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

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he'll charm the ship to no good at last. I don't half like that chap,

Stubb. Did you ever notice how that tusk of his is a sort of carved into

a snake's head, Stubb?"
"Sink him! I never look at him at all; but if ever I get a chance of a

dark night, and he standing hard by the bulwarks, and no one by; look

down there, Flask"--pointing into the sea with a peculiar motion of

both hands--"Aye, will I! Flask, I take that Fedallah to be the devil in

disguise. Do you believe that cock and bull story about his having been

stowed away on board ship? He's the devil, I say. The reason why you

don't see his tail, is because he tucks it up out of sight; he carries

it coiled away in his pocket, I guess. Blast him! now that I think of

it, he's always wanting oakum to stuff into the toes of his boots."
"He sleeps in his boots, don't he? He hasn't got any hammock; but I've

seen him lay of nights in a coil of rigging."

"No doubt, and it's because of his cursed tail; he coils it down, do ye

see, in the eye of the rigging."

"What's the old man have so much to do with him for?"
"Striking up a swap or a bargain, I suppose."
"Bargain?--about what?"
"Why, do ye see, the old man is hard bent after that White Whale, and

the devil there is trying to come round him, and get him to swap away

his silver watch, or his soul, or something of that sort, and then he'll

surrender Moby Dick."

"Pooh! Stubb, you are skylarking; how can Fedallah do that?"
"I don't know, Flask, but the devil is a curious chap, and a wicked

one, I tell ye. Why, they say as how he went a sauntering into the

old flag-ship once, switching his tail about devilish easy and

gentlemanlike, and inquiring if the old governor was at home. Well, he

was at home, and asked the devil what he wanted. The devil, switching

his hoofs, up and says, 'I want John.' 'What for?' says the old

governor. 'What business is that of yours,' says the devil, getting

mad,--'I want to use him.' 'Take him,' says the governor--and by the

Lord, Flask, if the devil didn't give John the Asiatic cholera before

he got through with him, I'll eat this whale in one mouthful. But look

sharp--ain't you all ready there? Well, then, pull ahead, and let's get

the whale alongside."

"I think I remember some such story as you were telling," said Flask,

when at last the two boats were slowly advancing with their burden

towards the ship, "but I can't remember where."
"Three Spaniards? Adventures of those three bloody-minded soladoes? Did

ye read it there, Flask? I guess ye did?"

"No: never saw such a book; heard of it, though. But now, tell me,

Stubb, do you suppose that that devil you was speaking of just now, was

the same you say is now on board the Pequod?"
"Am I the same man that helped kill this whale? Doesn't the devil live

for ever; who ever heard that the devil was dead? Did you ever see

any parson a wearing mourning for the devil? And if the devil has a

latch-key to get into the admiral's cabin, don't you suppose he can

crawl into a porthole? Tell me that, Mr. Flask?"
"How old do you suppose Fedallah is, Stubb?"
"Do you see that mainmast there?" pointing to the ship; "well, that's

the figure one; now take all the hoops in the Pequod's hold, and string

along in a row with that mast, for oughts, do you see; well, that

wouldn't begin to be Fedallah's age. Nor all the coopers in creation

couldn't show hoops enough to make oughts enough."
"But see here, Stubb, I thought you a little boasted just now, that you

meant to give Fedallah a sea-toss, if you got a good chance. Now, if

he's so old as all those hoops of yours come to, and if he is going

to live for ever, what good will it do to pitch him overboard--tell me

"Give him a good ducking, anyhow."
"But he'd crawl back."
"Duck him again; and keep ducking him."
"Suppose he should take it into his head to duck you, though--yes, and

drown you--what then?"

"I should like to see him try it; I'd give him such a pair of black eyes

that he wouldn't dare to show his face in the admiral's cabin again for

a long while, let alone down in the orlop there, where he lives, and

hereabouts on the upper decks where he sneaks so much. Damn the devil,

Flask; so you suppose I'm afraid of the devil? Who's afraid of

him, except the old governor who daresn't catch him and put him in

double-darbies, as he deserves, but lets him go about kidnapping

people; aye, and signed a bond with him, that all the people the devil

kidnapped, he'd roast for him? There's a governor!"
"Do you suppose Fedallah wants to kidnap Captain Ahab?"
"Do I suppose it? You'll know it before long, Flask. But I am going now

to keep a sharp look-out on him; and if I see anything very suspicious

going on, I'll just take him by the nape of his neck, and say--Look

here, Beelzebub, you don't do it; and if he makes any fuss, by the Lord

I'll make a grab into his pocket for his tail, take it to the capstan,

and give him such a wrenching and heaving, that his tail will come short

off at the stump--do you see; and then, I rather guess when he finds

himself docked in that queer fashion, he'll sneak off without the poor

satisfaction of feeling his tail between his legs."
"And what will you do with the tail, Stubb?"
"Do with it? Sell it for an ox whip when we get home;--what else?"
"Now, do you mean what you say, and have been saying all along, Stubb?"
"Mean or not mean, here we are at the ship."
The boats were here hailed, to tow the whale on the larboard side, where

fluke chains and other necessaries were already prepared for securing

"Didn't I tell you so?" said Flask; "yes, you'll soon see this right

whale's head hoisted up opposite that parmacetti's."

In good time, Flask's saying proved true. As before, the Pequod steeply

leaned over towards the sperm whale's head, now, by the counterpoise of

both heads, she regained her even keel; though sorely strained, you may

well believe. So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go

over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's and you come

back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep

trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard,

and then you will float light and right.

In disposing of the body of a right whale, when brought alongside the

ship, the same preliminary proceedings commonly take place as in the

case of a sperm whale; only, in the latter instance, the head is cut off

whole, but in the former the lips and tongue are separately removed and

hoisted on deck, with all the well known black bone attached to what is

called the crown-piece. But nothing like this, in the present case,

had been done. The carcases of both whales had dropped astern; and

the head-laden ship not a little resembled a mule carrying a pair of

overburdening panniers.
Meantime, Fedallah was calmly eyeing the right whale's head, and ever

and anon glancing from the deep wrinkles there to the lines in his own

hand. And Ahab chanced so to stand, that the Parsee occupied his shadow;

while, if the Parsee's shadow was there at all it seemed only to

blend with, and lengthen Ahab's. As the crew toiled on, Laplandish

speculations were bandied among them, concerning all these passing


CHAPTER 74. The Sperm Whale's Head--Contrasted View.

Here, now, are two great whales, laying their heads together; let us

join them, and lay together our own.

Of the grand order of folio leviathans, the Sperm Whale and the Right

Whale are by far the most noteworthy. They are the only whales regularly

hunted by man. To the Nantucketer, they present the two extremes of all

the known varieties of the whale. As the external difference between

them is mainly observable in their heads; and as a head of each is this

moment hanging from the Pequod's side; and as we may freely go from one

to the other, by merely stepping across the deck:--where, I should like

to know, will you obtain a better chance to study practical cetology

than here?
In the first place, you are struck by the general contrast between these

heads. Both are massive enough in all conscience; but there is a certain

mathematical symmetry in the Sperm Whale's which the Right Whale's sadly

lacks. There is more character in the Sperm Whale's head. As you behold

it, you involuntarily yield the immense superiority to him, in point

of pervading dignity. In the present instance, too, this dignity is

heightened by the pepper and salt colour of his head at the summit,

giving token of advanced age and large experience. In short, he is what

the fishermen technically call a "grey-headed whale."
Let us now note what is least dissimilar in these heads--namely, the two

most important organs, the eye and the ear. Far back on the side of

the head, and low down, near the angle of either whale's jaw, if you

narrowly search, you will at last see a lashless eye, which you would

fancy to be a young colt's eye; so out of all proportion is it to the

magnitude of the head.

Now, from this peculiar sideway position of the whale's eyes, it is

plain that he can never see an object which is exactly ahead, no more

than he can one exactly astern. In a word, the position of the whale's

eyes corresponds to that of a man's ears; and you may fancy, for

yourself, how it would fare with you, did you sideways survey objects

through your ears. You would find that you could only command some

thirty degrees of vision in advance of the straight side-line of sight;

and about thirty more behind it. If your bitterest foe were walking

straight towards you, with dagger uplifted in broad day, you would not

be able to see him, any more than if he were stealing upon you from

behind. In a word, you would have two backs, so to speak; but, at the

same time, also, two fronts (side fronts): for what is it that makes the

front of a man--what, indeed, but his eyes?
Moreover, while in most other animals that I can now think of, the eyes

are so planted as imperceptibly to blend their visual power, so as to

produce one picture and not two to the brain; the peculiar position of

the whale's eyes, effectually divided as they are by many cubic feet of

solid head, which towers between them like a great mountain separating

two lakes in valleys; this, of course, must wholly separate the

impressions which each independent organ imparts. The whale, therefore,

must see one distinct picture on this side, and another distinct

picture on that side; while all between must be profound darkness and

nothingness to him. Man may, in effect, be said to look out on the world

from a sentry-box with two joined sashes for his window. But with the

whale, these two sashes are separately inserted, making two distinct

windows, but sadly impairing the view. This peculiarity of the whale's

eyes is a thing always to be borne in mind in the fishery; and to be

remembered by the reader in some subsequent scenes.
A curious and most puzzling question might be started concerning this

visual matter as touching the Leviathan. But I must be content with a

hint. So long as a man's eyes are open in the light, the act of seeing

is involuntary; that is, he cannot then help mechanically seeing

whatever objects are before him. Nevertheless, any one's experience

will teach him, that though he can take in an undiscriminating sweep of

things at one glance, it is quite impossible for him, attentively,

and completely, to examine any two things--however large or however

small--at one and the same instant of time; never mind if they lie side

by side and touch each other. But if you now come to separate these two

objects, and surround each by a circle of profound darkness; then, in

order to see one of them, in such a manner as to bring your mind to

bear on it, the other will be utterly excluded from your contemporary

consciousness. How is it, then, with the whale? True, both his eyes,

in themselves, must simultaneously act; but is his brain so much more

comprehensive, combining, and subtle than man's, that he can at the same

moment of time attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one

side of him, and the other in an exactly opposite direction? If he

can, then is it as marvellous a thing in him, as if a man were able

simultaneously to go through the demonstrations of two distinct problems

in Euclid. Nor, strictly investigated, is there any incongruity in this


It may be but an idle whim, but it has always seemed to me, that the

extraordinary vacillations of movement displayed by some whales when

beset by three or four boats; the timidity and liability to queer

frights, so common to such whales; I think that all this indirectly

proceeds from the helpless perplexity of volition, in which their

divided and diametrically opposite powers of vision must involve them.

But the ear of the whale is full as curious as the eye. If you are an

entire stranger to their race, you might hunt over these two heads

for hours, and never discover that organ. The ear has no external leaf

whatever; and into the hole itself you can hardly insert a quill, so

wondrously minute is it. It is lodged a little behind the eye. With

respect to their ears, this important difference is to be observed

between the sperm whale and the right. While the ear of the former has

an external opening, that of the latter is entirely and evenly covered

over with a membrane, so as to be quite imperceptible from without.
Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the

world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which

is smaller than a hare's? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of

Herschel's great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of

cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of

hearing? Not at all.--Why then do you try to "enlarge" your mind?

Subtilize it.
Let us now with whatever levers and steam-engines we have at hand, cant

over the sperm whale's head, that it may lie bottom up; then, ascending

by a ladder to the summit, have a peep down the mouth; and were it not

that the body is now completely separated from it, with a lantern we

might descend into the great Kentucky Mammoth Cave of his stomach. But

let us hold on here by this tooth, and look about us where we are. What

a really beautiful and chaste-looking mouth! from floor to ceiling,

lined, or rather papered with a glistening white membrane, glossy as

bridal satins.
But come out now, and look at this portentous lower jaw, which seems

like the long narrow lid of an immense snuff-box, with the hinge at one

end, instead of one side. If you pry it up, so as to get it overhead,

and expose its rows of teeth, it seems a terrific portcullis; and such,

alas! it proves to many a poor wight in the fishery, upon whom these

spikes fall with impaling force. But far more terrible is it to behold,

when fathoms down in the sea, you see some sulky whale, floating there

suspended, with his prodigious jaw, some fifteen feet long, hanging

straight down at right-angles with his body, for all the world like a

ship's jib-boom. This whale is not dead; he is only dispirited; out of

sorts, perhaps; hypochondriac; and so supine, that the hinges of his

jaw have relaxed, leaving him there in that ungainly sort of plight, a

reproach to all his tribe, who must, no doubt, imprecate lock-jaws upon

In most cases this lower jaw--being easily unhinged by a practised

artist--is disengaged and hoisted on deck for the purpose of extracting

the ivory teeth, and furnishing a supply of that hard white whalebone

with which the fishermen fashion all sorts of curious articles,

including canes, umbrella-stocks, and handles to riding-whips.

With a long, weary hoist the jaw is dragged on board, as if it were an

anchor; and when the proper time comes--some few days after the other

work--Queequeg, Daggoo, and Tashtego, being all accomplished dentists,

are set to drawing teeth. With a keen cutting-spade, Queequeg lances

the gums; then the jaw is lashed down to ringbolts, and a tackle being

rigged from aloft, they drag out these teeth, as Michigan oxen drag

stumps of old oaks out of wild wood lands. There are generally forty-two

teeth in all; in old whales, much worn down, but undecayed; nor filled

after our artificial fashion. The jaw is afterwards sawn into slabs, and

piled away like joists for building houses.

CHAPTER 75. The Right Whale's Head--Contrasted View.

Crossing the deck, let us now have a good long look at the Right Whale's

As in general shape the noble Sperm Whale's head may be compared to a

Roman war-chariot (especially in front, where it is so broadly rounded);

so, at a broad view, the Right Whale's head bears a rather inelegant

resemblance to a gigantic galliot-toed shoe. Two hundred years ago an

old Dutch voyager likened its shape to that of a shoemaker's last. And

in this same last or shoe, that old woman of the nursery tale, with

the swarming brood, might very comfortably be lodged, she and all her

But as you come nearer to this great head it begins to assume different

aspects, according to your point of view. If you stand on its summit and

look at these two F-shaped spoutholes, you would take the whole head

for an enormous bass-viol, and these spiracles, the apertures in its

sounding-board. Then, again, if you fix your eye upon this strange,

crested, comb-like incrustation on the top of the mass--this green,

barnacled thing, which the Greenlanders call the "crown," and the

Southern fishers the "bonnet" of the Right Whale; fixing your eyes

solely on this, you would take the head for the trunk of some huge oak,

with a bird's nest in its crotch. At any rate, when you watch those live

crabs that nestle here on this bonnet, such an idea will be almost

sure to occur to you; unless, indeed, your fancy has been fixed by the

technical term "crown" also bestowed upon it; in which case you will

take great interest in thinking how this mighty monster is actually a

diademed king of the sea, whose green crown has been put together for

him in this marvellous manner. But if this whale be a king, he is a very

sulky looking fellow to grace a diadem. Look at that hanging lower lip!

what a huge sulk and pout is there! a sulk and pout, by carpenter's

measurement, about twenty feet long and five feet deep; a sulk and pout

that will yield you some 500 gallons of oil and more.

A great pity, now, that this unfortunate whale should be hare-lipped.

The fissure is about a foot across. Probably the mother during an

important interval was sailing down the Peruvian coast, when earthquakes

caused the beach to gape. Over this lip, as over a slippery threshold,

we now slide into the mouth. Upon my word were I at Mackinaw, I should

take this to be the inside of an Indian wigwam. Good Lord! is this the

road that Jonah went? The roof is about twelve feet high, and runs to a

pretty sharp angle, as if there were a regular ridge-pole there; while

these ribbed, arched, hairy sides, present us with those wondrous, half

vertical, scimetar-shaped slats of whalebone, say three hundred on a

side, which depending from the upper part of the head or crown

bone, form those Venetian blinds which have elsewhere been cursorily

mentioned. The edges of these bones are fringed with hairy fibres,

through which the Right Whale strains the water, and in whose

intricacies he retains the small fish, when openmouthed he goes through

the seas of brit in feeding time. In the central blinds of bone, as they

stand in their natural order, there are certain curious marks, curves,

hollows, and ridges, whereby some whalemen calculate the creature's age,

as the age of an oak by its circular rings. Though the certainty of this

criterion is far from demonstrable, yet it has the savor of analogical

probability. At any rate, if we yield to it, we must grant a far greater

age to the Right Whale than at first glance will seem reasonable.

In old times, there seem to have prevailed the most curious fancies

concerning these blinds. One voyager in Purchas calls them the wondrous

"whiskers" inside of the whale's mouth;* another, "hogs' bristles"; a

third old gentleman in Hackluyt uses the following elegant language:

"There are about two hundred and fifty fins growing on each side of his

upper CHOP, which arch over his tongue on each side of his mouth."

*This reminds us that the Right Whale really has a sort of whisker, or

rather a moustache, consisting of a few scattered white hairs on the

upper part of the outer end of the lower jaw. Sometimes these

tufts impart a rather brigandish expression to his otherwise solemn


As every one knows, these same "hogs' bristles," "fins," "whiskers,"

"blinds," or whatever you please, furnish to the ladies their busks and

other stiffening contrivances. But in this particular, the demand has

long been on the decline. It was in Queen Anne's time that the bone was

in its glory, the farthingale being then all the fashion. And as those

ancient dames moved about gaily, though in the jaws of the whale, as

you may say; even so, in a shower, with the like thoughtlessness, do we

nowadays fly under the same jaws for protection; the umbrella being a

tent spread over the same bone.

But now forget all about blinds and whiskers for a moment, and, standing

in the Right Whale's mouth, look around you afresh. Seeing all these

colonnades of bone so methodically ranged about, would you not think

you were inside of the great Haarlem organ, and gazing upon its

thousand pipes? For a carpet to the organ we have a rug of the softest

Turkey--the tongue, which is glued, as it were, to the floor of the

mouth. It is very fat and tender, and apt to tear in pieces in hoisting

it on deck. This particular tongue now before us; at a passing glance I

should say it was a six-barreler; that is, it will yield you about that

amount of oil.

Ere this, you must have plainly seen the truth of what I started

with--that the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale have almost entirely

different heads. To sum up, then: in the Right Whale's there is no great

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