eagerly peering towards the horizon, you would have thought him some
prophet or seer beholding the shadows of Fate, and by those wild cries
announcing their coming.
"There she blows! there! there! there! she blows! she blows!"
"On the lee-beam, about two miles off! a school of them!"
Instantly all was commotion.
The Sperm Whale blows as a clock ticks, with the same undeviating and
reliable uniformity. And thereby whalemen distinguish this fish from
other tribes of his genus.
"There go flukes!" was now the cry from Tashtego; and the whales
"Quick, steward!" cried Ahab. "Time! time!"
Dough-Boy hurried below, glanced at the watch, and reported the exact
minute to Ahab.
The ship was now kept away from the wind, and she went gently rolling
before it. Tashtego reporting that the whales had gone down heading to
leeward, we confidently looked to see them again directly in advance of
our bows. For that singular craft at times evinced by the Sperm Whale
when, sounding with his head in one direction, he nevertheless, while
concealed beneath the surface, mills round, and swiftly swims off in the
opposite quarter--this deceitfulness of his could not now be in action;
for there was no reason to suppose that the fish seen by Tashtego had
been in any way alarmed, or indeed knew at all of our vicinity. One of
the men selected for shipkeepers--that is, those not appointed to the
boats, by this time relieved the Indian at the main-mast head. The
sailors at the fore and mizzen had come down; the line tubs were fixed
in their places; the cranes were thrust out; the mainyard was backed,
and the three boats swung over the sea like three samphire baskets over
high cliffs. Outside of the bulwarks their eager crews with one hand
clung to the rail, while one foot was expectantly poised on the gunwale.
So look the long line of man-of-war's men about to throw themselves on
board an enemy's ship.
But at this critical instant a sudden exclamation was heard that took
every eye from the whale. With a start all glared at dark Ahab, who was
surrounded by five dusky phantoms that seemed fresh formed out of air.
CHAPTER 48. The First Lowering.
The phantoms, for so they then seemed, were flitting on the other side