|"'Twill hold, old gentleman. Long heat and wet, have they spoiled thee?
Thou seem'st to hold. Or, truer perhaps, life holds thee; not thou it."
"I hold the spool, sir. But just as my captain says. With these
grey hairs of mine 'tis not worth while disputing, 'specially with a
superior, who'll ne'er confess."
"What's that? There now's a patched professor in Queen Nature's
granite-founded College; but methinks he's too subservient. Where wert
"In the little rocky Isle of Man, sir."
"Excellent! Thou'st hit the world by that."
"I know not, sir, but I was born there."
"In the Isle of Man, hey? Well, the other way, it's good. Here's a man
from Man; a man born in once independent Man, and now unmanned of Man;
which is sucked in--by what? Up with the reel! The dead, blind wall
butts all inquiring heads at last. Up with it! So."
The log was heaved. The loose coils rapidly straightened out in a long
dragging line astern, and then, instantly, the reel began to whirl. In
turn, jerkingly raised and lowered by the rolling billows, the towing
resistance of the log caused the old reelman to stagger strangely.
Snap! the overstrained line sagged down in one long festoon; the tugging
log was gone.
"I crush the quadrant, the thunder turns the needles, and now the mad
sea parts the log-line. But Ahab can mend all. Haul in here, Tahitian;
reel up, Manxman. And look ye, let the carpenter make another log, and
mend thou the line. See to it."
"There he goes now; to him nothing's happened; but to me, the skewer
seems loosening out of the middle of the world. Haul in, haul in,
Tahitian! These lines run whole, and whirling out: come in broken, and
dragging slow. Ha, Pip? come to help; eh, Pip?"
"Pip? whom call ye Pip? Pip jumped from the whale-boat. Pip's missing.
Let's see now if ye haven't fished him up here, fisherman. It drags
hard; I guess he's holding on. Jerk him, Tahiti! Jerk him off; we haul
in no cowards here. Ho! there's his arm just breaking water. A hatchet!
a hatchet! cut it off--we haul in no cowards here. Captain Ahab! sir,
sir! here's Pip, trying to get on board again."
"Peace, thou crazy loon," cried the Manxman, seizing him by the arm.
"Away from the quarter-deck!"
"The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser," muttered Ahab, advancing.
"Hands off from that holiness! Where sayest thou Pip was, boy?
"Astern there, sir, astern! Lo! lo!"
"And who art thou, boy? I see not my reflection in the vacant pupils of
thy eyes. Oh God! that man should be a thing for immortal souls to sieve
through! Who art thou, boy?"
"Bell-boy, sir; ship's-crier; ding, dong, ding! Pip! Pip! Pip!
One hundred pounds of clay reward for Pip; five feet high--looks
cowardly--quickest known by that! Ding, dong, ding! Who's seen Pip the
"There can be no hearts above the snow-line. Oh, ye frozen heavens! look
down here. Ye did beget this luckless child, and have abandoned him,
ye creative libertines. Here, boy; Ahab's cabin shall be Pip's home
henceforth, while Ahab lives. Thou touchest my inmost centre, boy; thou
art tied to me by cords woven of my heart-strings. Come, let's down."
"What's this? here's velvet shark-skin," intently gazing at Ahab's hand,
and feeling it. "Ah, now, had poor Pip but felt so kind a thing as this,
perhaps he had ne'er been lost! This seems to me, sir, as a man-rope;
something that weak souls may hold by. Oh, sir, let old Perth now come
and rivet these two hands together; the black one with the white, for I
will not let this go."
"Oh, boy, nor will I thee, unless I should thereby drag thee to worse
horrors than are here. Come, then, to my cabin. Lo! ye believers in
gods all goodness, and in man all ill, lo you! see the omniscient gods
oblivious of suffering man; and man, though idiotic, and knowing not
what he does, yet full of the sweet things of love and gratitude. Come!
I feel prouder leading thee by thy black hand, than though I grasped an
"There go two daft ones now," muttered the old Manxman. "One daft with
strength, the other daft with weakness. But here's the end of the rotten
line--all dripping, too. Mend it, eh? I think we had best have a new
line altogether. I'll see Mr. Stubb about it."
CHAPTER 126. The Life-Buoy.
Steering now south-eastward by Ahab's levelled steel, and her progress
solely determined by Ahab's level log and line; the Pequod held on
her path towards the Equator. Making so long a passage through such
unfrequented waters, descrying no ships, and ere long, sideways impelled
by unvarying trade winds, over waves monotonously mild; all these seemed
the strange calm things preluding some riotous and desperate scene.
At last, when the ship drew near to the outskirts, as it were, of the
Equatorial fishing-ground, and in the deep darkness that goes before the
dawn, was sailing by a cluster of rocky islets; the watch--then headed
by Flask--was startled by a cry so plaintively wild and unearthly--like
half-articulated wailings of the ghosts of all Herod's murdered
Innocents--that one and all, they started from their reveries, and for
the space of some moments stood, or sat, or leaned all transfixedly
listening, like the carved Roman slave, while that wild cry remained
within hearing. The Christian or civilized part of the crew said it was
mermaids, and shuddered; but the pagan harpooneers remained unappalled.
Yet the grey Manxman--the oldest mariner of all--declared that the wild
thrilling sounds that were heard, were the voices of newly drowned men
in the sea.
Below in his hammock, Ahab did not hear of this till grey dawn, when
he came to the deck; it was then recounted to him by Flask, not
unaccompanied with hinted dark meanings. He hollowly laughed, and thus
explained the wonder.
Those rocky islands the ship had passed were the resort of great numbers
of seals, and some young seals that had lost their dams, or some dams
that had lost their cubs, must have risen nigh the ship and kept company
with her, crying and sobbing with their human sort of wail. But this
only the more affected some of them, because most mariners cherish a
very superstitious feeling about seals, arising not only from their
peculiar tones when in distress, but also from the human look of their
round heads and semi-intelligent faces, seen peeringly uprising from
the water alongside. In the sea, under certain circumstances, seals have
more than once been mistaken for men.
But the bodings of the crew were destined to receive a most plausible
confirmation in the fate of one of their number that morning. At
sun-rise this man went from his hammock to his mast-head at the fore;
and whether it was that he was not yet half waked from his sleep (for
sailors sometimes go aloft in a transition state), whether it was thus
with the man, there is now no telling; but, be that as it may, he
had not been long at his perch, when a cry was heard--a cry and a
rushing--and looking up, they saw a falling phantom in the air; and
looking down, a little tossed heap of white bubbles in the blue of the
The life-buoy--a long slender cask--was dropped from the stern, where it
always hung obedient to a cunning spring; but no hand rose to seize it,
and the sun having long beat upon this cask it had shrunken, so that it
slowly filled, and that parched wood also filled at its every pore; and
the studded iron-bound cask followed the sailor to the bottom, as if to
yield him his pillow, though in sooth but a hard one.
And thus the first man of the Pequod that mounted the mast to look out
for the White Whale, on the White Whale's own peculiar ground; that man
was swallowed up in the deep. But few, perhaps, thought of that at the
time. Indeed, in some sort, they were not grieved at this event, at
least as a portent; for they regarded it, not as a foreshadowing of evil
in the future, but as the fulfilment of an evil already presaged. They
declared that now they knew the reason of those wild shrieks they had
heard the night before. But again the old Manxman said nay.
The lost life-buoy was now to be replaced; Starbuck was directed to see
to it; but as no cask of sufficient lightness could be found, and as
in the feverish eagerness of what seemed the approaching crisis of
the voyage, all hands were impatient of any toil but what was directly
connected with its final end, whatever that might prove to be;
therefore, they were going to leave the ship's stern unprovided with a
buoy, when by certain strange signs and inuendoes Queequeg hinted a hint
concerning his coffin.
"A life-buoy of a coffin!" cried Starbuck, starting.
"Rather queer, that, I should say," said Stubb.
"It will make a good enough one," said Flask, "the carpenter here can
arrange it easily."
"Bring it up; there's nothing else for it," said Starbuck, after a
melancholy pause. "Rig it, carpenter; do not look at me so--the coffin,
I mean. Dost thou hear me? Rig it."
"And shall I nail down the lid, sir?" moving his hand as with a hammer.
"And shall I caulk the seams, sir?" moving his hand as with a
"And shall I then pay over the same with pitch, sir?" moving his hand as
with a pitch-pot.
"Away! what possesses thee to this? Make a life-buoy of the coffin, and
no more.--Mr. Stubb, Mr. Flask, come forward with me."
"He goes off in a huff. The whole he can endure; at the parts he baulks.
Now I don't like this. I make a leg for Captain Ahab, and he wears it
like a gentleman; but I make a bandbox for Queequeg, and he won't put
his head into it. Are all my pains to go for nothing with that coffin?
And now I'm ordered to make a life-buoy of it. It's like turning an old
coat; going to bring the flesh on the other side now. I don't like this
cobbling sort of business--I don't like it at all; it's undignified;
it's not my place. Let tinkers' brats do tinkerings; we are their
betters. I like to take in hand none but clean, virgin, fair-and-square
mathematical jobs, something that regularly begins at the beginning, and
is at the middle when midway, and comes to an end at the conclusion; not
a cobbler's job, that's at an end in the middle, and at the beginning at
the end. It's the old woman's tricks to be giving cobbling jobs. Lord!
what an affection all old women have for tinkers. I know an old woman of
sixty-five who ran away with a bald-headed young tinker once. And that's
the reason I never would work for lonely widow old women ashore, when
I kept my job-shop in the Vineyard; they might have taken it into their
lonely old heads to run off with me. But heigh-ho! there are no caps at
sea but snow-caps. Let me see. Nail down the lid; caulk the seams; pay
over the same with pitch; batten them down tight, and hang it with the
snap-spring over the ship's stern. Were ever such things done before
with a coffin? Some superstitious old carpenters, now, would be tied
up in the rigging, ere they would do the job. But I'm made of knotty
Aroostook hemlock; I don't budge. Cruppered with a coffin! Sailing
about with a grave-yard tray! But never mind. We workers in woods make
bridal-bedsteads and card-tables, as well as coffins and hearses. We
work by the month, or by the job, or by the profit; not for us to ask
the why and wherefore of our work, unless it be too confounded cobbling,
and then we stash it if we can. Hem! I'll do the job, now, tenderly.
I'll have me--let's see--how many in the ship's company, all told? But
I've forgotten. Any way, I'll have me thirty separate, Turk's-headed
life-lines, each three feet long hanging all round to the coffin. Then,
if the hull go down, there'll be thirty lively fellows all fighting for
one coffin, a sight not seen very often beneath the sun! Come hammer,
caulking-iron, pitch-pot, and marling-spike! Let's to it."
CHAPTER 127. The Deck.
THE COFFIN LAID UPON TWO LINE-TUBS, BETWEEN THE VICE-BENCH AND THE OPEN
HATCHWAY; THE CARPENTER CAULKING ITS SEAMS; THE STRING OF TWISTED OAKUM
SLOWLY UNWINDING FROM A LARGE ROLL OF IT PLACED IN THE BOSOM OF
HIS FROCK.--AHAB COMES SLOWLY FROM THE CABIN-GANGWAY, AND HEARS PIP
"Back, lad; I will be with ye again presently. He goes! Not this hand
complies with my humor more genially than that boy.--Middle aisle of a
church! What's here?"
"Life-buoy, sir. Mr. Starbuck's orders. Oh, look, sir! Beware the
"Thank ye, man. Thy coffin lies handy to the vault."
"Sir? The hatchway? oh! So it does, sir, so it does."
"Art not thou the leg-maker? Look, did not this stump come from thy
"I believe it did, sir; does the ferrule stand, sir?"
"Well enough. But art thou not also the undertaker?"
"Aye, sir; I patched up this thing here as a coffin for Queequeg; but
they've set me now to turning it into something else."
"Then tell me; art thou not an arrant, all-grasping, intermeddling,
monopolising, heathenish old scamp, to be one day making legs, and the
next day coffins to clap them in, and yet again life-buoys out of those
same coffins? Thou art as unprincipled as the gods, and as much of a
"But I do not mean anything, sir. I do as I do."
"The gods again. Hark ye, dost thou not ever sing working about a
coffin? The Titans, they say, hummed snatches when chipping out the
craters for volcanoes; and the grave-digger in the play sings, spade in
hand. Dost thou never?"
"Sing, sir? Do I sing? Oh, I'm indifferent enough, sir, for that; but
the reason why the grave-digger made music must have been because there
was none in his spade, sir. But the caulking mallet is full of it. Hark
"Aye, and that's because the lid there's a sounding-board; and what in
all things makes the sounding-board is this--there's naught beneath. And
yet, a coffin with a body in it rings pretty much the same, Carpenter.
Hast thou ever helped carry a bier, and heard the coffin knock against
the churchyard gate, going in?
"Faith, sir, I've--"
"Faith? What's that?"
"Why, faith, sir, it's only a sort of exclamation-like--that's all,
"Um, um; go on."
"I was about to say, sir, that--"
"Art thou a silk-worm? Dost thou spin thy own shroud out of thyself?
Look at thy bosom! Despatch! and get these traps out of sight."
"He goes aft. That was sudden, now; but squalls come sudden in hot
latitudes. I've heard that the Isle of Albemarle, one of the Gallipagos,
is cut by the Equator right in the middle. Seems to me some sort of
Equator cuts yon old man, too, right in his middle. He's always under
the Line--fiery hot, I tell ye! He's looking this way--come, oakum;
quick. Here we go again. This wooden mallet is the cork, and I'm the
professor of musical glasses--tap, tap!"
(AHAB TO HIMSELF.)
"There's a sight! There's a sound! The grey-headed woodpecker tapping
the hollow tree! Blind and dumb might well be envied now. See! that
thing rests on two line-tubs, full of tow-lines. A most malicious wag,
that fellow. Rat-tat! So man's seconds tick! Oh! how immaterial are all
materials! What things real are there, but imponderable thoughts? Here
now's the very dreaded symbol of grim death, by a mere hap, made
the expressive sign of the help and hope of most endangered life.
A life-buoy of a coffin! Does it go further? Can it be that in some
spiritual sense the coffin is, after all, but an immortality-preserver!
I'll think of that. But no. So far gone am I in the dark side of earth,
that its other side, the theoretic bright one, seems but uncertain
twilight to me. Will ye never have done, Carpenter, with that accursed
sound? I go below; let me not see that thing here when I return
again. Now, then, Pip, we'll talk this over; I do suck most wondrous
philosophies from thee! Some unknown conduits from the unknown worlds
must empty into thee!"
CHAPTER 128. The Pequod Meets The Rachel.
Next day, a large ship, the Rachel, was descried, bearing directly down
upon the Pequod, all her spars thickly clustering with men. At the
time the Pequod was making good speed through the water; but as the
broad-winged windward stranger shot nigh to her, the boastful sails all
fell together as blank bladders that are burst, and all life fled from
the smitten hull.
"Bad news; she brings bad news," muttered the old Manxman. But ere her
commander, who, with trumpet to mouth, stood up in his boat; ere he
could hopefully hail, Ahab's voice was heard.
"Hast seen the White Whale?"
"Aye, yesterday. Have ye seen a whale-boat adrift?"
Throttling his joy, Ahab negatively answered this unexpected question;
and would then have fain boarded the stranger, when the stranger captain
himself, having stopped his vessel's way, was seen descending her
side. A few keen pulls, and his boat-hook soon clinched the Pequod's
main-chains, and he sprang to the deck. Immediately he was recognised by
Ahab for a Nantucketer he knew. But no formal salutation was exchanged.
"Where was he?--not killed!--not killed!" cried Ahab, closely advancing.
"How was it?"
It seemed that somewhat late on the afternoon of the day previous, while
three of the stranger's boats were engaged with a shoal of whales, which
had led them some four or five miles from the ship; and while they were
yet in swift chase to windward, the white hump and head of Moby Dick had
suddenly loomed up out of the water, not very far to leeward; whereupon,
the fourth rigged boat--a reserved one--had been instantly lowered in
chase. After a keen sail before the wind, this fourth boat--the swiftest
keeled of all--seemed to have succeeded in fastening--at least, as
well as the man at the mast-head could tell anything about it. In the
distance he saw the diminished dotted boat; and then a swift gleam
of bubbling white water; and after that nothing more; whence it was
concluded that the stricken whale must have indefinitely run away with
his pursuers, as often happens. There was some apprehension, but no
positive alarm, as yet. The recall signals were placed in the rigging;
darkness came on; and forced to pick up her three far to windward
boats--ere going in quest of the fourth one in the precisely opposite
direction--the ship had not only been necessitated to leave that boat to
its fate till near midnight, but, for the time, to increase her distance
from it. But the rest of her crew being at last safe aboard, she crowded
all sail--stunsail on stunsail--after the missing boat; kindling a fire
in her try-pots for a beacon; and every other man aloft on the look-out.
But though when she had thus sailed a sufficient distance to gain the
presumed place of the absent ones when last seen; though she then
paused to lower her spare boats to pull all around her; and not finding
anything, had again dashed on; again paused, and lowered her boats; and
though she had thus continued doing till daylight; yet not the least
glimpse of the missing keel had been seen.
The story told, the stranger Captain immediately went on to reveal his
object in boarding the Pequod. He desired that ship to unite with his
own in the search; by sailing over the sea some four or five miles
apart, on parallel lines, and so sweeping a double horizon, as it were.
"I will wager something now," whispered Stubb to Flask, "that some one
in that missing boat wore off that Captain's best coat; mayhap, his
watch--he's so cursed anxious to get it back. Who ever heard of two
pious whale-ships cruising after one missing whale-boat in the height of
the whaling season? See, Flask, only see how pale he looks--pale in the
very buttons of his eyes--look--it wasn't the coat--it must have been
"My boy, my own boy is among them. For God's sake--I beg, I
conjure"--here exclaimed the stranger Captain to Ahab, who thus far
had but icily received his petition. "For eight-and-forty hours let me
charter your ship--I will gladly pay for it, and roundly pay for it--if
there be no other way--for eight-and-forty hours only--only that--you
must, oh, you must, and you SHALL do this thing."
"His son!" cried Stubb, "oh, it's his son he's lost! I take back the
coat and watch--what says Ahab? We must save that boy."
"He's drowned with the rest on 'em, last night," said the old Manx
sailor standing behind them; "I heard; all of ye heard their spirits."
Now, as it shortly turned out, what made this incident of the Rachel's
the more melancholy, was the circumstance, that not only was one of the
Captain's sons among the number of the missing boat's crew; but among
the number of the other boat's crews, at the same time, but on the other
hand, separated from the ship during the dark vicissitudes of the chase,
there had been still another son; as that for a time, the wretched
father was plunged to the bottom of the cruellest perplexity; which
was only solved for him by his chief mate's instinctively adopting the
ordinary procedure of a whale-ship in such emergencies, that is, when
placed between jeopardized but divided boats, always to pick up the
majority first. But the captain, for some unknown constitutional reason,
had refrained from mentioning all this, and not till forced to it by
Ahab's iciness did he allude to his one yet missing boy; a little lad,
but twelve years old, whose father with the earnest but unmisgiving
hardihood of a Nantucketer's paternal love, had thus early sought to
initiate him in the perils and wonders of a vocation almost immemorially
the destiny of all his race. Nor does it unfrequently occur, that
Nantucket captains will send a son of such tender age away from them,
for a protracted three or four years' voyage in some other ship than
their own; so that their first knowledge of a whaleman's career shall
be unenervated by any chance display of a father's natural but untimely
partiality, or undue apprehensiveness and concern.
Meantime, now the stranger was still beseeching his poor boon of Ahab;
and Ahab still stood like an anvil, receiving every shock, but without
the least quivering of his own.
"I will not go," said the stranger, "till you say aye to me. Do to me
as you would have me do to you in the like case. For YOU too have a boy,