|"He hain't been a sittin' so all day, has he?" said the landlady.
But all we said, not a word could we drag out of him; I almost felt
like pushing him over, so as to change his position, for it was almost
intolerable, it seemed so painfully and unnaturally constrained;
especially, as in all probability he had been sitting so for upwards of
eight or ten hours, going too without his regular meals.
"Mrs. Hussey," said I, "he's ALIVE at all events; so leave us, if you
please, and I will see to this strange affair myself."
Closing the door upon the landlady, I endeavored to prevail upon
Queequeg to take a chair; but in vain. There he sat; and all he could
do--for all my polite arts and blandishments--he would not move a peg,
nor say a single word, nor even look at me, nor notice my presence in
the slightest way.
I wonder, thought I, if this can possibly be a part of his Ramadan; do
they fast on their hams that way in his native island. It must be so;
yes, it's part of his creed, I suppose; well, then, let him rest; he'll
get up sooner or later, no doubt. It can't last for ever, thank God,
and his Ramadan only comes once a year; and I don't believe it's very
I went down to supper. After sitting a long time listening to the long
stories of some sailors who had just come from a plum-pudding voyage, as
they called it (that is, a short whaling-voyage in a schooner or brig,
confined to the north of the line, in the Atlantic Ocean only); after
listening to these plum-puddingers till nearly eleven o'clock, I went
up stairs to go to bed, feeling quite sure by this time Queequeg must
certainly have brought his Ramadan to a termination. But no; there he
was just where I had left him; he had not stirred an inch. I began to
grow vexed with him; it seemed so downright senseless and insane to be
sitting there all day and half the night on his hams in a cold room,
holding a piece of wood on his head.
"For heaven's sake, Queequeg, get up and shake yourself; get up and have
some supper. You'll starve; you'll kill yourself, Queequeg." But not a
word did he reply.
Despairing of him, therefore, I determined to go to bed and to sleep;
and no doubt, before a great while, he would follow me. But previous to
turning in, I took my heavy bearskin jacket, and threw it over him, as
it promised to be a very cold night; and he had nothing but his ordinary
round jacket on. For some time, do all I would, I could not get into
the faintest doze. I had blown out the candle; and the mere thought
of Queequeg--not four feet off--sitting there in that uneasy position,
stark alone in the cold and dark; this made me really wretched. Think of
it; sleeping all night in the same room with a wide awake pagan on his
hams in this dreary, unaccountable Ramadan!
But somehow I dropped off at last, and knew nothing more till break of
day; when, looking over the bedside, there squatted Queequeg, as if he
had been screwed down to the floor. But as soon as the first glimpse of
sun entered the window, up he got, with stiff and grating joints,
but with a cheerful look; limped towards me where I lay; pressed his
forehead again against mine; and said his Ramadan was over.
Now, as I before hinted, I have no objection to any person's religion,
be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any
other person, because that other person don't believe it also. But when
a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment
to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to
lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and
argue the point with him.
And just so I now did with Queequeg. "Queequeg," said I, "get into bed
now, and lie and listen to me." I then went on, beginning with the rise
and progress of the primitive religions, and coming down to the various
religions of the present time, during which time I labored to show
Queequeg that all these Lents, Ramadans, and prolonged ham-squattings in
cold, cheerless rooms were stark nonsense; bad for the health; useless
for the soul; opposed, in short, to the obvious laws of Hygiene and
common sense. I told him, too, that he being in other things such an
extremely sensible and sagacious savage, it pained me, very badly pained
me, to see him now so deplorably foolish about this ridiculous Ramadan
of his. Besides, argued I, fasting makes the body cave in; hence the
spirit caves in; and all thoughts born of a fast must necessarily be
half-starved. This is the reason why most dyspeptic religionists cherish
such melancholy notions about their hereafters. In one word, Queequeg,
said I, rather digressively; hell is an idea first born on an undigested
apple-dumpling; and since then perpetuated through the hereditary
dyspepsias nurtured by Ramadans.
I then asked Queequeg whether he himself was ever troubled with
dyspepsia; expressing the idea very plainly, so that he could take it
in. He said no; only upon one memorable occasion. It was after a great
feast given by his father the king, on the gaining of a great battle
wherein fifty of the enemy had been killed by about two o'clock in the
afternoon, and all cooked and eaten that very evening.
"No more, Queequeg," said I, shuddering; "that will do;" for I knew the
inferences without his further hinting them. I had seen a sailor who had
visited that very island, and he told me that it was the custom, when
a great battle had been gained there, to barbecue all the slain in the
yard or garden of the victor; and then, one by one, they were placed
in great wooden trenchers, and garnished round like a pilau, with
breadfruit and cocoanuts; and with some parsley in their mouths, were
sent round with the victor's compliments to all his friends, just as
though these presents were so many Christmas turkeys.
After all, I do not think that my remarks about religion made much
impression upon Queequeg. Because, in the first place, he somehow seemed
dull of hearing on that important subject, unless considered from his
own point of view; and, in the second place, he did not more than one
third understand me, couch my ideas simply as I would; and, finally, he
no doubt thought he knew a good deal more about the true religion than
I did. He looked at me with a sort of condescending concern and
compassion, as though he thought it a great pity that such a sensible
young man should be so hopelessly lost to evangelical pagan piety.
At last we rose and dressed; and Queequeg, taking a prodigiously hearty
breakfast of chowders of all sorts, so that the landlady should not
make much profit by reason of his Ramadan, we sallied out to board the
Pequod, sauntering along, and picking our teeth with halibut bones.
CHAPTER 18. His Mark.
As we were walking down the end of the wharf towards the ship, Queequeg
carrying his harpoon, Captain Peleg in his gruff voice loudly hailed us
from his wigwam, saying he had not suspected my friend was a cannibal,
and furthermore announcing that he let no cannibals on board that craft,
unless they previously produced their papers.
"What do you mean by that, Captain Peleg?" said I, now jumping on the
bulwarks, and leaving my comrade standing on the wharf.
"I mean," he replied, "he must show his papers."
"Yes," said Captain Bildad in his hollow voice, sticking his head from
behind Peleg's, out of the wigwam. "He must show that he's converted.
Son of darkness," he added, turning to Queequeg, "art thou at present in
communion with any Christian church?"
"Why," said I, "he's a member of the first Congregational Church." Here
be it said, that many tattooed savages sailing in Nantucket ships at
last come to be converted into the churches.
"First Congregational Church," cried Bildad, "what! that worships in
Deacon Deuteronomy Coleman's meeting-house?" and so saying, taking
out his spectacles, he rubbed them with his great yellow bandana
handkerchief, and putting them on very carefully, came out of the
wigwam, and leaning stiffly over the bulwarks, took a good long look at
"How long hath he been a member?" he then said, turning to me; "not very
long, I rather guess, young man."
"No," said Peleg, "and he hasn't been baptized right either, or it would
have washed some of that devil's blue off his face."
"Do tell, now," cried Bildad, "is this Philistine a regular member of
Deacon Deuteronomy's meeting? I never saw him going there, and I pass it
every Lord's day."
"I don't know anything about Deacon Deuteronomy or his meeting," said
I; "all I know is, that Queequeg here is a born member of the First
Congregational Church. He is a deacon himself, Queequeg is."
"Young man," said Bildad sternly, "thou art skylarking with me--explain
thyself, thou young Hittite. What church dost thee mean? answer me."
Finding myself thus hard pushed, I replied. "I mean, sir, the same
ancient Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain Peleg there,
and Queequeg here, and all of us, and every mother's son and soul of
us belong; the great and everlasting First Congregation of this whole
worshipping world; we all belong to that; only some of us cherish some
queer crotchets no ways touching the grand belief; in THAT we all join
"Splice, thou mean'st SPLICE hands," cried Peleg, drawing nearer. "Young
man, you'd better ship for a missionary, instead of a fore-mast hand;
I never heard a better sermon. Deacon Deuteronomy--why Father Mapple
himself couldn't beat it, and he's reckoned something. Come aboard, come
aboard; never mind about the papers. I say, tell Quohog there--what's
that you call him? tell Quohog to step along. By the great anchor, what
a harpoon he's got there! looks like good stuff that; and he handles it
about right. I say, Quohog, or whatever your name is, did you ever stand
in the head of a whale-boat? did you ever strike a fish?"
Without saying a word, Queequeg, in his wild sort of way, jumped upon
the bulwarks, from thence into the bows of one of the whale-boats
hanging to the side; and then bracing his left knee, and poising his
harpoon, cried out in some such way as this:--
"Cap'ain, you see him small drop tar on water dere? You see him? well,
spose him one whale eye, well, den!" and taking sharp aim at it, he
darted the iron right over old Bildad's broad brim, clean across the
ship's decks, and struck the glistening tar spot out of sight.
"Now," said Queequeg, quietly hauling in the line, "spos-ee him whale-e
eye; why, dad whale dead."
"Quick, Bildad," said Peleg, his partner, who, aghast at the close
vicinity of the flying harpoon, had retreated towards the cabin gangway.
"Quick, I say, you Bildad, and get the ship's papers. We must have
Hedgehog there, I mean Quohog, in one of our boats. Look ye, Quohog,
we'll give ye the ninetieth lay, and that's more than ever was given a
harpooneer yet out of Nantucket."
So down we went into the cabin, and to my great joy Queequeg was soon
enrolled among the same ship's company to which I myself belonged.
When all preliminaries were over and Peleg had got everything ready for
signing, he turned to me and said, "I guess, Quohog there don't know how
to write, does he? I say, Quohog, blast ye! dost thou sign thy name or
make thy mark?"
But at this question, Queequeg, who had twice or thrice before taken
part in similar ceremonies, looked no ways abashed; but taking the
offered pen, copied upon the paper, in the proper place, an exact
counterpart of a queer round figure which was tattooed upon his arm; so
that through Captain Peleg's obstinate mistake touching his appellative,
it stood something like this:--
Quohog. his X mark.
Meanwhile Captain Bildad sat earnestly and steadfastly eyeing Queequeg,
and at last rising solemnly and fumbling in the huge pockets of his
broad-skirted drab coat, took out a bundle of tracts, and selecting
one entitled "The Latter Day Coming; or No Time to Lose," placed it in
Queequeg's hands, and then grasping them and the book with both his,
looked earnestly into his eyes, and said, "Son of darkness, I must do my
duty by thee; I am part owner of this ship, and feel concerned for the
souls of all its crew; if thou still clingest to thy Pagan ways, which I
sadly fear, I beseech thee, remain not for aye a Belial bondsman. Spurn
the idol Bell, and the hideous dragon; turn from the wrath to come; mind
thine eye, I say; oh! goodness gracious! steer clear of the fiery pit!"
Something of the salt sea yet lingered in old Bildad's language,
heterogeneously mixed with Scriptural and domestic phrases.
"Avast there, avast there, Bildad, avast now spoiling our harpooneer,"
Peleg. "Pious harpooneers never make good voyagers--it takes the shark
out of 'em; no harpooneer is worth a straw who aint pretty sharkish.
There was young Nat Swaine, once the bravest boat-header out of all
Nantucket and the Vineyard; he joined the meeting, and never came to
good. He got so frightened about his plaguy soul, that he shrinked and
sheered away from whales, for fear of after-claps, in case he got stove
and went to Davy Jones."
"Peleg! Peleg!" said Bildad, lifting his eyes and hands, "thou thyself,
as I myself, hast seen many a perilous time; thou knowest, Peleg, what
it is to have the fear of death; how, then, can'st thou prate in this
ungodly guise. Thou beliest thine own heart, Peleg. Tell me, when this
same Pequod here had her three masts overboard in that typhoon on Japan,
that same voyage when thou went mate with Captain Ahab, did'st thou not
think of Death and the Judgment then?"
"Hear him, hear him now," cried Peleg, marching across the cabin, and
thrusting his hands far down into his pockets,--"hear him, all of ye.
Think of that! When every moment we thought the ship would sink!
Death and the Judgment then? What? With all three masts making such an
everlasting thundering against the side; and every sea breaking over us,
fore and aft. Think of Death and the Judgment then? No! no time to think
about Death then. Life was what Captain Ahab and I was thinking of;
and how to save all hands--how to rig jury-masts--how to get into the
nearest port; that was what I was thinking of."
Bildad said no more, but buttoning up his coat, stalked on deck,
where we followed him. There he stood, very quietly overlooking some
sailmakers who were mending a top-sail in the waist. Now and then
he stooped to pick up a patch, or save an end of tarred twine, which
otherwise might have been wasted.
CHAPTER 19. The Prophet.
"Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship?"
Queequeg and I had just left the Pequod, and were sauntering away from
the water, for the moment each occupied with his own thoughts, when
the above words were put to us by a stranger, who, pausing before us,
levelled his massive forefinger at the vessel in question. He was but
shabbily apparelled in faded jacket and patched trowsers; a rag of a
black handkerchief investing his neck. A confluent small-pox had in all
directions flowed over his face, and left it like the complicated ribbed
bed of a torrent, when the rushing waters have been dried up.
"Have ye shipped in her?" he repeated.
"You mean the ship Pequod, I suppose," said I, trying to gain a little
more time for an uninterrupted look at him.
"Aye, the Pequod--that ship there," he said, drawing back his whole
arm, and then rapidly shoving it straight out from him, with the fixed
bayonet of his pointed finger darted full at the object.
"Yes," said I, "we have just signed the articles."
"Anything down there about your souls?"
"Oh, perhaps you hav'n't got any," he said quickly. "No matter though,
I know many chaps that hav'n't got any,--good luck to 'em; and they are
all the better off for it. A soul's a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon."
"What are you jabbering about, shipmate?" said I.
"HE'S got enough, though, to make up for all deficiencies of that sort
in other chaps," abruptly said the stranger, placing a nervous emphasis
upon the word HE.
"Queequeg," said I, "let's go; this fellow has broken loose from
somewhere; he's talking about something and somebody we don't know."
"Stop!" cried the stranger. "Ye said true--ye hav'n't seen Old Thunder
yet, have ye?"
"Who's Old Thunder?" said I, again riveted with the insane earnestness
of his manner.
"What! the captain of our ship, the Pequod?"
"Aye, among some of us old sailor chaps, he goes by that name. Ye
hav'n't seen him yet, have ye?"
"No, we hav'n't. He's sick they say, but is getting better, and will be
all right again before long."
"All right again before long!" laughed the stranger, with a solemnly
derisive sort of laugh. "Look ye; when Captain Ahab is all right, then
this left arm of mine will be all right; not before."
"What do you know about him?"
"What did they TELL you about him? Say that!"
"They didn't tell much of anything about him; only I've heard that he's
a good whale-hunter, and a good captain to his crew."
"That's true, that's true--yes, both true enough. But you must jump when
he gives an order. Step and growl; growl and go--that's the word with
Captain Ahab. But nothing about that thing that happened to him off Cape
Horn, long ago, when he lay like dead for three days and nights;
nothing about that deadly skrimmage with the Spaniard afore the altar in
Santa?--heard nothing about that, eh? Nothing about the silver calabash
he spat into? And nothing about his losing his leg last voyage,
according to the prophecy. Didn't ye hear a word about them matters and
something more, eh? No, I don't think ye did; how could ye? Who knows
it? Not all Nantucket, I guess. But hows'ever, mayhap, ye've heard tell
about the leg, and how he lost it; aye, ye have heard of that, I dare
say. Oh yes, THAT every one knows a'most--I mean they know he's only one
leg; and that a parmacetti took the other off."
"My friend," said I, "what all this gibberish of yours is about, I
don't know, and I don't much care; for it seems to me that you must be a
little damaged in the head. But if you are speaking of Captain Ahab, of
that ship there, the Pequod, then let me tell you, that I know all about
the loss of his leg."
"ALL about it, eh--sure you do?--all?"
With finger pointed and eye levelled at the Pequod, the beggar-like
stranger stood a moment, as if in a troubled reverie; then starting a
little, turned and said:--"Ye've shipped, have ye? Names down on the
papers? Well, well, what's signed, is signed; and what's to be, will be;
and then again, perhaps it won't be, after all. Anyhow, it's all fixed
and arranged a'ready; and some sailors or other must go with him, I
suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity 'em! Morning to ye,
shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bless ye; I'm sorry I stopped
"Look here, friend," said I, "if you have anything important to tell
us, out with it; but if you are only trying to bamboozle us, you are
mistaken in your game; that's all I have to say."
"And it's said very well, and I like to hear a chap talk up that way;
you are just the man for him--the likes of ye. Morning to ye, shipmates,
morning! Oh! when ye get there, tell 'em I've concluded not to make one
"Ah, my dear fellow, you can't fool us that way--you can't fool us. It
is the easiest thing in the world for a man to look as if he had a great
secret in him."
"Morning to ye, shipmates, morning."
"Morning it is," said I. "Come along, Queequeg, let's leave this crazy
man. But stop, tell me your name, will you?"
Elijah! thought I, and we walked away, both commenting, after each
other's fashion, upon this ragged old sailor; and agreed that he was
nothing but a humbug, trying to be a bugbear. But we had not gone
perhaps above a hundred yards, when chancing to turn a corner, and
looking back as I did so, who should be seen but Elijah following us,
though at a distance. Somehow, the sight of him struck me so, that I
said nothing to Queequeg of his being behind, but passed on with my
comrade, anxious to see whether the stranger would turn the same corner
that we did. He did; and then it seemed to me that he was dogging
us, but with what intent I could not for the life of me imagine. This
circumstance, coupled with his ambiguous, half-hinting, half-revealing,
shrouded sort of talk, now begat in me all kinds of vague wonderments
and half-apprehensions, and all connected with the Pequod; and Captain
Ahab; and the leg he had lost; and the Cape Horn fit; and the silver
calabash; and what Captain Peleg had said of him, when I left the ship
the day previous; and the prediction of the squaw Tistig; and the voyage
we had bound ourselves to sail; and a hundred other shadowy things.
I was resolved to satisfy myself whether this ragged Elijah was really
dogging us or not, and with that intent crossed the way with Queequeg,
and on that side of it retraced our steps. But Elijah passed on, without
seeming to notice us. This relieved me; and once more, and finally as it
seemed to me, I pronounced him in my heart, a humbug.
CHAPTER 20. All Astir.
A day or two passed, and there was great activity aboard the Pequod.
Not only were the old sails being mended, but new sails were coming on
board, and bolts of canvas, and coils of rigging; in short, everything
betokened that the ship's preparations were hurrying to a close. Captain
Peleg seldom or never went ashore, but sat in his wigwam keeping a sharp
look-out upon the hands: Bildad did all the purchasing and providing
at the stores; and the men employed in the hold and on the rigging were
working till long after night-fall.
On the day following Queequeg's signing the articles, word was given at
all the inns where the ship's company were stopping, that their chests
must be on board before night, for there was no telling how soon
the vessel might be sailing. So Queequeg and I got down our traps,
resolving, however, to sleep ashore till the last. But it seems they
always give very long notice in these cases, and the ship did not sail
for several days. But no wonder; there was a good deal to be done, and