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

Download 4.14 Mb.
Size4.14 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   56

question mangles Jonah! For the instant he almost turns to flee again.

But he rallies. 'I seek a passage in this ship to Tarshish; how soon

sail ye, sir?' Thus far the busy Captain had not looked up to Jonah,

though the man now stands before him; but no sooner does he hear that

hollow voice, than he darts a scrutinizing glance. 'We sail with the

next coming tide,' at last he slowly answered, still intently eyeing

him. 'No sooner, sir?'--'Soon enough for any honest man that goes a

passenger.' Ha! Jonah, that's another stab. But he swiftly calls away

the Captain from that scent. 'I'll sail with ye,'--he says,--'the

passage money how much is that?--I'll pay now.' For it is particularly

written, shipmates, as if it were a thing not to be overlooked in this

history, 'that he paid the fare thereof' ere the craft did sail. And

taken with the context, this is full of meaning.
"Now Jonah's Captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime

in any, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless. In this

world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without

a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.

So Jonah's Captain prepares to test the length of Jonah's purse, ere he

judge him openly. He charges him thrice the usual sum; and it's assented

to. Then the Captain knows that Jonah is a fugitive; but at the same

time resolves to help a flight that paves its rear with gold. Yet when

Jonah fairly takes out his purse, prudent suspicions still molest the

Captain. He rings every coin to find a counterfeit. Not a forger, any

way, he mutters; and Jonah is put down for his passage. 'Point out my

state-room, Sir,' says Jonah now, 'I'm travel-weary; I need sleep.'

'Thou lookest like it,' says the Captain, 'there's thy room.' Jonah

enters, and would lock the door, but the lock contains no key. Hearing

him foolishly fumbling there, the Captain laughs lowly to himself, and

mutters something about the doors of convicts' cells being never allowed

to be locked within. All dressed and dusty as he is, Jonah throws

himself into his berth, and finds the little state-room ceiling almost

resting on his forehead. The air is close, and Jonah gasps. Then, in

that contracted hole, sunk, too, beneath the ship's water-line, Jonah

feels the heralding presentiment of that stifling hour, when the whale

shall hold him in the smallest of his bowels' wards.

"Screwed at its axis against the side, a swinging lamp slightly

oscillates in Jonah's room; and the ship, heeling over towards the wharf

with the weight of the last bales received, the lamp, flame and all,

though in slight motion, still maintains a permanent obliquity with

reference to the room; though, in truth, infallibly straight itself, it

but made obvious the false, lying levels among which it hung. The lamp

alarms and frightens Jonah; as lying in his berth his tormented eyes

roll round the place, and this thus far successful fugitive finds no

refuge for his restless glance. But that contradiction in the lamp more

and more appals him. The floor, the ceiling, and the side, are all awry.

'Oh! so my conscience hangs in me!' he groans, 'straight upwards, so it

burns; but the chambers of my soul are all in crookedness!'

"Like one who after a night of drunken revelry hies to his bed, still

reeling, but with conscience yet pricking him, as the plungings of the

Roman race-horse but so much the more strike his steel tags into him; as

one who in that miserable plight still turns and turns in giddy anguish,

praying God for annihilation until the fit be passed; and at last amid

the whirl of woe he feels, a deep stupor steals over him, as over the

man who bleeds to death, for conscience is the wound, and there's naught

to staunch it; so, after sore wrestlings in his berth, Jonah's prodigy

of ponderous misery drags him drowning down to sleep.
"And now the time of tide has come; the ship casts off her cables; and

from the deserted wharf the uncheered ship for Tarshish, all careening,

glides to sea. That ship, my friends, was the first of recorded

smugglers! the contraband was Jonah. But the sea rebels; he will not

bear the wicked burden. A dreadful storm comes on, the ship is like to

break. But now when the boatswain calls all hands to lighten her;

when boxes, bales, and jars are clattering overboard; when the wind

is shrieking, and the men are yelling, and every plank thunders with

trampling feet right over Jonah's head; in all this raging tumult, Jonah

sleeps his hideous sleep. He sees no black sky and raging sea, feels not

the reeling timbers, and little hears he or heeds he the far rush of the

mighty whale, which even now with open mouth is cleaving the seas after

him. Aye, shipmates, Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship--a

berth in the cabin as I have taken it, and was fast asleep. But the

frightened master comes to him, and shrieks in his dead ear, 'What

meanest thou, O, sleeper! arise!' Startled from his lethargy by that

direful cry, Jonah staggers to his feet, and stumbling to the deck,

grasps a shroud, to look out upon the sea. But at that moment he is

sprung upon by a panther billow leaping over the bulwarks. Wave after

wave thus leaps into the ship, and finding no speedy vent runs roaring

fore and aft, till the mariners come nigh to drowning while yet afloat.

And ever, as the white moon shows her affrighted face from the steep

gullies in the blackness overhead, aghast Jonah sees the rearing

bowsprit pointing high upward, but soon beat downward again towards the

tormented deep.
"Terrors upon terrors run shouting through his soul. In all his cringing

attitudes, the God-fugitive is now too plainly known. The sailors mark

him; more and more certain grow their suspicions of him, and at last,

fully to test the truth, by referring the whole matter to high Heaven,

they fall to casting lots, to see for whose cause this great tempest was

upon them. The lot is Jonah's; that discovered, then how furiously they

mob him with their questions. 'What is thine occupation? Whence comest

thou? Thy country? What people? But mark now, my shipmates, the behavior

of poor Jonah. The eager mariners but ask him who he is, and where

from; whereas, they not only receive an answer to those questions,

but likewise another answer to a question not put by them, but the

unsolicited answer is forced from Jonah by the hard hand of God that is

upon him.
"'I am a Hebrew,' he cries--and then--'I fear the Lord the God of Heaven

who hath made the sea and the dry land!' Fear him, O Jonah? Aye, well

mightest thou fear the Lord God THEN! Straightway, he now goes on to

make a full confession; whereupon the mariners became more and more

appalled, but still are pitiful. For when Jonah, not yet supplicating

God for mercy, since he but too well knew the darkness of his

deserts,--when wretched Jonah cries out to them to take him and cast him

forth into the sea, for he knew that for HIS sake this great tempest

was upon them; they mercifully turn from him, and seek by other means to

save the ship. But all in vain; the indignant gale howls louder;

then, with one hand raised invokingly to God, with the other they not

unreluctantly lay hold of Jonah.

"And now behold Jonah taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea;

when instantly an oily calmness floats out from the east, and the sea

is still, as Jonah carries down the gale with him, leaving smooth

water behind. He goes down in the whirling heart of such a masterless

commotion that he scarce heeds the moment when he drops seething into

the yawning jaws awaiting him; and the whale shoots-to all his ivory

teeth, like so many white bolts, upon his prison. Then Jonah prayed unto

the Lord out of the fish's belly. But observe his prayer, and learn a

weighty lesson. For sinful as he is, Jonah does not weep and wail for

direct deliverance. He feels that his dreadful punishment is just. He

leaves all his deliverance to God, contenting himself with this, that

spite of all his pains and pangs, he will still look towards His holy

temple. And here, shipmates, is true and faithful repentance; not

clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment. And how pleasing to

God was this conduct in Jonah, is shown in the eventual deliverance of

him from the sea and the whale. Shipmates, I do not place Jonah before

you to be copied for his sin but I do place him before you as a model

for repentance. Sin not; but if you do, take heed to repent of it like

While he was speaking these words, the howling of the shrieking,

slanting storm without seemed to add new power to the preacher, who,

when describing Jonah's sea-storm, seemed tossed by a storm himself.

His deep chest heaved as with a ground-swell; his tossed arms seemed the

warring elements at work; and the thunders that rolled away from off his

swarthy brow, and the light leaping from his eye, made all his simple

hearers look on him with a quick fear that was strange to them.
There now came a lull in his look, as he silently turned over the leaves

of the Book once more; and, at last, standing motionless, with closed

eyes, for the moment, seemed communing with God and himself.
But again he leaned over towards the people, and bowing his head lowly,

with an aspect of the deepest yet manliest humility, he spake these

"Shipmates, God has laid but one hand upon you; both his hands press

upon me. I have read ye by what murky light may be mine the lesson that

Jonah teaches to all sinners; and therefore to ye, and still more to me,

for I am a greater sinner than ye. And now how gladly would I come down

from this mast-head and sit on the hatches there where you sit, and

listen as you listen, while some one of you reads ME that other and more

awful lesson which Jonah teaches to ME, as a pilot of the living God.

How being an anointed pilot-prophet, or speaker of true things, and

bidden by the Lord to sound those unwelcome truths in the ears of a

wicked Nineveh, Jonah, appalled at the hostility he should raise, fled

from his mission, and sought to escape his duty and his God by taking

ship at Joppa. But God is everywhere; Tarshish he never reached. As we

have seen, God came upon him in the whale, and swallowed him down to

living gulfs of doom, and with swift slantings tore him along 'into the

midst of the seas,' where the eddying depths sucked him ten thousand

fathoms down, and 'the weeds were wrapped about his head,' and all the

watery world of woe bowled over him. Yet even then beyond the reach of

any plummet--'out of the belly of hell'--when the whale grounded upon

the ocean's utmost bones, even then, God heard the engulphed, repenting

prophet when he cried. Then God spake unto the fish; and from the

shuddering cold and blackness of the sea, the whale came breeching

up towards the warm and pleasant sun, and all the delights of air and

earth; and 'vomited out Jonah upon the dry land;' when the word of the

Lord came a second time; and Jonah, bruised and beaten--his ears, like

two sea-shells, still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean--Jonah

did the Almighty's bidding. And what was that, shipmates? To preach the

Truth to the face of Falsehood! That was it!
"This, shipmates, this is that other lesson; and woe to that pilot of

the living God who slights it. Woe to him whom this world charms from

Gospel duty! Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters when God

has brewed them into a gale! Woe to him who seeks to please rather than

to appal! Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness! Woe

to him who, in this world, courts not dishonour! Woe to him who would

not be true, even though to be false were salvation! Yea, woe to him

who, as the great Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is

himself a castaway!"
He dropped and fell away from himself for a moment; then lifting his

face to them again, showed a deep joy in his eyes, as he cried out with

a heavenly enthusiasm,--"But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of

every woe, there is a sure delight; and higher the top of that delight,

than the bottom of the woe is deep. Is not the main-truck higher than

the kelson is low? Delight is to him--a far, far upward, and inward

delight--who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever

stands forth his own inexorable self. Delight is to him whose strong

arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has

gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the

truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out

from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight,--top-gallant

delight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his

God, and is only a patriot to heaven. Delight is to him, whom all the

waves of the billows of the seas of the boisterous mob can never shake

from this sure Keel of the Ages. And eternal delight and deliciousness

will be his, who coming to lay him down, can say with his final

breath--O Father!--chiefly known to me by Thy rod--mortal or immortal,

here I die. I have striven to be Thine, more than to be this world's, or

mine own. Yet this is nothing: I leave eternity to Thee; for what is man

that he should live out the lifetime of his God?"
He said no more, but slowly waving a benediction, covered his face with

his hands, and so remained kneeling, till all the people had departed,

and he was left alone in the place.

CHAPTER 10. A Bosom Friend.

Returning to the Spouter-Inn from the Chapel, I found Queequeg there

quite alone; he having left the Chapel before the benediction some time.

He was sitting on a bench before the fire, with his feet on the stove

hearth, and in one hand was holding close up to his face that little

negro idol of his; peering hard into its face, and with a jack-knife

gently whittling away at its nose, meanwhile humming to himself in his

heathenish way.
But being now interrupted, he put up the image; and pretty soon, going

to the table, took up a large book there, and placing it on his lap

began counting the pages with deliberate regularity; at every fiftieth

page--as I fancied--stopping a moment, looking vacantly around him, and

giving utterance to a long-drawn gurgling whistle of astonishment. He

would then begin again at the next fifty; seeming to commence at number

one each time, as though he could not count more than fifty, and it was

only by such a large number of fifties being found together, that his

astonishment at the multitude of pages was excited.
With much interest I sat watching him. Savage though he was, and

hideously marred about the face--at least to my taste--his countenance

yet had a something in it which was by no means disagreeable. You cannot

hide the soul. Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw

the traces of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes,

fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a

thousand devils. And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing

about the Pagan, which even his uncouthness could not altogether maim.

He looked like a man who had never cringed and never had had a creditor.

Whether it was, too, that his head being shaved, his forehead was drawn

out in freer and brighter relief, and looked more expansive than it

otherwise would, this I will not venture to decide; but certain it was

his head was phrenologically an excellent one. It may seem ridiculous,

but it reminded me of General Washington's head, as seen in the popular

busts of him. It had the same long regularly graded retreating slope

from above the brows, which were likewise very projecting, like two

long promontories thickly wooded on top. Queequeg was George Washington

cannibalistically developed.

Whilst I was thus closely scanning him, half-pretending meanwhile to be

looking out at the storm from the casement, he never heeded my presence,

never troubled himself with so much as a single glance; but appeared

wholly occupied with counting the pages of the marvellous book.

Considering how sociably we had been sleeping together the night

previous, and especially considering the affectionate arm I had found

thrown over me upon waking in the morning, I thought this indifference

of his very strange. But savages are strange beings; at times you do not

know exactly how to take them. At first they are overawing; their calm

self-collectedness of simplicity seems a Socratic wisdom. I had noticed

also that Queequeg never consorted at all, or but very little, with the

other seamen in the inn. He made no advances whatever; appeared to have

no desire to enlarge the circle of his acquaintances. All this struck

me as mighty singular; yet, upon second thoughts, there was something

almost sublime in it. Here was a man some twenty thousand miles from

home, by the way of Cape Horn, that is--which was the only way he could

get there--thrown among people as strange to him as though he were in

the planet Jupiter; and yet he seemed entirely at his ease; preserving

the utmost serenity; content with his own companionship; always equal to

himself. Surely this was a touch of fine philosophy; though no doubt he

had never heard there was such a thing as that. But, perhaps, to be

true philosophers, we mortals should not be conscious of so living or

so striving. So soon as I hear that such or such a man gives himself

out for a philosopher, I conclude that, like the dyspeptic old woman, he

must have "broken his digester."
As I sat there in that now lonely room; the fire burning low, in that

mild stage when, after its first intensity has warmed the air, it then

only glows to be looked at; the evening shades and phantoms gathering

round the casements, and peering in upon us silent, solitary twain;

the storm booming without in solemn swells; I began to be sensible of

strange feelings. I felt a melting in me. No more my splintered heart

and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing

savage had redeemed it. There he sat, his very indifference speaking a

nature in which there lurked no civilized hypocrisies and bland deceits.

Wild he was; a very sight of sights to see; yet I began to feel myself

mysteriously drawn towards him. And those same things that would have

repelled most others, they were the very magnets that thus drew me. I'll

try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but

hollow courtesy. I drew my bench near him, and made some friendly signs

and hints, doing my best to talk with him meanwhile. At first he little

noticed these advances; but presently, upon my referring to his last

night's hospitalities, he made out to ask me whether we were again to be

bedfellows. I told him yes; whereat I thought he looked pleased, perhaps

a little complimented.
We then turned over the book together, and I endeavored to explain to

him the purpose of the printing, and the meaning of the few pictures

that were in it. Thus I soon engaged his interest; and from that we went

to jabbering the best we could about the various outer sights to be seen

in this famous town. Soon I proposed a social smoke; and, producing

his pouch and tomahawk, he quietly offered me a puff. And then we sat

exchanging puffs from that wild pipe of his, and keeping it regularly

passing between us.

If there yet lurked any ice of indifference towards me in the Pagan's

breast, this pleasant, genial smoke we had, soon thawed it out, and left

us cronies. He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as

I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against

mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were

married; meaning, in his country's phrase, that we were bosom friends;

he would gladly die for me, if need should be. In a countryman, this

sudden flame of friendship would have seemed far too premature, a thing

to be much distrusted; but in this simple savage those old rules would

not apply.

After supper, and another social chat and smoke, we went to our room

together. He made me a present of his embalmed head; took out his

enormous tobacco wallet, and groping under the tobacco, drew out

some thirty dollars in silver; then spreading them on the table, and

mechanically dividing them into two equal portions, pushed one of them

towards me, and said it was mine. I was going to remonstrate; but he

silenced me by pouring them into my trowsers' pockets. I let them stay.

He then went about his evening prayers, took out his idol, and removed

the paper fireboard. By certain signs and symptoms, I thought he seemed

anxious for me to join him; but well knowing what was to follow, I

deliberated a moment whether, in case he invited me, I would comply or


I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible

Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in

worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do

you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and

earth--pagans and all included--can possibly be jealous of an

insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?--to do

the will of God--THAT is worship. And what is the will of God?--to do to

my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me--THAT is the

will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that

this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular

Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him

in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped

prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with

Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that

done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences

and all the world. But we did not go to sleep without some little chat.

How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential

disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very

bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie

and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts'

Share with your friends:
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   56

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page