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Moby-Dick
by Melville
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Preliminary Matter.

This text of Melville's Moby-Dick is based on the Hendricks House edition. It was prepared by Professor Eugene F. Irey at the University of Colorado. Any subsequent copies of this data must include this notice and any publications resulting from analysis of this data must include reference to Professor Irey's work.

Etymology (Supplied by a late consumptive usher to a grammar school.) The pale Ushei{rthreadbare} 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. Extracts (supplied by a sub-sub-librarian.) It will be seen that this mere painstaking burrower and grubworm 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 i{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 i{there}, ye shall strike unsplinterable



.. < chapter I 2 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 down-town is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there. Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall northward. What do you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks glasses! .. of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster—tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here? But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand—miles of them—leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues, —north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither? Once more. Say, you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries—stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.

But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest, quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley of the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke. Deep into distant woodlands winds a mazy way, reaching to overlapping spurs of mountains bathed in their hill-side blue. But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd's head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd's eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him. Go visit the Prairies in June, .. when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies—what is the one charm wanting? —Water —there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all. Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of my lungs, I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger. For to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and a purse is but a rag unless you have something in it. Besides, passengers get sea-sick —grow quarrelsome —don't sleep of nights —do not enjoy themselves much, as a general thing; —no, I never go as a passenger; nor, though I am something of a salt, do I ever go to sea as a Commodore, or a Captain, or a Cook. I abandon the glory and distinction of such offices to those who like them. For my part, I abominate all honorable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever. It is quite as much as I can do to take care of myself, without taking care of ships, barques, brigs, schooners, and what not. And as for going as cook, — though I confess there is considerable glory in that, a cook being a sort of officer on ship-board —yet, somehow, I never fancied broiling fowls; —though once broiled, judiciously buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who will .. speak more respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a broiled fowl than I will. It is out of the idolatrous dotings of the old Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse, that you see the mummies of those creatures in their huge 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 the 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 aint 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 forecastle deck. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it. But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way —he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this: Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States. Whaling Voyage by one Ishmael. Bloody Battle in Affghanistan. Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces —though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about .. performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment. chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it—would they let me —since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in. By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air. ..



.. < chapter ii 24 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 on a Saturday night in December. Much was I disappointed
upon learning that the little packet for Nantucket had already sailed, and
that no way of reaching that place would offer, till the following Monday. As
most young candidates for the pains and penalties of whaling
..
stop at this same New Bedford, thence to embark on their voyage, it may as
well be related that I, for one, had no idea of so doing. For my mind was
made up to sail in no other than a Nantucket craft, because there was a fine,
boisterous something about everything connected with that famous old island,
which amazingly pleased me. Besides though New Bedford has of late been
gradually monopolizing the business of whaling, and though in this matter poor
old Nantucket is now much behind her, yet Nantucket was her great original
—the Tyre of this Carthage; —the place where the first dead American whale
was stranded. Where else but from Nantucket did those aboriginal whalemen,
the Red-Men, first sally out in canoes to give chase to the Leviathan? And
where but from Nantucket, too, did that first adventurous little sloop put
forth, partly laden with imported cobble-stones —so goes the story —to throw
at the whales, in order to discover when they were nigh enough to risk a
harpoon from the bowsprit? Now having a night, a day, and still another night
following before me in New Bedford, ere I could embark for my destined port,
it became a matter of concernment where I was to eat and sleep meanwhile. It
was a very dubious-looking, nay, a very dark and dismal night, bitingly cold
and cheerless. I knew no one in the place. With anxious grapnels I had
sounded my pocket, and only brought up a few pieces of silver, —So,
wherever you go, Ishmael, said I to myself, as I stood in the middle of a
dreary street shouldering my bag, and comparing the gloom towards the north
with the darkness towards the south —wherever in your wisdom you may conclude
to lodge for the night, my dear Ishmael, be sure to inquire the price, and
don't be too particular. With halting steps I paced the streets, and passed
the sign of The Crossed Harpoons —but it looked too expensive and jolly
there. Further on, from the bright red windows of the Sword-Fish Inn, there
came such fervent rays, that it seemed to have melted the packed snow and ice
from before the house, for everywhere else the congealed frost lay ten inches
thick in a hard, asphaltic pavement, —rather weary for me, when I struck my
foot against the flinty projections, because from hard, remorseless
..
service the soles of my boots were in a most miserable plight. Too expensive
and jolly, again thought I, pausing one moment to watch the broad glare in
the street, and hear the sounds of the tinkling glasses within. But go on,
Ishmael, said I at last; don't you hear? get away from before the door;
your patched boots are stopping the way. So on I went. I now by instinct
followed the streets that took me waterward, for there, doubtless, were the
cheapest, if not the cheeriest inns. Such dreary streets! Blocks of
blackness, not houses, on either hand, and here and there a candle, like a
candle moving about in a tomb. At this hour of the night, of the last day of
the week, that quarter of the town proved all but deserted. But presently I
came to a smoky light proceeding from a low, wide building, the door of which
stood invitingly open. It had a careless look, as if it were meant for the
uses of the public; so, entering, the first thing I did was to stumble over
an ash-box in the porch. Ha! thought I, ha, as the flying particles almost
choked me, are these ashes from that destroyed city, Gomorrah? But The
Crossed Harpoons, and The Sword-Fish? —this, then, must needs be the sign
of The Trap. However, I picked myself up and hearing a loud voice within,
pushed on and opened a second, interior door. It seemed the great Black
Parliament sitting in Tophet. A hundred black faces turned round in their
rows to peer; and beyond, a black Angel of Doom was beating a book in a
pulpit. It was a negro church; and the preacher's text was about the
blackness of darkness, and the weeping and wailing and teeth-gnashing
there. Ha, Ishmael, muttered I, backing out, Wretched entertainment at the
sign of The Trap! Moving on, I at last came to a dim sort of light not far
from the docks, and heard a forlorn creaking in the air; and looking up,
saw a swinging sign over the door with a white painting upon it, faintly
representing a tall straight jet of misty spray, and these words underneath
— The Spouter-Inn: —Peter Coffin. Coffin? —Spouter? —Rather ominous in that
particular connexion, thought I. But it is a common name in Nantucket,
they say, and I suppose this Peter here is an emigrant from there. As the
light looked so dim, and the place, for the time, looked
..
quiet enough, and the dilapidated little wooden house itself looked as if it
might have been carted here from the ruins of some burnt district, and as the
swinging sign had a poverty-stricken sort of creak to it, I thought that here
was the very spot for cheap lodgings, and the best of pea coffee. It was a
queer sort of place —a gable-ended old house, one side palsied as it were, and
leaning over sadly. It stood on a sharp bleak corner, where that tempestuous
wind Euroclydon kept up a worse howling than ever it did about poor Paul's
tossed craft. Euroclydon, nevertheless, is a mighty pleasant zephyr to any
one in-doors, with his feet on the hob quietly toasting for bed. In judging
of that tempestuous wind called Euroclydon, says an old writer —of whose
works I possess the only copy extant — it maketh a marvellous difference,
whether thou lookest out at it from a glass window where the frost is all on
the outside, or whether thou observest it from that sashless window, where
the frost is on both sides, and of which the wight Death is the only
glazier. True enough, thought I, as this passage occurred to my mind —old
black-letter, thou reasonest well. Yes, these eyes are windows, and this
body of mine is the house. What a pity they didn't stop up the chinks and the
crannies though, and thrust in a little lint here and there. But it's too
late to make any improvements now. The universe is finished; the copestone
is on, and the chips were carted off a million years ago. Poor Lazarus
there, chattering his teeth against the curbstone for his pillow, and shaking
off his tatters with his shiverings, he might plug up both ears with rags,
and put a corn-cob into his mouth, and yet that would not keep out the
tempestuous Euroclydon. Euroclydon! says old Dives, in his red silken
wrapper —(he had a redder one afterwards) pooh, pooh! What a fine frosty
night; how Orion glitters; what northern lights! Let them talk of their
oriental summer climes of everlasting conservatories; give me the privilege
of making my own summer with my own coals. But what thinks Lazarus? Can he
warm his blue hands by holding them up to the grand northern lights? Would
not Lazarus rather be in Sumatra than here? Would he not far rather lay him
down lengthwise along the line of the equator; yea, ye
..
gods! go down to the fiery pit itself, in order to keep out this frost? Now,
that Lazarus should lie stranded there on the curbstone before the door of
Dives, this is more wonderful than that an iceberg should be moored to one of
the Moluccas. Yet Dives himself, he too lives like a Czar in an ice palace
made of frozen sighs, and being a president of a temperance society, he only
drinks the tepid tears of orphans. But no more of this blubbering now, we are
going a-whaling, and there is plenty of that yet to come. Let us scrape the
ice from our frosted feet, and see what sort of a place this Spouter may
be.
..






.. < chapter iii 14 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 oil-painting so thoroughly besmoked, and every way
defaced, that in the unequal cross-lights 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 ice-bound 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 afterward 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 fire-places all
round —you enter the public room. A still duskier place is this, with such
low ponderous beams above, and such old wrinkled planks beneath, that you
would almost fancy you trod some old craft's cockpits, especially of such a
howling night, when this corner-anchored old ark rocked so furiously. On one
side stood a long, low, shelf-like table covered with cracked glass cases,
filled with dusty rarities gathered from this wide world's remotest nooks.
Projecting from the further angle of the room stands a dark-looking den —the
bar— a rude attempt at a right whale's head. Be that how it may, there
stands the vast arched bone of the whale's jaw, so wide, a coach might
almost drive beneath it. within are shabby shelves, ranged round with old
decanters, bottles, flasks; and in those jaws of swift destruction, like
another cursed Jonah (by which name indeed they called him), bustles a
little withered old man, who, for their money, dearly sells the sailors
deliriums and death. Abominable are the tumblers into which he pours his
poison. Though true cylinders without —within, the villanous green goggling
glasses deceitfully tapered downwards to a cheating bottom. Parallel
meridians rudely pecked into the glass, surround these footpads' goblets.
Fill to this mark, and your charge is but a penny; to this a penny more;
and so on to the full glass —the Cape Horn measure, which you may gulp down
for a shilling. Upon entering the place I found a number of young seamen
gathered about a table, examining by a dim light divers specimens of
skrimshander. I sought the landlord, and telling him I desired to be
accommodated with a room, received for answer that his house was full —not a
bed unoccupied. But avast, he added, tapping his forehead, you haint no
objections to sharing a harpooneer's blanket, have ye? I s'pose you are goin'
a whalin', so you'd better get used to that sort of thing.
..
I told him that I never liked to sleep two in a bed; that if I should ever do
so, it would depend upon who the harpooneer might be, and that if he (the
landlord) really had no other place for me, and the harpooneer was not
decidedly objectionable, why rather than wander further about a strange town
on so bitter a night, I would put up with the half of any decent man's
blanket. I thought so. All right; take a seat. Supper? —you want supper?
Supper 'll be ready directly. I sat down on an old wooden settle, carved all
over like a bench on the Battery. At one end a ruminating tar was still
further adorning it with his jack-knife, stooping over and diligently working
away at the space between his legs. he was trying his hand at a ship under
full sail, but he didn't make much headway, I thought. At last some four or
five of us were summoned to our meal in an adjoining room. It was cold as
Iceland —no fire at all —the landlord said he couldn't afford it. Nothing
but two dismal tallow candles, each in a winding sheet. We were fain to
button up our monkey jackets, and hold to our lips cups of scalding tea with
our half frozen fingers. But the fare was of the most substantial kind —not
only meat and potatoes, but dumplings; good heavens! dumplings for supper!
One young fellow in a green box coat, addressed himself to these dumplings in
a most direful manner. My boy, said the landlord, you'll have the
nightmare to a dead sartainty. Landlord, I whispered, that aint the
harpooneer, is it? Oh, no, said he, looking a sort of diabolically funny,
the harpooneer is a dark complexioned chap. He never eats dumplings, he
don't—he eats nothing but steaks, and 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 Alleganian Ridge in Virginia. When
the revelry of his companions had mounted to its height, this man slipped
away unobserved, and I saw no more of him till he became my comrade on the
sea. In a few minutes, however, he was missed by his shipmates, and being,
it seems, for some reason a huge favorite with them, they raised a cry of
Bulkington! Bulkington! where's Bulkington? and darted out of the house in
pursuit of him. It was now about nine o'clock, and the room seeming almost
supernaturally quiet after these orgies, I began to congratulate myself upon
a little plan that had occurred to me just previous to the entrance of the
seamen. No man prefers to sleep two in a bed. In fact, you would a good deal
rather not sleep with your own brother. I don't know how it is, but people
like to be private when they are sleeping. And when it comes to sleeping with
an unknown stranger, in a strange inn, in a strange town, and that stranger
a harpooneer, then your objections indefinitely multiply. Nor was there any
earthly reason why I as a sailor should sleep two in a bed, more than anybody
else; for sailors no more sleep two in a bed at sea, than bachelor Kings do
ashore. To be sure they all sleep together in one apartment, but you have
your own hammock, and cover yourself with your own blanket, and sleep in your
own skin. The more I pondered over this harpooneer, the more I abominated
the thought of sleeping with him. It was fair to presume that being a
harpooneer, his linen or woollen, as the case might be, would not be of the
tidiest, certainly none of the finest. I began to twitch all over. Besides,
it was getting late, and my decent harpooneer ought to be home and going
bedwards. Suppose now, he should tumble in upon me at midnight —how could I
tell from what vile hole he had been coming? Landlord! I've changed my mind
about that harpooneer. — I shan't sleep with him. I'll try the bench here.
just as you please; i'm sorry i cant spare ye a tablecloth for a mattress,
and it's a plaguy rough board here —feeling of the knots and notches. But
wait a bit, Skrimshander; I've
..
got a carpenter's plane there in the bar —wait, I say, and I'll make ye snug
enough. So saying he procured the plane; and with his old silk handkerchief
first dusting the bench, vigorously set to planing away at my bed, the while
grinning like an ape. The shavings flew right and left; till at last the
plane-iron came bump against an indestructible knot. The landlord was near
spraining his wrist, and I told him for heaven's sake to quit — the bed was
soft enough to suit me, and I did not know how all the planing in the world
could make eider down of a pine plank. So gathering up the shavings with
another grin, and throwing them into the great stove in the middle of the
room, he went about his business, and left me in a brown study. I now took
the measure of the bench, and found that it was a foot too short; but that
could be mended with a chair. But it was a foot too narrow, and the other
bench in the room was about four inches higher than the planed one —so there
was no yoking them. I then placed the first bench lengthwise along the only
clear space against the wall, leaving a little interval between, for my back
to settle down in. But I soon found that there came such a draught of cold
air over me from under the sill of the window, that this plan would never do
at all, especially as another current from the rickety door met the one from
the window, and both together formed a series of small whirlwinds in the
immediate vicinity of the spot where I had thought to spend the night. The
devil fetch that harpooneer, thought I, but stop, couldn't I steal a march on
him —bolt his door inside, and jump into his bed, not to be wakened by the
most violent knockings? it seemed no bad idea; but upon second thoughts I
dismissed it. For who could tell but what the next morning, so soon as I
popped out of the room, the harpooneer might be standing in the entry, all
ready to knock me down! Still, looking around me again, and seeing no possible
chance of spending a sufferable night unless in some other person's bed, I
began to think that after all I might be cherishing unwarrantable prejudices
against this unknown harpooneer. Thinks I, I'll wait awhile; he must be
dropping in before long. I'll have a good look at him then, and perhaps we
may become jolly good bedfellows after all —there's no telling.
..
But though the other boarders kept coming in by ones, twos, and threes, and
going to bed, yet no sign of my harpooneer. Landlord! said I, what sort of
a chap is he —does he always keep such late hours? It was now hard upon
twelve o'clock. The landlord chuckled again with his lean chuckle, and
seemed to be mightily tickled at something beyond my comprehension. No, he
answered, generally he's an early bird — airley to bed and airley to rise
—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 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 room for two to kick about in that bed; it's an almighty big
bed that. Why, afore we give it up, Sal used to put our Sam and little
Johnny in the foot of it. But I got a dreaming and sprawling about one night,
and somehow, Sam got pitched on the floor, and came near breaking his arm.
After
..
that, Sal said it wouldn't do. Come along here, I'll give ye a glim in a
jiffy; and so saying he lighted a candle and held it towards me, offering to
lead the way. But I stood irresolute; when looking at a clock in the corner,
he exclaimed I vum it's Sunday —you won't see that harpooneer to-night; he's
come to anchor somewhere —come along then; do come; won't ye come? I
considered the matter a moment, and then up stairs we went, and I was
ushered into a small room, cold as a clam, and furnished, sure enough, with a
prodigious bed, almost big enough indeed for any four harpooneers to sleep
abreast. There, said the landlord, placing the candle on a crazy old sea
chest that did double duty as a wash-stand and centre table; there, make
yourself comfortable now, and good night to ye. I turned round from eyeing
the bed, but he had disappeared. Folding back the counterpane, I stooped
over the bed. Though none of the most elegant, it yet stood the scrutiny
tolerably well. I then glanced round the room; and besides the bedstead and
centre table, could see no other furniture belonging to the place, but a
rude shelf, the four walls, and a papered fireboard representing a man
striking a whale. Of things not properly belonging to the room, there was a
hammock lashed up, and thrown upon the floor in one corner; also a large
seaman's bag, containing the harpooneer's wardrobe, no doubt in lieu of a
land trunk. Likewise, there was a parcel of outlandish bone fish hooks on the
shelf over the fire-place, and a tall harpoon standing at the head of the
bed. But what is this on the chest? I took it up, and held it close to the
light, and felt it, and smelt it, and tried every way possible to arrive at
some satisfactory conclusion concerning it. I can compare it to nothing but a
large door mat, ornamented at the edges with little tinkling tags something
like the stained porcupine quills round an Indian moccasin. There was a hole
or slit in the middle of this mat, as you see the same in South American
ponchos. But could it be possible that any sober harpooneer would get into
a door mat, and parade the streets of any Christian town in that sort of
guise? I put it on, to try it, and it weighed me down like a hamper, being
uncommonly shaggy and thick, and I thought a little damp, as though this
..
mysterious harpooneer had been wearing it of a rainy day. I went up in it to
a bit of glass stuck against the wall, and I never saw such a sight in my
life. I tore myself out of it in such a hurry that I gave myself a kink in
the neck. I sat down on the side of the bed, and commenced thinking about
this head-peddling harpooneer, and his door mat. After thinking some time on
the bed-side, I got up and took off my monkey jacket, and then stood in the
middle of the room thinking. I then took off my coat, and thought a little
more in my shirt sleeves. But beginning to feel very cold now, half undressed
as I was, and remembering what the landlord said about the harpooneer's not
coming home at all that night, it being so very late, I made no more ado,
but jumped out of my pantaloons and boots, and then blowing out the light
tumbled into bed, and commended myself to the care of heaven. Whether that
mattress was stuffed with 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 color, here and there stuck over with large,
blackish looking squares. Yes, it's just as I thought, he's a terrible
bedfellow; he's been in a fight, got dreadfully cut, and here he is, just
from the surgeon. But at that moment he chanced to turn his face so towards
the light, that I plainly saw they could not be sticking-plasters at all,
..
those black squares on his cheeks. they were stains of some sort or other. At
first I knew not what to make of this; but soon an inkling of the truth
occurred to me. I remembered a story of a white man —a whaleman too—who,
falling among the cannibals, had been tattooed by them. I concluded that this
harpooneer, in the course of his distant voyages, must have met with a
similar adventure. And what is it, thought I, after all! It's only his
outside; a man can be honest in any sort of skin. But then, what to make of
his unearthly complexion, that part of it, I mean, lying round about, and
completely independent of the squares of tattooing. To be sure, it might be
nothing but a good coat of tropical tanning; but I never heard of a hot sun's
tanning a white man into a purplish yellow one. However, I had never been
in the South Seas; and perhaps the sun there produced these extraordinary
effects upon the skin. Now, while all these ideas were passing through me
like lightning, this harpooneer never noticed me at all. But, after some
difficulty having opened his bag, he commenced fumbling in it, and presently
pulled out a sort of tomahawk, and a seal-skin wallet with the hair on.
Placing these on the old chest in the middle of the room, he then took the
New Zealand head —a ghastly thing enough —and crammed it down into the bag.
He now took off his hat —a new beaver hat —when I came nigh singing out with
fresh surprise. There was no hair on his head —none to speak of at least —
nothing but a small scalp-knot twisted up on his forehead. His bald purplish
head now looked for all the world like a mildewed skull. Had not the stranger
stood between me and the door, I would have bolted out of it quicker than ever
I bolted a dinner. Even as it was, I thought something of slipping out of the
window, but it was the second floor back. I am no coward, but what to make
of this 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 color of a three days' old Congo baby.
Remembering the embalmed head, at first I almost thought that this black
manikin was a real baby preserved in some similar manner. But seeing that it
was not at all limber, and that it glistened a good deal like polished ebony,
I concluded that it must be nothing but a wooden idol, which indeed it
proved to be. For now the savage goes up to the empty fireplace, and removing
the papered fire-board, sets up this little hunchbacked 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 into which I had so long been bound. But the
interval I spent in deliberating what to say, was a fatal one. Taking up his
tomahawk from the table, he examined the head of it for an instant, and then
holding it to the light, with his mouth at the handle, he puffed out great
clouds of tobacco smoke. The next moment the light was extinguished, and
this wild cannibal, tomahawk between his teeth, sprang into bed with me. I
sang out, I could not help it now; and giving a sudden grunt of astonishment
he began feeling me. Stammering out something, I knew not what, I rolled away
from him against the wall, and then conjured him, whoever or whatever he might
be, to keep quiet, and let me get up and light the lamp again. But his
guttural responses satisfied me at once that he but ill comprehended my
meaning. Who-e debel you? —he at last said — you no speak-e, dam-me, I
kill-e. And so saying the lighted tomahawk began flourishing about me in the
dark. Landlord, for God's sake, Peter Coffin! shouted I. Landlord!
Watch! Coffin! Angels! save me! Speak-e! tell-ee me who-ee be, or dam-me,
I kill-e! again growled the cannibal, while his horrid flourishings of the
tomahawk scattered the hot tobacco ashes about me till I thought
..
my linen would get on fire. But thank heaven, at that moment the landlord
came into the room light in hand, and leaping from the bed I ran up to him.
Don't be afraid now, said he, grinning again. Queequeg here wouldn't harm
a hair of your head. Stop your grinning, shouted I, and why didn't you
tell me that that infernal harpooneer was a cannibal? I thought ye know'd
it; —didn't I tell ye, he was 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 aint 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 wont touch a
leg of ye. Good night, landlord, said I, you may go. I turned in, and
never slept better in my life.
..






.. < chapter iv 2 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-colored squares and triangles; and this
arm of his tattooed all over with an interminable Cretan labyrinth of a
figure, no two parts of which were of one precise shade —owing I suppose to
his keeping his arm at sea unmethodically in sun and shade, his shirt
sleeves irregularly rolled up at various times —this same arm of his, I say,
looked for all the world like a strip of that same patchwork quilt. Indeed,
partly lying on it as the arm did when I first awoke, I could hardly tell it
from the quilt, they so blended their hues together; and it was only by the
sense of weight and pressure that I could tell that Queequeg was hugging me.
My sensations were strange. Let me try to explain them. When I was a child,
I well remember a somewhat similar circumstance that befell me; whether it
was a reality or a dream, I never could entirely settle. The circumstance was
this. I had been cutting up some caper or other —I think it was trying to
crawl up the chimney, as i had seen a little sweep do a few days previous;
and my stepmother who, somehow or other, was all the time whipping me, or
sending me to bed supperless, —my mother dragged me by the legs out of the
chimney and packed me off to bed, though it was only two o'clock in the
afternoon of the 21st June, the longest day in the year in our hemisphere. I
felt dreadfully. But there was no help for it, so up stairs I went to my
little room in the third floor, undressed myself as slowly as possible so as
to kill time, and with a bitter sigh got between the sheets. I lay there
dismally calculating that sixteen entire hours must elapse before I could hope
for a resurrection. Sixteen hours in
..
bed! the small of my back ached to think of it. And it was so light too;
the sun shining in at the window, and a great rattling of coaches in the
streets, and the sound of gay voices all over the house. I felt worse and
worse —at last I got up, dressed, and softly going down in my stockinged
feet, sought out my stepmother, and suddenly threw myself at her feet,
beseeching her as a particular favor to give me a good slippering for my
misbehavior; 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 bedside. For what seemed ages piled on ages, I lay
there, frozen with the most awful fears, not daring to drag away my hand;
yet ever thinking that if I could but stir it one single inch, the horrid
spell would be broken. I knew not how this consciousness at last glided away
from me; but waking in the morning, I shudderingly remembered it all, and
for days and weeks and months afterwards I lost myself in confounding attempts
to explain the mystery. Nay, to this very hour, I often puzzle myself with
it. Now, take away the awful fear, and my sensations at feeling the
supernatural hand in mine were very similar, in their strangeness, to those
which I experienced on waking up and seeing Queequeg's pagan arm thrown round
me. But at length all the past night's events soberly recurred, one by one,
in fixed reality, and then I lay only alive to the comical predicament. For
though I tried to move his arm —unlock his bridegroom clasp —yet, sleeping
as he was, he still hugged me tightly, as though naught but death should part
us twain. I now strove to rouse him —
..
Queequeg! —but his only answer was a snore. I then rolled over, my neck
feeling as if it were in a horse-collar; and suddenly felt a slight scratch.
Throwing aside the counterpane, there lay the tomahawk sleeping by the
savage's side, as if it were a hatchet-faced baby. A pretty pickle, truly,
thought I; abed here in a strange house in the broad day, with a cannibal and
a tomahawk! Queequeg! —in the name of goodness, Queequeg, wake! At length,
by dint of much wriggling, and loud and incessant expostulations upon the
unbecomingness of his hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial sort of style,
I succeeded in extracting a grunt; and presently, he drew back his arm,
shook himself all over like a Newfoundland dog just from the water, and sat
up in bed, stiff as a pike-staff, looking at me, and rubbing his eyes as if
he did not altogether remember how I came to be there, though a dim
consciousness of knowing something about me seemed slowly dawning over him.
Meanwhile, I lay quietly eyeing him, having no serious misgivings now, and
bent upon narrowly observing so curious a creature. When, at last, his mind
seemed made up touching the character of his bedfellow, and he became, as it
were, reconciled to the fact; he jumped out upon the floor, and by certain
signs and sounds gave me to understand that, if it pleased me, he would
dress first and then leave me to dress afterwards, leaving the whole
apartment to myself. Thinks I, Queequeg, under the circumstances, this is a
very civilized overture; but, the truth is, these savages have an innate
sense of delicacy, say what you will; it is marvellous how essentially
polite they are. I pay this particular compliment to Queequeg, because he
treated me with so much civility and consideration, while I was guilty of
great rudeness; staring at him from the bed, and watching all his toilette
motions; for the time my curiosity getting the better of my breeding.
Nevertheless, a man like Queequeg you don't see every day, he and his ways
were well worth unusual regarding. He commenced dressing at top by donning his
beaver hat, a very tall one, by the by, and then —still minus his trowsers
— he hunted up his boots. What under the heavens he did it for, I cannot
tell, but his next movement was to crush himself —boots in hand, and hat on
—under the bed; when, from sundry violent
..
gaspings and strainings, I inferred he was hard at work booting himself;
though by no law of propriety that I ever heard of, is any man required to be
private when putting on his boots. But Queequeg, do you see, was a creature
in the transition state — neither caterpillar nor butterfly. He was just
enough civilized to show off his outlandishness in the strangest possible
manner. his education was not yet completed. He was an undergraduate. If he
had not been a small degree civilized, he very probably would not have
troubled himself with boots at all; but then, if he had not been still a
savage, he never would have dreamt of getting under the bed to put them on.
At last, he emerged with his hat very much dented and crushed down over his
eyes, and began creaking and limping about the room, as if, not being much
accustomed to boots, his pair of damp, wrinkled cowhide ones — probably not
made to order either —rather pinched and tormented him at the first go off of
a bitter cold morning. Seeing, now, that there were no curtains to the window,
and that the street being very narrow, the house opposite commanded a plain
view into the room, and observing more and more the indecorous figure that
Queequeg made, staving about with little else but his hat and boots on; I
begged him as well as I could, to accelerate his toilet somewhat, and
particularly to get into his pantaloons as soon as possible. He complied,
and then proceeded to wash himself. At that time in the morning any
Christian would have washed his face; but Queequeg, to my amazement,
contented himself with restricting his ablutions to his chest, arms, and
hands. He then donned his waistcoat, and taking up a piece of hard soap on
the wash-stand centre-table, dipped it into water and commenced lathering his
face. I was watching to see where he kept his razor, when lo and behold, he
takes the harpoon from the bed corner, slips out the long wooden stock,
unsheathes the head, whets it a little on his boot, and striding up to the
bit of mirror against the wall, begins a vigorous scraping, or rather
harpooning of his cheeks. Thinks I, Queequeg, this is using Rogers's best
cutlery with a vengeance. Afterwards I wondered the less at this operation
when I came to know of what fine steel the head of a harpoon is made, and how
exceedingly sharp the long straight edges are always kept.
..
the rest of his toilet was soon achieved, and he proudly marched out of the
room, wrapped up in his great pilot monkey jacket, and sporting his harpoon
like a marshal's baton.
..






.. < chapter v 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 bedfellow. However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and
rather too scarce a good thing; the more's the pity. So, if any one man, in
his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not
be backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and be spent in
that way. And the man that has anything bountifully laughable about him, be
sure there is more in that man than you perhaps think for. The bar-room was
now full of the boarders who had been dropping in the night previous, and
whom I had not as yet had a good look at. They were nearly all whalemen;
chief mates, and second mates, and third mates, and sea carpenters, and sea
coopers, and sea blacksmiths, and harpooneers, and ship keepers; a brown and
brawny company, with bosky beards; an unshorn, shaggy set, all wearing
monkey jackets for morning gowns. You could pretty plainly tell how long each
one had been ashore. This young fellow's healthy cheek is like a sun-toasted
pear in hue, and would seem to smell almost as musky; he cannot have been
three days landed from his Indian voyage. That man next him looks a few
shades lighter; you might say a touch of satin wood is in him. In the
complexion of a third still lingers a tropic tawn, but slightly bleached
withal; he doubtless has tarried whole weeks ashore. But who could show a
cheek like
..
Queequeg? which, barred with various tints, seemed like the Andes' western
slope, to show forth in one array, contrasting climates, zone by zone.
Grub, ho! now cried the landlord, flinging open a door, and in we went to
breakfast. They say that men who have seen the world, thereby become quite at
ease in manner, quite self-possessed in company. Not always, though:
Ledyard, the great New England traveller, and Mungo Park, the Scotch one; of
all men, they possessed the least assurance in the parlor. But perhaps the
mere crossing of Siberia in a sledge drawn by dogs as Ledyard did, or the
taking a long solitary walk on an empty stomach, in the negro heart of
Africa, which was the sum of poor Mungo's performances — this kind of travel,
I say, may not be the very best mode of attaining a high social polish.
Still, for the most part, that sort of thing is to be had anywhere. These
reflections just here are occasioned by the circumstance that after we were
all seated at the table, and I was preparing to hear some good stories about
whaling; to my no small surprise, nearly every man maintained a profound
silence. And not only that, but they looked embarrassed. Yes, here were a
set of sea-dogs, many of whom without the slightest bashfulness had boarded
great whales on the high seas —entire strangers to them —and duelled them dead
without winking; and yet, here they sat at a social breakfast table —all of
the same calling, all of kindred tastes —looking round as sheepishly at
each other as though they had never been out of sight of some sheepfold among
the Green Mountains. A curious sight; these bashful bears, these timid
warrior whalemen! But as for Queequeg —why, Queequeg sat there among them —at
the head of the table, too, it so chanced; as cool as an icicle. To be sure
I cannot say much for his breeding. His greatest admirer could not have
cordially justified his bringing his harpoon into breakfast with him, and
using it there without ceremony; reaching over the table with it, to the
imminent jeopardy of many heads, and grappling the beefsteaks towards him.
But that was certainly very coolly done by him, and every
..
one knows that in most people's estimation, to do anything coolly is to do it
genteelly. We will not speak of all Queequeg's peculiarities here; how he
eschewed coffee and hot rolls, and applied his undivided attention to
beefsteaks, done rare. Enough, that when breakfast was over he withdrew like
the rest into the public room, lighted his tomahawk-pipe, and was sitting
there quietly digesting and smoking with his inseparable hat on, when I
sallied out for a stroll.
..






.. < chapter vi 11 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, Tongatabooarrs, 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 vii 26 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 1st,
. This Tablet Is erected to his
Memory By his Sister. Sacred To the Memory of Robert Long, Willis Ellery,
Nathan Coleman, 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 31st,
. This Marble Is
here placed by their surviving Shipmates.
..
Sacred To the Memory of The late Captain Ezekiel Hardy, Who in the bows of
his boat was killed by a Sperm Whale on the coast of Japan, August 3d,
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 afresh. Oh! ye whose
dead lie buried beneath the green grass; who standing among flowers can say
—here, here lies my beloved; ye know not the desolation that broods in bosoms
like these. What bitter blanks in those black-bordered marbles which cover no
ashes! What despair in those immovable inscriptions! What deadly voids and
unbidden infidelities in the lines that seem to gnaw upon all Faith, and
refuse resurrections to the beings who have placelessly perished without a
grave. As well might those tablets stand in the cave of Elephanta as here.
In what census of living creatures, the dead of mankind are included; why it
is that a universal proverb says of them, that
..
they tell no tales, though containing more secrets than the Goodwin Sands;
how it is that to his name who yesterday departed for the other world, we
prefix so significant and infidel a word, and yet do not thus entitle him, if
he but embarks for the remotest Indies of this living earth; why the Life
Insurance Companies pay death-forfeitures upon immortals; in what eternal,
unstirring paralysis, and deadly, hopeless trance, yet lies antique Adam who
died sixty round centuries ago; how it is that we still refuse to be
comforted for those who we nevertheless maintain are dwelling in unspeakable
bliss; why all the living so strive to hush all the dead; wherefore but the
rumor of a knocking in a tomb will terrify a whole city. All these things
are not without their meanings. But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the
tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope. It
needs scarcely to be told, with what feelings, on the eve of a Nantucket
voyage, I regarded those marble tablets, and by the murky light of that
darkened, doleful day read the fate of the whalemen who had gone before me,
Yes, Ishmael, the same fate may be thine. But somehow I grew merry again.
Delightful inducements to embark, fine chance for promotion, it seems — aye,
a stove boat will make me an immortal by brevet. Yes, there is death in this
business of whaling —a speechlessly quick chaotic bundling of a man into
Eternity. But what then? Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of
Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my
true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much
like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick
water the thinnest of air. Methinks my body is but the lees of my better
being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me. And
therefore three cheers for Nantucket; and come a stove boat and stove body
when they will, for stave my soul, Jove himself cannot.
..






.. < chapter viii 2 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 favorite. He had been a sailor and a
harpooneer in his youth, but for many years past had dedicated his life to the
ministry. At the time I now write of, Father Mapple was in the hardy winter
of a healthy old age; that sort of old age which seems merging into a second
flowering youth, for among all the fissures of his wrinkles, there shone
certain mild gleams of a newly developing bloom —the spring verdure peeping
forth even beneath February's snow. No one having previously heard his
history, could for the first time behold Father Mapple without the utmost
interest, because there were certain engrafted clerical peculiarities about
him, imputable to that adventurous maritime life he had led. When he entered
I observed that he carried no umbrella, and certainly had not come in his
carriage, for his tarpaulin hat ran down with melting sleet, and his great
pilot cloth jacket seemed almost to drag him to the floor with the weight of
the water it had absorbed. However, hat and coat and overshoes were one by
one removed, and hung up in a little space in an adjacent corner; when,
arrayed in a decent suit, he quietly approached the pulpit. Like most old
fashioned pulpits, it was a very lofty one, and since a regular stairs to
such a height would, by its long angle with the floor, seriously contract the
already small area of the chapel, the architect, it seemed, had acted upon the
hint of Father Mapple, and finished the pulpit without a stairs, substituting
a perpendicular side ladder, like those used in mounting
..
a ship from a boat at sea. The wife of a whaling captain had provided the
chapel with a handsome pair of red worsted man-ropes for this ladder, which,
being itself nicely headed, and stained with a mahogany color, the whole
contrivance, considering what manner of chapel it was, seemed by no means in
bad taste. Halting for an instant at the foot of the ladder, and with both
hands grasping the ornamental knobs of the man-ropes, Father Mapple cast a
look upwards, and then with a truly sailorlike 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

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