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



Download 4.14 Mb.
Page43/56
Date conversion29.04.2016
Size4.14 Mb.
1   ...   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   ...   56
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

pausing.
"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

breath.
"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

know him."


"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

1   ...   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   ...   56


The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page