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

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the fish; ergo, the aforesaid articles were theirs.

A common man looking at this decision of the very learned Judge, might

possibly object to it. But ploughed up to the primary rock of the

matter, the two great principles laid down in the twin whaling laws

previously quoted, and applied and elucidated by Lord Ellenborough in

the above cited case; these two laws touching Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish,

I say, will, on reflection, be found the fundamentals of all human

jurisprudence; for notwithstanding its complicated tracery of sculpture,

the Temple of the Law, like the Temple of the Philistines, has but two

props to stand on.
Is it not a saying in every one's mouth, Possession is half of the law:

that is, regardless of how the thing came into possession? But often

possession is the whole of the law. What are the sinews and souls of

Russian serfs and Republican slaves but Fast-Fish, whereof possession is

the whole of the law? What to the rapacious landlord is the widow's last

mite but a Fast-Fish? What is yonder undetected villain's marble mansion

with a door-plate for a waif; what is that but a Fast-Fish? What is the

ruinous discount which Mordecai, the broker, gets from poor Woebegone,

the bankrupt, on a loan to keep Woebegone's family from starvation;

what is that ruinous discount but a Fast-Fish? What is the Archbishop of

Savesoul's income of L100,000 seized from the scant bread and cheese

of hundreds of thousands of broken-backed laborers (all sure of heaven

without any of Savesoul's help) what is that globular L100,000 but a

Fast-Fish? What are the Duke of Dunder's hereditary towns and hamlets

but Fast-Fish? What to that redoubted harpooneer, John Bull, is poor

Ireland, but a Fast-Fish? What to that apostolic lancer, Brother

Jonathan, is Texas but a Fast-Fish? And concerning all these, is not

Possession the whole of the law?

But if the doctrine of Fast-Fish be pretty generally applicable,

the kindred doctrine of Loose-Fish is still more widely so. That is

internationally and universally applicable.
What was America in 1492 but a Loose-Fish, in which Columbus struck the

Spanish standard by way of waifing it for his royal master and mistress?

What was Poland to the Czar? What Greece to the Turk? What India

to England? What at last will Mexico be to the United States? All

What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World but

Loose-Fish? What all men's minds and opinions but Loose-Fish? What is

the principle of religious belief in them but a Loose-Fish? What to

the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers but

Loose-Fish? What is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish? And what

are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?

CHAPTER 90. Heads or Tails.

"De balena vero sufficit, si rex habeat caput, et regina caudam."

BRACTON, L. 3, C. 3.

Latin from the books of the Laws of England, which taken along with the

context, means, that of all whales captured by anybody on the coast of

that land, the King, as Honourary Grand Harpooneer, must have the head,

and the Queen be respectfully presented with the tail. A division which,

in the whale, is much like halving an apple; there is no intermediate

remainder. Now as this law, under a modified form, is to this day in

force in England; and as it offers in various respects a strange anomaly

touching the general law of Fast and Loose-Fish, it is here treated of

in a separate chapter, on the same courteous principle that prompts

the English railways to be at the expense of a separate car, specially

reserved for the accommodation of royalty. In the first place, in

curious proof of the fact that the above-mentioned law is still in

force, I proceed to lay before you a circumstance that happened within

the last two years.

It seems that some honest mariners of Dover, or Sandwich, or some one

of the Cinque Ports, had after a hard chase succeeded in killing and

beaching a fine whale which they had originally descried afar off from

the shore. Now the Cinque Ports are partially or somehow under the

jurisdiction of a sort of policeman or beadle, called a Lord Warden.

Holding the office directly from the crown, I believe, all the royal

emoluments incident to the Cinque Port territories become by assignment

his. By some writers this office is called a sinecure. But not so.

Because the Lord Warden is busily employed at times in fobbing his

perquisites; which are his chiefly by virtue of that same fobbing of

Now when these poor sun-burnt mariners, bare-footed, and with their

trowsers rolled high up on their eely legs, had wearily hauled their fat

fish high and dry, promising themselves a good L150 from the precious

oil and bone; and in fantasy sipping rare tea with their wives, and good

ale with their cronies, upon the strength of their respective shares; up

steps a very learned and most Christian and charitable gentleman, with

a copy of Blackstone under his arm; and laying it upon the whale's head,

he says--"Hands off! this fish, my masters, is a Fast-Fish. I seize it

as the Lord Warden's." Upon this the poor mariners in their respectful

consternation--so truly English--knowing not what to say, fall to

vigorously scratching their heads all round; meanwhile ruefully glancing

from the whale to the stranger. But that did in nowise mend the matter,

or at all soften the hard heart of the learned gentleman with the copy

of Blackstone. At length one of them, after long scratching about for

his ideas, made bold to speak,
"Please, sir, who is the Lord Warden?"
"The Duke."
"But the duke had nothing to do with taking this fish?"
"It is his."
"We have been at great trouble, and peril, and some expense, and is

all that to go to the Duke's benefit; we getting nothing at all for our

pains but our blisters?"
"It is his."
"Is the Duke so very poor as to be forced to this desperate mode of

getting a livelihood?"

"It is his."
"I thought to relieve my old bed-ridden mother by part of my share of

this whale."

"It is his."
"Won't the Duke be content with a quarter or a half?"
"It is his."
In a word, the whale was seized and sold, and his Grace the Duke of

Wellington received the money. Thinking that viewed in some particular

lights, the case might by a bare possibility in some small degree be

deemed, under the circumstances, a rather hard one, an honest clergyman

of the town respectfully addressed a note to his Grace, begging him to

take the case of those unfortunate mariners into full consideration. To

which my Lord Duke in substance replied (both letters were published)

that he had already done so, and received the money, and would be

obliged to the reverend gentleman if for the future he (the reverend

gentleman) would decline meddling with other people's business. Is

this the still militant old man, standing at the corners of the three

kingdoms, on all hands coercing alms of beggars?

It will readily be seen that in this case the alleged right of the

Duke to the whale was a delegated one from the Sovereign. We must needs

inquire then on what principle the Sovereign is originally invested with

that right. The law itself has already been set forth. But Plowdon gives

us the reason for it. Says Plowdon, the whale so caught belongs to

the King and Queen, "because of its superior excellence." And by the

soundest commentators this has ever been held a cogent argument in such

But why should the King have the head, and the Queen the tail? A reason

for that, ye lawyers!
In his treatise on "Queen-Gold," or Queen-pinmoney, an old King's Bench

author, one William Prynne, thus discourseth: "Ye tail is ye Queen's,

that ye Queen's wardrobe may be supplied with ye whalebone." Now this

was written at a time when the black limber bone of the Greenland or

Right whale was largely used in ladies' bodices. But this same bone

is not in the tail; it is in the head, which is a sad mistake for

a sagacious lawyer like Prynne. But is the Queen a mermaid, to be

presented with a tail? An allegorical meaning may lurk here.

There are two royal fish so styled by the English law writers--the whale

and the sturgeon; both royal property under certain limitations, and

nominally supplying the tenth branch of the crown's ordinary revenue.

I know not that any other author has hinted of the matter; but by

inference it seems to me that the sturgeon must be divided in the same

way as the whale, the King receiving the highly dense and elastic head

peculiar to that fish, which, symbolically regarded, may possibly be

humorously grounded upon some presumed congeniality. And thus there

seems a reason in all things, even in law.

CHAPTER 91. The Pequod Meets The Rose-Bud.

"In vain it was to rake for Ambergriese in the paunch of this Leviathan,

insufferable fetor denying not inquiry." SIR T. BROWNE, V.E.

It was a week or two after the last whaling scene recounted, and when we

were slowly sailing over a sleepy, vapoury, mid-day sea, that the many

noses on the Pequod's deck proved more vigilant discoverers than the

three pairs of eyes aloft. A peculiar and not very pleasant smell was

smelt in the sea.
"I will bet something now," said Stubb, "that somewhere hereabouts are

some of those drugged whales we tickled the other day. I thought they

would keel up before long."
Presently, the vapours in advance slid aside; and there in the distance

lay a ship, whose furled sails betokened that some sort of whale must be

alongside. As we glided nearer, the stranger showed French colours from

his peak; and by the eddying cloud of vulture sea-fowl that circled, and

hovered, and swooped around him, it was plain that the whale alongside

must be what the fishermen call a blasted whale, that is, a whale that

has died unmolested on the sea, and so floated an unappropriated corpse.

It may well be conceived, what an unsavory odor such a mass must

exhale; worse than an Assyrian city in the plague, when the living are

incompetent to bury the departed. So intolerable indeed is it regarded

by some, that no cupidity could persuade them to moor alongside of it.

Yet are there those who will still do it; notwithstanding the fact that

the oil obtained from such subjects is of a very inferior quality, and

by no means of the nature of attar-of-rose.

Coming still nearer with the expiring breeze, we saw that the Frenchman

had a second whale alongside; and this second whale seemed even more

of a nosegay than the first. In truth, it turned out to be one of

those problematical whales that seem to dry up and die with a sort

of prodigious dyspepsia, or indigestion; leaving their defunct bodies

almost entirely bankrupt of anything like oil. Nevertheless, in the

proper place we shall see that no knowing fisherman will ever turn

up his nose at such a whale as this, however much he may shun blasted

whales in general.
The Pequod had now swept so nigh to the stranger, that Stubb vowed

he recognised his cutting spade-pole entangled in the lines that were

knotted round the tail of one of these whales.
"There's a pretty fellow, now," he banteringly laughed, standing in the

ship's bows, "there's a jackal for ye! I well know that these Crappoes

of Frenchmen are but poor devils in the fishery; sometimes lowering

their boats for breakers, mistaking them for Sperm Whale spouts; yes,

and sometimes sailing from their port with their hold full of boxes of

tallow candles, and cases of snuffers, foreseeing that all the oil they

will get won't be enough to dip the Captain's wick into; aye, we all

know these things; but look ye, here's a Crappo that is content with our

leavings, the drugged whale there, I mean; aye, and is content too with

scraping the dry bones of that other precious fish he has there. Poor

devil! I say, pass round a hat, some one, and let's make him a present

of a little oil for dear charity's sake. For what oil he'll get from

that drugged whale there, wouldn't be fit to burn in a jail; no, not

in a condemned cell. And as for the other whale, why, I'll agree to get

more oil by chopping up and trying out these three masts of ours, than

he'll get from that bundle of bones; though, now that I think of it, it

may contain something worth a good deal more than oil; yes, ambergris.

I wonder now if our old man has thought of that. It's worth trying. Yes,

I'm for it;" and so saying he started for the quarter-deck.
By this time the faint air had become a complete calm; so that whether

or no, the Pequod was now fairly entrapped in the smell, with no hope of

escaping except by its breezing up again. Issuing from the cabin, Stubb

now called his boat's crew, and pulled off for the stranger. Drawing

across her bow, he perceived that in accordance with the fanciful French

taste, the upper part of her stem-piece was carved in the likeness of a

huge drooping stalk, was painted green, and for thorns had copper

spikes projecting from it here and there; the whole terminating in a

symmetrical folded bulb of a bright red colour. Upon her head boards, in

large gilt letters, he read "Bouton de Rose,"--Rose-button, or Rose-bud;

and this was the romantic name of this aromatic ship.
Though Stubb did not understand the BOUTON part of the inscription, yet

the word ROSE, and the bulbous figure-head put together, sufficiently

explained the whole to him.
"A wooden rose-bud, eh?" he cried with his hand to his nose, "that will

do very well; but how like all creation it smells!"

Now in order to hold direct communication with the people on deck, he

had to pull round the bows to the starboard side, and thus come close to

the blasted whale; and so talk over it.
Arrived then at this spot, with one hand still to his nose, he

bawled--"Bouton-de-Rose, ahoy! are there any of you Bouton-de-Roses that

speak English?"
"Yes," rejoined a Guernsey-man from the bulwarks, who turned out to be

the chief-mate.

"Well, then, my Bouton-de-Rose-bud, have you seen the White Whale?"
"WHAT whale?"
"The WHITE Whale--a Sperm Whale--Moby Dick, have ye seen him?
"Never heard of such a whale. Cachalot Blanche! White Whale--no."
"Very good, then; good bye now, and I'll call again in a minute."
Then rapidly pulling back towards the Pequod, and seeing Ahab leaning

over the quarter-deck rail awaiting his report, he moulded his two hands

into a trumpet and shouted--"No, Sir! No!" Upon which Ahab retired, and

Stubb returned to the Frenchman.

He now perceived that the Guernsey-man, who had just got into the

chains, and was using a cutting-spade, had slung his nose in a sort of

"What's the matter with your nose, there?" said Stubb. "Broke it?"
"I wish it was broken, or that I didn't have any nose at all!" answered

the Guernsey-man, who did not seem to relish the job he was at very

much. "But what are you holding YOURS for?"
"Oh, nothing! It's a wax nose; I have to hold it on. Fine day, ain't it?

Air rather gardenny, I should say; throw us a bunch of posies, will ye,

"What in the devil's name do you want here?" roared the Guernseyman,

flying into a sudden passion.

"Oh! keep cool--cool? yes, that's the word! why don't you pack those

whales in ice while you're working at 'em? But joking aside, though; do

you know, Rose-bud, that it's all nonsense trying to get any oil out of

such whales? As for that dried up one, there, he hasn't a gill in his

whole carcase."
"I know that well enough; but, d'ye see, the Captain here won't believe

it; this is his first voyage; he was a Cologne manufacturer before. But

come aboard, and mayhap he'll believe you, if he won't me; and so I'll

get out of this dirty scrape."

"Anything to oblige ye, my sweet and pleasant fellow," rejoined Stubb,

and with that he soon mounted to the deck. There a queer scene presented

itself. The sailors, in tasselled caps of red worsted, were getting the

heavy tackles in readiness for the whales. But they worked rather slow

and talked very fast, and seemed in anything but a good humor. All their

noses upwardly projected from their faces like so many jib-booms.

Now and then pairs of them would drop their work, and run up to the

mast-head to get some fresh air. Some thinking they would catch the

plague, dipped oakum in coal-tar, and at intervals held it to their

nostrils. Others having broken the stems of their pipes almost short

off at the bowl, were vigorously puffing tobacco-smoke, so that it

constantly filled their olfactories.

Stubb was struck by a shower of outcries and anathemas proceeding from

the Captain's round-house abaft; and looking in that direction saw a

fiery face thrust from behind the door, which was held ajar from within.

This was the tormented surgeon, who, after in vain remonstrating

against the proceedings of the day, had betaken himself to the Captain's

round-house (CABINET he called it) to avoid the pest; but still, could

not help yelling out his entreaties and indignations at times.
Marking all this, Stubb argued well for his scheme, and turning to the

Guernsey-man had a little chat with him, during which the stranger mate

expressed his detestation of his Captain as a conceited ignoramus,

who had brought them all into so unsavory and unprofitable a pickle.

Sounding him carefully, Stubb further perceived that the Guernsey-man

had not the slightest suspicion concerning the ambergris. He therefore

held his peace on that head, but otherwise was quite frank and

confidential with him, so that the two quickly concocted a little plan

for both circumventing and satirizing the Captain, without his at all

dreaming of distrusting their sincerity. According to this little plan

of theirs, the Guernsey-man, under cover of an interpreter's office, was

to tell the Captain what he pleased, but as coming from Stubb; and as

for Stubb, he was to utter any nonsense that should come uppermost in

him during the interview.

By this time their destined victim appeared from his cabin. He was a

small and dark, but rather delicate looking man for a sea-captain, with

large whiskers and moustache, however; and wore a red cotton velvet vest

with watch-seals at his side. To this gentleman, Stubb was now politely

introduced by the Guernsey-man, who at once ostentatiously put on the

aspect of interpreting between them.

"What shall I say to him first?" said he.
"Why," said Stubb, eyeing the velvet vest and the watch and seals, "you

may as well begin by telling him that he looks a sort of babyish to me,

though I don't pretend to be a judge."
"He says, Monsieur," said the Guernsey-man, in French, turning to his

captain, "that only yesterday his ship spoke a vessel, whose captain

and chief-mate, with six sailors, had all died of a fever caught from a

blasted whale they had brought alongside."

Upon this the captain started, and eagerly desired to know more.
"What now?" said the Guernsey-man to Stubb.
"Why, since he takes it so easy, tell him that now I have eyed him

carefully, I'm quite certain that he's no more fit to command a

whale-ship than a St. Jago monkey. In fact, tell him from me he's a

"He vows and declares, Monsieur, that the other whale, the dried one, is

far more deadly than the blasted one; in fine, Monsieur, he conjures us,

as we value our lives, to cut loose from these fish."

Instantly the captain ran forward, and in a loud voice commanded his

crew to desist from hoisting the cutting-tackles, and at once cast loose

the cables and chains confining the whales to the ship.
"What now?" said the Guernsey-man, when the Captain had returned to

"Why, let me see; yes, you may as well tell him now that--that--in

fact, tell him I've diddled him, and (aside to himself) perhaps somebody

"He says, Monsieur, that he's very happy to have been of any service to

Hearing this, the captain vowed that they were the grateful parties

(meaning himself and mate) and concluded by inviting Stubb down into his

cabin to drink a bottle of Bordeaux.
"He wants you to take a glass of wine with him," said the interpreter.
"Thank him heartily; but tell him it's against my principles to drink

with the man I've diddled. In fact, tell him I must go."

"He says, Monsieur, that his principles won't admit of his drinking; but

that if Monsieur wants to live another day to drink, then Monsieur had

best drop all four boats, and pull the ship away from these whales, for

it's so calm they won't drift."

By this time Stubb was over the side, and getting into his boat, hailed

the Guernsey-man to this effect,--that having a long tow-line in his

boat, he would do what he could to help them, by pulling out the lighter

whale of the two from the ship's side. While the Frenchman's boats,

then, were engaged in towing the ship one way, Stubb benevolently towed

away at his whale the other way, ostentatiously slacking out a most

unusually long tow-line.
Presently a breeze sprang up; Stubb feigned to cast off from the whale;

hoisting his boats, the Frenchman soon increased his distance, while the

Pequod slid in between him and Stubb's whale. Whereupon Stubb quickly

pulled to the floating body, and hailing the Pequod to give notice of

his intentions, at once proceeded to reap the fruit of his unrighteous

cunning. Seizing his sharp boat-spade, he commenced an excavation in the

body, a little behind the side fin. You would almost have thought he was

digging a cellar there in the sea; and when at length his spade struck

against the gaunt ribs, it was like turning up old Roman tiles and

pottery buried in fat English loam. His boat's crew were all in high

excitement, eagerly helping their chief, and looking as anxious as


And all the time numberless fowls were diving, and ducking, and

screaming, and yelling, and fighting around them. Stubb was beginning

to look disappointed, especially as the horrible nosegay increased, when

suddenly from out the very heart of this plague, there stole a faint

stream of perfume, which flowed through the tide of bad smells without

being absorbed by it, as one river will flow into and then along with

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