called him King-Post on board of the Pequod; because, in form, he could
be well likened to the short, square timber known by that name in Arctic
whalers; and which by the means of many radiating side timbers inserted
into it, serves to brace the ship against the icy concussions of those
Now these three mates--Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, were momentous
men. They it was who by universal prescription commanded three of the
Pequod's boats as headsmen. In that grand order of battle in which
Captain Ahab would probably marshal his forces to descend on the whales,
these three headsmen were as captains of companies. Or, being armed with
their long keen whaling spears, they were as a picked trio of lancers;
even as the harpooneers were flingers of javelins.
And since in this famous fishery, each mate or headsman, like a Gothic
Knight of old, is always accompanied by his boat-steerer or harpooneer,
who in certain conjunctures provides him with a fresh lance, when
the former one has been badly twisted, or elbowed in the assault; and
moreover, as there generally subsists between the two, a close intimacy
and friendliness; it is therefore but meet, that in this place we set
down who the Pequod's harpooneers were, and to what headsman each of
First of all was Queequeg, whom Starbuck, the chief mate, had selected
for his squire. But Queequeg is already known.
Next was Tashtego, an unmixed Indian from Gay Head, the most westerly
promontory of Martha's Vineyard, where there still exists the last
remnant of a village of red men, which has long supplied the neighboring
island of Nantucket with many of her most daring harpooneers. In the
fishery, they usually go by the generic name of Gay-Headers. Tashtego's
long, lean, sable hair, his high cheek bones, and black rounding
eyes--for an Indian, Oriental in their largeness, but Antarctic in their
glittering expression--all this sufficiently proclaimed him an inheritor
of the unvitiated blood of those proud warrior hunters, who, in quest
of the great New England moose, had scoured, bow in hand, the aboriginal
forests of the main. But no longer snuffing in the trail of the wild
beasts of the woodland, Tashtego now hunted in the wake of the great
whales of the sea; the unerring harpoon of the son fitly replacing the
infallible arrow of the sires. To look at the tawny brawn of his lithe
snaky limbs, you would almost have credited the superstitions of some of
the earlier Puritans, and half-believed this wild Indian to be a son
of the Prince of the Powers of the Air. Tashtego was Stubb the second
Third among the harpooneers was Daggoo, a gigantic, coal-black
negro-savage, with a lion-like tread--an Ahasuerus to behold. Suspended
from his ears were two golden hoops, so large that the sailors called
them ring-bolts, and would talk of securing the top-sail halyards to
them. In his youth Daggoo had voluntarily shipped on board of a whaler,
lying in a lonely bay on his native coast. And never having been
anywhere in the world but in Africa, Nantucket, and the pagan harbors
most frequented by whalemen; and having now led for many years the bold
life of the fishery in the ships of owners uncommonly heedful of what
manner of men they shipped; Daggoo retained all his barbaric virtues,
and erect as a giraffe, moved about the decks in all the pomp of six
feet five in his socks. There was a corporeal humility in looking up at
him; and a white man standing before him seemed a white flag come to
beg truce of a fortress. Curious to tell, this imperial negro, Ahasuerus
Daggoo, was the Squire of little Flask, who looked like a chess-man
beside him. As for the residue of the Pequod's company, be it said, that
at the present day not one in two of the many thousand men before the
mast employed in the American whale fishery, are Americans born, though
pretty nearly all the officers are. Herein it is the same with the
American whale fishery as with the American army and military and
merchant navies, and the engineering forces employed in the construction
of the American Canals and Railroads. The same, I say, because in all
these cases the native American liberally provides the brains, the rest
of the world as generously supplying the muscles. No small number of
these whaling seamen belong to the Azores, where the outward bound
Nantucket whalers frequently touch to augment their crews from the hardy
peasants of those rocky shores. In like manner, the Greenland whalers
sailing out of Hull or London, put in at the Shetland Islands, to
receive the full complement of their crew. Upon the passage homewards,
they drop them there again. How it is, there is no telling, but
Islanders seem to make the best whalemen. They were nearly all Islanders
in the Pequod, ISOLATOES too, I call such, not acknowledging the common
continent of men, but each ISOLATO living on a separate continent of his
own. Yet now, federated along one keel, what a set these Isolatoes were!
An Anacharsis Clootz deputation from all the isles of the sea, and all
the ends of the earth, accompanying Old Ahab in the Pequod to lay the
world's grievances before that bar from which not very many of them ever
come back. Black Little Pip--he never did--oh, no! he went before. Poor
Alabama boy! On the grim Pequod's forecastle, ye shall ere long see him,
beating his tambourine; prelusive of the eternal time, when sent for,
to the great quarter-deck on high, he was bid strike in with angels, and
beat his tambourine in glory; called a coward here, hailed a hero there!
CHAPTER 28. Ahab.
For several days after leaving Nantucket, nothing above hatches was seen
of Captain Ahab. The mates regularly relieved each other at the watches,
and for aught that could be seen to the contrary, they seemed to be the
only commanders of the ship; only they sometimes issued from the cabin
with orders so sudden and peremptory, that after all it was plain they
but commanded vicariously. Yes, their supreme lord and dictator was
there, though hitherto unseen by any eyes not permitted to penetrate
into the now sacred retreat of the cabin.
Every time I ascended to the deck from my watches below, I instantly
gazed aft to mark if any strange face were visible; for my first vague
disquietude touching the unknown captain, now in the seclusion of the
sea, became almost a perturbation. This was strangely heightened
at times by the ragged Elijah's diabolical incoherences uninvitedly
recurring to me, with a subtle energy I could not have before conceived
of. But poorly could I withstand them, much as in other moods I was
almost ready to smile at the solemn whimsicalities of that outlandish
prophet of the wharves. But whatever it was of apprehensiveness or
uneasiness--to call it so--which I felt, yet whenever I came to look
about me in the ship, it seemed against all warrantry to cherish such
emotions. For though the harpooneers, with the great body of the crew,
were a far more barbaric, heathenish, and motley set than any of the
tame merchant-ship companies which my previous experiences had made me
acquainted with, still I ascribed this--and rightly ascribed it--to the
fierce uniqueness of the very nature of that wild Scandinavian vocation
in which I had so abandonedly embarked. But it was especially the aspect
of the three chief officers of the ship, the mates, which was most
forcibly calculated to allay these colourless misgivings, and induce
confidence and cheerfulness in every presentment of the voyage. Three
better, more likely sea-officers and men, each in his own different way,
could not readily be found, and they were every one of them Americans; a
Nantucketer, a Vineyarder, a Cape man. Now, it being Christmas when the
ship shot from out her harbor, for a space we had biting Polar weather,
though all the time running away from it to the southward; and by every
degree and minute of latitude which we sailed, gradually leaving that
merciless winter, and all its intolerable weather behind us. It was one
of those less lowering, but still grey and gloomy enough mornings of the
transition, when with a fair wind the ship was rushing through the water
with a vindictive sort of leaping and melancholy rapidity, that as I
mounted to the deck at the call of the forenoon watch, so soon as I
levelled my glance towards the taffrail, foreboding shivers ran over me.
Reality outran apprehension; Captain Ahab stood upon his quarter-deck.
There seemed no sign of common bodily illness about him, nor of the
recovery from any. He looked like a man cut away from the stake, when
the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without consuming them,
or taking away one particle from their compacted aged robustness. His
whole high, broad form, seemed made of solid bronze, and shaped in an
unalterable mould, like Cellini's cast Perseus. Threading its way out
from among his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his
tawny scorched face and neck, till it disappeared in his clothing,
you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish. It resembled that
perpendicular seam sometimes made in the straight, lofty trunk of
a great tree, when the upper lightning tearingly darts down it, and
without wrenching a single twig, peels and grooves out the bark from top
to bottom, ere running off into the soil, leaving the tree still greenly
alive, but branded. Whether that mark was born with him, or whether it
was the scar left by some desperate wound, no one could certainly say.
By some tacit consent, throughout the voyage little or no allusion was
made to it, especially by the mates. But once Tashtego's senior, an old
Gay-Head Indian among the crew, superstitiously asserted that not till
he was full forty years old did Ahab become that way branded, and
then it came upon him, not in the fury of any mortal fray, but in
an elemental strife at sea. Yet, this wild hint seemed inferentially
negatived, by what a grey Manxman insinuated, an old sepulchral man,
who, having never before sailed out of Nantucket, had never ere this
laid eye upon wild Ahab. Nevertheless, the old sea-traditions, the
immemorial credulities, popularly invested this old Manxman with
preternatural powers of discernment. So that no white sailor seriously
contradicted him when he said that if ever Captain Ahab should
be tranquilly laid out--which might hardly come to pass, so he
muttered--then, whoever should do that last office for the dead, would
find a birth-mark on him from crown to sole.
So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of Ahab affect me, and the livid
brand which streaked it, that for the first few moments I hardly noted
that not a little of this overbearing grimness was owing to the barbaric
white leg upon which he partly stood. It had previously come to me that
this ivory leg had at sea been fashioned from the polished bone of
the sperm whale's jaw. "Aye, he was dismasted off Japan," said the old
Gay-Head Indian once; "but like his dismasted craft, he shipped another
mast without coming home for it. He has a quiver of 'em."
I was struck with the singular posture he maintained. Upon each side of
the Pequod's quarter deck, and pretty close to the mizzen shrouds, there
was an auger hole, bored about half an inch or so, into the plank.
His bone leg steadied in that hole; one arm elevated, and holding by a
shroud; Captain Ahab stood erect, looking straight out beyond the
ship's ever-pitching prow. There was an infinity of firmest fortitude,
a determinate, unsurrenderable wilfulness, in the fixed and fearless,
forward dedication of that glance. Not a word he spoke; nor did his
officers say aught to him; though by all their minutest gestures
and expressions, they plainly showed the uneasy, if not painful,
consciousness of being under a troubled master-eye. And not only that,
but moody stricken Ahab stood before them with a crucifixion in his
face; in all the nameless regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe.
Ere long, from his first visit in the air, he withdrew into his cabin.
But after that morning, he was every day visible to the crew; either
standing in his pivot-hole, or seated upon an ivory stool he had; or
heavily walking the deck. As the sky grew less gloomy; indeed, began to
grow a little genial, he became still less and less a recluse; as
if, when the ship had sailed from home, nothing but the dead wintry
bleakness of the sea had then kept him so secluded. And, by and by, it
came to pass, that he was almost continually in the air; but, as yet,
for all that he said, or perceptibly did, on the at last sunny deck,
he seemed as unnecessary there as another mast. But the Pequod was
only making a passage now; not regularly cruising; nearly all whaling
preparatives needing supervision the mates were fully competent to, so
that there was little or nothing, out of himself, to employ or excite
Ahab, now; and thus chase away, for that one interval, the clouds that
layer upon layer were piled upon his brow, as ever all clouds choose the
loftiest peaks to pile themselves upon.
Nevertheless, ere long, the warm, warbling persuasiveness of the
pleasant, holiday weather we came to, seemed gradually to charm him from
his mood. For, as when the red-cheeked, dancing girls, April and May,
trip home to the wintry, misanthropic woods; even the barest, ruggedest,
most thunder-cloven old oak will at least send forth some few green
sprouts, to welcome such glad-hearted visitants; so Ahab did, in the
end, a little respond to the playful allurings of that girlish air. More
than once did he put forth the faint blossom of a look, which, in any
other man, would have soon flowered out in a smile.
CHAPTER 29. Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb.
Some days elapsed, and ice and icebergs all astern, the Pequod now
went rolling through the bright Quito spring, which, at sea, almost
perpetually reigns on the threshold of the eternal August of the Tropic.
The warmly cool, clear, ringing, perfumed, overflowing, redundant days,
were as crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped up--flaked up, with
rose-water snow. The starred and stately nights seemed haughty dames in
jewelled velvets, nursing at home in lonely pride, the memory of their
absent conquering Earls, the golden helmeted suns! For sleeping man,
'twas hard to choose between such winsome days and such seducing nights.
But all the witcheries of that unwaning weather did not merely lend new
spells and potencies to the outward world. Inward they turned upon the
soul, especially when the still mild hours of eve came on; then, memory
shot her crystals as the clear ice most forms of noiseless twilights.
And all these subtle agencies, more and more they wrought on Ahab's
Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less
man has to do with aught that looks like death. Among sea-commanders,
the old greybeards will oftenest leave their berths to visit the
night-cloaked deck. It was so with Ahab; only that now, of late, he
seemed so much to live in the open air, that truly speaking, his visits
were more to the cabin, than from the cabin to the planks. "It feels
like going down into one's tomb,"--he would mutter to himself--"for an
old captain like me to be descending this narrow scuttle, to go to my
So, almost every twenty-four hours, when the watches of the night were
set, and the band on deck sentinelled the slumbers of the band below;
and when if a rope was to be hauled upon the forecastle, the sailors
flung it not rudely down, as by day, but with some cautiousness dropt
it to its place for fear of disturbing their slumbering shipmates; when
this sort of steady quietude would begin to prevail, habitually, the
silent steersman would watch the cabin-scuttle; and ere long the old man
would emerge, gripping at the iron banister, to help his crippled way.
Some considering touch of humanity was in him; for at times like these,
he usually abstained from patrolling the quarter-deck; because to his
wearied mates, seeking repose within six inches of his ivory heel, such
would have been the reverberating crack and din of that bony step, that
their dreams would have been on the crunching teeth of sharks. But once,
the mood was on him too deep for common regardings; and as with heavy,
lumber-like pace he was measuring the ship from taffrail to mainmast,
Stubb, the old second mate, came up from below, with a certain
unassured, deprecating humorousness, hinted that if Captain Ahab was
pleased to walk the planks, then, no one could say nay; but there might
be some way of muffling the noise; hinting something indistinctly and
hesitatingly about a globe of tow, and the insertion into it, of the
ivory heel. Ah! Stubb, thou didst not know Ahab then.
"Am I a cannon-ball, Stubb," said Ahab, "that thou wouldst wad me that
fashion? But go thy ways; I had forgot. Below to thy nightly grave;
where such as ye sleep between shrouds, to use ye to the filling one at
last.--Down, dog, and kennel!"
Starting at the unforseen concluding exclamation of the so suddenly
scornful old man, Stubb was speechless a moment; then said excitedly, "I
am not used to be spoken to that way, sir; I do but less than half like
"Avast! gritted Ahab between his set teeth, and violently moving away,
as if to avoid some passionate temptation.
"No, sir; not yet," said Stubb, emboldened, "I will not tamely be called
a dog, sir."
"Then be called ten times a donkey, and a mule, and an ass, and begone,
or I'll clear the world of thee!"
As he said this, Ahab advanced upon him with such overbearing terrors in
his aspect, that Stubb involuntarily retreated.
"I was never served so before without giving a hard blow for it,"
muttered Stubb, as he found himself descending the cabin-scuttle. "It's
very queer. Stop, Stubb; somehow, now, I don't well know whether to go
back and strike him, or--what's that?--down here on my knees and pray
for him? Yes, that was the thought coming up in me; but it would be the
first time I ever DID pray. It's queer; very queer; and he's queer too;
aye, take him fore and aft, he's about the queerest old man Stubb ever
sailed with. How he flashed at me!--his eyes like powder-pans! is he
mad? Anyway there's something on his mind, as sure as there must be
something on a deck when it cracks. He aint in his bed now, either, more
than three hours out of the twenty-four; and he don't sleep then. Didn't
that Dough-Boy, the steward, tell me that of a morning he always finds
the old man's hammock clothes all rumpled and tumbled, and the sheets
down at the foot, and the coverlid almost tied into knots, and the
pillow a sort of frightful hot, as though a baked brick had been on
it? A hot old man! I guess he's got what some folks ashore call
a conscience; it's a kind of Tic-Dolly-row they say--worse nor a
toothache. Well, well; I don't know what it is, but the Lord keep me
from catching it. He's full of riddles; I wonder what he goes into the
after hold for, every night, as Dough-Boy tells me he suspects; what's
that for, I should like to know? Who's made appointments with him in
the hold? Ain't that queer, now? But there's no telling, it's the old
game--Here goes for a snooze. Damn me, it's worth a fellow's while to be
born into the world, if only to fall right asleep. And now that I think
of it, that's about the first thing babies do, and that's a sort of
queer, too. Damn me, but all things are queer, come to think of 'em. But
that's against my principles. Think not, is my eleventh commandment; and
sleep when you can, is my twelfth--So here goes again. But how's that?
didn't he call me a dog? blazes! he called me ten times a donkey, and
piled a lot of jackasses on top of THAT! He might as well have kicked
me, and done with it. Maybe he DID kick me, and I didn't observe it,
I was so taken all aback with his brow, somehow. It flashed like a
bleached bone. What the devil's the matter with me? I don't stand right
on my legs. Coming afoul of that old man has a sort of turned me wrong
side out. By the Lord, I must have been dreaming, though--How? how?
how?--but the only way's to stash it; so here goes to hammock again;
and in the morning, I'll see how this plaguey juggling thinks over by
CHAPTER 30. The Pipe.
When Stubb had departed, Ahab stood for a while leaning over the
bulwarks; and then, as had been usual with him of late, calling a sailor
of the watch, he sent him below for his ivory stool, and also his pipe.
Lighting the pipe at the binnacle lamp and planting the stool on the
weather side of the deck, he sat and smoked.
In old Norse times, the thrones of the sea-loving Danish kings were
fabricated, saith tradition, of the tusks of the narwhale. How could one
look at Ahab then, seated on that tripod of bones, without bethinking
him of the royalty it symbolized? For a Khan of the plank, and a king of
the sea, and a great lord of Leviathans was Ahab.
Some moments passed, during which the thick vapour came from his mouth
in quick and constant puffs, which blew back again into his face. "How
now," he soliloquized at last, withdrawing the tube, "this smoking no
longer soothes. Oh, my pipe! hard must it go with me if thy charm be
gone! Here have I been unconsciously toiling, not pleasuring--aye, and
ignorantly smoking to windward all the while; to windward, and with
such nervous whiffs, as if, like the dying whale, my final jets were the
strongest and fullest of trouble. What business have I with this pipe?
This thing that is meant for sereneness, to send up mild white vapours
among mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks like mine. I'll
smoke no more--"
He tossed the still lighted pipe into the sea. The fire hissed in the
waves; the same instant the ship shot by the bubble the sinking pipe
made. With slouched hat, Ahab lurchingly paced the planks.
CHAPTER 31. Queen Mab.
Next morning Stubb accosted Flask.
"Such a queer dream, King-Post, I never had. You know the old man's
ivory leg, well I dreamed he kicked me with it; and when I tried to kick