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The Project Gutenberg eBook of Moby-Dick; or The Whale, by Herman Melville
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Title: Moby-Dick; or The Whale
Author: Herman Melville
Release Date: June, 2001 [eBook #2701]
[Most recently updated: December 3, 2017]
Language: English
Character set encoding: UTF-8
Produced by: Daniel Lazarus, Jonesey, and David Widger
By Herman Melville
EXTRACTS (Supplied by a Sub-Sub-Librarian).
CHAPTER 1. Loomings.
CHAPTER 2. The Carpet-Bag.
CHAPTER 3. The Spouter-Inn.
CHAPTER 4. The Counterpane.
CHAPTER 5. Breakfast.
CHAPTER 6. The Street.
CHAPTER 7. The Chapel.
CHAPTER 8. The Pulpit.
CHAPTER 9. The Sermon.
CHAPTER 10. A Bosom Friend.
CHAPTER 11. Nightgown.
CHAPTER 12. Biographical.
CHAPTER 13. Wheelbarrow.
CHAPTER 14. Nantucket.
CHAPTER 15. Chowder.
CHAPTER 16. The Ship.
CHAPTER 17. The Ramadan.
CHAPTER 18. His Mark.
CHAPTER 19. The Prophet.
CHAPTER 20. All Astir.
CHAPTER 21. Going Aboard.
CHAPTER 22. Merry Christmas.
CHAPTER 23. The Lee Shore.
CHAPTER 24. The Advocate.
CHAPTER 25. Postscript.
CHAPTER 26. Knights and Squires.
CHAPTER 27. Knights and Squires.
CHAPTER 28. Ahab.
CHAPTER 29. Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb.
CHAPTER 30. The Pipe.
CHAPTER 31. Queen Mab.
CHAPTER 32. Cetology.
CHAPTER 33. The Specksnyder.
CHAPTER 34. The Cabin-Table.
CHAPTER 35. The Mast-Head.
CHAPTER 36. The Quarter-Deck.
CHAPTER 37. Sunset.
CHAPTER 38. Dusk.
CHAPTER 39. First Night-Watch.
CHAPTER 40. Midnight, Forecastle.
CHAPTER 41. Moby Dick.
CHAPTER 42. The Whiteness of the Whale.
CHAPTER 43. Hark!
CHAPTER 44. The Chart.
CHAPTER 45. The Affidavit.
CHAPTER 46. Surmises.
CHAPTER 47. The Mat-Maker.
CHAPTER 48. The First Lowering.
CHAPTER 49. The Hyena.
CHAPTER 50. Ahab’s Boat and Crew. Fedallah.
CHAPTER 51. The Spirit-Spout.
CHAPTER 52. The Albatross.
CHAPTER 53. The Gam.
CHAPTER 54. The Town-Ho’s Story.
CHAPTER 55. Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales.
CHAPTER 56. Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True
Pictures of Whaling Scenes.
CHAPTER 57. Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in
Stone; in Mountains; in Stars.
CHAPTER 58. Brit.
CHAPTER 59. Squid.
CHAPTER 60. The Line.
CHAPTER 61. Stubb Kills a Whale.
CHAPTER 62. The Dart.
CHAPTER 63. The Crotch.
CHAPTER 64. Stubb’s Supper.
CHAPTER 65. The Whale as a Dish.
CHAPTER 66. The Shark Massacre.
CHAPTER 67. Cutting In.
CHAPTER 68. The Blanket.
CHAPTER 69. The Funeral.
CHAPTER 70. The Sphynx.
CHAPTER 71. The Jeroboam’s Story.
CHAPTER 72. The Monkey-Rope.
CHAPTER 73. Stubb and Flask kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk
over Him.
CHAPTER 74. The Sperm Whale’s Head—Contrasted View.
CHAPTER 75. The Right Whale’s Head—Contrasted View.
CHAPTER 76. The Battering-Ram.
CHAPTER 77. The Great Heidelburgh Tun.
CHAPTER 78. Cistern and Buckets.
CHAPTER 79. The Prairie.
CHAPTER 80. The Nut.
CHAPTER 81. The Pequod Meets The Virgin.
CHAPTER 82. The Honor and Glory of Whaling.
CHAPTER 83. Jonah Historically Regarded.
CHAPTER 84. Pitchpoling.
CHAPTER 85. The Fountain.
CHAPTER 86. The Tail.
CHAPTER 87. The Grand Armada.
CHAPTER 88. Schools and Schoolmasters.
CHAPTER 89. Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish.
CHAPTER 90. Heads or Tails.
CHAPTER 91. The Pequod Meets The Rose-Bud.
CHAPTER 92. Ambergris.
CHAPTER 93. The Castaway.
CHAPTER 94. A Squeeze of the Hand.
CHAPTER 95. The Cassock.
CHAPTER 96. The Try-Works.
CHAPTER 97. The Lamp.
CHAPTER 98. Stowing Down and Clearing Up.
CHAPTER 99. The Doubloon.
CHAPTER 100. Leg and Arm.
CHAPTER 101. The Decanter.
CHAPTER 102. A Bower in the Arsacides.
CHAPTER 103. Measurement of The Whale’s Skeleton.
CHAPTER 104. The Fossil Whale.
CHAPTER 105. Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?—Will He Perish?
CHAPTER 106. Ahab’s Leg.
CHAPTER 107. The Carpenter.
CHAPTER 108. Ahab and the Carpenter.
CHAPTER 109. Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin.
CHAPTER 110. Queequeg in His Coffin.
CHAPTER 111. The Pacific.
CHAPTER 112. The Blacksmith.
CHAPTER 113. The Forge.
CHAPTER 114. The Gilder.
CHAPTER 115. The Pequod Meets The Bachelor.
CHAPTER 116. The Dying Whale.
CHAPTER 117. The Whale Watch.
CHAPTER 118. The Quadrant.
CHAPTER 119. The Candles.
CHAPTER 120. The Deck Towards the End of the First Night Watch.
CHAPTER 121. Midnight.—The Forecastle Bulwarks.
CHAPTER 122. Midnight Aloft.—Thunder and Lightning.
CHAPTER 123. The Musket.
CHAPTER 124. The Needle.
CHAPTER 125. The Log and Line.
CHAPTER 126. The Life-Buoy.
CHAPTER 127. The Deck.
CHAPTER 128. The Pequod Meets The Rachel.
CHAPTER 129. The Cabin.
CHAPTER 130. The Hat.
CHAPTER 131. The Pequod Meets The Delight.
CHAPTER 132. The Symphony.
CHAPTER 133. The Chase—First Day.
CHAPTER 134. The Chase—Second Day.
CHAPTER 135. The Chase.—Third Day.
Original Transcriber’s Notes:
This text is a combination of etexts, one from the now-defunct ERIS
project at Virginia Tech and one from Project Gutenberg’s archives. The
proofreaders of this version are indebted to The University of Adelaide
Library for preserving the Virginia Tech version. The resulting etext
was compared with a public domain hard copy version of the text.
(Supplied by a Late Consumptive Usher to a Grammar School.)
The pale Usher—threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him
now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer
handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the
known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars; it
somehow mildly reminded him of his mortality.
“While you take in hand to school others, and to teach them by what
name a whale-fish is to be called in our tongue, leaving out, through
ignorance, the letter H, which almost alone maketh up the
signification of the word, you deliver that which is not true.”
“WHALE. * * * Sw. and Dan. _hval_. This animal is named from
roundness or rolling; for in Dan. _hvalt_ is arched or vaulted.”
—_Webster’s Dictionary._
“WHALE. * * * It is more immediately from the Dut. and Ger. _Wallen_;
A.S. _Walw-ian_, to roll, to wallow.” —_Richardson’s Dictionary._
חו, _Hebrew_.
ϰητος, _Greek_.
CETUS, _Latin_.
WHŒL, _Anglo-Saxon_.
HVALT, _Danish_.
WAL, _Dutch_.
HWAL, _Swedish_.
WHALE, _Icelandic_.
WHALE, _English_.
BALLENA, _Spanish_.
PEHEE-NUEE-NUEE, _Erromangoan_.
EXTRACTS. (Supplied by a Sub-Sub-Librarian).
It will be seen that this mere painstaking burrower and grub-worm of
a poor devil of a Sub-Sub appears to have gone through the long
Vaticans and street-stalls of the earth, picking up whatever random
allusions to whales he could anyways find in any book whatsoever,
sacred or profane. Therefore you must not, in every case at least,
take the higgledy-piggledy whale statements, however authentic, in
these extracts, for veritable gospel cetology. Far from it. As
touching the ancient authors generally, as well as the poets here
appearing, these extracts are solely valuable or entertaining, as
affording a glancing bird’s eye view of what has been promiscuously
said, thought, fancied, and sung of Leviathan, by many nations and
generations, including our own.
So fare thee well, poor devil of a Sub-Sub, whose commentator I am.
Thou belongest to that hopeless, sallow tribe which no wine of this
world will ever warm; and for whom even Pale Sherry would be too
rosy-strong; but with whom one sometimes loves to sit, and feel
poor-devilish, too; and grow convivial upon tears; and say to them
bluntly, with full eyes and empty glasses, and in not altogether
unpleasant sadness—Give it up, Sub-Subs! For by how much the more
pains ye take to please the world, by so much the more shall ye for
ever go thankless! Would that I could clear out Hampton Court and the
Tuileries for ye! But gulp down your tears and hie aloft to the
royal-mast with your hearts; for your friends who have gone before
are clearing out the seven-storied heavens, and making refugees of
long-pampered Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, against your coming.
Here ye strike but splintered hearts together—there, ye shall strike
unsplinterable glasses!
“And God created great whales.” —_Genesis_.
“Leviathan maketh a path to shine after him; One would think the deep
to be hoary.” —_Job_.
“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.”
“There go the ships; there is that Leviathan whom thou hast made to
play therein.” —_Psalms_.
“In that day, the Lord with his sore, and great, and strong sword,
shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that
crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.”
“And what thing soever besides cometh within the chaos of this
monster’s mouth, be it beast, boat, or stone, down it goes all
incontinently that foul great swallow of his, and perisheth in the
bottomless gulf of his paunch.” —_Holland’s Plutarch’s Morals_.
“The Indian Sea breedeth the most and the biggest fishes that are:
among which the Whales and Whirlpooles called Balaene, take up as
much in length as four acres or arpens of land.” —_Holland’s Pliny_.
“Scarcely had we proceeded two days on the sea, when about sunrise a
great many Whales and other monsters of the sea, appeared. Among the
former, one was of a most monstrous size.... This came towards us,
open-mouthed, raising the waves on all sides, and beating the sea
before him into a foam.” —_Tooke’s Lucian_. “_The True History_.”
“He visited this country also with a view of catching horse-whales,
which had bones of very great value for their teeth, of which he
brought some to the king.... The best whales were catched in his own
country, of which some were forty-eight, some fifty yards long. He
said that he was one of six who had killed sixty in two days.”
—_Other or Other’s verbal narrative taken down from his mouth by King
Alfred, A.D._ 890.
“And whereas all the other things, whether beast or vessel, that
enter into the dreadful gulf of this monster’s (whale’s) mouth, are
immediately lost and swallowed up, the sea-gudgeon retires into it in
great security, and there sleeps.” —MONTAIGNE. —_Apology for Raimond
“Let us fly, let us fly! Old Nick take me if is not Leviathan
described by the noble prophet Moses in the life of patient Job.”
“This whale’s liver was two cartloads.” —_Stowe’s Annals_.
“The great Leviathan that maketh the seas to seethe like boiling
pan.” —_Lord Bacon’s Version of the Psalms_.
“Touching that monstrous bulk of the whale or ork we have received
nothing certain. They grow exceeding fat, insomuch that an incredible
quantity of oil will be extracted out of one whale.” —_Ibid_.
“_History of Life and Death_.”
“The sovereignest thing on earth is parmacetti for an inward bruise.”
—_King Henry_.
“Very like a whale.” —_Hamlet_.
“Which to secure, no skill of leach’s art Mote him availle, but to
returne againe To his wound’s worker, that with lowly dart, Dinting
his breast, had bred his restless paine, Like as the wounded whale to
shore flies thro’ the maine.” —_The Faerie Queen_.
“Immense as whales, the motion of whose vast bodies can in a peaceful
calm trouble the ocean till it boil.” —_Sir William Davenant. Preface
to Gondibert_.
“What spermacetti is, men might justly doubt, since the learned
Hosmannus in his work of thirty years, saith plainly, _Nescio quid
sit_.” —_Sir T. Browne. Of Sperma Ceti and the Sperma Ceti Whale.
Vide his V. E._
“Like Spencer’s Talus with his modern flail He threatens ruin with
his ponderous tail. ... Their fixed jav’lins in his side he wears,
And on his back a grove of pikes appears.” —_Waller’s Battle of the
Summer Islands_.
“By art is created that great Leviathan, called a Commonwealth or
State—(in Latin, Civitas) which is but an artificial man.” —_Opening
sentence of Hobbes’s Leviathan_.
“Silly Mansoul swallowed it without chewing, as if it had been a
sprat in the mouth of a whale.” —_Pilgrim’s Progress_.
“That sea beast Leviathan, which God of all his works Created hugest
that swim the ocean stream.” —_Paradise Lost_.
—“There Leviathan, Hugest of living creatures, in the deep Stretched
like a promontory sleeps or swims, And seems a moving land; and at
his gills Draws in, and at his breath spouts out a sea.” —_Ibid_.
“The mighty whales which swim in a sea of water, and have a sea of
oil swimming in them.” —_Fuller’s Profane and Holy State_.
“So close behind some promontory lie The huge Leviathan to attend
their prey, And give no chance, but swallow in the fry, Which through
their gaping jaws mistake the way.” —_Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis_.
“While the whale is floating at the stern of the ship, they cut off
his head, and tow it with a boat as near the shore as it will come;
but it will be aground in twelve or thirteen feet water.” —_Thomas
Edge’s Ten Voyages to Spitzbergen, in Purchas_.
“In their way they saw many whales sporting in the ocean, and in
wantonness fuzzing up the water through their pipes and vents, which
nature has placed on their shoulders.” —_Sir T. Herbert’s Voyages
into Asia and Africa. Harris Coll_.
“Here they saw such huge troops of whales, that they were forced to
proceed with a great deal of caution for fear they should run their
ship upon them.” —_Schouten’s Sixth Circumnavigation_.
“We set sail from the Elbe, wind N.E. in the ship called The
Jonas-in-the-Whale.... Some say the whale can’t open his mouth, but
that is a fable.... They frequently climb up the masts to see whether
they can see a whale, for the first discoverer has a ducat for his
pains.... I was told of a whale taken near Shetland, that had above a
barrel of herrings in his belly.... One of our harpooneers told me
that he caught once a whale in Spitzbergen that was white all over.”
—_A Voyage to Greenland, A.D._ 1671. _Harris Coll_.
“Several whales have come in upon this coast (Fife) Anno 1652, one
eighty feet in length of the whale-bone kind came in, which (as I was
informed), besides a vast quantity of oil, did afford 500 weight of
baleen. The jaws of it stand for a gate in the garden of Pitferren.”
—_Sibbald’s Fife and Kinross_.
“Myself have agreed to try whether I can master and kill this
Sperma-ceti whale, for I could never hear of any of that sort that
was killed by any man, such is his fierceness and swiftness.”
—_Richard Strafford’s Letter from the Bermudas. Phil. Trans. A.D._
“Whales in the sea God’s voice obey.” —_N. E. Primer_.
“We saw also abundance of large whales, there being more in those
southern seas, as I may say, by a hundred to one; than we have to the
northward of us.” —_Captain Cowley’s Voyage round the Globe, A.D._
“... and the breath of the whale is frequently attended with such an
insupportable smell, as to bring on a disorder of the brain.”
—_Ulloa’s South America_.
“To fifty chosen sylphs of special note, We trust the important
charge, the petticoat. Oft have we known that seven-fold fence to
fail, Tho’ stuffed with hoops and armed with ribs of whale.” —_Rape
of the Lock_.
“If we compare land animals in respect to magnitude, with those that
take up their abode in the deep, we shall find they will appear
contemptible in the comparison. The whale is doubtless the largest
animal in creation.” —_Goldsmith, Nat. Hist_.
“If you should write a fable for little fishes, you would make them
speak like great whales.” —_Goldsmith to Johnson_.
“In the afternoon we saw what was supposed to be a rock, but it was
found to be a dead whale, which some Asiatics had killed, and were
then towing ashore. They seemed to endeavor to conceal themselves
behind the whale, in order to avoid being seen by us.” —_Cook’s
“The larger whales, they seldom venture to attack. They stand in so
great dread of some of them, that when out at sea they are afraid to
mention even their names, and carry dung, lime-stone, juniper-wood,
and some other articles of the same nature in their boats, in order
to terrify and prevent their too near approach.” —_Uno Von Troil’s
Letters on Banks’s and Solander’s Voyage to Iceland in_ 1772.
“The Spermacetti Whale found by the Nantuckois, is an active, fierce
animal, and requires vast address and boldness in the fishermen.”
—_Thomas Jefferson’s Whale Memorial to the French minister in_ 1778.
“And pray, sir, what in the world is equal to it?” —_Edmund Burke’s
reference in Parliament to the Nantucket Whale-Fishery_.
“Spain—a great whale stranded on the shores of Europe.” —_Edmund
Burke_. (_somewhere_.)
“A tenth branch of the king’s ordinary revenue, said to be grounded
on the consideration of his guarding and protecting the seas from
pirates and robbers, is the right to _royal_ fish, which are whale
and sturgeon. And these, when either thrown ashore or caught near the
coast, are the property of the king.” —_Blackstone_.
“Soon to the sport of death the crews repair: Rodmond unerring o’er
his head suspends The barbed steel, and every turn attends.”
—_Falconer’s Shipwreck_.
“Bright shone the roofs, the domes, the spires, And rockets blew self
driven, To hang their momentary fire Around the vault of heaven.
“So fire with water to compare, The ocean serves on high, Up-spouted
by a whale in air, To express unwieldy joy.” —_Cowper, on the Queen’s
Visit to London_.
“Ten or fifteen gallons of blood are thrown out of the heart at a
stroke, with immense velocity.” —_John Hunter’s account of the
dissection of a whale_. (_A small sized one_.)
“The aorta of a whale is larger in the bore than the main pipe of the
water-works at London Bridge, and the water roaring in its passage
through that pipe is inferior in impetus and velocity to the blood
gushing from the whale’s heart.” —_Paley’s Theology_.
“The whale is a mammiferous animal without hind feet.” —_Baron
“In 40 degrees south, we saw Spermacetti Whales, but did not take any
till the first of May, the sea being then covered with them.”
—_Colnett’s Voyage for the Purpose of Extending the Spermaceti Whale
“In the free element beneath me swam, Floundered and dived, in play,
in chace, in battle, Fishes of every colour, form, and kind; Which
language cannot paint, and mariner Had never seen; from dread
Leviathan To insect millions peopling every wave: Gather’d in shoals
immense, like floating islands, Led by mysterious instincts through
that waste And trackless region, though on every side Assaulted by
voracious enemies, Whales, sharks, and monsters, arm’d in front or
jaw, With swords, saws, spiral horns, or hooked fangs.”
—_Montgomery’s World before the Flood_.
“Io! Paean! Io! sing. To the finny people’s king. Not a mightier
whale than this In the vast Atlantic is; Not a fatter fish than he,
Flounders round the Polar Sea.” —_Charles Lamb’s Triumph of the
“In the year 1690 some persons were on a high hill observing the
whales spouting and sporting with each other, when one observed:
there—pointing to the sea—is a green pasture where our children’s
grand-children will go for bread.” —_Obed Macy’s History of
“I built a cottage for Susan and myself and made a gateway in the
form of a Gothic Arch, by setting up a whale’s jaw bones.”
—_Hawthorne’s Twice Told Tales_.
“She came to bespeak a monument for her first love, who had been
killed by a whale in the Pacific ocean, no less than forty years
ago.” —_Ibid_.
“No, Sir, ’tis a Right Whale,” answered Tom; “I saw his sprout; he
threw up a pair of as pretty rainbows as a Christian would wish to
look at. He’s a raal oil-butt, that fellow!” —_Cooper’s Pilot_.
“The papers were brought in, and we saw in the Berlin Gazette that
whales had been introduced on the stage there.” —_Eckermann’s
Conversations with Goethe_.
“My God! Mr. Chace, what is the matter?” I answered, “we have been
stove by a whale.” —“_Narrative of the Shipwreck of the Whale Ship
Essex of Nantucket, which was attacked and finally destroyed by a
large Sperm Whale in the Pacific Ocean_.” _By Owen Chace of
Nantucket, first mate of said vessel. New York_, 1821.
“A mariner sat in the shrouds one night, The wind was piping free;
Now bright, now dimmed, was the moonlight pale, And the phospher
gleamed in the wake of the whale, As it floundered in the sea.”
—_Elizabeth Oakes Smith_.
“The quantity of line withdrawn from the boats engaged in the capture
of this one whale, amounted altogether to 10,440 yards or nearly six
English miles....
“Sometimes the whale shakes its tremendous tail in the air, which,
cracking like a whip, resounds to the distance of three or four
miles.” —_Scoresby_.
“Mad with the agonies he endures from these fresh attacks, the
infuriated Sperm Whale rolls over and over; he rears his enormous
head, and with wide expanded jaws snaps at everything around him; he
rushes at the boats with his head; they are propelled before him with
vast swiftness, and sometimes utterly destroyed.... It is a matter of
great astonishment that the consideration of the habits of so
interesting, and, in a commercial point of view, so important an
animal (as the Sperm Whale) should have been so entirely neglected,
or should have excited so little curiosity among the numerous, and
many of them competent observers, that of late years, must have
possessed the most abundant and the most convenient opportunities of
witnessing their habitudes.” —_Thomas Beale’s History of the Sperm
Whale_, 1839.
“The Cachalot” (Sperm Whale) “is not only better armed than the True
Whale” (Greenland or Right Whale) “in possessing a formidable weapon
at either extremity of its body, but also more frequently displays a
disposition to employ these weapons offensively and in manner at once
so artful, bold, and mischievous, as to lead to its being regarded as
the most dangerous to attack of all the known species of the whale
tribe.” —_Frederick Debell Bennett’s Whaling Voyage Round the Globe_,
October 13. “There she blows,” was sung out from the mast-head.
“Where away?” demanded the captain. “Three points off the lee bow,
sir.” “Raise up your wheel. Steady!” “Steady, sir.” “Mast-head
ahoy! Do you see that whale now?” “Ay ay, sir! A shoal of Sperm
Whales! There she blows! There she breaches!” “Sing out! sing out
every time!” “Ay Ay, sir! There she blows! there—there—_thar_ she
blows—bowes—bo-o-os!” “How far off?” “Two miles and a half.” “Thunder
and lightning! so near! Call all hands.” —_J. Ross Browne’s Etchings
of a Whaling Cruize_. 1846.
“The Whale-ship Globe, on board of which vessel occurred the horrid
transactions we are about to relate, belonged to the island of
Nantucket.” —“_Narrative of the Globe Mutiny_,” _by Lay and Hussey
survivors. A.D._ 1828.
Being once pursued by a whale which he had wounded, he parried the
assault for some time with a lance; but the furious monster at length
rushed on the boat; himself and comrades only being preserved by
leaping into the water when they saw the onset was inevitable.”
—_Missionary Journal of Tyerman and Bennett_.
“Nantucket itself,” said Mr. Webster, “is a very striking and
peculiar portion of the National interest. There is a population of
eight or nine thousand persons living here in the sea, adding largely
every year to the National wealth by the boldest and most persevering
industry.” —_Report of Daniel Webster’s Speech in the U. S. Senate,
on the application for the Erection of a Breakwater at Nantucket_.
“The whale fell directly over him, and probably killed him in a
moment.” —“_The Whale and his Captors, or The Whaleman’s Adventures
and the Whale’s Biography, gathered on the Homeward Cruise of the
Commodore Preble_.” _By Rev. Henry T. Cheever_.
“If you make the least damn bit of noise,” replied Samuel, “I will
send you to hell.” —_Life of Samuel Comstock_ (_the mutineer_), _by
his brother, William Comstock. Another Version of the whale-ship
Globe narrative_.
“The voyages of the Dutch and English to the Northern Ocean, in
order, if possible, to discover a passage through it to India, though
they failed of their main object, laid-open the haunts of the whale.”
—_McCulloch’s Commercial Dictionary_.
“These things are reciprocal; the ball rebounds, only to bound
forward again; for now in laying open the haunts of the whale, the
whalemen seem to have indirectly hit upon new clews to that same
mystic North-West Passage.” —_From_ “_Something_” _unpublished_.
“It is impossible to meet a whale-ship on the ocean without being
struck by her near appearance. The vessel under short sail, with
look-outs at the mast-heads, eagerly scanning the wide expanse around
them, has a totally different air from those engaged in regular
voyage.” —_Currents and Whaling. U.S. Ex. Ex_.
“Pedestrians in the vicinity of London and elsewhere may recollect
having seen large curved bones set upright in the earth, either to
form arches over gateways, or entrances to alcoves, and they may
perhaps have been told that these were the ribs of whales.” —_Tales
of a Whale Voyager to the Arctic Ocean_.
“It was not till the boats returned from the pursuit of these whales,
that the whites saw their ship in bloody possession of the savages
enrolled among the crew.” —_Newspaper Account of the Taking and
Retaking of the Whale-Ship Hobomack_.
“It is generally well known that out of the crews of Whaling vessels
(American) few ever return in the ships on board of which they
departed.” —_Cruise in a Whale Boat_.
“Suddenly a mighty mass emerged from the water, and shot up
perpendicularly into the air. It was the whale.” —_Miriam Coffin or
the Whale Fisherman_.
“The Whale is harpooned to be sure; but bethink you, how you would
manage a powerful unbroken colt, with the mere appliance of a rope
tied to the root of his tail.” —_A Chapter on Whaling in Ribs and
“On one occasion I saw two of these monsters (whales) probably male
and female, slowly swimming, one after the other, within less than a
stone’s throw of the shore” (Terra Del Fuego), “over which the beech
tree extended its branches.” —_Darwin’s Voyage of a Naturalist_.
“‘Stern all!’ exclaimed the mate, as upon turning his head, he saw
the distended jaws of a large Sperm Whale close to the head of the
boat, threatening it with instant destruction;—‘Stern all, for your
lives!’” —_Wharton the Whale Killer_.
“So be cheery, my lads, let your hearts never fail, While the bold
harpooneer is striking the whale!” —_Nantucket Song_.
“Oh, the rare old Whale, mid storm and gale In his ocean home will be
A giant in might, where might is right, And King of the boundless
sea.” —_Whale Song_.
CHAPTER 1. Loomings.
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having
little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me
on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part
of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and
regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about
the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever
I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and
bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever
my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral
principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and
methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to
get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.
With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I
quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they
but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other,
cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by
wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her
surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme
downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and
cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of
land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.
Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears
Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What
do you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand
thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some
leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some
looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the
rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these
are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster—tied to
counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are
the green fields gone? What do they here?
But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and
seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the
extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder
warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water
as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand—miles of
them—leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets
and avenues—north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell
me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all
those ships attract them thither?
Once more. Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take
almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a
dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in
it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest
reveries—stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will
infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region.
Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this
experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical
professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for
But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest,
quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley
of the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There stand his
trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were
within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up
from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke. Deep into distant woodlands
winds a mazy way, reaching to overlapping spurs of mountains bathed in
their hill-side blue. But though the picture lies thus tranced, and
though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this
shepherd’s head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd’s eye were
fixed upon the magic stream before him. Go visit the Prairies in June,
when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among
Tiger-lilies—what is the one charm wanting?—Water—there is not a drop
of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel
your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon
suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy
him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian
trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a
robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea?
Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a
mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out
of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did
the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely
all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that
story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild
image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that
same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image
of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.
Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin
to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of my
lungs, I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a
passenger. For to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and a
purse is but a rag unless you have something in it. Besides, passengers
get sea-sick—grow quarrelsome—don’t sleep of nights—do not enjoy
themselves much, as a general thing;—no, I never go as a passenger;
nor, though I am something of a salt, do I ever go to sea as a
Commodore, or a Captain, or a Cook. I abandon the glory and distinction
of such offices to those who like them. For my part, I abominate all
honorable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind
whatsoever. It is quite as much as I can do to take care of myself,
without taking care of ships, barques, brigs, schooners, and what not.
And as for going as cook,—though I confess there is considerable glory
in that, a cook being a sort of officer on ship-board—yet, somehow, I
never fancied broiling fowls;—though once broiled, judiciously
buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who
will speak more respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a broiled
fowl than I will. It is out of the idolatrous dotings of the old
Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse, that you see the
mummies of those creatures in their huge bake-houses the pyramids.
No, when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast,
plumb down into the forecastle, aloft there to the royal mast-head.
True, they rather order me about some, and make me jump from spar to
spar, like a grasshopper in a May meadow. And at first, this sort of
thing is unpleasant enough. It touches one’s sense of honor,
particularly if you come of an old established family in the land, the
Van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than all, if
just previous to putting your hand into the tar-pot, you have been
lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand in
awe of you. The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from a
schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and
the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it. But even this wears off
in time.
What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom
and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed,
I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel
Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and
respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who ain’t
a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may
order me about—however they may thump and punch me about, I have the
satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is
one way or other served in much the same way—either in a physical or
metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is
passed round, and all hands should rub each other’s shoulder-blades,
and be content.
Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of
paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single
penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must
pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and
being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable
infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But _being
paid_,—what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man
receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly
believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no
account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign
ourselves to perdition!
Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome
exercise and pure air of the fore-castle deck. For as in this world,
head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if
you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the
Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from
the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not
so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many
other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it. But
wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a
merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling
voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the
constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in
some unaccountable way—he can better answer than any one else. And,
doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand
programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in
as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive
performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run
something like this:
“_Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States._
Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the
Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when
others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short
and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces—though I
cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the
circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives
which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced
me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the
delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill
and discriminating judgment.
Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale
himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my
curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island
bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all
the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds,
helped to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things
would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an
everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and
land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to
perceive a horror, and could still be social with it—would they let
me—since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of
the place one lodges in.
By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the
great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild
conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into
my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them
all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.
CHAPTER 2. The Carpet-Bag.
I stuffed a shirt or two into my old carpet-bag, tucked it under my
arm, and started for Cape Horn and the Pacific. Quitting the good city
of old Manhatto, I duly arrived in New Bedford. It was a Saturday night
in December. Much was I disappointed upon learning that the little
packet for Nantucket had already sailed, and that no way of reaching
that place would offer, till the following Monday.
As most young candidates for the pains and penalties of whaling stop at
this same New Bedford, thence to embark on their voyage, it may as well
be related that I, for one, had no idea of so doing. For my mind was
made up to sail in no other than a Nantucket craft, because there was a
fine, boisterous something about everything connected with that famous
old island, which amazingly pleased me. Besides though New Bedford has
of late been gradually monopolising the business of whaling, and though
in this matter poor old Nantucket is now much behind her, yet Nantucket
was her great original—the Tyre of this Carthage;—the place where the
first dead American whale was stranded. Where else but from Nantucket
did those aboriginal whalemen, the Red-Men, first sally out in canoes
to give chase to the Leviathan? And where but from Nantucket, too, did
that first adventurous little sloop put forth, partly laden with
imported cobblestones—so goes the story—to throw at the whales, in
order to discover when they were nigh enough to risk a harpoon from the
Now having a night, a day, and still another night following before me
in New Bedford, ere I could embark for my destined port, it became a
matter of concernment where I was to eat and sleep meanwhile. It was a
very dubious-looking, nay, a very dark and dismal night, bitingly cold
and cheerless. I knew no one in the place. With anxious grapnels I had
sounded my pocket, and only brought up a few pieces of silver,—So,
wherever you go, Ishmael, said I to myself, as I stood in the middle of
a dreary street shouldering my bag, and comparing the gloom towards the
north with the darkness towards the south—wherever in your wisdom you
may conclude to lodge for the night, my dear Ishmael, be sure to
inquire the price, and don’t be too particular.
With halting steps I paced the streets, and passed the sign of “The
Crossed Harpoons”—but it looked too expensive and jolly there. Further
on, from the bright red windows of the “Sword-Fish Inn,” there came
such fervent rays, that it seemed to have melted the packed snow and
ice from before the house, for everywhere else the congealed frost lay
ten inches thick in a hard, asphaltic pavement,—rather weary for me,
when I struck my foot against the flinty projections, because from
hard, remorseless service the soles of my boots were in a most
miserable plight. Too expensive and jolly, again thought I, pausing one
moment to watch the broad glare in the street, and hear the sounds of
the tinkling glasses within. But go on, Ishmael, said I at last; don’t
you hear? get away from before the door; your patched boots are
stopping the way. So on I went. I now by instinct followed the streets
that took me waterward, for there, doubtless, were the cheapest, if not
the cheeriest inns.
Such dreary streets! blocks of blackness, not houses, on either hand,
and here and there a candle, like a candle moving about in a tomb. At
this hour of the night, of the last day of the week, that quarter of
the town proved all but deserted. But presently I came to a smoky light
proceeding from a low, wide building, the door of which stood
invitingly open. It had a careless look, as if it were meant for the
uses of the public; so, entering, the first thing I did was to stumble
over an ash-box in the porch. Ha! thought I, ha, as the flying
particles almost choked me, are these ashes from that destroyed city,
Gomorrah? But “The Crossed Harpoons,” and “The Sword-Fish?”—this, then
must needs be the sign of “The Trap.” However, I picked myself up and
hearing a loud voice within, pushed on and opened a second, interior
It seemed the great Black Parliament sitting in Tophet. A hundred black
faces turned round in their rows to peer; and beyond, a black Angel of
Doom was beating a book in a pulpit. It was a negro church; and the
preacher’s text was about the blackness of darkness, and the weeping
and wailing and teeth-gnashing there. Ha, Ishmael, muttered I, backing
out, Wretched entertainment at the sign of ‘The Trap!’
Moving on, I at last came to a dim sort of light not far from the
docks, and heard a forlorn creaking in the air; and looking up, saw a
swinging sign over the door with a white painting upon it, faintly
representing a tall straight jet of misty spray, and these words
underneath—“The Spouter Inn:—Peter Coffin.”
Coffin?—Spouter?—Rather ominous in that particular connexion, thought
I. But it is a common name in Nantucket, they say, and I suppose this
Peter here is an emigrant from there. As the light looked so dim, and
the place, for the time, looked quiet enough, and the dilapidated
little wooden house itself looked as if it might have been carted here
from the ruins of some burnt district, and as the swinging sign had a
poverty-stricken sort of creak to it, I thought that here was the very
spot for cheap lodgings, and the best of pea coffee.
It was a queer sort of place—a gable-ended old house, one side palsied
as it were, and leaning over sadly. It stood on a sharp bleak corner,
where that tempestuous wind Euroclydon kept up a worse howling than
ever it did about poor Paul’s tossed craft. Euroclydon, nevertheless,
is a mighty pleasant zephyr to any one in-doors, with his feet on the
hob quietly toasting for bed. “In judging of that tempestuous wind
called Euroclydon,” says an old writer—of whose works I possess the
only copy extant—“it maketh a marvellous difference, whether thou
lookest out at it from a glass window where the frost is all on the
outside, or whether thou observest it from that sashless window, where
the frost is on both sides, and of which the wight Death is the only
glazier.” True enough, thought I, as this passage occurred to my
mind—old black-letter, thou reasonest well. Yes, these eyes are
windows, and this body of mine is the house. What a pity they didn’t
stop up the chinks and the crannies though, and thrust in a little lint
here and there. But it’s too late to make any improvements now. The
universe is finished; the copestone is on, and the chips were carted
off a million years ago. Poor Lazarus there, chattering his teeth
against the curbstone for his pillow, and shaking off his tatters with
his shiverings, he might plug up both ears with rags, and put a
corn-cob into his mouth, and yet that would not keep out the
tempestuous Euroclydon. Euroclydon! says old Dives, in his red silken
wrapper—(he had a redder one afterwards) pooh, pooh! What a fine frosty
night; how Orion glitters; what northern lights! Let them talk of their
oriental summer climes of everlasting conservatories; give me the
privilege of making my own summer with my own coals.
But what thinks Lazarus? Can he warm his blue hands by holding them up
to the grand northern lights? Would not Lazarus rather be in Sumatra
than here? Would he not far rather lay him down lengthwise along the
line of the equator; yea, ye gods! go down to the fiery pit itself, in
order to keep out this frost?
Now, that Lazarus should lie stranded there on the curbstone before the
door of Dives, this is more wonderful than that an iceberg should be
moored to one of the Moluccas. Yet Dives himself, he too lives like a
Czar in an ice palace made of frozen sighs, and being a president of a
temperance society, he only drinks the tepid tears of orphans.
But no more of this blubbering now, we are going a-whaling, and there
is plenty of that yet to come. Let us scrape the ice from our frosted
feet, and see what sort of a place this “Spouter” may be.
CHAPTER 3. The Spouter-Inn.
Entering that gable-ended Spouter-Inn, you found yourself in a wide,
low, straggling entry with old-fashioned wainscots, reminding one of
the bulwarks of some condemned old craft. On one side hung a very large
oilpainting so thoroughly besmoked, and every way defaced, that in the
unequal crosslights by which you viewed it, it was only by diligent
study and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of
the neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its
purpose. Such unaccountable masses of shades and shadows, that at first
you almost thought some ambitious young artist, in the time of the New
England hags, had endeavored to delineate chaos bewitched. But by dint
of much and earnest contemplation, and oft repeated ponderings, and
especially by throwing open the little window towards the back of the
entry, you at last come to the conclusion that such an idea, however
wild, might not be altogether unwarranted.
But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber,
portentous, black mass of something hovering in the centre of the
picture over three blue, dim, perpendicular lines floating in a
nameless yeast. A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive
a nervous man distracted. Yet was there a sort of indefinite,
half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to
it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what
that marvellous painting meant. Ever and anon a bright, but, alas,
deceptive idea would dart you through.—It’s the Black Sea in a midnight
gale.—It’s the unnatural combat of the four primal elements.—It’s a
blasted heath.—It’s a Hyperborean winter scene.—It’s the breaking-up of
the icebound stream of Time. But at last all these fancies yielded to
that one portentous something in the picture’s midst. _That_ once found
out, and all the rest were plain. But stop; does it not bear a faint
resemblance to a gigantic fish? even the great leviathan himself?
In fact, the artist’s design seemed this: a final theory of my own,
partly based upon the aggregated opinions of many aged persons with
whom I conversed upon the subject. The picture represents a Cape-Horner
in a great hurricane; the half-foundered ship weltering there with its
three dismantled masts alone visible; and an exasperated whale,
purposing to spring clean over the craft, is in the enormous act of
impaling himself upon the three mast-heads.
The opposite wall of this entry was hung all over with a heathenish
array of monstrous clubs and spears. Some were thickly set with
glittering teeth resembling ivory saws; others were tufted with knots
of human hair; and one was sickle-shaped, with a vast handle sweeping
round like the segment made in the new-mown grass by a long-armed
mower. You shuddered as you gazed, and wondered what monstrous cannibal
and savage could ever have gone a death-harvesting with such a hacking,
horrifying implement. Mixed with these were rusty old whaling lances
and harpoons all broken and deformed. Some were storied weapons. With
this once long lance, now wildly elbowed, fifty years ago did Nathan
Swain kill fifteen whales between a sunrise and a sunset. And that
harpoon—so like a corkscrew now—was flung in Javan seas, and run away
with by a whale, years afterwards slain off the Cape of Blanco. The
original iron entered nigh the tail, and, like a restless needle
sojourning in the body of a man, travelled full forty feet, and at last
was found imbedded in the hump.
Crossing this dusky entry, and on through yon low-arched way—cut
through what in old times must have been a great central chimney with
fireplaces all round—you enter the public room. A still duskier place
is this, with such low ponderous beams above, and such old wrinkled
planks beneath, that you would almost fancy you trod some old craft’s
cockpits, especially of such a howling night, when this corner-anchored
old ark rocked so furiously. On one side stood a long, low, shelf-like
table covered with cracked glass cases, filled with dusty rarities
gathered from this wide world’s remotest nooks. Projecting from the
further angle of the room stands a dark-looking den—the bar—a rude
attempt at a right whale’s head. Be that how it may, there stands the
vast arched bone of the whale’s jaw, so wide, a coach might almost
drive beneath it. Within are shabby shelves, ranged round with old
decanters, bottles, flasks; and in those jaws of swift destruction,
like another cursed Jonah (by which name indeed they called him),
bustles a little withered old man, who, for their money, dearly sells
the sailors deliriums and death.
Abominable are the tumblers into which he pours his poison. Though true
cylinders without—within, the villanous green goggling glasses
deceitfully tapered downwards to a cheating bottom. Parallel meridians
rudely pecked into the glass, surround these footpads’ goblets. Fill to
_this_ mark, and your charge is but a penny; to _this_ a penny more;
and so on to the full glass—the Cape Horn measure, which you may gulp
down for a shilling.
Upon entering the place I found a number of young seamen gathered about
a table, examining by a dim light divers specimens of _skrimshander_. I
sought the landlord, and telling him I desired to be accommodated with
a room, received for answer that his house was full—not a bed
unoccupied. “But avast,” he added, tapping his forehead, “you haint no
objections to sharing a harpooneer’s blanket, have ye? I s’pose you are
goin’ a-whalin’, so you’d better get used to that sort of thing.”
I told him that I never liked to sleep two in a bed; that if I should
ever do so, it would depend upon who the harpooneer might be, and that
if he (the landlord) really had no other place for me, and the
harpooneer was not decidedly objectionable, why rather than wander
further about a strange town on so bitter a night, I would put up with
the half of any decent man’s blanket.
“I thought so. All right; take a seat. Supper?—you want supper?
Supper’ll be ready directly.”
I sat down on an old wooden settle, carved all over like a bench on the
Battery. At one end a ruminating tar was still further adorning it with
his jack-knife, stooping over and diligently working away at the space
between his legs. He was trying his hand at a ship under full sail, but
he didn’t make much headway, I thought.
At last some four or five of us were summoned to our meal in an
adjoining room. It was cold as Iceland—no fire at all—the landlord said
he couldn’t afford it. Nothing but two dismal tallow candles, each in a
winding sheet. We were fain to button up our monkey jackets, and hold
to our lips cups of scalding tea with our half frozen fingers. But the
fare was of the most substantial kind—not only meat and potatoes, but
dumplings; good heavens! dumplings for supper! One young fellow in a
green box coat, addressed himself to these dumplings in a most direful
“My boy,” said the landlord, “you’ll have the nightmare to a dead
“Landlord,” I whispered, “that aint the harpooneer is it?”
“Oh, no,” said he, looking a sort of diabolically funny, “the
harpooneer is a dark complexioned chap. He never eats dumplings, he
don’t—he eats nothing but steaks, and he likes ’em rare.”
“The devil he does,” says I. “Where is that harpooneer? Is he here?”
“He’ll be here afore long,” was the answer.
I could not help it, but I began to feel suspicious of this “dark
complexioned” harpooneer. At any rate, I made up my mind that if it so
turned out that we should sleep together, he must undress and get into
bed before I did.
Supper over, the company went back to the bar-room, when, knowing not
what else to do with myself, I resolved to spend the rest of the
evening as a looker on.
Presently a rioting noise was heard without. Starting up, the landlord
cried, “That’s the Grampus’s crew. I seed her reported in the offing
this morning; a three years’ voyage, and a full ship. Hurrah, boys; now
we’ll have the latest news from the Feegees.”
A tramping of sea boots was heard in the entry; the door was flung
open, and in rolled a wild set of mariners enough. Enveloped in their
shaggy watch coats, and with their heads muffled in woollen comforters,
all bedarned and ragged, and their beards stiff with icicles, they
seemed an eruption of bears from Labrador. They had just landed from
their boat, and this was the first house they entered. No wonder, then,
that they made a straight wake for the whale’s mouth—the bar—when the
wrinkled little old Jonah, there officiating, soon poured them out
brimmers all round. One complained of a bad cold in his head, upon
which Jonah mixed him a pitch-like potion of gin and molasses, which he
swore was a sovereign cure for all colds and catarrhs whatsoever, never
mind of how long standing, or whether caught off the coast of Labrador,
or on the weather side of an ice-island.
The liquor soon mounted into their heads, as it generally does even
with the arrantest topers newly landed from sea, and they began
capering about most obstreperously.
I observed, however, that one of them held somewhat aloof, and though
he seemed desirous not to spoil the hilarity of his shipmates by his
own sober face, yet upon the whole he refrained from making as much
noise as the rest. This man interested me at once; and since the
sea-gods had ordained that he should soon become my shipmate (though
but a sleeping-partner one, so far as this narrative is concerned), I
will here venture upon a little description of him. He stood full six
feet in height, with noble shoulders, and a chest like a coffer-dam. I
have seldom seen such brawn in a man. His face was deeply brown and
burnt, making his white teeth dazzling by the contrast; while in the
deep shadows of his eyes floated some reminiscences that did not seem
to give him much joy. His voice at once announced that he was a
Southerner, and from his fine stature, I thought he must be one of
those tall mountaineers from the Alleghanian Ridge in Virginia. When
the revelry of his companions had mounted to its height, this man
slipped away unobserved, and I saw no more of him till he became my
comrade on the sea. In a few minutes, however, he was missed by his
shipmates, and being, it seems, for some reason a huge favourite with
them, they raised a cry of “Bulkington! Bulkington! where’s
Bulkington?” and darted out of the house in pursuit of him.
It was now about nine o’clock, and the room seeming almost
supernaturally quiet after these orgies, I began to congratulate myself
upon a little plan that had occurred to me just previous to the
entrance of the seamen.
No man prefers to sleep two in a bed. In fact, you would a good deal
rather not sleep with your own brother. I don’t know how it is, but
people like to be private when they are sleeping. And when it comes to
sleeping with an unknown stranger, in a strange inn, in a strange town,
and that stranger a harpooneer, then your objections indefinitely
multiply. Nor was there any earthly reason why I as a sailor should
sleep two in a bed, more than anybody else; for sailors no more sleep
two in a bed at sea, than bachelor Kings do ashore. To be sure they all
sleep together in one apartment, but you have your own hammock, and
cover yourself with your own blanket, and sleep in your own skin.
The more I pondered over this harpooneer, the more I abominated the
thought of sleeping with him. It was fair to presume that being a
harpooneer, his linen or woollen, as the case might be, would not be of
the tidiest, certainly none of the finest. I began to twitch all over.
Besides, it was getting late, and my decent harpooneer ought to be home
and going bedwards. Suppose now, he should tumble in upon me at
midnight—how could I tell from what vile hole he had been coming?
“Landlord! I’ve changed my mind about that harpooneer.—I shan’t sleep
with him. I’ll try the bench here.”
“Just as you please; I’m sorry I can’t spare ye a tablecloth for a
mattress, and it’s a plaguy rough board here”—feeling of the knots and
notches. “But wait a bit, Skrimshander; I’ve got a carpenter’s plane
there in the bar—wait, I say, and I’ll make ye snug enough.” So saying
he procured the plane; and with his old silk handkerchief first dusting
the bench, vigorously set to planing away at my bed, the while grinning
like an ape. The shavings flew right and left; till at last the
plane-iron came bump against an indestructible knot. The landlord was
near spraining his wrist, and I told him for heaven’s sake to quit—the
bed was soft enough to suit me, and I did not know how all the planing
in the world could make eider down of a pine plank. So gathering up the
shavings with another grin, and throwing them into the great stove in
the middle of the room, he went about his business, and left me in a
brown study.
I now took the measure of the bench, and found that it was a foot too
short; but that could be mended with a chair. But it was a foot too
narrow, and the other bench in the room was about four inches higher
than the planed one—so there was no yoking them. I then placed the
first bench lengthwise along the only clear space against the wall,
leaving a little interval between, for my back to settle down in. But I
soon found that there came such a draught of cold air over me from
under the sill of the window, that this plan would never do at all,
especially as another current from the rickety door met the one from
the window, and both together formed a series of small whirlwinds in
the immediate vicinity of the spot where I had thought to spend the
The devil fetch that harpooneer, thought I, but stop, couldn’t I steal
a march on him—bolt his door inside, and jump into his bed, not to be
wakened by the most violent knockings? It seemed no bad idea; but upon
second thoughts I dismissed it. For who could tell but what the next
morning, so soon as I popped out of the room, the harpooneer might be
standing in the entry, all ready to knock me down!
Still, looking round me again, and seeing no possible chance of
spending a sufferable night unless in some other person’s bed, I began
to think that after all I might be cherishing unwarrantable prejudices
against this unknown harpooneer. Thinks I, I’ll wait awhile; he must be
dropping in before long. I’ll have a good look at him then, and perhaps
we may become jolly good bedfellows after all—there’s no telling.
But though the other boarders kept coming in by ones, twos, and threes,
and going to bed, yet no sign of my harpooneer.
“Landlord!” said I, “what sort of a chap is he—does he always keep such
late hours?” It was now hard upon twelve o’clock.
The landlord chuckled again with his lean chuckle, and seemed to be
mightily tickled at something beyond my comprehension. “No,” he
answered, “generally he’s an early bird—airley to bed and airley to
rise—yes, he’s the bird what catches the worm. But to-night he went out
a peddling, you see, and I don’t see what on airth keeps him so late,
unless, may be, he can’t sell his head.”
“Can’t sell his head?—What sort of a bamboozingly story is this you are
telling me?” getting into a towering rage. “Do you pretend to say,
landlord, that this harpooneer is actually engaged this blessed
Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning, in peddling his head around
this town?”
“That’s precisely it,” said the landlord, “and I told him he couldn’t
sell it here, the market’s overstocked.”
“With what?” shouted I.
“With heads to be sure; ain’t there too many heads in the world?”
“I tell you what it is, landlord,” said I quite calmly, “you’d better
stop spinning that yarn to me—I’m not green.”
“May be not,” taking out a stick and whittling a toothpick, “but I
rayther guess you’ll be done _brown_ if that ere harpooneer hears you a
slanderin’ his head.”
“I’ll break it for him,” said I, now flying into a passion again at
this unaccountable farrago of the landlord’s.
“It’s broke a’ready,” said he.
“Broke,” said I—“_broke_, do you mean?”
“Sartain, and that’s the very reason he can’t sell it, I guess.”
“Landlord,” said I, going up to him as cool as Mt. Hecla in a
snow-storm—“landlord, stop whittling. You and I must understand one
another, and that too without delay. I come to your house and want a
bed; you tell me you can only give me half a one; that the other half
belongs to a certain harpooneer. And about this harpooneer, whom I have
not yet seen, you persist in telling me the most mystifying and
exasperating stories tending to beget in me an uncomfortable feeling
towards the man whom you design for my bedfellow—a sort of connexion,
landlord, which is an intimate and confidential one in the highest
degree. I now demand of you to speak out and tell me who and what this
harpooneer is, and whether I shall be in all respects safe to spend the
night with him. And in the first place, you will be so good as to unsay
that story about selling his head, which if true I take to be good
evidence that this harpooneer is stark mad, and I’ve no idea of
sleeping with a madman; and you, sir, _you_ I mean, landlord, _you_,
sir, by trying to induce me to do so knowingly, would thereby render
yourself liable to a criminal prosecution.”
“Wall,” said the landlord, fetching a long breath, “that’s a purty long
sarmon for a chap that rips a little now and then. But be easy, be
easy, this here harpooneer I have been tellin’ you of has just arrived
from the south seas, where he bought up a lot of ’balmed New Zealand
heads (great curios, you know), and he’s sold all on ’em but one, and
that one he’s trying to sell to-night, cause to-morrow’s Sunday, and it
would not do to be sellin’ human heads about the streets when folks is
goin’ to churches. He wanted to, last Sunday, but I stopped him just as
he was goin’ out of the door with four heads strung on a string, for
all the airth like a string of inions.”
This account cleared up the otherwise unaccountable mystery, and showed
that the landlord, after all, had had no idea of fooling me—but at the
same time what could I think of a harpooneer who stayed out of a
Saturday night clean into the holy Sabbath, engaged in such a cannibal
business as selling the heads of dead idolators?
“Depend upon it, landlord, that harpooneer is a dangerous man.”
“He pays reg’lar,” was the rejoinder. “But come, it’s getting dreadful
late, you had better be turning flukes—it’s a nice bed; Sal and me
slept in that ere bed the night we were spliced. There’s plenty of room
for two to kick about in that bed; it’s an almighty big bed that. Why,
afore we give it up, Sal used to put our Sam and little Johnny in the
foot of it. But I got a dreaming and sprawling about one night, and
somehow, Sam got pitched on the floor, and came near breaking his arm.
Arter that, Sal said it wouldn’t do. Come along here, I’ll give ye a
glim in a jiffy;” and so saying he lighted a candle and held it towards
me, offering to lead the way. But I stood irresolute; when looking at a
clock in the corner, he exclaimed “I vum it’s Sunday—you won’t see that
harpooneer to-night; he’s come to anchor somewhere—come along then;
_do_ come; _won’t_ ye come?”
I considered the matter a moment, and then up stairs we went, and I was
ushered into a small room, cold as a clam, and furnished, sure enough,
with a prodigious bed, almost big enough indeed for any four
harpooneers to sleep abreast.
“There,” said the landlord, placing the candle on a crazy old sea chest
that did double duty as a wash-stand and centre table; “there, make
yourself comfortable now, and good night to ye.” I turned round from
eyeing the bed, but he had disappeared.
Folding back the counterpane, I stooped over the bed. Though none of
the most elegant, it yet stood the scrutiny tolerably well. I then
glanced round the room; and besides the bedstead and centre table,
could see no other furniture belonging to the place, but a rude shelf,
the four walls, and a papered fireboard representing a man striking a
whale. Of things not properly belonging to the room, there was a
hammock lashed up, and thrown upon the floor in one corner; also a
large seaman’s bag, containing the harpooneer’s wardrobe, no doubt in
lieu of a land trunk. Likewise, there was a parcel of outlandish bone
fish hooks on the shelf over the fire-place, and a tall harpoon
standing at the head of the bed.
But what is this on the chest? I took it up, and held it close to the
light, and felt it, and smelt it, and tried every way possible to
arrive at some satisfactory conclusion concerning it. I can compare it
to nothing but a large door mat, ornamented at the edges with little
tinkling tags something like the stained porcupine quills round an
Indian moccasin. There was a hole or slit in the middle of this mat, as
you see the same in South American ponchos. But could it be possible
that any sober harpooneer would get into a door mat, and parade the
streets of any Christian town in that sort of guise? I put it on, to
try it, and it weighed me down like a hamper, being uncommonly shaggy
and thick, and I thought a little damp, as though this mysterious
harpooneer had been wearing it of a rainy day. I went up in it to a bit
of glass stuck against the wall, and I never saw such a sight in my
life. I tore myself out of it in such a hurry that I gave myself a kink
in the neck.
I sat down on the side of the bed, and commenced thinking about this
head-peddling harpooneer, and his door mat. After thinking some time on
the bed-side, I got up and took off my monkey jacket, and then stood in
the middle of the room thinking. I then took off my coat, and thought a
little more in my shirt sleeves. But beginning to feel very cold now,
half undressed as I was, and remembering what the landlord said about
the harpooneer’s not coming home at all that night, it being so very
late, I made no more ado, but jumped out of my pantaloons and boots,
and then blowing out the light tumbled into bed, and commended myself
to the care of heaven.
Whether that mattress was stuffed with corn-cobs or broken crockery,
there is no telling, but I rolled about a good deal, and could not
sleep for a long time. At last I slid off into a light doze, and had
pretty nearly made a good offing towards the land of Nod, when I heard
a heavy footfall in the passage, and saw a glimmer of light come into
the room from under the door.
Lord save me, thinks I, that must be the harpooneer, the infernal
head-peddler. But I lay perfectly still, and resolved not to say a word
till spoken to. Holding a light in one hand, and that identical New
Zealand head in the other, the stranger entered the room, and without
looking towards the bed, placed his candle a good way off from me on
the floor in one corner, and then began working away at the knotted
cords of the large bag I before spoke of as being in the room. I was
all eagerness to see his face, but he kept it averted for some time
while employed in unlacing the bag’s mouth. This accomplished, however,
he turned round—when, good heavens! what a sight! Such a face! It was
of a dark, purplish, yellow colour, here and there stuck over with
large blackish looking squares. Yes, it’s just as I thought, he’s a
terrible bedfellow; he’s been in a fight, got dreadfully cut, and here
he is, just from the surgeon. But at that moment he chanced to turn his
face so towards the light, that I plainly saw they could not be
sticking-plasters at all, those black squares on his cheeks. They were
stains of some sort or other. At first I knew not what to make of this;
but soon an inkling of the truth occurred to me. I remembered a story
of a white man—a whaleman too—who, falling among the cannibals, had
been tattooed by them. I concluded that this harpooneer, in the course
of his distant voyages, must have met with a similar adventure. And
what is it, thought I, after all! It’s only his outside; a man can be
honest in any sort of skin. But then, what to make of his unearthly
complexion, that part of it, I mean, lying round about, and completely
independent of the squares of tattooing. To be sure, it might be
nothing but a good coat of tropical tanning; but I never heard of a hot
sun’s tanning a white man into a purplish yellow one. However, I had
never been in the South Seas; and perhaps the sun there produced these
extraordinary effects upon the skin. Now, while all these ideas were
passing through me like lightning, this harpooneer never noticed me at
all. But, after some difficulty having opened his bag, he commenced
fumbling in it, and presently pulled out a sort of tomahawk, and a
seal-skin wallet with the hair on. Placing these on the old chest in
the middle of the room, he then took the New Zealand head—a ghastly
thing enough—and crammed it down into the bag. He now took off his
hat—a new beaver hat—when I came nigh singing out with fresh surprise.
There was no hair on his head—none to speak of at least—nothing but a
small scalp-knot twisted up on his forehead. His bald purplish head now
looked for all the world like a mildewed skull. Had not the stranger
stood between me and the door, I would have bolted out of it quicker
than ever I bolted a dinner.
Even as it was, I thought something of slipping out of the window, but
it was the second floor back. I am no coward, but what to make of this
head-peddling purple rascal altogether passed my comprehension.
Ignorance is the parent of fear, and being completely nonplussed and
confounded about the stranger, I confess I was now as much afraid of
him as if it was the devil himself who had thus broken into my room at
the dead of night. In fact, I was so afraid of him that I was not game
enough just then to address him, and demand a satisfactory answer
concerning what seemed inexplicable in him.
Meanwhile, he continued the business of undressing, and at last showed
his chest and arms. As I live, these covered parts of him were
checkered with the same squares as his face; his back, too, was all
over the same dark squares; he seemed to have been in a Thirty Years’
War, and just escaped from it with a sticking-plaster shirt. Still
more, his very legs were marked, as if a parcel of dark green frogs
were running up the trunks of young palms. It was now quite plain that
he must be some abominable savage or other shipped aboard of a whaleman
in the South Seas, and so landed in this Christian country. I quaked to
think of it. A peddler of heads too—perhaps the heads of his own
brothers. He might take a fancy to mine—heavens! look at that tomahawk!
But there was no time for shuddering, for now the savage went about
something that completely fascinated my attention, and convinced me
that he must indeed be a heathen. Going to his heavy grego, or wrapall,
or dreadnaught, which he had previously hung on a chair, he fumbled in
the pockets, and produced at length a curious little deformed image
with a hunch on its back, and exactly the colour of a three days’ old
Congo baby. Remembering the embalmed head, at first I almost thought
that this black manikin was a real baby preserved in some similar
manner. But seeing that it was not at all limber, and that it glistened
a good deal like polished ebony, I concluded that it must be nothing
but a wooden idol, which indeed it proved to be. For now the savage
goes up to the empty fire-place, and removing the papered fire-board,
sets up this little hunch-backed image, like a tenpin, between the
andirons. The chimney jambs and all the bricks inside were very sooty,
so that I thought this fire-place made a very appropriate little shrine
or chapel for his Congo idol.
I now screwed my eyes hard towards the half hidden image, feeling but
ill at ease meantime—to see what was next to follow. First he takes
about a double handful of shavings out of his grego pocket, and places
them carefully before the idol; then laying a bit of ship biscuit on
top and applying the flame from the lamp, he kindled the shavings into
a sacrificial blaze. Presently, after many hasty snatches into the
fire, and still hastier withdrawals of his fingers (whereby he seemed
to be scorching them badly), he at last succeeded in drawing out the
biscuit; then blowing off the heat and ashes a little, he made a polite
offer of it to the little negro. But the little devil did not seem to
fancy such dry sort of fare at all; he never moved his lips. All these
strange antics were accompanied by still stranger guttural noises from
the devotee, who seemed to be praying in a sing-song or else singing
some pagan psalmody or other, during which his face twitched about in
the most unnatural manner. At last extinguishing the fire, he took the
idol up very unceremoniously, and bagged it again in his grego pocket
as carelessly as if he were a sportsman bagging a dead woodcock.
All these queer proceedings increased my uncomfortableness, and seeing
him now exhibiting strong symptoms of concluding his business
operations, and jumping into bed with me, I thought it was high time,
now or never, before the light was put out, to break the spell in which
I had so long been bound.
But the interval I spent in deliberating what to say, was a fatal one.
Taking up his tomahawk from the table, he examined the head of it for
an instant, and then holding it to the light, with his mouth at the
handle, he puffed out great clouds of tobacco smoke. The next moment
the light was extinguished, and this wild cannibal, tomahawk between
his teeth, sprang into bed with me. I sang out, I could not help it
now; and giving a sudden grunt of astonishment he began feeling me.
Stammering out something, I knew not what, I rolled away from him
against the wall, and then conjured him, whoever or whatever he might
be, to keep quiet, and let me get up and light the lamp again. But his
guttural responses satisfied me at once that he but ill comprehended my
“Who-e debel you?”—he at last said—“you no speak-e, dam-me, I kill-e.”
And so saying the lighted tomahawk began flourishing about me in the
“Landlord, for God’s sake, Peter Coffin!” shouted I. “Landlord! Watch!
Coffin! Angels! save me!”
“Speak-e! tell-ee me who-ee be, or dam-me, I kill-e!” again growled the
cannibal, while his horrid flourishings of the tomahawk scattered the
hot tobacco ashes about me till I thought my linen would get on fire.
But thank heaven, at that moment the landlord came into the room light
in hand, and leaping from the bed I ran up to him.
“Don’t be afraid now,” said he, grinning again, “Queequeg here wouldn’t
harm a hair of your head.”
“Stop your grinning,” shouted I, “and why didn’t you tell me that that
infernal harpooneer was a cannibal?”
“I thought ye know’d it;—didn’t I tell ye, he was a peddlin’ heads
around town?—but turn flukes again and go to sleep. Queequeg, look
here—you sabbee me, I sabbee—you this man sleepe you—you sabbee?”
“Me sabbee plenty”—grunted Queequeg, puffing away at his pipe and
sitting up in bed.
“You gettee in,” he added, motioning to me with his tomahawk, and
throwing the clothes to one side. He really did this in not only a
civil but a really kind and charitable way. I stood looking at him a
moment. For all his tattooings he was on the whole a clean, comely
looking cannibal. What’s all this fuss I have been making about,
thought I to myself—the man’s a human being just as I am: he has just
as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him. Better sleep
with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.
“Landlord,” said I, “tell him to stash his tomahawk there, or pipe, or
whatever you call it; tell him to stop smoking, in short, and I will
turn in with him. But I don’t fancy having a man smoking in bed with
me. It’s dangerous. Besides, I ain’t insured.”
This being told to Queequeg, he at once complied, and again politely
motioned me to get into bed—rolling over to one side as much as to
say—“I won’t touch a leg of ye.”
“Good night, landlord,” said I, “you may go.”
I turned in, and never slept better in my life.
CHAPTER 4. The Counterpane.
Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg’s arm thrown
over me in the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost
thought I had been his wife. The counterpane was of patchwork, full of
odd little parti-coloured squares and triangles; and this arm of his
tattooed all over with an interminable Cretan labyrinth of a figure, no
two parts of which were of one precise shade—owing I suppose to his
keeping his arm at sea unmethodically in sun and shade, his shirt
sleeves irregularly rolled up at various times—this same arm of his, I
say, looked for all the world like a strip of that same patchwork
quilt. Indeed, partly lying on it as the arm did when I first awoke, I
could hardly tell it from the quilt, they so blended their hues
together; and it was only by the sense of weight and pressure that I
could tell that Queequeg was hugging me.
My sensations were strange. Let me try to explain them. When I was a
child, I well remember a somewhat similar circumstance that befell me;
whether it was a reality or a dream, I never could entirely settle. The
circumstance was this. I had been cutting up some caper or other—I
think it was trying to crawl up the chimney, as I had seen a little
sweep do a few days previous; and my stepmother who, somehow or other,
was all the time whipping me, or sending me to bed supperless,—my
mother dragged me by the legs out of the chimney and packed me off to
bed, though it was only two o’clock in the afternoon of the 21st June,
the longest day in the year in our hemisphere. I felt dreadfully. But
there was no help for it, so up stairs I went to my little room in the
third floor, undressed myself as slowly as possible so as to kill time,
and with a bitter sigh got between the sheets.
I lay there dismally calculating that sixteen entire hours must elapse
before I could hope for a resurrection. Sixteen hours in bed! the small
of my back ached to think of it. And it was so light too; the sun
shining in at the window, and a great rattling of coaches in the
streets, and the sound of gay voices all over the house. I felt worse
and worse—at last I got up, dressed, and softly going down in my
stockinged feet, sought out my stepmother, and suddenly threw myself at
her feet, beseeching her as a particular favour to give me a good
slippering for my misbehaviour; anything indeed but condemning me to
lie abed such an unendurable length of time. But she was the best and
most conscientious of stepmothers, and back I had to go to my room. For
several hours I lay there broad awake, feeling a great deal worse than
I have ever done since, even from the greatest subsequent misfortunes.
At last I must have fallen into a troubled nightmare of a doze; and
slowly waking from it—half steeped in dreams—I opened my eyes, and the
before sun-lit room was now wrapped in outer darkness. Instantly I felt
a shock running through all my frame; nothing was to be seen, and
nothing was to be heard; but a supernatural hand seemed placed in mine.
My arm hung over the counterpane, and the nameless, unimaginable,
silent form or phantom, to which the hand belonged, seemed closely
seated by my bed-side. For what seemed ages piled on ages, I lay there,
frozen with the most awful fears, not daring to drag away my hand; yet
ever thinking that if I could but stir it one single inch, the horrid
spell would be broken. I knew not how this consciousness at last glided
away from me; but waking in the morning, I shudderingly remembered it
all, and for days and weeks and months afterwards I lost myself in
confounding attempts to explain the mystery. Nay, to this very hour, I
often puzzle myself with it.
Now, take away the awful fear, and my sensations at feeling the
supernatural hand in mine were very similar, in their strangeness, to
those which I experienced on waking up and seeing Queequeg’s pagan arm
thrown round me. But at length all the past night’s events soberly
recurred, one by one, in fixed reality, and then I lay only alive to
the comical predicament. For though I tried to move his arm—unlock his
bridegroom clasp—yet, sleeping as he was, he still hugged me tightly,
as though naught but death should part us twain. I now strove to rouse
him—“Queequeg!”—but his only answer was a snore. I then rolled over, my
neck feeling as if it were in a horse-collar; and suddenly felt a
slight scratch. Throwing aside the counterpane, there lay the tomahawk
sleeping by the savage’s side, as if it were a hatchet-faced baby. A
pretty pickle, truly, thought I; abed here in a strange house in the
broad day, with a cannibal and a tomahawk! “Queequeg!—in the name of
goodness, Queequeg, wake!” At length, by dint of much wriggling, and
loud and incessant expostulations upon the unbecomingness of his
hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial sort of style, I succeeded in
extracting a grunt; and presently, he drew back his arm, shook himself
all over like a Newfoundland dog just from the water, and sat up in
bed, stiff as a pike-staff, looking at me, and rubbing his eyes as if
he did not altogether remember how I came to be there, though a dim
consciousness of knowing something about me seemed slowly dawning over
him. Meanwhile, I lay quietly eyeing him, having no serious misgivings
now, and bent upon narrowly observing so curious a creature. When, at
last, his mind seemed made up touching the character of his bedfellow,
and he became, as it were, reconciled to the fact; he jumped out upon
the floor, and by certain signs and sounds gave me to understand that,
if it pleased me, he would dress first and then leave me to dress
afterwards, leaving the whole apartment to myself. Thinks I, Queequeg,
under the circumstances, this is a very civilized overture; but, the
truth is, these savages have an innate sense of delicacy, say what you
will; it is marvellous how essentially polite they are. I pay this
particular compliment to Queequeg, because he treated me with so much
civility and consideration, while I was guilty of great rudeness;
staring at him from the bed, and watching all his toilette motions; for
the time my curiosity getting the better of my breeding. Nevertheless,
a man like Queequeg you don’t see every day, he and his ways were well
worth unusual regarding.
He commenced dressing at top by donning his beaver hat, a very tall
one, by the by, and then—still minus his trowsers—he hunted up his
boots. What under the heavens he did it for, I cannot tell, but his
next movement was to crush himself—boots in hand, and hat on—under the
bed; when, from sundry violent gaspings and strainings, I inferred he
was hard at work booting himself; though by no law of propriety that I
ever heard of, is any man required to be private when putting on his
boots. But Queequeg, do you see, was a creature in the transition
stage—neither caterpillar nor butterfly. He was just enough civilized
to show off his outlandishness in the strangest possible manners. His
education was not yet completed. He was an undergraduate. If he had not
been a small degree civilized, he very probably would not have troubled
himself with boots at all; but then, if he had not been still a savage,
he never would have dreamt of getting under the bed to put them on. At
last, he emerged with his hat very much dented and crushed down over
his eyes, and began creaking and limping about the room, as if, not
being much accustomed to boots, his pair of damp, wrinkled cowhide
ones—probably not made to order either—rather pinched and tormented him
at the first go off of a bitter cold morning.
Seeing, now, that there were no curtains to the window, and that the
street being very narrow, the house opposite commanded a plain view
into the room, and observing more and more the indecorous figure that
Queequeg made, staving about with little else but his hat and boots on;
I begged him as well as I could, to accelerate his toilet somewhat, and
particularly to get into his pantaloons as soon as possible. He
complied, and then proceeded to wash himself. At that time in the
morning any Christian would have washed his face; but Queequeg, to my
amazement, contented himself with restricting his ablutions to his
chest, arms, and hands. He then donned his waistcoat, and taking up a
piece of hard soap on the wash-stand centre table, dipped it into water
and commenced lathering his face. I was watching to see where he kept
his razor, when lo and behold, he takes the harpoon from the bed
corner, slips out the long wooden stock, unsheathes the head, whets it
a little on his boot, and striding up to the bit of mirror against the
wall, begins a vigorous scraping, or rather harpooning of his cheeks.
Thinks I, Queequeg, this is using Rogers’s best cutlery with a
vengeance. Afterwards I wondered the less at this operation when I came
to know of what fine steel the head of a harpoon is made, and how
exceedingly sharp the long straight edges are always kept.
The rest of his toilet was soon achieved, and he proudly marched out of
the room, wrapped up in his great pilot monkey jacket, and sporting his
harpoon like a marshal’s baton.
CHAPTER 5. Breakfast.
I quickly followed suit, and descending into the bar-room accosted the
grinning landlord very pleasantly. I cherished no malice towards him,
though he had been skylarking with me not a little in the matter of my
However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a
good thing; the more’s the pity. So, if any one man, in his own proper
person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be
backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and be spent in
that way. And the man that has anything bountifully laughable about
him, be sure there is more in that man than you perhaps think for.
The bar-room was now full of the boarders who had been dropping in the
night previous, and whom I had not as yet had a good look at. They were
nearly all whalemen; chief mates, and second mates, and third mates,
and sea carpenters, and sea coopers, and sea blacksmiths, and
harpooneers, and ship keepers; a brown and brawny company, with bosky
beards; an unshorn, shaggy set, all wearing monkey jackets for morning
You could pretty plainly tell how long each one had been ashore. This
young fellow’s healthy cheek is like a sun-toasted pear in hue, and
would seem to smell almost as musky; he cannot have been three days
landed from his Indian voyage. That man next him looks a few shades
lighter; you might say a touch of satin wood is in him. In the
complexion of a third still lingers a tropic tawn, but slightly
bleached withal; _he_ doubtless has tarried whole weeks ashore. But who
could show a cheek like Queequeg? which, barred with various tints,
seemed like the Andes’ western slope, to show forth in one array,
contrasting climates, zone by zone.
“Grub, ho!” now cried the landlord, flinging open a door, and in we
went to breakfast.
They say that men who have seen the world, thereby become quite at ease
in manner, quite self-possessed in company. Not always, though:
Ledyard, the great New England traveller, and Mungo Park, the Scotch
one; of all men, they possessed the least assurance in the parlor. But
perhaps the mere crossing of Siberia in a sledge drawn by dogs as
Ledyard did, or the taking a long solitary walk on an empty stomach, in
the negro heart of Africa, which was the sum of poor Mungo’s
performances—this kind of travel, I say, may not be the very best mode
of attaining a high social polish. Still, for the most part, that sort
of thing is to be had anywhere.
These reflections just here are occasioned by the circumstance that
after we were all seated at the table, and I was preparing to hear some
good stories about whaling; to my no small surprise, nearly every man
maintained a profound silence. And not only that, but they looked
embarrassed. Yes, here were a set of sea-dogs, many of whom without the
slightest bashfulness had boarded great whales on the high seas—entire
strangers to them—and duelled them dead without winking; and yet, here
they sat at a social breakfast table—all of the same calling, all of
kindred tastes—looking round as sheepishly at each other as though they
had never been out of sight of some sheepfold among the Green
Mountains. A curious sight; these bashful bears, these timid warrior
But as for Queequeg—why, Queequeg sat there among them—at the head of
the table, too, it so chanced; as cool as an icicle. To be sure I
cannot say much for his breeding. His greatest admirer could not have
cordially justified his bringing his harpoon into breakfast with him,
and using it there without ceremony; reaching over the table with it,
to the imminent jeopardy of many heads, and grappling the beefsteaks
towards him. But _that_ was certainly very coolly done by him, and
every one knows that in most people’s estimation, to do anything coolly
is to do it genteelly.
We will not speak of all Queequeg’s peculiarities here; how he eschewed
coffee and hot rolls, and applied his undivided attention to
beefsteaks, done rare. Enough, that when breakfast was over he withdrew
like the rest into the public room, lighted his tomahawk-pipe, and was
sitting there quietly digesting and smoking with his inseparable hat
on, when I sallied out for a stroll.
CHAPTER 6. The Street.
If I had been astonished at first catching a glimpse of so outlandish
an individual as Queequeg circulating among the polite society of a
civilized town, that astonishment soon departed upon taking my first
daylight stroll through the streets of New Bedford.
In thoroughfares nigh the docks, any considerable seaport will
frequently offer to view the queerest looking nondescripts from foreign
parts. Even in Broadway and Chestnut streets, Mediterranean mariners
will sometimes jostle the affrighted ladies. Regent Street is not
unknown to Lascars and Malays; and at Bombay, in the Apollo Green, live
Yankees have often scared the natives. But New Bedford beats all Water
Street and Wapping. In these last-mentioned haunts you see only
sailors; but in New Bedford, actual cannibals stand chatting at street
corners; savages outright; many of whom yet carry on their bones unholy
flesh. It makes a stranger stare.
But, besides the Feegeeans, Tongatobooarrs, Erromanggoans, Pannangians,
and Brighggians, and, besides the wild specimens of the whaling-craft
which unheeded reel about the streets, you will see other sights still
more curious, certainly more comical. There weekly arrive in this town
scores of green Vermonters and New Hampshire men, all athirst for gain
and glory in the fishery. They are mostly young, of stalwart frames;
fellows who have felled forests, and now seek to drop the axe and
snatch the whale-lance. Many are as green as the Green Mountains whence
they came. In some things you would think them but a few hours old.
Look there! that chap strutting round the corner. He wears a beaver hat
and swallow-tailed coat, girdled with a sailor-belt and sheath-knife.
Here comes another with a sou’-wester and a bombazine cloak.
No town-bred dandy will compare with a country-bred one—I mean a
downright bumpkin dandy—a fellow that, in the dog-days, will mow his
two acres in buckskin gloves for fear of tanning his hands. Now when a
country dandy like this takes it into his head to make a distinguished
reputation, and joins the great whale-fishery, you should see the
comical things he does upon reaching the seaport. In bespeaking his
sea-outfit, he orders bell-buttons to his waistcoats; straps to his
canvas trowsers. Ah, poor Hay-Seed! how bitterly will burst those
straps in the first howling gale, when thou art driven, straps,
buttons, and all, down the throat of the tempest.
But think not that this famous town has only harpooneers, cannibals,
and bumpkins to show her visitors. Not at all. Still New Bedford is a
queer place. Had it not been for us whalemen, that tract of land would
this day perhaps have been in as howling condition as the coast of
Labrador. As it is, parts of her back country are enough to frighten
one, they look so bony. The town itself is perhaps the dearest place to
live in, in all New England. It is a land of oil, true enough: but not
like Canaan; a land, also, of corn and wine. The streets do not run
with milk; nor in the spring-time do they pave them with fresh eggs.
Yet, in spite of this, nowhere in all America will you find more
patrician-like houses; parks and gardens more opulent, than in New
Bedford. Whence came they? how planted upon this once scraggy scoria of
a country?
Go and gaze upon the iron emblematical harpoons round yonder lofty
mansion, and your question will be answered. Yes; all these brave
houses and flowery gardens came from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian
oceans. One and all, they were harpooned and dragged up hither from the
bottom of the sea. Can Herr Alexander perform a feat like that?
In New Bedford, fathers, they say, give whales for dowers to their
daughters, and portion off their nieces with a few porpoises a-piece.
You must go to New Bedford to see a brilliant wedding; for, they say,
they have reservoirs of oil in every house, and every night recklessly
burn their lengths in spermaceti candles.
In summer time, the town is sweet to see; full of fine maples—long
avenues of green and gold. And in August, high in air, the beautiful
and bountiful horse-chestnuts, candelabra-wise, proffer the passer-by
their tapering upright cones of congregated blossoms. So omnipotent is
art; which in many a district of New Bedford has superinduced bright
terraces of flowers upon the barren refuse rocks thrown aside at
creation’s final day.
And the women of New Bedford, they bloom like their own red roses. But
roses only bloom in summer; whereas the fine carnation of their cheeks
is perennial as sunlight in the seventh heavens. Elsewhere match that
bloom of theirs, ye cannot, save in Salem, where they tell me the young
girls breathe such musk, their sailor sweethearts smell them miles off
shore, as though they were drawing nigh the odorous Moluccas instead of
the Puritanic sands.
CHAPTER 7. The Chapel.
In this same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman’s Chapel, and few are
the moody fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean or Pacific, who
fail to make a Sunday visit to the spot. I am sure that I did not.
Returning from my first morning stroll, I again sallied out upon this
special errand. The sky had changed from clear, sunny cold, to driving
sleet and mist. Wrapping myself in my shaggy jacket of the cloth called
bearskin, I fought my way against the stubborn storm. Entering, I found
a small scattered congregation of sailors, and sailors’ wives and
widows. A muffled silence reigned, only broken at times by the shrieks
of the storm. Each silent worshipper seemed purposely sitting apart
from the other, as if each silent grief were insular and
incommunicable. The chaplain had not yet arrived; and there these
silent islands of men and women sat steadfastly eyeing several marble
tablets, with black borders, masoned into the wall on either side the
pulpit. Three of them ran something like the following, but I do not
pretend to quote:—
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF JOHN TALBOT, Who, at the age of eighteen, was
lost overboard, Near the Isle of Desolation, off Patagonia, _November_
1_st_, 1836. THIS TABLET Is erected to his Memory BY HIS SISTER.
WALTER CANNY, SETH MACY, AND SAMUEL GLEIG, Forming one of the boats’
crews OF THE SHIP ELIZA Who were towed out of sight by a Whale, On the
Off-shore Ground in the PACIFIC, _December_ 31_st_, 1839. THIS MARBLE
Is here placed by their surviving SHIPMATES.
of his boat was killed by a Sperm Whale on the coast of Japan, _August_
3_d_, 1833. THIS TABLET Is erected to his Memory BY HIS WIDOW.
Shaking off the sleet from my ice-glazed hat and jacket, I seated
myself near the door, and turning sideways was surprised to see
Queequeg near me. Affected by the solemnity of the scene, there was a
wondering gaze of incredulous curiosity in his countenance. This savage
was the only person present who seemed to notice my entrance; because
he was the only one who could not read, and, therefore, was not reading
those frigid inscriptions on the wall. Whether any of the relatives of
the seamen whose names appeared there were now among the congregation,
I knew not; but so many are the unrecorded accidents in the fishery,
and so plainly did several women present wear the countenance if not
the trappings of some unceasing grief, that I feel sure that here
before me were assembled those, in whose unhealing hearts the sight of
those bleak tablets sympathetically caused the old wounds to bleed
Oh! ye whose dead lie buried beneath the green grass; who standing
among flowers can say—here, _here_ lies my beloved; ye know not the
desolation that broods in bosoms like these. What bitter blanks in
those black-bordered marbles which cover no ashes! What despair in
those immovable inscriptions! What deadly voids and unbidden
infidelities in the lines that seem to gnaw upon all Faith, and refuse
resurrections to the beings who have placelessly perished without a
grave. As well might those tablets stand in the cave of Elephanta as
In what census of living creatures, the dead of mankind are included;
why it is that a universal proverb says of them, that they tell no
tales, though containing more secrets than the Goodwin Sands; how it is
that to his name who yesterday departed for the other world, we prefix
so significant and infidel a word, and yet do not thus entitle him, if
he but embarks for the remotest Indies of this living earth; why the
Life Insurance Companies pay death-forfeitures upon immortals; in what
eternal, unstirring paralysis, and deadly, hopeless trance, yet lies
antique Adam who died sixty round centuries ago; how it is that we
still refuse to be comforted for those who we nevertheless maintain are
dwelling in unspeakable bliss; why all the living so strive to hush all
the dead; wherefore but the rumor of a knocking in a tomb will terrify
a whole city. All these things are not without their meanings.
But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these
dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.
It needs scarcely to be told, with what feelings, on the eve of a
Nantucket voyage, I regarded those marble tablets, and by the murky
light of that darkened, doleful day read the fate of the whalemen who
had gone before me. Yes, Ishmael, the same fate may be thine. But
somehow I grew merry again. Delightful inducements to embark, fine
chance for promotion, it seems—aye, a stove boat will make me an
immortal by brevet. Yes, there is death in this business of whaling—a
speechlessly quick chaotic bundling of a man into Eternity. But what
then? Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death.
Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true
substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too
much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking
that thick water the thinnest of air. Methinks my body is but the lees
of my better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is
not me. And therefore three cheers for Nantucket; and come a stove boat
and stove body when they will, for stave my soul, Jove himself cannot.
CHAPTER 8. The Pulpit.
I had not been seated very long ere a man of a certain venerable
robustness entered; immediately as the storm-pelted door flew back upon
admitting him, a quick regardful eyeing of him by all the congregation,
sufficiently attested that this fine old man was the chaplain. Yes, it
was the famous Father Mapple, so called by the whalemen, among whom he
was a very great favourite. He had been a sailor and a harpooneer in
his youth, but for many years past had dedicated his life to the
ministry. At the time I now write of, Father Mapple was in the hardy
winter of a healthy old age; that sort of old age which seems merging
into a second flowering youth, for among all the fissures of his
wrinkles, there shone certain mild gleams of a newly developing
bloom—the spring verdure peeping forth even beneath February’s snow. No
one having previously heard his history, could for the first time
behold Father Mapple without the utmost interest, because there were
certain engrafted clerical peculiarities about him, imputable to that
adventurous maritime life he had led. When he entered I observed that
he carried no umbrella, and certainly had not come in his carriage, for
his tarpaulin hat ran down with melting sleet, and his great pilot
cloth jacket seemed almost to drag him to the floor with the weight of
the water it had absorbed. However, hat and coat and overshoes were one
by one removed, and hung up in a little space in an adjacent corner;
when, arrayed in a decent suit, he quietly approached the pulpit.
Like most old fashioned pulpits, it was a very lofty one, and since a
regular stairs to such a height would, by its long angle with the
floor, seriously contract the already small area of the chapel, the
architect, it seemed, had acted upon the hint of Father Mapple, and
finished the pulpit without a stairs, substituting a perpendicular side
ladder, like those used in mounting a ship from a boat at sea. The wife
of a whaling captain had provided the chapel with a handsome pair of
red worsted man-ropes for this ladder, which, being itself nicely
headed, and stained with a mahogany colour, the whole contrivance,
considering what manner of chapel it was, seemed by no means in bad
taste. Halting for an instant at the foot of the ladder, and with both
hands grasping the ornamental knobs of the man-ropes, Father Mapple
cast a look upwards, and then with a truly sailor-like but still
reverential dexterity, hand over hand, mounted the steps as if
ascending the main-top of his vessel.
The perpendicular parts of this side ladder, as is usually the case
with swinging ones, were of cloth-covered rope, only the rounds were of
wood, so that at every step there was a joint. At my first glimpse of
the pulpit, it had not escaped me that however convenient for a ship,
these joints in the present instance seemed unnecessary. For I was not
prepared to see Father Mapple after gaining the height, slowly turn
round, and stooping over the pulpit, deliberately drag up the ladder
step by step, till the whole was deposited within, leaving him
impregnable in his little Quebec.
I pondered some time without fully comprehending the reason for this.
Father Mapple enjoyed such a wide reputation for sincerity and
sanctity, that I could not suspect him of courting notoriety by any
mere tricks of the stage. No, thought I, there must be some sober
reason for this thing; furthermore, it must symbolize something unseen.
Can it be, then, that by that act of physical isolation, he signifies
his spiritual withdrawal for the time, from all outward worldly ties
and connexions? Yes, for replenished with the meat and wine of the
word, to the faithful man of God, this pulpit, I see, is a
self-containing stronghold—a lofty Ehrenbreitstein, with a perennial
well of water within the walls.
But the side ladder was not the only strange feature of the place,
borrowed from the chaplain’s former sea-farings. Between the marble
cenotaphs on either hand of the pulpit, the wall which formed its back
was adorned with a large painting representing a gallant ship beating
against a terrible storm off a lee coast of black rocks and snowy
breakers. But high above the flying scud and dark-rolling clouds, there
floated a little isle of sunlight, from which beamed forth an angel’s
face; and this bright face shed a distinct spot of radiance upon the
ship’s tossed deck, something like that silver plate now inserted into
the Victory’s plank where Nelson fell. “Ah, noble ship,” the angel
seemed to say, “beat on, beat on, thou noble ship, and bear a hardy
helm; for lo! the sun is breaking through; the clouds are rolling
off—serenest azure is at hand.”
Nor was the pulpit itself without a trace of the same sea-taste that
had achieved the ladder and the picture. Its panelled front was in the
likeness of a ship’s bluff bows, and the Holy Bible rested on a
projecting piece of scroll work, fashioned after a ship’s fiddle-headed
What could be more full of meaning?—for the pulpit is ever this earth’s
foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the
world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first
descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is
the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favourable winds.
Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete;
and the pulpit is its prow.
CHAPTER 9. The Sermon.
Father Mapple rose, and in a mild voice of unassuming authority ordered
the scattered people to condense. “Starboard gangway, there! side away
to larboard—larboard gangway to starboard! Midships! midships!”
There was a low rumbling of heavy sea-boots among the benches, and a
still slighter shuffling of women’s shoes, and all was quiet again, and
every eye on the preacher.
He paused a little; then kneeling in the pulpit’s bows, folded his
large brown hands across his chest, uplifted his closed eyes, and
offered a prayer so deeply devout that he seemed kneeling and praying
at the bottom of the sea.
This ended, in prolonged solemn tones, like the continual tolling of a
bell in a ship that is foundering at sea in a fog—in such tones he
commenced reading the following hymn; but changing his manner towards
the concluding stanzas, burst forth with a pealing exultation and joy—
“The ribs and terrors in the whale, Arched over me a dismal gloom,
While all God’s sun-lit waves rolled by, And lift me deepening down
to doom.
“I saw the opening maw of hell, With endless pains and sorrows there;
Which none but they that feel can tell— Oh, I was plunging to
“In black distress, I called my God, When I could scarce believe him
mine, He bowed his ear to my complaints— No more the whale did me
“With speed he flew to my relief, As on a radiant dolphin borne;
Awful, yet bright, as lightning shone The face of my Deliverer God.
“My song for ever shall record That terrible, that joyful hour; I
give the glory to my God, His all the mercy and the power.”
Nearly all joined in singing this hymn, which swelled high above the
howling of the storm. A brief pause ensued; the preacher slowly turned
over the leaves of the Bible, and at last, folding his hand down upon
the proper page, said: “Beloved shipmates, clinch the last verse of the
first chapter of Jonah—‘And God had prepared a great fish to swallow up
“Shipmates, this book, containing only four chapters—four yarns—is one
of the smallest strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures. Yet what
depths of the soul does Jonah’s deep sealine sound! what a pregnant
lesson to us is this prophet! What a noble thing is that canticle in
the fish’s belly! How billow-like and boisterously grand! We feel the
floods surging over us; we sound with him to the kelpy bottom of the
waters; sea-weed and all the slime of the sea is about us! But _what_
is this lesson that the book of Jonah teaches? Shipmates, it is a
two-stranded lesson; a lesson to us all as sinful men, and a lesson to
me as a pilot of the living God. As sinful men, it is a lesson to us
all, because it is a story of the sin, hard-heartedness, suddenly
awakened fears, the swift punishment, repentance, prayers, and finally
the deliverance and joy of Jonah. As with all sinners among men, the
sin of this son of Amittai was in his wilful disobedience of the
command of God—never mind now what that command was, or how
conveyed—which he found a hard command. But all the things that God
would have us do are hard for us to do—remember that—and hence, he
oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade. And if we obey God, we
must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein
the hardness of obeying God consists.
“With this sin of disobedience in him, Jonah still further flouts at
God, by seeking to flee from Him. He thinks that a ship made by men
will carry him into countries where God does not reign, but only the
Captains of this earth. He skulks about the wharves of Joppa, and seeks
a ship that’s bound for Tarshish. There lurks, perhaps, a hitherto
unheeded meaning here. By all accounts Tarshish could have been no
other city than the modern Cadiz. That’s the opinion of learned men.
And where is Cadiz, shipmates? Cadiz is in Spain; as far by water, from
Joppa, as Jonah could possibly have sailed in those ancient days, when
the Atlantic was an almost unknown sea. Because Joppa, the modern
Jaffa, shipmates, is on the most easterly coast of the Mediterranean,
the Syrian; and Tarshish or Cadiz more than two thousand miles to the
westward from that, just outside the Straits of Gibraltar. See ye not
then, shipmates, that Jonah sought to flee world-wide from God?
Miserable man! Oh! most contemptible and worthy of all scorn; with
slouched hat and guilty eye, skulking from his God; prowling among the
shipping like a vile burglar hastening to cross the seas. So
disordered, self-condemning is his look, that had there been policemen
in those days, Jonah, on the mere suspicion of something wrong, had
been arrested ere he touched a deck. How plainly he’s a fugitive! no
baggage, not a hat-box, valise, or carpet-bag,—no friends accompany him
to the wharf with their adieux. At last, after much dodging search, he
finds the Tarshish ship receiving the last items of her cargo; and as
he steps on board to see its Captain in the cabin, all the sailors for
the moment desist from hoisting in the goods, to mark the stranger’s
evil eye. Jonah sees this; but in vain he tries to look all ease and
confidence; in vain essays his wretched smile. Strong intuitions of the
man assure the mariners he can be no innocent. In their gamesome but
still serious way, one whispers to the other—“Jack, he’s robbed a
widow;” or, “Joe, do you mark him; he’s a bigamist;” or, “Harry lad, I
guess he’s the adulterer that broke jail in old Gomorrah, or belike,
one of the missing murderers from Sodom.” Another runs to read the bill
that’s stuck against the spile upon the wharf to which the ship is
moored, offering five hundred gold coins for the apprehension of a
parricide, and containing a description of his person. He reads, and
looks from Jonah to the bill; while all his sympathetic shipmates now
crowd round Jonah, prepared to lay their hands upon him. Frighted Jonah
trembles, and summoning all his boldness to his face, only looks so
much the more a coward. He will not confess himself suspected; but that
itself is strong suspicion. So he makes the best of it; and when the
sailors find him not to be the man that is advertised, they let him
pass, and he descends into the cabin.
“‘Who’s there?’ cries the Captain at his busy desk, hurriedly making
out his papers for the Customs—‘Who’s there?’ Oh! how that harmless
question mangles Jonah! For the instant he almost turns to flee again.
But he rallies. ‘I seek a passage in this ship to Tarshish; how soon
sail ye, sir?’ Thus far the busy Captain had not looked up to Jonah,
though the man now stands before him; but no sooner does he hear that
hollow voice, than he darts a scrutinizing glance. ‘We sail with the
next coming tide,’ at last he slowly answered, still intently eyeing
him. ‘No sooner, sir?’—‘Soon enough for any honest man that goes a
passenger.’ Ha! Jonah, that’s another stab. But he swiftly calls away
the Captain from that scent. ‘I’ll sail with ye,’—he says,—‘the passage
money how much is that?—I’ll pay now.’ For it is particularly written,
shipmates, as if it were a thing not to be overlooked in this history,
‘that he paid the fare thereof’ ere the craft did sail. And taken with
the context, this is full of meaning.
“Now Jonah’s Captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects
crime in any, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless. In
this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and
without a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all
frontiers. So Jonah’s Captain prepares to test the length of Jonah’s
purse, ere he judge him openly. He charges him thrice the usual sum;
and it’s assented to. Then the Captain knows that Jonah is a fugitive;
but at the same time resolves to help a flight that paves its rear with
gold. Yet when Jonah fairly takes out his purse, prudent suspicions
still molest the Captain. He rings every coin to find a counterfeit.
Not a forger, any way, he mutters; and Jonah is put down for his
passage. ‘Point out my state-room, Sir,’ says Jonah now, ‘I’m
travel-weary; I need sleep.’ ‘Thou lookest like it,’ says the Captain,
‘there’s thy room.’ Jonah enters, and would lock the door, but the lock
contains no key. Hearing him foolishly fumbling there, the Captain
laughs lowly to himself, and mutters something about the doors of
convicts’ cells being never allowed to be locked within. All dressed
and dusty as he is, Jonah throws himself into his berth, and finds the
little state-room ceiling almost resting on his forehead. The air is
close, and Jonah gasps. Then, in that contracted hole, sunk, too,
beneath the ship’s water-line, Jonah feels the heralding presentiment
of that stifling hour, when the whale shall hold him in the smallest of
his bowels’ wards.
“Screwed at its axis against the side, a swinging lamp slightly
oscillates in Jonah’s room; and the ship, heeling over towards the
wharf with the weight of the last bales received, the lamp, flame and
all, though in slight motion, still maintains a permanent obliquity
with reference to the room; though, in truth, infallibly straight
itself, it but made obvious the false, lying levels among which it
hung. The lamp alarms and frightens Jonah; as lying in his berth his
tormented eyes roll round the place, and this thus far successful
fugitive finds no refuge for his restless glance. But that
contradiction in the lamp more and more appals him. The floor, the
ceiling, and the side, are all awry. ‘Oh! so my conscience hangs in
me!’ he groans, ‘straight upwards, so it burns; but the chambers of my
soul are all in crookedness!’
“Like one who after a night of drunken revelry hies to his bed, still
reeling, but with conscience yet pricking him, as the plungings of the
Roman race-horse but so much the more strike his steel tags into him;
as one who in that miserable plight still turns and turns in giddy
anguish, praying God for annihilation until the fit be passed; and at
last amid the whirl of woe he feels, a deep stupor steals over him, as
over the man who bleeds to death, for conscience is the wound, and
there’s naught to staunch it; so, after sore wrestlings in his berth,
Jonah’s prodigy of ponderous misery drags him drowning down to sleep.
“And now the time of tide has come; the ship casts off her cables; and
from the deserted wharf the uncheered ship for Tarshish, all careening,
glides to sea. That ship, my friends, was the first of recorded
smugglers! the contraband was Jonah. But the sea rebels; he will not
bear the wicked burden. A dreadful storm comes on, the ship is like to
break. But now when the boatswain calls all hands to lighten her; when
boxes, bales, and jars are clattering overboard; when the wind is
shrieking, and the men are yelling, and every plank thunders with
trampling feet right over Jonah’s head; in all this raging tumult,
Jonah sleeps his hideous sleep. He sees no black sky and raging sea,
feels not the reeling timbers, and little hears he or heeds he the far
rush of the mighty whale, which even now with open mouth is cleaving
the seas after him. Aye, shipmates, Jonah was gone down into the sides
of the ship—a berth in the cabin as I have taken it, and was fast
asleep. But the frightened master comes to him, and shrieks in his dead
ear, ‘What meanest thou, O, sleeper! arise!’ Startled from his lethargy
by that direful cry, Jonah staggers to his feet, and stumbling to the
deck, grasps a shroud, to look out upon the sea. But at that moment he
is sprung upon by a panther billow leaping over the bulwarks. Wave
after wave thus leaps into the ship, and finding no speedy vent runs
roaring fore and aft, till the mariners come nigh to drowning while yet
afloat. And ever, as the white moon shows her affrighted face from the
steep gullies in the blackness overhead, aghast Jonah sees the rearing
bowsprit pointing high upward, but soon beat downward again towards the
tormented deep.
“Terrors upon terrors run shouting through his soul. In all his
cringing attitudes, the God-fugitive is now too plainly known. The
sailors mark him; more and more certain grow their suspicions of him,
and at last, fully to test the truth, by referring the whole matter to
high Heaven, they fall to casting lots, to see for whose cause this
great tempest was upon them. The lot is Jonah’s; that discovered, then
how furiously they mob him with their questions. ‘What is thine
occupation? Whence comest thou? Thy country? What people? But mark now,
my shipmates, the behavior of poor Jonah. The eager mariners but ask
him who he is, and where from; whereas, they not only receive an answer
to those questions, but likewise another answer to a question not put
by them, but the unsolicited answer is forced from Jonah by the hard
hand of God that is upon him.
“‘I am a Hebrew,’ he cries—and then—‘I fear the Lord the God of Heaven
who hath made the sea and the dry land!’ Fear him, O Jonah? Aye, well
mightest thou fear the Lord God _then!_ Straightway, he now goes on to
make a full confession; whereupon the mariners became more and more
appalled, but still are pitiful. For when Jonah, not yet supplicating
God for mercy, since he but too well knew the darkness of his
deserts,—when wretched Jonah cries out to them to take him and cast him
forth into the sea, for he knew that for _his_ sake this great tempest
was upon them; they mercifully turn from him, and seek by other means
to save the ship. But all in vain; the indignant gale howls louder;
then, with one hand raised invokingly to God, with the other they not
unreluctantly lay hold of Jonah.
“And now behold Jonah taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea;
when instantly an oily calmness floats out from the east, and the sea
is still, as Jonah carries down the gale with him, leaving smooth water
behind. He goes down in the whirling heart of such a masterless
commotion that he scarce heeds the moment when he drops seething into
the yawning jaws awaiting him; and the whale shoots-to all his ivory
teeth, like so many white bolts, upon his prison. Then Jonah prayed
unto the Lord out of the fish’s belly. But observe his prayer, and
learn a weighty lesson. For sinful as he is, Jonah does not weep and
wail for direct deliverance. He feels that his dreadful punishment is
just. He leaves all his deliverance to God, contenting himself with
this, that spite of all his pains and pangs, he will still look towards
His holy temple. And here, shipmates, is true and faithful repentance;
not clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment. And how pleasing
to God was this conduct in Jonah, is shown in the eventual deliverance
of him from the sea and the whale. Shipmates, I do not place Jonah
before you to be copied for his sin but I do place him before you as a
model for repentance. Sin not; but if you do, take heed to repent of it
like Jonah.”
While he was speaking these words, the howling of the shrieking,
slanting storm without seemed to add new power to the preacher, who,
when describing Jonah’s sea-storm, seemed tossed by a storm himself.
His deep chest heaved as with a ground-swell; his tossed arms seemed
the warring elements at work; and the thunders that rolled away from
off his swarthy brow, and the light leaping from his eye, made all his
simple hearers look on him with a quick fear that was strange to them.
There now came a lull in his look, as he silently turned over the
leaves of the Book once more; and, at last, standing motionless, with
closed eyes, for the moment, seemed communing with God and himself.
But again he leaned over towards the people, and bowing his head lowly,
with an aspect of the deepest yet manliest humility, he spake these
“Shipmates, God has laid but one hand upon you; both his hands press
upon me. I have read ye by what murky light may be mine the lesson that
Jonah teaches to all sinners; and therefore to ye, and still more to
me, for I am a greater sinner than ye. And now how gladly would I come
down from this mast-head and sit on the hatches there where you sit,
and listen as you listen, while some one of you reads _me_ that other
and more awful lesson which Jonah teaches to _me_, as a pilot of the
living God. How being an anointed pilot-prophet, or speaker of true
things, and bidden by the Lord to sound those unwelcome truths in the
ears of a wicked Nineveh, Jonah, appalled at the hostility he should
raise, fled from his mission, and sought to escape his duty and his God
by taking ship at Joppa. But God is everywhere; Tarshish he never
reached. As we have seen, God came upon him in the whale, and swallowed
him down to living gulfs of doom, and with swift slantings tore him
along ‘into the midst of the seas,’ where the eddying depths sucked him
ten thousand fathoms down, and ‘the weeds were wrapped about his head,’
and all the watery world of woe bowled over him. Yet even then beyond
the reach of any plummet—‘out of the belly of hell’—when the whale
grounded upon the ocean’s utmost bones, even then, God heard the
engulphed, repenting prophet when he cried. Then God spake unto the
fish; and from the shuddering cold and blackness of the sea, the whale
came breeching up towards the warm and pleasant sun, and all the
delights of air and earth; and ‘vomited out Jonah upon the dry land;’
when the word of the Lord came a second time; and Jonah, bruised and
beaten—his ears, like two sea-shells, still multitudinously murmuring
of the ocean—Jonah did the Almighty’s bidding. And what was that,
shipmates? To preach the Truth to the face of Falsehood! That was it!
“This, shipmates, this is that other lesson; and woe to that pilot of
the living God who slights it. Woe to him whom this world charms from
Gospel duty! Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters when God
has brewed them into a gale! Woe to him who seeks to please rather than
to appal! Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness! Woe
to him who, in this world, courts not dishonor! Woe to him who would
not be true, even though to be false were salvation! Yea, woe to him
who, as the great Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is
himself a castaway!”
He dropped and fell away from himself for a moment; then lifting his
face to them again, showed a deep joy in his eyes, as he cried out with
a heavenly enthusiasm,—“But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of
every woe, there is a sure delight; and higher the top of that delight,
than the bottom of the woe is deep. Is not the main-truck higher than
the kelson is low? Delight is to him—a far, far upward, and inward
delight—who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever
stands forth his own inexorable self. Delight is to him whose strong
arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has
gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the
truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out
from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight,—top-gallant
delight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his
God, and is only a patriot to heaven. Delight is to him, whom all the
waves of the billows of the seas of the boisterous mob can never shake
from this sure Keel of the Ages. And eternal delight and deliciousness
will be his, who coming to lay him down, can say with his final
breath—O Father!—chiefly known to me by Thy rod—mortal or immortal,
here I die. I have striven to be Thine, more than to be this world’s,
or mine own. Yet this is nothing: I leave eternity to Thee; for what is
man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?”
He said no more, but slowly waving a benediction, covered his face with
his hands, and so remained kneeling, till all the people had departed,
and he was left alone in the place.
CHAPTER 10. A Bosom Friend.
Returning to the Spouter-Inn from the Chapel, I found Queequeg there
quite alone; he having left the Chapel before the benediction some
time. He was sitting on a bench before the fire, with his feet on the
stove hearth, and in one hand was holding close up to his face that
little negro idol of his; peering hard into its face, and with a
jack-knife gently whittling away at its nose, meanwhile humming to
himself in his heathenish way.
But being now interrupted, he put up the image; and pretty soon, going
to the table, took up a large book there, and placing it on his lap
began counting the pages with deliberate regularity; at every fiftieth
page—as I fancied—stopping a moment, looking vacantly around him, and
giving utterance to a long-drawn gurgling whistle of astonishment. He
would then begin again at the next fifty; seeming to commence at number
one each time, as though he could not count more than fifty, and it was
only by such a large number of fifties being found together, that his
astonishment at the multitude of pages was excited.
With much interest I sat watching him. Savage though he was, and
hideously marred about the face—at least to my taste—his countenance
yet had a something in it which was by no means disagreeable. You
cannot hide the soul. Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I
saw the traces of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes,
fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a
thousand devils. And besides all this, there was a certain lofty
bearing about the Pagan, which even his uncouthness could not
altogether maim. He looked like a man who had never cringed and never
had had a creditor. Whether it was, too, that his head being shaved,
his forehead was drawn out in freer and brighter relief, and looked
more expansive than it otherwise would, this I will not venture to
decide; but certain it was his head was phrenologically an excellent
one. It may seem ridiculous, but it reminded me of General Washington’s
head, as seen in the popular busts of him. It had the same long
regularly graded retreating slope from above the brows, which were
likewise very projecting, like two long promontories thickly wooded on
top. Queequeg was George Washington cannibalistically developed.
Whilst I was thus closely scanning him, half-pretending meanwhile to be
looking out at the storm from the casement, he never heeded my
presence, never troubled himself with so much as a single glance; but
appeared wholly occupied with counting the pages of the marvellous
book. Considering how sociably we had been sleeping together the night
previous, and especially considering the affectionate arm I had found
thrown over me upon waking in the morning, I thought this indifference
of his very strange. But savages are strange beings; at times you do
not know exactly how to take them. At first they are overawing; their
calm self-collectedness of simplicity seems a Socratic wisdom. I had
noticed also that Queequeg never consorted at all, or but very little,
with the other seamen in the inn. He made no advances whatever;
appeared to have no desire to enlarge the circle of his acquaintances.
All this struck me as mighty singular; yet, upon second thoughts, there
was something almost sublime in it. Here was a man some twenty thousand
miles from home, by the way of Cape Horn, that is—which was the only
way he could get there—thrown among people as strange to him as though
he were in the planet Jupiter; and yet he seemed entirely at his ease;
preserving the utmost serenity; content with his own companionship;
always equal to himself. Surely this was a touch of fine philosophy;
though no doubt he had never heard there was such a thing as that. But,
perhaps, to be true philosophers, we mortals should not be conscious of
so living or so striving. So soon as I hear that such or such a man
gives himself out for a philosopher, I conclude that, like the
dyspeptic old woman, he must have “broken his digester.”
As I sat there in that now lonely room; the fire burning low, in that
mild stage when, after its first intensity has warmed the air, it then
only glows to be looked at; the evening shades and phantoms gathering
round the casements, and peering in upon us silent, solitary twain; the
storm booming without in solemn swells; I began to be sensible of
strange feelings. I felt a melting in me. No more my splintered heart
and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing
savage had redeemed it. There he sat, his very indifference speaking a
nature in which there lurked no civilized hypocrisies and bland
deceits. Wild he was; a very sight of sights to see; yet I began to
feel myself mysteriously drawn towards him. And those same things that
would have repelled most others, they were the very magnets that thus
drew me. I’ll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness
has proved but hollow courtesy. I drew my bench near him, and made some
friendly signs and hints, doing my best to talk with him meanwhile. At
first he little noticed these advances; but presently, upon my
referring to his last night’s hospitalities, he made out to ask me
whether we were again to be bedfellows. I told him yes; whereat I
thought he looked pleased, perhaps a little complimented.
We then turned over the book together, and I endeavored to explain to
him the purpose of the printing, and the meaning of the few pictures
that were in it. Thus I soon engaged his interest; and from that we
went to jabbering the best we could about the various outer sights to
be seen in this famous town. Soon I proposed a social smoke; and,
producing his pouch and tomahawk, he quietly offered me a puff. And
then we sat exchanging puffs from that wild pipe of his, and keeping it
regularly passing between us.
If there yet lurked any ice of indifference towards me in the Pagan’s
breast, this pleasant, genial smoke we had, soon thawed it out, and
left us cronies. He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and
unbiddenly as I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his
forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that
henceforth we were married; meaning, in his country’s phrase, that we
were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be. In a
countryman, this sudden flame of friendship would have seemed far too
premature, a thing to be much distrusted; but in this simple savage
those old rules would not apply.
After supper, and another social chat and smoke, we went to our room
together. He made me a present of his embalmed head; took out his
enormous tobacco wallet, and groping under the tobacco, drew out some
thirty dollars in silver; then spreading them on the table, and
mechanically dividing them into two equal portions, pushed one of them
towards me, and said it was mine. I was going to remonstrate; but he
silenced me by pouring them into my trowsers’ pockets. I let them stay.
He then went about his evening prayers, took out his idol, and removed
the paper fireboard. By certain signs and symptoms, I thought he seemed
anxious for me to join him; but well knowing what was to follow, I
deliberated a moment whether, in case he invited me, I would comply or
I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible
Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in
worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do you
suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and
earth—pagans and all included—can possibly be jealous of an
insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?—to do
the will of God—_that_ is worship. And what is the will of God?—to do
to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me—_that_ is
the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish
that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular
Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him
in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped
prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with
Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that
done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences
and all the world. But we did not go to sleep without some little chat.
How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential
disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the
very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often
lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our
hearts’ honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg—a cosy, loving pair.
CHAPTER 11. Nightgown.
We had lain thus in bed, chatting and napping at short intervals, and
Queequeg now and then affectionately throwing his brown tattooed legs
over mine, and then drawing them back; so entirely sociable and free
and easy were we; when, at last, by reason of our confabulations, what
little nappishness remained in us altogether departed, and we felt like
getting up again, though day-break was yet some way down the future.
Yes, we became very wakeful; so much so that our recumbent position
began to grow wearisome, and by little and little we found ourselves
sitting up; the clothes well tucked around us, leaning against the
head-board with our four knees drawn up close together, and our two
noses bending over them, as if our kneepans were warming-pans. We felt
very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors;
indeed out of bed-clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the
room. The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some
small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world
that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If
you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been
so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But
if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown
of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general
consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For
this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire,
which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height
of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket
between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there
you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.
We had been sitting in this crouching manner for some time, when all at
once I thought I would open my eyes; for when between sheets, whether
by day or by night, and whether asleep or awake, I have a way of always
keeping my eyes shut, in order the more to concentrate the snugness of
being in bed. Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright
except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper
element of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey
part. Upon opening my eyes then, and coming out of my own pleasant and
self-created darkness into the imposed and coarse outer gloom of the
unilluminated twelve-o’clock-at-night, I experienced a disagreeable
revulsion. Nor did I at all object to the hint from Queequeg that
perhaps it were best to strike a light, seeing that we were so wide
awake; and besides he felt a strong desire to have a few quiet puffs
from his Tomahawk. Be it said, that though I had felt such a strong
repugnance to his smoking in the bed the night before, yet see how
elastic our stiff prejudices grow when love once comes to bend them.
For now I liked nothing better than to have Queequeg smoking by me,
even in bed, because he seemed to be full of such serene household joy
then. I no more felt unduly concerned for the landlord’s policy of
insurance. I was only alive to the condensed confidential
comfortableness of sharing a pipe and a blanket with a real friend.
With our shaggy jackets drawn about our shoulders, we now passed the
Tomahawk from one to the other, till slowly there grew over us a blue
hanging tester of smoke, illuminated by the flame of the new-lit lamp.
Whether it was that this undulating tester rolled the savage away to
far distant scenes, I know not, but he now spoke of his native island;
and, eager to hear his history, I begged him to go on and tell it. He
gladly complied. Though at the time I but ill comprehended not a few of
his words, yet subsequent disclosures, when I had become more familiar
with his broken phraseology, now enable me to present the whole story
such as it may prove in the mere skeleton I give.
CHAPTER 12. Biographical.
Queequeg was a native of Rokovoko, an island far away to the West and
South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.
When a new-hatched savage running wild about his native woodlands in a
grass clout, followed by the nibbling goats, as if he were a green
sapling; even then, in Queequeg’s ambitious soul, lurked a strong
desire to see something more of Christendom than a specimen whaler or
two. His father was a High Chief, a King; his uncle a High Priest; and
on the maternal side he boasted aunts who were the wives of
unconquerable warriors. There was excellent blood in his veins—royal
stuff; though sadly vitiated, I fear, by the cannibal propensity he
nourished in his untutored youth.
A Sag Harbor ship visited his father’s bay, and Queequeg sought a
passage to Christian 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
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.
CHAPTER 13. Wheelbarrow.
Next morning, Monday, after disposing of the embalmed head to a barber,
for a block, I settled my own and comrade’s bill; using, however, my
comrade’s money. The grinning landlord, as well as the boarders, seemed
amazingly tickled at the sudden friendship which had sprung up between
me and Queequeg—especially as Peter Coffin’s cock and bull stories
about him had previously so much alarmed me concerning the very person
whom I now companied with.
We borrowed a wheelbarrow, and embarking our things, including my own
poor carpet-bag, and Queequeg’s canvas sack and hammock, away we went
down to “the Moss,” the little Nantucket packet schooner moored at the
wharf. As we were going along the people stared; not at Queequeg so
much—for they were used to seeing cannibals like him in their
streets,—but at seeing him and me upon such confidential terms. But we
heeded them not, going along wheeling the barrow by turns, and Queequeg
now and then stopping to adjust the sheath on his harpoon barbs. I
asked him why he carried such a troublesome thing with him ashore, and
whether all whaling ships did not find their own harpoons. To this, in
substance, he replied, that though what I hinted was true enough, yet
he had a particular affection for his own harpoon, because it was of
assured stuff, well tried in many a mortal combat, and deeply intimate
with the hearts of whales. In short, like many inland reapers and
mowers, who go into the farmers’ meadows armed with their own
scythes—though in no wise obliged to furnish them—even so, Queequeg,
for his own private reasons, preferred his own harpoon.
Shifting the barrow from my hand to his, he told me a funny story about
the first wheelbarrow he had ever seen. It was in Sag Harbor. The
owners of his ship, it seems, had lent him one, in which to carry his
heavy chest to his boarding house. Not to seem ignorant about the
thing—though in truth he was entirely so, concerning the precise way in
which to manage the barrow—Queequeg puts his chest upon it; lashes it
fast; and then shoulders the barrow and marches up the wharf. “Why,”
said I, “Queequeg, you might have known better than that, one would
think. Didn’t the people laugh?”
Upon this, he told me another story. The people of his island of
Rokovoko, it seems, at their wedding feasts express the fragrant water
of young cocoanuts into a large stained calabash like a punchbowl; and
this punchbowl always forms the great central ornament on the braided
mat where the feast is held. Now a certain grand merchant ship once
touched at Rokovoko, and its commander—from all accounts, a very
stately punctilious gentleman, at least for a sea captain—this
commander was invited to the wedding feast of Queequeg’s sister, a
pretty young princess just turned of ten. Well; when all the wedding
guests were assembled at the bride’s bamboo cottage, this Captain
marches in, and being assigned the post of 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
punchbowl;—taking it I suppose for a huge finger-glass. “Now,” said
Queequeg, “what you tink now?—Didn’t our people laugh?”
At last, passage paid, and luggage safe, we stood on board the
schooner. Hoisting sail, it glided down the Acushnet river. On one
side, New Bedford rose in terraces of streets, their ice-covered trees
all glittering in the clear, cold air. Huge hills and mountains of
casks on casks were piled upon her wharves, and side by side the
world-wandering whale ships lay silent and safely moored at last; while
from others came a sound of carpenters and coopers, with blended noises
of fires and forges to melt the pitch, all betokening that new cruises
were on the start; that one most perilous and long voyage ended, only
begins a second; and a second ended, only begins a third, and so on,
for ever and for aye. Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness
of all earthly effort.
Gaining the more open water, the bracing breeze waxed fresh; the little
Moss tossed the quick foam from her bows, as a young colt his
snortings. How I snuffed that Tartar air!—how I spurned that turnpike
earth!—that common highway all over dented with the marks of slavish
heels and hoofs; and turned me to admire the magnanimity of the sea
which will permit no records.
At the same foam-fountain, Queequeg seemed to drink and reel with me.
His dusky nostrils swelled apart; he showed his filed and pointed
teeth. On, on we flew; and our offing gained, the Moss did homage to
the blast; ducked and dived her bows as a slave before the Sultan.
Sideways leaning, we sideways darted; every ropeyarn tingling like a
wire; the two tall masts buckling like Indian canes in land tornadoes.
So full of this reeling scene were we, as we stood by the plunging
bowsprit, that for some time we did not notice the jeering glances of
the passengers, a lubber-like assembly, who marvelled that two fellow
beings should be so companionable; as though a white man were anything
more dignified than a whitewashed negro. But there were some boobies
and bumpkins there, who, by their intense greenness, must have come
from the heart and centre of all verdure. Queequeg caught one of these
young saplings mimicking him behind his back. I thought the bumpkin’s
hour of doom was come. Dropping his harpoon, the brawny savage caught
him in his arms, and by an almost miraculous dexterity and strength,
sent him high up bodily into the air; then slightly tapping his stern
in mid-somerset, the fellow landed with bursting lungs upon his feet,
while Queequeg, turning his back upon him, lighted his tomahawk pipe
and passed it to me for a puff.
“Capting! Capting!” yelled the bumpkin, running towards that officer;
“Capting, Capting, here’s the devil.”
“Hallo, _you_ sir,” cried the Captain, a gaunt rib of the sea, stalking
up to Queequeg, “what in thunder do you mean by that? Don’t you know
you might have killed that chap?”
“What him say?” said Queequeg, as he mildly turned to me.
“He say,” said I, “that you came near kill-e that man there,” pointing
to the still shivering greenhorn.
“Kill-e,” cried Queequeg, twisting his tattooed face into an unearthly
expression of disdain, “ah! him bevy small-e fish-e; Queequeg no kill-e
so small-e fish-e; Queequeg kill-e big whale!”
“Look you,” roared the Captain, “I’ll kill-e _you_, you cannibal, if
you try any more of your tricks aboard here; so mind your eye.”
But it so happened just then, that it was high time for the Captain to
mind his own eye. The prodigious strain upon the main-sail had parted
the weather-sheet, and the tremendous boom was now flying from side to
side, completely sweeping the entire after part of the deck. The poor
fellow whom Queequeg had handled so roughly, was swept overboard; all
hands were in a panic; and to attempt snatching at the boom to stay it,
seemed madness. It flew from right to left, and back again, almost in
one ticking of a watch, and every instant seemed on the point of
snapping into splinters. Nothing was done, and nothing seemed capable
of being done; those on deck rushed towards the bows, and stood eyeing
the boom as if it were the lower jaw of an exasperated whale. In the
midst of this consternation, Queequeg dropped deftly to his knees, and
crawling under the path of the boom, whipped hold of a rope, secured
one end to the bulwarks, and then flinging the other like a lasso,
caught it round the boom as it swept over his head, and at the next
jerk, the spar was that way trapped, and all was safe. The schooner was
run into the wind, and while the hands were clearing away the stern
boat, Queequeg, stripped to the waist, darted from the side with a long
living arc of a leap. For three minutes or more he was seen swimming
like a dog, throwing his long arms straight out before him, and by
turns revealing his brawny shoulders through the freezing foam. I
looked at the grand and glorious fellow, but saw no one to be saved.
The greenhorn had gone down. Shooting himself perpendicularly from the
water, Queequeg, now took an instant’s glance around him, and seeming
to see just how matters were, dived down and disappeared. A few minutes
more, and he rose again, one arm still striking out, and with the other
dragging a lifeless form. The boat soon picked them up. The poor
bumpkin was restored. All hands voted Queequeg a noble trump; the
captain begged his pardon. From that hour I clove to Queequeg like a
barnacle; yea, till poor Queequeg took his last long dive.
Was there ever such unconsciousness? He did not seem to think that he
at all deserved a medal from the Humane and Magnanimous Societies. He
only asked for water—fresh water—something to wipe the brine off; that
done, he put on dry clothes, lighted his pipe, and leaning against the
bulwarks, and mildly eyeing those around him, seemed to be saying to
himself—“It’s a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We
cannibals must help these Christians.”
CHAPTER 14. Nantucket.
Nothing more happened on the passage worthy the mentioning; so, after a
fine run, we safely arrived in Nantucket.
Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of
the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely
than the Eddystone lighthouse. Look at it—a mere hillock, and elbow of
sand; all beach, without a background. There is more sand there than
you would use in twenty years as a substitute for blotting paper. Some
gamesome wights will tell you that they have to plant weeds there, they
don’t grow naturally; that they import Canada thistles; that they have
to send beyond seas for a spile to stop a leak in an oil cask; that
pieces of wood in Nantucket are carried about like bits of the true
cross in Rome; that people there plant toadstools before their houses,
to get under the shade in summer time; that one blade of grass makes an
oasis, three blades in a day’s walk a prairie; that they wear quicksand
shoes, something like Laplander snow-shoes; that they are so shut up,
belted about, every way inclosed, surrounded, and made an utter island
of by the ocean, that to their very chairs and tables small clams will
sometimes be found adhering, as to the backs of sea turtles. But these
extravaganzas only show that Nantucket is no Illinois.
Look now at the wondrous traditional story of how this island was
settled by the red-men. Thus goes the legend. In olden times an eagle
swooped down upon the New England coast, and carried off an infant
Indian in his talons. With loud lament the parents saw their child
borne out of sight over the wide waters. They resolved to follow in the
same direction. Setting out in their canoes, after a perilous passage
they discovered the island, and there they found an empty ivory
casket,—the poor little Indian’s skeleton.
What wonder, then, that these Nantucketers, born on a beach, should
take to the sea for a livelihood! They first caught crabs and quohogs
in the sand; grown bolder, they waded out with nets for mackerel; more
experienced, they pushed off in boats and captured cod; and at last,
launching a navy of great ships on the sea, explored this watery world;
put an incessant belt of circumnavigations round it; peeped in at
Behring’s Straits; and in all seasons and all oceans declared
everlasting war with the mightiest animated mass that has survived the
flood; most monstrous and most mountainous! That Himmalehan, salt-sea
Mastodon, clothed with such portentousness of unconscious power, that
his very panics are more to be dreaded than his most fearless and
malicious assaults!
And thus have these naked Nantucketers, these sea hermits, issuing from
their ant-hill in the sea, overrun and conquered the watery world like
so many Alexanders; parcelling out among them the Atlantic, Pacific,
and Indian oceans, as the three pirate powers did Poland. Let America
add Mexico to Texas, and pile Cuba upon Canada; let the English
overswarm all India, and hang out their blazing banner from the sun;
two thirds of this terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer’s. For the sea
is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires; other seamen having but a
right of way through it. Merchant ships are but extension bridges;
armed ones but floating forts; even pirates and privateers, though
following the sea as highwaymen the road, they but plunder other ships,
other fragments of the land like themselves, without seeking to draw
their living from the bottomless deep itself. The Nantucketer, he alone
resides and riots on the sea; he alone, in Bible language, goes down to
it in ships; to and fro ploughing it as his own special plantation.
_There_ is his home; _there_ lies his business, which a Noah’s flood
would not interrupt, though it overwhelmed all the millions in China.
He lives on the sea, as prairie cocks in the prairie; he hides among
the waves, he climbs them as chamois hunters climb the Alps. For years
he knows not the land; so that when he comes to it at last, it smells
like another world, more strangely than the moon would to an Earthsman.
With the landless gull, that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to
sleep between billows; so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight
of land, furls his sails, and lays him to his rest, while under his
very pillow rush herds of walruses and whales.
CHAPTER 15. Chowder.
It was quite late in the evening when the little Moss came snugly to
anchor, and Queequeg and I went ashore; so we could attend to no
business that day, at least none but a supper and a bed. The landlord
of the Spouter-Inn had recommended us to his cousin Hosea Hussey of the
Try Pots, whom he asserted to be the proprietor of one of the best kept
hotels in all Nantucket, and moreover he had assured us that Cousin
Hosea, as he called him, was famous for his chowders. In short, he
plainly hinted that we could not possibly do better than try pot-luck
at the Try Pots. But the directions he had given us about keeping a
yellow warehouse on our starboard hand till we opened a white church to
the larboard, and then keeping that on the larboard hand till we made a
corner three points to the starboard, and that done, then ask the first
man we met where the place was: these crooked directions of his very
much puzzled us at first, especially as, at the outset, Queequeg
insisted that the yellow warehouse—our first point of departure—must be
left on the larboard hand, whereas I had understood Peter Coffin to say
it was on the starboard. However, by dint of beating about a little in
the dark, and now and then knocking up a peaceable inhabitant to
inquire the way, we at last came to something which there was no
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
“Get along with ye,” said she to the man, “or I’ll be combing ye!”
“Come on, Queequeg,” said I, “all right. There’s Mrs. Hussey.”
And so it turned out; Mr. Hosea Hussey being from home, but leaving
Mrs. Hussey entirely competent to attend to all his affairs. Upon
making known our desires for a supper and a bed, Mrs. Hussey,
postponing further scolding for the present, ushered us into a little
room, and seating us at a table spread with the relics of a recently
concluded repast, turned round to us and said—“Clam or Cod?”
“What’s that about Cods, ma’am?” said I, with much politeness.
“Clam or Cod?” she repeated.
“A clam for supper? a cold clam; is _that_ what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?”
says I, “but that’s a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter
time, ain’t it, Mrs. Hussey?”
But being in a great hurry to resume scolding the man in the purple
Shirt, who was waiting for it in the entry, and seeming to hear nothing
but the word “clam,” Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading
to the kitchen, and bawling out “clam for two,” disappeared.
“Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make out a supper for us
both on one clam?”
However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the
apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder
came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends!
hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than
hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up
into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully
seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the
frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing
food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we
despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and
bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey’s clam and cod announcement, I thought I
would try a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered
the word “cod” with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few
moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different
flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.
We resumed business; and while plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I
to myself, I wonder now if this here has any effect on the head? What’s
that stultifying saying about chowder-headed people? “But look,
Queequeg, ain’t that a live eel in your bowl? Where’s your harpoon?”
Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved its
name; for the pots there were always boiling chowders. Chowder for
breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you
began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes. The area
before the house was paved with clam-shells. Mrs. Hussey wore a
polished necklace of codfish vertebra; and Hosea Hussey had his account
books bound in superior old shark-skin. There was a fishy flavor to the
milk, too, which I could not at all account for, till one morning
happening to take a stroll along the beach among some fishermen’s
boats, I saw Hosea’s brindled cow feeding on fish remnants, and
marching along the sand with each foot in a cod’s decapitated head,
looking very slip-shod, I assure ye.
Supper concluded, we received a lamp, and directions from Mrs. Hussey
concerning the nearest way to bed; but, as Queequeg was about to
precede me up the stairs, the lady reached forth her arm, and demanded
his harpoon; she allowed no harpoon in her chambers. “Why not?” said I;
“every true whaleman sleeps with his harpoon—but why not?” “Because
it’s dangerous,” says she. “Ever since young Stiggs coming from that
unfort’nt v’y’ge of his, when he was gone four years and a half, with
only three barrels of _ile_, was found dead in my first floor back,
with his harpoon in his side; ever since then I allow no boarders to
take sich dangerous weepons in their rooms at night. So, Mr. Queequeg”
(for she had learned his name), “I will just take this here iron, and
keep it for you till morning. But the chowder; clam or cod to-morrow
for breakfast, men?”
“Both,” says I; “and let’s have a couple of smoked herring by way of
CHAPTER 16. The Ship.
In bed we concocted our plans for the morrow. But to my surprise and no
small concern, Queequeg now gave me to understand, that he had been
diligently consulting Yojo—the name of his black little god—and Yojo
had told him two or three times over, and strongly insisted upon it
everyway, that instead of our going together among the whaling-fleet in
harbor, and in concert selecting our craft; instead of this, I say,
Yojo earnestly enjoined that the selection of the ship should rest
wholly with me, inasmuch as Yojo purposed befriending us; and, in order
to do so, had already pitched upon a vessel, which, if left to myself,
I, Ishmael, should infallibly light upon, for all the world as though
it had turned out by chance; and in that vessel I must immediately ship
myself, for the present irrespective of Queequeg.
I have forgotten to mention that, in many things, Queequeg placed great
confidence in the excellence of Yojo’s judgment and surprising forecast
of things; and cherished Yojo with considerable esteem, as a rather
good sort of god, who perhaps meant well enough upon the whole, but in
all cases did not succeed in his benevolent designs.
Now, this plan of Queequeg’s, or rather Yojo’s, touching the selection
of our craft; I did not like that plan at all. I had not a little
relied upon Queequeg’s sagacity to point out the whaler best fitted to
carry us and our fortunes securely. But as all my remonstrances
produced no effect upon Queequeg, I was obliged to acquiesce; and
accordingly prepared to set about this business with a determined
rushing sort of energy and vigor, that should quickly settle that
trifling little affair. Next morning early, leaving Queequeg shut up
with Yojo in our little bedroom—for it seemed that it was some sort of
Lent or Ramadan, or day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer with
Queequeg and Yojo that day; _how_ it was I never could find out, for,
though I applied myself to it several times, I never could master his
liturgies and XXXIX Articles—leaving Queequeg, then, fasting on his
tomahawk pipe, and Yojo warming himself at his sacrificial fire of
shavings, I sallied out among the shipping. After much prolonged
sauntering and many random inquiries, I learnt that there were three
ships up for three-years’ voyages—The Devil-dam, the Tit-bit, and the
Pequod. _Devil-Dam_, I do not know the origin of; _Tit-bit_ is obvious;
_Pequod_, you will no doubt remember, was the name of a celebrated
tribe of Massachusetts Indians; now extinct as the ancient Medes. I
peered and pryed about the Devil-dam; from her, hopped over to the
Tit-bit; and finally, going on board the Pequod, looked around her for
a moment, and then decided that this was the very ship for us.
You may have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for aught I
know;—square-toed luggers; mountainous Japanese junks; butter-box
galliots, and what not; but take my word for it, you never saw such a
rare old craft as this same rare old Pequod. She was a ship of the old
school, rather small if anything; with an old-fashioned claw-footed
look about her. Long seasoned and weather-stained in the typhoons and
calms of all four oceans, her old hull’s complexion was darkened like a
French grenadier’s, who has alike fought in Egypt and Siberia. Her
venerable bows looked bearded. Her masts—cut somewhere on the coast of
Japan, where her original ones were lost overboard in a gale—her masts
stood stiffly up like the spines of the three old kings of Cologne. Her
ancient decks were worn and wrinkled, like the pilgrim-worshipped
flag-stone in Canterbury Cathedral where Becket bled. But to all these
her old antiquities, were added new and marvellous features, pertaining
to the wild business that for more than half a century she had
followed. Old Captain Peleg, many years her chief-mate, before he
commanded another vessel of his own, and now a retired seaman, and one
of the principal owners of the Pequod,—this old Peleg, during the term
of his chief-mateship, had built upon her original grotesqueness, and
inlaid it, all over, with a quaintness both of material and device,
unmatched by anything except it be Thorkill-Hake’s carved buckler or
bedstead. She was apparelled like any barbaric Ethiopian emperor, his
neck heavy with pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing of
trophies. A cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased
bones of her enemies. All round, her unpanelled, open bulwarks were
garnished like one continuous jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the
sperm whale, inserted there for pins, to fasten her old hempen thews
and tendons to. Those thews ran not through base blocks of land wood,
but deftly travelled over sheaves of sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile
wheel at her reverend helm, she sported there a tiller; and that tiller
was in one mass, curiously carved from the long narrow lower jaw of her
hereditary foe. The helmsman who steered by that tiller in a tempest,
felt like the Tartar, when he holds back his fiery steed by clutching
its jaw. A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things
are touched with that.
Now when I looked about the quarter-deck, for some one having
authority, in order to propose myself as a candidate for the voyage, at
first I saw nobody; but I could not well overlook a strange sort of
tent, or rather wigwam, pitched a little behind the main-mast. It
seemed only a temporary erection used in port. It was of a conical
shape, some ten feet high; consisting of the long, huge slabs of limber
black bone taken from the middle and highest part of the jaws of the
right-whale. Planted with their broad ends on the deck, a circle of
these slabs laced together, mutually sloped towards each other, and at
the apex united in a tufted point, where the loose hairy fibres waved
to and fro like the top-knot on some old Pottowottamie Sachem’s head. A
triangular opening faced towards the bows of the ship, so that the
insider commanded a complete view 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
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 marchant service to me again. Marchant service indeed! I suppose
now ye feel considerable proud of having served in those marchant
ships. But flukes! man, what makes thee want to go a whaling, eh?—it
looks a little suspicious, don’t it, eh?—Hast not been a pirate, hast
thou?—Didst not rob thy last Captain, didst thou?—Dost not think of
murdering the officers when thou gettest to sea?”
I protested my innocence of these things. I saw that under the mask of
these half humorous innuendoes, this old seaman, as an insulated
Quakerish Nantucketer, was full of his insular prejudices, and rather
distrustful of all aliens, unless they hailed from Cape Cod or the
“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
“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
“Not much,” I replied—“nothing but water; considerable horizon though,
and there’s a squall coming up, I think.”
“Well, what does thou think then of seeing the world? Do ye wish to go
round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh? Can’t ye see the world where
you stand?”
I was a little staggered, but go a-whaling I must, and I would; and the
Pequod was as good a ship as any—I thought the best—and all this I now
repeated to Peleg. Seeing me so determined, he expressed his
willingness to ship me.
“And thou mayest as well sign the papers right off,” he added—“come
along with ye.” And so saying, he led the way below deck into the
Seated on the transom was what seemed to me a most uncommon and
surprising figure. It turned out to be Captain Bildad, who along with
Captain Peleg was one of the largest owners of the vessel; the other
shares, as is sometimes the case in these ports, being held by a crowd
of old annuitants; widows, fatherless children, and chancery wards;
each owning about the value of a timber head, or a foot of plank, or a
nail or two in the ship. People in Nantucket invest their money in
whaling vessels, the same way that you do yours in approved state
stocks bringing in good interest.
Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and indeed many other Nantucketers, was a
Quaker, the island having been originally settled by that sect; and to
this day its inhabitants in general retain in an uncommon measure the
peculiarities of the Quaker, only variously and anomalously modified by
things altogether alien and heterogeneous. For some of these same
Quakers are the most sanguinary of all sailors and whale-hunters. They
are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a 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 ship owner; Bildad, as I hinted
before, had concluded his adventurous career by wholly retiring from
active life at the goodly age of sixty, and dedicating his remaining
days to the quiet receiving of his well-earned income.
Now, Bildad, I am sorry to say, had the reputation of being an
incorrigible old hunks, and in his sea-going days, a bitter, hard
task-master. They told me in Nantucket, though it certainly seems a
curious story, that when he sailed the old Categut whaleman, his crew,
upon arriving home, were mostly all carried ashore to the hospital,
sore exhausted and worn out. For a pious man, especially for a Quaker,
he was certainly rather hard-hearted, to say the least. He never used
to swear, though, at his men, they said; but somehow he got an
inordinate quantity of cruel, unmitigated hard work out of them. When
Bildad was a chief-mate, to have his drab-coloured eye intently looking
at you, made you feel completely nervous, till you could clutch
something—a hammer or a marling-spike, and go to work like mad, at
something or other, never mind what. Indolence and idleness perished
before him. His own person was the exact embodiment of his utilitarian
character. On his long, gaunt body, he carried no spare flesh, no
superfluous beard, his chin having a soft, economical nap to it, like
the worn nap of his broad-brimmed hat.
Such, then, was the person that I saw seated on the transom when I
followed Captain Peleg down into the cabin. The space between the decks
was small; and there, bolt-upright, sat old Bildad, who always sat so,
and never leaned, and this to save his coat tails. His broad-brim was
placed beside him; his legs were stiffly crossed; his drab vesture was
buttoned up to his chin; and spectacles on nose, he seemed absorbed in
reading from a ponderous volume.
“Bildad,” cried Captain Peleg, “at it again, Bildad, eh? Ye have been
studying those Scriptures, now, for the last thirty years, to my
certain knowledge. How far ye got, Bildad?”
As if long habituated to such profane talk from his old shipmate,
Bildad, without noticing his present irreverence, quietly looked up,
and seeing me, glanced again inquiringly towards Peleg.
“He says he’s our man, Bildad,” said Peleg, “he wants to ship.”
“Dost thee?” said Bildad, in a hollow tone, and turning round to me.
“I _dost_,” said I unconsciously, he was so intense a Quaker.
“What do ye think of him, Bildad?” said Peleg.
“He’ll do,” said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spelling away at
his book in a mumbling tone quite audible.
I thought him the queerest old Quaker I ever saw, especially as Peleg,
his friend and old shipmate, seemed such a blusterer. But I said
nothing, only looking round me sharply. Peleg now threw open a chest,
and drawing forth the ship’s articles, placed pen and ink before him,
and seated himself at a little table. I began to think it was high time
to settle with myself at what terms I would be willing to engage for
the voyage. I was already aware that in the whaling business they paid
no wages; but all hands, including the captain, received certain shares
of the profits called _lays_, and that these lays were proportioned to
the degree of importance pertaining to the respective duties of the
ship’s company. I was also aware that being a green hand at whaling, my
own lay would not be very large; but considering that I was used to the
sea, could steer a ship, splice a rope, and all that, I made no doubt
that from all I had heard I should be offered at least the 275th
lay—that is, the 275th part of the clear net proceeds of the voyage,
whatever that might eventually amount to. And though the 275th lay was
what they call a rather _long lay_, yet it was better than nothing; and
if we had a lucky voyage, might pretty nearly pay for the clothing I
would wear out on it, not to speak of my three years’ beef and board,
for which I would not have to pay one stiver.