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

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the land like themselves, without seeking to draw their living from the

bottomless deep itself. The Nantucketer, he alone resides and riots on

the sea; he alone, in Bible language, goes down to it in ships; to and

fro ploughing it as his own special plantation. THERE is his home; THERE

lies his business, which a Noah's flood would not interrupt, though it

overwhelmed all the millions in China. He lives on the sea, as prairie

cocks in the prairie; he hides among the waves, he climbs them as

chamois hunters climb the Alps. For years he knows not the land; so

that when he comes to it at last, it smells like another world, more

strangely than the moon would to an Earthsman. With the landless gull,

that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to sleep between billows;

so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight of land, furls his sails,

and lays him to his rest, while under his very pillow rush herds of

walruses and whales.

CHAPTER 15. Chowder.

It was quite late in the evening when the little Moss came snugly

to anchor, and Queequeg and I went ashore; so we could attend to no

business that day, at least none but a supper and a bed. The landlord of

the Spouter-Inn had recommended us to his cousin Hosea Hussey of the

Try Pots, whom he asserted to be the proprietor of one of the best kept

hotels in all Nantucket, and moreover he had assured us that Cousin

Hosea, as he called him, was famous for his chowders. In short, he

plainly hinted that we could not possibly do better than try pot-luck at

the Try Pots. But the directions he had given us about keeping a yellow

warehouse on our starboard hand till we opened a white church to the

larboard, and then keeping that on the larboard hand till we made a

corner three points to the starboard, and that done, then ask the first

man we met where the place was: these crooked directions of his very

much puzzled us at first, especially as, at the outset, Queequeg

insisted that the yellow warehouse--our first point of departure--must

be left on the larboard hand, whereas I had understood Peter Coffin to

say it was on the starboard. However, by dint of beating about a little

in the dark, and now and then knocking up a peaceable inhabitant

to inquire the way, we at last came to something which there was no


Two enormous wooden pots painted black, and suspended by asses' ears,

swung from the cross-trees of an old top-mast, planted in front of an

old doorway. The horns of the cross-trees were sawed off on the other

side, so that this old top-mast looked not a little like a gallows.

Perhaps I was over sensitive to such impressions at the time, but I

could not help staring at this gallows with a vague misgiving. A sort of

crick was in my neck as I gazed up to the two remaining horns; yes, TWO

of them, one for Queequeg, and one for me. It's ominous, thinks I. A

Coffin my Innkeeper upon landing in my first whaling port; tombstones

staring at me in the whalemen's chapel; and here a gallows! and a pair

of prodigious black pots too! Are these last throwing out oblique hints

touching Tophet?

I was called from these reflections by the sight of a freckled woman

with yellow hair and a yellow gown, standing in the porch of the inn,

under a dull red lamp swinging there, that looked much like an injured

eye, and carrying on a brisk scolding with a man in a purple woollen

"Get along with ye," said she to the man, "or I'll be combing ye!"
"Come on, Queequeg," said I, "all right. There's Mrs. Hussey."
And so it turned out; Mr. Hosea Hussey being from home, but leaving

Mrs. Hussey entirely competent to attend to all his affairs. Upon

making known our desires for a supper and a bed, Mrs. Hussey, postponing

further scolding for the present, ushered us into a little room, and

seating us at a table spread with the relics of a recently concluded

repast, turned round to us and said--"Clam or Cod?"

"What's that about Cods, ma'am?" said I, with much politeness.
"Clam or Cod?" she repeated.
"A clam for supper? a cold clam; is THAT what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?"

says I, "but that's a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter

time, ain't it, Mrs. Hussey?"
But being in a great hurry to resume scolding the man in the purple

Shirt, who was waiting for it in the entry, and seeming to hear nothing

but the word "clam," Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading to

the kitchen, and bawling out "clam for two," disappeared.

"Queequeg," said I, "do you think that we can make out a supper for us

both on one clam?"

However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the

apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder

came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends!

hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than

hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into

little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned

with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty

voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food

before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched

it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking

me of Mrs. Hussey's clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try

a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word

"cod" with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the

savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good

time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.
We resumed business; and while plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I

to myself, I wonder now if this here has any effect on the head?

What's that stultifying saying about chowder-headed people? "But look,

Queequeg, ain't that a live eel in your bowl? Where's your harpoon?"

Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved

its name; for the pots there were always boiling chowders. Chowder for

breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you

began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes. The area

before the house was paved with clam-shells. Mrs. Hussey wore a polished

necklace of codfish vertebra; and Hosea Hussey had his account books

bound in superior old shark-skin. There was a fishy flavor to the milk,

too, which I could not at all account for, till one morning happening

to take a stroll along the beach among some fishermen's boats, I saw

Hosea's brindled cow feeding on fish remnants, and marching along the

sand with each foot in a cod's decapitated head, looking very slip-shod,

I assure ye.

Supper concluded, we received a lamp, and directions from Mrs. Hussey

concerning the nearest way to bed; but, as Queequeg was about to precede

me up the stairs, the lady reached forth her arm, and demanded his

harpoon; she allowed no harpoon in her chambers. "Why not?" said I;

"every true whaleman sleeps with his harpoon--but why not?" "Because

it's dangerous," says she. "Ever since young Stiggs coming from that

unfort'nt v'y'ge of his, when he was gone four years and a half, with

only three barrels of _ile_, was found dead in my first floor back, with

his harpoon in his side; ever since then I allow no boarders to take

sich dangerous weepons in their rooms at night. So, Mr. Queequeg" (for

she had learned his name), "I will just take this here iron, and keep

it for you till morning. But the chowder; clam or cod to-morrow for

breakfast, men?"
"Both," says I; "and let's have a couple of smoked herring by way of


CHAPTER 16. The Ship.

In bed we concocted our plans for the morrow. But to my surprise and

no small concern, Queequeg now gave me to understand, that he had been

diligently consulting Yojo--the name of his black little god--and Yojo

had told him two or three times over, and strongly insisted upon it

everyway, that instead of our going together among the whaling-fleet in

harbor, and in concert selecting our craft; instead of this, I say, Yojo

earnestly enjoined that the selection of the ship should rest wholly

with me, inasmuch as Yojo purposed befriending us; and, in order to

do so, had already pitched upon a vessel, which, if left to myself, I,

Ishmael, should infallibly light upon, for all the world as though it

had turned out by chance; and in that vessel I must immediately ship

myself, for the present irrespective of Queequeg.

I have forgotten to mention that, in many things, Queequeg placed great

confidence in the excellence of Yojo's judgment and surprising forecast

of things; and cherished Yojo with considerable esteem, as a rather good

sort of god, who perhaps meant well enough upon the whole, but in all

cases did not succeed in his benevolent designs.
Now, this plan of Queequeg's, or rather Yojo's, touching the selection

of our craft; I did not like that plan at all. I had not a little relied

upon Queequeg's sagacity to point out the whaler best fitted to carry

us and our fortunes securely. But as all my remonstrances produced

no effect upon Queequeg, I was obliged to acquiesce; and accordingly

prepared to set about this business with a determined rushing sort

of energy and vigor, that should quickly settle that trifling little

affair. Next morning early, leaving Queequeg shut up with Yojo in our

little bedroom--for it seemed that it was some sort of Lent or Ramadan,

or day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer with Queequeg and Yojo that

day; HOW it was I never could find out, for, though I applied myself

to it several times, I never could master his liturgies and XXXIX

Articles--leaving Queequeg, then, fasting on his tomahawk pipe, and Yojo

warming himself at his sacrificial fire of shavings, I sallied out among

the shipping. After much prolonged sauntering and many random inquiries,

I learnt that there were three ships up for three-years' voyages--The

Devil-dam, the Tit-bit, and the Pequod. DEVIL-DAM, I do not know the

origin of; TIT-BIT is obvious; PEQUOD, you will no doubt remember, was

the name of a celebrated tribe of Massachusetts Indians; now extinct

as the ancient Medes. I peered and pryed about the Devil-dam; from her,

hopped over to the Tit-bit; and finally, going on board the Pequod,

looked around her for a moment, and then decided that this was the very

ship for us.
You may have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for aught I

know;--square-toed luggers; mountainous Japanese junks; butter-box

galliots, and what not; but take my word for it, you never saw such a

rare old craft as this same rare old Pequod. She was a ship of the old

school, rather small if anything; with an old-fashioned claw-footed look

about her. Long seasoned and weather-stained in the typhoons and calms

of all four oceans, her old hull's complexion was darkened like a French

grenadier's, who has alike fought in Egypt and Siberia. Her venerable

bows looked bearded. Her masts--cut somewhere on the coast of Japan,

where her original ones were lost overboard in a gale--her masts stood

stiffly up like the spines of the three old kings of Cologne. Her

ancient decks were worn and wrinkled, like the pilgrim-worshipped

flag-stone in Canterbury Cathedral where Becket bled. But to all these

her old antiquities, were added new and marvellous features, pertaining

to the wild business that for more than half a century she had followed.

Old Captain Peleg, many years her chief-mate, before he commanded

another vessel of his own, and now a retired seaman, and one of the

principal owners of the Pequod,--this old Peleg, during the term of his

chief-mateship, had built upon her original grotesqueness, and inlaid

it, all over, with a quaintness both of material and device, unmatched

by anything except it be Thorkill-Hake's carved buckler or bedstead. She

was apparelled like any barbaric Ethiopian emperor, his neck heavy with

pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing of trophies. A cannibal of

a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies. All

round, her unpanelled, open bulwarks were garnished like one continuous

jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the sperm whale, inserted there for

pins, to fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to. Those thews ran not

through base blocks of land wood, but deftly travelled over sheaves of

sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her reverend helm, she sported

there a tiller; and that tiller was in one mass, curiously carved

from the long narrow lower jaw of her hereditary foe. The helmsman who

steered by that tiller in a tempest, felt like the Tartar, when he holds

back his fiery steed by clutching its jaw. A noble craft, but somehow a

most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that.

Now when I looked about the quarter-deck, for some one having authority,

in order to propose myself as a candidate for the voyage, at first I saw

nobody; but I could not well overlook a strange sort of tent, or

rather wigwam, pitched a little behind the main-mast. It seemed only

a temporary erection used in port. It was of a conical shape, some ten

feet high; consisting of the long, huge slabs of limber black bone taken

from the middle and highest part of the jaws of the right-whale.

Planted with their broad ends on the deck, a circle of these slabs laced

together, mutually sloped towards each other, and at the apex united in

a tufted point, where the loose hairy fibres waved to and fro like the

top-knot on some old Pottowottamie Sachem's head. A triangular opening

faced towards the bows of the ship, so that the insider commanded a

complete view forward.
And half concealed in this queer tenement, I at length found one who

by his aspect seemed to have authority; and who, it being noon, and

the ship's work suspended, was now enjoying respite from the burden of

command. He was seated on an old-fashioned oaken chair, wriggling all

over with curious carving; and the bottom of which was formed of a

stout interlacing of the same elastic stuff of which the wigwam was

There was nothing so very particular, perhaps, about the appearance of

the elderly man I saw; he was brown and brawny, like most old seamen,

and heavily rolled up in blue pilot-cloth, cut in the Quaker style;

only there was a fine and almost microscopic net-work of the minutest

wrinkles interlacing round his eyes, which must have arisen from

his continual sailings in many hard gales, and always looking to

windward;--for this causes the muscles about the eyes to become pursed

together. Such eye-wrinkles are very effectual in a scowl.

"Is this the Captain of the Pequod?" said I, advancing to the door of

the tent.

"Supposing it be the captain of the Pequod, what dost thou want of him?"

he demanded.

"I was thinking of shipping."
"Thou wast, wast thou? I see thou art no Nantucketer--ever been in a

stove boat?"

"No, Sir, I never have."
"Dost know nothing at all about whaling, I dare say--eh?
"Nothing, Sir; but I have no doubt I shall soon learn. I've been several

voyages in the merchant service, and I think that--"

"Merchant service be damned. Talk not that lingo to me. Dost see that

leg?--I'll take that leg away from thy stern, if ever thou talkest of

the marchant service to me again. Marchant service indeed! I suppose now

ye feel considerable proud of having served in those marchant ships.

But flukes! man, what makes thee want to go a whaling, eh?--it looks

a little suspicious, don't it, eh?--Hast not been a pirate, hast

thou?--Didst not rob thy last Captain, didst thou?--Dost not think of

murdering the officers when thou gettest to sea?"

I protested my innocence of these things. I saw that under the mask

of these half humorous innuendoes, this old seaman, as an insulated

Quakerish Nantucketer, was full of his insular prejudices, and rather

distrustful of all aliens, unless they hailed from Cape Cod or the

"But what takes thee a-whaling? I want to know that before I think of

shipping ye."

"Well, sir, I want to see what whaling is. I want to see the world."
"Want to see what whaling is, eh? Have ye clapped eye on Captain Ahab?"
"Who is Captain Ahab, sir?"
"Aye, aye, I thought so. Captain Ahab is the Captain of this ship."
"I am mistaken then. I thought I was speaking to the Captain himself."
"Thou art speaking to Captain Peleg--that's who ye are speaking to,

young man. It belongs to me and Captain Bildad to see the Pequod fitted

out for the voyage, and supplied with all her needs, including crew. We

are part owners and agents. But as I was going to say, if thou wantest

to know what whaling is, as thou tellest ye do, I can put ye in a way of

finding it out before ye bind yourself to it, past backing out. Clap

eye on Captain Ahab, young man, and thou wilt find that he has only one

"What do you mean, sir? Was the other one lost by a whale?"

"Lost by a whale! Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured,

chewed up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped a

boat!--ah, ah!"
I was a little alarmed by his energy, perhaps also a little touched at

the hearty grief in his concluding exclamation, but said as calmly as I

could, "What you say is no doubt true enough, sir; but how could I know

there was any peculiar ferocity in that particular whale, though indeed

I might have inferred as much from the simple fact of the accident."
"Look ye now, young man, thy lungs are a sort of soft, d'ye see; thou

dost not talk shark a bit. SURE, ye've been to sea before now; sure of

"Sir," said I, "I thought I told you that I had been four voyages in the


"Hard down out of that! Mind what I said about the marchant

service--don't aggravate me--I won't have it. But let us understand each

other. I have given thee a hint about what whaling is; do ye yet feel

inclined for it?"

"I do, sir."
"Very good. Now, art thou the man to pitch a harpoon down a live whale's

throat, and then jump after it? Answer, quick!"

"I am, sir, if it should be positively indispensable to do so; not to be

got rid of, that is; which I don't take to be the fact."

"Good again. Now then, thou not only wantest to go a-whaling, to find

out by experience what whaling is, but ye also want to go in order to

see the world? Was not that what ye said? I thought so. Well then, just

step forward there, and take a peep over the weather-bow, and then back

to me and tell me what ye see there."
For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this curious request, not

knowing exactly how to take it, whether humorously or in earnest. But

concentrating all his crow's feet into one scowl, Captain Peleg started

me on the errand.

Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived that the

ship swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide, was now obliquely

pointing towards the open ocean. The prospect was unlimited, but

exceedingly monotonous and forbidding; not the slightest variety that I

could see.
"Well, what's the report?" said Peleg when I came back; "what did ye

"Not much," I replied--"nothing but water; considerable horizon though,

and there's a squall coming up, I think."
"Well, what does thou think then of seeing the world? Do ye wish to go

round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh? Can't ye see the world where

you stand?"
I was a little staggered, but go a-whaling I must, and I would; and the

Pequod was as good a ship as any--I thought the best--and all this I now

repeated to Peleg. Seeing me so determined, he expressed his willingness

to ship me.

"And thou mayest as well sign the papers right off," he added--"come

along with ye." And so saying, he led the way below deck into the cabin.

Seated on the transom was what seemed to me a most uncommon and

surprising figure. It turned out to be Captain Bildad, who along with

Captain Peleg was one of the largest owners of the vessel; the other

shares, as is sometimes the case in these ports, being held by a crowd

of old annuitants; widows, fatherless children, and chancery wards; each

owning about the value of a timber head, or a foot of plank, or a nail

or two in the ship. People in Nantucket invest their money in whaling

vessels, the same way that you do yours in approved state stocks

bringing in good interest.
Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and indeed many other Nantucketers, was a

Quaker, the island having been originally settled by that sect; and to

this day its inhabitants in general retain in an uncommon measure the

peculiarities of the Quaker, only variously and anomalously modified

by things altogether alien and heterogeneous. For some of these same

Quakers are the most sanguinary of all sailors and whale-hunters. They

are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a vengeance.
So that there are instances among them of men, who, named with Scripture

names--a singularly common fashion on the island--and in childhood

naturally imbibing the stately dramatic thee and thou of the Quaker

idiom; still, from the audacious, daring, and boundless adventure

of their subsequent lives, strangely blend with these unoutgrown

peculiarities, a thousand bold dashes of character, not unworthy a

Scandinavian sea-king, or a poetical Pagan Roman. And when these things

unite in a man of greatly superior natural force, with a globular brain

and a ponderous heart; who has also by the stillness and seclusion

of many long night-watches in the remotest waters, and beneath

constellations never seen here at the north, been led to think

untraditionally and independently; receiving all nature's sweet or

savage impressions fresh from her own virgin voluntary and confiding

breast, and thereby chiefly, but with some help from accidental

advantages, to learn a bold and nervous lofty language--that man makes

one in a whole nation's census--a mighty pageant creature, formed for

noble tragedies. Nor will it at all detract from him, dramatically

regarded, if either by birth or other circumstances, he have what seems

a half wilful overruling morbidness at the bottom of his nature. For all

men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. Be sure

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