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

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honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg--a cosy, loving pair.

CHAPTER 11. Nightgown.

We had lain thus in bed, chatting and napping at short intervals, and

Queequeg now and then affectionately throwing his brown tattooed legs

over mine, and then drawing them back; so entirely sociable and free

and easy were we; when, at last, by reason of our confabulations, what

little nappishness remained in us altogether departed, and we felt like

getting up again, though day-break was yet some way down the future.

Yes, we became very wakeful; so much so that our recumbent position

began to grow wearisome, and by little and little we found ourselves

sitting up; the clothes well tucked around us, leaning against the

head-board with our four knees drawn up close together, and our two

noses bending over them, as if our kneepans were warming-pans. We felt

very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors;

indeed out of bed-clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the

room. The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some

small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world

that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If

you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so

a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if,

like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown

of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general

consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this

reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which

is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this

sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and

your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the

one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.

We had been sitting in this crouching manner for some time, when all at

once I thought I would open my eyes; for when between sheets, whether

by day or by night, and whether asleep or awake, I have a way of always

keeping my eyes shut, in order the more to concentrate the snugness

of being in bed. Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright

except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element

of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part. Upon

opening my eyes then, and coming out of my own pleasant and self-created

darkness into the imposed and coarse outer gloom of the unilluminated

twelve-o'clock-at-night, I experienced a disagreeable revulsion. Nor did

I at all object to the hint from Queequeg that perhaps it were best to

strike a light, seeing that we were so wide awake; and besides he felt

a strong desire to have a few quiet puffs from his Tomahawk. Be it said,

that though I had felt such a strong repugnance to his smoking in the

bed the night before, yet see how elastic our stiff prejudices grow when

love once comes to bend them. For now I liked nothing better than to

have Queequeg smoking by me, even in bed, because he seemed to be full

of such serene household joy then. I no more felt unduly concerned for

the landlord's policy of insurance. I was only alive to the condensed

confidential comfortableness of sharing a pipe and a blanket with a real

friend. With our shaggy jackets drawn about our shoulders, we now passed

the Tomahawk from one to the other, till slowly there grew over us a

blue hanging tester of smoke, illuminated by the flame of the new-lit

Whether it was that this undulating tester rolled the savage away to far

distant scenes, I know not, but he now spoke of his native island; and,

eager to hear his history, I begged him to go on and tell it. He gladly

complied. Though at the time I but ill comprehended not a few of his

words, yet subsequent disclosures, when I had become more familiar with

his broken phraseology, now enable me to present the whole story such as

it may prove in the mere skeleton I give.

CHAPTER 12. Biographical.

Queequeg was a native of Rokovoko, an island far away to the West and

South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.

When a new-hatched savage running wild about his native woodlands in

a grass clout, followed by the nibbling goats, as if he were a green

sapling; even then, in Queequeg's ambitious soul, lurked a strong desire

to see something more of Christendom than a specimen whaler or two. His

father was a High Chief, a King; his uncle a High Priest; and on the

maternal side he boasted aunts who were the wives of unconquerable

warriors. There was excellent blood in his veins--royal stuff; though

sadly vitiated, I fear, by the cannibal propensity he nourished in his

untutored youth.
A Sag Harbor ship visited his father's bay, and Queequeg sought a

passage to Christian lands. But the ship, having her full complement of

seamen, spurned his suit; and not all the King his father's influence

could prevail. But Queequeg vowed a vow. Alone in his canoe, he paddled

off to a distant strait, which he knew the ship must pass through when

she quitted the island. On one side was a coral reef; on the other a low

tongue of land, covered with mangrove thickets that grew out into the

water. Hiding his canoe, still afloat, among these thickets, with its

prow seaward, he sat down in the stern, paddle low in hand; and when the

ship was gliding by, like a flash he darted out; gained her side; with

one backward dash of his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up

the chains; and throwing himself at full length upon the deck, grappled

a ring-bolt there, and swore not to let it go, though hacked in pieces.
In vain the captain threatened to throw him overboard; suspended a

cutlass over his naked wrists; Queequeg was the son of a King, and

Queequeg budged not. Struck by his desperate dauntlessness, and his wild

desire to visit Christendom, the captain at last relented, and told

him he might make himself at home. But this fine young savage--this sea

Prince of Wales, never saw the Captain's cabin. They put him down among

the sailors, and made a whaleman of him. But like Czar Peter content to

toil in the shipyards of foreign cities, Queequeg disdained no seeming

ignominy, if thereby he might happily gain the power of enlightening his

untutored countrymen. For at bottom--so he told me--he was actuated by a

profound desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby to

make his people still happier than they were; and more than that,

still better than they were. But, alas! the practices of whalemen soon

convinced him that even Christians could be both miserable and wicked;

infinitely more so, than all his father's heathens. Arrived at last in

old Sag Harbor; and seeing what the sailors did there; and then going on

to Nantucket, and seeing how they spent their wages in that place also,

poor Queequeg gave it up for lost. Thought he, it's a wicked world in

all meridians; I'll die a pagan.
And thus an old idolator at heart, he yet lived among these Christians,

wore their clothes, and tried to talk their gibberish. Hence the queer

ways about him, though now some time from home.
By hints, I asked him whether he did not propose going back, and having

a coronation; since he might now consider his father dead and gone, he

being very old and feeble at the last accounts. He answered no, not yet;

and added that he was fearful Christianity, or rather Christians, had

unfitted him for ascending the pure and undefiled throne of thirty pagan

Kings before him. But by and by, he said, he would return,--as soon as

he felt himself baptized again. For the nonce, however, he proposed to

sail about, and sow his wild oats in all four oceans. They had made a

harpooneer of him, and that barbed iron was in lieu of a sceptre now.
I asked him what might be his immediate purpose, touching his future

movements. He answered, to go to sea again, in his old vocation. Upon

this, I told him that whaling was my own design, and informed him of my

intention to sail out of Nantucket, as being the most promising port for

an adventurous whaleman to embark from. He at once resolved to accompany

me to that island, ship aboard the same vessel, get into the same watch,

the same boat, the same mess with me, in short to share my every hap;

with both my hands in his, boldly dip into the Potluck of both worlds.

To all this I joyously assented; for besides the affection I now felt

for Queequeg, he was an experienced harpooneer, and as such, could not

fail to be of great usefulness to one, who, like me, was wholly ignorant

of the mysteries of whaling, though well acquainted with the sea, as

known to merchant seamen.
His story being ended with his pipe's last dying puff, Queequeg embraced

me, pressed his forehead against mine, and blowing out the light, we

rolled over from each other, this way and that, and very soon were


CHAPTER 13. Wheelbarrow.

Next morning, Monday, after disposing of the embalmed head to a barber,

for a block, I settled my own and comrade's bill; using, however, my

comrade's money. The grinning landlord, as well as the boarders, seemed

amazingly tickled at the sudden friendship which had sprung up between

me and Queequeg--especially as Peter Coffin's cock and bull stories

about him had previously so much alarmed me concerning the very person

whom I now companied with.

We borrowed a wheelbarrow, and embarking our things, including my own

poor carpet-bag, and Queequeg's canvas sack and hammock, away we went

down to "the Moss," the little Nantucket packet schooner moored at the

wharf. As we were going along the people stared; not at Queequeg

so much--for they were used to seeing cannibals like him in their

streets,--but at seeing him and me upon such confidential terms. But we

heeded them not, going along wheeling the barrow by turns, and Queequeg

now and then stopping to adjust the sheath on his harpoon barbs. I asked

him why he carried such a troublesome thing with him ashore, and

whether all whaling ships did not find their own harpoons. To this, in

substance, he replied, that though what I hinted was true enough, yet

he had a particular affection for his own harpoon, because it was of

assured stuff, well tried in many a mortal combat, and deeply intimate

with the hearts of whales. In short, like many inland reapers

and mowers, who go into the farmers' meadows armed with their own

scythes--though in no wise obliged to furnish them--even so, Queequeg,

for his own private reasons, preferred his own harpoon.
Shifting the barrow from my hand to his, he told me a funny story about

the first wheelbarrow he had ever seen. It was in Sag Harbor. The owners

of his ship, it seems, had lent him one, in which to carry his

heavy chest to his boarding house. Not to seem ignorant about the

thing--though in truth he was entirely so, concerning the precise way in

which to manage the barrow--Queequeg puts his chest upon it; lashes it

fast; and then shoulders the barrow and marches up the wharf. "Why,"

said I, "Queequeg, you might have known better than that, one would

think. Didn't the people laugh?"
Upon this, he told me another story. The people of his island of

Rokovoko, it seems, at their wedding feasts express the fragrant water

of young cocoanuts into a large stained calabash like a punchbowl; and

this punchbowl always forms the great central ornament on the braided

mat where the feast is held. Now a certain grand merchant ship once

touched at Rokovoko, and its commander--from all accounts, a very

stately punctilious gentleman, at least for a sea captain--this

commander was invited to the wedding feast of Queequeg's sister, a

pretty young princess just turned of ten. Well; when all the wedding

guests were assembled at the bride's bamboo cottage, this Captain

marches in, and being assigned the post of honour, placed himself over

against the punchbowl, and between the High Priest and his majesty the

King, Queequeg's father. Grace being said,--for those people have their

grace as well as we--though Queequeg told me that unlike us, who at such

times look downwards to our platters, they, on the contrary, copying the

ducks, glance upwards to the great Giver of all feasts--Grace, I say,

being said, the High Priest opens the banquet by the immemorial ceremony

of the island; that is, dipping his consecrated and consecrating fingers

into the bowl before the blessed beverage circulates. Seeing himself

placed next the Priest, and noting the ceremony, and thinking

himself--being Captain of a ship--as having plain precedence over a

mere island King, especially in the King's own house--the Captain coolly

proceeds to wash his hands in the punchbowl;--taking it I suppose for a

huge finger-glass. "Now," said Queequeg, "what you tink now?--Didn't our

people laugh?"
At last, passage paid, and luggage safe, we stood on board the schooner.

Hoisting sail, it glided down the Acushnet river. On one side, New

Bedford rose in terraces of streets, their ice-covered trees all

glittering in the clear, cold air. Huge hills and mountains of casks on

casks were piled upon her wharves, and side by side the world-wandering

whale ships lay silent and safely moored at last; while from others

came a sound of carpenters and coopers, with blended noises of fires and

forges to melt the pitch, all betokening that new cruises were on the

start; that one most perilous and long voyage ended, only begins a

second; and a second ended, only begins a third, and so on, for ever

and for aye. Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all

earthly effort.

Gaining the more open water, the bracing breeze waxed fresh; the little

Moss tossed the quick foam from her bows, as a young colt his snortings.

How I snuffed that Tartar air!--how I spurned that turnpike earth!--that

common highway all over dented with the marks of slavish heels and

hoofs; and turned me to admire the magnanimity of the sea which will

permit no records.

At the same foam-fountain, Queequeg seemed to drink and reel with me.

His dusky nostrils swelled apart; he showed his filed and pointed teeth.

On, on we flew; and our offing gained, the Moss did homage to the

blast; ducked and dived her bows as a slave before the Sultan. Sideways

leaning, we sideways darted; every ropeyarn tingling like a wire; the

two tall masts buckling like Indian canes in land tornadoes. So full of

this reeling scene were we, as we stood by the plunging bowsprit, that

for some time we did not notice the jeering glances of the passengers, a

lubber-like assembly, who marvelled that two fellow beings should be so

companionable; as though a white man were anything more dignified than a

whitewashed negro. But there were some boobies and bumpkins there, who,

by their intense greenness, must have come from the heart and centre of

all verdure. Queequeg caught one of these young saplings mimicking him

behind his back. I thought the bumpkin's hour of doom was come. Dropping

his harpoon, the brawny savage caught him in his arms, and by an almost

miraculous dexterity and strength, sent him high up bodily into the air;

then slightly tapping his stern in mid-somerset, the fellow landed with

bursting lungs upon his feet, while Queequeg, turning his back upon him,

lighted his tomahawk pipe and passed it to me for a puff.
"Capting! Capting!" yelled the bumpkin, running towards that officer;

"Capting, Capting, here's the devil."

"Hallo, _you_ sir," cried the Captain, a gaunt rib of the sea, stalking

up to Queequeg, "what in thunder do you mean by that? Don't you know you

might have killed that chap?"
"What him say?" said Queequeg, as he mildly turned to me.
"He say," said I, "that you came near kill-e that man there," pointing

to the still shivering greenhorn.

"Kill-e," cried Queequeg, twisting his tattooed face into an unearthly

expression of disdain, "ah! him bevy small-e fish-e; Queequeg no kill-e

so small-e fish-e; Queequeg kill-e big whale!"
"Look you," roared the Captain, "I'll kill-e YOU, you cannibal, if you

try any more of your tricks aboard here; so mind your eye."

But it so happened just then, that it was high time for the Captain to

mind his own eye. The prodigious strain upon the main-sail had parted

the weather-sheet, and the tremendous boom was now flying from side to

side, completely sweeping the entire after part of the deck. The poor

fellow whom Queequeg had handled so roughly, was swept overboard; all

hands were in a panic; and to attempt snatching at the boom to stay it,

seemed madness. It flew from right to left, and back again, almost

in one ticking of a watch, and every instant seemed on the point of

snapping into splinters. Nothing was done, and nothing seemed capable of

being done; those on deck rushed towards the bows, and stood eyeing the

boom as if it were the lower jaw of an exasperated whale. In the

midst of this consternation, Queequeg dropped deftly to his knees, and

crawling under the path of the boom, whipped hold of a rope, secured one

end to the bulwarks, and then flinging the other like a lasso, caught it

round the boom as it swept over his head, and at the next jerk, the spar

was that way trapped, and all was safe. The schooner was run into the

wind, and while the hands were clearing away the stern boat, Queequeg,

stripped to the waist, darted from the side with a long living arc of

a leap. For three minutes or more he was seen swimming like a dog,

throwing his long arms straight out before him, and by turns revealing

his brawny shoulders through the freezing foam. I looked at the grand

and glorious fellow, but saw no one to be saved. The greenhorn had gone

down. Shooting himself perpendicularly from the water, Queequeg, now

took an instant's glance around him, and seeming to see just how matters

were, dived down and disappeared. A few minutes more, and he rose again,

one arm still striking out, and with the other dragging a lifeless form.

The boat soon picked them up. The poor bumpkin was restored. All hands

voted Queequeg a noble trump; the captain begged his pardon. From that

hour I clove to Queequeg like a barnacle; yea, till poor Queequeg took

his last long dive.

Was there ever such unconsciousness? He did not seem to think that he at

all deserved a medal from the Humane and Magnanimous Societies. He only

asked for water--fresh water--something to wipe the brine off; that

done, he put on dry clothes, lighted his pipe, and leaning against the

bulwarks, and mildly eyeing those around him, seemed to be saying

to himself--"It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We

cannibals must help these Christians."

CHAPTER 14. Nantucket.

Nothing more happened on the passage worthy the mentioning; so, after a

fine run, we safely arrived in Nantucket.

Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of

the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely

than the Eddystone lighthouse. Look at it--a mere hillock, and elbow of

sand; all beach, without a background. There is more sand there than

you would use in twenty years as a substitute for blotting paper. Some

gamesome wights will tell you that they have to plant weeds there, they

don't grow naturally; that they import Canada thistles; that they have

to send beyond seas for a spile to stop a leak in an oil cask; that

pieces of wood in Nantucket are carried about like bits of the true

cross in Rome; that people there plant toadstools before their houses,

to get under the shade in summer time; that one blade of grass makes an

oasis, three blades in a day's walk a prairie; that they wear quicksand

shoes, something like Laplander snow-shoes; that they are so shut up,

belted about, every way inclosed, surrounded, and made an utter island

of by the ocean, that to their very chairs and tables small clams will

sometimes be found adhering, as to the backs of sea turtles. But these

extravaganzas only show that Nantucket is no Illinois.
Look now at the wondrous traditional story of how this island was

settled by the red-men. Thus goes the legend. In olden times an eagle

swooped down upon the New England coast, and carried off an infant

Indian in his talons. With loud lament the parents saw their child borne

out of sight over the wide waters. They resolved to follow in the same

direction. Setting out in their canoes, after a perilous passage they

discovered the island, and there they found an empty ivory casket,--the

poor little Indian's skeleton.

What wonder, then, that these Nantucketers, born on a beach, should take

to the sea for a livelihood! They first caught crabs and quohogs in

the sand; grown bolder, they waded out with nets for mackerel; more

experienced, they pushed off in boats and captured cod; and at last,

launching a navy of great ships on the sea, explored this watery world;

put an incessant belt of circumnavigations round it; peeped in

at Behring's Straits; and in all seasons and all oceans declared

everlasting war with the mightiest animated mass that has survived the

flood; most monstrous and most mountainous! That Himmalehan, salt-sea

Mastodon, clothed with such portentousness of unconscious power, that

his very panics are more to be dreaded than his most fearless and

malicious assaults!

And thus have these naked Nantucketers, these sea hermits, issuing from

their ant-hill in the sea, overrun and conquered the watery world like

so many Alexanders; parcelling out among them the Atlantic, Pacific, and

Indian oceans, as the three pirate powers did Poland. Let America add

Mexico to Texas, and pile Cuba upon Canada; let the English overswarm

all India, and hang out their blazing banner from the sun; two thirds

of this terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer's. For the sea is his; he

owns it, as Emperors own empires; other seamen having but a right of

way through it. Merchant ships are but extension bridges; armed ones but

floating forts; even pirates and privateers, though following the sea

as highwaymen the road, they but plunder other ships, other fragments of

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