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
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
"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
"Supposing it be the captain of the Pequod, what dost thou want of him?"
"I was thinking of shipping."
"Thou wast, wast thou? I see thou art no Nantucketer--ever been in a
"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
"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
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
"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
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