Moby Dick; or The Whale
Part 7 out of 12
and keeping it there very solemnly.
"So, then, you expect to go up into our main-top, do you, cook,
when you are dead? But don't you know the higher you climb,
the colder it gets? Main-top, eh?"
"Didn't say dat t'all," said Fleece, again in the sulks.
"You said up there, didn't you? and now look yourself, and see
where your tongs are pointing. But, perhaps you expect to get
into heaven by crawling through the lubber's hole, cook; but, no,
no, cook, you don't get there, except you go the regular way,
round by the rigging. It's a ticklish business, but must be done,
or else it's no go. But none of us are in heaven yet.
Drop your tongs, cook, and hear my orders. Do ye hear?
Hold your hat in one hand, and clap t'other a'top of your heart,
when I'm giving my orders, cook. What! that your heart, there?--
that's your gizzard! Aloft! aloft!--that's it--now you have it.
Hold it there now, and pay attention."
"All 'dention," said the old black, with both hands placed as desired,
vainly wriggling his grizzled head, as if to get both ears in front
at one and the same time.
"Well then, cook, you see this whale-steak of yours was so very bad,
that I have put it out of sight as soon as possible; you see that,
don't you? Well, for the future, when you cook another whale-steak
for my private table here, the capstan, I'll tell you what to do
so as not to spoil it by overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand,
and show a live coal to it with the other; that done, dish it; d'ye hear?
And now to-morrow, cook, when we are cutting in the fish, be sure
you stand by to get the tips of his fins; have them put in pickle.
As for the ends of the flukes, have them soused, cook. There, now
ye may go."
But Fleece had hardly got three paces off, when he was recalled.
"Cook, give me cutlets for supper to-morrow night in the mid-watch. D'ye
hear? away you sail then.--Halloa! stop! make a bow before you go.--
Avast heaving again! Whale-balls for breakfast--don't forget."
"Wish, by gor! whale eat him, 'stead of him eat whale.
I'm bressed if he ain't more of shark dan Massa Shark hisself,"
muttered the old man, limping away; with which sage ejaculation
he went to his hammock.
The Whale as a Dish
That mortal man should feed upon the creature that feeds
his lamp, and, like Stubb, eat him by his own light, as you may say;
this seems so outlandish a thing that one must needs go a little
into the history and philosophy of it.
It is upon record, that three centuries ago the tongue of the Right Whale
was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and commanded large
prices there. Also, that in Henry VIIIth's time, a certain cook of
the court obtained a handsome reward for inventing an admirable sauce
to be eaten with barbacued porpoises, which, you remember, are a species
of whale. Porpoises, indeed, are to this day considered fine eating.
The meat is made into balls about the size of billiard balls,
and being well seasoned and spiced might be taken for turtle-balls
or veal balls. The old monks of Dunfermline were very fond of them.
They had a great porpoise grant from the crown.
The fact is, that among his hunters at least, the whale would
by all hands be considered a noble dish, were there not so much
of him; but when you come to sit down before a meat-pie
nearly one hundred feet long, it takes away your appetite.
Only the most unprejudiced of men like Stubb, nowadays partake
of cooked whales; but the Esquimaux are not so fastidious.
We all know how they live upon whales, and have rare old vintages
of prime old train oil. Zogranda, one of their most famous doctors,
recommends strips of blubber for infants, as being exceedingly
juicy and nourishing. And this reminds me that certain Englishmen,
who long ago were accidentally left in Greenland by a whaling vessel--
that these men actually lived for several months on the mouldy
scraps of whales which had been left ashore after trying
out the blubber. Among the Dutch whalemen these scraps
are called "fritters"; which, indeed, they greatly resemble,
being brown and crisp, and smelling something like old
Amsterdam housewives' dough-nuts or oly-cooks, when fresh.
They have such an eatable look that the most self-denying
stranger can hardly keep his hands off.
But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish,
is his exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea,
too fat to be delicately good. Look at his hump, which would
be as fine eating as the buffalo's (which is esteemed
a rare dish), were it not such a solid pyramid of fat.
But the spermaceti itself, how bland and creamy that is;
like the transparent, half jellied, white meat of a cocoanut
in the third month of its growth, yet far too rich to supply
a substitute for butter. Nevertheless, many whalemen
have a method of absorbing it into some other substance,
and then partaking of it. In the long try watches of the night
it is a common thing for the seamen to dip their ship-biscuit
into the huge oil-pots and let them fry there awhile.
Many a good supper have I thus made.
In the case of a small Sperm Whale the brains are accounted a fine dish.
The casket of the skull is broken into with an axe, and the two plump,
whitish lobes being withdrawn (precisely resembling two large puddings),
they are then mixed with flour, and cooked into a most delectable mess,
in flavor somewhat resembling calves' head, which is quite a dish
among some epicures; and every one knows that some young bucks among
the epicures, by continually dining upon calves' brains, by and by get to
have a little brains of their own, so as to be able to tell a calf's head
from their own heads; which, indeed, requires uncommon discrimination.
And that is the reason why a young buck with an intelligent looking calf's
head before him, is somehow one of the saddest sights you can see.
The head looks a sort of reproachfully at him, with an "Et
tu Brute!" expression.
It is not, perhaps, entirely because the whale is so excessively
unctuous that landsmen seem to regard the eating of him
with abhorrence; that appears to result, in some way,
from the consideration before mentioned: i.e. that a man
should eat a newly murdered thing of the sea, and eat it
too by its own light. But no doubt the first man that ever
murdered an ox was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung;
and if he had been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would
have been; and he certainly deserved it if any murderer does.
Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see the crowds
of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds.
Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal's jaw?
Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will be more
tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary
in his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable
for that provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment,
than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest
geese to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers
in thy pate-de-foie-gras.
But Stubb, he eats the whale by its own light, does he? and that is
adding insult to injury, is it? Look at your knife-handle, there,
my civilized and enlightened gourmand, dining off that roast beef,
what is that handle made of?--what but the bones of the brother
of the very ox you are eating? And what do you pick your teeth with,
after devouring that fat goose? With a feather of the same fowl.
And with what quill did the Secretary of the Society for the
Suppression of Cruelty to Ganders formally indite his circulars?
It is only within the last month or two that that society passed
a resolution to patronize nothing but steel pens.
The Shark Massacre
When in the Southern Fishery a captured Sperm Whale, after long
and weary toil, is brought alongside late at night, it is not,
as a general thing at least, customary to proceed at once to the business
of cutting him in. For that business is an exceedingly laborious one;
is not very soon completed; and requires all hands to set about it.
Therefore, the common usage is to take in all sail; lash the helm a'lee;
and then send every one below to his hammock till daylight,
with the reservation that, until that time, anchor-watches shall be kept;
that is, two and two for an hour, each couple, the crew in rotation
shall mount the deck to see that all goes well.
But sometimes, especially upon the Line in the Pacific,
this plan will not answer at all; because such incalculable
hosts of sharks gather round the moored carcase, that were
he left so for six hours, say, on a stretch, little more than
the skeleton would be visible by morning. In most other parts
of the ocean, however, where these fish do not so largely abound,
their wondrous voracity can be at times considerably diminished,
by vigorously stirring them up with sharp whaling-spades,
a procedure notwithstanding, which, in some instances,
only seems to tickle them into still greater activity.
But it was not thus in the present case with the Pequod's sharks;
though, to be sure, any man unaccustomed to such sights,
to have looked over her side that night, would have almost
thought the whole round sea was one huge cheese, and those sharks
the maggots in it.
Nevertheless, upon Stubb setting the anchor-watch after
his supper was concluded; and when, accordingly Queequeg
and a forecastle seaman came on deck, no small excitement
was created among the sharks; for immediately suspending
the cutting stages over the side, and lowering three lanterns,
so that they cast long gleams of light over the turbid sea,
these two mariners, darting their long whaling-spades,* kept
up an incessant murdering of the sharks, by striking the keen
steel deep into their skulls, seemingly their only vital part.
But in the foamy confusion of their mixed and struggling hosts,
the marksmen could not always hit their mark; and this brought
about new revelations of the incredible ferocity of the foe.
They viciously snapped, not only at each other's disembowelments,
but like flexible bows, bent round, and bit their own;
till those entrails seemed swallowed over and over again by
the same mouth, to be oppositely voided by the gaping wound.
Nor was this all. It was unsafe to meddle with the corpses
and ghosts of these creatures. A sort of generic or Pantheistic
vitality seemed to lurk in their very joints and bones,
after what might be called the individual life had departed.
Killed and hoisted on deck for the sake of his skin,
one of these sharks almost took poor Queequeg's hand off,
when he tried to shut down the dead lid of his murderous jaw.
*The whaling-spade used for cutting-in is made of the very best steel;
is about the bigness of a man's spread hand; and in general shape,
corresponds to the garden implement after which it is named; only its
sides are perfectly flat, and its upper end considerably narrower
than the lower. This weapon is always kept as sharp as possible;
and when being used is occasionally honed, just like a razor.
In its socket, a stiff pole, from twenty to thirty feet long,
is inserted for a handle.
"Queequeg no care what god made him shark," said the savage,
agonizingly lifting his hand up and down; "wedder Fejee god or
Nantucket god; but de god wat made shark must be one dam Ingin."
It was a Saturday night, and such a Sabbath as followed!
Ex officio professors of Sabbath breaking are all whalemen.
The ivory Pequod was turned into what seemed a shamble;
every sailor a butcher. You would have thought we were offering
up ten thousand red oxen to the sea gods.
In the first place, the enormous cutting tackles, among other ponderous
things comprising a cluster of blocks generally painted green,
and which no single man can possibly lift--this vast bunch of grapes
was swayed up to the main-top and firmly lashed to the lower
mast-head, the strongest point anywhere above a ship's deck.
The end of the hawser-like rope winding through these intricacies,
was then conducted to the windlass, and the huge lower block
of the tackles was swung over the whale; to this block the great
blubber hook, weighing some one hundred pounds, was attached.
And now suspended in stages over the side, Starbuck and Stubb,
the mates, armed with their long spades, began cutting
a hole in the body for the insertion of the hook just above
the nearest of the two side-fins. This done, a broad,
semicircular line is cut round the hole, the hook is inserted,
and the main body of the crew striking up a wild chorus,
now commence heaving in one dense crowd at the windlass.
When instantly, the entire ship careens over on her side; every bolt
in her starts like the nailheads of an old house in frosty weather;
she trembles, quivers, and nods her frighted mast-heads to the sky.
More and more she leans over to the whale, while every gasping heave
of the windlass is answered by a helping heave from the billows;
till at last, a swift, startling snap is heard; with a great
swash the ship rolls upwards and backwards from the whale,
and the triumphant tackle rises into sight dragging after it
the disengaged semicircular end of the first strip of blubber.
Now as the blubber envelopes the whale precisely as the rind
does an orange, so is it stripped off from the body precisely
as an orange is sometimes stripped by spiralizing it.
For the strain constantly kept up by the windlass continually
keeps the whale rolling over and over in the water, and as
the blubber in one strip uniformly peels off along the line
called the "scarf," simultaneously cut by the spades of Starbuck
and Stubb, the mates; and just as fast as it is thus peeled off,
and indeed by that very act itself, it is all the time being hoisted
higher and higher aloft till its upper end grazes the main-top;
the men at the windlass then cease heaving, and for a moment
or two the prodigious blood-dripping mass sways to and fro
as if let down from the sky, and every one present must take
good heed to dodge it when it swings, else it may box his ears
and pitch him headlong overboard.
One of the attending harpooneers now advances with a long, keen weapon
called a boarding-sword, and watching his chance he dexterously slices
out a considerable hole in the lower part of the swaying mass.
Into this hole, the end of the second alternating great tackle is then
hooked so as to retain a hold upon the blubber, in order to prepare for
what follows. Whereupon, this accomplished swordsman, warning all hands
to stand off, once more makes a scientific dash at the mass, and with a
few sidelong, desperate, lunging, slicings, severs it completely in twain;
so that while the short lower part is still fast, the long upper strip,
called a blanket-piece, swings clear, and is all ready for lowering.
The heavers forward now resume their song, and while the one tackle is
peeling and hoisting a second strip from the whale, the other is slowly
slackened away, and down goes the first strip through the main hatchway
right beneath, into an unfurnished parlor called the blubber-room. Into
this twilight apartment sundry nimble hands keep coiling away the long
blanket-piece as if it were a great live mass of plaited serpents.
And thus the work proceeds; the two tackles hoisting and lowering
simultaneously; both whale and windlass heaving, the heavers singing,
the blubber-room gentlemen coiling, the mates scarfing, the ship
straining, and all hands swearing occasionally, by way of assuaging
the general friction.
I have given no small attention to that not unvexed subject,
the skin of the whale. I have had controversies about it with
experienced whalemen afloat, and learned naturalists ashore.
My original opinion remains unchanged; but it is only an opinion.
The question is, what and where is the skin of the whale.
Already you know what his blubber is. That blubber is something
of the consistence of firm, close-grained beef, but tougher,
more elastic and compact, and ranges from eight or ten to twelve
and fifteen inches in thickness.
Now, however preposterous it may at first seem to talk of any creature's
skin as being of that sort of consistence and thickness, yet in point
of fact these are no arguments against such a presumption; because you
cannot raise any other dense enveloping layer from the whale's body
but that same blubber; and the outermost enveloping layer of any animal,
if reasonably dense, what can that be but the skin? True, from the
unmarred dead body of the whale, you may scrape off with your hand an
infinitely thin, transparent substance, somewhat resembling the thinnest
shreds of isinglass, only it is almost as flexible and soft as satin;
that is, previous to being dried, when it not only contracts and thickens,
but becomes rather hard and brittle. I have several such dried bits,
which I use for marks in my whale-books. It is transparent, as I
said before; and being laid upon the printed page, I have sometimes
pleased myself with fancying it exerted a magnifying influence.
At any rate, it is pleasant to read about whales through their
own spectacles, as you may say. But what I am driving at here is this.
That same infinitely thin, isinglass substance, which, I admit,
invests the entire body of the whale, is not so much to be regarded
as the skin of the creature, as the skin of the skin, so to speak; for it
were simply ridiculous to say, that the proper skin of the tremendous
whale is thinner and more tender than the skin of a new-born child.
But no more of this.
Assuming the blubber to be the skin of the whale; then, when this skin,
as in the case of a very large Sperm Whale, will yield the bulk
of one hundred barrels of oil; and, when it is considered that,
in quantity, or rather weight, that oil, in its expressed state,
is only three fourths, and not the entire substance of the coat; some idea
may hence be had of the enormousness of that animated mass, a mere
part of whose mere integument yields such a lake of liquid as that.
Reckoning ten barrels to the ton, you have ten tons for the net weight
of only three quarters of the stuff of the whale's skin.
In life, the visible surface of the Sperm Whale is not the least among
the many marvels he presents. Almost invariably it is all over obliquely
crossed and re-crossed with numberless straight marks in thick array,
something like those in the finest Italian line engravings.
But these marks do not seem to be impressed upon the isinglass
substance above mentioned, but seem to be seen through it,
as if they were engraved upon the body itself. Nor is this all.
In some instances, to the quick, observant eye, those linear marks,
as in a veritable engraving, but afford the ground for far
other delineations. These are hieroglyphical; that is, if you call
those mysterious cyphers on the walls of pyramids hieroglyphics,
then that is the proper word to use in the present connexion.
By my retentive memory of the hieroglyphics upon one Sperm Whale
in particular, I was much struck with a plate representing
the old Indian characters chiselled on the famous hieroglyphic
palisades on the banks of the Upper Mississippi. Like those
mystic rocks, too, the mystic-marked whale remains undecipherable.
This allusion to the Indian rocks reminds me of another thing.
Besides all the other phenomena which the exterior of the Sperm Whale
presents, he not seldom displays the back, and more especially his flanks,
effaced in great part of the regular linear appearance, by reason
of numerous rude scratches, altogether of an irregular, random aspect.
I should say that those New England rocks on the seacoast,
which Agassiz imagines to bear the marks of violent scraping
contact with vast floating icebergs--I should say, that those rocks
must not a little resemble the Sperm Whale in this particular.
It also seems to me that such scratches in the whale are probably
made by hostile contact with other whales; for I have most remarked
them in the large, full-grown bulls of the species.
A word or two more concerning this matter of the skin
or blubber of the whale. It has already been said, that it
is stript from him in long pieces, called blanket-pieces.
Like most sea-terms, this one is very happy and significant.
For the whale is indeed wrapt up in his blubber as in a real
blanket or counterpane; or, still better, an Indian poncho slipt
over his head, and skirting his extremity. It is by reason of this
cosy blanketing of his body, that the whale is enabled to keep
himself comfortable in all weathers, in all seas, times, and tides.
What would become of a Greenland whale, say, in those shuddering,
icy seas of the North, if unsupplied with his cosy surtout?
True, other fish are found exceedingly brisk in those Hyperborean waters;
but these, be it observed, are your cold-blooded, lungless fish,
whose very bellies are refrigerators; creatures, that warm
themselves under the lee of an iceberg, as a traveller in winter
would bask before an inn fire; whereas, like man, the whale has
lungs and warm blood. Freeze his blood, and he dies. How wonderful
is it then--except after explanation--that this great monster,
to whom corporeal warmth is as indispensable as it is to man;
how wonderful that he should be found at home, immersed to his lips
for life in those Arctic waters! where, when seamen fall overboard,
they are sometimes found, months afterwards, perpendicularly frozen
into the hearts of fields of ice, as a fly is found glued in amber.
But more surprising is it to know, as has been proved by experiment,
that the blood of a Polar whale is warmer than that of a Borneo
negro in summer.
It does seem to me, that herein we see the rare virtue of a strong
individual vitality, and the rare virtue of thick walls, and the rare
virtue of interior spaciousness. Oh, man! admire and model
thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice.
Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it.
Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole. Like the
great dome of St. Peter's, and like the great whale, retain, O man!
in all seasons a temperature of thine own.
But how easy and how hopeless to teach these fine things!
Of erections, how few are domed like St. Peter's! of creatures,
how few vast as the whale!
Haul in the chains! Let the carcase go astern!
The vast tackles have now done their duty. The peeled white
body of the beheaded whale flashes like a marble sepulchre;
though changed in hue, it has not perceptibly lost anything in bulk.
It is still colossal. Slowly it floats more and more away,
the water round it torn and splashed by the insatiate sharks,
and the air above vexed with rapacious flights of screaming fowls,
whose beaks are like so many insulting poniards in the whale.The vast
white headless phantom floats further and further from the ship,
and every rod that it so floats, what seem square roods of sharks
and cubic roods of fowls, augment the murderous din. For hours
and hours from the almost stationary ship that hideous sight is seen.
Beneath the unclouded and mild azure sky, upon the fair face
of the pleasant sea, wafted by the joyous breezes, that great mass
of death floats on and on, till lost in infinite perspectives.
There's a most doleful and most mocking funeral!
The sea-vultures all in pious mourning, the air-sharks all
punctiliously in black or speckled. In life but few of them would
have helped the whale, I ween, if peradventure he had needed it;
but upon the banquet of his funeral they most piously do pounce.
Oh, horrible vulturism of earth! from which not the mightiest
whale is free.
Nor is this the end. Desecrated as the body is, a vengeful
ghost survives and hovers over it to scare. Espied by some
timid man-of-war or blundering discovery-vessel from afar,
when the distance obscuring the swarming fowls, nevertheless still
shows the white mass floating in the sun, and the white spray
heaving high against it; straightway the whale's unharming corpse,
with trembling fingers is set down in the log--shoals, rocks,
and breakers hereabouts: beware! And for years afterwards,
perhaps, ships shun the place; leaping over it as silly sheep
leap over a vacuum, because their leader originally leaped
there when a stick was held. There's your law of precedents;
there's your utility of traditions; there's the story of your
obstinate survival of old beliefs never bottomed on the earth,
and now not even hovering in the air! There's orthodoxy!
Thus, while in the life the great whale's body may have been a real
terror to his foes, in his death his ghost becomes a powerless panic
to a world.
Are you a believer in ghosts, my friend? There are other ghosts
than the Cock-Lane one, and far deeper men than Doctor Johnson
who believe in them.
It should not have been omitted that previous to completely
stripping the body of the leviathan, he was beheaded.
Now, the beheading of the Sperm Whale is a scientific anatomical feat,
upon which experienced whale surgeons very much pride themselves:
and not without reason.
Consider that the whale has nothing that can properly be called a neck;
on the contrary, where his head and body seem to join, there, in that
very place, is the thickest part of him. Remember, also, that the surgeon
must operate from above, some eight or ten feet intervening between him
and his subject, and that subject almost hidden in a discolored, rolling,
and oftentimes tumultuous and bursting sea. Bear in mind, too, that under
these untoward circumstances he has to cut many feet deep in the flesh;
and in that subterraneous manner, without so much as getting one single
peep into the ever-contracting gash thus made, he must skilfully
steer clear of all adjacent, interdicted parts, and exactly divide
the spine at a critical point hard by its insertion into the skull.
Do you not marvel, then, at Stubb's boast, that he demanded but ten
minutes to behead a sperm whale?
When first severed, the head is dropped astern and held there
by a cable till the body is stripped. That done, if it belong
to a small whale it is hoisted on deck to be deliberately
disposed of. But, with a full grown leviathan this is impossible;
for the sperm whale's head embraces nearly one third of his
entire bulk, and completely to suspend such a burden as that,
even by the immense tackles of a whaler, this were as vain a thing
as to attempt weighing a Dutch barn in jewellers' scales.
The Pequod's whale being decapitated and the body stripped, the head
was hoisted against the ship's side--about half way out of the sea,
so that it might yet in great part be buoyed up by its native element.
And there with the strained craft steeply leaning over to it,
by reason of the enormous downward drag from the lower mast-head,
and every yard-arm on that side projecting like a crane over
the waves; there, that blood-dripping head hung to the Pequod's
waist like the giant Holofernes's from the girdle of Judith.
When this last task was accomplished it was noon, and the seamen
went below to their dinner. Silence reigned over the before
tumultuous but now deserted deck. An intense copper calm,
like a universal yellow lotus, was more and more unfolding
its noiseless measureless leaves upon the sea.
A short space elapsed, and up into this noiselessness came Ahab alone
from his cabin. Taking a few turns on the quarter-deck, he paused
to gaze over the side, then slowly getting into the main-chains he took
Stubb's long spade still remaining there after the whale's decapitation
and striking it into the lower part of the half-suspended mass,
placed its other end crutchwise under one arm, and so stood leaning
over with eyes attentively fixed on this head.
It was a black and hooded head; and hanging there in the midst
of so intense a calm, it seemed the Sphynx's in the desert.
"Speak, thou vast and venerable head," muttered Ahab,
"which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there
lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us
the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived
the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams,
has moved amid this world's foundations. Where unrecorded
names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot;
where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted
with bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful
water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been
where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor's side,
where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down.
Thou saw'st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship;
heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave;
true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them.
Thou saw'st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from
the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight
of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed--
while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that would
have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms.
O head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make
an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!"
"Sail ho!" cried a triumphant voice from the main-mast-head.
"Aye? Well, now, that's cheering," cried Ahab, suddenly erecting
himself, while whole thunder-clouds swept aside from his brow.
"That lively cry upon this deadly calm might almost convert
a better man.--Where away?"
"Three points on the starboard bow, sir, and bringing down her
breeze to us!
"Better and better, man. Would now St. Paul would come
along that way, and to my breezelessness bring his breeze!
O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your
linked analogies; not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter,
but has its cunning duplicate in mind."
The Jeroboam's Story
Hand in hand, ship and breeze blew on; but the breeze came faster
than the ship, and soon the Pequod began to rock.
By and by, through the glass the stranger's boats and manned
mast-heads proved her a whale-ship. But as she was so far
to windward, and shooting by, apparently making a passage
to some other ground, the Pequod could not hope to reach her.
So the signal was set to see what response would be made.
Here be it said, that like the vessels of military marines,
the ships of the American Whale Fleet have each a private signal;
all which signals being collected in a book with the names
of the respective vessels attached, every captain is provided
with it. Thereby, the whale commanders are enabled to recognise
each other upon the ocean, even at considerable distance,
and with no small facility.
The Pequod's signal was at last responded to by the stranger's
setting her own; which proved the ship to be the Jeroboam
of Nantucket. Squaring her yards, she bore down,
ranged abeam under the Pequod's lee, and lowered a boat;
it soon drew nigh; but, as the side-ladder was being rigged
by Starbuck's order to accommodate the visiting captain,
the stranger in question waved his hand from his boat's stern
in token of that proceeding being entirely unnecessary.
It turned out that the Jeroboam had a malignant epidemic on board,
and that Mayhew, her captain, was fearful of infecting
the Pequod's company. For, though himself and the boat's crew
remained untainted, and though his ship was half a rifle-shot off,
and an incorruptible sea and air rolling and flowing between;
yet conscientiously adhering to the timid quarantine of the land,
he peremptorily refused to come into direct contact with the Pequod.
But this did by no means prevent all communications.
Preserving an interval of some few yards between itself and
the ship, the Jeroboam's boat by the occasional use of its oars
contrived to keep parallel to the Pequod, as she heavily forged
through the sea (for by this time it blew very fresh), with her
main-topsail aback; though, indeed, at times by the sudden onset
of a large rolling wave, the boat would be pushed some way ahead;
but would be soon skilfully brought to her proper bearings again.
Subject to this, and other the like interruptions now and then,
a conversation was sustained between the two parties;
but at intervals not without still another interruption of a
very different sort.
Pulling an oar in the Jeroboam's boat, was a man of a singular appearance,
even in that wild whaling life where individual notabilities make up
all totalities. He was a small, short, youngish man, sprinkled all
over his face with freckles, and wearing redundant yellow hair.
A long-skirted, cabalistically-cut coat of a faded walnut tinge enveloped
him; the overlapping sleeves of which were rolled up on his wrists.
A deep, settled, fanatic delirium was in his eyes.
So soon as this figure had been first descried, Stubb had exclaimed--
"That's he! that's he!--the long-togged scaramouch the Town-Ho's company
told us of!" Stubb here alluded to a strange story told of the Jeroboam,
and a certain man among her crew, some time previous when the Pequod spoke
the Town-Ho. According to this account and what was subsequently learned,
it seemed that the scaramouch in question had gained a wonderful
ascendency over almost everybody in the Jeroboam. His story was this:
He had been originally nurtured among the crazy society of
Neskyeuna Shakers, where he had been a great prophet; in their cracked,
secret meetings having several times descended from heaven by the way
of a trapdoor, announcing the speedy opening of the seventh vial,
which he carried in his vest-pocket; but, which, instead of
containing gunpowder, was supposed to be charged with laudanum.
A strange, apostolic whim having seized him, he had left Neskyeuna
for Nantucket, where, with that cunning peculiar to craziness,
he assumed a steady, common sense exterior, and offered himself
as a green-hand candidate for the Jeroboam's whaling voyage.
They engaged him; but straightway upon the ship's getting
out of sight of land, his insanity broke out in a freshet.
He announced himself as the archangel Gabriel, and commanded
the captain to jump overboard. He published his manifesto,
whereby he set himself forth as the deliverer of the isles
of the sea and vicar-general of all Oceanica. The unflinching
earnestness with which he declared these things;--the dark,
daring play of his sleepless, excited imagination, and all
the preternatural terrors of real delirium, united to invest
this Gabriel in the minds of the majority of the ignorant crew,
with an atmosphere of sacredness. Moreover, they were afraid of him.
As such a man, however, was not of much practical use in the ship,
especially as he refused to work except when he pleased,
the incredulous captain would fain have been rid of him;
but apprised that that individual's intention was to land him
in the first convenient port, the archangel forthwith opened
all his seals and vials--devoting the ship and all hands to
unconditional perdition, in case this intention was carried out.
So strongly did he work upon his disciples among the crew,
that at last in a body they went to the captain and told him
if Gabriel was sent from the ship, not a man of them would remain.
He was therefore forced to relinquish his plan. Nor would they
permit Gabriel to be any way maltreated, say or do what he would;
so that it came to pass that Gabriel had the complete freedom
of the ship. The consequence of all this was, that the archangel
cared little or nothing for the captain and mates; and since
the epidemic had broken out, he carried a higher hand than ever;
declaring that the plague, as he called it, was at his sole command;
nor should it be stayed but according to his good pleasure.
The sailors, mostly poor devils, cringed, and some of them
fawned before him; in obedience to his instructions,
sometimes rendering him personal homage, as to a god.
Such things may seem incredible; but, however wondrous, they are true.
Nor is the history of fanatics half so striking in respect
to the measureless self-deception of the fanatic himself, as his
measureless power of deceiving and bedevilling so many others.
But it is time to return to the Pequod.
"I fear not thy epidemic, man," said Ahab from the bulwarks,
to Captain Mayhew, who stood in the boat's stern; "come on board."
But now Gabriel started to his feet.
"Think, think of the fevers, yellow and bilious!
Beware of the horrible plague!"
"Gabriel! Gabriel!" cried Captain Mayhew; "thou must either-"
But that instant a headlong wave shot the boat far ahead,
and its seethings drowned all speech.
"Hast thou seen the White Whale?" demanded Ahab, when the
boat drifted back.
"Think, think of thy whale-boat, stoven and sunk!
Beware of the horrible tail!"
"I tell thee again, Gabriel, that-" But again the boat tore ahead
as if dragged by fiends. Nothing was said for some moments,
while a succession of riotous waves rolled by which by one of those
occasional caprices of the seas were tumbling, not heaving it.
Meantime, the hoisted sperm whale's head jogged about very violently,
and Gabriel was seen eyeing it with rather more apprehensiveness
than his archangel nature seemed to warrant.
When this interlude was over, Captain Mayhew began a dark
story concerning Moby Dick; not, however, without frequent
interruptions from Gabriel, whenever his name was mentioned,
and the crazy sea that seemed leagued with him.
It seemed that the Jeroboam had not long left home, when upon
speaking a whale-ship, her people were reliably apprised
of the existence of Moby Dick, and the havoc he had made.
Greedily sucking in this intelligence, Gabriel solemnly warned
the captain against attacking the White Whale, in case the monster
should be seen; in his gibbering insanity, pronouncing the White Whale
to be no less a being than the Shaker God incarnated; the Shakers
receiving the Bible. But when, some year or two afterwards,
Moby Dick was fairly sighted from the mast-heads, Macey,
the chief mate, burned with ardor to encounter him; and the captain
himself being not unwilling to let him have the opportunity,
despite all the archangel's denunciations and forewarnings,
Macey succeeded in persuading five men to man his boat.
With them he pushed off; and, after much weary pulling,
and many perilous, unsuccessful onsets, he at last succeeded
in getting one iron fast. Meantime, Gabriel, ascending to the
main-royal mast-head, was tossing one arm in frantic gestures,
and hurling forth prophecies of speedy doom to the sacrilegious
assailants of his divinity. Now, while Macey, the mate,
was standing up in his boat's bow, and with all the reckless energy
of his tribe was venting his wild exclamations upon the whale,
and essaying to get a fair chance for his poised lance, lo! a broad
white shadow rose from the sea; by its quick, fanning motion,
temporarily taking the breath out of the bodies of the oarsmen.
Next instant, the luckless mate, so full of furious life,
was smitten bodily into the air, and making a long arc in his descent,
fell into the sea at the distance of about fifty yards.
Not a chip of the boat was harmed, nor a hair of any oarsman's head;
but the mate for ever sank.
It is well to parenthesize here, that of the fatal accidents in the
Sperm-Whale Fishery, this kind is perhaps almost as frequent as any.
Sometimes, nothing is injured but the man who is thus annihilated;
oftener the boat's bow is knocked off, or the thigh-board, on which
the headsman stands, is torn from its place and accompanies the body.
But strangest of all is the circumstance, that in more instances than one,
when the body has been recovered, not a single mark of violence is
discernible the man being stark dead.
The whole calamity, with the falling form of Macey, was plainly descried
from the ship. Raising a piercing shriek--"The vial! the vial!"
Gabriel called off the terror-stricken crew from the further
hunting of the whale. This terrible event clothed the archangel
with added influence; because his credulous disciples believed
that he had specifically fore-announced it, instead of only making
a general prophecy, which any one might have done, and so have
chanced to hit one of many marks in the wide margin allowed.
He became a nameless terror to the ship.
Mayhew having concluded his narration, Ahab put such questions to him,
that the stranger captain could not forbear inquiring whether
he intended to hunt the White Whale, if opportunity should offer.
To which Ahab answered--"Aye." Straightway, then, Gabriel once more
started to his feet, glaring upon the old man, and vehemently exclaimed,
with downward pointed finger--"Think, think of the blasphemer--
dead, and down there!--beware of the blasphemer's end!"
Ahab stolidly turned aside; then said to Mayhew, "Captain, I have just
bethought me of my letter-bag; there is a letter for one of thy officers,
if I mistake not. Starbuck, look over the bag."
Every whale-ship takes out a goodly number of letters for various ships,
whose delivery to the persons to whom they may be addressed,
depends upon the mere chance of encountering them in the four oceans.
Thus, most letters never reach their mark; and many are only received
after attaining an age of two or three years or more.
Soon Starbuck returned with a letter in his hand. It was
sorely tumbled, damp, and covered with a dull, spotted, green mould,
in consequence of being kept in a dark locker of the cabin.
Of such a letter, Death himself might well have been the post-boy.
"Can'st not read it?" cried Ahab. "Give it me, man. Aye, aye, aye it's
but a dim scrawl;--what's this?" As he was studying it out, Starbuck took
a long cutting-spade pole, and with his knife slightly split the end,
to insert the letter there, and in that way, hand it to the boat,
without its coming any closer to the ship.
Meantime, Ahab holding the letter, muttered, "Mr. Har--
yes, Mr. Harry--(a woman's pinny hand,--the man's wife,
I'll wager)--Aye--Mr. Harry Macey, Ship Jeroboam; why it's Macey,
and he's dead!"
"Poor fellow! poor fellow! and from his wife," sighed Mayhew;
"but let me have it."
"Nay, keep it thyself," cried Gabriel to Ahab; "thou art soon
going that way."
"Curses throttle thee!" yelled Ahab. "Captain Mayhew,
stand by now to receive it"; and taking the fatal missive
from Starbuck's hands, he caught it in the slit of the pole,
and reached it over towards the boat. But as he did so,
the oarsmen expectantly desisted from rowing; the boat drifted
a little towards the ship's stern; so that, as if by magic,
the letter suddenly ranged along with Gabriel's eager hand.
He clutched it in an instant, seized the boat-knife, and impaling
the letter on it, sent it thus loaded back into the ship.
It fell at Ahab's feet. Then Gabriel shrieked out to his comrades
to give way with their oars, and in that manner the mutinous
boat rapidly shot away from the Pequod.
As, after this interlude, the seamen resumed their work upon
the jacket of the whale, many strange things were hinted
in reference to this wild affair.
In the tumultuous business of cutting-in and attending to a whale,
there is much running backwards and forwards among the crew.
Now hands are wanted here, and then again hands are wanted there.
There is no staying in any one place; for at one and the same
time everything has to be done everywhere. It is much
the same with him who endeavors the description of the scene.
We must now retrace our way a little. It was mentioned that upon
first breaking ground in the whale's back, the blubber-hook was
inserted into the original hole there cut by the spades of the mates.
But how did so clumsy and weighty a mass as that same hook get
fixed in that hole? It was inserted there by my particular
friend Queequeg, whose duty it was, as harpooneer, to descend
upon the monster's back for the special purpose referred to.
But in very many cases, circumstances require that the harpooneer
shall remain on the whale till the whole tensing or stripping
operation is concluded. The whale, be it observed, lies almost
entirely submerged, excepting the immediate parts operated upon.
So down there, some ten feet below the level of the deck, the poor
harpooneer flounders about, half on the whale and half in the water,
as the vast mass revolves like a tread-mill beneath him.
On the occasion in question, Queequeg figured in the Highland costume--
a shirt and socks--in which to my eyes, at least, he appeared to
uncommon advantage; and no one had a better chance to observe him,
as will presently be seen.
Being the savage's bowsman, that is, the person who pulled
the bow-oar in his boat (the second one from forward),
it was my cheerful duty to attend upon him while taking
that hard-scrabble scramble upon the dead whale's back.
You have seen Italian organ-boys holding a dancing-ape by a long cord.
Just so, from the ship's steep side, did I hold Queequeg down
there in the sea, by what is technically called in the fishery
a monkey-rope, attached to a strong strip of canvas belted
round his waist.
It was a humorously perilous business for both of us. For, before we
proceed further, it must be said that the monkey-rope was fast at
both ends; fast to Queequeg's broad canvas belt, and fast to my narrow
leather one. So that for better or for worse, we two, for the time,
were wedded; and should poor Queequeg sink to rise no more, then both
usage and honor demanded, that instead of cutting the cord, it should drag
me down in his wake. So, then, an elongated Siamese ligature united us.
Queequeg was my own inseparable twin brother; nor could I any way get
rid of the dangerous liabilities which the hempen bond entailed.
So strongly and metaphysically did I conceive of my situation then,
that while earnestly watching his motions, I seemed distinctly
to perceive that my own individuality was now merged in a
joint stock company of two; that my free will had received
a mortal wound; and that another's mistake or misfortune
might plunge innocent me into unmerited disaster and death.
Therefore, I saw that here was a sort of interregnum in Providence;
for its even-handed equity never could have so gross an injustice.
And yet still further pondering--while I jerked him now and
then from between the whale and ship, which would threaten
to jam him--still further pondering, I say, I saw that this
situation of mine was the precise situation of every mortal
that breathes; only, in most cases, he, one way or other,
has this Siamese connexion with a plurality of other mortals.
If your banker breaks, you snap; if your apothecary by mistake
sends you poison in your pills, you die. True, you may
say that, by exceeding caution, you may possibly escape
these and the multitudinous other evil chances of life.
But handle Queequeg's monkey-rope heedfully as I would,
sometimes he jerked it so, that I came very near sliding overboard.
Nor could I possibly forget that, do what I would, I only had
the management of one end of it.*
*The monkey-rope is found in all whalers; but it was only in
the Pequod that the monkey and his holder were ever tied together.
This improvement upon the original usage was introduced by no less
a man than Stubb, in order to afford to the imperilled harpooneer
the strongest possible guarantee for the faithfulness and vigilance
of his monkey-rope holder.
I have hinted that I would often jerk poor Queequeg from between
the whale and the ship--where he would occasionally fall,
from the incessant rolling and swaying of both.
But this was not the only jamming jeopardy he was exposed to.
Unappalled by the massacre made upon them during the night,
the sharks now freshly and more keenly allured by the before pent
blood which began to flow from the carcass--the rabid creatures
swarmed round it like bees in a beehive.
And right in among those sharks was Queequeg; who often pushed
them aside with his floundering feet. A thing altogether
incredible were it not that attracted by such prey as a dead whale,
the otherwise miscellaneously carnivorous shark will seldom
touch a man.
Nevertheless, it may well be believed that since they have
such a ravenous finger in the pie, it is deemed but wise
to look sharp to them. Accordingly, besides the monkey-rope,
with which I now and then jerked the poor fellow from too
close a vicinity to the maw of what seemed a peculiarly
ferocious shark--he was provided with still another protection.
Suspended over the side in one of the stages, Tashtego and Daggoo
continually flourished over his head a couple of keen whale-spades,
wherewith they slaughtered as many sharks as they could reach.
This procedure of theirs, to be sure, was very disinterested
and benevolent of them. They meant Queequeg's best happiness,
I admit; but in their hasty zeal to befriend him, and from
the circumstance that both he and the sharks were at times half
hidden by the blood-muddled water, those indiscreet spades
of theirs would come nearer amputating a leg than a tall.
But poor Queequeg, I suppose, straining and gasping there
with that great iron hook--poor Queequeg, I suppose, only prayed
to his Yojo, and gave up his life into the hands of his gods.
Well, well, my dear comrade and twin-brother, thought I, as I
drew in and then slacked off the rope to every swell of the sea--
what matters it, after all? Are you not the precious
image of each and all of us men in this whaling world?
That unsounded ocean you gasp in, is Life; those sharks, your foes;
those spades, your friends; and what between sharks and spades
you are in a sad pickle and peril, poor lad.
But courage! there is good cheer in store for you, Queequeg. For now,
as with blue lips and blood-shot eyes the exhausted savage at last
climbs up the chains and stands all dripping and involuntarily
trembling over the side; the steward advances, and with a benevolent,
consolatory glance hands him--what? Some hot Cognac? No! hands him,
ye gods! hands him a cup of tepid ginger and water!
"Ginger? Do I smell ginger?" suspiciously asked Stubb, coming near.
"Yes, this must be ginger," peering into the as yet untasted cup.
Then standing as if incredulous for a while, he calmly walked towards
the astonished steward slowly saying, "Ginger? ginger? and will you have
the goodness to tell me, Mr. Dough-Boy, where lies the virtue of ginger?
Ginger! is ginger the sort of fuel you use, Dough-boy, to kindle a fire
in this shivering cannibal? Ginger!--what the devil is ginger?--
sea-coal? firewood?--lucifer matches?--tinder?--gunpowder?--what the devil
is ginger, I say, that you offer this cup to our poor Queequeg here."
"There is some sneaking Temperance Society movement about this business,"
he suddenly added, now approaching Starbuck, who had just come
from forward. "Will you look at that kannakin, sir; smell of it,
if you please." Then watching the mate's countenance, he added,
"The steward, Mr. Starbuck, had the face to offer that calomel
and jalap to Queequeg, there, this instant off the whale.
Is the steward an apothecary, sir? and may I ask whether this
is the sort of bitters by which he blows back the life into
a half-drowned man?"
"I trust not," said Starbuck, "it is poor stuff enough."
"Aye, aye, steward," cried Stubb, "we'll teach you to drug it harpooneer;
none of your apothecary's medicine here; you want to poison us, do ye?
You have got out insurances on our lives and want to give way with
their oars, and pocket the proceeds, do ye?"
"It was not me," cried Dough-Boy, "it was Aunt Charity that brought
the ginger on board; and bade me never give the harpooneers any spirits,
but only this ginger-jub--so she called it."
"Ginger-jub! you gingerly rascal! take that! and run
along with ye to the lockers, and get something better.
I hope I do no wrong, Mr. Starbuck. It is the captain's orders--
grog for the harpooneer on a whale."
"Enough," replied Starbuck, "only don't hit him again, but-"
"Oh, I never hurt when I hit, except when I hit a whale
or something of that sort; and this fellow's a weazel.
What were you about saying, sir?"
"Only this: go down with him, and get what thou wantest thyself."
When Stubb reappeared, he came with a dark flask in one hand, and a
sort of tea-caddy in the other. The first contained strong spirits,
and was handed to Queequeg; the second was Aunt Charity's gift,
and that was freely given to the waves.
Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk Over Him
It must be borne in mind that all this time we have a Sperm Whale's
prodigious head hanging to the Pequod's side. But we must let it
continue hanging there a while till we can get a chance to attend to it.
For the present other matters press, and the best we can do now for
the head, is to pray heaven the tackles may hold.
Now, during the past night and forenoon, the Pequod had gradually
drifted into a sea, which, by its occasional patches of yellow brit,
gave unusual tokens of the vicinity of Right Whales, a species
of the Leviathan that but few supposed to be at this particular time
lurking anywhere near. And though all hands commonly disdained
the capture of those inferior creatures; and though the Pequod
was not commissioned to cruise for them at all, and though she had
passed numbers of them near the Crozetts without lowering a boat;
yet now that a Sperm Whale had been brought alongside and beheaded,
to the surprise of all, the announcement was made that a Right Whale
should be captured that day, if opportunity offered.
Nor was this long wanting. Tall spouts were seen to leeward;
and two boats, Stubb's and Flask's, were detached in pursuit.
Pulling further and further away, they at last became almost
invisible to the men at the masthead. But suddenly in the distance,
they saw a great heap of tumultuous white water, and soon after
news came from aloft that one or both the boats must be fast.
An interval passed and the boats were in plain sight, in the act
of being dragged right towards the ship by the towing whale.
So close did the monster come to the hull, that at first it seemed
as if he meant it malice; but suddenly going down in a maelstrom,
within three rods of the planks, he wholly disappeared from view,
as if diving under the keel. "Cut, cut!" was the cry from
the ship to the boats, which, for one instant, seemed on the point
of being brought with a deadly dash against the vessel's side.
But having plenty of line yet in the tubs, and the whale not sounding
very rapidly, they paid out abundance of rope, and at the same
time pulled with all their might so as to get ahead of the ship.
For a few minutes the struggle was intensely critical;
for while they still slacked out the tightened line in one direction,
and still plied their oars in another, the contending strain
threatened to take them under. But it was only a few feet advance
they sought to gain. And they stuck to it till they did gain it;
when instantly, a swift tremor was felt running like lightning
along the keel, as the strained line, scraping beneath the ship,
suddenly rose to view under her bows, snapping and quivering;
and so flinging off its drippings, that the drops fell like
bits of broken glass on the water, while the whale beyond
also rose to sight, and once more the boats were free to fly.
But the fagged whale abated his speed, and blindly altering his course,
went round the stern of the ship towing the two boats after him,
so that they performed a complete circuit.
Meantime, they hauled more and more upon their lines, till close
flanking him on both sides, Stubb answered Flask with lance for lance;
and thus round and round the Pequod the battle went, while the multitudes
of sharks that had before swum round the Sperm Whale's body, rushed to
the fresh blood that was spilled, thirstily drinking at every new gash,
as the eager Israelites did at the new bursting fountains that poured
from the smitten rock.
At last his spout grew thick, and with a frightful roll and vomit,
he turned upon his back a corpse.
While the two headsmen were engaged in making fast cords to his flukes,
and in other ways getting the mass in readiness for towing,
some conversation ensued between them.
"I wonder what the old man wants with this lump of foul lard,"
said Stubb, not without some disgust at the thought of having
to do with so ignoble a leviathan.
"Wants with it?" said Flask, coiling some spare line in the boat's bow,
"did you never hear that the ship which but once has a Sperm Whale's
head hoisted on her starboard side, and at the same time a Right Whale's
on the larboard; did you never hear, Stubb, that that ship can
never afterwards capsize?"
"I don't know, but I heard that gamboge ghost of a Fedallah
saying so, and he seems to know all about ships' charms. But I
sometimes think he'll charm the ship to no good at last.
I don't half like that chap, Stubb. Did you ever notice how that
tusk of his is a sort of carved into a snake's head, Stubb?"
"Sink him! I never look at him at all; but if ever I get a chance
of a dark night, and he standing hard by the bulwarks, and no one by;
look down there, Flask"--pointing into the sea with a peculiar motion
of both hands--"Aye, will I! Flask, I take that Fedallah to be
the devil in disguise. Do you believe that cock and bull story about
his having been stowed away on board ship? He's the devil, I say.
The reason why you don't see his tail, is because he tucks it up
out of sight; he carries it coiled away in his pocket, I guess.
Blast him! now that I think of it, he's always wanting oakum to stuff
into the toes of his boots."
"He sleeps in his boots, don't he? He hasn't got any hammock;
but I've seen him lay of nights in a coil of rigging."
"No doubt, and it's because of his cursed tail; he coils it down,
do ye see, in the eye of the rigging."
"What's the old man have so much to do with him for?"
"Striking up a swap or a bargain, I suppose."
"Why, do ye see, the old man is hard bent after that White Whale,
and the devil there is trying to come round him, and get him to swap
away his silver watch, or his soul, or something of that sort,
and then he'll surrender Moby Dick."
"Pooh! Stubb, you are skylarking; how can Fedallah do that?"
"I don't know, Flask, but the devil is a curious chap, and a
wicked one, I tell ye. Why, they say as how he went a sauntering
into the old flag-ship once, switching his tail about devilish easy
and gentlemanlike, and inquiring if the old governor was at home.
Well, he was at home, and asked the devil what he wanted.
The devil, switching his hoofs, up and says, 'I want John.' 'What for?'
says the old governor. 'What business is that of yours,' says the devil,
getting mad,--'I want to use him.' 'Take him,' says the governor--
and by the Lord, Flask, if the devil didn't give John the Asiatic cholera
before he got through with him, I'll eat this whale in one mouthful.
But look sharp--ain't you all ready there? Well, then, pull ahead,
and let's get the whale alongside."
"I think I remember some such story as you were telling," said Flask,
when at last the two boats were slowly advancing with their burden
towards the ship, "but I can't remember where."
"Three Spaniards? Adventures of those three bloody-minded soldadoes?
Did ye read it there, Flask? I guess ye did?"
"No: never saw such a book; heard of it, though. But now,
tell me, Stubb, do you suppose that that devil you was speaking
of just now, was the same you say is now on board the Pequod?"
"Am I the same man that helped kill this whale? Doesn't the devil
live for ever; who ever heard that the devil was dead?
Did you ever see any parson a wearing mourning for the devil?
And if the devil has a latch-key to get into the admiral's
cabin, don't you suppose he can crawl into a porthole?
Tell me that, Mr. Flask?"
"How old do you suppose Fedallah is, Stubb?"
"Do you see that mainmast there?" pointing to the ship; "well, that's
the figure one; now take all the hoops in the Pequod's hold,
and string 'em along in a row with that mast, for oughts,
do you see; well, that wouldn't begin to be Fedallah's age.
Nor all the coopers in creation couldn't show hoops enough
to make oughts enough."
"But see here, Stubb, I thought you a little boasted just now,
that you meant to give Fedallah a sea-toss, if you got a good chance.
Now, if he's so old as all those hoops of yours come to, and if he is
going to live for ever, what good will it do to pitch him overboard--
tell me that?
"Give him a good ducking, anyhow."
"But he'd crawl back."
"Duck him again; and keep ducking him."
"Suppose he should take it into his head to duck you, though--
yes, and drown you--what then?"
"I should like to see him try it; I'd give him such a pair of black eyes
that he wouldn't dare to show his face in the admiral's cabin again
for a long while, let alone down in the orlop there, where he lives,
and hereabouts on the upper decks where he sneaks so much.
Damn the devil, Flask; do you suppose I'm afraid of the devil?
Who's afraid of him, except the old governor who daresn't catch
him and put him in double-darbies, as he deserves, but lets him
go about kidnapping people; aye, and signed a bond with him,
that all the people the devil kidnapped, he'd roast for him?
There's a governor!"
"Do you suppose Fedallah wants to kidnap Captain Ahab?"
"Do I suppose it? You'll know it before long, Flask. But I am
going now to keep a sharp look-out on him; and if I see anything
very suspicious going on, I'll just take him by the nape of his neck,
and say--Look here, Beelzebub, you don't do it; and if he makes
any fuss, by the Lord I'll make a grab into his pocket for his tail,
take it to the capstan, and give him such a wrenching and heaving,
that his tail will come short off at the stump--do you see; and then,
I rather guess when he finds himself docked in that queer fashion,
he'll sneak off without the poor satisfaction of feeling his tail
between his legs."
"And what will you do with the tail, Stubb?"
"Do with it? Sell it for an ox whip when we get home;--what else?"
"Now, do you mean what you say, and have been saying all along, Stubb?"
"Mean or not mean, here we are at the ship."
The boats were here hailed, to tow the whale on the larboard side,
where fluke chains and other necessaries were already prepared
for securing him.
"Didn't I tell you so?" said Flask; "yes, you'll soon see this
right whale's head hoisted up opposite that parmacety's."
In good time, Flask's saying proved true. As before, the Pequod steeply
leaned over towards the sperm whale's head, now, by the counterpoise
of both heads, she regained her even keel; though sorely strained,
you may well believe. So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head,
you go over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's and you
come back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep
trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard,
and then you will float light and right.
In disposing of the body of a right whale, when brought alongside
the ship, the same preliminary proceedings commonly take place
as in the case of a sperm whale; only, in the latter instance,
the head is cut off whole, but in the former the lips
and tongue are separately removed and hoisted on deck,
with all the well known black bone attached to what is called
the crown-piece. But nothing like this, in the present case,
had been done. The carcases of both whales had dropped astern;
and the head-laden ship not a little resembled a mule carrying
a pair of overburdening panniers.
Meantime, Fedallah was calmly eyeing the right whale's head,
and ever and anon glancing from the deep wrinkles there to the lines
in his own hand. And Ahab chanced so to stand, that the Parsee
occupied his shadow; while, if the Parsee's shadow was there at
all it seemed only to blend with, and lengthen Ahab's. As the crew
toiled on, Laplandish speculations were bandied among them,
concerning all these passing things.
The Sperm Whale's Head - Contrasted View
Here, now, are two great whales, laying their heads together;
let us join them, and lay together our own.
Of the grand order of folio leviathans, the Sperm Whale and
the Right Whale are by far the most noteworthy. They are the only
whales regularly hunted by man. To the Nantucketer, they present
the two extremes of all the known varieties of the whale.
As the external difference between them is mainly observable
in their heads; and as a head of each is this moment hanging from
the Pequod's side; and as we may freely go from one to the other,
by merely stepping across the deck:--where, I should like to know,
will you obtain a better chance to study practical cetology than here?
In the first place, you are struck by the general contrast between
these heads. Both are massive enough in all conscience; but, there is a
certain mathematical symmetry in the Sperm Whale's which the Right Whale's
sadly lacks. There is more character in the Sperm Whale's head.
As you behold it, you involuntarily yield the immense superiority
to him, in point of pervading dignity. In the present instance, too,
this dignity is heightened by the pepper and salt color of his head
at the summit, giving token of advanced age and large experience.
In short, he is what the fishermen technically call a "grey-headed whale."
Let us now note what is least dissimilar in these heads--
namely, the two most important organs, the eye and the ear.
Far back on the side of the head, and low down, near the angle
of either whale's jaw, if you narrowly search, you will at last see
a lashless eye, which you would fancy to be a young colt's eye;
so out of all proportion is it to the magnitude of the head.
Now, from this peculiar sideway position of the whale's eyes,
it is plain that he can never see an object which is exactly ahead,
no more than he can one exactly astern. In a word, the position
of the whale's eyes corresponds to that of a man's ears;
and you may fancy, for yourself, how it would fare with you,
did you sideways survey objects through your ears.
You would find that you could only command some thirty degrees
of vision in advance of the straight side-line of sight;
and about thirty more behind it. If your bitterest foe were
walking straight towards you, with dagger uplifted in broad day,
you would not be able to see him, any more than if he were
stealing upon you from behind. In a word, you would have
two backs, so to speak; but, at the same time, also, two fronts
(side fronts): for what is it that makes the front of a man--
what, indeed, but his eyes?
Moreover, while in most other animals that I can now think of,
the eyes are so planted as imperceptibly to blend their
visual power, so as to produce one picture and not two
to the brain; the peculiar position of the whale's eyes,
effectually divided as they are by many cubic feet of solid head,
which towers between them like a great mountain separating
two lakes in valleys; this, of course, must wholly separate
the impressions which each independent organ imparts.
The whale, therefore, must see one distinct picture on this side,
and another distinct picture on that side; while all
between must be profound darkness and nothingness to him.
Man may, in effect, be said to look out on the world
from a sentry-box with two joined sashes for his window.
But with the whale, these two sashes are separately inserted,
making two distinct windows, but sadly impairing the view.
This peculiarity of the whale's eyes is a thing always to be
borne in mind in the fishery; and to be remembered by the reader
in some subsequent scenes.
A curious and most puzzling question might be started concerning
this visual matter as touching the Leviathan. But I must be content
with a hint. So long as a man's eyes are open in the light,
the act of seeing is involuntary; that is, he cannot then
help mechanically seeing whatever objects are before him.
Nevertheless, any one's experience will teach him, that though
he can take in an undiscriminating sweep of things at one glance,
it is quite impossible for him, attentively, and completely,
to examine any two things--however large or however small--
at one and the same instant of time; never mind if they lie
side by side and touch each other. But if you now come
to separate these two objects, and surround each by a circle
of profound darkness; then, in order to see one of them,
in such a manner as to bring your mind to bear on it, the other
will be utterly excluded from your contemporary consciousness.
How is it, then, with the whale? True, both his eyes, in themselves,
must simultaneously act; but is his brain so much more comprehensive,
combining, and subtle than man's, that he can at the same moment
of time attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one
side of him, and the other in an exactly opposite direction?
If he can, then is it as marvellous a thing in him, as if a man
were able simultaneously to go through the demonstrations
of two distinct problems in Euclid. Nor, strictly investigated,
is there any incongruity in this comparison.
It may be but an idle whim, but it has always seemed to me,
that the extraordinary vacillations of movement displayed
by some whales when beset by three or four boats; the timidity
and liability to queer frights, so common to such whales;
I think that all this indirectly proceeds from the helpless
perplexity of volition, in which their divided and diametrically
opposite powers of vision must involve them.
But the ear of the whale is full as curious as the eye.
If you are an entire stranger to their race, you might hunt
over these two heads for hours, and never discover that organ.
The ear has no external leaf whatever; and into the hole itself
you can hardly insert a quill, so wondrously minute is it.
It is lodged a little behind the eye. With respect to their ears,
this important difference is to be observed between the sperm whale
and the right. While the ears of the former has an external opening,
that of the latter is entirely and evenly covered over with a membrane,
so as to be quite imperceptible from without.
Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should
see the world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder
through an ear which is smaller than a hare's? But if his
eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel's great telescope;
and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals;
would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of hearing?
Not at all.--Why then do you try to "enlarge" your mind?
Let us now with whatever levers and steam-engines we have at hand,
cant over the sperm whale's head, so, that it may lie bottom up; then,
ascending by a ladder to the summit, have a peep down the mouth; and were
it not that the body is now completely separated from it, with a lantern
we might descend into the great Kentucky Mammoth Cave of his stomach.
But let us hold on here by this tooth, and look about us where we are.
What a really beautiful and chaste-looking mouth! from floor
to ceiling, lined, or rather papered with a glistening white membrane,
glossy as bridal satins.
But come out now, and look at this portentous lower jaw,
which seems like the long narrow lid of an immense snuff-box,
with the hinge at one end, instead of one side. If you pry it up,
so as to get it overhead, and expose its rows of teeth, it seems
a terrific portcullis; and such, alas! it proves to many a poor wight
in the fishery, upon whom these spikes fall with impaling force.
But far more terrible is it to behold, when fathoms down in
the sea, you see some sulky whale, floating there suspended,
with his prodigious jaw, some fifteen feet long, hanging straight
down at right-angles with his body; for all the world like a
ship's jibboom. This whale is not dead; he is only dispirited;
out of sorts, perhaps; hypochondriac; and so supine, that the hinges
of his jaw have relaxed, leaving him there in that ungainly sort
of plight, a reproach to all his tribe, who must, no doubt,
imprecate lock-jaws upon him.
In most cases this lower jaw--being easily unhinged by a practised artist--
is disengaged and hoisted on deck for the purpose of extracting
the ivory teeth, and furnishing a supply of that hard white whalebone
with which the fishermen fashion all sorts of curious articles
including canes, umbrella-stocks, and handles to riding-whips.
With a long, weary hoist the jaw is dragged on board,
as if it were an anchor; and when the proper time comes--
some few days after the other work--Queequeg, Daggoo, and Tashtego,
being all accomplished dentists, are set to drawing teeth.
With a keen cutting-spade, Queequeg lances the gums;
then the jaw is lashed down to ringbolts, and a tackle being
rigged from aloft, they drag out these teeth, as Michigan oxen
drag stumps of old oaks out of wild woodlands. There are
generally forty-two teeth in all; in old whales, much worn down,
but undecayed; nor filled after our artificial fashion.
The jaw is afterwards sawn into slabs, and piled away like joists
for building houses.
The Right Whale's Head - Contrasted View
Crossing the deck, let us now have a good long look at the the
Right Whale's head.
As in general shape the noble Sperm Whale's head may be compared
to a Roman war-chariot (especially in front, where it is so
broadly rounded); so, at a broad view, the Right Whale's head bears
a rather inelegant resemblance to a gigantic galliot-toed shoe.
Two hundred years ago an old Dutch voyager likened its shape
to that of a shoemaker's last. And in this same last or shoe,
that old woman of the nursery tale with the swarming brood,
might very comfortably be lodged, she and all her progeny.
But as you come nearer to this great head it begins to assume
different aspects, according to your point of view.
If you stand on its summit and look at these two f-shaped
spout-holes, you would take the whole head for an enormous bass viol,
and these spiracles, the apertures in its soundingboard.
Then, again, if you fix your eye upon this strange, crested,
comblike incrustation on the top of the mass--this green,
barnacled thing, which the Greenlanders call the "crown,"
and the Southern fishers the "bonnet" of the Right Whale;
fixing your eyes solely on this, you would take the head for
the trunk of some huge oak, with a bird's nest in its crotch.
At any rate, when you watch those live crabs that nestle here on
this bonnet, such an idea will be almost sure to occur to you;
unless, indeed, your fancy has been fixed by the technical term
"crown" also bestowed upon it; in which case you will take
great interest in thinking how this mighty monster is actually
a diademed king of the sea, whose green crown has been put
together for him in this marvellous manner. But if this whale
be a king, he is a very sulky looking fellow to grace a diadem.
Look at that hanging lower lip! what a huge sulk and pout is
there! a sulk and pout, by carpenter's measurement, about twenty
feet long and five feet deep; a sulk and pout that will yield
you some 500 gallons of oil and more.
A great pity, now, that this unfortunate whale should be hare-lipped.
The fissure is about a foot across. Probably the mother during
an important interval was sailing down the Peruvian coast,
when earthquakes caused the beach to gape. Over this lip,
as over a slippery threshold, we now slide into the mouth.
Upon my word were I at Mackinaw, I should take this to be the inside
of an Indian wigwam. Good Lord! is this the road that Jonah went?
The roof is about twelve feet high, and runs to a pretty sharp angle,
as if there were a regular ridge-pole there; while these ribbed,
arched, hairy sides, present us with those wondrous, half vertical,
scimitar-shaped slats of whalebone, say three hundred on a side,
which depending from the upper part of the head or crown bone,
form those Venetian blinds which have elsewhere been cursorily mentioned.
The edges of these bones are fringed with hairy fibres,
through which the Right Whale strains the water, and in whose
intricacies he retains the small fish, when openmouthed he goes
through the seas of brit in feeding time. In the central blinds
of bone, as they stand in their natural order, there are certain
curious marks, curves, hollows, and ridges, whereby some whalemen
calculate the creature's age, as the age of an oak by its circular rings.
Though the certainty of this criterion is far from demonstrable,
yet it has the savor of analogical probability. At any rate,
if we yield to it, we must grant a far greater age to the Right Whale
than at first glance will seem reasonable.
In old times, there seem to have prevailed the most curious fancies
concerning these blinds. One voyager in Purchas calls them the wondrous
"whiskers" inside of the whale's mouth;* another, "hogs' bristles";
a third old gentleman in Hackluyt uses the following elegant language:
"There are about two hundred and fifty fins growing on each side of his
upper chop, which arch over his tongue on each side of his mouth."
*This reminds us that the Right Whale really has a sort of whisker,
or rather a moustache, consisting of a few scattered white
hairs on the upper part of the outer end of the lower jaw.
Sometimes these tufts impart a rather brigandish expression
to his otherwise solemn countenance.
As every one knows, these same "hogs' bristles,"
"fins," "whiskers," "blinds," or whatever you please, furnish to
the ladies their busks and other stiffening contrivances.
But in this particular, the demand has long been on the decline.
It was in Queen Anne's time that the bone was in its glory,
the farthingale being then all the fashion. And as those ancient
dames moved about gaily, though in the jaws of the whale, as you
may say; even so, in a shower, with the like thoughtlessness,
do we nowadays fly under the same jaws for protection;
the umbrella being a tent spread over the same bone.
But now forget all about blinds and whiskers for a moment, and,
standing in the Right Whale's mouth, look around you afresh.
Seeing all these colonnades of bone so methodically ranged about,
would you not think you were inside of the great Haarlem organ,
and gazing upon its thousand pipes? For a carpet to the organ
we have a rug of the softest Turkey--the tongue, which is glued,
as it were, to the floor of the mouth. It is very fat
and tender, and apt to tear in pieces in hoisting it on deck.
This particular tongue now before us; at a passing glance I
should say it was a six-barreler; that is, it will yield you
about that amount of oil.
Ere this, you must have plainly seen the truth of what I started with--
that the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale have almost entirely
different heads. To sum up, then: in the Right Whale's there
is no great well of sperm; no ivory teeth at all; no long,
slender mandible of a lower jaw, like the Sperm Whale's. Nor
in the Sperm Whale are there any of those blinds of bone;
no huge lower lip; and scarcely anything of a tongue.
Again, the Right Whale has two external spout-holes,
the Sperm Whale only one.
Look your last now, on these venerable hooded heads, while they
yet lie together; for one will soon sink, unrecorded, in the sea;
the other will not be very long in following.
Can you catch the expression of the Sperm Whale's there?
It is the same he died with, only some of the longer wrinkles
in the forehead seem now faded away. I think his broad brow
to be full of a prairie-like placidity, born of a speculative
indifference as to death. But mark the other head's expression.
See that amazing lower lip, pressed by accident against the vessel's side,
so as firmly to embrace the jaw. Does not this whole head seem
to speak of an enormous practical resolution in facing death?
This Right Whale I take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm Whale,
a Platonian, who might have taken up Spinoza in his latter years.
Ere quitting, for the nonce, the Sperm Whale's head, I would have you,
as a sensible physiologist, simply--particularly remark its front aspect,
in all its compacted collectedness. I would have you investigate it
now with the sole view of forming to yourself some unexaggerated,
intelligent estimate of whatever battering-ram power may be lodged there.
Here is a vital point; for you must either satisfactorily settle
this matter with yourself, or for ever remain an infidel as to one
of the most appalling, but not the less true events, perhaps anywhere
to be found in all recorded history.
You observe that in the ordinary swimming position of the Sperm Whale,
the front of his head presents an almost wholly vertical plane
to the water; you observe that the lower part of that front
slopes considerably backwards, so as to furnish more of a retreat
for the long socket which receives the boom-like lower jaw;
you observe that the mouth is entirely under the head,
much in the same way, indeed, as though your own mouth were
entirely under your chin. Moreover you observe that the whale
has no external nose; and that what nose he has--his spout hole--
is on the top of his head; you observe that his eyes and ears
are at the sides of his head; nearly one third of his entire
length from the front. Wherefore, you must now have perceived
that the front of the Sperm Whale's head is a dead, blind wall,
without a single organ or tender prominence of any sort whatsoever.
Furthermore, you are now to consider that only in the extreme,
lower, backward sloping part of the front of the head, is there
the slightest vestige of bone; and not till you get near twenty feet
from the forehead do you come to the full cranial development.
So that this whole enormous boneless mass is as one wad.
Finally, though, as will soon be revealed, its contents partly
comprise the most delicate oil; yet, you are now to be apprised
of the nature of the substance which so impregnably invests all
that apparent effeminacy. In some previous place I have described
to you how the blubber wraps the body of the whale, as the rind
wraps an orange. Just so with the head; but with this difference:
about the head this envelope, though not so thick is of a
boneless toughness, inestimable by any man who has not handled it.
The severest pointed harpoon, the sharpest lance darted
by the strongest human arm, impotently rebounds from it.
It is as though the forehead of the Sperm Whale were paved
with horses' hoofs. I do not think that any sensation lurks in it.
Bethink yourself also of another thing. When two large,
loaded Indian-men chance to crowd and crush towards each other
in the docks, what do the sailors do? They do not suspend
between them, at the point of coming contact, any merely
hard substance, like iron or wood. No, they hold there a large,
round wad of tow and cork, enveloped in the thickest and toughest
of ox-hide. That bravely and uninjured takes the jam which would
have snapped all their oaken handspikes and iron crow-bars. By
itself this sufficiently illustrates the obvious fact I drive at.
But supplementary to this, it has hypothetically occurred to me,
that as ordinary fish possess what is called a swimming bladder
in them, capable, at will, of distension or contraction;
and as the Sperm Whale, as far as I know, has no such provision
in him; considering, too, the otherwise inexplicable manner
in which he now depresses his head altogether beneath the surface,
and anon swims with it high elevated out of the water;
considering the unobstructed elasticity of its envelope;
considering the unique interior of his head; it has
hypothetically occurred to me, I say, that those mystical
lung-celled honeycombs there may possibly have some hitherto
unknown and unsuspected connexion with the outer air, so as
to be susceptible to atmospheric distension and contraction.
If this be so, fancy the irresistibleness of that might, to which
the most impalpable and destructive of all elements contributes.
Now, mark. Unerringly impelling this dead, impregnable, uninjurable wall,
and this most buoyant thing within; there swims behind it all a mass
of tremendous life, only to be adequately estimated as piled wood is--
by the cord; and all obedient to one volition, as the smallest insect.
So that when I shall hereafter detail to you all the specialities and
concentrations of potency everywhere lurking in this expansive monster;
when I shall show you some of his more inconsiderable braining feats;
I trust you will have renounced all ignorant incredulity, and be ready
to abide by this; that though the Sperm Whale stove a passage through
the Isthmus of Darien, and mixed the Atlantic with the Pacific, you would
not elevate one hair of your eye-brow. For unless you own the whale,
you are but a provincial and sentimentalist in Truth. But clear
Truth is a thing for salamander giants only to encounter; how small
the chances for the provincials then? What befell the weakling youth
lifting the dread goddess's veil at Lais?
The Great Heidelburgh Tun
Now comes the Baling of the Case. But to comprehend it aright,
you must know something of the curious internal structure
of the thing operated upon.
Regarding the Sperm Whale's head as a solid oblong, you may,
on an inclined plane, sideways divide it into two quoins,* whereof
the lower is the bony structure, forming the cranium and jaws,
and the upper an unctuous mass wholly free from bones; its broad forward
end forming the expanded vertical apparent forehead of the whale.
At the middle of the forehead horizontally subdivide this upper quoin,
and then you have two almost equal parts, which before were naturally
divided by an internal wall of a thick tendinous substance.
*Quoin is not a Euclidean term. It belongs to the pure
nautical mathematics. I know not that it has been defined before.
A quoin is a solid which differs from a wedge in having
its sharp end formed by the steep inclination of one side,
instead of the mutual tapering of both sides.
The lower subdivided part, called the junk, is one immense
honeycomb of oil, formed by the crossing and recrossing,
into ten thousand infiltrated cells, of tough elastic white fibres
throughout its whole extent. The upper part, known as the Case,
may be regarded as the great Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale.
And as that famous great tierce is mystically carved in front,
so the whale's vast plaited forehead forms innumerable strange
devices for the emblematical adornment of his wondrous tun.
Moreover, as that of Heidelburgh was always replenished
with the most excellent of the wines of the Rhenish valleys,
so the tun of the whale contains by far the most precious
of all his oily vintages; namely, the highly-prized spermaceti,
in its absolutely pure, limpid, and odoriferous state.
Nor is this precious substance found unalloyed in any other part
of the creature. Though in life it remains perfectly fluid,
yet, upon exposure to the air, after death, it soon begins
to concrete; sending forth beautiful crystalline shoots,
as when the first thin delicate ice is just forming in water.
A large whale's case generally yields about five hundred
gallons of sperm, though from unavoidable circumstances,
considerable of it is spilled, leaks, and dribbles away,
or is otherwise irrevocably lost in the ticklish business
of securing what you can.
I know not with what fine and costly material the Heidelburgh Tun
was coated within, but in superlative richness that coating could
not possibly have compared with the silken pearl-colored membrane,
like the lining of a fine pelisse, forming the inner surface
of the Sperm Whale's case.
It will have been seen that the Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale
embraces the entire length of the entire top of the head;
and since--as has been elsewhere set forth--the head embraces
one third of the whole length of the creature, then setting
that length down at eighty feet for a good sized whale,
you have more than twenty-six feet for the depth of the tun,
when it is lengthwise hoisted up and down against a ship's side.
As in decapitating the whale, the operator's instrument is
brought close to the spot where an entrance is subsequently
forced into the spermaceti magazine; he has, therefore, to be
uncommonly heedful, lest a careless, untimely stroke should invade
the sanctuary and wastingly let out its invaluable contents.
It is this decapitated end of the head, also, which is at
last elevated out of the water, and retained in that position
by the enormous cutting tackles, whose hempen combinations,
on one side, make quite a wilderness of ropes in that quarter.
Thus much being said, attend now, I pray you, to that marvellous and--
in this particular instance--almost fatal operation whereby
the Sperm Whale's great Heidelburgh Tun is tapped.
Cistern and Buckets
Nimble as a cat, Tashtego mounts aloft; and without altering his
erect posture, runs straight out upon the overhanging mainyard-arm,
to the part where it exactly projects over the hoisted Tun. He has
carried with him a light tackle called a whip, consisting of
only two parts, travelling through a single-sheaved block.
Securing this block, so that it hangs down from the yard-arm,
he swings one end of the rope, till it is caught and firmly held
by a hand on the deck. Then, hand-over-hand, down the other part,
the Indian drops through the air, till dexterously he lands
on the summit of the head. There--still high elevated above
the rest of the company, to whom he vivaciously cries--
he seems some Turkish Muezzin calling the good people to prayers
from the top of a tower. A short-handled sharp spade being
sent up to him, he diligently searches for the proper place
to begin breaking into the Tun. In this business he proceeds
very heedfully, like a treasure-hunter in some old house,
sounding the walls to find where the gold is masoned in.
By the time this cautious search is over, a stout ironbound bucket,
precisely like a well-bucket, has been attached to one end
of the whip; while the other end, being stretched across
the deck, is there held by two or three alert hands.
These last now hoist the bucket within grasp of the Indian,
to whom another person has reached up a very long pole.
Inserting this pole into the bucket, Tashtego downward
guides the bucket into the Tun, till it entirely disappears;
then giving the word to the seamen at the whip, up comes the
bucket again, all bubbling like a dairy-maid's pail of new milk.
Carefully lowered from its height, the full-freighted vessel is
caught by an appointed hand, and quickly emptied into a large tub.
Then remounting aloft, it again goes through the same round
until the deep cistern will yield no more. Towards the end,
Tashtego has to ram his long pole harder and harder, and deeper
and deeper into the Tun, until some twenty feet of the pole
have gone down.
Now, the people of the Pequod had been baling some time in this way;
several tubs had been filled with the fragrant sperm; when all at
once a queer accident happened. Whether it was that Tashtego,
that wild Indian, was so heedless and reckless as to let go for a moment
his one-handed hold on the great cabled tackles suspending the head;
or whether the place where he stood was so treacherous and oozy;
or whether the Evil One himself would have it to fall out so,
without stating his particular reasons; how it was exactly,
there is no telling now; but, on a sudden, as the eightieth
or ninetieth bucket came suckingly up--my God! poor Tashtego--
like the twin reciprocating bucket in a veritable well,
dropped head-foremost down into this great Tun of Heidelburgh,
and with a horrible oily gurgling, went clean out of sight!
"Man overboard!" cried Daggoo, who amid the general consternation
first came to his senses. "Swing the bucket this way!"
and putting one foot into it, so as the better to secure his
slippery hand-hold on the whip itself the hoisters ran him high up
to the top of the head, almost before Tashtego could have reached
its interior bottom. Meantime, there was a terrible tumult.
Looking over the side, they saw the before lifeless head throbbing
and heaving just below the surface of the sea, as if that moment
seized with some momentous idea; whereas it was only the poor
Indian unconsciously revealing by those struggles the perilous
depth to which he had sunk.
At this instant, while Daggoo, on the summit of the head, was clearing
the whip--which had somehow got foul of the great cutting tackles--
a sharp cracking noise was heard; and to the unspeakable horror
of all, one of the two enormous hooks suspending the head tore out,
and with a vast vibration the enormous mass sideways swung,
till the drunk ship reeled and shook as if smitten by an iceberg.
The one remaining hook, upon which the entire strain now depended,
seemed every instant to be on the point of giving way; an event
still more likely from the violent motions of the head.
"Come down, come down!" yelled the seamen to Daggoo, but with one hand
holding on to the heavy tackles, so that if the head should drop,
he would still remain suspended; the negro having cleared the foul line,
rammed down the bucket into the now collapsed well, meaning that
the buried harpooneer should grasp it, and so be hoisted out.
"In heaven's name, man," cried Stubb, "are you ramming
home a cartridge there?--Avast! How will that help him;
jamming that iron-bound bucket on top of his head?
Avast, will ye!"
"Stand clear of the tackle!" cried a voice like the bursting
of a rocket.
Almost in the same instant, with a thunder-boom, the enormous
mass dropped into the sea, like Niagara's Table-Rock into
the whirlpool; the suddenly relieved hull rolled away from it,
to far down her glittering copper; and all caught their breath,
as half swinging--now over the sailors' heads, and now
over the water--Daggoo, through a thick mist of spray,
was dimly beheld clinging to the pendulous tackles, while poor,
buried-alive Tashtego was sinking utterly down to the bottom
of the sea! But hardly had the blinding vapor cleared away,
when a naked figure with a boardingsword in his hand,
was for one swift moment seen hovering over the bulwarks.
The next, a loud splash announced that my brave Queequeg had
dived to the rescue. One packed rush was made to the side,
and every eye counted every ripple, as moment followed moment,
and no sign of either the sinker or the diver could be seen.
Some hands now jumped into a boat alongside, and pushed a little
off from the ship.
"Ha! ha!" cried Daggoo, all at once, from his now quiet,
swinging perch overhead; and looking further off from the side,
we saw an arm thrust upright from the blue waves; a sight strange
to see, as an arm thrust forth from the grass over a grave.
"Both! both!--it is both!"-cried Daggoo again with a joyful shout;
and soon after, Queequeg was seen boldly striking out with one hand,
and with the other clutching the long hair of the Indian. Drawn into
the waiting boat, they were quickly brought to the deck; but Tashtego
was long in coming to, and Queequeg did not look very brisk.
Now, how had this noble rescue been accomplished? Why, diving after
the slowly descending head, Queequeg with his keen sword had made
side lunges near its bottom, so as to scuttle a large hole there;
then dropping his sword, had thrust his long arm far inwards
and upwards, and so hauled out our poor Tash by the head.
He averred, that upon first thrusting in for him, a leg was presented;
but well knowing that that was not as it ought to be, and might
occasion great trouble;--he had thrust back the leg, and by a
dexterous heave and toss, had wrought a somerset upon the Indian;
so that with the next trial, he came forth in the good old way--
head foremost. As for the great head itself, that was doing
as well as could be expected.
And thus, through the courage and great skill in obstetrics of Queequeg,
the deliverance, or rather, delivery of Tashtego, was successfully
accomplished, in the teeth, too, of the most untoward and apparently
hopeless impediments; which is a lesson by no means to be forgotten.
Midwifery should be taught in the same course with fencing and boxing,
riding and rowing.
I know that this queer adventure of the Gay-Header's will be sure
to seem incredible to some landsmen, though they themselves may have
either seen or heard of some one's falling into a cistern ashore;
an accident which not seldom happens, and with much less reason too
than the Indian's, considering the exceeding slipperiness of the curb
of the Sperm Whale's well.
But, peradventure, it may be sagaciously urged, how is this?
We thought the tissued, infiltrated head of the Sperm Whale,
was the lightest and most corky part about him; and yet thou makest
it sink in an element of a far greater specific gravity than itself.
We have thee there. Not at all, but I have ye; for at the time poor
Tash fell in, the case had been nearly emptied of its lighter contents,
leaving little but the dense tendinous wall of the well--a double welded,
hammered substance, as I have before said, much heavier than
the sea water, and a lump of which sinks in it like lead almost.
But the tendency to rapid sinking in this substance was in the present
instance materially counteracted by the other parts of the head remaining
undetached from it, so that it sank very slowly and deliberately indeed,
affording Queequeg a fair chance for performing his agile obstetrics
on the run, as you may say. Yes, it was a running delivery,
so it was.
Now, had Tashtego perished in that head, it had been a very
precious perishing; smothered in the very whitest and daintiest
of fragrant spermaceti; coffined, hearsed, and tombed in
the secret inner chamber and sanctum sanctorum of the whale.
Only one sweeter end can readily be recalled--the delicious
death of an Ohio honey-hunter, who seeking honey in the crotch
of a hollow tree, found such exceeding store of it, that leaning
too far over, it sucked him in, so that he died embalmed.
How many, think ye, have likewise fallen into Plato's honey head,
and sweetly perished there?
To scan the lines of his face, or feel the bumps on the head of
this Leviathan; this is a thing which no Physiognomist or Phrenologist
has as yet undertaken. Such an enterprise would seem almost as
hopeful as for Lavater to have scrutinized the wrinkles on the Rock
of Gibraltar, or for Gall to have mounted a ladder and manipulated
the Dome of the Pantheon. Still, in that famous work of his,
Lavater not only treats of the various faces of men, but also attentively
studies the faces of horses, birds, serpents, and fish; and dwells
in detail upon the modifications of expression discernible therein.
Nor have Gall and his disciple Spurzheim failed to throw out some hints
touching the phrenological characteristics of other beings than man.
Therefore, though I am but ill qualified for a pioneer, in the application
of these two semi-sciences to the whale, I will do my endeavor.
I try all things; I achieve what I can.
Physiognomically regarded, the Sperm Whale is an anomalous creature.
He has no proper nose. And since the nose is the central
and most conspicuous of the features; and since it perhaps
most modifies and finally controls their combined expression;
hence it would seem that its entire absence, as an external appendage,
must very largely affect the countenance of the whale.
For as in landscape gardening, a spire, cupola, monument,
or tower of some sort, is deemed almost indispensable to
the completion of the scene; so no face can be physiognomically
in keeping without the elevated open-work belfry of the nose.
Dash the nose from Phidias's marble Jove, and what a
sorry remainder! Nevertheless, Leviathan is of so mighty
a magnitude, all his proportions are so stately, that the same
deficiency which in the sculptured Jove were hideous,
in him is no blemish at all. Nay, it is an added grandeur.
A nose to the whale would have been impertinent.
As on your physiognomical voyage you sail round his vast head
in your jollyboat, your noble conceptions of him are never
insulted by the reflection that he has a nose to be pulled.
A pestilent conceit, which so often will insist upon obtruding
even when beholding the mightiest royal beadle on his throne.
In some particulars, perhaps the most imposing physiognomical view
to be had of the Sperm Whale, is that of the full front of his head.
This aspect is sublime.
In thought, a fine human brow is like the East when troubled with
the morning. In the repose of the pasture, the curled brow of the bull
has a touch of the grand in it. Pushing heavy cannon up mountain defiles,
the elephant's brow is majestic. Human or animal, the mystical
brow is as that great golden seal affixed by the German Emperors
to their decrees. It signifies--"God: done this day by my hand."
But in most creatures, nay in man himself, very often the brow
is but a mere strip of alpine land lying along the snow line.
Few are the foreheads which like Shakespeare's or Melancthon's rise
so high, and descend so low, that the eyes themselves seem clear, eternal,
tideless mountain lakes; and all above them in the forehead's wrinkles,
you seem to track the antlered thoughts descending there to drink,
as the Highland hunters track the snow prints of the deer.
But in the great Sperm Whale, this high and mighty god-like dignity
inherent in the brow is so immensely amplified, that gazing on it,
in that full front view, you feel the Deity and the dread powers
more forcibly than in beholding any other object in living nature.
For you see no one point precisely; not one distinct feature is revealed;
no nose, eyes, ears, or mouth; no face; he has none, proper; nothing but
that one broad firmament of a forehead, pleated with riddles;
dumbly lowering with the doom of boats, and ships, and men.
Nor, in profile, does this wondrous brow diminish; though that way
viewed its grandeur does not domineer upon you so. In profile,
you plainly perceive that horizontal, semi-crescentic depression
in the forehead's middle, which, in a man, is Lavater's mark of genius.
But how? Genius in the Sperm Whale? Has the Sperm Whale
ever written a book, spoken a speech? No, his great genius
is declared in his doing nothing particular to prove it.
It is moreover declared in his pyramidical silence. And this reminds
me that had the great Sperm Whale been known to the young Orient World,
he would have been deified by their child-magian thoughts.
They deified the crocodile of the Nile, because the crocodile
is tongueless; and the Sperm Whale has no tongue, or at least
it is so exceedingly small, as to be incapable of protrusion.
If hereafter any highly cultured, poetical nation shall lure
back to their birth-right, the merry May-day gods of old;
and livingly enthrone them again in the now egotistical sky;
in the now unhaunted hill; then be sure, exalted to Jove's
high seat, the great Sperm Whale shall lord it.
Champollion deciphered the wrinkled granite hieroglyphics.
But there is no Champollion to decipher the Egypt of every
man's and every being's face. Physiognomy, like every other
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