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

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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

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 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

afterwards capsize?"
"Why not?
"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

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