signing the papers, off I went; nothing doubting but that I
had done a good morning's work, and that the Pequod was the identical
ship that Yojo had provided to carry Queequeg and me round the Cape.
But I had not proceeded far, when I began to bethink me
that the Captain with whom I was to sail yet remained unseen
by me; though, indeed, in many cases, a whale-ship will be
completely fitted out, and receive all her crew on board,
ere the captain makes himself visible by arriving to take command;
for sometimes these voyages are so prolonged, and the shore
intervals at home so exceedingly brief, that if the captain
have a family, or any absorbing concernment of that sort,
he does not trouble himself much about his ship in port,
but leaves her to the owners till all is ready for sea.
However, it is always as well to have a look at him
before irrevocably committing yourself into his hands.
Turning back I accosted Captain Peleg, inquiring where Captain Ahab
was to be found.
"And what dost thou want of Captain Ahab? It's all right enough;
thou art shipped."
"Yes, but I should like to see him."
"But I don't think thou wilt be able to at present. I don't know
exactly what's the matter with him; but he keeps close inside the house;
a sort of sick, and yet he don't look so. In fact, he ain't sick;
but no, he isn't well either. Any how, young man, he won't always see me,
so I don't suppose he will thee. He's a queer man, Captain Ahab--
so some think--but a good one. Oh, thou'lt like him well enough;
no fear, no fear. He's a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab;
doesn't speak much; but, when he does speak, then you may well listen.
Mark ye, be forewarned; Ahab's above the common; Ahab's been in colleges,
as well as 'mong the cannibals; been used to deeper wonders than
the waves; fixed his fiery lance in mightier, stranger foes than whales.
His lance! aye, the keenest and the surest that out of all our isle!
Oh! he ain't Captain Bildad; no, and he ain't Captain Peleg;
he's Ahab, boy; and Ahab of old, thou knowest, was a crowned king!"
"And a very vile one. When that wicked king was slain, the dogs,
did they not lick his blood?"
"Come hither to me--hither, hither," said Peleg,
with a significance in his eye that almost startled me.
"Look ye, lad; never say that on board the Pequod. Never say
it anywhere. Captain Ahab did not name himself .'Twas a foolish,
ignorant whim of his crazy, widowed mother, who died when
he was only a twelvemonth old. And yet the old squaw Tistig,
at Gayhead, said that the name would somehow prove prophetic.
And, perhaps, other fools like her may tell thee the same.
I wish to warn thee. It's a lie. I know Captain Ahab well;
I've sailed with him as mate years ago; I know what he is--
a good man--not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a swearing
good man--something like me--only there's a good deal more
of him. Aye, aye, I know that he was never very jolly;
and I know that on the passage home he was a little out of his
mind for a spell; but it was the sharp shooting pains in his
bleeding stump that brought that about, as any one might see.
I know, too, that ever since he lost his leg last voyage
by that accursed whale, he's been a kind of moody--
desperate moody, and savage sometimes; but that will all pass off.
And once for all, let me tell thee and assure thee, young man,
it's better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing
bad one. So good-bye to thee--and wrong not Captain Ahab,
because he happens to have a wicked name. Besides, my boy,
he has a wife--not three voyages wedded--a sweet, resigned girl.
Think of that; by that sweet girl that old man had a child:
hold ye then there can be any utter, hopeless harm in Ahab? No, no,
my lad; stricken, blasted, if he be, Ahab has his humanities!"
As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had
been incidentally revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me
with a certain wild vagueness of painfulness concerning him.
And somehow, at the time, I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for him,
but for I don't know what, unless it was the cruel loss of his leg.
And yet I also felt a strange awe of him; but that sort of awe,
which I cannot at all describe, was not exactly awe; I do not
know what it was. But I felt it; and it did not disincline
me towards him; though I felt impatience at what seemed like
mystery in him, so imperfectly as he was known to me then.
However, my thoughts were at length carried in other directions,
so that for the present dark Ahab slipped my mind.
As Queequeg's Ramadan, or Fasting and Humiliation, was to continue
all day, I did not choose to disturb him till towards night-fall;
for I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody's religious
obligations, never mind how comical, and could not find it in my heart
to undervalue even a congregation of ants worshipping a toad-stool;
or those other creatures in certain parts of our earth, who with
a degree of footmanism quite unprecedented in other planets,
bow down before the torso of a deceased landed proprietor merely
on account of the inordinate possessions yet owned and rented
in his name.
I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable
in these things, and not fancy ourselves so vastly superior
to other mortals, pagans and what not, because of their half-crazy
conceits on these subjects. There was Queequeg, now, certainly
entertaining the most absurd notions about Yojo and his Ramadan;--
but what of that? Queequeg thought he knew what he was about,
I suppose; he seemed to be content; and there let him rest.
All our arguing with him would not avail; let him be, I say:
and Heaven have mercy on us all--Presbyterians and Pagans alike--
for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head,
and sadly need mending.
Towards evening, when I felt assured that all his performances and
rituals must be over, I went up to his room and knocked at the door;
but no answer. I tried to open it, but it was fastened inside.
"Queequeg," said I softly through the key-hole:--all silent.
"I say, Queequeg! why don't you speak? It's I--Ishmael." But all
remained still as before. I began to grow alarmed. I had allowed him
such abundant time; I thought he might have had an apoplectic fit.
I looked through the key-hole; but the door opening into an odd corner
of the room, the key-hole prospect was but a crooked and sinister one.
I could only see part of the foot-board of the bed and a line of the wall,
but nothing more. I was surprised to behold resting against the wall
the wooden shaft of Queequeg's harpoon, which the landlady the evening
previous had taken from him, before our mounting to the chamber.
That's strange, thought I; but at any rate, since the harpoon
stands yonder, and he seldom or never goes abroad without it,
therefore he must be inside here, and no possible mistake.
"Queequeg!--Queequeg!"--all still. Something must
have happened. Apoplexy! I tried to burst open the door;
but it stubbornly resisted. Running down stairs, I quickly
stated my suspicions to the first person I met--the chamber-maid.
"La! la!" she cried, "I thought something must be the matter.
I went to make the bed after breakfast, and the door was locked;
and not a mouse to be heard; and it's been just so silent ever since.
But I thought, may be, you had both gone off and locked your
baggage in for safe keeping. La! La, ma'am!--Mistress! murder!
Mrs. Hussey! apoplexy!"--and with these cries she ran towards
the kitchen, I following.
Mrs. Hussey soon appeared, with a mustard-pot in one hand
and a vinegar-cruet in the other, having just broken away
from the occupation of attending to the castors, and scolding
her little black boy meantime.
"Wood-house!" cried I, "which way to it? Run for God's sake, and fetch
something to pry open the door--the axe!--the axe! he's had a stroke;
depend upon it!"--and so saying I was unmethodically rushing up stairs
again empty-handed, when Mrs. Hussey interposed the mustard-pot and
vinegar-cruet, and the entire castor of her countenance.
"What's the matter with you, young man?"
"Get the axe! For God's sake, run for the doctor, some one,
while I pry it open!"
"Look here," said the landlady, quickly putting down
the vinegar-cruet, so as to have one hand free; "look here;
are you talking about prying open any of my doors?"--
and with that she seized my arm. "What's the matter with you?
What's the matter with you, shipmate?"
In as calm, but rapid a manner as possible, I gave her to understand
the whole case. Unconsciously clapping the vinegar-cruet
to one side of her nose, she ruminated for an instant;
then exclaimed--"No! I haven't seen it since I put it there."
Running to a little closet under the landing of the stairs, she glanced
in, and returning, told me that Queequeg's harpoon was missing.
"He's killed himself," she cried. "It's unfort'nate Stiggs done
over again there goes another counterpane--God pity his poor mother!--
it will be the ruin of my house. Has the poor lad a sister?
Where's that girl?--there, Betty, go to Snarles the Painter,
and tell him to paint me a sign, with--"no suicides permitted here,
and no smoking in the parlor;"--might as well kill both
birds at once. Kill? The Lord be merciful to his ghost!
What's that noise there? You, young man, avast there!"
And running up after me, she caught me as I was again trying to force
open the door.
"I won't allow it; I won't have my premises spoiled.
Go for the locksmith, there's one about a mile from here. But avast!"
putting her hand in her side pocket, "here's a key that'll fit, I guess;
let's see." And with that, she turned it in the lock; but alas!
Queequeg's supplemental bolt remained unwithdrawn within.
"Have to burst it open," said I, and was running down the entry
a little, for a good start, when the landlady caught at me,
again vowing I should not break down her premises; but I tore
from her, and with a sudden bodily rush dashed myself full
against the mark.
With a prodigious noise the door flew open, and the knob
slamming against the wall, sent the plaster to the ceiling;
and there, good heavens! there sat Queequeg, altogether cool
and self-collected; right in the middle of the room;
squatting on his hams, and holding Yojo on top of his head.
He looked neither one way nor the other way but sat like a carved
image with scarce a sign of active life.
"Queequeg," said I, going up to him, "Queequeg, what's
the matter with you?"
"He hain't been a sittin' so all day, has he?" said the landlady.
But all we said, not a word could we drag out of him;
I almost felt like pushing him over, so as to change his position,
for it was almost intolerable, it seemed so painfully and
unnaturally constrained; especially, as in all probability
he had been sitting so for upwards of eight or ten hours,
going too without his regular meals.
"Mrs. Hussey," said I, "he's alive at all events; so leave us,
if you please, and I will see to this strange affair myself."
Closing the door upon the landlady, I endeavored to prevail
upon Queequeg to take a chair; but in vain. There he sat;
and all he could do--for all my polite arts and blandishments--
he would not move a peg, nor say a single word, nor even look
at me, nor notice my presence in any the slightest way.
I wonder, thought I, if this can possibly be a part of his Ramadan;
do they fast on their hams that way in his native island.
It must be so; yes, it's a part of his creed, I suppose;
well, then, let him rest; he'll get up sooner or later, no doubt.
It can't last for ever, thank God, and his Ramadan only comes
once a year; and I don't believe it's very punctual then.
I went down to supper. After sitting a long time listening to the long
stories of some sailors who had just come from a plum-pudding voyage,
as they called it (that is, a short whaling-voyage in a schooner or brig,
confined to the north of the line, in the Atlantic Ocean only);
after listening to these plum-puddingers till nearly eleven o'clock, I
went up stairs to go to bed, feeling quite sure by this time Queequeg
must certainly have brought his Ramadan to a termination. But no;
there he was just where I had left him; he had not stirred an inch.
I began to grow vexed with him; it seemed so downright senseless
and insane to be sitting there all day and half the night on his hams
in a cold room, holding a piece of wood on his head.
"For heaven's sake, Queequeg, get up and shake yourself; get up and have
some supper. You'll starve; you'll kill yourself, Queequeg." But not
a word did he reply.
Despairing of him, therefore, I determined to go to bed and to sleep;
and no doubt, before a great while, he would follow me.
But previous to turning in, I took my heavy bearskin jacket,
and threw it over him, as it promised to be a very cold night;
and he had nothing but his ordinary round jacket on.
For some time, do all I would, I could not get into the faintest doze.
I had blown out the candle; and the mere thought of Queequeg--
not four feet off--sitting there in that uneasy position,
stark alone in the cold and dark; this made me really wretched.
Think of it; sleeping all night in the same room with a wide
awake pagan on his hams in this dreary, unaccountable Ramadan!
But somehow I dropped off at last, and knew nothing more till
break of day; when, looking over the bedside, there squatted
Queequeg, as if he had been screwed down to the floor.
But as soon as the first glimpse of sun entered the window,
up he got, with stiff and grating joints, but with a cheerful look;
limped towards me where I lay; pressed his forehead again
against mine; and said his Ramadan was over.
Now, as I before hinted, I have no objection to any person's religion,
be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult
any other person, because that other person don't believe it also.
But when a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive
torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable
inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual
aside and argue the point with him.
And just so I now did with Queequeg. "Queequeg," said I,
"get into bed now, and lie and listen to me." I then went on,
beginning with the rise and progress of the primitive religions,
and coming down to the various religions of the present time,
during which time I labored to show Queequeg that all
these Lents, Ramadans, and prolonged ham-squattings in cold,
cheerless rooms were stark nonsense; bad for the health;
useless for the soul; opposed, in short, to the obvious laws
of Hygiene and common sense. I told him, too, that he being
in other things such an extremely sensible and sagacious savage,
it pained me, very badly pained me, to see him now so deplorably
foolish about this ridiculous Ramadan of his. Besides, argued I,
fasting makes the body cave in; hence the spirit caves in;
and all thoughts born of a fast must necessarily be
half-starved. This is the reason why most dyspeptic religionists
cherish such melancholy notions about their hereafters.
In one word, Queequeg, said I, rather digressively;
hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple-dumpling;
and since then perpetuated through the hereditary dyspepsias
nurtured by Ramadans.
I then asked Queequeg whether he himself was ever troubled with dyspepsia;
expressing the idea very plainly, so that he could take it in.
He said no; only upon one memorable occasion. It was after a great feast
given by his father the king on the gaining of a great battle wherein
fifty of the enemy had been killed by about two o'clock in the afternoon,
and all cooked and eaten that very evening.
"No more, Queequeg," said I, shuddering; "that will do;"
for I knew the inferences without his further hinting them.
I had seen a sailor who had visited that very island, and he told me
that it was the custom, when a great battle had been gained there,
to barbecue all the slain in the yard or garden of the victor;
and then, one by one, they were placed in great wooden trenchers,
and garnished round like a pilau, with breadfruit and cocoanuts;
and with some parsley in their mouths, were sent round with
the victor's compliments to all his friends, just as though
these presents were so many Christmas turkeys.
After all, I do not think that my remarks about religion made
much impression upon Queequeg. Because, in the first place,
he somehow seemed dull of hearing on that important subject,
unless considered from his own point of view; and, in the
second place, he did not more than one third understand me,
couch my ideas simply as I would; and, finally, he no doubt thought
he knew a good deal more about the true religion than I did.
He looked at me with a sort of condescending concern and compassion,
as though he thought it a great pity that such a sensible young
man should be so hopelessly lost to evangelical pagan piety.
At last we rose and dressed; and Queequeg, taking a prodigiously hearty
breakfast of chowders of all sorts, so that the landlady should not make
much profit by reason of his Ramadan, we sallied out to board the Pequod,
sauntering along, and picking our teeth with halibut bones.
As we were walking down the end of the wharf towards the ship,
Queequeg carrying his harpoon, Captain Peleg in his gruff voice
loudly hailed us from his wigwam, saying he had not suspected
my friend was a cannibal, and furthermore announcing that he let
no cannibals on board that craft, unless they previously
produced their papers.
"What do you mean by that, Captain Peleg?" said I, now jumping
on the bulwarks, and leaving my comrade standing on the wharf.
"I mean," he replied, "he must show his papers."
"Yes," said Captain Bildad in his hollow voice, sticking his head from
behind Peleg's, out of the wigwam. "He must show that he's converted.
Son of darkness," he added, turning to Queequeg, "art thou at present
in communion with any Christian church?"
"Why," said I, "he's a member of the first Congregational Church."
Here be it said, that many tattooed savages sailing in Nantucket
ships at last come to be converted into the churches.
"First Congregational Church," cried Bildad, "what! that worships
in Deacon Deuteronomy Coleman's meeting-house?" and so saying,
taking out his spectacles, he rubbed them with his great yellow
bandana handkerchief, and putting them on very carefully,
came out of the wigwam, and leaning stiffly over the bulwarks,
took a good long look at Queequeg.
"How long hath he been a member?" he then said, turning to me;
"not very long, I rather guess, young man."
"No," said Peleg, "and he hasn't been baptized right either,
or it would have washed some of that devil's blue off his face."
"Do tell, now," cried Bildad, "is this Philistine a regular member
of Deacon Deuteronomy's meeting? I never saw him going there,
and I pass it every Lord's day."
"I don't know anything about Deacon Deuteronomy or his meeting,"
said I; "all I know is, that Queequeg here is a born member of the
First Congregational Church. He is a deacon himself, Queequeg is."
"Young man," said Bildad sternly, "thou art skylarking with me--
explain thyself, thou young Hittite. What church dost thee
mean? answer me."
Finding myself thus hard pushed, I replied, "I mean, sir, the same
ancient Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain Peleg there,
and Queequeg here, and all of us, and every mother's son and soul
of us belong; the great and everlasting First Congregation of this
whole worshipping world; we all belong to that; only some of us
cherish some queer crotchets no ways touching the grand belief;
in that we all join hands."
"Splice, thou mean'st splice hands," cried Peleg, drawing nearer.
"Young man, you'd better ship for a missionary,
instead of a fore-mast hand; I never heard a better sermon.
Deacon Deuteronomy--why Father Mapple himself couldn't beat it,
and he's reckoned something. Come aboard, come aboard:
never mind about the papers. I say, tell Quohog there--
what's that you call him? tell Quohog to step along.
By the great anchor, what a harpoon he's got there! looks
like good stuff that; and he handles it about right.
I say, Quohog, or whatever your name is, did you ever stand
in the head of a whale-boat? did you ever strike a fish?"
Without saying a word, Queequeg, in his wild sort of way, jumped upon
the bulwarks, from thence into the bows of one of the whale-boats hanging
to the side; and then bracing his left knee, and poising his harpoon,
cried out in some such way as this:--
"Cap'ain, you see him small drop tar on water dere? You see him? well,
spose him one whale eye, well, den!" and taking sharp aim at it,
he darted the iron right over old Bildad's broad brim, clean across
the ship's decks, and struck the glistening tar spot out of sight.
"Now," said Queequeg, quietly, hauling in the line, "spos-ee him
whale-e eye; why, dad whale dead."
"Quick, Bildad," said Peleg, his partner, who, aghast at the close
vicinity of the flying harpoon, had retreated towards the cabin gangway.
"Quick, I say, you Bildad, and get the ship's papers.
We must have Hedgehog there, I mean Quohog, in one of our boats.
Look ye, Quohog, we'll give ye the ninetieth lay, and that's more
than ever was given a harpooneer yet out of Nantucket."
So down we went into the cabin, and to my great joy Queequeg was soon
enrolled among the same ship's company to which I myself belonged.
When all preliminaries were over and Peleg had got everything ready
for signing, he turned to me and said, "I guess, Quohog there don't
know how to write, does he? I say, Quohog, blast ye! dost thou sign
thy name or make thy mark?
But at this question, Queequeg, who had twice or thrice before taken
part in similar ceremonies, looked no ways abashed; but taking
the offered pen, copied upon the paper, in the proper place,
an exact counterpart of a queer round figure which was tattooed
upon his arm; so that through Captain Peleg's obstinate mistake
touching his appellative, it stood something like this:--
his X mark.
Meanwhile Captain Bildad sat earnestly and steadfastly eyeing Queequeg,
and at last rising solemnly and fumbling in the huge pockets
of his broadskirted drab coat took out a bundle of tracts,
and selecting one entitled "The Latter Day Coming; or No Time
to Lose," placed it in Queequeg's hands, and then grasping them
and the book with both his, looked earnestly into his eyes, and said,
"Son of darkness, I must do my duty by thee; I am part owner
of this ship, and feel concerned for the souls of all its crew;
if thou still clingest to thy Pagan ways, which I sadly fear,
I beseech thee, remain not for aye a Belial bondsman.
Spurn the idol Bell, and the hideous dragon; turn from the wrath
to come; mind thine eye, I say; oh! goodness gracious! steer
clear of the fiery pit!"
Something of the salt sea yet lingered in old Bildad's language,
heterogeneously mixed with Scriptural and domestic phrases.
"Avast there, avast there, Bildad, avast now spoiling our harpooneer,
cried Peleg. "Pious harpooneers never make good voyagers--
it takes the shark out of 'em; no harpooneer is worth a straw
who aint pretty sharkish. There was young Nat Swaine,
once the bravest boat-header out of all Nantucket and
the Vineyard; he joined the meeting, and never came to good.
He got so frightened about his plaguy soul, that he shrinked
and sheered away from whales, for fear of after-claps, in case
he got stove and went to Davy Jones."
"Peleg! Peleg!" said Bildad, lifting his eyes and hands,
"thou thyself, as I myself, hast seen many a perilous time;
thou knowest, Peleg, what it is to have the fear of death;
how, then, can'st thou prate in this ungodly guise.
Thou beliest thine own heart, Peleg. Tell me, when this same Pequod
here had her three masts overboard in that typhoon on Japan,
that same voyage when thou went mate with Captain Ahab,
did'st thou not think of Death and the Judgment then?"
"Hear him, hear him now," cried Peleg, marching across the cabin,
and thrusting his hands far down into his pockets,--"hear him, all of ye.
Think of that! When every moment we thought the ship would sink!
Death and the Judgment then? What? With all three masts making such
an everlasting thundering against the side; and every sea breaking
over us, fore and aft. Think of Death and the Judgment then?
No! no time to think about Death then. Life was what Captain Ahab
and I was thinking of; and how to save all hands how to rig jury-masts
how to get into the nearest port; that was what I was thinking of."
Bildad said no more, but buttoning up his coat, stalked on deck,
where we followed him. There he stood, very quietly overlooking
some sailmakers who were mending a top-sail in the waist.
Now and then he stooped to pick up a patch, or save an end
of tarred twine, which otherwise might have been wasted.
"Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship?"
Queequeg and I had just left the Pequod, and were sauntering away
from the water, for the moment each occupied with his own thoughts,
when the above words were put to us by a stranger, who, pausing before us,
levelled his massive forefinger at the vessel in question.
He was but shabbily apparelled in faded jacket and patched trowsers;
a rag of a black handkerchief investing his neck. A confluent
smallpox had in all directions flowed over his face, and left it
like the complicated ribbed bed of a torrent, when the rushing
waters have been dried up.
"Have ye shipped in her?" he repeated.
"You mean the ship Pequod, I suppose," said I, trying to gain
a little more time for an uninterrupted look at him.
"Aye, the Pequod--that ship there," he said, drawing back his whole
arm and then rapidly shoving it straight out from him-, with the fixed
bayonet of his pointed finger darted full at the object.
"Yes," said I, "we have just signed the articles."
"Anything down there about your souls?"
"Oh, perhaps you hav'n't got any," he said quickly.
"No matter though, I know many chaps that hav'n't got any,--
good luck to 'em; and they are all the better off for it.
A soul's a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon."
"What are you jabbering about, shipmate?" said I.
"He's got enough, though, to make up for all deficiencies
of that sort in other chaps," abruptly said the stranger,
placing a nervous emphasis upon the word he.
"Queequeg," said I, "let's go; this fellow has broken loose
from somewhere; he's talking about something and somebody
we don't know."
"Stop!" cried the stranger. "Ye said true--ye hav'n't seen
Old Thunder yet, have ye?"
"Who's Old Thunder?" said I, again riveted with the insane earnestness
of his manner.
"What! the captain of our ship, the Pequod?"
"Aye, among some of us old sailor chaps, he goes by that name.
Ye hav'n't seen him yet, have ye?"
"No, we hav'n't. He's sick they say, but is getting better,
and will be all right again before long."
"All right again before long!" laughed the stranger, with a solemnly
derisive sort of laugh. "Look ye; when Captain Ahab is all right,
then this left arm of mine will be all right; not before."
"What do you know about him?"
"What did they tell you about him? Say that!"
"They didn't tell much of anything about him; only I've heard that he's
a good whale-hunter, and a good captain to his crew."
"That's true, that's true--yes, both true enough.
But you must jump when he gives an order. Step and growl;
growl and go--that's the word with Captain Ahab. But nothing
about that thing that happened to him off Cape Horn, long ago,
when he lay like dead for three days and nights; nothing about
that deadly skrimmage with the Spaniard afore the altar in Santa?--
heard nothing about that, eh? Nothing about the silver calabash
he spat into? And nothing about his losing his leg last voyage,
according to the prophecy. Didn't ye hear a word about them
matters and something more, eh? No, I don't think ye did;
how could ye? Who knows it? Not all Nantucket, I guess.
But hows'ever, mayhap, ye've heard tell about the leg,
and how he lost it; aye, ye have heard of that, I dare say.
Oh, yes, that every one knows a'most--I mean they know he's
only one leg; and that a parmacetti took the other off."
"My friend," said I, "what all this gibberish of yours
is about, I don't know, and I don't much care; for it seems
to me that you must be a little damaged in the head.
But if you are speaking of Captain Ahab, of that ship there,
the Pequod, then let me tell you, that I know all about the loss
of his leg."
"All about it, eh--sure you do? all?
With finger pointed and eye levelled at the Pequod, the beggar-like
stranger stood a moment, as if in a troubled reverie; then starting
a little, turned and said:--"Ye've shipped, have ye? Names down on
the papers? Well, well, what's signed, is signed; and what's to be,
will be; and then again, perhaps it won't be, after all. Any how,
it's all fixed and arranged a'ready; and some sailors or other must go
with him, I suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity 'em!
Morning to ye, shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bless ye;
I'm sorry I stopped ye."
"Look here, friend," said I, "if you have anything important to tell us,
out with it; but if you are only trying to bamboozle us, you are mistaken
in your game; that's all I have to say."
"And it's said very well, and I like to hear a chap talk up
that way; you are just the man for him--the likes of ye.
Morning to ye, shipmates, morning! Oh! when ye get there,
tell 'em I've concluded not to make one of 'em."
"Ah, my dear fellow, you can't fool us that way--you can't fool us.
It is the easiest thing in the world for a man to look as if he had
a great secret in him."
"Morning to ye, shipmates, morning."
"Morning it is," said I. "Come along, Queequeg, let's leave this
crazy man. But stop, tell me your name, will you?"
Elijah! thought I, and we walked away, both commenting,
after each other's fashion, upon this ragged old sailor;
and agreed that he was nothing but a humbug, trying to be a bugbear.
But we had not gone perhaps above a hundred yards, when chancing
to turn a corner, and looking back as I did so, who should be seen
but Elijah following us, though at a distance. Somehow, the sight
of him struck me so, that I said nothing to Queequeg of his
being behind, but passed on with my comrade, anxious to see
whether the stranger would turn the same corner that we did.
He did; and then it seemed to me that he was dogging us,
but with what intent I could not for the life of me imagine.
This circumstance, coupled with his ambiguous, half-hinting,
half-revealing, shrouded sort of talk, now begat in me all
kinds of vague wonderments and half-apprehensions, and all
connected with the Pequod; and Captain Ahab; and the leg
he had lost; and the Cape Horn fit; and the silver calabash;
and what Captain Peleg had said of him, when I left the ship
the day previous; and the prediction of the squaw Tistig;
and the voyage we had bound ourselves to sail; and a hundred
other shadowy things.
I was resolved to satisfy myself whether this ragged Elijah was
really dogging us or not, and with that intent crossed the way
with Queequeg, and on that side of it retraced our steps.
But Elijah passed on, without seeming to notice us.
This relieved me; and once more, and finally as it seemed to me,
I pronounced him in my heart, a humbug.
A day or two passed, and there was great activity aboard
the Pequod. Not only were the old sails being mended, but new sails
were coming on board, and bolts of canvas, and coils of rigging;
in short, everything betokened that the ship's preparations were
hurrying to a close. Captain Peleg seldom or never went ashore,
but sat in his wigwam keeping a sharp look-out upon the hands:
Bildad did all the purchasing and providing at the stores;
and the men employed in the hold and on the rigging were working
till long after night-fall.
On the day following Queequeg's signing the articles,
word was given at all the inns where the ship's company
were stopping, that their chests must be on board before night,
for there was no telling how soon the vessel might be sailing.
So Queequeg and I got down our traps, resolving, however, to sleep
ashore till the last. But it seems they always give very long
notice in these cases, and the ship did not sail for several days.
But no wonder; there was a good deal to be done, and there is
no telling how many things to be thought of, before the Pequod
was fully equipped.
Every one knows what a multitude of things--beds, sauce-pans, knives
and forks, shovels and tongs, napkins, nut-crackers, and what not,
are indispensable to the business of housekeeping. Just so with whaling,
which necessitates a three-years' housekeeping upon the wide ocean,
far from all grocers, costermongers, doctors, bakers, and bankers.
And though this also holds true of merchant vessels, yet not by any means
to the same extent as with whalemen. For besides the great length
of the whaling voyage, the numerous articles peculiar to the prosecution
of the fishery, and the impossibility of replacing them at the remote
harbors usually frequented, it must be remembered, that of all ships,
whaling vessels are the most exposed to accidents of all kinds,
and especially to the destruction and loss of the very things upon
which the success of the voyage most depends. Hence, the spare boats,
spare spars, and spare lines and harpoons, and spare everythings,
almost, but a spare Captain and duplicate ship.
At the period of our arrival at the Island, the heaviest storage
of the Pequod had been almost completed; comprising her beef,
bread, water, fuel, and iron hoops and staves. But, as before hinted,
for some time there was a continual fetching and carrying on board
of divers odds and ends of things, both large and small.
Chief among those who did this fetching and carrying was
Captain Bildad's sister, a lean old lady of a most determined
and indefatigable spirit, but withal very kindhearted, who seemed
resolved that, if she could help it, nothing should be found
wanting in the Pequod, after once fairly getting to sea.
At one time she would come on board with a jar of pickles
for the steward's pantry; another time with a bunch of
quills for the chief mate's desk, where he kept his log;
a third time with a roll of flannel for the small of some one's
rheumatic back. Never did any woman better deserve her name,
which was Charity--Aunt Charity, as everybody called her.
And like a sister of charity did this charitable Aunt Charity
bustle about hither and thither, ready to turn her hand and heart
to anything that promised to yield safety, comfort, and consolation
to all on board a ship in which her beloved brother Bildad
was concerned, and in which she herself owned a score or two
of well-saved dollars.
But it was startling to see this excellent hearted Quakeress
coming on board, as she did the last day, with a long oil-ladle
in one hand, and a still longer whaling lance in the other.
Nor was Bildad himself nor Captain Peleg at all backward.
As for Bildad, he carried about with him a long list
of the articles needed, and at every fresh arrival,
down went his mark opposite that article upon the paper.
Every once in a while Peleg came hobbling out of his whalebone den,
roaring at the men down the hatchways, roaring up to the
riggers at the mast-head, and then concluded by roaring back
into his wigwam.
During these days of preparation, Queequeg and I often visited
the craft, and as often I asked about Captain Ahab, and how he was,
and when he was going to come on board his ship. To these questions
they would answer, that he was getting better and better, and was
expected aboard every day; meantime, the two Captains, Peleg and Bildad,
could attend to everything necessary to fit the vessel for the voyage.
If I had been downright honest with myself, I would have seen
very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed
this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man
who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship
sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong,
it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter,
he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself.
And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried
to think nothing.
At last it was given out that some time next day the ship
would certainly sail. So next morning, Queequeg and I took
a very early start.
It was nearly six o'clock, but only grey imperfect misty dawn,
when we drew nigh the wharf.
"There are some sailors running ahead there, if I see right,"
said I to Queequeg, "it can't be shadows; she's off by sunrise,
I guess; come on!"
"Avast!" cried a voice, whose owner at the same time coming
close behind us, laid a hand upon both our shoulders, and then
insinuating himself between us, stood stooping forward a little,
in the uncertain twilight, strangely peering from Queequeg to me.
It was Elijah.
"Hands off, will you," said I.
"Lookee here," said Queequeg, shaking himself, "go 'way!"
"Aint going aboard, then?"
"Yes, we are," said I, "but what business is that of yours?
Do you know, Mr. Elijah, that I consider you a little impertinent?"
"No, no, no; I wasn't aware of that," said Elijah, slowly and wonderingly
looking from me to Queequeg, with the most unaccountable glances.
"Elijah," said I, "you will oblige my friend and me by withdrawing.
We are going to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and would prefer
not to be detained."
"Ye be, be ye? Coming back afore breakfast?"
"He's cracked, Queequeg," said I, "come on."
"Holloa!" cried stationary Elijah, hailing us when we had removed
a few paces.
"Never mind him," said I, "Queequeg, come on."
But he stole up to us again, and suddenly clapping his hand
on my shoulder, said--"Did ye see anything looking like men
going towards that ship a while ago?"
Struck by this plain matter-of-fact question, I answered, saying, "Yes, I
thought I did see four or five men; but it was too dim to be sure."
"Very dim, very dim," said Elijah. "Morning to ye."
Once more we quitted him; but once more he came softly after us;
and touching my shoulder again, said, "See if you can find
'em now, will ye?
"Morning to ye! morning to ye!" he rejoined, again moving off.
"Oh! I was going to warn ye against--but never mind, never mind--
it's all one, all in the family too;--sharp frost this morning,
ain't it? Good-bye to ye. Shan't see ye again very soon, I guess;
unless it's before the Grand Jury." And with these cracked words
he finally departed, leaving me, for the moment, in no small
wonderment at his frantic impudence.
At last, stepping on board the Pequod, we found everything in
profound quiet, not a soul moving. The cabin entrance was locked within;
the hatches were all on, and lumbered with coils of rigging.
Going forward to the forecastle, we found the slide of the scuttle open.
Seeing a light, we went down, and found only an old rigger there,
wrapped in a tattered pea-jacket. He was thrown at whole length upon
two chests, his face downwards and inclosed in his folded arms.
The profoundest slumber slept upon him.
"Those sailors we saw, Queequeg, where can they have gone to?"
said I, looking dubiously at the sleeper. But it seemed that,
when on the wharf, Queequeg had not at all noticed what I now alluded to;
hence I would have thought myself to have been optically deceived in
that matter, were it not for Elijah's otherwise inexplicable question.
But I beat the thing down; and again marking the sleeper,
jocularly hinted to Queequeg that perhaps we had best sit up
with the body; telling him to establish himself accordingly.
He put his hand upon the sleeper's rear, as though feeling if it
was soft enough; and then, without more ado, sat quietly down there.
"Gracious! Queequeg, don't sit there," said I.
"Oh; perry dood seat," said Queequeg, "my country way;
won't hurt him face."
"Face!" said I, "call that his face? very benevolent countenance then;
but how hard he breathes, he's heaving himself; get off,
Queequeg, you are heavy, it's grinding the face of the poor.
Get off, Queequeg! Look, he'll twitch you off soon.