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Moby-Dick is one of the great epics in all of literature. Captain Ahab's hunt for the white whale drives the narrative at a relentless pace, while Ishmael's meditations on whales and whaling, on the sublime indifference of nature, and on the grimy physical details of the extraction of oil provide a reflective counterpoint to the headlong idolatrous quest. Sometimes read as a terrifying study of monomania or as a critical inquiry into the effects of reducing life to symbols, Moby-Dick also offers colorful and often comic glimpses of life aboard a whaling ship.
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First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri
CHAPTER 1. Loomings.
CHAPTER 2. The Carpet-Bag.
CHAPTER 3. The Spouter-Inn.
CHAPTER 4. The Counterpane.
CHAPTER 5. Breakfast.
CHAPTER 6. The Street.
CHAPTER 7. The Chapel.
CHAPTER 8. The Pulpit.
CHAPTER 9. The Sermon.
CHAPTER 10. A Bosom Friend.
CHAPTER 11. Nightgown.
CHAPTER 12. Biographical.
CHAPTER 13. Wheelbarrow.
CHAPTER 14. Nantucket.
CHAPTER 15. Chowder.
CHAPTER 16. The Ship.
CHAPTER 17. The Ramadan.
CHAPTER18. His Mark.
CHAPTER 19. The Prophet.
CHAPTER 20. All Astir.
CHAPTER 21. Going Aboard.
CHAPTER 22. Merry Christmas.
CHAPTER 23. The Lee Shore.
CHAPTER 24. The Advocate.
CHAPTER 25. Postscript.
CHAPTER 26. Knights and Squires.
CHAPTER 27. Knights and Squires.
CHAPTER 28. Ahab.
CHAPTER 29. Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb.
CHAPTER 30. The Pipe.
CHAPTER 31. Queen Mab.
CHAPTER 32. Cetology.
CHAPTER 33. The Specksnyder.
CHAPTER 34. The Cabin-Table.
CHAPTER 35. The Mast-Head.
CHAPTER 36. The Quarter-Deck.
CHAPTER 37. Sunset.
CHAPTER 38. Dusk.
CHAPTER 39. First Night Watch.
CHAPTER 40. Midnight, Forecastle.
HARPOONEERS AND SAILORS.
CHAPTER 41. Moby Dick.
CHAPTER 42. The Whiteness of The Whale.
CHAPTER 43. Hark!
CHAPTER 44. The Chart.
CHAPTER 45. The Affidavit.
CHAPTER 46. Surmises.
CHAPTER 47. The Mat-Maker.
CHAPTER 48. The First Lowering.
CHAPTER 49. The Hyena.
CHAPTER 50. Ahab’s Boat and Crew. Fedallah.
CHAPTER 51. TheSpirit-Spout.
CHAPTER 52. The Albatross.
CHAPTER 53. The Gam.
CHAPTER 54. The Town-Ho’s Story.
CHAPTER 55. Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales.
CHAPTER 56. Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes.
CHAPTER 57. Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars.
CHAPTER 58. Brit.
CHAPTER 59. Squid.
CHAPTER 60. The Line.
CHAPTER 61. Stubb Kills a Whale.
CHAPTER 62. The Dart.
CHAPTER 63. The Crotch.
CHAPTER 64. Stubb’s Supper.
CHAPTER 65. The Whale as a Dish.
CHAPTER 66. The SharkMassacre.
CHAPTER 67. Cutting In.
CHAPTER 68. The Blanket.
CHAPTER 69. The Funeral.
CHAPTER 70. The Sphynx.
CHAPTER 71. The Jeroboam’s Story.
CHAPTER 72. The Monkey-Rope.
CHAPTER 73. Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk
CHAPTER 74. The Sperm Whale’s Head—Contrasted View.
CHAPTER 75. The Right Whale’s Head—Contrasted View.
CHAPTER 76. The Battering-Ram.
CHAPTER 77. The Great Heidelburgh Tun.
CHAPTER 78. Cistern and Buckets.
CHAPTER 79. The Prairie.
CHAPTER 80. The Nut.
CHAPTER 81. The Pequod Meets The Virgin.
CHAPTER 82. The Honour and Glory of Whaling.
CHAPTER 83. Jonah Historically Regarded.
CHAPTER 84. Pitchpoling.
CHAPTER 85. The Fountain.
CHAPTER 86. The Tail.
CHAPTER 87. The Grand Armada.
CHAPTER 88. Schools and Schoolmasters.
CHAPTER 89. Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish.
CHAPTER 90. Heads or Tails.
CHAPTER 91. The Pequod Meets The Rose-Bud.
CHAPTER 92. Ambergris.
CHAPTER 93. The Castaway.
CHAPTER 94. A Squeeze of the Hand.
CHAPTER 95. The Cassock.
CHAPTER 96. The Try-Works.
CHAPTER 97. The Lamp.
CHAPTER 98. Stowing Down and Clearing Up.
CHAPTER 99. The Doubloon.
CHAPTER 100. Leg and Arm.
The Pequod, of Nantucket, Meets the Samuel Enderby, ofLondon.
CHAPTER 101. The Decanter.
CHAPTER 102. A Bower in the Arsacides.
CHAPTER 103. Measurement of The Whale’s Skeleton.
CHAPTER 104. The Fossil Whale.
CHAPTER 105. Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?—Will He Perish?
CHAPTER 106. Ahab’s Leg.
CHAPTER 107. The Carpenter.
CHAPTER 108. Ahab and the Carpenter.
The Deck—First Night Watch.
CHAPTER 109. Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin.
CHAPTER 110. Queequeg in His Coffin.
CHAPTER 111. The Pacific.
CHAPTER 112. The Blacksmith.
CHAPTER 113. The Forge.
CHAPTER 114. The Gilder.
CHAPTER 115. The Pequod Meets The Bachelor.
CHAPTER 116. The Dying Whale.
CHAPTER 117. The Whale Watch.
CHAPTER 118. The Quadrant.
CHAPTER 119. The Candles.
CHAPTER 120. The Deck Towards the End of theFirst Night Watch.
CHAPTER 121. Midnight.—The Forecastle Bulwarks.
CHAPTER 122. Midnight Aloft.—Thunder and Lightning.
CHAPTER 123. The Musket.
CHAPTER 124. The Needle.
CHAPTER 125. The Log and Line.
CHAPTER 126. The Life-Buoy.
CHAPTER 127. The Deck.
CHAPTER 128. The Pequod Meets The Rachel.
CHAPTER129. The Cabin.
CHAPTER 130. The Hat.
CHAPTER 131. The Pequod Meets The Delight.
CHAPTER 132. The Symphony.
CHAPTER 133. The Chase—First Day.
CHAPTER 134. The Chase—Second Day.
CHAPTER 135. The Chase.—Third Day.
“AND I ONLY AM ESCAPED ALONE TO TELL THEE”Job.
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It isa way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, Iaccount it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. Rightand left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.
Circumambulatethe city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up inlath and plaster—tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?
But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand—miles of them—leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues—north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither?
Once more. Say you are in the country;in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries—stand thatman on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with ametaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.
But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest, quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley of the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke. Deep into distant woodlands winds a mazy way,reaching to overlapping spurs of mountains bathed in their hill-side blue. But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd’s head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd’s eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him. Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies—what is the one charm wanting?—Water—there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why isalmost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out ofsight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not graspthe tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.
Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of my lungs, I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger. For to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and a purse is but a rag unless you have something in it. Besides, passengers get sea-sick—grow quarrelsome—don’t sleep of nights—do not enjoy themselves much, as a general thing;—no, I never go as a passenger; nor, though I am something of a salt, do I ever go tosea as a Commodore, or a Captain, or a Cook. I abandon the glory and distinction of such offices to those who like them. For my part, I abominate all honourable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever. It is quite as much as Ican do to take care of myself, without taking care of ships, barques, brigs, schooners, and what not. And as for going as cook,—though I confess there is considerable glory in that, a cook being a sort of officer on ship-board—yet, somehow, I never fanciedbroiling fowls;—though once broiled, judiciously buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who will speak more respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a broiled fowl than I will. It is out of the idolatrous dotings of the old Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse, that you see the mummies of those creatures in their huge bake-houses the pyramids.
No, when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast, plumb down into the forecastle, aloft there to theroyal mast-head. True, they rather order me about some, and make me jump from spar to spar, like a grasshopper in a May meadow. And at first, this sort of thing is unpleasant enough. It touches one’s sense of honour, particularly if you come ofan old established family in the land, the Van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than all, if just previous to putting your hand into the tar-pot, you have been lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand in awe of you. Thetransition is a keen one, I assure you, from a schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it. But even this wears off in time.
What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who ain’t a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about—however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way—either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other’s shoulder-blades, and be content.
Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. Butbeing paid,—what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!
Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome exercise and pure air of the fore-castle deck. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it. But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way—he can better answer thanany one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:
“Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.“WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL. “BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN.”
Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts infarces—though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment.
Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where herolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements;but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it—would they let me—since itis but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in.
By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.
I stuffed a shirt or two into my old carpet-bag,tucked it undermy arm, and started for Cape Horn and the Pacific. Quitting thegood city of old Manhatto, I duly arrived in New Bedford. It was aSaturday night in December. Much was I disappointed upon learningthat the little packet for Nantucket had already sailed, and thatno way of reaching that place would offer, till the followingMonday.
As most young candidates for the pains and penalties of whalingstop at this same New Bedford, thence to embark on their voyage, itmay as well be related that I,for one, had no idea of so doing. Formy mind was made up to sail in no other than a Nantucket craft,because there was a fine, boisterous something about everythingconnected with that famous old island, which amazingly pleased me.Besides though New Bedford has of late been gradually monopolisingthe business of whaling, and though in this matter poor oldNantucket is now much behind her, yet Nantucket was her greatoriginal—the Tyre of this Carthage;—the place where thefirst dead American whale was stranded. Where else but fromNantucket did those aboriginal whalemen, the Red-Men, first sallyout in canoes to give chase to the Leviathan? And where but fromNantucket, too, did that first adventurous little sloop put forth,partly laden with imported cobblestones—so goes thestory—to throw at the whales, in order to discover when theywere nigh enough to risk a harpoon from the bowsprit?
Now having a night, a day, and still another night followingbefore me in New Bedford, ere I could embark for my destinedport,it became a matter of concernment where I was to eat and sleepmeanwhile. It was a very dubious-looking, nay, a very dark anddismal night, bitingly cold and cheerless. I knew no one in theplace. With anxious grapnels I had sounded my pocket, and onlybrought up a few pieces of silver,—So, wherever you go,Ishmael, said I to myself, as I stood in the middle of a drearystreet shouldering my bag, and comparing the gloom towards thenorth with the darkness towards the south—wherever in yourwisdom youmay conclude to lodge for the night, my dear Ishmael, besure to inquire the price, and don’t be too particular.
With halting steps I paced the streets, and passed the sign of“The Crossed Harpoons”—but it looked tooexpensive and jolly there. Further on,from the bright red windowsof the “Sword-Fish Inn,” there came such fervent rays,that it seemed to have melted the packed snow and ice from beforethe house, for everywhere else the congealed frost lay ten inchesthick in a hard, asphaltic pavement,—rather weary for me,when I struck my foot against the flinty projections, because fromhard, remorseless service the soles of my boots were in a mostmiserable plight. Too expensive and jolly, again thought I, pausingone moment to watch the broad glare in the street, and hear thesounds of the tinkling glasses within. But go on, Ishmael, said Iat last; don’t you hear? get away from before the door; yourpatched boots are stopping the way. So on I went. I now by instinctfollowed the streets that took me waterward, for there, doubtless,were the cheapest, if not the cheeriest inns.
Such dreary streets! blocks of blackness, not houses, on eitherhand, and here and there a candle, like a candle moving about in atomb. At this hour of the night, of the last dayof theweek, thatquarter of the town proved all but deserted. But presently I cameto a smoky light proceeding from a low, wide building, the door ofwhich stood invitingly open. It had a careless look, as if it weremeant for the uses of the public; so,entering, the first thing Idid was to stumble over an ash-box in the porch. Ha! thought I, ha,as the flying particles almost choked me, are these ashes from thatdestroyed city, Gomorrah? But “The Crossed Harpoons,”and “The Sword-Fish?”—this, then mustneeds be thesign of “The Trap.” However, I picked myself up andhearing a loud voice within, pushed on and opened a second,interior door.
It seemed the great Black Parliament sitting in Tophet. Ahundred black faces turned round in their rows to peer; and beyond,a black Angel of Doom was beating a book in a pulpit. It was anegro church; and the preacher’s text was about the blacknessof darkness, and the weeping and wailing and teeth-gnashing there.Ha, Ishmael, muttered I, backing out, Wretched entertainment at thesign of ‘The Trap!’
Moving on, I at last came to a dim sort of light not far fromthe docks, and heard a forlorn creaking in the air; and looking up,saw a swinging sign over the door with a white painting upon it,faintly representing a tallstraight jet of misty spray, and thesewords underneath—“The Spouter Inn:—PeterCoffin.”
Coffin?—Spouter?—Rather ominous in that particularconnexion, thought I. But it is a common name in Nantucket, theysay, and I suppose this Peter here is an emigrantfrom there. As thelight looked so dim, and the place, for the time, looked quietenough, and the dilapidated little wooden house itself looked as ifit might have been carted here from the ruins of some burntdistrict, and as the swinging sign had a poverty-stricken sort ofcreak to it, I thought that here was the very spot for cheaplodgings, and the best of pea coffee.
It was a queer sort of place—a gable-ended old house, oneside palsied as it were, and leaning over sadly. It stood on asharp bleak corner, where that tempestuous wind Euroclydon kept upa worse howling than ever it did about poor Paul’s tossedcraft. Euroclydon, nevertheless, is a mighty pleasant zephyr to anyone in-doors, with his feet on the hob quietly toasting for bed.“In judging ofthat tempestuous wind called Euroclydon,”says an old writer—of whose works I possess the only copyextant—“it maketh a marvellous difference, whether thoulookest out at it from a glass window where the frost is all on theoutside, or whether thou observest it from that sashless window,where the frost is on both sides, and of which the wight Death isthe only glazier.” True enough, thought I, as this passageoccurred to my mind—old black-letter, thou reasonest well.Yes, these eyes are windows, and thisbody of mine is the house.What a pity they didn’t stop up the chinks and the cranniesthough, and thrust in a little lint here and there. But it’stoo late to make any improvements now. The universe is finished;the copestone is on, and the chips were carted off a million yearsago. Poor Lazarus there, chattering his teeth against the curbstonefor his pillow, and shaking off his tatters with his shiverings, hemight plug up both ears with rags, and put a corn-cob into hismouth, and yet that would not keep out the tempestuous Euroclydon.Euroclydon! says old Dives, in his red silken wrapper—(he hada redder one afterwards) pooh, pooh! What a fine frosty night; howOrion glitters; what northern lights! Let them talk of theiroriental summer climes of everlasting conservatories; give me theprivilege of making my own summer with my own coals.
But what thinks Lazarus? Can he warm his blue hands by holdingthem up to the grand northern lights? Would not Lazarus rather bein Sumatra than here? Would he not far rather lay him downlengthwise along the line of the equator; yea, ye gods! go down tothe fiery pit itself, in order to keep out this frost?
Now, that Lazarus should lie stranded there on the curbstonebefore the door of Dives, this is more wonderful thanthat aniceberg should be moored to one of the Moluccas. Yet Dives himself,he too lives like a Czar in an ice palace made of frozen sighs, andbeing a president of a temperance society, he only drinks the tepidtears of orphans.
But no more of this blubbering now, we are going a-whaling, andthere is plenty of that yet to come. Let us scrape the ice from ourfrosted feet, and see what sort of a place this“Spouter” may be.
Entering that gable-ended Spouter-Inn, you found yourself in awide, low, straggling entry with old-fashioned wainscots, remindingone of the bulwarks of some condemned old craft. On one side hung avery large oilpainting so thoroughly besmoked, and every waydefaced, that in the unequal crosslights bywhich you viewed it, itwas only by diligent study and a series of systematic visits to it,and careful inquiry of the neighbors, that you could any way arriveat an understanding of its purpose. Such unaccountable masses ofshades and shadows, that at first you almost thought some ambitiousyoung artist, in the time of the New England hags, had endeavoredto delineate chaos bewitched. But by dint of much and earnestcontemplation, and oft repeated ponderings, and especially bythrowing open the little window towards the back of the entry, youat last come to the conclusion that such an idea, however wild,might not be altogether unwarranted.
But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber,portentous, black mass of something hovering in the centre of thepicture over three blue, dim, perpendicular lines floating in anameless yeast. A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough todrive a nervous man distracted. Yet was there a sort of indefinite,half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about itthat fairly froze youto it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to findout what that marvellous painting meant. Ever and anon a bright,but, alas, deceptive idea would dart you through.—It’sthe Black Sea in a midnight gale.—It’s the unnaturalcombat of the four primal elements.—It’s a blastedheath.—It’s a Hyperborean winterscene.—It’s the breaking-up of the icebound stream ofTime. But at last all these fancies yielded to that one portentoussomething in the picture’s midst.Thatonce found out, and allthe rest were plain. But stop; does it not bear a faint resemblanceto a gigantic fish? even the great leviathan himself?
In fact, the artist’s design seemed this: a final theoryof my own, partly based upon the aggregated opinions of manyagedpersons with whom I conversed upon the subject. The picturerepresents a Cape-Horner in a great hurricane; the half-founderedship weltering there with its three dismantled masts alone visible;and an exasperated whale, purposing to spring clean overthe craft,is in the enormous act of impaling himself upon the threemast-heads.
The opposite wall of this entry was hung all over with aheathenish array of monstrous clubs and spears. Some were thicklyset with glittering teeth resembling ivory saws; others were tuftedwith knots of human hair; and one was sickle-shaped, with a vasthandle sweeping round like the segment made in the new-mown grassby a long-armed mower. You shuddered as you gazed, and wonderedwhat monstrous cannibal and savage could everhave gone adeath-harvesting with such a hacking, horrifying implement. Mixedwith these were rusty old whaling lances and harpoons all brokenand deformed. Some were storied weapons. With this once long lance,now wildly elbowed, fifty years ago did Nathan Swain kill fifteenwhales between a sunrise and a sunset. And that harpoon—solike a corkscrew now—was flung in Javan seas, and run awaywith by a whale, years afterwards slain off the Cape of Blanco. Theoriginal iron entered nigh the tail, and, like arestlessneedlesojourning in the body of a man, travelled full forty feet, and atlast was found imbedded in the hump.
Crossing this dusky entry, and on through yon low-archedway—cut through what in old times must have been a greatcentral chimney withfireplaces all round—you enter the publicroom. A still duskier place is this, with such low ponderous beamsabove, and such old wrinkled planks beneath, that you would almostfancy you trod some old craft’s cockpits, especially of sucha howling night, when this corner-anchored old ark rocked sofuriously. On one side stood a long, low, shelf-like table coveredwith cracked glass cases, filled with dusty rarities gathered fromthis wide world’s remotest nooks. Projecting from the furtherangle of the roomstands a dark-looking den—the bar—arude attempt at a right whale’s head. Be that how it may,there stands the vast arched bone of the whale’s jaw, sowide, a coach might almost drive beneath it. Within are shabbyshelves, ranged round with old decanters,bottles, flasks; and inthose jaws of swift destruction, like another cursed Jonah (bywhich name indeed they called him), bustles a little withered oldman, who, for their money, dearly sells the sailors deliriums anddeath.
Abominable are the tumblers into which he pours his poison.Though true cylinders without—within, the villanous greengoggling glasses deceitfully tapered downwards to a cheatingbottom. Parallel meridians rudely pecked into the glass, surroundthese footpads’ goblets. Fill tothismark, and your charge isbut a penny; tothisa penny more; and so on to the fullglass—the Cape Horn measure, which you may gulp down for ashilling.
Upon entering the place I found a number of young seamengathered about a table, examining by a dim light divers specimensofskrimshander. I sought the landlord, and telling him I desired tobe accommodated with a room, received for answer that his house wasfull—not a bed unoccupied. “But avast,” he added,tapping his forehead, “you haint no objections to sharing aharpooneer’s blanket, have ye? I s’pose you aregoin’ a-whalin’, so you’d better get used to thatsort of thing.”
I told him that I never liked to sleep two in a bed; that if Ishould ever do so, it would depend upon who the harpooneer mightbe, andthat if he (the landlord) really had no other place for me,and the harpooneer was not decidedly objectionable, why rather thanwander further about a strange town on so bitter a night, I wouldput up with the half of any decent man’s blanket.
“I thought so. All right; take a seat. Supper?—youwant supper? Supper’ll be ready directly.”
I sat down on an old wooden settle, carved all over like a benchon the Battery. At one end a ruminating tar was still furtheradorning it with his jack-knife, stooping overand diligentlyworking away at the space between his legs. He was trying his handat a ship under full sail, but he didn’t make much headway, Ithought.
At last some four or five of us were summoned to our meal in anadjoining room. It was cold as Iceland—no fire atall—the landlord said he couldn’t afford it. Nothingbut two dismal tallow candles, each in a winding sheet. We werefain to button up our monkey jackets, and hold to our lips cups ofscalding tea with our half frozen fingers. But the fare was of themost substantial kind—not only meat and potatoes, butdumplings; goodheavens! dumplings for supper! One young fellow in agreen box coat, addressed himself to these dumplings in a mostdireful manner.
“My boy,” said the landlord, “you’llhave thenightmare to a dead sartainty.”
“Landlord,” I whispered, “that aint theharpooneer is it?”
“Oh, no,” said he, looking a sort of diabolicallyfunny, “the harpooneer is a dark complexioned chap. He nevereats dumplings, he don’t—he eats nothing but steaks,and he likes ‘em rare.”
“The devil he does,” says I. “Where is thatharpooneer? Is he here?”
“He’ll be here afore long,” was theanswer.
I could not help it, but I began to feel suspicious of this“dark complexioned” harpooneer. At any rate, I made upmy mind that if it so turned out that we should sleep together, hemust undress and get into bed before I did.
Supper over, the company went back to the bar-room, when,knowing not what else to do with myself, I resolved to spend therest of the evening as a looker on.
Presently a rioting noise was heard without. Starting up, thelandlord cried, “That’s the Grampus’s crew. Iseed her reported in the offing this morning; a three years’voyage, and a full ship. Hurrah, boys; now we’ll have thelatest news from theFeegees.”
A tramping of sea boots was heard in the entry; the door wasflung open, and in rolled a wild set of mariners enough. Envelopedin their shaggy watch coats, and with their heads muffled inwoollen comforters, all bedarned and ragged, and their beards stiffwith icicles, they seemed an eruption of bears from Labrador. Theyhad just landed from their boat, and this was the first house theyentered. No wonder, then, that they made a straight wake for thewhale’s mouth—the bar—when the wrinkled littleold Jonah, there officiating, soon poured them out brimmers allround. One complained of a bad cold in his head, upon which Jonahmixed him a pitch-like potion of gin and molasses, which he sworewas a sovereign cure for all colds and catarrhs whatsoever, nevermind of how long standing, or whether caught off the coast ofLabrador, or on the weather side of an ice-island.
The liquor soon mounted into their heads, as it generally doeseven with the arrantest topers newly landed from sea, and theybegan capering about most obstreperously.
I observed, however, that one of them held somewhat aloof, andthough he seemed desirous not to spoil the hilarity of hisshipmates by his own sober face, yet upon the whole he refrainedfrom making as much noise as the rest. This man interested me atonce; and since the sea-gods had ordained that he should soonbecome my shipmate (though but a sleeping-partner one, so far asthis narrative is concerned), I will here venture upon a littledescription of him. He stood full six feet in height, with nobleshoulders, and a chest like a coffer-dam. I have seldom seen suchbrawn in a man. His face was deeply brown and burnt, making hiswhite teeth dazzling by the contrast; while in the deep shadows ofhis eyes floated some reminiscences that did not seem to give himmuch joy. His voice at once announced that he was a Southerner, andfrom his fine stature, I thought he must be one of those tallmountaineers from the Alleghanian Ridge in Virginia. When therevelry of his companions had mounted to its height, this manslipped away unobserved, and I saw no more of him till he became mycomrade on the sea. In a few minutes, however, he wasmissed by hisshipmates, and being, it seems, for some reason a huge favouritewith them, they raised a cry of “Bulkington! Bulkington!where’s Bulkington?” and darted out of the house inpursuit of him.
It was now about nine o’clock, and the room seeming almostsupernaturally quiet after these orgies, I began to congratulatemyself upon a little plan that had occurred to me just previous tothe entrance of the seamen.
No man prefers to sleep two in a bed. In fact, you would a gooddeal rather not sleep with your own brother. I don’t know howit is, but people like to be private when they are sleeping. Andwhen it comes to sleeping with an unknown stranger, in a strangeinn, in a strange town, and that stranger a harpooneer, then yourobjections indefinitely multiply. Nor was there any earthly reasonwhy I as a sailor should sleep two in a bed, more than anybodyelse; for sailors no more sleep two in a bed at sea, than bachelorKings do ashore. To be sure they all sleep together in oneapartment, but you have your own hammock, and cover yourself withyour own blanket, and sleep in your own skin.
The more Ipondered over this harpooneer, the more I abominatedthe thought of sleeping with him. It was fair to presume that beinga harpooneer, his linen or woollen, as the case might be, would notbe of the tidiest, certainly none of the finest. I began totwitchall over. Besides, it was getting late, and my decentharpooneer ought to be home and going bedwards. Suppose now, heshould tumble in upon me at midnight—how could I tell fromwhat vile hole he had been coming?
“Landlord! I’ve changed my mind about thatharpooneer.—I shan’t sleep with him. I’ll try thebench here.”
“Just as you please; I’m sorry I can’t spareye a tablecloth for a mattress, and it’s a plaguy rough boardhere”—feeling of the knots and notches. “But waita bit, Skrimshander; I’ve got a carpenter’s plane therein the bar—wait, I say, and I’ll make ye snugenough.” So saying he procured the plane; and with his oldsilk handkerchief first dusting the bench, vigorously set toplaning away at my bed, the while grinning like an ape. Theshavings flew right and left; till at last the plane-iron came bumpagainst an indestructible knot. The landlord was near spraining hiswrist, and I told him for heaven’s sake to quit—the bedwas soft enough to suit me, and I did not know how all the planingin the world could make eider down of a pine plank. So gathering upthe shavings with another grin, and throwing them into the greatstove in the middle of the room, he went about his business, andleft me in a brown study.
I now took the measure of the bench, andfound that it was a foottoo short; but that could be mended with a chair. But it was a foottoo narrow, and the other bench in the room was about four incheshigher than the planed one—so there was no yoking them. Ithen placed the first bench lengthwisealong the only clear spaceagainst the wall, leaving a little interval between, for my back tosettle down in. But I soon found that there came such a draught ofcold air over me from under the sill of the window, that this planwould never do at all, especially as another current from therickety door met the one from the window, and both together formeda series of small whirlwinds in the immediate vicinity of the spotwhere I had thought to spend the night.
The devil fetch that harpooneer, thought I, but stop,couldn’t I steal a march on him—bolt his door inside,and jump into his bed, not to be wakened by the most violentknockings? It seemed no bad idea; but upon second thoughts Idismissed it. For who could tell but what the next morning, so soonas Ipopped out of the room, the harpooneer might be standing in theentry, all ready to knock me down!
Still, looking round me again, and seeing no possible chance ofspending a sufferable night unless in some other person’sbed, I began to think that after all I might be cherishingunwarrantable prejudices against this unknown harpooneer. Thinks I,I’ll wait awhile; he must be dropping in before long.I’ll have a good look at him then, and perhaps we may becomejolly good bedfellows after all—there’s no telling.
But though the other boarders kept coming in by ones, twos, andthrees, and going to bed, yet no sign of my harpooneer.
“Landlord!” said I, “what sort of a chap ishe—does he always keep such late hours?” It was nowhard upon twelve o’clock.
The landlord chuckled again with his lean chuckle, and seemed tobe mightily tickled at something beyond my comprehension.“No,” he answered, “generally he’s an earlybird—airley to bed and airley to rise—yes, he’sthe bird what catches the worm. But to-night he went out apeddling, you see, and I don’t see what on airth keeps him solate, unless, may be, he can’t sell his head.”
“Can’t sell his head?—What sort of abamboozingly story is this you are telling me?” getting intoa towering rage. “Do you pretend to say,landlord, that thisharpooneer is actually engaged this blessed Saturday night, orrather Sunday morning, in peddling his head around thistown?”
“That’s precisely it,” said the landlord,“and I told him he couldn’t sell it here, themarket’s overstocked.”
“With what?” shouted I.
“With heads to be sure; ain’t there too many headsin the world?”
“I tell you what it is, landlord,” said I quitecalmly, “you’d better stop spinning that yarn tome—I’m not green.”
“May be not,” taking out a stick and whittlingatoothpick, “but I rayther guess you’ll be donebrownifthat ere harpooneer hears you a slanderin’ hishead.”
“I’ll break it for him,” said I, now flyinginto a passion again at this unaccountable farrago of thelandlord’s.
“It’s broke a’ready,” said he.
“Broke,” said I—“broke, do youmean?”
“Sartain, and that’s the very reason he can’tsell it, I guess.”
“Landlord,” said I, going up to him as cool as Mt.Hecla in a snow-storm—“landlord, stop whittling. Youand I must understand one another, and that too without delay. Icome to your house and want a bed; you tell me you can only give mehalf a one; that the other half belongs to a certain harpooneer.And about this harpooneer, whom I have not yet seen, you persist intelling me the most mystifying and exasperating stories tending tobeget in me anuncomfortable feeling towards the man whom you designfor my bedfellow—a sort of connexion, landlord, which is anintimate and confidential one in the highest degree. I now demandof you to speak out and tell me who and what this harpooneer is,and whether I shall be in all respects safe to spend the night withhim. And in the first place, you will be so good as to unsay thatstory about selling his head, which if true I take to be goodevidence that this harpooneer is stark mad, and I’ve no ideaof sleeping with a madman; and you, sir,youI mean, landlord,you,sir, by trying to induce me to do so knowingly, would therebyrender yourself liable to a criminal prosecution.”
“Wall,” said the landlord, fetching a longbreath,“that’s a purty long sarmon for a chap that rips alittle now and then. But be easy, be easy, this here harpooneer Ihave been tellin’ you of has just arrived from the southseas, where he bought up a lot of ‘balmed New Zealand heads(great curios, you know), and he’s sold all on ‘em butone, and that one he’s trying to sell to-night, causeto-morrow’s Sunday, and it would not do to be sellin’human heads about the streets when folks is goin’ tochurches. He wanted to, last Sunday, but I stopped him just as hewas goin’ out of the door with four heads strung on a string,for all the airth like a string of inions.”
This account cleared up the otherwise unaccountable mystery, andshowed that the landlord, after all, had had no idea of foolingme—but at the same time what could I think of a harpooneerwho stayed out of a Saturday night clean into the holy Sabbath,engaged in such a cannibal business as selling the heads of deadidolators?
“Depend upon it, landlord, that harpooneer is a dangerousman.”
“He pays reg’lar,” was the rejoinder.“But come, it’s getting dreadful late, you had betterbe turning flukes—it’s a nice bed; Sal and me slept inthat ere bed the night we were spliced. There’s plenty ofroom for two to kick about in that bed; it’s an almighty bigbed that. Why, afore we give it up, Sal used to put our Sam andlittle Johnny in the foot of it. But I got a dreaming and sprawlingabout one night, and somehow, Sam got pitched on the floor, andcame near breaking his arm. Arter that, Sal said itwouldn’tdo. Come along here, I’ll give ye a glim in a jiffy;”and so saying he lighted a candle and held it towards me, offeringto lead the way. But I stood irresolute; when looking at a clock inthe corner, he exclaimed “I vum it’s Sunday—youwon’t seethat harpooneer to-night; he’s come to anchorsomewhere—come along then;docome;won’tyecome?”
I considered the matter a moment, and then up stairs we went,and I was ushered into a small room, cold as a clam, and furnished,sure enough, with a prodigious bed, almost big enough indeed forany four harpooneers to sleep abreast.
“There,” said the landlord, placing the candle on acrazy old sea chest that did double duty as a wash-stand and centretable; “there, make yourself comfortable now, and good nightto ye.” I turned round from eyeing the bed, but he haddisappeared.
Folding back the counterpane, I stooped over the bed. Thoughnone of the most elegant, it yet stood the scrutiny tolerably well.I then glanced round the room; and besides the bedstead and centretable, could see no other furniture belonging to the place, but arude shelf, the four walls, and a papered fireboard representing aman striking a whale. Of things not properly belonging to the room,there was a hammock lashed up, and thrown upon the floor in onecorner; also a large seaman’s bag, containing theharpooneer’s wardrobe, nodoubt in lieu of a land trunk.Likewise, there was a parcel of outlandish bone fish hooks on theshelf over the fire-place, and a tall harpoon standing at the headof the bed.
But what is this on the chest? I took it up, and held it closeto the light, and felt it, and smelt it, and tried every waypossible to arrive at some satisfactory conclusion concerning it. Ican compare it to nothing but a large door mat, ornamented at theedges with little tinkling tags something like the stainedporcupine quills round an Indian moccasin. There was a hole or slitin the middle of this mat, as you see the same in South Americanponchos. But could it be possible that any sober harpooneer wouldget into a door mat, and parade the streets of any Christian townin that sort of guise? I put it on, to try it, and it weighed medown like a hamper, being uncommonly shaggy and thick, and Ithought a little damp, as though this mysterious harpooneer hadbeen wearing it of a rainy day. I went up in it to a bit of glassstuck against the wall, and I never saw such a sight in my life. Itore myself out of it in such a hurry that I gave myself a kink inthe neck.
I sat down on the side of the bed, and commenced thinking aboutthis head-peddling harpooneer, and his door mat. After thinkingsome time on the bed-side, I got up and took off my monkey jacket,and then stood in the middle of the room thinking. I then took offmy coat, and thoughta little more in my shirt sleeves. Butbeginning to feel very cold now, half undressed as I was, andremembering what the landlord said about the harpooneer’s notcoming home at all that night, it being so very late, I made nomore ado, but jumped out of my pantaloons and boots, and thenblowing out the light tumbled into bed, and commended myself to thecare of heaven.
Whether that mattress was stuffed with corn-cobs or brokencrockery, there is no telling, but I rolled about a good deal, andcould not sleep for a long time. At last I slid off into a lightdoze, and had pretty nearly made a good offing towards the land ofNod, when I heard a heavy footfall in the passage, and saw aglimmer of light come into the room from under the door.
Lord save me,thinks I, that must be the harpooneer, the infernalhead-peddler. But I lay perfectly still, and resolved not to say aword till spoken to. Holding a light in one hand, and thatidentical New Zealand head in the other, the stranger entered theroom, and without looking towards the bed, placed his candle a goodway off from me on the floor in one corner, and then began workingaway at the knotted cords of the large bag I before spoke of asbeing in the room. I was all eagerness to see his face, but he keptit averted for some time while employed in unlacing the bag’smouth. This accomplished, however, he turned round—when, goodheavens! what a sight! Such a face! It was of a dark, purplish,yellow colour, here and there stuck over with large blackishlookingsquares. Yes, it’s just as I thought, he’s aterrible bedfellow; he’s been in a fight, got dreadfully cut,and here he is, just from the surgeon. But at that moment hechanced to turn his face so towards the light, that I plainly sawthey could not be sticking-plasters at all, those black squares onhis cheeks. They were stains of some sort or other. At first I knewnot what to make of this; but soon an inkling of the truth occurredto me. I remembered a story of a white man—a whalemantoo—who, falling among the cannibals, had been tattooed bythem. I concluded that this harpooneer, in the course of hisdistant voyages, must have met with a similar adventure. And whatis it, thought I, after all! It’s only his outside; a man canbe honest in any sort of skin. But then, what to make of hisunearthly complexion, that part of it, I mean, lying roundabout,and completely independent of the squares of tattooing. To be sure,it might be nothing but a good coat of tropical tanning; but Inever heard of a hot sun’stanning a white man into a purplishyellow one. However, I had never been in the South Seas; andperhaps the sun there produced these extraordinary effects upon theskin. Now, while all these ideas were passing through me likelightning, this harpooneer never noticed me at all. But, after somedifficulty having opened his bag, he commenced fumbling in it, andpresently pulled out a sort of tomahawk, and a seal-skin walletwith the hair on. Placing these on the old chest in the middle ofthe room, he then took the New Zealand head—a ghastly thingenough—and crammed it down into the bag. He now took off hishat—a new beaver hat—when I came nigh singing out withfresh surprise. There was no hair on his head—none to speakof at least—nothing but a small scalp-knot twisted up on hisforehead. His bald purplish head now looked for all the world likea mildewed skull. Had not the stranger stood between me and thedoor, I would have bolted out of it quicker than ever I bolted adinner.
Even as it was, I thought something of slipping out of thewindow, but it was the second floor back. I am no coward, but whatto make of this head-peddling purple rascal altogether passed mycomprehension. Ignorance is the parent of fear, and beingcompletely nonplussed and confounded about the stranger, I confessI was now as much afraid of him as if it was the devil himself whohad thus broken into my room at the dead of night. In fact, I wasso afraid of him that I was not game enough just then to addresshim, and demand a satisfactory answer concerning what seemedinexplicable in him.
Meanwhile, he continued the business of undressing, and at lastshowed his chest and arms. As I live, these covered parts of himwere checkered with the same squares as his face; his back, too,was all over the same dark squares; he seemed to have been in aThirty Years’ War, and just escaped from it with asticking-plaster shirt. Still more, his very legs were marked, asif a parcel of dark green frogs were running up the trunks of youngpalms. It was now quite plain that he must be some abominablesavage or other shipped aboard of a whaleman in the South Seas, andso landed in this Christian country. I quaked to think of it. Apeddler of heads too—perhaps the heads of his own brothers.He might take a fancy to mine—heavens! look at thattomahawk!
But there was no time for shuddering, for now the savage wentabout something that completely fascinated my attention, andconvinced me that he must indeed be a heathen. Going to his heavygrego, or wrapall, or dreadnaught, which he had previously hung ona chair, he fumbled in the pockets, and produced at length acurious little deformed image with a hunch on its back, and exactlythe colour of a three days’ old Congo baby. Remembering theembalmed head, at firstI almost thought that this black manikin wasa real baby preserved in some similar manner. But seeing that itwas not at all limber, and that it glistened a good deal likepolished ebony, I concluded that it must be nothing but a woodenidol, which indeedit proved to be. For now the savage goes up tothe empty fire-place, and removing the papered fire-board, sets upthis little hunch-backed image, like a tenpin, between theandirons. The chimney jambs and all the bricks inside were verysooty, so that I thought this fire-place made a very appropriatelittle shrine or chapel for his Congo idol.
I now screwed my eyes hard towards the half hidden image,feeling but ill at ease meantime—to see what was next tofollow. First he takes about a double handful of shavings out ofhis grego pocket, and places them carefully before the idol; thenlaying a bit of ship biscuit on top and applying the flame from thelamp, he kindled the shavings into a sacrificial blaze. Presently,after many hasty snatches into the fire,and still hastierwithdrawals of his fingers (whereby he seemed to be scorching thembadly), he at last succeeded in drawing out the biscuit; thenblowing off the heat and ashes a little, he made a polite offer ofit to the little negro. But the little devil did not seem to fancysuch dry sort of fare at all; he never moved his lips. All thesestrange antics were accompanied by still stranger guttural noisesfrom the devotee, who seemed to be praying in a sing-song or elsesinging some pagan psalmody or other, during which his facetwitched about in the most unnatural manner. At last extinguishingthe fire, he took the idol up very unceremoniously, and bagged itagain in his grego pocket as carelessly as if he were a sportsmanbagging a dead woodcock.
All these queer proceedings increased my uncomfortableness, andseeing him now exhibiting strong symptoms of concluding hisbusiness operations, and jumping into bed with me, I thought it washigh time, now or never, before the light was put out, to break thespell in which I had so long been bound.
But the interval I spent in deliberating what to say, was afatal one. Taking up his tomahawk from the table, he examined thehead of it for an instant, and then holding it to the light, withhis mouth at the handle,he puffed out great clouds of tobaccosmoke. The next moment the light was extinguished, and this wildcannibal, tomahawk between his teeth, sprang into bed with me. Isang out, I could not help it now; and giving a sudden grunt ofastonishment he began feeling me.
Stammering out something, I knew not what, I rolled away fromhim against the wall, and then conjured him, whoever or whatever hemight be, to keep quiet, and let me get up and light the lampagain. But his guttural responses satisfied me at once that he butill comprehended my meaning.
“Who-e debel you?”—he at lastsaid—“you no speak-e, dam-me, I kill-e.” And sosaying the lighted tomahawk began flourishing about me in thedark.
“Landlord, for God’s sake, Peter Coffin!”shouted I. “Landlord! Watch! Coffin! Angels! saveme!”
“Speak-e! tell-ee me who-ee be, or dam-me, Ikill-e!” again growled the cannibal, while his horridflourishings of the tomahawk scattered the hot tobacco ashes aboutme till I thought my linen would get on fire. But thank heaven, atthat moment the landlord came into the room light in hand, andleaping from the bed I ran up to him.
“Don’t be afraid now,” said he, grinningagain, “Queequeg here wouldn’t harm a hair of yourhead.”
“Stop your grinning,” shouted I, “and whydidn’tyou tell me that that infernal harpooneer was acannibal?”
“I thought ye know’d it;—didn’t I tellye, he was a peddlin’ heads around town?—but turnflukes again and go to sleep. Queequeg, look here—you sabbeeme, I sabbee—you this man sleepe you—yousabbee?”
“Me sabbee plenty”—grunted Queequeg, puffingaway at his pipe and sitting up in bed.
“You gettee in,” he added, motioning to me with histomahawk, and throwing the clothes to one side. He really did thisin not only a civil but a really kind andcharitable way. I stoodlooking at him a moment. For all his tattooings he was on the wholea clean, comely looking cannibal. What’s all this fuss I havebeen making about, thought I to myself—the man’s ahuman being just as I am: he has just as much reason to fear me, asI have to be afraid of him. Better sleep with a sober cannibal thana drunken Christian.
“Landlord,” said I, “tell him to stash histomahawk there, or pipe, or whatever you call it; tell him to stopsmoking, in short, and I will turn in with him. But I don’tfancy having a man smoking in bed with me. It’s dangerous.Besides, I ain’t insured.”
This being told to Queequeg, he at once complied, and againpolitely motioned me to get into bed—rolling over to one sideas much as to say—“I won’t touch a leg ofye.”
“Good night, landlord,” said I, “you maygo.”
I turned in, and never slept better in my life.
Upon waking next morning about daylight, I foundQueequeg’s arm thrown over me in the most loving andaffectionate manner. You had almost thought I had been his wife.The counterpane was of patchwork, full of odd little parti-colouredsquares and triangles; and this arm of his tattooed all over withan interminable Cretan labyrinth of a figure, no two parts ofwhichwere of one precise shade—owing I suppose to his keeping hisarm at sea unmethodically in sun and shade, his shirt sleevesirregularly rolled up at various times—this same arm of his,I say, looked for all the world like a strip of that same patchworkquilt. Indeed, partly lying on it as the arm did when I firstawoke, I could hardly tell it from the quilt, they so blended theirhues together; and it was only by the sense of weight and pressurethat I could tell that Queequeg was hugging me.
My sensations were strange. Let me try to explain them. When Iwas a child, I well remember a somewhat similar circumstance thatbefell me; whether it was a reality or a dream, I never couldentirely settle. The circumstance was this. I had been cutting upsome caper or other—I think it was trying to crawl up thechimney, as I had seen a little sweep do a few days previous; andmy stepmother who, somehow or other, was all the time whipping me,or sending me to bed supperless,—my mother dragged me by thelegs out ofthe chimney and packed me off to bed, though it was onlytwo o’clock in the afternoon of the 21st June, the longestday in the year in our hemisphere. I felt dreadfully. But there wasno help for it, so up stairs I went to my little room in the thirdfloor, undressed myself as slowly as possible so as to kill time,and with a bitter sigh got between the sheets.
I lay there dismally calculating that sixteen entire hours mustelapse before I could hope for a resurrection. Sixteen hours inbed! the small of myback ached to think of it. And it was so lighttoo; the sun shining in at the window, and a great rattling ofcoaches in the streets, and the sound of gay voices all over thehouse. I felt worse and worse—at last I got up, dressed, andsoftly going down in my stockinged feet, sought out my stepmother,and suddenly threw myself at her feet, beseeching her as aparticular favour to give me a good slippering for my misbehaviour;anything indeed but condemning me to lie abed such an unendurablelength of time.But she was the best and most conscientious ofstepmothers, and back I had to go to my room. For several hours Ilay there broad awake, feeling a great deal worse than I have everdone since, even from the greatest subsequent misfortunes. At lastI must have fallen into a troubled nightmare of a doze; and slowlywaking from it—half steeped in dreams—I opened my eyes,and the before sun-lit room was now wrapped in outer darkness.Instantly I felt a shock running through all my frame; nothing wasto be seen,and nothing was to be heard; but a supernatural handseemed placed in mine. My arm hung over the counterpane, and thenameless, unimaginable, silent form or phantom, to which the handbelonged, seemed closely seated by my bed-side. For what seemedages piled on ages, I lay there, frozen with the most awful fears,not daring to drag away my hand; yet ever thinking that if I couldbut stir it one single inch, the horrid spell would be broken. Iknew not how this consciousness at last glided away from me;butwaking in the morning, I shudderingly remembered it all, and fordays and weeks and months afterwardsI lost myself in confoundingattempts to explain the mystery. Nay, to this very hour, I oftenpuzzle myself with it.
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