|But one morning, turning to pass the doubloon, he seemed to be newly
attracted by the strange figures and inscriptions stamped on it, as
though now for the first time beginning to interpret for himself in
some monomaniac way whatever significance might lurk in them. And some
certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little
worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher, except to sell by
the cartload, as they do hills about Boston, to fill up some morass in
the Milky Way.
Now this doubloon was of purest, virgin gold, raked somewhere out of the
heart of gorgeous hills, whence, east and west, over golden sands, the
head-waters of many a Pactolus flows. And though now nailed amidst all
the rustiness of iron bolts and the verdigris of copper spikes, yet,
untouchable and immaculate to any foulness, it still preserved its Quito
glow. Nor, though placed amongst a ruthless crew and every hour passed
by ruthless hands, and through the livelong nights shrouded with thick
darkness which might cover any pilfering approach, nevertheless every
sunrise found the doubloon where the sunset left it last. For it was
set apart and sanctified to one awe-striking end; and however wanton
in their sailor ways, one and all, the mariners revered it as the white
whale's talisman. Sometimes they talked it over in the weary watch by
night, wondering whose it was to be at last, and whether he would ever
live to spend it.
Now those noble golden coins of South America are as medals of the sun
and tropic token-pieces. Here palms, alpacas, and volcanoes; sun's disks
and stars; ecliptics, horns-of-plenty, and rich banners waving, are in
luxuriant profusion stamped; so that the precious gold seems almost to
derive an added preciousness and enhancing glories, by passing through
those fancy mints, so Spanishly poetic.
It so chanced that the doubloon of the Pequod was a most wealthy example
of these things. On its round border it bore the letters, REPUBLICA DEL
ECUADOR: QUITO. So this bright coin came from a country planted in the
middle of the world, and beneath the great equator, and named after it;
and it had been cast midway up the Andes, in the unwaning clime that
knows no autumn. Zoned by those letters you saw the likeness of three
Andes' summits; from one a flame; a tower on another; on the third a
crowing cock; while arching over all was a segment of the partitioned
zodiac, the signs all marked with their usual cabalistics, and the
keystone sun entering the equinoctial point at Libra.
Before this equatorial coin, Ahab, not unobserved by others, was now
"There's something ever egotistical in mountain-tops and towers, and
all other grand and lofty things; look here,--three peaks as proud as
Lucifer. The firm tower, that is Ahab; the volcano, that is Ahab; the
courageous, the undaunted, and victorious fowl, that, too, is Ahab; all
are Ahab; and this round gold is but the image of the rounder globe,
which, like a magician's glass, to each and every man in turn but
mirrors back his own mysterious self. Great pains, small gains for those
who ask the world to solve them; it cannot solve itself. Methinks now
this coined sun wears a ruddy face; but see! aye, he enters the sign
of storms, the equinox! and but six months before he wheeled out of a
former equinox at Aries! From storm to storm! So be it, then. Born in
throes, 't is fit that man should live in pains and die in pangs! So be
it, then! Here's stout stuff for woe to work on. So be it, then."
"No fairy fingers can have pressed the gold, but devil's claws must
have left their mouldings there since yesterday," murmured Starbuck
to himself, leaning against the bulwarks. "The old man seems to read
Belshazzar's awful writing. I have never marked the coin inspectingly.
He goes below; let me read. A dark valley between three mighty,
heaven-abiding peaks, that almost seem the Trinity, in some faint
earthly symbol. So in this vale of Death, God girds us round; and over
all our gloom, the sun of Righteousness still shines a beacon and a
hope. If we bend down our eyes, the dark vale shows her mouldy soil;
but if we lift them, the bright sun meets our glance half way, to cheer.
Yet, oh, the great sun is no fixture; and if, at midnight, we would fain
snatch some sweet solace from him, we gaze for him in vain! This coin
speaks wisely, mildly, truly, but still sadly to me. I will quit it,
lest Truth shake me falsely."
"There now's the old Mogul," soliloquized Stubb by the try-works, "he's
been twigging it; and there goes Starbuck from the same, and both with
faces which I should say might be somewhere within nine fathoms long.
And all from looking at a piece of gold, which did I have it now on
Negro Hill or in Corlaer's Hook, I'd not look at it very long ere
spending it. Humph! in my poor, insignificant opinion, I regard this as
queer. I have seen doubloons before now in my voyagings; your doubloons
of old Spain, your doubloons of Peru, your doubloons of Chili, your
doubloons of Bolivia, your doubloons of Popayan; with plenty of gold
moidores and pistoles, and joes, and half joes, and quarter joes. What
then should there be in this doubloon of the Equator that is so killing
wonderful? By Golconda! let me read it once. Halloa! here's signs and
wonders truly! That, now, is what old Bowditch in his Epitome calls the
zodiac, and what my almanac below calls ditto. I'll get the almanac and
as I have heard devils can be raised with Daboll's arithmetic, I'll try
my hand at raising a meaning out of these queer curvicues here with
the Massachusetts calendar. Here's the book. Let's see now. Signs and
wonders; and the sun, he's always among 'em. Hem, hem, hem; here they
are--here they go--all alive:--Aries, or the Ram; Taurus, or the Bull
and Jimimi! here's Gemini himself, or the Twins. Well; the sun he
wheels among 'em. Aye, here on the coin he's just crossing the threshold
between two of twelve sitting-rooms all in a ring. Book! you lie there;
the fact is, you books must know your places. You'll do to give us the
bare words and facts, but we come in to supply the thoughts. That's my
small experience, so far as the Massachusetts calendar, and Bowditch's
navigator, and Daboll's arithmetic go. Signs and wonders, eh? Pity if
there is nothing wonderful in signs, and significant in wonders! There's
a clue somewhere; wait a bit; hist--hark! By Jove, I have it! Look you,
Doubloon, your zodiac here is the life of man in one round chapter;
and now I'll read it off, straight out of the book. Come, Almanack! To
begin: there's Aries, or the Ram--lecherous dog, he begets us; then,
Taurus, or the Bull--he bumps us the first thing; then Gemini, or the
Twins--that is, Virtue and Vice; we try to reach Virtue, when lo! comes
Cancer the Crab, and drags us back; and here, going from Virtue, Leo,
a roaring Lion, lies in the path--he gives a few fierce bites and surly
dabs with his paw; we escape, and hail Virgo, the Virgin! that's our
first love; we marry and think to be happy for aye, when pop comes
Libra, or the Scales--happiness weighed and found wanting; and while we
are very sad about that, Lord! how we suddenly jump, as Scorpio, or the
Scorpion, stings us in the rear; we are curing the wound, when whang
come the arrows all round; Sagittarius, or the Archer, is amusing
himself. As we pluck out the shafts, stand aside! here's the
battering-ram, Capricornus, or the Goat; full tilt, he comes rushing,
and headlong we are tossed; when Aquarius, or the Water-bearer, pours
out his whole deluge and drowns us; and to wind up with Pisces, or the
Fishes, we sleep. There's a sermon now, writ in high heaven, and the
sun goes through it every year, and yet comes out of it all alive and
hearty. Jollily he, aloft there, wheels through toil and trouble; and
so, alow here, does jolly Stubb. Oh, jolly's the word for aye! Adieu,
Doubloon! But stop; here comes little King-Post; dodge round the
try-works, now, and let's hear what he'll have to say. There; he's
before it; he'll out with something presently. So, so; he's beginning."
"I see nothing here, but a round thing made of gold, and whoever raises
a certain whale, this round thing belongs to him. So, what's all this
staring been about? It is worth sixteen dollars, that's true; and at
two cents the cigar, that's nine hundred and sixty cigars. I won't smoke
dirty pipes like Stubb, but I like cigars, and here's nine hundred and
sixty of them; so here goes Flask aloft to spy 'em out."
"Shall I call that wise or foolish, now; if it be really wise it has a
foolish look to it; yet, if it be really foolish, then has it a sort
of wiseish look to it. But, avast; here comes our old Manxman--the old
hearse-driver, he must have been, that is, before he took to the sea. He
luffs up before the doubloon; halloa, and goes round on the other side
of the mast; why, there's a horse-shoe nailed on that side; and now he's
back again; what does that mean? Hark! he's muttering--voice like an old
worn-out coffee-mill. Prick ears, and listen!"
"If the White Whale be raised, it must be in a month and a day, when
the sun stands in some one of these signs. I've studied signs, and know
their marks; they were taught me two score years ago, by the old witch
in Copenhagen. Now, in what sign will the sun then be? The horse-shoe
sign; for there it is, right opposite the gold. And what's the
horse-shoe sign? The lion is the horse-shoe sign--the roaring and
devouring lion. Ship, old ship! my old head shakes to think of thee."
"There's another rendering now; but still one text. All sorts of men
in one kind of world, you see. Dodge again! here comes Queequeg--all
tattooing--looks like the signs of the Zodiac himself. What says the
Cannibal? As I live he's comparing notes; looking at his thigh bone;
thinks the sun is in the thigh, or in the calf, or in the bowels, I
suppose, as the old women talk Surgeon's Astronomy in the back country.
And by Jove, he's found something there in the vicinity of his thigh--I
guess it's Sagittarius, or the Archer. No: he don't know what to make
of the doubloon; he takes it for an old button off some king's trowsers.
But, aside again! here comes that ghost-devil, Fedallah; tail coiled out
of sight as usual, oakum in the toes of his pumps as usual. What does he
say, with that look of his? Ah, only makes a sign to the sign and bows
himself; there is a sun on the coin--fire worshipper, depend upon it.
Ho! more and more. This way comes Pip--poor boy! would he had died,
or I; he's half horrible to me. He too has been watching all of these
interpreters--myself included--and look now, he comes to read, with that
unearthly idiot face. Stand away again and hear him. Hark!"
"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look."
"Upon my soul, he's been studying Murray's Grammar! Improving his mind,
poor fellow! But what's that he says now--hist!"
"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look."
"Why, he's getting it by heart--hist! again."
"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look."
"Well, that's funny."
"And I, you, and he; and we, ye, and they, are all bats; and I'm a crow,
especially when I stand a'top of this pine tree here. Caw! caw! caw!
caw! caw! caw! Ain't I a crow? And where's the scare-crow? There he
stands; two bones stuck into a pair of old trowsers, and two more poked
into the sleeves of an old jacket."
"Wonder if he means me?--complimentary!--poor lad!--I could go hang
myself. Any way, for the present, I'll quit Pip's vicinity. I can stand
the rest, for they have plain wits; but he's too crazy-witty for my
sanity. So, so, I leave him muttering."
"Here's the ship's navel, this doubloon here, and they are all on fire
to unscrew it. But, unscrew your navel, and what's the consequence? Then
again, if it stays here, that is ugly, too, for when aught's nailed to
the mast it's a sign that things grow desperate. Ha, ha! old Ahab!
the White Whale; he'll nail ye! This is a pine tree. My father, in old
Tolland county, cut down a pine tree once, and found a silver ring grown
over in it; some old darkey's wedding ring. How did it get there? And
so they'll say in the resurrection, when they come to fish up this old
mast, and find a doubloon lodged in it, with bedded oysters for the
shaggy bark. Oh, the gold! the precious, precious, gold! the green
miser'll hoard ye soon! Hish! hish! God goes 'mong the worlds
blackberrying. Cook! ho, cook! and cook us! Jenny! hey, hey, hey, hey,
hey, Jenny, Jenny! and get your hoe-cake done!"
CHAPTER 100. Leg and Arm.
The Pequod, of Nantucket, Meets the Samuel Enderby, of London.
"Ship, ahoy! Hast seen the White Whale?"
So cried Ahab, once more hailing a ship showing English colours, bearing
down under the stern. Trumpet to mouth, the old man was standing in his
hoisted quarter-boat, his ivory leg plainly revealed to the stranger
captain, who was carelessly reclining in his own boat's bow. He was
a darkly-tanned, burly, good-natured, fine-looking man, of sixty or
thereabouts, dressed in a spacious roundabout, that hung round him in
festoons of blue pilot-cloth; and one empty arm of this jacket streamed
behind him like the broidered arm of a hussar's surcoat.
"Hast seen the White Whale!"
"See you this?" and withdrawing it from the folds that had hidden it,
he held up a white arm of sperm whale bone, terminating in a wooden head
like a mallet.
"Man my boat!" cried Ahab, impetuously, and tossing about the oars near
him--"Stand by to lower!"
In less than a minute, without quitting his little craft, he and his
crew were dropped to the water, and were soon alongside of the stranger.
But here a curious difficulty presented itself. In the excitement of the
moment, Ahab had forgotten that since the loss of his leg he had never
once stepped on board of any vessel at sea but his own, and then it was
always by an ingenious and very handy mechanical contrivance peculiar to
the Pequod, and a thing not to be rigged and shipped in any other
vessel at a moment's warning. Now, it is no very easy matter
for anybody--except those who are almost hourly used to it, like
whalemen--to clamber up a ship's side from a boat on the open sea; for
the great swells now lift the boat high up towards the bulwarks, and
then instantaneously drop it half way down to the kelson. So, deprived
of one leg, and the strange ship of course being altogether unsupplied
with the kindly invention, Ahab now found himself abjectly reduced to a
clumsy landsman again; hopelessly eyeing the uncertain changeful height
he could hardly hope to attain.
It has before been hinted, perhaps, that every little untoward
circumstance that befell him, and which indirectly sprang from his
luckless mishap, almost invariably irritated or exasperated Ahab. And
in the present instance, all this was heightened by the sight of the
two officers of the strange ship, leaning over the side, by the
perpendicular ladder of nailed cleets there, and swinging towards him a
pair of tastefully-ornamented man-ropes; for at first they did not seem
to bethink them that a one-legged man must be too much of a cripple to
use their sea bannisters. But this awkwardness only lasted a minute,
because the strange captain, observing at a glance how affairs stood,
cried out, "I see, I see!--avast heaving there! Jump, boys, and swing
over the cutting-tackle."
As good luck would have it, they had had a whale alongside a day or two
previous, and the great tackles were still aloft, and the massive curved
blubber-hook, now clean and dry, was still attached to the end. This
was quickly lowered to Ahab, who at once comprehending it all, slid his
solitary thigh into the curve of the hook (it was like sitting in the
fluke of an anchor, or the crotch of an apple tree), and then giving the
word, held himself fast, and at the same time also helped to hoist his
own weight, by pulling hand-over-hand upon one of the running parts of
the tackle. Soon he was carefully swung inside the high bulwarks, and
gently landed upon the capstan head. With his ivory arm frankly thrust
forth in welcome, the other captain advanced, and Ahab, putting out his
ivory leg, and crossing the ivory arm (like two sword-fish blades)
cried out in his walrus way, "Aye, aye, hearty! let us shake bones
together!--an arm and a leg!--an arm that never can shrink, d'ye
see; and a leg that never can run. Where did'st thou see the White
Whale?--how long ago?"
"The White Whale," said the Englishman, pointing his ivory arm towards
the East, and taking a rueful sight along it, as if it had been a
telescope; "there I saw him, on the Line, last season."
"And he took that arm off, did he?" asked Ahab, now sliding down from
the capstan, and resting on the Englishman's shoulder, as he did so.
"Aye, he was the cause of it, at least; and that leg, too?"
"Spin me the yarn," said Ahab; "how was it?"
"It was the first time in my life that I ever cruised on the Line,"
began the Englishman. "I was ignorant of the White Whale at that time.
Well, one day we lowered for a pod of four or five whales, and my boat
fastened to one of them; a regular circus horse he was, too, that went
milling and milling round so, that my boat's crew could only trim dish,
by sitting all their sterns on the outer gunwale. Presently up breaches
from the bottom of the sea a bouncing great whale, with a milky-white
head and hump, all crows' feet and wrinkles."
"It was he, it was he!" cried Ahab, suddenly letting out his suspended
"And harpoons sticking in near his starboard fin."
"Aye, aye--they were mine--MY irons," cried Ahab, exultingly--"but on!"
"Give me a chance, then," said the Englishman, good-humoredly. "Well,
this old great-grandfather, with the white head and hump, runs all afoam
into the pod, and goes to snapping furiously at my fast-line!
"Aye, I see!--wanted to part it; free the fast-fish--an old trick--I
"How it was exactly," continued the one-armed commander, "I do not know;
but in biting the line, it got foul of his teeth, caught there somehow;
but we didn't know it then; so that when we afterwards pulled on the
line, bounce we came plump on to his hump! instead of the other whale's;
that went off to windward, all fluking. Seeing how matters stood, and
what a noble great whale it was--the noblest and biggest I ever saw,
sir, in my life--I resolved to capture him, spite of the boiling rage
he seemed to be in. And thinking the hap-hazard line would get loose, or
the tooth it was tangled to might draw (for I have a devil of a boat's
crew for a pull on a whale-line); seeing all this, I say, I jumped
into my first mate's boat--Mr. Mounttop's here (by the way,
Captain--Mounttop; Mounttop--the captain);--as I was saying, I jumped
into Mounttop's boat, which, d'ye see, was gunwale and gunwale
with mine, then; and snatching the first harpoon, let this old
great-grandfather have it. But, Lord, look you, sir--hearts and souls
alive, man--the next instant, in a jiff, I was blind as a bat--both
eyes out--all befogged and bedeadened with black foam--the whale's tail
looming straight up out of it, perpendicular in the air, like a marble
steeple. No use sterning all, then; but as I was groping at midday, with
a blinding sun, all crown-jewels; as I was groping, I say, after the
second iron, to toss it overboard--down comes the tail like a Lima
tower, cutting my boat in two, leaving each half in splinters; and,
flukes first, the white hump backed through the wreck, as though it was
all chips. We all struck out. To escape his terrible flailings, I seized
hold of my harpoon-pole sticking in him, and for a moment clung to that
like a sucking fish. But a combing sea dashed me off, and at the same
instant, the fish, taking one good dart forwards, went down like a
flash; and the barb of that cursed second iron towing along near me
caught me here" (clapping his hand just below his shoulder); "yes,
caught me just here, I say, and bore me down to Hell's flames, I was
thinking; when, when, all of a sudden, thank the good God, the barb ript
its way along the flesh--clear along the whole length of my arm--came
out nigh my wrist, and up I floated;--and that gentleman there will tell
you the rest (by the way, captain--Dr. Bunger, ship's surgeon: Bunger,
my lad,--the captain). Now, Bunger boy, spin your part of the yarn."
The professional gentleman thus familiarly pointed out, had been all the
time standing near them, with nothing specific visible, to denote his
gentlemanly rank on board. His face was an exceedingly round but sober
one; he was dressed in a faded blue woollen frock or shirt, and patched
trowsers; and had thus far been dividing his attention between a
marlingspike he held in one hand, and a pill-box held in the other,
occasionally casting a critical glance at the ivory limbs of the two
crippled captains. But, at his superior's introduction of him to Ahab,
he politely bowed, and straightway went on to do his captain's bidding.
"It was a shocking bad wound," began the whale-surgeon; "and, taking my
advice, Captain Boomer here, stood our old Sammy--"
"Samuel Enderby is the name of my ship," interrupted the one-armed
captain, addressing Ahab; "go on, boy."
"Stood our old Sammy off to the northward, to get out of the blazing hot
weather there on the Line. But it was no use--I did all I could; sat up
with him nights; was very severe with him in the matter of diet--"
"Oh, very severe!" chimed in the patient himself; then suddenly altering
his voice, "Drinking hot rum toddies with me every night, till he
couldn't see to put on the bandages; and sending me to bed, half seas
over, about three o'clock in the morning. Oh, ye stars! he sat up with
me indeed, and was very severe in my diet. Oh! a great watcher, and very
dietetically severe, is Dr. Bunger. (Bunger, you dog, laugh out! why
don't ye? You know you're a precious jolly rascal.) But, heave ahead,
boy, I'd rather be killed by you than kept alive by any other man."
"My captain, you must have ere this perceived, respected sir"--said the
imperturbable godly-looking Bunger, slightly bowing to Ahab--"is apt to