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
"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
"Think, think of thy whale-boat, stoven and sunk! Beware of the horrible
"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
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 ardour 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, in 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, 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
"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
CHAPTER 72. The Monkey-Rope.
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
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 honour 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 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
"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 murder
us all, 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
"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.
CHAPTER 73. Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk
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
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 mast-head. 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
"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