The Project Gutenberg ebook of Moby Dick; or The Whale, by Herman Melville



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bigness of a human head. This particular feat of the shark seems all

but miraculous. How at such an apparently unassailable surface, they

contrive to gouge out such symmetrical mouthfuls, remains a part of the

universal problem of all things. The mark they thus leave on the whale,

may best be likened to the hollow made by a carpenter in countersinking

for a screw.
Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks

will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship's decks, like hungry dogs

round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down

every killed man that is tossed to them; and though, while the valiant

butchers over the deck-table are thus cannibally carving each other's

live meat with carving-knives all gilded and tasselled, the sharks,

also, with their jewel-hilted mouths, are quarrelsomely carving away

under the table at the dead meat; and though, were you to turn the whole

affair upside down, it would still be pretty much the same thing, that

is to say, a shocking sharkish business enough for all parties; and

though sharks also are the invariable outriders of all slave ships

crossing the Atlantic, systematically trotting alongside, to be handy in

case a parcel is to be carried anywhere, or a dead slave to be decently

buried; and though one or two other like instances might be set down,

touching the set terms, places, and occasions, when sharks do most

socially congregate, and most hilariously feast; yet is there no

conceivable time or occasion when you will find them in such countless

numbers, and in gayer or more jovial spirits, than around a dead sperm

whale, moored by night to a whaleship at sea. If you have never

seen that sight, then suspend your decision about the propriety of

devil-worship, and the expediency of conciliating the devil.
But, as yet, Stubb heeded not the mumblings of the banquet that was

going on so nigh him, no more than the sharks heeded the smacking of his

own epicurean lips.
"Cook, cook!--where's that old Fleece?" he cried at length, widening

his legs still further, as if to form a more secure base for his supper;

and, at the same time darting his fork into the dish, as if stabbing

with his lance; "cook, you cook!--sail this way, cook!"


The old black, not in any very high glee at having been previously

roused from his warm hammock at a most unseasonable hour, came shambling

along from his galley, for, like many old blacks, there was something

the matter with his knee-pans, which he did not keep well scoured like

his other pans; this old Fleece, as they called him, came shuffling and

limping along, assisting his step with his tongs, which, after a clumsy

fashion, were made of straightened iron hoops; this old Ebony floundered

along, and in obedience to the word of command, came to a dead stop on

the opposite side of Stubb's sideboard; when, with both hands folded

before him, and resting on his two-legged cane, he bowed his arched back

still further over, at the same time sideways inclining his head, so as

to bring his best ear into play.


"Cook," said Stubb, rapidly lifting a rather reddish morsel to his

mouth, "don't you think this steak is rather overdone? You've been

beating this steak too much, cook; it's too tender. Don't I always say

that to be good, a whale-steak must be tough? There are those sharks

now over the side, don't you see they prefer it tough and rare? What a

shindy they are kicking up! Cook, go and talk to 'em; tell 'em they are

welcome to help themselves civilly, and in moderation, but they must

keep quiet. Blast me, if I can hear my own voice. Away, cook, and

deliver my message. Here, take this lantern," snatching one from his

sideboard; "now then, go and preach to 'em!"


Sullenly taking the offered lantern, old Fleece limped across the deck

to the bulwarks; and then, with one hand dropping his light low over the

sea, so as to get a good view of his congregation, with the other hand

he solemnly flourished his tongs, and leaning far over the side in a

mumbling voice began addressing the sharks, while Stubb, softly crawling

behind, overheard all that was said.


"Fellow-critters: I'se ordered here to say dat you must stop dat dam

noise dare. You hear? Stop dat dam smackin' ob de lips! Massa Stubb say

dat you can fill your dam bellies up to de hatchings, but by Gor! you

must stop dat dam racket!"


"Cook," here interposed Stubb, accompanying the word with a sudden slap

on the shoulder,--"Cook! why, damn your eyes, you mustn't swear that way

when you're preaching. That's no way to convert sinners, cook!"
"Who dat? Den preach to him yourself," sullenly turning to go.
"No, cook; go on, go on."
"Well, den, Belubed fellow-critters:"--
"Right!" exclaimed Stubb, approvingly, "coax 'em to it; try that," and

Fleece continued.


"Do you is all sharks, and by natur wery woracious, yet I zay to you,

fellow-critters, dat dat woraciousness--'top dat dam slappin' ob de

tail! How you tink to hear, spose you keep up such a dam slappin' and

bitin' dare?"


"Cook," cried Stubb, collaring him, "I won't have that swearing. Talk to

'em gentlemanly."


Once more the sermon proceeded.
"Your woraciousness, fellow-critters, I don't blame ye so much for; dat

is natur, and can't be helped; but to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de

pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den

you be angel; for all angel is not'ing more dan de shark well goberned.

Now, look here, bred'ren, just try wonst to be cibil, a helping

yourselbs from dat whale. Don't be tearin' de blubber out your

neighbour's mout, I say. Is not one shark dood right as toder to dat

whale? And, by Gor, none on you has de right to dat whale; dat whale

belong to some one else. I know some o' you has berry brig mout, brigger

dan oders; but den de brig mouts sometimes has de small bellies; so dat

de brigness of de mout is not to swaller wid, but to bit off de blubber

for de small fry ob sharks, dat can't get into de scrouge to help

demselves."
"Well done, old Fleece!" cried Stubb, "that's Christianity; go on."
"No use goin' on; de dam willains will keep a scougin' and slappin' each

oder, Massa Stubb; dey don't hear one word; no use a-preaching to

such dam g'uttons as you call 'em, till dare bellies is full, and dare

bellies is bottomless; and when dey do get 'em full, dey wont hear you

den; for den dey sink in the sea, go fast to sleep on de coral, and

can't hear noting at all, no more, for eber and eber."


"Upon my soul, I am about of the same opinion; so give the benediction,

Fleece, and I'll away to my supper."


Upon this, Fleece, holding both hands over the fishy mob, raised his

shrill voice, and cried--


"Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row as ever you can; fill

your dam bellies 'till dey bust--and den die."


"Now, cook," said Stubb, resuming his supper at the capstan; "stand

just where you stood before, there, over against me, and pay particular

attention."
"All 'dention," said Fleece, again stooping over upon his tongs in the

desired position.


"Well," said Stubb, helping himself freely meanwhile; "I shall now go

back to the subject of this steak. In the first place, how old are you,

cook?"
"What dat do wid de 'teak," said the old black, testily.
"Silence! How old are you, cook?"
"'Bout ninety, dey say," he gloomily muttered.
"And you have lived in this world hard upon one hundred years, cook,

and don't know yet how to cook a whale-steak?" rapidly bolting another

mouthful at the last word, so that morsel seemed a continuation of the

question. "Where were you born, cook?"


"'Hind de hatchway, in ferry-boat, goin' ober de Roanoke."
"Born in a ferry-boat! That's queer, too. But I want to know what

country you were born in, cook!"


"Didn't I say de Roanoke country?" he cried sharply.
"No, you didn't, cook; but I'll tell you what I'm coming to, cook.

You must go home and be born over again; you don't know how to cook a

whale-steak yet."
"Bress my soul, if I cook noder one," he growled, angrily, turning round

to depart.


"Come back here, cook;--here, hand me those tongs;--now take that bit of

steak there, and tell me if you think that steak cooked as it should be?

Take it, I say"--holding the tongs towards him--"take it, and taste it."
Faintly smacking his withered lips over it for a moment, the old negro

muttered, "Best cooked 'teak I eber taste; joosy, berry joosy."


"Cook," said Stubb, squaring himself once more; "do you belong to the

church?"
"Passed one once in Cape-Down," said the old man sullenly.


"And you have once in your life passed a holy church in Cape-Town, where

you doubtless overheard a holy parson addressing his hearers as his

beloved fellow-creatures, have you, cook! And yet you come here, and

tell me such a dreadful lie as you did just now, eh?" said Stubb. "Where

do you expect to go to, cook?"
"Go to bed berry soon," he mumbled, half-turning as he spoke.
"Avast! heave to! I mean when you die, cook. It's an awful question. Now

what's your answer?"


"When dis old brack man dies," said the negro slowly, changing his whole

air and demeanor, "he hisself won't go nowhere; but some bressed angel

will come and fetch him."
"Fetch him? How? In a coach and four, as they fetched Elijah? And fetch

him where?"


"Up dere," said Fleece, holding his tongs straight over his head, 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.

CHAPTER 65. 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 patronise nothing but steel

pens.

CHAPTER 66. 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."


CHAPTER 67. Cutting In.

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 nail-heads of an old house in frosty weather; she

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